The Gospel Coalition

Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). In saying this I am making two claims (both of which can be supported from John’s gospel): 1) The saving work of Jesus is the only way to be saved. 2) Putting faith in Jesus is the only way to appropriate that saving work.

In saying this, in espousing what is sometimes called “exclusivism,” I should be clear what I am not saying.

1. I am not saying there is nothing decent or honorable in other religions or in people from other religions. Ultimately, there is no good deed apart from faith, but Christians should recognize that Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus (and secular atheists for that matter) can be charitable, honest, and kind. Exclusivism does not demand that we reject everything about every other belief or every other religious person. What we do believe is that the most important doctrines of the Christian faith are not shared by other faiths and that even the most moral neighbor cannot be saved by good works.

2. I am not saying that Christianity is nothing more than saying the right prayer. Often in deriding exclusivism the contrast is made between the best, noblest adherent of some other religion versus the most crass, hypocritical, superficial adherent of Christianity. Raising your hand or praying the sinner’s prayer at camp does not automatically make you a Christian. If you are not changed and bear no fruit you have not been born again from above.

3. I am not saying that children who die at a young age, or those mentally incapable of expressing faith, cannot be saved. We know from Scripture that the Spirit can touch children in the womb (e.g., David, John the Baptist) and that the kingdom can belong to children (Mark 10:14). We see in Scripture that children from a believing household are in a different “position” than those outside the fold. They have Jesus as their covenant Lord (Eph. 6:1). When David’s son dies he says “I will go to him” (2 Sam. 12:23), this could mean “I too will die.” But in the next verse we read, “Then, David comforted his wife” (2 Sam. 12:24). I think it more likely that v. 23 was a comfort to David and Bathsheba because David knew he would see his child again in the next life. The juxtaposition of comfort makes less sense if David is simply assured he will join his son in the ground some day.

So I gladly affirm Canons of Dort, Article 1.17: “Since we must make judgments about God's will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.” Beyond this, as a confessional Christian, I would not speak too dogmatically. Almost everything concerning salvation in the Bible assumes the presence of sentient human beings. Some of our other questions may not be answered directly.

4. I am not saying that unbelievers are punished because they did not put faith in a Jesus they never heard of. This may sound like the opposite of exclusivism, but it’s not. This is actually a crucial point that exclusivists and their opponents often miss. Those who never hear the gospel are not punished for not knowing Jesus. Not knowing Jesus results in punishment, but sin is the grounds for punishment. Those who do not put faith in Christ are punished for being sinners. They are punished in the next life for turning the truth of general revelation into a lie (Rom. 1:18-25). They have broken God's law, and anyone guilty of even one violation is accountable for the whole law (James 2:10). Those with no knowledge of Christ will be judged less severely because they had less light, though that judgment will still be far from painless (Matt. 11:20-24). Our only hope in life and in death is that we are not our own but belong body and soul to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.


Comments:

Luke James

May 25, 2013 at 05:08 PM

Though I understand that you are trying to help people, this is wrong. Exclusivism is evil. Religion is a beautiful and life-fulfilling thing, but exclusivism drags it down. Think about it. Every conflict, ever war, every account of torture and execution of 'heretics', has not been caused by religion. It is caused by exclusivism.
You must understand that there are many paths to the top of the mountain. All religions have equal standing, so long as they are based on happiness. The number of people that have lived out their lives without praising Jesus is astonishingly high. Are you saying they are denied heaven, even though they do just as much, if not more, good as Christians? Why should they be punished for not dropping their lifetime spiritually to join some faith on the other side of the world because they heard of it a few times? Loads religions say theirs is truth. How should you know? Is it like relgions dice, where you roll and if it lands on any religion except for one in particular, they are condemned to punishment no matter what good they do? Live your life and enjoy it; telling them they will burn in hell if they don't do exactly what you do is utter nonsense, and goes against nature. No two people have had the same experience, and so therefore no two people will have the exact same opinions on everything. Disagreement is a healthy and natural part of being alive - it is not bad. It's only bad if you exclusivists kill people for it.
This should be some good food for thought. You should all understand that religion is not about avoiding hell - it's about making this world a better place for others.

For those wondering, this is coming from a follwer of Woldenry. (Which is a sort of mixture of christianity and paganism.) Good words can come from anyone.
God bless, all.

steve hays

March 31, 2011 at 08:31 PM

Paul

“Kevin apparently believes that babies from Christian households go to heaven and ones from non-Christian households don’t…So that makes Kevin’s God morally far worse than, say, Stalin or Hitler…”

Of course Hitler and Stalin began as babies. So are we judging them looking forward or backward?

steve hays

March 31, 2011 at 08:28 PM

Eric Mattingly
“2) Give me some evidence that any of what you said is true.”

Give me some evidence that any of what I said is false.

“3) Do you disagree that God has the right to burn babies and command the rape and genocide of people?”

Of course, that’s a trick question since you’ve built your jaundiced formulation into the question.

steve hays

March 31, 2011 at 08:23 PM

Eric Mattingly
“This is why Christians can celebrate women being raped (in the Bible), women being turned into salt, children having their heads dashed against rocks, genocide, hell, and the burning of heretics.”

Well, that nicely illustrates your village atheist exegesis.

steve hays

March 31, 2011 at 08:19 PM

Eric Mattingly

“Calvinism, naturally, and exclusivism, as defined by our dear author, is the logical extension of this worship of power since, without an object to direct it against, power is lame. If God cannot actively and eternally vent his wrath on something then that wrath is meaningless. That’s why any notion of universalism is heretical: if all are blessed then a major portion of God’s power, his violence and anger, is rendered meaningless, which makes God, in the end, not powerful at all.”

What are you even trying to say?

Take a courageous man. If he lives in wartime, he will have occasion to exhibit his courage on the battlefield.


If, on the other hand, he lives in peacetime, he will have no occasion to exhibit his courage on the battlefield.

Yet, even in peacetime, he will still be a courageous man. He will still embody that virtue, even though that virtue remains inevident. And his courageous character will still be admirable.

If a courageous character weren’t inherently virtuous, it wouldn’t be virtuous on those occasions when he is actually called upon to exhibit his courage.

Courage is a primarily a dispositional property, and secondarily an occurrent property. If a man has a courageous disposition, then that will be evident on occasions when courage is called for.

Likewise, God can have attributes which remain unexemplified in history. That hardly renders them meaningless, anymore than the courageous character of a man living in peacetime is meaningless.

steve hays

March 31, 2011 at 08:06 PM

Eric Mattingly
“In my experience Christianity (though not often Christians) identifies God with power and therefore worships power more than ‘righteousness’ or ‘justice’ or any other such thing. It makes a certain amount of sense, really. Discovering what is ‘just’ is difficult on its own and involves delving into still-undecided question of what “justice” actually is. ‘Righteousness’ and ‘morality’ too are much too complicated to be much use theologically (in that they get into Euthyphro dilemmas and show theists to be just as relativistic as the most wishy-washy New Ager). Power, on the other hand, is simple and uncomplicated. God is that which has no peer and is bound to no other standard but his own. If you assume the most powerful entity in the universe has the right to do whatever he wants to his creations then, bang, there’s morality. There’s theodicy. If God wants to burn babies for fun then it’s his right. He owes nothing to us. Our notions of what is fair and unfair don’t apply since he is more powerful.”

“If justice is a standard outside of God, one that God himself adheres to, then there is something greater than God. But the definition of God is a being greater than all others. Thus, justice cannot be greater than God. Ergo, the only definition of justice that makes sense is one that defines it in terms of God’s soverignty, which is a synonym for God’s power.”

Well, that’s a deeply confused objection.

i) If, by your own admission, what “justice” is remains an “undecided question,” while “morality” is to “complicated” to be “useful,” then your notions of “fairness” or “unfairness,” by which you presume to judge Christian theology, are too “difficult” and “complicated” to be “useful,” hinging, as they do, on “undecided questions.”

So you’ve disqualified yourself from moralizing about Christian morality.

ii) You also seem to suggest, parroting the Euthyphro dilemma, that if God is the ultimate moral standard, then morality is arbitrary. But if that’s your objection, then that’s a self-defeating objection.

Are you claiming that any ultimate moral standard is, by definition, arbitrary? Are you claiming that if moral judgments terminate in ultimate moral norms, then moral judgments are arbitrary? Are you claiming moral judgments must entail an infinite regress?

But if you think moral judgments are groundless, if you think moral judgments have no final foundation, then that same objection would also apply to secular ethics. Your own moral judgments about Christian theology would either be arbitrary, or lack ultimate moral backing–which comes to the same thing.

If, on the other hand, you think a (nonarbitrary) moral standard can exist apart from God, then why can’t God constitute the ultimate moral standard?

How can you accept the Euthyphro dilemma without generating a corollary dilemma for secular ethics?

iii) Do you think secular ethics is reducible to raw power? In atheism, does might make right?

Gun

March 31, 2011 at 05:31 PM

Eric,

There is a "greater God" than the God created by the Christians.
They have made a God in their own image, an angry God who demands
an offer in order to be able to forgive the ones he created. There is no logic in that. And let us be truthful, there is no way
for humans to describe the electromagnetic light energy from which
"all that is" is made. But one thing we can say, we are one with
that energy. And THIS FACT the ONENESS with the WHOLE or the
CREATOR has been the essence in the messages of Buddha, Jesus and
Mohammed. You are all ONE, therefore live in peace with one another. Jesus said: It is written that we are all sons of God.
Jesus had no dogmas but he was an example that it was possible
to get in contact with the creator within himself and thus he
told his followers that the kingdom of heaven is inside of you.

The arguing about who will be in hell and who in heaven is so
futile. We will of course all be seamingly separated from our
creator until we get the same insight as the above Masters =
that beyond our thoughts there is an all revealing consciousness.

Eric, as you seem to be open for new understandings go to

http://kryon.com/altindex.html
then click: Free Audio MP3 Kryon Channellings
Begin by clicking HANDBOOK, which describes what it is all about.

