Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Human Experience

Nontheists (atheists more often than not) often ask the Christian to prove that their God exists. The Christian then will generally put forth the reasons they believe (e.g. anecdotal, logical). The nontheist questioning the Christian will then generally proceed to "explain away" the reasoning the Christian had for believing in God, legitimate or not. Subsequently, the nontheist will generally insist that the Christian, having no logical reason to believe, dismiss their belief. To their surprise, more often than not, the Christian remains devout in their belief.

Conversely, when the atheist's position is logically refuted (i.e. no evidence for the nonexistence of God, only that -at best- we don't know), and the Christian insists upon the dismissal of their atheistic belief, the atheist remains steadfast in their belief also.

When presented with "evidence" contrary to their belief, both parties seem to shrug it off and continue as if nothing had ever happened. Days go by, until the next week they find themselves at it once again. The process is repeated, and both the Christian and the nontheist come to the same conclusion: that the other is irrational, illogical, and (sometimes) deluded. This is par for the course in Christian Apologetics.

The reason for this blog is simple: I want to talk about why we shrug it off and try again.

It seems to me that despite whatever "evidence" one might bring to the table, there is always other baggage, metaphysical or not, that affects our perception. That baggage, in my experience (and in others': Christian, nontheist, and pagan alike), is always affected by and dependent upon the human experience. We each experience life, observe, participate, and understand things in varying ways and means.

A group of people watching a sunset will all experience it differently; those who witness some tragic or horrific catastrophe will have their own specific experience and observations. We are like snowflakes, vast a varying in shapes and sizes, but also in how we float along, always singular in our experiences, never the same as another.

Sure, it is certainly possible that there are others who experience life in the same way we do, but generally speaking, the way in which we experience life, observe, participate and understand things is distinct to each individual person.

What does this mean? It means that none of us, and I mean none of us, can definitively comprehend what precisely the other has experienced in life and how it has affected their beliefs, observations, perceptions, and understanding. Not even the most rational among us is capable of diverting the human experience, and getting rid of the baggage we carry, for it is only within our life's experience that we find the rational and logical.

So when someone comes to us with what they call "evidence", we listen, we think about it and, if it goes against our belief system, we generally reject it. Why? Because the things we have experienced, observed, participated in, and understood have all led us to the exact point at which we find ourselves at this precise moment. I am a Christian because of not only the events that have led me to this point, but the manner in which I experienced, observed, participated in and understood those events. Similarly, my atheist, agnostic, and pagan friends are who they are because of how they have experienced the events in their lives.

Is that to say that I won't stray from my current beliefs at some point in time? Not necessarily. I may have some experience tomorrow or next week which opens my eyes to an entirely different viewpoint. Similarly, any one of my atheist, agnostic, or pagan friends may have an experience in the future that opens their eyes to Christ. And that is why we shrug it off this week and try again; because what we say might not affect someone this week, but could forever change them the next.

The Standard of Evidence

In argumentation, nontheists typically require the Christian to provide supporting evidence or proof for the existence of God. What I find intriguing is that the nontheist offers no standard by which the evidence must measure up (i.e. what evidences one would expect to see of such a God as the Judeo-Christian God and how those standards are developed).

What I would like to know is this:

1. What evidence would you expect to see/observe/experience in our world if the Judeo-Christian God did exist?
2. How do you come to that conclusion (i.e. how do you choose one evidence over another)?
3. What makes your evidences any better than someone else's?
4. Why should the Judeo-Christian God submit to your evidences?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Just Wondering...

If some scientific applications we deem part of the world (e.g. Causality) do not necessarily apply as it concerns such complex things as the origins of the universe (e.g. Acausality as seen in radioactive decay), then how can we necessitate those same seemingly scientific applications to prove the existence of such an even more complex being as God?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Causality and Satan

I've seen it over and over again, where those arguing against the Judeo-Christian God bring up things like pain and suffering in the world and how a benevolent God wouldn't allow such atrocities to occur. Such people often bring up Judeo-Christian ideas of God such as His benevolence, mercy, goodness, and love in an attempt to discredit such qualities in God. Yet, more often than not, those people fail to recognize two key factors: Causality and Satan.

All people should recognize the ever-present nature of Causality within our world. Regardless of the controversial nature of Causality at the grand scale of the universe itself, most, if not all, scientists regard Causality as a means of accurately relating one event to another in our day-to-day life. That said, most of the events, or atrocities, blamed on God can be easily explained by Causality, that is, that these horrendous events take place because of the actions of others (and even ourselves) throughout time.

