Divine Protection

This came to me via Bob Cargill and Thom Stark on Facebook. It nicely makes the point that many Christian views of “salvation” are more like “protection” in the sense that word has in protection rackets. The one “protecting” you is also the one they are protecting you from.

Perhaps genuine salvation ought to save us first and foremost from imagining God and/or Jesus as being like a human gangster?


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  • John Pieret

    Reminds me of PZ Myers’ take on Pat Robertson’s reaction to the defeat of the creationist school board in Dover (that saved the school district about a million bucks). Robertson said after the election:

    I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a
    disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city.

    And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems
    begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember,
    you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His
    help because he might not be there.

    PZ thought it sounded about like this*:

    [I]f you don’t cough up, well, Lew here might have a little
    accident with your car, or your house, or your little girl. And then Mr. Big
    wouldn’t be able to do nothin’ for you. He doesn’t mean nothing by it, he likes
    you, see, but if you don’t show him a little respect, you can’t expect him to
    trouble himself with your worries, OK? Me and Vinnie’ll be by tomorrow, and you
    will have that little donation ready.

    * I can’t find PZ’s original post. It may have been lost in his multiple shifts in blog platforms.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    God as an extortionist…Never seen it put quite like that, but it makes so much sense, and helps me to understand a little better why the concept of be saved or be damned theology has long set my teeth on edge.

  • Jeannie Boen

    When I was a teenager I went into a period of depression. It was miserable as all my periods of depression have been. But one thing I have learned to appreciate is that often I see life with an incredible clarity while depressed that I don’t always have. Anyway, it was during this depression that I began to question my faith. Many of my would be comforters assured me that everything would be okay because God loved me. God loves me and that makes everything okay?, I questioned. God loves the world right? But most of the world goes to hell. God loves me, but it doesn’t matter, because if I don’t believe the right things about him he will torture me forever. As upsetting as that was to my peers and myself, that thought was the beginning of a seed that would germinate to eventually lead me out of the belief of an angry, torturing God who punished us for all of eternity for thought crimes.

  • dangjin

    that just shows that unbelievers do not understand God, Jesus or Christianity. They leave out important details like, God being holy and will not allow sin in his kingdom, that, man was given a choice for salvation and most reject it.

    Cargill, McGrath and others are advocating letting sin n eternity. what kind of reward is that for those who obey God? They get to be with the same people on earth? Is that fair? No. Why should those who disobey God get eternal life? is that just? No..

    Think about it instead of attacking the very God you claim to follow

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      Umm, I don’t think you have any idea what Bob Cargill’s views are, much less my own, given what you wrote.

      So your view is that salvation is based on obedience? And what is your view regarding those who, in the future depicted in the Book of Revelation, are living outside of the New Jerusalem?

      • KentonS

        Is that the same New Jerusalem whose gates are never shut?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

          That’s the one! :-)

    • John Pieret

      Okay, this confused me even back when I was (more or less) a Christian.

      All human beings are sinners, right? So God, holy or not, will allow sin in into eternity, unless he excludes all humans. At most, he does it on his own terms. God, being omnipotent, can make any terms he wants.
      Worse, why does your reward for obeying God (which, of course, you can’t do because you are a sinner) depend on other people being denied eternal life? Isn’t your own eternal life reward enough? What a mean and petty religion you believe in!

    • http://www.reviveproject.com/godchat Marcelo

      What is sin? How does God deal with sin? The Apostle Paul said that Jesus came to deal with sin. He didn’t cry out at Calvary, “Why are you torturing me.”, but He cried out “Why have you forsaken me?” Sin has separated us from God and without God’s intervention SIN will kill us and end our lives, not God. That’s a perfectly plausable, biblical and exegetical explanation to what happens to us if we reject God’s salvation. Too bad most people not only refuse to even acknowledge such a position is plausible.

      • KentonS

        Was that before or after He cried, “Father forgive them. They know not what they do?”

        • http://www.reviveproject.com/godchat Marcelo

          Does forgiveness always imply God had to change his mind? Or could it imply that being forgiven changes something in themselves not in God?

          • KentonS

            This may be splitting hairs, but I think forgiveness (first question) implies God does not hold our sins against us. Jesus’ words on the cross tells me that God does that, without our repentance. Whether that means God “had to change His mind” or not is not a question I get too worked up over. It’s Exodus 32 where God does change his mind vs. Numbers 17 where God says He doesn’t change his mind. For this thread, I can go either way.

