Sunday, November 2, 2008

Another Paradox for the Soul Building Defense: God Has No Virtue, and Humans are More Virtuous Than God

One of my students realized that there is this serious problem in Hick's famous soul-building defense:

Here is an argument that occurred to me as I was grappling with paragraph [5] of Hick's theodicy, Evil and Soul-Making, and trying to make sense of Hick's claim that the state of a person who masters temptation (and endures suffering in the process)to become good is better than becoming good in any other way.

1. "...one who has attained to goodness by meeting and eventually mastering temptations, and thus by rightly making responsible choices in concrete situations, is good in a richer and more valuable sense than would be one created ab initio in a state either of innocence or virtue."

2. Man attains to goodness by meeting and eventually mastering temptation, and thus by rightly making responsible choices in concrete situations.

3. God is inherently good and morally perfect. God has always been in a state of virtue.
__

4. Therefore, Man is good in a richer and more valuable sense than God.


With respect to Premises 1 and 3, it could be argued that God was not created and that God is eternal, a being whose existence has no beginning and no end. The point here is that Hick seems to be arguing that it is better to achieve virtue by overcoming temptation and enduring suffering than to have virtue without overcoming temptation and enduring suffering. I would think that God, the paragon of virtue, has always been virtuous and has not achieved virtue by overcoming temptation and enduring suffering.

If suffering and overcoming temptation is the best path to moral virtue (and even better that being virtuous from the get-go), then why doesn't this apply to God? Why wouldn't it be just as good or better to be in a state of virtue ab initio? If virtue is an inherent quality of God, why wouldn't his creations (in his likeness) also have this quality ab initio?

39 comments:

Bryan Goodrich said...

I don't know. God is infinite, has been around for all time, and maybe has run through a few "Earth" experiments of his creations (would we really be able to tell?); can't we presume that dealing with us humans is quite the load of suffering?

In that case, God has infinitely had to overcome suffering for all his creation. Even more, he has to love this creation of his, no matter how ruined we are--I mean, think about it, we ruined his Edin, worshiped false idols, killed his begotten son, a.k.a., himself.

All that shows great discipline! Well, save for that time he decided to flood the world.

Matt McCormick said...

What's really nice about this little argument is that it makes clear that the soul builder theist has to embrace one of two unappealing alternatives:

Either they have to argue that some ad hoc considerations apply to God such that he doesn't have to acquire virtue through meeting and overcoming temptations like we do, or they have to accept the conclusion that God, possessing perfect virtue, became good by means of a long process of making mistakes, correcting them, and learning moral lessons.

If they take the former view it's really suspect: Humans have to endure all of this horrible suffering in order to achieve moral virtue because there's no other way. But wait, there is another way--God became virtuous, or was virtuous from the start. So their claim that God tolerates evil because there is no other way for us to become moral is significantly undermined.

Or, suppose they take the latter view. That means that God is not or was not morally perfect. Being virtuous is not an essential part of his nature. He's imperfect. He made lots of mistakes and came by virtue. THere's nothing obviously internally inconsistent with this view, except that it completely flies in the face of just about every standard mainstream orthodoxy in the world about God's nature and his moral perfection. If the believer takes this view, then that's tantamount to their just accepting that there is no God. A being that acquires moral virture by means of this sort of process is not worthy of the name, not the subject of theistic belief for billions of people, and really not worthy of so much analysis, attention, and adulation.

The soul-building explanation of evil seems plausible to many at the start, but it doesn't save theism, it wrecks it.

MM

Bryan Goodrich said...

Going along with the first case of God being virtuous, it might demonstrate that they are talking about something different altogether. God isn't virtuous like we are because he doesn't have to struggle like that, and yet he is still "virtuous." This virtue is not human virtue. This virtue is "God virtue" which is special unto God. Definitely ad hoc, but it brings into question precisely what they are trying to even talk about at all. It ends up seeming like virtue or good is neither here nor there.

Eric Sotnak said...

You're forgetting the Christian reply: As the Father, God cannot suffer, strive, be tempted, etc. But as the Son, he suffered and died (for us, no less), experienced doubt, temptation, and so forth. How can both be true? It's a mystery! Yay!

Tom said...

Here's a reply to the soul building defense: If suffering is necessary for soul building (a higher good), then why do we try to stop evil and suffering? Maybe we ought to allow some evil to occur, even if it's within our power to stop it, just so that spiritual growth can take place in some individuals (not the dead victims, of course).

Another reply: what explains the uneven distribution of suffering? Do those who live short and painful lives need more soul building than those living luxurious lives?

jamie said...

Not being familiar with Soul Building things by Hicks, I read up on this a bit and think its rubbish. It reflects more of a philosophical viewpoint rather than a biblical viewpoint. He sounds more like a Greek philosopher than anything else.

