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« Tactics on the Internet | Main | Tactics & Courage »

February 20, 2009

Comments

I just think it's easier to reason with people who can think carefully and follow arguments. It's easier to dialogue with people who are polite and reasonable. Your tactics encourage these things, which is why I think your book would benefit both Christians and non-Christians if the non-Christians read it, too. It would elevate the conversation between the two groups. Imagine if "critical thinking" classes were required in every high school and college curriculum. We wouldn't have to waste so much time addressing silly arguments, red herrings, ad hominems, etc.

In the war between good and evil, it would be better for both sides if we all thought a bit more carefully about what we're trying to say. :)

Only someone of Greg Koukl's caliber could attain to such a classic moment of intellectual fairness. He is simply the consummate diplomat (which is why he is such a hero to me).

Of course, being courteous is one of the chief virtues, so he's right that this benefits us all. But (at the next point) I can almost hear the echo of Lewis, or perhaps Roosevelt, opining, 'In the struggle to claim the destiny of the human soul, the infernal Princes would prove to be more adept corruptors if they simply thought through what they wanted to say.'

Hey people.

I'm a non-believer.
Recommend to me please.
I've done Lewis, Spurgeon, Stott, Strobel, W.L. Craig, J.P. Holding, Bill, Bob AND Mandy.
And still I lack...

(Best among them by a country mile? Lewis. Pity he spoke nonsense though...his trilemma was actually a quadrilemma and he suprisingly missed the 4th point. Oh well; his way with words was (and is) sooo seductive.)

I need a convincing explanation for the Christian definition of sin, people - and from outside the faith (which is where I reside.)

Do you have it folks?

Sin is just doing what you shouldn't or failing to do what you should. I'm not sure what kind of explanation you're looking for.

Hi Sam.

Thanks for this. Not convincing for the non-Christian though...as all humans the world over do what they shouldn't and don't do what they should.

As I see it, sin, besides suffering, is the greatest difficulty to Christianity since Jesus following directly from this doctrine makes it crucial.

I realize the Christian definition of sin is a catch all - 'All have sinned' - as someone said. But just try telling that to a non-believer. I try (I'm actually sometimes not quite a non believer!) and there are no takers as the (specifically Christian) consequences, hell, are seen as too difficult to comprehend.

Stott sells as the consequences of sin alienation, slavery and human conflict. The last two are obvious. To understand the former (alienation from God) requires you to be a believer first (holiness of God.)
So to accept the (Christian) need for Jesus (potential for hell) requires a prior (Christian) belief (the holiness of God.)

This is no bridge to those outside the faith and it is this that is my problem.

(Let me know if I got on the wrong thread, but I don't think I did - reading the comments above.)

cim, I'm afraid I may be missing your whole point because I'm not sure where you're coming from. I gave you a definition of sin and you said, "not convincing." What exactly am I supposed to be convincing you of? What is it that you disagree with me about? Sorry. I hope I'm not just having a blonde moment.

Hi cim,

Like Sam, I'm not sure what is the crux of your concern. So I'll give it a shot and see if I hit close enough to help.

If you are trying to justify hell's existence as a place of endless torment in punishment for people committing sins and dying in a state of unrepentant guilt before God, then there are several ways the authors you mention address this.

I assume you are familiar with Lewis' idea (paraphrased) that in the end, there are only two options for everyone's eternal destiny: either the person says to God, "Thy will be done," or God says to the person, "Thy will be done." In the former dynamic the person goes to heaven, and in the latter they go to hell.

We could call this the free will argument for hell - that by creating human beings in His image, God endowed us with the ability to make real choices. For our choices to be real, they must directly affect real outcomes. The ultimate outcome of rejecting God and preferring oneself without changing one's mind is living in hell for eternity. If God took away the most awful consequence of the worst possible choice, then our choices would not affect real outcomes, and our wills would be somewhat less than free. Heaven and hell are therefore the necessary result of having free moral agents who exist in God's image, with the ability to make real choices concerning their orientation toward God.

(Pardon me - effect, not affect.)

>>So to accept the (Christian) need for Jesus (potential for hell) requires a prior (Christian) belief (the holiness of God.)

I actually agree with that, believe it or not. This is why, as Christians, we recognize the need for God to give you an awareness of your sin. We can tell you what sin is, but the conviction comes from God.

However, I would also say it's hard to believe that you feel no guilt at all for things you've done in your life. We may harden our consciences quite a bit, but I've never met someone who felt like he was totally clean. A glimpse of the holiness of God can help you understand how horrible sin is--i.e., the depth of your guilt, but I think everyone feels some guilt about something.

You asked for a reading recommendation earlier, and I would really recommend you read The Holiness of God if you want to understand the Christian position on sin and God's holiness more clearly.

cim:
I've heard this before, that CS Lewis's "trilemma was actually a quadrilemma and he suprisingly missed the 4th point".

