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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 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.

Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, part 4

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 #4 is interesting:

Why is it whenever I try your suggestion to “find God” (i.e., go to nature, read the Bible, pray), God never shows up? Worse, why am I arrogant to expect him to, when I followed your instructions where you told me to expect him to?

I have no idea what DGS means by “shows up.” If he expects God to make a personal appearance, that’s not going to happen. Paul is literally the only unbeliever I know of to convert based on an apparition appearing to him; everyone else that God personally appeared to already believed.

So, as most of these questions seem to, it really comes down to a question about wordview. I’ve discussed previously how quantum mechanics, under the many worlds hypothesis, predicts that “supernatural” forces can affect events on this plane of existence (though “natural” and “supernatural” are arbitrary distinctions based on the observer’s point of view and have no meaning as such). Read the rest of this entry

Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, Sidebar on 1 Corinthians

The first of today’s posts on DaGoodS’s (DGS) questions will come a bit later, as I wanted to examine a side issue that was raised. The discussion revolves around a specific interpretation of 1 Corinthians 1:20-21. DGS thinks it supports a rejection of all worldly wisdom. However, I believe that in its proper context, it is trying to argue something far different. Read the rest of this entry

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

One of My Pet Peeves

I have a friend who read the title and thought of a great Taco Bell story immediately. One that involved a cellphone, a rude customer, and me expressing my anger in an unhealthy way. But that’s not what I’m here to discuss.

Rude cellphone use, when it interferes with one’s ability to properly interact with people physical present in one’s environment, is one of my pet peeves still today. But the pet peeve under discussion goes by a few names. I think the most common one is spin.

Spin is when you’re asked a fairly direct question and your answer to it fails to actually answer it. It’s commonly employed by politicians. People who use it generally come off as having something to hide.

An example of spin can be seen in this video. William Lane Craig asks Christopher Hitchens a simple question: “What variety of non-theist are you?” Hitchens won’t answer, because none of the choices are convenient for his argument.

Spin isn’t limited to unbelievers. Christians do it to, especially where soteriology is concerned. Religious pluralism is a fairly hot topic right now, and many Christians, fearing reprisal from the culture, don’t want to adopt the “wrong” view according to culture. Yet we want to adopt the right view according to God, not the view that is going to win us the most points in the culture.

Dr. Randal Rauser, in this article, has been asked a direct question about soteriology: “So… what is it one must believe or trust [to be saved]? And how does it lead to works?” But does he answer it? Nope. He spins. Read the rest of this entry

Daniel’s Seventy Weeks

Daniel’s famous seventy weeks prophecy not only predicts the coming of the Messiah, but the exact date of Jesus’ crucifixion. This prophecy also predicts an “abomination of desolation” in that same timeframe. Here’s the prophecy:

Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. (Dan 9:24-27)

This is a seriously misunderstood passage. The folks in Tim LaHaye’s camp think that this refers to the Antichrist. Actually, it refers to the Messiah. Both Satanic forces and heavenly forces are in view and presented as having a hand in the events. However, the ultimate focus of the passage is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and his actions are what LaHaye and his futurist school of thought gravely misunderstand. Indeed, they must for their interpretation to even work. Read the rest of this entry

New Material Up on God is NOT Imaginary!

I announced redoing God is NOT Imaginary a long time ago, and then just sat on it. Well, I finally got back into the swing of things and have updated four proofs:

Looking at my old answers to those questions, I almost cringed. I’ve certainly grown as an apologist and philosopher since I wrote those old answers. The one for proof 3, for example, was absolutely terrible. I literally proved nothing, and I certainly didn’t answer the charge put forth in the original.

My answer to proof #8 was awful as well. What I said boiled down to, “They didn’t prove anything, so neither will I! Besides, NDEs aren’t biblical, therefore I don’t have to answer for them.” Man, I was a really bad apologist for the Christian faith when I first started. I’m glad I’ve grown, and I’m glad that God has shown me that there is more to the riches of knowing him than the intellectual side of things.

I’ve also gotten better at dissecting arguments from the other side, because GII’s argument in proof 3 is totally incoherent and I didn’t notice that the first time around. And proof #8’s conclusion, “NDEs are natural occurrences, therefore there is no spiritual dimension” is just silly to even argue. I didn’t notice that, either.

Good thing I’m doing the updates! I’m going to kill the old site officially, because it is really, really, bad! I’m seriously ashamed of it.

Dave Armstrong Nails the Difference Between Denominations

In a conversation with atheist DaGoodS, Dave Armstrong hit a very important truth. DaGoodS highlighted a typical atheist talking point:

Considering one Christian group tells me “that particular Christian group” is wrong, yet “that particular Christian group” tells me the first Christian Group is wrong, and they ALL agree the Mormon Christian group is wrong. The Calvinists tell me the non-Calvinist group is wrong; the Protestants tell me the Catholic group is wrong. The Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Charismatics…all bickering and fighting as to who the “correct” group of Christians must be.

Every apologist who has engaged with atheists has heard this again and again. Christians have 100 million denominations, each says that the all of the others are wrong, so if you all can’t decide who’s right, how am I supposed to? Dave responds, correctly:

Yes, that is a real problem, and a major reason I am Catholic, but that is not your immediate issue. That comes later. Right now you need to even be convinced of matters that all these groups (apart from rank heretics like the Mormons who reject historic Christianity) hold in common: does God exist; Who Jesus was, etc. First things first.

But in passing, note that Catholics do not claim to be the sole true or correct group. We claim to be the fullness of Christianity, but we don’t deny for a second that other Christians possess large amounts of Christian truth as well. We’re not like the anti-Catholic Protestants who ridiculously deny that we are Christians at all.

And that’s the size of it. Unless they are heretical, all groups of Christianity, from Calvinist to Arminian, from cessationalist to charismatic, all believe in the deity of Christ, the existence of God as a Trinity, and that salvation comes by faith alone in the finished work of the Cross. I believe Dave could attest to everything that I just said.

The atheist has to start there. He has to decide if he believes in God, if Jesus is God Incarnate, and then what to do with that before he can get into doctrinal entanglements. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who urged us to keep our doctrinal entanglements private, as far out of the public view as we can.

Wrath of God

A friend from Facebook, for some unknown reason, posted a link to Westboro Baptist Church’s list of press releases. Out of curiosity, I visited it and clicked on their parody section. I was presented with a list of well-known songs that the group has modified, including a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Listening to that song, cleverly re-titled “Imagine the New Heaven” (an obvious reference to Is 65 and Rev 21), I realized something rather chilling. Fred Phelps & Co. represent the opposite extreme of a spectrum of authentic Christianity. Mainstream Christianity sits on the other end.

Let me explain. Mainstream Christianity preaches God’s unending love. The popular preachers emphasize over and over again how God loves all of humanity, and then they carry it to illogical extremes. They equate “love” with “unconditional acceptance” and that makes sin and damnation completely disappear. No need for sanctification, they will preach, because God loves you just as you are!

Believing that God always has the best interest of his people at heart (cf. Rom 8:28), but then completely de-contextualizing a person’s “best interest,” they preach that God will make you wealthy and powerful. God will answer every prayer with a resounding YES if you only believe it’s true.

On the other end is Fred Phelps, who emphasizes the coming wrath and judgment of God to the exclusion of any mercy or grace. Phelps and company commit numerous theological errors besides that one (such as believing the elect are always members of Westboro Baptist Church, shirking the Great Commission, encouraging those around them to sin to bring the coming judgment faster, and everything else that you can classify as hyper-Calvinism), but removing all hope of grace and mercy from God’s character is by far the biggest they make. Read the rest of this entry