Is God all-loving? Is He all-forgiving?

Yesterday morning whilst enjoying my breakfast at my favorite restaurant, a friend of mine made a comment in response to something (I don’t recall what) that God is all forgiving, all merciful, and all loving.  I actually hear this a lot.  It’s usually offered as a rejoinder to my claims that some behavior is sinful and immoral.  Regardless, people assign these attributes to God all the time and I think they do so in haste.  I’m not trying to nitpick at what might not be the person’s intent with what they’re saying. I think they really mean what they’re saying. Have you ever asked yourself what God is like?  How do you know?

More often than not when someone makes the assertion that God is all loving, all forgiving, or what have you, I ask how they arrived at that conclusion.  “It’s in the bible” is the most offered response.  However, it isn’t.  Where do people get this idea from that God merely forgives, for example, without condition?  Sure, God does forgive freely to those who call upon him for forgiveness, but not arbitrarily to everyone circumstance unconsidered.

How does the idea that God simply forgives everyone regardless of whether they ask for it or not?  Or that everyone goes to heaven regardless of their theological convictions?

Comments

  1. Do you think God is only loving and forgiving if you ask for it?

    • I do think God only forgives those who ask for it with a contrite heart seeking him for forgiveness. There is no indication that every human is given a blanket forgiveness when they die and are just ushered into heaven. Sure, that’s a very comfortable thought, but it’s not expressed in the bible.

      I think also there are varying degrees of love. For example you love your family in a very different way that you love your fellow man. I think it’s clear that God loves his creation. It’s also clear that he loves those who come to him in a different way. Certainly not in the sense of some hippie love where he wouldn’t hurt a fly. Evil doers are punished, and the bible explicitly states God hates the wicked.

      • I appreciate it when you really explain what you feel is true.

        It does leave me wanting to ask more questions…

        How do you personally deal with the idea that the most despicable evil-doer here on earth can be granted an eternity in heaven by merely asking for forgiveness, while a model citizen who doesn’t ask for it is relegated to an eternity in hell?

        • I’m not saying it’s emotionally satisfying, just that’s the way it’s laid out.

          I try to keep my perspective when thinking about that scenario specifically. I think about all the bad things I’ve done. I’ve done a lot of bad things in life. When you deeply reflect on every questionable deed, there seems to be a lot of them. I am given forgiveness for them all by trusting in God to forgive me through Jesus. The most despicable among us is just like us. I don’t think it’s prudent to judge one person in light of others. This is especially true of us. “I’m not as bad as that guy, I’m pretty good”. But that’s not how it works. I am closer, probably, to a despicable evil doer than I am to Mother Teresa, for example. Compared to her I’m a despicable evil doer.

          So it’s not really my business I guess. God offered forgiveness to any who call on him for it. Why shouldn’t he be forgiven? There will always be someone worse than you or me.

        • Z

          Your question reminds me of a post from a long time ago. There was a restaurant that offered a discount for anyone who brought in a church service bulletin. Local atheists protested this and wanted the discount even if they didn’t bring one in. Should they get the discount anyway? I don’t think so. The restaurant owner had the right to make the rules and that was the way to get the discount.

          God made salvation available for anyone who comes to him through Jesus. Those are the terms. Should we get the benefit of the offer without fulfilling the terms? Again, I don’t think so.

        • Christopher Booth says:

          “How do you personally deal with the idea that the most despicable evil-doer here on earth can be granted an eternity in heaven by merely asking for forgiveness, while a model citizen who doesn’t ask for it is relegated to an eternity in hell?”
          I know the question was not directed at me but I am going to weigh in anyway.
          Based on my study of Scripture I don’t think the notion that “all one has to do to get into heaven is ask for forgiveness ” is actually in the Bible. Jesus time and time again asked in the New Testament for repentance and belief. In other words a person must believe in what Jesus Christ claimed to be and what he did. Also this particular faith as to be one that is more then simply a mental decent. It must also include a belief in your heart that brings about a true change in character and a new desire to be obedient to God. James 2:19 points out that even demons believe in God per say, though they don’t believe in a way that brings about change and a new desire to be obedient to God. In fact they shutter. In fact you could say the passage is talking about the difference between meaningless faith and saving faith.
          It is true one cannot earn salvation, though that does not give license to just keep on sinning and being disobedient to God. A person who has truly come to Christ in saving faith will be a new creation 2 Corinthians 5:17. Being born with the sin nature man (general use of the word, this applies to both males and females) does not naturally seek to please God nor has the desire to be obedient. A non-believer is going to act like a non-believer and as a result will naturally produce “bad fruit.” When a person accepts Jesus Christ with saving faith they will gain a new nature, become a new creation. They will most definitely struggle with sin but they now have both the Holy Spirit within them and a desire to be obedient. Indeed sadly many Christians do very little grow in their lives and pretty much remain a baby Christian. They suffer for it though. As a person is disobedient to God they forfeit His blessings and suffer the consequences of sin during their lives. In other words many hardships could have been avoided if they were seeking God’s will and not sin. Know don’t misunderstand me please…I am not saying sinning is the only reason for a believers suffering. Frankly living in a fallen world also causes that. Also the New Testament has promised that one will suffer the more they follow Christ. After all Christ was perfect and yet He suffered the most.
          I will end with this:
          I think the main reason people make such erroneous statements such as “God is all loving, all forgiving” is because they don’t study the Bible. The said reality is the average “Christian” does not read nor study their Bible much. If they did they would learn from Scripture that God has many attributes and to simply say he is Love is incorrect for he is also wrathful and holy and hates sin.

  2. Not emotionally satisfying indeed.

    Our justice system usually has a punishment that fits the crime. Your God apparently does not. All you need to do is ask for forgiveness and you’re granted an eternity in heaven.

    Murder/Adultery/Theft -> ask for forgiveness -> eternity in heaven
    Upstanding member of society -> not a Christian -> eternity in hell

    I just don’t understand how this is plausible to you.

    • Your whole premise rests on asking the criminal whether he thinks his punishment is fair.

      Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket and thought the fine was fair?

      • Your whole premise rests on asking the criminal whether he thinks his punishment is fair.

        Not really.

        I’m not even thinking about me when I ask the question. I’m thinking about others – people who I would personally think of as “good” and “bad”.

        I think that Ariel Castro (the Cleveland kidnapper) was a bad man. I think that Mahatma Gandi was a good man. I have these judgments based not on my personal experience with them, just what I know about them.

        It sickens me to think that Christians could entertain the notion that it’s possible that Castro could forever be in heaven just by asking for forgiveness, while Gandi, regardless of his behavior here on earth, could be forever in hell because he wasn’t a Christian.

        It just reinforces the idea that your actions are truly irrelevant as long as you ask for forgiveness and have faith in Jesus.

  3. paynehollow says:

    There is some biblical support or at least hints about a God that does not demand a sin-confession.

    The thief on the cross, for instance…

    “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

    …never confessed Jesus as God or Lord, presumably lived a life worthy (at least to the Romans in charge) of capital punishment, did not know to believe in a resurrected Jesus and did not confess any sin. Yet, Jesus assured him of being “in Paradise,” which sounds like a forgiveness.

    Then there is the woman caught in adultery. She never asks for forgiveness or confesses her need for God or that Jesus is God, and yet, after saving her from her just (according to Jewish law) capital punishment, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you, Go and sin no more…” which again, sounds like a forgiveness.

    I would posit that some people think – not without biblical or rational reason – that the relatively modernist calvin-flavored evangelical take on salvation is perhaps not the most sound take on the subject.

    Just some thoughts for what they’re worth.

    ~Dan

    • Dan,

      Please stop quoting Scripture to make your point. You clearly don’t understand the passages you cite. The thief did indeed acknowledge something special about Jesus, even if he didn’t use the exact words you need him to say to make your point. What kingdom would you suppose the thief meant that would make a difference to his everlasting soul should Jesus get there and remember him, if not the Kingdom of God? And who could Jesus have been in the thief’s mind that would compel him to appeal to Jesus in this way? Where’s this serious study of Scripture about which we keep hearing of you?

      And the woman caught in adultery was not forgiving her in saying He didn’t condemn her. We’ve been through this and you’ve never once offered a counter to the better explanation of this passage that I’ve offered. “Go and sin no more” is a suggestion of demonstrating repentance, after which forgiveness follows. Where’s this serious study of Scripture about which we keep hearing of you?

      You continue to demonstrate that your take on pretty much every Scriptural topic we’ve ever discussed is not even close to being sound “takes” on any of them.

      Your thoughts. Not worth much, especially with no evidence to support that they should be.

  4. paynehollow says:

    John…

    Your whole premise rests on asking the criminal whether he thinks his punishment is fair.

    I would suggest that the premise Z is speaking of is not whether or not “the criminal” thinks the punishment is fair, but whether or not many humans think the punishment fits the crime.

    If you have a child who has come of age (if you believe in that take) and knows of her need for Jesus – say a 12 year old – but who has not confessed her sin nor accepted Christ, the Calvinist would say, I believe, that she has justly “earned” an eternity in suffering for whatever “crimes” a child of 12 may have committed. Many people would say – not without reason – that the punishment does not fit the crime. It is excessively harsh for the small lies, little fights, minor gossip that a 12 year old may have engaged in.

