Morality And The Wrath Of God

Apologetics, Ethics, Philosophy, Religion — By on October 5, 2009 at 10:10 pm

One of the major objections to Christianity raised by some atheists is that the God of the Bible does not seem to be a good God. In contrast to the popular portrayals of a benign and merciful Jesus who loves everyone, God (the Father) seems wrathful and angry. Nothing epitomizes this wrathful attitude more than Hell. The idea that a good God could willingly send anyone to a place of eternal punishment is unthinkable to the atheist.

The corollary to this moral objection against the character of God Himself is an objection to the potential actions of those who believe in this deity. It is alleged by many atheists that religious people in general, and Christians in particular, are prone to acts of violence, bigotry, and a host of other morally objectionable things because they follow a wrathful God who promotes an “us versus them” mentality. Between the crusades and the inquisition by Christians, and holy wars and terrorism by Muslims, it is supposed that monotheists are quite dangerous indeed.

I will leave the question of God’s character for another time. Here I would simply like to address the charge that Christians are potentially more dangerous than non-religious folk because they follow a “wrathful” God (I place wrathful in scare quotes not because God is not wrathful, but because wrath is by no means His only, or even his primary attribute).

On the surface this seems like a reasonable charge. God is said to hate sin, and because He is just and holy He will punish unbelievers for all eternity. If we as believers are to be like God, surely it is good and praiseworthy for us to engage in the punishment of unbelievers on this earth? If unbelievers take over Washington, why not stage a crusade to take back the nation for Christ?

Paul says in Romans 12:19,

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Here we see the ironic twist. Christians are called not to seek vengeance in this life, and in the next chapter of Romans Paul will exhort the church to subject itself to the ruling authorities (even authorities that persecute Christians) because they are appointed by God. And why are Christians to “turn the other cheek” rather than seeking just vengeance in this life? What reason does Paul give? Christians are not to be meek and loving in spite of God’s wrath and justice, but because of it. And this makes a lot of sense. For one thing, humans are finite. We cannot possibly know everything about a person or situation, so how can we pass judgment in vengeance (especially ultimate and permanent judgment)? Imagine a Christian who kills an unbeliever who would, had he lived to an old age, have converted to Christianity. Such a scenario shows the folly of religious war. Second, humans are fallen. Many times we may claim to be seeking only impartial justice for some wrong done, but in reality our motives are tainted by personal bias and sinful desire.

God, on the other hand, has perfect knowledge and his judgments are not tainted by sin. So it only makes sense that we would be counseled to refrain from making such judgments and attempting to do God’s work for Him. Instead, we should wait in humility (even when suffering unjust persecution) for God’s perfect justice. ‘



  • http://www.ricklannoye.com Rick Lannoye

    Actually, it’s not just us atheists who find the belief that God intends to torture billions of people for all eternity unthinkable, but Jesus himself felt the same way!

    I’ve actually written an entire book on this topic–”Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There’s No Such Place As Hell,” (for anyone interested, you can get a free Ecopy of my book at my website: http://www.ricklannoye.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

    If one is willing to look, there’s substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: “You don’t know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!” Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

    So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

    True, there are a few statements that made their way into the gospels which place Hell on Jesus lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

  • GeorgeRic

    Back in 1883 Edwin Abbott wrote ‘Flatland’. He uses it to give an understanding of contiguous geometric worlds, each existing at a higher level of dimensions. Today ‘Techie Worlds’ is available. Written for people with a mechanistic understanding of our world, it looks at ridiculous Christian teachings, such as Trinity, soul, resurrection and judgment. In so doing, ‘Techie Worlds’ follows science’s lead in examining phenomena in the light of theory. Contiguous dimensional worlds provide a logical, mechanical explanation for those phenomena.
    So an intelligent, intellectually honest and open-minded person has excellent reason to hold religious views. In the light of Pascal’s wager, people would be foolish to deny Christian teaching or to hold Moslem or pagan beliefs.
    ‘Techie Worlds, Visible & Invisible’ is available from amazon.com.

    GeorgeRic

  • Believer

    I believe Rick you misunderstood Jesus’ response to the disciples.

    Luke 9:55 Some manuscripts add an expanded conclusion to verse 55 and an additional sentence in verse 56: And he said, “You don’t realize what your hearts are like. 56 For the Son of Man has not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them.”

    Does not say they will not go to eternal darkness.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    Another article where some arrogant Christian cherry picks the bible & thinks they have everything all figured out. All the Atheists, believers in other faiths and millions of other believers from the Christian faith have just got it all wrong? Believers, Christians included are more dangerous then non-believers. History is packed full of examples of Christians persecuting and torturing and murdering others strictly because they are mandated by what they believe their version of truth is from a magic book. No other reason, & that is the important distinction.

    You show your dogmatic logic to be scary and deluded stating that:

    “Imagine a Christian who kills an unbeliever who would, had he lived to an old age, have converted to Christianity. Such a scenario shows the folly of religious war.”

    THAT SHOWS THE FOLLY OF RELIGIOUS WAR?

    Are you serious?? You are a seriously dangerous individual if the 1st reason you identify against people being murdered for their beliefs or lack of, is just because they cant be converted then later on in life. Nothing to do with the horrific violence, pain & suffering that war causes. So following your logic. A life is only of value in that some1 might potentially become a Christian.

