Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Doesn't God Do Something About Evil?

Jesus on the Cross



Many people who find the evidence for a Creator in natural theology compelling have a hard time believing that He could be good. He seems more like a disinterested deity who created and moved on without a backwards glance. As one atheist whose father was dying put it, "If this is the best God can do, he must've taken a half day on Friday."

When he said that, it occurred to me that on a Friday afternoon, God defeated sin, suffering, and death forever on the cross. He finished His work of re-creation and opened up a way that will culminate in a new heaven and a new earth where our humanity is perfected and death and suffering is a thing of the past.

But He also used a powerful symbol to communicate His love for us even when we don't understand why there is so much wrong with the world. God came in human form and took upon Himself our sin and our pain. He died the most shameful and excruciating of deaths, between two criminals. He was present with the lowest of the low, promising Paradise to the repentant sinner (Luke 23:39-43).

From the very beginning, God planned to take responsibility for allowing evil in His creation, by sending His Son to die for us. Contrary to what Christopher Hitchens has said, this is not human sacrifice, something the Bible strictly forbids. It is self-sacrifice by God Himself, the ultimate expression of love and humility.

70 comments:

Darkknight56 said...

On the topic of human sacrifice, you said "Contrary to what Christopher Hitchens has said, this is not human sacrifice, something the Bible strictly forbids."

1. Just out of curiosity, can you provide the book, chapter and verse where such a prohibition is declared by God?

2. What about Jephthah who sacrificed his daughter to God in order to get a victory over his enemies? Whether Jephthah was right or wrong, God still accepted his sacrifice. Unlike for Abraham, He did not send an angel down to halt the process or punish him for doing it.

Anette Acker said...

Just out of curiosity, can you provide the book, chapter and verse where such a prohibition is declared by God?

Deuteronomy 18:10 says: "There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering."

Deuteronomy 12:31 says: "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods."

Jeremiah 7:31 says: "And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind."

2 Kings 17:17: "And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger."

There are others, but I think those are pretty clear.

What about Jephthah who sacrificed his daughter to God in order to get a victory over his enemies? Whether Jephthah was right or wrong, God still accepted his sacrifice.

A lot of commentators say that Jephthah did not kill his daughter--he simply consecrated her to God as a temple servant who would remain a virgin. I think that interpretation makes sense for the following reasons:

First, human sacrifice is strictly prohibited by the Law of Moses. It is called an "abomination" and "detestable," and in the prophetic books, God repeatedly says about sacrificing sons and daughter, "I did not command it, nor did it enter My mind."

So if Jephthah did in fact kill his daughter, it would not make sense that the author of Hebrews (11:32) would hail him as one of the heroes of faith. He would have committed an abomination.

Second, when his daughter asks permission to roam the hills with her girlfriends for two months, her focus is entirely on the fact that she will never marry. If she is about to die, why is this the only thing she cares about?

In fact, one of the most literal translations, the NASB, indicates that this is key: "At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man" (Judges 11:39).

If she was consecrated as a temple servant who had to remain a virgin, that would have been a tremendous sacrifice to Jephthah, who would not have had any heir (she was an only child) and to his daughter, who lived during a time when the status of women was measured according to how well they married and how many children (especially sons) they had.

I admit this is not an easy passage, but in light of everything else the Bible says on the issue, I think the correct interpretation is that he did not kill her.

Darkknight56 said...

I have to admit you are a very creative person; I like the way that Christians, when they find a verse they don't like, reinterpret it so it will say what they want. Ray will say just change this word or that word and it will say what I basically want it to say. It seems to me that if the God of the universe really did write the bible people would be deathly afraid of changing a single letter of it.

More to the point, in Judges 11:31 Jephthah offers whatever comes out his door as a burnt offering. That is the wording I see in the NIV. In verse 39 it says that he did as he vowed. He didn't vow to take her to the temple to become a virgin. Instead he vowed to offer her as a burnt offering. Other than wishful thinking I don't see any reason or basis to change the story to make it more palatable.

God is not very consistent in His own teaching. On one hand he says in the 10 commandments not to kill yet in I and II Samuel Joshua is applauded for murdering children, babies, infants as well as the not-yet-born. It's not that much of a stretch to think that God would prohibit human sacrifice on one hand but accept it on the other hand.

Anette Acker said...

Happy Easter!

I don't want to get off the subject, but your original question was where God strictly prohibits human sacrifice, and the answer is that the prohibition is very clear, as I have already shown. Other parts of the Law of Moses and the prophetic books also confirm this.

It is not entirely clear what exactly Jephthah did and why he did it, but Judges 11 indicates that he was quite familiar with the history of the Jews, so most likely he also would have been familiar with the Law. So even if you assume that the OT has an entirely human origin, you have to explain why Jephthah would have acted in direct contravention of the Law of Moses and was later praised for it. Whether or not you think this was a divine law, it was the law of the Jews and it was very clear. It set them apart from the surrounding nations.

Can you think of a story in the Bible where it is unambiguous that a Jew burns a son or daughter as a sacrifice and God clearly approves? Or where God commands someone to perform human sacrifice? If not, there is no contradiction here.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette said...

and the answer is that the prohibition is very clear, as I have already shown.

Actually, the verses you cited only refers to burnt offerings, not all forms of human sacrifice.

It is not entirely clear what exactly Jephthah did and why he did it,

I only read the NIV, although others are welcome to read whatever translations they want, mainly because it is supposed to be one of the better, more accurate, translations. In it, it seems pretty clear to me that he needed to get a victory over the Ammonites and so he made a deal with God. It is a very human reaction to a desperate situation and many people do it all the time - "God, if you do <insert needed action here> then I'll do <insert some ridiculous promise here> for you." The more desperate the situation the more extreme the promise. Personally, I don't understand why he made the particular promise that he did. He had to have known that the likelyhood of a person running out the door first would be pretty high.

Can you think of a story in the Bible where it is unambiguous that a Jew burns a son or daughter as a sacrifice and God clearly approves? Or where God commands someone to perform human sacrifice? If not, there is no contradiction here.

What?? I don't need multiple stories to show a contradiction; I just need one. Not my rule but to show a contradiction I just need one example, not several.

I was wondering how long it would take for the ugly specter of raising the bar to raise its ugly head. I think you would agree that the bible is not a legal document as we understand it and is not written as such. Therefore, it can't be treated as such.

God clearly approving is also not a requirement for showing a contradiction. I just need to show that He did not disapprove which can be shown by the fact that He did not say anything against it nor did He punish Jephthah for it. There is no bad consequences for Jephthah's actions. However, in other incidents involving people like Moses, David, or Saul whenever they did something bad God was not hesitant in punishing them. He isn't one for heaping positive reinforcement on people for doing the right thing.

Happy Easter to you and your family, by the way.

Anette Acker said...

Actually, the verses you cited only refers to burnt offerings, not all forms of human sacrifice.

That's the way human sacrifice was done, and that's what we're talking about, isn't it?

I only read the NIV, although others are welcome to read whatever translations they want, mainly because it is supposed to be one of the better, more accurate, translations.

Actually, the NIV is not one of the more accurate translations. The NASV, KJV, Young's Literal Translation and ESV are all more accurate. The NIV is popular because it is easy to read. I only use it if the meaning is exactly the same in all the translations, because I have known the NIV to be overly simplistic when the meaning is nuanced.

My favorite is the NASV, because is very literal. However, someone has said that it's for "those who want straight Bible, forget the English." So it loses the poetry of the language. The KJV is the best combination of beauty and accuracy. I think the ESV is the best combination of simplicity and accuracy.

Young's literal translation says:

"that which at all cometh out from the doors of my house to meet me in my turning back in peace from the Bene-Ammon -- it hath been to Jehovah, or I have offered up for it -- a burnt-offering."

Many commentators have said that the disjunctive "or" is more accurate than "and." So this means that a person would be consecrated to God according to the Law and an animal would be a burnt offering.

In any event, even though the meaning of this passage is not clear, what is clear is that the Law of Moses explicitly forbids human sacrifice. So the only question is whether Jephthah made a rash vow or if he acted according to the Law of Moses. No scholars read this to mean that the Bible approves of human sacrifice.

What?? I don't need multiple stories to show a contradiction; I just need one. Not my rule but to show a contradiction I just need one example, not several.

I was wondering how long it would take for the ugly specter of raising the bar to raise its ugly head.


I have not raised the bar. You have not found a story that explicitly contradicts the prohibition against human sacrifice. All you've found is a story where a man may or may not have sacrificed his daughter. Nowhere do we get God's will on the issue.

I think you would agree that the bible is not a legal document as we understand it and is not written as such. Therefore, it can't be treated as such.

Are you saying you don't think the Jews took the Law of Moses seriously?

There is no bad consequences for Jephthah's actions. However, in other incidents involving people like Moses, David, or Saul whenever they did something bad God was not hesitant in punishing them.

The Bible describes many wrong actions without including God's reaction. King David's son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, but we hear nothing about how God feels about this. We do find out that David, who probably raped Bathsheba, was "very angry" and that Tamar's brother Absalom hated Amnon (2 Samuel 13:21-22), but God is not mentioned anywhere in this chapter.

Mostly we hear about God's reaction through prophets. David heard from Nathan and Saul heard from Samuel, and Moses himself was a prophet.

Happy Easter to you and your family, by the way.

Thank you!

Darkknight56 said...

Of course you employ the moving the goal posts fallacy on several occasions. With this Jephthah discussion I have to find a specific situation now where God approves of human sacrifice. Well, let's see.

1. In the Old testament God was willing to punish evil even if it was something committed by children such as insulting a bald man. They were punished by God by being killed by 2 bears. And, as you pointed out, if God didn't say anything He at least sent prophets to transmit His approval. Considering that sacrificing one's daughter is a more serious offense than insulting a bald man, one can take God's lack of action on any level as an argument from silence that he approved of the action.

2. Christ was fully human according to Christian theology. And also according to Christian theology Christ was a sacrifice for our sins, an atonement for them. Even one if His titles was "Lamb of God" because the lamb sacrifices were a precursor to his sacrifice for sin. Since he was both fully human as well as a sacrifice for sin which was accepted by God then God approved of human sacrifice.

When we were discussing the empty tomb you made the claim that there was no naturalistic reason for it to be empty. I said Joseph could have moved the body. You responded by quoting non-divinely inspired Jewish Law that he wouldn't. (No one, not even another Christian, has ever quoted non-biblical Jewish Law to me in defence of something before.)

When I pointed out that a Rabbi had confirmed it was something that Joseph could have done you responded by saying something akin to "What does he know about Jewish history?" Hmmm. He is a rabbi after all.

If I had said that he was a recognized Jewish historian and published numerous books and articles on first century Jewish traditions and practices you would have responded that he is just bias against the cross (a claim you have made about others before).

All this for just showing that something was plausible!!

Not only did I have to show it was plausible but I had to show that it didn't violate Jewish tradition, custom and Laws but that a rabbi really knew the history and culture he grew up and lived in his entire life but I would have also, somehow, had to have shown he wasn't biased against the bible.

Really! If I have to go to this extent just to show something is plausible, you are going to have to go to a far greater extent then to show that your God exists.

By the way, claiming that someone is just biased against your point of view is the last resort of desperation in any argument/discussion. It means that you can't really show your position to be right or his position to be wrong and it means that you aren't going to accept anything someone tells you no matter what. Using the bias claim, in the vast majority of cases, means you are going to maintain your position no matter the evidence to the contrary.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

I'm trying to answer questions put to me by Lowell, someone who clearly thinks about what I say and asks himself whether it's true. The subject matter is the problem of evil. I'm not talking about human sacrifice or Elisha and the bears (I have answered a question about that to a sincere inquirer on AC).

I don't particularly appreciate the fact that you keep accusing me of moving the goalpost, when you have not once been able to demonstrate that I have done so. I am merely responding to your arguments. When I challenge you on it, you simply drop it, only to accuse me of it again as something I keep doing.

Nor do I appreciate you bringing up our discussion about Joseph moving the body as if you had not abandoned it without answering the following important question: Why, if Joseph was so concerned about Jewish law that he put his enemy's body in his new family tomb, would he have violated the law by afterwards moving it from an "honored place" to a "wretched place"? Your supposed expert did not answer that question. Also, did Joseph also put the two criminals in his tomb? What did the rabbi say about that? If a hypothesis has major flaws like that, it is not plausible.

So I guess saying that a rabbi has a potential bias against Christianity makes me desperate. Would it make me desperate if I said that a Christian has a potential bias against Islam?

Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of your attempts to characterize me in a negative light and your singleminded zeal to try to prove me wrong even if it means dragging into this discussion everything that offends you about the Bible. I am looking for respectful dialogue, on topic, that brings us closer to the truth. I would appreciate it if you would respect my wishes in this regard.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

By the way, I addressed Hitchens' argument about vicarious redemption being immoral here.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

1. Why, if Joseph was so concerned about Jewish law that he put his enemy's body in his new family tomb, would he have violated the law by afterwards moving it from an "honored place" to a "wretched place"? Your supposed expert did not answer that question.

2. Also, did Joseph also put the two criminals in his tomb? What did the rabbi say about that? If a hypothesis has major flaws like that, it is not plausible.


There is no way anyone can answer your first question as there is almost nothing known about him. I don't know (nor does anyone else) know his views on Jewish law or what his family dynamics was like. And no one said he personally moved it out of the tomb himself.