I don't believe that evil is necessary to character (soul) building. But freedom is necessary. An author named Roland Allen says it well when he says: 'Freedom that doesn't allow us the freedom to make mistakes is really not freedom' (paraphrase of a quote).

If there is true freedom, the individual then can choose to do right or do wrong (be helpful or unhelpful, be kind or unkind, generous or stingy, etc.).

So in the Genesis narrative, God doesn't intervene as Adam and Eve are choosing to do what is forbidden, but lets them make their choice. He only comes to them afterward, after they've made their choice.

But then if the Bible doesn't hold water in your opinion, that's irrelevant info.

M. Tully said...

jamie,

You wrote, "I don't believe that evil is necessary to character (soul) building. But freedom is necessary."

So, when a hurricane claims thousands of lives, is the storm exercising free will?

jamie said...

m. tully:
If you believe the hurricane is conscious of its actions (which I don't) you could argue yes. But if you believe the hurricane knows what its doing, we have some other issues to address.

A hurricane is the product of natural forces. The Red Cross has a good article which tells more about hurricane formation: http://www.redcross.org/news/ds/hurricanes/010524ABCs.html

So really. what's your point?

Bryan Goodrich said...

Jamie, you say

A hurricane is the product of natural forces.

Do you posit that consciousness or humans or "personhood" or, if it is real, free will isn't a product of natural forces??

Jon said...

Assuming that brain/mind functions are natural and cause free will, this does not equate to hurricanes also having free will. It takes a brain/mind to have free will (assuming free will is real) - so hurricanes are mindless and therefore have no free will. Unless of coarse there happen to be other things than brain/minds that have free will (in which we must remain nonbelievers concerning that unless evidence arises).

jamie said...

well said jon.

now how about some further exploration of Matt's topic?

M. Tully said...

OK,

Obviously my point about the storm and free will was missed, so let me put in a more straight forward way. Jaime stated that evil was unnecessary for the human soul development (whatever that might mean), but free will was necessary.

Natural disasters kill and maim hundreds of thousands of people each year across the globe. If this phenomena is unnecessary for humans, why would an omnigod that only had human kinds best interest in mind allow it. I mean alright so he has to allow one human to maim another under the mantra of free will, but if that's the only reason "evil" exists, why allow natural disasters?

The Theists answer seems to be because "nature did it." I'm in full agreement with that. I also contend that when a mentally deranged psychopath goes on killing spree it is the result of his/her material brain. To me both things are acts of nature.

But the Theist states that these storms are unnecessary. So, why doesn't omnigod prevent them?

Or is nature just too powerful?

M. Tully said...

Deep thought.

Has anyone ever noticed that natural disasters are referred to as "acts of God?"

M. Tully said...

Jamie,

Thanks for the link to the hurricane site.

Let me return the favor.

http://www.physics.ubc.ca/outreach/phys420/p420_04/sean/

Alexander said...

In response to M. Tully:

Perhaps the reason for hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons (humanoid or no,) tsunamis, or High School Musical 3 is to maintain a regular world for humans. Perhaps it is the case that in order to have a world in which the variables which are conducive to higher order intelligence (i.e. Us) such as temperature, air pressure, or gravity level are self-perpetuating, or not requiring God to constantly micromanage every facet of the universe, certain bugs in the system are unavoidable. To keep the world on an even keel and still have humans flourish the way that we seem to be doing, natural disasters are necessary.

However, this entire line of discussion seems off topic.

I think the way that Hick is using good here is misleading. He seems to be distinguishing two different kinds of "good" here. The first good he mentions is achieved goodness, goodness won through "meeting and eventually mastering temptations." The second mentioned is natural goodness, a goodness "created ab initio in a state either of innocence or virtue." Then he states that achieved goodness is better than natural goodness. Achieved goodness is more good than natural goodness.

What this ranking of goodness implies is a third type of good, a Meta-Good, and that achieved goodness is going to be a greater meta-good than natural goodness. That is to say, if one suffers and perseveres, then one achieves more meta-good points than the one who is born good.

So suppose we have two people: Jeff and Abaddon. At the point of their creation, Jeff is born with certain moral proclivities and naturally knows that strangling kittens with a shoelace is immoral and Abaddon doesn't. With that knowledge, Jeff never strangles kittens with a shoelace, and proceeds to live out a life of virtue level, of a meta-good score 10. Abaddon, however, doesn't know this, and spends the early part of his life strangling kittens with shoelaces. However, after several arrests, group therapy sessions, and having his own kittens strangled by others, Abaddon learns his lesson, repents, founds a non-profit to save partially strangled kittens, and proceeds to live a life of virtue level 25. Both Jeff and Abaddon arrive at the same place: don't strangle kittens with shoelaces. However, since Abaddon had to suffer to learn that lesson, he has a higher virtue level.

However suppose there is a third person: Belial. Belial is created with certain other moral proclivities and lives a life of virtue level 25, the same level as Abaddon. Both the naturally good and the achieved good persons have the same level of virtue.