The "butterfly effect" is a perfect example of this. Anything at any time could produce an outcome that could be potentially catastrophic enough to cause these seemingly natural occurrences that people so eagerly try to place on God. True, Causality does not explain all of the irrational pain and suffering we see within the world, yet there is something else that does adequately explain them.

If anyone is going to argue against the Judeo-Christian God's benevolence, goodness, mercy, and love then they must also take into account other aspects given us by Scripture, namely, the presence of Satan at work in our world. Why should they take seriously that possibility? Because in arguing against the Judeo-Christian God, they must effectively take on the entirety of belief and doctrine surrounding Him. In other words, if they are going to presuppose God for the sake of argument, they cannot preclude such an adversary as Satan.

Not only is Satan mentioned in Scripture as living in our world, but as actively working in it as well. (Job, 2 Cr 4, Eph 2) Scripture tells us in both the Old and New Testaments that this is true: the story of Job, in Jesus casting Satan out of the possessed, in Jesus being tempted by Satan, and many more. These Scriptures show Satan as being active within the world and working toward his own end, that is, the destruction of God's people. This comes to us in the guise of pain and suffering to others by things we may deem irrational or natural (e.g. "Bad things happening to Good people", starvation, tsunamis and the like).

Am I saying that Satan is the direct cause of all of these things? Not necessarily. I am saying, though, that if someone is going to question the character of God, then they need to appeal to the Judeo-Christian belief in order to convince the Christian. To simply say that God wouldn't do such and such is fallacious at best. How do you know what God would or would not do or allow, or the reasoning for doing or not doing a certain thing?

The fact is that the Christian will always use Scriptures to reinforce their beliefs. And in the case where the Judeo-Christian God's character is under question, that is quite sufficient.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

9 Must Have Apps for the iPhone

Google – Aside from the search feature, the Google app has its own apps built in, namely Gmail, calendar, Talk (Gmail chat), Photos (Picasaweb), etc. Pretty much everything you can do on Google via a pc or mac you can do on the iphone. It’s saved me more than once, and it helps me to keep up with my pictures on Picasa.

Mobile Banking on AT&T – This has been a wonderful app because it allows me to keep track of all of my accounts without the hassle of having to log in to the bank’s actual website. One of the better banking apps I’ve found, it does require a pin each time you log in (for added security) and has been dead on accurate with my bank’s online updating of account info, purchases, and so on. I would also recommend’s new app for those who like Mint’s built-in budgeting feature.

Shazam – Most iphone users (and non-iphone users for that matter!) know about Shazam, namely because it can tell you the name and artist of any song you play for it. There are a few restrictions, though. For one, I’ve read that Shazam is only able to detect English songs, whatever that means. I’ve given it a try with some of my Italian pop music, to no avail (Ma dai!) Shazam is also limited in that it cannot detect live music, though it has on several occasions been able to read live classical music for me. Regardless of the limitations, this is one of the better apps I’ve come across. Now whenever that song I’ve always liked but never knew the name of comes on the radio, I can pull out Shazam and finally know!

Slydial – This gem of an app is the one I’m most proud of. Why? Say you need to call someone back, but you know they’ll talk your ear off and you simply don’t have the time, or perhaps you have only a quick second to let your friend know the answer to a question they’ve been bugging you about all week. This app takes care of it for you. When you open Slydial it will prompt you to choose a contact from your phonebook or to dial a number. Take your pick and let Slydial do the rest. The number will be called, but will be preceded by a series of numbers inserted by Slydial. What this does is take you directly to the voicemail of the cell phone user you just called. I hate to admit it, but I have used Slydial a couple of times, and both times were to give answers to people that I didn’t have time to talk to otherwise. Needless to say, it was not anyone I speak with regularly or would see this blog.

Public Radio Tuner – For the regular NPR listener, the Public Radio Tuner (by American Public Media) is your link to your favorite public radio stations when you’re not otherwise able to listen. Admittedly, Public Radio does not have my local 90.7 fm WXEL station yet, but as long as I can hear Car talk and Fresh Air I don’t really mind.

Balls – Designed by iotic, this is an interesting app I found only in the last couple of weeks. Balls that can vary in size fall and bounce off of each other creating sounds that imitate wind chimes while their colors change each time they hit another ball. Settings include volume, ball size, gravity, friction, bounce, balls (number of), and trails (left behind by bouncing balls). I like to set mine up with the lowest number of balls (3) and just let them bounce around, creating very calming ambient noise.