For your second question again there is no record regarding the 2 other criminals. The New Testament is focused mainly on Jesus and his life so it isn't surprising that the fate of the other 2 aren't recorded. The lack of knowledge regarding the fate of their bodies has nothing to do with the plausibility that Joseph moved the body(ies) either personally or by hired help.

For the plausibility question the fate of the 2 robbers is irrelevant as the issue is only in regards to Jesus' body and not theirs.

Had Joseph not done anything it is entirely possible that the Romans would eventually have to take down the body and bury it in a mass or criminal grave and it is apparent Joseph did not want to see that happen.

It's also possible, considering the mass number of people in Jerusalem at the time that followers of Jesus, other than the disciples and Joseph, also wanted the same for Jesus so perhaps on Saturday night someone(s) who were from Galilee or Bethlehem went to the tomb and stole the body of their beloved teacher for reburial in their home town. They would want to do it on Saturday night because

1. The body had been dead for over 24 hours and they wanted to be able to transport it before the corpse decayed too severely for it.

2. Doing it at night would help prevent being caught and punished as grave-robbers.

Are you saying that such a scenario is not possible?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

Are you saying that such a scenario is not possible?

"Possible" and "plausible" are not synonyms.

"Plausible" means, "Seeming reasonable or probable."

"Possible" means, "Able to be done; within the power or capacity of someone or something."

There is no way anyone can answer your first question as there is almost nothing known about him. I don't know (nor does anyone else) know his views on Jewish law or what his family dynamics was like. And no one said he personally moved it out of the tomb himself.

We don't need to know anything about him. You are the one who proposed that he moved the body and put it in his tomb because he was so concerned about keeping the Jewish law. This hypothesis fails given the fact that Jewish law prohibited someone from moving a recently dead body from an "honored place" to a "wretched place." If he was so concerned about the law, he wouldn't violate it.

He didn't have to do it himself.

For the plausibility question the fate of the 2 robbers is irrelevant as the issue is only in regards to Jesus' body and not theirs.

It is relevant because your hypothesis requires Joseph to have put them in his tomb as well, since his concern was the law and not Jesus. Is it plausible that he would have put all of them in his nice new family tomb?

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

We don't need to know anything about him. You are the one who proposed that he moved the body and put it in his tomb because he was so concerned about keeping the Jewish law.

No, I didn't. All 4 of your gospels show him going to Pilate and asking for the body and prepping it for burial.

This hypothesis fails given the fact that Jewish law prohibited someone from moving a recently dead body from an "honored place" to a "wretched place." If he was so concerned about the law, he wouldn't violate it.

We don't know how concerned he was with not violating Jewish law. History is full of examples of people in power violating laws and customs that they make others follow and uphold. It could easily be argued that the Jewish leaders of that time were of that group. In addition, your bible clearly shows Joseph asking for the body but my scenario had others retrieving the body after passover and reburying it in an honored, if you will, grave in their home town. This allows both Joseph and the grave robbers to not violate the law regarding moving bodies from honored places to wretched places.

Let's just deal with the "Joseph buries the body but others move it to another honored place" scenario, please.

It is relevant because your hypothesis requires Joseph to have put them in his tomb as well, since his concern was the law and not Jesus. Is it plausible that he would have put all of them in his nice new family tomb?

Please don't put words in my mouth. I never said or implied that Joseph did anything out of concern for the law. The gospels only show him being concerned about Jesus' corpse, not all 3. The bible only shows Joseph asking for Jesus' body, not theirs, also. If he had such concern why doesn't the bible show him asking for, prepping, and burying all 3 bodies?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

This allows both Joseph and the grave robbers to not violate the law regarding moving bodies from honored places to wretched places.

Actually, if you go back to where I quote the law, it pertains to moving the body at all, but especially if the body is moved from an "honored place" to a "wretched place."

Please don't put words in my mouth. I never said or implied that Joseph did anything out of concern for the law.

You didn't? I our earlier discussion you brought up Jeffery Jay Lowder's hypothesis about Joseph being a devout Pharisee who put the body of Jesus in his tomb temporarily in observance of the law about getting bodies buried before the Sabbath. That is what you asked the rabbi about. Have you now dropped that hypothesis and replaced it with another one?

Could this be the "ugly specter" of the "moving the goalpost" fallacy, ladies and gentlemen?

clamflats said...

Hello Anette - it's been awhile.

He died the most shameful and excruciating of deaths, between two criminals. He was present with the lowest of the low, promising Paradise to the repentant sinner

(I think we may have had this discussion before although I don't recall we resolved anything)

From my days in Catholic school I remember that Jesus was arrested late Thursday evening and was dead by 3PM on Friday. So we are talking between 15 and 18 hours that He was being tried, tortured, and crucified. Would you grant that there have been humans who have suffered longer, in some cases years, of torturous physical pain only to die from some illness or repression? Or that there have been individuals who were subjected to humiliating emotional torment for longer than a day? It is hard to quantify and compare any one individual's experience of pain to another. But I think we could come up with examples easily that would give pause to your contention that Jesus' death ranks as the "most shameful and excruciating." Also, I have a hard time imagining that Jesus would feel shame at all. It seems contrary to His nature. It seems that the Romans held crucifixions mainly as a warning to the other citizens and perhaps shaming the victim was a possible side benefit. But in the cases where they are crucifying rebels I don't think the victim or his family, friends, or supporters would feel shame, at least as the primary emotion. At any rate, Jesus being ashamed doesn't fit well with the rest of His bio.

Right to the end He is promising paradise to a criminal. Why do you call the two thieves, "the lowest of the low"? Again we could easily point to numerous individuals throughout history who are "lower" than thieves. We aren't defining what "low" means but on any scale there are surely more heinous activities than stealing. (I thought these two were rebels against Rome's domination anyway).

So I find these depictions of Jesus' experience to be hyperbolic and distracting to the central assertion you make. That is, that God sacrificed Himself to Himself in order to appease Himself. The premise sounds silly to the extent that I wonder; Am I creating a strawman argument? I don't think so but I would humbly accept a correction if needed. With your words, "It is self-sacrifice by God Himself...", you contend that God did sacrifice Himself. And the sacrifice was meant to right the scales that He ordained.

I'm willing to listen to an argument that reduces to, "God's universe therefore God's rules and logic." However, I am left unconvinced that I should be able to understand the crucifixion as both the ultimate torture experienced by a human and the rationale for it. It's beyond my ability to comprehend. It seems to be another case of "leave your ability to reason and reliably assess the world around you at the church door."

clamflats

Anette Acker said...

Hi clamflats. Thanks for commenting!

Now that you mention it, I do vaguely remember you telling me a long time ago that you went to Catholic school where you were guilt-tripped about the suffering of Jesus on the cross (but I can't remember where we had that conversation or what I said).

I can certainly understand why you would have reacted the way you did to manipulation like that. There are few people more annoying than those who have a martyr complex, and who make needless "sacrifices" to put psychological burdens on others.

But Christianity is not about guilt--it's about forgiveness and deliverance from guilt. The criminals on either side of Jesus (I don't know where it says that they were thieves) were both guilty and deserving of punishment. But when one of the criminals acknowledged his legitimate guilt, he received forgiveness and a promise of eternal life.

I think this is a very insightful passage because we are all like one or other of the criminals. Either we hurl insults at Christ, "I don't deserve this! If you're the Christ, you should do X!" or we acknowledge that we are guilty sinners who do not deserve the forgiveness and eternal life offered us and the high cost of our redemption. But Jesus didn't guilt-trip either of them--the feeling of guilt, or its absence, came from within them.

As for why the sacrifice was necessary, I'm going to copy and paste part of what I said in response to another non-Christian who asked a similar question (so let me know if it doesn't answer your specific question):

God is the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25), and He has set a perfect moral standard. In the new earth He has prepared for His redeemed for all eternity, everyone will meet it and also be perfectly free. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). But in this life, we all fall short of that standard. In Adam, all have sinned and therefore we will all die (1 Corinthians 15:22). We are all biologically connected and the whole human race is born with a predisposition toward sin. We all “fall short of the glory of God,”—that is, we are not what God intends for us to be.

Anette Acker said...

But just as in Adam all die, in Christ all will be made spiritually alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). All who are in Christ, that is. With His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus accomplished several things.

First, He met a perfect moral standard on our behalf, and that involved dying for us, because John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” I think most agree that dying willingly to rescue someone else is the highest act of altruistic love. God had to do this to “fulfill all righteousness” and be true to His nature.

Second, He paid the penalty for our sins (which is death) by suffering and dying for us. That satisfied the judgment against us and broke down the barrier between us and a holy God.

And third, He offered us His Spirit, which is how He seals us as His own. The Bible analogizes this to as a marriage in that everything that belongs to Christ is now ours, and everything that is ours belongs to Christ. We are one with Christ. Because we belong to Him, His victory over sin and death belongs to us. And just like all humans are biologically connected through DNA, all those who belong to Christ are spiritually connected through the Holy Spirit. We have to surrender our sin and self-life to God and in return He gives us Himself and eternal life in the Paradise He has prepared for His people.

This means that there is no such thing as a true follower of Christ who doesn’t increasingly bear the fruit of the Spirit. This is the evidence of our salvation. If we are connected to the vine, we will bear good fruit (John 15). That is a simple fact that the Bible makes very clear.

However, since God values freedom, He doesn’t force us to receive Him. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.” So He asks for our surrender. This surrender is not just a one-time deal; it has to continue throughout our lives, because God calls us to freedom (Galatians 5:13). The more we surrender to Him, the more His Spirit fills us, and the more we become like Him. This is how He sanctifies us, while also preserving our freedom.

And when Jesus comes again, there will be a judgment of all the living and dead, where justice will be done. However, in this life, we are offered mercy and the right to become God’s children. Still, according to 1 Peter 1:17, this is not an unfair form of nepotism. It says, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.” “Fear” is reverence—meaning that we have to live as if we believe what we profess to believe. That indicates that we really are His children.

Anette Acker said...

clamflats:

That is, that God sacrificed Himself to Himself in order to appease Himself. The premise sounds silly to the extent that I wonder; Am I creating a strawman argument? I don't think so but I would humbly accept a correction if needed. With your words, "It is self-sacrifice by God Himself...", you contend that God did sacrifice Himself. And the sacrifice was meant to right the scales that He ordained.

Sorry, I did not address this point directly. God embodies righteousness and sets a perfect moral standard, but He is also merciful and He values freedom. That combination of justice, mercy, and freedom is somewhat paradoxical, and this means that certain things are intrinsically impossible, even for God.

C. S. Lewis defines the word “omnipotence” as “the power to do all that is intrinsically possible.” This means that God cannot make 2 + 2 = 5, for example. That is not a miracle; it is intrinsically impossible. I think this is a very biblically sound way to look at God’s omnipotence.

The Bible never actually uses the word “omnipotence,” (at least not the NASB) but it says that with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27, Luke 1:37). However, there are some things that are impossible for God to do; for example, Hebrews 6:18 says that it is impossible for God to lie. And we can extrapolate and say that since God is holy it is impossible for Him to go against His holy nature. He cannot be less than perfect. And He cannot do that which is logically impossible.

For this reason, it was necessary for God to die to pay the just penalty for our sin and to fulfill all righteousness on behalf of those who receive Him. In doing so, He also gives us His Spirit, who produces "good fruit" in us (Galatians 5:22-23) and gives us freedom (2 Cor. 3:17).

Daniel Gracely said...

clamflats states:

So I find these depictions of Jesus' experience to be hyperbolic and distracting to the central assertion you make. That is, that God sacrificed Himself to Himself in order to appease Himself. The premise sounds silly to the extent that I wonder; Am I creating a strawman argument?

I’m writing this hoping to make the gospel more sensible to you, and specifically in what sense “God sacrificing Himself for Himself” might make sense. This will take a little time, so I ask for your patience. I think some of your confusion may be the result of what Christians themselves have said about God. Although I’m a Christian, I think some or even most Christians (I’m not referring to Anette here, because I don’t know what is her specific view of the Trinity) believe that although God is three Persons, he is nevertheless one Being. I don’t think the Bible actually teaches that idea (i.e., God as one Being), though I hasten to add that my view would not be considered orthodox by some. [I’m aware of the chief verses purporting to teach that there is “one God”, but time for explanation fails me here, except to say that translational variants would help explain that.] But I think one’s position on “one Being” makes a difference in whether or not the idea of the Trinity can sound rational, that is, if one can accept as axiomatic the idea of Persons without a beginning. But such an axiomatic idea should not seem too far-fetched, since whether one is a traditional Christian or even a materialist atheist, one is compelled to think something has always existed.

But about God sacrificing himself. My own view is that God is depicted in the Bible as a corporate entity composed of more than one person. I think the idea of three Persons is more explicit in the N.T. than the O.T., but I do think it is depicted in a roundabout way in the Old. As for a plurality of persons constituting the Godhead, most of the time the word “God” appears, e.g., in the first 5 books of Moses, it is in the plural. In fact, of the hundreds of times it appears in the Torah, I believe the plural form (Elohym) compared to the singular (Elowaw) is roughly something like 400 to 10. I think it is a shame that the plural has been lost in every major English translation. (For example, Gen. 1:1 ought to read, “In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth.”)
(part 2 of 2 follows)

Daniel Gracely said...

