Monday, August 6, 2012

Theology: Christian God and Evil part2

This is a debate continuing from my last post, about how the Christian God could endorse horrible things like rape, slavery, and killing babies.  Again, apologies for how the font turned out.

My friend:  First, Crysta, I want to thank you for having this conversation. Most people just spout some disagreement and then refuse to back it up or explain. So thanks for having a real discussion!
(Wow, this response was longer than I thought it wou
ld be...sorry!)

I *do* think that no one is innocent (Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.") but that's because I believe that we all live under God's law. Someone's ignorance of a law certainly evokes some feelings of sympathy, but even in today's society we still punish people for breaking laws whether or not they were aware of the law. So, innocence under the law doesn't depend on our knowledge of the law (which is a bit depressing considering the extent of the laws in the US!). Yes, I believe the "smallest sin" is deserving of a trip to Hell (James 2:10 "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." -> so whether you murdered an entire race or had an angry thought, you're just as guilty in the eyes of an infinitely perfect God). So, when you say someone is "innocent", to what law are you referring? For us to say what should and shouldn't deserve whatever punishments is to put ourselves in the place of the law giver (from my perspective, God).

I'm familiar with the doctrine of "original sin", but I'm going to admit that I don't fully understand it. But I do know that my little nephew, before he was even six months old, was selfish and manipulative. Nobody had to teach him how to be sinful. He did it on his own. Whether or not he was "pure" before his first overt sin is largely a matter of biblical interpretation and speculation. Why is condemning someone for a single act unjust? A murder is a single act, but we put people in prison for the rest of their lives for it. To claim injustice, you must state the law to which you're appealing. The Bible says that people will be held to account for their actions. So, if someone hasn't committed any sin, then they should be fine, but like the reference above says...everyone sins. I agree that punishing someone for another person's sin is unfair. The Israelites did too. (Deuteronomy 24:16 "Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.") You correct in saying that Israel was no better than the Egyptians. You have to look at the greater picture and see why those nations (Israel, Egypt, Canaan, etc.) were oppressed by other nations. Sometimes God used nations to punish other nations, as in the case of Israel conquering the people of Canaan. Once, God sent the Assyrian army to punish Israel because...well, they had it coming. But to say that God was no better than the Egyptians, I'm going to have to disagree with that. Not only did every nation deserve their oppression (from God's perspective) but the fact that God didn't send each person immediately to Hell for their first sin is pure, undeserved grace and mercy toward humanity on his part. I think to ask "why does God punish people on earth" is not the right question. The right question is "why does God let us live after sinning against him?"

How is God different from the gods of the other nations? That's an easy one. He actually exists. I realize that may be offensive to some people, but I'm not going to sugar coat the truth on that one. The God of the Bible exists, created the universe and everything in it, and is active in that creation. The other gods...well, they were carved out of wood, stone, and/or metal by some human. To ask about Christianity, I would just make sure to judge the beliefs and not the practitioners. But Christianity is better than the other religions because it has the virtue of being true. I may not understand all of the difficult passages in the Bible, but I know that things that seemed confusing or contradictory to me years ago make perfect sense now after researching the topics. You say that Jesus' words are commendable...does that include his claim to be God? The OT God? I'd describe him as incredibly patient, loving, caring in his discipline, slow to anger, and does not want to punish yet is just (see Joel 2:13 for just one spot in the OT that agrees with me, see the story of Jonah for another). God didn't set Israel aside to go to Heaven. He chose them to be a blessing to all the other nations (i.e. to get the other nations to worship the one true God, too...Genesis 22:18). Just one instance of this happening is the story of Rahab in the book of Joshua. She was part of the Canaanites but she was declared righteous because of her faith. She was even listed in the geneology of Jesus. Again, God used the Israelites to punish the people of the land for their rebellion against him. People can be peaceful and still rebel against God.

My friend again
How do you judge the severity of an action? Our actions have effects on people who then behave differently than if we had done something different. Are we responsible for those effects as well? God struck down a man for touching the ark bec
ause he failed to acknowledge the holiness of God (the most mentioned attribute of God in the Bible). It seems that you're arguing that God should stop the evils of abuse, murder, and rape. Why should God stop some evil from being perpetrated and not other evil? If we want God to get rid of evil, then we need to be consistent and have him get rid of all evil. That would include abuse, murder, rape, lying, stealing, adultery, lustful thoughts, angry thoughts, prideful thoughts...the list goes on. So, should God just eliminate the people who engage in said behavior or should he just engage in thought control to prevent it? In an act of love, he allows us to have a free will. *We* are the ones who decide what to do with that free will. In yet another act of love, he allows us to continue to live in order to give us the opportunity to get to know him and follow his instructions. [Also, when analyzing the individual words of a passage, I'd recommend using the New American Standard Bible (NASB) because it strives to have the closest word-for-word definitions in translation]

