Monday, February 3, 2020

Cold Case Christianity: No, The Existence and Nature of Hell Cannot Be Defended

This is my reply to an article by J. Warner Wallace entitled

While the Bible clearly describes Hell as a reality,
No, not "clearly", otherwise you wouldn't have 7th day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and other assorted "Annihiliationists" denying your view of hell as literal eternal conscious torment. 
many of our non-believing friends and family members are unsurprisingly repulsed by the idea. Why would God create such a place, and what would ever provoke Him to send people there?
Those of us who can tell that there is no such place, are not bothered by the stupidity involved in speculating about what an "infinite being" might desire.
As Christians, we know our ultimate authority is God’s Word, so it’s tempting to simply trust what God has revealed without any further philosophical investigation. But we can prepare ourselves for those who reject the authority or teaching of the Bible by examining the evidence from Scripture along with the rational explanations and philosophical foundations supporting the Biblical claims. God has commanded us to be ready to defend the tough truths of the Christian worldview as we share our hope in Jesus:
 1 Peter 3:15-16
…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence
But Jesus never commanded any such "defense", and you will have an extrarodinarily difficult time pretending that the NT canon is equally as authoritative as Jesus' own words.  That canon testifies to the bumbling stupidity of the disciples, how the fuck would you know whether they understood correctly 30 years later any more than you can assume any Christian understands any biblical thing more correctly after 30 years?

BLIND FAITH, that's how.  Nothing which places skeptics under the least bit of intellectual compulsion.
So let’s take a look at some common objections to the existence and nature of Hell as we defend the truth of the Christian Worldview.
No, as you defend one particular interpretation of the bible, one among many within Christianity.
Objection One
Why Would A Good God Create Hell in the First Place?
The idea anything as vile and repulsive as Hell could come from a good God is a stumbling block for many people. In fact, Christian claims related to Hell are enough for some to reject the Christian God altogether. How could a supposedly good God create such a place?
It really doesn't do a lot of good to affirm god is morally 'good' but then to turn around and insist that what we identify as morally 'good' does not apply to God because of his infinitely mysterious ways.  Christians will blindly answer that the bible assures them God is good, but little girls also think fairy princesses are good. 
Mercy Requires Justice
The answer here is directly connected to the nature of God. The Christian God of the Bible is the perfect balance of mercy and justice.
Not when he threatens to cause men to rape women (Deuteronomy 28:30, Isaiah 13:15-17).  Not when he threatens to cause such rabid hunger as to force people into parental cannibalism (Deut. 28:56-57).  Such a god sounds more like a disgruntled Iron Age barbarian than an infinite creator who can cause everybody to have the same physiology as an elderly person, so that they still have freewill but have far less inclination to commit most of the popular "sins".
The Bible repeatedly describes God with these characteristics:
Why should that matter to a skeptic?  Would you quote the book of Mormon to a Oneness Pentecostal?
The Merciful Nature of God
The Bible describes God’s loving, merciful nature. God is loving (1 John 4:8), gracious (Exodus 33:19, 1 Peter 2:1-3), and merciful (Exodus 34:6, James 5:11)
Which mean precisely nothing once you insist "mercy" be redefined because God's ways are mysterious.  If 'mercy" isn't supposed to mean what it normally means in normal every day discourse, then using that word with people who are not already brainwashed into your cult constitutes deception.  You all use the same words, but the Christians supply then with quite different defintiions...because God's ways are mysterious.
The Just Nature of God
The Bible also describes God’s holy, just nature. God is holy (Psalms 77:130), just (Nehemiah 9:33, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7), hates sin (Psalms 5:5-6), and punishes sinners (Matthew 25:45-46)
It also says he desires to burn to death underage girls who engage in premarital sex in their father's homes.  Leviticus 21:9.  If they married early back then, then the likely reason she is having illicit sex "in her father's house" is because she isn't old enough to move out or get married yet.  If the daughter of a priest was old enough to be married or otherwise had her own house, there would be little reason for her to conduct illicit sex in her father's house.  So it is certainly reasonable, even if not infallible, to interpret the sinful girl in Leviticus 21:9, who must be burned to death, as prepubescent.
The God of the Bible is described as loving, gracious and merciful. At the same time, however, He is described as holy and just; hating sin and punishing sinners. While we might prefer to focus only on the merciful aspects of God’s nature, doing so would completely ignore God’s just nature.
But we learn to ignore god's need to impose justice from God himself, who is capable of ignoring his own need for justice:

 13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.
 14 "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die." (2 Sam. 12:13-14 NAU)

Gee, can your god seriously "take away" sin (here, the more heinous types like adultery and murder, which require the death penalty) with such a wave of his magic wand as this?  You will screech that God killed David's baby in an act of justice, but that would make God unjust because he previously said David's sin had been "taken away", hence, there was no justifiable "need" to impose a death-penalty on anybody.

And if you insist God killed David's baby to satisfy the divine need for 'justice' against David's sins, then congratulations, you just accused God of accepting child sacrifice as atonement for sin, the very thing you find so detestable among the Canaanites.
Mercy without justice is not mercy.
That's right, I cannot mercifully forgive you for stealing my bike, I'd also have to punch you in the face.
Mercy requires justice to have any meaning, and justice requires mercy to have any power. A loving God (if He is truly loving) would offer love tempered by justice.
And your god's love comes with the condition that he might kill your kids and spare you, if you commit adultery and murder.  No thank you.
A loving God would not allow injustice to go unpunished;
Then apparently a crime scene detective like you thinks there is no such thing as children who are kidnapped, killed and never found.
He would create both a Heaven and a Hell.
Then you could not possibly accuse a human being of being unjust if they imitated such a holy spectacle within the limits of their capabilities.
A loving God offers a path to relationship but the possibility of judgment should we refuse this relationship. One without the other is meaningless:
Nah, Jesus appears to have required next to nothing from his Gentile followers, his interaction with specific Gentile was very short, and Matthew 25:31-46 seems to support the conclusion that even people who have no faith will be saved solely by their good humanitarian deeds.
Why Would A Good God Create Hell in the First Place?
I don't object that way.
A loving God would not be loving if He did not punish evil. Mercy would have no meaning if it was not applied with justice.
Well God isn't punishing most of the evil in world history, so what are you gonna do now, invoke eschatology? Someday god will make everything better?  You sound like one of the people trapped below deck on the sinking Titantic, the hope of the hopeless.
Objection Two
Why Doesn’t a Loving God Make Sure Everyone Goes to Heaven?
The idea everyone is eventually reunited with a loving God in Heaven (regardless of what they believe or how they behave in this life) is called “Universalism”. It is certainly an attractive idea (for obvious reasons), and in a world of increasing relativism, it’s not surprising this kind of objection would be raised. After all, we are living in a culture where people increasingly believe “all paths lead to Heaven”. As Christians, we know this cannot be reconciled with the teaching of the Bible, and there are also good philosophical reasons to reject such an idea:
 A Compulsory Heaven Eliminates Free Will
That's right, and all those Christians called "5-Point Calvinists", such as Steve Hays of Triablogue, heartily agree.
People who want to go to Heaven (in spite of their free will choice to deny the existence of God), are true champions of the concept of free will.
Then count me out, I don't desire to be stuck for eternity with a moral monster.
After all, they want to express their freedom to deny there is any one exclusive truth about the nature of God (and the nature of Heaven). But these same people fail to realize the concept of Universalism actually denies free will altogether. If Heaven is the only destination waiting for us (based on the assumption everyone eventually ends up there) then Heaven is actually compulsory.
Given that I think compulsory heaven is better than "freewill" (sort of like it is better to force an adult out of the way of a speeding drunk than to just stand there and allow him to expereince the results of his "freewill choice"), I don't suffer from your reply.
In this view of Heaven, we have no choice about where we end up. Everyone is reunited with God. A compulsory Heaven actually denies the existence of free will, the very thing they cherish.
That's a weak argument as freewill doesn't exist anyway.
By offering (but not forcing) Heaven to those who freely choose to love Him, God is actually honoring and respecting the free will choices of all of us. He is treating us with the utmost respect and dignity.
Just like if you allow your stubborn child to drink bleach despite her knowing you have forbidden it, you'd be just as loving as god to just stand there doing nothing while the child chugs.  After all, you'd simply be honoring and respecting the child's freewill.  If you think kids don't have freewill, ask yourself why juvenile detention centers exist, and why parents impose punishment on disobedience kids.  Otherwise change the analogy from kids/bleach to "teen holding pistol to her head".  If your teen daughter was that far along in contemplating suicide, would you "respect and honor her freewill choice"? 

Then stop pretending that respecting and honoring another's freewill is a show-stopping argument for God's fairness and love, genius.
A Compulsory Heaven Would Include the “Unsuited”
Most of us would agree a holy place of eternal reward is simply not suited for people with a certain kind of character or for people with certain kinds of desires.
Which is irrelevant since the bible teaches in 1st Corinthians 15 that everybody who is saved shall undergo a major transformation of their "body" hence also their physiology and will thus never choose to sin agian, so if God imposed such resurrection-transformation on even those who don't believe, they too could be saved, and they would remain holy and suitable to heaven forever afterward.
Now we may not all agree on who should or shouldn’t be included in such a place, but most of us would hesitate while pondering the possibility people like Hitler (or lifelong pedophiles with murderous desires) should be rewarded eternally in Heaven. If there is a Heaven, it is surely unsuited for certain kinds of people.
But since God has no trouble literally blinding people with overwhelming experiences despite their concentrated hatred for Christainity (Paul's experience on the road to Damascus), God is quite capable of convincing obstinate truth-deniers to see and act in conformity with Christian doctrine.
A loving God would make Heaven possible for all of us while respecting the free will desire of some of us.
But as shown above, it can be unloving to respect another's freewill.
A loving God would reward those of us who have decided to choose Him while dealing justly with those of us who have decided to choose against Him. This is exactly the kind of God we worship:
But Calvinist Christians deny that "reward" is sensible, since you are not allowed to take credit for any good Christian thing you do.  Hence God is only "rewarding" himself for having caused a puppet like you to do whatever he wants.
Why Doesn’t a Loving God Make Sure Everyone Goes to Heaven?
A loving God honors our free will and our desire to choose Him, while dealing justly with those who have rejected Him.
No, Calvinists think you are a heretic.
Objection Three
Why Would A Loving God Punish Finite Sin With Infinite Torture?
For many people, the idea our finite, temporal choices here should merit an eternal punishment of infinite torment in Hell ellHellseems rather inequitable. The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. In fact, the punishment seems extraordinarily excessive. Why would God torture eternally those who have sinned temporally? Why would God torture infinitely those who have only sinned finitely?
Did you ever read the Pentateuch? In Mosaic law God's wrath against sin is continually and fully satisfied by less than infinite sacrifice.  Such as the blood of bulls and goats, Leviticus 16.