(part 2 of 2)
Now, when we come to the N.T. we find an interesting dynamic among these Persons. “God” gives up His Son so that the Son might be glorified. (“God”, of course, is nomenclature for any singular Person among the Persons, or of the Corporate Entity of Persons as a whole.) That is, the Father’s motive in giving up his Son is to glorify the Son. Therefore the Father’s motive is not that people should think what a wonderful person he, the Father, is. Furthermore, Jesus said he came not on his own, but because the Father sent him. That means he didn’t really desire to come, but came anyway. And as for the Son’s motive, in the night he was betrayed in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed he would be glorified in order that the Father should be glorified. And so the motive of the Son was that the Father, not he, should be glorified. Finally, Jesus said that the Spirit would come after he had gone; yet the Spirit would not speak of himself, but of the Son.

Therefore, while technically all three persons are co-equally God in substance, I believe some qualifying statements ought to be made if we say that God sacrificed himself for himself. Stating it without qualifiers strikes me as if one person is doing it to himself. But, in fact, it is not the case that the Father was crucified, nor that the Son sent Himself, etc. Yes, in one sense all three Persons were sacrificial in the process of the Father’s plan and the Son’s ministry, but only one did the sending, another one did the dying, and yet another one than these two speaks of the one who died, while also attempting to convince the world of sin and judgment.

Anyhow, suffice it to say we live in a world that does not endorse a person’s decision to live sacrificially for someone else. One only has to see the target of television ads to confirm that. This problem of a lack of sacrificial love in humanity has always been there. For even the apostle Paul said that while some persons might possibly dare to sacrifice themselves for a righteous man, God loved all of us while we were yet sinners.

stranger.strange.land said...

Hi Daniel,

Any thoughts on the Athanasian Creed's series of sentences concerning the three persons of the trinity? Do you think it was an adequate response to the Arian teaching?

Craig B

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Craig,

You asked if I agreed with the Athanasian Creed regarding the Trinity.

I would say I agree with the first 10 points, which talk about the Godhead being Three Persons not to be confounded, nor divided in substance. But I would probably say I disagree with points 11 and 12, based on the Creed’s implication with the word “yet” in point 11.

Points 11 and 12 of the Athanasian Creed run thus:

11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.


First, I find this language rather vague . What specifically is meant by “eternals” and “eternal”, etc.? Is this a reference to Persons, or Beings, or what? IMO the Creed’s language is designedly vague about “eternals” and “eternal,” less the Creed open up itself to the charge of irrational definition. In other words, had the Creed written something like “And yet they are not three eternal Beings, but one eternal Being”, then the Creed would have had the difficult task of explaining how Three Persons could be One Being.

And so it appears to me the Creed, despite its desire not to confound the Persons, does just that. The evidence for this is the Creed’s use of the word “yet” in Point 11. For the word “yet” means, “despite what has earlier been stated (i.e., that there are Three Persons not to be confounded), nevertheless…”

My own view is that the Bible clearly shows that, e.g., the (Person of the) Son can have different desires than the (Person of the) Father. In this sense these two Persons are not always one. But in any moral intention the Persons agree, and in this sense are one. Put another way, the Persons of the Godhead don't always enter conference with the same desires, but they always exit with the same decision. Therefore it was not wrong for Christ to merely desire not to be sent into the world. But it would have been wrong for the Son to decide not to consent to be sent into the world.

We, too, as persons, often have selfish desires. But the ethics of such is not whether we have selfish desires, but whether we decide to act upon them. Christ did not act on his selfish desire not to be sent into the world, and therefore remained united with His Father in the plan that the world should be saved.

I suppose one might argue that the Creed was implying no such thing by the word “yet,” and that Point 11 simply means “yet they hold not three eternal moral intentions, but one intention.” But then why didn't Point 11 state it that way, since that would have cleared up much confusion? No, it doesn't appear the Creed had that formulation in mind.

As for how much stock should be put into Church Creeds, I think you and I have already staked out our different positions on that. They are found in the comments section of Anette’s December 3, 2009 blog entry, “Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?” My 3-part comment toward the very bottom of that comments section explains my position.

Daniel Gracely said...

Craig,
Sorry; technically you did not ask if I agreed with the Athanasian Creed. You asked if I had any thoughts, and did I think it an adequate response to the Arian teaching.

Insofar as the Creed imo did confound the Persons of the Godhead, despite perhaps its desire not to do so, I think it was not a fully adequate response to the Arian teaching. Perhaps it was their overzeal to assert the equality of the Son with the Father which led the Creed to use language vague enough to threaten the distinctiveness of the Persons of the Godhead.

Anette Acker said...

Hi Dan,

We, too, as persons, often have selfish desires. But the ethics of such is not whether we have selfish desires, but whether we decide to act upon them. Christ did not act on his selfish desire not to be sent into the world, and therefore remained united with His Father in the plan that the world should be saved.

I don't think we can conclude from the Garden of Gethsemene passages that Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, had a "selfish desire" not to be sent into the world. I think it simply highlights the human part of His nature. If He had faced His passion with a cool stoicism, in what sense would He have taken all the suffering of humanity--of which fear is a major part--upon Himself? Contrary to what clamflats said, "Also, I have a hard time imagining that Jesus would feel shame at all. It seems contrary to His nature," Jesus would have had human emotions, and He most certainly would have felt shame.*

And why would you think that the Father would have desired to send the Son more than the Son wanted to go? As a mother, I can't even fathom desiring the suffering of my children more than they do. In fact, when it is happening, I worry about it more than they do.

And I think the idea of the Father sending Jesus against His will is even more offensive to skeptics. That is how Christopher Hitchens and others understand vicarious redemption, and I think they are clearly mistaken about this. As you said, the Father sent the Son (1 John 4:10); however, the Son willingly laid down His life (John 10:17). This was a mutual decision of the Godhead and there is no evidence that the Persons felt differently about it.

*clamflats: Wikipedia says:

"Crucifixion was usually intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful (hence the term excruciating, literally "out of crucifying"), gruesome, humiliating, and public, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal."

And, "While a crucifixion was an execution, it was also a humiliation, by making the condemned as vulnerable as possible. Although artists have depicted the figure on a cross with a loin cloth or a covering of the genitals, writings by Seneca the Younger suggest that victims were crucified completely nude.[12] When the victim had to urinate or defecate, they had to do so in the open, in view of passers-by, resulting in discomfort and the attraction of insects. Despite its frequent use by the Romans, the horrors of crucifixion did not escape mention by some of their eminent orators. Cicero for example, in a speech that appears to have been an early bid for its abolition,[13] described crucifixion as "a most cruel and disgusting punishment", and suggested that "the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears."[13]

clamflats said...

Anette,
Regarding crucifixion, no doubt it is a gruesome process. My point is that the three hours Jesus spent on the cross (that's the traditional duration, right?) doesn't seem to qualify for "the most shameful and excruciating of deaths." when compared to some other deaths. I appreciate that this statement sounds flippant considering what the sacrifice is meant to signify. But look at your contention. You are placing the sins and pain of the billions of people who have lived and presumably will live in the future on His shoulders and are saying this one act balances it all out. I think you are assigning the superlatives in order to justify the act. In terms of modern human justice, one person's death does not obviate all crime. We moderns do not sacrifice humans or even animals anymore. The concept of this sacrifice righting the scales would have made sense in a society where sacrificial ceremonies were routinely held but like the idea of Jesus being Lord it is anachronistic and requires a suspension of how most modern people view justice and authority. Similarly when people claim to be "a slave for Jesus" it rings hollow. How does one make that claim absent the experience of slavehood either in themselves or in society at large? Someone living in the southern United States two hundred years ago, even if they weren't a slave, could possibly make that statement meaningful but not in today's USofA.

Are there other examples of Jesus feeling shamed in His life? I don't think one is justified in assigning shame, embarrassment, or positive emotions like joy to another person. You might project that is how Jesus felt but absent His words or other compelling evidence I think it is conjecture. Are there other examples in the Gospels of His feeling shame? It is tricky saying He must have felt shame because all humans feel shame and He was human. Did He also experience lust, greed, envy? The intentions of the Romans may have been to induce shame - and the Wikipedia article you cite agrees with my contention that the main purpose of crucifixion was as a deterrent - but it just doesn't fit with the rest of His bio. He seems self-assured (what deity wouldn't?) and, as we say now, quite cool when facing authorities.

Anette Acker said...

clamflats:

Regarding crucifixion, no doubt it is a gruesome process. My point is that the three hours Jesus spent on the cross (that's the traditional duration, right?) doesn't seem to qualify for "the most shameful and excruciating of deaths." when compared to some other deaths.

Before that, He was scourged, which means that He was whipped using a "flagellum," a short whip with bones, rocks, iron balls, etc. embedded into the leather to inflict maximum damage. Eusebius (AD 263–339) said about some of the early martyrs who were scourged: "All around were horrified to see them so torn with the scourges that their very veins were laid bare, and the inner muscles and sinews, and even their very bowels were exposed."

My point was not that nobody ever died in a more excruciatingly painful and humiliating way than Jesus, but that crucifixion certainly ranks up there among the worst. Add to that the fact that it was capital punishment of a completely innocent Person who willingly subjected Himself to this out of love, in order to purchase our redemption.

I'm comparing this to the deist idea of an indifferent Creator as an introduction to my series of posts on the problem of evil. As I said, it is a powerful symbol that God has done everything He can for us, but I will analyze the problem of evil in greater detail in later posts.

The cross conveys a visceral message even when we don't understand it, but it also was a logical necessity, as I attempted to explain in the previous comment. In fact, in Gethsemane, Jesus asks the Father that if it is possible, that the cup would pass from Him (Matthew 26:39). Since God denied that request and answered all of the Son's other prayers, the clear implication is that it was not possible any other way. This is affirmed in Matthew 26:52-54: "Then Jesus said, 'Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?'" (Italics added.)

These two passages indicate that Jesus willingly went through with it--He could have refused and the Father would have honored His wishes, but then the redemption would have failed.

Anette Acker said...

We moderns do not sacrifice humans or even animals anymore. The concept of this sacrifice righting the scales would have made sense in a society where sacrificial ceremonies were routinely held but like the idea of Jesus being Lord it is anachronistic and requires a suspension of how most modern people view justice and authority.

But Christianity put an end to animal sacrifice, and even in the OT prophetic books, it is clear that the sacrifices common at the time did not please God. Hosea 6:6 says: "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."

Isaiah 1:11, 17 says: "The multitude of your sacrifices--what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats . . . Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."

And Micah 6:6-8 says: "With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

In Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7, and Mark 12:33, Jesus emphasizes this. And Hebrews 10:8-9 says: "When he said above, 'You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings' (these are offered according to the law), then he added, 'Behold, I have come to do your will.' He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

The Bible uses the typology of a burnt offering as a framework for the redemption, where God turned things around and offered His own Son for us. But Hebrews 10:4 says that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." However, the sacrifice of Jesus does take away sins.

Anette Acker said...

I don't think one is justified in assigning shame, embarrassment, or positive emotions like joy to another person. You might project that is how Jesus felt but absent His words or other compelling evidence I think it is conjecture. Are there other examples in the Gospels of His feeling shame? It is tricky saying He must have felt shame because all humans feel shame and He was human. Did He also experience lust, greed, envy?

I think one is justified in believing that most people experience shame, embarrassment, and joy, and even concluding that certain circumstances would elicit those emotions. That is why we are capable of empathy.

As for Jesus experiencing lust, greed, and envy, Hebrews 4:15 says that He was tempted in every way yet was without sin. 1 John 2:16 summarizes all temptation into three categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful greed of life. Now it is true that not every person has the same temptations--the temptations of a good person are different from those of a very corrupt person. For Jesus, the "lust of the flesh," for example, was being tempted to turn a rock into bread after fasting for forty days. So, on the one hand, the temptation was one of a very holy man, but on the other hand, it was probably very intense because He must have been extremely hungry.

Likewise, even though He was probably very humble and therefore confident and not easily given to shame, the magnitude of the shame of being rejected by the religious establishment as a blasphemer and suffering the humiliation of crucifixion must have been intense. Whereas you and I might feel humiliated when we say something stupid, Jesus suffered much greater shame than that.

So given the fact that the Bible teaches that Jesus was fully divine and fully human, and He displays anger, sadness, fear, etc. in the Gospels, I see no reason to conclude that He didn't also feel shame on the cross.

clamflats said...

Anette, You are tricky, getting me to read the Bible ;)

The criminals on either side of Jesus (I don't know where it says that they were thieves) were both guilty and deserving of punishment.

From Matthew 27:38 (NASB)"At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left." The King James uses the word, "thieves" but NIV 2011 uses the word, "rebels" which is a change from NIV 1984 use of "thieves."

I distinctly remember the good nuns at St. Patrick School teaching us about the thieves on either side of Jesus. They had a knack for taking any character out of the Bible and comparing us, favorably or not and sometimes both, to the character. What I remember is being perplexed when Sister Emmanuela exhorted us to "be like the Good Thief."

I continue to take issue with your depiction of the Crucifixion as " most shameful and excruciating of deaths" and the two men on either side being "the lowest of the low" and "deserving punishment."

clamflats said...

Daniel, thanks for your response.

So would it be more correct to state,
"One of the persons of God sacrificed Himself to one of the other persons of God in order to glorify Both"?

At least with the word, appease, we are following a ceremonial ritual sacrifice script which is recognizable cross-culturally. The idea that the motive of the Crucifixion is glory-rendering makes it seem that we humans are bit players in some divine grand opera. Why would God require glory and why would a corporal punishment be necessary?