The OT promoted forgiveness as well. (Nehemiah 9:17 "But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; and You did not forsake them.") Again, I wouldn't judge a belief system by its practitioners...people suck at following God's rules, which is one of the themes of the Bible. Ah yes, the age old question, "Do babies go to Heaven?" This is one of the points that the Bible isn't explicitly clear on (though some people will make reference to a time when King David's baby died and he said that he would see it in Heaven). I'm not going to say I have an answer for that, but I do know that God is just. Baptism isn't actually required for salvation (just read the book of Acts for a number of examples of people who received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized). Regarding nations that haven't heard, that's why Jesus gave the Great Commission ("Go therefore and make disciples of all nations."), and again God is just. For people that came before Jesus, it was still faith in the one true God to provide salvation and redemption from their sins that saved them, whether they were looking forward in time to the cross or like us who look backward in time to it. There was plenty of mention of the savior in the's pretty much what the whole thing was about. Yes, free will vs. predestination (or predetermination if you want, but I think that's an easier topic). It's a tough topic. We're unlikely to understand it fully on this side of death. I'll give you that one.

Who gets to decide what is "moral" behavior? Individuals? Society? Nations? Communities? How many people would a community have to have in order to rightfully establish morality?

It's interesting that you would choose those two models to couple together. Everyone wants forgiveness, but everyone wants justice too. Those two things are really at odds...usually. But those two things are exactly what happened when Jesus was crucified. God has two characteristics (among many): he is just and he is loving. In his love, he wants to draw us close to him, but in his justness he cannot allow sin to go unpunished. So, he himself came down to live the perfect, sinless life that we were supposed to live and then died the death that we were to supposed to die. In that act all of sin was put on Jesus, satisfying God's justice, and Jesus' life was then provided as a substitutionary atonement to allow us access to God the Father.

well, i'll answer partially now, because i don't have much time to be on the computer before doing farm chores. but i want to get my ideas down on words so that i don't forget to mention some of this. the reason most non-christians don't 
debate with christians is not because we can't answer you, but because most people don't want to spend time first defining everything and then arguing definitions. i'm not trying to offend you with this statement, but one of the most effective ways to brainwash someone is to redefine everything in terms of a single authority, so that you essentially can't argue against any point, because every definition goes back to that one authority. you can get around so many arguments by just re-defining your terms. it's a common and very effective debate tactic, but it doesn't make it true. to quote a villain in a children's movie, "hey, who are you going to believe: me, or your own eyes?" if you blindly follow one authority, than everything will make perfect sense, but you get a distorted view of the world. in my opinion, christians have a very distorted view of the world, and it's very difficult to break free of the christian way of thinking, because it fundamentally shakes you and re-defines your whole world. i'm not saying everyone should de-convert, but everyone should open their minds to other ways of looking at the world, if nothing else, to better understand people who think differently.

the way christians define justice is a prime example of brainwashing. 'god is good, because the law says that he is good, and he created the law, so he must be good.' that logic does not make any sense at all to anyone other than a christian. simply following a law does not make a good person, nor is it necessarily just. justice is being fair and looking out for the wellbeing of everyone under your authority, or who you interact with. god's law is unjust because it shows favoritism and is inconsistent. god is authority over everyone, so he has the responsibility of being fair and just towards everyone. the fact that he set aside favorites and treated them differently is a form of injustice. i have 2 children- if i were to favor one over the other, that would be unjust. in the same way, god supposedly created every human being, yet he revealed himself only to the israelites. he punished the israelites, he rewarded the israelites, but either way it was all in relation to them. he didn't do what was best for everyone, he didn't tell every nation about a savior, it was all about his chosen people, and the rest of the world was essentially left to figure it out for themselves. the israelites, on the other hand, got personal mentoring by god. if i were to teach one of my kids how to read and write and do math, then i would be justified in sometimes getting frustrated with that child when he refused to learn. but my other child would get none of my personal attention- she would just be left to figure out how to read, write, do math, etc... by herself, or else look at the ability of my son and try to mimic it. but i would not be justified in punishing her for not being able to come to the same conclusions as my son, because i simply wasn't there for her. first of all, favoring one child over the other is unjust. secondly, having the same standards for the child i did teach and the child i didn't teach is just cruel. doing that would make me a horrible parent- but it's exactly what god did.

secondly, to a christian's mind, all sins are the same. but that idea is also unjust. does our justice system dole out the death penalty for speeding as well as murder? no, that would be extremely cruel. speeding may be accidental, the result of carelessness, even if it's intentional it usually does no harm to anyone. murder, on the other hand, is taking away someone's fundamental right to life. it is forcefully imposing our will onto another and taking away one of the most precious things we have- our own life. it's just that a murderer be executed- is it just that a traffic violation earn an execution? but to the christian god it's all the same. speeding, or murder, it earns the same punishment- eternal torment in hell (which is an extreme punishment even for a murderer. one would even say cruel and unusual.)

