Please Pass The White-Out

Skeptics have many reasons they offer for why they reject the authority of the Bible.  The reasons range anywhere from recording attestation of supernatural events to being edited and re-written over the centuries to suit the needs of the Church.  Among the most recurring objections are the many inconsistencies and contradictions which skeptics believe serve to undermine the reliability of the information the Bible records.  Any skeptic website or blog worth its salt will have a section dedicated to the real or apparent inconsistencies and contradictions (I-C).  Aside from benign copiest errors, does the Bible really contain blatant contradictions and meaningful inconsistencies?  What I’m not going to do is reconcile the I-C, there are plenty of resources which do an adequate job of that.  I’m more concerned with this: should we expect any I-C if the Bible was merely a human invention? 

If the Bible was not superintended by God, but human invention edited and re-written over time, why should we expect to find I-C at all?  What the record of the manuscript copies of both Old and New Testaments show is little to no change in content.  The vast majority of variations in the NT text are nonsense errors (misspellings, added letters, etc.); word order and grammar changes not effecting translations (spelling “John” with one “n” or two, using “the Mary” instead of just “Mary”, or rearranging words like “God loves John” instead of “John Loves God” since the gender of the words dictate the understanding regardless of their order).  There are a few places where there are differences in manuscripts, but they do not affect any teaching or doctrine (i.e. Romans 5:1, 1 John 1:4, Philippians 1:14).  But the content of the material is unchanged over centuries of copying.  Significant discoveries in the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed little to no change in the OT as well.  A copy of Isaiah, for example, was found to be dated centuries earlier than the previously known oldest copy, and they were nearly identical.  What this shows is the Bible, as a whole, was not edited and revised over the centuries.  Why is this important?

What we have then is centuries of copied I-C.  Surely 19th-21st century skeptics don’t think they are the first to notice all the obvious I-C.  My question for skeptics is this: if the I-C are as obvious as they appear, why were they included and not corrected throughout the centuries?  Is it reasonable to demand that there should be no I-C if the events the Bible records are reliable accounts of those events? 

One of the unfortunate aspects of ancient history is lack of multiplicity of records of events, secular or biblical.  For the majority of biblical events the OT and NT are the only extant records (which itself does not undermine the veracity of the events).  Today, nearly every detail of nearly every event, from sporting events to earthquakes have dozens to hundreds of different sources.  The authors of biblical events had to discriminate which specific events and details they would record, really for lack of means–scroll and ink.  The goal was to preserve what the author considered the most important and relevant details.  The point is, the I-C can reasonably be attributed to our lack of “filled in” details.  What may appear to be I-C could as likely be nothing more than incomplete details. 

The Israelites were a strong oral culture.  The events recorded by the Prophets and Apostles were well-known in the communities which motivated their written accounts.  It stands to reason true I-C (or invented accounts) would be weeded out either in the oral transmission of events, or later in written transmission of events.  However, what we find is the continued inclusion of the apparent I-C.  I would argue their inclusion speaks more to our incomplete background knowledge of the history of the event than that the event was not accurately recorded or never happened, and the presence of I-C do not serve to discredit the reliability of the events recorded in the Bible.

Comments

  1. Good points. The early church had plenty of opportunities to tidy things up if that had been their motive. But they didn’t.

    The alleged inconsistencies / contradictions meme is powerful. A guy at work said, “Doesn’t the Bible have a lot of contradictions?” I jokingly asked, “Name 3.” He couldn’t name one, so I gave him a common one as a sample. I know skeptics have their lists and it is fun to debunk them sometimes. But you can spot those who have no interest in the truth pretty easily. You can give a thorough explanation of an alleged problem then they’ll move on to the next item in their Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites without conceding anything.

    • I think my biggest peeve with this particular objection is this: there is zero investigation into the issue. I see time and time again the skeptic concludes “contradiction” unless the individual verse or isolated passage is not completely self-explanitory or is word for word lockstep with other places speaking on the particular issue. I know it has been said to death, but the skeptic would cry foul if everything was 100% coordinated without any discrepancy, they’d claim collusion. They artificially create a no-win situation.

  2. Yep. Jesus was onto something with that pearls / swine command.

  3. John,
    I’m honored that you think I’m a skeptic “worth his salt”, I’ll take that slightly backhanded compliment with pride.
    Again, I’ll point back to the same comments I made in your Tea in China post, as well as highlight the way in which I introduce those contradictions on my own site.
    That chart you link to is not intended to “disprove God”, in fact when I was a Christian myself I was well aware and unconcerned with many of the inconsistencies shown on that chart. I do not consider inconsistencies an argument against God, I consider them an argument against scriptural infallibility and purely divine authorship.
    If, for example, I’m in a conversation with a Christian, and he quotes a biblical passage as evidence of his argument, yet I’m aware that a contradictory passage exists, or he shouts “infallibility” or yanks out Psalm 12:6-7, or Matt 24:35, or Isaiah 40:8; then what John, am I supposed to argue? That he has a point?
    Even on this point, I can point to Biblical passages that imply that God’s Word can be tainted, so in this case, we end up with an ironic contradiction.
    If you read the preceding paragraph on my site, you will find no mention of me saying God does not exist. I argue only that the Word of God as quoted in the Bible cannot be considered untainted by fallible scribes and translators.
    And you agree. So what is your point?

    As to the rest of this post, I disagree wholeheartedly with your framing of this as evidence for divine inspiration.

    If the Bible was not superintended by God, but human invention edited and re-written over time, why should we expect to find I-C at all?

    Does this assertion not imply that the people transmitting the word were aware that the Bible was not the Sacred Word of God? I suggest that this is a false dichotomy. It is not either the Word of God is thought to be sacred and transcribed with reverence or this is just a fairy tale we can change with wonton delight; it is more obvious that the I-C were the result of multiple human voices that were perceived to be the sacred word of God and therefor not edited.

    Aside from benign copiest errors, does the Bible really contain blatant contradictions and meaningful inconsistencies?

    I would suggest that the fact that there are so many entirely different and biblically grounded denominations speaks volumes about the existence of “meaningful inconsistencies”. Free Will or Predestination? Both, I can argue, are biblically grounded. Faith vs. Works. Both, again, have verses for (and against). Calvinists vs. Armenians. There are enough places in scripture for any number of biblically grounded epistemologies.

    John, skeptics must be permitted to argue against specific claims made by Christians, else your epistemology has no relevance because it cannot (and will not) be tested for truth. If you want to whine about that, like you do in your response to Neil, then so be it; that doesn’t change the fact that a claim must stand up to reasonable objection.

