Theological Fricassee

jesusAn email appeared in my inbox which led to a page called Jesus is Plan A. It was written by Ryan Ferguson and is subtitled, Your Gospel Sucks and Makes You a Sucky Person. Most of it accuses Christians of not really understanding the Gospel.

But over time, and over talking to many different Christians, something disturbing has often come up: even though most of the Christians I’ve spoken to can get the events of the gospel right — that the Son of God became human, lived a sinless life and died a sinner’s death on behalf of sinners, so that sinners could be reconciled to God — many don’t know what to do with it. They know about the beginning of salvation, but when asked questions such as: “If you’re forgiven for all your sins, what’s the point in being good?” they stumble over themselves. Worse, some actually justify that because sins are forgiven, they really may as well continue sinning. This is a sign that the gospel they have heard is at least incomplete, if not a perversion of the actual gospel.

godI thought the answer was that when people are “saved,” they get a “new heart” and want to do good. But Mr. Ferguson finds something more seriously flawed by their failure to answer that challenge.

The gospel is not primarily about how to get saved. One of the first clues about this is that it’s called the gospel. So that we can discuss The Gospel, let’s consider what A Gospel is. A gospel is big, game-changing news, normally about the new king taking up his throne or about the king winning a battle. It’s an event that changes how things are for everyone. It confirms who is in charge, and it has implications for everyone under the king’s authority. So then, what is the Christian gospel primarily about? It is primarily about the Christ being enthroned for all eternity as the king over all creation, demonstrated by his resurrection and ascension. And that means the first question isn’t: “How do I get to heaven?” Instead it’s: “What are the implications now that the Messiah is in charge?”

salvationI would think “getting saved” would be the most important consideration since it affects ourselves but I guess that’s just my selfish psychopathy speaking. Ferguson sets our priorities straight by saying,

In the kingdom of God — the kingdom where the Christ sits on his throne — humanity is fully realised. This begins with Jesus being the perfection of humanity, but doesn’t end there. Rather, it is his desire that all of humanity be fully realised, and so with Jesus on the throne we are to become perfected with him. Jesus Christ is perfect as his father is perfect (John 5:19-24), so we are called to be perfect with him (Matthew 5:48). On numerous occasions, the Apostle Paul encourages us to clothe ourselves in Christ so that we may become like Christ (Romans 13:14, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:12). And just as in God’s kingdom we are called to conform ourselves to Christ, God is at work conforming us to his image (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). This, as it so happens, is the birthright of humanity, for we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28).

savedI find the above offensive on a number of levels. So Jesus is “the perfection of humanity” and “with Jesus on the throne we are to become perfected with him.” I don’t think I have seen such a statement since Dostoevsky. Most of us know better than to think it’s all about Jesus. Dostoevsky thought you had to be Christian to be a good person. We now live in a pluralistic society where myriad religions are practices and where atheists live morally.

God’s main method of punishing sin in the Bible is not to retaliate against sin, but to let it cultivate and fester into its fullness. If sin, ontologically, is a departure from being human, then God’s wrath against the sinner is to let them become increasingly inhuman, and taken to completion, his wrath is to let us become completely inhuman. One interpretation of hell, based on this, is that the imagery of flames that never go out and worms that never stop eating the flesh is symbolic of the human being completely given over to sin, that the sin we so love eats away every last bit of our humanity, until whatever remains can no longer be called human.

degradedSo non-christians are not human and become increasingly inhuman. God, who is omniscient, knows some of his creations are going to reach this sorry state. He makes us “human” so we can become inhuman. Well, as a psychopath, I am used to being called inhuman. Whatever…

The article gets into a defense of Calvinism. He makes the point that predestination does not preclude free-will, an interesting idea. But Ferguson goes on to discuss Arminians and Calvinists in order to refute “dumb arguments” against Calvinism. In reading some of this, I came across the word “compatibalist” which peaked my curiosity. I did a Google search for that term and came across another article (http://www.slu.edu/~turnerjt/papers/CompatFWDef-web.pdf) arguing for Calvinism. Although I don’t agree with it at all, I thought it might be amusing to refute it point by point.