Me again:   my point is there, that the idea of hell and salvation is fundamentally unjust, because all crimes are met with the same punishment regardless of the severity of the crime or even the intention of the sinner. (that poor guy who touched the
 ark, for instance, only wanted to serve god, yet because he wasn't able to read god's mind and think, in that quarter-instant he had to react, that god might want him to let his ark crash to the ground rather than have a rule broken.) and also, even if free will exists, that god basically warned some of the people he created and supposedly loved again and again that they should obey him or be sent to hell, yet he said nothing to the rest of the world and just expected them to figure it out for themselves. many children and adults were born and died knowing nothing of the israelites and the promised savior. the israelites didn't even bother trying to convert the nearby nations, they just wiped them out, so how were they supposed to know and believe in a savior they never heard of? or why should they listen to a nation that was wiping them out at the time? not to mention the nations that were living on the other side of the earth at the time, so they wouldn't have even heard of the israelites at all. what about their souls? did god care nothing for them? obviously not. (and of course, if free will doesn't exist, then god is responsible for picking and choosing who will believe and who will not, who will go to hell and who will go to heaven, so how is that even remotely just?)

also, i wasn't saying that god needed to get rid of our ability to sin. i said he shouldn't condone it. there's quite a difference between condemning the rapist and removing his ability to rape at all. in the above passage, god gives the
 israelites permission to rape, to take slaves, to beat their slaves, to sell their daughters into sexual slavery, to murder the children of other nations, etc... that's completely different than allowing people to sin yet punishing them for it. he supposedly struck down people for doing things such as looking back at a burning house, spilling seed on the ground so he didn't have to give it to his brother, offering strange fire to god, complaining, for doing what he told them to do (scouts going to spy on canaan came back and told the truth of what they saw, and since their report made the isreaelites too afraid to attack, he killed them). etc etc... a more or less complete list is here, (some of which are just killings, most, i would argue, are not.) but the point is, that if he could strike down a man for blaspheming against him, why WOULDN'T he strike down a man for raping a woman? that's all i'm saying.

on the other hand, let me refute that tangled logic above, that christians believe is the truth. (god is good because god created the law, which proves he's good.) god must actually follow his own law in order to prove to the people that he is, indeed, a good, just, god. as you know, it doesn't matter if you follow the law 99.9% of the time- if you've broken the law even once, (and got caught) you will be punished. therefore, all of the good god has supposedly done does not matter if he sins and breaks his law even once. this is the part i will get into later. suffice it to say, if something is considered a sin and therefore will put my soul into hell, god won't do it even once, right? because god is perfect.

My friend:   Don't worry. I'm not offended :-) I agree that controlling definitions is powerful and that doing so can be used as an effective means of thought control. That doesn't mean that all attempts at defining are attempts at brainwashing thoug
h. When speaking of ultimate issues (e.g. "Where do we come from? What happens when we die? What is moral?" etc.), arguing deductively and correctly is really impossible because a foundation must be assumed and foundations are the very things in question. Therefore, we must argue either inductively or abductively to arrive at what seems to be the best explanation of the facts. I make no claim to follow Christ in blind faith. On the contrary, I hold to the teachings of the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:21 "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.") And again, I don't want to debate what Christians do and say because they are fallible and will admit it (well, the true Christians will, anyway). I'm certainly open to being convinced of truth. In the vein of abductive reason, I will listen to hypotheses about truth and then test to see whether or not they better explain the facts than my current perspective.

You say that justice is "fairness" and looking out for the wellbeing of others, but you haven't explained where that idea comes from or really defined the extent of fairness (e.g. Should we all get the same number of oxygen molecules to breath? The same number of calories to consume? Equal possessions of material items? Or is it just equal treatment? If material possession is withheld or made unavailable to someone is that fair? If not, what are the consequences of being unfair?). You're positing a law that God is subject to (the law of Fairness) but you haven't explained why he would be subject to that law or where the law comes from. This seems to be something that I see quite often when people make arguments against Christianity, which is that they borrow from the Christian worldview to argue against it. The whole idea of a law that everyone is subject to is FROM God. Now, since God gave the law, he is not subject to the law (as some people, even some Christians think). However, because the law reflects his character, he would never violate the law. If you really want to argue for fairness then the moment anyone sinned, they should be teleported directly to Hell (do not pass the pearly gates, do not collect any blessings). That would be "fair". Thank God that's not how he chooses to act. Consider the history of the Bible. People chose to leave God. God didn't leave them. He chose the Israelites because he would send Jesus through them. And again, if you look through the OT, there are instances of non-Jews receiving revelation from God. Now, those are just the ones written about in the Hebrew Bible. So, I wouldn't go so far as to claim that God only revealed himself to the Jews and left everyone else to fend for themselves ("Those who seek, will find"). And like I said before, God told the Israelites to be a blessing to "the nations" (i.e. all non-Israelite people) by teaching them about the one true God. Did they do that? To some extent, but people aren't exactly awesome at being selfless then or now.