    • George, I’m not suggesting skeptics use this argument to demonstrate God does not exist. This is a specific objection to the judeo-christian claim to biblical authority. The ojbection on one hand claims the Bible is thick with inconsistencies and contradictions which therefore render it unreliable; and on the other that judeo-christian authorities have edited the bible to suit their needs.

      So my rejoinder above to these objections is that what appears to be I-C is more likely to be a gap in our understanding of the historical event in addition to the details the authors chose to include or omit rather than being an actual contradiction.

      What you cite for doctrinal differences are due to interpretation preferences and is a flaw in the reader not the author. Basically the author, at the time of writing was clear, but over time as generations become displaced from being historical contemporaries, the understanding on the part of the reader becomes strained on plain reading. Now what is needed is a more thorough investigation on some issues.

  4. the skeptic would cry foul if everything was 100% coordinated without any discrepancy, they’d claim collusion.

    Unfortunately, that’s not the case, which means it’s not really relevant. It’s possible that Christians have set themselves up in a no-win situation (perfect Bible = God is implausible, imperfect Bible = God is implausible), but what we have is an imperfect Bible so rather than sling around accusatory hypotheticals, it seems more on point to discuss what actually exists.

    Neil refers to a “Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites”, which is cute. On the other hand, we have this extremely common phenomenon of general evasiveness from Christians about Biblical contradictions. “You just have to look at the context!” etc. etc. That chart that George posted reveals the scale of this problem — and many of those contradictions are very straightforward “x is true” vs. “x is false” type statements. You can’t just wave your hands and make these go away. That strikes me as much more of a “sound bite” problem than repeatedly referencing the obvious existence of contradictions in the Bible. How about actually backing up your assertions?

    If you’re claiming a perfect God, and you’re claiming that the Bible is authoritative as far as what this God wants and doesn’t want, what we should believe vs. what we shouldn’t, then you have to contend with the problem of inconsistencies. It doesn’t make sense for a perfect being to screw up this badly. (Maybe he’s just messing with us and trying to make us believe the wrong stuff and go to hell … but don’t you also believe he’s benevolent?)

    On the other hand, people are imperfect. We do find parts in the Bible that obviously were edited over the years — old stories crammed together, phrases added in to clarify something that would obviously make no sense, etc. — but this was done imperfectly. Factoring in the millennia the Bible was around prior to the existence of computers and searchable text, it’s not that hard to imagine people might have missed something here or there. And it took a really long time before most people were able or even allowed to look at the Bible for themselves, so contradictions and errors weren’t really an issue — priests could just quote the parts that they wanted people to know about, and ignore the rest.

    • “Unfortunately, that’s not the case”

      Actually this is precisely the case! Skeptics all the time argue that the Gospels for example are not independant sources because “they all used eachothers stories” or some variation. And how many times have skeptics slung hypotheticals to explain A) the empty tomb B) the claims of the disciples to have seen Jesus alive after his death C) claims of supernatural events? Skeptics as a rule offer hypothetical answers, and not just for speculation, but to actually claim the alternate explanation is sufficient to disprove the claims.

      Secondly, of course it is absolutely reasonable to examine particular verse’s context. The Bible was not written in single numbered lines independant from one another. Each verse is part of a paragraph, which is part of a chapter, which is part of a book. Context is important when considering the understanding of any writing, not just biblical. So where one verse may appear to say “x is true” and another “x is false” you do need to look at the context of each to be sure that is exactly what is being offered by the author. I see it common, especially in your series, to take verses as individual ideas and pose them against eachother. That is just terrible methodology.

      There are so many manuscripts, we know where the variants are, we know what was “clarified” and what the original said, the discipline of textual criticism has made it possible to know with more than 99% accuracy, that what we have today is what was written, with very few questionable areas.

      But, if you and I build something from IKEA which comes with 100+ parts and 30 pages of instructions, and we both have different parts left over (when we should have none), or drawers backwards, is it a liability of the instructions and the author of the instructions, or the ones misreading the information?

  5. John,
    Your argument sounds like authors had a choice about what to include in scripture. This flies in the face, in my opinion, of the consensus among many Christians that the bible is divinely authored, that it is beyond reproach, and that it is complete and inerrant. If you are correct, this means that the bible may be the Word of God, but not the Complete Word of God.
    That contradicts the opinion of many Christians and certainly seems foreign to my experience as a Methodist as well as the time I spent in a Revivalist church.
    I’m not saying you are wrong, I’m saying that you are perhaps not the particular kind of Christian this argument is aimed at. It is a valid argument given a specific premise, that the Bible is not subject to the whims or mistakes of the author, because the “author”-in the ultimate sense- is God.
    That you don’t believe this argument is valid is perhaps saying more about your own beliefs and moderate views regarding authorship and less about the argument proper.
    There is no “average Christian”, and to reduce the available arguments of the skeptic to only those things where all Christians agree is to in essence say that your faith is beyond any criticism whatsoever. Yet, you don’t even do that! You insist that skeptics disprove theism proper before addressing the claims of specific groups.
    It all seems a little disingenuous to me….

    • Im not saying the Bible is the incomplete word of God by the authors including some details and omitting others. I am saying what appears to be a mistake when we read the Bible is more likely to be due to a gap in our understanding of the details of events the author did not record in the particular passage, rather than a mistake in the text as a contradiction or inconsistency; and that if there was a mass conspiracy to edit the Bible then we should see no inconsistencies or contradictions.

      “There is no “average Christian”, and to reduce the available arguments of the skeptic to only those things where all Christians agree is to in essence say that your faith is beyond any criticism whatsoever. Yet, you don’t even do that! You insist that skeptics disprove theism proper before addressing the claims of specific groups.”

      Maybe I haven’t been clear about my view on this. When the skeptic decides to enter into a theological discussion, the side which starts the discussion kind of dictates where the skeptic’s (in this case read: Atheist) line of argumentation can go. For example, if the skeptic begins the discussion, sure he can go where ever he wishes, attack any idea…however there is a tendency for skeptics (generally speaking, obviously not everyone) to argue in this fashion: Argument A proves Christianity false, therefore God does not exist. This is the scenario in which I would demand the skeptic to disprove a general deism if they are arguing against God.

      If the Christian, or any other theist is arguing for their particular God, then of course criticism of their religion’s description of God is perfectly legitimate…however, just a general argument against the person’s religion’s ideas will not necessarily suffice, many times the skeptic will have to do some actual leg work by asking questions of the theist’s beliefs on particular issues. For example, it does the skeptic no good to argue against young earth creationism with an ancient universe creationist; or against Calvinist doctrines with an Arminian.

      So there is no blanket arguing against theists. You are right, there is no “average Christian” and therefore the skeptic is in the unique position of having to do a little investigating before continuing. And as I have said in the past, I try to stay focused on narrow specific areas if I can help it because the tendency of theological debates involving Christianity with skeptics inevitably goes off on multiple tangents.