AroundMe – Granted, I’ve only had this for a day, but this cool app by Tweakersoft is one of the best. Once it has your location, you can find nearly anything that is around you. Not sure where to find gas, hospitals, theaters, restaurants, bars, hotels, banks and more? Now you do. Get it. It’s free.

The Weather Channel – The built-in iphone weather app is good, but The Weather Channel app gives you hourly updates and a 10 day forecast, as well as any weather alerts. It’s definitely worth getting.

Pandora – For those who don’t necessarily have a specific library of music, and even those who do, Pandora will be a necessity on your iphone. Simply type in the name of a song or artist you like and Pandora creates a playlist of songs around that search. Pandora is your free personalized radio.

There are plenty more apps that are just as awesome, but these nine did it for me, not only because they're useful and fun, but because they are all free.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dawkins' Delusion

I’ve been meaning to pick up Richard Dawkins’ infamous book, The God Delusion, for quite some time; I just haven’t had the chance. Now, more than ever, I think I will pick it up. Just a couple of days ago a friend of mine, Jonathan, wrote a blog titled Conceding Dawkins. In that blog, Jonathan posted several quotes by Richard Dawkins that gave me a bit of insight into what Dawkins thinks of faith. Furthermore, Dawkins was quoted as saying that the more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed towards atheism. Additionally, Dawkins is also quoted as saying that "even mild and moderate religion helps to provide the climate of faith in which extremism naturally flourishes."

Now, I’ve always been a believer in religious freedom, in people having the right to believe what they believe without fear of repercussion. That said, I absolutely cannot stand it when non-theists (and theists, for that matter) say things regarding belief in God that are incredibly false. As I’m sure you can guess, Dawkins has done this, and I intend to point it out.

First up is a quote by Mr. Dawkins wherein he claims a case for ones beliefs does not have to be made:

“Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don't have to make the case for what you believe.”

While it is indeed virtuous to have faith without evidence, belief in God and Jesus Christ is not dependent upon it. It is actually demanded that we test everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21). As for making a case for what we believe, this too is a staple of the Christian faith. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to defend our beliefs and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says we are to cast down arguments. Mr. Dawkins’ assertions on this topic are in fact unfounded.

Next, Mr. Dawkins asserts that an understanding of evolution would naturally push one towards an atheist view. What I find hard to believe is that such a reasonable scholar of science would come to such a conclusion. The truth is, evolution (and science, in general) is neither theistic nor atheistic. And neither is there definitive proof through evolution that would push one towards atheism. The evidence simply does not exist. Mr. Dawkins, being the good scientist, has failed to check his metaphysical baggage at the door. And the truth is that none of us properly check our metaphysical beliefs at the door. We all carry with us something that prevents us from totally unbiased and rational decisions, whether it is metaphysical assumptions, experiences, or something else. What this means is that the purveyor of rationale and logic is himself, like he claims theists to be, somewhat deluded.

And finally, "even mild and moderate religion helps to provide the climate of faith in which extremism naturally flourishes." If religious wars rage because varying faiths believe each other to have caused some wrong to occur, then how are Dawkins and the new atheists any different? Don't they "wage war" on Christianity (mostly) because they feel we've done some wrong in the world? Don't they believe Christianity to be nothing more than a delusion? Aren't their atheist beliefs lacking in true reason and logic, as they so adamantly claim ours are? The only difference between them and other extremists is that they don't brandish weapons and actively hunt down theists. But then again, there is always a time before fanaticism occurs.

I am by no means implying that atheism will evolve to an extremist position like those of terrorists. But the issue isn't about what I believe can happen, but what Dawkins believes can happen. And if he believes that the moderately religious can eventually evolve into fanatics, then surely it follows likewise for the moderately irreligious. We are all subject to our own bodily desires and emotions, previous experiences and metaphysical assumptions. These things help shape us and bring us to our ultimate positions and stances. The irreligious are no different.

It is through these emotions, experiences, and metaphysical assumptions that Mr. Dawkins comes to the conclusions he does (as seen within this blog). Mr. Dawkins has fallen prey to false reasoning. And by the false reasoning that leads Mr. Dawkins to atheism, he may himself become susceptible to that which he fears can/does eventually happen to religious moderates.

