Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Immorality of "Letting" an Innocent Person Take Your Punishment

I have been having an interesting conversation with two non-Christians on the subject of the doctrine of Christ's substitutionary atonement. It began when I responded to a comment by blogger "Wait What."

Wait What...
...This is why religion has caused so much pain. You can see based on your morality which is directed by an authoritarian system can be easily used to justify horrible things, b/c your moral authority commands it, it no longer becomes wrong. Of course you don't see anything immoral/sinful about letting an innocent man suffer the punishment for your crimes, b/c that was commanded by your Authoritarian God. Letting the innocent person suffer on your behalf is now moral??? June 22, 2010 7:20 AM
(emphasis added)

Stranger...
Actually the plan of redemption was agreed upon by both the Father and the Son, from eternity. Our "letting" has nothing to do with it.
Your theology needed a bit of a tweaking there; thanks for letting me help you out. No charge, btw.
8:16 AM

Blogger, BeamStalk then joined in, agreeing that the whole concept of penal substitution is immoral. The following comment is sort of a recap, with my responses, of what was said previously:


WW: Again you make the case, based on the "merits" of Christ

SSL: Yep. Good theology, WW.

WW:  This is cheating

SSL: Oops. Bad theology, WW.

WW:  This is "I passed the test based on the merits of another individual."..

SSL:  Not exactly. Only Jesus passed the test. But we receive the benefits by virtue of his being our representative.

WW: That is immoral

SSL: By whose standard?

WW: In order for you to have salvation, it requires that an innocent person have been punished.

SSL: Yes, Because the justice of God requires, that the same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin; but no man, being himself a sinner, could satisfy for others. (Heidelberg Catechism Q.16)

WW: ... also immoral...

SSL: God, the source of morality, does not seem to agree with you.

WW: You believe these concepts are not found in Bible?

SSL: The concepts ARE found in the Bible, except the part about being immoral.

WW: You can call [salvation] a free gift as I said you can call it anything you want, but it is not. A free gift is something given with nothing in return.

SSL: "Nothing?" Does a feeling of gratitude and saying "Thank you," suddenly make it "not a free gift?" It is free because the giver was under no obligation to give it to you. Something like a paycheck, on the other hand, has been earned by the receiver.

WW: But you have to have faith and trust in Jesus as your risen savior in order to obtain this "Free" gift..

SSL: Faith/trust as well as repentance are fruits of regeneration (regeneration = born again).

WW: ...It's not really free if it requires something of you [faith and repentance] in order for you to receive/accept it.

SSL: Faith (trust, belief) is the means by which one receives the gift, but faith is not a work. It is a hearty trust that the Holy Spirit works in the heart of an individual by the gospel.

WW: In the end, it is inescapable that immorality plays a role in Christian salvation.

SSL: I agree, immorality does play a role in Christian salvation. We did the sinning; Christ did the saving.

Just like being sick plays a role in being cured. (No need to cure someone who is not sick.) Being enemies plays a role in reconciliation. (No need to reconcile those who are already friends.)

WW: I think you are just trying to think of it in a way that makes it seem more acceptable... but the reality is different. This is a man-made concept. Only humans would create a system such as this, where you allow the innocent to be punished rather than accept justice to be done to the guilty.

SSL: So, I am putting a spin on something "immoral" to make it seem like something "acceptable?" That is what you think I am trying to do?
WW, I am acutely aware of the fact that the Gospel and the way of salvation will never be "acceptable" to any man. Not until that man has an idea of 1. The awesome holiness and majesty of God, and 2. The depth of his own sinfulness whereby he has egregiously offended a holy God.

The world is filled with religions and philosophies that are created by man (or the devil: [Rev.12:15-17] ) that are designed to be acceptable to our fallen nature. God's way is different. The Law slays us. The Gospel humbles us.

You have misunderstood my intention, WW. What I tried to do in my last comment, as well as my reply to your initial comment, was to correct your mistaken belief about what the Bible, and the church in it's public confessions, teaches about how we are saved.

That, in fact, is the primary reason that I participate on Ray's blog: to try to accurately represent what God says in His Word and through His church about Christ and salvation. That is my agenda, and it is not a hidden one. June 30, 2010

As I said at the beginning of this post, blogger, BeamStalk was also part of this (over a week long, now) conversation. Yesterday, I asked him to clarify exactly what his position was, since he had been using Liberal Christianity's arguments to refute the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Here is his reply to me:

"Craig,
I have stated my position many times before. I am an agnostic atheist. Yes, I am using an evangelical, Norman McIlwain, from England to make my point about penal substitution.

I think the Bible does point to Penal Substitution and that it is a major foundation of modern Christianity. I also think it makes no sense and is immoral. The idea of punishing and killing an innocent to save the guilty is not justice but a perversion of justice. It is not moral, no one would ever accept this as a right action, but special pleading makes it okay within Christianity."
June 30, 2010 5:47 AM

I found it interesting that BeamStalk thinks that the Bible points to Penal Substitution (which our Reformed confessions also teach). I then replied to BeamStalk, thanking him for making his position clear to me.

This exchange of comments has been taking place for more than a week. To see the entire thread at Atheist Central click here. (You will see that we deviated from the original subject of the post, which was "Harmless Pedophilia.") Click: "show original post" then click "collapse comments." Then you can select individual comments by clicking the word "said" after the commenter's name.

51 comments:

photosynthesis said...