This is the most advanced place I have found here describing where
we as human beings on this earth are right now in our evolution.
You will be happy to listen to theese lovely messages and being
in their energy which gives resonance in the hearts listening.
There are 14 books translated to about 20 languages. And you will
know for sure: There is no need to argue about hell!!!

John Thomson

March 31, 2011 at 05:25 PM

Eric

Actually, although my views may seem extremist by modern standards they are not extreme historically. Look at any major Protestant Confession of the last 400 years and you will find they say much the same.

From my perspective, the basic question we all must answer is what we think of Jesus. As I read the Bible and interact with Jesus and the gospel he preaches I find myself convinced. My confession is 'My Lord and My God'. From this conviction everything else flows.

I took issue with some of the things you said because they are simply not so. For instance you wrote,

'In my experience Christianity (though not often Christians) identifies God with power and therefore worships power more than “righteousness” or “justice” or any other such thing.'

Now, I do not know where your experience of Christianity comes from but wherever it is simply not Christianity. The Bible is the source document for Christianity and the suggestion that God=power in the Bible and justice is unimportant is self-evidently not so to any fair reading of Scripture.

You continue to make a whole series of assertions about Christianity and so the biblical message that bear no resemblance to that message. This is unfair. You set up straw men and then knock them down. Rhetoric, Eric, is not argument. Anyone can set up caricatures and parodies of a position. That is easy. But it is not responsible argument. The only basis for a proper discussion lies in fairly expressing the opposing view and then dismantling it. I saw no fair representations of Christian belief in what you wrote.

For instance,

'If God cannot actively and eternally vent his wrath on something then that wrath is meaningless. That’s why any notion of universalism is heretical: if all are blessed then a major portion of God’s power, his violence and anger, is rendered meaningless, which makes God, in the end, not powerful at all.'

This neither represents Christian logic nor is logical within itself (it is specious!).

Note the initial premise:If God cannot actively and eternally vent his wrath on something then that wrath is meaningless.

I confess I can see no logic in this. Must my anger as a parent or teacher be continuous and life-long to be real and meaningful? From a Christian point of view God's wrath is what we may call a 'secondary attribute' in God (as it ought to be in us), that is, it is a function of his holiness and righteousness. God is holy in himself, ever and always, but he is not wrathful in himself; his wrath is a just response to evil (as it is in us).

You follow your initial premise with a second: 'That’s why any notion of universalism is heretical: if all are blessed then a major portion of God’s power, his violence and anger, is rendered meaningless'

Your assumption here is that God must constantly be violent and angry if he is to be powerful. Firstly, why so? I see an assertion here but no logical necessity. Why must power be expressed in anger and violence? Why can power not be expressed in love, righteousness and grace? From a biblical position the reason for violence and anger in God is a response to evil (sin). Why is violence and anger that is not eternal meaningless? Is your anger and mine meaningless because it is limited? Secondly, and this is my main complaint, when you talk about 'God' you assume the Christian God but imposing on him absolutes and logical necessities that come straight out of your imagination and not from Christianity. The God you are describing, I say again, is not the God of the Bible, but a monstrous parody of this God. No-one would worship and serve the God you describe.

Having made two false premises you then reach your conclusion: That’s why any notion of universalism is heretical. Given the false premises the conclusion itself is meaningless. And again, more importantly, it is not the reason why bible believing Christians reject universalism. They do so because the bible does and the bible teaches people are under God's judgement because they have rebelled and eternally rebel.

But Eric, my desire is not to score points in debate, I want to invite you to come to understand the gospel and in fact to believe it. I recommend a few books that may help you to understand it more clearly.

D A Carson: The God Who is There

C S Lewis: Mere Christianity

John Wenham: The Goodness of God.

regards

John

Eric Mattingly

March 31, 2011 at 05:17 PM

Steve,

1) Are infinity, eternity, immutability, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth all qualities that stand outside of God. And are they standards that he submits himself to? If so, then of course those things are much greater than he is. Power, being descriptive rather than perscriptive, is the only one of those concepts that can ground the others.

2) Give me some evidence that any of what you said is true.

3) Do you disagree that God has the right to burn babies and command the rape and genocide of people?

4) I didn't realize the definition of screed was "disagree with Christians when they try to justify a God who wants to watch people suffer for eternity."

Bless you,

eric

steve hays

March 31, 2011 at 04:44 PM

Eric Mattingly:

"In my experience Christianity (though not often Christians) identifies God with power..."

Here's a representative definition of God: "God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth" (WSC 4).

Hence, the rest of your screed is predicated on a false premise.

steve hays

March 31, 2011 at 04:38 PM

Paul:
Kevin’s half right. Points 1 and 2 are correct although it seems to me that Kevin rejects total depravity in point 1 and (some people’s interpretation of) justification by faith alone in point 2. Still, it’s nice to see Kevin correctly reject parts of truly reformed Calvinism.

"Unfortunately, Kevin’s points 3 and 4 are offensive, repulsive, illogical, unbiblical nonsense. Kevin apparently believes that babies from Christian households go to heaven and ones from non-Christian households don’t."

That's a malicious distortion of what he actually said. He was silent on the fate of babies from non-Christian households. He doesn't say what he doesn't know.

This opinion is also illogical and repulsive in stating that a still-born baby in Michigan has a chance to go to heaven but a still-born baby in Saudi Arabia has no chance. Those two babies are identical in their sin-nature (or lack thereof) and there’s no reason to say one goes to heaven and the other doesn’t except that Kevin knows people who would be really angry if didn’t make an exception for babies from Christian households."

In the nature of the case, mercy can just discriminate between equally guilty individuals.

"Kevin’s point 4 is frankly just stupid. Kevin tries to distinguish the results from the grounds of punishment. This is merely typical reformed playing with words."

Your objection is frankly just stupid. The default conditions of sinners is to be lost. Disbelieving in Jesus is not what damns someone. That's an aggravating factor. But sin is suffient.

"The reality is that Kevin thinks that all people (leaving to one side the babies and mentally disabled issue) who have never heard of Jesus automatically go to hell to be tortured for eternity and there’s nothing they can do about that."

What makes you equate eternal punishment with "torture"?

"Whatever playing with words Kevin wants to do about grounds and results, that’s what Kevin believes. So that makes Kevin’s God morally far worse than, say, Stalin or Hitler: at least both of those guys didn’t torture people for eternity for something they couldn’t not do."

Ted Bundy hated women. He was so evil that he couldn't not hate women. Is that exculpatory? No. That's culpable.

"And to cap it all, Kevin doesn’t seem to understand that some people find this God of his utterly repulsive."

And you don't seem to understand that some people find you utterly repulsive. Cuts both ways.

"It’s hardly surprising there are militant atheists (or for that matter, people like Brian McLaren) around when Kevin and his friends write this stuff."

Militant atheists like...yourself?

mike

March 30, 2011 at 12:02 AM

I find it interesting when the thief who is next to Jesus on the cross talks to Jesus, Jesus told him he would be in paradise. That was how simple it was!

Rose

March 30, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Here is another verse that indicates that David understood that his dead child was saved, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." (Psalm 8:2) It is also another verse that indicates how foolish it is to think that God is pleased to have his children worship him in whatever way they see fit, while he requires all men to come to him only by the way he has ordained. General revelation is sufficient to make all men without excuse for refusing to properly honor God. The gospel of Jesus Christ is needed to be rescued from the consequences of that refusal. Can someone, like the psalmist, receive the gospel without the New Testament? Apparently so. The Holy Spirit goes where he will. Does this ordinarily happen? No.

Eric Mattingly

March 30, 2011 at 08:35 PM

John,

You're right that a blog probably isn't the best place for these types of discussions. Because of my personal background I'm interested in the more extremist versions of Protestantism, Evangelicalism, and Biblical literalism. I have read the Bible. Not all of it but I've certainly read the entire NT (including Romans) and most of the Hebrew scriptures. I have to say, the God presented there leaves me cold and uninspired. Always did, and I imagine it always will at this point, however much I like the stories and the poetry.

I don't want to belabor the point, but even with the irony quotes surrounding it specious doesn't mean what you imply it does. My logic has to fail on its own terms, first of all, and preferably I must be trying to hide it behind rhetoric for the adjective to apply. But besides that I'm fascinated by the way you state there are two ways of approaching theological concepts: the so-called "Christian" way that you approach it and the "non-Christian" way I do. How do you determine which one is right and which one isn't? You can see the potential difficulty I'm sure: ultimately you have to ground yourself somehow just make your statement (this is a non-Christian understanding of x concept) coherent. But, that very ground must also be a theological concept (Biblical Innerantism, say) and therefore in itself needs grounding too. Less abstractly, more often than not resorting to calling something self-evident is a mere statement of subjective preference. It is self-evident we hear that nature must have an author. But is it really so? I don't think that's the case at all. I might be wrong, but it's clearly not self-evident that you are (assuming of course that I'm not lying, as you suggest I am, or that I am rational and intellectually capable). Anyway, I'm curious as to how my statements are self-evidently wrong to a Christian when they make a lot of sense to me (an admitted non-Christian).

Two more quick things: you may quibble with me on the God=power issue but you still think God has the right to burn babies. Why do you want to worship a God that gives himself that right and has actually done it (I'm sure there were babies in Sodom)? OK, so that's emotional (though I don't think emotions are out of place in any sort of discussion). If you are unwilling or unable (we've all got lives) to engage me more deeply on these issues what books or articles might I read to gain some understanding? Emotional manipulation doesn't really affect me and I don't foresee myself changing sides but I do want to understand where you're coming from. Hands to heart.

Vale

John Thomson

March 30, 2011 at 06:53 AM

Seth

'How does one “turn(ing) the truth of general revelation into a lie”?'

God has revealed himself in creation and conscience in hismight and majesty and when we distort this revelation and worship him in ways that are idolatrous and demeaning we turn the clear truth of who he is into a lie.