This is not limited to Mr. Dawkins. Any and all who claim a logical and rational position and bring to the table their emotions, experiences, and metaphysical assumptions are all guilty of false reasoning.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Action Needed!

Two-Minute Action Needed Today: Click this link: to send a quick e-mail to these Senators to let them know we're paying attention to their votes and are disappointed they voted to support the Coburn amendment.

We want to know why our Senators voted for this damaging amendment -- see below for details.

The U.S. Senate approved an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that prohibits funding for "...museums, theaters and arts centers..." This amendment was approved by a vote of 73-24.

Copy and paste the link below to review all the votes on this amendment:

Please take a couple of minutes to send an e-mail by clicking the link at the top of this e-mail. Our national partner Americans for the Arts has made it easy for you to communicate your disappointment and ask why.

Thank you for your continued advocacy efforts.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Anselm on the Atonement

Anselm (1033-1109); from Cur deus homo?

Book I
xi. The problem is, how can God forgive man's sin? To clear our thoughts let us first consider what sin is, and what satisfaction for sin is. ...To sin is to fail to God His due. What is due to God? Righteousness, or rectitude of will. He who fails to render this honour to God, robs God of that which belongs to Him, and dishonours God. This is sin. ...And what is satisfaction? It is not enough simply to restore what has been taken away; but, in consideration of the insult offered, more than what was taken away must be rendered back.
xii. Let us consider whether God could properly remit sin by mercy alone without satisfaction. So to remit sin would be simply to abstain from punishing it. And since the only possible way of correcting sin, for which no satisfaction has been made, is to punish it; not to punish it, is to remit is uncorrected. But God cannot properly leave anything uncorrected in His kingdom. Moreover, so to remit sin unpunished, would be treating the sinful and the sinless alike, which would be incongruous to God's nature. And incongruity is injustice.
xiii. It is necessary, therefore, that either the honour taken away should be repaid, or punishment shouyld be inflicted. Otherwise onenof two things follows--either God is not just to Himself, or He is powerless to do what He ought to do. A blasphemous supposition.
xx. The satisfaction ought to be in proportion to the sin...
xxi. And thou has not yet duly estimated the gravity of sin. Suppose that thou wast standing in God's presence, and some one said to thee--'Look yonder.' And God said, 'I am altogether unwilling that thou shouldest look.' Ask thyself whether there be aught in the whole universe for the sake of which thoug oughtest to indulge that one look against the will of God. Not to preserve the whole creation from perishing oughtest thou to act against the will of God. And shouldest thou so act, what canst thou pay for this sin? Thou canst not make satisfaction for it, unless thou payest something greater than the whole creation. All that is created, that is, all that is not God, cannot compensate the sin.

Book II
iv. It is necessary that God should fulfill His purpose respecting human nature. And this cannot be except there be a complete satisfaction made for sin; and this no sinner can make.
vi. Satisfaction cannot be made unless there be some One able to pay to God for man's sin something greater than all that is beside God. ...Now nothing is greater than all that is not God, except God Himself. None therefore can make this satisfaction except God. And none ought to make it except man. ...If, then, it be necessary that the kingdom of heaven be completed by man's admission, and if man cannot be admitted unless the aforesaid satisfaction for sin be first made, and if God only can, and man only ought to make this satisfaction, then necessarily One must make it who is both God and man.
xi. He must have something to offer greater than all that is beow God, and something that He can give to God voluntarily, and not as in duty bound. Mere obedience would not be a gift of this kind; for every rational creature owes this obedience as a duty to God. But death Christ was in no way bound to suffer, having never sinned. SO death was an offering that He could make as of free will, and not of debt. ...
xix.Now One who could freely offer so great a gift to God, clearly ough not to be without reward. ...But what reward could be given to One who needed nothing--One who craved neither gift nor pardon? ...If the Son chose to make over the claim He had on God to man, could the Father justly forbid Him doing so, or refuse to man what the Son willed to give him?
xx.What greater mercy can be conceived than that God the Father should say to the sinner--condemned to eternal torment, and unable to redeem himself--'Receive my only Son, and offer Him for thyself,' while the Son Himself said--'Take me, and redeem thyself'?
And what greater justice than that One who receives a payment for exceeding the amuont due, should, if it be paid with a right intention, remit all that is due?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Does God Owe Us?

The following comes from the blog A Christian Perspective.

I really enjoyed this blog as it brings quite a bit of insight into how we tend to react and respond in times of need and/or suffering. It reminds us that we are only human and that we will indeed suffer, but that through our suffering hope can be found and that, hopefully, it will lead us to God.

