Does God Love Everybody?

Perhaps the greatest appeal of the Christian faith, at least in our time, is the notion of unfettered love. The idea of a God who loves unconditionally, and seeks to empower mankind to do the same is desirable in a seemingly disinterested world. I will admit that still yet I find the idea of an omni-benevolent God to be psychologically alluring. But I am not certain that the Biblical God fits that criteria.Everyone who has ever attended a Sunday School class knows John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” 1 Timothy 2 states that God wills for “everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That is a nice thought, but does God’s track record as recorded by his own followers in the Bible match up to that idea?

The story of Israel is one that is at first glance very beautiful. God chose an unworthy people to be his. In the midst of their suffering, their sin and their imperfections, God chose them. God protected them. He led them out of bondage and into the Promised Land. In the eyes of a contemporary reader, it can be a profound analogue to their own lives: in spite of the readers infirmities and so-called rebellion against God, he chose them and knows their name.

But there is something about the narrative that has always bothered me. The writings of the Old Testament seem to glory in the unworthiness of the Israelites. Upon God choosing them, there doesn’t seem to be any qualifying criteria, they are in no way morally superior to any other people group. In fact, even after God works to save and protect them, they continue to rebel and God continues to reinforce them. That’s great, really, that God is so devoted to the Israelites. But what about the other people groups of the world?

Why would an all-powerful, all-loving God choose only one nation to love? Why did the God who chose the morally defect Israelites choose to reject the morally defect Canaanites? Why is it that the God who revealed himself to Moses chose not to reveal himself to all the nations? Israel was “blessed to be a blessing.” Nice thought. But why did God not simply reveal himself to all the nations? Was he unable? If so, he is impotent. Was he unwilling? If so, then he is cruel.

You see, these are not just abstract groups of people from thousands of years ago. In the Christian conception, those were individuals who had value endowed by their Creator, they were souls made to be in relationship with their God. And yet, seemingly arbitrarily God rejected them. God did not stop at embracing Israel. His love for Israel was not passive in relation to the other nations. God did not simply protect Israel from outside attack. When God embraced Israel, he actively rejected the surrounding nations. Yahweh did not protect Israel from Amalekite aggression, he commanded Israel to commit genocide against the Amalekite people.

So what explanation is there for this duality in God’s treatment of nations in the ancient world? I have heard it argued that the nations commanded destroyed by God were not innocent; that they were decadent cultures that God commanded destroyed for the protection of the world. But surely, the all-powerful, all-loving Yahweh, who radically transformed the Israelites could do the same for the Canaanites? Did he not want to encroach on their ‘free will’? He did with Israel. By divinely intervening in the affairs of Israel while in ‘bondage’ in Egypt, God radically altered their future. So why not do the same with the various nations that God eventually has his beloved people destroy?

If God is in the business of bringing men and women into right relationship with him, with the renewal of his creation, it seems bad strategy to do so through a rebellious, morally defect people. It seems to me that God is either a poor administrator or an arbitrary despot.

The narrative continues in much the same way. Even in times that Israel is punished through exile, God wields nations such as the Babylonians like a weapon, using them for his will. In effect, God causes the Babylonians to cause harm to the Israelites, only to blame them for it later and to have them punished by the Israelites. Yahweh’s love for Israel seems to be the blinding affection of an adolescent crush. He will use and hurt anyone in his path to do what he wants for Israel.

Today, evangelical Christians are quick to criticize Mormons. Though there are many areas of Mormon theology that Christians find disconcerting, I would like to focus on the Mormon idea that after Jesus resurrected, he appeared to men and women in the Americas to reveal himself here. Christians scoff at this (obviously, Jesus didn’t appear to people in America, that’s absurd! But he did, of course, rise from the grave and appear as a resurrected ghost to his own followers in Israel, that’s reasonable). But why would Jesus not do so? If a Christian is to be fair to the text, without a “born again” experience, an individual will end up in hell upon their death. If so, why would God reveal the Good News to a small, obscure group of people in a small corner of the world and wait patiently for that Good News to be spread thousands of years later, meanwhile allowing countless individuals to wind up in hell?