I am sorry Craig, but from here, the whole thing is immoral. Not just having someone else paying for my wrong-doings, but the whole whole whole thing from the very moment of creating beings with a sinful nature, or make a creation of such a fragile nature that it was enough for one, or two, to sin to make the whole theater fall into a sinful nature. Come on. It is immoral from starters. Remember that this god is supposed to be all-powerful and all-knowing, which makes it too much worse. Not only he decided to make such a fragile creation, he made it knowing the consequences of creating that way.

Unfortunately, I heard Hitchens a few months ago. I say unfortunately because I never thought properly about the doctrine. My departure from believing was peaceful, and I still had in my mind the image of an all-powerful, all-knowing god who loved us. But that image is crap when confronted with what the whole thing is about in Christianity, whichever Christianity you choose. (Most probably similarly in other religions.)

However, there is no arguments to make. To you, whatever your god says is moral. From that perspective, killing children if your god commands it is fine. Killing Christ to satisfy his thirst for the most valuable blood and thus forgive a few among us is fine. You cannot deny it Craig, you are a Calvinist. From where I stand, that very fact, that whatever your god decides is moral, is absurdly immoral. Among Christians, Calvinists are the ones closest to a coherent belief. You don't claim that your god is good, but that he is the one who rules, and no way around. That is that. If you got rid of the concept of your god loving us, and exchange it to "decided to save whichever he pleased," he makes the rules. Then it would be even more coherent. Why would someone worship such a monster is beyond me.

Please don't be offended that I talk about "your god" (lowercase because this reference is generic) rather than about "God." I am trying to avoid giving yours special treatment among other equal characters.

Also, save the "according to whose standard?" because if morality cannot exist outside of your god, then it does not exist even if your god existed. There would be no way of objectively distinguishing the devil from your god other than, the guy with the largest stick. I could go on with examples of undecidable moralities that should be quite evident to the sane person, but, according to your question (according to whose standard?), are undecidable until informed by this god. But, I rather not. It makes me sick.

I stopped going to Ray's. It is truly sickening watching him abuse your beliefs, even now that I detest them. Also watching Ray lie and be such a cynical bastard without any of the Christians noticing the obvious. I reached my limit for exposure to such toxic view.

G.E.

Shutterbug said...

There is no "letting" involved. We "accept", without charge, what Christ has already done for us. I cannot wrap my mind around thinking this is immoral or that anyone believes they have a right to judge God's gift. Boggles my mind.

stranger.strange.land said...

@ Photosynthesis

Hey G.E.

You know that you don't have to be concerned about offending me. Your candidness is one of the things I like best about you. You brought up some good issues that I will address later, probably in another post. Also, WW and BeamStalk had some other good issues in their comments. I just picked some from the beginning and the end of our conversation. I think they are worth putting on the blog as well.

Our grad student son is coming tomorrow for the 4th of July weekend.

Best to you,

Craig

photosynthesis said...

Best to you too Craig. best to your son. He must be about to finish his fourth year, right?

BeamStalk said...

Sounds like you will have a good 4th of July. My sister is having her third child (first boy) on the 3rd, exactly one month after my first child (a boy also).

It has been a good conversation and I have enjoyed it. I saw that you found Dr. Pulliam's blog, a great source for the defense of PST and rebuttals for PST.

Whateverman said...

SiaSL, if it's moral to allow an innocent person pay the debts of a convicted criminal, why isn't this general principle encoded in our justice systems?

Yes yes, I know that God's morality is perfect, but you seem to be doing more than saying "It's moral because God says so, and we must accept it regardless of how we feel about the issue". You seem to be trying to appeal to logic and reason when explaining the morality of penal substitution.

According to your religion, logic and reason are mute, ineffective and absolutely irrelevant when it comes to determining whether something is moral or not. If God says "X is good", then "X is good", even if logic & reason suggest otherwise.

So, my question to you is this: why do you appeal to logic and reason when justifying penal substitution?

Noble said...

Hi Craig,

Atheist Central was too much of a time-suck and I got tired of repeating myself so much. I went back and read some of the comments and realized I don't miss it.

I have to agree with G.E. that the whole basis of Christian belief is immoral. God created man to fail and then punishes him for failing. I read an analogy somewhere that putting the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden was like putting a plate of cookies in front of a three-year-old and telling him not to eat any, then leaving the room.

I do find the argument that salvation through Jesus Christ is not free to be interesting. I hadn't really considered that before. I thought about what I would have to give up - rationality and critical thinking - things that I highly cherish. When it comes down to it, though, it's simply not possible for me to believe without evidence.

BeamStalk said...

Noble it is worse than just leaving a plate full of cookies and leaving. Don't forget the snake, another adult, fairly indistinguishable from the adult that just left, saying it is okay to eat the cookies.

Whateverman said...

By the way, Craig, I apologize if my language above sounded confrontational. I hadn't meant it to be. For example, "According to your religion" sounds like an accusation, but that wasn't my intent.

In any case, cheers

photosynthesis said...

Shutterbug,

The problem goes beyond the semantics between "letting" and "accepting" (though "accepting" is blasphemous in some Christian denominations). The problem is whether it is moral that someone else payed for your wrong-doings. That we have no say in the process is inconsequential.

But you prove my point. To you it is unbelievable to think that anybody would question your god's doings. This means plainly that you have no morals other than if my god said/did so, then it is fine. Again, to me that is the very meaning of immorality.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Craig,

You pretty much answered the objections sufficiently. I'll just add an observation, about those who object to the morality of the substitutionary atonement of Christ on behalf of sinners, that those who say it is immoral or a bad plan, they are leaving out at least half of the entire message of the gospel and only representing it partially in order to oppose it. Which to me seems extremely foolish and turns me off to any other objection they could raise to Christian belief, since they already misrepresented one of the most important parts of it. Makes them look worser as people of reason than they could imagine.