    You have spectacularly owned goaled with that article and shown quite clearly that Christian’s are more dangerous then non believers.

  • http://orderofsaintpatrick.org Timuchin

    In the story of Genesis, the first people were given a promise of death for only one thing. They did that one thing. Death was their due because God is just. BUT, He postponed justice so they could have offspring who would also have postponed justice. Without that none of us would be here. The clock is ticking for humanity.

    The Israelites didn’t want to be saved; they just didn’t want to be slaves anymore. For the sake of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob God had to motivate these people back to the promised land. They weren’t interested in God’s love. But they did respect God’s power. Thus they got more stick than carrot.

    Yeshua the Messiah was sent to be the loophole in the Father’s justice so those who received him — past, present and future — could be saved from the doom that was still coming for everyone else. It was the Father that sent His only begotten son to do that.

    Satan didn’t get free from his judgment due to rebellion. He didn’t get free by God excusing Adam & Eve. And since he isn’t human like the Son, he couldn’t get free through Jesus’ sacrifice. All he can do is get his human lackies to complain about how God is unfair not to excuse him!

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    MakeTheMostOfLife,

    You obviously exaggerate your historical claims, but besides that History is also packed full of examples of non-Christians who persecuted, tortured and murdered other people, so that doesn’t really prove anything. It only shows first hand that the Bible’s teaching about human depravity because of the Fall is very reasonable.

    Second, you completely misunderstood my comment about the folly of religious war. Notice that I specifically said *religious* war, not just war in general. Everyone believes (or at least claims to) that war is bad without just cause. In the case of religious war, it is alleged that justification comes from the fact that we ought to kill those who do not convert to our religion. While this might be true for some other faiths such as Islam (I’m not saying that it is), it is fundamentally opposed to Christian ideals because Christianity seeks to spread itself by conversion (and the New Testament, which describes the missionary work of the early church, gives no warrant for conversions by force or violence). It makes no sense whatsoever to kill someone who doesn’t convert on the spot, because for all we know that person could convert later in life. It is especially absurd for those Christians of a Reformed persuasion, who believe that it is up to the Holy Spirit to convert someone, not men.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    No is not exaggerated, but interesting that your answer is

    “History is also packed full of examples of non-Christians who persecuted, tortured and murdered other people, so that doesn’t really prove anything.”

    Christian’s are always the one claiming moral authority over others, many claiming you can’t be good without God. So Christian’s have murdered and tortured millions of people in the last 2000 years……. But let ignore that because Non-Christians, who we morally look down on did it too.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    MakeTheMostOfLife,

    Again you ignore the issue at hand. The point is not what any individual Christian has done. The point is what Christianity actually teaches. My contention is that Christianity does not give anyone warrant to murder or torture or persecute. This is a factual claim that can be verified by reading the Bible, specifically the New Testament. So would I claim that Christianity has a superior morality to non-Christian worldviews? Yes. If I go out and rob a bank today or kill someone for not converting to Christianity have I thereby proved Christianity’s morality to be false? Of course not, I’ve only proved that I’m a hypocrite who is inconsistent with my professed beliefs (or perhaps I just don’t understand what Christianity teaches).

    In short, you’re not showing that Christians are any more wicked than non-Christians, you’re simply showing that Christians can be hypocrites like everyone else.

  • Benjamin

    Hey, me again. David, while I wouldn’t seek to invalidate your reading of the bible (if only because to do so I would have to read it all the way through myself) you don’t really do anything here to refute the charge that Christians are potentially more dangerous than non-religious folk. Indeed, in the comment directly above this one, you seem to concede the entire point when you say that what any individual Christian has done isn’t necessarily what Christianity teaches. To summarize, you respond to the charge that Christians are potentially more dangerous than non-religious folk by saying “sure, Christians are potentially more dangerous than non-religious folk, but not all of them all the time.” Which doesn’t refute it.

    If you were responding to objections raised by some atheists that all Christians everywhere are evil regardless of how they read their bible, then you would have soundly refuted it. However, I don’t think that any reasonable atheist would ever have made that claim.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Hey Ben,

    I never conceded that Christians were potentially MORE dangerous than anyone else. If anything I would simply concede what you originally said, that Christians are only AS dangerous as anyone else.

    In fact, the whole notion that religious people are more dangerous than non-religious people seems absurd on its face, without any further consideration, if only because the unstated premise in that claim would seem to be that non-religious people aren’t capable of having any strong (and potentially irrational) convictions that could lead them to extreme acts. And let’s not forget that more people were killed in the 20th century in the name of reason, progress, and host of other anti-religious ideas than were killed in the name of Christianity in the last 2,000 years.

  • Benjamin

    Saying that they ARE as dangerous as somebody else doesn’t preclude them being POTENTIALLY more dangerous than anybody else at all. Hitler, (just because he’s the easiest 20th century Dangerous Individual to point to) was Catholic, let’s keep in mind.

    In the name of non-Christian ideas, perhaps, but what was the professed religion of most of those who did the killing? :3

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Ok, let me rephrase. I still see no argument for thinking that religious people are even *potentially* more dangerous than non-religious people, since such an argument would have to prove that non-religious people aren’t as likely to have “radical” ideas or engage in radical acts. I contend that a cursory reading of 20th century history (not to mention a 5-minute viewing of any 24 hour news channel in America) shows that to be a silly claim.