What is your 4th point that Lewis left out?

Karen, I believe the 4th possibility Lewis didn't account for is that Jesus didn't really say the things recorded in the Bible.

Hey people.

Truly sorry if I was unclear...

Sam.

My point - in a nutshell - is the 'why' of Christianity (having this debate as I am with a strict Christian friend of mine as we speak...)

As I hear it: Jesus was needed as a necessary bridge from us to the divine as a kind of 'repair mechanism' for prior misdemeanors.

Okay then.

So to be able to accept the 'need for' (as opposed to the 'fact of') the Jesus mission presupposes the acceptance that sin really is as the Christians say it is: ie. has the specific eternal consequences given in the 'the wages of sin...' verse.
('Why Christianity?' in other words.)

How so to do this from without (as opposed to within) the faith is my question.

We all do loopy stuff for sure. And our sorry posteriors get a (here-and-now) kicking for it once in a while just maybe. But the (eternal) hellfire interpretation as a necessary consequence for our sins? Where does an outsider to the faith go to for the reality of this belief? – a belief crucially necessary (as I perceive it) waaaay prior to any considerations as to the reality or not of the Jesus mission.

Thanks for the debate people. Really appreciate it!

(And Sam – convince me that sin is real enough for me to enter your faith.)

Sage S...thank you for the very well written 4th para!

I and the people I deal with, are, unfortunately, a little bit more basic than this.
Yes you responded as the (and I must say) insightful(!) Christian must. However my type of person is OF the doctrine (know it like the back of our hand – lapsed Christian as I for one am…) though not yet IN the doctrine.
Wonderful (really!) description of the Christian position on sin, free will and hell. Just how to come to a position of acceptance of it is my situation I guess.

Thanks again!

(And hi Amy...)

...Oh yes Sproul, Amy. Thank you. Can’t say I’ve read him – though I know of him as a legend.

And that the conviction that you say comes from God I can surely agree with as a personal position in my debates with others; a religious friend of mine takes exactly the same position as you do. My friend says I'm not ready. I agree...and it is this that she says is what makes me not exactly a non-Christian.

Guilt? Sure.
Huge guilt I have (as we all do) for some things. But as to the specific Christian consequences of such guilt? This seems to be the issue at present. (As opposed to the terrestrial consequences that may or may not eventuate dependent on our respective justice systems...)

Thanks again for the recommendation!

Just to re specify: I am quite sure that I understand the Christian position. I've been one for 3-4 decades! But how to get beyond understanding of the positions to personal conviction as to the basic truth of them? This is my situation, the situation of people I know and the sorry(!) situation my serious religious friend finds me in...

Hi Karen.

Not quite Sam - though I'm no authority...

The Trilemma:

1. Lord.
2. Liar.
3. Lunatic.


The Quadrilemma:

4. Unwittingly convicted.

Deluded in other words - outsiders foisting an unwarranted title on an unwitting personality. (And hence not exactly a loony.)

Plenty of such people exist and we've all known at least one I guess.

Whatever!

Lewis' Mere Christianity: The widely held claim that the first 5 chapters of this book 'contain THE most succinct arguements for the existance of God ever written...'

Comments?

(I've read them many a time...he's a very skilled writer!)

'cim'... never been on a chat site before so I instinctively chose a random name.

And Sam – convince me that sin is real enough for me to enter your faith.

I defined sin as "doing what you shouldn't or not doing what you should," and in your response, you said, "all humans the world over do what they shouldn't and don't do what they should." Unless I'm having another misunderstanding, I get the impression that you already believe sin is real.

Convincing you that there's a God, that God holds us accountable for our sins, that Jesus is the Christ, and that Jesus died for sins would be quite the undertaking, and I don't think I'm going to try to do all that in the comment section of a blog.

>>But how to get beyond understanding of the positions to personal conviction as to the basic truth of them?

I really think that for you to get hell, you need to be given a glimpse of God's holiness. Even people who have been Christians for years have often not contemplated this. And like I said, God has to open your eyes to this, but if you are really seeking to see this, that book I recommended gives a good picture. I'd also recommend listening to this. I recommend that all the time to people who are struggling to understand the concept of hell. God has to open your eyes, yes. But He usually doesn't do this out of the blue, but in conjunction with your contemplating the truth (as Greg mentioned in one of his other videos).

And I agree with Sam--you do already believe that right and wrong, sin and guilt are all real. You know what it means to do wrong, you know what it means to feel guilty. So it seems you don't need to be convinced of the existence of sin, but of something else, and I'm not sure what. Let me know which of these is/are what you're looking to be convinced of:

1. God exists.
2. If God exists, He should punish sin.
3. If God exists, our sins are worthy of hell.
4. If God exists, your particular sins are worthy of hell.