See also 2nd Samuel 12:13, where God can "just" get rid of somebody's sin by apparently no other means than the wave of a magic wand.  See something similar in Isaiah 6:6-7.  Not sure how stupid it is to think one's crack-induced hallcunation of heaven provides reliable data on doctrine.
Torment Is Not Torture
Part of the problem is the way we are using language here. The Bible says those who are delivered into Hell will be tormented, and the degree to which they suffer is described in illustrative language.
Not worried, those parts of the bible are metaphorical, and regardless a) you aren't going to show them to be the least bit divniely authoritative despite your belief that the NT canon is "inspired", and b) Jesus didn't give the impression that he thought Gentiles needed to be the least bit concerned about him.  His few interactions with specific Gentiles show he wasn't willing for them to tag along the way today's Christians would become his shadow if they could go back in time.
The torment is compared to an unquenchable fire. But the scripture never describes Hell as a place where God or His angels are actively torturing the souls of the rebellious. It is accurate to describe Hell as a place of separation from God where souls will be in ongoing conscious torment, but Hell is never described as a place of active torture at the hands of God or His agents.
 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (Rev. 14:10 NAU)

 But your point is moot anyway, since whatever you think you gain by trifling that God doesn't "actively" torment anybody in hell, you lose in Deuteronomy 28:15-63, where God DOES actively torment, for centuries, anybody who dares disobey him.
Instead, Hell is always described as a state of torment coming as the result of a choice on the part of the person who finds himself there. There is a difference between torture and torment. I can be continually tormented over a decision I made in the past, without being actively tortured by anyone.
Only of concern to fools who are worried the bible has the least bit of authority about it.  Not for me.
Duration of the Punishment is Not Based on Duration of the Crime
The torment experienced in Hell is eternal, and for some, this still seems inequitable compared to the finite and limited sins that we might commit here on earth.
It also seems ungodly in light of the OT which shows God continually being FULLY satisfied when a sin was atoned for by some temporal means.  For example the master who rapes a slave girl despite her being previously betrothed to another man, gains complete atonement by nothing more than giving a ram to the priest for sacrifice:

 20 'Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free.
 21 'He shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD to the doorway of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering.
 22 'The priest shall also make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin which he has committed, and the sin which he has committed will be forgiven him.
 (Lev. 19:20-22 NAU)

Your trifle that the forgiveness wasn't "total" is total bullshit.  The original recipients of the Law would never have had any reason to suspect that these assurances of divine atonement were less than fully expitatory:

 27 "But the bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be taken outside the camp, and they shall burn their hides, their flesh, and their refuse in the fire.
 28 "Then the one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water, then afterward he shall come into the camp.
 29 "This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you;
 30 for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD. (Lev. 16:27-30 NAU)
So let’s address the issue of the duration of the punishment. First, it’s important for us to remember the severity of a crime does not always have anything to do with the amount of time it takes to commit it. If I embezzle five dollars a day from my boss over the course of five years, I might eventually get caught and pay the penalty for embezzling $32,500.00. In the State of California, this violates California Penal Code 503PC and the punishment might be anything from probation to a 5 year state prison sentence. But if I become enraged at a coworker and in the blink of an eye I lose my temper and kill him, the crime is now murder (187PC). This crime took much less than five years to commit. It only took five seconds. Yet the penalty for this crime is far greater. I will be serving at least 25 years to life, and I may even be put to death.
Only because the human authorities aren't able to resurrect the victim.  If they could, then murdering people would be about as criminal as messing up the covers on the bed.  It can be easily fixed.
The penalties for these two crimes are very different, and they have nothing to do with the duration of the actual criminal act. Instead, the severity of the crime is the key to determining its punishment. It’s the same way with God. The duration of the crime has little to do with the duration of the penalty. It’s all about the severity of the crime. “But are you trying to tell me that my disbelief alone is severe enough for me to deserve an eternal hell?” That question will be addressed in the next section. For now, it’s enough to simply point out that the duration of the crime is not what determines the punishment of the crime.
 Punishment is Based on the Source of the Law
In addition to this, it’s important to remember the punishment for any crime is not determined by the criminal, but by the authority who is responsible for upholding the standard. Justice is not determined by the law breaker, but by the law giver. Justice and punishment are established based on the nature of the source of the law, not the nature of the source of the offense. Since God is the source of justice and the law, His nature determines the punishment. Since God is eternal and conscious, all rewards and punishments must also be eternal and conscious.
And since God was willing to overwhelm the freewill of Saul the violent anti-Christian on the road to Damascus, it cannot be denied that, if God really wanted to, he could MAKE an obstinate skeptic become willing to believe and obey Christian doctrine.  Once again, God has no need to inflict justice, he can simply make people do whatever he wants. Ezra 1:1. 
The Crime is Worse Than You Think
Finally, it’s important to remember the nature of the crime eventually leading one into Hell. It is not the fact you kicked your dog in 1992. It’s not the fact you had evil thoughts about your teacher in 1983. The crime earning us a place in Hell is our rejection of the true and living eternal God.
But then it could be argued under Matthew 25:31-46 that when modern day faithless Gentiles do humanitarian works, they are earning their Christian salvation whether they know it or not.
This rejection is not finite. People who reject God have rejected Him completely.
No, we can reject another human being, but not completely, such as not wanting to talk to a spiteful brother, but not willing to see him get killed.
They have rejected Him to their death, to the very end. They have rejected Him as an ultimate and final decision. God then has the right and obligation to judge them with an ultimate punishment. To argue God’s punishment does not fit our crime is to underestimate our crime.
 There are several good reasons to expect an eternal punishment even though our earthly crimes may seem finite. Our approach to this objection may require us to give a robust and cumulative response:
Why Would A Loving God Punish Finite Sin With Infinite Torture?
A Loving God simply allows us to suffer the anguish and torment resulting as a consequence of our bad choices. There is a difference between self-inflicted torment and active torture at the hands of another. The duration of the crime has nothing to do with the duration of the punishment (even in this life). The source of the law determines the degree of the punishment, and God is a perfect eternal, conscious being. Don’t be surprised to find we often underestimate the eternal consequence of our own sinful and ultimate choice to reject God.
 The source of the law determines the degree of the punishment, and God is a perfect eternal, conscious being.
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 Objection Four
Why Is the Penalty of Hell the Same, Even Though People Are So Different?
For some skeptics, the inequitable nature of Hell is seen in the way God punishes. Isn’t it unfair to send someone like Gandhi to Hell (simply because he was not a Christian) alongside someone like Hitler (who committed unspeakable atrocities)? A reasonable and just God would not be the source of such inequitable punishment, would He? In one sense, it is true: All sin has the same consequence when measured against God’s perfection.
But many Christians are open-theists, and insist the bible texts that express or imply imperfection in god were intended to be taken as literally as everything else in their respective contexts.  Your presupposition of God as "perfect" is dogshit.
Lying is just as significant as murder when it comes to assessing our imperfection relative to the perfection of God.
That's right.  If I tell a small child the boegy man will get them and they better go home, that lie makes me deserving of eternal torment.  If I don't think my wife is beautiful but I say she is anyway, I deserve to be tormented in the presence of holy angels and the lamb and whatever other fanciful apocalyptic bullshit 1st Enoch says will happen.
Even the slightest sin demonstrates our inadequacy and need for a Savior.
Jesus didn't seem to make too big of a deal of the sins of the Gentiles.  When specific individuals tried to interact with him, we learn how quickly he was willing to forgive them and move on to other people.  This constantly hanging around Jesus like a fanatic is not what Jesus required of future Gentile followers, apparently, though its probably unwise to trust the gospels to the point of drawing confident conclusions and inferences from them, shit who knows how much of that crap is merely the later view of the authors and how much is words Jesus actually mouthed.
But make no mistake about it; some sins are clearly more heinous than others in the eyes of God (John 19:11-12). As a result, the God of the Bible equitably prescribes punishments for wrongdoing on earth and in the next life:
Maybe that explains how easy he finds it to wave his magic wand and get rid of sin.
There Are Degrees of Punishment on Earth
When God gave the Law to Moses, He made one thing very clear: Some sins are more punishable than others. God assigned different penalties to different crimes, based on the offensive or heinous nature of the sin itself. The Mosaic Law is filled with measured responses to sin. God prescribed punishments appropriate to the crimes in question (Exodus 21:23-25). In fact, the Mosaic Law carefully assured that each offender would be punished “according to his guilt” and no more (Deuteronomy 25:2-3). The Mosaic Law is evidence of two things. First, while any sin may separate us from the perfection of God, some sins are unmistakably more offensive than others. Second, God prescribes different punishments for different crimes based on the severity of each crime.
Maybe that explains why he drowned all those kids in that flood. 
There Are Degrees of Punishment in Hell
In a similar way, God applies this principle to the next life, prescribing a variety of punishments in eternity corresponding to the crimes committed in this life (Revelation 20:12-13).
How the fuck would you know whether that was intended literally, and whether or not the book even speaks for God?  How are you going to utilize that book with a skeptic who thinks its pages are not even worthy of use as tissue paper?
This is most apparent in Jesus’ teaching on the “Wicked Servant” (Luke 12:42-48). In a straight forward interpretation of this parable, those who reject the teaching and calling of God will be harshly punished, but those who have less clarity on what can be known about God (“the one who did not know it”) will be punished with less severity. There are degrees of punishment in Hell; God is equitable and fair when it comes to the destiny of those who have rejected Him.
"fair" meaning "according to God", sort of like "fair according to Bill who runs the show and makes his own rules."  I'm less than convinced.
snip Objection Five
Why Would A Loving God Send Good People to Hell?
Some skeptics think it is unfair for God to penalize people who are otherwise good, just because they haven’t heard about Jesus. How many times have your non-believing friends said something like, “Hey, I’m a good person. If there is a Heaven, I know I’ll be there, because I’ve never done anything to deserve Hell”? I hear this all the time. It is almost as if they believe the Christian God simply sends people to Hell because they haven’t heard about Jesus or because they didn’t believe in Jesus. But this is simply not the case.
 There Are No Innocent People
God sends people to Hell because we deserve it. God assigns people to Hell because we are guilty:
 Revelation 20:12
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
 And what are the “works” of human beings? Remember what Paul quoted and described when outlining the true nature of humans:
 Romans 3:10-18
There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving, The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
 Humans are not actually as “good” as we would like to think we are. We are continually “missing the mark”. We are continually sinning. And this sin is worthy of punishment:
 Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death…
 This is the Biblical description of humanity and the consequence of our supposed “goodness”. The Bible says none of us are good to begin with. But for those of us who might not want to accept the truth of the Bible, let’s look at it from a more philosophical perspective.
Very sad that your doctrine of sin doesn't come from Jesus, probably because you know that Jesus didn't teach that everybody was a "sinner".