    “In the name of non-Christian ideas, perhaps, but what was the professed religion of most of those who did the killing?”

    Since I doubt either of us has (or could have) any idea as to the answer to this question, I don’t see the point in asking. But even if a professing Christian kills someone in the name of an un-Christian idea, the fault would still be with the idea that resulted in the killing, not the other beliefs the person claims to hold.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    David Nilsen

    You sir are cheery picking the Bible. Here are some other example of what Christianity also ACTUALLY teaches, as per the gospels of the New Testament:

    For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall he called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
    —MATTHEW 5:18-19

    The apostles regularly echo this theme (for example, see 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

    If you think that Jesus taught only the Golden Rule and love of one’s neighbour, you should reread the New Testament. Pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display when Jesus returns to earth trailing clouds of glory:

    God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…
    —2 THESSALONIANS 1:6-9

    If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.
    —JOHN 15:6

    I (Jesus) come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword
    —Matthew 10:34

    There is no place in the New Testament where Jesus objects to the practice of slavery. St. Paul even admonishes slaves to serve their masters well—and to serve their Christian masters especially well:

    Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ….
    —EPHESIANS 6:5

    The truth is that the teachings of the Bible are muddled and self-contradictory. Because of this it was possible for Christians to happily burn heretics alive for five long centuries. It was also even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed outright (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently – though isn’t it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith failed?

    A Christian, (like a Jew, or a Muslim etc), is more dangerous then a non-believer FACT.

    Whatever belief you have or lack thereof, you will always have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things. For good people to do bad things happens in countless cases because of religion.

    More than 300 children have died in the last 25 years in the USA because parents have withheld medical treatment that contradicts their faith, and have furiously preyed while their child dies in front of them believing that God/Jesus will cure their child.

    Are they bad people?

    People who murder Abortion doctors. These are people who believe beyond all doubt that they are doing God desire & this action even though gets then the death penalty in some cases, will get them into Heaven.

    There are infinite examples of good people doing bad things because & ONLY BECAUSE of their faith.

  • Benjamin

    If worldly ideas are more to blame for negative acts than the perpetrator’s beliefs, what value does Christianity have to the world at large? By the same reasoning, in the event of a Christian doing something immensely charitable or kind (it happens on occasion, I’ve read about it), it would be because of the circumstances of suffering said person observed around them and their own innate desire to help, certainly not because of their religion, right?

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Ben, I’m concerned only with conscious beliefs (at this point, at least). So if a professing Christian does some act of kindness or charity, not because of love or gratitude toward Jesus or simply because the Bible says so, but rather because it makes them feel good inside, then of course I wouldn’t say that Christianity is responsible (since anyone, religious or not, can do kind things because it makes them feel good). Likewise, if a professing Christian kills someone, not because they believe the Bible tells them to, but because of some secular, scientific ideas about eugenics or something, then Christianity is hardly to blame. In either case, the point to be seen is that people often hold to contradictory beliefs without realizing that they’re being inconsistent, and you can’t blame one belief on the other.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    An example of Christianity killing someone:

    A believer let his daughter die because of his Christian beliefs.

    “A US jury has found a man guilty of killing his sick 11-year-old daughter by praying for her recovery rather than seeking medical care.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8180116.stm

    Christian belief here is directly to blame. This person is convinced they were doing the ‘right thing’. Take away belief in God and an afterlife and this would not have happened. Its a key example of a (probably) good person committing a horrific act because of interpretation of the magic book. NO OTHER REASON. He thought beyond all doubt he was doing the best thing for his daughter.

    A comment about the story, from somebody suffering from the same type of diabetes:

    “Her death must have been EXTREMELY painful and horrible. If I get no insulin for one day, I will be in a very bad mood, two days, worse, 3 I will start coughing blood and after that I will most likely end in a coma or die (give it a week or so).. Her death must have been HORRIBLE, it is one of the worst feelings you could imagine having high blood sugar, your body burning every piece of fat it can find in an attempt to get sugar to the brain, which it cant as no insulin is available to use it.”

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    MakeTheMostOfLife,

    Your comments remain more rhetoric than substance, and I doubt it will do much good to debate this issue with you, but to respond briefly: The “anti-medicine” belief you mention is not a Christian doctrine, indeed Christians have been involved in and remain involved in medicine (and medical advancement) for 2,000 years. In addition, I personally know several people who are just as anti-medicine, anti-hospitals, etc., NOT because of religious beliefs, but because of their (supposedly) scientific belief in “alternative” and “all-natural” cures and their belief that modern medicine is only harmful.

    In any case, since you continue to cherry pick the most extreme examples you can find rather than dealing with what is mainstream, historical Christianity, I will assume that you have no interest in genuine dialog, only steamrolling over others with your rhetoric. Feel free to have the last word.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    David Nilsen,

    “The “anti-medicine” belief you mention is not a Christian doctrine”

    Here you go again claiming Christian doctrine authority. Would stake the life of your own child on your exact interpretation of God and the Bible???

    This person did. They no doubt have a stronger belief then you in God, to watch your child die firmly believing God will intervene and heal their child. Yet you are the one here claiming all other Christians are wrong, & you have the exact interpretation correct.