'Are peoples who don’t know Christ, but recognize God through his creation saved through faith, as was Abraham?'

The question is whether any 'recognize' God in creation (Roms 1 suggests not). The implication is all turn away from this revelation (knowing God they glorify him not as God...). However, even recognizing God as God is not saving. The Jews had the true God revealed but they disbelieved and disobeyed.

Abraham did not simply recognize God in creation, God revealed himself to Abraham in special revelation and gave him gospel promises (Gals 3:8) which he believed. It is faith in the specific gospel promise of God that justified him (Roms 4)

John Thomson

March 30, 2011 at 06:02 PM

Eric

I began by saying I speak from the standpoint of a Christian - a believer. My views about the psychology of our persons are based on the Bible for I believe the Bible to be the revelation of the one true God - all Christians ought to believe this.

What I wrote simply expresses what the Bible says about us. Read Romans Chapters 1-3.

Eric, its easy to get quagmired in debate and simply throw ideas around. No doubt there is a place for extended discussion (if it is really about a search for truth and not just an argument). I doubt if the limitations of comment boxes is it. as a consequence, I simply cut to the chase. The Bible insists that we really know what is true about God as Creator but simply resist it. In fact it insists that whenever we object to its message the problem is not intellectual, but moral - our sinful hearts don't wish to admit to its truth; we love darkness rather than light.

Eric, I called your argument specious because you are discussing Christian truths (where do ideas about one God, who is all powerful and good, heaven and hell, and salvation come from if not from Christian thought)in ways that are self-evidently to any who know the Bible, simply not Christian.

The Bible does not view God as a synonym for power, any more than it views him as a cipher for love. He is a person composed of many attributes (just as we are). Might is not right in the Bible - even in God. Right arises from his wisdom and holiness not his power.

My advice would be to read the Bible and see its God for yourself. To define God and how he acts in terms of a few 'specious' syllogisms is insulting to God and Christianity. Can you - limited creature that you are - be summed up in such a way?

God has not the right to burn babies because he is powerful. God's rights are not simply a function of his power but of his righteousness. 'Right' for God is not based on capability but what is consistent with his holy being. He has the 'right' to force creatures to worship him as you put it because that is the 'right' thing for any sentient being to do.

My views, please note, are not simply my opinions, but express what the Bible teaches. My authority is not my weak human logic but God's Word. Again, my perspective is Christian.

John E

March 30, 2011 at 05:29 PM

@John Thomson

So the Jews that died during the Holocaust are in hell now. Do you think that their suffering now is even worse than it was when they were inmates in the concentration camps?

Eric Mattingly

March 30, 2011 at 05:15 PM

John,

Respectfully, you don't seem to understand the definition of specious. "I believe. . ., I believe. . ., I believe. . ." Ok, I don't doubt you do believe all of that, now the challenge is to prove it, or at least give me some evidence. I'd especially be interested in any evidence you might have concerning my own subjective states that I don't have access to. What are your methods of knowing this? How do you know they are accurate? Gall aside, everything you have said there is the very definition of specious. How can you even have a conversation with another person when you assume from the outset they secretly agree with you but are just being obtuse? Do you do this with politics, art, and books as well? "Oh, you may say you don't like The Godfather but that's just because you refuse to acknowledge the subtle but powerful critique of American Capitalism that it offers. You really love it; you're just brainwashed by the culture to say you hate it." How ridiculous and, frankly, stereotypical of you.

But, I am more interested in hearing your take on these matters than in venting my frustration, so please try to make me understand. I admit my argument may be wrong, even specious as you say, but you still have yet to demonstrate it. I.e. the statement you quoted. Yes, the words are more uncompromising, but the sentiment is exactly the same as every apologia offered for the apparent paradox of a loving god sending his creatures to hell for eternity: if God were to relent then he would not be just and since justice is an admitted attribute of the godhead then there must be hell. My point is that the term "justice" reduces to power, and for obvious reasons. If justice is a standard outside of God, one that God himself adheres to, then there is something greater than God. But the definition of God is a being greater than all others. Thus, justice cannot be greater than God. Ergo, the only definition of justice that makes sense is one that defines it in terms of God's soverignty, which is a synonym for God's power. So where do I go wrong?

Finally, do you agree that God has the right to burn babies and order the rape and murder of other people because he is the creator and the most powerful being in the universe? Do you think he has the right to force his creations to worship him (arguably an emotional and intellectual form of rape)? Notice I'm not attributing any subjective belief to you since, you know, I don't actually have any access to your inner state. I'm asking a question.

Vale,
eric

John Thomson

March 30, 2011 at 04:20 PM

Eric

I write from the standpoint of a Christian. I believe we all know in our hearts who God is and what he is like though we supress this. Thus I believe we both know that God is not only all-powerful but all-good. Further, I believe we all have a moral framework which we know comes from God. We know what is good and bad and right and wrong and know that God is on the side of what is right and good for that is who he is.

Most of what you have written is mere empty philosophizing and against the proper instincts of your heart. For example,

'Calvinism, naturally, and exclusivism, as defined by our dear author, is the logical extension of this worship of power since, without an object to direct it against, power is lame. If God cannot actively and eternally vent his wrath on something then that wrath is meaningless. That’s why any notion of universalism is heretical: if all are blessed then a major portion of God’s power, his violence and anger, is rendered meaningless, which makes God, in the end, not powerful at all.'

This kind of reasoning is specious and you know it is specious. Your heart tells you you are a moral creature living in a moral universe and answerable to a moral and good God. It tells you you deserve judgement for your sins. All philosophizing is simply a smoke screen of intellectual bluster and bravado to hide from this reality you know instinctively is true.

We all by nature want to hide from what our hearts tell us is true and create every manner of construct to do so.

regards

John

Liam Moran

March 30, 2011 at 04:15 PM

Kevin,

Interesting post. You said, "What we do believe is that the most important doctrines of the Christian faith are not shared by other faiths and that even the most moral neighbor cannot be saved by good works." I was sharing the gospel with a woman once when she asked, "So, are you saying that Jews aren't going to be in heaven?" I said, "No. Jesus was a Jew, the first Christians were Jews, I am saying that only the Jews who have accepted Christ as their Messiah, as Lord and Savior are going to be in heaven." She said that was bigotry and slammed the door in my face.

It can be hard sometimes when sharing these truths with others. It is important to clarify what we are saying and what we are not.

Eric Mattingly

March 30, 2011 at 04:02 PM

John,

Which part would you, as a believer, say is warped? What did I get wrong? I wrote: "God is that which has no peer and is bound to no other standard but his own. If you assume the most powerful entity in the universe has the right to do whatever he wants to his creations then, bang, there’s morality. There’s theodicy. If God wants to burn babies for fun then it’s his right. He owes nothing to us. Our notions of what is fair and unfair don’t apply since he is more powerful." Do you disagree?

And what, by the way, is the obvious truth?

Merci,

eric

Rose

March 30, 2011 at 03:38 PM

I'm glad that neither my experience nor Eric's define reality and that God is a person and not "power." This has been clearly revealed by what has been made, but we do regularly run across examples of those who, knowing these things, nevertheless suppress the truth in unrighteousness. In fact, we have all done it ourselves, some more self-consciously and systematically than others. Thankfully, God has revealed himself not only in his creation, but also, in times past, through the prophets and, in these latter days, through his own son, through whom he made the universe.

John Thomson

March 30, 2011 at 03:25 PM

Eric

How warped a view! Seems to confirm my earlier contention about the ability of humanity to turn truth on its head and believe an implausible lie rather than obvious truth.

Eric Mattingly

March 30, 2011 at 02:52 PM

Christopher,

In my experience Christianity (though not often Christians) identifies God with power and therefore worships power more than "righteousness" or "justice" or any other such thing. It makes a certain amount of sense, really. Discovering what is "just" is difficult on its own and involves delving into still-undecided question of what "justice" actually is. "Righteousness" and "morality" too are much too complicated to be much use theologically (in that they get into Euthyphro dilemmas and show theists to be just as relativistic as the most wishy-washy New Ager). Power, on the other hand, is simple and uncomplicated. God is that which has no peer and is bound to no other standard but his own. If you assume the most powerful entity in the universe has the right to do whatever he wants to his creations then, bang, there's morality. There's theodicy. If God wants to burn babies for fun then it's his right. He owes nothing to us. Our notions of what is fair and unfair don't apply since he is more powerful.

Calvinism, naturally, and exclusivism, as defined by our dear author, is the logical extension of this worship of power since, without an object to direct it against, power is lame. If God cannot actively and eternally vent his wrath on something then that wrath is meaningless. That's why any notion of universalism is heretical: if all are blessed then a major portion of God's power, his violence and anger, is rendered meaningless, which makes God, in the end, not powerful at all.

This is why Christians can celebrate women being raped (in the Bible), women being turned into salt, children having their heads dashed against rocks, genocide, hell, and the burning of heretics. Even later theological formulations, such as irresistible grace, cannot escape the lust for domination as believers are forced into worship and submission through no will of their own. In the end perhaps Orwell's image of the boot continuously stomping a man's face in the mud is the perfect companion to the cross. Violence, death, and slavery are the whole of the law.

eric

Don Sartain

March 29, 2011 at 11:23 AM

Mark Driscoll addresses this in his series on Luke as well.

Here's a clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XicnbW06fbk&feature=player_embedded

Melanie smollen

March 29, 2011 at 10:17 AM

I am grateful we are having this discussion...these topics, in paticular, infant salvation, has been of great interest to me. I don't have concrete answers, but I do trust that our God is a just and fair God and whatever the outcome...God loves each one of us and is judgement is fair.

Mike S.

March 29, 2011 at 10:06 PM

Just a few weeks ago our morning Bible Study at church was going through Ephesians. I spent the next few days thinking about these verses.

Eph. 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. Necros, the word translated as “dead” refers to a corpse. That is who we all once were and, for the non-believing, still are. The point being is we all, at one point, were dead.