snip irrelevant arguments.
Objection Six
Why Doesn’t God Reform People Rather Than Punish Them in Hell?
If God is all-loving, why doesn’t He simply “reform” people rather than allow them to continue in their sin and eventually punish them in Hell? Even human prison systems understand the value of reform; isn’t a God who punishes his children in Hell a sadistic and vengeful God? We expect a loving God would care enough about us to offer a chance to change rather than simply punish us vindictively for something we’ve done in the past. As it turns out, God (as he is described in the Bible) understands the difference between discipline and punishment, and He is incredibly patient with us, allowing us an entire lifetime to change our minds and reform our lives. This is easier to understand when we think carefully about the definitions of “discipline” and “punishment”:
 Discipline Looks Forward
All of us understand the occasional necessity of disciplining our children. When we discipline, we are motivated by love rather than vengeance. We hope to change the future behavior of our kids by nudging them in a new direction with a little discomfort. God also loves His children in this way and allows them the opportunity to reform under his discipline.
or maybe we are very naughty kids who will only destroy ourselves if we aren't parented more strictly, like the  case of the stubborn child who refuses to quit playing near the hot stove, sometimes parental love requires that you decrease the probability that the child will hurt themselves.
This takes place during our mortal lifetime; God disciplines those He loves in this life because He is concerned with eternity.
You don't have any evidence "god" does any such thing.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust.

Discipline, by its very definition, is “forward-looking” and must therefore occur in this world with an eye toward our eternal destiny:
No, heaven is also time-bound, there is no biblical justification for the modern view that God lives in an ever-present "now" where past and future subsumed into a single plane of existence.  That's just sophistry run amok.
Hebrews 12:9-11
Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
But you cannot demonstrate this anonymous NT book is inspired by God, so you are about as threatening to skepticism as a KJV Onlyist or Josh McDowell.
Punishment Looks Backward
There are times as a parent, however, when our loving efforts to discipline and reform are unsuccessful; our kids are sometimes rebellious to the point of exhaustion. In these times, our love requires us to deliver on our repeated warnings. Our loving sense of justice requires us to be firm, even when it hurts us to do so. Our other children are watching us as well, and our future acts of mercy will be meaningless if we fail to act justly on wrongdoing. In times like these, we have no alternative but to punish acts occurring in the past. Punishment need not be vindictive or vengeful. It is simply the sad (but deserved) consequence awaiting those who are unwilling to be reformed in this life.
 Hebrews 10:28-29
Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
 God is patient. He’s given each of us a lifetime to respond to His discipline and change our mind. It cannot be said God failed to give us the opportunity to repent. When we are rebellious to the point of exhaustion, however, God has no choice but to deliver on His warnings:
Why Doesn’t God Reform People Rather Than Punish Them in Hell?
A loving God carefully disciplines and reluctantly punishes.
No, god says he will be just as "delighted" to inflict horrific atrocities on disobedient people as he is delighted to give prosperity to those who obey:

 63 "It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. (Deut. 28:63 NAU)
God has given us many opportunities to acknowledge His existence and accept His offer of forgiveness. No one has an excuse.
Paul didn't have an excuse either, but he still views his ignorance and unbelief as the basis upon which God showed that blinding mercy to him:

 12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,
 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;
 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.   (1 Tim. 1:12-14 NAU)
The Grace Offered to Children
It is God’s desire for all to be saved, but clearly some will not choose to be saved.
God thinks overwhelming a person with proof of his existence is capable of causing them to respond in genuine faith and repentance.  Acts 9, 22, 26.
Children however, may not even have the chance to choose. What will God do with young children who have not had the opportunity to be taught about the forgiveness offered through Jesus? Well, the Bible never describes Hell as a place for children.
But it never specifies they are exempt from hell either.  Paul taught that children remain unclean unless the product of a biblically valid marriage:

 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. (1 Cor. 7:14 NAU)
You will not find a single description of Hell in which children are present.
You also wont find Jesus telling anybody that they had to believe he died for their sins and rose from the dead, before they can be saved. 
In fact, there may be good Biblical reason to infer God offers a special grace to young children. King David, for example, had a young baby with Uriah’s widow. This child died while still an infant, yet the Scripture affirms the notion the baby’s soul was present with the Lord after his death, in spite of the fact he was far too young to even hear about God at all:
 2 Samuel 12:22-23
And he said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
What you omitted was how the child died.  God killed it:

13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.
 14 "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die."
 15 So Nathan went to his house. Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah's widow bore to David, so that he was very sick.
 16 David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground.
 17 The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them.
 18 Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. (2 Sam. 12:13-18 NAU)

You don't think this is a proof that god is unloving because you arbitrarily broaden "loving" to encompass just whatever the bible says God does.
We have good reason to believe David’s soul also is present with the Lord today, and David tells us his son preceded him. God appears to offer special grace to children who are not yet able to hear about Him or understand the message of Salvation. This seems consistent with the idea that God shows special mercy to those who are not yet even capable of understanding right from wrong:
 Isaiah 7:14-15
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. “He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good.”
 In this passage, Isaiah affirms there is a point at which young people “know enough to refuse evil and choose good”. Perhaps this is why God demonstrates his mercy with children. Young children simply cannot understand (and do not have the capacity to choose) good over evil. While all of us have a sin nature rebellious toward God, His special revelation has been given to those of us who have the ability to understand it. This also seems consistent with other Biblical passages that depict God’s Law as targeting those who were capable of understanding:
 Nehemiah 8:1-3
And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.
 All of us are born as sinners. No one is righteous. We are all sinners from birth. But it does appear God shows special mercy toward those who simply do not have the capacity to understand. This may include those who are mentally handicapped and it may also include those children who are too young to understand the truth of God’s offer of Salvation through Jesus Christ.
What would be a more reliable example of God's feelings toward children, the real world, full of pedophiles and kidnapping, or the highly idealistic bible whose unrealistic hopes have tormented Christians for centuries?

Is this the part where the Christian apologist tries to argue that it is wrong to be "realistic"?

As you can see, J. Warner Wallace's blind proof-texting cannot seriously be geared toward "convincing skeptics", he instead intends only Christians to benefit from such preaching to the choir.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Did Jesus' family see any of his miracles? A study of John 2.

At another forum (see here), I posted the following challenge:

In the flurry of debate that was spawned by my arguments from Mark 3:21 and John 7:5, one objection was that we really don't know whether Jesus' family ever saw his magic shows. The point of that stupid trifle was to give the Christian apologist a little wiggle room so that the unbelief toward Jesus by his own family could be explained in a way not opening the door to justifying a skeptical conclusion (i.e., maybe they thought him insane or didn't believe him because they never saw his magic shows).

Ok, let's discuss that. Specifically, let's discuss whether my skeptical theory (i,e., that it is highly likely that Jesus' family saw at least a few of Jesus' magic shows) deserves to be labeled "reasonable".

In John 2:11, Jesus' changing water to wine is called the first of his miracles.

In John 2:1, Jesus' mother was present when this miracle took place.

The Greek word for "sign" is "semeion", and is the same word used to describe Jesus' healing a ruler's son at a distance (John 4:54), the feeding of the 5,000 (6:14), and the resurrection of Lazarus (12:18), So apologists are ill-advised to pretend "sign" means something less than a genuinely supernatural act. Therefore, if Jesus' mother was present at the wedding in Cana, she was present when a genuinely supernatural miracle happened, not merely present when some clever trick was performed. And what bible-believing Christian would dare muse that maybe Jesus engaged in purely naturalistic "tricks"?

Let us remember that Mary urged the wedding hosts to do whatever Jesus might ask them (2:5), almost as if she had already arrived at the conclusion that Jesus was of such high authority that he should be obeyed without hesitancy....almost as if she had seen him do miracles previously.

What Mary would have thought about the water-into-wine miracle, begs the question of what her prior experience with Jesus was like. Did she experience him as a clever trickster, or something a bit more serious?

