Omniscience, the Trinity, and Free Will: Why I can’t believe

An Answers in Genesis article, “Was the Cross ‘Plan B’?“, poses the following question:

Was Jesus’s death on the Cross a result of God’s best-laid plans gone wrong? Did human sin take God by surprise? Was there an emergency plan B forced upon the Creator of the universe after the Fall in Genesis?

The article answers this question as follows:

No, Jesus went to the Cross exactly as God had intended before the world began. … Jesus is the very design and accomplishment of God’s eternal wisdom. The plan of redemption was not a necessary afterthought to remedy a plan gone wrong. Jesus had purposed to redeem us from eternity past. His work on the Cross is nothing short of the pinnacle of the revelation of God’s eternal and sovereign wisdom.

This article brought together all the problems I have with believing Christianity. The argument here is that God created the world and mankind knowing that man would sin and knowing that Jesus would have to die on the cross and knowing that millions and billions of people would refuse his “gift” and wind up in hell. This just seems weird and twisted.

According to this line, God put Adam and Eve in a situation where he knew they would fail and then punished them for it. This is something I work hard never to do with my daughter. If she’s tired and hungry and out of sorts, I wouldn’t take her to the grocery store, because I would know she would probably fall apart. And if I did take her to the grocery store in that condition, I wouldn’t punish her when she did fall apart. That would be completely unfair of me, especially because her meltdown would be in some sense my fault for taking her shopping when I knew she couldn’t make it through. But this, supposedly, is just what God does.

Then there is the whole Trinity thing. When reading this article I wondered to myself how God the Father broke the news about this plan to Jesus: “Hey, let’s make a planet with lots of little intelligent beings, but we’ll give them the opportunity to make wrong choices and then when they do, which they will, we’ll have to send them into eternal torture as punishment until you go down there and let them torture and murder you so that I can forgive their wrongdoing. Sound good?” But then I realized that given that God and Jesus are supposed to be one and the same, no such conversation would be necessary. Except that when Jesus was on earth he did have conversations with God the Father, and God the Father knew things Jesus didn’t. I have to ask, can we just admit that the Trinity makes no sense already?

And this brings up a third question too. If God knew before he created the world that he would create the world and exactly everything he would do in the future – since he’s supposedly omniscient – then would God have free will? I think not. If I knew everything I would do in the future laid out exactly it would happen, I wouldn’t have free will. I couldn’t choose any other option. Actually, I feel sorry for the God this idea would create. He would be a God trapped into one path, unable to choose anything different, indeed, unable to make choices at all. And he would certainly not be omnipotent.

Yeah, no. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I didn’t leave Christianity because I didn’t know that there are plenty of Christians who are loving and caring rather than legalistic, or because I didn’t realize there are Biblical interpretations that allow for accepting gay people and gender equality. I didn’t leave because I didn’t know there were a diversity of different streams of Christian spirituality. I left Christianity because it simply doesn’t make sense.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Steve

    Let’s not forgot the flooding the Earth and destroying 99.9% of life on Earth thing. Human sacrifice was really Plan C.

    Speaking of human sacrifice. Even if we could somehow accept that god needed to act to save humans from the punishments he set up, why do so with a barbaric execution? It’s just stupid no matter no matter how you look at it

    • Rilian

      Hey, yeah. In the bible, god is all like “these humans are horrible, I should never have made them, I kill them all now.” That totally contradicts that idea that it was all his plan from the beginning that humans would sin and stuff.

    • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

      The thing about the Flood and Adam and Eve makes a whole lot more sense when you put the God of Genesis into the story as one of the creator gods of the old Canaanite religions. Adam and Eve would eat from the tree and become as gods, so Yahweh stopped them and sent them away. He lost control of his creation and then flooded the world to start again. Then as the people built the tower, he sent them away.

      Think about all the times you, as a child, messed up – breaking something, getting something dirty, hurting yourself or someone else – and then you hid the evidence or ran away, that is what Yahweh is like in the beginning of the story of Genesis.

  • http://www.purplenoize.com Jadzia626

    The big issue for me with the Christian god was the idea that he is supposedly omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent at the same time. Any one of these attributes will contradict the two other. It is simply not possible to be all three. Yet that is what they claim. At least in the naive evangelical theology.