It seems to me that if Jesus were truly concerned about the souls of mankind he would have appeared to the Native Americans, to the Chinese, to the Africans, to the Irish, etc. Yet he did not. Instead, God twiddled his thumbs for two thousand years, waiting for his followers to get around to settling the new world and bringing his Gospel through the sword to subdue Native Americans. In some places of the world, God is still waiting for his followers to stop entire cultures from ending up in their hellish destiny.

Yet this God loves all. The God who has the power to appear to the most decadent cultures in a burning bush, the God who once walked side by side with Adam but chooses not to do so with Muslims in Iran, seems incredibly content to allow the narrative of his love to spread incredibly slowly, and by default to condemn millions of souls to eternal damnation.

God’s love, my friends, is presented by his own holy text, as being incredibly arbitrary. If the Christian religion is true, I am deeply concerned by the nature of this God.

(Note: I originally posted this on de-Conversion back in October 2007, but I wanted to have a copy of it on my site as well.)

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16 Responses to “Does God Love Everybody?”

  1. Karl Laskas Says:

    Hi, I noticed your website as a result of a link from a news article. Just thought I would mention to you that there is a logical fallacy in what you wrote above.

    Your argument goes something like this: God condemns people to hell who don’t know Him; God has been too slow in ensuring that people know Him; therefore, God has brought about the worst thing imaginable. There are faults in your propositions and conclusion.

    First, it is not orthodox Christian doctrine that God condemns people to hell. The bible is largely silent on the issue of what “eternal arrangements” are made for people in cultures outside the Judeo-Christian world. Christians have different points of view on this subject. Some Christians believe that such people are judged according to the standards of a preternatural law that is ingrained on the human conscience. Some Catholics believe that they will be presented with an opportunity to evaluate life, God and their existence on an informed basis in some kind of purgatory state. Others view “hell” as a state of separation from God – analogous to separation from any person – which is freely chosen by an individual and can be rectified by the desire to change where one is going. Still others believe in a doctrine of ultimate reconciliation, whereby all people one day are reconciled to God. Finally, I’ll throw in a plug for my own point of view: the Christ came to earth to embody a type of existence that is redeemed and whole, and any human person who embodies that kind of life (implying a love both of his fellow man and the Almighty, which is no small thing) is “saved”. To a believer such as myself, the passages you cite in the OT are not of much importance, save as evidence of vestiges of a developing understanding of God that was replaced by the Christ. So, the position you attack is by no means universally held or even orthodox.

    Second, with respect to the suggestion that God is acting slowly in the world, that is a subjective point of view. In my view, the spread of the Christ’s way of life has been amazingly rapid. In 2000 years, we have largely overturned the fundamental constructs of a world civilization that was based on ancient principles of strength and force defining the Right. All of us who engage in discourse like this owe a profound debt to a Jewish carpenter 2000 years who spoke a sermon that suggested that the meek would inherit the earth (i.e. those who do not assert their right on the basis of violence but on the basis of quiet confidence in the truth). The growth in the knowledge of God and our obligations to one another is a mission that the Christ put firmly in the hands of those who would follow him, and I see that growth as meteoric.

    Incidentally I see in your discourse above the same kind of patient hope for a better world that believers have.

    Finally, one thing that all Christians agree on is that God is wiser and more benevolent than one such as I will ever be. If I, with my limited knowledge and limited goodness and pervasive selfishness, can realize that there would be a gross inequity in good people from distant cultures or honest mistakes being assigned an eternity of torment, certainly the Almighty sees that as well. I trust His goodness far more than I trust any human being’s interpretation of doctrine or OT scripture. If God were actually less good and less just than I, I would have no reason to follow Him. Instead therefore as I have grown older, I see clearly that the proper target of my doubt is not the Almighty but those who claim to speak for Him. The former has never let me down; the latter frequently have.