  6. rautakyy says:

    The bible is full of inconsistencies and contradicitions. This is understandable. It was written during a long time span and the jewish culture changed along that time. The fact that it holds any consistancy at all is a result of that the latter authors were somewhat aware of the previous works. If the bible was just a historical source the apochryphical part would be included without question, but since it is not seen just as a historical source, it is contested wether or not that is a part of the book at all. Also many of the inconsistancies are often explained by “deus ex machina”. If historical sources from antiquity say there are men with dogheads in the far away eastern lands, we think this is not true, but some people take it as truth that Noah landed on Ararat after the flood, since it is in the bible and that is an infallible source.

    As with the story of Noah, most inconsistancies and contradictions the bible has in it, are not within it self, but rather with reality or religious doctrine. However, no story can be reliable description of anything only by being consistant within itself. It has to be related to the known reality in some way. If a murder wittness says that the murdered was killed by a zot-beam from an UFO, the court will not believe this to be the cause of death of the deceased, unless there is other evidence to back it up that there actually was a UFO and it did emit some kind of beam. No matter how consistant the story about the UFO and zot-beam otherwise are.

    One thing that I have never understood, is how can the bible be the holy book for so many alledgedly monoteistic religions. The simple fact that the creator god in it is described as one and only at some point, does not disprove the many other gods running around the pages. Or is monoteism only a “flaw” of the reader not the authors?

  7. In my series, I often quoted many lines of scripture in long paragraphs, and linked directly to a page where you can easily read the entire chapter. How much context is necessary to understand a verse correctly? It always seems to be just a little bit more than however much I happen to quote. If you think I took any verse in that series out of context, please tell me. I don’t promise to agree with you … I think that if Jesus says, “It is always good to [behave in x way],” no amount of so-called “context” can reconcile this with another statement where God says, “It is always evil to [behave in x way]” or “It is always good to [behave in mutually exclusive way y].”

    Actually, though, I think I look at the Bible in its complete context — political, historical, cultural, as well as textual — which believers seem to want to avoid doing. Never mind that the different stories served particular political agendas of different tribes. Never mind that they seem to display exactly the ideas that ancient civilizations held about nature and reality, rather than the more accurate descriptions we understand today.

    When I wrote, “Unfortunately, that’s not the case,” what I meant was that it’s not the case that the Bible is 100% coordinated without any discrepancy. Maybe atheists would use this fact against the Bible too, and maybe they wouldn’t. I can see how they might. But we don’t live in a world with a 100% flawless Bible that never contradicts itself. It very plainly does.

    • I’m not saying you do it intentionally, I in fact think you try as best as you see fit to understand what you are criticizing. However, I think you stop short often because (in my opinion) you probably feel as though you have put in an adequate amount of effort to come to the conclusions you have.

      For example in your latest, you cite the Skeptics Annotated Bible, which is notorious for out of context comparisons. Reading through the pages you cite, I had to shake my head. And its not like it’s difficult to see how dreadfully out of context it is. I mean, I dont have a seminary degree, and just a cursory understanding of historical background of the NT and the idioms used in the OT referenced in the NT is enough to realize how silly the SAB must appear to an actual theologian. But skeptics will never (for the most part) attempt to understand the BIble because they give credence to sites like the SAB and assume the SAB has actually done some research on the issues.

      So it is precisely because of this that skeptics will never be convinced there are reasonable explanations of apparent inconsistencies and contradictions, and will always complain when the Christian asks them to put a little effort in. For example your Inconsistent Teachings uses verse citations which are grossly removed from their immediate and cultural context. Like I had said, you had one “Deal Breakers” post which actually was compelling, actually caused me to research…for about a week actually, and the rest fell victim to (I assume) your trust that the websites you used for motivation and information were dealing accurately with the passages.

  8. The main problem with the assumption of bible being absolutely true, is that we do not know who holds the truth about it, because even people who agree that the bible is 100% true and only pure source of the will of a one and only god, can not agree what that will actually is. There are thousands of sects of christians and those hold innumerable amount of contradicting “flawed” interpretations of the book. How is the average christian supposed to determine who of the religious interpreters has the truth, if any? Not all christians are even literate.

    That in itself shows a major flaw in the assumption of existance of that kind of god. That the presumed god is alledgedly allpowerfull, but unable to produce communication with humanity that would make any sense about his/her will. Let alone, that it would be simple and understandable to all. This of course matters only, if this alledged god is actually even interrested in humanity in a benevolent way as also suggested. Or maybe the bible was written under inspiration of Cernunnos, the horned trickster god the celts believed in.

    • Again, whether people agree upon a universal understanding or not is not a liability of the text, rather it is a liability of the reader. Whether you cannot understand the bible or cant read says nothing of Gods character.

  9. Oh, but it does. It tells us how the alledged god communicates with mankind or even christians. Not wery well, I would say. The cryptic text is clearly not working as means of communication, since it can be and is constantly interpreted in so many ways. What effort the said god has given to communicate with humans? A book by bronze age tribal historians and sheepherders, that is in contradiction with all knowledge, exept the supertition of the people of a certain era and ethnic backround??? I mean, come on.

    • I’m glad to see I was able to convince you your earlier position was incorrect, and that you now agree with me. Now hopefully you will come around on some of my other points.

  10. rautakyy says:

    Hehe. John Barron Jr, I am happy, if I made you glad for a change. I may agree with you about many things on this and other issues as well. I usually do not address such points, if I have nothing to contribute. I gues it is due to my cultural backround, not to show support when the other person is standing strong, but here it is for the record.

    I have not changed my mind about anything on this issue. Maybe you just missed the intented sarcasm. That in turn, may (once again) be the result of my bad english.

    • That’s great that you actually now see there aren’t actually any real contradictions in the Bible, and that they only appear to be because of our lack of complete historical information and our assumed superstition. Though I don’t see why you needed to reiterate this with a second comment affirming the same thing you just did.

  11. rautakyy says:

    I would ask you not to put words in my mouth. I have not recanted my position. Not to repeat what I said before, I try to put it in other words, for you to understand what I mean.

    Now, the bible is so unconprehensable, that it leaves most readers unaware, what the truth behind the text even might be, if there is any. This is obvious since the interpreters of the book who take it as the word of a god can not agree what it is supposed to mean. However, this does not lead to the assumption, that the bible is not contradicting within itself, not by far.

    You would claim your god is blameless of people not understanding the bible, right? But what does it tell about the alledged god, that people (even willing people) seem to be unable to make any sense of the will of this god? As even those who believe they have begotten the knowledge of the gods will from the bible are constantly contradicting each other, how can you be sure your interpretation is the correct one? You may believe so, but so do many of those who would contradict your understanding of the book.

