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 Post subject: It's gonna rain
PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 5:51 pm 
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Upsilon wrote:
...I did a little research into this and it turns out that, at least in England, Anglicanism is still winning the game at a large majority of 31.5 million. Just goes to show how wrong an impression can be, eh?

But your impression is still very important to me. That tells me that those Christians in your community, despite what all of us do-gooders here on the forum say about Christianity, are not living in such a way as to make an impression on you.

Upsilon wrote:
...if God was universally known, no-one would get sent to Hell on the dodgy grounds of never having believed in Jesus.

No, I suppose you're right in the context of such a universal revalation. What grounds are appropriate, then, in such a thought-experiment, for sending people to hell, if any? On what merit does someone achieve heaven? Good deeds?

Upsilon wrote:
Right, and if it's not true, you have to bake me a batch of your special Buzcakes.

You sure? When I made The Cheatcakes, this was the result:
Image.
We could of course, eat them in my local hometown motorcycle bar...
Image.

Upsilon wrote:
Fair enough. The idea I have of that philosophy at the moment is far too sketchy for me to form an opinion on it. So I won't.

I was just pointing out that some people in my circle agreed with you.

Upsilon wrote:
...has more relevance to Christian theology. ...have fondly watched the inhabitants ... undoubtedly wipe out the entire population. ... The twenty bucks goes towards the construction of a spaceship ... This means that they can only save ... only the one human (or small group of humans) they choose to appear to actually hand over the money – the rest all die a slow and painful death ....

Your metaphor holds up under scrutiny. Subtitute spaceship for wooden boat, and $20 for 100 years of manual labor, and you've got Genesis 6:1 through 9:17. My favorite Negro Spiritual says it's going to happen again. I mentioned typeology earlier, and Noah is a type of Christ, while his family is a type of the church. The lesson of Noah, however, is not, "if God did this then he doesn't exist," but is, "are you on the boat or not?"

Your grasp of the ideas involved has pinpointed the struggle the world is in. And though I could say something like "the aliens would take anyone on their ship except those who expressly refused" (a la Treehouse of Horror 1), the fact of the matter is that you're right that not everyone has yet been told about Chris(t). I'm doing everything in my power to get the word out, and I have acted my life with a sense of urgency as I have travelled the world trying to communicate the need to know God through Jesus. The fact that the Anglicans in your neighborhood appear to be happy on the spaceship without feeling the urgency of helping everyone else reinforces my statement about their living that I made above. But that's not how I have behaved.

The fact of the matter is that God didn't need Noah to build the boat, and if he had wanted he could have compelled more people to come on board against their will, and when it comes down to it, he didn't have to kill off all air-breathers with a flood. But God did involve Noah in the work, and Noah's rescue came only with wholehearted cooperation between God and that small group of mankind. So what can I do? What's my response? I can't do much, but I've over and over commended the book Miracles to you, and think it'd answer a whole lot of questions; you probably haven't had a chance to read any of it. I don't yet know how to get Amazon to send you a copy of the book from here to there (.co.uk isn't working right today and I'm not sure I want to know how Citibank would handle conversion from pounds... so I'd probably just buy it and mail it myself), but if you want me to put my $20 where my mouth is, I'll see to it that this piece of British literature finds it's way back across the pond. Your call, it's just an invitation.

More responses to come: I'm trying to break this stuff into smaller posts for the peoples!

And, for the record, TOTPD Image

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 Post subject: Logic, as it were
PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 6:01 pm 
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Upsilon wrote:
... if logic doesn't hold true in the grand scheme of things, I could well have turned into a trout by next morning.

Yes, and you bring up an excellent place for me to make a distinction! The fact that you've never in your recollection turned fishy, and that neither has anyone else in your experience, leads to the reasonable conclusion that you won't be a fish tomorrow morning at sunrise: that's inductive logic. So is our observation of gravity: we measure and extrapolate. We make a principle out of disjoint experiences that explains them, and that is inductive reasoning: the stuff of all sciences. But when we perform thought experiments (instead of real ones, for example since we can't witness armageddon today and go back to think about it) about philosophy or theology, operating on principles that govern possibilities, that's deductive reasoning. If I were to turn into a trout tomorrow, I would not then throw out logic, I would instead thow out my experiences and observations, and still believe in logic. I bet you would too. Us humans can hardly conceive a world without logic! We believe in logic with (almost) blind faith. If you put 500 stones in a freight train car, then 500 more, then counted 1001 in the car... what would you do? You'd reason that one of the 500's was wrong, or you'd suppose one broke into two stones, or that your count of 1001 was mistaken. You'd never just throw up your hands and say, "math just doesn't work on this." Similarly with logic: we may change the rules, but we can't disbelieve in it altogether and stay sane.

I know that I'm getting confused between philosophy and psychology here, to some extent. Just because I can't believe something doesn't mean it's false (though it is evidence). I'm basically just thinking as I type, and I know it's making me look like I flip-flop on the question of God's logicality. But I do know that a conclusion reached by deductive resoning can not be disproved without disproving one of the suppositions from which it's derived. Indictive reasoning, however, is not considered rigorous in philosophy.

Upsilon wrote:
That's probably the major problem we can have with an argument that logic is an illusion: there's nothing to judge it by but logic, so it can hardly be proven or disproven.

Agreed: arguments about how to argue are silly: it's best to agree and then proceed to the real matter at hand! The Chambers quote I mentioned was actually from a series of lectures delivered to troops (Brits, I think) stationed in Egypt during World War 1. They were starved for logic, but could relate to tragedy. The discussion probably really hit home for them, and for that fact I commend the talks.

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
...it's possible that logic, as a stepchild of wisdom, is eternal.

I hope so. Otherwise, I wouldn't know what to think.

You'd think about whatever trout eat... <><

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
But if someone who has a lot more education ....

That's a modest approach. I should be more like that.

I've been wrong often enough about this kind of thing and if you read Job, you'll see what happens when someone's dogmatic. The "friends" Job had were pretty set in their ways and got the beat-down threat from the Most High Himself. The fact in this case is that there's not a lot in the Bible about logic itself as I've read, and I've been told that logic in Theology was introduced not by Monotheistic Hebrews but by Pagan Greeks. While I still believe all truth is God's truth, and I really respect the Lewisian approach to theology, I'd rather be corrected than think I'm right when I'm wrong. Here's to hoping (that is, believing) logic works!

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 Post subject: Knowing God
PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 6:25 pm 
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Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
... "I don't know you" is the ultimate description of what it means to be a non-Christian from God's point of view.

Fair point. I think a more accurate description would be "you don't know me".

Perhaps the emotional impact is as important. "You don't know me" is an insistance made by people who've been misunderstood. I certainly hope God knows he's going to be misunderstood! But "I don't know you" is much more tragic in my experience: think of the soap opera heorine who's just found out her lover's actually in the mob and has done some horrible crime with callous indifference. She'd say, "I thought I knew you, but I don't." Or Peter's denial of Christ, "I don't know the man." It's always a sad statement that reveals that the sayer had a right to know the object of the statement, and was deprived. This is my evaluation of the emotional impact, in accordance with my belief that God is very personal... it's not a very good theological explaination of the metaphor. I need to buy me a better commentary. CBD has a bunch on clearance!

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Does God intend to ignore me because I "had no place for him"?

The principle is somewhat pervasive, though there are exceptions. Saul of Tarsus, for example, had no place for Jesus.

Saul of Tarsus was an exception? So does that mean that I'm unlikely to have a chance in hell of evading hell? (Excuse my little pun-ishment there.)

Sorry to be unclear. What I was trying to get at is that in general, the Holy Spirit is widely described as a gentleman who does not go where he is not welcome. Some people on other threads for example, have behaved downright unfriendly to Jesus or an idea of God. On the other hand, plenty of people have an openness to God that is diametrically opposed to the "no room" idea. My Hindu friend Malli, for example, is always talking about Jesus (from a Hindu polytheistic point of view), and I know from experience with two other Hindus who have converted to a "Jesus only" position, that this is an indication of openess of heart. So statistics aside ("chances of someone coming to God"), your heart condition can certainly be a welcoming one. I brought up Saul/Paul because he was about as Anti-Christian as one could be, and Jesus wanted to make an example of him (again with the God choosing issue!). The general principle I was discussing doesn't say someone who's not a Christian can't become one.

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
racerx_is_alive wrote:
...of course, God answers our prayers, etc... on his own timetable.

Don't I know it! Sometimes he takes his sweet time.

And sometimes he doesn't seem to notice.

Yeah, (sigh), for me too.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 6:46 pm 
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What my friend's Dad (and Spiritual adviser) is that if you keep the faith then your wishes will be granted (not to make God aound like a Genie, three wishes and all that) I dpn't know if you all will buy that but it's what I beleve and I'd be happy if somebody took this and proved me wrong (just to see your logic), that's why I take part in these forums because I like to see how other people's brains work.

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 Post subject: Deathbed
PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 6:57 pm 
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Upsilon wrote:
Just out of interest, does God have anything against deathbed repenting? If someone, just before dying, honestly regretted all the bad things they had done and became a Christian a only few minutes before kicking the bucket, would God mind?

Though racerx and the guys may disagree with me, I have two thoughts. First comes from the fact that in Christianity, Salvation is based on Grace, not works. Therefore, someone can be saved without ever doing a single good deed. This opens up the door for deathbed salvation, simply on the grounds that a guy could have a completely genuine slavation experience and then a car bomb blow up his church before he had a chance to do anything good from it.

racerx_is_alive wrote:
Repentance is more than just regretting bad things. ...repentance also can involve trying to right the wrongs we have caused, and always involves never returning to sin. ...over time.
The problem ... is that the person never gets the chance to ... [resist] temptation. ...regret is not sufficient [if they] never quite have the strength to quit either.

Of course, there's the case where someone realizes they're going to die, and repents of sin and accepts Christ to avoid hell. I know of one case (I really wish I could remember the name, it's well documented) where a terminally ill AIDS victim did this, and was supernaturally granted about 4 more years during which he did live like a Christian. That was a deathbed repentance that was genuine, as demonstrated by actions.

The thing that RacerX has a problem with, as do many Christians, are those people who plan deathbed repentances. These are people who informationally know Jesus is Christ and God, but who want to live outside the apparent restrictions of Christendom their whole lives, and get into heaven anyway. As I mentioned referring to The Great Divorce, this repentence may not even be psychologically possible for someone in that mindset. As you, Upsilon, mentioned, it would be rediculous to factually believe in Christ without following him. So you see the obsticles to this kind of deathbed repentance. Supposing the obsticles were overcome, would such a repentance "count?" I say yes, and RacerX would say no. But the obsticles are real, so it's not a good plan.

Wow! As I was watching the new SBEmail at the end when he's expecting the royalties and says "(hamina hoo) NOW!" my email notification went off. Very weird!

Upsilon wrote:
On the Aesthetic Argument: Heh, that's pretty interesting. Of course, it can be disproven as easily as it can be supported, but I can see how it could work on a personal level.

It's inductive reasoning, taking evidence into account to build a framework for a point of view about God.

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 Post subject: Another Book
PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 7:03 pm 
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Prof. Tor Coolguy wrote:
...if you keep the faith then your wishes will be granted (not to make God aound like a Genie, three wishes and all that)

I will let you see how my brain works! Evidence observed: I don't get my way. Authority states: God has a will of his own. Faith content: Sufficient. Bonus to reply: 1D8+4.

It's my understanding that if you keep the faith (are faithful) then God's wish is granted. A good out-of-print reference for you may be God is not a Vending Machine by Marv Hinten... it's a book on theology of prayer, not on "believe/receive" or "name-it/claim-it" principles, but it at least addresses your thoughts.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 8:07 pm 
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wow that really makes a lot of sense, why do people blindly follow God like that then I mean there is also enough proof that if you do then miricals can happen, I guess

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 Post subject: Phrasing?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 8:15 pm 
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Prof. Tor Coolguy wrote:
...why do people blindly follow God like that then I mean there is also enough proof that if you do then miricals can happen, I guess

I'm not sure what you're getting at here... do you mean that you're observing an apparent paradox? The one where some passages in the Bible say "God's will is the one that will get done," and other passages that say, "a prayer offered in faith will be granted." That is indeed confusing, but I do know that it encourages me to pray.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 10:14 pm 
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Just asking for something in prayer is not the sufficient end all to receive it. Sometimes, we can ask for things which are not in line with God's will, other times we ask for things that it is not time for us to have yet. The scriptures say that anything that we ask of God in faith will be granted. That can appear paradoxical at first glance. However, let's break it down some.

We need to ask in faith. In order to have faith in God, we need to know him. We need to understand his attributes, and live according to his teachings. The better we follow him, the more faith we have. The more faith we have, the better we should follow him. So basically, if we have lots of faith, we will be closer to God. The closer we are to God, the more our prayers are like a conversation than a telegram. God can inspire us and give us things to pray for.

Basically, if we exercize our faith while praying, God will let us know what to pray for. If we are praying for the things he wants us to pray for because we used faith, he will grant us those things. God holds plenty of blessings for each of us, some we get by obeying certain commandments, others we get by asking for them. If while praying, we pause and try and listen for God's response, and have faith, God will let us know what to ask for, and he will give us the answers and blessings we ask for. As far as I know, that's the best way to avoid asking for things that are not God's will. There isn't any harm in asking for things against his will (generally), except that you could be discouraged that he doesn't seem to be listening when he's really just saying no.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 06, 2004 6:44 pm 
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Buz wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
...if God was universally known, no-one would get sent to Hell on the dodgy grounds of never having believed in Jesus.

No, I suppose you're right in the context of such a universal revalation. What grounds are appropriate, then, in such a thought-experiment, for sending people to hell, if any?


Well, really, none. In my view, there's no sin bad enough to merit eternal punishment. In a finite life, you can only do so much bad stuff, and so it doesn't make sense for the retribution to work out as eternal.

Quote:
On what merit does someone achieve heaven? Good deeds?


That'd clinch it, yeah. Or good intentions. Or, to be even more exact, a lack of bad intentions. To give an example, accidentally dropping something weighty on somebody's foot wouldn't be punished, because you hadn't intended to do something wrong. Deliberately doing it would constitute an offence.