Hmmm, I'd say to a christian's mind all sins are not the same. I definitely don't treat someone's failure to treat me kindly when I need it the same as I would if they killed my entire family. God definitely takes that stance though (James 2:10). It seems like you're judging what is just and unjust. If effect, you are placing yourself in the position of God. You still need to justify the basis for any sort of universal laws whatsoever. Why do we have the right to life? (I know it seems fundamental and I'm not disagreeing with you, but honestly it needs to be established and not just claimed as fact.) We can't possibly determine what punishment is deserved until we know the law that is broken and who the offended party is and what damage has been done to that party. So, what is the effect of a simple little lie on an infinitely perfect being? I'd say that is an infinite offense and therefore deserving of infinite punishment.

Again, to say that Hell is unjust is a judgment that can only be made from the position of absolute knowledge of what is right and wrong. Do you have such knowledge? And if so, where did you get it? The guy that touched the Ark of the Covenant died for his failure to recognize God's holiness, but we don't know whether he went to Heaven or Hell after that. He didn't have to read God's mind about the issue. They were explicitly told not to touch the Ark under any circumstances. That's why they carried it on poles in the first place. God said *plenty* of times in the OT that he desires obedience rather than sacrifice/tradition. The Ark was a symbol. The command was the very word of God.

My friend again:  We have all of creation pointing at the awesomeness of God. Anyone who truly seeks to know God will find him. If people choose to ignore the evidence all around them and reject God and his rule, then he gives them exactly what they wanted
 in life...distance from God. C.S. Lewis put it well when he said, "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done' and those to whom God says, 'Thy will be done.'" The Israelites wiped out the nations occupying the promised land because it was the righteous judgment of God on a culture engaging in centuries of rebellion. Their dealings with the other nations were to be different (see Deuteronomy's later chapters). I think it's a bit much for us to conjecture here, from our finite mortal bodies in 2012, what God cared about over 3000 years ago. How is God picking and choosing who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell just? Do we even have a right to ask such a question? Paul didn't think so and wrote about it in his letter to the Romans (Romans 9).

But God *doesn't* condone our sin. Just because the Bible records something happening doesn't mean that he was in full support of it. The whole story of Israel is replete with their rebellion against what God said. I'd say to read through the passages again and carefully delineate what comes from God and what comes from man.
-He didn't turn Lot's wife to salt because she looked back. He did that because he specifically told her not to look back and she disobeyed a direct command of the creator of the Universe.
-Onan was killed for spilling his seed on the ground because of the offense he was committing against his deceased brother's denying her an heir he was condemning her to homeless destitution and expulsion from the family.
-God gave specific rules for how to worship him in the Most Holy Place. So, again, it's not the act per se but the direct defiance of God that got Aaron's sons killed.
-The spies told the truth about what they saw sure. So did Joshua and Caleb. The difference is Joshua and Caleb trusted in God's promise. The rest of the nation, if effect, told God "We think you're a liar."

So, I went to the link. It's an interesting list (I actually bookmarked it for reference). But I think the implication the list maker and you seem to be making is that God was unjust in those killings. I contest that position by again saying that God would be completely just in destroying everyone right now (everyone past the age of accountability if that makes you more comfortable). And yet again, to say God is unjust in something is to say that he is subject to a law...what law is that and where did it come from?

Because God's law reflects his character and he will not (cannot?) defy his own character, then he will follow the law. So, you are correct in saying that God has not does not and will not sin. Indeed, I challenge anybody to show me a single instance in which God violated the laws he personally set down for us to follow. Every time someone comes to me with apparent contradictions in the Bible or God's character, it only solidifies my faith when I see how truly consistent he and his word are.

Mewhat you are arguing is relativism. what makes my "version" of justice better than god's? well, what makes god's version of justice any better than mine? because he said so? i certainly don't see it being any better than my own sense of rig
ht and wrong. if god goes against conscience, who are we to believe? if my mind reels and my stomach churns at the thought of god condoning rape, murder, and child abuse in the bible, should i take that reaction as a sign that i don't have enough "faith"? that god is still "good" despite what i see with my own eyes, that rape is horrifically bad, that the murder of children is horrifically bad? if i take it further, and logically apply my mind to gauge whether or not my gut reaction makes sense, and find that god is wrong, and my own sense of right and wrong is right, what now? that's essentially what i did. if you go by the "harm" model of justice, god doesn't have a single footing. the only way the bronze age morality makes sense is if you go by the "purity" model, and i already stated the reasons i find that disturbing and immoral. what makes "purity" inherently good? what makes being "clean" "pure" "perfect" better than being imperfect? how is being "pure" more moral than respecting others' right to life, dignity, respect, consent?

