Category Archives: Sin

An Interesting Philosophical Conundrum

The Christian band Texas in July is going on tour with numerous other acts to raise money for a website called sexetc.org.  According to Bryan Kemper, this website is staunchly pro-abortion despite purporting to present a “balanced view.”  In fact, it only provides links to organizations that encourage abortions, and derides pro-life organizations in blanket statements.

Basically, the site promotes values contrary to Christianity and shouldn’t be supported by persons who call themselves Christians.  Yet, Texas in July is a very vocal supporter.

A commenter to Kemper’s article, Jordan W., raises an interesting philosophical question:

As if any of you -author included- knows what’s best for the band. It’s pretty clear that this tour is serving the purpose of getting their name out there and promoting One Reality. I love this band, and I am a faithful Christian as well. Who are we to judge what they do? If you want to actually support the band, support them by going to shows.

Need I remind you that August Burns Red went on this exact tour with The Human Abstract a few years back? Cmon now, be supportive and quit your judging.

Kemper didn’t even touch on a philosophical response to what was raised here, but I wish he would have.  He talked about the practical implications, responding that Texas in July was actually raising funds for sexetc.org, where the other Christian bands mentioned weren’t specifically doing that.  Jordan kept up the “Stop judging!” reply, which isn’t really what Kemper was doing.  He was, as he put it, “It is not about being offended, it is about calling out an injustice.”

But, the broader and more philosophical question not pondered is, “Can I do what’s best for me, even if it spits on the face of the God I claim to serve?” Read the rest of this entry

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, Nature of God (long answers)

More questions from the Reddit thread filled with questions theists can’t answer.  These still focus on God’s nature, and require lengthier discussions than the previous questions.  However, they are no less puerile.  First question:

If God is perfect, why is he “a jealous God”?

God is “jealous” for one reason.  He is the ultimate being and the ultimate reality, the definition of perfection, goodness, and holiness.  God created life and sustains the universe that supports it.  He alone is the embodiment of divinity and is worthy of worship.

Yet people refuse to do so, when it is their duty.  We understand that duty, which is why human evolutionary biology is becoming such an important field.  As is embryology, paleontology as it relates to the origin of earth, and cosmology.  We want to understand where we came from, but we aren’t seeking the One who created us, only the culmination of perfectly natural laws that put us here.

Let’s say that Bob has a daughter named Beth, and was a perfect parent to her, never failed her, always encouraged, mentored, and uplifted her, and did everything to see that she succeeded in life.  Would Bob the a-hole if he becomes jealous when Beth suddenly cuts him completely out of her life and starts calling Steve “dad,” even though Steve only became a factor in her life last Tuesday, and has literally done nothing for her?  Should Bob just let it go and forget about it?

No, and therefore neither should God.  He is that perfect parent, unfailing and perfect in love, upholding and sustaining our existence after having created us and blessed us abundantly.  When we deny him and seek a natural explanation for our origins (or other gods), then he has every right to be jealous.

If Men (who are imperfect) does not condemn the children because of crimes commited by their parents, how can God (who is perfect) do it?

As I have argued repeatedly, that is most certainly not what is happening.  Sin is both action and ontology.  Adam’s sin introduced corruption and sin into the world; our own sinful natures are consequences of that.  We are not condemned for the sin of Adam, but by it.

Think of this illustration.  If I punch you in the face and break your nose, you didn’t ask for that.  You’re mad at me.  You probably wish I hadn’t done it.  But, at the end of the day, you still have to suffer the consequence of my action.  It’s not fair, is it?  Yet it happens everyday.

Guess what?  If I’m an alcoholic who beats my wife everyday just for good measure, then my daughter is going to seek a husband who beats her and my son will beat his girlfriends.  Both will likely be alcoholics, as well.  They didn’t ask for that; it’s not fair!  But it will happen to them all the same.

Bottom line: we are not immune to the consequences of someone else’s actions.  I don’t deserve hell because my grandpa killed a man just to watch him die.  I deserve hell for the lies I’ve told, for the lustful staring at Angie the Anti-theist (because I’m married, not because she’s an atheist, no hate mail for this–I’m complimenting her by saying she is gorgeous), for the history paper I plagiarized in high school–I could probably go on!  All of these sins leads back to Adam introducing sin into the world in the first place, but the fact that he introduced it doesn’t obligate me to join the depravity.  I do that all by myself.

What would a god be doing before creating a universe?

Mind-numbingly stupid question.  Time is a function of spinning masses of material that create gravity, bending space and acting on other objects contained in space.  The revolution of the planetary bodies around a sun, and the revolution of these suns around a central point of a galaxy, and the spreading of the galaxies outward from a central emanation point create a chain of cause to effect, that effect becomes the cause of another effect, and so on.  This creates the sensation called duration.