In which you once walked. Odd to have something dead described as “walking.” Paul’s point is that our way of life was trespasses and sins. That is what we did, our existence. Why; because we followed the course of this life. Like water follows the path it must, the one of least resistance, to go to the ocean; it is the course it has no choice but to follow. In our former way of life, we could only follow the course or path that the world laid before us.

That path has a pioneer, a trailblazer that marked its way. The prince of the power of the air. A rather long and poetic name for the devil, Satan. He is the one who set a course for the sons of disobedience. Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. We were completely part of that world body and mind. Notice that Paul does not include the spirit. That is because it was formerly dead, we were spiritually dead, only to be brought to life by God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

By nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Our very nature, it was who we were before Christ. What about the nice atheist who spends his life helping others? The unbelieving who have not heard the gospel? They are by nature, because of their very being, children of wrath. It is who they are because only Christ can bring life to the spiritually dead. Their minds and bodies are following the course of this world just as we did before Christ brought us into His family. Are they as bad as they could possibly be? Probably not but that does not remove them as sons of disobedience.

Salvation is found in Christ. There is no other name by which mankind can be brought from death to life.

Maybe that is why Paul in Romans 9 and 10 puts such an emphasis on preaching Christ to those who have not heard. Just my .02 cents.

Don Sartain

March 29, 2011 at 10:03 AM

@Kevin -- thank you for always posting deep, thought provoking blogs that are relevant to what we face on a daily basis. Even if we don't face these concepts in a philosophical conversation context everyday, we certainly face them practically and functionally (as David Platt mentioned in his video a while back).

@Beob8er -- Most scholars, and I from what I've studied, believe that to be more the fact that we knew God's place as Creator and the One we should worship, but rejected Him and began to worship creation. One could make the argument that some never really "know God" if they aren't following Jesus, but Rom. 5 tells us that we're guilty for Adam's sin, as well as our own, and they most certainly "knew God and did not glorify Him".

That said, the Rom 1:18-32 passage is really a Jewish polemic against the Gentiles, which Paul goes on to prove that it's something we are all guilty of doing. In Rom. 3:9-18, Paul really hammers out how guilty we are, and how no one does good and no one seeks God.

If Jesus is the only way to the Father, I don't see how we can actively glorify God without having a relationship with Jesus. Without Jesus, we have no access to or peace with God, and without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we have no desire to glorify God.

The last question though is somewhat ambiguous, because we have to define what "mercy" is. Eternity with God in Heaven/New Earth? No, that only comes through faith in Jesus. Lesser degree of Hell? Maybe, but I don't know how to answer that one Biblically. I would ask this though (and I can't remember who I'm stealing this from), even if it is a lesser degree of Hell, or even if it's Heaven, if God isn't there, would you really want it anyway?

Rev. Ryan M.

March 29, 2011 at 09:58 AM

This is an important topic, thanks for sharing. The eternal destiny of infants and others of similar mental capacity has interested me for some time; in fact, I’ve written a whole essay about it. Here’s an excerpt, which may provide further food for thought about David and his son:

I don’t think we have any compelling reason to think David was speaking prophetically in this instance; he was simply talking offhandedly with his servants about why there was no point in him continuing to fast from food. In context, it seems David very probably meant that he would someday die as the child had—a comment about entering the ‘realm of the dead,’ without any reference at all to his own eternal destiny nor to the child’s.

This understanding is strongly borne out by a quote from Samuel in 1 Samuel 28, where he definitely was speaking prophetically with Saul the king of Israel. Samuel actually spoke to him from the grave, after his own death. Samuel was certainly a believer who will be forever in heaven, whereas Samuel said Saul had become God’s “enemy” [1 Samuel 28:16, “And Samuel said, ‘Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy?’ ” (ESV)]—which indicates that Saul is definitely in hell, since God does not allow his enemies into heaven. Nevertheless Samuel said, “Tomorrow you…shall be with me” (1 Samuel 28:19a). This was clearly not saying that the believer Samuel and the unbeliever Saul would both be in heaven, but rather, simply that both would be dead. Since this incident happened contemporaneously with David’s life in ancient Israel, it makes sense that the phraseology regarding death would be similar whether Samuel was speaking about Saul in 1 Samuel or David about his son in 2 Samuel. It seems that David’s statement, then, is really not helpful at all in understanding the eternal destiny of infants.

Tuesday Headlines & Links - Shane Raynor

March 29, 2011 at 09:42 AM

[...] of a Disciple – Don Miller 5 Consequences of a Life Out of Balance – Michael Hyatt Clarifying Exclusivism – Kevin DeYoung Porn and Paper Pastors – Dan Phillips Why There Are Still Atheists [...]

Seth Adams

March 29, 2011 at 09:13 PM

Help me understand #4...
a. How does one "turn(ing) the truth of general revelation into a lie"?
b. Are peoples who don't know Christ, but recognize God through his creation saved through faith, as was Abraham?

Austin

March 29, 2011 at 09:00 PM

While I disapprove of the tone of Paul's above post, his critique of points 3 and 4 are dead on. The notion of God saving babies from Christian households is completely unsubstantiated speculation, and the mention of the mentally handicapped is a vague, feeble attempt to hold out some hope for the them. Both of these points seem to betray the recognition that there seems to be something wrong about God condemning these people even though they clearly deserve it (clearly the mentally handicapped, if not infants as well, are capable of sin). Why not extend that grace to the unevangelized?

The use of Matthew 11:20-24 is abysmal on so many counts it is difficult to begin. To make a long criticism short, to think that this passage speaks about all the individual people of Tyre and Sidon going to hell because they never heard about Jesus is embarrassing.

If anything, I think this post affirms how poor a case can be made for believing in exclusivism with any sort of certainty. Why not just admit that Scripture isn't clear on the issue of the unevangelized?

Beob8er

March 29, 2011 at 08:59 AM

In Rom. 1:21a it says: "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him..." Does this mean, that there might be a way to glorify God and give thanks to Him without knowing i.e. believing in Jesus (maybe because no one ever told this person about Christ)?
In other words, can someone - a "Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus" - from outside Christian faith live in a way, that God will be mercifull towards him?

Nick S

March 29, 2011 at 08:54 AM

Kevin, I should have remembered this from our book reading, but is this view (see above) similar to Hesselgrave's chap. 2 (restrictivism and inclusivism) from Paradigms in Conflict? If I understand him correctly, he seems to be saying responding to Christ in this life is necessary for salvation--"Only by hearing and believing in Christ during this life can men and women be saved" (65)--but beyond this, punishment (or wrath) seems to be based on the person's response to the light given him/her. Light is not ultimately salvific, but a determinant of the degree of punishment. Am I close on this?

Kevin DeYoung

March 29, 2011 at 08:40 AM

Yes! Important typo to fix. Thank you.

Justin Langley

March 29, 2011 at 08:02 AM

Helpful post, Kevin. But, did you mean to say "far from painless" in the second-to-last sentence, before the reference to Matt. 11:20-24?

Paul

March 29, 2011 at 07:33 PM

Kevin's half right. Points 1 and 2 are correct although it seems to me that Kevin rejects total depravity in point 1 and (some people's interpretation of) justification by faith alone in point 2. Still, it's nice to see Kevin correctly reject parts of truly reformed Calvinism.

Unfortunately, Kevin's points 3 and 4 are offensive, repulsive, illogical, unbiblical nonsense. Kevin apparently believes that babies from Christian households go to heaven and ones from non-Christian households don't. That's certainly not the traditional Christian view because that comes from Augustine and in Augustine, only baptized babies go to heaven. There's also nothing that states Kevin's view in the Bible, despite Kevin's feeble attempt to find verses to support it. Those verses don't clearly support Kevin's view. This opinion is also illogical and repulsive in stating that a still-born baby in Michigan has a chance to go to heaven but a still-born baby in Saudi Arabia has no chance. Those two babies are identical in their sin-nature (or lack thereof) and there's no reason to say one goes to heaven and the other doesn't except that Kevin knows people who would be really angry if didn't make an exception for babies from Christian households. Kevin's position on this is driven by his pastoral concern to be nice to people in his church and not by anything clearly in the Bible or in Christian tradition.

Kevin's point 4 is frankly just stupid. Kevin tries to distinguish the results from the grounds of punishment. This is merely typical reformed playing with words. The reality is that Kevin thinks that all people (leaving to one side the babies and mentally disabled issue) who have never heard of Jesus automatically go to hell to be tortured for eternity and there's nothing they can do about that. Whatever playing with words Kevin wants to do about grounds and results, that's what Kevin believes. So that makes Kevin's God morally far worse than, say, Stalin or Hitler: at least both of those guys didn't torture people for eternity for something they couldn't not do. What makes this just stupid is that Kevin also believes that his God is "loving" and "merciful".

And to cap it all, Kevin doesn't seem to understand that some people find this God of his utterly repulsive. It's hardly surprising there are militant atheists (or for that matter, people like Brian McLaren) around when Kevin and his friends write this stuff.

michael henry

March 29, 2011 at 06:04 PM

@Rev Ryan.
Sir, I do not agree with Kevin's assessment that ..."because David knew he would see his child again in the next life." Rather, I would agree with a position like that of Henry's commentary which states that: ".....But, God having restored to David the joys of his salvation, he comforted her with the same comforts with which he himself was comforted of God". Considering the context of this section of 2 Samuel this seems more appropriate. I would have to disagree with your position however, that Davids statement, per your interpretation of it, can be substantiated by 1 Samuel 28. It does not seem clear in commentary, or at least is not unanimous, that it was actually Samuel speaking.
Would it not be a more natural reading that David, knowing this was part of his punishment that had been given, because he was shown forgiveness and Grace, was acknowledging that God's comfort, unfailing, made his grieving unnecessary, and acknowledged the gulf of the living from the dead?
In any case, I would agree that the evidence does not support the position that these verses have to do with the eternal destiny of infants.