    Thanks for the forum, and the opportunity to offer a few thoughts. Be well. – Karl

  2. God, going by widespread doctrine, certainly does not love everyone.

    People who have never heard of him wouldn’t get paradise, certainly. Tad unfair.
    Catholics believe that those who commit suicide can’t possible enter heaven. Guess they’re unloved as well.
    People who blaspheme or deny the holy spirit … nope, they don’t get in ever. Apparently it’s an unforgivable sin and so no love for them.
    People who don’t believe in jesus are kept out of heaven as well (afterall “the only salvation is through me” or words to that effect) … so I guess the Jewish people get no love either.

  3. My friend. You are totally free to believe what you believe, just make sure you’re not embracing lies.

    GOD does love the world… that is HIS creation. But that doesn’t mean it is unconditional. Show me in the Holy Bible where it says GOD loves unconditionally.

    Have you not read that HE will reject those who reject HIM?

    You know for yourself how HE dealt with the early Hebrews/Israel. HIS love is not unconditional. HE wish that none of us were to be lost, but look to yourself for an example.

    You know full well about HIM, but for your own particular reasons, you reject HIM. Does that mean HE now hates you? I don’t think so, my friend. And I am sure you are still welcomed at HIS table. But you have known HIM and have turned your back to HIM. So perhaps HE has now done to you… that doesn’t mean HE has forgotten about you, as you have surely not forgotten about HIM.

    GOD loved David, but punished him for his sins. GOD loved Moses and even took his body so that Satan could not gain possession of it (read Jude 1, specifically verse 9). But GOD would not allow Moses to see the promised land…the same dude HE chose to lead the Hebrews from captivity and had wandering around the desert for decades… GOD forbade him from stepping onto the land (HE let him see it from afar, however), because Moses himself had disappointed GOD.

    GOD IS LOVE. GOD does love you. GOD does love me. But GOD will not be mocked or made common. HE will rebuke those and punish and discipline those whom HE loves. No Christian expects that all will be well in their life… that them or their loved ones will not see death, oppression or illness. That is the world. If a so-called Christian believes that life will be made perfect for them and that all the pieces will fall into place once they turn their life over to Jesus the Christ, then they are still very much in darkness. Jesus did not die upon the cross so that we could be healthy and wealthy all our days upon the earth… it was so we can have salvation…a perfect life after death.

  4. Just thought I would mention to you that there is a logical fallacy in what you wrote above.

    I think you’re better off attacking the soundness of my argument than the deductive veracity of it, fyi.

    Your argument goes something like this: God condemns people to hell who don’t know Him; God has been too slow in ensuring that people know Him; therefore, God has brought about the worst thing imaginable. There are faults in your propositions and conclusion.

    More accruately, my argument goes something like this:
    (1) God created the world.
    (2) God allowed humanity the option to sin.
    (3) God allowed a created order in which once that sin had entered, relationship with him via sacrifices (OT) or relationship with Christ (NT) was the requirement for salvation.
    (4) God does not present equality of opportunity
    (5) Therefore, God is unfair in his love for everyone.

    The bible is largely silent on the issue of what “eternal arrangements” are made for people in cultures outside the Judeo-Christian world.

    While this may be comforting for you, the New Testament (in contrast to the OT, which speaks very little–if at all–about an afterlife) is very clear about the fate of those who do not embrace the Christian Good news.

    You continue to share some of the various views over the ages of what happens to non-Christians after death. Unfortunately, none of them are truly orthodox. Orthodox Catholicism claims that everyone outside of the Church Universal is bound for hell. Calvinism postulates a God of double predestination, who has condmened certain individuals to hell from the beginning of time. Wesleyan-Arminian thought too posits that all outside of Christ are destined for hell.

    Only by bending over backward to get out of the biblical narrative can you begin to say that it is unclear who is going where in the afterlife.