So, without further ado, here is A Christian Perspective's blog titled "Does God Owe Us?"


Recently, when I was talking to a close relative the subject of God came up as it sometimes does. In the course of the conversation the individual protested that he had some questions for God when he died. There's nothing wrong with that of course, I'm sure most of us could say the same. There are things that happen in all of our lives that we just can't understand why God would allow them. We sometimes feel that in order to have resolution we need to have an answer. But in this case it wasn't just that he wanted an answer, it was the inflection with which the statement was made that hinted strongly of bitterness and indignation. It was spoken more like a demand. More like God owed him an explanation.

This isn't uncommon especially amongst skeptics who claim to not even believe in God. For many, they are ready to storm the gates of heaven and ask for God's head on a stick, if that were possible. In one instance a person tried to sue God for negligence. Now of course they didn't expect him to show up on the witness stand, they were trying to make a point (got it loud and clear!) They're contention is if there is a God, than he certainly isn't a loving one for allowing all of the suffering that he has.

Certainly none of us are exempt from suffering. Most of us all have experienced some amount of suffering at one time or another.The first person that usually comes to my mind when I think of suffering is the Biblical figure of Job. One could easily make the case that he is the poster child for suffering in the scriptures. The interesting thing to note about his situation is that he never really gets an answer to the why question. You are lead from one end of the story to the next, as the story builds one might expect that Job is going to get some sort of explanation from God as to why all these things happened to him. After lamenting about his former life (chapter 29) Job begins to grieve about his situation:

"I cry out to you. O God, but you do not answer. I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me. You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm. I know you will bring me down to death, to the place appointed for the living. Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man when he cries for help in his distress. Have I not wept for those in trouble??Has not my soul grieved for the poor? Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness. The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me. I go about blackened, but not by the sun. I stand up in the assembly and cry for help. I have become a brother of jackals, a companion of owls. My skin grows black and peels; my body burns with fever. My harp is tuned to mourning and my flute to the sound of wailing. Job 30:20-31

Later God finally answers Job. This is his golden moment. An audience with the soverign of the universe. Finally he has got his attention. The chance many have only wished for, only the response is probably very unlike what Job was expecting:

"Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!" 38:2-5. This goes on for quite a while.

Picking back up in chapter 40 verse 2:

"Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!"

Job answers the Lord:

"I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand in my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer-twice, but I will say no more." Job 40:4-5

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storrm: (verse 6)

" Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God's and can your voice thunder like his?" Job 40:7-9. Once again Job gets an ear full.

Look I don't want to sound cavalier. It may very well be that God will sit down with us and explain to us what he was doing in all of those circumstances. The scriptures do tell us that God will comfort us, wiping away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 7:17,21:4) As Christians though, we do need to find away to make peace with God, to live not in bitterness and anger toward him, but to find a path to peace even if we don't get the answer we are looking for right now. Are we in any kind of place to either demand or expect answers from God? Does God owe us a detailed explanation of all apparent injustices against us? Do we have a legitimate charge to bring against the Almighty? Has God been unjust in allowing suffering in our lives?

What's interesting is that we all seem to forget that none of us are untouchable. We see stories of trajedy all the time on the news and shake our heads. It's not as though we are unaware these things happen, but when it touches us, we can't seem to believe it. Are any of us above sorrow? We fail to recognize that each one of us may only be a few steps away from something similar. Yet, even Jesus told his disciples that in this world we would have trouble, but he also offered this message of hope; "But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) So although Jesus did not resolve to save the apostles from their future sufferings, he did assure them there was hope. In the same way he overcame, we shall too, through him. Within' 50 years all of them with the exception of John would die a martyrs death. Paul who later became an apostle would experience floggings, stoning, shipwrecks and eventually martyrdome himself.

Their cause of course was Christ, so at least they understood to some extent that their sufferings would be of some benefit to the spreading of the gospel (not always though). What about Job? What about when there doesn't seem to be any possible answer or good coming out of a trial? Is it possible to cope when an answer is not forthecoming? Part of it lies in our inability to look beyond our circumstances to the larger picture. The problem with that is, we do not always have access to the larger picture, only God does. My question is, is it possible that there is a purpose even when we don't see it? Are you willing to trust that even in the worst circumstances God can bring good? Are you willing to have faith that He will? Even if you don't see it in this lifetime?