if i find out that faith is useless in determining right from wrong, what happens then? that is basically what happened to me. christians hold faith to be the absolute treasure from god. but "faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see." there are huge pitfalls when it comes to living by faith. you have absolute faith and loyalty to your religion, but others have absolute faith in theirs. in the narnia books, c.s. lewis describes a man of faith and virtue being born to the wrong culture and religion. he followed his faith and lived a virtuous life, but he followed the wrong authority. c.s. lewis' solution was to basically say he would be rewarded for his faith, even if it was misplaced, but what do you say to that? so much of our religious upbringing depends on chance and circumstance- think back on your life. if you were born in the time of the patriarchs, only lived on the other side of the world, how would you know about the coming savior? how would you become saved? if you lived in an enemy nation to israel, how would god reward you if you lived by faith and followed baal with devotion, faith, and virtue? if you were born to parents who worshiped baal, and you were religiously inclined, inclined to be obedient (as god commands), to live by faith (believing without direct revelation), how would god reward you? he would send the israelites to slaughter you, and send you to hell. it seems as if christians only believe faith to be useful if you have the good fortune to be born into parents and a culture which directs that devotion toward the right god. essentially, god is punishing and rewarding people for the circumstance of their birth- circumstances that he himself created. certainly, there are some exceptions- some gentiles did become believers- but as a whole, they did not even have the opportunity to become believers. if even one little child did not have the opportunity to learn about the savior, then god will have failed him. how can god answer for that? he basically sent the child to hell even though the child had no choice. even if you believe in free will and choice, how did that child have any choice at all? how could he have avoided hell? again, with the teaching analogy- even if you command your older child to educate your younger child, you are still the parent, so you are still responsible for the education (or lack thereof) of the younger child. if the younger child does not pass 5th grade, you can't blame the older child for not teaching the younger everything he needs to know- as the parent, you are responsible for teaching him directly. if the younger child refuses to learn, well that's his problem and he'll have to face the consequences, but god didn't even bother teaching the other nations. he didn't send his word to anyone but the israelites. how then does he expect all the nations to magically know about him? (anyway, where does faith come from? where does devotion come from? where does obedience come from? dig deeper. do these virtues come from god? if so, why did he give some of us (you) the desire to obey and some (like me) the desire to rebel? or if the desire to rebel comes from the devil, what makes me more inclined to listen to the devil than you? i listened to god my whole life up until a certain point. i did what i was supposed to. i prayed fervently, i dug deeply into god's word and studied it with all my heart. it wasn't the devil i was listening to all this time. i listened to god- i listened to him so well that i heard the inconsistencies. on the other hand, i know christians who do not listen to god except on sundays. they listen to the devil when they have slips of willpower, and then they repent and go back to listening to god again. but they don't listen deeply- just enough to give them the reassurance that their sins are forgiven, and then they go on their merry way. at what point did my faith run out? at what point did i start listening to the devil? at the point where i started doubting god? hmmm but god says to question his word and cling to the good, so studying the bible, having questions, and searching for the answers in his word would be the correct thing to do, right? and yet when i did all that, that only led me to despair and the realization that god is not "good" at all- in the old testament, how many times does he direct evil? not just allow it to exist, but to direct it at people? that is not good- that is evil. if god is the definition of good, we all should despair, because the only reason he is good is because good is defined by him. he does not do what is fair or right. he says he cares for his people, but he doesn't. he punished many for the sins of one. how can people get the chance to repent and convert to judaism (since jesus obviously hadn't existed yet) when they were being slaughtered for the sins of their parents? don't just listen to words spoken by god about god, look at his actions. look at the result of what he has done. millions in hell for no reason at all other than being born into sin and not having anyone tell them the "good news." every gentile in the time of the old testament, besides a scattered few- maybe hundreds as opposed to the hundreds of millions that never were converted or even had the chance to convert- dead in hell not because they chose evil, but because god neglected them.) and even those who had the chance to convert but didn't- how were they supposed to know what was true and what was not? humans can't tell. we can't tell what's true and what's false just by hearing it. we only convert if we hear something that appeals to us- some converted because they saw miracles. some because it was better than dying. some because their husbands or fathers told them to, and well, they had to listen to the authority or they would face being cast out of the society. certainly nobody told the old testament people that their sins were forgiven. that is a new testament concept. the few places where the old testament hints about sins being forgiven weren't available to those people the israelites conquered or given into marriage with the israelites. can you tell me, what would have been available at the time to convince a non-believer to convert?

Me again:  you seem to confuse fairness with complete equality. i'm not saying that everyone needs the same molecules of air. i'm saying that you don't punish someone for simply being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. you don't give birth to 
babies in a mud hole and then complain about them being dirty. that is not just. the fact that we all "deserve" to be incinerated on the spot is interesting, because it's at the same time irrelevant, and proves my point. it's irrelevant because to punish everyone equally would be fair. if god wanted to incinerate us all at once, that would be fair, according to the purity model. everything is dirty, so get rid of it. the point is that he allows some to live and some to die, and that whether we live or die depends very little on our own choices. some, he allows to die before they are even born. some, he allows to die at birth. some, before we can think for ourselves and choose to have entire belief systems separate from those of our parents. some, before they had a chance to hear about jesus at all. some, with the mental capacity of young children, who believe everything the authority tells them- and the authority they are under may or may not be christian. can you explain how a just god could send these people to hell?

the only explanation i can come up with is that god wanted some to sin and suffer and go to hell, so that the people he chose would see them as examples. otherwise, when adam and eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would have just closed eve's womb and made her barren. problem solved. then he could create a new race of people, instead of allowing billions of people to be thrown into hell. wouldn't it be better to not be born than to go to hell?