Not only the perfect moral justice of God, but also His magnificent glory is seen clearly when the end of the gospel is allowed to speak. They object to the fall into sin, the judgment for sin and the redemption of sinners by an innocent man who also necessarily is God, yet fail to account for the whole point of the message, that this is a demonstration of both justice and mercy, both judgment and pardon for those who are undeserving of mercy. That an exchange has taken place, a payment for sin has been payed willingly by our Redentor, and we have become deeply indebted with gratitude for what He has done for us. This is the essence of love, which they have completely missed.

Shutterbug said...

GE,

I'm not at all good in explaining myself, so please bear with while I try to put into words something too big for me :).

You are correct when you say it is unbelievable to me that anyone would question God. The faith in God that a believer has is not understandable to an unbeliever. It's impossible. Our love for Him is also not understandable or comprehensible to an unbeliever.

I honestly don't mean this in a snarky way - but how can any man decide what is moral. Where do you get your example of what is morally right or wrong from? From yourself? From some other person? A group of men? If so, where did they get their idea of morals?

If not from God, then man would be making his own morals and then we would have chaos. So yes, my morals come from the laws of God.

I have no problem accepting the gift of Jesus' death in payment for my sins. It's an awesome gift
and makes me shudder, literally, to hear anyone demean it or make light of it.

It's an incomprehensible gift done out of love. Would you be that loving? I don't think I would - to give my child for the wrongs of others - especially knowing the gift would not be accepted by so many.

It boggles my mind to think of it.

Noble said...

@Penn Tomassetti, according to your theology God created humanity knowing that He would condemn the majority of his creations to eternal torture and this is just and loving. I could never worship a monster like that.

Whateverman said...

@Shutterbug: The point that should be raised is that some of the people who are discussing here actually DO understand the faith of the believer, regardless of whether they currently believe or not.

Faith in God isn't a mystery. How individual believers express that faith often is, though :)

Just my 2 cents

Shutterbug said...

@ Whateverman - ok I'll cede that those discussing here understand a believer's faith. Faith and beliefs are different in this discussion?

It's not our faith you doubt - it's our God you doubt. Is this correct?

BeamStalk said...

I can't speak on behalf of WEM, but I could guess, but for me, it is not just your God I doubt but all Gods.

Whateverman said...

Shutterbug wrote the following to me: I'll cede that those discussing here understand a believer's faith. Faith and beliefs are different in this discussion?

It's not our faith you doubt - it's our God you doubt. Is this correct?


Firstly, I bristled a bit when you wrote The faith in God that a believer has is not understandable to an unbeliever. Maybe I misunderstood what you meant, but it seemed that you were saying (roughly) unbelievers can't understand the faith of a believer. I know that, for some of the people speaking here, this is untrue. There are former Christians amongst us...

But, I wasn't bothered by your idea. Perhaps it was just my misunderstanding...

Secondly, speaking only for myself, I reject the Christians' understanding of their God. I have no doubt that the vast majority of Christians actually do believe as they say they believe. They have faith in Jesus Christ as lord and savior, and I believe that faith is sincere.

So, it's not the faith I question, but the details of what is believed.

I hope that was clear enough :)

Shutterbug said...

Whateverman said...
Firstly, I bristled a bit when you wrote The faith in God that a believer has is not understandable to an unbeliever. Maybe I misunderstood what you meant, but it seemed that you were saying (roughly) unbelievers can't understand the faith of a believer.

Speaking only for myself and with a huge deficiency of words, what I meant is more about the effects of our faith - on a very personal level.

Can you understand the faith of one who believes in the sky daddy, the spaghetti monster, etc that atheists say doesn't exist? To me, that faith is not understandable to a non-believer.

As I said in the beginning...it's bigger than I can explain :)
which is why I don't say much usually.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Noble,

God, as Creator of all that exists, is free to do with His creation as He wishes for His own ultimate purposes, which are in fact good according to the proper standard of goodness. The standard of goodness is not what we like or don't like, but what most honors and glorifies God. By that standard, God's glory can be displayed in His absolute justice on the one hand, and His absolute grace on the other, both completely complementing one another in the event of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Sin naturally makes us hate God's ability to be judge over His creation, but that is what the gospel is all about--reconciliation of sinners who are against God to peace and salvation from God. Humility and repentance toward God would change your view on this subject drastically, as it would make you the creature who stands at the mercy of a Holy, Just and Good God, and not the other way around.

God bless.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Whateverman,

"There are former Christians amongst us..."


In discussing debates with Muslim apologists, Christian apologist, James R. White, often mentions on his radio show that there are many former Christians who are now Muslims and former Muslims who are now Christians, but that in itself does not qualify a person as one who understands the theology of their former religion. We actually see many cases from both sides where one claims to "know" what their former religion believes, when they demonstrably prove by their statements that they have no idea (perhaps due to not being properly taught, or growing up in that religion nominally). This is just to say that one's understanding of a certain theology must be proven by their statements and not by their former status.

Noble said...

Penn Tomassetti said:

God, as Creator of all that exists, is free to do with His creation as He wishes for His own ultimate purposes, which are in fact good according to the proper standard of goodness.

How do you know that God is good?

photosynthesis said...

Penn,

I have little if any respect for those like yourself who just assume that we don't know all what you wrote. I know all of that, and I know how you see it. Not just from my previous beliefs, but also from listening to what Christians of the different denominations write, and from further reading I Have done to better understand such different denominations. I did not misrepresent a single iota. I just added reasoning to it. Not only do I find somebody else paying for my sins immoral, I find the whole edifice immoral. I find it immoral to think the very way you think. I find it immoral to think that such load of bullshit is the ultimate representation of love, justice and mercy.