Even if you didn't get into heaven straight away, though, I don't see why you couldn't eventually. After serving your time in Hell, be it a couple of minutes ir a couple of millennia, you'd be allowed into Heaven. Hang on, I'm just describing Purgatory now, aren't I? Well, I do admire the concept. (The only thing that takes the idea down a peg with me as Christian philosophy is that it doesn't seem to be mentioned in the Bible anywhere.)

Sorry, I went into rampant philosophy mode there.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Right, and if it's not true, you have to bake me a batch of your special Buzcakes.

You sure? When I made The Cheatcakes, this was the result [...]


Get outta here, man! I don't want none of those Cheatcakes! Although I would settle for some mustard crackers.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
...has more relevance to Christian theology. ...have fondly watched the inhabitants ... undoubtedly wipe out the entire population. ... The twenty bucks goes towards the construction of a spaceship ... This means that they can only save ... only the one human (or small group of humans) they choose to appear to actually hand over the money – the rest all die a slow and painful death ....

Your metaphor holds up under scrutiny. Subtitute spaceship for wooden boat, and $20 for 100 years of manual labor, and you've got Genesis 6:1 through 9:17. My favorite Negro Spiritual says it's going to happen again. I mentioned typeology earlier, and Noah is a type of Christ, while his family is a type of the church. The lesson of Noah, however, is not, "if God did this then he doesn't exist," but is, "are you on the boat or not?"


Well, at the moment I'd have to say no. But that's because I haven't seen any purple aliens recently.

Quote:
Your grasp of the ideas involved has pinpointed the struggle the world is in. [...] But that's not how I have behaved.


And I commend you for it. Of course, there is a fine line between promoting Christianity and all-out fanaticism, but I can tell from our conversation that you haven't stepped over it.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
...it's possible that logic, as a stepchild of wisdom, is eternal.

I hope so. Otherwise, I wouldn't know what to think.

You'd think about whatever trout eat... <><


Soft bodied invertebrates like worms or insects, you mean?

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
... "I don't know you" is the ultimate description of what it means to be a non-Christian from God's point of view.

Fair point. I think a more accurate description would be "you don't know me".

Perhaps the emotional impact is as important. "You don't know me" is an insistance made by people who've been misunderstood. I certainly hope God knows he's going to be misunderstood! But "I don't know you" is much more tragic in my experience: think of the soap opera heorine who's just found out her lover's actually in the mob and has done some horrible crime with callous indifference. She'd say, "I thought I knew you, but I don't." Or Peter's denial of Christ, "I don't know the man." It's always a sad statement that reveals that the sayer had a right to know the object of the statement, and was deprived.


Hang on, is this God who's been deprived, or the infidel?

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Does God intend to ignore me because I "had no place for him"?

The principle is somewhat pervasive, though there are exceptions. Saul of Tarsus, for example, had no place for Jesus.

Saul of Tarsus was an exception? So does that mean that I'm unlikely to have a chance in hell of evading hell? (Excuse my little pun-ishment there.)

Sorry to be unclear. [...] The general principle I was discussing doesn't say someone who's not a Christian can't become one.


Well, I reckon I fall into the latter category. If I hear a legit reason to assume that God exists, as I acknowledged earlier, I could hardly argue.

Prof. Tor Coolguy wrote:
What my friend's Dad (and Spiritual adviser) is that if you keep the faith then your wishes will be granted (not to make God aound like a Genie, three wishes and all that) I dpn't know if you all will buy that but it's what I beleve and I'd be happy if somebody took this and proved me wrong (just to see your logic), that's why I take part in these forums because I like to see how other people's brains work.


So, let's say I believe in God and pray for millions of pounds to do what I like with... according to your theory, I would get it?

Buz wrote:
Of course, there's the case where someone realizes they're going to die, and repents of sin and accepts Christ to avoid hell. I know of one case (I really wish I could remember the name, it's well documented) where a terminally ill AIDS victim did this, and was supernaturally granted about 4 more years during which he did live like a Christian.


Supernaturally granted? Is there evidence backing this up, or what?

Quote:
The thing that RacerX has a problem with [...] so it's not a good plan.


So you believe in Jesus all your life, but choose not to follow him, and you repent on your death bed? I don't see how you can plan that - if it's planned, can it really be true repentance?

racerx_is_alive wrote:
Just asking for something in prayer is not the sufficient end all to receive it. [...] except that you could be discouraged that he doesn't seem to be listening when he's really just saying no.


So God only grants wishes that he would do anyway? Doesn't that make prayer redundant?

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 Post subject: Agreement
PostPosted: Wed Oct 06, 2004 8:12 pm 
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Upsilon wrote:
Buz wrote:
What grounds are appropriate... for sending people to hell, if any?

Well, really, none. In my view, there's no sin bad enough to merit eternal punishment.

How about gross misconduct with God's property? How about not wanting to be with God, wanting to go to hell? How about causing others to do evil? How about cheating on God (like someone could cheat on their spouse)? How about corrupt televangelists and demons? Or people who purposely try to keep others out of heaven? Or abusing people and the good things God's given? Those are a few Biblical motivations for hell, and I figured if we're going to discuss deserving damnation, this would be as good a place to start as any.

Most theologians and preachers cite God's holiness as absolute; so absolute that the Father could not even look upon Jesus during the crucifixion when he "took sins upon him." Consequently, sin can not exist in heaven. A person must decide what he wants more: sin or God. If he's willing to (with God's help) be rid of the sin, then he's acceptable to heaven. If he clutches his sin as dearly as his own life, then he will lose life and keep the sin. Sin is like the dark side of the Force, like dark arts not taught at Hogwarts (though defence from them is), and like taking street drugs in that sin corrupts the heart of a man until he can't let go of it. This is the basis of a motivation for the necessity of hell.

The torment of hell is secondary. The absence of God is primary. The former may be a direct result of the latter, actually, since we live every second of natural life on earth under providence.

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
On what merit does someone achieve heaven? Good deeds?

That'd clinch it, yeah. Or good intentions. Or, to be even more exact, a lack of bad intentions.

You keep getting more and more lax in your requirements. Don't you value heaven? Shouldn't someone have to earn it? Or, in our thought-experement, is it just a catch-all for everyone?

Upsilon wrote:
To give an example, accidentally dropping something weighty on somebody's foot wouldn't be punished, because you hadn't intended to do something wrong. Deliberately doing it would constitute an offence.

Innocent intention is recognized even in Old Testament law.

Upsilon wrote:
Hang on, I'm just describing Purgatory now, aren't I? Well, I do admire the concept. (The only thing that takes the idea down a peg with me as Christian philosophy is that it doesn't seem to be mentioned in the Bible anywhere.)

Those who agree with a theology of purgatory (Anglicans and the celebrated C.S. Lewis himself are among them) cite the evidence throughout Scripture that God purifies men from sin, and toward complete holiness through suffering, as proof that he does the same in the afterlife. I personally disagree, but the doctrine though not Biblical is not completely anti-Biblical.

Upsilon wrote:
Sorry, I went into rampant philosophy mode there.

It's where we are in this discussion: a thought experiment about how a real God might distinguish good from evil.

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
"are you on the boat or not?"

Well, at the moment I'd have to say no. But that's because I haven't seen any purple aliens recently.

You may, of course, be conversing with one or more online, though. :copter:

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
"I don't know you" is ... a sad statement that reveals that the sayer had a right to know the object of the statement, and was deprived.
Hang on, is this God who's been deprived, or the infidel?

I say that by rebelling against God, a man is depriving God of a relationship God has a right to have with him. I see God poetically personified as sad in poetry about Israel's constant straying. Think of Jesus' reinstatement of Peter, for example.

Upsilon wrote:
Prof. Tor Coolguy wrote:
...if you keep the faith then your wishes will be granted ... I don't know if you all will buy that but it's what I beleve and I'd be happy if somebody took this and proved me wrong (just to see your logic), that's why I take part in these forums because I like to see how other people's brains work.

So, let's say I believe in God and pray for millions of pounds to do what I like with... according to your theory, I would get it?

I think he was asking as much as telling. A question from a more needy and desperate point of view may be "suppose I believe in God and pray that he'd heal my child's lukemia, would he?" I mean, we can all imagine a God who would not indulge a selfish whim, but we have more of a struggle with a God who denies our desperate needs.

Upsilon wrote:
Buz wrote:
...a terminally ill AIDS victim did this, and was supernaturally granted about 4 more years ....

Supernaturally granted? Is there evidence backing this up, or what?

Again, I wish I could remember his name. He worked with Campus Crusade for his last several years. A better description may be "Unexplained remission" for skeptics. If not miraculous, certainly providential.

Upsilon wrote:
So you believe in Jesus all your life, but choose not to follow him, and you repent on your death bed? I don't see how you can plan that - if it's planned, can it really be true repentance?

Exactly RacerX's point and mine. I don't think someone who loves their sin so much is fit for the throne room of God. But that probably makes me sound judgemental... that's not intentional; it's like that girl at your school who you know is a great lady who gets asked out by a really scummy creep. You so much want her to say "no" because she deserves better. That's what I meant above: you can't carry sin with you into heaven.

Upsilon wrote:
So God only grants wishes that he would do anyway? Doesn't that make prayer redundant?

If you believe prayer is notifying God of something he doesn't know, then the fact he only does what he would have done anyway is redundant. Once you realize that God is omniscient, and that he tells us to pray, you must conclude that prayer serves another purpose. Most theologians say it, like conversation, serves to deepen the relationship between God and an individual. Marv Hinten's work God is not a Vending Machine goes further to suggest petitionary prayer involves a man in God's work emotionally. Without a relational purpose to prayer, prayer is incredibly redundant.

But think about prayers of praise, too. We tell God good stuff he already knows about himself to... what? Boost his ego? He's the most humble God we could reasonably expect... giving him props to build his self-esteem is rediculous. The process is more likely suited to align a human will with God's attributes.

Anyway, you're asking the right questions. many Christians go from birth to death without thinking about what they believe as much as you have done. The nature of prayer, suffering, repentance, and damnation are all deep subjects worthy of study for any theology student.

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 Post subject: Re: Agreement
PostPosted: Sat Oct 09, 2004 10:53 am 
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Buz wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
Buz wrote:
What grounds are appropriate... for sending people to hell, if any?

Well, really, none. In my view, there's no sin bad enough to merit eternal punishment.

How about gross misconduct with God's property? [...] this would be as good a place to start as any.


These are all Biblical justifications given for Hell. However, I don't think any of them are legitimate, for the simple reason that any one bad action you do on Earth can cause only finite damage - therefore, finite punishment. God is supposed to be just, right?

One interesting pseudo-exception is your "a person wants to go to Hell". Well, in that case, it's their own prerogative. Obviously, everybody's view of heaven is different, and if someone's idea of happiness is being burnt to ashes in a lake of fire, so be it. As long as they're happy.

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Most theologians and preachers cite God's holiness as absolute [...] This is the basis of a motivation for the necessity of hell.


Firstly, the definition of immorality is highly elusive. What for the secularist is completely acceptable practice may be condemning criteria in God's view. If a Hindu grows up and dies without ever "knowing God", can he be held to blame? What about masturbation, sodomy, polygamy - everything that God can't stand which doesn't do any harm to anyone else? Am I to blame if I do something which I believe (on logical grounds) not to be immoral, but is wrong in God's view? There's a difference between deliberate sin and unintentional sin, and a very crucial one if we are to be judged.

Secondly, after a short (or long) spell in Hell/Purgatory, who's to say someone can't have learnt their lesson and decided not to be mean any more? In fact, judging by the terrible reviews I've heard of Hell, I think most people would make this decision pretty quickly.

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The torment of hell is secondary. The absence of God is primary.


From a religious viewpoint, maybe. Personally, I find my life without God to be quite satisfactory. What I really wouldn't like is eternal suffering. For the atheist, your statement is reversed.

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Upsilon wrote:
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On what merit does someone achieve heaven? Good deeds?

That'd clinch it, yeah. Or good intentions. Or, to be even more exact, a lack of bad intentions.

You keep getting more and more lax in your requirements. Don't you value heaven? Shouldn't someone have to earn it? Or, in our thought-experement, is it just a catch-all for everyone?


If you get through life without doing anything wrong ("wrong", in this scenario, is taken to cover anything which causes undue harm, inconvenience, loss or general unhappiness to anyone else [unless the only alternative would be even worse]), or being sorry when you do, in my view, you have earned heaven. Why should anyone who hasn't been bad be deprived of it? Note that if my worldly experience is anything to go by, even under these comparatively lax conditions, few people would get in immediately.

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Upsilon wrote:
To give an example, accidentally dropping something weighty on somebody's foot wouldn't be punished, because you hadn't intended to do something wrong. Deliberately doing it would constitute an offence.

Innocent intention is recognized even in Old Testament law.


That doesn't surprise me. Even God has to have standards. ;)

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Upsilon wrote:
Hang on, I'm just describing Purgatory now, aren't I? Well, I do admire the concept. (The only thing that takes the idea down a peg with me as Christian philosophy is that it doesn't seem to be mentioned in the Bible anywhere.)

Those who agree with a theology of purgatory (Anglicans and the celebrated C.S. Lewis himself are among them) cite the evidence throughout Scripture that God purifies men from sin, and toward complete holiness through suffering, as proof that he does the same in the afterlife. I personally disagree, but the doctrine though not Biblical is not completely anti-Biblical.


Well, if you don't believe in Purgatory, I'll save that argument for another time...

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Upsilon wrote:
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"I don't know you" is ... a sad statement that reveals that the sayer had a right to know the object of the statement, and was deprived.
Hang on, is this God who's been deprived, or the infidel?

I say that by rebelling against God, a man is depriving God of a relationship God has a right to have with him.


"Rebelling against God" is an activity in which few, if any, participate. What's much more common is not seeing anything to rebel against. This is the other side of the metaphor: the man being deprived of a relationship he has the right to have with God.

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Upsilon wrote:
Prof. Tor Coolguy wrote:
...if you keep the faith then your wishes will be granted ... I don't know if you all will buy that but it's what I beleve and I'd be happy if somebody took this and proved me wrong (just to see your logic), that's why I take part in these forums because I like to see how other people's brains work.

So, let's say I believe in God and pray for millions of pounds to do what I like with... according to your theory, I would get it?