Hi Amy.
(Just brief...)

It's the Christian conception of the consequences of sin that is the issue. Not the idea of right and wrong.
That the penalties of 'sin' (if we can claim sin as the doing of ill, or the lack of doing what is correct) are the eternal consequences that Christianity says it is.
If I do nasty things to a fellow human I am well aware that I run the risk of reaction from the individual or the justice system. But that I run the same risk from God...?

Theologically correct from the Christian perspective, sure. But for the outsider?

(I can see you understand this in this comment:
'I really think that for you to get hell, you need to be given a glimpse of God's holiness.')

Chris, so do you have a problem with #2, or just #3 and #4? That is, is the idea that God punishes an acceptable idea, but you think that the punishment is unreasonable? Or are you having a hard time with God punishing at all?


The latter I guess. No god I know – or have known – punishes; to me it betrays the quality of lovingness. And yes parents lovingly discipline their children…but the analogy breaks down immediately on mere mention of the cultural caricature of the word ‘hell’.

For myself I guess it’s that God is punisher of anything at all that is the issue. The loving God of all as punisher? – something in that statement doesn’t connect with a primal part of me.
Theologically I can get to the idea that the holy god (by definition of the word ‘holy’) consumes sinners. This is easy. And theologically I can get to any idea – I’m a very logically minded person. But emotionally though. Now here is where it gets really interesting…

As to your question: 2. If God exists, He should punish sin, really needs to be defined down. No god I know punishes – sin or anything. He may correct, lovingly. But punish? Too brutal; sounds almost too much as though he likes it.

So. Where does this leave me? Simple. With a conception of God that is a non-Christian conception. My god loves – period. This is my theology…and there seems to be nothing much beyond this.

(It needs to be stated that the ‘god’ I have was formulated as a 4 year old and has (amazingly) stayed with me throughout my whole life. And that God (as I mentioned) loved me then and loves me now...period. No ifs, no buts, no maybes, no howevers.)

And thank you Amy for the reference to that sermon on sin - I'll get to it when I have time.

You're welcome! I really think it will help.

>>For myself I guess it’s that God is punisher of anything at all that is the issue. The loving God of all as punisher? – something in that statement doesn’t connect with a primal part of me.

You think justice in the world is a good thing, correct? A good judge orders punishment. A bad judge lets everyone go. I heard about a judge who announced that people shouldn't be punished, and as a result of his philosophy, he let a child rapist off after a couple months. There was a terrible outcry, and with good reason! You would be disgusted by a person who rejected justice.

If you've ever seen the show 24 (or something similar), the mole who is rebelling against and sabotaging the government, who is hurting others, goes to jail. Imagine what should be done to the person who rebels against God (the highest authority and most perfect being)--who rails against Him, thumbs his nose at Him, and works against Him in this world every time he or she does something wrong. What's so unbelievable is not that God punishes, but that God loved us enough (despite what we deserved), to suffer in order to offer us mercy. Justice should be expected from a good God, mercy is not required.

>>My god loves – period. This is my theology…and there seems to be nothing much beyond this.

There's a film out right now called Rachel Getting Married. I haven't had a chance to see it yet, but I've heard that one of the characters says something like, "I wouldn't want a God who would accept me after what I've done." She gets it. She knows that a God who doesn't punish is not a good God at all. How could you call someone good who isn't just? Who would want a God who is like the judge I described earlier? That judge is not a good man, and that wouldn't be a good God. The character in the movie thinks that a God like that isn't worth her time, and that a God that would be worth her time wouldn't want her. She doesn't know there's a way out of the dilemma. She doesn't know that God is good and cares about justice, and because of this, He expresses both justice and mercy on the cross (Romans 3:26). As a just God, He brings about justice. As a merciful God, Jesus bears that justice Himself. And that is how God can still be good and offer forgiveness.

>>It needs to be stated that the ‘god’ I have was formulated as a 4 year old and has (amazingly) stayed with me throughout my whole life.

But the trick, of course, is to find the God who is real, not the one you formulated yourself as a very young child, correct? And as someone older than a four-year-old, you have much more knowledge of the world, good, evil, justice, and mercy that you can bring to bear on the issue, if you're willing to really challenge your original ideas.

>>And that God (as I mentioned) loved me then and loves me now...period. No ifs, no buts, no maybes, no howevers.)

God does continue to love those who are under Christ's forgiveness, and He guarantees that those who are justified will persevere and nothing can separate them from God's love (Romans 8:28-39), so in a sense you are right. However, He doesn't do these things in a vacuum. It's the justice demonstrated on the cross that accomplishes this. God doesn't dismiss justice (like that bad judge above), he fulfills it, and that is why we can be secure in the way you described.

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