Take away space, and with it all the rotating, revolving masses within it, and you have eliminated the chain of cause to effect which is the cause of another effect, and so on.  No more duration, itself an illusion created by linear cause and effect chains.  No duration, and you don’t “do” anything to “pass the time,” because there is no time to pass!

So, God’s existence, “pondering” what to do with this existence, “deciding” to create a universe, “planning” what sort of universe to create, “mulling” possible universes over, and finally “creating the universe we see” would seem to be simultaneous actions for a timeless/spaceless being, given the absence of space-time and no way for him to experience duration.

God might have willed itself, heaven and hell all out of existence last year. How would you know?If god created man in his image, does he have a nose? If he has a nose are lungs attached to the nose? Does God breathe? If so why did he create a universe where 99.99% of it is a vacuum? If he does not breathe why does he have a nose?

I get the strange feeling that this is meant to be facetious, since I can’t prove the first portion of it, and the rest of it sounds like those goofy philosophical inquiries, like “Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?”  So I’m tempted not to take this paragraph too seriously.

I can’t answer any of it with certainty, but I can explain why I think that the whole thing is misguided and puerile.

First, I don’t believe that God would commit “deicide.”  The reason is that the Bible reveals that God not only created the universe, but he also sustains it.  This is why God is a philosophically necessary being; without him, no universe, no life.

Also, given that God is timeless, he doesn’t “come into” or “go out of” existence the same way as we would be able to.  “Beginning” and “end” are concepts that are functions of time, which God is not subject to.  So it’s pointless to speculate about what would happen without him, or what things would look like if he wasn’t there–that can never happen.  Without him, there is literal eternal nothing.  The type Francis Schaeffer referred to as “nothing-nothing.”

When the Bible states that God created man in his image, what it means is that God’s basic attributes are reflected in man: moral freedom, sovereignty, intelligence, creativity, and things like that.  It doesn’t refer to appearance.  It isn’t a physical reference, but a mental one.

So the rest is the puerile portion.  No, God doesn’t have a nose as he is immaterial: timeless and spaceless.  So no lungs or breathing; God isn’t a material being with material needs.  As we covered in the previous question, God has no needs; he is entirely self-existent.

I’m not even touching the rest.  I’m not sure why I even took this last question seriously.

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, Hell

A question from the Reddit thread of questions we theists supposedly can’t answer (but we really can, but if we do, then we’re full of it because we’re not supposed to have all of the answers, but if we don’t have all of the answers theism is false; atheism makes my head spin–I’m way too consistent in my personal judgments to ever embrace atheism!).

This question concerns hell, and it’s a common one:

How can God’s love be unlimited if there is hell?

Hell is a fate to which humans consign themselves.  God is basically the ultimate respecter of persons.  He has laid the cards on the table–no matter how deeply we penetrate the black box of existence, it becomes increasingly complex and ordered.  No matter how far we probe the cosmos, the evident beginning of everything is found.  Ultimately, it all points to a First Cause that is itself an intelligent creator–a person, God the Father.

Jesus, the second person of God–the Son, has revealed the Father to mankind by becoming one of us.  The wrath of God against ungodliness has been appeased in the sacrifice of the Son to those who have faith (active faith, faith that does something; different from mere assent to a certain worldview).

From the Father and the Son comes the Holy Spirit, which is the evidence of God’s action in the world.  He calls us, convicts us of our sin, and regenerates us in faith to become sons of God and conform to the image of Christ.

The cards are on the table, and they are many and obvious.  But no one is  coerced to love God.  I don’t believe loving God is choice per se; rather, it is a revelation of something already inside you from the start.  Being a Christian isn’t something that you do once in an altar call, but a lifelong journey of self-discovery.

If you refuse the free gift of grace, living life apart from God, God doesn’t snuff you out of existence (though we could argue that he would be justified in doing so).  Instead, he allows you to remain in tact, living both on earth and into eternity.  The soul was created for eternal fellowship with God, to snuff a person out of existence would be to violate the ontology of the soul.  Make it something that it isn’t.  So, what to do with the soul that rejects God?

Well, heaven with God wouldn’t be nice.  If you rebel against and ultimately reject the fellowship of someone (such as divorcing a spouse), you don’t want to spend a solid second with that person ever again–let alone all of eternity!  It would be worse torture than, well, hell.  Cruel, even.

I’ve heard many an atheist express sentiments like this.  Over the course of keeping this blog and venturing into discussion forums with various atheists (such as Theology Web, the Rational Response Squad discussion board, the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees forums, and the Is God Imaginary forums), I’ve heard several times over things like, “I’d rather spend eternity in hell than be in heaven with your God!”

