Monday, August 04, 2008

So, anyone want to try to defend hell as just?

     Some ground rules: I think that the god described in the bible is cruel, spiteful, malevolent, and unjust. Claiming that he said that hell is just will completely unpersuasive here. (I also consider the bible to be fictional, thankfully; but that is another matter.) I can picture wicked god constructing a sham "law" to brand everyone as "guilty" as an excuse to send people unjustly to a hell on his whim. If you wish to defend hell as just, you will need to provide evidence that does not fit that.

8 comments:

JRK83 said...

Do you disagree that immorality should be punished? If you don't believe that certain things are wrong, then of course you believe that Hell is unjust. But for clarity, if you do believe that some deeds are worthy of punishment (e.g. rape or torture), please explain what it is about Hell that is unjust in your eyes so that I'm not aiming in the dark at some objection you don't actually hold. More to the point, what is unjust about Hell in your opinion?

Pvblivs said...

Jrk83:

     Punishment is, at best, a means to an end. But, even if we were to grant that some actions merited it, any law that says everyone deserves hell is a sham. I am familiar with the claim of "higher standard" and I'm not buying it. Unless, of course, you want to justify that. Even though I don't agree with your perspective that some actions deserve punishment for its own sake, I will consider your perspective. But you still have to face the concern "is this 'law' set up for the purpose of branding everyone 'guilty'?"

JRK83 said...

Pvblivs,

No, the law is not set up to brand everyone as guilty. The law is set up to set the guidelines for the best possible way to live. It just so happens that everyone has broken the law. You've probably broken several laws wherever you live. You just may not have been caught for it. I know I have. I have driven over the speed limit, I used to smoke and drink while I was under age, I've jaywalked, I've rolled through stop signs. For many of these things I was never caught, but the ones I was caught doing I paid a penalty. God is not limited like the police, but He sees all things and knows all things. Therefore, when we break His law and get away with it on earth (e.g. telling a lie) God has seen it, and there will be a penalty paid.

The law's purpose is not to brand everyone as guilty just like the laws where you live aren't. They are intended for the wellbeing of those in the society. The biggest difference is that justice will be carried out for all infractions with God, but justice can only be attempted to be carried out on infractions that can be proven in our system. God has proof that you and I are both lawbreakers.

Perhaps your problem with seeing this as justice is not that there is a "higher standard" that you're not buying, but because your idea of justice is influenced by a system that allows many infractions to pass without punishment (based on limited resources, evidence, or space in jails). Unfortunately, in a perfect system, these resources would not be lacking and no one who is guilty would go free. God's system is perfect, therefore no one can go free without payment. This is why the news of Jesus is so good ... payment has been made by the Judge Himself for anyone who will accept it. We're free to do our own time, however, if we choose.

Pvblivs said...

Jrk83:

     Branding evereryone as guilty does not serve the interests of society. If someone was defending a different god with "it's just a coincidence that everyone's guilty," you would reject and say it was not coincidence, but rather the plan of that god. I have to look at this to determine a likely purpose; and with a claim of "everyone deserves infinite punishment, but those who kiss the god's great behind get off scott-free," I cannot conclude it is for the betterment of society.
     Most crimes in our society carry a fine. One can simply pay the fine and return to society. There are some that involve jail time. But, even then, they usually end in a return to society. (I think there should be more focus on rehabilitation. People wind up there because they can't function in society.) An infinite hell for all "infractions" is necessarily unjust.

JRK83 said...

Pvblivs,

Do you deny that everyone has broken some law in the United States? It is only due to our fallibility that everyone is not punished for their crimes. God has no such limitation. Justice is not always served in this world, but it will be with God.

The requirement for getting off the hook is accepting the gift of salvation, not kissing "God's great behind." In fact, it is God who has gone out of His way to show unmerited kindness to us, and not the other way around. If someone gave you a gift of great value for no reason other than because they love you, would you not be thankful?

You also don't seem to understand that the infractions we make in our law have a "payment" that is considered worthy. Rolling through a stop sign, when no one else is involved, only requires that your bank account be lightened. Killing someone merits a lifetime behind bars (or even death in some states). The nature of the crime makes a difference. God is eternal and the crimes against His law are against Him. You simply don't understand the implications that your lies can have on this world, or that adultery can create in the lives of so many people. Children who are abused grow up to be far more likely to abuse their own children. Sin is contagious, and if your sin causes others to sin, the effects can be eternal. Even if the particular sin committed only affects you (which I would argue no event affects only one individual), choosing sin or denying that you want to be with God merits eternal separation from Him.

