Monday, December 10, 2018

Rationalizing faith, Rationalizing doubt

this was written years ago when I still posted on CARM

 On CARM, (message board) Derrick writes:

It is my opinion that it is rationalizations based upon my perspective of the facts. When a Christian encounters a ridiculous amount of suffering in their life they interpret this through their beliefs that god loves them and is disciplining them, etc. This to me is rationalizing, which does not speak to whether or not it is true, but simply plausible to the person experiencing the suffering.
Tralala writes: "What bad things did god do to you? All of them? Just certain ones? How do you know which is which?Could something bad have happened just by chance with no meaning what so ever?."

I've seen these two statements put over in a thousand different says in a thousands different venues. It's quite common to hear this, when good stuff happens we just credit it to God regardless of the evidence for that, when bad stuff happens we refuse to ever blame God. As though blaming God is a real option if you believe he exists. Let's stop and think about the question begging going on in these statements. Look at the loaded nature of Tra's statement "what bad things did God do to you?" Even though she's supposed to believe there is no God of any kind, she wants us to blame God for the bad things that happen. Is that rational? Or if she's just making the point that crediting God with the good  requires that we balance it out by blaming God for the bad, that makes about as much sense as blaming our parents for misfortune. Before we go any further it's important to point out that I have what I feel is a rather air tight answer to the problem of pain. So there is no logical reason to blame God.

There's nothing illogical about refusing to blame God. Calling it rationalization is just a propaganda ploy. The obvious truth is that the one saying that we should blame God is the one doing the rationaling. Look if I feel that I know God is real and that he is loving, if I feel that I have air tight reasons for such notions what kind of sense would it make to blame him for the misfortunes that befall us when in fact Jesus warns that we will have tribulation in the world? "I tell you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33). That would be the essence of irrationality to say "Ok I know God is loving and would never just whip upon me for no good reason, but I'm going to chuck that because it must be rationalizing and I'm going to take the bad as a sgin that there is no God or that God is a big meanie." That makes no sense at all. Moreover Tra's statement is so loaded she needs to be careful where she points it. That's like asking "are you still beating your wife?" What bad stuff has God done to you? Fraught with silly assumptions. Why should I blame God when I know better? That is not only begging the question but also rationalizing.

Obviously the doubters are the ones doing the rationalizing. They are rationalizing the witness of good things that happen and trying to force an erroneous conclusion that we not to accept for the bad things. I know my own life, why should I accept their appraisal of it? They were not there when I had a single one of my experiences of God, where do they come off assuming that my experience is just my hysteria and their silly little bitter doubt is the right way to look at it? Derrick tells me "I was so spiritual. I was really serious firebrand for God, I knew the bible and I studied Greek." That all may be true but he didn't know God. He knew what to say in a church to sound right but he didn't know God. If he knew God he would not be denying God. If he had the experience of being born again and baptism of the Holy Spirit he could not deny that reality, unless his experiences were superficial and he didn't bother to cultivate the reality of it. Then to assume that his doubt sweeps away my reality and thus my faith has to be the rationalization is merely begging the question.

It is not logical to deny what I know. Given the primes I maintain, that God is real and God is good, that there is a logical reason  for God's allowance of pain  in life it is ratioanl, not rationalizing to credit God with blessings and refuse to blame him for crap that happens. I don't believe in God because good stuff happens. That's not my original basis for bleief. If it was they might have a point. Since it's not, financial windfall and escaping wrecks and so forth, that is just icing on the cake. I am grateful for icing, I love the icing. But it's not my reason for belief in the first place. So there's nothing inconsistent about refusing to blame God for the trammels and trials that come my way. The good stuff is confirmation, especially when it comes in answer to prayer. That's another piece of the puzzle they seek to avoid thinking about. That's a huge aspect of rationalization. Their reasons for dismissing prayer and answers to prayer is purely ideological. They have no proof that prayer doesn't work, they weren't there when my prayers were answered and they don't know the circumstances. The only reason they object is becuase it disproves their world view and their ideology tells them they must reject it out of hand without even knowing the facts.