John Thomson

March 29, 2011 at 05:35 PM

John E

'Are the Jews that died in the Holocaust in Hell right now?'

If they did not trust in Jesus as Messiah they are, just like the Jews who rejected him in C1 and were destroyed in the holocaust of Titus a few years later.

The real 'scandal' of grace is that those Nazis who repented of their sin and trusted Jesus are in heaven right now.

John Thomson

March 29, 2011 at 05:29 PM

Christopher

What condemns a man is not whether he has or has not heard of Jesus, what condemns him (us) is his sin. Being sinners means that we are all rebels against God. God would remain just and totally good should he save none of us.

God is just and even good in consigning all of us to perdition. What King would be accused of being unjust and bad who condemned all rebels against his just and good rule to death? Rebels who had jealously looked at his throne and coveted it for themselves, ravaged his kingdom, broken all of his wise and good laws, mocked his rights to be King, and treasonously murdered his Son (and other members of the royal family). All this rebellion let it be remembered against a King who had shown them nothing but kindness and generosity (to say nothing of his rights as their Creator).

And the cardinal sin is rejecting God as Creator. All humanity has wilfully and deliberately turned its back on the one who in love and goodness created it. This is monstrously and prodigiously evil. None seek the one true God because none want to seek the one true God. They know he is there. Yet they supress what they know because they prefer a God of their own invention. We would murder our Creator if we could (and we did at the cross). This is our story and the morally depraved state of our humanity.

The wickedness of our humanity is clear too in the way that we insist on thinking of ourselves as basically good and God, if he does not bring us to heaven, as the villian; he is the one who is evil. If there is a tsunami then a wicked God is in the dock for allowing such atrocity to befall good human beings. The whole way of thinking is upside down, maliciously perverted, and corrupt. It reveals just how wicked we are; we are the vile ones who deserve only judgement and God is the God who if he is just will, as I say, or rather, as the bible says, consign us all to perdition.

If God saves any and there is no reason why he should then it is an act of complete and absolute mercy.

Tim

March 29, 2011 at 05:28 PM

@CM Bowers - When you say "good" and "just" what you are really saying is fair. You don't see how Kevin's description of God could possibly be manifesting a "fair" God. It should be noted that no where in Scripture does is there any indication that God is to be fair. We know that He will be because of His nature but there is no obligation to be so. Only by His own revelation is He said to be just and good which is not the same thing as our western understanding of fair. If you want to talk about fair...it is not fair that after all the loving detail that God put into making man (breathing life into them, making them His image bearers, and giving him dominion over every other created thing) that we should be the only of all His creation that would rebel against Him. The question that should be asked is not "How could God send some to hell because they have not believed in Christ?" but I think the better question is "Why does God save any at all?" Because it would be good and just and yes even fair for Him to save none. And what is even more not fair is that these same creatures have the audacity to demand that He be just and good by their standards and if He does not than they will simply make their own God.

And as a side note...There has never ever been a person who has heard of Jesus by pure arbitrary chance. Remember Jesus says that His people hear His voice? Remember that He leaves the 99 to get the one? There is no one, there never has been anyone, and there will never be anyone that has by pure arbitrary chance heard of Jesus. If you believe that than it is clear that you do not believe in a truly Sovereign God. And to be honest, I don't know if I want a God who is good and just but not Sovereign. That kind of a god is not the God of hope at all and he is certainly not the God of the Bible

John E.

March 29, 2011 at 04:22 PM

Question: Are the Jews that died in the Holocaust in Hell right now?

Christopher McCauley Bowers

March 29, 2011 at 03:54 PM

Kevin, it's clear from the above that you don't believe in a Good and Just God. How can a Good and just God offer a free pass to those that sin but believe in Jesus, yet condemn to eternal punishment those that sin but have never heard of Jesus?

Your God sounds more like a nationalistic unjust Tyrant and not a Good and Loving God. Those that have heard of Jesus by pure arbitrary chance, have a shot at salvation, those who haven't do not. How in any way is that Just or Good?

You say: "If you are not changed and bear no fruit you have not been born again from above."

This contradicts what you said before it. You claim that which has salvific efficacy is faith, yet when shown that evil people have faith you resort to saying the above. If we aren't judged by faith but by "fruits" then aren't you contradicting yourself?

Your quotes from scripture IN NO WAY support your case, you quote out of context from James, who clearly states that faith without works is dead!

Rose

March 29, 2011 at 03:39 PM

When my third child was stillborn I found David's words, "I will go to him, but he will not return to me," to be very comforting. However rudimentary David's understanding, I think he did believe in the resurrection and placed his hope on both God's mercy in providing a propitiation and in his power in giving new life. In other words, David's hope was in Christ, in Jesus, even though his understanding, like that of his dead child, was very lacking. Not only that, but David did not make up his own way to worship God, but approached God in the appointed manner by the Holy Spirit.

John Thomson

March 29, 2011 at 02:45 PM

A good and helpful post. I agree with the sentiment of it all though here and there I may nuance a little.

a) 'They have broken God’s law, and anyone guilty of even one violation is accountable for the whole law (James 2:10).'

This applies only to those actually under law as a covenant. A klnowledge of 'law' in general revelation is different. It is not a covenant therefore the covenant aspect of guilty-of-one-guilty-of-alll does not apply.

b) There is just a part of me that wants to leave the destiny of those who have never heard the gospel as something Scripture does not speak absoliutely about. Having said this I feel the force of Roms 1.

Elsewhere (03.29.11) | Near Emmaus

March 29, 2011 at 02:13 PM

[...] - Kevin DeYoung clarifies some points regarding the exclusivist position here. [...]

[...] DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition makes another important point: I am not saying that unbelievers are punished because they did not [...]

Vito Monico

April 5, 2011 at 11:31 PM

You've got to be thinking at this point that the union of fellow atheists is desperately trying to revoke this mattingly character's membership card and disavow that they had ever known or admitted him.

steve hays

April 4, 2011 at 03:59 PM

Eric Mattingly

"Pride led me to peek into your suffocating, smoke-filled building and comment on the ugliness of the colors."

More likely you thought to yourself, "Christianity is a house of cards, so I'm going to blow it down in three easy steps, then leave these Christians tongue-tied."

steve hays

April 3, 2011 at 07:46 PM

Eric Mattingly

“Because your anger says to me that you know I’m right.”

That’s a polemical cliché.

“There is no God. No heaven. No hell. You cling to this rotting and irrelevant faith like a child trapped in a burning building who doesn’t want to watch the flames consume him.”

You’re trying to shame Christians out of their faith by assuming the role of the disapproving parent. However, you face a dilemma. If atheism were true, then it doesn’t matter whether we’re childish or not. If atheism is true, the corpse of the “childish Christian” and the corpse of the enlightened atheist are empirically equivalent. If atheism is false, you lose, but if atheism is true, you also lose.

So your hackneyed tactic of trying to shame Christians out of their faith by your faux adult, finger-wagging posture is meaningless given your secular outlook.

“The thought of facing reality as it is terrifies you so much that you would accept anything: Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, whatever, if you had been born in the right time and place and it allowed you to avoid the truth.”

If atheism were true, we’d have no epistemic duties to be true to truth. So atheism slits its own throat.

“Can you guess what image I saw when I read your last post? Weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Well, since I didn’t say anything about hell, what you must be psychotic. Or perhaps you were high on acid.

“You can only free yourself.”

There’s no freedom in atheism. If atheism were truth, then you and I would merely be the byproduct of physical determinism.

“Pride led me to peek into your suffocating, smoke-filled building and comment on the ugliness of the colors.”

If atheism were true, your value judgment would be the illusory projection of values on a valueless world.

James S

April 2, 2011 at 12:50 AM

Sorry, that should say bible, (not bibles).

James S

April 2, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Agree with John Thomson's statements all through these replies and I appreciate his taking the time to try to explain things to people.
Many who are debating him are, obviously to me, shining examples for all of us to see of the following: -
those which the Bibles speaks of as having gone on rejecting God and His revelation for SO LONG that they are under judgement right now.
The judgement is that God is causing them to believe and love a lie (and lies plurally). That is the real-time judgement of God on people while they still live. Those under that kind of wrath, which is resting upon them currently, rarely, if ever, make it back to truth.

Let those who have eyes to see understand this.

Eric Mattingly

April 2, 2011 at 12:21 PM

James S.,

I appreciate all the hard work and thought you have put into this conversation. If it weren't for you dropping in and throwing sanctimonious stinkbombs I don't know how I would have been able to maintain this long.

Steve,

OK. Let's ignore the whole "obvious benefits to. . . a disinterested third party" since 1) God is clearly not disinterested, 2) traffic cops and the like don't have the authority to condemn somebody eternally, and 3) those same traffic cops are given authority within the context of a complex society and derive their it from a more abstract notion of rule of law-- unless, of course, they derive their authority from an autocrat with absolute power. In other words my analogy breaks down here, which is not too awful since all analogies break down. It's just not very interesting at this point (unless you take the autocracy path but then you'd be conceding my point).

So let's concentrate on the explicit reason you gave: omniscience. This is curious since it seems you are implying that having more knowledge, or being capable of having more knowledge, is sufficient to give you the right to condemn somebody in particularly severe ways. So, you are far more knowledgeable and intelligent than me: does that give you the right to punch me in the face? Why? What status does greater knowledge confer upon you that I don't have? Same with God-- just because he knows everything that gives him the right to condemn somebody to infinite punishment? That's a strange leap, brother, and only makes sense if you already assume God has the right to begin with. So, to make a point, why does he have that right? And let's assume here that your diseased notion of humanity is correct: we are all scum and thoroughly nasty with no hope of ever being righteous. Given that, what makes God the ultimate judge of our fate?