The inerrantist or conservative will have a difficult time resisting my argument here, given that they think the Nativity stories are true, thus it must be historically true that Mary experienced in real life, before and after Jesus' birth, several divine conformations that her son was that with such history, she likely would view the water-into-wine "sign" as a genuinely supernatural act.

Joseph had a vision that Jesus was conceived divinely, (Matthew 1:20 ff), and it is surely reasonable to assume he shared such vision with Mary.
Mary was present when the Magic arrived to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:11).
Joseph then has another angelic dream confirming the divine status of the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:13-14) and it is most reasonable to assume that because he fled with her in the middle of the night, he likely told her the basis for his urgency in departing, just like any husband would if he roused the family and insisted they are pile into the car and take off in the middle of the night to another country. Epsecially given that such dreams afforded them "good news" and ended up saving their lives and the life of their Son.
Joseph then has another similar dream (Matthew 2:19 ff).
Joseph then has another similar dream (Matthew 2:22).

In Luke 1:26, an angel, apparently physically, comes to Mary and announces that her son shall be divine (vv. 31-32).
Mary is specifically informed about how god will cause this without involving a male sperm donor, v. 35.
Mary then apparently believes this message, v. 38.
Mary and Elizabeth then share a divine experience, v. 39-45.
Mary then shows her trust that such things are true by reciting the Magnificat, v. 46-55
Elizabeth's neighbors and relatives believed the same things, v. 58
This became a topic of popular concern, v. 65
An angel appears to shepherds who then go looking for and find Jesus, Luke 2:9 ff
Joseph and Mary were amazed at Simeon's testimony in favor of Jesus, Luke 2:33
A female prophet similarly testified, Luke 2:38

And of course, if we indulge the fundamentalist assumption that Jesus was god, then in addition to the above, Jesus' family must surely have recognized, likely to their amazement, for the first 30 years of his life, that Jesus never sinned. What would YOU think of a brother who never sinned? Luck?

First question; is it reasonable to assume that Mary, after this wedding at Cana, would have held the opinion that this changing of water into wine was genuinely supernatural, yes or no? If you answer "no", then provide the reasons for saying such an assumption is unreasonable.

Monday, January 27, 2020

My changes to the Wikipedia article on the history of "Marry-Your-Rapist" legislation

Wikipedia has an article telling the history of "Marry-Your-Rapist" laws.

Kyle Butt from Apologetics Press was cited to justify denying "rape" was the subject of Deuteronomy 22:28-29.  Here's that passage in context:
 23 "If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her,
 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor's wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
 25 "But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die.
 26 "But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case.
 27 "When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her.
 28 "If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days. (Deut. 22:23-29 NAU)
When I noticed that this Christian apologist viewpoint wasn't balanced by citation to contrary opinions by equally "inerrantist" Christian scholars, I thought the public was done a disservice, and decided the article  needed some balancing.  So I made a public edit to the article as follows:
But not all inerrantist Christian scholars agree that Deut. 22:28-29 is mere consensual fornication: 
"At first glance the next example, the rape of an unbetrothed girl, might appear to have been a lesser offense than those already described, but this was not the case at all. First, he seized (Heb. tāpaś, “lay hold of”) her and then lay down (šākab) with her, a clear case of violent, coercive behavior."[25]
Furthermore, Exodus 22:16-17 does not specify that the man "violated" her, but Deuteronomy 22:29 does. The Hebrew word for violated is עָנָה/anah, which means to be bowed down, afflicted. Every other time this word is used to describe two people interacting, it is always describing a man forcing a woman to have sex against her will (i.e., rape):
  • Later, if you no longer want her, you are to let her go free. Since you forced her to have intercourse with you (Hebrew: anah), you cannot treat her as a slave and sell her. (Deut. 21:14, Good News Translation. The GNT was "...published by the American Bible is a clear and simple modern translation that is faithful to the original Hebrew, Koine Greek, and Aramaic texts. The GNT is a highly trusted version."
  • "If you mistreat (Hebrew: anah) my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see, God is witness between you and me." (Gen. 31:50 NAU)
  • But the men of Gibeah rose up against me and surrounded the house at night because of me. They intended to kill me; instead, they ravished (Hebrew: anah) my concubine so that she died. (Jdg 20:5 NAS)
  • However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated (Hebrew: anah) her and lay with her. (2Sa 13:14 NAS)
  • Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David's brother, responded, "Do not let my lord suppose they have put to death all the young men, the king's sons, for Amnon alone is dead; because by the intent of Absalom this has been determined since the day that he violated (Hebrew: anah) his sister Tamar. (2 Sam. 13:32 NAU)
  • They ravished (Hebrew: anah )the women in Zion, The virgins in the cities of Judah. (Lam 5:11 NAS)
12th century Rabbi Moses Maimonides said the man’s use of force would require that he marry his victim and never divorce her:
"every maiden expects to be married, her seducer therefore is only ordered to marry her; for he is undoubtedly the fittest husband for her. He will better heal her wound and redeem her character than any other husband. If, however, he is rejected by her or her father, he must give the dowry (Exod. xxii. 15). If he uses violence he has to submit to the additional punishment, " he may not put her away all his days " (Deut. xxii. 29).[26]
While the above grammatical and historical interpretation makes it appear one of the authors or editors of Deuteronomy were misogynist, that is only the concern of today's Christian apologists who wish to make the god of the bible appear harmonious with modern American concepts fairness, equality and woman's rights. But in Leviticus 19:20-22, the master who rapes a slave girl who had been previously betrothed to another man, is forgiven of the sin by simply giving up one of his animals to the priests. Some inerrantist Christian scholars agree it is reasonable to view this as "rape" and not merely consensual fornication:
"It is worth noting that only the man was considered blameworthy, not the female slave. Being a slave, the woman may have felt she had little recourse in resisting a male who was a free man and thus more powerful both in the social and economic spheres."[27] 
Furthermore, had this not been rape but mere consensual fornication, then it would have qualified as adultery, in which case the author's explicit refusal to impose the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10) is stated by him as the female's having lower social status: "...because she was not free", so the misogyny persists in the text regardless of the efforts made to side-step it.

See the article here.  Let me know if, as is likely, Christians come along and remove my contribution.

UPDATE: January 27, 2020

Christian apologists will obviously pretend that the Good News Translation for Deuteronomy 21:14 is "false" or "inaccurate", because it then requires God's human mouth-piece Moses to admit that his law on marrying a female war captive (Deut. 21:10-13) would likely result in the law-observant Hebrew man "raping" the girl (v. 14).

But a google search indicates It was one Eugene Nida, a linguist who became a Christian in the typical fundamentalist way, who was responsible for that dynamic translation. Wikipedia says Nida "became a Christian at a young age, when he responded to the altar call at his church "to accept Christ as my Saviour."

See here. Nida gets accolades from trustworthy Christian sources, see here. The point being that Christian apologists do not have the expedient of complaining that the translator was some god hating skeptic or liberal, he was a "Christian", and when combined with my observation of cognate usage, supra, it's pretty clear that Nida got it right: the "anah" of Deut. 21:14 does NOT mean "lowered in social status by divorce", but "rape".

The fact that such translation scandalizes fundamentalists who are forever being god's lawyers and trying to fix all of his defects to make him more palatable to modern Western sensibilities, changes nothing:  not only does God's law facilitate circumstances that increase the probability of "rape", not only does the biblical author presume the divorce from the female war captive was after a "rape", but the law does not express or imply any punishment for such "rape", likely because "marriage" had been slapped onto the circumstance by this barbarian law, and so her rape, while true, was not deemed offensive to God's own morals.

Like the case I discussed about Leviticus 19:20-22, how deserving of punishment the rape is, depends on the circumstances, which assures the modern Christian that the bible god is a very far cry from the basic notions of woman's rights held by most of today's Christian women.

What needs to be remembered is that my viewpoint here is "reasonable", and it isn't going to become "unreasonable" because of a few squeeks, squawks and trifles raised by desperate apologists. 

And I defy all of them to challenge me via dialogue with me.  Any fucking fool can "write a rebuttal", how hard is that? 

But, maintain the scholarly justification for your position while you are being pummeled in real time with difficult questions?  That's a whole 'nother story.  One not likely to be correctly told by using a moose-character and Looney-Tunes sound effects unless of course you ADMIT your intended audience are ages 3-6?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

ECREE and the latest Bigfoot sighting on Sherman Pass

ECREE (Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence).

Here's the pic:

There are many sources, one is here.

Do you understand the superiority of ECREE?

Or do you just blindly believe whatever you see as soon as you see it?

You are doing nothing less than employing the principles of ECREE if you refuse to draw any conclusion one way or the other about whether this pic reveals a genuine cryptid.

Bigfoot's allegedly physical and mammalian nature creates a question about why we have no unquestionable proof of it the way we do for other creatures of the Pacific Northwest.  I hardly think a single picture such as this, in all it's blurry glory, gets anywhere near placing Bigfoot skeptics under any degree of intellectual obligation to become any more open to the animal's genuineness than they already are.

It is a matter of public record where these WSDOT cameras are located, and it hardly takes too clever a person to figure out where one is, note from prior pics that the image during snowfall is grainy, don a monkey suit, walk in front of the camera, merely so they can have the satisfaction of knowing for the rest of their lives that they made themselves a permanent part of official Bigfoot lore.

However, stupid bullshit on the internet is certainly something you can count on to do the job, if the job at issue is getting spoiled brat consumerists to spend their time gossiping with each other about irrelevant bullshit.

No thanks, I'll just remind everybody of what's true in a brief article, then go back to focusing on what matters.  Like the bible.

At high zoom, the the creature has a question mark near its backside:

So maybe the true believers will insist that's what appears on real bigfoots when they travel back from the 10th dimension?