When I read passages like the ones in Job, it reminds me just how small I am. I can only imagine how Job must have felt. What had Job done to deserve all that happened to him? He had served God faithfully and was rewarded with the most intense of trials (the death of family members, fortune, boils, etc.) One trial after another until Job reached the breaking point. Job's petition to God is probably very much like what our own would sound like, although probably not as eloquent. I would argue most of us wouldn't have lasted as long as Job did. He was indeed a man of great faith. When trials of this nature come upon us, it is easy to get the feeling that not only is God negligent, but perhaps He is even persecuting us! We might feel betrayed and alone much like Job. However, even though God did not give Job the answer he was looking for. I think he did put things in perspective and the result is very sobering.

What is also interesting is to observe the myriad of ways in which people will deal with suffering in their lives. I'll never completely understand why one raises their fist in defiance of God, while the other falls prostrate to the floor. One seeks vengeance, while the other seeks mercy and comfort. I suspect it has something to do with the age old stumbling block of pride. The humble man in his sorrow realizes his insignificance in the broad spectrum of things. That all we hold onto as our own, really belongs to him, as does our very lives, even down to our holey underwear (and I'm not talking about Mormon undergarments) . We all too often forget this. Sometimes it's only after something is gone that we realize it, something that we highly valued. How we respond to such cirumstances may be the greatest test we ever have to endure. So what would you do if you lost your most valued treasure? What if it was your health, your children or your home? Would you forsake God?

This brings me to my next question. What is the most important thing in your life? Are you willing to surrender it to God? Even if God allows you to lose it with no apparent answer? These are hard questions. I only ask them to challenge you to ask yourselves, how deep is my faith? Am I really prepared to give it all to God? How would you respond should some such trajedy come into your life? Would you run away from God or run to him?

Most of us if we are lucky will live to maybe our 70's or 80's. Some of us will die before our 40's and some even younger. I think it is important to remember that mankind was created with eternity in mind. As bad as things get in this life, it's not forever. Forever is something completely different. Some might call that wishful thinking and some might say that God is a crutch. My point would be, if it is true that we are all spritual handicaps, then a crutch can be pretty useful to get around. Such a contention does nothing to disprove the existence of God anymore than a broken and depressed individual finding in God a true father figure. In fact it may prove the opposite. why do we have such a yearning for more? Is this just a trick of evolution? Some kind of deceptive survival advantage later to be discarded? Have we evolved past a need for God or religion? I firmly believe the answer is no to all of those questions. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but the existence of suffering does not disprove God, Jesus Christ himself can attest to that. However, in place of the Christian answer to suffering, atheists have offered a seductive alternative. It doesn't matter, life is without any real meaning or purpose, unless we choose to give it meaning or purpose.We don't have to be angry at God because he doesn't exist. How much easier is it to cope now? I know I feel much better (sarcasm) As even the former christian and converted skeptic Bart Ehrman mentioned, after we die that's it, we will cease to exist. This is the atheist gospel. Although it certianly would solve the inconvenience of eternal seperation from God, it doesn't exactly scream of meaning and purpose does it? I mean if we are just glorified animals, accidents of nature and all. Should we take that word to the streets, would that give strength to those comtemplating suicide or struggling with depression? That's one way to answer the why question. There is no answer. Or is that a lack of an answer?

The atheist gospel is no gospel at all of course. In fact it is a contradiction in terms. If Christianity's answer to suffering is insufficient. How much more the atheist. Rather than giving hope in times of struggle, the atheist answer or lack thereof, destroys it. How does this result in a better world?

I'll leave you with these words from Job:
"I know you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked 'Who is this that obsures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." Job 42:2-3

Perhaps God can bring beauty and peace even out of our darkest moments. I believe He not only can, but that he does all the time, even when we don't see it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hell on Trial

So another friend of mine wrote a nice blog on Hell. Sounds weird to say "nice" and "Hell" in the same sentence. Anyway. I've always been a little shy to the idea of a literal fire and brimstone-type Hell, especially given the nature of God and Jesus Christ, and what we know about Hell to be true (simply put, it is the absence of God). That said, my theory leaned more toward a metaphorical and analogous "Being in Hell (without God) would be like burning in a lake of fire" type of definition of Hell.

I don't claim to have any evidence for that idea of Hell, but my friend, Jonathan, does bring quite a bit to back up his idea of Hell.

So with that, here is Jonathan's blog on Hell titled: Hell on Trial.


Hell on Trial, by Jonathan.

