A Forgiving God?!

7 11 2012

Adam and Eve

I honestly don’t know what Christians are talking about when they tell me God is a loving and forgiving god.

Really? I mean according to the Bible He’s willing to torture every human who has ever and will ever live because the first two people he created stole a piece of fruit from a tree.

Okay to be fair some will say that it wasn’t about the apple per se’ but it was because they disobeyed God and because it gave them the knowledge of good and evil?

But wait, I still don’t know why he’s mad.

1) Every kid disobeys their parent at some point or another (it’s what kids do).

2) I would WANT my kids to know the difference between good and bad

3) He’s God…he could easily erase that knowledge or, if he’s really stuck, why not  just kill Adam and Eve off, cut down the fruit tree, and make Adam and Eve 2.0 from scratch. Why prove how “forgiving” you are by punishing everyone else for eternity because one couple committed misdemeanor petit theft?

Then again God was kind of a moron for putting the tree there in the first place so expecting him to be rational about all the rest of it just wouldn’t make any sense would it?

Greatest story ever told.  Yeah, right.

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21 responses

13 06 2013
Grant

I love talking about this stuff. I am a Christian, so I can try to explain what we believe if you like. I’ll be honest, it’s usually hard to wrap your head around.

13 06 2013
SuperJesus

Go for it.

13 06 2013
Grant

Cool. I’m going to focus on the two numbered points you made. I’m no expert and I’m still a sinner myself, but hopefully this well represents what I think is true.

The reason Christians would cite for the disobedience of the child is the “Fall” of man, or the impact Adam and Eve’s sin had on humanity. The sin of Adam and Eve is a sort of entry point for sin into the world, but it’s not their sins that we are held accountable for. The Bible definitely teaches that you’re not punished for the sin of previous generations (some people cite verses to the contrary, but those are generally taken out of context. If this is a stumbling point to my point, I can walk through that part but I’m not going to get sidetracked for now.) So that means the wrongdoing we’re punished for is our own. I’ll dive into how this punishment can be in line with a loving God if you’re still up for keeping this going.

As for knowing the difference between good and bad, I also would want my kids to know the difference, but that’s only because of the world we live in. If there were no sin in the world, there would be no need to see the difference between good and bad because all would be good as God originally designed it. A knowledge of good and evil is exactly that: it allows you to not only know (and therefore do) good, but also evil. I really can’t give you a good picture of what a perfect world looks like beyond what’s in the first couple chapters of Genesis, because frankly I can’t wrap my head around a world without pain, hurt, disease, hunger, etc. Does that all make reasonable sense? Hopefully you can glean what I mean from what I write.

13 06 2013
SuperJesus

So if “the wrongdoing we’re punished for is our own” then we were not born into sin. That position is contrary to what is indicated in Psalm 51:5. “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” – New International Version.

Without original sin then infants and small children would get a free pass into heaven having had no opportunity to sin, and the rest of us could theoretically get into heaven if we managed to live a pure and virtuous life. It could be argued that we would then have a diminished a need for Jesus’s “sacrifice” since a good number of people (certainly infants and children) would get into heaven regardless. Right?

To be fair, what YOU are saying sounds much more reasonable, but you have to concede that it isn’t Biblical.

As for knowing good and bad and original sin, the point I was making in my post is that if God had not put that tree there in the garden in the first place we would never know sin and therefore would never need to be sick or damned or redeemed or suffer. But he DID put it there and because he’s omnipotent He KNEW Eve would eat the fruit. Therefore He INTENTIONALLY brought suffering and evil and damnation into the world. After all, it must have been part of His divine plan. Right?

Sorry, I appreciate what you’re trying to do but none of what is in the Bible makes any sense and no amount of trying to tip toe around it or making excuses makes it sound even remotely reasonable.

17 06 2013
Grant

Sorry, was away for the weekend.

OK, so here’s how Psalm 51 is reconciled to this idea: I (even devout Christians do not all believe this, it’s a theological nuance) ascribe to the doctrine of total depravity. This means that outside of God, man can do nothing good. Essentially, no one who does not believe in Christ can do anything good.

That sounds wretched, but it”s not as ridiculous as it sounds. It’s birthed from the understanding that the only things in this world that are “good” serve God. I think this makes sense, given that serving God is interacting the Creator of the Universe and our own personal Redeemer, which has a lot more eternal implication than anything we would do for ourselves. The buzzword in the church for doing things for someone/something other than God is idolatry. Does that connect reasonably?

God didn’t intentionally bring sin into the world, that was the choice of mankind. By putting the tree there He must have known it was a real possibility, yes. I think it connects to the free will argument–God gave us he choice of whether or not to serve Him. Humans over generations have chosen not to serve God. This is certainly true of Satan and the demons, and I think it can extend to people: their eternal destination is the option which they would prefer. Being a Christian certainly puts you in a position of subservience, of being second in command. Jesus says we have to die to ourselves. It’s not all fun and games on the Christian side, but it is what God designed us for and in the end is much better for us.

17 06 2013
SuperJesus

“God didn’t intentionally bring sin into the world”

Okay, let’s test your assertion and see if it holds up to scrutiny.

First let’s define god’s powers. He is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing of all things past present and future), and omnipresent (he is everywhere all the time). I suspect you agree these are very godly attributes. I would also suggest that if your god isn’t all of these things then he’s not really much of a god and probably shouldn’t be worshiped.

Now let’s assume God creates everything including one garden, two people, one tree of knowledge, and one pesky talking snake. He’s God so this short list of very important players shouldn’t be too much for him to manage.

Of course being omniscient he already knows that Eve will eat from the tree…so either he wants her to do this OR he’s not omniscient because he cannot see that the tree will be a problem and should be removed (or put somewhere out of reach).

Of course being omnipotent he can stop one talking snake from getting into his garden in the first place…so either he wants the snake there to cause trouble OR he’s not omnipotent and he can’t stop one lousy talking snake from chatting up the only woman in the entire universe.

Of course being omnipresent he would be there as Eve is about to eat the fruit and he could intervene before Eve eats the apple and avert all the human suffering and evil such an action will bring…so either he wants her to eat the fruit of knowledge or he’s not omnipresent.

I think it’s incredibly obvious that if there is a God he intentionally brought sin into the world. Of course the other option is there is no God, that this is just a silly incoherent story, and that you should go ahead and think for yourself and stop accepting every piece of absurd nonsense your church tells you.

17 06 2013
Barbara

Grant, I’m not even certain what I would address. SJ has done a rather nice job with the many facets of what you’ve stated, but beyond there is so much more.
You honestly believe only good comes from those that worship your deity? Not even addressing the issue of your own narrow belief and the many divisions within that belief, you’d have to realize how erroneous that statement is and would hardly be used by a decent theologian.
I’ve many more thoughts, but it would be ridiculously long to write them, however as much is commented below, it would be nice to think you might actually consider some of these responses.

19 06 2013
Grant

Hello, I’m back again.

So in order for this to move anywhere, I’m going to point a couple things out. First of all, we haven’t finished looking at any part of what has been brought up. I’m going to address two key points here, and I’d just ask that I, you two, and anyone else interested in the conversation can try to stick to these topics to start (or counter-propose if you’d rather talk about a different topic, it doesn’t matter to me. Just trying to narrow the focus a bit.) Another comment is that I would like to focus on making sure that none of us take something that is not requisite truth and twist it into the argument. For example, I did this when without defense I commented on things which are good (we’ll come back to that), and SJ did the same in saying that God has to have certain characteristics in order to be a god worthy of being worshiped. Unfortunately, that’s simply not true. Many people both a part of and not a part of the faith struggle with certain attributes of God (I’m going to use that to describe the Christian who can be argued is both real or not) such as His wrathful nature. Just because you think God should or should not be something does not mean you can ascribe those characteristics to Him. Do you see the logical fallacy there? It’s essentially the same thing you accuse me of in taking the Bible to be true.

Point 1.) That said, I agree with the characteristics you ascribed to God. However, that does not mean that God brought sin into the world. There are two options: God controls the entire story, thereby putting on a galactic puppet show in which no beings are created, or He has to give some of His power to those He created. Given the abundant evidence for free will in life (I frequently illustrate this by flipping a coin and doing the opposite of what it suggests, or throwing something at someone), it seems logical to me that we have free will. There’s a lovely ideal where God neither controls people nor is there any possibility of sin, but the two don’t add up. If there’s no option for something other than perfect worship, that’s not free will at all. I think the part you’re struggling with is what those characteristic omni- words about God really imply. There are a lot of other directions to explain that, but I’m not going to go into those for now. Side note, the snake/serpent in the Genesis account is Satan, the Devil. He was an angel before he fell away from God because he, similarly to Adam and Eve, desired to be his own master instead of being subservient to God. Because Satan has will and men have will, they can choose to serve masters other than God, and that’s all there really is to it.

Point 2.) Many renowned theologians would support what I said about what is good and what isn’t. note this is different than what Barbara either read or interpreted, which is largely possible because my phraseology was brief and poor because it wasn’t the center of my point. Here’s how I illustrate it often: I believe that one of the worst people to ever walk this earth was Mahatma Gandhi. Bear with me for a moment; you’ll soon see why this makes sense from a Christian perspective. If man is saved from eternal torment to eternal redemption through salvation in Christ, a person’s eternal trajectory has significantly more weight than anything that happens in their earthly life. What man has convinced more people that they can be “good” without needing the Christian God? Not very many, I would wager. There are plenty of people who have done more terrible things, but generally these do not convince literally billions of people that it is a noble, good, correct course of life. So because Gandhi has likely influenced millions towards hell, he was certainly not doing good in his actions. The same idea can be applied in a million iterations and to significantly lesser extremes if you’re interested in me developing the idea further.

And a simple question to close it off: do you want the Christian God to be real or fake? I won’t lie; I want Him to be real. Doesn’t make everything I say invalid, just changes the perspective.

20 06 2013
SuperJesus

The “fall of man story” is supposed to explain how humans who were created perfect by god became sinful. If you believe the Bible as written then there are only a few possible conclusions to draw from the story.

1) Since you agree with the attributes I ascribe to god it is obvious that god was unwilling to stop eve from eating that fruit in all the ways I explained therefore he intentionally brought sin, evil, and suffering into the world. Paradoxically since he also chooses to punish us for sin even though he made us this way this implies that god is also quite the sadist. Or

2) he was willing to stop sin but unable to do so hence he is neither omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent and he is a poor excuse for a “god”.

You talk about Satan, but he introduces a similar problem to the god story. Apparently god is perfect and he originally created the perfect angel. But his “perfect” angel went completely the other direction becoming pure evil and now is the exact opposite of god. If god made such a catastrophic error in creating exactly the opposite of the perfect angel then god himself is certainly not perfect, OR he intentionally created Satan and evil. So which is it?

Your closing question is illuminating. Whether or not I want any god to be real or fake is not relevant, what I want to know is the truth. Because you want there to be a god you delude and fool yourself by making excuses for the logical inconsistencies of the Bible and the complete lack of evidence for god. Your desperate desire for god to be real also makes you deny the obvious and continuously growing mountain of scientific evidence that consistently contradicts the Bible and creationist story.

At least consider the possibility that god doesn’t exist and that the Bible is just an ancient attempt at explaining the world in a pre-scientific age. If you can do that you might come to see that the truth is far more interesting than any convoluted fairy tale.

20 06 2013
SuperJesus

By the way, your comment about Gandhi is just insane. You’d rather have people do horrible things in god’s name (Jesus forgives you…whatever) so they can get to some imagined heaven over people doing good works out of the kindness of their heart because they might go the hell (or make other compel other people to do good out of kindness rather than religion). I’ve been pretty reasonable in this conversation, but that’s just straight fucked up.

You mean to say that if it weren’t for the threat of hell that YOU would be out raping and stealing right now? Your kind of “moral” behavior only comes because of the “carrot” of heaven and the “stick” of hell? You’re a far sadder person if that’s the case. Someone doing the right thing or the kind thing is infinitely more moral when they do it out of their own innate kindness than because of an imagined gun pointed at their head. Yours is a profoundly perverse view of goodness and kindness that I would want nothing to do with and it speaks volumes about what is inherently wrong with Christianity specifically and religion in general.

21 06 2013
Barbara Chester

Well I certainly learned one thing from Grant. Even he doesn’t believe his god is good or just. ;-)

26 06 2013
Grant

Honestly, I don’t know where to start, so I’ll start with this: I don’t think you’re seeking truth. Plain and simple. I understand how a debate (for lack of a better way to describe this thread) can push anyone towards the extremes of an argument, absolutely. Ironically, we call it “Devil’s advocate” sometimes, particularly when we’re doing it deliberately.

I don’t want to be antagonistic, please don’t get me wrong. I’d rather just continue discussing the issue, but without this conversation I don’t think this thread can really go anywhere. Reasonable? You are totally allowed to respond to these comments however you please, but at some point it becomes challenging for me to respond when things underlying your statements aren’t necessarily fact, things which are often hard to pick out.

The reason why I don’t think you’re seeking the truth is because you’re closing off arguments based on tons of underlying assumptions and not fully listening to what I have to say. For example, the last post provides two options close to the beginning. Are you really prepared to say that there are no other alternatives? I understand that my arguments are not air-tight, and I am by no means an expert. I’m trying to open dialogue so we can figure out what exactly is the difference between what you two think and what I do. Is that a fair goal? Other underlying assumptions include:
– Why was Satan a perfect angel? (He wasn’t.)
– Why because God made something imperfect does that make Him imperfect? (See my previous free will statement.)
– Why do you say I delude myself? (In a debate, your side is not automatically the true side. I make no claim that I MUST be right, because I can’t fully know.)
– Why do you assume I’ve never considered the possibility that God doesn’t exist? (Trust me, I have. A lot. And it’s an easier world.)
– Why is my comment about Gandhi insane? (You’re missing the point. I would certainly not rather have someone do evil in God’s name, I’m not sadistic. Jesus frees to do things truly for good rather than for an ulterior motive. I don’t believe you when you say you “do good” for no reason, I’ve been there. Correct me if I’m wrong, if you do something good for truly no reason then you’re being irrational, because there is an alternative which would further whatever you deem most important more effectively. And if it leads to eternal fire and wrath, why is breaking down a social caste structure such a great thing? Remember, it’s in comparison. I fully believe that human rights were advance by Gandhi, very much indeed. I don’t do it because of the gun pointed to my head, either! I do it because I GET to. Because I’m freed from needing to serve idols (or being irrational, see a couple sentences above). It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. That’s actually the huge distinction between Christianity and other religions: I’m saved regardless of what I do, but I am freed to do what good God desires. If I don’t desire to do things because of Christ’s sacrifice, wouldn’t that point to me not getting what Christ has done for me? I would agree, a lot of other religions are the gun-to-the-head sort.)

Finally, Barbara, I can’t even express how good or just my God is. He’s perfect; I don’t deserve to be associated with Him. His perfection should keep me out of His presence. But he made a way for me to exist with Him. What we deserve is to serve ourselves instead of Him, which, in the end, ends up being wholly unsatisfying. Think about whatever is most important to you in your life. Has that thing ever disappointed you? Did it rock you? God is the only thing in all creation big enough not to disappoint or be too small. I continue to grow in my understanding of Him and what He’s done for me, and I appreciate and love Him more every day. Seriously. And he chips away at my gunk, sands the rough edges, and allows me to worship Him. And He’s just because He gives us what we deserve: hell for disobedience, and heaven for Christ’s obedience when we commit ourselves to him.

So overall, can we try to answer each others’ questions and respond critically to what the other says? I understand I’m playing “defense” to an extent, and I’m fine with that. My big question would be the one from above, though: is what you stake your identity in satisfying your deepest desires?

3 10 2013
paul from chicago

hey super jesus…where the hell are you!?!?!?!?!?

3 10 2013
paul from chicago

did the cartoon of Mohammed get you killed?

3 10 2013
SuperJesus

Nah, I was just tired of conversing with Grant. His intransigent and intentional ignorance was exhausting. But thanks for asking! :)

13 11 2013
Salafrance Underhill

Grant, it seems to me that your responses imply certain axiomatic beliefs that are not shared by the others (myself included) on this thread. For example, one such is the belief that God is good.

Is this correct?