    Do you see how sentencing an eternity in torment for the pretty small “sins” of a 12 year old child would at least SEEM incredibly unjust and horrendously overblown?

    ~Dan

  5. paynehollow says:

    As for me, every speeding ticket I ever received was just, as I was truly speeding. But I was not condemned for 20 years in prison for one speeding ticket. That would be excess and draconian, most of humanity would recognize the innate injustice in that punishment.

    ~Dan

    • Indeed, Dan – just like the excessive nature of an eternity in hell for not asking for forgiveness or not believing in the forgiveness scenario in the first place.

      • Z

        Carefully getting your theology from a heretic. I don’t say that pejoratively, Dan holds views that are by definition heretical.

        • I don’t ask this question lightly, John, but do you personally believe Dan is not going to heaven when he dies?

          • Dan isn’t keen on giving straight unequivocal answers to direct questions. So it’s near impossible to tell. I suspect, given what I’ve peen able to piece together, probably. However, his theology is highly problematic and deeply unbiblical. He seems to speak all the right thinks about trusting in Jesus but he also has errant views of the atonement, Jesus’ purpose, the resurrection, and other things. On his own blog he was reticle to be able to identify one clear biblical teaching and wouldn’t say that, for example, “God exists” is an obvious teaching in the bible. So…

  6. That was a long way of saying “probably”.

    I understand your differences and I’ve read many of the heated discussions on this blog between Dan and everyone else here who considers themselves to be a Christian.

    I asked this question because I was curious to know and to illustrate a point. At the end of the day (and more importantly your life), all that seems to matter is your faith. Biblical interpretations, actions and behavior are totally irrelevant – all that matters is that you ask for forgiveness through Jesus.

    • I suppose…If you need to reduce it to that degree. I don’t know, I’m just thankful that there is ANY way to heaven, given that God is under no obligation to rescue anyone from the consequences of their actions.

      • So if I understand you correctly, there’s a possibility that you could still be kept out of heaven even if you ask for forgiveness?

        • If you’re asking a god that doesn’t exist, sure. There’s only one, I believe, and the bible, which I think accurately represents the true religion’s scriptures, is clear that he’s the only one. Trusting in the wrong god isn’t going to help. If your idea of Jesus is so far off that it’s basically a different Jesus portrayed in the bible, then you’re trusting the wrong god.

        • God judges the heart, Z. That’s the first thing. One could ask forgiveness because he’s about to die and now becomes concerned about eternity and how he’ll spend it. Conversely, a heinous criminal can come to understand about God that which he never previously gave thought, and now sincerely understands that he has displeased God. It isn’t so much that one is afraid to pay the price and is therefore sorry, I think, but that one realizes that one’s purpose is to please and serve God and is remorseful for having displeased him without thought to the consequences of doing so. The latter suggests a true repentance. The former an attempt to save one’s own ass.

  7. I’ll answer the question, Z. Based on years of equivocation, obfuscation, misinterpretations misapplied and a host of other non-Biblical positions, Dan appears to all who engage with him as one who has created for himself a god he can get behind, rather than to mold his life to the clearly revealed Will of God of the Bible. His positions are only superficially related to Scriptural teaching. There is no reason to be assured that he has any understanding that is close enough to truth to be justifiably accepted as such and he would insist that his claim that Christ is his savior ignores the fact that one must live according to those clearly revealed teachings if, for no other reason, to demonstrate that it is truly the Christ of Scripture that he claims as his savior, rather than an invention of a Christ he wishes exists.

    I’ve often tried to get Dan to answer the question, How wrong can one be about what Scripture teaches before is no longer worshiping the actual God of the Bible? That is, if one believes the exact opposite of every teaching, can one truly be saved merely by accepting Christ as savior? That would conflict with John’s point for sure. I mean, accepting Christ means that He takes the heat for our sins. But to be opposed to every teaching suggests one doesn’t even understand one is mired in sin. Is accepting Christ so totally all encompassing of every failing so that there nothing we can’t do and ultimately get away with?

    There’s a distinction here. I think that most people have a very clear understanding of right and wrong behavior and where they go wrong is in convincing themselves of those behaviors they enjoy as being either right behavior or not so bad as to be unforgivable should the time come that they decide to give it up and repent. We don’t have to be perfect, as everyone knows and Dan will remind like it relieves us of constantly trying to find the truth, and Dan has convinced himself that his alternative preferences are good enough to pass the “God forgives” question. But if he’s so far astray as to have created for himself his own god, and this appears to many to be the case, his destination is absolutely in question. Thus, in my opinion, I’d regretfully have to say “no, he’s not going.” I hope for his sake that if he doesn’t repent of his heresies, that he is still covered by God’s grace in the manner he believes.

  8. @ John

    Not really sure what tangent you went off on there – we’ve been talking about the God of the Bible this whole time.

    You seem to dismiss the point I’ve made here many times: Biblical interpretations, actions and behavior are totally irrelevant – all that matters is that you ask for forgiveness through Jesus. You can be the world’s greatest evil-doer, but if you sincerely ask for forgiveness through Jesus before you die you’re going to spend an eternity in heaven.

    I’m just finding it difficult to understand why you actually believe that to be true.

    • I’m not sure what tangent I’ve run off on. I’m just trying to answer with more detail than maybe you were looking for.

      I understand your point. Mine is that it’s not just asking some hypothetical “Jesus” for forgiveness. If it is not the Jesus as depicted in the bible, you’re asking the wrong Jesus. If you’re presuming we’ve got an accurate Jesus, then yes, calling to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins is what God offers. My further point is that I don’t think there’s anyone who is the actual hypothetical person you give in your example as being a good upstanding citizen.

    • I tried responding earlier but I think my comment was erased. I’d suspect you’re a pretty decent person. But I’d bet there’s someone who thinks you’re a scumbag. I know it’s true of me. I think I’m fairly ok, especially when I compare myself to someone worse than me. But lots of people think I’m a bad person.

      I don’t think anyone is as good and upstanding as you hypothesize.

  9. paynehollow says:

    John…

    On his own blog he was reticle to be able to identify one clear biblical teaching and wouldn’t say that, for example, “God exists” is an obvious teaching in the bible.

    Just to clarify this misrepresentation: CLEARLY I think that the Bible teaches God exists. The question wasn’t whether or not I agreed with that idea, which I do, but whether there might be SOMEONE out there who could read the Bible and not reach that opinion.

    This does touch on a problem with the more fundamentalist view of God and salvation: For some of them, it’s not even enough that you ask forgiveness, it’s not enough that you believe in a Creator God and the son, Jesus who came to earth, lived, taught, died and rose again, that you want to, by God’s grace, follow in Jesus’ footsteps and that you believe in salvation by God’s grace… all of that is not enough because, EVEN THEN, if you are mistaken in how you interpret all of that, then you STILL might not be saved.

    Which is to say, for some within the more fundamentalist evangelical community, salvation can’t come even from confession of sin or the confession of Jesus as Lord, but a strict adherence to a set of prescribed beliefs with not much wiggle room for disagreement on interpretation (see Marshall’s answer above).

    The rational problem with all of this is, if you have a god who is supposed to be PERFECTLY just, in whose image we are created, and even we mere mortals acknowledge, “Wow, that is incredibly UNjust to sentence someone to an ETERNITY of suffering for merely being mistaken about the right interpretation of the “right” doctrines… and this of an admittedly imperfect people…” You can’t create an imperfect people and demand perfection of them and, failing in that, punish them for an eternity for their imperfection knowledge, which is BY DESIGN of said god. It is, on the face of it, unjust and irrational, and those who advocate such a god seem to be advocating a god that is fiercely unjust and irrational.

    This is the problem that many people have with the more fundamentalist take on God and salvation, it seems to me. And it’s not an irrational problem.

    ~Dan

    • Dan

      Get serious. I can’t even count the number of times where your own words were cited back very batum, and you claimed it was a misrepresentation.

      • paynehollow says:

        John, I am telling you, “face to face,” right NOW that I do NOT believe what you just said. Can you believe my own word about my own actual position or do you think you know my positions better than I know them myself?

        ~Dan

        • What I know is I have, in the past, and so have others, quoted you “copy & paste” and you’ve said you’re being misunderstood. This is what makes you dishonest. You talk out both sides of your mouth and equivocate so heavily so you can always claim you’re being misrepresented.

        • paynehollow says:

          John, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, I am telling you that you JUST misrepresented my actual words and meaning. Do you care about truth? If so, then just admit the mistake. You can NOT “copy and paste” my actual words and get that conclusion – unless maybe you take something out of context. I, being me, know what I believe. What you JUST SAID is not what I believe.

          Do you care about facts and truth? Are you not big enough to admit a mistake? I think you are. Don’t prove me wrong.

          Get serious, indeed.

          ~Dan

        • Dan,
          In the thread between you and Bubba, I made one comment to point out where you had wrongly characterized the position held by those who disagree with you. You, quite appropriately asked that I not comment on that thread as it would interfere with the conversation. Yet, in a comment you made yesterday, you repeated the very same falsehood I had mentioned to you. While I’ve tried for a lot of years to avoid this, you have left me with no option but to conclude that you are deliberately representing this position wrongly, and that you are intentionally lying about the views of others. So, it is clear that you feel free to misrepresent others words to the point of lying about them, despite being repeatedly corrected. You’ve also accused me of slander for “copy/paste”ing your very own words in order to make a point about your positions. I’d suggest that you dismount from your high horse on this issue and either apologize or slink off.