    This god of yours should have the power to communicate with people in a way that does not discriminate people by their ability to read and interprite some ancient tome most of them are unable to grasp, right?

    • it’s kind of silly to claim that because people understand the Bible in different ways, therefore it is unlikely God exists. Thats just nonsense. Not only does it not take into account human agency, human selfish motive, and a whole host of other factors which may serve to prevent a perfect understanding of the Bible, but it assumes that unless God forces us to understand, he either doesn’t exist, or he doesn’t care, which is a complete false dichotomy. There could be, and are many other explanations as to why people do not have a unified understanding of the Bible.

      I also find it fairly arrogant (not that arrogance falsifies an idea), that you believe that unless God adhere to what your personal standards say he ought to be like, then we are justified in believing he does not exist, or is unlikely he exists. Since when (assuming God exists) would a created thing have any authority to dictate to the Creator how he ought to behaive.

  12. So it is precisely because of this that skeptics will never be convinced there are reasonable explanations of apparent inconsistencies and contradictions, and will always complain when the Christian asks them to put a little effort in.

    You said this, primarily, as a means to defend your stance taken in the OP:

    What may appear to be I-C could as likely be nothing more than incomplete details.

    This is an intellectually dishonest position to hold. Atheists must make the effort to understand the context and authorship of the bible, but if even after that something does come up as contradictory or inconsistent, then you explain it away by saying the bible doesn’t contain all the details.

    You put yourself in a position that cannot be argued against. So, either bible has no inconsistencies or contradictions, or it does but they’re based on a lack of detail. Either way, it’s win-win for those claiming infallibility of the bible.

    Of course, you could apply the same reasoning to the Koran, the Torah, The Diamond Sutra, or the pyramid texts. If your justification of divine authorship can be used to defend any written text, then it is insufficient to defend any of them, including the bible.

    • I understand what you are saying and can sympathize. Much in the same way the Mormons evangelize by saying ‘pray about it and if you’re praying earnestly you will come to the truth of Mormonism’. Basically, if you’re honest you’ll see it my way, and if you don’t see it my way then you’re not being honest.

      I can only speak to my experience, and my continued experience is skeptics, (generally speaking) view religious beliefs as nonsensical and akin to fairy tales, they see no need to earnestly investigate. After all, how much effort would I put in investigating a claim I thought was a childish fantacy, I don’t investigate my 3 year-old’s invisable friend with the same enthusiasm as I do the cause of my flat tire. But the claims Christians make are much more serious than the tooth fairy and require a more than cursory attempt at investigating the apparent contradictions. I have seen so often when an explanation is offered, it is rarely ever accepted and merely waived off and the explanation is scoffed at as just an excuse.

      Of course not every skeptic would and does handle these issue the same, and I’m painting with a broad brush–i know, but I’ve been at this for about 10 years and skeptics who genuinely investigate and will be satisfied with reasonable explanations are the micro-minority. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in discussions with skeptics, and actually had them concede their understanding of what they thought was a contradiction was mistaken, only to have them bring it up again at a later date. Like I said, I can only respond to my experiences.

  13. John, if you think I resent the insinuation that I ought to “put a little effort in” articulating my objections to the Bible, you drastically underestimate the amount of time I spent researching and writing those posts. If you have specific problems with specific verses I cite, I would love to hear which ones and what the problems are. I read over those long lists at the SAB and then read the entire chapters generally in some translation in more-modern-than-KJV English, and I made a big effort to leave out any borderline contradictions or ambiguities. If you’d rather just make generalizations about how my arguments weren’t good enough than actually tell me what needs improving and why, there’s nothing I can really do about it except write you off as not actually interested in a constructive discussion.

    Yes, sometimes I used short blockquotes, but I can’t always quote multiple long paragraphs and have a readable-length article at the end. I usually linked to Bible Gateway which makes it really easy to expand the entire chapter if you want to see it. Several of the posts were close to 2,000 words, even having done this. I don’t think I cut out any necessary context when I was quoting verses — but like I said, if you think there are places where it’s missing, please tell me.

    And besides, the whole point of that series was that each one of the things I wrote about was something I considered a “dealbreaker.” I don’t think I needed to “win” every point, even though I do think they’re all serious problems. You only have to break a deal once, not six times, in order to void it.

    • Do you mind if I ask how many and which Christian websites you researched on Bible difficulties? And the ones you looked at, why you didn’t include the Christian’s explanation and why you felt it falls short? From the lines your arguments take, and the way you parsed your conclusions, I’d say you only consulted atheist websites. And if that is the case, what does that say about your effort to actually understand the inconsistencies?

  14. rautakyy says:

    John Barron Jr, yes, I am a proud and arrogant man. However, the standards are not my personal choises. If I would determine a god, that imagined entity would have totally different standards. This is not about me or my personal wiev of gods. This is about the god in the bible and how christianity defines a god.

    Is your god not allmighty? Is your god not benevolent by definition? Did this god of yours not promise to put all who do not believe in him and all who happen to believe in him in a wrong way, into eternal pain and damnation? To fill those standards this god of yours should be able and responsible enough to communicate with humanity on a far more advanced level than an old book you guys yourselves can not agree on what it means.

    The bible is a disaster in communication and as a proof of that look how many christian sects there are. They all claim they have the singular truth about it and only means to be saved. How does the regular everyday christian define wich one of these sects happens to have the actual truth? How should a skeptic, atheist, hindu, buddhist, muslim or a jew find the right sect of christianity? Normal people living normal lives all determined to spend eternity in Hell if they do not join in just the correct sect of a religion they may have never even heard of? And as a guide they have an obviously outdated book. Get real.

    Your god is not allmighty, since he cannot produce a better means of communication. He is not benevolent, since he is sending into damnation people who do not understand him, only as a result of misunderstanding a wery old book, or because his cause does not seem plausible, since his will can not be agreed even by his own followers.

    Not all people in the world can become ritual experts of all the religions to know wich one of the holy books speaks the truth or who has the truth about a particular holy book, if any.

  15. Yes, just because something is capable of being misunderstood doesn’t mean it is incapable of being understood.

    “Normal people living normal lives all determined to spend eternity in Hell if they do not join in just the correct sect of a religion they may have never even heard of?”

    The number of denominations doesn’t invalidate Christianity in any way. If people agree on the essentials (Jesus is God, the Trinity, Jesus is the only way to salvation, etc.) they are Christians. If they have different worship preferences (e.g., how often and in what way they have communion, baptize, etc.) then they should join the denomination that doesn’t violate their consciences. We have a lot of freedom.