A friend of my friendTo measure God according to the actions of His creation falsely describes who He is. God is not unjust or uncaring or unmerciful because the world we live in is imperfect. Neither is He absent. Just as people commit heinous crimes there ar
e those who triumph against insurmountable odds to do good. Each person in this world is equipped to do extraordinary things which God purposed and intended for good. Sure people make mistakes and lose sight of it. However, God's purpose in Your Life still remains. You have experiences, talents and gifts no one else in the world has. How you choose to use them will differentiate you from the those who did nothing to alleviate pain or suffering in this world. you'll be just another who just talked about it.

Me:  i'm not measuring god according to the actions of his creation. i'm measuring god according to his own words and his own actions as described in the bible.

Judges 9:23-24, I Sam. 16:14-16, I Kings 22:22-23, II Chron. 18:21-22, Job 12:16, Isaiah 19:14, Isaiah 29:10-11, Isaiah 54:15-16, Ezekiel 14:9, Romans 11:8, II Thess. 2:11-12

all the abovementio
ned verses (plus the account of hardening pharaoh) state that god is responsible for sending evil into the world. just because he is "holy" doesn't mean he isn't evil. he just did it in a roundabout way, because he's more concerned with people giving him glory than he is about caring for their souls. can a perfect god lie? in some passages, it definitely says that's what he did. mostly he sent others to do his dirty work for him, which still makes him guilty of sin.

The friend of my friend:   God still honors the Freewill He gave to Mankind. Pay careful attention to the actual Hebrew words used in the original text. You may want to do more research rather than relying solely on the translated English text. It's part of really st
udying the Bible. If you are acquainted with other languages, sometimes meaning is lost because of cultural disparity or the lack of definitive words to transcribe correctly. (I'm sure this fact is not unfamiliar to you.) God proposes circumstances (say, opportunities) to you and you make the choices either to do right or wrong. The verses you listed describe characters who continued on their path of wrong thinking such as pharaoh. Another example, God gives you opportunities to develop courage to the person who prays for courage.

Me:  well it's fair to say i don't know hebrew, so i can only go by what the english translations are. i do know that sometimes the word "hardens" refers to a process undertaken solely by god, and sometimes refers to a process where the subject
 and object both work toward the "hardening." at least, that is what i read from an article. i don't know how you would explain god sending forth demons of deception to make people believe lies as a simple translation error, though.

My friend:  Relativism is the belief that truth is defined by individuals or groups. I'm saying that truth is defined by God alone. I fail to see how applying the same truth to everyone is relative. God, being the creator of everything gets to defin
e what right and wrong is. You (even though I like you and we've had great sparring matches together) and me have no grounds for applying a universal law to the entire human race because we're part of it. It would be the height of arrogance to say that everyone should do as I say just because I said it. While we may be offended by what we see going on in the world, that is simply our opinion. ::sigh:: Just because it's recorded in the Bible doesn't mean God condones it. As a matter of fact, it's very clear that God *does not* condone much of the behavior recorded in the Bible. Actually, I would take you're repulsion at those things that God has written his moral law on you (Jeremiah 31:33). You see evil, which is also evidence of God. First, what concept of evil would we have without God? He embodies all that is good. Anything that isn't of God is evil. Without him, the whole idea of evil is a non-starter...actions would just BE. If God exists, then you can't possibly be in a position to judge whether or not he is just. I understand that you find those things immoral. God also finds those things immoral. You're in complete agreement with him. I think you're mistaken in the moral "model" that God prescribes. You prefer the "forgiveness" and "justice" models? Well, God is all about forgiveness and justice.

God is what determines right from wrong, not faith. I'm not familiar with the scene that you're referring to, but C.S. Lewis, while a great apologist for Christianity, is not the ultimate authority on truth. So, if he contradicts the Bible in a statement, then that statement is false. I'd say that God certainly wouldn't reward faith in Satan. So, Lewis's statement is not generalizable. If I were born at any time, in any place, I would still be subject to God's revelation to all people (Romans 1:18-21). You can only be obedient to a command. Non-existent gods can't give commands. It's just people following their own philosophies. God doesn't reward "faith". The faith has to be in something true and good. God would only send the Israelites to slaughter me if I was part of a culture that, for generations, rebelled against him. If you think otherwise, then you have misread the Bible. Just a few examples to illustrate that point are Rahab and Ruth. And it's not so much that faith should be useful. Christians should go to God *for* God, not because he's going to make them comfortable in this life or the next. God is most certainly not rewarding/punishing people for their life circumstances. If you think that all the Israelites got into Heaven, that's a mistake too. To say that people didn't have the opportunity to put faith in God is largely a conjecture and assumes God is limited in how he operates. ::sigh:: God doesn't have to answer for anything. He's God. You need to read through Romans 9 again. Just because the text presents ideas that are difficult to swallow and accept doesn't mean that's not how it is. If the idea of children going to Hell bothers you, then perhaps some research on the topic of "the age of accountability" would satisfy your discomfort. And again, Romans 1 speaks to the concept of "general revelation" which is the idea that anybody alive can observe through their senses the evidence of God. You also can't say that God didn't teach the other nations. First off, we don't have complete knowledge of the workings of God. Second, the king of Assyria in those times received a revelation from God, which would provide a counter-example to your claim.