I reported this to BFRO:

But I already know what theWSDOT pic is showing:  It's the creature from Sesame Street's Sand Alphabet.  See here and here.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Demolishing Triablogue: Answering Steve Hays on the problem of divine hiddenness

This is my reply to an article by Steve Hays of Triablogue entitled

1. I'm going to revisit the divine hiddenness argument. The basic idea is that many or most people don't experience God in the way they need, want, or expect.
The more advanced form of the argument says the bible-god appears to have become completely apathetic toward humanity since biblical days.
The argument operates on roughly two fronts. A typical presupposition of freewill theism is God's desires that every human being enjoy fellowship with God. Trust him. God wants everyone to be saved.
I would agree with Steve the Calvinist that the god of the bible infallibly predestined many people to end up in hell, so that there was literally no possibility they could avoid such fate.
But many human beings don't believe in God because they haven't had what they take to be a recognizable experience of God.
Many human being also don't believe in the bible-god because they find nothing in the events of today's world that remotely suggest the bible-god is doing anything other than sleeping.
It could be argued that there are many ways to experience God indirectly, which they fail to register, but the point is that from their viewpoint, if God exists, they should be able to experience him in a more personal, targeted fashion. They just don't recognize God at work in their lives.

And this is a problem for freewill theism since, on the face of it, it would be easy for God to give them a recognizable experience of himself. So what's the explanation?

One explanation is that it seems like God isn't there because, as a mater of fact, God isn't there.. Sppearance matches reality. We inhabit a godless universe. It isn't that God absents himself from people's lives, but that there is no God to experience. No one is home. You can keep knocking on the door, but the house is empty.
My sentiments exactly.  When you inspect all parts of a room and see nobody there, that means nobody is there.  It doesn't mean you lack the ability to detect invisible people.
Of course, a basic problem with that explanation is the abundance of evidence for God's existence.
Not a problem at all.  Theistic proofs are usually nothing more than word-games and horrifically ad hoc hypotheses. 
Indeed, that's one of the aggravating dimensions of the problem. Since there is so much evidence, not just for God's existence generally, but his activity in the lives of some people, why are others bereft?
Fallacy of loaded question, I deny that anybody has ever experienced god.  I also deny that anybody has ever experienced being a god in a previous universe.  My failure to check with every person doesn't slow me down in the slightest from drawing such inference. It's going to be reasonable even if not infallible.
Another explanation is to deny the universality of the freewill theist assumption. Maybe God doesn't reach out to every human being. Maybe it's not his desire every human being be in fellowship with himself.
That cannot be reconciled with every verse in the bible, but it is certainly in accord with some parts of the bible.  Calvinism and Arminianism are both equally "biblical", because it's perfectly reasonable to accuse the bible of teaching contradictory doctrines.
A freewill theist can also postulate postmortem evangelism, where God compensates for his absence in this life in the afterlife. Other issues aside, that has an ad hoc quality.
That's what Lydia McGrew thinks, and other groups, including Roman Catholics, deny that hell is the automatic destination of anybody who dies after having rejected the gospel.  I would argue that Jesus' interactions with Gentiles was sufficiently casual and short that he probably wasn't going around screaming at them that they were always one heartbeat away from hell.  He is content to preach and move on, almost as if he doesn't think those people are in any urgent danger of damnation.
2. One complication is that many unbelievers say they aren't seeking God. They hate the very idea of God. They prefer a godless universe. If they though God did exist, that would put them in a state of psychological tension.
Psychological tension exists in the Christian too, since they also complain of divine hiddenness, so that the skeptic has good reason to wonder where the idiot ever got the idea that God wishes to fellowship with people that God obviously takes no interest in.
3. There is, though, another comparatively neglected front to the issue. The problem is not God's unavailability to humans in general, unbelievers included, but God's unavailability to his own people: Christians and Jews. This is a common refrain or common complaint in the Prophets and Psalmists. So often, God is not available to us when we most need him or want his intervention.
Wow, not even being a biblical author and having THAT level of "inspiration" will help you find the answer to divine hiddenness?  If spritually alive people stumble over it, only makes sense for the spiritually dead person to think they'll never do better, and accordingly cease paying attention to the issue if they so wish.
4. That in itself requires some unpacking. In what ways to we need or want God to be available?
I don't ask that question.
i) A cliche example is answer to prayer.
Nothing fails quite like prayer, and those "prayer tests" do not show any statistic indicating greater luck for those who prayed.  The way you prayers get "answered" is more likely due to sheer luck and happenstance.  But people are pattern-seekers, and will, if the need for ultimate significance is sufficiently intense, see patterns where none exist.  Given more than 6 billion people on the planet, that's an awful lot of unemployed Christians who need a car, so sheer chance is going to account for why some of those praying Christians actually do get a car.
ii) Another cliche example is a sign from God. Not so much that we want God to solve a problem but we just want an indication that he's there, that he's still there. A confirmation that he's real. That he's there, he's aware, and he cares. That we're not totally alone. On our own in the world.
Jesus noted that the crowds did not follow him out of interest in his signs, but bevause he was giving them food, sort of arguing that they thought his tricks were purely naturalistic.  John 6:26, thus contradicting v. 2.
Could be very simple. An audible voice. Or a modest but unmistakable sign.
Yup.  Asking for a sign from god is also biblical. Isaiah 7:11.  And expecting today's Christians to perform miracles is justified from a combination of Matthew 10:8 and 28:20.  Yet despite my challenge to all Christians and Craig Keener in particular to direct me to the one modern-day miracle they believe most impervious to falsification, see here, the challenge continues on, unanswered.  See here and here.  You can hardly fault me for drawing the conclusions that there's probably a very good reason nobody wants to put their money where their mouth is.
iii) Apropos (ii), which may be the same thing or something similar, a hunger for God's "presence" or his "loving" presence in particular. What that means isn't entirely clear. It can be different from a sign. A sign is external to us. It may refer to a feeling: to be suffused with a sense of God's love.
Nothing unbiblical in this expectation either, God is capable of causing people to believe whatever he wants whenever he wants, even if the person in question is steeped in gross idolatry.  See Ezra 1:1.  Even if they are actively hostile to Christianity more than today's athetists.  See god literally blinding Saul/Paul with the light, Acts 9, 22, 26.
Again, on this view, is God's felt presence in itself an experience of his love, or is the sense of divine love something over and above his felt presence?
That's too stupidly Gnostic for me to care to comment on beyond this.
5. This, though, goes to the larger question of how we'd like God to be available to us. How often do we feel the need to be in touch with God? Is this mainly in a crisis, or something routine?
No relevance to me, i don't desire divine presence, for the same reason I don't desire self-deception.
Take Adam and Eve in the Garden, before the Fall.
Why?  The story is nothing but fiction, hence, the basis for declaring all people "sinners" and thus in need of salvation is also fictitious.
Did they feel they were missing something unless the Angel of the Lord appeared to them every day or every week?  How long could they go without a divine visitation but be happy and content with each other and the garden?
Then perhaps you never noticed the bible verse which condemns interest in controversial questions.  1st Timothy 6:4.  Sure, you can trifle that it's only condemning "morbid" interest in controversial questions, but you dont' have any criteria for identifying the piont at which Paul would think one's interest in controversial question became "morbid", so it probably makes more sense to not even open the door.  Just like if you don't know the point at which gazing at strippers becomes adultery-by-lust, probably best if you don't even walk in the club. Your love of dancing on the edge could be argued to signify spiritual immaturity, lest you stupidly think that the more about apologetics you know, the more spiritually mature you get?
6. To take a human comparison, consider a young couple riding on the crest of passion.
Surely a smart guy like Steve Hays doesn't need to ask Christians to think about other people having sex?
They spend all their free time together. They can't get enough of each other. Yet that's not indefinitely sustainable. It loses its freshness.
Because its completely naturalistic.  See here too.
Even people who are extremely close to each other can get on each other's nerves, or get bored with each other's constant company. Even people who are extremely close may need to have some time to themselves. They get tired of being together every minute of the day. They have to take a break. Have some time and space apart.

7. On a related note, an extended separation can intensify reunion. An extended separation can revitalize love.
Something that divine love should not have to engage in just to keep things fresh.
8. Or you might have two brothers who were inseparable until they got married and had kids. After that, not only do they see less of each other, but the need for their mutual companionship diminishes because they now have compensatory relationships. The wife and kids provide a different kind of emotional sustenance.

To some extent the brothers may even grow apart emotionally, not in the sense that they cease to love each other, but they're now invested in their own family. That develops a potential which was unrealized prior to marriage and kids.

If, say, the wives and kids were all killed in a traffic accident, the brothers might revert. Resume living together as bachelors. Become inseparable again.

9. In what sense has God created us to need him emotionally?
I detect no such need.
Do we naturally need to have God speak to us or appear to us every so often? Of is this mostly driven by the vicissitudes of life in a fallen world?
I would say that since God refuses to seek us, we have no duty to seek him.  He's the one with all the answers, he can no more expect sinners to contradict their nature than he can expect himself to contradict his own nature.
Does God normally supply our emotional needs indirectly through creation? Through other people and natural blessings?
If we get emotional needs met through other people, why think 'god' has anything to do with it?
10. Of course, one problem is that in a fallen world we can't necessarily turn to each other for emotional compensations because sin puts a strain on our relationships. It makes our relationships a source of pain. Rather than filling the void of God's absence, it's another way to be hurt.

11. I was a free range child. I used to go for long walks on my own, sometimes with my dog. It was a forested area with woods, ponds, streams, ravines, and lakes. A lot to explore.