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    “According to this line, God put Adam and Eve in a situation where he knew they would fail and then punished them for it.”

    How could they not fail? Until they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they couldn’t know it was wrong to disobey God.

  • http://www.subparker.com Neal

    The last paragraph is what hits the nail on the head. Excellent article.

  • Caravelle

    All the explanations of why God does the things he does by making the analogy to parenting used to be confusing to me, because while they might make superficial sense when you didn’t think about them much, they were actually totally unlike how people actually parent in the real world.

    And then one day I made the connection between this and Pearl/Quiverfull-style parenting, and now I find those explanations creepy and threatening instead. And I wouldn’t be surprised that there actually IS a causal connection in some cases between this authoritarian view of God and authoritarian-to-the-point-of-abuse styles of parenting.

    • Beguine

      This never made sense to me either; even when I was little I understood punishments didn’t last forever, and that there was no point punishing someone if they could no longer change what they were doing or if they didn’t know any better. However, once I watched enough siblings being terrible to each other (I myself was an only child), I concluded that at least hell and possibly the story of Adam and Eve were inconsistent with a perfect loving parent and must therefore be the result of my spiritual siblings lying to me to scare me.

  • TR

    “According to this line, God put Adam and Eve in a situation where he knew they would fail and then punished them for it.”
    Libby, since you explored Catholicism before becoming an atheist, you’re probably aware that the largest Christian denomination in the world doesn’t buy in to this story. They simply have a different model for using the Bible. So, while I accept that many Christians do believe this story, I’m not sure why you’d equate it with Christianity as such. Without a literal Fall, a flawed humanity can still reach for the divine, and a human-divine bridge can still mean something.

    “Except that when Jesus was on earth he did have conversations with God the Father, and God the Father knew things Jesus didn’t. I have to ask, can we just admit that the Trinity makes no sense already?”
    But this also you’re familiar with. N.T. Wright doubts that Jesus was aware he was God, and Anne Rice depicts a Jesus uncertain where this power and calling come from. If God was to become human, then God would have to cabin his attributes. (Insofar as one can call them attributes: traditional positive descriptions (omniscience, omnipotence) are merely approximations of what God may be like.)

    “then would God have free will? I think not.”
    Come on, Libby. This is the worst one yet. (the jesus-god thing was your best shot). “If I knew everything I would do in the future laid out exactly it would happen, I wouldn’t have free will.” Completely right, I think. A god acting in time would have that problem – but we know that spacetime can’t really be separated. And this critter we’re talking about stands “outside” time and space. It doesn’t look ahead to its future actions, controlled by its all-knowledge. Something like, “it views all of time at once,” is a more reasonable way of approaching the idea.

    “I left Christianity because it simply doesn’t make sense.”
    Here’s my point: there are plenty of reasons to think Christianity doesn’t make sense. Maybe the system runs afoul of reality at many different points. Internal incoherence – the system breaking down from within – is not, I think, one of those problems, though it’s a popular charge in the blogosphere. (A more popular charge in FTB, whence you came, than here on Patheos, I think). Another popular charge is that the whole thing is just made up and subject to ad hoc change.
    I’d say that given a few starting points, the internal logic of the idea of God dictates that some conclusions are more likely than others. It’s fine to find the idea unreasonable; but in dismissing the idea, let’s take the most reasonable version we can.

    • Jeremy

      Libby, since you explored Catholicism before becoming an atheist, you’re probably aware that the largest Christian denomination in the world doesn’t buy in to this story.

      Nor, I should point out, does the UCC. I think you’ve fallen prey to a fallacy here — you say Christianity doesn’t make sense because your Fundamentalist minister doesn’t make sense, and then you say the differences between Fundamentalists and Progressives don’t affect your conclusions — even though those differences negate your arguments.

      • RowanVT

        And you’re falling into the No True Scotsman fallacy as well, then. The very fact that so many different sects of christianity have so many different versions coming from one single inconsistent book just further shows that there is no internal logic.

        God is Love, but is also Jealous and glorifies himself with slaughter.
        God is Merciful, but also orders the destruction of entire peoples, and wants you to stone your kids if they misbehave.