            Being forgiven (second question) does change something in us when we come to understand it. Absolutely! It means we should be quick to forgive and love others, even our enemies! To do otherwise means we really don’t get it. It means we’re still in that same mess (“sin”) we always were in. And yes, it WILL kill us, and WILL end our lives.

            But I think God is always there. He has already completed the work of atonement (“at one-ment”). He is always willing to tell us to stop destroying ourselves and others.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

        The view that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 without having the ending of the psalm in view does not persuade everyone. And while some view sin as having its own consequences, there are plenty of people for whom the salvation God offers is salvation from his own wrath, in a manner that becomes quite convoluted. It may be hard for you to imagine, but this view is not at all uncommon.

        • http://www.reviveproject.com/godchat Marcelo

          It isn’t uncommon, it’s the standard Christian view. There’s an alternative view which seems so unplausable that Atheists simply mock Christianity for the insanity of believing Jesus is saving us from himself.

          No matter how one spins it, if Jesus is God, we have to be saved from Himself. He’s the one with complete wrath and hatred toward sinners that has to be “assuaged” by His own blood.

          It’s so illogical and irrational and it has turned millions of people into agnostics and atheists.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            It may seem like the standard Christian view if you are familiar mainly with popular Evangelical Christianity in the English-speaking world. But Christianity is a global phenomenon that has been around a long time, and the fact that a view is popular in your time and language does not make it normative.

          • http://www.reviveproject.com/godchat Marcelo

            I guess so, I wasn’t truly exposed to much more than evangelicalism, mainstream Catholicism and traditional protestantism, so you may have a point there.

            However, from what I can tell, hasn’t it been the standard view since Anselm?

            I don’t subscribe to it, by the way.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

            Anselm’s view was that Christ satisfied our debt of honor by honoring God sufficiently to recompense the dishonor that we were culpable for. It served as a basis for the development of the penal substitution theory, but it wasn’t identical to it.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Steve Douglas from “Undeception” has called my attention to a nice cartoon on the same topic:

    The great German atheist Friedrich Nietzche has argued that God set the score so high that no human can reach it.

    I believe that this is a fatal argument for every theology teaching that God cursed mankind with a sinful nature after the fall.

    I have tried to articulate my own modest thoughts about salvation on my blog and I really hope this might be useful for some people also lying between conservatism and liberalism:

    I basically agree with Einstein as he said that

    “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. …”

    A fear-based religion cannot be a good thing.

    Many greetings from Europe.
    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son


  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Spot on! Great take down of 90% or more of Christian theology (just a guess)

  • arcseconds

    Nice immortal soul you’ve got there. Pity if something were to happen to it.

  • Doug

    Top 74 things most ALL Christians do NOT believe. They are the blind leading the blind.

    God will have all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Can His will be thwarted?

    2. God desires all to come to the knowledge of truth (1Timothy 2:4). Will His
    desire come to pass, or is it a weak wish?

    3. Salvation of all is testified in due time (1Timothy 2:6). Are you judging
    before due time?

    4. Jesus came to save all (John 12:47). Will He succeed, or fail?

    5. God works all after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). Can your will
    overcome His?

    6. Jesus is Savior of the world (John 4:42). Can He be Savior of All without
    saving All?

    7. Jesus is Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). Why don’t we believe it?

    8. Jesus will draw all mankind unto Himself (Jesus will draw all mankind unto
    Himself). To burn or to love?

    9. By Him all were created (Colossians 1:16).Will He lose any part of His

    10. In Adam all condemned, in Christ all live (Romans 5:15-21). The same ALL?

    11. In Adam all die, in Christ all live (1 Corinthians 15:22). Again, the same

    12. All come into Him at the fullness of times (Ephesians 1:10). Are any
    getting tired of seeing the word ALL?

    13. Every tongue shall confess Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Everyone?

    14. Cannot confess except by Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). Then, Everyone
    must be given the Spirit?

    15. All Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26). But most do not believe, yet?

    16. Restitution of all (Acts 3:20, 21). How plain can one get?

    17. Jesus will be joy to all people (Luke 2:10). Is there joy in HELL?

    18. All will know God (Hebrews 8:11, 12). How long O Lord?

    19. His grace shown in the ages to come (Ephesians 2:7). Have we judged Him
    before the time?

    20. Grace has appeared to all (Titus 2:11). Experientially or prophetically?

    21. Creation set at liberty (Romans 8:19-21). How much of creation, after those
    who have the first-fruits of the Spirit?

    22. All reconciled unto God (Colossians 1:20). There’s that word ALL again.

    23. All will have praise of God (1 Corinthians 4:5). What for?

    24. End of the Lord is full of mercy (James 5:11). Is HELL merciful?

    25. All nations (lands, i.e. people) worship when God’s judgments are seen
    (Revelation 15:4). Is His judgment MERCIFUL?