Talking of rationalization hit the atheists with evidence of miracle and watch them come up with infinite reasons to doubt it. Meet every standard of proof they bring up and watch them continually raise the bar to ridiculous levels. Start with the general miracle claims they say there's no scientific evidence. Would Xrays be scientific evidence? No Xrays can be faked. Well what if you had Xrays of lungs ravages by TB and the new Xrays taken the very next day showed a new pair of lungs, you could guarantee it was valid Xray of the same guy really taken the next day? The only thing in the mean time that changed was prayer? That's impossible, no such case has ever been recorded. Yes I'm afraid it has, Charles Anne had such an experience in the 1920s. Xrays didn't exist then. Yes they did, they came into use in 1917 (see page 28) I believe. Then they counter, but these Xrays were fake. The recording procedures and documentation for the saint making committee is such that they could NOT fabricate such xrays. But then they began to deamnd that I find some way to verify that the xrays exist. I contacted the Lourdes miracle committee and exchanged email with a committee member who assured me that they do exist. He had seen them, he is a medical researcher and a doctor he knows how to read Xrays he knows they are not fake. Of course he's lying, you can't trust a religious guy. Member of the committee just means he's real good lying about stuff. Unless I get the actual Xrays in my hands they wont accept it. But why should they believe me? Do we see who is rationalizing the evidence away here? I went out and found evidence they previously stated could not exist, so of cousre they refuse to accept it's validity but I'm rationalizing my own faith?

O but look at the nature of religion and religious people. It's all based upon lies and religious people are hysterical and stupid so of course it has to be that I'm just rationalizing. They are not rationalizing they are brave men of science. This is kind of perpetual knee jerk doubt is just the kind of penetrating insight people have when they become incurably skeptical. But where I come from we have another name for it. It's called "bigotry." I define rationalization as the refusal to think deeply about an issue but putting up a self deceiving pretense of thought by going through the motions of critical thinking without looking deeply at one's own interest or prejudices. That's what those guys are doing. I'm not doing that becuase I was an atheist. I had doubt. I was one of those perpetual doubters who said as long I have an excuse for doubt or a breath I will continue to doubt. I struggled thought that by honestly confronting the nature of my experiences and thinking as deeply and logically as I could about them. I came to the conclusion of faith. I don't see any evidence that would disprove or overturn the warrant for belief that I have discovered. I don't see any reason not to credit God with the good and refuse to blame him for the bad. That is logical and consistent given what I know about God. What is not logical is the circular reasoning that says "there's no evidence for God's reality, but the evidence that people put forward must be wrong, must be rejected, because there's no evidence."

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

George Bush and Reinhold Niebuhr: A Kinder, Gentler Immoral Society

Image result for reinhold niebuhr
 Reinhold Niebuhr (1892=1971)

I mourn the passing George Bush, I never thought I would say that,I used to hate him. But I was always aware  of hating him by extension. I always realized he seemed like a nice guy, I say "extension" because it was his place in the Republicans, his place on the ticket with Reagan,  and his role as commander 'n Chief, nothing connected to the man himself. I am going to discuss some of the problems I had with President Bush (note respectful use of his title--which I will never give you know who)-- but not to get in a last word,  not to speak ill of the dead, I have a larger point,  a theological point to make, one that transcends the man himself.

First, now is the time  to praise the man for his spirit and his values,  his dedication  to family,   country, humanity. Not to disrespect that but we do forget it was the Bush campaign that really started the negative campaigning we know today. It wasn't Bush himself but Lee Atwater and Carl Rove. Does anyone remember Willie Horton? [1] Atwater and Rove forged the basis of the ugly negative campaigns we see today. It was so bad Atwater apologized after the knew he was going to die,"In 1988," Mr. Atwater said, "fighting Dukakis, I said that I 'would strip the bark off the little bastard' and 'make Willie Horton his running mate.' I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not." Reputation as 'Ugly Campaigner'[2]

So you say Bush himself didn't do those things,  but he didn't stop them either. It was his campaign. It was fought in his name. He could have disparaged such tactics had he done so surely the campaign would have been different. Moreover he continued to build upon Reagan policy. He did urge a "kinder gentler nation"[3] but that was a front since his administration pursued the old terrorism in Latin America. That was my major point of contention with him that continued to support the contra war and backed dictatorial regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala. There were  1300 terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in Nicaragua's Contra War. One example of the contra brutality was a real incident where they cut off a little girl;s head and put it on a stick to show the people they better not back the Sandinistas.[4] That kind of Brutality by the contra army is well documented. [5] [6] [7]