        God is only internally consistent if you’ve never read the *entire* bible.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        RowanVT–It’s not the “no true scotsman” fallacy to say that many Christians do not adhere to fundamentalist theology any more than it is for me to say that many (most) Jews do not adhere to Orthodox practice and belief. Jeremy was not saying that fundamentalists are not Christians, he was only saying that they’re not the only Christians and that not all Christians adhere to the beliefs that Libby finds problematic.

        That’s not the “no true Scotsman” fallacy (a term which like “ad hominem” is starting to be really overused…). Let’s at least be fair here.

    • Steve

      The Catholic Church still believes in Original Sin, which is a highly immoral and disgusting concept in itself. It doesn’t matter that they have a different interpretation. Actually, the simple fact that there are literally hundreds of different interpretations and variations of the most fundamental Christian doctrines shows that they are all man made nonsense. There is nothing remotely “reasonable” about ANY of them.

      • MadGastronomer

        Original sin is certainly a terrible concept. The rest of your argument though, is ridiculous. The idea that because ideas that humans have had a long time to talk about, debate about, and think about, that have gone through many different languages and cultures with their very different referents and understandings, should have changed wildly and be extremely varied now means that they must have come from humanity originally is deeply illogical. It shows only that people have done what they always do: think about things, alter things, pass them on inaccurately, and otherwise muck about with them. Also, ideas being reasonably is not a requirement for them to have come from a god.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think the Christians are mostly wildly incorrect, but your logic has more holes than chain maille.

      • Steve

        @MadGastronomer
        Take a look at the early history of the church. Within the first 200 years of Christianity there were already dozens of different sects and whole schisms. Entire branches were declared heretics and stamped out. The diversity in beliefs was actually greater than anything you can see today. It took no time at all for people to disagree about practically all aspects of it.
        You list a lot of things that are human flaws and then you say that may mean that the ideas don’t actually come from humans after all. You can’t be serious.

        The point is that these debates would make sense if we were just talking about philosophy. But this is supposed to be divinely given, eternal truth. If an almighty deity were behind any of this, we would not see so many variations of it. Any competent god wouldn’t rely on a few revelations thousands of years ago to primitive people in order spread his plans. All it would take to clear this up is him showing himself today to explain it. Unless of course god is an incompetent idiot, in which case he is not worth worshiping.

        Also, the reference to reasonable ideas was a direct response to TR saying “let’s take the most reasonable version we can.”

      • MadGastronomer

        You are making way too many assumptions about the nature and intentions of deity, still. Two hundred years, hell, ten years, is plenty of time for humans to screw with anything. It doesn’t matter whether or not it was divinely given, that’s true. You’re assuming that the putative god involved a) wanted everyone to agree, b) wanted everyone to stick to one version, and c) had the power to make them do so. You are starting from too many unstated assumptions. It leaves your logic meaningless and your conclusion standing there forlornly wondering how it got there. If you want to claim that your conclusion is logical, you have to actually use logic to get there. This putative god doesn’t have to be incompetent for everything to get more complicated — that could be entirely intentional.

    • Ibis3

      It’s not like the Catholic Church had a different interpretation from the start. The whole theological platform is based on a foundation of a literal understanding of the Eden myth. How can they accept the conclusions of The City of God while dismissing the premise of the argument? They just hope that no one notices the switch while they use the left hand to distract the masses with anti-woman and anti-gay bigotry. Even the child rape coverup is beneficial to them in this regard. No one’s questioning the core dogma when there’s a salacious scandal and political controversy going on.

      Moreover, how can anyone trust that the modern revisionists have got it right when the Princes of the Church had it wrong for centuries?

    • TR

      It’s a bit unfortunate that my first post here was a critical one – I’m an admirer of Libby Anne’s blog in general. Her clearsighted analyses of the repressive environment she left behind are admirable, and her positive parenting posts are a real joy to read. (more of those, please, Libby Anne – we’re curious to see if it “really works”!)

      Steve: “Actually, the simple fact that there are literally hundreds of different interpretations and variations of the most fundamental Christian doctrines shows that they are all man made nonsense. There is nothing remotely “reasonable” about ANY of them.”
      Well, there are “hundreds of different interpretations and variations” of economics, too. Some of these economic systems are reasonable, surely? And if we decide economics is hogwash in general, we still have an intellectual duty to take the best case economics can put up, and deconstruct that.
      And really, if we think all religious ideas are entirely man-made (whatever that means), then shouldn’t we be even better at spotting the distinctions between different religious ideas? Shouldn’t we be able to see that some religious ideas have more sense in them than others, and that some criticisms may apply to certain religious ideas but not others?
      One can refuse to distinguish between ideas. But that’s not a strength.