I think he was asking as much as telling. A question from a more needy and desperate point of view may be "suppose I believe in God and pray that he'd heal my child's lukemia, would he?" I mean, we can all imagine a God who would not indulge a selfish whim, but we have more of a struggle with a God who denies our desperate needs.


I wouldn't: I'm comfortable with the idea of a god who lets things happen, especially if it's our own fault. What strikes me as odd is a benevolent god who lets lukemia exist in the first place.

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Upsilon wrote:
Buz wrote:
...a terminally ill AIDS victim did this, and was supernaturally granted about 4 more years ....

Supernaturally granted? Is there evidence backing this up, or what?

Again, I wish I could remember his name. He worked with Campus Crusade for his last several years. A better description may be "Unexplained remission" for skeptics. If not miraculous, certainly providential.


The world is full of unexplained occurences. Often they occur because we don't have the science to explain them (lightning was once an unexplained occurence, leading to all sorts of different myths).

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Upsilon wrote:
So God only grants wishes that he would do anyway? Doesn't that make prayer redundant?

If you believe prayer is notifying God of something he doesn't know, then the fact he only does what he would have done anyway is redundant. Once you realize that God is omniscient, and that he tells us to pray, you must conclude that prayer serves another purpose.


I always assumed it was (at least in part) a way of asking for things (which, notably, go ungranted as often as not). God would say "well, all right, since you asked" and your sister would be cured of her flu, allowing for divine intervention delays of a few days. He knew that you would ask, the omniscient fellow that he is, but only granted it because of that.

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Most theologians say it, like conversation, serves to deepen the relationship between God and an individual. Marv Hinten's work God is not a Vending Machine goes further to suggest petitionary prayer involves a man in God's work emotionally. Without a relational purpose to prayer, prayer is incredibly redundant.


Holy crap - the years of my life I spent praying were redundant! I can certainly say I never heard God talking back, or felt a developing relationship, and Lord knows (heh) I've tried.

In Sunday school (I still shudder to utter those words) we were always taught that the purposes of a prayer were "thank you, sorry, please". According to the "God only grants what prayers he would have granted even if you hadn't asked" theory, we can safely call "please" irrelevant. "Thank you" and "sorry" still seem to make sense to me, reckoning without your "prayer must have a relational purpose" theory - if we factor it in, they both seem pointless and I begin to wonder if there's any point to prayer at all.

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But think about prayers of praise, too. We tell God good stuff he already knows about himself to... what? Boost his ego? He's the most humble God we could reasonably expect... giving him props to build his self-esteem is rediculous.


I've always wondered about worship. It always seemed delightfully pointless to me, as I sat through church singing hymns telling God how darn good he is. I mean, awesome as he may be, if I were God, I would definitely tire of people praising me all Sunday morning when they could be doing something productive.

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Anyway, you're asking the right questions. many Christians go from birth to death without thinking about what they believe as much as you have done.


Oh, I don't doubt that. In this age of scepticism, it's impossible not to query. During the reigns of certain English monarchs, when you'd be taken to the gallows for decorating your church wrongly, no-one would even dare to say "hang on, maybe this whole 'God' business isn't true after all - agh, hot! Urk..."

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 11, 2004 3:46 pm 
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Upsilon wrote:
According to the "God only grants what prayers he would have granted even if you hadn't asked" theory, we can safely call "please" irrelevant.


I think I was misunderstood here. Sometimes, part of the requirement for receiving a blessing is asking for it. He has this blessing, he's waiting to give it to you, but you have to ask for it. However, we don't always know what blessings he has in store that we need to ask for, so when we pray, he can help us know the things that we should pray for, so we can receive all the blessings he has ready for us.


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So why does God make you pray? If he wants to give you the blessing, why do you have to ask for it in order for him to be "allowed" to? I don't remember having prayed the last time something good happened to me.

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Hey; forgive me for butting into the conversation.

Before I dive into "why pray," I'd like to point out that most of this dilemma is only about prayers of petition--"God, make this happen." For me, that's like 10% of my prayers. The bulk of it, for me, is just me "dumping" on God, as a listening ear, about how my day's going, or thinking out loud to him. I mean, if I believe that he's there all the time, and that he actually cares, then why not? Most of my prayers are either "Man, God, I don't know if I can take much more of this," or "Okay God, I need to figure this decision out..." Both kinds of prayers, by the way, are all over the Psalms.

Now, "why pray." There's one big dichotomy that underlies this prayer thing, and both causes and (to some extent) resolves all the confusion. In fact, no one would find much confusing about prayer until they ran into this: the principle of God's "sovereignty" and how it relates to man's "free will." This is a big, honkin' can of fat, hairy worms that I'd rather not open fully right now--it's a fun one to open, and possibly the most important for any Christian OR non-Christian--but it's not a short one, and I'd love to sleep this week. In brief, though: "sovereignty" is theology shorthand for the concept that God does whatever he wants. If we combine this with the belief in a God who is actively involved in every detail of existence (rather than a Deist God), the implication is that everything that happens is what God wants to happen. Immediately the question of human agency comes up--are we robots, yada yada. ("Yes! VOIP!!") Seriously, let's put that one on hold. I promise I'll address it, but if it can wait until next week that'd be great.

So assuming for the moment that we even have individual awareness and agency, what's the point of praying for God to do something if he does what he was going to anyway? You may not like this, but I'm gonna pull out the "mystery" card. This is one of these things that just plain doesn't make sense to us. Where it leaves me is: God has this stuff that he does, that he'll do no matter what. But for some reason--unknown, and indeed inexplicable, to me--he WANTS to make us part of the process. It's an invitation to "get in" with him on what he's doing; there's a verse (I'll let Buz look it up for me; I believe it's in one of the Corinthians?) about our being "co-laborers with Christ." It's about collaboration.
One of my pastors has a great analogy for it: it's like this Dad building some woodworking project, and his toddler is there with his toy tool belt and his plastic hammer 'n' such. And Dad hits the nail with his hammer, driving it an inch, and then the kid hits it with his plastic hammer, driving it like a sixteenth of an inch. (Okay, I know in actuality he wouldn't be able to move it at all; go with me here.) Is the son really helping the father that much? No, he's probably kinda getting in the way. But at the end it's worth it to see the pride and joy on the child's face when he says, "Look what we made! Daddy made it--AND I HELPED!" Could the father do it by himself? Yeah, easily. But he'd prefer not to.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2004 3:05 pm 
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notstrongorbad wrote:
Hey; forgive me for butting into the conversation.


Not at all - your input is welcomed.

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Before I dive into "why pray," I'd like to point out that most of this dilemma is only about prayers of petition--"God, make this happen." For me, that's like 10% of my prayers. The bulk of it, for me, is just me "dumping" on God, as a listening ear, about how my day's going, or thinking out loud to him. I mean, if I believe that he's there all the time, and that he actually cares, then why not? Most of my prayers are either "Man, God, I don't know if I can take much more of this," or "Okay God, I need to figure this decision out..." Both kinds of prayers, by the way, are all over the Psalms.


I noted in a recent post the three types of prayer they taught us about in Unday-say ool-schay: thank you, sorry and please. We were never really taught about number 4, the "God, this is happening" prayer (although in later lessons this variety simply made itself apparent). Of these four, "sorry" and "thank you" still seem legit under scrutiny. This latest "listening ear" prayer makes some sort of sense, in that you need to vent your frustrations sometimes, but it should be noted that you'd be better off talking to a friend about something like this, given that a friend tends to respond. Also, may I recommend keeping a diary? It's a great way of recording your thoughts.

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So assuming for the moment that we even have individual awareness and agency, what's the point of praying for God to do something if he does what he was going to anyway? You may not like this, but I'm gonna pull out the "mystery" card.


I think I should keep a record of times this answer crops up. It'd be a good illustration of a theological debate.

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This is one of these things that just plain doesn't make sense to us. Where it leaves me is: God has this stuff that he does, that he'll do no matter what. But for some reason--unknown, and indeed inexplicable, to me--he WANTS to make us part of the process.


But the thing is, we're not. I've been told that out prayers make no difference and God just does what he would have done anyway; so we have no part in the process.

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It's an invitation to "get in" with him on what he's doing [...] But he'd prefer not to.


Firstly, your assertion that the father would rather not do it himself is debatable, but to cut out that weary discussion I think there's a different flaw in the analogy I can point out: the child thinks he has helped, and the father is simply playing along with him, which is understandable. However, from what I can infer, Christians are fully aware that they're not making the slightest difference when they pray; in terms of the analogy, they're children who are told to hammer by their father even though they can see it makes no difference - practically the reverse of what you were portraying.

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 Post subject: Condemnation?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2004 5:24 am 
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Upsilon wrote:
any one bad action you do on Earth can cause only finite damage - therefore, finite punishment.

I'm not convinced that you're correct in your quantification of how bad sin really is. I mean, you're probably thinking "steal a crumb" where I think "genocide." But either way, I think sin is really, really bad. Think of the archetypical jilted lover: no deed on the part of the wrongdoer will ever make the innocent person just love them again, and rightly so. The relationship is broken, and broken eternally. You don't quantify "the cheating on you was such-and-such an amount bad and 3 years of me giving you 12 roses per day will make us even." Calling (a?) sin "finite" attempts to quantify it and equate it with a payment.

When Christians talk about justice for a sin in the old testament, e.g. "eye for an eye," that was because the second eye had obviously equal value. When Christians talk about sin in terms of damnation, they're not saying "your murder was an equal punishment with eternity in hell." They are saying, "your murder, and sin nature that led up to it, break you from God and you can not spend eternity with him." The only place outside God's presence is hell (the Bible has no limbo state). Matthew 25:30's description of hell is just so. "Deserve" and "just" in damnation discussions is intended, by most, in such a manner. There may be those that disagree with me, but I don't intend to find out firsthand which of us is right on the finer details!

Upsilon wrote:
If a Hindu grows up and dies without ever "knowing God", can he be held to blame?

There are various views, each in their own way consistent with the Biblical principles. But as far as I know, the Bible only addresses this in passing, at best. And to be honest, no one in this discussion or ever reading this is in that category. Each of us reading this does have the opportunity.

Upsilon wrote:
What about masturbation, sodomy, polygamy - everything that God can't stand which doesn't do any harm to anyone else?

Interesting choice of "victimless crimes." Most people include illegal drugs, gambling, and suicide in the list as well. If you'd like me to discuss instances in which elements of your list and mine caused someone harm, I guess I'd be up for some of that discussion (or someone else can chime in examples). But there is no category of sin you can name like that for which there aren't examples of harm.

If you're actually getting at what Christians call "grey areas," such as cigarrette smoking, wearing less modest clothing, raves, harsh-movie-going, and so on, these are things which some Christians condemn even though it's not specifically on grounds of a Bible verse. Please be advised that the orthodox theology of grey areas is relational in nature; the thing about which the Holy Spirit warns each person would be harmful for him or her. 1 Corinthians 10 contains the definitive discussion, and Titus 1:15 (in context) helps.

Upsilon wrote:
Am I to blame if I do something which I believe (on logical grounds) not to be immoral, but is wrong in God's view? There's a difference between deliberate sin and unintentional sin, and a very crucial one if we are to be judged.

Is this even a real question, or a theoretical one? I mean, if you had never, ever done anything bad and just some incidentals had been the difference between eternal destinations, this would be important. But the fact of the matter is that everyone I've ever met has purposely done bad things out of malevolence at some point in their present or past. If you were a Christian asking of it was OK to do an illegal drug, I'd love to hash this question out for both of our edification! But you're asking about heaven and hell.

So keep in mind that your opinion is not rule here on earth anywhere. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse" for breaking the law in any nation. While "I didn't mean to kill him" makes murder into manslaughter (changing the definition), murder is still illegal. And "I didn't know it wasn't OK to murder" is not an excuse. Unless you have extremely radical or erroneous views of punishable crimes on earth, the heavenly analogue should not be surprising.

Upsilon wrote:
after a short (or long) spell in Hell/Purgatory, who's to say someone can't have learnt their lesson and decided not to be mean any more?

I don't have an answer for that. My best guess is that maybe God's presence on earth is what enables us to change our ways for the better. With his absence in the lake of fire, perhaps the capability to repent isn't present. But my knowledge does not do justice to your question.

Upsilon wrote:
If you get through life without doing anything wrong ("wrong", in this scenario, is taken to cover anything which causes undue harm, inconvenience, loss or general unhappiness to anyone else [unless the only alternative would be even worse]), or being sorry when you do, in my view, you have earned heaven.

Your answer made me sad. But it's hard to explain why (and it's probably not what you think). The Bible and I have presented an opportunity for a personal, loving relationship with a wonderful and interesting person who happens to also be the creator-God. And instead of saying, "that sounds attractive," you've all but said, "I'd rather a situation where a cold, impersonal tally of deeds was all there was to meaning in this life." I'm not saying that's what you think life is, I'm saying you seem to prefer that option over knowing God personally. While that's very Anglican, it's very... sad.

More to come!

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2004 4:05 pm 
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Upsilon wrote:
I noted in a recent post the three types of prayer they taught us about in Unday-say ool-schay: thank you, sorry and please.
I guess what I was saying was simply that these seem to me to be unnecessarily formal categorizations. I mean, do all your conversations with human friends fall into those categories? No, there are all kinds of other conversations that are just "hanging out." Prayer, in my book, is simply conversation; there will be some that will be more intense and more important--but again, that's just like human conversations. (There are differences; read on.)