I've been called a dummy, irrational, a LIAR, a reprobate, a "village atheist" (I don't even know what that means but it sounds pejorative) and more in the course of this conversation. I on the other hand have done nothing more than ask questions. And I'm the hothead? One might accuse you of self-righteous hypocrisy but I won't since I like you :).

cheers,
eric

Eric Mattingly

April 2, 2011 at 11:02 PM

Steve,

But you are my brother. You really are. Why? Because your anger says to me that you know I'm right. There is no God. No heaven. No hell. You cling to this rotting and irrelevant faith like a child trapped in a burning building who doesn't want to watch the flames consume him. Perhaps the children of Sodom felt the same way as their bodies were devoured for the appeasement of God's righteousness.

The thought of facing reality as it is terrifies you so much that you would accept anything: Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, whatever, if you had been born in the right time and place and it allowed you to avoid the truth. Can you guess what image I saw when I read your last post? Weeping and gnashing of teeth. I thought to myself, my brother is in hell and he is suffering and I felt a great yearning to free you. But of course I can't. That's reality, see. You can only free yourself. Plus, I've got my own suffering, though thank goodness it's nothing like yours, and a long way to go until I'm where I need to be.

By the way, I like being a Tellerite. You know he won't speak on television unless somebody obscures the bottom portion of his face? I'm not much of a magic aficionado but those guys rock.

I'll answer your question as my last comment in this conversation. Sometimes I'm very afraid to die. I had a habit, when I was dealing with depression a few years ago, of keeping myself awake for days obsessing over cancer (it runs in my family, mainly due to smoking which I've never done). If what you asked happened I wouldn't become a Christian. I don't think I could and I certainly wouldn't want to. For me the ideal is to face the truth: we will cease to exist (it's more complicated since it is only a fiction that we "existed" in the first place i.e. Buddhism) and after that nothing. Nothing. It took me a long time to come to terms with that but I feel mostly at peace with it now, though I can't say I never fall back into my old habits. So if I were diagnosed with inoperable cancer tomorrow I would, at first, be as upset as anybody. I'd rail at fate and cry and curse and ask "why me?" I'd do that until the absurdity of acting like this became apparent at which point I would find peace. I really would. I will die at peace. And I will have kept my sense of humor too because I WANT the last thing I say to be an irreverent joke (did you ever hear about how W.C. Fields, a lifelong atheist, was found reading a Bible on his deathbed? When asked what he was doing he quipped: "Looking for loopholes!" Imagine it in his voice and it is hilarious).

I'm not bragging when I say this but I know for certain my life is not vain. Vanity has never been my major "sin." Mine has been pride. Pride led me to peek into your suffocating, smoke-filled building and comment on the ugliness of the colors. Naturally I was rebuffed because (I admit) it was kind of a jerk move. Who wants to have the only house they've ever known mocked by a stranger? Still, in the end, all I really want is for you to come outside. There's a whole world out there and, I'm sorry, but the wallpaper really is terrible.

I wish you a good life my brother,

Eric

steve hays

April 2, 2011 at 09:26 AM

Eric Mattingly

“Moving on, given that God has the right to kill anybody WHY does he have that right? What special property of God gives him the right to kill anybody he wants.”

For one thing, omniscience. God discerns the heart. He knows what motivates the culprit.

For another thing, God isn’t swayed by irrelevant considerations.

For yet another thing, God is holy, unlike sinful judges who judge fellows sinners, where the judge’s judgment is often clouded by his own sin.

“By analogy, say somebody killed a person I loved. They may deserve to die (and I may certainly feel like they do) but I don’t have the right to break into the person’s house and kill them myself.”

Frankly, that’s just a social convention. There are many cultures in which it would be your duty to avenge the wrongful death of a friend or relative.

However, cultures generally regulate who determines guilt or innocence and metes out punishment to avoid social anarchy. Someone to play traffic cop.

Also, there are obvious benefits to having guilt or innocence evaluated by a disinterested, third-party.

But you’re a hothead who will say any dumb thing that crosses his mind to attack the Christian faith.

steve hays

April 2, 2011 at 09:00 PM

Eric Mattingly

“Let’s ignore the whole ‘obvious benefits to. . . a disinterested third party.’”

The ellipsis is deceptive. I didn’t say it was a benefit to the disinterested third party. That would be nonsensical. Rather, it’s beneficial to the accused that he be judged by a disinterested party. Or does that escape you?

“Since 1) God is clearly not disinterested.”

Since you’re so slow on the uptake, I guess I’ll have to slow down and go at your own pace, walking you through the argument in baby steps so that you can keep up.

What do I mean by a disinterested party playing the role of judge? Is that really so hard for you to grasp? Let’s see.

If one teenage boy kills another teenage boy, it’ s not a good idea to have the father of the dead boy be the judge. He’s too close to the situation to evaluate the situation objectively. He’s biased in favor of his dead son, even if his dead son had it coming.

Do you get the point, now, or do we need to explain it to you further?

“2) Traffic cops and the like don’t have the authority to condemn somebody eternally.”

Now you’re playing hopscotch. Having lost the argument, you jump to a different square.

You talked about God’s right to “kill” anybody, and you compared that with you not having the right to avenge the death of a loved one.

So that comparison wasn’t predicated on eternal condemnation, was it now? The fact that you lack the honesty to stick to the terms of your own argument shows that you argue in bad faith. But that doesn’t surprise me since you’ve admitted that you like to argue for the sake of argument.

Is that just a way for you to fill the time in your empty, godless life?

“Those same traffic cops are given authority within the context of a complex society and derive their it from a more abstract notion of rule of law– unless, of course, they derive their authority from an autocrat with absolute power. In other words my analogy breaks down here, which is not too awful since all analogies break down.”

Once again, since you’re so slow on the uptake, let’s go back and take it more slowly to see if you can catch up this time.

Was I talking about literal traffic cops? No. What was the point of my comparison? Well, as I explained, cultures generally designate certain individuals to judge crimes and mete out punishment to avoid social anarchy. Vigilantism.

They don’t necessarily do that because they believe vigilantism is intrinsically wrong. A society might think an aggrieved father does have the right to kill the rapist who murdered his daughter. But society has other concerns as well. If everyone takes the law into his own hands, that, too, can lead to wrongs equal to or exceeding the original crime. Hence, that duty is often reassigned to a disinterested third party.

The ‘traffic cop” metaphor was related to the social “anarchy” metaphor. Get it? Or is that still too subtle for you?

“It’s just not very interesting at this point (unless you take the autocracy path but then you’d be conceding my point).”

Does that represent your feeble attempt to be clever?

“So let’s concentrate on the explicit reason you gave: omniscience. This is curious since it seems you are implying that having more knowledge, or being capable of having more knowledge, is sufficient to give you the right to condemn somebody in particularly severe ways.”

Did I postulate that as a sufficient condition? No. I said “for one thing.”

Do you know what that means? Or do I also need to explain to you the difference between “one,” “two,” “three,” or “many”? I don’t want to go too fast for you.

And is sufficient conditionality germane to your original question? No. Rather, you’re question was asking for differential factors between God’s right to kill and our right to kill.

Try to at least follow the terms of your own argument, pitiful as that may be. I don’t think it’s asking too much that you keep track of your side of the argument.

Or is that too much of an imposition on you? Should we issue you flash cards so that you brush up on what you said before the next round?

“So, you are far more knowledgeable and intelligent than me: does that give you the right to punch me in the face?”

Once again, I realize that it’s hard for you to keep up, so I’ll slow down once more and help you along. Go back and notice that when I cited divine omniscience, I also included some epexegetical glosses, such as God “knows what motivates the culprit.”

Frequently we can’t assess the licit or illicit character of a deed from the deed alone, for oftentimes intent is a morally salient consideration. Was there criminal intent?

Are you capable of absorbing that rudimentary distinction, or do we need to explain it to you in more detail? I must never assume too much about your capacity to grasp the argument. Sorry if I overestimated you in our earlier exchanges.

“That’s a strange leap, brother.”

You’re not my brother.

“And let’s assume here that your diseased notion of humanity is correct: we are all scum and thoroughly nasty with no hope of ever being righteous.”

Well, one thing you’ve done quite well is to illustrate the Reformed doctrine of total depravity. I’ll give you that.

“I on the other hand have done nothing more than ask questions.”

You think anyone is taken in by that line? Attacks masked as “questions.”

You play hopscotch. You attack. You feint. You deflect. When you lose one argument, you instantly jump to another square, then act as if that’s what you were saying all along.

Like Tellerites, you don’t argue for reasons–you simply argue.

Here’s a parting thought: if you were diagnosed with terminal cancer tomorrow, and given six months to live, would you fritter away your remaining days with these flip, cutesy, superscillious back-patting attacks on the Christian faith, or would you drop the pose and actually get serious for once in your vain little life?

steve hays

April 1, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Eric Mattingly

“Let’s say I, a sinner (and certainly not a courageous man), die without excepting Jesus. You won’t bat an eye in saying I’ll go to hell for eternity. Alright. I object tediously (God must get a lot of this) that I was a decent person, good to my family, friends and lovers, etc. Why, I might ask, can’t I just go to hell for a few million (or billion) years? Surely that will outweigh the paltry sins I committed in my handful of decades on earth. Then God (or his interlocutors) would respond that if they let that happen it would render Jesus’s death and God’s sovereignty meaningless because…”

How they ought to respond is to point out that your hypothetical is predicated on a false premise, viz. “A few million (or billion) years in hell outweigh “paltry sins.”

“You’re the one trying to convince me that I should become a Southern Baptist no?”

Don’t flatter yourself. Trying to convince you would be a fool’s errand. You’ve put yourself beyond the reach of reason. I’m doing this for the benefit of lurkers.

“You don’t get to start from the assumption that you are right and argue from there. You know, burden of evidence and the like. I’m waiting.”

I’m simply responding to you on your own terms. I don’t have to adduce independent evidence. Just expose your fallacious, ignorant objections. You’ve been setting the bar for the failure of your own arguments.

“Not a trick question at all. God certainly ordered the death of children. He also almost certainly burned some alive when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.”