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Could this be the "ugly specter" of the "moving the goalpost" fallacy, ladies and gentlemen?

Actually, it is nothing more than the "ugly specter" of having a bad memory. You are right; I did say that. My apologies for not remembering making that statement. I should have re-read our previous conversations first.

Have you now dropped that hypothesis and replaced it with another one?

I'm modifying my hypothesis in order to accommodate your objections in order to construct a plausible scenario.

Anette Acker said...

clamflats:

Anette, You are tricky, getting me to read the Bible ;)

I'm starting to think that you associate me with Sister Emmanuela. Is that sort of like sneaking vegetables into the children's food? ;)

I thought atheists were always reading the Bible. Have you read Steve Wells' blog Dwindling in Unbelief? I'm pretty sure he does nothing but read the Bible. Certainly far more than most Christians.

From Matthew 27:38 (NASB)"At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left." The King James uses the word, "thieves" but NIV 2011 uses the word, "rebels" which is a change from NIV 1984 use of "thieves."

You're right. Matthew calls them thieves or robbers. I was focused on Luke, where they are simply referred to as criminals.

What I remember is being perplexed when Sister Emmanuela exhorted us to "be like the Good Thief."

What perplexed you about that? I don't think it was quite accurate to say that he was a "good" thief, since he was a criminal, but he certainly was a repentant thief. So I guess she was telling the kids to repent and believe, which is what the thief did.

I continue to take issue with your depiction of the Crucifixion as " most shameful and excruciating of deaths" and the two men on either side being "the lowest of the low" and "deserving punishment."

You don't think crucifixion is a most shameful and excruciating of deaths, when the word "excruciating" came from the word "crucifixion"? You don't think criminals are the lowest of the low? And you don't think they deserved to be punished for their crimes? (Granted, they didn't deserve a cruel punishment like crucifixion.)

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

Actually, it is nothing more than the "ugly specter" of having a bad memory. You are right; I did say that. My apologies for not remembering making that statement. I should have re-read our previous conversations first.

No problem!

I'm modifying my hypothesis in order to accommodate your objections in order to construct a plausible scenario.

So you're now proposing the theft theory? The problem with it is that Mary Magdalene immediately concluded that the body was stolen when she found it missing. She didn't think the missing body meant Jesus had risen from the dead. (And when she told the male disciples that she had seen Him, they didn't believe her.) It was not until Jesus appeared bodily to her and other people over the course of forty days and interacted with them that the disciples believed so deeply that they were willing to die for their faith. Before that, they had gone into hiding.

And among those who Jesus appeared to were James, a former skeptic, and Paul, a persecutor of the church, neither of whom were influenced by the disciples of Jesus.

Darkknight56 said...

Let's keep a couple of things in mind.

1. I'm just trying to show something is plausible which is different from proving it actually happened. Between plausible, possible, and beyond a reasonable doubt, plausible has the least burden of proof. Even with questions and objections something can still be shown to be at least plausible. It does not require answering each and every single possible question or objection.

2. While I realize that you postulate that the apostles died for what they "saw" you still have not shown that the 4 gospels and acts are accurate accounts of what happened. None of them were written by actual eye-witnesses.

When you say Mary did this or Joseph did that there is an implied assumption that the bible is an historically accurate document/book. Yet there are other events in the bible (the slavery in Egypt, and the Slaughter of the innocents in the New Testament) that there is no archeological evidence for or it is not recorded anywhere in other historical documents. (I'm excluding miraculous events from this point and am just focusing on purely natural, historical events).

In one of his books, Dan Barker states that in the 4 gospels there are, I think, 161 verses that describe the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He puts out a challenge to Christians to arrange those verses by gospel and in chronological sequence. He also states that so far no one has been able to do it. (Maybe if you take the time, you could be the first).

Before you tear down my hypothesis any further, it seems to me that you have an obligation to show that the bible is historically accurate. If you can't show it is 100% accurate on all of the natural, historical, events that the bible records then there is no reason to accept the stories of what Mary and the other women did at the grave - to say the least.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Anette,

You raise a lot of objections, but I will try to answer them. Before I do, I want to add my support to clamflats' statement that it doesn’t seem Jesus would have felt shame. In fact, Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame…” The word for shame (according to Thayer) means contemn, despise, disdain, to think little or nothing of. Of course, generally speaking crucifixion was perceived by the crowd as a humiliating experience. But Christ thought little or nothing of the shame, because He knew He wasn't being crucified for his own guilt.

Now concerning your objections:

First, you say you don’t think Jesus had a “selfish desire” not to be sent into the world. Now perhaps I could have found a better phrase than “selfish desire.” I was trying to make the point that one can desire to do wrong but fall shy of committing one’s intention to it. And it is intention that God judges, not mere desire shy of intention. But moving on, the word “will” in Jesus’ statement, “Not my will, but thine be done,” is Gr. thelo, and corresponds to our English “to want.” And in English the verb “want” always includes desire, but only sometimes includes the idea of intention. [And that is how this verb thelo behaves in the Greek.] If I walk into a Baskin and Robbins and say to the clerk “I want all 31 flavors! Actually, tonight I want vanilla.” The first use of the word “want” is understood to mean bare desire, but the second use of “want” is understood to mean desire plus choice. Now, in effect, what Jesus was really saying was, “Not what I want, but what you want.” But in this case Jesus was not saying “Not what I desire and intend,” or else the Godhead would have been divided at that point. No, in this case Jesus was only speaking of mere desire.

Second, you ask why I think the Father would have desired to send the Son more than the Son wanted to go? I think for a few reasons. One, Jesus says in Jn. 7:28: “I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.” Here Jesus is saying He came not on his own. I think the normal sense of reading this is that Jesus consented to the Father sending Him despite his own desire. After all, who in their right mind would desire to undergo the prolonged contradiction of sinners Christ would face, including the rejection of his own people? Also, I don’t think Christ wanted to go because the Bible tells us that Christ “pleased not Himself.” Also, Isaiah says that Christ was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” None of this suggests to me that Jesus wanted to go as much as His Father wished to send Him. At the very least we should realize Jesus did not want to come for his own sake.
(part 2 of 2 follows)

Daniel Gracely said...

(part 2 of 2)
Third, you say you cannot even imagine desiring the suffering of your children more than they do. Nor would I imagine it, if I had children. Yet Isaiah 53:9 ways that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Doubtless this is because the Father knew that despite the momentary pain and suffering, the Son would be eternally glorified.

Fourth, you think skeptics like Hitchens find offensive the idea of the Father sending Jesus against His will. I think that’s a misleading way of putting it. Jesus was not sent against His intention, but only against His desire. And, all the while, Jesus had veto power. But as pertains Jesus’ desire, this is most strikingly seen in His statement in Gethsemane, lit. “Not my want, but your want be done.” But regarding what is found offensive by persons like Hitchens, the Bible tells us that the gospel will always be an offense to unbelievers. Therefore no matter how winsomely we may package it, the gospel—if it is truly the gospel that we present—will still be offensive to non-believers.

Fifth, you cite John 10:17 in support that Jesus willingly laid down his life. But the word “willingly” does not appear in John 10:17. The verse reads: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” Yet if by willingly you mean intentionally, I agree, and I think John 10:17 implies that. But if you mean desirously, I don’t agree. For again, Jesus says in Gethsemane: “Not my want [i.e. desire]”.

Sixth and finally, I agree there was a “mutual decision of the Godhead” regarding Christ’s coming. But for the reason repeatedly stated above (Jesus’ statement in Gethsemane), I cannot really agree with you that the Persons felt the same about it.

All this aside, thanks for fixing the order of my last two posts.

clamflats said...

Anette,
You don't think crucifixion is a most shameful and excruciating of deaths, when the word "excruciating" came from the word "crucifixion"? You don't think criminals are the lowest of the low? And you don't think they deserved to be punished for their crimes? (Granted, they didn't deserve a cruel punishment like crucifixion.)

Well saying that crucifixion is excruciating is like saying that a maze is amazing or a code is cryptic, you are restating the noun with an adjective. My objection is your use of the superlative, "most", when we know that other people who were crucified by the Romans spent days on a cross before their death. Even assuming that the Gospels are historically accurate and that the words in quotation marks are in fact the actual words of Jesus (did ancient writers use quotation marks or is that a more modern concept?) there are no words that indicate He was feeling shame at all. He successfully stood up to Pilate in an exchange of words, He promised the Good Thief that he would share in His glory in Heaven, He instructed John on caring for His mother. Can you point to a detail that indicates His shame? Thievery, while criminal, does not rank as the "lowest" crime on any reasonable list of unlawful acts. We do not know the details of the two thieves crimes. Some translations refer to them as rebels indicating that they may have been heroes to a repressed populace. If they were identified as pedophiles or murderers of innocents then "lowest of the low" may be an apt description.

You are presenting a narrative that "God defeated sin, suffering, and death forever on the cross." To support that narrative you describe Jesus' death with unwarranted superlatives. This is a huge claim and flies in the face of all the death and suffering that has happened in the past two thousand years. The Christian's faith in a future "new heaven and a new earth" rests on believing that one man's death can rescue all past and future inequities and will only reward those who believe the narrative and will eternally punish, in a manner worse than Golgotha, those who don't.

I have to ask, do you ever step back and look at the claims you make with a neutral eye? Can you acknowledge that the Bible is a product of a pre-scientific feudal ancient middle eastern culture and its description of the world reflects that culture? Can you appreciate that a modern human armed with science and a more refined sense of justice might find your claims to be anachronistic and unsupported?

Please forgive my rant. I have many Christian friends and I don't "go off" on them in a similar manner. I admire your earnestness and dedication to providing explanations. The most meaningful message I get from the Gospels is Jesus' exhortation to see Him in the suffering, the downtrodden, the vulnerable, and, even harder, the criminal and dangerous people. I reinterpret that to see myself in other people. That directive has given me courage and hope and I am thankful for it.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

Before you tear down my hypothesis any further, it seems to me that you have an obligation to show that the bible is historically accurate. If you can't show it is 100% accurate on all of the natural, historical, events that the bible records then there is no reason to accept the stories of what Mary and the other women did at the grave - to say the least.

As I argue here, it is not necessary to prove that the NT is historically accurate in every detail to prove that the disciples at least thought they saw Jesus. I say:

Second, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Paul cites what is widely believed by scholars to be a creedal formula of the Christian faith passed down to him by his predecessors--dated to within five years of the death of Jesus: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles."

Lüdemann says in The Resurrection of Jesus that "the elements in the tradition [of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7] are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus." Jewish scholar Geza Vermes says that the words of Paul are "a tradition he has inherited from his seniors in the faith concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus." A. M. Hunter says, "The passage therefore preserves uniquely early and verifiable testimony. It meets every reasonable demand of historical reliability." Reginald Fuller concludes: "It is almost universally agreed today that Paul is here citing tradition."


Since as early as a few years after the death of Jesus, the Christians were saying that Jesus appeared to these individuals, you have to conclude either that they either hallucinated or lied, and I address both of these hypotheses in that post.

In one of his books, Dan Barker states that in the 4 gospels there are, I think, 161 verses that describe the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He puts out a challenge to Christians to arrange those verses by gospel and in chronological sequence. He also states that so far no one has been able to do it. (Maybe if you take the time, you could be the first).

This is a red herring. The minor discrepancies in the Gospels indicate that there was no collusion, so far from undermining the reliability of the Gospels, they establish their independence. Consequently, the major historical facts on which the resurrection depends are multiply attested.

Most conservative Bible scholars are not troubled by minor variations in the text. Both Dan Barker and Bart Ehrman came from extreme fundamentalist backgrounds, so they both tend to focus on this kind of thing. However, fundamentalism has only been around for about a hundred years or so, and most conservative scholars (i.e., those who have a high view of Scripture) do not share the views Barker and Ehrman used to hold.

Darkknight56 said...

It is a matter of credibility. In the New Testament alone it says that:
1. Herod slaughtered children under 2 years old which never happened,
2. There was a mass census such that everyone had to go back to the home of their ancestors, also which didn't happen,
3. One gospel account has Jesus being born in the time of Herod the Great who died in 4 BC while Luke has him being born during the reign of Quirinius which started 10 years after Herod's death. Why would a divinely-inspired book introduce such - well, to be polite, - errors and fake historical stories?

It is not only a matter of getting dates and times wrong but the bible also states that certain events happened that did not really happen at all - sometimes called a lie. For fun, let's also include the discrepancy regarding Mark that Ehrman discusses in his book.

To paraphrase Luke 16:10, if someone cannot be trusted in the small details how can they be trusted in the larger, more important, details?

By definition, Dan Barker's challenge is not a red-herring as it also goes to a matter of credibility. Let's say that unknown to each other we both attend the same county fair and we both watch a performer (Reba McEntire) perform the single show of her visit to the fair. If we later gave diverging accounts of what happened (she performed totally alone vs she performed with Shania Twain, she performed at 10 AM vs she performed at 2PM, she performed entirely inside vs she performed entirely outside) then:

Both accounts can't be true, and
The credibility of one or both of us would be rightly brought into question.

Someone reading and comparing our accounts could and would rightly wonder if Reba performed at all.