        • paynehollow says:

          Craig, WHAT does that ad hom attack have to do with this post?

          Aside from that, you can not copy and paste any place where I have lied. You can’t do it, it can’t be done.

          You can point to something that you failed to understand or text that I failed to make clear, but you can FACTUALLY NOT copy and paste a lie made by me, because I have not done so.

          That is a blatant, bald-faced falsehood. I’ll give you the benefit of doubt and assume you made it in ignorance or misunderstanding, but now I have clarified for you this false statement, you need not repeat it.

          You’re welcome.

          ~Dan

        • Dan,
          I’ve already copy pasted your actual statements elsewhere, and pointed out in the thread at your blog that your hunch was problematic. The fact that you simply choose to repeat your “mistake” multiple times after you’ve been correct can only lead one to the conclusion that your misrepresentations are intentional and therefor can be reasonably characterized as lies. I bring this up here, because you have gone to such lengths to characterize yourself as one who goes to great effort to speak the truth. I also bring this up here because you chose not to correct your “misunderstanding”, when I pointed it out at your blog, and because you chose not to engage it at MA’s where it also came up. Given your lack of engagement elsewhere and your protestations here, it seemed like a reasonable place to get a response from you. It would seem that I was correct in terms of getting a response, yet incorrect in hoping that you would engage in the type of humility you claim and expect from others.

        • “You can’t do it, it can’t be done.”

          I can do it,it’s already been done. I see no reason to do so again, when it’s already out there where you can find it and respond.

        • Dan,
          After seeing how well Bubba’s questions were answered, I might consider it. However, given the fact that you’ve ignored this twice elsewhere, I see no reason to go through this again. You could,of course, link to one quote that proves me wrong and this would be over.

        • paynehollow says:

          I’ve ignored it because you’ve posted an off topic ad hom attack and I didn’t want to take up an off topic ad hom attack defense, even to defend myself against your false charge. But you can do it ON topic at my blog, if you so choose.

          ~Dan

        • Dan,

          Against both my better judgement and the record of your conversation with Bubba, I copy/pasted the comments where I believe you are in error. To be clear, had you acknowledged your error when it was pointed out to you and not repeated your erroneous statement we would not be having this problem. The fact that you have incorrectly stated my position in the post does not fill me with confidence.

          You have the ability to end this with ONE link in ONE comment. If you can provide a link, you get your apology, if not I see no reason to go any further.

      • paynehollow says:

        Craig, as I did with Bubba, I have created a post on my blog just for you to make your ad hom case someplace more appropriate. You are, of course, mistaken about me lying. But at that post, you can make your case and I will respond, demonstrating where you’ve misunderstood something. If I have failed to make myself clear and that contributed to your clear misunderstanding, I will apologize.

        But I won’t continue to take up John’s blog for this off topic, ad hom and fallacious attack.

        The ball’s in your court.

  10. That’s a sad statement, John, when you truly believe that man is not capable of being good and upstanding.

    I find it interesting this position you hold: We are all sinful; therefore we are all deserving of hell. Only through the grace of Jesus can we be saved from hell, so we must ask for forgiveness. Actions and behavior are not relevant at all. Good behavior won’t get you into heaven and bad behavior won’t get you kicked out.

  11. paynehollow says:

    John…

    On his own blog he was reticle to be able to identify one clear biblical teaching and wouldn’t say that, for example, “God exists” is an obvious teaching in the bible.

    If I may… I would posit it isn’t about the level of goodness of people as much as it the level of horror of the punishment. If you take an average person who dies, say, at 30. There are certainly people of that age who’ve lived relatively decent lives. They’ve given money and time to help the poor or to assist children or the elderly, they’ve given money to help in typhoon and flood relief; they’ve taken care of their parents and been generally respectful of them. And, to be sure, while they never raped, killed or robbed anyone, they told, let’s say, 1,000 lies in their 30 years… heck, let’s make it 30,000 lies. They gossiped about 1000 people. They slandered someone once a month all their adult years. They even cut corners (ie, “stole”) in doing their taxes so as not to pay as much as they should have. They polluted, they pissed in someone’s drinking water. When they were a kid, they shot five robins with a slingshot, killing them. They had sex outside of marriage 100 times.

    You know, “normal” sins. A BUNCH of them, just like probably many people do.

    But even given those tens of thousands of sins, does the punishment for all of that add up to an eternity of suffering? If another nation were to convict someone of those “crimes” and sentence them to lifetime in prison, people of the world would object to it as a gross injustice. And that’s for prison only for ONE lifetime. The god who punishes people in an eternal torment is doing a great deal more for what amounts to petty sins. MANY of them, to be sure, harmful, to be sure, but still, relatively petty. The punishment does not fit the crime.

    Can you see that?

    ~Dan

    • Z

      The last comment Dan just posted is an example of heresy. That’s just one example that actually involves multiple heretical unorthodox views.

      Dan, thank you for providing an example for us.

  12. paynehollow says:

    Sorry, that last comment was predicated upon THIS quote from John…

    I don’t think anyone is as good and upstanding as you hypothesize.

    Sorry about the error. ~Dan

  13. paynehollow says:

    So, John, is that a “NO,” you don’t see how horrifyingly unjust such a position is?

    As to heresy, please point to the place in the Bible where it teaches one must affirm a belief in an eternity of suffering for the sin of being mistaken? Something in Jesus’ teachings, perhaps?

    • “There are many who will say, ‘Lord, Lord’… But I will tell them, ‘I never knew you'”. Those to whom this quote refers are not necessarily insincere in their beliefs. They are simply not practicing and preaching as Jesus would prefer. It doesn’t specifically state that Jesus is referring to those who knowingly do wrong. But He follows up by encouraging his followers to put His words into practice.

  14. “The question wasn’t whether or not I agreed with that idea, which I do, but whether there might be SOMEONE out there who could read the Bible and not reach that opinion.”

    The question was whether or not YOU, Dan, believe there are any teachings that are beyond disagreement between people of good faith. The teaching that God exists was put forth as the easiest example of such.

    You also misinterpret/misunderstand my position regarding God’s Justice. It goes to my oft asked question regarding how far astray can our understanding of Scripture be before we are no longer worshiping the God of the Bible? In Dan’s fantasy world, one can fall back safely on the belief that no one can be certain of anything Scripture says because in Dan’s fantasy world, there is nothing in Scripture about which all honest people can in good faith be compelled to agree upon. And as long as there is “wiggle room”, one can cram any meaning into Scripture to satisfy one’s own preferences.

    Fundies don’t say, “My way or hell”. They say, “This is what Scripture says about your behavior, and this is what Scripture describes as the consequences of that behavior, and because I care, I encourage you to repent of that behavior and get right with God.” The response from Dan is, “that’s your hunch and you’re welcome to it” without ever giving a direct explanation for why he doesn’t agree.

    Now, no one MUST give an explanation, and even if one does and refuses to abandon it because, like Dan, one might prefer his belief to reality, is God’s justice such that one can be so horribly wrong so often, like Dan, that God will simply hold His Holy Nose simply because one accepted Christ as Lord and Savior?

    Again, God reads the heart. Only He can with the necessary accuracy to judge who is truly saved and who is a faker. And thus, one can insist on one’s own sincerity, but there is such a thing as lying to one’s self. God knows the difference. As such, one can be, like Dan, way the hell off based and still be good to go. We can only assess by his far less than convincing words.

    So what if a Dan is doomed? What does that say about God? Is God a beast for relegating Dan to whatever alternative to His Presence befalls a reprobate, even though some, like Z, think Dan’s a standup guy and undeserving of such a sentence? That depends on one’s own perspective about the nature of God and one’s own understanding of His sense of justice. Too often, the average onlooker will say, “That sounds pretty harsh considering so many of us are not too different than a Dan Trabue.” That goes to John’s point about comparing our own character to that of others, rather than strictly against God’s clearly revealed Will for our behavior.

    It also is a sign that the observer is judging God based on human ideas of justice toward other humans. That is, human interaction with humans. But it ignores the fact that God isn’t human. This is an all too common problem with Dan’s understanding. He can’t fathom that God would have an entire city destroyed, including the babies and small children that live there. That can’t be! he insists. It’s unjust, unloving and God is a just and loving God. That’s true, but based on HIS notion of love and justice, not ours. He doesn’t think like us and His way is not our way. This is another Biblical teaching that Dan would likely not believe is inarguable.

    If God was one to forgive everyone, why would there be hell, or even judgement? He wouldn’t need them and He’d have more space for a rec room and more time to enjoy it.

    Is it harsh to sentence who we think is a good guy to eternity outside God’s presence (for that is the truly about the extent of our certainty about those not destined for Heaven) for not believing or some other, to us, minor grievance? Sure. To us, that is. But to God? Not necessarily. To Him, He might be letting them off easy. If you think God is just some guy who lives forever and can tell which card you picked out of the deck, then he would indeed be unjust and unforgiving. But He’s a bit more than that and to an extent we can’t even imagine. It isn’t for us to even worry about what we deserve. We have the knowledge to avoid a bad fate. All we need to is put it to work.