    You keep deflecting points:

    “I personally know several people who are just as anti-medicine, anti-hospitals, etc., NOT because of religious beliefs, but because of their (supposedly) scientific belief in “alternative” and “all-natural” cures and their belief that modern medicine is only harmful.”

    It’s sad, really it is. You keep coming with this ‘other people I know blah blah who are not religious do it too. That is not any kind of argument.

    YES people who try to cure try to heal people with Homeopathy are dangerous people . Children have died also because of this.

    But it doesn’t take away the fact that this particular child was killed by a father because of a Christian belief. The child died while he prayed. NO OTHER REASON. Religious faith killed that child and shows that actions like that prove that believers and more dangerous then Non-believers.

    The truth is Christianity could and does mean anything to anyone. There is practically no central tenant which you could all even agree one point on. People just make up there own version of what is truth. You can’t disown all the other believers of YOUR FAITH, just because they interpret things different to you. There are Christians out there who will be horrified at your interpretations and think you have it all wrong.

    It seems to me you are not the one interested in genuine dialog, as I have made valid points and counter arguments that you ignore and misdirect.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    MakeTheMostOfLife,

    Since you (mostly) made a good faith effort here at genuine dialog by responding directly to my points (with as little rhetoric as possible), I will go ahead and continue the dialog.

    First, I wasn’t ignoring or misdirecting anything. I think you’re simply confused about the point of this whole conversation. I never claimed that not a single person in the world who claims to be a Christian has done anything evil or extreme in the name of their Christian beliefs. That would be an absurd and unprovable claim. My claim is that religious people, taken as a broad and rather vague group, are no more inherently dangerous or extreme or whatever than non-religious people, because both are capable of holding to extreme views and doing evil things. So I can readily concede your point that this person did an evil and extreme thing in the name of Christianity without at all damaging my case.

    You yourself conceded my case, in fact, by agreeing with me that non-religious people can do the very same thing for non-religious reasons. So in the case of the particular example you have brought up (letting a child die), there is nothing more inherently dangerous about a religious person than a non-religious person. Both can let their own child die in the name of extreme views. Thus my case still stands.

    Second, you talk about how there probably isn’t even one thing that all Christians could agree on and make it sound as though Christianity is nothing more than every individual person with his own unique understanding of the Bible. I have to ask, how much church history and/or historical theology have you studied? First of all, there are approximately 1 billion Christians in the world who are Roman Catholic. Rome has a highly organized church structure, with the Pope at the top, and they believe the official teachings of the church hierarchy to be infallible. As such, modern Roman Catholics must believe the exact same thing about hundreds of points of doctrine in order to be true Roman Catholics. As a Protestant I do not agree with the modern teachings of Rome, but I do not believe that this puts me alone in a corner with my Bible, because I also interpret the Bible in light of the history or tradition of interpretation, including the historic and universally agreed upon creeds, the Reformation consensus, etc. Sorry for this long digression, but I think it’s important to note that there truly is a long history of Christian teaching and that within that long history there are many points of consensus and so you cannot really accuse me of just making up whatever doctrine I feel is convenient for me at the moment. That was the point of my stressing in my last comment that Christians have been involved in medicine and science and made significant progress in both fields for the last 2,000 years. So forgive me if my faith isn’t shaken when you throw out some random example of someone who holds a fringe belief that I don’t believe is even Biblical (or historic).

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    David Nilsen

    Your talking about non-believers as though its another type of religion is frankly flawed.

    Please name me an evil or a wicked act made by a non-believer, because and strictly ONLY because of their non-belief in God.

    A non-believer in the Christian faith, or any faith can certainly hold any number of dangerous delusions by abandoning reason and logic but that that just identifies a different delusion that this person is suffering from.

    Non -Belief in God does not start dangerous is not inherently dangerous

    Taking up belief in:

    Christianity = + More Dangerous
    Scientology = + More Dangerous
    Islam = + More Dangerous
    Homeopathy = + More Dangerous
    Non-belief in modern medicine = + More Dangerous
    ETC

    If a non-believer has become dangerous though abandoning reason and logic to any 1000s of different faith based believes then they are adding their danger potential.

    Christianity is directly responsible for dangerous, evil actions by humans.

    “You yourself conceded my case, in fact, by agreeing with me that non-religious people can do the very same thing for non-religious reasons. So in the case of the particular example you have brought up (letting a child die), there is nothing more inherently dangerous about a religious person than a non-religious person. Both can let their own child die in the name of extreme views.”

    This does not absolve Christianity for its part in the danger. If I Murdered someone only because of my belief in a God, ITS not ok to say well….. Non believers of my God murder people to. IT DOESNT MAKE the murder not the strict fault of that particular delusional belief.

    Ok so you don’t agree with the modern teachings of Rome??? Evil test…..

    Are you against that the Vatican and the Pope are STILL preaching that condom use is sinful in Africa resulting in 1000s of HIV infections?

    Your religion is responsible for untold death and suffering because and once again ONLY BECAUSE of specific Christian belief. Is the actions of the Pope and the Vatican main stream enough for you???