    Second, with respect to the suggestion that God is acting slowly in the world, that is a subjective point of view. In my view, the spread of the Christ’s way of life has been amazingly rapid. In 2000 years

    In the meantime, countless hundreds of thousands are in hell because they did not know better. Natural theology my friend, look in Romans 1.

    You know full well about HIM, but for your own particular reasons, you reject HIM.

    I know that there are those who claim the Judeo-Christian God exists. I also know that there are those who claim that Allah exists. Or that Brahman exists. I reject each because there is no evidence to support their truth claims.

  5. From an outsiders perspective I would say, and have said Amen to the majority of what has been written. I think it falls short now and the reason is because you hold man up too high. In your evaluation you think that if God is willing to save one people group why doesn’t he try to save all. Then because he doesn’t save all he is unfair.

    Lets try this as an option. All of mankind deserves hell, everlasting torment for our sin. Its not how good is man, its how bad. We are wretched, deceitful, corrupt… I could go on and on. That naturally isn’t how bad we see ourselves. Everyone thinks that they are a pretty good person and if their is a heaven that we deserve to go there. Then we bring God down to our subjective viewpoint and say that God should view us and others as good people. We do more good things than bad… right.

    The bible when viewed gives the proper vantage point of God. The bible says that God is unchanging, He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God’s standard is unchanging as well. His moral law represented in the 10 commandments is absolute. We all tell lies, hate, steal, covet, dishonor our parents, worship idols, blaspheme God’s name. Have you ever thought of yourself as a liar, a thief, a blasphemer, and an idolater? And it isn’t like these are one time events in our lives, we day in and day out live in absolute rebellion to God.

    Now that we have established how bad we are before God, lets look at why does He save anyone. That should be the real question. Why should God look at humanity and see anything valuable at all. Its simply because His ability to love is greater than w can imagine. Humanity is so wretched that it cost His Son to be beaten, bruised, and suffer to pay the penalty we deserve. Then all He asks in return is to repent of the sin that we love and turn toward Him who is willing to save. There are probably millions of people who claim the name of Christ today who do not understand this and will never get to see heaven. Because they think they earn it or they deserve it because their good people.

    A man much smarter than myself said the gospel could be summed up like this. You are more wicked than you ever dared dream, and more loved in Jesus Christ than you ever could have imagined. I ask you to consider the exchange made in your place. Jesus took your sin and bore them on the cross, and in turn offers you eternal life. He is the only one that can make this offer to you.

    Thanks for reading – Matt

  6. Matt,

    I appreciate your response, and it sounds something like I would have said a year ago. But I would like to respond. First, I’d like to clarify that I do not believe in the existence of the Christian god, so I am not concerned with his behavior as described in the Bible. Rather, my point is to show that the Christian conception of God is self-refuting: God is described in the bible as being omni-benevolent, at the same time, the God of the Bible is arbitrary and manipulative. That said:

    Lets try this as an option. All of mankind deserves hell, everlasting torment for our sin. Its not how good is man, its how bad. We are wretched, deceitful, corrupt… I could go on and on.

    Okay, man deserves hell. Why? Sin. Why did man sin? God created man with the ability to sin (and in fact with the foreknowledge that man would sin). That calls into question the nature of God. Why create an entire species of individuals that you “love,” knowing that a good portion of them (a simple majority is a conservative estimate) will end up in hell?

    Everyone thinks that they are a pretty good person and if their is a heaven that we deserve to go there. Then we bring God down to our subjective viewpoint and say that God should view us and others as good people. We do more good things than bad… right.

    Over the years, I have heard this again and again. I for one think I am a muddy mix of good and bad. And I think most people see themselves in a similar way. Also, I am not concerned about an afterlife I have no evidence exists.

    The bible when viewed gives the proper vantage point of God. The bible says that God is unchanging, He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

    Then how do you reconcile the differences between God as portrayed in the OT and God as portrayed in the NT? There is a reason that Marcion, an early church theologian (and heretic), believed that the OT God was evil.

    God’s standard is unchanging as well. His moral law represented in the 10 commandments is absolute.

