Problems with Biblical Sin and Redemption

The following questions are provided as a challenge to the Biblical notions of sin and redemption. Feel free to comment.

1. What is it that prevents a loving God from forgiving without bloodshed? (Hebrews 9:22) If you became more God-like, would you also have difficulty forgiving without bloodshed?

2. Is punishing children for the sins of their father ever just? (Numbers 14:18) If a human judge were to punish the sins of a father by punishing his children and grandchildren, is there anyway that could be considered just?

3. How is it just for someone to pay for the sins of someone else? If a judicial system allowed this, would it be just?

4. If Jesus became human to “become sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21) to pay the human price for sin, how could he be resurrected since humans presumably have not paid for their sins after 3 days of death? Is the price of sin eternal damnation or a 3-day damnation?

5. Since Jesus was one man, how was it possible he could pay for everyone’s sins? Could one innocent child somehow pay the penalty for 1,000 criminals?

6. Why is eternal death called “punishment” when any loving being punishes only to rehabilitate those he loves?

7. Is there anyway a human born with a sin nature can avoid sinning? If not, how can sinning be culpable? Do we punish puppies born with a “bark nature” for barking by eternally damning them?

The following chart shows how Evangelical apologetics is becoming less and less about the “Gospel”, and more about a deistic position or simply critiquing other ideologies.

image

 

No unity, no divinity

I just heard an apologist on STR claim that the degree of unity we see among believers is the degree to which we can conclude that Jesus was divine.

He cited John 17:21-23.
…(21) that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. (22) I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one — (23) I in them and You in Me—that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me.…

I completely agree. Kudos to this apologist for putting a popperian proposition out there.

The non-trivial disunity among believers is, in fact, substantial evidence against the divinity of Jesus, based on its own standards of evidence.

Would you kill a “terrible” two-year-old?

In one of the most surreal encounters with Christians to date, I recently discovered that the order by Jehovah to kill the Amalekite infants is not just a little uncomfortable for those claiming the Bible is the source of truth.
Here is the command of Jehovah in question.

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. (1 Samuel 15:3)

 (Lest there be any confusion, the Hebrew word translated “infant” means to suckle. These were nursing infants.)

Consider the following 2 possibilities.
  1. You are a god who wants all the Amalekites killed. You don’t want any confusion about your wishes. How would you state your commandment?
  2. You are a god who wants only the adult Amalekites killed. You don’t want any confusion about your wishes. How would you state your commandment?
  • The phrasing of 1 Samuel 15:3 is nearly precisely the words I would use if I were the god in scenario #1.
  • The phrasing of 1 Samuel 15:3 is most certainly not the words I would use if I were the god in scenario #2.

Christians claim the Bible was authored by an actual creator of the universe who presumably can articulate his wishes without ambiguity or vagueness. Let’s look at the verse again.

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. (1 Samuel 15:3)

Does this commandment not clearly require that infants be killed? Incredibly, some Christians I’ve recently engaged say that this verse says no such thing.
“It’s hyperbole.” (An actual statement of a Christian to explain away this verse.)
Hyperbole? Really? Was it hyperbole when Jehovah stipulated that no one touch the Ark of the Covenant, then killed Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:7) out of anger when Uzzah attempted to keep the Ark from falling to the ground?
This is one of the most egregious intentional distortions of the Bible by its own proponents I’ve ever seen. It is shameful to say the least. You don’t get to claim the Bible is the clear revelation of the God of the Universe, then ignore it when it goes out of its way to require the killing of infants.
And the absurdity does not stop there. I asked a few clear questions to understand the actual position of these Christians.
I asked “Would you kill an infant if your god so commanded?
Of the 8 or so Christians engaged on the thread, zero were able to answer “yes” or “no”, even after reposting the question five times.
One of the posters actually stated “He wouldn’t ask, so the question is irrelevant. You have yet to show us where people killed infants for Jehovah.
Let’s go back to the story of the Amalekites.
But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs–everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.” (1 Samuel 15:9)
What do you think? Were the weak infants killed?
But does it actually matter? The only relevant question is whether Jehovah intended his audience to belief they should kill infants. Here is the verse again.