      As for the evolving views of the Catholic Church: they claim to be a living tradition. So in their tradition, they are allowed to evolve, albeit in limited ways. They can’t be untrue to their tradition by changing, if their tradition is to change. I’m just saying.

      • http://discerningspiritualist.com Cado

        Economics is real-world theory which is put into practice and yields certain results. It is man-made ideas applied to a man-made system with outcomes that can be measured. While internal consistency can be compared between different religious philosophies and indeed we should make distinctions between things that are different, it doesn’t mean that religion is inherently worth studying because it carries no weight outside of the biases modern societies have toward it.

        That is to say, with limited time and resources and thousands of topics we could study, I don’t blame a person who judges the whole of religion based on what some sects do or say when there are rarely any significant differences between them.

        It’s similar to a debate I had with a creationist the other day. She said she believed in old-earth creationism but that macro evolution wasn’t a proven phenomenon and that even though the earth was old, life was young (meaning it has only existed for six to ten thousand years). While there is a clear difference between her and old-earth creationists, the qualitative difference is so small that it’s valid to question whether there is one.

        That doesn’t mean there truly aren’t qualitative differences between various branches of Christianity, but they’re still Christianity. They’re still building on the same foundation. There are still things that, no matter how you approach it, don’t make sense. So much needs to be done in order to justify what the Bible says about God when this God isn’t necessary to explain anything in the first place. As a former Christian myself, I was left with a question I couldn’t answer: Why am I doing this? There was no pay-off. I’d spend so much of my time trying to fit everything together with what I read in the Bible when it was already a challenge to take things as they were.

        To the truly progressive and liberal Christians, I respect you. Even if you don’t have the most reasonable views on science, if your spirituality is more firmly rooted in love than it is dogma and you don’t feel the need to convert everyone else and you don’t believe in hell then you are a force for good. The most vocal people within modern Christianity aren’t. They are anti-reason, anti-gay, and anti-poor. And when you compare their beliefs with their moderate and liberal counterparts, there’s not that much of a difference. Moderates in particular may not believe they have a calling to stop gay marriage but they’re just as ignorant about the psychology of gays and transsexuals as the fundamentalists are, sometimes even to the point that they think it is a choice or that they’re turned on by their own genitals.

        And again, I reiterate the question I asked so long ago: what is the point? How does this add anything of value to our discourse, or even to our personal lives?

        Going back to some of the specific things that were said, what does it mean for a being to be outside of space and time? That’s not quantifiable. It doesn’t tell us anything about that being. What it says is that we can’t understand it because it doesn’t fit within our framework, but the book which describes said being was written by people. It chronicles how humans perceive what they call God. Clearly it was within the range of what they could imagine, but were they actually on to something? Are they saying anything that actually warrants examination? Because when I look at statements like, “outside of space and time” I think “so it’s pointless to talk about it since we don’t have a model for understanding it and this adds complication without explaining the other inconsistencies.”

        That is a small part of why I walked away. It is the main reason I came to the conclusion that liberal Christianity was, on some level, intellectually dishonest. I know what the Bible says and I got tired of jumping through hoops to make sense of it when i was so much happier leaving it behind.

  • shadowspring

    Heresy alert:

    I believe that Jesus was the human form of the incarnate God, and that his death on the cross was not at all substitutionary or necessary to appease the “wrath of God”. I posit that God in Christ provided the Ultimate Sacrifice so people would stop killing one another, as well as animals, in an attempt to appease God. “It is finished,” meant no more need for sacrifice, because the Ultimate Sacrifice to trump all sacrifices was made by God himself. Humanity is the blood thirsty vengeance seeking entity that needed to be appeased, not God. Jesus trumps their system, so there is no longer any excuse to believe God is grudge-holding, no more reason we can’t let go of shame and accept ourselves, and no longer any reason to hate others or hold onto grudges that only raise our blood pressure and shorten our own lives.