  15. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    . It doesn’t specifically state that Jesus is referring to those who knowingly do wrong.

    So, again, in your theory of Salvation, people can believe GENERALLY the right things (believe in God, in Jesus, the son of God, believe in salvation by grace, in confession of sins and making Jesus the Lord of their lives, etc) but be SINCERELY MISTAKEN on some number of some items and simple human misunderstanding leads to their being sentenced to an eternity of suffering NOT because they rejected God or Jesus or did not confess their sins, but because they had some misunderstanding on some points?

    Is that what you’re saying?

    If so, do you see how people could look at that and see that sort of god as irrational and unjust, because what is just about punishing someone FOR ETERNITY for simple mistaken understandings?

    I would like for you all to answer this question: IF another nation were to send people to prison for life (ie, for ONE lifetime of decades) for simple “sins” such as lying, cheating at cards in a card game, gossip, etc… would you call that nation Just or horribly UN-just?

    It’s a simple question with an obvious answer, but I would like to hear what you say.

    If you can agree that this punishment for those simple sins would be crazy and immoral (and it would be), then what do you do with a god that would punish for ETERNITY is torment for the same thing? Do you see the problem with that, from a simple justice point of view?

    Here’s hoping there’ll be an answer forthcoming.

    ~Dan

    • “Is that what you’re saying?”

      Do you even read my comments to sincerely understand or to find fault? I “said” nothing specific. I speculated at best, but more to the point, I asked questions about the extent of positions like YOURS. You speak of not being held accountable for sincere mistakes. I asked just how mistaken can one be and on how many points of Biblical teaching before one is not even worshiping the One True God.

      I also spoke of the fact that, as you like to say yourself, we cannot know everything about God, about His true nature to the fullest. You continue to refer to the verse about seeing through a glass darkly. Yet, you now would insist that you know with certainty what His limits are as regards tolerance for sin and idolatry? I suggested a scenario by which one might be 180 degrees opposite to Scriptural teaching on every point possible so that there is nothing in one’s beliefs or actions that suggest “Christian”, that by one’s fruits there is no image of “Christian”. Now such a person, while not resembling “Christian” in any way, shape or form claims Jesus as his savior. Who is this Jesus if nothing in the person’s world suggests he is speaking of Jesus of the Bible?

      This is the extreme of one who says a mistake here or there isn’t enough to cost one’s salvation and defaults to that notion when no willingness for correction exists, when one has no ability to either defend his beliefs or behavior, or counter the attempts to educate one to a truer understanding.

      “…do you see how people could look at that and see that sort of god as irrational and unjust…”

      Hmm. What does Paul say about how Christianity is viewed by Jews and Gentiles? I’m not concerned that the truth is problematic for others as I am with adhering to it to the best of my ability. If I express my understanding and others recoil, that’s on them. I’ll clarify to the best of my ability if such is sought, but I won’t alter or sugar coat it for those who think they can judge God on human terms and therefore decide their position accordingly.

      “It’s a simple question with an obvious answer, but I would like to hear what you say.”

      No, Dan. It’s a simple-minded question and again ignores the fact that you again are again conflating human notions of justice and God’s notion of justice. Whether I answer the question “yes” or “no”, it would still not follow that eternal separation from God for a simple mistake would be unjust based on HIS terms. No one, no nation, is like Him. Laws of behavior He mandates for us aren’t laws He must abide, because we are not Him and He is not like us.

  16. paynehollow says:

    Marshall…

    That’s true, but based on HIS notion of love and justice, not ours. He doesn’t think like us and His way is not our way.

    So then, in your theory, God isn’t talking about justice, as commonly understood in the English language, meaning “agreeing with what is considered morally right or good; treating people in a way that is considered morally right; reasonable or proper…” but it means this Other Thing, let’s call it “Blarb.”

    So, when you all picture God and God’s justice, you’re not talking about English language Justice, you’re speaking about Blarb. And Blarb‘s definition is, what, exactly?

    If I were to give a shot at what you seem to be describing, I’d say it’s something like this:

    Blarb: adj. according to some in the Christian tradition, this is “agreeing with a rather whimsical and unjust notion of adhering perfectly to some subset of God’s rules, rules which we can not know or understand perfectly, and yet, being held accountable to them as if we could understand them perfectly. This may include a wildly out-of-proportion-to-the-“crime” set of punishments that are neither just, reasonable, consistent or fair, but are “blarb.”

    But that’s just my guess based on what you all have said. How would you define this Other Idea, the one that isn’t justice as we understand it in the English language, but is “blarb…”?

    Thanks,

    ~Dan

    • Dan,

      Your lame attempts at cleverness aside, the bottom line is seeking to do what is pleasing to God. Then, no worries about judgement. You want to believe that your hippie god will not bother with willful breaches of His commandments if one is otherwise a sweetheart. I say I’m not willing to test Him, nor do I have any desire to do so. But if anyone thinks I am straying from the path, I AM willing to hash it out for both our sakes. If I believe I am in the right, I can defend my position with Scripture to show why. I don’t evade the debate with “that’s your hunch”, because I truly care about pleasing Him, or at least knowing the truth about what constitutes doing that and what doesn’t.

      YOU, on the other hand, spend an inordinate amount of time carving out the widest possible berth so that you do not have to answer for your positions. YOUR just god will accommodate your failures so that you don’t have to consider that you might be wrong, while you admonish others for refusing to admit the same for themselves.

      In the meantime, I don’t worry myself about the extent of His mercy and justice and leave it to Him to do as He sees fit. If He wants to deny His eternal fellowship for any reason, I trust He knows what He’s doing. YOU demand He do things YOUR way.

      • paynehollow says:

        Marshall…

        the bottom line is seeking to do what is pleasing to God. Then, no worries about judgement.

        Marshall, do you not get that EVERYTHING I do and speak of is all in an attempt to be pleasing to God? To walk in Jesus’ steps?

        I could be mistaken in any of my guesses about what’s right and wrong (I don’t think so, but I could be, I’m human), but I’m not doing any of what I do except in a seek to follow God. Disagreements aside, do you not understand that important point?

        Marshall…

        YOU, on the other hand, spend an inordinate amount of time carving out the widest possible berth so that you do not have to answer for your positions. YOUR just god will accommodate your failures

        Again, do you not understand that I do this FOR YOU? I don’t think I’m mistaken, I think clearly I’m in the right. But for the sake of people who ARE sincerely mistaken – people like YOU, for instance (or me, if it turns out I am mistaken) – I’m seeking to understand what is grace-full and just for people LIKE YOU, in your sincere error. Like me, when I sincerely am in error.

        I “carve out” room to allow for grace, Marshall, not for myself, because I don’t think I’m mistaken on these points, but exactly for people like you, who I do think are clearly mistaken and sinning in ignorance. Egregiously so.

        Love you and want the best for you, big fella…

        Dan

  17. Dan asks John the following.

    “As to heresy, please point to the place in the Bible where it teaches one must affirm a belief in an eternity of suffering for the sin of being mistaken? Something in Jesus’ teachings, perhaps?”

    Jesus does clearly warn about hell “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk 9:48, quoting Is 66:24), and He repeatedly teaches about the punishment of eternal or unquenchable fire (Mt 18:8, 25:41, Mk 9:43).

    (Both John’s teach the same thing, before and after Jesus’ earthly ministry, See Mt 3:12, Lk 3:17, and Rev 20:10.)

    Nowhere is it recorded that Jesus says, “You must believe this teaching in order to be considered orthodox,” but no sincere disciple of ANY teacher would discount teachings just because they don’t fit an arbitrary formula of “Such-and-such is true, and you must believe that it is true.”

    It ought to be enough that Jesus taught it.

    I know, I know, you don’t disagree with Jesus’ teachings, just our interpretation of it: there’s a plausible alternative interpretation of these warnings of eternal hell and unquenchable fire, we just shouldn’t expect you to produce that interpretation and actually argue from it.

    I know, I know, you think I’m arrogant for believing you’re being dishonest: I cannot reliably know your motives from your comments, and so I cannot conclude that you’re deficient in the virtue of honesty. But that won’t stop you from reading my comments and concluding that I lack the virtues of grace and humility.

    Here’s what I see, Dan. A non-believer has some genuinely understandable questions about the Christian position on salvation and judgment, and that presents all Christians with an opportunity to explain and defend the Christian good news, which is very good news in part because it’s in the context of very bad news, the warning of judgment.

    Rather than take that opportunity to stand up for the gospel, you join the non-believer in questioning the morality of the gospel.

    That you do so while claiming to be a follower of Christ is excellent evidence of your being a false teacher.

  18. paynehollow says:

    Bubba…

    I know, you don’t disagree with Jesus’ teachings, just our interpretation of it: there’s a plausible alternative interpretation of these warnings of eternal hell and unquenchable fire, we just shouldn’t expect you to produce that interpretation and actually argue from it.

    You are correct, I don’t disagree with Jesus, just your opinion about what Jesus meant. Jesus was clearly speaking metaphorically, many would say – do you think that there is an actual fire and actual worms never die?

    So, given that many can honestly disagree with your hunch, holding our own hunches about what Jesus meant and doing so in good faith, where does the bible say we must hold to one particular group’s opinion about Jesus’ intent in that passage in order to be saved? The answer? It doesn’t.