You use tendentious terms like “rape,” “murder,” and “genocide.” You need to exegetically justify your terminology.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 11:53 AM

Steve,

But we're talking about the righteousness of YOUR God. I'll concede for the sake of argument that Moral Nihilism is the only logical outcome of atheism. But how does that make God moral to send people to hell? From my view I find the idea distasteful but again let's stipulate that distaste has no moral connotation. Again so what? We're talking about the ethics of God not me.

Your only response to my Euthyphro argument was that it applies to me to. Well, sure, I suppose it does but that doesn't mean it still doesn't apply to God. And, interestingly, it seems you affirm that God exemplifies a moral standard rather than creates it. Beautiful! Now how do we know he exemplifies it always and forever with perfect fidelity? And do you disagree with Piper that we have no rights when it comes to God? That everything he decides is right? If not, does the moral standard only apply to God? How is that any different from voluntarism?

I'd be up for a discussion of secular ethics but I've been trying to keep on topic. Even my obnoxiousness knows some bounds.

steve hays

April 1, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Eric Mattingly

“So what if secular ethics are just as arbitrary as Christian ethics? That doesn’t make yours any less arbitrary. Besides I’m not making a judgment on them (in this case) just an observation.”

Now you’re prevaricating. It’s obvious that you’re rendering value judgments about Christianity. If you don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with Christianity, what’s your incentive in attacking it?

“God’s righteousness relies on his sovereignty, i.e. power is the central divine attribute. I personally don’t like the implications of such a view but since I don’t believe it anyway it’s no skin off my nose. You seem to be the one who doesn’t like it.”

Once again, you’re merely repeating what you already read from your cue cards, without bothering to respond to my counterargument. Looks like you shot your wad in the first round.

What’s your problem? Are you just reciting arguments you picked up from a book by some village atheist? Can’t you think for yourself? When you run out of pat objections, are you unable to adapt to the situation?

“In the context of the current discussion it doesn’t matter whether might makes right for atheism does it? We’re not talking about secular ethics.”

To the contrary, a moral relativist forfeits the right to moralize about Christian theology.

“We’re talking about exclusivism and how God is justified in sending people to hell.”

I realize that you’d like to avoid exposing your own flank. But your attacks invite counterattacks. That’s the way it goes. Man up.

“And even if it were the case that Moral Error Theory (or Moral Nihilism) is true at least it’s because the universe is cold, uncaring and absurd not because the God who built it is a jackboot and made it that way to glorify himself.”

Actually, God made it that way to glorify his people.

“Jackboot” plays on the odious connotations of the term. But if you’re an atheist, and atheism leads to moral nihilism, then your recourse to judgmental terminology is self-refuting.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 11:37 AM

Steve,

"Take a courageous man. . ."

Let's say I, a sinner (and certainly not a courageous man), die without excepting Jesus. You won't bat an eye in saying I'll go to hell for eternity. Alright. I object tediously (God must get a lot of this) that I was a decent person, good to my family, friends and lovers, etc. Why, I might ask, can't I just go to hell for a few million (or billion) years? Surely that will outweigh the paltry sins I committed in my handful of decades on earth. Then God (or his interlocutors) would respond that if they let that happen it would render Jesus's death and God's sovereignty meaningless because 1) eternal death was decreed for those who aren't saved and 2) god's wrath, however secondary to his being, is eternal so the expression of it must be eternal as well. Also, and crucially, sin is defined as a trespass against his will. That means, in the end, exactly what I said. God's wrath, justice, and sovereignty would become meaningless if he were to yield.

iv. "Well, that nicely illustrates your village atheist exegesis."

me: argumentum ad neener neener neener? Or, argumentum ad you're different from me so you suck? Whichever, you are being fallacious.

And finally,

"Give me some evidence that any of what I said is false." You're the one trying to convince me that I should become a Southern Baptist no? You don't get to start from the assumption that you are right and argue from there. You know, burden of evidence and the like. I'm waiting.

"Of course, that’s a trick question since you’ve built your jaundiced formulation into the question." Not a trick question at all. God certainly ordered the death of children. He also almost certainly burned some alive when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. John Piper says he had the right to do so. Do you? Again, I find it hard to swallow that somebody could make that statement with integrity or compassion, and your refusal to answer (and John's refusal) shows me I am correct. So let me ask again: did he have that right? Yes or no.

Hope you find the time to respond!

Vale
eric

steve hays

April 1, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Eric Mattingly

“meh. Actually, my argument here was that those things are difficult to define in the context of theology because they have to be grounded in something in order to be coherent.”

Is this a backdoor admission that secular ethics is groundless?

“For instance, how do we define what is fair for God to do and not to do? If it is fair for God to make one football team beat another (assuming both teams were predominantly Christian) then it begs the question of ‘why’ this is the case.”

i) The rules of sports are just a social convention, not moral absolutes.

ii) Your comparison is askew. If both parties are guilty, then God can justly discriminate since neither party is entitled to clemency.

“Is there a standard that God submits himself to? (possibly one that is beyond our knowledge to understand) If so, then we have obvious problems in terms of God’s lordship of the universe. How, for example, do we know that God is always following the standard of fairness?”

You’re repeating yourself. Once again, you’re falling back on the Euthyphro dilemma. Is that the only argument you know? But I responded to your invocation of the Euthyphro dilemma. You failed to update your objection in reply to my response. Unless you’re able to engage my counterargument, then my counterargument wins by default.

“And if it isn’t hidden (written on our hearts so to speak) then why does God’s commands so often contradict our intuitions?”

You mean it contradicts the morally warped intuitions of God-haters like yourself.

“And let’s say we know or somehow discover what that standard of fairness is and it contradicts something that God orders. Do we follow God or the standard?”

Many atheists admit that atheism leads to moral nihilism. Therefore, you have no alternative standard to appeal to.

“God, if he exists, is powerful. He creates the standards of fairness, justice, etc. The only reason those concepts exist at all is because God created and sustains them. Furthermore, they are arbitrary in the sense that he can suspend them whenever he wants.”

i) No, God doesn’t “create” the standard. Rather, God is the moral exemplar.

ii) At the same time some things are humanly wrong due to human nature. Human beings have certain obligations because they were designed by God with certain traits.

“If he decides to destroy a city, raise an emperor, or favor the New Orleans Saints then he is within his rights to. If he, in his anger, wants to send people to hell then his judgment is righteous. If he wants to hand-pick a few for salvation then that too is righteous. What else does ‘righteous’ mean other than he has absolute rights over the entirety of creation?”

You simplemindedly overlook the fact that their culpability leaves sinners justly liable to harm. Are you unable to keep more than one idea in your head at a time? Is that your problem?

“That’s why Calvin was astute in placing sovereignty as God’s central attribute.”

Calvin was opposed to voluntarism, as scholars like Paul Helm and Michael Sudduth have documented.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Steve,

ii) ". . .But if you think moral judgments are groundless, if you think moral judgments have no final foundation, then that same objection would also apply to secular ethics. Your own moral judgments about Christian theology would either be arbitrary, or lack ultimate moral backing–which comes to the same thing."

me: So what if secular ethics are just as arbitrary as Christian ethics? That doesn't make yours any less arbitrary. Besides I'm not making a judgment on them (in this case) just an observation. God's righteousness relies on his sovereignty, i.e. power is the central divine attribute. I personally don't like the implications of such a view but since I don't believe it anyway it's no skin off my nose. You seem to be the one who doesn't like it.

iii). "Do you think secular ethics is reducible to raw power? In atheism, does might make right?" In the context of the current discussion it doesn't matter whether might makes right for atheism does it? We're not talking about secular ethics. We're talking about exclusivism and how God is justified in sending people to hell. And even if it were the case that Moral Error Theory (or Moral Nihilism) is true at least it's because the universe is cold, uncaring and absurd not because the God who built it is a jackboot and made it that way to glorify himself.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Steve,

Good morning sir! I hope you slept well last night! May I make a few points in response to yours?

1) i) If, by your own admission, what “justice” is remains an “undecided question,” while “morality” is to “complicated” to be “useful,” then your notions of “fairness” or “unfairness,” by which you presume to judge Christian theology, are too “difficult” and “complicated” to be “useful,” hinging, as they do, on “undecided questions.”

me: meh. Actually, my argument here was that those things are difficult to define in the context of theology because they have to be grounded in something in order to be coherent. For instance, how do we define what is fair for God to do and not to do? If it is fair for God to make one football team beat another (assuming both teams were predominantly Christian) then it begs the question of "why" this is the case. Is there a standard that God submits himself to? (possibly one that is beyond our knowledge to understand) If so, then we have obvious problems in terms of God's lordship of the universe. How, for example, do we know that God is always following the standard of fairness? And if it isn't hidden (written on our hearts so to speak) then why does God's commands so often contradict our intuitions? And let's say we know or somehow discover what that standard of fairness is and it contradicts something that God orders. Do we follow God or the standard? To argue that God could not conceivably break the law of fairness describes a rather shrunken God. To argue that God could break the standard implies there is a standard outside him. This same problem applies to any "moral" or "aesthetic" concept you use to describe God.

Except power. And this is my main point. God, if he exists, is powerful. He creates the standards of fairness, justice, etc. The only reason those concepts exist at all is because God created and sustains them. Furthermore, they are arbitrary in the sense that he can suspend them whenever he wants. If he decides to destroy a city, raise an emperor, or favor the New Orleans Saints then he is within his rights to. If he, in his anger, wants to send people to hell then his judgment is righteous. If he wants to hand-pick a few for salvation then that too is righteous. What else does "righteous" mean other than he has absolute rights over the entirety of creation? That's why Calvin was astute in placing sovereignty as God's central attribute. Without that it all collapses into incoherence.

So how am I wrong in this? Where do I slander Christianity? It seems natural to me. [to be continued. . .]

