This Knee Won’t Bow

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philipians 2:9-11 (NIV)

I don’t think so. Not this knee. This knee will NOT be bowing at “the name of Jesus”.

My knee will remain straight and unbent, because I know and understand “the name of Jesus”. I know what this name means, and so I cannot in good conscience bow my knee to this name.

Jesus is Jehovah to me, and Jehovah is as good and as morally upright as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.  There ain’t no way this knee will bow to Jehovah.  So, since Jehovah is immoral and unjust, and since Jesus is Jehovah, this knee will not bow to Jesus.

One reason why Jesus is Jehovah to me, is that Jesus was named after a bloodthirsty and genocidal murderer: Joshua. Because the parents of the carpenter from Galilee named their son after this ‘hero’ of the Old Testament, I infer that his parents admired this genocidal murderer. Because Jesus never changed or renounced his own name, I infer that Jesus probably also admired this genocidal murderer, and clearly he did not publically condemn the bloody deeds of Joshua.

Joshua claimed to be following the orders of Jehovah in leading the army of Israel to slaughter thousands of innocent men, women, teenagers, young children, babies, pregnant women (including their fetuses), dogs, donkeys, and cattle.

The carpenter from Galilee was in fact, named Joshua, after the ‘great warrior’ of the Old Testament by that name.  Jehovah ordered the brutal slaughter of thousands of innocent men, women, teenagers, young children, babies, etc.  Joshua made sure that the army of Israel carried out this order.  The man we call ‘Jesus’ was actually named ‘Joshua’ after the bloodthirsty genocidal murderer Joshua. So, Jesus is Joshua to me, and Joshua is Jehovah to me, so Jesus is Jehovah to me.

The very name “Jesus” comes from the bloodiest warrior/hero of the Old Testament: Joshua. The name “Jesus” is the English transliteration of the the greek name “Iesous” but the name “Iesous” is translated as “Joshua” in other cases where the founder of Christianity is not who is being referenced (Luke 3:29; Acts 7:45; Heb. 4:8).

The Hebrew name for the warrior “Joshua” was “Yehoshua.” In the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint, the Hebrew name “Yehoshua” (Joshua) was translated as “Iesous” which is the same name used of the son of Mary and Joseph in the Greek New Testament.

Jesus and his parents almost certainly spoke Aramaic rather than Greek, and the Aramaic form of the name of the Old Testament warrior Joshua was “Yeshua”, so Jesus was probably called “Yeshua” by friends and family members.  In other words, his actual name, in English, was: Joshua.

Read the book of Joshua, especially Chapters 6-12. It will probably take an hour or two to read those seven chapters. It is filled with slaughter and the glorification of genocidal violence. Here is just one example from Chapter 6:

Joshua said to the people “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city [Jericho]. The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. …”
[…]
So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall [around Jericho] fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.
[…]
They burned down the city, and everything in it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. (Joshua 6: 16-17, 20-21, & 24)

This genocidal warrior is the person that Mary and Joseph honored by giving his name to their son, the founder of Christianity.

Some believe I will face damnation unless I bow my knee to “the name of Jesus”,  but I’ll be damned if I ever bow my knee to the name of Jesus, because I know that would mean bowing my knee to the name of the genocidal murderer Joshua, and to name of the genocidal god Jehovah who gave Joshua the order to spill the blood of innocent grandparents, women, teenagers, young children, babies, and fetuses.

 

  • Keith Parsons

    Bradley,

    I have a cartoon on my door showing a Michelangelo-esque deity commanding “Worship me!” He continues “So that I can save you from what I am going to do to you if you don’t worship me!” Yup. God is a solution to a problem he created, indeed one that he foresaw and planned through all eternity. He created hell and he created sinners to go there. He will save a few if they submit to him. This was the best plan that ultimate intellect and omnipotent love could devise. If you can believe that, you can believe, literally, almost anything.

  • Greg G.

    One reason that Jesus is Jehovah to me is Philippians 2:5-6 says they are “being in very nature” the same.

    • Bradley Bowen

      The idea that humans would either enjoy eternal life in heaven or suffer eternal punishment in hell was an idea that Jesus introduced to his Jewish followers. Belief in heaven and hell was NOT part of the Old Testament belief system.

      Yet, one way that Jesus is Jehovah to me is that the idea of heaven and hell is just an extreme version of Jehovah’s idea of earthly rewards and punishments: blessings vs. curses (which would be distributed by Jehovah according to the extent that one was obedient to Jehovah and his laws and commandments). In this respect Jesus is Jehovah on steroids.

      Jehovah might have your throat slit and your corpse burned up in a huge fire with thousands of other victims of his slaughter, but Jesus doesn’t bother to slit your throat first! Jesus has you tossed alive into a huge fire, so you are burned alive along with billions of other victims of his torture, and the next day he orders the torture to start again, and the day after that, and the day after that, and so on for all eternity.

      • Greg G.

        Hell is not a New Testament concept either. Paul mentions eternal destruction but that appears to mean being destroyed forever. If you check all the words translated as “hell”, you find Gehenna and Hades. Hades is the Greek Hades where the dead go with Tartarus as a section of Hades with various creative punishments, like pushing a rock uphill forever. Gehenna is a garbage dump with an unquenchable fire where the dead are dumped and consumed. Revelation 20:11-15 says that after Judgement Day, death, Hades and those whose names not in the book get tossed into the lake of fire. If death and Hades go in, it would be destruction rather than punishment.
        Hell is a high pressure sales tactic invented after the books of the New Testament books were completed

        • Bradley Bowen

          I realize that a case can be made for your claim. Evangelicals and Catholics would disagree with your claim, and I am inclined to side with Evangelicals and Catholics on this point.

          You would need to explain away the following passages (and probably a few more) to persuade me to change my mind:

          …the master says, “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Matt. 25:30)

          …the king will say to some, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” …[They] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matt. 25:41 & 46)

          Hell is “the unquenchable fire” …”where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43 & 48)

          The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom, and he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.” (Luke 16:22-24)

          The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house, “for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:28)

          If anyone worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also shall drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and he shall be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name. (Rev. 14:9-11)

          The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:10)

          (I have borrowed from Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem p.1148-1149 in order to respond quickly with several NT references)

          The NT may be open to alternative interpretations, but given the above passages, I believe that Evangelicals can make a strong case for the traditional orthodox view that Jesus and his disciples believed in eternal punishment of the wicked.

          • Greg G.

            The following was written before I saw your response to the “high pressure sales tactic” bit. I thought I had clicked the “Post” button”. I am revising my ideas in light of the otherr post and wll comment shortly. For what it’s worth, here it is:

            …the master says, “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Matt. 25:30)

            The verse isn’t about eternal punishment. Perhaps you were looking for Matthew 13:50 where the wicked are thrown into a blazing furnace but it doesn’t say forever.

            …the king will say to some, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” …[They] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matt. 25:41 & 46)

            Verse 46 definitely says eternal punishment. Thanks for pointing it out. Romans 6:23 says “The wages of sin is death” so the eternal punishment should be eternal death, maybe?

            Hell is “the unquenchable fire” …”where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43 & 48)

            Mark quotes Isaiah 66:24 which is apparently referring to dead bodies with maggots eating them. The maggots sould seem to be there always as if they never die. The unquenchable fire apparently burns all the time even without fuel. What did they know about fire and oxygen and fuel?

            The hell in Mark is Gehenna, Greek for the Valley of Hinnom, where they threw dead bodies that maggots were eating continuously and there were fires burning all the time. It doesn’t say they were

            The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom, and he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.” (Luke 16:22-24)

            The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house, “for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:28)

            This comes from a parable. A parable doesn’t necessarily have actual people, places or events. The point of the parable is about the living not heeding the prophets.

            But they are all in the Greek Hades and the rich man is in Tartarus and the creative punishment he gets is burning. Greek theology might have that as an eternal setup but Christian theology has it only lasting until Judgement Day.

            If anyone worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also shall drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and he shall be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name. (Rev. 14:9-11)

            Isn’t that saying the smoke from their tormented carcass rises forever, rather than the torment?

            The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:10)

            http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/RA/k/480/Eternal-Torment.htm

            This website explains that souls are not immortal so being thrown into the lake of fire consumes the soul. Immortal beings cannot die and will be tormented forever. I don’t endorse much of their reasoning however.

          • Keith Parsons

            As you guys have noted, the NT contains many verses that promise SOME sort of unpleasant postmortem destiny for various sinners or unbelievers. Is there a an unambiguous statement of an eternal punitive hell in the NT? I won’t take a stand on that issue here, but one thing that is unquestionable is that the full-force doctrine of eternal torment soon became a standard, accepted doctrine for the most orthodox preachers, theologians, and philosophers. Here is a quote from my essay on hell published in The End of Christianity, John Loftus, ed. Prometheus Books:

            “The most famous depiction of hell is, of course, Dante’s Inferno. The inmates of Dante’s hell are punished symbolically. For instance, the wrathful furiously beat and are beaten by each other; gluttons who produced only excrement and garbage in life are forced to wallow in filth. Yet Dante’s damned often attain a degree of dignity and it is clear that Dante frequently pities them. Contrast

            Dante’s attitude with the gloating of the Church Father Tertullian who anticipated his glee in enjoying the torments of the damned:

            How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? What my derision? Which sight gives me joy? Which rouses me to exultation? — as I see so many illustrious monarchs, whose reception into the heavens was publicly announced, groaning now in the lowest darkness with great Jove himself, and those, too, who bore witness of their exultation; governors of provinces, too, who persecuted the Christian name, in fires more fierce than those with which in the days of their pride they raged against the followers of Christ. What world’s wise men besides, the very philosophers, in fact, who taught their followers that God had no concern in anything that is sublunary, and were wont to assure them that either they had no souls, or that they would never return to the bodies which at death they had
            left, now covered with shame before the poor deluded ones, as one fire consumes them! Poets also, trembling not before the judgment-seat of Rhadamanthus or Minos, but of the unexpected Christ! I shall have a better opportunity then of hearing the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; of viewing the
            play-actors, much more “dissolute” in the dissolving flame; of looking upon the charioteer, all glowing in his chariot of fire; of beholding the wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows. (De Spectaculis Chapter 30)

            Nor can we dismiss Tertullian as a crank. The ugly idea that the saved will enjoy witnessing the torments of the damned is not unique to him, but was often expressed by the soberest, most
            orthodox theologians among both Protestants and Catholics:

            …Aquinas…thought that the enjoyment occasioned by witnessing the sufferings of the damned was one of the pleasures of heaven: “Sancti de peonis impiorum gaudebunt.” [The blessed will rejoice over the pains of the impious] This displeasing notion was advanced and defended with great tenacity over several centuries, and was one of the points orthodox Calvinists and Catholics had in common. Scots preachers, in particular, thought the pains of Hell a matter for satisfaction. Thomas Boston thundered: “God shall not pity them but laugh at their calamity. The righteous company in heaven shall rejoice in the execution of God’s judgment, and shall sing while the smoke riseth up for ever.” Some…went so far as to argue that the damned may have been created in the first place to make heavenly
            bliss complete (Johnson, 1975: 342).