    I know it’s stupid to post this here, as no one gives a shit about my theology, but it pleases me to write it out, so there. :p

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Aw, I give a shit about your theology, SS. I obviously don’t see things the same way you do (being Jewish and all lol) but I think your views are really interesting and well-thought-out. Plus, I really appreciate hearing Christian perspectives that I’m most definitely not going to hear by just paying attention to the conservative mainstream and I deeply respect all the questioning you’ve done to arrive at yours. Not that many people can do that, no matter what religion they do (or don’t) follow.

      Personally, seeing how people can come from very different places philosophically and religiously and still come to the same basic conclusions about how to treat our fellow human beings (what really matters, imo) is one of the few things that gives me any hope about the world so thanks!

      • shadowspring

        Agreed. Most accepted religions do agree: how we treat others is definitely what matters most.

        One of the most fascinating things to me is to talk to my non-religious Hindu doctor about the words of Jesus. He has an immediate clarity from his Eastern thought processes that I find really helpful. I think Jesus is far more East than West; how the hell his name wound up slapped on to the current religion carrying it is a freakish development that makes me shake my head often.

        The guy who said, “Love your enemies” and “my kingdom is not of this world” “marvel not that I say you must be born again” and many other mystical, peaceable statements is being asked to bless America on its way to war to destroy her enemies,. Wtf????

    • Tricia

      Hi Shadowspring,

      My own journey of searching and questioning has led me to embrace an “atonement” theory much like what you lay out here. I tend to think of the essential meaning of the cross event being that our God voluntarily became our scape goat. I think when the passion narratives are read that way, it all becomes so humbling and amazing and beautiful. . . and the real “trumping of the system” is of course the resurrection, can’t believe you left that part out! :)

      Anyway, this is off topic but I also wanted to say that I enjoy your blog. :)

      • shadowspring

        Thanks for the kind words. I’m between semesters next week. Maybe I’ll add a post!

  • http://wonderingwanderingthoughts.blogspot.com OneSmallStep

    **Hey, let’s make a planet with lots of little intelligent beings, but we’ll give them the opportunity to make wrong choices and then when they do, **

    It goes beyond an opportunity. After Adam/Eve, humanity is specifically created being *unable* to be perfect, and thus is born condemned, simply through the fault of being human. And then God gets furious at them for being unable to do anything other than what they’re created to do.

  • PRaa

    “And this brings up a third question too. If God knew before he created the world that he would create the world and exactly everything he would do in the future – since he’s supposedly omniscient – then would God have free will? I think not. If I knew everything I would do in the future laid out exactly it would happen, I wouldn’t have free will. I couldn’t choose any other option.”

    That, right there, highlights probably the greatest paradox of omniscience. In computer science we even have a mathematical proof that it doesn’t work, called the undecidability proof: “Turing completeness” denote the highest level of expressiveness we have been able to get from any programming language. Turing complete languages can express all the same concepts as other turing complete languages (though often technically in very different ways). In a sense, programs written in such languages all inhabit the same universe of expressiveness.
    Turing complete programming languages also have the expressive power to build programs that investigate the source code and make predictions about the actions of other programs. They can do this, even to other programs written in turing complete languages. However, when they do this, they open up the possibility of investigating _their own source code_. And this can be easily used to thwart any predictions by having programs basing their decisions on the outcome of such predictions.
    One of the main reasons it is so difficult to write reliable programs is exactly because we have this annoying theorem stating that it is impossible for such analysis programs to reliably analyse and predict the actions of other turing complete programs. We can do analyses, but they will always be approximations.

    So next time your computer crashes, you can blame it on the impossibility of omniscience.

    Because this is exactly why omniscience doesn’t work. If there is a God and it is truly omniscient, it will have to necessarily stay completely out of the matters of the universe to be able to maintain that omniscience. Otherwise it becomes a part of the universe and will suddenly have to make predictions about itself to maintain its omniscience.

    And if there is a God and it is not omniscient, then it is subject to making mistakes and errors of judgment (just like every single one of us are). But that would of course take it down from the pedestal of infallible godhood.

    So philosophically, this seems to be a lose-lose scenario for God. Omniscience seems to exclude any potency at all, and omnipotence would require omniscience to work in the first place.