You went on to prove my point:

God, as Creator of all that exists, is free to do with His creation as He wishes for His own ultimate purposes, which are in fact good according to the proper standard of goodness. The standard of goodness is not what we like or don't like, but what most honors and glorifies God.

Allow me to translate. We are but mere toys of some mega-cosmical, omni-incompetent, megalomaniacal (remember: all for his glory, the very definition of megalomania) being who can make of us whatever he pleases for his own twisted pleasures. This same monster defines what is good, leaving us defenseless. Whatever he does is good, whichever we object to is because of our sin.

Actually, you left your whole description of letting the gospel speak, and perfect justice, and love, and mercy, and all that crap, completely meaningless. Had your god decided to burn everybody in hell, it would still be the perfect definition of love, justice and mercy. After all, who defines those things if not your god?

You make me sick Penn. I know you don't care, but you still make me sick. The more you write, the more I despise your beliefs and your morality.

G.E.

photosynthesis said...

Hey Shutterbug,

I appreciate your trying to better explain yourself.

I have not demeaned, nor made light of Jesus' sacrifice. I just don't believe it to be true.

I would not give anything for the wrongs of others, that is nonsensical. I would give myself for the good of humanity though.

As for where do morals come from, we can go there. But I rather ask you. If your god defines morals, then how can we determine if something he did was moral or immoral? Wouldn't that mean that even if you and me found it nauseatingly awful, we would still be forced to say it was moral? Wouldn't that render the question of your god being good or not meaningless?

G.E.

photosynthesis said...

Shutterbug,

One more thing. I do understand a believer's faith and love for their god. I was there once, and felt just as much. However illogical.

I don't just doubt your god, I am convinced that not a single one of the many gods ever invented and still to invent by humanity exists (yes, yours is but one of these). To me, all these gods are the very same. Some might have more poetic stories than others, but they are still the same kind of fantasy. This is why I try not to write "God" as in a proper name. Not to give the impression that your god deserves special treatment.

G.E.

Shutterbug said...

photosynthesis said...
....I rather ask you. If your god defines morals, then how can we determine if something he did was moral or immoral? Wouldn't that mean that even if you and me found it nauseatingly awful, we would still be forced to say it was moral?

and

One more thing. I do understand a believer's faith and love for their god. I was there once, and felt just as much.


First of all, thank you for believing I can answer this question.. lol

You being a former believer (there is a whole other topic), I'm sure you know my answer. God is the creator. What right does the created have to question the creator?

So, not believing there is a creator you would naturally question the morals of ... who?
Me? The one I call God?

I can see already that you hate the idea of God, His laws and morals. So I guess it comes back to you as to where do your morals come from? Yourself? Another person? A group.

I can't get around the idea that if God didn't determine what is moral, then who did? Man is just not good enough to determine what goodness is.

I'm a Christian, but I KNOW I can be bad. I couldn't kill, but when justice prevails against a predator, I can't get all weepy about him either. I could tell you lies and you would probably never know the difference. I could steal and probably get away with it. We all think about these things, and worse, but something inside of us (our God given conscience) makes us aware of right and wrong - not a set of man made or self-made laws or morals.

photosynthesis said...

Shutterbug,

Not believing a fictional character to exist does not mean you can't question such character's morals. I question both, the morals of the whole edifice of the biblical story, and the morals of those who believe it, accept it, and worship it.

You confirm yet again that morals, from the (or your) Christian perspective, are nothing more than whatever the creator commands.

Lying is not wrong in itself. If somebody lies to you, it should not cause you any feelings, except because the liar is disobeying your god's command.

Stealing is not wrong in itself, and should not cause you any discomfort (when somebody steals from you), except because the stealer is disobeying your god's command.

Disobeying your god's command should not cause you any discomfort, except because, well, your god does not like it.

Add that for those things you might burn in hell, of course. But now that we are there, is burning in hell bad by itself, or that requires yous god's command too?

Where are the limits?

If you see the nonsensical of all these, you can see that there must be something more objective than something being your god's command for it to be wrong. Otherwise, the whole theater is meaningless.

If you see something objectively wrong with those, then you can start to understand where morals can come from other than your god.

I don't hate the idea of "God." I have just recently understood how twisted the Christian version can be, and I feel comfort in knowing that such god does not exist. Before understanding this, I was a bit sad about his nonexistence. There might be a version of a god somewhere that is much more constructive. But that does not mean I would believe such a god to be true either.

G.E.

Shutterbug said...

photosynthesis said...
I question both, the morals of the whole edifice of the biblical story, and the morals of those who believe it, accept it, and worship it.

I don't worship the morals of the Bible. I live by them.


You confirm yet again that morals, from the (or your) Christian perspective, are nothing more than whatever the creator commands.

I will state outright and confirm that my morals come from God.


Lying is not wrong in itself. If somebody lies to you, it should not cause you any feelings, except because the liar is disobeying your god's command.

Perjury is against the law of the land, not just against God's laws.
You would lie in court and no one should care?


Stealing is not wrong in itself, and should not cause you any discomfort (when somebody steals from you), except because the stealer is disobeying your god's command.

Theft is also against the law of the land. If someone stole from you, you would not want to see them
punished by a court of law?

Disobeying your god's command should not cause you any discomfort, except because, well, your god does not like it.

But as a Christian, it would and it should. He also tells us to obey the laws of the government.

Add that for those things you might burn in hell, of course. But now that we are there, is burning in hell bad by itself, or that requires yous god's command too?