            And what will be those torments of the damned that will so gladden and entertain the elect? For centuries, monks, preachers, and even academic theologians all vied with one another to produce ever more horrific depictions of hell. Here is Christian historian Paul Johnson’s summary of some of these accounts:

            The general theory was that Hell included any horrible pain that the human imagination could conceive of, plus an infinite variety of others. Hence writers felt at liberty to impress their public by inventing torments. Jerome said that Hell was like a huge
            winepress. Augustine said it was peopled by ferocious flesh-eating animals, which tore humans to bits slowly and painfully, and were themselves undamaged by the fires. St. Stephanus Grandinotensis evaded the problem of imagination by saying that the pains of hell were so unspeakable that if a human so much as
            conceived of them, he would instantly die of terror. Eadmer listed fourteen specific pains endured in Hell. Adam Scotus said that those who practiced usury would be boiled in molten gold. Many writers refer to a continuous beating with red-hot brazen hammers. Richard Rolle, in Stimulus Conscientiae, argued that the damned tear and eat their own flesh…(Johnson,
            1975: 341).”

            So, inspired by those, perhaps ambiguous, NT verses, a concept of an eternal (or everlasting), punitive hell soon became an orthodox staple. It remains so. For instance, the Greek Orthodox Catechism affirms that after the final judgment:

            The condition of each individual will no more be changed, but
            those, who have gone into Paradise will live in Heaven eternally happy, andthose who have gone into Punishment will live in Hades eternally unhappy (page 39).

            The Roman Catholic Catechism says the following:

            The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess
            the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs (section 1035).

            The Southern Baptist Convention adopted the following on May 9, 1963 as part of statement of Baptist Faith and Message:

            God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to
            its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will he raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment.

          • Greg G.

            Hi Keith,
            Thanks for the reply. I don’t have time for more than a quick scan and a half-baked response. The material you present is pretty much what I was basing my ideas on. I noticed some details I was not aware of previously. The information Bradley posted about Enoch has me revising my thoughts. It’s hard to find Bible verses that are supported by evidence and unambiguous. They can often be made to appear ambiguous with some creative apologetics.

          • Keith Parsons

            Greg G,

            Thanks for YOUR reply! I would be VERY interested in seeing a full-scale defense of the claim that the NT has no clear statement of an eternal, punitive hell. If you have a full-length treatment of this posted or published somewhere please do let me know.

          • Victor Reppert

            Well, there is the perspective of Christian universalism. These guys tend to get forgotten by atheists, who have probably have gotten to what they believe partly under the influence of Jonathan Edwards and those like him (such as Hotlips Jerry Vines, Keith).
            http://tentmaker.org/ScholarsCorner.html

          • Greg G.

            Hi Victor,

            I looked at a few articles on the tentmaker.org link and wondered if they are blowing smoke. In A Short Tract on “Aion”, it says that “aion aion” does not mean “for ever and ever” because the King James translators got it wrong. I can’t find corroborating evidence for their contention. It seems like special pleading to me. The facts disagree with their belief so they want to change the facts.

            Do you have an opinion on the article? My Greek is pretty much limited to algebraic and geometric prefixes.

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            “Into the eons of the eons” definitely means a very long time, and can certainly be one way of talking about endless time. The phrase is used indisputably that way several times in the NT. That there is leeway for it to mean only an indeterminately long time in other cases (such as in regard to torment of impenitent sinners in RevJohn, whatever that may actually involve), has to be established from various other evidences — I don’t personally know of a direct counter-example, so far as that phrase itself goes.

            The phrase is generally regarded as being equivalent to the adjective “eonian” however (and the underlying Hebrew terms it translates), and there are some limited but definitely indisputable examples of that term (and its underlying Hebrew) sometimes referring, in the Judeo-Christian canon, to a concept less than totally never-ending.

            Not really something I can go into detail about on a thread comment, though.

            (I’m Jason Pratt, one of Victor’s Christian universalist friends, and an administrator and guest author at http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com. We talk about this sort of thing quite a bit.)

          • Keith Parsons

            Victor,

            Well I certainly think that universalism is progress. One question,though: Does universalism really mean the EVERYONE will be saved? Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Dick Cheney–literally everyone? This would seem to assume that there is some part of such persons that is salvageable, some latent, untapped, goodness. Is this plausible? Can’t there be total monsters? Will it be OK with survivors of Auschwitz if they run into Hitler in heaven? All is forgiven, right? “Sure, you gassed my entire extended family, but, hey, bygones are bygones, right?” Or what about people–like me–who don’t want to be “saved?” Of course, I don’t want a future shoveling hot coals with devils sticking pitchforks in my backside, etc. But I have never heard a description of heaven that sounded like something I could stand for half an hour much less eternity. Spend eternity with God? But I consider him a greater moral monster than any of the miscreants I listed above (even Cheney). I guess all that will be explained to me, and I will see that omnipotence could do no better than to inflict slow torture on innumerable innocent persons and non-human animals to achieve some incomprehensible greater good. But what If I still don’t buy the explanation? If I am forced to spend eternity with a God I despise, wouldn’t that be hell?

          • Victor Reppert

            Well, that is why I am agnostic about eternal punishment. Hell seems possible for a person unless that person is open to being changed in such a way as to be able to get along in a loving community forever. On earth my pride makes that very difficult, even in dealing with people whose love for me is unmistakable.

            But do you really think there are no unknown fact that could possibly cause you to see God as good? And are you telling me an omnipotent being couldn’t make you happy forever?

          • Keith Parsons

            Victor,

            Well, sure, an omnipotent being can do anything. If he willed that I be euphoric, then I would be and just couldn’t help it no matter how wrong I thought it was. Could any unknown fact make me think that God is good? Well, this is an ultimate imponderable, isn’t it? All I can say now is that I have not the foggiest idea of what could possibly constitute such an unknown fact. While I was writing this short bit, perhaps a dozen children in this world have died of malnutrition. Apparently, an all-powerful being did absolutely nothing to prevent this. I am afraid that I just cannot see any possible, stretch-of-the-imagination excuse. Can you suggest one?

          • Victor Reppert

            Maybe heaven will be better for them if they had to suffer so much now. Maybe this is the price of having a world in which people are responsible for the outcome of what happens. With an eternity to work with, I can’t see how you can justify saying that nothing could possibly justify God’s actions.

            I mean, why has there been a shift from the logical problem of evil to the evidential problem? Many defenders of the argument from evil think that it is logically possible for there to justifying reasons for God’s actions, even though they don’t think we have good reason to think that those possible justifications are actually true.

            I suppose God could cause you to believe in his goodness, in virtue of his absolute power. But I take it that isn’t what you had in mind.

          • Keith Parsons

            Victor,

            Is it possible that God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting all actual evil? If “possible” means “logically possible,” then I do not know and I think nobody does. Can atheists be sure that it is logically impossible that God has such a reason? No, because, as “skeptical theists” point out, we have insufficient epistemic access to the capacities of omnipotence exercised through eternity to say with any assurance that this is impossible. Can theists be sure that it is logically possible that God has such a reason? No, because, once again, we do not have sufficient epistemic access to the capacities of omnipotence exercised through eternity say with assurance that this is possible. If we did have such epistemic access, then we might see that all of the world’s evils are possibly redeemed. Or maybe not. Maybe we would see that some (one or more) of the world’s evils are genuinely gratuitous and so incompatible with the existence of an all-powerful and perfectly good being.

            The upshot is that the reason I would not pursue a logical problem of evil is not that I am now convinced that God’s existence IS logically compatible with the existence of actual evil. No, for the reasons given above, I think the question is an absolute imponderable. I think that no one has or can have any assurance that God’s existence is or is not logically compatible with the existence of actual evil. Theists and atheists are in precisely the same epistemic boat here, since neither of us has any special insight into how things must be sub specie aeternitatis.

            Here, then, I think, is our epistemic situation:

            (1) Evils occur that are apparently gratuitous in the sense that nobody can conceive of a scenario in which they are redeemed, i.e. a scenario in which such evils constitute a logically necessary condition for the achievement of goods great enough to redeem the occurrence of such evil.

            (Note that appealing to heavenly bliss is just a non-starter unless we can be told more about what such bliss might be and why the evil it allegedly redeems might be logically necessary for the realization of such bliss.)

            (2) Nobody can know whether or not actual evils are compatible with the existence of an all-powerful, perfectly good creator of the universe. This is an absolute imponderable.

            If this is an accurate description of our epistemic situation with respect to God and evil, then what is most reasonable thing to conclude about the existence of God?

            Note that

            (3) An all-powerful, perfectly good creator of the universe–God– exists.

            entails

            (4) God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting all actual evil.

            Now it appears that if p obviously entails q, and I have no justification for believing that q, then I have no justification for believing that p. For instance, if p is “there are six Hondas in the parking lot” this entails q “there are some cars in the parking lot.” If I have no justification for asserting that there are any cars in the parking lot, then I have no justification for claiming that there are six Hondas in the parking lot.

            The question is, then, whether anyone can have any justification for believing (4). More formally, the question is whether anyone is justified in believing that the following proposition is certainly or even probably true:

            (4*) For every actual evil e, there exists a morally sufficient reason for e. That is, there is a possible good g, actualizable by an all-powerful being, such that e is logically necessary for the actualization of g and g is a great enough good to redeem e.