I didn't need my parents to be available for me in the sense of having them around all the time. Rather, I needed to know that I had them to come back to. I had a home. I had security. It was (fairly) safe to explore the woods on my own. And if they weren't home when I got back, there was the confidence in knowing that they would return. Either I was waiting for them or they were waiting for me. There was no anxiety on my part.
Signifying nothing, since that's all empirical, whereas the hiddenness of god is due to his allegedly non-empirical nature.  If God didn't want us to draw confident inference based on our 5 physical senses, maybe he shouldn't have given us those senses.
12. There is something exhilarating about a divine Incarnation. That you're talking face-to-face with God. Looking into the eyes of God. At the same time, it might make you acutely self-conscious to be in God's presence, in such a palpable, immediate way.
Preaching to the choir.  Dismissed.
To take a comparison, boys are very uninhibited around other boys. Would it be inhibiting to be with Jesus?
Jesus' own family apparently didn't think so.  See Mark 3:21, 6:4 and John 7:5
13. Because God is rarely available in ways we long for, it forces Christians to seek each other out and try to encourage one other in our joint pilgrimage.
Which then becomes nothing but one mammal trying to help another, thus likely leading to further problems.  If God would just do his fucking job like he's supposed to, there would be no need for sinners to seek solace from other imperfect beings, and the likelihood of increased problems would diminish.
There's a bonding experience that occurs in situations of shared trust, stress, risk, vulnerability, or collaboration. There's a certain paradox when friends or Christians pool their collective helplessness. They cant do for each other what only God can do, but it can still be a maturing and sanctifying experience.
I fail to see how any of this bullshit from your post does anything toward reconciling divine hiddenness with the existence of God.

Jack Wellman is dishonest

Jack Wellman is a pastor who apparently did graduate work at Moody Bible Institute and has a website dedicated to "equipping" Christians for spiritual warfare. See here.

Yesterday, I received an email notification that Wellman had posted to Patheos an article explaining what Jesus meant when conditioning entrance to the kingdom of heaven upon having greater righteousness than the Pharisees had.  Matthew 5:20.  See here.

Yesterday, I posted a reply to that article, pointing out that Wellman ignored the immediate context, and that more respect for immediate context would have led to the conclusion that Jesus was teaching a legalistic form of salvation.  The reply was scholarly and did not break any rules.

I accused Wellman of acting like a Jehovah Witness in how quickly he ignored the immediate context and tried to mix Isaiah and Paul into Matthew 5, all because of his trust in "biblical inerrancy". 

Somebody deleted that reply.

So today I posted another reply, substantially the same.  Again, no breaking of any rules.  And again, somebody deleted it.  And now, the person doing the deleting flagged my reply "spam":

While there's always the possibility that it was somebody other than Jack Wellman who deleted my replies, it is certainly reasonable to suppose it was Wellman himself.  The irony is that one of the replies there, from "Pud", is far more acerbic and insulting than my reply was, yet his posts from 3 years ago are still viewable.

What does it say about a "Christian" who allows insulting replies to his article to remain viewable, but who deletes scholarly rebuttals that directly attack the arguments in the article?

Friday, January 17, 2020

Demolishing Triablogue: No reasons for hell

This is my reply to an article by Steve Hays of Triablogue entitled

Recently I was listening to philosophical theologians give bad answers on hell.
 You should have recognized their bad answers likely implied they have been previously warned at least twice against their error, and accordingly you should have obeyed that part of the bible that tells you to avoid them, see Titus 3:9-11.
I've probably discussed most of this before at one time or another, but it may be useful to summarize them in one place. By way of preliminary comment, the primary reason Christians believe in hell
Speak for yourself, it should be obvious to a smart guy like you that not all Christians believe in hell, unless you use that doctrine as a test of orthodoxy.  Can a person be genuinely born-again while adopting annihilationism, yes or no?  If yes, then couldn't it be argued that every bit of time you spend arguing peripherals, the more you sin by taking away time better spend defending essentials?
is because they believe what the Bible says about hell.
Well gee, so do the Jehovah's Witnesses and the 7th Day Adventists.
It isn't necessary to provide an independent, philosophical defense of hell.
Especially given that such would be impossible, lest you look a little too consistent in your Calvinism and admit you worship a sadistic lunatic.
It's useful in apologetics and evangelism to be able to do that, but the warrant for believing in hell doesn't rely on that.
There's plenty of good warrant for ascribing error to the NT doctrine of eternal conscious torment.
1. Infinite God
i) A typical objection goes like this: how can a just God mete out infinite punishment for finite sin? How can the sins of a lifetime merit infinite punishment? The typical reply is that a sin against an infinite God is infinitely culpable, and merits infinite punishment.
Except that God's justice against sin in the OT is very often FULLY satisfied by decidedly temporal means of atonement, such as animal sacrifice.  Hell, the master who rapes his slave-girl is automatically forgiven simply by donating one of his rams to the priests, no repentance or change beyond this is expressed or implied:
 20 'Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free.
 21 'He shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD to the doorway of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering.
 22 'The priest shall also make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin which he has committed, and the sin which he has committed will be forgiven him.   (Lev. 19:20-22 NAU)
Sometimes Leviticus is more specific than we might expect an ancient Hebrew author to be, to make sure the reader recognized how completely animal blood expiated God's wrath against sin.  Concerning Yom Kippur, or the once-yearly animal sacrifice:
 29 "This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you;
 30 for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD. (Lev. 16:29-30 NAU)
Gee, really?  Steve Hays would probably trifle "in what sense did they become clean before the Lord?" 

Well gee, in the sense that "The Lord viewed them as clean"?

Sort of like, if you barged into Steve's house and said "your mother was just murdered!', he would probably trifle "in what sense, after all, 'murder' can be used by modern American persons in a variety of different ways!".  Obviously, this text was intended to be read aloud to the mostly illiterate Israelites, and such people would not likely have conjured up the stupid semantic trifles in their mind that are conjured up by Steve Hays...and his concern to make sure the NT book of Hebrews continues being held up as inerrant.
That's a popular answer because it's compact and uses the same principle as the critic, only turning that principle against the objection. But as it stands, it's a bad argument:
Thanks for the honesty.
ii) It equivocates over the nature of infinitude. The objection is to a quantitative infinite punishment. A temporal infinite. Everlasting punishment. For finite, discrete sins.

However, to say a sin may be infinitely culpable swaps in a qualitative concept. An infinite degree of badness. I'm not sure if that's even meaningful.
Skeptics like me will use such concessions from Christian apologists to straighten out the idiots that warm the pews every Sunday.  Half of the atheist bible critics' plight is in simply getting the "Christian" to correctly understand their own book.
In addition, what does it mean in this context to say that God is "infinite." In what morally relevant sense is God infinite in this argument? Perhaps what is meant is that God is infinitely good, so that a sin against an infinitely good God is infinitely bad, meriting infinite punishment. "Infinite" in the sense that God is as good as anything can be. Indeed, better than anything else. The uppermost maxima of goodness or exemplar of goodness. Something like that.
When you try to unpack the argument, it gets messy. I don't think this is a good argument as it stands.
Again, thanks for the honesty.
It does, however, contain a grain of truth, so I think it can be rehabilitated in some respect:

iii) There is a moral principle where the same action may be worse depending on who you do it to. It's worse to betray a friend than a stranger. It's worse to mistreat your elderly mother than to mistreat the telemarketer. So there can be degrees of culpability, not due to the action itself, but who it's directed to. Taken to a logical extreme, the argument is that we owe the most to God, we have the greatest obligation to God, so sinning against God is the worst kind of sin.
Except that in Steve Hays' very staunch 5-Point Calvinism, it is this infinite god who intended the sinner to sin the way he did, so that offending god by sinning is sort of like offending the person whom you gave a black eye to, because they took your hand and hit themselves with it.  How the fuck could a Calvinist believe anybody could "offend God"?  Is God offended when we manifest perfect compliance with his secret will?

Hays' displays his disturbing consistency by arguing elsewhere that God secretly wills that people disobey his revealed will, which while logical enough under his Calvinism, is viewed as shockingly heretical by most Christians.  See here.

Steve continues:
iv) There is, though, another complication to this argument. In what sense can we sin against God? We can't harm God.
Good point.  And yet Malachi uses the word "yet" to duck the obvious criticism that it is logically impossible to steal from God, see Malachi 3:8.  That's sort of like saying "Can a sinner make God go out of existence?  Yet you have caused God to stop existing."  Interesting how the little "yet" word can successfully shield an argument from deserved criticism.
It is, however, possible, to wrong someone without harming them. A thankless, malicious son can dishonor his father's memory. Suppose his dad was a conscientious father, but the son spreads scurrilous rumors about his late father that destroy his father's reputation. In one sense it's too late to harm is father. But there's still something terribly wrong about the action.
But according to Steve Hays, we only sin because God has infallibly predestined us to, and has secretly willed that we disobey his revealed will.  One can only wonder whether our "wronging" god even makes sense under such a fatalistic system as Calvinism.  Is it "wrong" to conform to God's secret will, yes or no?  If yes, then God is a stupid sadist for blaming us for such wrong since he rigged the game to make sure we couldn't possibly deviate from "wronging" him.  If "no", then god deprives himself of any basis to bitch, lest you serve a god who condemns people for OBEYING him?  But because Steve is brainwashed, he will just blindly assume that the idiot who wrote Romans 9:20 rendered all objections frivolous.
2. Eternal existence
i) A basic reason hell is forever is because human beings are forever. If human beings have an immortal soul (not to mention the resurrection of the body), then whatever happens to human beings will last forever.
Except that there are plenty of Christians and Christian scholars who teach annihilationism.  Probably because the "wrongness" of these doctrines are somewhat less obvious than the wrongness of 2+2=5... so that you can hardly blame them for adopting such doctrine.
They have an unending destiny because they have an unending existence. So whatever happens to them will go on forever. It continues because they continue. Annihilationists duck that by denying that human beings are naturally immortal.

ii) Now this is more of a necessary rather than sufficient condition for eternal punishment. In principle, it could be a argued that while whatever happens to them is never-ending, it needn't be the same thing forever. It can change. That's the contention of the universalist, as well as exponents of postmortem salvation. That requires a separate response.