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    You’re still not understanding one of the main points, which is that you cannot put a blanket condemnation on “Christianity” (whatever that might mean) because of the actions of some who claimed to be Christians and claimed that their beliefs were Christian. I went into a lot of detail about the history of interpretation and historical consensus, but at the end of the day I do believe that there is only one correct interpretation of the Bible and I feel perfectly secure and warranted in saying that people who refuse their children medical care are not acting in a consistently Christian way. I could argue for this from the Bible itself.

    Now you’re just dancing around the issue. When non-religious people do something “irrational” are you trying to suggest that it’s always due to religious belief? That seems highly implausible. If you’re not making that suggestion, then you have still conceded my point. It’s also worth noting that it’s possible for someone to be rational in holding to a certain religious belief (they could have been raised a certain way and not know any better, for example), even if the belief is false and leads them to do something evil. So rationality isn’t even at issue here.

    Stalin’s Soviet Russia would be a great place to start if you want to find out about explicitly non-religious (anti-religious, in fact) ideas motivating evil actions (again, more people killed by Stalin than any Christians in history). More to the point, though, (since there’s no point in stacking body counts to see who’s side is “less evil”), do I get to condemn any person who claims to be an atheist or a communist because of the horrific actions of Stalin? Of course not. I would have to make an argument that atheism or communism are INHERENTLY bad and NECESSARILY lead to evil (i.e. the only way for someone to be an atheist and a good person is by being inconsistent). Likewise, such an argument would need to be made about Christianity. Sadly blog comments are not adequate to such a task.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    David Nilson

    “you cannot put a blanket condemnation on “Christianity” (whatever that might mean) because of the actions of some who claimed to be Christians and claimed that their beliefs were Christian. I went into a lot of detail about the history of interpretation and historical consensus, but at the end of the day I do believe that there is only one correct interpretation of the Bible and I feel perfectly secure and warranted in saying that people who refuse their children medical care are not acting in a consistently Christian way”

    O YES I CAN…..

    These people do not CLAIM to be Christian, they ARE Christian.

    You do not have the world Authority to claim what Christian Belief equals. I’m sure millions of Christians ALSO BELIEVE IN THIER ONE CORRECT INTERPRETAION OF THE BIBLE…. IT DOESNT MAKE YOU CORRECT. Do they get to call you only a claimed Christian?

    Evolution vs. Creation, is a great Example. Which ever side you think is correct as a Christian you will have devoted Christians utterly convinced that you have it wrong. As a believer in a faith you are trying to get respect for you irrational conclusions about Christianity while just dismissing all you fellow Christians.

    When non-religious people do something “irrational” are you trying to suggest that it’s always due to religious belief?

    O man I did not suggest that. Your not even reading my posts are you……… I specifically gave 2 Non religious examples. A belief in Homeopathy by parents has lead to a child’s death. This makes Homeopathy dangerous in the same way the belief in Christianity to leads a parent to pray to the same God you believe so much in, while they child dies of a curable illness.

    Is Islamic belief responsible for some suicide bombers? The promise for them of 72 Virgins, & getting the rest of the family in the Heaven?

    For someone to take their own life and murder innocent people in an ultimate act of sacrifice for what they believe more then anything that is what their God wants them to do.

    Does it really fly to have the Muslim equivalent of you just harping on that, Islam wasn’t to blame, Only I understand the true teachings blah blah. They were only claimed Muslims sniffle…….

    O the Stalin garbage response………

    I wonder how many people Stalin actually killed. My guess would be less than 10, but maybe they personally killed more people then that. Either way, those millions of people that died were most likely killed by Christians and other theists. Just because Stalin might’ve been an atheist doesn’t mean the people in his country were. Did Stalin kill millions of people? No, CHRISTIANS DID.

    Supposedly God has the high score in kills, but for sure Christians have killed more people then anyone else. Also, if I was a true Christian and was ordered to kill Jews or anyone against my will, I would refuse and accept death instead, hoping that my god would reward doing the right thing.

    It will never change the fact that Stalin did not do those thing BECAUSE he was and Atheist. Whatever crazy things were going on in this mind that you can point to the factors and reasons that he did what he did. There are an infinite number of other things he didnt believe in….. Was that also the reason he murdered millions?

    It is time that Christians like yourself stop pretending that a rational rejection of your faith entails the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem with religion, Stalinism, or any other totalitarian mythology, is the problem of dogma itself. I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Alright, since I can see where this discussion is going (or rather where it’s not going) this will definitely be my last comment.

    First, simply because two people hold opposing beliefs and claim the same body of evidence in support of those beliefs, that surely does not mean that there is no right answer, right? Both those who believe that global warming is a real danger and those who disagree claim to be looking to the same scientific evidence for support. Is it your contention that there can be no right answer to this debate? Probably not. What matters is which arguments make better sense of the available evidence. In this case, the evidence is the Bible, and just because people claim to be following the Bible doesn’t automatically make their claim correct, nor does it disprove my own claims. I would argue that each of my beliefs about Christian doctrine make better sense of the available evidence (the whole Bible) than every other position. If I thought that you could actually make a case from the Bible that medicine is bad I would take you more seriously, but all you have been able to do is point to some group calling themselves Christian and claim “proof” that religion is evil.