Compatibilism and the Free Will Defense
Jason Turner
Faith and Philosophy

The free will defense is a theistic strategy for rejecting a certain argument
for the non-existence of God. The argument, sometimes called the “logical
problem of evil,” insists that it is logically impossible for an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly benevolent God to co-exist with evil.

damnedanddoomed“Co-exist with evil?” Try creating evil. After all, everything that exists was created by “god.” Therefore, if evil exists, “god” must have created it.

The atheist begins the skirmish by saying,
“God, if there were one, would have to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly benevolent. But, necessarily, any perfectly benevolent being prevents
any evil insofar as it is able and can foresee it. And, necessarily, an omniscient
being could foresee all potential evil and an omnipotent one could eliminate
all of it. So, necessarily, if God existed, there would be no evil: he would have
prevented it.
dortAgain, never mind “preventing” evil. Why create it in the first place?
The free-will defender responds, “Wait a minute. I don’t buy your premise
that ‘any perfectly benevolent being prevents any evil insofar as it is able and
can foresee it.’ A perfectly benevolent being may allow some avoidable, fore-
seeable evil so long as a much greater good is produced thereby:
Aha! But if “god” had to create evil in order to achieve a greater good, is “he” must not be omnipotent. An omnipotent being can create a perfect universe without any evil in it at all.
a perfectly benevolent doctor may allow, or even cause, the ‘evil’ pain of a vaccination in order to bring about the much greater good of prolonged life.”
But your benevolent doctor is not omnipotent. He may need to use evil to promote a greater righteousgood. But “god” mustn’t have this handicap.
“The goods God is worried about here are not prolonged lives but creatures with the ability to make morally significant choices. Such creatures are very, very valuable, and if God needs to allow a bit of evil in order to have them, they are worth it. If
God were to eliminate all evil, he would have to do it by keeping his creatures
from acting evily, which would require his taking away their free will. But
were he to do that, they could not make morally significant choices and a
very valuable good would be lost.”
worshipmeSeveral points need to be made here. If man can’t help sinning, which must be the case if all men are sinners, he already doesn’t have free will. If “god” really wants man to have free will, he would eliminate the condition in which we can’t help sinning. Wouldn’t he? Now, as far as the goal of creating “creatures with the ability to make morally significant choices,” there is still the stubborn problem of “god” creating people “he” knows are going to choose evil and not “get saved.” The deck is stacked against such creations. They can’t choose good without “god’s” grace and they (as “god” already knows in advance, being omniscient) won’t love “god” enough to get this grace. So, in order to built this morally mature human being, “god” creates beings fated to be eternally tormented in hell. “God” punishes these people simply for having been created by the same “god” who is doling out the punishment. If cops do it, it’s called “entrapment.” Shouldn’t “god” be held to a higher standard than a cop? Not a lower standard?
hellfireThe rest of the article is about positing some really stupid arguments made by their hypothetical atheist and then refuting the arguments. I’m not going into this. I posited my own objection  and won’t entertain other arguments until mine is answered. It has not been answered as far as I know anywhere at any time by anyone. Jason Turner comes up with a whole bunch of silly alternatives for “god” to create a universe without evil and makes it really complicated. The reader is free to look at this part of the blog.
gotohell.jpgMy opinion of “god” is that, if our universe had really been created by someone omnipotent and omniscient this creator deserves the utmost condemnation for creating sentient beings whom “he” knows “he” will damn and torture for all eternity but going ahead and creating them for some “greater good” of evolving beings with advanced conscience to make decisions about good and evil. If these conscience-driven people make decisions the way “god” does, I can not credit their existence as worth while. The world would be better without them. The “god” these Calvinist theists worship is pure evil. They might as well worship the devil.
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