How do we resolve such a contradiction? Was Bush really not a nice guy with high ideals?  No he was. One way to understand how moral people can support immoral policies is to turn to the works of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, his book Moral Man and Immoral Society.[8] Niebur is one of those great figures whose name is reversed by everyone in the academic theological world yet few remember what he really said. His basic argument is that individuals are capable of being moral on an individual level,and they may live by high ideals personally, but but in groups the class interest of the group  leads one to rationalize  participation immoral policies.[9]

Niebuhr argues that the collective nature of the group ,while inclusive in some ways, a priori, is also a natural block to the moral motions of the individual. To believe that individuation self interest is fulfilled in collective good is a Utopian illusion. His major criticism of liberalism is that they tend to fall for this illusion and to think that they can reform politics. Niebuhr was himself a social democrat or democratic socialist. As criticism of capitalism he makes the point that will to power dominates the will to good.The group as a collective mind lacks the sympathy of the individual.

Does Niebuhr have a solution? are we just doomed to politics as moral abortion? Are Christians better off out of political life? In MMIS Niebuhr offers no solution, In The Nature and Destiny of Man Vol 1 he offers, in lue of a solution, the proper way to deal with the reality for the fallen world , that politics will never be moral. That doesn't mean we can retreat from politics we can't afford to do that. Instead we have to understand the will to power,Niebuhr's theology gave me my first understanding of the fall and sin nature from a liberal theological perspective. That conflict roots sin in anxiety, the anxiety that comes from self transcendence. Through self transcendence we anticipate the consequences of not paying the rent, for example,and the anticipation  of those consequences  causes us to resort to morality to secure our position (for example we might steal). This is amplified in the social dimension. We are dealing with collective anxiety. Rather than rationalize evils patriotically inevitable we have to infuse our goals with  valueless that reflect Godly ends. If all we can do is make the immorality kinder I guess Bush did his part.

[1] "Prison furloughs survive campaign flap over Willie Horton"Milaukee Journal. Associated Press. 6 November 1989.,6682575&dq=willie+horton+life+sentence+without+parole&hl=en
[2]Associated Press, "Gravely Ill Atwater Offers Apology," NY Times, JAN. 13, 1991

[3] Sterpen Knott, "George H.W. Bush,Campaigns and Elections," UVA Milller Cemter

[4] Penny Lernoux , Cry of the people: The Struggle for Human Rights in Latin America--The Catholic CChurch In Coflikct with U.S. Policy  Nwq York:  Penguin Books1982;

[5]Andreas E Feldmann, Maiju Perälä "Reassessing the Causes of Nongovernmental Terrorism in Latin America". Latin American Politics and Society. 46  (July 2004).  (2): 101–132. doi:10.1111/j.1548-2456.2004.tb00277.x.;

[7]Gary LaFree; Laura Dugan; Erin Miller. Putting Terrorism in Context: Lessons from the Global Terrorism DatabaseRoutledge.2014, 56. ISBN 978-1134712410.

[8]Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics.Westminster John Knox Press; 2 edition, 2013, Originally Published Charles Scribner and Sons 1932.

[9] Niebuhr, 257

Monday, December 03, 2018

Does the Bible Really Teach That Hell is Eternal Conscious Torment?

 photo inferno1_zps4fba85df.jpg 
from Gustave Doré's (1832-1883) illustrations of Dante's Inferno 

I do not believe that the Bible actually teaches that hell is a place of eternal conscious torment. By that I mean, hell is not a place where people who sin and disbelieve are sent to be punished and tortured. I don't believe that God would torture anyone. I certainly don't believe that hell is a place where one is conscious eternally. While I do think that hell is judgment I don't think it's a place where people are conscous eternally of being punished.  I think first of all "going to hell" Is a symbol of spiritual death. That it's a judgement in after life, but rather than leading to eternal conscious torment it leads to the total annihilation of existence. I don't believe that everyone is automatically saved.

My thesis is this: (1) The Bible uses the conept of hell as a symbol of judgment and spiritual death.

(2) It is clearly talking about something, some negative consequence from "hell," but that is not a place of literal fire and brimstone, rather, the "place" of torment is a symbol of spiritual death that comes from being judged.