    Even as a Christian I was uncomfotable with this Ray Comfort-esque view of the Ten Commandments. If they are absolutes, they sure as hell are vague. “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” What does that mean? Taking any life? Taking a life in an unjustified way? I could accept that God would put forth a commandment that might stir some debate, but the debate has been raging for 4,000 years, thats kind of ridiculous.

    Humanity is so wretched that it cost His Son to be beaten, bruised, and suffer to pay the penalty we deserve.

    If this is God’s nature, he is a sadistic egomaniac. You’re telling me that God craeted humanity, which he loves, knowing that they would be wretched and evil. But he loves them enough to send himself to earth to allow himself to die to satisfy his own anger in order to save a few of them from what he created them to be, but only if they posit belief in him with no evidence to substantiate his very existence? If this God, and God exists, I want nothing to do with him.

  7. Hey carriedthecross, thanks for replying to my post. Maybe we are missing each other here. You mention that you don’t care about God’s behavior as described in the bible. Well that is where Christianity comes from. When you leave the bible you leave Christianity. So when I argue God’s nature or behavior its only from scripture, otherwise I am speaking from the authority of Matt and I hold no authority. So I will continue to argue from the scriptures to make my case.

    Ok, so your problem is that God created man, knowing they would sin and that He has a problem with sin, thus knowing that a large portion of mankind would end up in hell. Well the bible gives us an idea as to why. It tells us it was at least in part to make known the riches of his glory to his vessels of mercy (Romans 9). If you ask any teenager on the street if liked the opportunity to be born they will say yes. Ask them if they thoroughly enjoy their sin (getting drunk, doing drugs, sleeping around, being rebellious) and they will say YES. Ask them if they are willing to give that stuff up so they can go to heaven and they will tell you not yet. So they love their live and their temporal pleasures are more important to them than their eternal destiny. I don’t get why you have a problem with God on this. These people want to be where they are.

    When you leave the bible you come up with concepts like God is “omni-benevolent”. You won’t find that in scripture. It doesn’t say that God is all loving, it says that God is love. And this is true, God loves people, justice, truth, holiness. God loves lots of things and only pure love comes from God. God also is wrath. The wrath of God is spoken in the bible as much or more so than His love.

    Regarding the OT God verse the NT God… they are one in the same. This all loving God which you believe in from the new testament killed a husband and wife for lying about how much money they were giving (Acts 5). Jesus speaks of hell often in the new testament and says don’t fear him who after killing the body can do nothing, but fear Him who after killing the body can cast it into eternal hellfire, where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is an obvious reference to God.

    In the end you characterized God as a sadistic egomaniac. Sadistic because he created people knowing that they wouldn’t choose him? Well as I have shown you before the people headed to hell want nothing to do with the alternative now, as this would be your take as well I imagine. The people you speak of don’t seem to have a problem with God creating them and letting them sin. Egomaniac why, because He is the center of the universe? What else would be, shouldn’t that which is greatest be worthy of the most admiration? I know you don’t believe in the God of the bible, but if it is true why would you have a problem with this concept?

    To end, I think that it would be hard pressed to call God an egomaniac in light of Jesus. Now you don’t believe Him and that’s fine. But if the bible is true then God Himself was willing to take on the form of a man, to be tempted as we are and to suffer as we do, then ultimately die as horrible of a death as a person can taking our sin on Himself even though He had done no wrong. Jesus in the Christian faith is God, is this was you would refer to as an egotistic act?

  8. CtC,

    The book of Joshua really brought this home to me, but I found that the more I tried to preach that God was loving, the more I had to practise intellectual dishonesty to pretend any book of the bible supported my claim. I found myself making true statements in a particular order and pretending they led to a conclusion they did not actually support. I found myself focusing on particular scriptures and ignoring others completely. I found myself preaching messages on the same theme as the scriptures, but not connected in any other way. All so that I could argue that God loves us and wants us to love each other.