(I'll be completely honest--For many months now I have had countless doubts about many things concerning God, faith, and all that kind of stuff. Many of those doubts stem from this topic. I hope this blog benefits those who share my same doubts, who raise the objections that I wish to clear up, and for those who are simply curious about the subject. My argument might be wrong--I am open to that and I am open to criticism. I just want to offer another perspective on the subject. Enjoy)

Hell. When you hear that word what comes to mind? No matter where it is said--its description among the majority is pretty consistent. Usually people think of thousands of naked people being burned by giant flames, others falling from a huge hole in the ceiling where demons are flying around like bats, demons poking all those who are screaming in pain with red pitchforks, and the Devil himself sitting on a throne in the background. These images have been promoted to us through the centuries by popular books and plays. The most famous would of course be found within Dante's Inferno where the damned read the words "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" as they walk to meet their eternal damnation. Some have even argued that they have actually recorded the sounds of hell. In this blog I wish to argue that hell is not a place of conscious, eternal torment. I wish to argue that the fate of those who die without Christ (according to the Bible, even if it's inspired or not) is quite different. The view that hell is a place full of smoke and fire with billions of people being tormented for eternity is outright wrong, harmful, and somewhat sick. Many people ask questions similar to, "How can a loving God torment people for all eternity?" I think it's a valid question and I hope my argument offers a valid perspective on the subject (although some may find it to be heterodox). To begin, we must define some terms:


There are 3 words in the Bible that are translated as "hell" in our English versions. One of them is Tartarus. This word only appears once and it is found in 2 Peter 2:4, which reads, "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." In this scripture it states that God has already cast the angels that sinned, including the Devil, down to "hell." But the angels and Satan aren't frying somewhere right now since the Bible already states that Satan is out-and-about doing things (1 Peter 5:8). All you have to do is read the gospels and you'll read stories of Jesus casting out these fallen angels (demons). Tartarus simply means "dark abyss" or "a place of restraint." It isn't a place of torment and fire. 2 Peter 2:4 clearly states that the angels that sinned are "reserved unto judgment," which means that one day they will be punished. Obviously they aren't roasting as we speak.


This word is derived from the name of a rocky, narrow valley south of Jerusalem where trash, filth, and the bodies of dead animals were burned. Jesus spoke of this word a few times in the New Testament, as in Matthew 5:22 where he warned about the "danger of hell (Gehenna) fire." This scripture and others like them do in fact refer to fire. In Gehenna there was trash and there were bodies that were burning. Jesus was using this common, yet unpleasant, imagery to make a point about judgment and of course fire, but when will this fire burn? In one of his parables Jesus answers it quite clearly in Matthew 13:39-43:

the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares (weeds) are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

From these words we can see that there will be a "furnace of fire." When will it exactly burn? Christ said it will at the end of the world. The apostle Peter taught the same thing in 2 Peter 3:7. Jesus and Peter taught that there will be fire but that it is coming in the future and that the earth and all of the evil deeds within it are reserved for that future judgment. So those that have sinned without a remedy are not burning right now below our feet within a flaming-hot furnace. Judgment is reserved for the future; no one is burning right now.


If you take a look within the book of Revelation there is a scripture that reads, "death and hell (Hades) were cast into the lake of fire" (20:14). In this scripture hell (Hades) is cast into the lake of fire. Therefore Hades (or hell) is not a fiery place, but it is instead tossed into a fiery place. Hades literally means "the grave" (and most Bibles have this footnote somewhere in the text). In the Old Testament this word is called "Sheol." We can see this clearly throughout the New Testament, especially in 1 Corinthians 15:55, which reads, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave (Hades), where is thy victory?" This scripture is talking about God's people. This scripture is talking about God's people ascending from Hades, or the grave, when he returns to the earth. If Hades literally means a fiery place of torment, how can anyone imagine God's own people residing there? If you don't believe me then read the entire section (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

To sum up these 3 points:
1.) Tartarus is a place of darkness of restraint; Satan and his angels are there now but they obviously aren't roasting.
2.) Hades refers to the grave, which those who are saved will one day resurrect from.
3.) Gehenna refers to a place of fire and punishment, which will come at the end of the world.

Now that we have these words out of the way, let's deal with some more scriptures that seem to pose a "problem." I believe that scripture indicates (whether we believe it was inspired or not) that those who die without Christ will not be frying for all of eternity but will instead be destroyed, annihilated, or will simply cease to exist.