My friend againFaith comes from God. The desire to rebel is something we all have because of our ability to act as we please (trust me, I'm not a particularly obedient follower of Christ). If you heard inconsistencies, then you weren't listening to God.
 You may have thought you were, but you weren't. Like I said before, I'd love to see the inconsistencies. From what I can tell of your position, you seem to place a lot of value or your feelings towards situations and truth claims. I would just challenge you to provide a rigorous basis for your position. Question everything, even the tools of reasoning themselves. If you looked into the Bible and found inconsistencies and evidence for God's evil, then I'd say you misread the text. Have you read the whole Bible? Do you know which genre of literature each of the individual books fall into? How much do you know about Hebrew and Greek culture and language? Did you look into the background on your English translation of the Bible to see how it was made and supposed to be used? Most of the people that I've run into that say they looked to the Bible for answers and found contradictions would answer 'no' to most of those questions. You say that God directing evil is evil, but you also claim that justice is important. Are you saying that the people didn't deserve it? Show me an example of an innocent person that God inflicted evil upon. Yes, by definition, God is good. To think that causes any sort of problems is to project human fallacies onto God that aren't there. Ultimately, he does do what is fair and right. He established a moral law and punishes violations of the law. How is that not fair? Show me someone that was sinless that suffered because of God. Anyone who sins deserves to go to Hell, immediately. So, any life they get after that is pure mercy on God's part. To think that God owes anybody anything is to arrogantly put oneself in the place of God. And here's something to consider too. God doesn't people to Hell. People reject God and he gives them exactly what they want. Everyone chooses evil (Romans 3:9-12). Plenty of people can tell the truth when they see it. To say that people can't discern the truth is, in itself, a truth claim. Yes, the early believers believed because they saw miracles (predominantly, Jesus' resurrection from the dead). I would argue that someone who becomes a Christian simply to avoid Hell isn't saved at all. They're simply going through the motions to manipulate God into letting them into Heaven. That's hardly the personal relationship that God calls us to. If you don't want a personal relationship with God, then he won't force it on you by sending you to Heaven for all of eternity to bask in his presence. Sure, the teaching about sins and forgiveness came later, but Abraham didn't have those teachings and God considered him righteous because of his faith. Abraham is actually a great example of a non-believer converting to faith in God. Also, Rahab. She stated that the people of Jericho *knew* of God and his people and were afraid of what was going to happen to them. Rahab placed her faith in God, which is why she and her family were spared when Israel destroyed Jericho.

Ok, not punishing someone for being born in the wrong place/time. Fine. By that definition, God is fair. Why is everyone's guilt irrelevant? If we all deserve Hell, and you're saying that sending someone to Hell is unjust, then those two statements are directly at odds with each other. Whoever goes to Hell deserves it. Whoever goes to Heaven doesn't deserve it. So, what's the problem again? You're claiming that equal treatment is the only way to be fair. If God were only fair, then we'd all be in Hell right now. If he decides not to send someone there, what is that to you? You have quite a list of people there. The Bible simply says that God is just. He is, by his own claims, fair. Perhaps God only holds you responsible for the truth that he revealed to you. I'd have to do more research to back that up, but it's a possibility. I don't know if non-existence is better than being in Hell. I could only speculate.

This guy offers some Hebrew word analysis that may clear up some of your interpretations on those scriptures.
This fairly short article also deals with the issue.

And all that is on top of the fact that all of those people were sinful. As the second article states, "God uses evil to chastise evil." I disagree with your conclusion that those verses imply that God is responsible for sending evil into the world. Actually, holiness does imply lack of evil since evil is anything that is not of God. And, no, God doesn't lie.

All of this is all well and good, but you seem to be dodging/ignoring what I feel are my most pertinent questions. From the way I see things, none of your issues with God's behavior are valid until you can answer them.
1. Why is suffering bad?
2. Where does the moral law come from? 

Me:  ok, last questions first (and my apologies for being AWOL, been dealing with a personal situation.)