  • http://christianrethinker.wordpress.com Retha

    “And this brings up a third question too. If God knew before he created the world that he would create the world and exactly everything he would do in the future – since he’s supposedly omniscient – then would God have free will? I think not. If I knew everything I would do in the future laid out exactly it would happen, I wouldn’t have free will. I couldn’t choose any other option.”

    It will probably be no surprise to you that I have a different take on what you describe there.

    But God’s knowledge should be seen more like this: A child gets a choice of three familiar boxes of cereal. He knows what taste will be in his mouth if he chooses A. He knows what taste will be in his mouth if he chooses B. He knows what taste will be in his mouth if he chooses C.

    The Bible never say God knows everything at all times, the omniscience claim is a poor attempt to sum up all the things it say He knows. (He knows, say the Bible, where you are, the secrets of how the world was made because He made it, how many hairs there are on the head, etc. …) Real omniscience is logically impossible to fit with omnipotence (You cannot know what you will choose and be free to make a choice), but omniscience is not really a central Christian doctrine, or mentioned once in the Bible.

    A Christian can let it go without disbelieving anything else. The Christian God does not become impossible just because some Christians summed up badly the Bible claims of God knowing a remarkable lot.

    As for sacrificing Jesus, never think that God sacrificed someone else. However anyone understand or fail to understand it, the Christian claim is that Jesus was God, God sacrificed Himself. I don’t say that to make it more logical, but to answer claims of cruelty toward another being.

  • http://puddinsilovemylife.blogspot.com/ Tonya Richard

    YES! This! My poor mother keeps trying to woo me back, and I keep telling her, “Mom, you just don’t understand, me believing in God again would be like you trying to believe in Santa Clause again, the belief is just gone!” She just doesn’t get it :sigh:

  • Besomyka

    I’m more or less with Libby on this topic. I came from a Catholic background and migrated away for many of the same reasons. I just can’t fathom a loving God coexisting with the idea of Hell. I can’t make a loving God fit into a world in which most people don’t know of It. I can’t make something that is supposedly supernaturally sublime the source for all the religious confusion in the world.

    Sure, there are more liberally interpreted denominations, but it falls into the same pattern that faith played in understanding the natural world. At each point they say, ‘but that’s not what we believe’. Which is all fine and dandy, but as some point we find ourselves denying the divinity of Christ, and then what kind of Christians are we? It becomes so vague, that the label no longer make sense. We land in some sort of nebulous Deism.

    Well, that’s where I ended up, anyway. Deism ends up being functionally indistinguishable from atheism — an unknowable proposition — and the questions and answers cease to have meaning.