Consider this, although it only takes a small time to murder someone, you would probably grant that the proper punishment is life imprisonment. In the same way, no sin can be tolerated as long as God exists, and since He is eternal the punishment for sins against Him are necessarily everlasting. The degree of the crime is measured at least in part by the dignity or worth of the party it is committed against, so sin against an infinite God is infinitely evil.

Would you prefer that God forced people who commit evil into Heaven? Wouldn't this be Hell for someone who says that God is a "Megalo-maniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully" to be stuck in a place where everyone is praising Him all day everyday? Also, since sin and evil are contagious (i.e. children who are abused continue the trend, etc.), evil must be quarantined in order to defeat it once and for all. If Heaven is to last forever, then so must Hell.

Finally, you say that the God of the Bible's law is not for the betterment of society, but consider the only person who ever actually lived their whole life in accordance with the law: Jesus of Nazareth. You really want to claim that the world wouldn't be better off if everyone lived as Jesus did? We wouldn't need locks on our doors or guns in our homes, that's for sure!

Pvblivs said...

Jrk83:

     Hmmm... cursing a fig tree for not giving him fruit out of season; openly denying/disowning his mother when she wanted to speak with him. Making a blatent double standard (said that calling others fools was worthy of hell-fire, but consitently called those who disagreed with him fools. And this is according to those trying to put him in a positive light. No, the only way you could be calling him sin-free is by pulling out "it doesn't count as a sin when he does it."
     A claim of "crimes against his law are crimes against him," fits quite well to the idea of a tyrant. I do say that the biblical "law" is not for the betterment of society. For a law to be for the betterment of society, it must be possible to uphold. If everyone were altruistic, it would be better for society. But it cannot be justly codified into law because one cannot make oneself altruistic.
     "The requirement for getting off the hook is accepting the gift of salvation, not kissing 'God's great behind.'"
     And yet, what does "accepting the gift" entail? You guessed it -- kissing his great behind.
     You speak a great deal of "justice." But I'm not sure you understand the concept. Punishment (retribution) is not justice. It can serve a limited useful purpose in trying to keep society safe. But justice is only served by restoring those actually harmed. Punishment does not do this. More to the point, if your god is as powerful as you claim, "sins" cannot harm him.

JRK83 said...

Pvblivs,

Your attempts to find fault with Jesus all fall short. I'll take them one at a time.

Cursing the fig tree. I'm not sure if you confused this "cursing" with saying cuss words and this is why you say that Jesus sinned here. However, although this is possible when reading an English translation, the Greek words used do not allow such a reading. You can verify this by checking the words used in Matt 26:74, Mark 14:71 and Acts 23:21 against the usages found in Mark 11:21 and Luke 6:28. The first two words are katathematizo and anathematizo [both Acts and Mark]. I have bolded the root that they share. However, the words used to describe the "curse" that Jesus called down upon the fig tree is kataraomai. This is consistent with the usage in Luke 6. The first usages are consistent with a cursing unto damnation. It is the same word used in the Roman Catholic church's damning of souls to Hell when they declare an Anathema. If you read their condemnations from Trent, many of their declarations end, "let them be anathema" [i.e. condemned to Hell]. So, our verses that use this word or a derivative are vehement curses. Matthew and Mark are telling of Peter's denial of Christ: he responds to the accusations that he is a follower of Christ by lying and vehemently calling a curse upon himself if their accusations are true (which they were) and then swearing an oath that he does not know Jesus. The second word, the word you claim means that Jesus sinned, refers more to speaking bad things into this life. Compare the same word being used in Luke 6:28 which says, "bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." The context says to speak well of those who don't speak well of you, and to treat well those who mistreat you. Jesus simply spoke that this particular tree would not be well. And it withered. We see why He did this in Mark 11:20-25 because He wanted to give the disciples proof of the power of prayer. Jesus' miracles were always done for a purpose, never just for a show. In Matthew 21:19 we have the actual words that Jesus spoke in this "curse," and He said, " "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." " If you can show me the law which says, "thou shalt not say to the fig tree, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you"" then maybe I'll grant that this is a case where Jesus sinned.

openly denying/disowning his mother when she wanted to speak with him. Since you don't provide any citations, I assume you are referring to this passage:

"While He was still speaking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47 And someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." 48 But He answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold, My mother and My brothers! 50 "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."" [Matt 12:46-50]

Nowhere does this passage say that Jesus denied or disavowed His mother, but that He proclaimed His family to be larger than just His flesh and blood relatives. This is consistent with the teaching of Scripture and certainly not a sin. See Galatians 4 for a description from Paul of the adoption process into God's family, using an illustration from the Old Testament.