Upsilon wrote:
This latest "listening ear" prayer makes some sort of sense, in that you need to vent your frustrations sometimes, but it should be noted that you'd be better off talking to a friend about something like this, given that a friend tends to respond.
I know the subject of God communicating is one you've touched on before--and evidently pursued yourself, with dissappointing results--but actually I do believe that God responds (and yeah, I mean apart from the Bible, which most Evangelicals regard as his primary means of communication). For me (and I would add it's very different for different people) the "voice of God" isn't overwhelmingly perceptible or distinguishable from my own train of thought. In fact, I found it pretty confusing as a young Christian the way a lot of Christians use the language, "... and then God said to me _____." I think that the most common way God responds is through the "working" of his Spirit; the Holy Spirit is described as kind of getting into our insides and messin' with stuff. For example, I'm mad at someone, or afraid of something, and in the process of praying through it, I experience a shift in my emotions, and by the time I'm done I'm completely calm. I can't give you a transcript of what God "said" to me; his response was on an emotional level. (Note: again, this differs between people. I know others who experience God's communication in a much more verbal way. And people experience exceptions to their own tendencies, too; I've had times where I got a distinct impression, in words, that I had the clear sense came from God and not me.)
As to the suggestion that talking to human friends might be more benificial, yeah, that's tremendously important (to God, too). But there's value to talking things through and figuring them out by yourself, too (except, of course, I don't believe I'm "by myself"). I mean, even if we assume for the moment that I'm really just talking to the wall, I think there was some study that showed that there were psychological and physical benefits to prayer. (Don't quote me on that, and I can't direct you to any documentation, so take it as you will.) But look at the results--I started angry/fearful, and ended peaceful. Even from a completely atheistic standpoint, it had some benefit. (Of course, from my viewpoint, I would never think that the main point of prayer was that it could help you relax/find emotional stability/etc.; yoga, meditation, or in some cases dark chocolate could also do the same. I value it because of the additional claim of supernatural involvement. Even if I am praying about nothing more important than how I feel--I'd still find the fact that I'm praying to God rather than a yoga mat significant.)

Upsilon wrote:
Also, may I recommend keeping a diary? It's a great way of recording your thoughts.
I agree! I'm pretty inconsistent about them, though; my personality is the type that will start one, put a few entries in, and then lose it!

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
This is one of these things that just plain doesn't make sense to us. Where it leaves me is: God has this stuff that he does, that he'll do no matter what. But for some reason--unknown, and indeed inexplicable, to me--he WANTS to make us part of the process.


But the thing is, we're not. I've been told that out prayers make no difference and God just does what he would have done anyway; so we have no part in the process.
Well, that's not what I would have said. You're probably going to like this even less than the "mystery" card, but I believe...
1. our prayers DO make a difference, and...
2. God does what he would have done anyway.
Yeah, this is an apparent contradiction. I mean, it's even an apparent contradiction to ME, and there are several assumptions I'm operationg on and you're not about how God and humans interact. (They should go into a new thread, but I won't be able to do so until November.) Part of the problem is that talking about hypotheticals is always an activity of limited usefulness. What God would have done anyway? How do we know? And why spend time wondering? (I mean, example: somebody dies. That means that's what God was going to do, right? Does that mean that, if somebody had prayed for him, there was no chance for it to save him? What about if he's dying, and somebody prays, and he recovers? Did the person praying change God's mind? They're hypotheticals. Playing "what if" can be just as unrewarding with God as with us.
Another part of the problem is that you're attributing a lot of human conditions to God--such as decision-making in chronological time. The whole concept of praying to "change God's mind" breaks down if you throw that out!
(That's probably the biggest thing that it comes down to in this thread; the thing that will the most often make Christian beliefs look just plain weird to an outside viewpoint, and most often cause difficulty in answering questions: the difference between humans and God. Yeah, there are a lot of ways they're similar--but there are also a lot of ways he's completely "other," and the things he does and the ways he operates would be... eh... strange in a human, to say the least. That's what's behind a lot of those cliches of Victorian Christianity like "He moves in mysterious ways," or "His ways are not our ways." It's not so much that he's this obscure, quasi-Masonic Being shrouded in layer on layer of impenetrable mysetery--it's just that he's different, and it takes some getting used to.)

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
It's an invitation to "get in" with him on what he's doing [...] But he'd prefer not to.


Firstly, your assertion that the father would rather not do it himself is debatable, but to cut out that weary discussion I think there's a different flaw in the analogy I can point out: the child thinks he has helped, and the father is simply playing along with him, which is understandable.
Exactly; actually, I kind of alluded to that flaw in the analogy myself, when I pointed out that the kid's plastic hammer probably wouldn't have any effect on the nail. In the end the child didn't really contribute anything to the project. I believe otherwise (see above). The useful part of the analogy: it helps humanize an otherwise inexplicable move on God's part: why does he solicit human help for things which he can do without batting an eyelash and which we have still never mastered (curing cancer and so forth)? The only explanation is relational, and in the analogy the father's action isn't so strange, because it's a relationship and a sentiment that's familiar to us.

I'd love to respond to the parallel discussion that's going on about sin and hell and such, but I think I've posted QUITE enough for one day--maybe for one week!

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 Post subject: Bad things
PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 am 
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Upsilon wrote:
"Rebelling against God" is an activity in which few, if any, participate. What's much more common is not seeing anything to rebel against. This is the other side of the metaphor: the man being deprived of a relationship he has the right to have with God.

Well, that's perhaps much more common in the last 150 years than it was in the previous 6000. I suppose I should have said something from that angle. It's the angle you keep bringing up, and perhaps the question this thread should be focused upon answering.

Upsilon wrote:
I'm comfortable with the idea of a god who lets things happen, especially if it's our own fault. What strikes me as odd is a benevolent god who lets lukemia exist in the first place.

It's possible suffering and death aren't as bad as you and I think they are. I earlier accused you of thinking sin was too small a deal, and I guess I can make the claim here that you think random suffering and death are too big a deal. It's the same accusation, really, and it's not that insidious of an accusation. Unfortunately, after I've suffered and died, I probably won't post anymore on this thread to tell you about it: so it's a hard point to make.

Even though I just typed that, I am not really convinced. I actually do think that suffering and death in the way I described above is pretty horrible. And I can't shake that feeling. I therefore do what's in my power to prevent and ease bad suffering where I see it. Unfortunately, that's a pretty narrow band... some suffering is so minor, I don't care about it (e.g. "I just stubbed my toe," or, "I lost my pen."). Suffering that's very major is beyond my power ("My husband was in a fire and his lungs are badly damaged, and now he's got an infection in there"). So I'm stuck with salve, kind words, and band-aids as my only tools. The only consolation I have is that this set is all anyone else has too, so maybe I am not morally deficient for being so helpless.

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 Post subject: Prayer
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 4:52 am 
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Upsilon wrote:
I always assumed [prayer] was (at least in part) a way of asking for things ...He knew that you would ask, the omniscient fellow that he is, but only granted it because of that.

That's not an unreasonable description of supplication.

Upsilon wrote:
Holy crap - the years of my life I spent praying were redundant! I can certainly say I never heard God talking back, or felt a developing relationship, and Lord knows (heh) I've tried.

Yup. If you don't have a relationship with God, and especially if you don't even think he exists, prayer is really rather silly. If you think he exists, but decline a relationship with him, prayer is audacious.

I don't know if I've misspoken, misled, or simply not been clear about one thing, though. You said you've not "felt" a developing relationship. You may not feel something like you expect: to demand that emotion as proof of God's existence is a theology including experientialism. I am not convinced of experientialism's credentials. Now I'm opening a can of worms, and myself to criticism, since I'm insisting on a personal relationship with God but denying the necessity of experiencing a specific feeling as a result of prayer. But "going with the facts even when you don't feel like it" is about the most accurate definition of faith as the word is used in the Bible. And Lord knows (heh) that there are days I do not feel like it.

If you ask me to clarify or reconcile my belief in a personal relationship with my being an intuitionist, I may not do a good job. But in my defence, my answers in this topic should probably point to the level of credence of a Christian Theology of God, not an exhaustive catalog of my opinions.

On a personal note, I have experienced things. It took an experience to realize I don't need an experience. (Homage to Star Trek Insurrection - "It took us centuries to learn that it doesn't have to take centuries to learn.")
Upsilon wrote:
"Thank you" and "sorry" ... they both seem pointless and I begin to wonder if there's any point to prayer at all.

There's plenty of relational value to courtesy. Look how well being courtious establishes conversation on this very page, and how discourtesy ruins any chance at communication on other pages and topics.

Upsilon wrote:
I've always wondered about worship. It always seemed delightfully pointless to me ... I would definitely tire of people praising me all Sunday morning when they could be doing something productive.

C.S. Lewis very clearly and elegantly explains a great justification of praise in his Meditations on the Psalms. But I suppose that it's the nth in a long line of books I've recommended but not given you time to puruse.

To summarize with a metaphor, what is the H*R Wiki? I mean, really? It is a constructive effort to "praise" the residents of Free Country, USA. Do they need it? Not really. Does it help? Sure, it helps fans get a grip on the material and figure out cross references. Do Mike, Matt, and Missy get a whole lot out of it? No. Do we like contributing? Yes! The natural and healthy reaction to appreciating something is to codify that appreciation. Tell others. Make a systematic way of looking at it. Discover new things about it. Think about and quote it. Some (like the Very Low Sodium Band and others) have even written songs about it. Sure, TBC appreciate it a little, but the point is that it's there for us!

And so may praise be. Like I said in an earlier post: it's not God on an ego trip, and there's nothing for him to be ashamed about or necessarily tired of. It's the healthy, natural result of appreciation. And there's nothing you truly appreciate that you (you personally, not just the rhetorical you) do not praise in some capacity.

Upsilon wrote:
So why does God make you pray? If he wants to give you the blessing, why do you have to ask for it in order for him to be "allowed" to? I don't remember having prayed the last time something good happened to me.

I've prayed for good things to happen to you. That may explain it. For hundreds of years, people on your fair isles have asked God to bless its inhabitants. You don't personally have to pray for every good thing to you.

And God, in addition to being a father-figure, is also a very good psychologist. Sometimes as a (young) child, my father would ask me and my brother to hop in the car with him and go for a drive. My brother thought it was a boring idea compared to video games, so he said no. While I probably could have thought of a dozen things more fun than going for a ride in the car, still figured he was my father and I should probably do what he wanted even if he didn't make me. Well, 9 times out of 10 it was a ride to McDonalds (a treat back then), or ice cream, or a park, or some other pleasant destination. He wouldn't tell me until we got there, because he wanted to build my trust (i.e., my faith) in him. My goal may have been ice cream -- he could really have cared less about ice cream -- but my trust was very important for our relationship. He turned my interest in chicken nuggets into love for him.

It wasn't bribery, though. My brother, staying at home, did not turn down the park, he turned down the relationship because it wasn't a park in his perception. He only percieved the relationship and thought that was lame. He got his video games, and that was it. I was willing to allow the relationship and found some of my kind of fun there too. Eventually I matured and have gained a lot from a father I can now consider a friend in adulthood. My brother sometimes still calls just to ask for money.

And so is God. He wants our participation (though prayer, sometimes) in his work, not because of pure interest in the work, but primarily because of his interest in us workers. He gives us things we like or removes things we fear not simply because he shares our likes and dislikes, but because he wants us to see that he's involved. My human father did not indulge my whims, and we could not often afford special treats at all! But when we did work together he achieved his goal though my openness to a relationship. And, if I may be so bold as to extrapolate, so is heaven. We want gold and loved ones and rolling hills and joy. He wants our love. He doesn't bribe us with heaven, it's his car ride relationship builder, and as we grow in him, that relatioship becomes more and more valuable to us.

Will God save a sinner who comes to him just for heaven? Sure, if I understand my theology correctly. But the journey there will change the man. And thus is the problem of the condemned sinner: not that he's not good enough (Biblical principles say none of us are deserving), but that he's unwilling to give up video games for the relationship (metaphorically speaking). That's why "victimless crime" type sins are a problem for potential Christians! They keep us from the relationship.

One more coming soon.

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 Post subject: Re: Prayer
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 6:50 am 
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I just wanted to catch one potential limitation in the analogy: It works okay for "relationship=salvation," where Buz ended up, but not so well for "relationship=prayer=blessing," how he got there. This kind of touches on your point, the fact that good things have happened to you without prayer. Jesus said that God "causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous"; if (Christian) prayer were a prerequisite for blessing, it would never have rained in the eastern hemisphere before... um, whenever Christianity entered it.

Also, one could object that Buz's father seemed sort of mean for essentially punishing Buz's brother for his lack of relationship by withholding a treat. But as I was saying above, God gives "treats" indiscriminately. What was really at stake, and where Buz's analogy wound up, was relationship, and the dad couldn't very well "withhold" relationship from someone who didn't want it. In fact, Buz's dad was actively seeking relationship (as is God).

(I know, by the way, your own experience doesn't seem like that, but I assure you that, in my theology at least, God doesn't play hide and seek. It isn't we that are trying to initiate relationship, and God who's hiding; in fact, in my theology we are completely incapable of initiating relationship because we'd never even want to on our own; we only get to the point of being able to because of what God does in our hearts--his initiative. I say "my theology" because there are many Christians who believe the opposite--the "I found Jesus" camp, whereas I guess I would be "Jesus found me"--and both can point to significant biblical support.)

Buz wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
I've always wondered about worship. It always seemed delightfully pointless to me ... I would definitely tire of people praising me all Sunday morning when they could be doing something productive.

C.S. Lewis very clearly and elegantly explains a great justification of praise in his Meditations on the Psalms. But I suppose that it's the nth in a long line of books I've recommended but not given you time to puruse.

Aaaand... here comes another. This touches on one area of what the Bible says that a lot of non-Christians (and a lot of Christians!) aren't offended by simply because they've never really noticed it: God seeks his own glory. As in, he's actually out to get more praise for himself. I first was really confronted by this idea in Chapter 1 of Desiring God, an excellent book that is conveniently entirely online. See about 3/4 of the way down Chapter 1, the subsection "Is God a Sencond-Hander?". He points out that when humans act like that--trying to get glory for themselves--we don't like it. "We simply do not admire second-handers. We admire people who are secure and composed enough that they don't need to shore up their weaknesses and compensate for their deficiencies by trying to get compliments." And this is another of those things that comes down to the difference between us and God (my previous post). The quick answer is that if God really IS all that and a bag of chips, he's the only person in the universe for whom it would be inappropriate to act like something else was better. It would be essentially the same as worshipping another god, and abdicating. This is a VERY quick version; I encourage you to read the 1/4-chapter in question (it's not much less quick). But don't be surprised if a lot of the ideas in that first chapter still seem shocking or even noxious to you; they did to me when I first ran into them, and I was coming at them as a Christian! I eventually was convinced by them, and even came to appreciate them as beautiful. (He gives a quote in the same chapter of a historical figure describing the same experience.)

Upsilon wrote:
"Rebelling against God" is an activity in which few, if any, participate. What's much more common is not seeing anything to rebel against. This is the other side of the metaphor: the man being deprived of a relationship he has the right to have with God.