            My question, then, is how, given that we cannot even know that it is possible that all evils are morally redeemed, can we know that 4* is certainly or even probably true? Indeed, if we say, for the sake of argument, that since the evolution of sentience there have been, say, one trillion instances of grievous, undeserved, and unwanted suffering (seems like a modest estimate), then we would have to have good reason for holding that NOT ONE of those trillion instances is such that an all-powerful, perfectly good creator of the universe ought to have prevented it. If one Diplodocus suffered unnecessarily in the Jurassic, then God does not exist. To say that it is probable that NOT ONE of a trillion instances of grievous, undeserved, and unwanted suffering is actually gratuitous, we would have to say that each such instance has an infinitesimal chance of being gratuitous (otherwise, the sum of a trillion such disjuncts of probabilities would be high). But how can anyone possibly know that?

            Sorry, this should have been addressed in a new post. I know that we will come to no agreement here, but I do want to hear how you address these points.

          • Victor Reppert

            I’d like to start by raising a question about the claim that God has to have a justifying reason for all the evils he permits. How do you know that? Maybe a being can be worthy of worship even if he permits some gratuitous evil, or even a lot of it.

            This is an interesting essay, by Trakakis, who criticizes one attempt to deny that theism entails that there is no gratuitous evil.

            If a woman has the right to do as he chooses with her own body, then maybe God has the right to do as he chooses with his own universe???? I once, in a bad mood, said this:

            “We have to assume that a perfectly good God would want to minimize suffering. Sometimes I think there ought to be more suffering in the world than there really is. But whatever God has chosen to dish out, so long as it doesn’t result in anyone being unjustly damned, accords with my conception of perfect goodness.”

            I don’t actually believe this, but I would still be interested in seeing how someone refuted it.

            Of course, how far can we push this? Could we embrace the view by going to a very different theory of the good, a theory in which what is good is the glory of God, not human well-being, and that glory is defined in terms of the number of attributes God is able to express. On this view, if God predestines some for salvation and some for damnation, and then in the case of the redeemed, God’s glory is his gracious redemption of sinners who deserve eternal damnation, and in the case of the lost, God’s glory is the exercise of wrath against sinners. So, while God may command us not to run a hell for people, he is under no obligation to run one himself, if that brings greater glory to himself.

            I bring this up because this was a position I spent a lot of time arguing against a few years back, when I was arguing against Calvinists. They argue that the only problem with their position was that it was counterintuitive to me, whereas if indeed it was taught by the Bible, (as they claim that it is), then I ought to set my intuitions aside and accept it.

            I’m still convinced that this is a bridge too far, that it disconnects goodness from happiness in a way that makes the concept of goodness simply unrecognizable.

            Still, I do think the relation between the concept of God and gratuitous evil needs to be carefully considered, as opposed to being taken as simply obvious.

          • Victor Reppert

            I’d like to start by raising a question about the claim that God has to have a justifying reason for all the evils he permits. How do you know that? Maybe a being can be worthy of worship even if he permits some gratuitous evil, or even a lot of it.

            This is an interesting essay, by Trakakis, who criticizes one attempt to deny that theism entails that there is no gratuitous evil.

            If a woman has the right to do as he chooses with her own body, then maybe God has the right to do as he chooses with his own universe???? I once, in a bad mood, said this:

            “We have to assume that a perfectly good God would want to minimize suffering. Sometimes I think there ought to be more suffering in the world than there really is. But whatever God has chosen to dish out, so long as it doesn’t result in anyone being unjustly damned, accords with my conception of perfect goodness.”

            I don’t actually believe this, but I would still be interested in seeing how someone refuted it.

            Of course, how far can we push this? Could we embrace the view by going to a very different theory of the good, a theory in which what is good is the glory of God, not human well-being, and that glory is defined in terms of the number of attributes God is able to express. On this view, if God predestines some for salvation and some for damnation, and then in the case of the redeemed, God’s glory is his gracious redemption of sinners who deserve eternal damnation, and in the case of the lost, God’s glory is the exercise of wrath against sinners. So, while God may command us not to run a hell for people, he is under no obligation to run one himself, if that brings greater glory to himself.

            I bring this up because this was a position I spent a lot of time arguing against a few years back, when I was arguing against Calvinists. They argue that the only problem with their position was that it was counterintuitive to me, whereas if indeed it was taught by the Bible, (as they claim that it is), then I ought to set my intuitions aside and accept it.

            I’m still convinced that this is a bridge too far, that it disconnects goodness from happiness in a way that makes the concept of goodness simply unrecognizable.

            Still, I do think the relation between the concept of God and gratuitous evil needs to be carefully considered, as opposed to being taken as simply obvious.

          • Victor Reppert

            Sorry, the link to the Trakakis essay is missing, see Dangerous Idea for the link.

          • Keith Parsons

            Victor,

            I don’t have the time today to respond at length here (duty, in the form of ungraded undergrad essays, calls). Just a couple of quick points;

            (1) First, let me respond with a counter-analogy. Suppose I created a sentient robot, one capable of feeling physical pain and emotional distress. Would I have the right to then treat my robot (and it would be mine) any way I chose, say by beating or torturing it and making it live a life of lonely despair and drudgery? If charged with robot cruelty, my response could be “But it is my robot. I made it. It owes its existence entirely to me. Whatever it gets from my hands it should be thankful.” Would this excuse work for you?

            (2) So, “good” for God might mean something wholly different than the thriving and well-being of his creatures? Then how could he rationally expect to be worshiped? Why would I worship a being who does not care whether I am beaten and tortured and have to live a life of lonely despair and drudgery so long as it redounds to HIS glory in the end? We are right back with the problem that started this discussion. How could it be heavenly to spend eternity with a being that apparently hates your guts and cares only for his own glory?

            Speaking of lonely despair and drudgery, I had better get to those papers.

          • Victor Reppert

            The idea that we have no duties to that which we create seems counterintuitive to me. That is why I’m not an eliminativist with respect to the problem of evil.

            Yet, I sometimes wonder how to argue with someone who is. And there is a Bible verse to support their view:

            Romans 9:20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”

          • Keith Parsons

            Victor,

            Discussions of the problem of evil, like all philosophical discussions, tend to be conducted at a level of theoretical aridity. When discussing these issues with a class, we first go through all the standard moves and counter-moves. Then, I recommend that they step back from the theoretical for a moment and consider the testimony of those who have actually confronted radical evil. I mention two texts, Elie Wiesel’s Night and Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. Wiesel and Ten Boom, as survivors of Nazi death camps, certainly had experience of the worst that humanity can dish out. Their reactions were totally different. Wiesel says that the experience destroyed his God. Ten Boom said that she had found that God’s love is deeper than the deepest evil. I then challenge my class to consider whether anyone who had not been subjected to such experiences has the right to judge those who have. Do any of us have the right to say that either Wiesel’s or Ten Boom’s response was irrational or perverse? I think not.

            Still, I have heard testimonies of those who have encountered great loss or suffering that struck me as cheap and facile, Years ago when I was still a Christian and went to church I heard a preacher talk about a couple whose seven-year-old son had died. The couple dealt with their loss by saying that, as they viewed it, God had lent them their son for seven years and then called him back to his true home. The preacher compared those who express outrage at the loss of a child to those who bitterly complains when the owner asks for a lent item to be returned. That answer made my skin crawl even when I was devout. I cannot help but feel that there is something cheap, facile, and, indeed, callous about that answer.

            It seems to me that a far more authentic response was the one of the main character in Peter de Vries’ novel The Blood of the Lamb. He takes a cake to his daughter’s hospital room to find the bed empty. The nurse tells him that his daughter has died overnight. On the way out he passes the chapel where there is a large crucifix. He takes out the cake and crams it into the face of the Christ on the cross.

            Fortunately, I have never had a loss like that, but, if I did, I think I would be one of the cake-in-face crammers.

          • Victor Reppert

            Facile responses to the problem of evil are problems, for the simple reason that we do not know what the explanation is. What was really wrong in the preacher’s comment is the fact that it sound as if the feelings of those who are angry with God for losing a child are illegitimate.

            I can surely understand the cake-cramming state of mind. However, whether this grounds a rational argument against belief in God is another matter, and some people act as if that attitude is morally superior to other possible attitudes, and I don’t buy it. It’s the Ivan Karamazov move: This is evil, God should have done something, and nothing we might find to be true hereafter can render God innocent of allowing this kind of suffering.

            I happen to think that an disconfirming argument against theism from evil probably can be made. I think “skeptical theist” responses based on our expected lack of understanding of these things decrease the weight of the argument, but they do not eliminate it entirely. On the other hand, when I think about argument from evil, I find that the very things that generate the argument, such as the capacity to feel pain (as opposed to just having one’s c-fibers fire), our conscious minds, our moral awareness, and our ability to think rationally, are all things that make philosophical naturalism, which is typically offered as the alternative to being a theist, implausible to me. What I don’t see is an argument from evil that somehow outweighs all the others. It is, at most, something theism can’t explain, or can’t explain as well as I wish we could. Why this is a more severe explanatory failure that naturalism’s failure to explain consciousness has always escaped me.

            I mean, people who do believe in an infinite being invariably think that that being is good. Do you know any actual subscribers to Paul Draper’s Indifferent Deity Hypothesis? What that expects you to believe is that God controls the universe, and there is a moral standard, which God somehow fails to satisfy.

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            You don’t really seem the type of person to settle for any merely possible stretch-of-the-imagination excuse. ;) It isn’t like there aren’t any explanations on offer at all.

            One thing I’ve gathered from the Judeo-Christian canon (OT and NT both) is that innocents suffer because God loves the guilty, too. And even in the OT (though the sentiment is rare), God doesn’t spare Himself from that principle.

            If a neutrally reactive system of reality is necessary for multiple created rationalities to interact personally with one another (which is a position that can be argued independently of the question of theism’s truth), that covers a lot of explanatory ground. If to have real though derivative rationalities, the rational entities can’t be treated like puppets all the time, and so they might abuse one another in various ways (such as using the neutrally reactive system properties against each other), that covers a lot of different explanatory ground. Scaling up the abilities of rebel entities beyond evidential human levels covers more explanatory ground (although whether that is posited ad hoc, or arrived at as an inference from the implications of other conclusions perceived to be solid, is admittedly another matter.)

            Those are not only possible, stretch-of-the-imagination explanations (in the sense that they don’t involve intrinsic contradictions), a lot of people have found one or more of them plausible throughout human history. The details admittedly vary. YOU might not find them plausible explanations–very well. But they do fit the possible stretch-of-the-imagination criteria at least. (And at least one of them is a respectable philosophical position.)