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 10:04 AM

John,

I hope you don't mind if I fold my comments to your post in with my comments to Mr. Hays's. They amount to the same thing and it would make it easier for me (with my sinful imperfect brain) to keep track of. That doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed our exchange. And I totally agree with you on one point: empty debate is a pointless exercise. I like to argue and I have a tendency to argue for its own sake which is a character flaw. I lose sight of the fact that, to my mind, I'm trying to do good here. The emotional and moral compromises one must make to believe in much less worship a God like you describe must be difficult. I just want you to know, unambiguously, that you are a slave to those ideas (they are just ideas) only insofar as you make yourself one. I hope one day you will free yourself but even if not I want you to know the possibility is there. I guess our aims aren't so different after all, eh? Except to my mind you are trying to draw me back into the cave.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 09:56 AM

Gun,

Thanks but, alas, I'm as lost to you as to the Calvinists. Cold matter whirling in space. Evolution. The finality of death. The soulless zombie automaton of a brain that thinks it's a person. You know, all of that.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 06:27 PM

John,

I'm sorry to hear you impugning my honesty again. What have I done to warrant that? Do Christians count evidence (even of wrongdoing) as important for anything at all? Or are we so morally depraved we deserve to be libeled as well?

Moving on, given that God has the right to kill anybody WHY does he have that right? What special property of God gives him the right to kill anybody he wants. By analogy, say somebody killed a person I loved. They may deserve to die (and I may certainly feel like they do) but I don't have the right to break into the person's house and kill them myself. Nor do I have the right to send my minions to do it either. Why does God get that right? Does God have absolute privilege over his creation by virtue of being God or does he have some responsibility in the deal as well?

You say his kindness and love are not in doubt but I see no reason to believe this-- and the only ones you seem to be presenting for that belief are "you're lying if you say you don't agree with me" or "you're just a trouble maker trying to trip me up." It's another manifestation of the "argumentum ad you're different from me so you suck" fallacy.

John Thomson

April 1, 2011 at 05:33 PM

Lads

I have 'enjoyed' the cut and thrust of this debate as an observer (mainly). Naturally, I am on the side of Steve though I suspect all of us are a bit too guilty of simply trying to score points.

Eric

I suspect, unless God steps in dramatically, that your prediction for the future (in the West) is likely. I am sorry it is. I live in the UK and see the destruction liberal moral relativism and the demise of Christian mores (not to mention belief) has had on society. Dysfunctional families, soaring crime, alcoholism, drug addiction, avarice and rage are creating serious societal breakdown. The future looks bleak.

I doubt if the demise of belief in hell will make for better people, or even psychologically less troubled people. In fact, the more moral restraints are removed, the less rooted and secure people become. Everyone begins to do what is right in his own eyes. Lying and cheating are of no consequence. Since God does not exist and hell is no more the only sin is being foolish enough to be caught out.

I see little proof that the brave new world is one to relish.

'Did God have the right to kill the babies in Sodom and send them to hell?'

There are two questions here. Does God have the right to a) kill babies b) send them to hell.

As Steve points out the straightforward answers to these questions (which you already know, I'm sure) are likely to grist to your mill and open to misunderstanding. It's always a judgement call whether to answer openly (normally the desirable course) or refuse (as Jesus did on ocassion)on the basis that the question is asked with dishonest motives (simply to try and catch out and trip up). I suspect Eric you fit more easily into the latter category of inquirer than the former. However, I will answer nonetheless.

1. According to the Bible, God does destroy (kill) large groups of people and included are people of all ages, including babies. This may happen in disasters or wars. He even, according to the Bible, destroyed many of his chosen people so his motive is never racial or ethnic cleansing.

The basic reason people die (old or young) is that they belong to a race that is morally corrupt. The race morally deserves extinction. We are a moral cancer in creation. A righteous and good God should wipe us out immediately in an act of moral cleansing of the universe. That some don't die but live is an act of mercy (and great patience)not justice. Why mercy to one but not another we are not normally told. Or rather, we are reminded that we are mere creatures and have no right to question God. God has proved himself loving and gracious both in his providing for our needs and his provision for our sins. His kindness and love is not in doubt. We must be content to leave questions that are too big for us. In a word, God has revealed enough of himself and his plans to satisfy our legitimate intellectual integrity but will not cater to our intellectual conceit. We are not God and he will not allow us so to be.

2. Are babies in hell? The Bible simply does not tell us. Christians tend to think that children under the age of responsibility (and mentally disabled people) are redeemed through the death of Christ. In the last analysis this is one more issue we must leave with God.

I intend this to be my last comment here. I hope it is. Thanks for the discussion.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 05:15 PM

Steve,

But what gives him the right but not anybody else?

steve hays

April 1, 2011 at 05:11 PM

It's okay for him to kill any sinner, including you or me.

There are also double effect situations in which it's okay to kill the innocent. That's not punitive.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 05:08 PM

Steve,

At last! Now why is it ok for him to kill them and not, say, you or me?

I'd be interested in your remarks re: infant damnation. Might you let me know where they are so I can look them up?

eric

steve hays

April 1, 2011 at 04:58 PM

God had the right to kill them. As for infant damnation (or not), I've discussed that elsewhere this week.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 04:32 PM

Steve,

Did God have the right to kill the babies in Sodom and send them to hell?

steve hays

April 1, 2011 at 04:25 PM

Eric Mattingly

“For me the most interesting thing is that you won’t answer my simple question: does God have the right to kill children and send them to hell? Does he have absolute rights over his creation? You prevaricate (pot meet kettle) by insisting I ‘exegetically justify’ the terms ‘rape,’ ‘murder,’ and ‘genocide’ as if there is a different definition for God that makes them any less ugly. My question is made with respect to the ordinary meaning of those words and not some abject theological hand-wavery that tries to assert and obscure at the same time.”

In “ordinary” usage, “killing” is not synonymous with “murder.” That’s your bait-n-switch tactic.

“If genocide is the obliteration of an ethnic group by force then God commanded genocide.”

i) God didn’t order the execution of the Canaanites because they were ethnically Canaanite (whatever that’s supposed to mean). He ordered their execution because they were wicked.

ii) There was provision under the Mosaic code for foreigners to convert to the true faith. So it was never an ethnic thing. Are you too ignorant of Scripture to know that?

“The same with hell. It would be wrong for me to stuff people into a barrel of acid because they refuse to worship me (or because they have inherited from their father an unholiness that makes me sick). Why is it ok for God to do worse? Does he have that right with babies? “

That’s another trick question because you’ve posited a tendentious analogy between hell and a vat of acid.

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 02:29 PM

P.S.

Good point on the "exemplar" versus instances. Do you believe God has the right to murder babies and send them to hell?

Eric Mattingly

April 1, 2011 at 02:23 PM

Steve,

I don't wish to contribute any more to your bad humor so I'll just respond quick and dirty and withdraw. I don't much like being called names but, frankly, I'll have forgotten about you by the time I get home from work and start playing Super Metroid (it's the weekend!).

I suppose the believers in the audience will agree that my arguments are fallacious. I disagree and feel you haven't sufficiently proven that. No matter. For me the most interesting thing is that you won't answer my simple question: does God have the right to kill children and send them to hell? Does he have absolute rights over his creation? You prevaricate (pot meet kettle) by insisting I "exegetically justify" the terms "rape," "murder," and "genocide" as if there is a different definition for God that makes them any less ugly. My question is made with respect to the ordinary meaning of those words and not some abject theological hand-wavery that tries to assert and obscure at the same time. If genocide is the obliteration of an ethnic group by force then God commanded genocide. The only question is whether it is right and, if so, why. The same with hell. It would be wrong for me to stuff people into a barrel of acid because they refuse to worship me (or because they have inherited from their father an unholiness that makes me sick). Why is it ok for God to do worse? Does he have that right with babies?

Anyway, I'll not respond again unless you answer that question yes or no. Sad news I know. But on the bright side you get to claim victory. You win the internet! Here's the truth though. In the real world you still lose. Maybe your children, and almost certainly grandchildren, will not believe in the God you believe in-- if they believe at all. Your church will continue to hemmorrhage members (and we all know the SBC has been lying about its membership for twenty years anyway). Gays will get married, young earth creationism will continue to be ignored, and people will abandon belief in hell. Because that's happening right now. None of this proves me right, of course, but it doesn't matter. Short of taking the government by force and hanging people from goalposts you can't do anything about it. And that's why you're angry. And I understand. I really do. I wish you peace in the long decline.

eric

steve hays

April 1, 2011 at 01:31 PM

Eric Mattingly

“But we’re talking about the righteousness of YOUR God.”

And I’ve also responded to your fallacious objections directly.

“Again so what? We’re talking about the ethics of God not me.”

That’s what you’d like to talk about, but your self-serving agenda doesn’t dictate the terms of the debate.

“Your only response to my Euthyphro argument was that it applies to me to.”

No, that’s not my only response. You have yet to argue for the Euthyphro dilemma. You merely assert that the very ultimacy of a standard makes it arbitrary. But where’s the supporting argument? Why does ultimacy entail arbitrariness?

Why would the ultimately explanation for something be arbitrary? Isn’t the whole point of demanding explanations to arrive at the final explanation that truly accounts for the phenomenon? A sufficient condition?

“And, interestingly, it seems you affirm that God exemplifies a moral standard rather than creates it.”

No, I said God is the moral exemplar. A moral exemplar doesn’t exemplify morality. Rather, moral instances exemplify the moral exemplar. Master that elementary distinction.

“Now how do we know he exemplifies it always and forever with perfect fidelity?”

Now you’re shifting ground from the metaphysics of morality, which is what the Euthyphro dilemma is about, to the epistemology of morality. Is that a tacit admission that your original argument failed, so you’re having to abruptly change the subject?

“And do you disagree with Piper that we have no rights when it comes to God? That everything he decides is right? If not, does the moral standard only apply to God?”

To evaluate his statement, I’d have to have the actual statement, in context, and not your summary.

Keep in mind, too, that Piper is a Reformed pastor, not a Reformed philosopher.