    I found myself, like Karl above, believing that God was good simply because I wouldn’t believe in God if God wasn’t good (and what horribly twisted logic that is). Like Goodbook, I looked at how God forgave all of Moses’ sins, except one, which God decided kept Moses out of the Promised Land and tried to see this as some balance of justice and mercy. After all, Moses appeared at Jesus’ Transfiguration, right? Maybe things were made right after death. Sadly, that doesn’t say much for a God who supposedly loves us here and now.

    Finally, I saw that the Bible portrays God as the sado-masochistic narcissist that Matt described above: creating us as wretched and corrupt, making laws we can not follow, torturing himself and saying it was for our benefit, then telling us we ought to be grateful that God “loves” us so and obedient lest God punishes us worse than God did Godself.

    How can I worship a God like that, let alone lead others in such worship?

  9. Oops. I see there are two Matt’s above. I should have specified Matthew. Matt had other good points, but not ones I referred to. Sorry for any confusion.

  10. Matthew,

    I enjoy the discussion. In response to some of what you said…

    Ok, so your problem is that God created man, knowing they would sin and that He has a problem with sin, thus knowing that a large portion of mankind would end up in hell. Well the bible gives us an idea as to why. It tells us it was at least in part to make known the riches of his glory to his vessels of mercy (Romans 9).

    So God allowed “sin” and thus “hell” so that the redeemed would better appreciate the goodness of God after experiencing evil, and only at the expense of those damned to hell. This seems to be a weak argument to me.

    Ask them if they thoroughly enjoy their sin (getting drunk, doing drugs, sleeping around, being rebellious) and they will say YES.

    Well I think you have (a) oversimplified much of average teenage behavior and (b) vilified it without just cause. Do people enjoy activities such as drinking and sex? Yes. Why? Because they are by and large enjoyable. While I am not an advocate of heavy drinking and sexual promiscuity, I also think that prudish abstinence from these activities because they are perceived as “bad” is also somewhat silly. Drinking and sex are not bad as long as they are responsibly moderated (i.e. if you are an alcoholic, it is probably a bad idea to be drinking. If you are unable to make responsible decisions while under the influence of alcohol, it is probably a bad idea to be drinking. If you are 14 it is probably a bad idea to be having sex.).

    Ask them if they are willing to give that stuff up so they can go to heaven and they will tell you not yet.

    For better or worse, this is because an abstract conception of eternity is not real to most people. What possible reason would an average person have to give up an occasional social drink in order to earn a promised, but not substantiated, eternal life?

    When you leave the bible you come up with concepts like God is “omni-benevolent”. You won’t find that in scripture.

    I think we are being somewhat pedantic here. We are saying the same things with different words. For the record, I borrow the term “omni-benevolent” from Christian philosophy.

    The wrath of God is spoken in the bible as much or more so than His love.

    Exactly. God creates man, knowing they will sin. God institutes punishment for sin if man does sin. Man sins. God becomes angry with them. It seems to me that this would be like a parent handing a child an unwrapped candy bar and saying, “Don’t eat this!” Then the parent leaves the room, and when they return to find the candy bar eaten, they spank the child. It isn’t reasonable.

    Jesus speaks of hell often in the new testament and says don’t fear him who after killing the body can do nothing, but fear Him who after killing the body can cast it into eternal hellfire, where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is an obvious reference to God.

    I couldn’t have argued it better myself. For the record, the ancient Jews had little to no conception of an afterlife. The idea of a ‘hell’ didn’t emerge until a generation or two before Jesus (at the earliest). So this Jesus condemning people to hell is inconsistent with the OT.

    Sadistic because he created people knowing that they wouldn’t choose him? Well as I have shown you before the people headed to hell want nothing to do with the alternative now, as this would be your take as well I imagine.

    Exactly. If God created them, God knew they would sin. God created them knowing what their behavior would be. That makes God at the very least circumstantially responsible for their sin.

    But if the bible is true then God Himself was willing to take on the form of a man, to be tempted as we are and to suffer as we do, then ultimately die as horrible of a death as a person can taking our sin on Himself even though He had done no wrong.