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            Dr. Parsons,

            Isn’t this largely a question of metaphysical realism? Whatever characteristics ultimate reality happens to have, we have to deal with it the best way we can, rather than pretending otherwise, don’t we? If theists are called to that by atheists, it seems fair enough to expect otherwise the other way around.

            As for any of the moral monsters listed above, which of them ever sacrificed themselves to save their enemies, or even (only!?) in solidarity with innocents caught in the path of their authoritative decisions?

            If orthodox trinitarian Christianity is true (or even some of the theologically simpler versions of Christianity), God would have to be less of a moral monster than any of them, on that basis alone.

            And yes, universalism means (at the minimum) that God persists in acting toward saving all sinners from their sins and reconciling them with their victims, not stopping short of getting it done. (Technically that could still involve a neverending stalemate–what counts, for soteriological classification, is whether God keeps at it for everyone or not.)

            And there have been victims of the Holocaust even in this life who reconciled with their penitent tormentors. So that isn’t intrinsically impossible. I seem to recall that those who reconciled weren’t even all necessarily Christian (although I also recall that helped in some cases). :)

            No one is asked or expected to reconcile with people who are impenitent about what happened, just to be prepared to do so when the opportunity finally comes. That preparation in itself might take a lot of time, healing and growth. No one said reconciliation with enemies is always easy. (That guy hanging from the big plus sign illustrates how hard it can be sometimes!)

          • Keith Parsons

            Jason,

            Sorry, but i do not follow the reference to “metaphysical realism.” Of course I hold that “whatever characteristics ultimate reality happens to have, we have to deal with it…rather than pretending otherwise.” I hold that human beings are physical creatures in a physical universe. End of story. I hold that this is metaphysical reality and I have long argued that theists should “deal with it…rather than pretending otherwise.”

            So, God’s sacrifice (dying on the cross, I presume) makes him not a monster? You don’t see Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. as sacrificing themselves for the higher good? That is how they saw themselves. There are two kinds of despot: One has the attitude of the Renaissance pope who said “God has given us the papacy, now let us enjoy it.” In other words, belly up to the table, boys, and dig in. Their aims are 100% mercenary. Of course, they may use propaganda to fool the hoi polloi, but in their cups they laugh at the suckers they are draining of their last drachmas.

            Then there are the despots who are the True Believers. These are, by far, the more dangerous of the two types. They are not mercenary; they are saviors. They see themselves as in selfless, self-sacrificing pursuit of an idealized vision–the classless society, the Aryan utopia, the worker’s paradise, etc. In pursuit of their vision of heaven, they produce hell.

            The God of the Bible is the model, the very template of this latter kind of despot. Such human despots are accused of “playing God.” How true those words are! God has his own Grand Scheme of Salvation that, like those of the human monsters, has a vast and terrible cost.. Untold amounts of suffering are, somehow (nobody has a clue how), necessary for the achievement of that Grand Scheme. God’s Grand Scheme, like all the others, has a dreadful cost for very dubious benefits. Some (or even all) wind up in heaven? Heaven is an empty abstraction. At least I can imagine a classless worker’s paradise, but heaven is a blank.

            Suppose though that heaven is, somehow, vastly more wonderful than the most wonderful thing we can envision on the most wonderful day or our lives. So what? How, HOW, does an eternity of unfathomable and indescribable bliss compensate for gross, undeserved suffering in this life? Can you point to any principle of ordinary human morality that exculpates the infliction of horrible suffering by the bestowing of later benefits? Of course, persons or corporations who do terrible things are expected to pay a price. That is justice, but it does not make things right.

            This world needs lots of things–rationality and compassion more than anything else. It does not need salvation. We don’t need saviors of any sort. The “salvation” they offer comes with too terrible a price. They can keep it.

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            Dr. P,

            Whatever Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. thought about themselves (and I have trouble seeing that they thought they were sacrificing themselves at all, for some good higher than themselves or otherwise), do you seriously see them as sacrificing themselves to save their most dedicated enemies or even in solidarity with innocents caught in the path of their authoritative decisions? Because that was the explicit distinction I mentioned. Stalin did not voluntarily go to the gulag to die working with those whom he sent there, much less continually suffer all the pains of everyone ever sent to a gulag after freeing those he sent. Pol Pot did not starve to death and continue starving. Hitler did not give himself to his own gestapo to be tried, sentenced and executed as a Jew; much less did he give himself to Stalin on the doorstep of the Wehrmacht’s push into Moscow.

            I allowed that you might still think someone was a moral monster who sacrificed himself for his worst enemies, and/or who voluntarily suffered and continues to suffer with all those who innocently suffer under his authority. But you seriously don’t think such a person would be less of a moral monster than the other persons you mentioned? You actually think such a person would be more dangerous than a despot whose aims are 100% mercenary?!

            Moreover, a true believer sacrificing himself (or herself) for the sake of his worst enemies, or in solidarity with the oppressed who suffer under the believer’s authority, whatever else may be said about such a person, is not pursuing “an idealized vision”. Idealized visions, by their nature, are abstract principle goals; they aren’t about people actively reconciling with people. The “heaven” of the Bible, relatedly, is often pictured as people, especially including former enemies, cooperating in mutual self-sacrificing support with one another.

            You might not agree with that as a goal (a goal from which the early Marxists drew their own goals of a classless worker’s paradise, by the way), but it isn’t a mere blank. And I don’t recall Marx putting his principles into practice so far as to let his greatest enemies torture him to death for the sake of those enemies.

            Dr. P: {{Can you point to any principle of ordinary human morality that exculpates the infliction of horrible suffering by the bestowing of later benefits?}}

            Even ordinary moral humans have generally recognized, throughout human history, that if the authority volunteers to suffer their imposed conditions with them, that counts strongly in favor of his intentions in authorizing the conditions, even if the reasons for the conditions are obscure large-picture issues. That’s why the most beloved generals, for example, have often been the ones who trained and fought with the troops, and who were willing to sacrifice themselves (even to torture and death) to save the troops.

            In this case we’re talking about a general-king who also stands with the villagers suffering all the depredations of the war with them (including when his own troops can’t even be trusted to do better than to kill everyone in their path rather than siding with the enemy); and who also stands with his worst enemies suffering the defeat that he is inflicting on them.

            And who then keeps on voluntarily suffering those effects forever afterward, even after bringing everyone else (including his worst enemies) past them into the later benefits.

            Dr. P: {{This world needs lots of things–rationality and compassion more than anything else.}}

            Rationality and compassion are the fundamental ground of all existence, if trinitarian theism is true, and so will be what everyone receives sooner or later. If any kind of atheism is true, rationality and compassion is something that some people are never going to get, and which is what all people will lose (even if they somehow managed to get it) sooner or later.

            Dr. P: {{It does not need salvation. We don’t need saviors of any sort.}}

            So much for anyone ever getting any of the rationality and compassion you agree the world needs, then. Being saved from irrationality and selfishness (which is fundamentally what the world is about if atheism is true, and so what is the “end of story” that atheists should “deal with rather than pretending otherwise”), requires a savior of that sort, rather than no savior of any sort.

            (Presumably you yourself are at least a little savior by trying to increase the amount of rationality and compassion in the world. :) The world needs you, too.)

            JRP

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            [Note: apologies in advance if this is double-posted. The system didn't seem to take it the first time, don't know why. I'll delete this if it turns out to be extra, or a forum ad/mod can do it.]

            Dr. P,

            Whatever Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. thought about themselves (and I have trouble seeing that they thought they were sacrificing themselves at all, for some good higher than themselves or otherwise), do you seriously see them as sacrificing themselves to save their most dedicated enemies or even in solidarity with innocents caught in the path of their authoritative decisions? Because that was the explicit distinction I mentioned. Stalin did not voluntarily go to the gulag to die working with those whom he sent there, much less continually suffer all the pains of everyone ever sent to a gulag after freeing those he sent. Pol Pot did not starve to death and continue starving. Hitler did not give himself to his own gestapo to be tried, sentenced and executed as a Jew; much less did he give himself to Stalin on the doorstep of the Wehrmacht’s push into Moscow.

            I allowed that you might still think someone was a moral monster who sacrificed himself for his worst enemies, and/or who voluntarily suffered and continues to suffer with all those who innocently suffer under his authority. But you seriously don’t think such a person would be less of a moral monster than the other persons you mentioned? You actually think such a person would be more dangerous than a despot whose aims are 100% mercenary?!

            Moreover, a true believer sacrificing himself (or herself) for the sake of his worst enemies, or in solidarity with the oppressed who suffer under the believer’s authority, whatever else may be said about such a person, is not pursuing “an idealized vision”. Idealized visions, by their nature, are abstract principle goals; they aren’t about people actively reconciling with people. The “heaven” of the Bible, relatedly, is often pictured as people, especially including former enemies, cooperating in mutual self-sacrificing support with one another.

            You might not agree with that as a goal (a goal from which the early Marxists drew their own goals of a classless worker’s paradise, by the way), but it isn’t a mere blank. And I don’t recall Marx putting his principles into practice so far as to let his greatest enemies torture him to death for the sake of those enemies.

            Dr. P: {{Can you point to any principle of ordinary human morality that exculpates the infliction of horrible suffering by the bestowing of later benefits?}}

            Even ordinary moral humans have generally recognized, throughout human history, that if the authority volunteers to suffer their imposed conditions with them, that counts strongly in favor of his intentions in authorizing the conditions, even if the reasons for the conditions are obscure large-picture issues. That’s why the most beloved generals, for example, have often been the ones who trained and fought with the troops, and who were willing to sacrifice themselves (even to torture and death) to save the troops.

            In this case we’re talking about a general-king who also stands with the villagers suffering all the depredations of the war with them (including when his own troops can barely be trusted to kill everyone in their path rather than siding with the enemy); and who also stands with his worst enemies suffering the defeat that he is inflicting on them.

            And who then keeps on voluntarily suffering those effects forever afterward, even after bringing everyone else (including his worst enemies) past them into the later benefits.

            Dr. P: {{This world needs lots of things–rationality and compassion more than anything else.}}

            Rationality and compassion are the fundamental ground of all existence, if trinitarian theism is true, and so will be what everyone receives sooner or later. If any kind of atheism is true, rationality and compassion is something that some people are never going to get, and which is what all people will lose (even if they somehow managed to get it) sooner or later.

            Dr. P: {{It does not need salvation. We don’t need saviors of any sort.}}

            So much for anyone ever getting any of the rationality and compassion you agree the world needs, then. Being saved from irrationality and selfishness (which is fundamentally what the world is about if atheism is true, and so what is the “end of story” that atheists should “deal with rather than pretending otherwise”), requires a savior of that sort, rather than no savior of any sort.

            (Presumably you yourself are at least a little savior by trying to increase the amount of rationality and compassion in the world. :) The world needs you, too.)

            JRP

          • Keith Parsons

            Jason,

            How are we to understand God’s suffering? What does God’s suffering amount to? Does God suffer as a human being does? What is the connection between the suffering of a man, Jesus of Nazareth, and the suffering of the eternal, transcendent God of the omni-predicates? Does God, qua eternal, transcendent God, suffer physical pain or emotional torment? How can an eternal entity existing in timeless perfection feel grief or pain any more than can, say, the number seven or the set of all integers? Was God the Father grief stricken when Jesus died on the cross, knowing ahead of time that he would be resurrected to glory and, forty days later, be sitting at his right side? Was God the Holy Spirit likewise in mourning? Did they rejoice, when, though unsurprised, they saw him rise on the third day?

            I am not offering these questions flippantly or with blasphemous intent. I really wan tot know. Your main claim in defense of God is that he suffers with his creatures, but I find such alleged suffering incomprehensible. Can you answer these questions? I don’t think so. Indeed, I think nobody can, I don’t mean that you cannot feel confident about an answer, I just see no possible grounds for such an answer. Whatever answer you gave would have to be based on arbitrary and unverifiable (if not incoherent) metaphysical speculations.

            Besides, to respect someone who suffers with me, it must be that the suffering is seen as worthwhile. If someone shoots me for no reason, would it redeem him in my eyes if (like the recent mass shooters) he then turned the gun on himself? If God’s whole Grand Scheme of Salvation is mad, it is just more madness if he subjects himself to it. So, appeal to God’s suffering just begs the question as to the point of the whole sorry scheme.

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            Dr. P,

            Don’t worry, I don’t regard your questions as flippant or with blasphemous intent.

            There is a rather dry-sounding and obscure technical dispute among theists about whether the foundational fact of reality statically or actively self-exists (i.e. whether privative or positive aeeity is true). Many Judeo-Christian theologians have followed the notion of classical theism on this, claiming that God only statically exists rather than existing in active self-generation; but a fluctuating minority of us (myself included) regard that position as being tantamount to atheism for various technical reasons. Ironically, throughout Christian history trinitarian theologians have most often come down _against_ the idea that the ultimate independent fact of reality is both actively self-begetting and actively self-begotten. This principle inconsistency leads to a lot of problems further down the line, in my experience.

            There isn’t any way I can begin to sufficiently cover the issues in a forum post (although I’ve written about it very extensively elsewhere). But if I thought privative aseity is true, I would not only regard God as being something like “the number seven or the set of all integers”, I would also agree that it’s nonsensical for such a foundational entity to even voluntarily suffer in any way, including on the cross. In fact, I would probably be an atheist! So I can sympathize in principle with your problems there.

            (I said as much last year on the Cadre Journal, for example, over-against the attempts by Ed Feser to avoid atheistic critique of doctrines of hopeless punishments by appeal to “classical theism” vs. “theistic personalism”. http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2012/06/most-real-reality-and-folly-of-cross.html )

            Put very shortly, after deciding (in order to avoid a formal logical problem involving any argument I could make about anything) that I should deduct atheisms broadly from the metaphysical option list, I follow the implications of theism vs. atheism thus developed into concluding ‘if theism then positive aseity not privative’. After that I start following out the implications of positive aseity which develops quickly into (at least) binitarian theism (which thereby introduces the concept of the self-sacrificial action of God at and as the foundation of all reality including God’s own actively eternal reality; which in turn has various implications about the relationship of God to any not-God reality (such as evidently myself); which in turn has various implications about the relationship of God to derivatively generated not-God systems of reality; which solves a leftover problem of whether theism also fails the formal logical issue that previously led me to reject atheism; which leads into the topic of the logic of interpersonal relationships (and eventually along a bit of a side-road to trinitarian instead of only binitarian theism later); and thus into ethical theories; thus into the problems with various broad groups of ethical theories (including ethical theism); which problems are solved by (at least) binitarian ethical grounding; but which leads into the topic of unethical behavior and the relation of that behavior to God (my own unethical behavior being the primary example for consideration); which leads among other things to topics of accidental/natural suffering as well as the active infliction of unjust suffering; and how the implications of such suffering factor into the previously developed account; and then to what I should expect God to do about the situation; including in natural history; thus what I ought to be looking for to happen, or to have already happened, in natural history. {inhale!}

            While there might be logical incoherencies in there (which ought to be corrected if so), they aren’t “arbitrary” metaphysical “speculations” (and certainly aren’t any more unverifiable than atheisms broadly speaking). There are carefully cautious reasons for taking each step while keeping the previous steps and their implications in the account.

            (I can’t imagine why anyone but me would want to read an 870ish page book on the topic ;) , but it can be downloaded for free here at {{http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=448}} While I don’t recommend skipping the first two sections, since naturally I can’t do much more than briefly recap their results and rationales as I go along, the specific train of analysis mentioned above starts with Section Three. I work pretty hard at being sympathetic to sceptics along the way, especially in although not limited to Section One.)

            I agree that it’s important to know whether the shared suffering is worthwhile (or at least necessary for other things we regard as important to exist), in order to respect whether someone authoritatively involved in the suffering suffers with us. But you asked for a common human moral example, so I stuck with a common human moral example (with some uncommon extensions). And it isn’t as though the claim of common suffering is being made in an absolute vacuum about the character of the authority otherwise: aside from metaphysical rationales there are traditions of the authority being concerned with loving enemies and helping the oppressed.

            It isn’t intrinsically impossible that a destructive and self-destructive madman might also be concerned with such things, of course. Still, you asked for a common morality example and I gave it; and the option does thereby open up the possibility of respecting the authority, who doesn’t merely impose the circumstances from on high but shares in the unpleasant results. We might be talking about a different kind of madman than Hitler and Stalin, but we aren’t talking about that kind of despot categorically.

            (And considering that I previously and repeatedly allowed that you might still think someone was a moral monster who sacrificed himself for his worst enemies, and/or who voluntarily suffered and continues to suffer with all those who innocently suffer under his authority, I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that I’m just begging the question as to the point of the scheme. I was careful about how far I suggested the point under the circumstances.)

            JRP

          • Keith Parsons

            Jason,

            Honestly, your response seems to prove my point far more effectively than anything I could say. I asked you how we are to conceive of God as suffering. We might observe the MAN Jesus of Nazareth suffering, but the basic question is how the suffering of the man relates to the suffering of the deity. In response you give me precisely the kind of preposterous metaphysical gobbledygook that I suspected would be the answer. In short, you haven’t a clue.

            And, no, you did not offer an adequate response to my request for a common moral principle that would justify the claim that sharing the suffering exculpates the imposition of suffering. I gave you a counterexample to show that the claim does not in general hold, and you have not dealt with that example.

            And, yes, you do beg the question if you continue to insist that suffering-with, per se, somehow justifies the imposition of suffering. It is that claim that I specifically deny, and I have yet to see from you any reason that I should not deny it.

          • Keith Parsons

            Here in Southeast Texas, if you dig deep enough you always hit water. In debating a Christian apologist, if you dig deep enough you always hit gibberish. At that point you have to end the discussion, which I am now doing.

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            Dr. P,

            The question of privative vs. positive aseity is generally regarded as a respectable debate among philosophers, and has more than a little relevance to atheistic apologetics. So I wouldn’t have thought you’d think that was “gibberish”. Everything else follows from the implications of going with positive aseity instead of privative; but really, if you ask hard technical questions and say you really want to know, why would you be surprised if you get an in-depth reply about various related philosophical topics?

            I realize, and specifically noted, that I was mostly describing not arguing out the position, but am I supposed to carefully hash out several dozen interrelated issues in a forum comment? Or even a handful of comments?

            Should I have assumed you weren’t serious when you told me you weren’t kidding and really wanted to know? — because your reply is rather like asking a theoretical mathematician why the square root of negative one is important, or a theoretical astrophysicist why anyone would believe string theory, and then complaining that his relatively brief answer on an internet comment thread is preposterous gobbledygook. Maybe it is, but It was going to look like that under the circumstances even if it isn’t!

            Since I never said that the claim in general always holds, that sharing the suffering exculpates the imposition of suffering, I never intended to give “an adequate response” defending that proposition. (Similarly, neither am I begging a question I didn’t propose or defend in the first place.)

            I did however give you a historically common and important moral example when you asked for one, and I did deal with the counter-example you gave, and talked (at preposterous length ;) ) about how the comparison doesn’t hold up once we leave common historical moral examples and are talking about the fundamental ground of all reality instead (also indicating in various ways that my historically common moral example barely analogizes in comparison to what I’m talking about in regard to God. But you asked for any common moral example at all and I gave you one.)

            I also bent over pretty far backward allowing (for example) that you might still regard someone who sacrifices himself to save his own worst enemies as being a tyrannical despot. Is it really that hard for you to grant that such a person couldn’t be as much of a tyrannical despot (at least) as Hitler or Stalin etc.?

            Well, even I make fun of how long-winded I can be, so I can hardly complain about you complaining about that. :) But considering that you yourself claim to think there ought to be more rationality and compassion in the world… {shrug}

            Compassion means “to suffer with”. And this weekend 1/3 of the world is celebrating what is demonstrably the most important and influential claim of compassion from fundamental Reason in world history.

            Due to the topic, that claim is going to be complexly detailed in ways that won’t fully (or even at all) apply to any other compassion, even if it’s true. Any simple answer, even if true, will be too overly simple.

            (And you aren’t going to want an overly simple answer either!–nor should you be satisfied with an overly simple answer, not being a five-year-old.)

            Peace at last to you and with you someday, Keith.

            JRP

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            Note: I can’t tell to what extent Disqus is tracking our comments or not from this point, but I’ve tried to collect my and Dr. P’s side of the discussion into sequential order, here in a Cadre Journal entry. http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2013/03/god-experientiality-and-cross.html

            It seems likely that I’ve double or triple posted a few minutes ago, so I’ll try to delete those if so.

          • Greg G.

            Keith,

            I have debated the question with Christians in the comments of YouTube videos and blogs in the recent past just to explore the issue. A few years ago, I debated the question on talk.origins with a Christian who denied the Bible teaches eternal punishment and he convinced me. Bradley has made me less certain.

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            Dr. P (this is Jason Pratt, one of Victor’s friends. We’ve debated over the Resurrection of Christ in the past.)

            The basic problem is that the terms involved in the Greek (mainly cognates of “eon”) don’t necessarily have to mean endlessly never-ending. Context determines when they do or don’t, and that opens the floor to narrative and thematic analyses etc. Meaning that proponents of all three views (whether universal salvation, or annihilation, or some variety of eternal conscious torment) have to work at providing contextual arguments then, not just prooftexting. So it isn’t cut and dried anymore and gets rather messy.

            Matthew 25′s sheep and the goats is a salient example. The relevant term there, “eonian”, demonstrably doesn’t always mean never-ending elsewhere the the Judeo-Christian canon. Thus the argument, for various kinds of non-universalist, becomes that the pairing and contrasting of “eonian life” for the sheep and “eonian punishment” for the goats indicates parity of principle: no one (or very few scholars — I’ve seen exceptions) disputes that the “eonian life” lasts forever, so it’s reasonable to infer that “eonian punishment” does, too, by means of the close topical context and contrast.

            But then it turns out that at least twice elsewhere in the canon (once in Romans and once in minor prophet) there are examples of the author using “eonian” (or its underlying Hebrew in the OT text) twice in close contrasting context, where the term means truly everlasting in one usage and only a naturally long time in the other.

            Even with demonstrable counter-examples, the local context might indicate never-ending is the meaning intended at Matt 25, of course. But then it turns out that the local context involves the goats being baby-goats (in Greek), and the term for sheep not necessarily being sheep but possibly a mixed flock more generally or even possibly adult goats! (For example, early Christian art sometimes shows Christ going out after the 100th goat!–same term translated “sheep” in that parable, and same at Matt 25.) And the explicit narrative details indicate Christ regards the baby-goats as being part of His flock. Meaning that they, the ones being punished for misbehavior, are literally the least of His flock.

            And what are they being punished for? — for refusing to act to save “the least of My flock”, who are suffering in ways (whether poetic or literal) that the goats are about to suffer. (The list also echoes descriptions of people punished by God in the OT for injustice and no mercy to the helpless.)

            So the whole judgment parable, which follows two others warning about punishment coming to lazy and/or uncharitable servants of Christ, turns out to be a climactic testing riddle: will the audience (Christ’s disciples originally, us afterward) interpret the judgment the way the Good Shepherd and His sheep would?–or the way a baby-goat would?

            Any interpretation, in other words, that involves the Shepherd and the mature flock treating the baby-goats (the least of Christ’s flock) the way the baby-goats treated the least of Christ’s flock and are now being punished for, is a baby-goat interpretation! It’s a climactic judgment against lazy and/or uncharitable servants of Christ. (And a judgment in favor of people who were serving Christ by being merciful to people like the baby-goats, even though they’re surprised to find out they’d been serving Christ after all. i.e., they didn’t even know they were Christian.)

            That’s the narrative and thematic context in which light the translator and interpreter is supposed to understand “eonian” when it comes to “eonian fire” and “eonian kolasis” (a term that can mean hopeful not hopeless punishment, not incidentally.)

            Is that as clear as the (apparent) face-value statement that Matt 25 is talking about an eternal, punitive hell? No. But it’s based on hard demonstrable data about textual characteristics; and it accounts for more of the local data than any other theory I’ve seen so far; and it synchs with a lot of extended data elsewhere in the texts. Even if it turns out to be wrong somehow, it isn’t wishful thinking, even though neither is it overly obvious.

            Sometime after Easter holiday I’ll be starting a collation project at http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com that I’ve been working on for several years. It’ll take a LONG time to post it all up, and I’m still finding new data (and making some corrections on occasion).

            (I realize that even if I argue successfully for Christian universalism exegetically, that doesn’t address many metaphysical or even other exegetical and historical problems, of course.)

          • Bradley Bowen

            Thank you for the commentary on Matthew 25.

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            Sorry it ran long. It takes a while to add things up. :( For what it’s worth, the thematic logic would indicate that people who write things like your original post are probably on the side of the flock other than the baby goats. :) Or that’s what we Christians ought to expect.

            Anyway, if trinitarian theism is true, it would actually be a sin to bow the knee to something or someone less than true love, so if you don’t see the love, don’t bow the knee. Bowing the knee to mere power would be the act of a quisling (as C. S. Lewis once put it).

          • Bradley Bowen

            Yes. Since the idea of eternal torture is both stupid and evil, a deity that was perfectly good and infinitely wise would obviously be opposed to such an idea. Any being that advocates eternal torture of human beings cannot possibly be God, and thus must not be worshipped. If there is a God, I would expect to be rewarded for taking a stand against belief in the etnernal punishment of the wicked.

          • http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0977888401 Sabreman

            Not that I disagree, but as you’ll no doubt have heard from some of my compatriots it depends on what “good” most fundamentally is.

            If “good” is most fundamentally the strongest ability to cause effects, then I can’t see any reason why the strongest Power would be necessarily opposed to doing any damn thing (so to speak) to anyone at all. The Power might or might not inflict any amount of hopeless suffering on anyone, either forever or for a limited period. (“I like to play with things a while!–before annihilation. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahaha…” — Ming the Merciless”)

            The catch of course is that if atheism is true, we don’t even have that much hope in anything “good”; at best, good can only be what a limited group of persons agrees on among themselves, over-against (or under-against) the non-rational amorality of fundamental reality–a reality that hasn’t the slightest interest in keeping us alive even as rebels against it.

            This is why I try to be patient when various fellow theists go the route of Might Makes Right. A trinitarian Christian ought to know better, but at least in theory such theists are looking up to rationality, and it isn’t impossible for a monotarian “Allah” to also be “the Merciful and Compassionate”, to some limited degree anyway. It would be better for a bare theism to be true than atheism. Sucks to be the one such a God decides not to be merciful and compassionate to, but whoever said God Most High could be expected to be merciful and compassionate to enemies?–much less sacrifice Himself for them? That would be gibberish! {g}

            Good Good Friday to you, and peace be to and with you. {bow}

          • Bradley Bowen

            Keith Parsons said:

            Dante’s attitude with the gloating of the Church Father Tertullian who anticipated his glee in enjoying the torments of the damned…

            ================
            Comment:

            Some of Tertullian’s writings are dated late 2nd century C.E and to early 3rd century C.E. So, he was writting less than 100 years after the end of the period of the writting of the N.T.

          • Bradley Bowen

            I have previously mentioned that Ignatious of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian (early Christian writers who span from the beginning of the 2nd century CE to the beginning of the 3rd century CE) all believed in hell, and specifically, the eternal punishment of the wicked.

            It looks to me like one of the earliest Christian writings outside of the NT was written by a person who also believed in hell. The letter from Christians in Rome to believers in Corinth called ’1 Clement’ is dated to about 95-97 C.E., to the end of the 1st century. So this letter was apparently written before the writting of the N.T. was completed.

            Here is a passage from that letter:

            “Becaus of his hospitality and godliness Lot was saved from Sodom, when the entire region was judged by fire and brimstone. In this way the Master clearly demonstrated that he does not forsake those who hope in him, but destines to punishment and torment those who turn aside.” (1 Clement 11.1)

            This letter does not specify that the punishment or torment of the wicked will be eternal, but it does support the other aspects of the doctrine of hell: a final judgment will separate people into two groups, some of whom avoid ‘punishment and torment’ and others who will face ‘punishment and torment’ and this torment is associated with the suffering brought about by ‘fire and brimstone’.

            1 Clement makes many references to OT passages, but also makes a few references to NT passages, including a few references to the canonical gospels. So, if the author of this letter was familiar with one or more of the gospels, and if the gospels teach the doctrine of hell, then the author of this letter probably believed in hell.

            One of the gospel references is to a passage found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke:

            “For he [the Lord Jesus] said this: ‘Show mercy, that you may receive mercy; forgive, that you may be forgiven. As you do, so shall it be done to you. As you give, so shit it be given you. As you judge, so will you be judged. As you show kindness, so shall kindness be shown to you. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ ” (1 Clement 13.2)

            Because the quotation is not precise, it is difficult to determine which gospel it came from (see Matt. 5:7, 6:14, 7:1-2; Luke 6:31, 36-38).

          • Bradley Bowen

            I have pointed out three 2nd century Christian writers who believed in the eternal punishment of the wicked: Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian. Ignatius wrote very early in the 2nd century.

            I have also argued that in what is probably the earliest Christian letter outside of the letters in the N.T., i.e. 1 Clement, the author appears to believe in hell, as well as to be aware of the canonical gospels, which put forward the idea of hell (esp. the gospel of Matthew).

            It appears that the “oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived” (The Apostolic Fathers, updated edition, edited and revised by Michael Holmes, p.102) known as 2 Clement (though it was not written by Clement) also appears to have been written by a Christian who believed in hell:

            “For the Lord said, ‘I am coming to gather together all the nations, tribes, and languages.’ Now by this he means the day of his appearing, when he will come and redeem us, each according to his deeds. And the unvelievers ‘will see his glory’ and might, and they will be astonished when they see that the kingdom of the world belongs to Jesus, saying ‘Woe to us, because it was you, and we did not realize it, nor did we believe; and we did not obey the elders when spoke to us about our salvation.’ And ‘their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched, and they will be a spectacle for all flesh.’ He means that day of judgment, when people will see those among us who lived ungodly lives and perverted the commandments of Jesus Christ. But the righteous, having done good and endured torments and hated the pleasures of the soul, when they see how those who have gone astray and denied Jesus by their words or by their actions being punished with dreadful torments in unquenchable fire, will give glory to thier God as they say, ‘There will be hope for the one who has served God with his whole heart.’ ” (“An Ancient Sermon commonly known as Second Clement” 17:4-7, from The Apostolic Fathers, p.125)

            So, in the oldest surviving complete Christian sermon, written at the end of the 1st century or the early decades of the second century, we find the belief that there will be a final judgment in which the wicked will be sentenced to be “punished with dreadful torments in unquenchable fire” where “their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched”.

            Once again, the author does not specifically state that the “dreadful torments” of the wicked will continue for all eternity, but this is strongly suggested by the idea that the fire and the worms that are causing the torment will continue forever, since the fire is “unquenchable” and “their worm will not die”.

            In any case, even if this very early Christian sermon does not clearly assert that the wicked will be tormented for all eternity, it embraces the idea of hellfire and strongly suggests that the torment of the wicked will last forever.

          • Bradley Bowen

            According to the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, Ignatius of Antioch believed in the eternal punishment of the wicked.

            Before looking into specific passages from the letters of Ignatius, which were written early in the 2nd century C.E., it is important to note that not only does Ignatius include several quotes from the canonical gospels in his letters, but he clearly favors the gospel of Matthew. Most of the gospel quotes and allusions in the letters of Ignatius are from the gospel of Matthew:

            Matt. 12:33 is quoted in Ephesians 14.2
            Matt. 26:6-13 is alluded to in Ephesians 17.1
            Matt. 15:13 is alluded to in Trallians 11.1 and Philadelphians 3.1
            Matt. 3:15 is alluded to in Smyrnaeans 1.1
            Matt 19:12 is quoted in Smyrnaeans 6.1
            Matt. 10:16 is quoted in Polycarp 2.2

            Ignatius is familiar with the gospel of Matthew and appears to rely on this gospel as a trustworthy record of the ministry and teachings of Jesus. So, it is very likely that Ignatius believed that Jesus had taught that after the final judgment, the wicked would first be “sentenced to hell” (Matt. 23:33) and then be “thrown into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42), meaning they would be thrown into an “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41) and there in that fire the wicked would suffer “eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46).

            Thus, even without getting into the specific content of the letters written by Ignatius, one can infer that Ignatius probably believed in hell and in the eternal punishment of the wicked, because those are ideas that the gospel of Matthew attributes to Jesus (whether or not Jesus actually believed in hell or eternal punishment), and Ignatius is familiar with the gospel of Matthew and treats Matthew as a trustworthy source of information about Jesus.

          • Greg G.

            This is great information, Bradley. I’m seeing many things I was unaware of. I have read through some of the writings of some of the church fathers but my retention rate is apparently low. Mostly, I am familiar with what they say on specific topics when they are presented in a study, not unlike you have done here.

            It seems to me that Paul thought the believers who had died would be raised first and then “we, the living”. I can’t think of anything he wrote concerning those who were not to be raised. The “eternal destruction” comes from 2 Thessalonians which is considered by many to be pseudepigraphal. The other early Epistles also don’t mention it.

            Isaiah 66:24 seems to be a poetic description of bodies thrown into a garbage dump, rather than buried, where they are eaten by maggots amidst ever burning fire.

            Mark 9:44-48 makes the verse metaphorical but doesn’t say anything about eternity. In Isaiah, the bodies that were burning would not be the bodies that were being eaten, as the fire would kill the worm. Mark may have lost that distinction. The words in Mark that are translated as hell is “Gehenna” and “pyr”, so he is referring to the Valley of Hinnom and not Hades. Matthew 5 also maintains Gehenna.

            Matthew 25:41-46 has taken the idea into eternal torment. Clement and Ignatius have taken hell seriously from Matthew.

            We can see the evolution of the Christian hell go from something poetic in Isaiah, to metaphoric in Mark, to literal in the oldest sermon you mention in another post. The influence of Enoch may have helped guide the evolving idea into shape.

            Does that seem reasonable to you?

            This confirms Humphrey’s Law of Internet Information: “The best way to get good information from the internet is to post incorrect information.” –Hubert K. Humphrey
            (Now if I posted that in some forums, I could learn that Hubert Humphrey never said that, that he died before the internet was popular, his middle name is actually Horatio and the name of the person who actually said that or something like it. The last item is what I didn’t already know and couldn’t find to properly cite.)

          • Bradley Bowen

            2 Maccabees shows that the basic idea of hell existed prior to the birth of Jesus. It shows that there were Jews between about 150 BCE and 120 BCE who believed that the wicked would be severely punished by God in the afterlife, and that the righteous would have a blessed eternal life after they died.

            “The Second book of Maccabees supplies important information
            about the events leading up to the revolt under Judas Maccabeus and recounts
            the subsequent exploits of Judas up to 161 B.C.E (his defeat of Nicanor). It describes the political intrigues
            surrounding the Jewish high-priesthood and portrays Judas Maccabeus as the
            ideal Jewish warrior…”
            (The HarperCollins Study Bible, NRSV, p.1691)

            “In the author’s preface (2.19-32) we are told that 2 Maccabees
            is the condensation of a five-volume work by Jason of Cyrene (2.23). …The
            condensation seems to have been completed by 124 B.C.E., the date of the ‘cover
            letter’ preserved in 2 Macc 1.1-9.”

            (The HarperCollins Study Bible, NRSV, p.1691)

            “Besides stressing the inviolability of the Jerusalem temple, 2 Maccabees is noteworthy
            for its doctrine of suffering (5.18-20; 6.12-17) and portrayal of martyrs
            (6.10-11, 18-31; 7.1-42; 14.37-46). The
            sufferings inflicted on the Jews are the consequence of their leaders’ sins
            (Simon, Jason, Menelaus) and a sign of God’s loving discipline toward the
            chosen people. There is an expectation
            that Israel’s
            enemies will eventually be punished appropriately. The martyrs (especially Eleazar, the seven
            brothers, and their mother, Razis) willingly undergo torture and death rather
            than be unfaithful to the precepts of Judaism.
            In ch. 7 these two themes come together around the theme of
            resurrection. In the resurrection the
            martyrs will be rewarded with eternal life and the wicked (like Antiochus IV)
            will be punished. The author’s belief in
            resurrection led him to interpret Judas’s sin offering for his dead soldiers
            (see 12.39-45) as atonement on behalf of the sins of the dead. 2 Maccabees is deuterocanonical for Catholics
            and Orthodox, apocryphal for Protestants, and noncanonical for Jews (though it
            does recount the origin of Hanukkah). Daniel J. Harrington”

            (The HarperCollins Study Bible, NRSV, p.1692)

            The martyrdom of Eleazar is told in Macc 6.18-31. We see in this account that the core idea of
            hell (God’s punishment of the wicked in the afterlife) already exists:

            “Eleazar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble
            presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh [which was
            prohibited in Leviticus 11.7-8]. But he,
            welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack
            of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, as all ought to go who have the
            courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste, even for the natural
            love of life. …he declared himself quickly, telling them to send him to Hades
            [that is to his death]. ‘…Even if for
            the present I would avoid the punishment of mortals, yet whether I live or die
            I will not escape the hands of the Almighty. …’
            When he had said this, he went at once to the rack.” …When he was about
            to die under the blows, he groaned aloud and said: ‘It is clear to the Lord in
            his holy knowledge that, though I might have been saved from death, I am
            enduring terrible sufferings in my body under this beating, but in my soul I am
            glad to suffer these things because I fear him.’” (2 Macc 6.18-20, 23, 26, and
            28)

            It appears that Eleazar was willing to be tortured and killed in
            order to avoid a more severe punishment from God in the afterlife. Eleazar does not say that he fears being
            tortured in hell for all eternity, but clearly he believes that the torture and
            suffering that he endured just before his death was much less to be feared than
            the punishment that he would receive from God in the afterlife, if he had
            knowingly disobeyed God’s command to avoid eating pork.

          • Greg G.

            As I was reading this I had two thoughts. One was how much the martyrdom of Eleazar was like the stories of the Christian martyrs and that it seemed like a Greek Idea of a noble death. The other was that the hell idea seemed to be like the Egyptian thoughts about death as they evolved from the afterlife that went from pharoahs to those who could afford to be mummified to the general population.

            When I looked up 2 Maccabees on Wikipedia, I saw that the writing is in Koine Greek (1 Maccabees was Hebrew) and was written in Alexandria. The article also mentioned that the medieval martyrdom stories were modeled on the Eleazar story. There seems to be a dating discrepancy as 2 Maccabees is dated to 124 BC and is said to be an abridgment of Jason’s writings which are dated around 100 BC.

            The Hellenization of Judaism spread through Israel and into Asia but did this notion of hell go with it. We have Paul, a Hellenized Jew a century later, coming out of Tarsus but he doesn’t support the eternal punishment idea.

            Matthew used the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs as a source for Matt 3:16-17 as we can see by comparing it with Levi 5:21-22. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testaments_of_the_Twelve_Patriarchs) So Matthew was reading non-canonical writings which might indicate the origins of his eternal torment verses.

          • Bradley Bowen

            I’ve been looking into the Book of Enoch and am finding out some very intersting stuff. Chapter 22 of the Book of Enoch presents the view that punishments and rewards will be handed out in the afterlife, and it appears to say that the wicked will be tormented both immediately after death for a period of time, and then tortured eternally after the final judgment.

            The part of the Book of Enoch that contains Chapter 22 is dated to the 3rd or 4th century BC, and a scrap of Enoch found in Qumran cave #4 dates to between 150 and 200 BCE. So, the core ideas of heaven and hell appear to predate the birth of Jesus by at least 200 years, perhaps 300 years.