    The problem with normal people living normal lives is that they are sinful people living sinful lives, and they will have to give an account to their creator. They can pay for their sins themselves, or trust in Jesus now and accept his payment on their behalf (and get his perfect righteousness transferred to their accounts). It is a great deal, and I’m glad to have accepted it.

    If you sincerely want to know God and be reconciled to him on his terms, not yours, then you will find him.

  16. rautakyy says:

    But it is not just “some people” who choose not understand the bible. We are actually talking about most of humanity. Common people living ordinary lives wether they are christian or not. Good willing people, fine neighbours, lovely parents and little children. Only wery few people understand the bible same way you do, right? You would accept a god who sends most common people to Hell for eternity and only saves those few guys who interpreted the bible right? Do you really see that kind of god as benevolent? Even if your god sends one soul to eternal damnation for not knowing there exists christianity, bible or Jesus is inherently wrong. And we are talking in millions of lives.

    The pretended ecumenics of christianity do not strech wery far. For hundreds of years the two biggest sects of christianity, roman catholics and orthodox christians and their priesthood have condemned each other as pagans, killed each other in constant wars and firmly believed the others are going to Hell. Their faith based firmly on the bible. Before that they destroyed numerous other sects and executed masses of christians. Heretics have been burned alive, for speaking their mind. The protestant churches have not been any better. Entire cities and their christian populations have been destroyed by firmly believing christians, devoted to the truth in the bible. Has your god intervened? Why not?

    There are some general ethics that even a god should be answerable to, if a god would exist. Even more so if that god has ultimate power, and especially so, if that god held true to the promise of benevolence. Do you think a god is abowe ethics?

    What ever wrongs you or I have committed or are going to commit are not wiped out by forgiveness from an imaginary fairytale character. A person is responsible for his/her actions. It is only people who can forgive.

  17. “You would accept a god who sends most common people to Hell for eternity and only saves those few guys who interpreted the bible right?”

    Is it that hard to interpret that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and Jesus is that Savior? A Phd in theology is not required.

    Read Romans 1. People suppress the truth of God’s existence in unrighteousness. He is quite benevolent, but also quite just.

    “A person is responsible for his/her actions.”

    Yep, unless you trust in Jesus you will be completely responsible for all your sins — for eternity.

  18. rautakyy says:

    John Barron Jr, my claims may wery well be “non-sequitur” or even “nonsense”, but simply statign so, is not an argument for that opinion.

    Neil, most people who have ever existed have not had even a chance to make your conclusion from the bible. Why do they have to suffer for all eternity? Think about a tribal african, whose first contact with christians was a slaveship to the Americas, and on that ship the african died. He had not embraced your simple truth from the bible and therefore has to suffer for an eternity in Hell, correct? Why would that not strike you as unfair? An allpowerful god who degrees or even permits such, is not one of the good guys by any measure. Defending that is like saying, it was not the fault of the nazis that some people were born jews.

  19. I encourage to seriously study the book you are criticizing. The Bible addresses the questions about where people live and whether they believe (Romans 1, Acts 17, and more).

    Also consider this: Whether you like God’s terms, or even understand them, or even want to understand them, is irrelevant to whether they are his terms. You don’t get to set them. If you seek him on his terms, you will find him. If you try to make up your own god, or pretend there is no god, then you don’t change his terms one bit.

  20. rautakyy says:

    Sorry Neil, I do not see the relevance to the current question in Romans 1 act 17 and beyond. Maybe you meant some other passage?

    Adult people do need to understand what they are engaged in. We make our choises based on our understanding and knowledge. Blind faith in demagogues and their interpretation of the bible has led to horrific deeds by religious people.

    As I said before, I am not setting any terms. I am only comparing an imagined god, his alledged character, his apparent lack of communication skills and questionable actions and inaction to general terms of ethics. It is not a pretty picture.

  21. 1. You are making up a god while (deliberately?) misunderstanding the communications of the real God.

    2. You make moral claims in nearly every sentence: Blind faith, horrific deeds, questionable actions, etc. But in your nothingness-to-molecules-to-life-to-Angelina Jolie worldview you have nothing in which to ground morality. Darwinian evolution, if true, doesn’t select for truth, it selects for survival. Morality would be a fiction of our evolution. Universal laws need a universal law-giver. We may call something “morality,” but it is really just survival of the fittest / majority rules / power rules in action.

    And of course, if your worldview is true, then Darwinian evolution is 100.000% responsible for the Bible, all religions, my belief in the evidence that Jesus really lived, died and rose again, etc. Apparently you haven’t evolved to see how inconsistent your thinking is with respect to that worldview.

    P.S. For other readers, here’s a sample of what rautakyy can’t see as relevant in Romans 1 and Acts 17. I encourage people to read these and the rest of the Bible very carefully. Just because you don’t have the mind of God to know how He works things out doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. If you rebel against the plain revelation of his existence in creation, why would you expect him to bother to reveal more to you?

    Romans 1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    Acts 17:26-27 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

  22. Before I address these comments, I want to preface this by saying that I am not attacking Neil’s point of view. These are honest questions, not deliberately designed to poke holes in his theology. I struggled with many of these questions myself as a Christian, so I hope that perhaps Neil is aware of some argument I have missed.

    Regarding Romans- If this passage does in fact counter what other atheists have said here, does it not imply that there is a third way? What I mean by that is that there are those who reject a God outright, and act out a sinful and depraved life. There are those who accept Jesus, and though sinful by nature, choose to live a life for God. What Romans suggests, to me, is that there is a third way. That there are those who will not incur the wrath of God if they accept his plain nature, without ever having heard of Jesus, and though sinful by nature, choose to live as God has laid bare. Is that the exegesis you get from that passage? In any other interpretation I can come up with, it seems to say nothing to the skeptics argument that God would condemn, by pure chance (or willful design) billions of souls.
    This same sentiment seems to be meted out in Acts as well. That there is a way to God that is not through Christ Jesus contradicts my (perhaps mistaken?) understanding that Jesus was the only means to salvation. I have to admit that this whole argument of yours piques my interest. Did I miss your point here?

    Regardless, I was taught that the only way to God is through His Son, and those who do not accept him as their savior, whether by knowledge or ignorance, will suffer an eternity of torment. This is the Christian tradition I know. If Salvation is not a dichotomy, if there is a third way, I’d like to hear about it.

    Please consider the above statements separately from the ones I make below, which I understand to be inflammatory and loaded, though they are to my understanding true.

    Also, I’m perhaps reading too much into your point #2, but it sounds like you are advocating presuppositional moral apologetics. Is that the case? How do you square that with philosophy and science? It seems to me that presuppositional morality is philosophically bankrupt and scientifically ignorant. I can’t imagine how any person would a) make a statement like that without being sure they were right b) make a statement like that after taking steps to investigate if it was correct.
    Presuppositional apologetics at every level is an exercise in abject stupidity; designed for retention more than refutation.