While you meant rebelling actively and consciously, you might be surprised to know that my beliefs actually say that everybody's default is rebellion against God. That the human heart, before God acts on it, is not only apathetic but actively hostile towards God (whether or not the person is conscious of it or feels that way). But your point stands about conscious rebellion. In fact, I kinda think it's a very healthy thing. It means somebody's at least engaging with God, instead of just not really thinking about the subject. A lot of the big-name Christians in history engaged in it (C.S. Lewis, Saul/Paul, St. Augustine).

Upsilon wrote:
If you get through life without doing anything wrong ("wrong", in this scenario, is taken to cover anything which causes undue harm, inconvenience, loss or general unhappiness to anyone else [unless the only alternative would be even worse]), or being sorry when you do, in my view, you have earned heaven.
Upsilon wrote:
any one bad action you do on Earth can cause only finite damage - therefore, finite punishment.

Perhaps I can help here; there's one central detail that explains a lot about the whole wrongdoing/going to Hell paradigm. Both your above statements would make a lot of sense if everything were on an earthly scale--things done on earth, that are "bad" on earth, having negative consequences on earth. The problem is that that isn't all that sin is about (forgive me for preferring the word "sin" instead of "mistakes" or other alternatives; currently it carries connotations of judgementalism, but I use it because it's integral to my beliefs--and my beliefs don't wind up judgemental). I hope I'm not contradicting what Buz just said here, but I believe there can be sins which don't affect other people (at least not directly). In your example you pointed to masturbation, sodomy, polygamy--all sexually related, and all (at least at some point in history) societally recognized as "bad." But what about sins that seem tiny in terms of earthly consequence? In my beliefs (again, different for Catholics and others) all sins regardless of number or degree carry the same penalty. So having a single moment of arrogance in an otherwise perfect life gets you in the same hot water as living the life of Hitler or Stalin (in a trans-earth context, of course--they'd have different consequences on earth). And it's possible to sin "against God," not just against people. King David at one point described his action as "I have sinned against the Lord"--and that after an episode that involved GREAT harm to other people! He used his royal priviledges to leverage sex from another man's wife, then had the husband killed in battle!
So yeah, it would make absolutely no sense for a human society to enact consequences for actions that had no impact on others. But why should God? Well, perhaps the most important sin "against God" is the rebellion against God I mentioned above. If God really is the ultimate good, and the only thing that's really ultimately deserving, then refusing that would be the ultimate wrong. It certainly doesn't seem as bad as murder from our point of view--but that's because murder has a lot more immediate earthly consequence. Again, it really doesn't make sense for it to be a "big deal" unless you get hold of the ultimate "bigness"-of-a-deal that God's supposed to be.

Note: this is not to be taken as contradicting Buz's point that what gets you into heaven is relationship, and what keeps you out is lack of relationship. I agree with that completely.

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 Post subject: Participation through Prayer
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2004 1:49 pm 
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notstrongorbad wrote:
...the principle of God's "sovereignty" and how it relates to man's "free will." ...

I'm looking forward to the talks on the new thread on that! I've some questions that only H*R fans can answer. Well, that's a lie. But my observations on the matter lead to opinions that are not the same as others have, so I'd much prefer to get some solid text on screen to 2-way on the subject.

notstrongorbad wrote:
he WANTS to make us part of the process. It's an invitation to "get in" with him on what he's doing; there's a verse (I'll let Buz look it up for me; I believe it's in one of the Corinthians?) about our being "co-laborers with Christ." It's about collaboration.

1 Corinthians 3:9.

Upsilon wrote:
...but it should be noted that you'd be better off talking to a friend about something like this, given that a friend tends to respond. Also, may I recommend keeping a diary? It's a great way of recording your thoughts.

Keeping a journal (that word has a more masculine connotation on this side of the pond) has some value. And talking to friends can have greater value. But the friend that quickly responds with "here's the solution as I see it," or otherwise butts in with his two cents, is soon deprecated in favor of the friend that listens and goes through it with you. Especially so as the problem is worse! So a silent friend has great value.

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
...the "mystery" card.

I think I should keep a record of times this answer crops up. It'd be a good illustration of a theological debate.

If it makes you feel better, I get that a lot when I ask questions from the inside too! That's why I read Lewis so much: he thinks that's a poor initial approach and doesn't take it for an answer.

Mystery back in AD 100 meant something different. Modern Christians often aren't familiar with the old meaning, but that's in discussion more completely at this post (just to save redundancy by repeating things again and repeating). Basically, in my understanding of the old meaning, a mystery was supposed to be revealed... though this is actually part of the discussion and I'm reading what Didymus sent me on the subject.

notstrongorbad wrote:
One of my pastors has a great analogy for it: it's like this Dad building some woodworking project... joy on the child's face when he says, "Look what we made! Daddy made it--AND I HELPED!" Could the father do it by himself? Yeah, easily. But he'd prefer not to.


Upsilon wrote:
I think there's a different flaw in the analogy I can point out: the child thinks he has helped, and the father is simply playing along with him, which is understandable. However, from what I can infer, Christians are fully aware that they're not making the slightest difference when they pray; in terms of the analogy, they're children who are told to hammer by their father even though they can see it makes no difference - practically the reverse of what you were portraying.

If the goal of the child and the father is the wood, you're right: it's a silly game. If the goal of the child is the wood and the goal of the father is the relationship, then the child is like your description of the metaphorical flaw, then the child is a happy dupe who will grow up loving his father and the father will have some rather imperfect woodwork that he will nonetheless show off to his coworkers.

If, however, the goal of both is the relationship... that's one step higher! My ladyfriend and I made picture frames together: put on bits of glass around, grouted the surface, had professional photos taken, and mounted them in the frames which are, frankly, less than professional-looking. But I'll denfend the merit of the project to my grave! We spent time together on a project, talked about how to accomplish it, put in the elbow grease, delighted in one another's presence, and finished. We agreed (eventually) on methods and desired outcomes. There were a thousand other little details or ways of looking at the activity which shed delightful illumation on the endeavor. The point for each of us was not a picture frame (though we each have one as a result), the point was the relationship.

And it was, and it is, a good idea. There is power in supplicative prayer: not because of magic words or convincing God to do something. And not because God's will is the same as our lowbrow interests. But because it involves us emotionally in the situation and our responsibilities. It forces the involvement of our wills. It demands our attention and discussion.

I conclude, from a little bit of earthly experience, that prayer is reasonable. Consider my experiences parabolic if you will... I mean, parable-like. Not curved in a conic section.

That's the end of my four-post response miniseries! Aren't you happy?

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 Post subject: Re: Participation through Prayer
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 6:29 pm 
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Buz wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
any one bad action you do on Earth can cause only finite damage - therefore, finite punishment.

I'm not convinced that you're correct in your quantification of how bad sin really is. I mean, you're probably thinking "steal a crumb" where I think "genocide." But either way, I think sin is really, really bad. Think of the archetypical jilted lover: no deed on the part of the wrongdoer will ever make the innocent person just love them again, and rightly so. The relationship is broken, and broken eternally. You don't quantify "the cheating on you was such-and-such an amount bad and 3 years of me giving you 12 roses per day will make us even." Calling (a?) sin "finite" attempts to quantify it and equate it with a payment.


Well, why not? Would you rank stealing a crumb and genocide at the same level of badness? If there was really no difference in magnitude between "sin", a serial rapist and a beggar who stole a few pennies would be punished the same. You mentioned the jilted lover; if the perpetrator had just pinched a packet of crisps, do you think the innocent person would be so unforgiving? There are clearly degrees of sin.

Quote:
When Christians talk about justice for a sin in the old testament, e.g. "eye for an eye," that was because the second eye had obviously equal value. When Christians talk about sin in terms of damnation, they're not saying "your murder was an equal punishment with eternity in hell." They are saying, "your murder, and sin nature that led up to it, break you from God and you can not spend eternity with him."


Perhaps so. But is that any reason to send them to the complete opposite of eternal paradise? Surely simple oblivion or eternal neutrality would be better than Hell. It's hardly the kind of thing it seems to me that God would decide to do: "Although I love this person very much, he never believed that I existed. I guess I'll have to condemn him to eternal torture!" Is there no middle state?

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The only place outside God's presence is hell (the Bible has no limbo state).


Couldn't one be created? That limbo doesn't exist is no excuse for the being who causes everything to exist.

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Upsilon wrote:
If a Hindu grows up and dies without ever "knowing God", can he be held to blame?

There are various views, each in their own way consistent with the Biblical principles. But as far as I know, the Bible only addresses this in passing, at best. And to be honest, no one in this discussion or ever reading this is in that category. Each of us reading this does have the opportunity.


Is that so? Do I know God? In any case, whether or not it applies to any of us isn't relevant: it has applied (and still does) to a lot of people. Will they go to Hell?

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
What about masturbation, sodomy, polygamy - everything that God can't stand which doesn't do any harm to anyone else?

Interesting choice of "victimless crimes." Most people include illegal drugs, gambling, and suicide in the list as well. If you'd like me to discuss instances in which elements of your list and mine caused someone harm, I guess I'd be up for some of that discussion (or someone else can chime in examples). But there is no category of sin you can name like that for which there aren't examples of harm.


Oh, examples, I'll grant you, and there are examples of harm resulting from a gun being fired. Does this make it wrong to fire a gun? No - if it is shot at someone innocent with malicious intent, it's wrong, but if it's shot into thin air, what harm comes from it? Christian doctrine claims that masturbation, in all cases, is a sin, and there could be a circumstance where someone else comes to harm from it - but most of the time it's a victimless crime.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Am I to blame if I do something which I believe (on logical grounds) not to be immoral, but is wrong in God's view? There's a difference between deliberate sin and unintentional sin, and a very crucial one if we are to be judged.

Is this even a real question, or a theoretical one? I mean, if you had never, ever done anything bad and just some incidentals had been the difference between eternal destinations, this would be important. But the fact of the matter is that everyone I've ever met has purposely done bad things out of malevolence at some point in their present or past.


Oh, naturally, and I'm not going to pretend I'm innocent, but you'd be surprised what a vast proportion of the "sins" I commit are victimless or justified in my view. In any case, I was just pointing out that immorality is a highly subjective matter and I wouldn't want to take the blame for, say, going to a mosque.

Quote:
So keep in mind that your opinion is not rule here on earth anywhere. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse" for breaking the law in any nation. While "I didn't mean to kill him" makes murder into manslaughter (changing the definition), murder is still illegal. And "I didn't know it wasn't OK to murder" is not an excuse. Unless you have extremely radical or erroneous views of punishable crimes on earth, the heavenly analogue should not be surprising.


The key phrase here is "on logical grounds". If I believe myself to be doing the right thing (or, indeed, not doing the wrong thing), is it really right to punish me? You yourself said a while back that "innocent intention is recognized even in Old Testament law" - why don't the victimless crimes fall under innocent intention? Also, note the difference between murder and smoking marijuana: while murder harms another in the worst way possible, drugs can rarely be said to have a negative effect on someone else. It's a very different thing to assert "I didn't know it was wrong to murder" and "I didn't know it was wrong to smoke pot" (indeed, without a god who says it's wrong in the equation, the latter can't be said to be wrong at all).

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
after a short (or long) spell in Hell/Purgatory, who's to say someone can't have learnt their lesson and decided not to be mean any more?

I don't have an answer for that.


That's right. Say it again.

Quote:
My best guess is that maybe God's presence on earth is what enables us to change our ways for the better. With his absence in the lake of fire, perhaps the capability to repent isn't present.


That seems a bit unfair on the damned...

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
If you get through life without doing anything wrong ("wrong", in this scenario, is taken to cover anything which causes undue harm, inconvenience, loss or general unhappiness to anyone else [unless the only alternative would be even worse]), or being sorry when you do, in my view, you have earned heaven.

Your answer made me sad. But it's hard to explain why (and it's probably not what you think). The Bible and I have presented an opportunity for a personal, loving relationship with a wonderful and interesting person who happens to also be the creator-God. And instead of saying, "that sounds attractive," you've all but said, "I'd rather a situation where a cold, impersonal tally of deeds was all there was to meaning in this life." I'm not saying that's what you think life is, I'm saying you seem to prefer that option over knowing God personally. While that's very Anglican, it's very... sad.


Well, your account of the Christian philosophy is slightly one-sided. Take into account what happens if you don't form a personal, loving relationship with the wonderful and interesting God... I'd rather have the cold, impersonal tally of deeds than that, thanks.

notstrongorbad wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
I noted in a recent post the three types of prayer they taught us about in Unday-say ool-schay: thank you, sorry and please.
I guess what I was saying was simply that these seem to me to be unnecessarily formal categorizations. I mean, do all your conversations with human friends fall into those categories? No, there are all kinds of other conversations that are just "hanging out." Prayer, in my book, is simply conversation; there will be some that will be more intense and more important--but again, that's just like human conversations.


The most fundamental part of a conversation is that there are two people talking. You can’t have a conversation with someone who doesn't talk back.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
This latest "listening ear" prayer makes some sort of sense, in that you need to vent your frustrations sometimes, but it should be noted that you'd be better off talking to a friend about something like this, given that a friend tends to respond.
I know the subject of God communicating is one you've touched on before […] that I had the clear sense came from God and not me.)


Interesting that God uses such an indistinct method to give a response. Is there often a way of distinguishing between a God-given inkling and a natural inkling?

Quote:
As to the suggestion that talking to human friends might be more benificial […] I'd still find the fact that I'm praying to God rather than a yoga mat significant.)


As you noted, in this aspect of prayer God can be replaced by a wall or thin air. I appreciate the meditational aspects of such a process; indeed, I embrace it on some level – that's one of the reasons why i keep a diary (journal?).

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Also, may I recommend keeping a diary? It's a great way of recording your thoughts.
I agree! I'm pretty inconsistent about them, though; my personality is the type that will start one, put a few entries in, and then lose it!


Well, I'd recommend sticking to it. It's very interesting and somehow fulfilling to re-read year-old entries of your own.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
This is one of these things that just plain doesn't make sense to us. Where it leaves me is: God has this stuff that he does, that he'll do no matter what. But for some reason--unknown, and indeed inexplicable, to me--he WANTS to make us part of the process.