Making a blatent double standard (said that calling others fools was worthy of hell-fire, but consitently called those who disagreed with him fools. Again, allow me to provide the citations you have left out. Jesus' condemnation of calling someone a fool comes in Matt 5:21 which should be quoted in its entirety:

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. If you don't read Greek then it would be difficult to see the error in your exegesis. However, each "whoever" [bolded above] that follows the first clause makes use of the relative pronoun which refers back to the subject which precedes it. In this case, these relative pronouns refer back to "the one who is angry" which is modified with the adjective "all" [therefore, translated 'everyone who is angry']. So, this verse is declaring that people who speak these words out of anger are worthy of Hell fire. The verses in which Jesus utters the word "fool" are found in Matt 7:26 (a parable in which he is describing someone who is foolish, and surely not angry); Matthew 23:17 (a condemnation to the hypocritical leaders of the Jews who are actually being foolish and therefore this is not an angry name calling but a reality check for them); Matthew 25:2 (another non-angry description of foolish behavior); Mathew 25:3 (same); Matthew 25:8 (same); Mark 7:22 (another non-angry description); Luke 11:40 (a non-anger induced correction of their foolishness); and Luke 24:25 (another non-angry description of the foolishness of those who have failed to believe despite having the written testimony of the prophets). You would need to make a strong case from the text that Jesus spouted these words out of anger and not out of actual foolishness being corrected. It's not saying that someone is a fool which is sinful (especially if that person really is being foolish ... in fact telling a fool they aren't one would be a lie!), but that harsh words spoken in anger (not truth) are sinful. This is consistent with other biblical teaching: Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger [Ephesians 4:26].

Feel free to show me how my exegesis of these texts is in error if you can. Unfortunately, it seems you have merely regurgitated someone else's opinion that Jesus has sinned without actually examining the text carefully to see if it was so.

I'll address your other points in my next post since this one has gotten quite long by itself.

Take care.

JRK83 said...

Pvblivs,

"A claim of "crimes against his law are crimes against him," fits quite well to the idea of a tyrant."

Not really. When you commit a crime in the US (like rolling through a stop sign) you have broken the law of the state and it is the state who punishes you. When you hit someone with your car, you've still broken the law of the state (but now there is another individual involved) but it is the state who will punish you and now the individual has rights to sue you as well. The laws you have broken are against God's law (so He will punish) and against God's image (since all sins against others or self are commited against someone who was created in the image of God). This doesn't make God a tyrant, it makes Him just ... unless you want to say that the state is unjust for punishing transgressors of their law too and individuals cannot raise a suit against those who "sin" against them.

"For a law to be for the betterment of society, it must be possible to uphold."

It is possible to uphold. In fact, all facets of the law are upheld by one individual or another. The unfortunate part is that each individual has also broken at least one part. Of course, even the infractions are items that each individual is capable of upholding at some times ... for example, you do not use God's name in vain all the time. You are just a blasphemer when you do. You did not address the fact that we are all lawbreakers of our own civil laws. Does that mean they are unjust too?

"And yet, what does "accepting the gift" entail? You guessed it -- kissing his great behind."

I'll ask you again: If someone gave you a gift of great value for free simply because they love you, would you not be thankful? Being thankful and loving that person in return is not the same as kissing someone's butt. Perhaps you've never experienced love, but this is a poor, poor definition.

"You speak a great deal of "justice." But I'm not sure you understand the concept. Punishment (retribution) is not justice. It can serve a limited useful purpose in trying to keep society safe. But justice is only served by restoring those actually harmed."

Again, your analysis fails. How does life imprisonment for a murder "restore" the one who was murdered? Clearly it is your idea of justice that is misinformed. Sometimes justice may be served by the victim being restored. But sometimes this is impossible. So is justice impossible in these cases? It seems evident that justice means someone gets what is coming to them. This can be good (restoration) or bad (consequences). However, there are civil infractions that we've broken that we did not receive justice for (which would be deserving of temporal punishment in most cases) and then we have moral infractions which are worthy of eternal consequences.

"More to the point, if your god is as powerful as you claim, "sins" cannot harm him."

True. But do you not want justice for those who have commited crimes against you? Your family? Your friends? What about the little children who are abused in other countries (e.g. sex slaves, etc.). Should no justice ever come to those who commit these atrocities? Surely they are not coming in this lifetime, how could God be just if He left them unpunished? God need not be the victim to carry out punishment on behalf of true victims.