    Bubba…

    Rather than take that opportunity to stand up for the gospel, you join the non-believer in questioning the morality of the gospel.

    As always, I factually and absolutely am not questioning the morality of the gospel, but the morality of your understanding of the gospel. I don’t conflate Bubba with the Gospel, the two are clearly different and distinct.

    ~Dan

    • “As always, I factually and absolutely am not questioning the morality of the gospel…”

      But, as Bubba said, you haven’t produced an alternate interpretation from which you actually argue against it. Ironically, because it serves you, you insist Jesus speaks metaphorically, but offer nothing in the way of supporting that contention, whereas I have given much to counter your literal understanding of “blessed are the poor” to mean the material poor. See? We defend our positions with Scripture, you defend yours…poorly, which suggests eisegesis.

  19. The stuff about worms and fire is probably metaphorical, sure, but a fire that cannot be quenched and worms that do not die sure seems like a really clumsy way of expressing the idea that judgment is quite short and could not possibly be eternal.

    I think the figurative language points to a literal teaching about an eternal judgment. What do you think it points to? Like I said, Dan, we shouldn’t expect you to present an actual alternative interpretation; you don’t seem much interested in ACTUALLY understanding and discussing what Jesus taught, just undermining the idea that our position is the only plausible take out there.

    • Jesus was using figurative language to convey a literal truth.

      • paynehollow says:

        John…

        Jesus was using figurative language to convey a literal truth.

        I would suggest the more apt way of looking at it is that Jesus was using hyperbolic language to convey an important truth. This is almost certainly what you would say about (and agree with me on) the bodily dismemberment verses immediately preceding that verse, I think the hyperbole is just continuing, not to emphasize a literal eternal torment for those who are merely, simply sincerely mistaken or who chose badly for a few years and committed some small scale sins, but to emphasize the point of following in the way of God, because literally, those bad choices lead to tormenting results.

        That interpretation is a more reasonable one, IF we assume that God is truly loving, just and reasonable. If we assume it is a literal torment and torture for a literal eternity, then you have a problem with explaining a supposedly loving and just god who is acting in an unloving and unjust manner.

        One man’s humble opinion about a point on which neither of us can prove our opinions.

        ~Dan

        • So you interpret based on your sensitivities not based on any legitimate hermeneutics. Shocker

        • paynehollow says:

          I based it on the text, or perhaps you missed that? The text IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING the verse in question is hyperbole, a point with which you will almost certainly agree. Why would we not presume the next line is also hyperbole?

          What is there in any of that about my “sensitivities…”? What does that even mean?

          ~Dan

          • You SAY you base it on the text, however you also admit you don’t take the text for what it says BECAUSE it violates YOUR conception of what you believe is God’s love and justice. That is not the same as basing it on the text.

        • paynehollow says:

          John, pardon me, but this is an asinine line of questioning. YOU WILL ADMIT THAT YOU DON’T TAKE THE TEXT FOR WHAT IT SAYS, either, not when the text uses hyperbole like, “Rip out your eye.” You don’t take it for what it says. You read into it a more reasonable interpretation. And that’s okay, that’s what adults do when they read.

          So, by your rather graceless and hypocritical approach, YOU don’t base your interpretation on the text because you don’t take it literally, either. You use your “reason” to make sense of the text as metaphor and that is a horrible, horrible thing, apparently.

          But I guess that’s only when others do it. When you do the very same thing, it’s okay.

          Come on, pals. Get serious.

          ~Dan

          • I do agree that your line of questions is asinine. But now you’re changing the passage in question. No one is saying there are no hyperbolic passages. Our objection is that you turn nearly every teaching that isn’t peace love and butterfly kisses as hyperbole and metaphor. Not because the text demands it but rather, you find it objectionable.

        • paynehollow says:

          That is, of course, a wholly unsupported and factually dubious claim.

          HOW am I changing the passage in question? The text in one verse is what YOU would call metaphor/hyperbole, and I would, too. The text in the next verse is STILL sounding like hyperbole, to me. But not you.

          You can’t say, “You shouldn’t take that as hyperbole,” when you take the verse directly in front of it as hyperbole, too, without offering some reason as to why someone might not take it as hyperbole.

          I interpret things the way I do in an effort to rationally seek God and the good. As, I would hope, do you.

          There is no difference there. The only difference is you want to abuse others when they do the very same thing you do, only in different verses.

          Your claims, John, are bunk. Excrement. Utterly false and you have not and CAN not support them.

          A bigger man would admit the mistake.

          ~Dan

    • paynehollow says:

      The point of the Mark 9 passage, in my opinion, in context…

      Jesus is speaking to his disciples, teaching, telling them that whoever is not against them is FOR them. ANYONE acting positively in Jesus’ name, Jesus says, is on Jesus’ side.

      Jesus goes on to tell them that there are those who might cause others to stumble, (hearkening back to his discussions of the religious zealots, the Pharisees, and their emphasis on following laws as THEY understood it, to the exclusion of grace, it seems to me). Jesus then tells his disciples if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. CLEARLY, Jesus is using metaphorical language in that passage, you would agree at least on those verses about dismemberment, right?

      And then Jesus continues down the metaphoric road, because “stumbling” (ie, not following in the path of love and grace and healthy living as taught by Jesus) is a bad, dangerous thing. IF we should dismember our body to avoid it, IF the result of not avoiding it is torment… then we should avoid it.

      But it’s all hyperbole, not necessary or wise to take it literally.

      You agree, no doubt, that it’s hyperbole in the very verses that precede the one in question, but then switch over to a sort of literal interpretation in that verse. Why would you think that a wise thing to do?

      Regardless, there is a very reasonable alternative to what you think it points to. In context. NOT eternal punishment in torment, but the very real necessity of embracing the Way of Grace, Love and Forgiveness, and healthy living in general.

      I see nothing clumsy in the least in that interpretation.

      There’s your alternative explanation.

      ~Dan

  20. “That interpretation is a more reasonable one, IF we assume that God is truly loving, just and reasonable. If we assume it is a literal torment and torture for a literal eternity, then you have a problem with explaining a supposedly loving and just god who is acting in an unloving and unjust manner.”

    Here we see an a priori assumption that eternal damnation is incompatible with God’s justice and love, and the conclusion follows that Jesus’ warning about an unquenchable fire is really just a hyperbolic warning about a quite short-lived consequence for our actions.

    • Dan

      Where does your notion of justice and love come from, and how do you k ow your notion is accurate as it pertains to God. This is important because the bi Le makes many claims about God and his commands and actions that you dismiss as nonliteral. I’m wondering why your notions are good and valid enough to trump scriptures description of God.

  21. paynehollow says:

    I’m simply speaking of Justice, as we use it in the English language. It is just to hold people accountable for their actions. It is unjust to punish someone for an eternity for a misunderstanding. In the English language, these are reasonable assumptions based on the definition of the word. Again, you all appear to be arguing for something other than an English language definition of justice, so perhaps you’d serve your point better to define how you are using the term…

    Where does my notion of justice come from? There is that, in all of humanity, that recognizes wrongful oppression, wrongful punishment, unfair treatment. We may not agree on the specifics, but we all recognize the notion of Justice, of being treated fairly and unfairly, justly and unjustly.

    So, to that end, we recognize that it is reasonable and just to say to a thief, “you broke a law, stole $50 from someone and you will have to pay for that crime…” It is reasonable and just to say, “You must repay the money stolen and serve 6 months in prison…” and while we may disagree on the exact punishment, we get the gist of it: Restitution should be made, some punishment is not inappropriate.

    However, we would also recognize the unjust nature of saying to that person, “You were wrong, you must now be the slave of the person you stole from, and that for the rest of your life. The slave owner can whip you, beat you or treat you however viciously they deem fit, and demand that you do all the work they request, and this for the rest of your life…” We all recognize that would be a punishment disproportionate to the crime.

    We may disagree about the specific details, but in general, we tend to be able to recognize the generalities. And when you come to punishing someone for an eternity of suffering for relatively small sins, we recognize the unjust nature.

    AGAIN, I ask you, if a nation were to punish someone for life for 10,000 petty sins, would you object and call that punishment horribly unjust? I’d suggest that most people would, and rightly so.

    Where does your notion of Justice come from? How do you define it?

    How do I know my position is accurate as it pertains to God? I don’t know, not for sure, not the details. But it’s not an unreasonable position to take, either. Again, just answer the Nation putting someone in jail for life question. You almost certainly agree that such behavior would be horribly unjust.

    As to your personal opinions about the meanings of various scriptures, that I disagree with your opinions does not mean my opinion is “trumping Scripture.” Your opinion is not one in the same as Scripture.

    ~Dan

    • Perhaps instead if using a modern English definition, you should use the ancient Hebrew definition for the OT and the ancient Greek definition for the NT. Wouldn’t that make sense?

  22. paynehollow says:

    Bubba…

    Here we see an a priori assumption that eternal damnation is incompatible with God’s justice and love

    And I say it is not an unreasonable position to take. I would guess that you would AGREE WITH ME, at least in the case of a nation that punished someone for life for relatively petty sins. Given that you agree with me in that case (and correct me if I’m wrong and you actually disagree with me, thinking it is a moral and good thing for a nation to imprison someone for life for petty sins), on what basis would you claim that this is an unreasonable position to reach?