But the thing is, we're not. I've been told that out prayers make no difference and God just does what he would have done anyway; so we have no part in the process.
Well, that's not what I would have said. […] How do we know?


Beats me. Racer X said it, not me.

Quote:
Another part of the problem is that you're attributing a lot of human conditions to God--such as decision-making in chronological time. The whole concept of praying to "change God's mind" breaks down if you throw that out!


Well, yes, but the question still remains of what God would have done if you hadn't prayed. If you pray for X at Y point in time, God knew long before Y whether or not you would pray. He chose (is it appropriate to use this word for God?) either to grant this or not to grant it. Now, if you don't pray for X ever, God knew at the beginning of time that you wouldn't pray. He chose either to grant it or not to grant it. The question is: did your prayer make a difference? It remains intact, and the only reason I didn't phrase it like this to start out with is that it's awkward and kind of hurts the brain. ;)

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Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
It's an invitation to "get in" with him on what he's doing [...] But he'd prefer not to.


Firstly, your assertion that the father would rather not do it himself is debatable, but to cut out that weary discussion I think there's a different flaw in the analogy I can point out: the child thinks he has helped, and the father is simply playing along with him, which is understandable.
Exactly; actually, I kind of alluded to that flaw in the analogy myself, when I pointed out that the kid's plastic hammer probably wouldn't have any effect on the nail. In the end the child didn't really contribute anything to the project. I believe otherwise (see above). The useful part of the analogy: it helps humanize an otherwise inexplicable move on God's part: why does he solicit human help for things which he can do without batting an eyelash and which we have still never mastered (curing cancer and so forth)? The only explanation is relational, and in the analogy the father's action isn't so strange, because it's a relationship and a sentiment that's familiar to us.


The trouble is, that only works if you disregard the flaw in the analogy I mentioned. If, as I can infer from what I've heard from this topic, the praying Christian knows it doesn't make any difference, unlike the child in the metaphor, why bother?

Buz wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
I'm comfortable with the idea of a god who lets things happen, especially if it's our own fault. What strikes me as odd is a benevolent god who lets lukemia exist in the first place.

It's possible suffering and death aren't as bad as you and I think they are. […] Even though I just typed that, I am not really convinced.


You and me both, mate. I don't think that a child suffering from cancer with two months to live would be very convinced either if I told him that suffering and death weren't a big deal. For secularists, at least, death is generally about the biggest deal there is, and suffering finds it difficult to be exaggerated as well. Not that any of it is as bad as Hell is terrible or Heaven is good, but it's still overwhelming.

Buz wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
Holy crap - the years of my life I spent praying were redundant! I can certainly say I never heard God talking back, or felt a developing relationship, and Lord knows (heh) I've tried.

Yup. If you don't have a relationship with God […] "It took us centuries to learn that it doesn't have to take centuries to learn.")


Ick… so to be a proper Christian, I'm supposed to have an intimate personal relationship with a god that I have no reason to assume existant?

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
"Thank you" and "sorry" ... they both seem pointless and I begin to wonder if there's any point to prayer at all.

There's plenty of relational value to courtesy. Look how well being courtious establishes conversation on this very page, and how discourtesy ruins any chance at communication on other pages and topics.


Right, but the thanks and apologies without the personal relationship (as I and countless others were brought up to practice) is pointless, if your claim that prayer needs relational value.

Quote:
To summarize with a metaphor, what is the H*R Wiki? I mean, really? It is a constructive effort to "praise" the residents of Free Country, USA.


It is? I've always thought of it as just an online encyclopedia of all things Homestar. The only real praise (in some sense of the word – "compliment" would be more appropriate) involved is here.

Quote:
And so may praise be. Like I said in an earlier post: it's not God on an ego trip, and there's nothing for him to be ashamed about or necessarily tired of. It's the healthy, natural result of appreciation. And there's nothing you truly appreciate that you (you personally, not just the rhetorical you) do not praise in some capacity.


And yet there's a difference between natural, healthy appreciation and church services. If you've ever been to a church service, at least the kind I'm most accustomed to, you'll know that the majority of the service is simply ritual – exactly the same things said and done every week. To show our appreciation for something do we need to gather in large buildings and go through the same motions so many times that they lose all meaning? If praise is a healthy, natural reaction, it should be expressed naturally – not according to the Order of Service.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
So why does God make you pray? If he wants to give you the blessing, why do you have to ask for it in order for him to be "allowed" to? I don't remember having prayed the last time something good happened to me.

I've prayed for good things to happen to you. That may explain it. For hundreds of years, people on your fair isles have asked God to bless its inhabitants. You don't personally have to pray for every good thing to you.


Well, from what I can infer, somebody has to. If no-one prayed for me, ever, would God let me die shivering in the street? Is he bound by some unbreakable rule which claims that someone has to ask for something before he gives it to them?

Quote:
And God, […] They keep us from the relationship.


Your analogy seems to stand, but it assumes the existence of the father. The father wants to go out for a drive with me and ice cream may result. Shall I stop playing my video games to go with him? Yeah, why not? However, if I doubt that the man exists, shall I (if I may extend the metaphor to breaking point) go out and stand in the rain outside waiting for him to turn up? Or should I just continue my gaming?

notstrongorbad wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
"Rebelling against God" is an activity in which few, if any, participate. What's much more common is not seeing anything to rebel against. This is the other side of the metaphor: the man being deprived of a relationship he has the right to have with God.

While you meant rebelling actively and consciously, you might be surprised to know that my beliefs actually say that everybody's default is rebellion against God. That the human heart, before God acts on it, is not only apathetic but actively hostile towards God (whether or not the person is conscious of it or feels that way). But your point stands about conscious rebellion. In fact, I kinda think it's a very healthy thing. It means somebody's at least engaging with God, instead of just not really thinking about the subject. A lot of the big-name Christians in history engaged in it (C.S. Lewis, Saul/Paul, St. Augustine).


I'm a bit unnerved by what you said about subconscious rebellion. Am I to blame for what I have no control over?

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
If you get through life without doing anything wrong ("wrong", in this scenario, is taken to cover anything which causes undue harm, inconvenience, loss or general unhappiness to anyone else [unless the only alternative would be even worse]), or being sorry when you do, in my view, you have earned heaven.
Upsilon wrote:
any one bad action you do on Earth can cause only finite damage - therefore, finite punishment.

Perhaps I can help here […] it really doesn't make sense for it to be a "big deal" unless you get hold of the ultimate "bigness"-of-a-deal that God's supposed to be.


What I take issue with here is that I'm to be condemned for "refusing" that which doesn't exist. It's not a refusal – it's simply non-belief. If we're to be damned for this, all Christians would go to Hell for "refusing" Nonexistant-God-Of-A-Different-Religion.

Buz wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
...but it should be noted that you'd be better off talking to a friend about something like this, given that a friend tends to respond. Also, may I recommend keeping a diary? It's a great way of recording your thoughts.

Keeping a journal (that word has a more masculine connotation on this side of the pond) has some value. And talking to friends can have greater value. But the friend that quickly responds with "here's the solution as I see it," or otherwise butts in with his two cents, is soon deprecated in favor of the friend that listens and goes through it with you. Especially so as the problem is worse! So a silent friend has great value.


As much as a diar – er, journal.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
I think there's a different flaw in the analogy I can point out: the child thinks he has helped, and the father is simply playing along with him, which is understandable. However, from what I can infer, Christians are fully aware that they're not making the slightest difference when they pray; in terms of the analogy, they're children who are told to hammer by their father even though they can see it makes no difference - practically the reverse of what you were portraying.

If the goal of the child and the father is the wood […] that prayer is reasonable.


Good point, well made. Prayer seems to me like a bit of an illusion now: when it's done properly, it's not really about what you want God to do for you, but about building a relationship with God? Am I right? Am I left?

Quote:
That's the end of my four-post response miniseries! Aren't you happy?


Very much so, especially since I've finally finished replying to it all.

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 Post subject: Re: So this is what I think...
PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2004 5:05 am 
InterruptorJones wrote:
Why would god create a species that he knew would "corrupt the perfect Earth that He created" for them?



Don't ask us, ask him.


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 Post subject: Get Down with Your Bad Self :)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:19 pm 
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Upsilon wrote:
There are clearly degrees of sin.

We can categorize sin all we want. That's not my point; I am not saying all sins are the same. I am saying that any sin demonstrates that you'd rather do your own thing rather than God's. He's not your grandpa, thinking "just let the young people have fun and do whatever they want."

Upsilon wrote:
Perhaps so. But is that any reason to send them to the complete opposite of eternal paradise? Surely simple oblivion or eternal neutrality would be better than Hell. It's hardly the kind of thing it seems to me that God would decide to do: "Although I love this person very much, he never believed that I existed. I guess I'll have to condemn him to eternal torture!" Is there no middle state?

I've not read any scripture about middle states or degrees of separation from God. I'm also not 100% sure that God loves reprobates (that is more along the free will/predestination thread), so I'm not going to venture a guess yet.

One thing to think about: the original rebels against Jehovah are demons, so you'll be in their presence in Hell (although they're co-victims, not rulers, of hell). God doesn't have to make hell bad, it'll get that way on it's own in very short order.

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
The only place outside God's presence is hell (the Bible has no limbo state).
Couldn't one be created? That limbo doesn't exist is no excuse for the being who causes everything to exist.

Well, I don't see any reason why God couldn't. I see one reason he wouldn't, though (though it's mere reason, not necessarily in the Bible). Many people would choose "leave me alone" over "be in God's presence" and choose Limbo over Heaven. By forcing the decision to be Heaven or Hell, people have to have the ... "constitution" ... to make a real decision instead of just live in oblivious neutrality and then spend eternity there. Earth is not a slot machine, it's a battle field and we must take sides. Neutrality is not a real choice in life (it's a mere academic construct), and it's not a choice in eternity. It's like if you proposed to a young woman, and she remained neutral about whether or not to marry you. That would not be cool. Deuteronomy 30:19, Joshua 24:15, 2 Samuel 24:12, Proverbs 1:29, Jeremiah 3:14, James 4:4, 1 Peter 4:3.

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
If a Hindu grows up and dies without ever "knowing God", can he be held to blame?

...no one in this discussion or ever reading this is in that category. Each of us reading this does have the opportunity.

Is that so? Do I know God? In any case, whether or not it applies to any of us isn't relevant: it has applied (and still does) to a lot of people. Will they go to Hell?

You have the chance. You could theoretically be a brain in a jar and all this talk about faceless masses on the other side of the world is merely academic. If God decides all of the people who never heard about him were going to heaven, what is that to you? If he decides to use humans as his voice so no one fails to hear about him, and I've gone to other countries to tell them, what is that to you? It's an uncertainty principle because going across borders and observing what happens to a heathen individual in the afterlife may change what happens to him.

Do you care about a billion Hindus in Asia? If so, what have you done about it? If it's so morally necessary that God care about them but you don't care about them, do you not condemn yourself? Tell me: what group of people goes to India and reaches out to the untouchables with health care, education, and love?

Upsilon wrote:
Christian doctrine claims that masturbation, in all cases, is a sin, and there could be a circumstance where someone else comes to harm from it - but most of the time it's a victimless crime.

The Bible hardly mentions it. I have heard a rumor that one very highly respected Christian psychologist says it's not necessarily a sin, but I haven't been able to verify the claim or it's Biblical justification.

Because of the nature of this online community, I do not wish to discuss this matter around children. But allow me to summarize: I think male masturbation probably hurts women in the long run. PM me if you really want to discuss it, it's not appropriate discussion here.

Upsilon wrote:
Oh, naturally, and I'm not going to pretend I'm innocent, but you'd be surprised what a vast proportion of the "sins" I commit are victimless or justified in my view. In any case, I was just pointing out that immorality is a highly subjective matter and I wouldn't want to take the blame for, say, going to a mosque.

I've been to a Mosque. I had to pay to enter. I even prayed there, that's not a sin. But on the general question of your justification of your own deeds that God calls sins, I'm going to point you to Proverbs 12:15. Sin is what seperates you from God, not some code of principles you yourself come up with on a whim.

I'm probably coming off a bit harsh. It's very hard to convey tone of voice in this kind of communication, and trite emoticons don't really help me here. I feel like I'm in the house of a couple on the verge of a divorce, and I am pleading with one of the spouses to make an effort to try to see the other person's point of view. To that spouse, I would certinly sound like I was being dogmatic, "Listen to your husband for once!" But it's a plea of urgency and hope, not of condemnation for past failures.

Your worldview, Upsilon, is very different from a Biblical one, and the raw information available has to be understood in context. Believe it or not, I understand muslim terrorists, because I've allowed myself to learn their worldview and looked at the available information though their set of beliefs. I do not agree with them, but I understand them. You and I may never agree, but most of our misunderstandings come not from different information but from different perspectives. If you're ever going to understand Shakespeare, Lewis, a Chinese man, aliens that visit you, or God, you're going to have to have a space in your brain that you dedicated to trying to understand them as they understand themselves.

Upsilon wrote:
The key phrase here is "on logical grounds". If I believe myself to be doing the right thing (or, indeed, not doing the wrong thing), is it really right to punish me? You yourself said a while back that "innocent intention is recognized even in Old Testament law" - why don't the victimless crimes fall under innocent intention?

Because, in victimless crimes, the perpetrator purposely commits the crime. If I swing an axe and the formerly secure axehead flies off and ends a man's life, I had no intention. If I shoot up heroin (illegal here, I don't know what the laws concerning it in the UK are), I do so purposely and in defiance of the law. Very different.

Upsilon wrote:
It's a very different thing to assert "I didn't know it was wrong to murder" and "I didn't know it was wrong to smoke pot" (indeed, without a god who says it's wrong in the equation, the latter can't be said to be wrong at all).

Without a God in the equation, murder can't be said to be wrong either. The principle you use ("hurting someone else") is only a reasoning for morality because God said it was. Proverbs 3:29, Romans 13:10. I can think of many, many thought experements where there is no God and murder is perfectly fine. It would take up space, so I leave it as an exercize to the reader.

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
I don't have an answer for that.
That's right. Say it again.

I don't have answers for a lot of things. I don't pretend to have answers when I don't. If I seem like a know-it-all here, it's because you happen to be in my area of attempted expertise. In the several dozen threads where I don't know lots, I just don't post. I think InterruptorJones would label me a spammer if I went to all those topics and made a post saying "I don't know."