  23. John,
    I also respect to a degree what you are saying, but I wonder if you would accept the argument that “people misinterpret scripture” negates the statement “there are contradictions in scripture” if you were not the one making the claim? I know you to be a formidable debater, one who has a knack for finding the weak link in the chain of most people’s arguments. How you could make some variation on the argument above in good faith is quite surprising.

    I have been ignorant of this post for a few days now (and obviously have been missing a spirited exchange!), but coming back into it I am also surprised that you are criticizing NFQ’s posts without giving specific examples of where the arguments fall short. Even if all NFQ did was get his information from atheist sites, that does not make those arguments wrong. If an alleged contradiction is unfair then you ought to illustrate why it is unfair (and maybe you have at his site, I have not been there yet.) for better reasons than it comes from a biased source.

    • I plan to offer rejoinders to NFQ’s series, and I briefly addressed one of them. I would have addressed each by comment, but she has several regular commentors who (for lack of a better term) gang up and bombard me with multiple questions at the same time, and if I don’t get back quickly they start to chide me saying I’m running scared or can’t handle their points. So I will just read her blog and maybe respond on my own.

  24. rautakyy says:

    Neil, once again, this is not about me. You are avoiding my point about your god not being a moral entity, since communication between your god and humanity is left on an old and wery widely interpretable book. Is it impossible for you to see your supposed god responsible for that rather simple fact?

    Morality and ethics do not require to be explained by a god to create them any more than life or rest of the universe. People do not require to be part of a certain religious sect to be moral, and no religious sect exists wich would transform its members into such. In fact, many religions, including those that strongly rely for biblical moral, have shown wery unethical behaviour.

    It is the ape within you that makes you see Angelina Jolie as a result of perfect design. Do not worry, that is perfectly natural.

    The evolution has affected and moulded our view of ethics and morality, yes. If we were herbivoirs or carnivoirs our moral views would definately be different. Our morals reflect the simple ecological facts that we are omnivoirs and that we are herdanimals. Moral societies are often much stronger than the immoral ones. For example ultra individualism is wery counterproductive to a human society and hence immoral. Not because it says so in an old book.

    There is a wide array of philosphy how general ethics are based and formed, but that is nother question all together.

  25. George — Good questions. Short version: We don’t just stop at Romans 1. That is a very powerful chapter that hits the big picture: People reject God in unrighteousness. But you need to keep reading, of course, and it leads to how God reveals himself in our conscience and then in Christ. If someone can’t get past the Romans 1 lesson of acknowledging the existence of God then the rest will be lost on them.

    Yes, Jesus is the only way to salvation. That is taught in 100+ passages (Not just John 14:6 as some people seem to think, although that is quite clear). That isn’t what makes it true, of course. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead makes it true, and there is much evidence for that — http://tinyurl.com/ykzpu42 . But it does mean that, despite what rautakyy says, the Bible is actually pretty clear on many key topics and the exclusivity of Jesus is a teaching that all Christians should hold.

    I’m not going to respond to your statements about my point #2, as it is as clear as I’ll be able to make it. I merely pointed out the fallacious and inconsistent claims made by atheists about morality.

    “It is the ape within you that makes you see Angelina Jolie as a result of perfect design. Do not worry, that is perfectly natural.”

    I see you don’t understand Christianity or Darwinism (the latter doesn’t teach that we descended from apes, only that we have a common ancestor. It is wrong about that, but that is what it teaches.).

    “communication between your god and humanity is left on an old and wery widely interpretable book.”

    The age of a book is irrelevant. What matters is the truth. It explains our beginnings, just as one would expect. And if it was written later or didn’t include the beginning you’d probably object to that (I’m very familiar with the shifting goalposts method of arguing by atheists).

    I’ll just say this once: Just because something is capable of being misinterpreted doesn’t mean it can’t be interpreted properly. Using your standard then we’d only need one person to say that 2+2 doesn’t equal 4 to say we can’t trust math textbooks.

    So once again I’ve avoided nothing.

    “The evolution has affected and moulded our view of ethics and morality, yes. . . .There is a wide array of philosphy how general ethics are based and formed, but that is nother question all together.”

    I see that you’ve avoided something, though. No one is denying that something called morals exist. The question is, what are they? Universal standards that are wrong in all times and in all places? (e.g., rape, torturing babies for fun, etc.) Or are they relative to who is in power, majority rule, “evolution,” etc.? If it is the latter then they are subjective and ultimately meaningless. By that view, abortion was “immoral” when it was illegal then became “moral” in 1973. But the act of crushing and dismembering unwanted human beings for 99% of the reasons given for abortions (i.e., everything except saving the life of the mother) are either universally moral or immoral.

    “For example ultra individualism is wery counterproductive to a human society and hence immoral”

    You are assuming what you should be proving. You brought a universal moral claim in the back door, namely that it is always a moral good to advance human society. But you don’t get an “ought” from an “is.” According to the Darwinian model, many species died out long before humans came around. Was that immoral? If so, who was the immorality against?

  26. Neil, according to darvinism we decend from apes. The fact that we do not decend from modern apes does not mean our common ancestors were not also apes. We are apes, you and I. This is in contradiction to what the bible teaches, and clearly goes to prove my aforementioned claim, that the bible is in contradiction to reality, and therefore not a wery succesfull method of communication between your alledged god and humanity. It makes your god look like a fool or a liar.

    The age of the book is not irrelevant, if the cultural context describes a worldview of bronze age “scientific” knowledge. Human culture and science have evolved since a lot and the book is badly outdated. This eats away the credibility of the book and the religions based on the book. If your omnipotent god actually existed he could contact humanity on a more democratic and open channel. If he were benevolent, he would have done so long ago. Why not?

    I am not familiar with any methods used by atheists or religious people arguing, so I can not follow you on the “goalpost” issue. What I can say, the bible has been under a lot of constant contradicting interpretation by christians, has it not?

    According to what morality or ethics is it right to send people who have never even heard of the bible or Jesus into Hell to suffer for all eternity? (An eternity!!!) Is your god not responsible for such an act?

    Of course there are people who can not count to 4, but would you accept someone to be sent to Hell for all eternity just for that? If not, why would someone be sent to Hell for not understanding the bible or not having even heard of it? It is a bit more complicated than the simple maths you refer to.

    Is it not wery fine indeed for you, that you happen to have the luck of being one of the wery few people who do not end up in Hell what ever you do, since you actually believe this other guy died and suffered for your actions? Exept that he did not really die, since all the time he knew he was going to be resurrected, right?