This is predicted in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19-31).  In it, a rich man dies and goes to (presumably) hell, while a beggar named Lazarus ascends to (presumably) heaven.  When the rich man realizes that he’s lost, does he try to alter his fate?  Nope–all he does is ask for a drink of water, something that would satisfy his immediate need only.  Then, he wants to warn his family so that they won’t suffer the same fate.  Notice: he doesn’t want out of hell!

This is why C.S. Lewis observed, wisely I think, that the doors of hell are locked from the inside.  No one is there that doesn’t want to be there.

Hell is perdition and separation.  It is, ultimately, what the sinner wants–total separation from God.  God is giving him his way.  However, for those who submit to God’s way rather than their own, glorification in heaven awaits, and eternal fellowship with God.

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, the Atonement

I was recently directed to a Reddit thread where the atheists were proposing questions that theists can’t answer. Surprise, surprise, we can answer them, and in many cases have answered them (just not the satisfaction of the atheist). Of course, personal satisfaction isn’t a prerequisite for truth.

That said, what follows are questions from that thread that center on the Atonement. Read the rest of this entry

Do I Only Have to Reject One More God to be an Atheist?

There is one particular atheist argument that I hear quite regularly that inspires within me a desire to smack the smug person who says it right in the back of the head, as though he were Tony DiNozzo and I were Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

The argument runs a bit like this:

You are an atheist to thousands of gods.  I’m only an atheist to one more god than you are.

The speaker is acting as if I only have to take one small step and I’ll be free of this Vulcan mind-meld of Christianity and I can live my life like a “normal” person.  But atheism isn’t just lacking belief in one less god than the Christian.  Atheism is lacking a belief in any sort of deity.  In other words, atheism is rejecting the Divine.  Let’s explore that for a moment, because it is far deeper than rejecting “just another god.” Read the rest of this entry

Why Aren’t Christians Better People?

C. Michael Patton began a series on questions he hopes no one will ask, which relates to my own series on DaGoodS’s questions that Christians hope no one will ask.  I examined a few of his questions in brief already, and I had intended to continue examining them as he posted more.  In the interest of time, I wanted to just write a small snippet on each and combine several in a single post.

That didn’t happen with the question of why Christians aren’t better people. Read the rest of this entry

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, Eternal Destiny

I’m still researching some responses to DaGoodS’s remaining two questions that Christians hope no one will ask. But I wanted to put something up today, so keeping with the theme of questions posed to Christians, I’m going to answer two interesting questions.

A long time back, on Reddit, there was  a thread collecting all of the questions that theists allegedly can’t answer. In a previous thread, I began to answer some of those questions. I would like to continue by answering two questions that relate to the eternal destiny of the soul.

The first question I’m going to break up into pieces so it’s a bit more manageable.

Guy is an adulterer without repenting and thus, goes to hell, right? Another guy kills a hundred people, without repenting, and thus, goes to the same hell, right? Now, do you think it is proportional to treat both guys with the same fate?
Yes, because in both cases they have broken the same laws issued by God. However, just because they are going to the same place (hell) doesn’t automatically mean that they are in for the exact same punishment. The gravity of the sin will determine the amount of pain one suffers in hell.
I guess this next part of the question is supposed to make some sort of big “court-room-drama-style” revelation that makes everyone gasp, but it really makes the writer sound stupid:
However, if they go to “different places” according to the gravity of their sins, do they go under authority of God? If so, does it mean that God actually determines the penalty, and not the Devil?
Yes, God determines the ultimate punishment. The Devil is a created being, and he himself is going to hell, but not because it is his domain. Pop culture depicts the devil’s “home” as hell and Far Side cartoons show that he is the master of it, deciding the fate of wayward souls. But theology tells us that the devil’s home is actually heaven, and he was ostracized for rebelling against God. In Revelation, the devil is cast into everlasting fire the same as rebellious humans. He’s not the warden, nor is overseeing anyone’s fate there. He is suffering in it, alongside the other damned.
On to the second question:

If I kill your whole family and by my last breath I repent, would you feel comfortable meeting me in paradise?

What most critics miss about Christianity is that “easy-believism” isn’t what is in view. After establishing that sin means certain death for the people who continue in it, Paul rhetorically asked the Roman church, “How can we who died to sin still live in it” (Rom 6:2)?

Most churches today practice Gospel Lite, telling us that if we believe in Jesus, then we get to go to heaven. Never do they peel away the layers of sin in our lives, trying to show us that we need to repent of our former selves and live according to Jesus’ teachings. Above all, we must practice grace and forgiveness. Not by becoming doormats, but by embracing the greatest of the commandments and loving God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength. Then, loving our neighbors as our own selves.

So, for the mass murderer who makes a deathbed profession, we have to ask ourselves, “How sincere is this guy, really?” He might just be trying to avoid hell by embracing that Gospel Lite prevalent today. If he isn’t sincere, God will know that and judge accordingly.