It is, however, important to make the initial point that one reason damnation is inescapable is because existence is inescapable. Damnation never ceases because the damned never cease to exist.
Except that this is a philosophical objection, whereas Steve Hays' first commitment must be to the bible, whose OT clearly indicates god's justice against sin can be, and often is, fully satisfied by less than infinite means, such as animal sacrifice.  See above.  The reasonableness of that view is not going to be diminished merely because god's jailhouse lawyer can simply tack "in what sense?" onto everything they ever think of.  Steve Hays doesn't get to dictate how much stupid pretentijous trifling the unbeliever must put up with in his apologetics before they become reasonable to just flip him the middle finger and walk away. 
3. Apropos (2), a supporting argument is that damnation is forever because the damned continue to sin. An objection to this argument is that people have a capacity for change.

That can be true, but what causes them to change? In Christian theology, God's grace is transformative. If, however, God withholds his grace from the damned, then they don't get better. If anything, they get worse. More hardened.
Which denies the view of freewill held by most Christians, to the effect that we are just as capable of accepting Jesus solely by our freewill as we are capable of making a peanut butter sandwich by our own freewill.  Attributing only the good in your life to "god's grace" and the sin only to "self" is just stupid inconsistency, which renders void the many biblical passages on god "rewarding" those who do good.  If it wasn't us doing the good, then giving us a prize at the end anyway cannot rightfully be called "reward".  If the good doesn't come from us, but only from God, then only God can logically be "rewarded" if at all.
4. Apropos (3), why doesn't God enable the damned to change? Why doesn't God grant them the ability to repent?

This goes to another principle in Christian theology: in terms of eschatological judgment, some sinners get what they deserve while others get better than they deserve (no one gets worse than they deserve).
Sort of like when both of your kids disobey you and each eat one cookie before dinner, you beat one of them with a rod (Proverbs 22:15) and ground them for a month, while you give the other one $50 to go blow at the mall however she wishes, with your blessings.  Are you a fuckhead parent, yes or no?  Or did you suddenly discover how wonderful god was for enabling his jailhouse lawyers to invent "ad hoc" excuses whenever expediency dictates?
The reason the damned never leave hell is because they don't deserve to leave hell.
That's right.  If the 12 year old non-Christian girl who has done many good works of charity and gets good grades in school, should happen to reject the gospel invitation, then die in a state of unbelief in a car crash on the way home from church, God's righteousness permits no other fate for her except conscious eternal torment in "hell".
They don't deserve a better life.
You'd have been a bit more honest with your own doctrine had you specified that newborn babies do not deserve to be protected from death by rape.  God was never 'required' to give them anything better, so when he leaves them to suffer, this is nothing short of god's righteousness in action, amen?

Of course this violates common sense, since if everything is covered by the sovereignty of god, then the fact that most babies are not raped to death makes it reasonable for any Christian to suppose that God feels a moral obligation to give such protection.
That's their just desert, and there's nothing wrong with that. Indeed, there's something right with God.
Sort of like if you came home to find your mom being raped by a whole gang, the fact that she is a sinner and the fact that God himself obviously wasn't doing anything to protect her, makes it at best ambiguous whether or not you "should" do anything to prevent this crime.  But I'm sure that if you found out this happened to some mother down the street, and her son just stood around solely by choice and not fear while his mother was raped. you'd feel better knowing that God secretly wanted the rape and this neglect to happen exactly the way it did. 

Revealed will of God = "thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not murder", etc.
Secret will of God = "you shall kill that child, you shall obey that traffic signal", etc.

Is it morally good to act in conformity to the revealed will of God, yes or no?
Is it morally good to act in conformity to the secret will of God, yes or no?

Steve's Calvinism forces him to admit that Hitler's massacer of the Jews in WW2 was in perfect conformity to the "secret" will of God.  So...was it morally good for Hitler to act in conformity to God's secret will, yes or no?

Or did Steve suddenly discover there's room in Calvinism for moral relativity?

Hopefully you have a better understanding of why biblical theology causes me, an atheist, to stay awake at night, all worried "what if I'm wrong and the creator really is a sadistic lunatic?"
In Christian theology, God doesn't treat all equally-undeserving sinners alike.
Which is precisely why it is reasonable to call him a sadistic lunatic.  Just like if you didn't treat to the same discipline all of your kids who disobeyed you in the same exact way.  When the punished ones cry out "why didn't you punish her too?", you'd be 'godly' to reply "my ways are mysterious, I don't have to explain myself to you, and since you are getting what you deserve, you have no right to complain if I let other persons, equally deserving of this punishment, off the hook."  I'm sorry, but Steve is a fool to derive theology from Matthew 20:11-15...and so was Jesus for teaching such obviously unfair stupidity.  How would the world be if all employers were that arbitrary?
He draws a distinction. You shouldn't expect to get better than you deserve.
So because none of us "deserve" to have food, clothing and shelter, it can only be sinful and thus unreasonable motive why we seek these things.  Steve, why do you seek for that which you don't deserve?  isn't that sort of like the new inexperienced crew member at McDonald's wanting his starting wage to equal that of the crew members who have been there for 3 years?

Steve is also wrong biblially to condemn our wanting more than we deserve.  If God sends his rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), then our aquiring things we don't deserve is a routine that God is responsible for, and therefore god is responsible for this routine creating a habit and expectation in our mind that we should have some things we don't deserve.

Throwing dice to decide god's will is biblical (Acts 1:26), so you should expect to get more than you deserve through the inevitability of chance + time.  Throw the dice often enough and they are bound to roll winner, and when they do, Calvinists will insist god wanted it that way.

In fact, Calvinists would say God is ultimately responsible for whatever defects in biblical and logical reasoning that you might engage in.  Could anything have more powerful justification than "god wanted it that way"?  No.  If the most reasonable thing possible is conformity to god's will, then under Calvinism, beating children to death is equally as reasonable as saving a little girl from drowning.  BOTH acts are exactly what God wanted, and by definition, God's will cannot possibly ever be "unreasonable".
To get just what you deserve is the essence of justice.
And for a justice system to decide for itself which among the two equally guilty criminals to let off the hook, and which to prosecute, is the antithesis of justice, lest you stupidly insist that the justice meted out in American Courts every day for the last 200 years is a bad idea? (Conforming to God's secret will, as America's history absolutely must, is a bad idea?).  Only in Calvinism could you get in trouble with God for doing exactly what he wanted when, where and how he wanted.  Everybody else would call this sadistic lunacy, and Calvinists reply with "that's just human logic!"

Let's just say God infallibly predestined me to avoid joining the Calvinist cause, ok?
They don't get out of hell because they deserve nothing better. They are in their natural element.
If we deserve nothing better than hell, why did God allow us to exist for the present on this better-than-hell earth?  Does God sometimes give people what they don't deserve?  If so, then why couldn't there be a strictly philosophical argument that this way of God remains true in the afterworld (i.e., sinners deserve to be in hell longer, but God limits the amount of time they spend there anyway, for the same reason he often makes life easier for undeserving criminals)?  Something is greatly amiss in your trifling attempt to make your sadistic god's ways sound plausible to modern western ears.  But since you view yourself as a puppet on a string, I'm sure you couldn't care less whether your reasoning does or doesn't square up with common sense.  Cultists are experts are justifying their departure from common sense and convincing themselves God wanted them to act contrary to "worldly wisdom".  The brainwashing is the same whether you push Christianity or ISIS.
There's something nihilistic, something morally subversive–even diabolical–about the idea that no matter what anyone ever does, it makes no ultimate different to what happens to them. To treat good and evil alike.
Then blame your god, who often treats criminals and law-abiding people alike.  And blame yourself for promoting Calvinism, a doctrine that says our sense of making a genuine difference is completely illusory and false, we can do nothing whatever except react to an infallibly predetermined plan.  And your god often treats evil and good alike.
5. Suppose (ex hypothesi) that human agents start out as a clean slate. By that I mean, suppose that initially they have no rap sheep. Their moral record is spotless.
There's no ex hypothesi about it, the bible forthrightly calls little kids "innocent", see Psalm 106:37-38, Matthew 18:3, 2nd Kings 22:16, 24:4, and under James 4:17,  which predicates sinfulness upon knowledge, for which babies, then who know nothing (i.e., they don't know the difference between good and evil, Isaiah 7:15) are correctly deemed "innocent".  If that contradicts Paul's doctrine of original sin in Romans 5, lets get excited about preaching the good news to those lost inerrantists.

I'm not an inerrantist, and for academically rigorous reasons, therefore, I really don't care if another part of the bible tells Steve that babies are infected with original sin, this doesn't impose the slightest intellectual obligation upon me to give up my reliance on grammar, context and genre, and add "reconcile this with what the bible says elsewhere" to the list of hermeneutical principles that scholars agree apply here.  Most Christian scholars are not inerrantists, those who are inerrantist cannot even agree amongst themselves about its scope, Steve Hays himself allegedly thinks the Chicago Statement on Bible Inerrancy was less than perfect, etc, etc.  So bible inerrancy is not sufficiently settled as to deserve being exalted in my mind to the status of governing hermeneutic.  I will NOT give up an otherwise contextually and grammatically justified interpretation of a bible verse merely because the interpretation contradicts my interpretation or somebody else's interpretation of some other bible verse.

Hays will trifle that biblical passages calling people "innocent" are only meant with reference to the human standard, but alas, it is "god" who is doing the talking in all the above-cited passages (at least as far as Steve is concerned) so it is Steve's burden to show that the "human standards only" interpretation arises from the grammar, context or genre of such passages.