    I really do not understand how you can connect who is in power to evolution or morals, not to speak of ethics. Yes, we humans usually base our morals on what is good for humans. That is perfectly natural in the light of evolution. Hopefully, our morals includes what is good for all humans and not just people of same nation, race, gender or faith. I suppose the fact, that you christians base your morals on what is good for christians, is also natural in the light of evolution. In a kinky sort of way…

    • Neil’s point, Rautakyy, is the age of the book irrelevant to whether what it contains is true. For example, if we find a book that was 3500 years old which was a math text book, what is it that determines whether the teachings are true? Is it the content of the material, or how old the book is? If 2+2=4 is true, it doesnt matter if the book in which it is taught is 3500 years old, or 35 days old, if it’s true it’s true. Same with the Bible, if the contents are true it’s true, whether or not it’s 2000 years old is not relevant to the contents are true.

      But consider this, while someone may not go to hell for not knowing or understanding 2+2=4, they will get an F on the test if they don’t understand it. Any good teacher will not mark the test as correct if it is not simply because the student didn’t understand, and it’s not because the teacher is mean.

      If you fail the Moral test, if you dont get all your sums correct you end up in hell. But in this case the Teacher has provided a way for you to turn in His test instead of yours.

  27. rautakyy says:

    John Barron Jr, I have allready asked who holds the truth about the bible? Some particular christian sect (it has to be one, since they do not agree on much and there can only be one truth) or multiple scientific research, that is not set or designed against the bible, but never the less proves the bible is in error about many things, like the origin of human beings, or the great flood that supposedly left Noah on mountainside at Ararat. The story of Jonah and the whale might have been plausible to the people of antiquity, but seems rather childish in modern terms, does it not?

    Your example of the teacher is actually quite good. Yes, a student that does not understand the lessons does not deserve high grades, but if most students fail the test completely, is it the fault of the students or the teacher? Maybe there is something wrong about the textbook. Howcome also kids who have never even heard of a school are expected to pass the test? That does not seem fair, now does it?

    It is not a moral test wether or not you believe a fairytale to be true, no matter how appealing it may be. If it looks like a fairytale, and sounds like a fairytale, an adult should have trouble accepting it as anything else than a fairytale. What is the logic or ethics behind punishing people for not believing it is not a fairytale? Is the purpose to credit the simpletons, ignorants or just people with certain kind of cultural backround, who are more likely to accept the particular fairytale as truth?

    What kind of crime against moral is enough to justify an eternal torment as punishment? I seriously doubt if allmost all indonesian, arabian, tibetan, chinese, indian or japanese people are or have been so immoral they deserve eternal torment and punishment for living their normal everyday lives. If you seriously believe so, should you not question your own morals? Or are you just so happy about your own salvation, you could not care less on what grounds other people are condemned to eternal pain? Eternal pain!?!

  28. You keep playing this supposed trump card about how Christians disagreeing on things somehow invalidates the reality of the God of the Bible. That just shows you haven’t studied it carefully.

    I’ve seen skeptics, Catholics, Mormons and others criticize Christianity for having too many disagreements and denominations, as if that somehow disproved the Bible or the core beliefs of the denominations. But that reasoning doesn’t compute.

    Romans 14 and other passages address how we are to handle disputed matters. From this we can immediately infer two things:

    1. God knew we’d have disputed matters.
    2. He gave guidance on how to handle them.

    Some beliefs are essential if one is to call himself a Christian – e.g., Jesus is the only way to salvation (mentioned directly or indirectly in 100 passages), Jesus is God, etc.

    Other things have guidance but not absolutes. For example, with respect to alcohol the Bible teaches not to get drunk, to obey laws and not to tempt others with our drinking. But it doesn’t say never to drink. If people don’t want to drink that is fine, but that shouldn’t be presented as a Biblical requirement or an essential of the faith.

    Contrary to many myths, we have a lot of freedom in Christ.
    Christianity contains many principles and some specific rules, but we can exercise our personal preferences in many ways, such as worship styles.

    Another biblical truth is that many who claim the name of Christ do so falsely. This also may cause confusion for outsiders, especially to skeptics who are inclined to ignore evidence opposing their view and overstate evidence supporting their view.

  29. “The age of the book is not irrelevant, if the cultural context describes a worldview of bronze age “scientific” knowledge.”

    Ah, another claim from the Big Book of Atheist Sound Bites. The Bible doesn’t claim to be a science textbook. But consider all the things we find there that atheists ignore! Start with the opening sentence: It declares that the universe came into being at a point in time. Just a lucky coin flip, eh? Study your history and see how common that view was until recently.

    It gets better: In Genesis, it claims multiple times that the number of stars in the sky is similar to the number of grains of sand. Yet it was thousands of years after that was written until people learned that there were more than roughly 1,100 stars. Again, how lucky of this bronze age book!

    And look at the claims about constellations in Job 38. The writer knew about very specific properties of constellations — one that is bound together, and one that is drifting — that we couldn’t confirm until recently. How could the writer of the oldest book in the Bible have any idea about that?

    The silence of skeptics on these things is amusing — probably because they rarely take the time to seriously study that which they are criticizing.

    “Is your god not responsible for such an act?”

    God is perfectly just. He revealed himself in creation and wrote the law on your heart. If you search for him on his terms you will find him and his forgiveness. You won’t be punished for anything you didn’t do, but you will be punished for what you did do, in perfect proportion to the quantity and degree of your sins. Seems fair to me.

    “Exept that he did not really die, since all the time he knew he was going to be resurrected, right?”

    Interesting logic. If I break your arm with you knowing it will be healed, did I not break your arm? Would it not hurt? Jesus died a horribly painful and humiliating death on your behalf. The proper response is gratitude, not mockery.

    “Yes, we humans usually base our morals on what is good for humans. That is perfectly natural in the light of evolution. Hopefully, our morals includes what is good for all humans and not just people of same nation, race, gender or faith. I suppose the fact, that you christians base your morals on what is good for christians, is also natural in the light of evolution. In a kinky sort of way…”

    Note your terms “usually” and “hope.” You have no grounding for anything universal, just your personal preferences. Who are you to say that Muslim honor killings are wrong, for example? Their culture decided on those and they think that is “usually” good for humanity.

    Your bit about our morals being good just for Christians is one more evidence that you haven’t read the book you pretend to be expert at criticizing. This is getting repetitive so I’ll let you have the last word.

    • Neil, you have to understand Rautakyy has admitted previously he does not understand Christianity and it is too complex for him. I have voiced my frustration with him that he criticizes something he admits he doesn’t understand.