(3) Judgment comes from rejecting God and closing the heart to truth, it is not something God ordained to befall the rebellious, but an automatic separation that we initiate and we have the power to change while we live, by responding to God's love. The more we turn our backs on God and pout the deeper we get into sepeartion and God cannot do anything about it if we are determined to separate ourselves.

(4) When I say "God can't do anything about it," yes could have made the original set up different, but only by sacrificing other things, such as free will, which very important.

thus I am saying God is limited to logical necessity. He cannot make two contradictory states of affairs that truly contradict logically. Thus to have the valuable aspects of free will and moral decision making there must be consequences which we initiate through our rebellion and which God cannot change given the facts. Specifically I believe that those who reject God and die in separation from God cease to exist. That is fair and humane since that's what they expect anyway. The atheist chooses to cease to exist but in disbelieving he expects this anyway. One must agree it is certainly more compassionate than eteranl conscious torment. The talk we find of flames and darkness is symbolic. It is symbolic of the dread of being judged and condemned, and symbolic of spiritual death. I believe the Bible teaches this and we can examine the passages and see for ourselves.

First, there is no such set up in the OT. There is no situation such that good go to heaven to paradise to be rewarded and the bad go to hell to be tormented. This concept was unknown to the Hebrews. It is common knowledge that the Hebrews believed that everyone went to "the pit" orSheol, which is translated "the grave." This is the idea of the realm of the dead. Everyone went there, not as punishment but that's just the way it was. There were exceptions such as prophets who were taken up to heaven to be with God, but basically no one expected the reward of  heaven or the punishment of hell. All that came in this life. The concept of hell came from the Hellenistic culture of the Greeks, imposed upon the Hebrew world in the intertestamental period, though the conquest of the Selucids who succeeded Alexander the Great. But the Hebrews found a corresponding symbol for "tortarus" the Greek Hell, in the valley of Gehenna where they burned trash outside Jerusalem. We know this was a symbol and symbolic use since it was a literal physical place in history. Secondly, I believe that hell is unjust and counter productive. Unjust because eternal torment as punishment for finite sin is just not fair. No amount of sanctimony can make it fair. God would not be unfair. Moreover, counterproductive because no one learns anything form hell. I see atheists all the time expressing the attitude "I'm going to hell anyway so what does it matter?" It's not a good idea and the more I think about it the more like the solution of a small child it seems. It is not taught in the bible so let's get to it and look at the scholarship and see. Some scholars understand Paul to teach that the wicked disappear. I find this in accord with views I had already come to before I found the Bankston article.  Carl L. Bankston, III:

Although the Christian message was, from the beginning, concerned primarily with eternal life, the theme of eternal punishment emerged from apocalyptic Judaism in the pages of the New Testament. Bernstein's reading of the New Testament, however, indicates a diversity of understandings of this punishment among the authors of the Scriptures. Saint Paul, emphasizing the positive teachings of the faith, did not express a clear vision of hell and seems to have implied that the wicked would eventually simply disappear. The authors of the synoptic Gospels, by contrast, describe pains of eternal damnation that balance the joys of eternal salvation.[1] 

My view is grounded in St. Paul. The main overview of Biblical teaching is one of diversity. There is no standarized set of explicit assumptions about the nature of heaven and hell. The ancinet Hebrews did not have that view.

Johnston demonstrates the Hebrew lack of biphercated afterlife:

Finally, Johnston address the question of an Afterlife, a late development in Israelite religious thought. Although Elijah and Elisha bring dead children back to life, Enoch “walked with God” and Elijah ascended in a flaming chariot, none of these were considered normal nor hoped for by others. The only clear references to bodily resurrection occur in Isa 26:19 and Daniel 12:2; extra-biblical references to resurrection (e.g., 2 Macc 7; 14; 1 Enoch 51:1; 61:5; 62:15, 4Q521:12, etc.) date from the 2nd century BCE on, which is consistent with the date of the two biblical texts. Despite afterlife beliefs in the surrounding nations, however, Johnston finds little evidence of direct influence and instead claims that Israel’s eventual belief in an afterlife is rooted in its experience of YHWH’s faithfulness and ongoing presence in their history, eventually understood as extending beyond death itself.[2]
This view is actually pretty standard among scholars. We turn to Bankston again:
I found Bernstein's close reading of the Hebrew Bible and of the Book of Enoch, the major piece of evidence outside the writings of Josephus of a late antique Jewish belief in punishment after death, more original than his review of Greco-Roman ideas. Much of the latter seems to rest on scholarly interpretations that have long been common currency. This may be a matter of familiarity, however, and Bernstein does bring together a great deal of material in a highly readable style, so that almost anyone will find some new ideas and information in the collection of pre-Christian beliefs assembled here.[3]