    ~Dan

    • On what grounds do you deem ANY sin as petty? Since you’re not the one who made the rules, shouldn’t you use His standard?

      • paynehollow says:

        I’m speaking purely in terms of relative awfulness of the behaviors, primarily in terms of consequences, especially to innocent bystanders.

        Thus, a rape is a violent and gross assault on another person’s liberty and person. It has extreme consequences and is a truly awful crime.

        On the other hand, a fella on the internet misrepresenting another person is a relatively benign “sin.” It is wrong, to be sure, but not in the same sense at all as compared to rape.

        Do you disagree?

        If so, answer this question: A child reached the age of understanding last week. She now fully understands right and wrong and her need for Jesus. Unfortunately, she also lied JUST in the same week that she reached this age of accountability. DO you think it is a fitting punishment to say, “For this ONE lie, this girl should be punished for an eternity of suffering?” Or do you recognize that this would be a punishment disproportionate to the offense?

        ~Dan

        • Dan

          Did it ever occur to you that if hell were not eternal and only for a time, then not only was there no reason for Jesus to come and die and resurrect, there’s no reason to be a christian.

    • paynehollow says:

      No, that does not occur to me at all. Not in the least. I would disagree with that claim (that there’d be no reason to be Christian), because I think ALL of Jesus’ teachings are valuable and tend towards salvation, regardless of one’s opinions about Atonement Theories.

      ~Dan

      • But since you don’t believe in an eternal hell, what’s the point of him coming? What is the down side to not being a christian if we all end up in the same place anyway

  23. paynehollow says:

    By all means, John, provide the Greek definition you are using.

    ~Dan

  24. I’m a bit late to join the discussion. But John, you’ve made some very good points after hearing a passing comment that wasn’t well developed. I honestly don’t feel that you and the person who made the comment might be mutually exclusive in your understanding of the character of G-d.

    You also assume that the person might not recognize the fact that although there is sure forgiveness after repentance of sins there could very well be earthly consequences. But if someone is truly repentant they wouldn’t want to escape a consequence. Many of our dear biblical partriarchs, some of who are mentioned in Hebrews for having great faith paid dearly for their actions. Because G-d is also just. Moses didn’t see the promise land. There were consequences to David for his sin, etc.

    So I’m not too riled up about the terms “all loving (1 John 4:8), all forgiving (1 John 1:9), and all merciful (Ephesians 2:4).

  25. “It is unjust to punish someone for an eternity for a misunderstanding.”

    Indeed, but the Bible at least hints at the possibility that we’re all willful rebels without excuse rather than confused simpletons.

    “I’m speaking purely in terms of relative awfulness of the behaviors, primarily in terms of consequences, especially to innocent bystanders.”

    I didn’t know Jesus’ greatest commandment was to do no harm to bystanders. I THOUGHT it was something about loving God wholeheartedly, which would make the human pride that places ourselves above God the most egregious sin even if it doesn’t result in direct harm to others.

    Our duty to others is important, but not as important as our duty to God, a duty that is whole neglected with your focus on the awfulness of consequences for innocent bystanders.

    And on that subject of awful consequences for the innocent, tell us again how you don’t much care about the deliberate, elective, and often savagely violent ending of the lives of literally tens of millions of children in their mothers’ wombs — just so long as the act is euphemistically described as a medical procedure and not criminalized by the government.

  26. I’d love to know how teachings “tend towards salvation.” Does that mean the teachings save themselves?

    If it means that the teachings save others, wouldn’t a clearer formulation be that the teachings LEAD to salvation?

    Or is that too overtly exclusivist for a messiah who taught that he is THE way, and that no one comes to the Father but by him?

    Doubtless that’s more hyperbole: when Jesus taught that no one comes to the Father but by him, he meant that LOTS of people come to the Father through other ways, just as the warnings about unquenchable fire point toward a quite brief punishment — and just as, when Jesus taught that his blood was shed for the forgiveness of sin, he really meant that our forgiveness is not causally connected to his death.

    To conclude that our forgiveness was caused by Jesus’ death isn’t to offer an interpretation that recognizes both the use of figurative language and the only conceivable literal meaning behind that language: no, it’s a purely literal interpretation, a frankly simplistic and savage interpretation that is ENTIRELY equivalent to the idea that a pint of that man’s hemoglobin is a payment for some certain number of sins.

    That is how language works; on that there can be no doubt.

    • paynehollow says:

      Bubba…

      I’d love to know how teachings “tend towards salvation.” Does that mean the teachings save themselves?

      And I’d love to have some answers to my questions, too. So, there you go.

      Bubba, if a nation did for a lifetime what you are saying God will do for an eternity, only with presumably much worse suffering and no possibility for pardon, would you call that Just or Unjust?

      ~Dan

  27. paynehollow says:

    So, John, if it turns out that your take on salvation is correct and one needs to have perfect understanding on some topics, and YOUR take on some of those topics turns out to be mistaken, then you think you’d be justifiably sent to hell forever due to your own poor understanding?

    Why will you all not answer a relevant question:

    DO you think that one has EARNED an eternity in torment if one has simply misunderstood parts of the message that you all (some of you, anyway) are deeming as necessary to be correctly understood?

    Or do you think that, if you were simply sincerely mistaken on some points (even important points on which you might say you can’t be mistaken) that you are saved by God’s grace, not by your perfect knowledge on those topics?

    ~Dan

    • Dan. I don’t have to worry about misunderstanding. Paul is explicitly crystal clear when he says all are without excuse. Even if I personally don’t think it’s just, God is the one in charge, not me. And because I believe he is just, I know he won’t scam me out of eternal life on a technicality.

      • John,

        It’s not enough to trust God’s justice and mercy enough to know that no one will be condemned for a technicality in misunderstanding His revelation to man: we must berate the arrogant about their presumption that they understand that revelation.

        Otherwise, people might think that sincere misunderstandings are extremely unlikely, and they might even think that the gospel is something that can be understood by everyone, and we can’t have that.

        • paynehollow says:

          Well, Jesus DID save all his harsh words for the arrogant religious zealots of his day, the ones who piled rules upon the backs of the people, burdening them with a religious legalism that was harsh and graceless and antithetical to the Gospel of Grace, so there is a precedent.

          ~Dan

        • paynehollow says:

          Gladly. I’ll look up the verse in question and speak to it. In the meantime, why don’t you answer my question:

          If a nation did for a lifetime what you’re proposing God might do for an eternity of torment, would you call that just or unjust? Why?

          Looking forward to the response to at least that question. If you want to go back and answer some of the others I asked, that would be cool, too.

          ~Dan

          • I think God has more liberties to do with his creation what he will. We’re fallen and don’t have perfect perspective and judgements like God.

            I also don’t have the narcissistic audacity to presume that God should be judged by our standards. He is the Almighty after all.

        • paynehollow says:

          I’m sorry, is that an answer to my question? So, trying to read into that vague answer, are you saying that Yes, you would condemn a nation for sentencing someone to jail for life for committing non-criminal “sins,” or what they considered sins, anyway?

          Thanks for the clarification.

          ~Dan

  28. paynehollow says:

    And here is the problem with your rather shallow approach to Bible study: You all are treating the Bible like a magic 8 ball rather than a book of grace and wisdom.

    “Does God think everyone is without excuse??”

    shake shake shake

    “Bible says, ‘No one has an excuse!’ There we have the answer! Thanks for playing Magic Bible Ball!”

    It’s disrespectful to the Bible and to basic human reason.

    So, I guess no answers are forthcoming, then? Not from anyone?

    If a nation did this same thing for one lifetime, would you call that Just or Unjust? Why?

    ~Dan

    • Lmao! As opposed to your “does Thai passage hurt my feelings and make me have a frownie face? Must be metaphor”.

      I can’t believe you chastised be for thinking that when Paul says no one has an excuse that he means it. What do you think he means when he says everyone is without excusem?

      • paynehollow says:

        I can’t speak directly for Paul, but clearly, in context, he is not saying that. You have plucked a verse out of context and assigned meaning to it that isn’t there.

        But I’ll await a clear answer to my question before pointing out specifically the errors of your proof-texting.

        ~Dan

      • paynehollow says:

        By the way…

        As opposed to your “does Thai passage hurt my feelings and make me have a frownie face? Must be metaphor”.

        Blatant falsehood, again, unsupported, again.

        At least you’re consistent.

        ~Dan

    • Wow, Dan. How foolish of us to look to Scripture to teach us right behaviors and that which is pleasing to God! Whatever were we thinking? “Grace and wisdom”? What does that mean? Where do you find out about grace and wisdom? In Scripture? Where does it teach “Be graceful. Be wise.” ? How do we learn how to manifest grace and wisdom? What does grace and wisdom look like?

      Let me tell you something, Dan. The only question we ask of the “Magic 8 Ball” is, “Who is God and what is His will?” And we don’t shake it. We turn the pages, read the words and know because it ain’t no mystery.

      “It is just to hold people accountable for their actions. It is unjust to punish someone for an eternity for a misunderstanding.”