Where are the limits?


Ten Commandments - not a very big list to obey. Ten is a limit.


If you see the nonsensical of all these, you can see that there must be something more objective than something being your god's command for it to be wrong. Otherwise, the whole theater is meaningless.


I don't see the nonsense at all. If God is a holy God and requires obedience in order to not only live a good life, but spend eternity with Him, what is so heavy about the ten commandments? Some of them are even adopted by our governments, which you live under ever day. Do you hate the idea of the laws of our land too? Maybe you do, but you have to live by them regardless of your feelings.

...is burning in hell bad by itself...

It would be to me.

If you see something objectively wrong with those, then you can start to understand where morals can come from other than your god.


No, I don't see this at all. I'm afraid you would need to answer my question after all...where do your morals come from?

photosynthesis said...

"If someone stole from you, you would not want to see them punished by a court of law?"

Precisely. I would want them punished. But I don't need any god to want that. Do you?

photosynthesis said...

Shutterbug,

Re-posted the part you seemed to miss and clarified (I hope):

You confirm yet again that morals, from the (or your) Christian perspective, are nothing more than whatever the creator commands.

Thus, according to your belief
lying is not wrong in itself. If somebody lies to you, it should not cause you any feelings, except because the liar is disobeying your god's command. (And/or the law of the land.)

Thus, according to your belief stealing is not wrong in itself, and should not cause you any discomfort (when somebody steals from you), except because the stealer is disobeying your god's command. (And/or the law of the land.)

According to your belief disobeying your god's command should not cause you any discomfort, except because, well, your god does not like it.

Besides your god decided, out-of-the-blue that those things are bad/wrong, you will end up burning in hell if you don't comply, of course.

Now that we are there, is burning in hell bad by itself, or that requires yous god's command to be bad too?

Where are the limits to where you can decide by yourself that something is bad and/or wrong?

If you see the nonsensical of all these, you can see that there must be something more objective than something being your god's command for it to be wrong. Otherwise, the whole theater is meaningless.

If you see something objectively wrong with those, then you can start to understand where morals can come from other than your god.

G.E.

Shutterbug said...

Words, words, and more words. :)

I've given examples where perjury (lying)and stealing, etc. are against man's laws. I don't like lies and theft - against me - because it is harmful for various reasons, none of which are just because God said they are wrong.


photosynthesis said...
shutterbug said..."If someone stole from you, you would not want to see them punished by a court of law?"

Precisely. I would want them punished. But I don't need any god to want that. Do you?


Why do YOU want them punished? Neither of you care about God's laws. Are your morals dictated by
man's laws? You don't care about God's laws so why would stealing from you bother you?

Theft is against man's law. So in that sense, just like you I don't want anyone stealing my stuff.

Where did man get that theft, in and of itself, is wrong?

God's laws reveal the divine standard and as believers compare themselves against that standard they can accurately identify sin, which is the failure to meet the standard.

That's about all I've got on the subject of morals. I don't get your reasoning and you hate mine :)

photosynthesis said...

My now dear friend Shutterbug,

Words, words, and more words. :)

I knew there was something truly good about you. :-)

---

Now you are almost there!

I don't like lies and theft - against me - because it is harmful for various reasons, none of which are just because God said they are wrong.

Aaaaaaaahhhhhh! So you know that your god would not have gotten those out of the blue, right? Now all you have to do is build from this point. Thanks! You are the most excellent student.

What I don't understand is why, since you got it, you continued as if you didn't. Just a few excerpts:

so why would stealing from you bother you?

You answered that above yourself.

Where did man get that theft, in and of itself, is wrong?

Again, didn't you just answer that?

That's about all I've got on the subject of morals. I don't get your reasoning

Yes you do.

and you hate mine :)

Not completely. Here you advanced enormously.

Best and enjoy the festivities (if you are in the USA), or, at the very least, enjoy your weekend.

G.E.

Anette Acker said...

Craig, thank you for posting your conversation here. I enjoyed reading it (as well as the comments that followed).

BeamStalk, congratulations of the birth of your son!

Photosynthesis, it's great to see a comment by you. You disappeared from the face of the earth after our last conversation, so I was wondering if I had driven you away. :)

Happy 4th everyone!

photosynthesis said...

Anette!

Great to read you too. Sorry that you had to see my rather violent answer to Penn. He deserved it though.

You would never ever drive me away. It was the intoxication thing that I told you about before. Enough is enough.

Have a great celebration!

G.E.

stranger.strange.land said...

Photosynthesis said...
Not just having someone else paying for my wrong-doings, but the whole whole whole thing from the very moment of creating beings with a sinful nature, or make a creation of such a fragile nature that it was enough for one, or two, to sin to make the whole theater fall into a sinful nature. Come on. It is immoral from starters. Remember that this god is supposed to be all-powerful and all-knowing, which makes it too much worse. Not only he decided to make such a fragile creation, he made it knowing the consequences of creating that way.

Hey G.E.
This conversation began with my reply to Wait What (on Ray's blog) where I thought that his theology needed a bit of a "tweaking." Now I think I need to tweak yours (your theology, that is); ).

We believe and teach that God's sovereignty is absolute, and extends over everything that happens, including Satan's temptation and mankind's willful plunge into sin and rebellion against God's authority. For man, as originally created, living perfectly in accordance with God's will should have been as easy as breathing or the blinking of the eyes.

The final chapter of the book of redemptive history (the Bible) gives us a glimpse of what God intended from the beginning.(Rev. 21 & 22) All of mankind's rebellion and hell's opposition through history not only did not thwart God's designed end, but God used them in bringing about that end.