  30. Neil,
    I don’t necessarily think that rautakyy made the claim that the bible didn’t say where those who do not accept Jesus (gnostically or not) go, but drew attention to the fact that the bible condemns those people to hell for eternity for lacking a knowledge they never reasonably have access to. I think it is a valid argument. All Romans and Acts does is confirm his suspicions if your exegesis of the totality of scripture is correct. If the only means to salvation is through Christ, and if some people are not reasonably expected to receive the message, then people go to hell by some measure of bad luck. Unless, as I asked, there is a third way, in which people might be afforded salvation outside of an affirmation of Jesus’ saving grace.
    It seems to me that you are just arguing that God doesn’t conform to oughts, which is a valid argument, but does nothing to contradict the greater point.

    God is perfectly just. He revealed himself in creation and wrote the law on your heart. If you search for him on his terms you will find him and his forgiveness. You won’t be punished for anything you didn’t do, but you will be punished for what you did do, in perfect proportion to the quantity and degree of your sins. Seems fair to me.

    See? That, to me, sounds like a Third Way. That also sounds like a works based salvation. Unless you take the tack that everything absent of God is immoral or sinful, and then you are sounding like a moral relativist. I’m really unclear on your theology here. Are you an annihilationist?

    Also, I think rautakyy is guilty of some bad language in his defense of ethical naturalism, and perhaps this is because of a language barrier. His words, as Neil points out, reek of the naturalistic fallacy, but I think that there is most certainly some truth to a goal driven morality. To say that atheism cannot afford moral realism is fallacious to begin with, and though his defense of naturalistic ethics is lacking, that does not make the point any less true.
    No more than someone who cannot answer the question of “If we descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” is evidence of the failure of evolutionary theory, rautakyy’s inability to properly defend moral realism from a non-theistic standpoint (or the inability of many atheists to do the same) is no evidence of presuppositional morality.

    Oh, and rautakyy is right when he says that we evolved from apes. Chimpanzees, gorillas, humans, and orangutangs are all geat apes, while gibbons are lesser apes. Evolution does in fact postulate that the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees would certainly be classified as an ape. So Neil is wrong, evolution both does say that and has every single fact of biology in it’s corner.

    • But george, that basically argues that people go to hell because they didn’t trust in Jesus. But that’s not why people are condemned. God will not say on your judgement “you are condemned because you didn’t believe” he will say “you are condemned because you lied, stole, etc.”. It confuses the remedy with the cause.

  31. Again,
    John, you know (I think?) that I came from a rather orthodox religious background. What Neil is saying-and you are now defending- is that my understanding of theology is incomplete. As a result, I must ask questions, because I really want to understand if I have made assumptions based on insufficient information.
    My understanding is thus:
    a) All humans are sinful
    b) We are all born in sin and it is only though faith in Christ that we are saved
    c) The soul is immortal- therefore the soul must go to either heaven or hell

    Again, this is an obvious simplification, but which one of these postulates is incorrect? If (a) and (b) and (c) are correct, then some people go to hell no matter what they do, since they are not reasonably capable of receiving the grace of Christ.
    I’m not saying that people cannot go to hell if they trust Jesus, I’m saying that people can’t not go to hell if they have no access to Jesus.
    That seems to me to be precisely the point rautakyy made, and Neil seemed to be saying “not exactly” when the answer, in my understanding is “exactly”.

    Maybe we should look at this from the other side of the equation.

    What if two people, an American and an African, live their lives. These two people are similar in every metric we could ascribe them, they have both led lives that most any human would judge to be moral, in fact the African gentleman is only ever so slightly more just by every metric we can use. The American man is an Evangelical, and he has accepted the saving grace of Jesus. The African man lived in an isolated village his whole life that has never been visited by missionaries and has no reasonable access to information about Jesus’ gift to mankind.
    Let’s now assume that the American man, through the grace of Jesus, has been brought into Heaven. What is just about the fate of the African man?

    What I am concerned about with this line of theology is that it is sloppy. It uses the wrong language. When you or Neil make a claim like:

    God is perfectly just. He revealed himself in creation and wrote the law on your heart. If you search for him on his terms you will find him and his forgiveness. You won’t be punished for anything you didn’t do, but you will be punished for what you did do, in perfect proportion to the quantity and degree of your sins. Seems fair to me.

    My immediate thought is bad theology for the pure reason that there is no real justice in this way of thinking. I was taught that God is explicitly unfair, but unfair in the exact opposite way than most skeptics assume. We are all worthy of Hell, it is the default destination for all humans because we fall short of pleasing God. It is patently unfair that anyone gets salvation. So in essence we have an unjust God because grace, by it’s nature, is unfair. So when a Christian makes a claim like “God is perfectly just.” or “Seems fair to me.”, I immediately have a bad reaction.

    If I am wrong, I’ll gladly accept your reproof.

  32. rautakyy says:

    Neil, you keep saying I have not studied the bible adequately. That however, is totally beside the point. Most christians in the world have not studied the bible thoroughly. Most people in the world living today or having lived ever are and were totally unable to study the bible. You see, that is the problem I keep referring to. Your god is in a wery limited contact with humanity and that in itself proves either disintrest or evil intent, if contact is required for salvation from eternal pain.

    If a ship is sinking and you can save just few people, it is better to save those few than to leave all the people to their faith, but if you have the power to save them all, and you will only save those that worshiped you as the ship still sailed, that is practicing pure evil on your part, wether you told them it will sink or not.

    Breaking an arm and dying are completely differnt concepts. Broken arm heals death does not. But to Jesus death was equal to braking an arm, since he knew he was going to be resurrected, right?

    You keep claiming christianity is united behind certain ideals and all who embrace them go to heaven. That is not how the major christian sects have presented this. Am I to take your word for it, or would the popes be more reliable source of interpretation of the bible? After all they are the representatives of a god on Earth, or so the largest christian sect believes. Maybe I should listen to what the patriarchs of the orthodox church or the archibishops of the lutheran and anglican churches say. Do they stand behind your claim and if they do, why has their moral evolved from what it used to be?

    You may interprite the bible your way and the pope his. The bible does not have moral answers to all the questions. Moral is a means by wich we come to conclusions about wrong and right. It is constantly evolving, and many moral answers in the bible have been as outdated as the explanation of the world in it. Where in christendom is eye for an eye, a moral base for legal action anymore? We are way past that, or should at least be.

    I think you have confused terms. Moralism does not equal moral, that is why we have ethics as means to come to conclusion on how morals evolve. It is through philosophy we should engage these questions, because no one old book holds all the answers to constantly evolving moral questions we are facing. To think it does, would ultimately be selfbetrayal, because we can not know what kind of ethical or moral questions we must face in the future.

    The point about muslim “honour” murders is just one example of how religion should not be a base of morals, since through religion any kind of morals can be imposed without question.

    John Barron Jr is correct, I have no interrest in embracing christianity. Why should I? My cultural backround and knowledge of history does not give much credit to how it has presented itself.

Any Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: