Is a Theology of Atonement a Ponzi Scheme that Enslaves Us to God?

Is a Theology of Atonement a Ponzi Scheme that Enslaves Us to God? April 28, 2015

7322566042_1db9f433f3_zThere were several reasons I parted ways with my early conservative evangelical roots (among them was that I was thrown out), and trying in vain to accept the idea that Jesus died for my sins was a big one.

Aside from atonement theology (the idea that Jesus’ death paid a debt to God I could not repay myself) painting God as a bloodthirsty bully, it also raises the question of whether personal salvation based on this atonement principle is the greatest Ponzi scheme ever sold from the pulpit.

Perhaps even worse than how this makes God look, it presents a dangerous opportunity for Christians to act fundamentally un-Christ-like. This is because, if there’s a “big payoff” at the end of this rainbow we call life, it would have to be somehow exclusive to those who accept the terms of the deal presented to us. After all, if the reason we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior is for a reward in heaven after death, it wouldn’t really mean as much if everyone got the same treatment in the end.

So here’s the premise:

-You’re destined to be in debt for your sin, either because of free will (but everyone fails the “free will test”), or because of Original Sin (Adam and Eve screwed it up for the rest of us, ad infinitum), depending on your understanding of sin.

-There’s nothing on your own that you can do to pay this debt.

-There is, however, one person/being (God) that took care of your debt for you by sending his son principally for the purpose of being killed in a sort of ritual debt-service transaction.

-The thing is, not even this entirely wipes out the indebtedness. You still have to proclaim Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, or all bets are off.

-Even if you do accept Jesus, and God you sign off on the deal, you still don’t get the “big payoff” rewards (avoidance of eternal suffering in hell) until after you die.

-You are also still expected to work for this deferred compensation for the rest of your life. And chief among your jobs is to sell other people on this same deal so they can be covered under this sin umbrella policy, and then recruit others to to the same, and so on…

-There also is some sense of urgency, because this limited time offer expires the moment you die. And only God knows when that will be, so act now to keep from losing out on this must-have deal.

The one way in which this doesn’t resemble a Ponzi scheme, from what I can tell, is that such schemes tend to screw over the people who ultimately find themselves as the bottom of the proverbial pyramid. Either the product being offered through the scheme runs its course, stops being made or, in a perfect world, everyone in the world is singed on and there’s no one left for the newcomers to recruit.

At least in the Christian model of atonement not being a good recruiter doesn’t negate the offer. But anyone who doesn’t sing on, tragically, is screwed.

The bad news, though, is that in order for it to have value, it makes us act like jerks to everyone else. This is because we have something they need – in fact they’re lost without it – and the only solution is to become more like us.

That is at the very heart of any Ponzi scheme pitch.

Aside from this, we’re beholden to this contract we make with God for as long as we live. We’re charged with working for God for the rest of our days, and we trust/hope/pray that the deal will be honored. From my perspective, this is fairly indistinguishable from indentured servitude.

If we believe in a God of unconditional love and grace, however, it seems we have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to also believe that we have to proclaim that Jesus paid our our debt, or else no deal. If God’s love indeed is unconditional, by definition there can be no caveats. Otherwise it’s favor, not love. There’s preference shown, an inside and an outside.

And given that Jesus himself was intent throughout his ministry on eradicating the very notion of favor and insiders versus outsiders, this theology of atonement paints God as particularly un-Christ-like.

Grace is only grace if it’s offered without condition. Love really only becomes love when, likewise, it has no strings attached. Personally, I choose to believe in a God that really offers love and grace freely, and that would not set up a man the likes of Jesus to be tortured and killed.

We are capable of such brutal acts on our own, without God’s help.

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  • Rust Cohle

    Brilliant analysis of how Christianity turns Christians—including Jesus himself—into Christlike Jerks!

    Also see: Avolos, H. (2015) The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics. Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd.

    Fortunately, the “Adam-Eve-original sin” premise of Jesus’ salvation scheme has been thoroughly debunked by geneticists.

    The facts first. Sheehan et al., building on earlier work by Li and Durbin (references in margin), calculated that the minimum population size associated with the worldwide expansion of humans out of Africa roughly 100,000 years ago was 2,250 individuals, while the population that remained in Africa was no smaller than about 10,000 individuals. For population geneticists, this is the “effective population size,” invariably smaller than the census size, so these are minimum estimates, and ones derived from conservative assumptions. The population sizes are estimated by back-calculating (based on reasonable estimates of mutation rates and other genetic parameters) how small an ancestral population could be and still give rise to the observed level and structure of genetic variation in our species.

    Note: 2,500 is larger than two.

    This means, of course, that Adam and Eve couldn’t have been the literal ancestors of all humanity. Normally, such a scientific trashing of scripture could be absorbed, at least by liberal theologians. They’d just reinterpret Adam and Eve as metaphors. But that causes big trouble on two counts. First, if there really were 2,000 or more ancestors, then all of them must have transgressed to bring original sin into the world. That is hard to fathom: did everyone do something bad at the same time?

    Second, if Adam and Eve were metaphors, and the source of original sin is mysterious, then we have no idea why Jesus died. After all, his death and Resurrection occurred precisely to save us sinful humans from the transgressions of Adam and Eve. If you have to turn that story into a metaphor, then Jesus died for that metaphor.

    Jerry Coyne (2013) Scientists Try to Reconcile Adam and Eve Story, Whiff. Again. New Republic.

  • bibleandbeeswax

    This is one of the saddest things I’ve read all week. From what I gather, you assume that the premises you posit (you are in debt to God; you cannot pay this debt; God paid the debt via atonement) are untrue, or at least the third premise is untrue. Then, you look at the people who do believe the third premise, and wonder, “What is it that they’re doing when they evangelize if what I believe is objectively true?” And your conclusion is that it is a Ponzi scheme to get more people in the system. Unfortunately, I think there are some large flaws in your logic. But I don’t want to address all of them–just two things. First, your statement that Christians are effectively forced to preach about Jesus or else they don’t get “avoidance of hell” is just a huge oversimplification, and a form of negative theology. It’s not like Christians preach in order to avoid hell. They preach because they have believed in the promise of eternal life, and want others to believe God’s promises and receive forgiveness.
    Second, you state at the end, “If God’s love indeed is unconditional, by definition there can be no caveats. Otherwise it’s favor, not love. There’s preference shown, and inside and an outside.” I think this, of course, is just your personal preference in theology. And I do hope you wonder, “How much stock should I put in my own made up view of God–that He loves everyone equally and forgives everyone equally?” I know that you like the idea, and are upset by a picture of a God who looks different from your own desires, but honestly man, what if God is different than you want Him to be? What if the Scriptures actually communicate accurately what God is like? The Scriptures teach that God does choose some and not others. He chose Isaac, not Ishmael. He chose Jacob, not Esau. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart to display His own glory, and freed Israel. Jesus Himself teaches that anyone who comes to Him, He will not turn away–but the one who comes to Him, comes because the Father who sent Jesus, draws that person to Jesus. Further, Jesus calls the Pharisees, “children of your father, the devil” and suggests that they will face “the greater condemnation” for their misguided teaching about God. Jesus says that it would have been better for Judas to never have been born. Jesus makes distinctions. Jesus offers forgiveness with the conditions of repentance and faith. Jesus tells us to “go therefore into all the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

    • Warren

      First, your statement that Christians are effectively forced to preach about Jesus or else they don’t get “avoidance of hell” is just a huge oversimplification, and a form of negative theology. It’s not like Christians preach in order to avoid hell. They preach because they have believed in the promise of eternal life, and want others to believe God’s promises and receive forgiveness.

      You say that Christians don’t preach out of fear, but then you turn around and say this:

      And I do hope you wonder, “How much stock should I put in my own made up view of God–that He loves everyone equally and forgives everyone equally?” I know that you like the idea, and are upset by a picture of a God who looks different from your own desires, but honestly man, what if God is different than you want Him to be?

      How is that not about fear? How can any religion be about something other than fear when you can get damned eternally for thinking the wrong things?

      • bibleandbeeswax

        Warren, if I believed I was personally damned, and the way of escape was through evangelism, then that would be a religion of fear. But God provides the way of escape through Christ. I preach Jesus as Savior and Lord because I love Him for saving me, not because I’m afraid I’ll be damned. As John says, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

        • Warren

          Right there, in black and white, you try to convince Piatt to preach about your own version of Jesus by asking “What if you’re wrong? What if Jesus isn’t an all-loving and all-merciful god but rather is the sort of god who tortures people forever if they think the wrong things?”.

          So, how does that hypothetical end? “You’re going to feel very silly in the afterlife and we’ll all have a great big laugh at your expense”? No, you clearly mean to imply that either Piatt or those he preaches to will end up in hell, and that he should preach your “good news” instead to avoid that.

          Your entire post boils down to “We don’t preach out of fear; now preach with us or everyone you love will burn for eternity!”; you’ll have to forgive me if I find that a little disingenuous.

          • bibleandbeeswax

            Wow, Warren. I think you’ve twisted my words, and misread my intentions. But I’m a little confused by what you’re meaning when you say, “you clearly mean to imply that either Piatt or those he preaches to will end up in hell, and that he should preach your ‘good news’ instead to avoid that.” Are you saying that I think a person has to preach or else that individual will go to hell? That would be a terrible motivation for preaching (out of fear). Now, if you are saying a person preaches because they want others to be saved (preaching out of love)–then yes, of course, I believe that. It would be utterly unloving of me to not tell you about salvation in Jesus if I believed you would be condemned to eternal fire without faith in Him.

          • Warren

            If I’ve misread you, feel free to correct me. You asked Piatt to consider the consequences if he turns out to be wrong. You further implied that your own conception of God is far less merciful than Piatt’s. From this, I infer that you mean “If you are wrong, then you are underestimating God’s wrath, so you will not try hard enough to avert God’s wrath, resulting in people being damned that you could have saved had you tried harder.”

            Is that an accurate representation of your argument? And, if not, what am I missing?

          • bibleandbeeswax

            I think I’m finally getting your original comment. Sorry if I misunderstood you! I thought you were saying that the person doing the evangelism was only preaching because they were terrified they’d be damned if they didn’t. I apologize if I wasn’t kinder in response to you.
            Let me see if I’ve got your logic straight:
            1. Piatt argues that a person who believes in particular (not universal) redemption, is trapped in a system where they, out of fear for their loved ones, promote and disseminates this system of belief.
            2. I, in the end, suggest to Piatt that he reconsider his beliefs.
            3. You “infer that I mean” Piatt underestimates God’s wrath, and should then evangelize.
            4. Therefore, I am fueling the system presented in #1.

            The problem with the whole equation is number 1. If the first premise is untrue, then the conclusion isn’t supported. I didn’t address the logical problems with Piatt’s argument, initially, but I’d be happy to point them out if you’re interested.

    • Without Malice

      The force of superstition is strong with the Brown family. There is, quite simply, not one shred of evidence that anything taught by Christianity is true. There was never an Adam and Eve to taint us with their original sin. There was never a Garden of Eden, or a talking snake, or a talking donkey, or a world-wide flood (how can anyone worship a god who would do such a thing?), the Jews were never slaves in Egypt, there was never an exodus or a Moses, and Jesus didn’t walk on water or turn water to wine and if he was killed by the Romans he’s still dead after all these years.

      • bibleandbeeswax

        Without Malice,
        Your logic is fallacious as you are arguing from “absence of evidence”. You also are arguing within a vicious cycle. You assume empiricism, and then throw out any events that don’t fit into your criteria, events which could disprove your empirical assumption.
        Further, you don’t need empirical evidence to believe in the existence of a variety of historical events. You either trust the witnesses to the events based upon their internal cogency or you don’t trust them.

        • Without Malice

          My logic is fallacious? So there really was a six day creation, an Adam and Eve, a talking serpent, a world wide flood, a man that could walk on water and turn water to wine (just like Dionysus) and rise from the dead (along with many saints on the day of the crucifixion). And just what events could disprove anything I said? There are no such events. As for witnesses, you don’t have any, have never met any, have never met anyone who has met any of these so-called witnesses. And I don’t know who came up with the idiotic saying that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence but it’s quite obvious to anyone with half a brain that absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence. As for the so-called witnesses internal cogency, the gospels contradict each other in numerous ways and when it comes to the gospel of John you may as well be talking about an entirely different Jesus than from the synoptic gospels. The gospels are not history, they are fiction.

          • bibleandbeeswax

            Yes, your logic is fallacious. You are arguing that those events didn’t occur because there is no evidence, aside from the witness of Scripture, and you haven’t met a living eye witness. That’s like saying that Plato can’t have existed because you haven’t met a living eye witness who can verify that for you, and all of the texts we have about Plato just sound ridiculous to you. You also support your argument with hyped up rhetoric like, “it’s quite obvious to anyone with half a brain”. This essentially suggests that I am mentally impaired for trusting in what Scripture says about historical events. That’s not an argument. That’s just empty rhetoric.

            As for your response about the lack of internal cogency, your arguments about contradiction and “stealing” from other mythology are actually decent arguments. I disagree, however, and think that most or all supposed contradictions can be reconciled if we understand the literary agendas of the individual authors. Some of the contradictions are also resolved by textual criticism. And the whole “they stole so and so’s mythology” is just tiring to me. You ever seen this one about the mythicists?

          • Without Malice

            If the Brown Family wants to live in a demon haunted world of myth and legend that contains nary a slim thread of logic holding it together, that’s your business. But the science in conclusive and overwhelming: the universe in nearly 14 billions years old, and the earth over 4 billion years old. Mankind is here because of evolution, not some special creation by a supernatural being. And no, the contradictions in the bible cannot be reconciled – either Luke or Matthew is wrong about when Jesus was born – and the supernatural aspects of the bible cannot be reconciled with modern science. The entire book (the bible) is myth, legend, old wives tales, fairy tales, and lies from beginning to end. No one knows who wrote 90% of the NT and nobody knows who wrote any of the OT. There is not one fact to back up any of the beliefs of Christianity. The idea that the eternal fate of billions of people hangs on whether or not they accept as true a bunch of fantastic precepts that have no evidence to back them up is not only ridiculous but absolutely unjust. As for Plato, no one is sure whether he lived or not, it makes no difference if he did or not. What matters are the ideas presented in the writings that speak of him, and no ones eternal soul is in jeopardy over whether they believe in him or not.

    • John McCauslin

      God chose Ishmael and Esau as well, just not for the same purposes that God chose Jacob or Isaac. In fact God chose Cain and Judas as well. We are all children of God and a theology that teaches sacred benefits to a limited few teaches about a morally ambiguous God.

      There is much in the book of Job that addresss this subject, as it explores what is and is not the nature of God’s justice, and the risks posed by presuming that God’s justice is essentially punitive or anything less than compassionate, forgiving, generous, and even extravagant. Jesus command is simple: love one another as I have loved you. It does not include a warning that if we fall short, as we will, somebody has to die to quench God’s human – like obsession for retribution.

      • bibleandbeeswax

        I agree with your assessment of Job. It is, in some sense, about how God’s providence, particularly spelled out in the suffering of a Yahwist’s life, doesn’t entail punitive justice to that individual. But it’s really addressing the suffering Believer. But don’t you ignore the remainder of Scripture that argues that God will, in fact, bash in the teeth of the wicked (Ps. 3:7), and that His Messiah will dash the rebellious to pieces like pottery (Ps. 2:9)? Jesus Himself says He will come to judge the world, and say to many “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41). Jesus further says that He will “separate the sheep from the goats” (Mt. 25: 32). The logic of Scripture is basically–either Jesus bears justice for you, or you will bear it on the last day.

        • John McCauslin

          I suspect that the judgment of Jesus as well as the judgment of God will resemble more the conduct of Jesus on the cross, that is the forgiveness of those who crucified him and the acceptance of the fellow crucifixion victim into paradise. The acceptance of the thief into heaven regardless of his deeds speaks volumes about God’s attitude towards retribution. There are no pure sheep nor pure goats. We are all broken vessels, and all in need of grace. And I hardly think there’s any rational or evidentiary basis whatsoever to think that the transcendent and universe-creating God has any interest in bashing in the teeth of wrong doors.

          • bibleandbeeswax

            Your universalism is unwarranted, though I know you’re trying to prove it from Christ’s attitude on the cross. You do realize that the other thief has no such assurance of salvation, right? He mocks Jesus and we never see a display of his trust in Jesus as King and Savior. But the other thief says, “Jesus, when you come into your Kingdom, remember me.” He trusts that Jesus is the King and can save him.

            You’re entirely right, “the acceptance of the thief into heaven regardless of his deeds speaks volumes about God’s attitude towards retribution”. Yes. It does. God will forgive the one who believes on Jesus, and the thief is the prime example of that. God will freely forgive anyone who turns and believes His promises. He says that He does not desire the death of the wicked, but wants them to turn from their ways and live (Ez. 18:23; 33:11). Jesus longed to gather Jerusalem into His arms, but they were not willing (Mt. 23:37; Lk. 13:34). He does not want to punish them, but He is just. There’s plenty of rational evidence demanding that God be just, and the thrust of all Scripture is that God will come on the last day in judgment.

          • John McCauslin

            I am not trying to prove it. I just can’t help but feel that God intended for me to pay attention to Jesus’s words from the cross, so I listen. And what I hear is a refusal to condemn, even the worst among us, and a ready willingness to embrace all of God’s children. I hear from Jesus about God’s awareness that we all are less than we can be, yet we all possess the image of God within, and that image is beloved by God, unconditionally. How divine judgment works is unclear to me, how love works, including divine love, is a little more clear. .

            You obviously hear something else from God, and that is as it should be.

            So I worry less about God’s judgment, and I worry less about punishment, retribution and vengeance, and I spend more time concerned with expanding my own circle of acceptance. You and I both construct a golden calf in place of the one true God we share, that is to say, we both have our divine images upon which we project what we hope to find in God, I just hope that in our imaginings we both end up giving due honor to the God we share.

    • Powerglide

      How in the world could I or anyone be in debt to God (presuming for the sake of argument that such a thing exists.)

  • Without Malice

    The undeniable truth is that the gospels and epistles are so contradictory, even within the text of each, that no coherent doctrine can be gleaned from any of them. And since we have no idea who wrote the gospels, or who wrote half the letters of Paul that are known forgeries, or who wrote the letters bearing the names of James, or Jude, or John, or Peter; the only logical thing to do is declare it all to be nothing but fiction and stop ascribing to them the importance they do not deserve. Live life in the now – hopefully in a way that will make the world a better place – and let the afterlife take care of itself.

  • PremiumOsmium

    That’s pretty good. In addition, I found the whole doctrine to be morally repugnant and irresponsible. Consider: If you are somehow convinced that you deserve eternal punishment for some reason, and that the only just thing for God to do is sentence you to eternal damnation, then why would you try to get out of it by letting Jesus pay for it?

    Think about it. If you commit a crime and later come to regret it, and even become convinced that you deserve to go to jail because of it, what is the morally responsible thing to do? Turn yourself in to the police and face justice? Or try to let somebody else take the fall in your place? What if you had a friend who loved you so much that he was willing to confess to your crime and serve the sentence you deserve in your place? Somebody who would let an innocent person take the fall for his own misdeeds is nothing short of a monster.

    And yet this is exactly the kind of person you are if you believe in the penal substitutionary atonement doctrine!

    • Frank

      Yes you use a lot of “i’s”. Like Piatt you have simply made and follow your own god.

      • PremiumOsmium

        No, I don’t follow any gods because I don’t believe in any gods.

        • Frank

          Then you are your god.

          • PremiumOsmium

            Um… no. I just said that I don’t believe in any gods. How can I be my thing I don’t believe in? You’re not making sense.

          • Frank

            You are counting on your own “authority” and thus are your own god.

          • PremiumOsmium

            What in the world does that even mean, I’m “counting on my own authority”? That I’m using my own brain and powers of reason to make decisions and reach conclusions? Whose else would I use?

          • Frank

            For some one who I bet would claim they are so aware and self aware you certainly don’t act like it.

          • PremiumOsmium

            And now here comes the nonsensical personal attack.

          • Frank

            Thanks for proving my point.

  • Yea. Thanks for this. I never thought of it as a ponzi scheme till now, but the metaphor works for me. For me these days, if Jesus’ death on the cross has to have a meaning, it’s that God has chosen to suffer along with us.

  • Andy Mangum

    I’d like to disagree–in a friendly, conversational way–with your characterization of atonement theology. Atonement is an area of theology more than a precisely defined doctrine. Atonement does assume that something separates or separated humanity from God and that God has acted in some way to overcome the separation. I see it as synonymous with ministry of reconciliation. There are plenty of theological assumptions in that definition. However, you seem to be defining all atonement theologies with particulars that a person may not mean when they speak of atonement. I think there are ways to talk about atonement without using a financial metaphors, insisting that people who don’t believe are condemned, or necessarily talking about blood.

  • Aquino09

    Exit: Atonement theology Penal Substitution (Luther)

    Enter: Atonement theology Vicarious Satisfaction

    It is not a legal matter but a FAMILIAL one. Theology of PARTICIPATION. Christ as Head who Draws all men to Himself!!!

    “If we speak of that satisfactory punishment, which one takes upon oneself voluntarily, one may bear another’s punishment…. If, however, we speak of punishment inflicted on account of sin, inasmuch as it is penal, then each one is punished for his own sin only, because the sinful act is something personal. But if we speak of a punishment that is medicinal, in this way it does happen that one is punished for another’s sin.”

    — Thomas Aquinas

    Christ is the only one who can enact restorative Justice for Original Sin

    Great Article:

    • Powerglide

      It’s in no sense justice to ‘punish’ A for crimes committed by B.

  • Martin

    Christian, what you have explained sums up pretty much a number of peoples view I have experienced when discussing Salvation.

    Can I offer a slightly different narrative?

    In the beginning was God.

    God as Trinity was and is the source of love.

    Out of that love; creation was spoken into existence, with a purpose, to have a purpose and on purpose.

    That creation was Good.

    That creation involved a spiritual realm as well as the physical one.
    That realm, heaven, consisted and consists of created spiritual entities with mind and will.

    For a reason that we are not completely told, possibly Jealousy but more likely pride, Lucifer, a cherubim (hope my memory proves correct) decided he wanted to be equal with God and maybe surpass him.

    There has been speculation that he foresaw the destiny of human kind and that one day God would not only become one himself, but raise humanity up to sit on the throne of the universe. A destine that he as someone initially superior to mankind did not like or think they deserved.

    So he rebelled.

    And it was a pretty impressive rebellion taking up to a 3rd of the created angels with him.

    So here’s the first major problem.

    Angels ARE far superior than humans, they see God face to face, they know his perfect will and are fully able to follow it. When they make a decision they make it not just knowing what they are doing but the end result of it. They knew that by rebelling against God, by their own free will, there would be no claim of mistake. It was a perfectly thought through. Their sin can never be compared to a human sin. They see God in a way no human, less Jesus, can experience him. But all sin will share the same eventual fate.

    Now that rebellion was the reason that The lake of fire was created. It was to be the destiny of all the angels that had rebelled.

    But judgment was not to be yet, because God our father had made of people that he wanted to pour himself into, in order to love, to be loved by and lavish with the fullness of the love that exists in all it’s fullness within the trinity.

    So the fallen angels where restrained, (possibly already defeated by Michael the Archangel from heaven.. Difficult to tell if Reverlation is talking outside of time or a point in the future). Either way, Some had access to the heavens, some are able to operate in the physical universe but others are described as as being held in darkness awaiting judgement.

    But Lucifer had not given up his intent to stop humanity being united with God. He decided to lead them to break their originally created perfect relationship with God and make what was holy, tainted through additional acts of rebellion (let’s call rebellion sin).

    This is where I now get to your points.

    Lucifer actually succeeded in ruining the relationship between God and Man. Holy cannot exist with what is unholy and God’s nature of being perfectly Holy means he has to condemn sin for what it is, something outside of his perfect creation and something that needs judging immediately as offensive to him.

    Here was the second problem.

    If God had judged man there and then, he would have had to assign them the same punishment as the fallen angels. But this was not what he had created man for and he was fully aware man was lead into sin rather than thinking up the rebellion out of pride. So what happens…. his love overrides his desire to judge rebellion/sin and he therefore removed his presence of man.

    But now God has a problem. If sin is to judged it requires the death of the sinner (to remove the offence from creation) but man is immortal. How could God ever mitigate the failure of man if man can’t die?

    The solution was to make man mortal according to the flesh. In cursing man he was actually opening up the very means of God saving him.

    By allowing man to die, he would in the future be able after far more rebellion be able to come as a man and provide a perfect sacrifice on behalf of all men by being a perfect sacrifice himself. One that could die.

    And I am of course refering to the cross at Calvary.

    But, and you are right about this, for the offering to be appropriated to a human being, that individual has to respond to Christ and desire to turn away from the rebellion that exists to this day in order to be put right again.

    As much as they can given the light they are given.

    And this is why our bodies are mortal but our souls remained immortal. It allowed God to call into being a day in our future where God will call to account every person that has ever lived and re cloth them with a perfect body to house their immortal soul.

    But what that body is built for will depend on whether we wish to remain in the rebellion and be grouped with Lucifer or be grouped with Christ and be made fit for heaven.

    The narrative you have come out with is one stated from a position of the rebel complaining about having to give up the rebellion and wanting heaven without walking in the life of the Kingdom.

    My view is one of an epic battle that God has given us everything we need to succeed.

    If we have noticed we are a rebel we have the choice thanks to his grace to change sides, put our faith in the works of Christ on the cross, demonstrate that faith in Baptism, receive the constant support of the family of the church and all of its sacraments for strength, times of failure and weakness and good health. The narrative is not about living by trying to achieve legalistic works but making an active choice daily to live life to the full with our God who is our father. A father that knows that we will constantly fall but is ready as soon as we stop rebelling and ask for forgiveness, to pick us back up.

    My final point after a very long post….

    Pride was the sin that condemned the angels and keeps condemning man. A humble and teachable spirit is what enables us to ask for forgiveness from a Father who can’t wait to give it.

    If man ever does go to hell. It will only be because he has become a copy of Satan… Rather let’s lets ourselves be transformed from the inside out and let the Holy Spirit, through Christ end the war.

    • John McCauslin

      A incredible fantasy, wholly without substance, wholly without logic, and way too complicated even to serve as a metaphorical narrative in support of Judeo-Christian faith. Speaking for myself, the notion of an imagined epic battle between created immortal beings is beyond the pale.

      • Martin

        So just so I can understand what you mean by your comment…

        You seem from your profile to accept the concept of God.

        I am presuming you therefore accept that God is a spiritual entity?

        If that is the case I am presuming you accept the concept of angels?

        Presuming you accept the words of Jesus I presume you acknowledge an entity which is called Lucifer / Devil and that he is typically identified as being behind the fall of man?

        Whether you take Genesis literal or not is not really an issue but the point being that an entity identified with the serpent led mankind astray.

        Which bits are you calling a fantasy? And what is your alternative narrative that can be tested against the historical churches tradition.

        • John McCauslin

          I do believe in God. I don’t have any idea what a spiritual entity is, but if you mean an entity which transcends the human senses and perhaps this universe, yes, I accept that God is a spiritual entity. I also believe that in some fashion (beyond my ability to piece together) God created our universe.

          I find the stories of Genesis helpful to meditate upon with respect to the nature of the relationship between God and the world. The serpent is likewise an interesting metaphor, but not to be taken literally. I suspect that we all have a little bit of the serpent within us, that tempts us, that undermines our trust in God, and our relationships with God and with each other.

          Never met an angel, never met an entity named Lucifer.

          I find it unfathomable that there is a self aware force, created by God, yet which is engaged in an “epic battle” with the Creator of a billions of stars with a billion worlds. And I find it incredible that this Lucifer character would waste his or her time fighting a proxy war against the Creator, using humans as pawns. The universe is an awfully large battlefield – so why here; and the arc of time during which the created order has existed, at least 15 billion years, is so vast – so why now?

          And why would this “epic battle” with the Creator be waged within the confines of insignificant human minds and souls, when the created order is so vast and so physical? Such a battle seems awfully human-centered to be anything more or less that a figment of human imagining. And why would the Creator tolerate such a thing? Especially if humanity was the pinnacle (also a touch prideful) of Creation? Why permit a lesser created being, such as Lucifer, interfere with and jeopardize God’s hopes for humanity?

          No epic battle, no war of supernatural beings. Just humans coming to terms with free will, one another, the natural world, and with their Creator. We don’t need help mistrusting God, we need help learning to trust.

          • Martin

            And the first thing we need to trust is the Gospel which starts with the evens in Genesis, and will move into a new phase of existence in revelation.

            Let’s first confirm what we agree on.

            We both accept the existence of God.
            We both agree he created the Universe.

            I think we differ on the place of Man in the order of creation based on what the bible reveals and that is a basis for your first confusion.

            You are presuming, and you maybe right, that there is life out in the universe somewhere. The bible however is silent on that as was Christ, as was the apostles.

            However the fall, (however, or at whatever time it happened) seems to have had a wider impact on creation than just the earth and the people living on it.

            Romans 8 Future Glory
            …19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.…

            This text is based on the fall of man and the hope of everything being put right when God renews creation. (Maybe you will disagree with this).

            If the interpretation of this is correct, then whether we can accept the importance of mankind as central to God’s plan or not, or whether we see it as the height of modern day human pride, is irrelevant. Our sin has somehow ruined it for everything.

            Our sin, inspired by Satan has ruined creations perfection and it waits to be remade or made right.

            That would imply that God holds our actions to the highest account and an account that would trump the right of anything else that may live in the universe.

            It would appear, from God’s perspective as revealed from what we know, God’s view is Human centric.

            Maybe as a side perspective that is why our future destination will matter so much on not only having faith in Christ but love for our fellow human being. Who, if we fail to reach out to (by which we have proved the kind of faith that God expects within us) will mean eternal separation. But that was only an aside.

            But, it does link into your incorrect thinking that humans are pawns. You are totally wrong here. Humans are all created in the image of God, whist there maybe a theoretical amount of other life in the universe, the bible reveals no other material and physical being (to my knowledge) who was to sit on thrones in heaven with Christ. Not even the angels.

            To satan, every person he can corrupt is not so much a victory as a wound he can hurt God with. Humans are actually prize. A prize of such creat worth to God that he became one of them to die for them out of love to save them.

            Why does God tolerate such things? I think partly because there are more people he wants to bring into the world that have not yet been born and Working within the self imposed confines of free will has offered mankind everything he/she needs to make the right choice to come into a relationship with him. Likewise I think it is because he has set a day when he will no longer tolerate such things and everyone will get exactly what they deserve.