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
My best guess is that maybe God's presence on earth is what enables us to change our ways for the better. With his absence in the lake of fire, perhaps the capability to repent isn't present.
That seems a bit unfair on the damned...

Fair and Just are two very different adjectives.

Upsilon wrote:
Take into account what happens if you don't form a personal, loving relationship with the wonderful and interesting God... I'd rather have the cold, impersonal tally of deeds than that, thanks.

You don't have to live like that, and those who say you do are mistaken.

Upsilon wrote:
The most fundamental part of a conversation is that there are two people talking. You can’t have a conversation with someone who doesn't talk back.

I once heard an anecdote that I'd like to exercize. A man issues a 900 number (toll charge per minute in USA, I don't know what the UK analaogue is) with the simple principle, "I will listen to you for 5 minutes without interrupting." The story goes that the phone number was called more than he could answer it for. Maybe you need someone to listen to you.

And God does reply to your prayers, though more unpredictibly than people reply to your statements. "Actions speak louder than words." And many people claim they regularly understand what God "says" to them during prayer, though in my experience this is relegated to a weekly or monthly experience.

Upsilon wrote:
Interesting that God uses such an indistinct method to give a response. Is there often a way of distinguishing between a God-given inkling and a natural inkling?

Yup. Learning his voice. Christ says in John 10:27 that his followers can recognize his voice. I recommend careful study of the Word of God (a known constant as his voice) to get the tuning right to the voice. Also, following when you know something is from God will help you follow him better, like exercize.

Upsilon wrote:
Well, I'd recommend sticking to it. It's very interesting and somehow fulfilling to re-read year-old entries of your own.

Hm. How would you psychoanalyze the fact that when I look over personal entries of my own from 10 years ago, I have no positive emotional result or satisfaction from it? I guess I quit because I read the old stuff and said, "that was dumb, who cares?" and threw it away.

Upsilon wrote:
The question is: did your prayer make a difference? It remains intact, and the only reason I didn't phrase it like this to start out with is that it's awkward and kind of hurts the brain. ;)

I'd like to discuss this in the predestination topic. The reason is that if you believe predestination in the most extreme, not only is God going to do what he would do if you prayed or not, but he even made you pray. If you put weight in the free will side of things, then you necessarily have to philosophically allow God to react to human deeds.

Upsilon wrote:
I don't think that a child suffering from cancer with two months to live would be very convinced either if I told him that suffering and death weren't a big deal.

Ask one. No, really, ask a child in a hospital if it's a big deal. You may not learn anything, but you'll help the kid talk it through. You'll be the person who he needs to listen to him. I guarantee there's someone in your community with a sick child in their family at a local hospital.

Please, do tell us how it goes. I bet you will learn something.

Upsilon wrote:
Ick… so to be a proper Christian, I'm supposed to have an intimate personal relationship with a god that I have no reason to assume existant?

If you don't actually think God is real, then you can't really be a "good Christian," Hebrews 11:6. And there are lots of reasons to believe our God exists (I don't assume it). I think you're looking for an experientiallist manifestation, and man in general isn't promised those kinds of things (though some do receive them, so don't disbelieve it if one comes your way).

Upsilon wrote:
Right, but the thanks and apologies without the personal relationship (as I and countless others were brought up to practice) is pointless, if your claim that prayer needs relational value.

Oh, yes then, you're right. You and countless others were (as you well know) misled.

Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
To summarize with a metaphor, what is the H*R Wiki? I mean, really? It is a constructive effort to "praise" the residents of Free Country, USA.
It is? I've always thought of it as just an online encyclopedia of all things Homestar. The only real praise (in some sense of the word – "compliment" would be more appropriate) involved is here.

Yes. You begin to understand, though you don't know it. Exploration of all things God is a form of praise. Explicating details of his being, cataloging nuances of his personality, publicly describing his greatness with attention to detail is praise. Compliments are a small portion of that exercize, but are natural and implied throughout. The very label "fun facts" at the bottom of each cartoon is a compliment. But the whole site is praise.

Upsilon wrote:
And yet there's a difference between natural, healthy appreciation and church services. If you've ever been to a church service, at least the kind I'm most accustomed to, you'll know that the majority of the service is simply ritual...

Oh, yeah, you're right again. That stuff the church you describe passes off as worship is not worship. The church you described is based on the same fallacy I mentioned above: they prefer the list of do's and don't's over a personal relationship, so they have a liturgy of actions they think wins God's favor. It's no wonder you have so many misconceptions about Christianity!

The "church services" in the Bible (specifically Acts and following) are healthy, natural reactions to the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The services by which you've been bored to tears are actually poor imitations of pre-Christian rituals drawn from sources like Jerusalems' Temple worship and pagan services, as well as non-Christian services like I'd expect from Gnosticism. Sorry to hear you were raised thinking that was what God wanted.

Upsilon wrote:
If praise is a healthy, natural reaction, it should be expressed naturally – not according to the Order of Service.

To prevent the pendulum from swinging to far in my post, let me come back and state that there is great merit to order over chaos. Structure lends a lot to understanding, and think of how you English honor your royalty. You don't just chit-chat with the Queen, no, if you're lucky you get to stand or sit in a big room and listen to what she and others say, and if you're not lucky you have to watch it on TV or miss it altogether. I think your countrymen categorize that as a way to honor people, and try to copycat that in their services, to give the greatest respect and honor that they can. The danger in that line of reasoning, of course, is exactly what you've experienced. But Korean churches like those under Dr. Cho are very very structured (culturally approriate) and very personal, and I find no fault with them. For their culture, structure is natural and healthy.

For you, an expression of appreciation probably has to be spontaneous. Vinyard churches are like that here in the U.S., as are a great number of "non-denominational" churches.

Upsilon wrote:
Well, from what I can infer, somebody has to. If no-one prayed for me, ever, would God let me die shivering in the street? Is he bound by some unbreakable rule which claims that someone has to ask for something before he gives it to them?

Matthew 5:45 says that God does good to all kinds of people, without anyone twisting his arm to do so! And there are people who are prayed for by thousands who do die, metaphorically, "shivering in the street."

Prayer doesn't make God do something, and lack of prayer doesn't prevent him from doing something. And vice versa. It's a great opportunity to talk to him as life happens, and be involved. When you were three, how did you and your father talk? I don't know anything about that relationship, but when I was three there were times I talked to my father about decisions he made, and he still made them. Though talking I understood better than I would have otherwise. Sometimes through talking he chose differently for his three year old son.

You already know this, and I suppose the prayer discussion has almost taken on a life of its own... perhaps we need to split it off from a discussion about reasoning about God's existence?

Upsilon wrote:
Your analogy seems to stand, but it assumes the existence of the father.

Yes it does. The analogy hinges on (and describes) a benevolent father who initiates a relationship with his son.

Upsilon wrote:
...if I doubt that the man exists, shall I (if I may extend the metaphor to breaking point) go out and stand in the rain outside waiting for him to turn up? Or should I just continue my gaming?

What would you tell the child who did? What would you tell the child who refused?

I like how you keep mentioning rain - your life experiences on the isles are showing though more and more clearly. Here in Michigan, we'd say "stand outside in the cold." I hope I'm coming to understand you and your worldview better in this discussion!

Upsilon wrote:
I'm a bit unnerved by what you said about subconscious rebellion. Am I to blame for what I have no control over?

You have control over your subconscious, you just don't know it. Your subconscious is you, your self-aware ego is merely a slim manifestation of you (according to some psychology I've read). So, is your consciousness to be held responsible for your subconscious? that's a little spooky. But are you to be held accountable for what you do? I think that answer should be clear!

Your subconscious is not some "other" being like your parent or your dog. It's you! You have to embrace that. And anything that is subconscious can be brought under the control (dare I say lordship?) of your will by exposure to your rational thought process. Talking things through with a close friend helps there (oops, did I just allude to prayer? I think I did) by getting your thoughts exposed to your conscious mind. I don't have a degree in psychology or counseling, so I don't want to get into it too much. But no one can master your subconscious except you, so yes: your subconscious is your responsibility.

Upsilon wrote:
What I take issue with here is that I'm to be condemned for "refusing" that which doesn't exist. It's not a refusal – it's simply non-belief. If we're to be damned for this, all Christians would go to Hell for "refusing" Nonexistant-God-Of-A-Different-Religion.

Unless God did exist. If you start by assuming God doesn't exist, you're going to come to a number of conclusions that are not consistent with conclusions in an extant-God system of thought. This is one.

"If there is no God, then failing to believe in him doesn't amount to anything" is your stand here, and in its encapsualted form, it's correct.

If there is a God, the fundamental assumption is untrue, so the conclusion is not necessary. Newtonian Physics had a concept of absolute space, with Ether, that lent our universe properties. That fundamental assumtion's conclusions were contradicted by experement. But those experemental results were possible in a universe without an absolute frame of reference.

Similarly, the conclusion that "it doesn't matter if you follow God" depends on living in a universe where there is not a God. In a universe with Deity, that conclusion has to be reevaluated. In a universe with an unknown whether God exists or not, that conclusion isn't reliable. It's like a Modus Tollens.

Upsilon wrote:
Buz wrote:
So a silent friend has great value.
As much as a diar – er, journal.

You can call it a diary if you like. But I would suggest that a silent friend has greater value than a diary. Do you not intuit the same?

Upsilon wrote:
Good point, well made. Prayer seems to me like a bit of an illusion now: when it's done properly, it's not really about what you want God to do for you, but about building a relationship with God? Am I right? Am I left?

That seems re-zon-able.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2004 10:24 am 
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Buz wrote:
Upsilon wrote:
There are clearly degrees of sin.

We can categorize sin all we want. That's not my point; I am not saying all sins are the same. I am saying that any sin demonstrates that you'd rather do your own thing rather than God's. He's not your grandpa, thinking "just let the young people have fun and do whatever they want."


But why can't he be? Is God just an intolerant despot?

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Perhaps so. But is that any reason to send them to the complete opposite of eternal paradise? Surely simple oblivion or eternal neutrality would be better than Hell. It's hardly the kind of thing it seems to me that God would decide to do: "Although I love this person very much, he never believed that I existed. I guess I'll have to condemn him to eternal torture!" Is there no middle state?

I've not read any scripture about middle states or degrees of separation from God. I'm also not 100% sure that God loves reprobates (that is more along the free will/predestination thread), so I'm not going to venture a guess yet.


Ah yes, I've stumbled across the "God doesn't love me" theory before. It interests me, but on inspection I don't think it makes sense.

Quote:
One thing to think about: the original rebels against Jehovah are demons, so you'll be in their presence in Hell (although they're co-victims, not rulers, of hell). God doesn't have to make hell bad, it'll get that way on it's own in very short order.


Although he could prevent that.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
The only place outside God's presence is hell (the Bible has no limbo state).
Couldn't one be created? That limbo doesn't exist is no excuse for the being who causes everything to exist.

Well, I don't see any reason why God couldn't [...] 1 Peter 4:3.


But if we're not aware of the existence of God, we can't make that choice. It's not neutrality towards God, because you can't be neutral towards something that doesn't exist.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
If a Hindu grows up and dies without ever "knowing God", can he be held to blame?

...no one in this discussion or ever reading this is in that category. Each of us reading this does have the opportunity.

Is that so? Do I know God? In any case, whether or not it applies to any of us isn't relevant: it has applied (and still does) to a lot of people. Will they go to Hell?

You have the chance. You could theoretically be a brain in a jar and all this talk about faceless masses on the other side of the world is merely academic. If God decides all of the people who never heard about him were going to heaven, what is that to you? If he decides to use humans as his voice so no one fails to hear about him, and I've gone to other countries to tell them, what is that to you? It's an uncertainty principle because going across borders and observing what happens to a heathen individual in the afterlife may change what happens to him.


Oh, I'll acknowledge that missionaries exist to spread God's word. But human word is a lot less reliable than a booming voice and a thundercloud.

Quote:
Do you care about a billion Hindus in Asia? If so, what have you done about it? If it's so morally necessary that God care about them but you don't care about them, do you not condemn yourself?


I don't spread the word of God because I don't think the Christian god is any more real than the gods of Hinduism. I'm not condemning them, or myself, by leaving them be, because from a secular point of view, it'll make no difference which religion they choose to follow.

Quote:
Tell me: what group of people goes to India and reaches out to the untouchables with health care, education, and love?


Is the answer "Christians"?

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Christian doctrine claims that masturbation, in all cases, is a sin, and there could be a circumstance where someone else comes to harm from it - but most of the time it's a victimless crime.

The Bible hardly mentions it.


I'm aware of that. As far as I know, there's one convoluted interpretation of the "sin of Onan" in the Old Testament that justifies Christianity's condemnation of it. But Christians everywhere will tell you that it's immoral.

Quote:
Because of the nature of this online community, I do not wish to discuss this matter around children. But allow me to summarize: I think male masturbation probably hurts women in the long run. PM me if you really want to discuss it, it's not appropriate discussion here.


Will do.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
Oh, naturally, and I'm not going to pretend I'm innocent, but you'd be surprised what a vast proportion of the "sins" I commit are victimless or justified in my view. In any case, I was just pointing out that immorality is a highly subjective matter and I wouldn't want to take the blame for, say, going to a mosque.

I've been to a Mosque. I had to pay to enter. I even prayed there, that's not a sin.


Well, yeah, "going to a mosque" was just a metaphor for choosing the wrong religion. But that's a side issue.

Quote:
But on the general question of your justification of your own deeds that God calls sins, I'm going to point you to Proverbs 12:15. Sin is what seperates you from God, not some code of principles you yourself come up with on a whim.


I didn't dream up my moral code on a whim. I came to it by logic and lateral thinking. Furthermore, it doesn't explain in the Bible why it's wrong for a man to "lie with another man" and if there's no reason to assume that God exists, there's no reason to assume that it is wrong.

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
The key phrase here is "on logical grounds". If I believe myself to be doing the right thing (or, indeed, not doing the wrong thing), is it really right to punish me? You yourself said a while back that "innocent intention is recognized even in Old Testament law" - why don't the victimless crimes fall under innocent intention?