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. (1 Samuel 15:3)

Is there any equivocation? None.
Is there any reason why Christians, if they were honest, should not be able to clearly state whether they would or would not obey a clear commandment of Jehovah to kill infants? None.
This is the current state of Christian apologetics. Evasion of questions, and the distortion of the very Bible they claim to venerate.
Shameful.
Fortunately, this depth of absurdity is what is driving millions of more rational young people away from the nonsense of Christianity towards a reality of open-eyed empathy in which the commandment to kill an infant by any authority can be answered with an unequivocal “no“. 

500 Witnesses?

There is an old book that claims some man claimed that 500 individuals claimed they saw Jesus resurrect. (1 Corinthians 15:6)

Imagine I go before a judge, and he asks for my alibi on the night a store was robbed of 5 televisions matching the 5 televisions found in my garage. I show the judge a letter from an unnamed and unreachable friend (the gospel authors are unknown) who affirms that I was playing video games with him the night in question, and that there are also 500 other unnamed witnesses who would also have been able to make the same claim…had they not died last week.

But it gets worse. Here you have 500 alleged witnesses of a man resurrecting from the dead, and not one of them bothered to write it down or report it to people who could write it down? All the gospels were written years after the alleged resurrection. There was no literate person among these 500 who allegedly saw what should have been the most amazing event of their lifetimes? Really? Then you have one man years later claiming to have been a witness finally writing it down, and tossing out, not a list of names to contact for validation, but merely the number 500 as “evidence” for the resurrection? Come on.

This reference to 500 “witnesses” is still being thrown out by Christians as “evidence” of the resurrection. And this is being done under the noses of apologists who could, but don’t, point out the clear vacuity of the claim.

You can’t claim to have a rational ideology when you fail to correct such nonsense committed under your noses.

Fail Attempts to Redeem God from Moral Incoherence

(Note: Any mention of morality below is in the context of a reductio ad absurdum argument. The author does not believe a moral realm exists.)

You will often hear Christians attempt to salvage their Jehovah from moral incoherence by arguing that the slavery, treatment of raped women, and other atrocities ordered or condoned by Jehovah were not quite as horrible as they appear. Let’s call this argument “The Argument from Diminutive Account”. This argument fails on two counts. To employ this argument requires the apologist to hold that…

  1. the more severe version of events they are arguing against would constitute a moral offense if Jehovah were to order or condone these more severe versions of events
    (If it were not a moral offense, why make the argument the event is a milder form than what it seems?)
    Yet by what moral standard do they determine the more severe account transgresses the threshold of what is moral? What could be their moral standard? How do they know the harsher version is morally wrong?
  2. the milder version of events is not a moral offense
    (Yet, Christians today refuse to act consistent with the milder version, out of a belief that it would be immoral
    Yet, by what standard do they judge these actions immoral now, but moral then?

The formalization of this is as follows.

  • P1: Christians hold that whatever their god condones is moral.
  • P2: Christians hold that the apparent condoning of activity “X” found in the bible is not immoral because the activity is actually a diminutive “x”.
  • C1: Therefore, Christians hold that “X” would be immoral even if their god condoned “X”. (P2)
  • C2: Therefore, Christians hold 2 logically contradictory notions. (P1 & C1)
  • P3: Christians would refuse to follow diminutive “x” because they deem it immoral.
  • C3: Therefore, Christians hold 2 logically contradictory notions. (P2 & P4)

Let’s deal with each of these two problems with the Christian’s argument that “God’s actions were not as bad as reported.”

1. If you are going to argue that Jehovah remains moral because action “X” was actually of a lesser severity we’ll tag “x”, then you are admitting that “X” is immoral. Yet, how did you arrive at that conclusion? What is your standard for that belief? Would Jehovah had been immorally if he had ordered “X”? Why else would you be arguing that “X” is actually “x” if not to make Jehovah moral? Yet, is it not the words and actions of Jehovah that define morality? Would not “X” then be, by definition, moral since it deemed moral by the author of morality? What other possible standard of morality is there within Christian ideology? This is the first incoherency of the Argument from Diminutive Account.