You cannot deny it Craig, you are a Calvinist. From where I stand, that very fact, that whatever your god decides is moral, is absurdly immoral. Among Christians, Calvinists are the ones closest to a coherent belief. You don't claim that your god is good, but that he is the one who rules, and no way around. That is that. If you got rid of the concept of your god loving us, and exchange it to "decided to save whichever he pleased," he makes the rules. Then it would be even more coherent. Why would someone worship such a monster is beyond me.

We need to remember that God's decisions are not spurious, but are according to His own character. He is, in His personal attributes, both pure justice and pure love. Calvinists don't pit one doctrine against another. That's what we don't do. We worship God for both of those attributes, as well as everything else that He is.

Jonathat Edwards, a Calvinist if ever there was one, wrote and preached a sermon titled: "Heaven, a World of Love." Those lop-sided, sour-puss Calvinists that you are perhaps thinking of, should read that sermon and appreciate God's wonderful love.

Craig

stranger.strange.land said...

Whateverman said...

SiaSL, if it's moral to allow an innocent person pay the debts of a convicted criminal, why isn't this general principle encoded in our justice systems?

Yes yes, I know that God's morality is perfect, but you seem to be doing more than saying "It's moral because God says so, and we must accept it regardless of how we feel about the issue". You seem to be trying to appeal to logic and reason when explaining the morality of penal substitution.

According to your religion, logic and reason are mute, ineffective and absolutely irrelevant when it comes to determining whether something is moral or not. If God says "X is good", then "X is good", even if logic & reason suggest otherwise.

So, my question to you is this: why do you appeal to logic and reason when justifying penal substitution?


Hey WEM,

Why do I appeal to logic and reason when "justifying penal substition?" Easy. Because the authors of the New Testament epistles use logic and reason in teaching the doctrine of Jesus Christ's atonement.

"According to your religion, logic and reason are mute, ineffective and absolutely irrelevant when it comes to determining whether something is moral or not."

Not exactly. According to my religion our faculties of logic and reason have been affected by sin, but not rendered mute. In the fall, mankind has decided to determine for himself what is right and wrong, good and evil, apart from and even in opposition to what God says. (That is what the "eating of the fruit" was all about.) All men are still "image bearers" of God and as such retain the ability to use their minds. The problem is that sin has made us self-centered rather than God-centered in our thinking, and we don't have God's glory as our aim.

Now, in the preaching of the gospel, the appeal to Christ's substitutionary atonement is effective on those whose hearts God has opened to receive that appeal. They are the ones whose guilty consciences have been awakened by the preaching of the Law. They then see themselves as they are in God's sight, immoral men and women. When that has sunk in, hearing that Christ was crucified for them becomes the most desirable good news they could ever have imagined.

WEM, I have just briefly described how conversion works. Heard all that before? Or have I shed light on an aspect you may have not previously fully considered?

Craig

stranger.strange.land said...

SiaSL, if it's moral to allow an innocent person pay the debts of a convicted criminal, why isn't this general principle encoded in our justice systems?

I believe that it is ligitimate for evangelists, like Ray Comfort, to use the court-room scenario in illustrating one person paying a fine that another cannot possibly pay. That is about as far as the analogy can take us, though.

In the sinner's case, the debt we have incurred is the eternal wrath of God. Jesus was the only one qualified to mediate for us in that case.

We couldn't satisfy the "debt" ourselves because we increase our guilt every day.

Only someone with the same human nature as us sinners could satisfy justice on our behalf, but one who is himself a sinner can not satisfy for others.

The mediator must also be true God, for only someone with the power of God could bear in his humanity the eternal wrath of the Father and obtain righteousness and life for us.

So, in our justice systems, a monitary fine can indeed be paid by a benefactor, but our debt to God is such that money, or even the sacrifice of lambs, bulls and goats can't satisfy it. Well, there is one Lamb that can. : )

Craig

photosynthesis said...

My friend Craig,

You did not answer anything. Of course your god could not be anything but "sovereign" since nobody could oppose his will.

As for perfect justice and perfect love. Well, if the very definition of love depends on your god, then, it is meaningless, whatever god did would be perfect love. Same for justice. Thus, your theology means that your god would be all of that by definition, not as an attribute you can establish outside of your god.

In other words, you have no difference to other Calvinists I might have had in mind. All Calvinist like using words like perfect this and perfect that for their god, and all of them make these words useless because their god is "sovereign" and the "standard" over the whole thing.

Whether obeying would have been easy to Adam and Eve (if you believe those), it would still have been your god's plan to make a fragile creation that would become a mess (fall) at the first sin, thus condemning lots and lots of humans to be sin-prone and Hell-bound. You call this a divine, just, loving, and sovereign plan, coming out of your god's character (not capricious ). But, to you, so would have been any plan.

This is why I say that if Calvinists stopped using those words that your own beliefs render to be meaningless, then your belief would be much more consistent. "God is sovereign" should be all you claim. Justice, love, perfect plan, are useless and meaningless.

Finally, when I said "whatever your god did." I know you think your god acts according to his character, which, to you, is not capricious. That does not change that no matter what such character could have been, you would use the exact same words to describe your god.

I could not call that perfect love and perfect justice. I could call that sovereign though. But I would not be able to worship such a monster.

G.E.

Shutterbug said...

In the fall, mankind has decided to determine for himself what is right and wrong, good and evil, apart from and even in opposition to what God says.


You said that so much better than my efforts at it.

stranger.strange.land said...