            “The materials in I Enoch range in date from 200 B.C.E. to 50 C.E. I Enoch contributes much to intertestamental views of angels, heaven, judgment, resurrection, and the Messiah. This book has left its stamp upon many of the NT writers, especially the author of Revelation.” (Craig A. Evans, Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation, p. 23)

            “Chaps. 1-36 The Book of the Watchers may date from the third century BCE. Parts of its text have been identified on several copies from Qumran cave 4; the earliest fragmentary manuscript (4QEnocha) dates, according to the editor J.T. Milk, to between 200 and 150 BCE. All Qumran copies are in the Aramaic language.” – James C. Vanderkam

            Furthermore, the Book of Enoch is quoted in the N.T. in the book of Jude v. , which might be a very early Christian writing:

            “The Epistle of Jude evidences certain primitive features and contains nothing that warrants a late date. It evidently belongs to an early Palestinian apocalyptic-type Jewish Christianity. The letter could very well be dated in the 50s, and very possibly could even be one of the earliest NT documents.”
            (“Jude, Letter of” by Carroll Osburn in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, edited by David Freedman ,p.750)

        • Bradley Bowen

          Greg G. said:

          Hell is a high pressure sales tactic invented after the books of the New Testament books were completed

          ================

          Response:

          One problem with this claim is that the idea of hell began to be formulated before Jesus was born:

          “In Rab. Judaism, under Persian and Hel. influence, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul appeared, and this altered the concept of hades. The earliest attestation of this doctrine is Eth.Enoch 22. This chapter is closely related to Lk. 16:22 ff. (cf. also Eth.Enoch 51:1; 102:5; 103:7; 2 Macc. 6:24): reward and punishment begin, after death, in hades. According to Josephus (Ant. 18, 14: cf. War 2, 163; 3, 75; SB IV 1166, 1182 ff.), this was the position of the Pharisees and the Essenes, in contrast to that of the Sadducees. A later view states that the souls of the righteous, after death, enter heavenly blessedness, while the souls of the ungodly are punished in hades. hades thus lost its role as the resting p;lace of all souls and became a place of punishment for the souls of the ungodly (cf. Eth.Enoch 63:10; Pss.Sol. 14:6 f; 15:11; Gr. Bar. 4).”

          (from: The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume 2, p.207)

          Chapter 22 of Enoch (referenced above) is part of “The Book of the Watchers” which dates to the 3rd or 4th century B.C.

          So, the idea of hell started a few centuries before Jesus, not a few centuries after Jesus.

          • Greg G.

            Damn. Another fine theory slaughtered my murderous facts. I read your post after my bedtime and was too sleepy to get into it. After sleeping on it and not yet delving deeper nor finishing my coffee, I will give my initial reaction.

            The Epistles don’t seem to have hell so much. Paul of Tarsus was not of the Jerusalem bunch and may not have been influenced by Enoch. 2 Peter 2:4 mentions Tartarus.

            When I Googled to get the correct 2 Peter verse, I noticed a link to this:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartarus

            “Tartarus is only known in Hellenistic Jewish literature from the Greek text of 1 Enoch, dated to 400–200 BC. This states that God placed the archangel Uriel “in charge of the world and of Tartarus” (20:2). Tartarus is generally understood to be the place where 200 fallen Watchers (angels) are imprisoned.”

            Already I’m doing more research than I intended this early.

            http://wesley.nnu.edu/index.php?id=2126
            “[Chapter 20]

            1,2 And these are the names of the holy angels who watch. Uriel, one of the holy angels, who is 3 over the world and over Tartarus. Raphael, one of the holy angels, who is over the spirits of men.”

            In chapter 22, there are three divisions of people but the later Christian theology has only two. I’m a little confused as it talks about those who curse forever or are those who curse being punished forever, and then talks about their destruction. If a soul is destroyed, how can they continue to be punished? No matter what the author meant, I can see how readers could go either way. We would have to get the original language to filter out a translation that assumes the conclusion in question.
            So I think the only change in the Hades concept would be that it was temporary until Judgement Day instead of being permanent. Enoch maintains Tartarus as the place of punishment.
            I wanted to throw out some points of contention between the different factions of the early movement, such as the Galatians/James debate, to illustrate that various groups wouldn’t necessarily agree about such things as eternal punishment. But I have to prepare to go to work.

          • Bradley Bowen

            There are three sorts of reasons for doubting that the idea of hell was invented after the writting of the NT.

            1. The idea of hell began to develop before the birth of Jesus.
            2. There are passages in the NT that clearly indicate a belief in hell, both in the gospels and in Revelations.
            3. The Early Church Fathers all (or nearly all? I don’t know of any exceptions, but I’m not an expert on Early Church fathers, so there may be exceptions that I’m not aware of) believed in a place of punishment for the wicked in the afterlife, and most believed in eternal punishment of the wicked.

            In other words belief in hell occurs before, during, and immediately after the writing of the NT.

            I will provide some details on point 3 later today.

          • Bradley Bowen

            The N.T. provides evidence that in Jesus time there was a group of Jews called Pharisees who, in contrast to another group called Sadducees, believed there would be a resurrection of the dead (Mark 12:18-27 and Acts 23:6-9). The Pharisees also believed that there would be punishments and rewards in the afterlife:

            “Josephus likewise asserts that the Pharisees differ from the Sadducees on this point [the resurrection of the dead]. These assertions occur in two of the passages where he presents Pharisaism as a kind of Greek philosophical school familiar to his Greco-Roman audience (J.W. 2.8.14 #163; Ant. 18.1.3 #14). … In these two passages, Josephus affirms clearly that the Pharisees, unlike the Sadducees, believe in the immortality of the soul, a place of reward and punishment after death, and–in at least one passage–the resurrection of the body (J.W. 2.8.14 #163)…”
            (A Marginal Jew, Volume III, by John Meier, p.323)

            Since the Pharisees believed in the immortality of the soul, and believed in a place of punishment after death, and since the Pharisees were around before Jesus died and before the N.T. was written, this means that there was at least one group of Jews who beieved in something like hell prior to the writting of the N.T.

            I don’t know whether the Pharisees believed in the eternal punishment of the wicked, but given their belief in the immortality of the soul, and their belief in the punishment of the wicked in the afterlife, the idea of eternal punishment of the wicked would fit well with their beliefs about life after death. In any case, they accepted the core idea of hell: a place of punishment for the wicked in the afterlife.

          • Greg G.

            Hi Bradley,

            I’ve been thinking about something I read 2 or 3 years ago and I think it was from Bart Ehrman. I had 15 minutes to kill and had a pile of Ehrman books on the shelf and started thumbing through them. When I got to page 21 of Forged, “Jude” and “Enoch”, in close proximity, caught my eye.

            Ehrman tells us that Jerome mentioned that Christians were arguing that Jude was not authentic because it used Enoch as scripture. The next sentence says that “2 Peter was rejected by early church fathers, as discussed by both Jerome and Eusebius.”

            If the church was not accepting Enoch, Jude, and 2 Peter as late as the 4th century, we should consider that they also rejected the teachings of those documents, such as punishments.

            With what Ehrman says in Lost Christianities, we shouldn’t make blanket statements about early Christians.

            Burton Mack talks about the three layers of Q. The first layer is Cynic-like aphorisms, often with points made by humor. The second layer makes some meaner points, which he theorizes may have been written during the oppression of the struggle with Rome prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. The third layer is the apocalyptic verses. It may have been that second layer group who hoped their opponents would go to eternal punishment that added that element.

            So far, I have changed my thinking from “hell was invented by second century Christians” to “hell probably wasn’t adopted by orthodox Christianity until the fourth century or later”. I’m not comfortable with the word “orthodox” though, but I’m at a loss for a better word. Suggestions?

          • Bradley Bowen

            It is difficult to determine what Jesus taught or believed about anything, and the question of whether Jesus believed in hell or the eternal punishment of the wicked is no exception to this generalization.

            I think Paul was not particularly clear on this point either.

            However, the belief in hell and in eternal punishment of the wicked was one availble option to Jewish people in Jesus day, and it appears to have been accepted by some of the N.T. authors, and it was the dominant view among early Christian authors outside of the authors of the N.T.

  • busterggi

    General Zod: Kneel before Zod.
    They really are all the same aren’t they?

  • Keith Parsons

    Really, when you stop and think about it, it is remarkable that so much good has come from something as bizarre and perverse as the Judeo-Christian mythos. Channel surfing a few years back I alighted briefly on one of the fundamentalist stations where a young, beautiful woman (no, she did not have a four-foot pink beehive) was eloquently summarizing the basic Christian message in all of its simplicity and brutality: All have sinned and earned damnation, but God so loved the world that he sent his innocent Son to pay the price of sin. Believe this and you will have an eternity of bliss; don’t believe and you will be consigned to eternal torment. You couldn’t ask for a more succinct statement of the Christian bottom line. I appreciated it since, thus baldly stated and without an encrustation of pious bromides, the Christian message stood forth as it really, transparently is–bizarre and perverse.

    How, then, do we account for the Sistine Chapel, the St. Matthew Passion, the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, the Grunewald Isenheim Altarpiece, and numerous other masterpieces of music and art inspired by that mythos? How do we account for the many works of charity and goodwill performed in the name of a being who, as Bradley so eloquently states, is a moral monster? Matthew 7:18 says that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, but the history of Christianity belies this. Apparently it can. For all of the fools, fanatics, and hypocrites, there have been many genuinely good people whose goodness, at least in part, was inspired by the Christian mythos.

    I guess it really is not all that mysterious. The Greek gods were petty, vindictive, cruel, spiteful, unfair, vain, impulsive, malicious, adulterous, and homicidal. Very many of the stories of Greek myth concern the really rotten or stupid things the gods did. Hector was far more noble than any of that rag-tag rabble of gods. Yet Greek mythology has inspired as much great music and art as any other. (One of the fascinating things about Renaissance art is how pagan and Christian themes flourished side-by-side.) Humans seem to have a need for myth, for grand, sweeping narratives of cosmic proportions that define the human purpose and place in the Grand Scheme of Things. Such is the human need for a mythos, a Grand Narrative, that even a bad one can be put to good use. Even a bad mythos can be cherry-picked for the good bits. Actually, this makes it sound like more of a conscious choice than it is. Really, humans have an amazing ability to hear what they want to hear and interpret ambiguous information in ways that satisfy their emotional needs. So, “God is love” is what they hear, though a straightforward reading of so much of scripture would make “God hates your guts” more plausible.

    • Bradley Bowen

      … a young, beautiful woman (no, she did not have a four-foot pink beehive) was eloquently summarizing the basic Christian message in all of its simplicity and brutality: All have sinned and earned damnation, but God so loved the world that he sent his innocent Son to pay the price of sin. Believe this and you will have an eternity of bliss; don’t believe and you will be consigned to eternal torment.
      ===============================
      Response:
      Summerization often helps to cut through the bullshit.
      I have a collection of Christian bumper stickers that servers the same purpose.
      For example:
      ETERNITY: Smoking or Non-smoking?

  • Essay Help

    As for me and my House we will serve the Lord Jehovah..period!


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