    I’d also like to know how you’re so sure that everyone in Russia was a Christian (or at least everyone who killed people). That seems like a wildly implausible claim. But again, you miss the point. Even if some of the people doing Stalin’s killing were Christians,
    it was Stalin’s decidedly un-Christian ideas that were motivating it.

    Finally, I agree with you that irrational dogmatism is a bad thing, and so would a lot of Christians (indeed, many of the greatest thinkers/philosophers in history have been Christians who endeavored to provide rational explanations and defenses of their faith, but I know this fact will be lost on you). But again, both religious and non-religious people are guilty of such irrationalism, so I fail to see how this disproves anything I’ve attempted to argue here.

    From the limited perspective that blog comments provide, I get the feeling that you are motivated more by emotion that reason. I can only recommend that you try to read the works of thoughtful and intelligent defenders of Christianity (I can recommend some authors if you’re genuinely interested), rather than intentionally picking on the craziest fringe elements or pointing only to the worst things that Christians have done and then hastily drawing your unreasonable conclusions. Again, since I’m sure you’ll have it anyway, you can take the last word.

  • http://makarios-makarios.blogspot.com/ makarios

    I don’t know why anti-theists think they would prefer to have God force them to live in heaven, force them to spend eternity with Christians, force them to think about God day and night (although they do that now anyway). I don’t undertand how it is that those who call themselves and pride themselves on being freethinkers would prefer to be forced to spend eternity with those they consider sheeple. What’s up with that?

    This comment was originally posted on One Minion’s Opinion

  • 1minionsopinion

    I don’t believe in god. I don’t believe in heaven. I don’t believe in hell. I believe this is the only life we get, so we’d best make the best of it, because even in the face of violence and horror there should still be room for love and joy.

    I don’t spend my day thinking about god anymore than I do thinking about elves, unicorns, purple cows, or rutabagas — and I even know rutabagas exist. I just don’t bother thinking about them.

    I don’t know what you mean about eternity. When we’re dead, we’re in the ground and done. There’s no eternity to wonder about. All we should care about is the world we leave for those who come after us. What we give this world. How we treat this world. How we treat everyone before we’re done in this world.

    Think about a rebuttal to this and come on back. Cheers.

    This comment was originally posted on One Minion’s Opinion

  • http://makarios-makarios.blogspot.com/ makarios

    “I believe this is the only life we get, so we’d best make the best of it, because even in the face of violence and horror there should still be room for love and joy.”

    Me too.

    “All we should care about is the world we leave for those who come after us. What we give this world. How we treat this world. How we treat everyone before we’re done in this world.”

    While I wouldn’t say that’s “all” that we should think about, I would agree with this also.

    This comment was originally posted on One Minion’s Opinion

  • 1minionsopinion

    Well, it was coffee break. They’re always too short to get into something deep. heh. “All” is a bit of a blanket statement, I’ll give you that.

    This comment was originally posted on One Minion’s Opinion

  • dorian

    there’s supposed to be only one God or “supreme being” but the wrathful vengeful One is who fundamentalist christians fear and worship. set afire by their literal, dire interpretation of the allegorical passages in the bible, most fundies feel they are licensed by God to judge other souls to burn in a place called hell because they claim to “know” the Will of God. i believe in God. but not the same one that the fundiesaurs worship. they have judged and sentenced Gandhi to hell because he was of the “wrong” religion and did not accept Jesus as his savior. and Manson, well if before his execution he talked himself into accepting JC as his savior, well, he is saved. i’m not atheist but i would not prefer to be in the same heaven as the “chosen”, self righteous ones.

    This comment was originally posted on One Minion’s Opinion

  • princessxxx

    oh look, it’s makarios. i recall him from comments he made on a different kind of blogs post on “was jesus a real person”. http://tothewire.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/was-jesus-a-real-person/

    haha, here is what i said to him.
    “Makarios, although I am labeled an atheist, I do not consider myself to be morally superior or even equal to believers. My morals are next to nothing. If you have a problem with that, tell it to eecummings.
    Perhaps you used to feel that you were a morally superior athiest, now you just think you are a morally superior Christian. Doesn’t sound like you have really changed that much.”

    hehe.

    This comment was originally posted on One Minion’s Opinion

  • miliukov

    David — A few observations and questions:

    – Joseph Stalin was obviously a murderous sociopath, and only some extremely unrepentant Sovietphiles even try to defend him on the “well, at least he built a state…” argument. I certainly won’t. But let’s be clear, he had the benefit of 20th century technology. If in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church had mechanized infantry, Zyklon-B, rail transit, an organized modern state bureaucracy, mass production of weaponry etc., I am sure that its success in purging the heretics and infidels would’ve been much greater.

    – You can’t claim that “there are approximately 1 billion Christians in the world who are Roman Catholic”; and then two sentences later note that “modern Roman Catholics must believe the exact same thing about hundreds of points of doctrine in order to be true Roman Catholics”. [Well, of course you can claim that; it just doesn't make any sense.]