On the other hand, let's say we both gave the same account (she performed totally alone, she performed at 10 AM and she performed entirely inside) that does not imply collusion; rather it means that we both saw the same event and we both gave an accurate account. Rather than showing collusion it would show that we are both describing the event correctly and we reinforce each other's account of the event.

As I understand it you are a lawyer so you know that if witnesses give conflicting testimony (or in the case of some of the historical events mentioned even make up stories) their whole testimony is either very suspect or tossed out altogether.

It would seem to me that a divinely-inspired (whatever that means, no one can tell me) book would at least get the normal, natural, historical accounts correct and without such discrepancies. If it doesn't then why should we trust the supernatural accounts?

Anette Acker said...

Dan:

All this aside, thanks for fixing the order of my last two posts.

Not a problem. You are not the only one who has had problems with posts not showing up, but Vinny, a commenter, informed me that they are going into spam. So all I do now is go into the spam folder and click on the one you want posted. Then it shows up where it's supposed to be.

But regarding what is found offensive by persons like Hitchens, the Bible tells us that the gospel will always be an offense to unbelievers. Therefore no matter how winsomely we may package it, the gospel—if it is truly the gospel that we present—will still be offensive to non-believers.

But when they find the Gospel offensive, they characterize it in a way that is offensive. The Pharisees called Jesus a "drunkard and a glutton," and said that He cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Of course, if that were true, the Pharisees would be justified in rejecting Jesus. Likewise, if vicarious redemption really was human sacrifice that was done against Jesus' will, then Hitchens and his followers would be justified in rejecting it.

I've never heard anyone give an accurate, biblical account of the Gospel and say that it is offensive. They will first twist it into something that it's not, label that the Gospel, and then reject it.

Of course the question of whether Hitchens and others are sincerely misinformed or just want to be justified in rejecting the Gospel is between God and the individual. We have no accurate way of judging. Some may have sincere questions or be moving closer to the truth. But those who take offense at the Gospel will almost always twist or suppress the truth before they reject it. Hitchens wouldn't get many followers if he said, "Jesus taught a message of sacrificial love and I hate sacrificial love. And I'm against goodness." But if he can make Christianity seem evil or primitive (whether or not he is sincere), then people who want reasons to reject the Gospel will listen.

Anette Acker said...

Dan,

But getting back to what you said about the Trinity, are you saying that you disagree with the orthodox view of the unity of the Trinity? And if so, are you basing it on what you said about the OT and the Garden of Gethsemane? If so, I have to disagree with you. You said:

As for a plurality of persons constituting the Godhead, most of the time the word “God” appears, e.g., in the first 5 books of Moses, it is in the plural. In fact, of the hundreds of times it appears in the Torah, I believe the plural form (Elohym) compared to the singular (Elowaw) is roughly something like 400 to 10. I think it is a shame that the plural has been lost in every major English translation. (For example, Gen. 1:1 ought to read, “In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth.”)

I've never heard this argument before. I will admit that I have not researched the original language, but if the plural is used 400 times in the Torah, why were the Jews so firmly monotheistic? They obviously knew the original language.

Third, you say you cannot even imagine desiring the suffering of your children more than they do. Nor would I imagine it, if I had children. Yet Isaiah 53:9 ways that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Doubtless this is because the Father knew that despite the momentary pain and suffering, the Son would be eternally glorified.

So you interpret the word "pleased" to mean that God felt good about the suffering His Son experienced? What then do you make of Isaiah 63:9: "In all their afflictions, He was afflicted"? Or Romans 12:15: "Weep with those who weep"? Or John 11:35, where Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus.

It is an inherent part of love to empathize with others by sharing in their joys and sorrows, and God, who is love, could not possibly desire the suffering of His Son more than Jesus did. That would go against everything the Bible says about God and love.

But my key point before is that there is no evidence that pre-incarnate Jesus felt any differently from the Father. We know how He felt in Gethsemane, as a human, when the sins of the world were put on Him and God turned away from Him. That says nothing about how He felt about it before He came in the flesh. It simply says something about the human side of Jesus and what He suffered.

As for your and clamflats' point that Jesus didn't feel shame, He certainly felt terrible. In Matthew 26:38, He says: "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death," and Luke 22:44 says that He was in agony, and his sweat became like drops of blood, falling to the ground.

Anette Acker said...

clamflats:

Please forgive my rant.

Not a problem--I don't consider anything you said a "rant."

I have many Christian friends and I don't "go off" on them in a similar manner.

Well, in that case I feel special! ;)

I have to ask, do you ever step back and look at the claims you make with a neutral eye?

I always look at the claims I make with a neutral eye. Not only that, but I try to anticipate all the ways a skeptic might reply, and by the time I actually post something, generally I feel pretty confident that I'm going to be able to substantiate my assertions and respond to objections. But when I'm wrong, like I was about the "thieves" on the cross, I try to admit it right away.

If the evidence did not support my position, there is no way I could defend it. Some people have the idea that it's possible to defend anything in a convincing way, but that is simply not correct. There are a number of arguments that some Christians make (like intelligent design in biology) that I've never bothered with because skeptics are able to refute them.

Conversely, when William Lane Craig recently debated physicist Lawrence Krauss on the evidence for God, Craig (a philosopher) used cosmological arguments, and he still destroyed Krauss because the evidence in cosmology is on our side.

Can you acknowledge that the Bible is a product of a pre-scientific feudal ancient middle eastern culture and its description of the world reflects that culture?

What description of the world? And are you sure that the passages you have in mind are purporting to make scientific, as opposed to theological, statements? Hebrews 11:3 (there I go, tricking you into reading the Bible again!) is clearly making a scientific statement, which happens to be consistent with modern science.

Can you appreciate that a modern human armed with science and a more refined sense of justice might find your claims to be anachronistic and unsupported?

If this modern human demonstrated that he understood my claims and specifically refuted them with science and a more refined sense of justice, then I would absolutely appreciate that. But I'm sure you understand that I can't appreciate the mere assertion that my claims are unscientific, anachronistic, unjust, and unsupported.

You are presenting a narrative that "God defeated sin, suffering, and death forever on the cross." To support that narrative you describe Jesus' death with unwarranted superlatives. This is a huge claim and flies in the face of all the death and suffering that has happened in the past two thousand years. The Christian's faith in a future "new heaven and a new earth" rests on believing that one man's death can rescue all past and future inequities and will only reward those who believe the narrative and will eternally punish, in a manner worse than Golgotha, those who don't.

That is not an accurate summary of what the Bible teaches, but I will try to unpack some of this in future posts. As I said, these two posts were just short introductions to the subject (and I tried to get this one posted on Good Friday, but I was a day late!).

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Conversely, when William Lane Craig recently debated physicist Lawrence Krauss on the evidence for God, Craig (a philosopher) used cosmological arguments, and he still destroyed Krauss because the evidence in cosmology is on our side.

I believe that you are referring to the March 30th event put on by the local Campus Crusade for Christ group. I think it would be fair to say that Craig won the event, according to the exit cards, because the group was mainly of a religious and not scientific mindset. Christians, as a whole, are not above ignoring evidence if it is contrary to their religious views - Ray Comfort's group being a prime example. We have a massive, massive amount of evidence for evolution but despite all that they cling tenaciously to the idea that the world is no more than 6,000 years old.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

I was not basing my conclusion that Craig won the event on what the exit cards said. After the debate, I read the reactions on theistic and atheistic blogs. The theists gave detailed accounts of the arguments made by the debaters, while many atheistic commenters said things like "Craig is a moron," (PZ Myers' words) and "Craig's faith doesn't deserve respect," (a commenter on Debunking Christianity). I searched the atheistic blogs because I wanted a thoughtful atheistic response, and I consider the insults a concession that Krauss lost badly.

In fact, an atheist said the following when John Loftus said he wanted to debate Craig:

I'm sick of seeing atheist after atheist get whacked by Craig like ducks in a shooting gallery. If you can't beat a hysterical nut like D'Souza, you will be humiliated by Craig. And you would humiliate us all in the process. Craig is going to wipe the floor with Harris in a couple of weeks, and the main reason will be hubris on the part of Harris. It was hubris that destroyed Krauss, and he has the hide to come on here, and on Dawkin's website and PZ's and try and justify himself. The root cause was that he regarded Craig as a religious nut, he put in about one hundredth of the preparation that he should have (and about one hundredth of the preparation that you can bet your life Craig put in), and because he couldn't debate his way out of a wet paper bag. PZ called Craig a 'moron' the other day. PZ should pull his head in and shut up. Craig just whacked Krauss at his own special topic. We can whine all we like about Craig's debating tactics, but that's the bottom line. If you want to debate Craig, go back to debating school for the next five years, don't deliberately embarrass yourself, and don't challenge him unless you know you can beat him.

Also, Krauss said that deism is plausible, which is a concession that he lost a debate on whether there is evidence for God.

Christians, as a whole, are not above ignoring evidence if it is contrary to their religious views - Ray Comfort's group being a prime example. We have a massive, massive amount of evidence for evolution but despite all that they cling tenaciously to the idea that the world is no more than 6,000 years old.

This is true. Christians, atheists, and others cling to what they want to believe, in spite of the evidence. But evolution has nothing to do with whether God exists or even whether the Bible is true. It simply means that the scientific evidence goes against a certain interpretation of the Bible. And Craig accepts theistic evolution.

Daniel Gracely said...

(part 1 of 2)
clamflats writes:
So would it be more accurate to state,
“One of the persons of God sacrificed Himself to one of the other persons of God in order to
glorify Both”?


I think in the main, no. To give a (not perfect) analogy, football great Gale Sayers once wrote a book called “I am Third,” by which he meant that God was first, his family second, and himself third. Likewise, there is a sense in which I think Jesus’ motive was to first glorify his Father, to second glorify his sheep, and lastly to glorify Himself. I do not mean by this that He thought himself lesser than His creatures. Positionally, He did and does know his importance—that He is co-equally and co-eternally God. But he did make himself of no reputation, as the Bible says, and emptied Himself of much of that divine power and glory He had previously enjoyed with the Father, which He had before the creation of the world.

In fact, based on quite a number of Jesus’ statements about glorification in John 17 just prior to his arrival at Gethsemane, it appears his primary desire was to glorify the Father, his secondary desire was that his sheep be glorified in Him, even as He was glorified with the Father, and his third desire that He himself be glorified, as befitting that position He enjoyed as equal in substance to the Father. So when you ask if Jesus did what he did “in order to” glorify Both [Persons], I infer your phrase “in order to” as implying motive, i.e., “with motive to”. And I don’t think Jesus’ primary (or even secondary) motive was to glorify Himself. So no, I do not think He acted with any particular desire to glorify Himself.


I think John 17 also shows us that ordinary people are not, as you suggest they might be, “bit players in some divine grand opera.” (congratulations BTW on a great mind picture!) Your description reminds me of Robert Frost’s work, “A Masque of Reason,” in which he parodies the story of Job to present the idea that God’s servant only serves as a tool to settle a bet between the Devil and a calloused, uncaring God. Rather, I think the attention the Bible devotes to the human dilemma places us more into a category of a ‘supporting cast’ rather than bit players, though, because of our sinfulness, not in any sense actually supportive of God.

You close by asking: “Why would God require glory and why would a corporal punishment be necessary?”

When I look up the noun “glory” and the verb “glorify,” the definition seems to focus on ideas of honor, magnificence, giving weight to, etc. (BTW in Hebrew the root of the word actually indicates the liver, because it was the heaviest organ in the body, thus, to give weight to.) The Hebrew word is even used when the KJV translators rendered the scripture in Exodus to read, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Thus the translators missed the point that God ‘glorified’, i.e., gave weight to Pharaoh’s heart because of that king’s own stubbornness. I personally think clues in Exodus and beyond suggest that because Pharaoh continued to harden his heart, God finally allowed Satanic influence to augment the process. I just mention this to show the range capable of “to glorify.”
(part 2 of 2 follows)

Daniel Gracely said...

(part 2 of 2)
Anyway, in John 17 Jesus speaks of the glory that He had with the Father before the world began, a glory which would soon resume when He returned to the Father. And so it seems to me that from eternity past, the Father and the Son were committed to their respective roles of Father and Son even before their roles became actualized in the Incarnation event. And I think previous to the Incarnation, each upheld the Corporate One’s original ethical ideals, and pursued each other’s glory instead of self, and were therefore not selfish as Persons. Secondarily, they sought the benefit of their Neighbor—humanity—when it was in severe need of redemption.

Finally, there is this matter of corporal punishment. You ask why it would be necessary.

But I think what was necessary was not merely corporal punishment, but corporal death—and only that of the innocent on the offender’s behalf. Death, I say, because as God says, “when I see the blood [of the slain sacrifice], I will pass over you.”Hence the term Passover. But we might ask why it should be the body’s distress and death, as opposed to the mind’s, the will’s, or the soul’s, that is necessary. Perhaps the matter of Christ sacrificed may be akin in principle to that which sometimes arises in mathematics, in which it is said that X is necessary but not sufficient. And I think there is a parallel here to the bodily sacrifice of Christ. In other words, the Bible tells us that Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the tree. Yet though this was a necessary thing, probably the whole of Christ’s distress, even such as lead unto death before God (biblically understood as separation from God) was necessary to make a sufficient sacrifice. That is, the whole of the Son alienated from the Father was both necessary and sufficient. Or if not the whole of Christ, then at least the whole of his suffering and death, since there remains nonetheless Christ’s obedience throughout the duration of his sacrifice, which made his sacrifice acceptable to the Father. And so, regarding Jesus’ suffering and death, it seems to me that the cry of Christ which asked why He had been forsaken (not just his body had been forsaken) shows that the Father (and arguably also the Spirit, since Christ actually says “Eli, Eli” which may have been an address to the other two Persons of the Trinity, the Hebrew “El” being an abbreviation), did direct wrath toward the whole of Christ, not just the physical body of Christ.