Woah!! Earthquake. Felt pretty strong here. Rocked for about 45 secs after the initial jolt.

stranger.strange.land said...

photosynthesis said...
My friend Craig,

You did not answer anything. Of course your god could not be anything but "sovereign" since nobody could oppose his will.


@ G.E. my very good friend.

I didn't answer anything? Hmmm. I selected two issues from your comment where I thought your understanding was a little off, and tried to clarify. As far as your "To you, whatever your god says is moral," Well, yes. I believe that. We even sing a hymn in church called "Whate'er our God ordains is right."

I guess we have come, or are coming more and more, to love and trust him, even about the things that we don't know all the details of, like our future and his wisdom in dealing with people.

By the way, just before the earthquake hit, a little while ago, I re-read all the comments so far to see if anything escaped me. Penn Thomasetti and I seem to see things the same way, but guess what. I still like you anyway :D

As far as God's love is concerned, to me it is clear that when he takes the likes of those who are his enemies and not only saves them from a miserable fate, but actually brings them into his family, THAT is love beyond anything I can imagine.

By the way, I am a Calvinistic in my understanding of the plan of salvation, but I have no idea who is elect and who is not. So from my limited vantage point, anyone is potentially a saint. So, Watch out.; )

Craig

Anette Acker said...

Craig,

I hope all is well and that the shaking has stopped! :)

I have a question for you and Penn about Calvinism that I asked the Calvinist commenters on John Piper's blog about a year ago and never got an answer. (As I think I've mentioned to you, I agree with the Calvinistic emphasis on God's grace but not the determinism.)

During the Great Awakening when George Whitefield and John Wesley preached, many people were saved. Whitefield and Wesley apparently prayed for several hours each day and were very much led by the Holy Spirit while preaching.

This is my question: Were the conversions due to the prayers and Spirit-led preaching, or were there just a disproportionate number of "elect" during that time? That is, did God just choose to soften hearts while these two preached, whereas now He is more inclined to harden hearts when the Gospel is preached? Or is there a correlation between prayer/Spirit-filled preaching and conversions?

The question occurred to me because you said that you have no idea who is elect and who is not. Of course this is true to both Calvinists and Arminians--photosynthesis could be the next Augustine for all we know. But apart from the fact that God is omniscient and has always known who will ultimately be saved, is it carved in stone? We know that Augustine's mother Monica prayed for him far more than most mothers pray for their children, so in my mind that had a lot to do with him being saved. "God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).

Even after I read Piper's blog for several months (and reading Future Grace) it was not at all clear to me what the Calvinistic position is on this question, so I'd be interested in your thoughts. I don't want to interfere with your conversation with photosynthesis et al, so feel free to reply elsewhere on your blog--just let me know where you've posted your reply. (I'd also like Penn's thoughts if he's still reading this.)

stranger.strange.land said...

Thank you Anette.

Good questions. I will answer on my next blog post. I have informed Penn by email.

Craig

Anette Acker said...

Thanks, Craig. I look forward to reading it.

P.S. to atheists: The fact that Christians disagree on interpretations of the Bible says nothing about its inerrancy, just like disagreements between scientists do not affect the laws of nature.

Theology can be hard to understand because it pertains to theoretical why questions. But the Bible is very clear and simple about what we are supposed to do. For example, we all agree that we are to pray and share the Gospel, but we may not understand or agree on exactly why this is necessary, and if and to what extent it affects God's will. But when we discuss those things, we come to understand them better.

photosynthesis said...

Hey Craig,

Well, that is the beauty of our human nature. I like you too despite I despise your beliefs. Isn't that something?

----

Anette my other dear friend,

If Christians disagree on interpretations of the Bible, then it cannot be inerrant, nor can it be the word of an omnipotent God. Ease for translation, ease for understanding, would be a signature of inerracy of am omnipotent god.

The disagreement between Calvinists and you Anette is dependent on which passages have been cherry-picked by each group, and how each group has decided to interpret such passages while ignoring the rest (passages that literally contradict their doctrine).

Science and nature have a different relationship. Our disagreements cannot change nature's reality, sure. But nature is not supposed to be the inerrant anything of anything else. Nor is it supposed to have the message of an omnipotent being. We work with what we have.

G.E.

Anette Acker said...

Photosynthesis,

Actually, I'm not far from Calvinism, because of the focus on God's grace. Many of my favorite authors were Reformed, but they did not teach hard determinism. George Whitefield was a Calvinist and John Wesley was an Arminian, and I probably agree with them equally. And I fully agree with Wesley in what he said about disagreements between Christians (and anyone, for that matter):

Are you persuaded that you see more clearly than me? It is not unlikely that you may. Then treat me as you would desire to be treated yourself upon a change of circumstances. Point out to me a better way than I have yet known. Show me it is so, by plain proof of Scripture. And if I linger in the path I have accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling to leave it, labour with me a little; take me by the hand, and lead me as I am able to bear. But be not displeased if I entreat you not to beat me down in order to quicken my pace: I can go but feebly and slowly at best; then, I should not be able to go at all. May I not request of you, further, not to give me hard names in order to bring me into the right way. Suppose I were ever so much in the wrong, I doubt this would not set me right. Rather, it would make me run so much the farther from you, and so get more and more out of the way

Nay, perhaps, if you are angry, so shall I be too; and then there will be small hopes of finding the truth. If once anger arises . . . this smoke will so dim the eyes of my soul, that I shall be able to see nothing clearly. For God’s sake, if it be possible to avoid it, let us not provoke one another to wrath. Let us not kindle in each other this fire of hell; much less blow it up into a flame. If we could discern truth by that dreadful light, would it not be a loss rather than gain? For, how far is love, even with many wrong opinions, to be preferred before truth itself without love! We may die without the knowledge of many truths, and yet be carried into Abraham’s bosom. But if we die without love, what will knowledge avail? Just as much as it avails the devil and his angels!