            Is it fair? We are told that no one has seen or heard what God has got in store for those that love him and also that he will wipe away every tear. Likewise we are told the lake of fire will receive all those that have proven to be in rebellion with God’s love for man.

            Yes, everything will be put right and we will see God face to face. It will be more than worth it. Everything will be as it was supposed to be… But like I said, we can’t picture that fully yet. We have to trust.

            So there is a third thing we agree on, we have to trust everything the apostles believed in and also the things they taught and passed on and wrote down. If it’s not true, especially about the resurrection it means nothing and we are the biggest fools there are.

            As it is the Holy Spirit is the inner witness. He is evidence of that trust.

            Typed direct to line so apologies for any typo errors.

          • Martin

            Ignore the first to lines not sure how they got there ….. Starts with things we agree on.

          • John McCauslin

            Thank you for your extended response. So I should give you an extended response as well.

            I’m not sure that there is very much upon which we agree.

            Let me begin first by saying that I am not confused. I don’t know what place humans fall into in the order of creation, but I won’t presume to claim a place in that order until God makes that order much more clear. You were right the Bible doesn’t mention any other world nor any other sentient beings. In my theology I leave room for such worlds and such beings, should they ever be discovered or discover us. In fact the men who composed the Bible still thought the sun revolved around the earth. So I don’t expect them to get the science right. I do hope and I trust that their words will reveal truths about God and about God’s relationship with humanity.

            I don’t agree with the understanding that Genesis tells the story of a “Fall”. I also don’t agree that the garden story in Genesis is at all revelatory about a creature you call Lucifer. I don’t have an interpretation from an eight. But I’m sure that I cannot except yours. I do believe that there is a risk of corruption in all human beings in that as children of God it is hoped and expected that all of us will one day bask in the glory of our relationship with the creator. I don’t know whether that glory will be experienced in this world in eternity with God, or in some new phase of this creation. I trust God will take care of that.

            One thing I am certain of is that the sins of human beings have not “ruined” God’s good work. I am certain that God took into account human propensities when God undertook the creation of this universe. I’m also certain that God’s plans and hopes for humanity were developed with the knowledge and awareness of human propensity for sin, and with the anticipation that human sinfulness will ultimately be overcome by God’s grace as manifested in and experienced by humans.

            Whatever perfection there is in God’s creation remains and will always remain regardless of human sinfulness. Moreover Satan did not inspire sin, humans didn’t need any help. The gift of free will included the ability to make wrong decisions and to commit sin.

            God is a God of love and grace not one of rewards and punishments. God’s justice is about healing and wholeness. When we confuse suffering, failure, and pain with God’s justice we offend God. Job did not make this mistake. Job’s friends did make this mistake.

            Our future destination will depend entirely on God’s grace. Baptize whom you will, convert whom you will, preach shame and perdition, and exclude from heaven as you choose, but I am convinced that God’s grace is intended for everyone.

            My discussion of humans as pawns was as part of my characterization of your fantasy war between God and Lucifer. I don’t think humans are pawns at all, I think they are children of God.

            There are no thrones in heaven, Revelation notwithstanding, and I highly doubt there are angels in heaven either. Humans sit on thrones, not spirits and certainly not God. Be careful not to get lost in what are obvious metaphors.

            When I asked rhetorically why God would ‘tolerate’ such things, specifically what I was referring to why was a non-human creature (Lucifer) permitted to interfere with and jeopardize God’s hopes and expectations for God’s creation. The exercise of free will and the making of good choices and bad choices does not depend on the existence of Lucifer. We are quite capable of bad judgment all on our own.

            The problem with your analysis of “trusting” in the words of the apostles is that you and I, and I suspect the apostles themselves, do not agree on what those words mean. My personal belief is that those words are alive with the Holy Spirit, and with each new generation which ponders these words there is a new opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak something new.

            The Holy Spirit can be very dangerous.

        • John McCauslin

          I also don’t need an alternative narrative to describe unseen events which can be used to explain why people do bad things. They do them for any number of very human reasons, all of which in due time, are usually explained. But nothing which has happened in this world requires the depiction of an epic battle between good and bad angels.

  • CoolHandLNC

    Not Ponzi, but Multi-Level Marketing. Same idea, though. I feel a little sorry for the people who buy into it who imagine that there is still some vast untapped pool of people in the US who somehow have never heard the sales pitch. Just a little.

  • Powerglide

    Christianity isn’t the only religion that makes benefits conditional on propagation. Even some forms of Buddhism (e.g., Soka Gakkai) do.