    I had the benefit of spending a very colorful weekend in Rio de Janeiro over Halloween. There was a massive gay pride parade along Copacabana beach that would make your average AIDS activist from the Castro in San Francisco blush. I can’t help but wonder if all of the people of all genders, sizes, shapes, color and number entering into congress on the beach with the free condoms being handed out were “true Roman Catholics”. I’ve never known an Italian girl that was celibate prior to marriage, or who didn’t use birth control; on abortion, generally neutral — which is legal and free in the first trimester. In Spain, recreational Viagra usage by men of all ages is among the highest rates in the world — for when the evening’s social activity at hand requires maybe 4-5 sessions. Perhaps they are discussing the finer points of the sacraments and conveyance of blessing. Meanwhile back in the USA, known baby killer Barack Obama got the majority of the Catholic vote. And we could go on and on — but the point is that there may be a billion people who live in countries that have had a Catholic heritage; but under your definition, there are not a billion “true Roman Catholics”.

    – You wrtote: “I went into a lot of detail about the history of interpretation and historical consensus, but at the end of the day I do believe that there is only one correct interpretation of the Bible” [about withholding medical treatment].

    [You mentioned this in response to a question about withholding medical treatment to children, but I am assuming that you mean this about the nature of Biblical truth generally. I don't want to misquote or misinterpret you, so if I am mistaken in that assumption, please let me know.]

    The problem with this statement is that you assume that your theology, and your own understanding, is sufficient to interpret Scripture fully. But if it is truly God’s Word, your theology is not sufficient to the task, nor is your intellect; but neither is the history of two thousand years of tradition and thought.

    For instance: can you explain to me, how believers on one hand are elected, predestined, chosen by God. (Ephesians chapter one, though I am sure you knew that already) But on the other hand, salvation requires their own free will act of repentance and belief, and possibly ongoing obedience. And if God indeed has foreknowledge whom he will choose and whom he will reject, why did he bother creating those that he already decided in advance would reject him, knowing that they could be eternally condemned? How to interpret this?

    Another one: what is the basis for the Evangelical principle of the “Age of Accountability”? This is a very comforting notion: that an innocent child who dies before attaining the knowledge of sin, will not suffer eternal damnation. Unfortunately, it fully contradicts virtually the entire epistle of Romans, but especially chapter 5, and is totally inconsistent with the doctrine of Original Sin, which as you know, is the idea that because Adam trespassed in the Garden, all are born into a sinful nature.

    And if there is an “Age of Accountability”, what is the specific age? Does it vary by person? What about someone born mentally retarded? What about someone born in Karachi, Pakistan?

    – You wrote: “I would argue that each of my beliefs about Christian doctrine make better sense of the available evidence (the whole Bible) than every other position.”

    Careful, careful. Spiritual pride is probably the ugliest of all sins. Admittedly, it’s easier to cover up its externalities for a time to the faithful; but the faithless spot it a mile away and form their own conclusions about the nature of the truth you think you are sharing. Sell-ascribed spiritual wisdom in one’s own eyes — especially when you think it stems from your understand of doctrine and theology — leads nowhere at all.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    miliukov,

    Since I suspect that you aren’t genuinely interested in my responses to your theological questions (but are merely hoping to show me somehow that I can’t really explain the teaching of the Bible) I’m not going to take the time to write out long responses. Instead, I’m just going to point you to the Westminster Larger Catechism, which should answer most of your questions if you’re actually interested (I can tell you right now, though, that I don’t believe there is an “age of accountability”).

    Second, you said: “But if it is truly God’s Word, your theology is not sufficient to the task…” This is true of God as He is in Himself. God in His essence is beyond comprehension. However the Bible is by definition God’s Word ACCOMMODATED to human understanding (it is necessarily accommodated because it is written in human language. John Calvin humorously referred to the words of the Bible as “baby talk”). When God says “I am Good”, we cannot know what His Goodness is in the same way that God knows it Himself. But that hardly means that we cannot know it at all.

    In the same way, then, I am not guilty of “spiritual pride” (whatever that means). I am simply stating the fact that I believe that my positions regarding the teaching of the Bible are correct (indeed, why would I believe something that I didn’t think was right?!). I believe this on the basis of argument and reason (i.e. you can point to the Bible and make exegetical arguments about what various passages mean). If you were to present me with a counter-argument, I would consider it, and if I found it to be stronger than my own argument, I would change my mind. Nothing could be less prideful.

    I think you are simply assuming, a priori, that the teachings of the Bible cannot be systematized and that Biblical doctrines cannot be argued for reasonably, which is why you assume that taking any dogmatic stance is prideful.

    Lastly, since you spent so much time on my “1 billion Catholics” comment, let me explain briefly. The exact number of people who are genuine Catholics is unimportant. I was addressing the accusation that I can’t claim to have THE interpretation of any part of the Bible because some other Joe Shmoe who calls himself a Christian might disagree with me. I brought up Catholics because they are an easy example of a visible body with a dogmatic set of beliefs that claims not only historical continuity but also authoritative interpretations of the Bible. Simply because I walk up to a Catholic and say, “I think you’re wrong, I think the Bible means this…” that does not mean that he should take me seriously, nor does it prove that both of us are wrong and that there is no correct interpretation.

  • miliukov

    David — thank you for responding to my posting, and I’m sorry for not replying sooner.

    It may surprise you, but I actually am interested what you think are the answers to my questions. I can certainly play with the Almighty Google and Wikipedia or whatever to get some sort of pro forma answer. But what’s the fun in that? You’re a real person, living in the present day, who obviously takes some pleasure in spending time thinking about this — so it’s a more interesting than clicking on links leading to a bunch of dead white guys.