And thus was the redemption of the whole of man made possible.

Now, in one sense perhaps no Christian can say exactly how Christ’s death provides atonement. Also, one should remember that this atonement pertains to the sinner (as 1 John 2 tells us, through use of the Greek preposition peri); it is not effected automatically on the sinner’s behalf apart from his consent. Beyond this the matter is somewhat of a mystery, since the Bible says that even the angels desire to look into exactly how our salvation was accomplished. Perhaps since Christ was fully human—yet without beginning or end—it was possible for Him as an infinite Person, though singular in number, to somehow provide atonement for finite persons. But really I don’t know, at least beyond what I have said in previous paragraphs.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Christians, atheists, and others cling to what they want to believe, in spite of the evidence. But evolution has nothing to do with whether God exists or even whether the Bible is true. It simply means that the scientific evidence goes against a certain interpretation of the Bible.

Is the bible something that is really up for interpretation? Isn't that just saying that you can make it say one thing while someone else can "make" it say something else?

And whose interpretation is correct? Can all interpretations be correct? If not, how do you determine which interpretations are correct and which aren't?

Which parts of the bible can be interpreted and which are to be taken literally? And why is your list any better or worse than anyone else's list?

If the bible can be interpreted in numerous ways doesn't that just render what it says meaningless? If I interpret Genesis, for example, one way and you interpret it another we both can't be right. God meant it one way or another, not both ways.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Anette,

I agree that one who feels shame also feels terrible. But not all who feel terrible feel shame. “To feel shame” and “to feel terrible” are not synonymous terms. So when you said that Jesus felt shame, were you just trying to say Jesus felt terrible?

As for the plural “Elohym,” many Jews remain monotheist for the same reason Calvinists remain determinists despite both groups’ familiarity with original biblical languages. It is because either they change the meaning of words, or refuse to believe the words they understand. One of the arguments I’ve heard to justify the translators’ use of the word “God” in the Torah when the plural is used, is because certain ancient kings referred to themselves by such a superlative. However, since O.T. Hebrew uses the plural form of God to refer to a plurality of gods, this is part of Elohym’s historical usage as a word. And so there is no reason not to translate Elohym as “Gods,” even when it is so often coupled with a singular verb (as in, the Gods is”).. In fact, even if the Godhead were expressing its corporate oneness and attempting to express its unity as a superlative by use of the word Elohym, rather than indicate plurality in number, how is that achieved in translation when only the singular form in translation appears?! This is why I would argue that translators need to let the text speak for itself. If commentators want to debate the issue in marginal notes, let them. But they shouldn’t mess with the text. I actually had a pastor once tell me “But that would confuse people” [to render Elohym as “Gods” instead of “God”]. As if God didn’t do a very good job of choosing what words should be in the Bible! In my opinion ‘Christian’ translations have missed a golden opportunity to present the doctrine of the plurality of Persons in the Godhead because of poor translations. In fact, these hundreds of mistranslations of the word Elohym has helped affirm the kind of monotheism the Jews, Jehovah’s Wittnesses, etc., believe. Instead, translators should have understood that the emphasis on the Godhead in the O.T. is about plurality of number, whereas in the N.T. it is about the Godhead’s corporate oneness.

Moving on, re: your mention of the empathetic nature of God, I agree that often God is empathetic toward the believer, as your scriptural examples show. But God makes no attempt to weep with the one who weeps over not being able to lay with his neighbor’s wife. Proper empathy has the limit of it being godly empathy. Even so, most certainly God was directing his wrath, not empathy, toward Christ, during the Son’s bearing the sins of the world. And therefore it should not surprise us if the Father was pleased to bruise the Son.

Finally, regarding Jesus’ pre-incarnate state, I do think Jesus felt differently than the Father even then. For the Scripture in Hebrews 10:5-7 says: “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God….” The word “will” is Strong’s #2307, from Strong’s #2309, Gr, thelo, and here means the verb "want". And note that the Son doesn’t say “I come to do our want," but rather “thy want”. Furthermore, I see no reason why you imply that Jesus’ emotions in his incarnated state did not always (if ever) mirror what he felt in his divinity, nor that it did in his pre-incarnate state. For example, you say:

We know how He felt in Gethsemane, as a human, when the sins of the world were put on Him and God turned away from Him. That says nothing about how He felt about it before He came in the flesh. It simply says something about the human side of Jesus and what He suffered.

To me this is a false understanding of what it means for Christ to be both fully human and eternally divine. Everything Christ experienced emotionally as a human, he experienced, too, in his divinity.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

Why would a divinely-inspired book introduce such - well, to be polite, - errors and fake historical stories?

Why do you take for granted that the authors of the Bible living in the first century are wrong and historians living 2000 years later are right? Please read my post on the historicity of the New Testament. I've already covered this subject and I've now moved on to another one.

I never conceded that the New Testament contains historical errors. It is well established by Roman historians that the book of Acts is highly accurate historically--even down to the details. This is also true of the parts of the Gospels that can be verified.

However, minor discrepancies (not necessarily contradictions) between eyewitness accounts may simply mean that different witnesses focused on different things, and it establishes the independence of the sources.

Anette Acker said...

Dan:

I agree that one who feels shame also feels terrible. But not all who feel terrible feel shame. “To feel shame” and “to feel terrible” are not synonymous terms. So when you said that Jesus felt shame, were you just trying to say Jesus felt terrible?

No, but I may have misunderstood clamflats' point. Was he saying that Jesus didn't feel shame in the sense that He knew He hadn't done anything wrong, or did he mean that the crucifixion itself didn't really bother Jesus? I interpreted clamflats to mean that he thought Jesus was essentially impervious to the humiliation and excruciating pain He experienced, but maybe that was not what he was saying.

Even so, most certainly God was directing his wrath, not empathy, toward Christ, during the Son’s bearing the sins of the world. And therefore it should not surprise us if the Father was pleased to bruise the Son.

Where in the Bible does it say that the Father directed His wrath toward Christ? It says that the Father "laid on Him the iniquity of us all," but to my knowledge, nowhere is the word "wrath" used in this context. It is used in the context of God judging the world when Jesus comes again.

To me this is a false understanding of what it means for Christ to be both fully human and eternally divine. Everything Christ experienced emotionally as a human, he experienced, too, in his divinity.

It is not a false understanding of what it means for Christ to be both fully human and eternally divine to say that His words in Gethsemane say something about Jesus' human side. The fact that He was hungry after fasting for 40 days also says something about His human side (i.e., He had a physical body). But prior to His incarnation, He had never felt hunger.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

If the bible can be interpreted in numerous ways doesn't that just render what it says meaningless? If I interpret Genesis, for example, one way and you interpret it another we both can't be right. God meant it one way or another, not both ways.

No, it doesn't logically follow that the fact that people interpret the Bible differently renders what it says meaningless. It simply means that if two interpretations contradict each other, one of them is incorrect.

Genesis and Revelation are called the "book ends" of the Bible because they are about the beginning (creation) and the end (eschatology), and they contain parallel imagery. These are mysteries of an infinite God, and Christians differ in their interpretations. But we don't need to fully understand them. To say that no mere human understands God's way does not mean the Bible is meaningless on these subjects. We can still learn and move closer to the truth.

Anette Acker said...

Dan,

I know it may not be correct to say Jesus' "human side," but I can't find the right expression for it. My point is that there are certain things that pre-incarnate Christ had never experienced. He had never experienced having a human body and having the sins of the world put on Him. He had never experienced the abandonment of the Father. Because of the abandonment, you could say that Gethsemane represents a breach in the unity of the Trinity for the first time. So you can't use it as evidence that there is not perfect unity between the Father and the Son.

You quote Hebrews 10:5-7, but it doesn't support your position that the Father and the pre-incarnate Son don't have perfect unity because it begins with, "Therefore, when He comes into the world . . ." Jesus was not just God, but also the one perfect human, who modeled for us what it means to be a Christian. And we are to do the will of God even when we don't want to.

You raise an interesting point about the word "Elohym," but it seems to me that if in fact it can be interpreted as plural, it is simply consistent with the traditional view of the Trinity. The Shema is also in the OT: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one." I did a quick search on the Hebrew word "Elohym" and found that the "pluralily" can also simply mean exceeding greatness.

Daniel Gracely said...

Anette writes:
You quote Hebrews 10:5-7, but it doesn't support your position that the Father and the pre-incarnate Son don't have perfect unity because it begins with, "Therefore, when He comes into the world . . ." Jesus was not just God, but also the one perfect human, who modeled for us what it means to be a Christian. And we are to do the will of God even when we don't want to.

Dan writes:
Hi Anette,
Just to clarify my position, I never said that the Father and Son (regardless of whether in his pre-Incarnate or Incarnate state) did not have perfect unity in the ethical, moral dimension. Rather, I was pointing out the Scriptural implication that the desires of the Son and Father were different even before the Son’s Incarnation, but that the Son’s desire did not lead him to an intention (decision) against his Father. Therefore in any moral sense, the only sense that really matters, they have always been of perfect unity.

But there has not always been “perfect unity” of the Father’s and Son’s desires, if by “perfect unity” is meant “sameness.” Moreover, I don’t see why you would feel it necessary that the pre-Incarnate Son should have the same desire as the Father regarding the Son coming into the world. (Or am I misunderstanding your position?) In any normal sense of language, for one to state that he came not on his own but was sent by another shows a prior difference of desire prior to the coming. Suppose, for example, my neighbor across the street was blaring their music late at night, heard a knock on the door, opened it to find me standing there, and heard me say, “I came not on my own, but my wife who sent me. The words I speak now are not my own, but are my wife’s. Please turn down the music.” Do you suppose my neighbor would think that before I came I had the same desire as my wife to come over and speak to them? The matter seems self-evident to me that my neighbor will think (rightly so) I had a different desire than my wife prior to coming to see them, when in the privacy of my home.

Even so, when it comes to this matter of the Son’s desire in his pre-Incarnate state, unless one takes the position that language behaves very differently when God is the subject—a hermeneutical approach I personally think is defective (but one advocated by John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Helseth in Out of Bounds, when advocating for “analogous” language, by which they mean that God is so fundamentally different than us that language cannot be identical in meaning to what we would normally suppose, when God is the subject), I do not see how one can infer other than what I have inferred about the Son’s desire in his Incarnate and pre-Incarnate state. Yet I am not saying Jesus did not want man to be saved, for He says He often felt like a hen wanting to gather Jerusalem’s ‘chicks’ under his wing. But he nevertheless prayed, “Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” So though He desired that men be saved, He also desired not to die; and at least in the latter sense, which He regarded as the main sense (else He would not have said He came not on his own) He did not desire to be sent.

I’ll write a separate comment on Elohym and the alleged meaning of “exceeding greatness”.

BTW, Happy Mother’s Day to you.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Anette,

Below is a slightly edited, year-old letter to a pastor friend of mine, John. In it I address the Shema and other considerations. Re: your point about “exceeding greatness” being one of the definitions of Elohym, I personally think this view is fueled in part by (1) a refusal by that brand of monotheists which reject Christ and therefore the possibility that the Hebrew Deity is more than one Person; and (3) therefore the consequential necessity to come up with another definition for Elohym other than the normal one of “Gods”. Below is an excerpt from my letter to John.

“More and more I feel that interpretation by translators should be taken out of the text. My own view is that when a plural noun is combined with a singular verb, then translate it that way! To make the claim—as theologians do about "elohym" when combined with singular verbs—that it speaks of God's majesty rather than (as I would contend) serve as a figure of speech about the Persons of the Godhead acting as though they were One Person, is to me an unwarranted presupposition imposed on the text. Yes, I have moved away from believing the Bible teaches God is One Being expressed in three Persons. A being IS a person (i.e., they are synonymous terms), and so, to me the standard expression in so-called Christian Church Confessionals about One Being in Three Persons is an example (among others) of the Hegelian dialectic invading Evangelical theology. The reason I feel so adamant about this is because God, IF He were One Being prior to creation, could be neither selfless or selfish, on the grounds of the fact that another being must be present for either of those possibilities to take place. So regarding the Shema in Duet. 6:4, I take the "one" as either meaning "first" which I think fits the context, or else one in intention (and so anticipating Jesus' statement that He and His Father are one), OR both (polyvalent, I think it’s called).

“John, I find this emphasis on the plurality of the Godhead a compelling argument when witnessing. People are taken aback when I explain that within Christendom there are two views: 1) God as exalting His name, insisting on worship as the Creator, and not being questioned about it (the view of Calvinism); in contrast to 2) the Eternal Gods entering conference with different desires but coming out of conference with the same decision, each at the expense of Himself (and so acting as though they were one person). And I think the Bible shows this self-sacrificial nature of the Godhead, for 1) the Father gave up His Son; 2) the Son says He did not come on His own (i.e. did not want to come) but submitted Himself to His Father so that ultimately the Father would be glorified; and 3) the Spirit speaks not of Himself but of Jesus, while also wrestling with men's minds to convince them of sin and the coming Judgment against selfishness. And so there is self-sacrifice among all three Persons of the Godhead in relation to each other.