That says that punishment in after life was an idea the Jews had in late antiquity.We can see from the use of the terminology for "Hell" that the modern concepts with which fundamentalists are imbued and atheists are outraged are just no there. The only word used for "hell" in the OT is Sheol, which does not mean hell and does not correspond to Gehenna, it means "grave." It's death or the place of the dead, not necessarily a place of torment.

Bankston  again:

The most common term for the Underworld itself is Sheol but even it appears infrequently. The term never appears in third person narrative nor legal material, but only in first person contexts: i.e., an individual encounters Sheol directly and personally. Clear synonyms include bôr, bĕʾēr, and šaḥat (all meaning “pit”) and ʾăbaddôn (“destruction”); Johnston also considers a number of texts in which either earth\ground or water may also be synonyms for Sheol but concludes, “Water, like earth, is associated with the underworld, but is not confused with it.” (p. 124). Descriptions of Sheol are sparse, but it is a place where existence simply continued, without any vital experience for the dead. The term itself may have derived from the god Šu-wa-la, mentioned in texts from Emar, who is either a minor underworld deity or another name for Ereshkigal, the Queen of the underworld, but any divine associations had been lost by the Israelite period.[4]

Sheol (OT) translated Hell really means "the Grave."

We can see that Sheol means the grave by the use made of Crosswalk software in its Heberw lexicon.Crosswalk takes its Hebrew from Strongs and Vines. Both are inadequate, but cross walk smooths them out and waters them down even more with interpretive definitions. Thus we can see what I'm talking about in the use they make of words, but they also add their own effects.Crosswalk defition of Sheol

Sh@'owl TWOT - 2303c
Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
sheh-ole' Noun Feminine

1. sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit
1. the underworld
2. Sheol - the OT designation for the abode of the dead
1. place of no return
2. without praise of God
3. wicked sent there for punishment
4. righteous not abandoned to it
5. of the place of exile (fig)
6. of extreme degradation in sin

It does say the grave and abode of the dead but when everything else it says reflects that it adds, wicked sent there for punishment. But it can't produce one verse to say that. There are no verses in the OT that say wicked are sent to sheol for punishment.

For a list of passages using Sheol in the OT go here.

Definition of  Gehenna (hell) in the NT.

on Crosswalk:

Hell is the place of the future punishment call "Gehenna" or "Gehenna of fire". This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.
Essentially it says it's a symbol. The literal is a valley where they burn garbage.

The first passage seems to be quite literal, but if we consider it a little more in depth we can see it does not support eternal conscious torment. Mt 5:22

"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Hell used figuratively

Jesus is here using hell as a figure of speech, a poetic image, to illustrate the depth of depravity in defaming another human being by calling him "a fool." He builds a progregtion of wrongs and their consequences:

anger with brother: go to court

call brother name: go to supreme court

Call brother a fool: worthy of hell.

Wrong, more wrong, most wrong. Its' a means of illustrating the depth of wickedness in disvaluing others. He does not say in that passage "hell is a real litteral place." doesn't say it's eternal conscious torment.

The next two are in the same context and one is just a reinforcement of the other. They are both symbolic uses and serve to illustrate Jesus' sarcasm toward excuses to sin:

Mt 5:29 "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Mt 5:30 "And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.

these are both in the same context. The are clearly figurative and hyperbole. It's totally ridiculous to think that Jesus would really command us to cut off our hands or pluck out our eyes to keep from lusting>

The immediate context is about holy living:

17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law R135 or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 "For truly I say to you, until R136 heaven and earth pass away, not the F65 smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others F66 to do the same, shall be called least in R137 the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps F67 and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 "For I say to you that unless your righteousness R138 surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