    26. All subject to unbelief, mercy on all (Romans 11:32). ALL?

    27. All out of, through, and into Him (Romans 11:36). ALL into Him?

    28. Jesus will fill all things (Ephesians 4:10). Including HELL?

    29. All creation seen praising God (Revelation 5:13) All creation?

    30. God will be All in All (1 Corinthians 15:28). What does this mean?

    31. No more tears, all things made new (Revelation 21:4, 5). ALL THINGS?

    32. All dead who hear will live (John 5:25). How many will hear?

    33. All in the grave will hear AND come forth (John 5:28). How will the
    Righteous Judge, judge?

    34. All saved so as by fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). How can FIRE save you?

    35. Everyone shall be salted with fire (Mark 9:49). As in ALL?

    36. Reconciliation of the world (Romans 11:15). Will fire save humanity instead
    of destroying?

    37. Jesus died for All (2 Corinthians 5:15). Did He die in vain?

    38. Jesus always does what pleases His Father. (John 8:29) What pleases the
    Father? ( see 1 Timothy 2:4)

    39. Jesus is Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2). Do THINGS include people?

    40. Jesus gives eternal life to all that His Father gave Him (John 17:2). How
    many did the Father give Him?

    41. The Father gave Him all things (John 3:35). Including people?

    42. Jesus is Savior of All (1 Timothy 4:9-11). Can’t seem to get away
    from that word ALL?

    43. Jesus is able to save to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). How far is
    uttermost? The whole? ALL?

    44. Last enemy, death, will be destroyed (1Corinthians 15:26). In the Lake of
    Fire which is the second death? No more dying
    (Rev. 21:4, Isa. 25:8)?

    45. God will do all His pleasure (Isaiah 46:10). Does the Old Testament agree
    with the New?

    46. All families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 18:18). Here’s that word
    ALL again.

    47. God’s will done in heaven and earth (Daniel 4:35). What can defeat His

    48. Enemies will submit to God (Psalms 66:3, 4). Can any stay rebellious?

    49. God turns man to destruction, and then says return (Psalms 90:3). How can
    one return from destruction? Humbled,
    bruised and ashamed?

    50. Will destroy veil spread over all nations (Isaiah 25:7). All lands and people?

    51. He kills and makes alive (Deuteronomy 32:39). To bring about an abundant

    52. God fashions all hearts (Psalms 33:15) ALL HEARTS?

    53. Man devises, God directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9). What about Self

    54. Man devises, but God’s counsel stands (Proverbs 19:21). So much for SELF?

    55. God will not cast off forever (Lamentations 3:31, 32). Why does He cast off
    in the first place?

    56. All nations shall flow to the Lord’s house (Isaiah 2:2). ALL PEOPLE?

    57. All nations will worship Him (Psalms 86:9). ALL PEOPLE?

    58. All descendants of Israel justified (Isaiah 45:23). Including those that
    were wicked?

    59. All kings will praise God (Psalms 138:4). Are you catching on to this word

    60. All flesh will come to God (Psalms 65:2-4). How Wondrous?

    61. God only does wondrous things (Psalms 72:18). Will ALL BELIEVE that?

    62. Egypt and Assyria will be restored (Isaiah 19:14, 15). Truly?

    63. Sodom will be restored to former estate (Ezekiel 16:55). Sound impossible?

    64. Nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:17). Nothing is impossible?

    65. All ends of the earth will turn to Him (Psalms 22:27). For what purpose?

    66. All families will worship before Him (Psalms 22:27). Praise Him!

    67. He is good to all (Psalms 145:9). Including your enemies?

    68. His mercies are over all his works (Psalms 145:9). Let’s start believing

    69. He raises all who fall (Psalms 145:14). Who have not missed the mark?

    70. All His works will praise Him (Psalms 145:10). For Eternal torment?

    71. Lord makes a feast for all people (Isaiah 25:6). And you are invited.

    72. Never entered His mind to torture his children with fire (Jeremiah 32:35).
    This came from the carnal (soulish) mind,

    73. No one can come to Him unless He draws (drags) them (John 6:44). You can’t
    fight this?

    74. I will draw all mankind unto Myself (John 12:32). Is this the truth, or

  • Roger Wolsey

    Sadly, for far too many, Christian faith is understood as “fire insurance” — or as a mafia sort of “protection.”

    author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity”

  • http://twitter.com/dland Dave Land

    “That’s a nice soul you got there, buddy. It’d be a shame if it was to get … damned.”