“This really speaks to the motivation of God, as opposed to the first view, where arguably only an Egotist is in view, as though by the mere fact of His Power no moral objections by men ought to be made about any of His actions (e.g., Predestination).
(part 2 of 2 follows)

Daniel Gracely said...

(part 2 of 2)
“All for now, John. As for the former point about the Hebrew mixing the plural with the singular so that it actually should read "In the beginning Gods creates the heaven and the earth," however awkwardly that may sound, we have yet an English translation to show us that, i.e., what is really going on in the Hebrew. I think your remark about the Trinity being watered down by translators is so on target, and explains why so many subsequent cults have had an easier time rejecting the deity of Christ by their solely monistic appeal to monotheism, helped by translators who have rendered the plural elohym to the singular some 300 or 400 times, compared to the dozen or so occurrences of the singular elowaw, thus emphasizing (as you point out) the singular nature of "God" at the expense of the plural. What an easier time Christians might have had in centuries past, had only they rendered an awkward text which naturally would have invited a proper explanation and inroad into discussion with unbelievers. And to think this opportunity still avails us, if only we would insist on not adding to, nor detracting from, God’s word.”

p.s. Anette: Incidentally, I failed in my last post to address your point about Christ being hungry, which I think you were pointing out to advance the argument of a different state of emotion/desire in the Son in his pre-Incarnate state. Generally speaking, many Christians assume God in his eternal state is bodiless, in main part because the N.T. says “God is a spirit.” But there is no indefinite article (“a”) in Greek, and the verse could have been just as justifiably translated “God is spirit.” But so is man, who exists as such even when his body is dead. As for hunger, Christ ate fish and bread in his glorified state, and Moses saw the back, not face, of God in the O.T., which seems to indicate physical anatomy. But I realize I’m in the minority here.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

and your single-minded zeal to try to prove me wrong even if it means dragging into this discussion everything that offends you about the Bible.

I'm sorry if you feel I'm trying to prove you wrong. In March or so I asked if the God could be proven without the bible and you said instead to examine the bible deeply and I'm just trying to do that. I had the impression that you felt that the bible could stand up to any test or examination. You also mentioned in a post that you asked the tough questions regarding it and God in general (I'm paraphrasing here) and that is what I'm trying to do - ask what are to me the tough questions, questions that may be more of a softball nature to you.

As for what offends me about the bible, I'm not sure what you are referring to. I did post something on "The Problem of Evil and Suffering" regarding some beliefs that I would have to accept. Most of the thoughts came from reading Ray's blog but then along came William Lane Craig himself to back up my statement. In an article he posted on his website he not only thinks that genocide and infanticide are more than acceptable, but we should feel sorry for the Israeli soldiers who kill all of those defenseless women and children.

Look, whether on your blog or on Ray's, all I'm trying to do is find the truth - not my truth, not Ray's truth, not your truth but THE TRUTH. If the bible can't stand up to tough examination, questions and criticism then perhaps I should look elsewhere for the truth. Good luck and I wish you continued success in both your blog and your life.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

Look, whether on your blog or on Ray's, all I'm trying to do is find the truth - not my truth, not Ray's truth, not your truth but THE TRUTH. If the bible can't stand up to tough examination, questions and criticism then perhaps I should look elsewhere for the truth. Good luck and I wish you continued success in both your blog and your life.

I apologize if I came across rude when I said, "your single-minded zeal to try to prove me wrong even if it means dragging into this discussion everything that offends you about the Bible." You seem like a nice guy and my intent was certainly not to insult you.

This is what I meant: In this thread alone, you've raised Jephthah, Samuel, Elisha and the bears, Joseph of Arimathea, slavery in Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents, the Craig/Krauss debate, Genesis, and Dan Barker's challenge. In the previous thread, you raised the Canaanites, creationism in schools, the tooth fairy, and leprechauns.

When I am discussing one topic and you raise a number of unrelated objections to Christianity that I don't have time to fully explore, then it distracts the reader and may give him or her the impression that I have conceded all those points, when in fact I simply don't have time to explore those topics. It is much quicker for you to raise them than for me to respond to them in a way that does them justice.

It's not that the issues you raise are not valid if they were the subject of my main post, but I don't have time to chase every rabbit trail. You've also told me that you'd need 100% proof of Christianity, something that is inherently impossible (100% proof of a scientific theory is also impossible). So even if I took the time to fully explore all those subjects with you, it is a foregone conclusion that you'd reject my explanations, because they wouldn't amount to 100% proof. You've also asserted that you don't need to refute any arguments by Christians, so it sounds like you've decided that no matter what we say, you're still right. If that's how you feel, you've already found your truth even if it's not THE TRUTH.

I'm sorry to hear that you have decided to move on, but I understand and wish you the very best.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

In this thread alone, you've raised Jephthah, Samuel, Elisha and the bears, Joseph of Arimathea, slavery in Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents, the Craig/Krauss debate, Genesis, and Dan Barker's challenge.

I did not raise the Craig/Krauss debate - I didn't even know it happened until I read it in your post to clamflats.

You've also told me that you'd need 100% proof of Christianity, something that is inherently impossible (100% proof of a scientific theory is also impossible).

The thing is that if I choose to believe in the wrong theory I don't get punished for it by spending the rest of eternity (trillions upon trillions of years - just to start) in a torturous lake of fire. No one was punished for an eternity when Newton's theory of time and space was disproven. In short, if I back the wrong theory I can afford to be wrong. When trying to determine where to spend eternity, I don't have the luxury of being wrong. I have only one chance of being right. No mulligans, no do-overs. It is not a decision to be made lightly.

You've also asserted that you don't need to refute any arguments by Christians,

Atheists are not making any positive claims; it is the christian who is making the positive claim that God exists therefore they (or any religious group claiming that their god exists) have the burden to prove their claim and not for others to disprove it. Whoever makes the positive claim that something supernatural exists has the burden of proof - that's all I meant.

Whew! Now I'm done, I think.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Anette,

I wanted to concede one point; that since God preceded all else, He also preceded food, and therefore would not have been hungry in eternity past.

I think my main problem with your argument is that is seems a hugely unwarranted inference to assume that because desire in the form of physical hunger changes for a person/Person, that therefore psychical desires would or should be expected to be different. It seems self-evident to me that in the main persons are not like that, and I don't find that a credible argument.

Anette Acker said...

Dan,

BTW, Happy Mother’s Day to you.

Thanks! I had a great one.

Just to clarify my position, I never said that the Father and Son (regardless of whether in his pre-Incarnate or Incarnate state) did not have perfect unity in the ethical, moral dimension. Rather, I was pointing out the Scriptural implication that the desires of the Son and Father were different even before the Son’s Incarnation, but that the Son’s desire did not lead him to an intention (decision) against his Father. Therefore in any moral sense, the only sense that really matters, they have always been of perfect unity.

I don't think you have established that their desires about the redemption were different. I have cited Bible passages showing that God, who is love, empathizes with those who suffer. Even when He has to allow us to a suffer for a greater good, like in the story of Lazarus dying, He grieves with us.

Furthermore, I think the Son desired to do the Father's will. Psalm 40:7-8 says: "Then I said, 'Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.'" Those verses are echoed in Hebrews 10:7 in reference to Christ.

And as a Christian, I can testify that growing spiritually means that my desires are becoming more and more in line with God's will. The gift of God, through His Spirit, is that He changes our hearts so we are not at war with ourselves.

So though He desired that men be saved, He also desired not to die; and at least in the latter sense, which He regarded as the main sense (else He would not have said He came not on his own) He did not desire to be sent.

If He desired not to be sent, what do you make of Psalm 40:7-8? And what evidence do you have that He didn't desire to be sent? (And again, that is different from saying that after the sins of the world were placed on Him, God had turned from Him, and He was in mental agony, He desired to be delivered.)

Anette Acker said...

Yes, I have moved away from believing the Bible teaches God is One Being expressed in three Persons. A being IS a person (i.e., they are synonymous terms), and so, to me the standard expression in so-called Christian Church Confessionals about One Being in Three Persons is an example (among others) of the Hegelian dialectic invading Evangelical theology.

You said earlier that John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Helseth advocate "for 'analogous' language, by which they mean that God is so fundamentally different than us that language cannot be identical in meaning to what we would normally suppose, when God is the subject," and I have to agree with them, because the eternal realm is so different that language is analogous. We do not have the language to express an immaterial, timeless, spaceless condition or realm, so we have to use analogous language. To say that "a being IS a person" is too strong a statement since you are extrapolating from our experience in our physical realm. The Trinity is difficult to conceptualize because it transcends our understanding of beings and persons.

You may be right that the plural in the OT references the Trinity, but if so, you have only established that the OT affirms the traditional view of the Trinity. You have not established that the Persons of the Trinity have different desires or that they are not of the same substance.

I think my main problem with your argument is that is seems a hugely unwarranted inference to assume that because desire in the form of physical hunger changes for a person/Person, that therefore psychical desires would or should be expected to be different. It seems self-evident to me that in the main persons are not like that, and I don't find that a credible argument.

True, which is why I immediately followed that comment up with one in which I discussed the psychic sufferings of Jesus in Gethsemane after the Father abandoned Him and the sins of the world were placed on Him (although in looking back at that comment, I realize that I wasn't clear about what I meant).

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

Atheists are not making any positive claims; it is the christian who is making the positive claim that God exists therefore they (or any religious group claiming that their god exists) have the burden to prove their claim and not for others to disprove it. Whoever makes the positive claim that something supernatural exists has the burden of proof - that's all I meant.

All this means that we have to present our evidence and make our arguments, but skeptics have to refute them. Since for two thousand years, they have not been able to come up with plausible explanations for the evidence for the resurrection, the bedrock of Christianity, we have met our burden of proof.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Anette,
Don't have time this morning to address all you said, but you did misquote me on an important point. I said that the Father and Son ARE of the same substance. Here is the paragraph:

Therefore, while technically all three persons are co-equally God in substance, I believe some qualifying statements ought to be made if we say that God sacrificed himself for himself. Stating it without qualifiers strikes me as if one person is doing it to himself. But, in fact, it is not the case that the Father was crucified, nor that the Son sent Himself, etc. Yes, in one sense all three Persons were sacrificial in the process of the Father’s plan and the Son’s ministry, but only one did the sending, another one did the dying, and yet another one than these two speaks of the one who died, while also attempting to convince the world of sin and judgment.

In the meantime, since you don't believe that the Son meant He had a different desire than the Father when He came into the world, then what is your interpretation for "I came not on my own" (in the context that the Father sent Him)? I can think of no normal sense in which this can be understood except in terms of desire. But then, since apparently you confess that language is mainly(?)analogous when God is the subject, it seems rational expectations where language is concerned and where God is the grammatical subject does not concern you overly.

Anette Acker said...

Dan:

Don't have time this morning to address all you said, but you did misquote me on an important point. I said that the Father and Son ARE of the same substance.

I misremembered what you had said (but I didn't misquote you) and I apologize for that.

Whether the Trinity is one being and one substance or just one substance depends on the definition of "being." On-line dictionaries give several definitions, some of which fit the Godhead and others don't:

a. A person: "The artist after all is a solitary being" (Virginia Woolf).
b. All the qualities constituting one that exists; the essence.
c. One's basic or essential nature; personality.


If we are just arguing about semantics, then there is no point to that. But if that's the case, then you have no real disagreement with the traditional view.

In the meantime, since you don't believe that the Son meant He had a different desire than the Father when He came into the world, then what is your interpretation for "I came not on my own" (in the context that the Father sent Him)? I can think of no normal sense in which this can be understood except in terms of desire.

Here is an analogy of something that happened this morning: I had to get ready for a meeting at a school, so I asked my husband Rick to take our daughter out to the bus and give a message to the driver. In that particular situation, I sent Rick, so he could have said, "I come not of my own, but Anette sent me."

This says nothing about how he felt about doing this. Whether he delighted to do it, felt indifferent about it, or resented it, the fact still remains that I was the sender and he was the sendee.

But then, since apparently you confess that language is mainly(?)analogous when God is the subject, it seems rational expectations where language is concerned and where God is the grammatical subject does not concern you overly.

The language matters greatly, but it is limited because we don't have the words to describe that which transcends our experience. Although Jesus is the Son of God, He is not a son in the sense that God has a wife who gave birth to Him. Nor is He a son in the sense that the Father is older. So the language doesn't quite fit our understanding of fathers and sons. But it's the best way of expressing it.

Likewise, the fact that the glorified church is the Bride of Christ doesn't make Christ a polygamist, nor does it mean that we lose our individuality. The diversity of the church will remain, even though there will be perfect unity.

And since the Godhead is unified but consists of three Persons, and God is immaterial, it makes sense to say that God is three in one even if we can't wrap our minds around the concept. We may come up with analogies, but it's different from anything we have experienced. According to our experience in a material universe, persons are always material and therefore separate beings.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Anette,

By “substance” I mean that which makes two individual things the same kind of thing, in the sense that any two dogs sharing the same “substance” makes them dogs and not cats or people. But that does not mean the two dogs are the same dog. In general, I think Christian creeds hedge on what they mean by “substance,” seeking a word as they talk around the idea of One Being expressed in Three Persons.