Everlasting Fire

Revelation 20:15 reads, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Will those inside the lake of fire be burning throughout all of eternity or will they simply burn up, and therefore cease to exist altogether? Most jump immediately to scriptures that state, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Is there a contradiction between scriptures like these according to the perspective that I am arguing? Maybe so. The Bible states in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." So will the damned forever roast in this "everlasting fire" or will they perish? If they do in fact burn forever then they obviously also have eternal life (just a much more uncomfortable one!). The fire will burn them up forever and its result is eternal--complete destruction. Let's proceed...

Revelation 20:10 reads, "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." That means that they'll be sizzling forever, right? Wrong. Ezekiel 28 also speaks about the fate of Satan at the judgment. After discussing the King of Tyre, the prophet looks even further to identify Lucifer himself. This is what Ezekiel says about the fate of the Devil, "I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you....You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever" (verses 18-19). So which one is it? Will Satan be frying forever or will he be burned up and be no more forever? It's important to note that the book of Revelation is saturated in imagery. We must not interpret the entire Bible from one isolated text. Let's dig deeper...

Sodom and Gomorrah

In the book of Jude it reads, "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (verse 7). We all know the story. These two cities were burned up by fire and brimstone falling from heaven. The physical cities were completely destroyed. The punishment of those in the cities is "set forth as an example" of what will happen to all those who die in their sins. So this "eternal fire" destroyed them in a moment, as the book of Lamentations records, "For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment" (4:6). These two cities were destroyed by "eternal fire" but does this mean that they are still burning? No. The fire came from God and the results last forever (eternal). These two cities are an example for eternal fire, yet they burned up in a moment. How can that be? "Eternal fire" obviously doesn't mean that people will be burning forever. They will be destroyed, which lasts forever.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Many people have read this parable given by Jesus in the book of Luke. It's kind of long so I'll put it into a nutshell: There was a beggar named Lazarus who was full of sores who laid at the rich man's gate desiring to be fed. When the beggar died he was carried off to "Abraham's bosom" and when the rich man died he was buried and found himself being tormented in Hades. The rich man can see the beggar from Hades and he asks him for some water to cool his tongue. This seems to be the greatest text used to support the idea that billions of people will be frying forever. But I must make it a point that this a parable and didn't actually take place. If the rich man was really burning in Hades then how on earth was he keeping the conversation that he was? Simply try burning your finger while talking to someone. If the rich man was burning then why would he only want water for his tongue instead of his entire body? If he entered into flames right after he died then why does Jesus and the apostles teach that fire will be at the end of the world? Please consider these questions.

When Jesus gave this parable he was talking to Pharisees who were deriding him with their tongues (Luke 16:14). They believed that the rich were blessed and that the poor were cursed. Jesus flipped it entirely around. The rich man begging for water to cool his tongue was a warning pointed at them that their mouths were endangering them of hell fire. Fire will be at the end of the world, as the scriptures teach, but no one will be frying forever. Jesus wasn't formulating a theology of eternal damnation here.

Jesus and the Cross

I'll make this one short and sweet because I see it as the most important. Scripture teaches that Jesus paid the price for sin on the cross. The Bible states that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Jesus obviously died on the cross on behalf of the world, which can't save itself. Let's assume that if someone dies without being saved that they will fry for eternity. If that is the punishment for sin then how did Jesus pay the price for sin if he only died without frying for eternity? If that is the punishment for sin and Jesus endured that punishment then it would follow that Jesus is still burning. Wrong. He died, which is the price for sin as the Bible teaches, and Jesus paid that price by dying. If the punishment for sin is frying forever then it follows that Jesus must be frying right now since he paid the price for sin. This is obviously wrong.


In this blog I don't wish to affirm anything on the nature of the soul, the fate of those who are saved and what happens to them before Jesus comes again, etc. I just wanted to focus on the nature of hell and punishment (as the Bible says, even if it's not a divinely inspired book). It's clear that words translated as hell refer to the grave, which everyone will be residing in. Others refer to a fire that will burn up the unsaved at the end of the world. It is clear that there is a fire coming, it will burn up many but that they won't be burning forever...only the results will be forever (I haven't gone completely in depth but I think this is good for now). I sure hope that God won't burn billions of people for all eternity (that idea has created countless atheists among many things). If He really inspired this book then I think it's quite clear that He won't. Trust me, I still have many doubts about The Bible, God, faith, etc. But every time I read these words I can't help but stop and wonder: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."