    I’ve never understood this argument. If Jesus was fully God and eternally existent, then spending 30 years on earth as a human, and spending a day or two being executed would ultimately not be a big deal.

    Quester,

    I found myself, like Karl above, believing that God was good simply because I wouldn’t believe in God if God wasn’t good (and what horribly twisted logic that is).

    Exactly. I did the same thing. I remember praying, “Thank you God for being who you are, knowing that I would not love you simply for being God, but only because you are a good God.” But every time I would make a prayer like that, I would feel kind of awkward because I had such a difficult time reconciling the bible with the goodness of God.

  11. So God allowed “sin” and thus “hell” so that the redeemed would better appreciate the goodness of God after experiencing evil, and only at the expense of those damned to hell. This seems to be a weak argument to me.

    It’s a bizarre argument, exactly the same logic as making people appreciate bandages by stabbing them in the stomach.

  12. So logically you don’t think that people appreciate mercy more after knowing what their actions actually deserve? That seriously doesn’t make sense to you? Seems similar to the concept that you don’t appreciate money as much until you earned it yourself. You can say you don’t agree, I was just telling you what the bible says about it.

    You say that Jesus being executed for a day or two is no big deal. I would say it was. First, please read through what happens when someone is crucified. There are books on this. The practice was considered so barbaric that it was eventually outlawed by people over 1,500 years ago (I think). If people back then were appalled by it, consider how bad it must have been.

    Second reason it was a big deal is going back to reading scripture. Jesus suffers spiritually the night He is taken as He is praying. It says He sweats blood, which is physically possible and only happens when an individual is under incredible stress. Jesus who knew what it would take out of Him physically and spiritually to go to the cross didn’t think lightly of the occasion.

  13. So logically you don’t think that people appreciate mercy more after knowing what their actions actually deserve? That seriously doesn’t make sense to you?

    My beef is more with the price of that appreciation. For a minority of humanity appreciate God’s grace, the majority must (if you are an orthodox Christian) spend an eternity in hell. To me, that seems to imply that God is a poor manager.

    You say that Jesus being executed for a day or two is no big deal. I would say it was. First, please read through what happens when someone is crucified. There are books on this. The practice was considered so barbaric that it was eventually outlawed by people over 1,500 years ago (I think). If people back then were appalled by it, consider how bad it must have been.

    I’m not arguing that crucifixion as a form of execution is a walk through the botanical gardens. But putting that crucifixion in perspective, for a deity to suffer through it, I am not all that sympathetic. It would be like me becoming a fly to allow myself to be swatted by a newspaper, knowing that upon the swatting I would return to my former state of superiority to flies.

    Jesus who knew what it would take out of Him physically and spiritually to go to the cross didn’t think lightly of the occasion.

    Plenty of people have sacrificed themselves knowingly for causes and for other people. I am more impressed by the soldier who allows himself to be killed for the sake of his unit or the mother who allows herself to be killed for the sake of their child– their sacrifice is much more real than the triviality of Jesus’ sacrifice that I indicated in the last paragraph.

  14. Karl Laskas Says:

    Decided to check in here a few weeks later.

    > Okay, man deserves hell. Why? Sin. Why did man sin? God created man with the ability to sin (and in fact with the foreknowledge that man would sin). That calls into question the nature of God. Why create an entire species of individuals that you “love,” knowing that a good portion of them (a simple majority is a conservative estimate) will end up in hell?

    Let’s do a semantic experiment here. Strike the the language “ability to sin” and replace it with “freedom” or “free will”. Strike the language “end up in hell” with “make stupid choices”). Now we have:

    Why did God create man with freedom? That calls into question the nature of God. Why create an entire species of individuals that you “love,” knowing that a good portion of them (a simple majority is a conservative estimate) would make stupid choices?