  • Peter

    I agree with most of what Libby and everyone else is saying.
    But I do believe in the God of Christ.
    I affirm that God knew what would happen, knew that people would sin, when He created the world.
    In the bible and in different traditions of Christian mysticism, it is actually celebrated as the “happy fault” or other such things. Some Christian mystics go beyond noting that sin is necessary and actually say that sin is also grace.
    What does all this matter? What does it mean?
    I don’t believe that God is going to be punishing anyone forever. Yes, I know that there are plenty of people on the internet who go against their consciences in order to affirm God’s torturing-everlastingly. And I know that most of Christianity goes along with this because it is what they are taught – AND, in many circumstances, out of genuine humility.
    My spirituality is central to my life – actually, I am on my way to become a Catholic priest – and I have recently grown by trying to “let go of my ideologies that I use to support myself (i.e. my philosophical reasons for universal salvation) and rely on God instead, trusting Him and His mercy.”
    But at the end of the day, as I learn to rely on God and trust Him and let go of my philosophical quest to prove that no one is in hell forever (because it CAN make people presumptuous, and it CAN make people stop caring about how they live their lives, although it doesn’t HAVE to), I still do not believe that anyone will be in hell forever.
    I believe that, as the mystics and the scriptures say, it pleased God that we are captive in sin so that it can please God that all of us can grow into being forgiven/whole again (Pro tip: “wholeness” is one translation for salvation in the scriptures; substituting “wholeness” for salvation while reading them is one way to help get away from this image of a damning God whose son had to be tortured to “save” a few from eternal torture. Also, see “judgment” as a purifying act, not a condemning one)… and so that ALL people, spirits, and all of creation will be restored into a final unity with God and each other.
    Why the sin? Why the pain? Why Christ’s sacrifice on the cross?
    I’m not going to say that there is no mystery here, no problem of evil that still needs solving. But, ultimately, I believe that mankind is headed towards a BETTER ultimate reality than we could have arrived at without this story having unfolded, and that it was always planned for us… the myth of “eden” was never intended to be our forever home.
    The big take-away here, though, in this theology, is that through Christ, the son of God, we become God’s children too, “through adoption.” Now, I work with Native Americans, and they instinctively understand that God is the Creator, so all things that exist are children of God. They are not wrong!! We all are children, artworks of God (and I believe we are all too precious to be eternally alienated from Him). But what it means to become children of God through adoption like Jesus is that WE CAN BECOME IDENTICAL TO JESUS IN THE EYES OF GOD.
    What does that mean? It means we are pleasing to God, like Jesus. It means we can become empowered by God’s Spirit which will guide and support us in our life’s work, if we offer our life to serving God and His people and listening. It means we, like Jesus did in His time, can help bring people salvation (Wholeness!) and help their spirituality deepen and help FREE them from the sorts of rigid religious understandings that OPPRESS them. But, most importantly, like Jesus we are called to suffer in our work to redeem the (WHOLE!) world. Not because God is sadistic, in fact he gives us strength and inner peace in this effort. But rather because to fully embrace the world of human wrongdoing and suffering in order to make it whole, means to suffer until our imperfections are gone and we can be, through God, exactly what those around us need.
    Is this an easy teaching? No, and I didn’t explain it too clearly. But if an eternal hell stops you from being able to pray, decide, “Ok, I won’t believe in an eternal hell.” Put aside any teaching that separates you from God; if He wants you to accept it, He’ll bring you back to it in time. Don’t let angry and desperate Christian leaders fill you with cruel teachings that keep you from God.
    And even if you can’t accept my understanding of God – at least know that there are people who have a spirituality that is serious, life-changing, engaging, and more challenging than a “all-butterflies-and-roses” worldview…. but that both believe in a God who won’t let go AND that reject notions of the “rapture” and any myth concocted or maintained by people who want to believe that their piety makes them better than the rest of the world, and that their piety means that they don’t have to become LIKE Jesus, suffering to embrace the world, reaching forward to ultimate perfection, victory, and restoration of all things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.duncan.7359 Rebecca Duncan

    I think you need to do some more reading and more thinking on the subject. Your arguments are surface at best. Hell is difficult for most people, but the only thing hell affirms is the absolute free will of people. Hell is the ultimate proof that God does not make puppets, He makes people. If you think of Hell as demons torturing you with pitchforks, again you’re looking at the surface and getting your theology from Warner Brothers cartoons. Hell is being left to yourself and being away from God. That’s it. As C.S. Lewis said, Hell is locked from the inside.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.duncan.7359 Rebecca Duncan

    The argument that God does not have free will makes no sense to me. God is in Eternity. There is no time for God. He is in the eternal NOW. So, you saying that God knew He would do thus and such in the ‘future’ makes absolutely no sense. God created time.
    Your analogy about taking your daughter to the grocery store also doesn’t make sense. Do you think it would be right for you as a mother to keep your daughter locked up and never let her go out or interact with anyone because she might do something bad? Or do you respect her as a free person? In the same way, should God have kept his son and daughter Adam and Eve locked up in a prison where they could never have made their own decisions or should He have let them be free in an environment where they could act as free agents?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.duncan.7359 Rebecca Duncan

    Talking about Jesus. God the Father and Jesus are not one and the same person. The Trinity means that there are three persons in one God. God and His son are different people. When God the Son was incarnated as a human being named Jesus, He emptied Himself. He did the will of His Father as a human being, that was the whole point. He was still God too, but He deliberately emptied Himself of His glory as God and lived as a human being. When God the son did that, He did it in order to follow God the Father perfectly, to show us what that means. That’s why He worshiped God, He prayed to God, and He deferred to God the Father in all that He said and did. When He said that He didn’t know something, He’s speaking as a human being that didn’t and couldn’t physically know everything at once. If He had wanted to, He could have accessed the information just like He could have accessed the information of how to speak 15th century German. But, He didn’t need to. And He didn’t need to know when He was returning at that specific time, it was the Father’s will and that’s all He and more importantly, His followers, needed to know at that time.

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