Because, in victimless crimes, the perpetrator purposely commits the crime. If I swing an axe and the formerly secure axehead flies off and ends a man's life, I had no intention. If I shoot up heroin (illegal here, I don't know what the laws concerning it in the UK are), I do so purposely and in defiance of the law. Very different.


"In defiance of the law" is a very misleading phrase. Note that legality does not equal morality. Example: at our school we're only allowed to eat near or in the canteen, for some stupid reason like that it causes too much litter. Anyway, my friends and I eat by the Annexe (another part of the school) every lunchtime, without littering. In defiance of the rules. But that doesn't mean it's wrong. Eating at the Annexe is a typical example of a victimless crime: done purposefully with innocent intention (because by eating there we're not doing anything wrong).

Quote:
Upsilon wrote:
It's a very different thing to assert "I didn't know it was wrong to murder" and "I didn't know it was wrong to smoke pot" (indeed, without a god who says it's wrong in the equation, the latter can't be said to be wrong at all).

Without a God in the equation, murder can't be said to be wrong either.


Yes it can, because people figure out morality for themselves. It's not for the same reason as gay marriage that murder is illegal: there's a very justified secular reason why it's wrong.

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Upsilon wrote:
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My best guess is that maybe God's presence on earth is what enables us to change our ways for the better. With his absence in the lake of fire, perhaps the capability to repent isn't present.
That seems a bit unfair on the damned...

Fair and Just are two very different adjectives.


They are? I always took them as synonyms. Can you explain?

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Upsilon wrote:
Take into account what happens if you don't form a personal, loving relationship with the wonderful and interesting God... I'd rather have the cold, impersonal tally of deeds than that, thanks.

You don't have to live like that, and those who say you do are mistaken.


I don't get your meaning here. What does "that" refer to – the tally of deeds or the personal relationship?

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Upsilon wrote:
The most fundamental part of a conversation is that there are two people talking. You can’t have a conversation with someone who doesn't talk back.

I once heard an anecdote that I'd like to exercize. A man issues a 900 number (toll charge per minute in USA, I don't know what the UK analaogue is) with the simple principle, "I will listen to you for 5 minutes without interrupting." The story goes that the phone number was called more than he could answer it for. Maybe you need someone to listen to you.


Personally speaking, I wouldn't be able to talk for five minutes without some sort of reply. But maybe that's just me.

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And God does reply to your prayers, though more unpredictibly than people reply to your statements. "Actions speak louder than words." And many people claim they regularly understand what God "says" to them during prayer, though in my experience this is relegated to a weekly or monthly experience.


I'd write that off as their personal feelings, myself. Before someone sits down to pray, they'll often have some sort of notion as to what God would want them to do. After praying, they still think that, and in feeling that it's right, they believe that God has spoken to them. Sometimes they'll change their mind during prayer, which is probably because "telling" God about it gave them the chance to think about it, and come to their own conclusion.

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Upsilon wrote:
Interesting that God uses such an indistinct method to give a response. Is there often a way of distinguishing between a God-given inkling and a natural inkling?

Yup. Learning his voice. Christ says in John 10:27 that his followers can recognize his voice. I recommend careful study of the Word of God (a known constant as his voice) to get the tuning right to the voice. Also, following when you know something is from God will help you follow him better, like exercize.


What is "the voice"? I assume it's not just a distinguishable audible sound – is it still just a gut feeling?

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Upsilon wrote:
Well, I'd recommend sticking to it. It's very interesting and somehow fulfilling to re-read year-old entries of your own.

Hm. How would you psychoanalyze the fact that when I look over personal entries of my own from 10 years ago, I have no positive emotional result or satisfaction from it? I guess I quit because I read the old stuff and said, "that was dumb, who cares?" and threw it away.


To each his own, I suppose. I haven't been keeping mine for as long as ten years (obviously, or I would have been a very early writer), but reading from a couple of years ago is always deeply satisfying to me.

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Upsilon wrote:
The question is: did your prayer make a difference? It remains intact, and the only reason I didn't phrase it like this to start out with is that it's awkward and kind of hurts the brain. ;)

I'd like to discuss this in the predestination topic. The reason is that if you believe predestination in the most extreme, not only is God going to do what he would do if you prayed or not, but he even made you pray. If you put weight in the free will side of things, then you necessarily have to philosophically allow God to react to human deeds.


If God made me do everything I did in my life, and I lived a horrible immoral life as a mass murderer, would it really be fair to condemn me to Hell?

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Upsilon wrote:
I don't think that a child suffering from cancer with two months to live would be very convinced either if I told him that suffering and death weren't a big deal.

Ask one. No, really, ask a child in a hospital if it's a big deal. You may not learn anything, but you'll help the kid talk it through. You'll be the person who he needs to listen to him. I guarantee there's someone in your community with a sick child in their family at a local hospital.

Please, do tell us how it goes. I bet you will learn something.


I'll see if I can.

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Upsilon wrote:
Ick… so to be a proper Christian, I'm supposed to have an intimate personal relationship with a god that I have no reason to assume existant?

If you don't actually think God is real, then you can't really be a "good Christian," Hebrews 11:6.


Granted.

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And there are lots of reasons to believe our God exists (I don't assume it).


What I really need is an example.

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I think you're looking for an experientiallist manifestation, and man in general isn't promised those kinds of things (though some do receive them, so don't disbelieve it if one comes your way).


As I said earlier, if I did get one, I'd hardly be in any position to ignore it…

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Upsilon wrote:
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To summarize with a metaphor, what is the H*R Wiki? I mean, really? It is a constructive effort to "praise" the residents of Free Country, USA.
It is? I've always thought of it as just an online encyclopedia of all things Homestar. The only real praise (in some sense of the word – "compliment" would be more appropriate) involved is here.

Yes. You begin to understand, though you don't know it. Exploration of all things God is a form of praise. Explicating details of his being, cataloging nuances of his personality, publicly describing his greatness with attention to detail is praise. Compliments are a small portion of that exercize, but are natural and implied throughout. The very label "fun facts" at the bottom of each cartoon is a compliment. But the whole site is praise.


Very interesting… praise, like prayer, is proving a lot more complicated than I thought.

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Upsilon wrote:
If praise is a healthy, natural reaction, it should be expressed naturally – not according to the Order of Service.

To prevent the pendulum from swinging to far in my post […] structure is natural and healthy.


Well, if structure is natural, then that ties in with what I was saying about it being expressed naturally. But there are a lot of people for whom structure isn't natural, so it's not really praise for them if they're just falling asleep in a pew.

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Upsilon wrote:
Well, from what I can infer, somebody has to. If no-one prayed for me, ever, would God let me die shivering in the street? Is he bound by some unbreakable rule which claims that someone has to ask for something before he gives it to them?

Matthew 5:45 says that God does good to all kinds of people, without anyone twisting his arm to do so! And there are people who are prayed for by thousands who do die, metaphorically, "shivering in the street."


Supplication prayers seem very inconsistent to me. Sometimes God grants them, sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he grants what hasn't been prayed for. If it's as sketchy as this, is there any reason to assume that supplication does work?

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Prayer doesn't make God do something, and lack of prayer doesn't prevent him from doing something. And vice versa. It's a great opportunity to talk to him as life happens, and be involved.


How do you mean when you say "be involved"? Is this through what you're praying for (as in supplication) or just having a chinwag with God Almighty?

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You already know this, and I suppose the prayer discussion has almost taken on a life of its own... perhaps we need to split it off from a discussion about reasoning about God's existence?


You're probably right. I'm good either way, though.

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Upsilon wrote:
Your analogy seems to stand, but it assumes the existence of the father.

Yes it does. The analogy hinges on (and describes) a benevolent father who initiates a relationship with his son.


And yet if the benevolent father does not exist, the videogaming little tyke can be excused for choosing satisfaction in Mario over disappointment in a greater power.

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Upsilon wrote:
...if I doubt that the man exists, shall I (if I may extend the metaphor to breaking point) go out and stand in the rain outside waiting for him to turn up? Or should I just continue my gaming?

What would you tell the child who did? What would you tell the child who refused?


That depends entirely on whether or not the father is real.

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I like how you keep mentioning rain - your life experiences on the isles are showing though more and more clearly. Here in Michigan, we'd say "stand outside in the cold." I hope I'm coming to understand you and your worldview better in this discussion!


Had I mentioned rain before now? I don't recall…

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Upsilon wrote:
I'm a bit unnerved by what you said about subconscious rebellion. Am I to blame for what I have no control over?

You have control over your subconscious […] your subconscious is your responsibility.


Well, if my subconscious is omething I have control over, I'm fairly sure I'm not condoning rebellion against any god in it.

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Upsilon wrote:
What I take issue with here is that I'm to be condemned for "refusing" that which doesn't exist. It's not a refusal – it's simply non-belief. If we're to be damned for this, all Christians would go to Hell for "refusing" Nonexistant-God-Of-A-Different-Religion.

Unless God did exist. If you start by assuming God doesn't exist, you're going to come to a number of conclusions that are not consistent with conclusions in an extant-God system of thought. This is one.


I have no evidence that either God or Brahman really exist. Denying either of them amounts to the same with no evidence. Back in Moses's day nobody knew about quarks. There was no evidence that quarks existed, even though they did. It wouldn't have been fair if they'd gone to hell for denying the existence of quarks.

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"If there is no God, then failing to believe in him doesn't amount to anything" is your stand here, and in its encapsualted form, it's correct.

If there is a God, the fundamental assumption is untrue, so the conclusion is not necessary. Newtonian Physics had a concept of absolute space, with Ether, that lent our universe properties. That fundamental assumtion's conclusions were contradicted by experement. But those experemental results were possible in a universe without an absolute frame of reference.

Similarly, the conclusion that "it doesn't matter if you follow God" depends on living in a universe where there is not a God. In a universe with Deity, that conclusion has to be reevaluated. In a universe with an unknown whether God exists or not, that conclusion isn't reliable. It's like a Modus Tollens.


However, if I believe (as I do) that there is evidence for God's non-existence, we can arrive safely at my conclusion.

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Upsilon wrote:
Buz wrote:
So a silent friend has great value.
As much as a diar – er, journal.

You can call it a diary if you like. But I would suggest that a silent friend has greater value than a diary. Do you not intuit the same?


If the friend was honestly, completely silent and didn't input any feedback at all, I would rank them the same as a means of getting something off your chest. It’s exactly the same activity, after all.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2004 6:56 pm 
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i have read the whole Bible and i think that it makes more sense than any other religion. and there is some fact-checking to do if you dont believe what you read. you can ask a christian friend that you have and s/he will tell you the same thing. i, personally think that the human mind is able to tell the truth, or at least want to think something is the truth when s/he hears it. i think i heard it.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 4:39 pm 
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It seems that I have given some people the impression that I believe prayer doesn't matter. I had some trouble explaining the concept, but I found a portion of an entry in a Bible Dictionary yesterday that explains it much better than I did.

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As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7: 7-11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.

There are many passages in the N.T. that teach the duty of prayer (e.g., Matt. 7: 7; Matt. 26: 41; Luke 18: 1; Luke 21: 36; Eph. 6: 18; Philip. 4: 6; Col. 4: 2; 1 Thes. 5: 17, 25; 1 Tim. 2: 1, 8). Christians are taught to pray in Christ’s name (John 14: 13-14; John 15: 7, 16; John 16: 23-24). We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ - when his words abide in us (John 15: 7). We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent his mind, but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart.


Also, let me add a comment on how it says "Prayer ... is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings." Maybe you haven't prayed for food, or for a place to live, or for a job. I don't think that physically staying alive falls within the category "highest of all blessings." The work required to receive those blessings are more likely things like getting an education, working to improve oneself, working while at work, etc.. The highest of all blessings is to come to know God. And any steps on the path to knowing him require prayer, as it is the means for obtaining said blessing.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:08 pm 
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Rather Dashing wrote:
i have read the whole Bible and i think that it makes more sense than any other religion.


Since I don't advocate any religion, nor know very much about any of them apart from Christianity, I'm going to have to take your word for it.

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and there is some fact-checking to do if you dont believe what you read. you can ask a christian friend that you have and s/he will tell you the same thing. i, personally think that the human mind is able to tell the truth, or at least want to think something is the truth when s/he hears it. i think i heard it.


Hang on...

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or at least want to think something is the truth


Bingo. How elegantly you sum up many people's reasons for faith in Jesus: they want to believe that it is true, against any and all reason. Your reason for belief is that you think you "heard the truth" when reading the Bible. Ironic how the same thing happened to me in the opposite sense.

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 Post subject: Re: Can (a Christian) God Be?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 7:12 pm 
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InterruptorJones wrote:
PSA: This topic has been split off from the Creation vs. Evolution thread. If you've just now joined the discussion, it may be helpful to to refer to that one for reference.

AgentOpaque wrote:
God knew that we would corrupt the perfect Earth that He created for us, so He structured our DNA to to adapt accordingly.


This is one of my favorite parts in any religious discussion. I like to call it the "what was he thinking?" moment. Why would god create a species that he knew would "corrupt the perfect Earth that He created" for them? Why not create a more perfect species?

Usually the answers offered are "god has a greater plan," or "we aren't meant to know" or "it is beyond our comprehension" or similar. I've heard a couple original responses to this one, but I'd like to hear something convincing. Anybody?

Don't forget that core to Christianity is that god is infallible and capable of everything.


hey the other jones i am no scholar but i do know this

In the beggining God created humas because he was lonely

yes he knew it would be corrupt in some ways but if you are going by those standards why ever build legos? you know whatever you make isnt going to be perfect. also God sent his 1 and only son JESUS CHRIST to come down and save us and make us un corrupt, buuuut some people dont want that that they want to be sinners. They might have some kicks here for what 90 years at the most but after that fo all of eternity they will go to hell wich is worse than that simpsons episode or that AC/DC song it is misery mostrly because God is not present.

It is up to us if we want to go to heaven or HEll

You are right about 1 thing no one knows why God let us be corrupt. noone knows that. Now with Jesus on our side if we do a sin we can ask him to forgive us and we will no longer be corrupt.

Please somone reply i wanna get in an argument. ok sorry if no one under stood me but i wanna get in an argument so i can try to help someones life be saved through Jesus Christ.

Crapfully yours
The other Jones (mashed potato Jones)

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Last edited by Mashed Potato Jones on Wed Dec 15, 2004 7:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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