He's talking about righteousness surpassing the pharisees, but the pharisees were super legalistic and built a fence around the law to assure compliance in the most legalistic fashion. How could anyone be more legalistic then they were? He's not talking about being legalistic, or even literalistic. He says heaven and earth shall pass away before the word of God will. Sot he basic premise with which he deals is living out the word of God. He's concerned with actually keeping the spirit of the law. Go further in context:

Now of course atheists are going to say that he really means this. They will say this is just part of the lunatic nature of religious extremism. AT the very least they will ask, as they always do, how I know it's hyperbolic. How does one ever know when a literary device is used? Many atheists have said to me "It's doesn't say it's a literary devise." Of course not, they never do! You are not supposed to say it, then it wouldn't be a device. Clearly it is because it's absurd to say pluck out your eye or cut off your hand. There's an easier way to tell. What do people say when they try to stop sinning and they can't? "I just can't do this, I can't stop lusting that's just the way I am made." Jesus is saying that is an excuse. You can stop it and if you think that's good excuse then surely its important enough that you should pluck out your eye or cut off your hand. But the point of it is of course that you don't have to do that, you can learn to control yourself if you really want to.

Given the high probability that this is figurative then it's obvious the consequence is also figurative, having the whole body cast into hell fire is figurative.

Mt 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
He's using the poetic symbolism of hell as the ultimate drama, the ultiamte negative consequence to drive home the point that spiritual power is more important than physical power, that eteranl life is what's important.

Mt 23:15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Using the judgment aspect of hell to drive home the point of the hypocritical nature of the pharisees.

Mt 23:33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?

hell is a sentence. That doesn't make it eternal conscious torment. It is the symbol of spiritual death and the cessation of existence. The hypocrites wont escape the judgment aspects of hell. But that doesn't mean they will experience them eternally.

The same figurative ideas pertain. Jesus other uses of hell in parables such as the sheep and goats of Mat 25:33 also are clearly symbols since they are used in parables which by their nature are figures and symbols.

Not one of those passages says hell is eternal conscious torment. No verse actually says that. No verse in the Bible gives an expository description of what hell is or what it's about.

Tartaro One other words used for hell, Tartaro, or Tartarus in English, from Greek Myth.


1. the name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds; it answers to Gehenna of the Jews 2. to thrust down to Tartarus, to hold captive in Tartarus

Only verse used: 2Pe 2:4 "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;"

2Pete is not authoritative enough to build a whole theology upon. Most scholars believe it is pseudopgraphal, of late origin, and we don't know who wrote it. It either copies a large part fo Jude, or Jude copies it. Neither book shares the weight of the Gospels.

figurative use in James

Jas 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

I think this is Gehenna. But It's clearly figurative he's speaking figuratively of the tung and comparing it to hell fire. 

[1]Carl L. Bankston, III, "The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds." book review, Commonweal, (May 5 1995). on line version found of Highbeam
rom a book review (this review is no located on High beam).

[2]Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 2002. . 288; see also 

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Volume 5 (2004-2005)

This volume builds upon Johnston’s 1988 Belfast MTh thesis and his 1993 Cambridge PhD dissertation, but constitutes a substantial reworking and expansion of that material. The result is a comprehensive study that is accessible to non-specialists without sacrificing extensive interaction with scholarly literature on the subject. The material itself is organized under four main categories: Death, The Underworld, The Dead and The Afterlife.

[3] Carl L. Bankston, III, "The Formation of Hell:..." op cit.

[4] Ibi

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Does belief in Afterlife Disvalue This Life?

Image result for god and adam hands

The original question that spawned my recent thoughts on afterlife was this: "If there is no  life after this one, then what we do here matters more than ever." This was on Victor Reppert's blog [1] One answer comes from an atheist friend,Hugo Pelland, "However, if we take a kind of 'mathematical' approach combined with one of the Christian version of salvation, then our lives are completely meaningless as it's just about accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Nothing else matters, and our lives are infinitely short compared to the infinitely long afterlives." In all fairness it is important to point out this is 'Jesus is my savior and will forgive everything so nothing else matters', thankfully." He goes on: "I clarified, it was just an hypothetical example, one nobody follows that way .... The point is to illustrate that views regarding the ides behind the original post can be stretched in any directions." [2] So logically our belief implies this but no one lives that way,  got it. 