    Another thing that may surprise you, possibly a priori, is that I actually do think that Biblical doctrines can be argued for reasonably; and I don’t think that any “dogmatic stance” is by definition “prideful”. But I also believe that there are limits on what the human mind, even one as learned as yours, is capable of reconciling within the parameters of our own logic. Which is why I asked you all those questions above that you don’t want to answer.

    As for the spiritual pride part: like I said, the faithful can fool one another and themselves, dress up in Sunday clothes and carry on conversations among themselves for years — whereas, the faithless discern it instantly. You love being right; you love winning theological arguments; you love applying your own intellect to solve a question when it suits you; you love using big words like “post-modernism” and “complementarianism” (which I had to look up!) and quoting Lyotard; you’ve got all the answers and none of the questions. But I daresay you haven’t shown any evidence that you give a [----]*** about the Gospel — just another California life-style option. Might as well take up mountain biking or real estate.

    ***yeah, you know what word I am thinking of there

  • http://evangelicaloutpost.com/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=7 David Nilsen

    miliukov,

    But I also believe that there are limits on what the human mind, even one as learned as yours, is capable of reconciling within the parameters of our own logic.

    I completely agree. But I’m not sure what conclusion you want to draw from this. If you’re saying that I will never be able to comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity (to give one example), I couldn’t agree more! But if you’re saying that it is therefore not reasonable to believe the doctrine of the Trinity, I would disagree. Despite what you may think (and it’s probably my fault) I do affirm the existence of mystery in Christian theology (in fact I believe Christian theology is saturated in it!), but it can be reasonable to believe in a mystery.

    You love being right; you love winning theological arguments; you love applying your own intellect to solve a question when it suits you; you love using big words…

    Who doesn’t “love” being right? Do you love being wrong? Of course not. However, if you mean to suggest that there’s something nefarious going on, such as that I would do or say anything JUST to be right or win an argument, then I would disagree (but of course there’s no way for me to prove my motives to you, so that’s about all I can say). As for my loving to use big words: First, I’m simply using the big words that other people are already using. If I’m going to interact with someone who is defending postmodernism, I’m sort of forced to use that word, regardless of how big it is. Second, what you seem to be implying (and correct me if I’m reading you wrong) is that discussing such issues is unimportant. I disagree, which gets me to the next point…

    But I daresay you haven’t shown any evidence that you give a [----] about the Gospel — just another California life-style option.

    First, how have I given the slightest impression that the Gospel is just another option? Haven’t I been the one arguing for dogmatism and objective truth this whole time? Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your point.

    Second, you seem to be saying that getting bogged down in “heady” theological and/or philosophical discussions that use big words is somehow antithetical to caring about the Gospel. Could you explain? After all, you do believe that there is actual content to the Gospel, yes? That when I share the gospel with someone I must be telling them something, rather than just anything? Obviously there are matters of theology that are only of secondary importance to the Gospel, but just because they are secondary does not mean that they are totally unimportant.

    Perhaps you could define “Gospel” for me. That would probably help to clarify this discussion.

    Thanks for the comments, by the way. This is much more fruitful and stimulating than I expected (probably since I don’t know you and, as you said, I was making a priori judgments). Out of curiosity, are you a Christian?

  • http://www.morellaty.com ella moore

    Not sure if anyone posted this yet… but here goes. St. Anselm believed that one could rationally prove God’s existence. If God is the greatest conceivable being, and to exist is greater than to not exist, God must therefore exist. The greatest conceivable being is a perfect being. A perfect being must be good, because being good is better than being bad. The same logic that leads you to defend your religion must also convince you of this logical truth. But if God is good then God must be all-good (omnibenevolent) because to be all good is better (more perfect) than to be partially good. An all good God would not, and logically could not, care whether a person believed in him or her. (Simply because a self-centered God is less perfect than a selfless God.) Nor would God ever be so vengeful to condemn the actions of people who are not hurting anybody (like homosexuals). This is because it is more perfect to be forgiving than it is to be vengeful. The “atheists” have it right- although I assure you they are not the only ones to come up with this- but they are right because they are slaves to logic rather than scripture. They are most likely claiming that if God did exist, he or she would not, and logically could not, have any of the characteristics that “vengeful” Christians seem to give him or her. I think the difficulty that atheists have with monotheists is not with their conception of God, but the logical contradiction in Christian (or whatever) actions. If you follow God, and God is good, how can you then do wrathful and hateful actions?

    ella moore
    http://www.morellaty.com
    http://www.morellaty.com/the-incompatibility-of-an-omniscient-god-and-the-notion-of-free-will/

    By the way, quoting scripture only helps Christians… who already agree with you anyway. If you want to convince atheists, agnostics, and logicians of your point, speak to them in a language they can understand- logic. They are just going to skip right over the scripture- or any phrase with numbers and a colon after it.

  • LaughAtTheBible

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
    Evil exists. All evil is caused by God (if he existed). If evil is done by humans, then it is God’s fault for creating us to be imperfect. Evil also occurs in the form of natural disasters. If God is the cause of everything, then he is the cause of natural disasters. Disasters have no purpose except to destroy. If God created something whose only purpose was to destroy, then he is either not omnipotent or he is malevolent. Or, he doesn’t exist.