      I believe zanspence said it already, but it bears repeating. You insist on treating God like He’s just some dude on the street. You presume that He must do justice in the manner we, as a society, have determined justice should be done. But you fail to acknowledge the vast difference between God and us. He is not us. If our best is like dirty rags to Him, how offended must He be by even little sins, say nothing of the big obvious ones. To most of our peers, our best is lauded as a great thing, but to God, they are as filthy rags, yet you want to insist He’ll regard a little white lie the same way we do. He is pure goodness, so it is not beyond the realm of reality that He’s be far, far more offended by a little sin than any sinner would be. Not to hard to imagine, then that what He considers just punishments would be a bit different than what a Dan Trabue would find reasonable.

  29. “And here is the problem with your rather shallow approach to Bible study: You all are treating the Bible like a magic 8 ball rather than a book of grace and wisdom.”

    What if we told you that our conclusions came from literal years of careful, prayerful Bible study?

    Then, you’d have to accept that our approach serious, because who knows the sobriety of our approach better than us?

  30. paynehollow says:

    I can point to the very real practice you all regularly engage in of prooftexting and lifting verses out of context and misusing them and say, literally, “Hey, this is a bad idea.” What I COULDN’T and wouldn’t do is say, “No, you all never did that…”

    That would be foolish of me to make that sort of claim when I obviously can’t back it up.

    ~Dan

    • Dan, you jumped from the passage we were discussing, having no excuse, to the one about plucking out your eye. Why not just deal honestly instead of being an intellectually dishonest heretic?

      • paynehollow says:

        It’s the verse IMMEDIATELY preceding that text, John. I brought it up because context matters.

        Do you disagree? Do you think it is reasonable to just pluck a verse randomly out of the bible and say, “look at what my magic 8 bible tells me!”?

        I don’t think you’re that poor a student of the Bible and have to think that you agree with me that context matters. But you tell me.

        ~Dan

    • WE don’t lift verses out of context, Dan. That’s YOUR hobby.

  31. Dan, charges of proof-texting are in the eye of the beholder: just because you can’t comprehend how our years of careful Bible study resulted in our positions, doesn’t mean that we weren’t very careful indeed.

    I will say I’ve seen some people on our side play a little fast and loose with Scripture.

    One guy invoked Romans 12’s “overcome evil with good” in arguing for pacifism, ignoring Romans 13’s teaching that the government is an instrument of God’s wrath that does not bear the sword in vain. He thought that 1 Peter 2:21 was evidence of Christ’s death being merely an example to follow and not the cause of our salvation, even though Peter writes three verses later that Christ “bore our sins” on the cross. And this same guy thought Psalm 106:38’s condemnation of shedding innocent blood argued against the OT’s record of God’s command to Israel to wage wars of annihilation, even though the sin of verse 38 is DIRECTLY tied to Israel’s disobedience in 106:34, in which Israel “did not destroy the peoples, as the LORD commanded them,”

    But that’s just one nitwit, and his foolish behavior ought not to be used against the rest of us.

  32. Well, Jesus DID save all his harsh words for the arrogant religious zealots of his day, the ones who piled rules upon the backs of the people, burdening them with a religious legalism that was harsh and graceless and antithetical to the Gospel of Grace, so there is a precedent.

    Yes, but let’s not just allude to Matthew 23, Dan. It’s not fair to us poor shallow readers, because a cursory glance would suggest that Jesus was criticizing hypocrisy, that what they taught from Scripture was fine, JUST not their unwillingness to practice what they preach.

    It’s not fair to us not to spell out those horrible legalistic teachings, as Jesus Himself did in Matthew 5.

    The scribes and the Pharisees had insisted that even one’s internal thoughts of hatred were wrong, but Jesus in His grace corrected them: hate’s alright, it’s only when it results in acts of murder that God has a problem with it.

    They had likewise condemned mere thoughts of lust, but Jesus in His grace corrected them: only adultery’s a big deal, as it harms innocent bystanders like one’s children and one’s faithful spouse.

    They had limited the grounds of divorce to serious sexual immorality and taught that one shouldn’t marry a divorcee, but Jesus said it’s all cool as long as your paperwork is in order.

    They had insisted on honesty in every word that you spoke, but Jesus had a much more flexible rule: as long as you don’t swear to God Himself, what you say’s no big deal.

    And they had promoted the galling notion that you should love your enemy, but Jesus understood human frailty and endorsed our hating our enemies, which is only natural.

    Who could ever forget how Jesus began that striking series of antitheses?

    “Do not think that I have come to fulfill the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to fulfill them but to abolish them… whoever teaches the least of these commandments will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, and you will never enter that kingdom unless your leniency exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees.”

    Such beautiful words of grace and freedom!

    I know it’s good to be brief, but it would have been better for you to have brought them up yourself.

  33. paynehollow says:

    You’re not getting it, Bubba. We don’t advocate for pacifism because there is a verse in some book of the Bible that says, x,y and z. We advocate for it because it is rational, it is moral, it is in keeping with the spirit of Jesus’ teachings and because we are followers of Jesus, who gave us this very literal example of a peaceful life. Now, of course, there are a ton of verses that speak to this, but it’s not, “Jesus said x, y and z, therefore, the RULE IS PACIFISM… thus saith God and the Bible!”

    It’s “Here’s Jesus’ teachings, clearly speaking of peacemaking, directly. I am a follower of Jesus and embrace that teaching. Additionally, it simply makes sense in this world of violence that we can’t all embrace violence as a Way, That Way is a Way that leads to destruction, the Way of Peace – while requiring courage and great moral rectitude, is a better Way, sustainable, life-giving, not death-dealing.”

    ~Dan

    • Except the whole turning over tables, making a whip for himself, and commanding the disciples that when they go out to make disciples that if they didn’t have a sword they should sell some of their belongings to buy one.

      • C’mon, John, that’s such a shallow bit of proof-texting.

        If you want know the spirit in which Jesus clearly spoke of things and lived as an example to be followed, the last thing you want to do is closely read about his words and deeds.

        Do that, and you might think that his references to an unquenchable fire is to something longer lasting than God’s stern lecture and five minutes of time out.

  34. Dan.

    If your arguments for pacifism have had nothing to do with taking Romans 12 out of context, maybe you should have never referenced the passage in the first place: shallow proof-texter that I am, the reference just makes me want to see what it meant in the context of Paul’s letter.

    Or were you just saying “overcome evil with good” because you like the sound of it, even occasionally attributing it to Jesus rather than one of His Apostles because you didn’t much care who said it or what he originally meant by it?

    I mean, it would look good on a bumper sticker, but by itself it doesn’t justify pacifism unless you make an a priori assumption that the use of military force is everywhere and always unnecessary, illegitimate, and outright evil.

    But you wouldn’t do that.

    You wouldn’t ever act as if what you think “makes sense” in the “real” world justifies mangling the clear teaching of God’s written revelation. You wouldn’t dare invoke “God’s word written on your heart” to do damage to God’s word written on the page.

    You’re much too humble to dare speak for God with more authority than Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and John.

  35. paynehollow says:

    Bubba, this post is not about pacifism. It’s about whether or not one can rationally call God all-loving and all-forgiving? And what are the implications of that?

    I’ll pass on chasing down that red herring trail and correcting the multiple false conclusions you’ve assigned to my personal straw man…

    ~Dan

  36. You’re right, Dan, it’s not about pacifism and your proof-texting of Romans. I also brought up your denial of the historicity of the OT and your proof-texting of Psalms, along with your denial of the saving efficacy of Christ’s death and your proof-texting of I Peter.

    But those very specific subjects ONLY came up in response to your vague and absurd allegations of proof-texting on our side.

    Funny how you forgot that, but it was such a long time ago.

    Ninety minutes is practically an eternity, which is why we can be quite sure that God’s judgment must be much, much shorter than that. Anything more than the Divine Counting to Ten is unjust, positively barbaric, and an offense to our sense of fair play.

  37. paynehollow says:

    On the topic of the post, Bubba, do you have any thoughts?

    For instance, here’s a crazy, but apt, question: What if a nation did what you are proposing God does? What if a nation put someone in prison FOR LIFE (just one lifetime, mind you) for committing relatively petty sins such as gossip or false witness, the type of things you or I might do on a regular basis? Would you call that unjust or just? Why?

    It’s an appropriate question.

    Or how about the question of what to do with people who do confess but are merely innocently mistaken on some beliefs that you think one can’t be mistaken on – is that suggesting a salvation by works, since one’s sincere mistakes can lead to an eternity in torment? Or do you side with God’s grace and say, “Sure, sometimes we WILL get things wrong, thankfully, we don’t get sent to an eternal torment for merely being mistaken, that would be unjust and crazy!”…?

    Anything on the topic of the post?

    ~Dan

  38. I’m not sure your accusing us of proof-texting was on-topic, Dan. Funny how only my fighting fire with fire is off-topic — or more precisely, my substantive response was off-topic, but not your initial, vague accusation.

    Huh.

    Anyway…

    What if a nation put someone in prison FOR LIFE (just one lifetime, mind you) for committing relatively petty sins such as gossip or false witness, the type of things you or I might do on a regular basis?

    If what the nation did was legal according to its own laws, it surely can’t be immoral, and who are we to interfere with the end-of-freedom decisions that other families make, even at the national level? If the government involved a medical doctor in the act of removing the man’s freedom of movement, then who are we to say what medical procedures a man may have?

    Here I thought you were supportive of choice when it comes to medical decisions, and now you want to dictate when some other national family can and cannot perform a routine travel-ectomy.