In Hugo's description of Christian belief "the Christian version of salvation, then our lives are completely meaningless as it's just about accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Nothing else matters,..a' that is how he describes the belief even if he thinks no one lives up to it.I think the assumption behind that statement is that accepting Jesus is both the beginning and the end of Christian life. So that there is nothing beyond accepting. That is fallacious. Accepting Jesus is not the end neither chronologically nor teleologically. it's the beginning only in either sense,The end technically (there is no chronological end) is to know God. That is not merely acceptance but entails what we do after accepting. It involves a lot of things, an unending reality. I discussed knowing God last time. Today I will discuss what kind of valuation does the belief in afterlife place upon this life.

Eternal life is infinite and material life is only for the moment, but that doesn't mean we really place no value on the here and now. In fact the opposite is true.What we do with our lives and our hearts predicates our situation in eternity and thus this life has theological significance. In traditional terms the choice is between pleasure or torment predicated upon obedience to God. I don't believe  those are the  real choices.But the real choice is eternal life verses ceasing to exist. That is predicated upon knowing or seeking God. That is because I don't believe that hell is eternal  conscious torment, i will discuss this at another time.

What does it mean to say this life has theological significance? It means that here and now matters in the theological scheme of things, not only because it determines  our  eternal destiny but also because we are here now and we can only live here and now even with a view to the future, This life is not diminished by belief in after life. What we do with our time in terms of the choices we make determines the outcome, not to form a works standpoint but in terns of receiving the grace of God, and choosing to seek God..

I'm not trying to best Hugo but he does help move the topic,His answer to me was: 

Joe, of course your version is the best ;)And the fact that you say in your next comment that you "disagree that belief in after life means degrading this life. At least shouldn't and doesn't have to." goes to support it.
However, you have to admit that a blissful afterlife, conditional on how we behave in this one, necessarily means that the 'how' we behave matters more than the general well being of all humans. It's the same as me, as an Atheist, admitting that if there's no afterlife, there's no punishment for horrible crimes committed by people who don't get caught.

Is salvation in Christian theology predicated upon our behavior in this life? Only in the sense that acceptance of Christ is part of behavior. Not in the sense of earning reward or punishment, We don't earn salvation through good works "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--" (Eph 2:8)

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.(Gal 3)[3]

What would this life be without theological significance? The atheist will assume it doesn't matter since life is here and now we can only live in the here and now  with no theological significance that only matters if there is something more which they don't believe in. One can only ask this question if one has a concept of what it means to have theological  significance, Having never known Joy and meaning who knows what it matters not to have joy and meaning?  

We are dealing with different orders of meaning, here I am comparing a wide veg verity of concepts under the label "belief." They don't necessarily have to mean God in the conventional sense, This vs. no belief, just "me" and stark reality with no wider meaning than my own interest due to my own consciousness, I'm alive ,I'm here, whatever I come across is meaningful to me in someway given what I make of it.. Belief offers meaning on a broader and more complex and more lasting level. Ask yourself given the things I find meaningful  would they they be meaningful had I never existed? If the world actually had a larger run than it's beginning on June 20th 1956, and it's end the moment I cease to be, would it alter as meaningful had I never been  born? With belief in God we can say yes, Without belief the best we can say is maybe someone would find it so in his or her own way whatever that means.

That reality  does not make what happens in this life less important it makes it more important because it matters in a theological sense, it matters on a larger scale,  for all time, It is meaningless to pit one aspect of life off against another and make as though one phase matters more than another. We are here now we can know God here and now. Here and now predicates eternity, We can live now and look to future nurtured by the past,

Come back to the point where Hugo says: "However, you have to admit that a blissful afterlife, conditional on how we behave in this one, necessarily means that the 'how' we behave matters more than the general well being of all humans. " But since life has theological significance securing the well being of all people, in so far as it is an expression of God's love is of great importance in the the here and now  for theological reasons. Expression of God;s love alienable our own love and expressing itself in acts of compassion and social justice is part of knowing God.It;s an avenue to know God more.

[1]  Victor Reppert, "If there is no  life after this one, then what we do here matters more than ever." Dangerous Idea Blog, (November 20, 2018)

[2] Hugo Pelland Comment Section, "If there is no  life after this one, then what we do here matters more than ever." Dangerous Idea Blog, (November 20, 2018)

 [3] Bible Gateway, Galatians 3:10-14, New International Version,