If he is sincere, and he is in heaven, then I will have my faith in God’s judgment to just and fair.

The bottom line is this: God does things at the counsel and good pleasure of his own will. He doesn’t ask his creatures how we would like to be dealt with, nor how he should deal with others. As he knows all, we should place some trust in his judgment.

In other words, just because a person once professed faith in Jesus doesn’t mean that he automatically gets the golden ticket and goes to heaven. There is a component of obedience that must be met as well.

Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, part 8

Former Christian turned atheist DaGoodS (DGS) has compiled a list of eleven questions that he doesn’t think Christians can answer. I’ve decided to take him on, since I’m a sucker for questions that Christians supposedly can’t answer. Hopefully, DGS and I can learn something from each other.

I have temporarily skipped questions #7 and #8 so that I can do a little bit more research. These are questions that lie outside the area I generally consider my specialty (philosophy), so I want to do some research. Since I didn’t want to lose my incredible momentum of posing, I thought I’d work ahead to give me some time.

So, let’s cover question #10:

What law, moral code or justice system was God following when He absolved David of his sin? More importantly, what moral code or justice system was God following when He killed a baby as punishment for a sin He absolved? (2 Sam. 12:13-18)

This question is asked only from a complete ignorance of God’s ontology. Let’s cover divine simplicity, but let’s start essentially by isolating God from the universe.

First, when you apply an adjective to someone, some external quality is modifying or describing this person–in addition to this person’s ontological make-up (e.g. the indelible qualities that make him human). If I say that someone is moral, for example, I’m using some generally accepted definition of “moral” and saying that this person’s behavior and attitudes usually conform to it. Read the rest of this entry

Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, part 6

Former Christian turned atheist DaGoodS (DGS) has compiled a list of eleven questions that he doesn’t think Christians can answer. I’ve decided to take him on, since I’m a sucker for questions that Christians supposedly can’t answer. Hopefully, DGS and I can learn something from each other.

Question #6, the most foolishly misguided question, is:

If God lied, how would you know?

For some reason, atheists treat faith as a foul word that rivals the f-bomb for words that shouldn’t be used in civil conversation. This is because they are seriously misguided as to what it means.

Here are some skeptical examples representative of how they typically define the concept of faith:

  • Voltaire: “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”
  • Nietzsche: “Faith: not wanting to know what is true.”
  • Henry Ward Beecher: “Faith is spiritualized imagination.”
  • George Seaton: “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”
  • Even Ben Franklin had issues with faith! He said, “To Follow by faith alone is to follow blindly;” and “The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason.”
  • Mason Cooley deserves the last word here: “Ultimately, blind faith is the only kind.”

These quotes show us that the atheist believes faith is belief without evidence, or despite all the evidence. That’s not true! D. Elton Trueblood has the real definition of faith: “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” J.P. Holding develops the idea of faith as trust in this must-read article.

Once you realize that faith isn’t a blind step in the dark, taken for no rhyme or reason, then you can understand that the answer to this question is a matter of faith. Faith is trust placed in one who deserves that trust.

As Christians, we have faith in God, and we have faith in the Bible since the Bible is an accurate revelation of God’s character and mission. Indeed, they are one-in-the-same revelation. The Scriptures affirm that God cannot (will not?) lie (Num 23:19; Tts 1:2; Heb 6:18; 1 Jn 1:5).

Having faith in God means having faith that the inspiration of the Scriptures is accurate, and what is in the Scriptures is an accurate representation of the character of God. The Scriptures are clear that God doesn’t lie.

What this means is that there’s no need to consider how to know if God has lied or not. He’s not going to. It’s a moot point.

More on PrayerMarket.com

In a previous post, I spoke of a new website called PrayerMarket.com in which users traded prayers for reward money. Basically, I thought the whole idea was reprehensible. I’m not alone; other bloggers who were directly contacted by the site’s founder have pretty much agreed with that sentiment:

The first two are Catholic websites and both used a term that’s new to me, but the concept it describes isn’t. The word is simony: the act of exchanging money for spiritual goods. The origin of the story is Simon the Sorcerer, which is described in Acts 8:9-25. The crux of the sin is found in verses 18-19:

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Offering money to obtain the gifts of God, rightfully obtained solely by God’s grace is not a sign of a penitent heart. The apostle Peter told Simon that his heart wasn’t right before God, and commanded the sorcerer to repent (verse 21-22).

Someone suggested Steve Colbert do a story on it. Not a bad suggestion; there is much to be mocked.

John Wilson, founder of the site, has agreed to an interview with me. I will reprint the interview below in Q&A format, with some further comments from me. Read the rest of this entry