suffering is bad when it is directed unjustly. from your perspective, everyone deserves whatever god chooses to give them, since they alre
ady deserve the worst pain imaginable just because they chose to be disobedient once or twice. i'm not saying i don't understand that. i'm saying i don't agree with it. i'm saying that even if a child willfully rebels, that does not deserve hell. the "job" of children is to test limits, so that they figure out cause and effect, what is acceptable and not acceptable. if they test the limit and find an interesting or unclear reaction, then they will keep pushing in order to see what is allowed and what is not. expecting complete obedience is irrational and asinine because we are not sheep. we are not mindless animals who obey like robots, and on the other hand we are not completely rational beings either. many people grow into rationality, but by then we have tested the limits enough to warrant a trip to hell. adam and eve did not know good from evil- they were created with the natural curiosity and inclination to explore that children are created with, and that is not a bad thing to have. the fact that they disobeyed god seems only natural to me, because they didn't have full understanding. setting limits is an important thing to do as a parent, but expecting complete obedience is, in my opinion, going to do more harm than good. if god created the natural inclination to explore in adam and eve, how could he punish them for testing his limits, especially when he allowed the snake in the garden knowing full well what would happen? it just doesn't smack of good parenting to me. if i let a poisonous snake in my house to test my children's obedience to me by telling them to stay away from the snake, how could i live with myself if they disobeyed me and got bitten from the snake? certainly the consequence of disturbing a poisonous snake is death- but it would not be their fault that they died, because it's my job as a parent to protect them, to have reasonable expectations for them. god didn't explain himself- he just gave a command and expected complete obedience from them. yet he didn't create them with a natural inclination toward obedience. i have read the bible through multiple times, extensively studied it (some topics more than others), studied the bronze age cultures and biblical cultures. i have not studied greek and hebrew, but admittedly, i am pretty bad at learning new languages. it is not my forte. however, usually the research i do has a strong basis in the linguistic meanings.

ok, back on topic. suffering. there are events in our life where we suffer and can learn from the experience. where the suffering we get is constructive, because we can learn from it. without the context of learning, what value does suffering have? if a woman is raped, does she deserve that? does she learn anything from that? maybe she has sinned in the past, but raping a woman has nothing to do with punishment (and shouldn't!!!) the person sinning is not the victim, but the abuser. any past sins the woman might have committed is completely unrelated to her being raped. do you believe rape victims deserve what they get? because god is somehow punishing them for past sins? certainly i've had sex before marriage. i have been defiant. does that mean i deserve to get raped? or tortured? really, i have a hard time believing that anyone other than hitler and other criminals of horrific crimes deserves eternal suffering. i really don't think swearing warrants a death sentence. that's what i mean by god is unjust- he has a universal (very, very severe) punishment, no matter how petty the crimes. that's not justice. would it be justice if a police officer pulled you over for speeding and proceeded to rape you? not to mention the word "sin" in the bible basically means "mistake" or "error." do you deserve eternal torment for an honest mistake?

and sorry! i didn't mean to write relativism. i actually meant to write relative, but that doesn't really apply either. i meant to say that who's to say god's version of justice is any better than mine? justice means a system which is unbiased and doles out consequences with regard to the acts being committed- including the severity of the crimes. would you rather our justice system mirrored god's? and we would all get life in prison for every little act of disobedience? would that be just?

sorry, that's all the time i have right now. i will read those articles and write more when i have the free time. thanks for debating me!

Me againsecondly, i know god does not condone much of what happens in the bible, but the passages i mentioned come directly from god's commands to his people and include rape, murder, and taking slaves. and, of course, killing children for the sin
s of their fathers (1 Samuel 15, Hosea 13:16, Psalms 135:1-8, Psalms 137:8-9), which you never really addressed other than to quote a passage that says the opposite, that god does not do that. but, those are the inconsistencies that i see. on one hand, god is praised for not doing evil things, and yet there are accounts of him doing those evil things in retribution. do you think that killing the firstborn of egypt was not evil, even though those children were simply under the rule of an evil pharaoh and did nothing personally against god? (not to mentioned god had a part in hardening pharaoh's heart in the first place.) if god did not want to kill innocent children, then why did he help harden pharaoh's heart? why did he kill the firstborn of egypt instead of just killing pharaoh? that's only one instance. i can't help but shudder when god says he will repay nations for their disobedience by dashing their infants against rocks, splitting open pregnant women, etc... how is that not punishing the innocent for the sins of the guilty? you say that no one is innocent- so it doesn't matter who god punishes, for what crime, for crimes committed by unrelated people or their corrupt rulers? what about when god allowed david's neighbors to rape his wives to punish david for taking another man's wife? and killing his unborn child? what about god allowing satan to kill job's family to test job? none of these were addressed, other than to say that all are guilty so we should be thankful that god doesn't do the same to all of us. really? unborn babies are guilty? punishing people for other people's crimes flies in the face of justice.

not to mention the cruel and unusual punishments such as inflicting starvation and canibalism in Jeremiah 19 and Ezekiel 5. again with the raping and dashing of infants in Isaiah 13, which, in context, is a direct punishment from god.

also, does it really matter whether or not god sent an evil spirit directly, or just permitted the evil spirit to come? does it really make a difference which it is? if he sent the evil spirits directly, it makes clear that god can direct
 evil spirits to do his bidding. if he allows evil spirits to torment people of their own accord, he is still responsible for the work that the evil spirits do- since he can bar them from acting, or allow them to act, according to his plan. to quote spiderman, "with great power comes great responsibility". if you are able to stop atrocities from happening, aren't you obligated to? especially if those atrocities are being committed against your own children?

Again, I will continue this discussion in a third post.  :)

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