Steve continues:
The first time I do something evil, that puts me behind.
Except that in Steve's world, whether raping children is "evil" depends on your frame of reference, and is therefore only a moral relativity.  Even if we granted that baby-rape violates God "revealed" will, Steve has already argue that any and all acts of man, including sin, necessarily conform to God's "secret" will, so that a completed act of baby-rape is biblically in harmony with God's secret will.

In other words, Steve wants us to believe that you can be "evil" because you conformed to the will of God.  Sort of like the parent who punishes their child for doing an act exactly when, where, and how the parent intended the act to be done (!?).  There's an excellent reason why Paul's smoke and mirrors evaporates at Romans 9:20.  There is no moral method anywhere near any accepted convention of reason or common sense, that will justify punishing a person for perfect obedience.  Except of course in the bible, where the stupider the act, the more "spiritual" it is (where you defeat death by getting yourself killed, and where strength is made perfect by lack of strength).  I call victory when Christians feel forced to decry the superiority of 'human reason'.  That's what one should expect from stupid cultists whose doctrines completely defy anything remotely approaching sensibility.  Whether it's about Jesus or Vishnu hardly matters.
Because I can't change my past, if I do something evil, I can't get back to where I was before I did evil.
Which would justify a lifetime of depression after you jaywalk.  Isn't it obvious how evil sin really is?
I can't get out from under that. If I did something evil, then it will always be the case that I did something evil. That's indelible. It doesn't fade with the passage of time. I don't become less guilty. Once I do something evil, there's no way to put that behind me. It's permanent. Evil has a timeless moral quality. There's no decay rate. The past is irrevocable.
Then the same must be true about your good deeds.  They too are permanent, right?
And the more evil things I do, the further behind I fall. A lifetime of cumulative wrongdoing.
Now you are just preaching the choir.
This is why vicarious atonement and penal substitution are fixtures of Christian redemption.
Maybe that's also why god offers to "forget your sins", because they are permanent? (Isa. 43:25-26).  No, Mr. God's Jailhouse lawyer, that doesn't mean he is only claiming to exempt people from the penalty for sin.  Read both verses, the human sense of literal memory failure is meant, even if the consequence is that this god would have to be insane.  The dumber it makes god look, the more likely the interpretation is correct, amen?
Without a Redeemer who atones for your sin, on your behalf and in your stead, your culpability because increasingly hopeless.
No, all we need is charcoal briquettes, a pair of tongs, and obviously non-existent creatures who seem to think heaven has air:
 1 In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.
 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
 3 And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory."
 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
 5 Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."
 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven." (Isa. 6:1-7 NAU)
(and Steve says "mere anthropomorphism! the get-out-of-jail-free card that is by definition necessarily always a correct interpretation with no obligation to actually justify it from the grammar or context or genre.)

Actually, we can be exempted from the penalties of even the most egregious sins (i.e, adultery and murder) by nothing more than god waiving his magic wand:
 11 "Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.
 12 'Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.'"
 13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.
 (2 Sam. 12:11-13 NAU)
Feel free to dig your own theological grave by pretending the subsequent divinely caused death of David's baby was the "atonement".  You can't cover it with Yom Kippur, that didn't cover intentional sins.  Now what?  Maybe David committed adultery without intention?

Steve continues:
6. Counterfactual guilt
Another factor I've discussed, although it has yet to catch on, is that it's very nearsighted to limit culpability to the sins of a lifetime.
That's right.  If your teenage son jaywalks, you should save up to finance the desecration of his grave marker after he dies.  Culpability doesn't cease with physical death.  Only in stupid fanatical religion.
The sins we commit are related to our circumstances. Change the circumstances and we'd commit a different set of sins.
or not sinned at all, such as changing "we went to the titty-bar" to "we went to church".
It's not so much about committing a particular sin, but the character of the sinner. Put him in a different situation and he will commit different sins.
Put sinners in different situations and they might not sin.  Hence, the reason Christian parents counsel their kids against running around with the wrong crowd.
It's arbitrary to exclude from consideration all the wrongdoing he'd commit if the opportunity presented itself, and he could get away with it, as if guilt and innocence in God's eyes is a matter of lucking or unlucky timing or setting. Wrong place. Wrong time. Just missed it. Had you been there an hour sooner or later.
In other words, sin is inevitable...and yet God still bitches at humans over that which they are incapable of avoiding, sort of like bitching about the fact that humans need water.

But more directly to the point:  there are gullible or 'weaker' Christian brothers that will sin simply because of the peer pressure from other Christians, whereas had those Christians not come to visit, the weaker brother would probably not have sinned as he did.  So you are wrong, Steve:  how you act really IS dependent on the timing of your arrival to any situation and other circumstances.   The Christian man who has an anger problem shows up at his ex-wife's house and she's the only person there, and he does not sin.  But if he had showed up 5 minutes earlier when her boyfriend was there, he probably would have started a fight.  Steve, you are stupid if you think circumstance doesn't contribute to what motivates a person to sin or refrain from sin.

You also pretend that any act we might engage in would be sinful, when in fact chance and circumstance do not merely dictate what evil we'll do, but what ACT we will engage in.  Tarnishing the future possibility as an inevitable "sin" doesn't make sense, otherwise, why bother trying to stay away from Christians who live in sin?  If you are running around drinking on Saturday night, or staying at home reading your bible, you are still bound to sin, regardless, so how the fuck could it "matter" which way to spend that evening? 

What are you gonna say next?  Maybe that reading the bible is sinful for a Christian because their sin nature requires that their motive in doing so was to become puffed up with knowledge?

Yes, there are fuckhead Christians who demand that Christians repent of their repentance.  Read Valley of Vision by the Puritans, which is apparently approved of D.A. Carson and other prominent conservative Protestants.  I've heard the same in plenty of Protestant and Calvinist churches years ago.  I call them fuckheads because if you are too sinful to properly repent in the first place, then you are just sinning every subsequent time you repent of your prior which case this Puritan soliloquy is little more than a dirge about the inevitability of sin.  Gee, maybe it was sinful also for any Puritan to compose or read Valley of Vision?

Steve continues:
7. Finally, and perhaps most fundamentally, critics of hell approach this issue from the wrong end.
So since many critics of hell are Christians, skeptics observe that even spiritually alive people have no guarantees of noticing important theological truth, making it even more reasonable for the spiritually dead person to stay completely away, if they so choose, from biblical "theology".   So for many non-Christians, it's much safer and more reasonable to just laugh off Christianity.
In Christian theology, the default assumption is that sinners are already lost.
I much prefer what Jesus said, and have fun getting original sin out of anything he said.  It would be like squeezing blood from a turnip.  See here and here.  Plenty of churches today are Pelagian, but its hard to remember that because the Protestants and Catholics usually squeal the loudest through the media.
They didn't start out in the right direction, then take a wrong turn. Rather, sinners are in a lost condition from the outset. They don't have to do anything extra to go to hell.
If you believe infection with original sin makes one worthy of hell, then you have no basis for making aborted babies any exception, as they too are worthy of hell, and apparently only an emotional worldly mammalian dislike of infant torture is the basis for any exception.  And Steve will triumphantly proclaim that if you don't like the idea of god subjecting babies to eternal conscious torment in hell forever, it's only because you aren't sufficiently "spiritual", the excuse cult leaders use to desensitize their followers to the obvious violations of common sense the cult requires them to engage in.  Yet Steve wants non-Calvinist Christians to view him as something other than brainwashed.
They didn't lose their way at some point along the journey. There was no fork in the road where they made a fatal moral choice. To be saved requires divine intervention.
But since the divine doesn't exist, we need not worry.  I only refute idiots on the internet for the benefit of the innocently ignorant people that might otherwise get sucked into all this stupid crap because of their lack of critical thinking skills.  Struggling to pay the rent and raise kids doesn't leave much opportunity to figure out why scholars disagree with each other about hermeneutics and historiography.
It's like a movie villain. He's already a villain when the movie begins.
So babies are already deserving of hell upon conception.  Another reason most spiritually alive Christians find Calvinism about as persuasive as atheism.
There's no backstory about how or when he became a villain. Does it have something to do with his childhood? Did he gradually turn to evil? Was there a crossroads where he made a decisive choice for evil?
Once again, Jesus did not teach the doctrine of original sin, and you are a hypocrite anyway for thinking the word of any follower of Christ could possibly have the same significance as his own words, as there is allegedly an infinite difference between advice from God himself, and advice from people claiming to represent him.  You are more safe depending on God's word, but you open the floodgates of ceaseless questions and uncertainty when you start telling yourself the words of other sinners are "inspired by God too".
That's not where the story begins. As far as the plot goes, there was never a time when he wasn't on the wrong path.
I end this post where I began it:  all attempts by hellers to "reconcile" or "harmonize" the OT texts on God's justice with the NT texts teaching eternal conscious torment, are clearly little more than the word-games you'd expect from a jailhouse lawyer (my scholarly view is that 2nd Temple Judaism became more and more influenced by pagan religion, hence, "hell" in the OT become more and more defined as the centuries go by). God's alleged "need" for justice against sin is itself contradictory to at least one biblical passage.  If God can exempt people from the consequences of sin as easily as waiving his magic wand (2nd Samuel 12:13), you'll find only deaf ears when you try to "explain" that God's holy nature "requires" that he judge sin. 

And expect theological disaster if you trifle that God's killing David's baby was an atoning sacrifice for David's sins of murder and adultery.  But without that type of atonment, you have no atonement, and hence, God can permanently exempt you from the penalty of sin without atonement and apparently nothing more than waiving his magic wand.  Or making you eat burning wood (Isaiah 6:6-7).

Did you notice that when Triablogue comes to town, atheists just scream in terror, run the other way plugging their ears and saying "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne"?

Neither did I.

Cold Case Christianity: No, The Existence and Nature of Hell Cannot Be Defended

This is my reply to an article by J. Warner Wallace entitled Cold Case Christianity: Can The Existence and Nature of Hell Be Defended? ...