In other words, none of us come close to understanding everything about a God who says, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). But if His love is real in our lives, then we get it anyway (1 John 4:7-8). It's really very simple. "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Galatians 5:6).

stranger.strange.land said...

"Well, that is the beauty of our human nature. I like you too despite I despise your beliefs. Isn't that something?"

Aawww. I thought it was my beliefs that made me such a likeable guy. ;^)

Interesting conclusion, G.E., about Christians having different interpretations of the bible. I will make that the topic of a blog-post.

Meanwhile, my answer to Anette's question about Calvinism is scheduled to post tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. p.d.t.

(Yes, I know my saying both "morning" and "a.m." constitutes a redundancy, sort of like the guy who wears suspenders AND a belt.)

Craig

stranger.strange.land said...

Anette

(I saw your comment just after I posted mine to G.E.)

I like that quote from Wesley.

Francis Schaeffer wrote a pamphlet titled The Final Apologetic, which captured the same spirit. It was based on John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another."

Schaeffer later included "The Final Apologetic" as an appendix to the books he wrote.

That, and Wesley's quote are worth keeping in mind when addressing brothers and sisters with whom we disagree. And, let's face it, that is often.

In Christ's care,

Craig

Anette Acker said...

Craig,

I think it's a good one to keep in mind on Atheist Central, too. (I thought about posting it there.)

You're right that people disagree often, but I have to disagree with photosynthesis that it's "the beauty of human nature" for people to like each other anyway. It is human nature is to be suspicious of those who think differently. (I think he has been away from AC for too long to remember.) The fact that you are still friends just means that you are both caring and likable people.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Anette,

I'm sorry, I have been away in the Dominican Republic for a week doing evangelism. I did not check my email until I returned on Saturday, and just now had a little time to respond. I hope my reply is helpful.

You said...
"I have a question for you and Penn about Calvinism...

During the Great Awakening when George Whitefield and John Wesley preached, many people were saved. Whitefield and Wesley apparently prayed for several hours each day and were very much led by the Holy Spirit while preaching.

This is my question: Were the conversions due to the prayers and Spirit-led preaching, or were there just a disproportionate number of "elect" during that time? That is, did God just choose to soften hearts while these two preached, whereas now He is more inclined to harden hearts when the Gospel is preached? Or is there a correlation between prayer/Spirit-filled preaching and conversions?"


First let me say, I agree with you about Christian disagreement. We need to be understanding of one another, which is why I appreciate your question. To get your question correct, allow me to try to rephrase it so I understand rightly: Did people convert under the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield because of Spirit-led prayer and preaching? Or were there simply more people elected to be saved during their ministries?

First, allow me to point out that your question presents a false dichotomy. You seem to be assuming that it was either/or the prayers and preaching of men, or God's Sovereign choice. Then after that you seem to be assuming that more people were being saved at that time than are now. Personally, I do not see as many conversions today as were reported at that time, but I believe that your question already assumes that it has to be either/or in this case.

To me, it seems that people had been prepared for years before the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and John Wesley. They were taught many things from the Bible that are not taught today. Even their society was much more "christianized" than it is today and certainly had more knowledge of the basic truths that the gospel is based on than people do today. Also, the preaching of those men was far different than the way pastors and evangelists preach today. They had a practice of speaking powerfully in ways people seem to have lost or not yet re-learned. They also took many truths, such as judgment and sin, very seriously and spent a lot of time talking about them before pointing people to the answer. They were specially gifted by the Holy Spirit to preach. People in those days were also available to hear that kind of preaching when it came to their streets and countrysides. But even with all those natural factors, we could still say that God had predestined all of it to take place and to save those who were converted by His grace. That is Biblical to say, because of Ephesians 1:11, "[In Him] also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (NAS).

Biblically, God commands prayer, preaching and repentance, yet He works out those activities by His Spirit and makes them effectual. He has also predetermined all things, according to Scripture. God predetermined the cross of Christ before creating the world. He predetermined that Christ would die for sinners and save many. In the same manner, we can believe that God also predetermined the use of prayer and powerful preaching to save people in the days of Wesley and Whitefield, as well as today.

I think it is important for us to always keep in mind two things: 1) that we are creatures and God is the Creator, and 2) that we do not in the least way deserve His grace, yet it is by His own plan and will that He chose to save us for His glory through Christ. I believe those two points will help us put the other questions in perspective.

God bless you, Anette!

stranger.strange.land said...

@Penn Thomassetti

I have re-posted your comment on the "A Question About Calvinism" thread.

Craig

Anette Acker said...

Hi Penn,

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. We have guests and things have been busy. That's great that you've been in the Dominican Republic doing evangelizing.

I'm just going to reply quickly to something you've said. First, I'm glad that you think that my question presents a false dichotomy. I agree, but I wasn't sure if Calvinists do, because it often sounds as if they believe that God picked certain people and passed over others. Of course that is inconsistent with 1 Timothy 2:4, and if we ignore certain passages, we are indeed cherry picking like photosynthesis said.

But even with all those natural factors, we could still say that God had predestined all of it to take place and to save those who were converted by His grace. That is Biblical to say, because of Ephesians 1:11, "[In Him] also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (NAS).

I do not consider the Spirit-filled preaching and the prayers to be "natural factors." That is how God works to reach as many people as possible. It is His will that we do the same today.

I'll elaborate later, but I just didn't want to take too long to get back to you.

God bless you too!