    I don’t know if you have children, but that, my friend, is exactly the moral choice that prospective parents make every day. How could anyone have the temerity to bring something new into this world knowing that a healthy portion of your children will screw up and make a wreck of their lives? Is that “balanced” or “justified” in some sense by that another healthy portion of your offspring will be successful and make the world a better place to be? How can one person’s success balance another’s failure? One’s triumph another’s disaster? Those are reasonable questions to ask. And sme people resolve that tension by choosing not to bring new people into the world, of course. Others ignore the question entirely and go on bonking with a nary though of who they will be conceiving. But then there are those of us who wrestle with these issues every day and ultimately decide to have a child partly because it’s an act of hope to create something new — a person you can mold and influence — even if there are losses along the way.

    You look at the moral tension of one person’s disaster and another’s triumph and you see some contradiction with the love of God. Which goes back to your first reply to me above, where you wrote:

    (4) God does not present equality of opportunity

    Is there “equality of opportunity” in the world? Of course not; you don’t need to consider salvation opportunities to make that determination, just look at any physical reality that affects a person: their family’s wealth, their genetic predisposition to intelligence, the aridity of the land they farm, their susceptibility to skin cancer, whatever.

    No, of course there is no equality of opportunity in the world. And the point is: so what? There is no ethical imperative to treat like things alike or like persons alike. Intentionality demands that at any given moment one prefer certain things to others, and prefer certain people to others. I choose to talk to you this moment, rather than another person. There isn’t a moral failing in that. Equality of opportunity is a late 20th century concept that you’re treating as some kind of unqualified good; it simply isn’t an unqualified good.

    But a bigger fault in what you write is that it’s premised on a facile utilitarianism – as if what happens to any given person should be the measure of good and evil in this world. I find that to be solipsistic and unworthy. What the Almighty did is something outrageous – he determined to create something new and premised in freedom and very possibly one of the goals of that creation was to bring forth in this universe a robust self-reflective intelligence. It’s simply not possible to make that omelette without breaking a few eggs. Which He is allowed to do, because they were His eggs to begin with.

    Talking about these things is useful, but I do a sense some deep hurt in you, something broken, that needs to be fixed. Your last line in the posting directly above “the triviality of Jesus’ sacrifice” is so absurd as to be scandalous if it were not beneath comment; it trivializes your own thinking here. You seem like you have the capability to be a lot better than that; you need to aim higher.

  15. Karl,
    I appreciate where you are coming from, I really do. I feel like if I respond, we are going to end up going in circles. I understand your arguments, and I’ve made similar ones in the past. I think you’re wrong, you think I’m wrong… I highly doubt we’ll resolve it writing back and forth once a month on an internet thread. 😉
    There is one thing I would like to directly respond to, though:

    Talking about these things is useful, but I do a sense some deep hurt in you, something broken, that needs to be fixed.

    If there is one thing I’ve heard over and over again since I left Christianity, it is that I’ve done so because of some kind of pain or suffering in my life. I’ve been psychoanalyzed more times than I can count. Either I’ve had bad experiences with the church, or I have a bad relationship with my parents, or I’ve had a bad . I don’t get it, why is this always assumed to be the reason someone would choose not to be a Christian?
    Have I lived in an imperfect set of circumstances? Of course! Have I had bad experiences with Christians over the years? Yes, but I’ve also had great experiences with Christians. Have I suffered? Yes, but not to the extent most of the world has, and it has been countered by great amounts of good that I have experienced? Has my relationship with my parents been, at times, strained? Yes, but what member of my generation has not had a less-than-perfect relationship with their parents?
    I hope you see what I am getting at. Sure, there are ways in which I am “hurt” or “broken,” to use the language of pop Christianity, but I assure you my de-conversion from Christianity had nothing to do with any kind of resentment toward certain groups of Christians. I left Christianity because it doesn’t make sense. It makes a noble, and at times compelling, attempt to explain reality, but ultimately it fails.

    CTC

  16. DEAR GOD I DON’T THINK THAT MAMIE GUMMER(DAUGHTER OF MERYL STREEP)SHOULD GET MARRIED.

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