Re: the idea that Rick was sent by you in the example you provide. Such a matter as you describe seems too trivial to me, that someone like Rick would make a point of it. Why would Rick bother in such a trivial circumstance to say to someone: “Anette sent me” ? If all along his feelings and desires were the same as yours (not same ones, of course), why would he bother pointing such a thing out? On the other hand, were he the husband in my aforementioned example of going to one’s neighbor and saying, “I came not on my own, but my wife who sent me. The words I say now are not my own but hers. ‘Your music is too loud; please turn it down’ ”] then his statement of contrast would be designed to show a difference in desire.

Re: Ps. 40 in relation to Heb. 10, the word “delight” does not appear in Heb. 10, but is conspicuously omitted in line, arguably because the author of Hebrews knew it wasn’t an applicable Messianic portion in a context about Christ’s desire in coming to be our Sacrifice. Messianic portions often float in and out of Psalm passages, and is one explanation why in this same chapter [of Ps. 40] the first person speaker in verse 12 speaks of his multitude of sins which are more in number than the hairs of his head.

I hope to write soon about “analogical” language, which, as Piper et al describe it, is non-sensical and not an example of analogous language at all.

Anette Acker said...

Dan and Darkknight56,

I apologize that your comments are missing, but Blogger has been dropping recent comments (they are not in my spam folder). They said they would repost them, but so far that has not happened. And even comments being posted today are disappearing. Someone spammed my most recent post, I did not delete the comment, and now it is gone.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Anette,

Our comment exchanges about the nature of the Trinity and of Christ pre-Incarnate versus Incarnate seem to be distilling down to a defense of opposing hermeneutics. My concern is that your (traditional) view qualifies the selfless act of Christ. So I’m sorry to hear you say you endorse the kind of analogical language of John Piper et al in Out of Bounds. The problem here is that Piper’s kind of “analogical’ language is not analogous language at all, but an attempt to make meaninglessness appear meaningful.

I believe this approach is why, e.g., you say that God is “timeless,” “spaceless,” etc. This popular conception among many Christians that God is ‘outside time’ as opposed to moving and changing in time, which makes history possible, is a prime example of trying to define God as a non-time being who for the sake of time-bound humans engages, or appears to engage, in linear time with them. And thus we have the idea of God-the-timeless-being acting in time. Many such non-sensical statements follow from this kind of ‘logic.’ This is why authors like Calvinist James Spiegel in his book The Benefits of Providence, describe God as outside time, space, and emotion. One wonders, then, what Spiegel makes of Genesis 1:26, which says that man was made in God’s image and likeness. For if to Spiegel God is NOT a being of time, space, or emotion, but Adam IS a being of time, space, and emotion, in what sense can man be said to have been made in the likeness of God (Elohym), since these realms are the most basic to sentient being? Ah, but perhaps Spiegel can dissolve, too, the terms “image” and “likeness” into the acidic bath of the ‘analogical’ hermeneutic until they, too, become one with the ‘solution’ of indistinguishable, meaningless terms.

And thus may I expect Spiegel and Piper et al to epicycle within epicycles of explanation to justify their hermeneutic. [Next I suppose I’ll be hearing how God is dimensionless pre-creation, dimensional post-creation, etc., at least insofar as he ‘reveals’ Himself to man. It would remind me a little of your own description of the pre-Incarnate, post-Incarnate Christ.] Thus, e.g. when Piper quotes Isaiah’s statement that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours as the heavens are to the earth, he claims that this proves God is transcendent not merely in degree, but in fundamental kind. Yet only the former is proved in Isaiah according to the normal rules of language and meaning. Yet in his manner Piper uses the normal language of Isaiah to put forth another claim—that God is simultaneously making description in non-historically based, ‘linguistic’ terms. And so, for Piper, both normal language and abnormal ‘language’ happen simultaneously via the same word symbols. Of course, the problem here is, the rationality that presupposes the former language forbids the latter, and the latter’s irrationality the former, and so meaning becomes impossible. One is reminded of C.K. Chesterton’s remark about how modern culture expects its artists to use the symbols of language, so long as those symbols convey no actual meaning.

The problem, then, with ‘analogical’ meaning as Piper practices it, is that it relies on a non-historical-grammatical approach. For his main mantra is that words are not “identical” in meaning when God is the subject. This is a junior version of Karl Barth’s approach, in which the claim is made that divine language— regardless of how narrowly or broadly its terms are considered—is not identical in meaning to normal language. But again, the upshot here is that there can be no meaning at all, if even in the most narrow sense terms are not identical in meaning to normal language.

Daniel Gracely said...

(part 2)
Well, as Thomas Edgar points out in his article on God’s foreknowledge, if words mean something different when God is the subject, how do we know what any word means when God is the subject? Yet thus the Piperesque God comes to the fore—allegedly timeless yet acting, spaceless yet dimensional, emotionless yet emphathetic. Unable to make up their minds about the real nature of God, Piper et al embrace the Hegelian doublespeak of contradictory nonsense. It reminds me very much of author Lloyd Douglas’s complaint of the critic who accused him of being “almost ungrammatical,” to which Douglas responded that he knew what “grammatical” was, and “ungrammatical,” too; but what was “almost ungrammatical”? And likewise with Piper et al, we have “almost meaning.” And so now I’m told, not by them but also by you, Anette, to add the ‘analogical’ hermanuetic to the list of things in which “almost” counts, like horseshoes and atom bombs. Amazing God, that.

For you say that my definition of the Trinity—which insists, according to the rules of normal language, that [sentient, individuated] “being” and “person” are synonyms—puts the matter “too strongly.” But I don’t know what that means. Yet I know what it means to say that a “being” IS a “person.” And I know, too, what it means to say that a “being” IS NOT a “person.” But I have no idea what you mean when implying that a divine Person is almost a being, as if He must wait until joined by two other Persons.

But if you are right, then Christ’s motivation was not just to glorify an Another—his Father—but to also glorify Himself, as part of the ineffable One of the Trinity. If that is the case, then to that extent Christ cannot escape the charge of being an Egotist. And I trust you’ll spare me a contrare reply with biblical stories of Christ’s selflessness familiar to us all, since every one of these would presuppose their expression in rational, not ‘analogical’, language.

But re: identical meaning, proper analogous language is univocal figure of speech, and always has an intersecting point of identical meaning. When Christ says “I am the door,” we know that Christ is saying a door and He are both entrances. When Christ says “How often I would have gathered Jerusalem’s inhabitants like a hen her chicks under her wing,” we know that Christ is saying both He and a hen have a desire to gather. But when, for example, Mormon apologists found that The Pearl of Great Price—part of the Book of Abraham Joseph Smith ‘translated’ ca. 1835 from certain Egyptian papyri—proved completely fraudulent once the Rosetta Stone was discovered, apologists found how useful ‘analogous’ language [a la Piper] could be. So what if hieroglyphics were grounded in the rules of normal language? Hadn’t Smith’s large, unique spectacles revealed a fundamentally different revelation behind those curious symbols? “Faith, feint heart!” cried LDS scholars, adding their time-worn catch-phrase “Hold onto that burning in the bosom!”

Daniel Gracely said...

(part 3 of 3)
The final irony is that, while Piper’s appeal to ‘analogical’ language is no different than Smith’s, yet to prove which Scripture were true Piper would have to appeal to the rational, not analogical, language of biblical prophecies, N.T. historical narratives, etc. But then when Piper would wish to return to analogical language to argue Calvin’s view that man can choose but can only choose evil (a choice between one thing), he would be aided in part by Christianity’s most famous analogical fiat accompli—the One-equals-Three, Three-equals-One Trinity. All this made possible by translators who stripped God’s use of Elohym some 400 times in the Torah alone because they didn’t feel comfortable with it, and made possible, too, because Christian readers for centuries have given a free pass to their translators. And so, like Mormons, Evangelicals show a certain proclivity for polygamy, at least in language. And so, if Evangelicals, not Mormons, be the bride of Christ, they nevertheless sometimes appear polygamous enough to be the bride of tradition.

Yet I would concede at least that in matters of Christian doctrine an appeal must rarely be made to mystery. But such should always be the last resort. Indeed, if the rules of normal language can make sense of a thing—as I believe they can about the Trinity—that path should be taken. And thus the justification of that old saying about hermeneutics: “If the normal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense.”

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Anette,

Previous to my last posting, Blogger lost my response to your claim that the “I desire” in Psalm 40:7-8 supports the position that the desire of the pre-Incarnate Son was the same as the Father’s.

Since then I have looked up Ps. 40:7-8 in the Hebrew Interlinear. (The quote in Hebrews 10 falls short of the “I desire”, and so does not appear.) Here is the messianic passage:

“Then/behold !/I-came/in•roll-of/scroll/one-being-written/on•me/to•to-do-of/approval-of•you/Elohim-of•me/I-desire/and•law-of•you/in•midst-of”

The striking thing is the deference of the speaker. He states that he comes to do the “approval of you—the Gods of me—and the law of you.” All three terms show that the focus of the speaker’s desire is toward the object Persons, not the desire of the object Persons. In other words, in English we could use italics two different ways to express two different emphases. We could say, “Okay, I want to do what you want.” This is a speaker’s way of stating that though he is not keen on what desire the object persons want, he IS keen on the object persons, and so will relent. Conversely in English, were the speaker to desire the same thing as the object person, he would put the emphasis (italics) on the word “I”, as in “Okay (fine!), I (too) want to do what you want!” But then in Hebrew, if the pre-Incarnate Son’s desire were for the same thing as the Father’s, we should expect the speaker to express that by use of the first person plural, i.e., “I come to do the approval of us—the Gods—and the law of us.”

So I don’t feel that Ps. 40:7-8 shows that the pre-Incarnate Son and the Father desired the same thing, at least per se. I say “per se” because though Christ did in one sense want the salvation of man which the Father also wanted, still, Christ did not want to die. (But who does?) For He prays to the Father that “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not what I want, but what you want.” I think the matter is much like a volunteer American soldier, who, so to speak, wants to do what Uncle Sam wants him to do, but obviously doesn’t want to die, though Uncle Sam may call upon him for that sacrifice.

Finally, the omniscient, foreknowledge of the pre-Incarnate Son did not need the experience of becoming human, in order to know what the agony would feel like in his future moment of suffering and alienation as the Lamb of God. And so the pre-Incarnate Son’s emotional response would have been in the same direction as the Incarnate Son’s would come to be, though admittedly not with the same intensity. For such seems the emotional nature of God (and even of man). For in Job, God tells Satan that he (the Devil) incited Him (God). Yet we know God’s foreknowledge would have known prior to the Devil’s inciting that He (God) would become incited. But in the actual moment there is a heightened sense of the emotion. In the same sense a boss of a company might feel most terrible in the actual moment he tells an employee he is laid-off because of the company’s slow sales, though the boss knew days in advance he would have to give the employee the bad news.

Incidentally, in my last post I think I attributed certain statements to John Piper, when actually I think they are Michael Horton’s. And the book is Beyond the Bounds, not Out of Bounds. But of course Horton’s remarks appear with Piper’s approbation.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

All this means that we have to present our evidence and make our arguments, but skeptics have to refute them. Since for two thousand years, they have not been able to come up with plausible explanations for the evidence for the resurrection, the bedrock of Christianity, we have met our burden of proof.

For 2,000 years Christians have made the claim that the resurrection happened but they have never provided proof that it actually happened. Christians have never even shown that the events described in the bible actually happened as described. How do we know that the events in the bible, a book that you said had discrepancies, actually occurred? How do we know that the stories weren't being changed and embellished as they were being transmitted? You (nor any other apologist have not shown that they were being faithfully and accurately transmitted from person to person down through the years.

There are no records from anyone living in Israel at the time, either Jew or Gentile, stating that they saw any of the miracles or that they saw Jesus after his death.

It isn't enough to say that it happened and if skeptics can't show it didn't then it must be true. No one has ever explained the how of it as in how it happened. If you want to claim that the resurrection happened you have to explain exactly how it happened. How exactly does a god reanimate a dead person? Did Jesus reanimate himself or did God the Father reanimate him when he was in the tomb? If so, how was that done?

As for accepting any plausible explanation Christians have never shown that they are willing to objectively examine the evidence against the resurrection. On the contrary, for centuries Christians have even been willing to kill anyone who spoke out against Christianity. Christianity wasn't spread because of the strength of their arguments but due mainly to force and threats of force.

Christians are regularly encouraged to ignore any reasoning or arguments from man. They are taught to choose the bible over man's reasoning no matter what the evidence to the contrary someone can provide. In modern times, people like William Lane Craig have said that the witness of the holy spirit trumps whatever man has to say. Ray has a quote from R. A. Torrey on his website stating that people should believe the bible over whatever man has to say. So Christians are taught to ignore any evidence which threatens their faith. As in the case of Ray and another apologist who went so far as to offer $250,000 for explanation for some Christian event (I don't recall what it is at the moment) when presented with evidence that conflicts with their beliefs they will simply move the goal posts. carl with a small 'c' in Ray's group is a prime example of someone doing this. Christians aren't willing to listen to reasonable explanations because they are unwilling to change their world view in the face of the evidence.

So to say that you've met your burden of proof and we just haven't been able to refute it just doesn't hold water.

Go up to Christian family and friends and announce that you are now an atheist and see their reaction. I'm sure that some will still love and accept you but many others won't. If you read the stories of people who became atheists, in many cases, they describe how family and friends disowned them and in many cases banished them from the family. You can watch videos of people describing how they've become outcasts from families and friends by becoming atheists.