2. If you are going to argue that Jehovah remains moral because action “X” was actually of a lesser severity we’ll tag “x”, then you must hold that the diminutive “x” is moral. However, the milder versions of slavery and stonings and slaughtering of infidels Christians argue for they admit they would not themselves perform. When pressed, they will admit that even that milder version of what Jehovah ordered or condoned is immoral. Yet how do they arrive at the conclusion that this action is now immoral, yet was moral in the past? Where does this standard of morality come from?

To be more precise, Christians would would not hesitate to condemn all forms of slavery today. What makes slavery of any sort moral then but immoral now? Would it now be moral to burn alleged witches or homosexuals if Jehovah were to command it? Can any coherent and consistent standard of morality be offered for moral dilemmas today? I’ve seen attempts, but they all amounted to ad hoc fragmented “principles” that are only accessible to “scholars” of their own particular Christian sect.

For these two reason, the Argument from Diminutive Account fails. You can’t claim a diminutive version of a Jehovah-sanctioned action is any less than immoral then the harsher version unless you clearly state your criteria for that moral assessment. And if you currently consider immoral the diminutive account of an act once approved by Jehovah, you’ll need to explain why moral facts can change and still be deem objective.

Is Biblical Faith Rational?

A response to a Christian claiming biblical faith is rational.

This notion that faith is rational is a new invention recently promoted by apologists who increasingly find the irrational faith happily promoted for centuries untenable in a world that increasingly values rationality. This might be considered a good step in a good direction were it not so mendaciously inconsistent with what the bible says about faith. Until recently, faith was proudly considered to be an irrational commitment to some god, and the more the gulf between your faith an the evidence, the more virtuous you were. Luther called reason a “whore”, a consistent notion throughout all the history of christianity. Were the millions of christians consciously and proudly accepting Jesus based on this irrational faith actually damned to hell? Are you willing to say that, those now admitting their faith is irrational, can not be real christians?

In the bible you actually have a man coming to Jesus to request that he heal his son. When Jesus asks whether he believes, he actually responds, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief”. This is biblical faith; when in doubt about the credibility of someone, ask that someone to help you believe more. Jesus also blesses those who believe without actually seeing the evidence rather than those who request evidence.

Your claim that your faith is rational would seem much less dishonest if you were first teaching little children the foundation of rationality BEFORE you introduced them to your particular god. However, what you are doing is the opposite; you first get them to commit to “Jesus”, then build your “rationality” around that. Do you understand how absurd it then sounds when you claim your faith is based on rationality?

Finally, simply consider where prior commitments to faith or rationality take people. Those who contemplate gods prior to learning rationality often end up believing quite the opposite to someone doing the same on the other side of the world. In contrast, those who are first introduced to the basics of rationality BEFORE they are introduced to various notions of god tend to converge in their conclusions; most consider a personal god improbable, and an Einsteinian god uncertain. Simply consider the converging philosophies of all the world’s scientists who grew up in various religious contexts, yet were taught the proper need for rationality prior to assessment.

So, this silly claim that your faith is rational does not stand up historically, biblically, nor experimentally, and runs counter to your own practice of promoting your god to children before equipping them with the tools of rationality.

The Irrational Foundation of Faith

They were passing out bibles just outside Shibuya Station the other day, and I thought I’d stop by for a chat. The young American man heading the operation (we’ll call him Tom) was kind enough to engage me in dialog, and soon both of us were presenting our positions on the question of the existence of the biblical god.

I began by questioning the very notion of faith, suggesting that, unless the degree of belief matches the degree of the evidence, the belief is irrational and certainly not anything any creator of rational humans would consider virtuous.

Tom countered by suggesting there was more than sufficient evidence to Continue reading