If this is correct, can you describe the axioms, the underpinnings, of your belief?

On the subject of whether we would *want* a god, specifically the Christian god, to exist; I’ve been an atheist since childhood. I realise perfectly well that if one hews to the rather higher standard of proof required by mathematics, I cannot disprove the existence of the Christian god. However, as I’m a creature of flesh and blood, living in a subjectively real and tangible universe, I can make a judgement call and say that I’m not going to believe anything for which I’ve not been provided a credible source of information. I’m abundantly familiar with the propensity of a subset of humans to lie; likewise I’m familiar with certain psychiatric conditions that distort a sufferers perception of reality. For instance, on visiting a local charity for people with mental health problems, I met someone who is a) a priest and a Christian and b) informed me that he could curse people.

So armed with a working knowledge of my world and the people who inhabit it, I’m pretty confident that the Christian god is as much a fiction as any other. For me, it’s not a question of ‘want’, it’s just that I have no belief whatsoever in the object of your faith. It would be like me wanting to believe in the tooth fairy. I’d love to believe in elves and unicorns; I play an elf priestess in a variety of MMOs. However, I just don’t.

Viewed objectively, as an outsider, the Christian god comes across as an abusive monster – he has all the traits one might see in a rather mean-spirited and somewhat sociopathic hard-liner from a Bronze Age patriarchal and pastoral society. Your previous efforts to change our perception run up against the fact that we’re operating with different axiomatic beliefs. You start from the premise that God is good, as that happens to be an article of faith. We’re operating on the principle that all claims are subject to scrutiny and measured against a rational consensus.

Given my choice of gods, I’d have to go for Odin, because he valued intelligence and is therefore a god of some awesomeness.

However, I don’t believe in Odin, either.

13 11 2013
SuperJesus

Kudos. Well put.

13 11 2013
Grant

Hi Salafrance. I mean no disrespect to SuperJesus, but I do want to respect what I perceive to be their wishes and not comment any further on this post. If you would like, feel free to send me an email at gelledge8@gmail.com and I’d be happy to answer any questions or discuss anything you might be interested in talking about. Thanks!

14 11 2013
Salafrance Underhill

Hi Grant – I should perhaps point out that while I’m interested in your world view and would be happy to email you to discuss this further, I’ve not, to date, encountered arguments which struck me as offering a convincing basis for faith. If you can accept the possibility that you’re rather unlikely to alter my position, I’ll drop you a line later in the day.

I have to admit, that with respect to this whole question, I tend to feel as though I’m poking kittens with a sharp stick. An old gentleman knocked my door about thirty minutes ago and asked, politely, if he could interest me in the contents of his leaflet. I looked at it, and said ‘Sorry, I’m not a believer…’.

He said ‘Not at all?’. I looked apologetic (I felt apologetic) and told him to take care, as he walked away. If I’d had anything resembling a clue at that point (really not a morning person), I’d have offered him a cup of tea.

Truth be told, I’d never have gotten involved in the Atheist Wars if I wasn’t so concerned about the encroachment of the evangelicals on the teaching of science. I’m a science nerd – one of the programs I have running as a background task is a simple evolutionary simulation I wrote in order to improve my command of Python. I’m hoping to start a collaboration with a friend, soon, to implement a distributed genetic algorithm to evolve artistically pleasing configurations for a system called ProjectM, itself a mechanism for displaying complex, ever-changing, dynamic and often breathtakingly beautiful visualisations which warp in response to whatever music is currently playing.

My oldest friend is an evangelical. My first girlfriend converted not long after she was diagnosed with terminal leukaemia.

I know how and why evolution is a good theory and I care about the truth; hence the reluctant activism. It’s not something I’d otherwise choose.

14 11 2013
SuperJesus

Everyone is allowed to discuss freely, there are no closed threads here. I simply came to the conclusion that rational debate is useless with you Grant so I quit trying. Good luck Sal…knock yourself out

14 11 2013
Grant

Salafrance, go ahead and drop me a line. As for me personally, I’m also a lover of science. I study engineering and science at a major University and am substantially invested in academic research. I find mathematics in particular exceptionally beautiful. I’m not coming from a place of trying to “score a convert” or anything like that, so let’s talk.

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