    Or how about the question of what to do with people who do confess but are merely innocently mistaken on some beliefs that you think one can’t be mistaken on – is that suggesting a salvation by works, since one’s sincere mistakes can lead to an eternity in torment?

    Of course it suggests salvation by works.

    I recall that the author of Galatians 1 pronounced a solemn curse on ANYONE who preached a different gospel than the one he was preaching, including himself or even an angel from heaven. He didn’t suggest ANY exceptions, much less did he clearly set aside those who could be sincerely mistaken, and I found all that appalling.

    I’m just so glad the author of Galatians 3 emphasized that we’re saved by grace through faith, in repudiation of that other guy. Good thing those passages weren’t both written by the same apostle, in the same letter, or we’d have to reconcile the two passages and conclude that “believing things” is in a different category than “works of the law.”

    And that’s just crazy talk! After all, we’re saved by faith in ANYTHING, not faith prompted by divine promises and their underlying theological premises.

    So glad we clear all that up.

  39. paynehollow says:

    Bubba, you’re not very good at sarcasm. I think you’d do better to just try to engage in, you know, normal, give and take conversation.

    Just a suggestion.

    ~Dan

  40. Dammit, Dan, I wasn’t being sarcastic. I’m arguing in just as much good faith as you are.

    Heck, I even got your back on a couple issues.

    When you cited Matthew 23 as proof that the Pharisees’ sin was adhering to strictly to the law, I urged you to follow up with Matthew 5, as there Jesus goes into great length repudiating them at every turn.

    The Pharisees wanted to denounce mere thought of hate and lust that didn’t even harm anybody, and Jesus wisely rebuked them and taught us to just chill out.

    You’re doing the Lord’s work reminding us of the Bible’s greatest teaching — No Harm, No Foul — and I’m just backing you up.

    And now, I’m agreeing with you that a works-based salvation includes the act of believing certain things about God and man. Salvation through faith in a PARTICULAR deity is no salvation through faith at all.

    I would have hoped you would be more grateful for my support, since we don’t often agree.

  41. paynehollow says:

    Bubba, suffice to say that 95% of the time when you say you “understand” or are “citing” my position, you aren’t. The best thing you could do would probably be to say to yourself, “What do I, Bubba, think Dan’s position actually is…?” and then assume I mean the opposite of that. You’d still probably be wrong, but you might be closer.

    Anything to say on topic?

    ~Dan

  42. I didn’t realize my comprehension skills were on-topic.

    • paynehollow says:

      Bubba, when I reply to your off topic ad hom attacks and red herrings, just briefly enough to notice their error and try to steer you back on track… do you think that’s not fair?

      Or do you want the ability to go off topic to make false, ad hom attacks and various slanderous remarks, but not to let anyone call you on the false witness?

      All I’m doing is pointing out the false nature of your comments and going back to topic, why don’t you just go back to topic and forgo the ad homs?

      For instance, how do you define Justice?

      Or, what if a nation put someone in prison FOR LIFE (just one lifetime, mind you) for committing relatively petty sins such as gossip or false witness, the type of things you or I might do on a regular basis?

      Anything on the topic of the post?

      ~Dan

  43. I know I’m late and jumping into a target rich environment, so I’ll try to stay short. Just some questions.
    1) Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we’re sinners?
    2) Where can one find a list of “Major” and “Minor sins?”
    3) How many “minor” sins need one accumulate before it becomes the equivalent of a “major” sin?
    4) (Specifically for Dan) Is there any sin or combination of sins that would be appropriate to send someone to Hell?
    5) What if Hell is merely eternal separation from God, without any actual torment, would that make it a more acceptable punishment?
    6) Since when is God obligated to accede to 21st century English definitions of words?
    7) If one reads what Dan and the atheists (wouldn’t that be an awesome band name) keep insisting, that the degree of punishment must equate to how bad (or not) our actions are, then a) wouldn’t it follow that the degree of salvation (or reward) would also be linked to how good our actions are, and b) at that point isn’t this just another version of salvation by works.

  44. Yes, Bubba,
    What you should do is to copy/paste Dans actual words in quotes, then assume that he actually meant the opposite.

  45. paynehollow says:

    Craig, do you have any comments on topic?

    I see at least this question that seems appropriate to the topic…

    Is there any sin or combination of sins that would be appropriate to send someone to Hell?

    It’s a good question. Part of the rational and moral problem with the modern evangelical conception of hell is the everlasting torment with no chance for pardon. Even for very bad crimes knowingly committed, is an eternity of suffering with no chance of pardon a reasonable response?

    I mean, like the guy (someone who is not crazy, and therefore, perhaps unable to help themselves or not aware of what they’re doing) who rapes and kills hundreds of girls, knowing how awful it is. THAT is pretty horrible. What sort of punishment is just and rational for that sort of crime?

    I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m glad to hear what others think. I’d say that’s above my pay grade.

    But let’s be clear: the vast majority of sinners are “little sinners…” they commit sins of lying, of slander, of misrepresenting others… sometimes in ignorance, sometimes meaning well, maybe sometimes deliberately.

    So, for the person who has lived ten years as an adult and committed hundreds of these little sins, what is a rationally appropriate punishment? Is a lifetime in torment sufficient? An eternity in torment?

    I have to admit, I don’t know where to draw the line, but I CAN draw a line at an eternity in torment, with no chance of pardon, is disproportionate to the crime, from a purely human point of view of justice and morality. And, if we mere mortals can see how awful that is, how much more so a perfectly loving, perfectly good and perfectly just God recognize it?

    Craig, my answer to your question is, I don’t know. What’s your answer to my question?

    What of the person who dies young and has really only knowingly committed, say, ONE act of sin, is eternal torment an appropriate response? Is there even a glimmer of doubt about your answer to that?

    Or, going the whole, “We’re sinners by birth” route, what of the person who NEVER actively deliberately sins, but who is merely a “sinner by birth,” is an eternity in torment disproportionate to the crime?

    ~Dan

    • “Craig, do you have any comments on topic?”

      Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I made this comment on your blog, my bad.

      “I see at least this question that seems appropriate to the topic”

      Actually all of them were raised due to comments on this thread. Again i was unaware that you were the arbiter of which comments/questions were appropriate.

      “What’s your answer to my question?”

      I am unaware of any questions you’ve directed at me, hence my confusion at your question. As to the questions you asked after your non sequiter, I’ll answer as clearly and directly as possible.

      “What of the person who dies young and has really only knowingly committed, say, ONE act of sin, is eternal torment an appropriate response?”

      I’m not God, so I don’t know.

      “Is there even a glimmer of doubt about your answer to that?”

      Sure, God is a God or perfect Justice, perfect love and perfect grace. I’ll trust that a perfect God who dispenses perfect justice is quite capable of making His own decisions about these things, and i wouldn’t presume to even begin to try to apply my limited imperfect concepts of justice and fairness to Him. He’s God, I’m not. I trust Him.

      “Or, going the whole, “We’re sinners by birth” route, what of the person who NEVER actively deliberately sins, but who is merely a “sinner by birth,” is an eternity in torment disproportionate to the crime?”

      Interesting that you just asked essentially the same question I asked, yet you characterize mine as off topic, while you consider yours on topic and demand an answer. Having pointed out one more example of your blatant inconsistency, I’ll do what you won’t. Answer.

      Sure, God is a God or perfect Justice, perfect love and perfect grace. I’ll trust that a perfect God who dispenses perfect justice is quite capable of making His own decisions about these things, and i wouldn’t presume to even begin to try to apply my limited imperfect concepts of justice and fairness to Him. He’s God, I’m not. I trust Him.

  46. Dan:

    Bubba, when I reply to your off topic ad hom attacks and red herrings, just briefly enough to notice their error and try to steer you back on track… do you think that’s not fair?

    I would have said it’s as fair as my replying to your accusation of “the very real practice you all regularly engage in of prooftexting and lifting verses out of context and misusing them.”

    I pointed out a few concrete instances of your prooftexting, and you pointed out how wrong I was to do so.

    Bubba, this post is not about pacifism. It’s about whether or not one can rationally call God all-loving and all-forgiving? And what are the implications of that?

    I’m just looking for some consistency, but then, so much changed in the 2 1/2 hours between those two comments, that I must look to you for guidance on what is and isn’t off-topic.

    If you could update us on that every six minutes, that’d be great!

  47. Bubba,

    As I just learned Dan is now the sole arbiter of on/off topic, and my asking a reasonable question is off topic, while his asking essentially the same question is on topic. It seems as though we should just assume that anything Dan says is automatically on topic, while anything we say is off topic until Dan graces us with a ruling.

  48. Ya know, this is the same type of stuff we suffered at the hands of Dan’s cohorts, Alan and Geoffrey, who no longer allows comments on his blog. They’d snipe about me, or Craig or whomever, and boy the fun they had! Dan would eventually “tut, tut” them. Oh, those were the days! The difference is that the sniping here is a just an exaggeration of the reality of dealing with Dan, whereas his pals just couldn’t deal with the objections.

    Just an observation.

    I’m gonna back off.

  49. MA,
    First, you’ll note that even Dan’s 2 fans don’t comment over there any more. Second, Dan pretty much let those two run wild until the inconsistencies got to the point they couldn’t be ignored.

    Prepare yourself to be scolded by the off topic busybody momentarily.

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