However, neither of these virtue levels are the maximum possible. Suppose that the maximum virtue possible is virtue level n. Arguably, God is a maximally good being. Therefore, we can assume that God would have a virtue level of n. Thus, it is impossible to have a higher level of virtue, to be any more meta-good than God. Whether or not God is naturally God or Good through Achievement is irrelevant. To say that it would be possible for God to be more virtuous if he achieved goodness is simply a denial of the premise that God is maximally good, not a proof of its inconsistency.

Eric Sotnak said...

Alexander wrote:
"Suppose that the maximum virtue possible is virtue level n. Arguably, God is a maximally good being. Therefore, we can assume that God would have a virtue level of n. Thus, it is impossible to have a higher level of virtue, to be any more meta-good than God. Whether or not God is naturally God or Good through Achievement is irrelevant. To say that it would be possible for God to be more virtuous if he achieved goodness is simply a denial of the premise that God is maximally good, not a proof of its inconsistency."

But if it is true that for any good quality x, it is always better to achieve x than to possess x naturally, then it seems there is a contradiction lurking here after all. For suppose that God has x naturally. Then it would be better had God possessed x through achievement, and so if God's metagoodness score is n where he has x naturally, his score would have to be higher if he were to have x through achievement, so n can't be the maximum possible metagoodness score after all.

Now perhaps one could argue that n really IS the maximum possible metagoodness score one can possibly have, and therefore it is somehow logically impossible that if God has x naturally he could have had it through achievement, instead. Maybe the theist could make this work. If all God's moral qualities are part of an eternal essence that he has necessarily, and if it is true that God is a necessary being, then there is no moral quality that God has through his nature that he could have had instead through achievement.

The theist has to modify the operative principle here roughly as follows: For any good quality x, if it is possible to achieve x rather than to have x naturally, then it is better to achieve x than to possess x naturally.

So God can defend himself as follows: "Gee, I'd really like to improve myself through a nice bit of soul building, but unfortunately I'm already supremely perfect. But don't let that discourage you morally imperfect beings. Carry on and good luck to you!"

Matt McCormick said...

And then God says,

"Furthermore, I want all of you to exercise charity, generosity, compassion, and responsibility in the midst of all of that suffering because those are supreme virtues to develop. However, even though I possess all of those virtues to the Nth degree, I will not exercise any of them by doing anything to alleviate any of your suffering myself. You must do as I say, not as I do. "

MM

Casey said...

This leads into a much larger question which has always troubled me: Could we ever rationalize why God would do everything that he did? Is God + Completed Kingdom of Heaven really *better* than just God? The whole idea of God creating a petri dish to reward some people he made by allowing them to be near him.

Alexander said...

No, I think you're missing it. I'm not treating natural and achieved good as two different kinds of good like Hick is. If you've got two types of good and you are evaluating which good is the better good, then you are evoking a meta good in which different types of good are measured. So why are we even bothering talking about the two goods as distinct when in fact they are measures of this meta good? That thing is eight brands of ridiculous.

What I'm advocating is this: treat goodness (virtue from here on, because typing "goodness" over and over makes me like I'm on "Little House on the Prairie") like experience points. Say you're playing a game and you run into a situation where there are two possible resolutions. You can either kill the bad guy, or you can convince him to repent and bring him back into the fold. If you kill the guy, you get 750 exp. If you convince him to stand down (the more difficult action) you get 1000 exp. Both paths lead to the same conclusion: the situation is diffused and the hostages are saved, but one yields more experience points. So if two people both lead equally righteous lives, but person A was naturally virtuous, whereas person B had to achieve that virtue, person A would have a life of 750 virtue points and person B would have 1000. The person who had to suffer to achieve virtue is better than one who was born with virtue.

God, however, is level capped. He has the maximum possible virtue level. It is impossible to be any more virtuous than God is. Whether God achieved that level or has it naturally is irrelevant, because there is no higher level to get to if he had achieved it rather than had it naturally. It's where the spade turns.

In response to Matt's point, I'd say that the virtuous act is going to be relative to circumstance. When you have a child, you have to potty train him. You could continue to keep him in diapers and change him for the rest of his life, but your knowledge of the world is such that you recognize that that will not only be impractical for you, but undoubtedly detrimental for the child. And while the child might not appreciate it much ultimately, potty training him is going to be the better thing for him.

Later on, once the child starts driving, he starts getting parking tickets. You can either pay them or let him pay for them. If you continue to pay for them the child will be more appreciative, however, your knowledge of the world is such that you recognize that doing so will inhibit his ability understand the consequences of his actions and will ultimately be more detrimental for him. While he might not like it much, ultimately letting the child pay for the tickets is going to be the better thing for him.

God wants to do the most charitable, generous, compassionate and responsible thing for humanity. He can either intervene in our suffering or he can refrain. While we may be more appreciative of God if he were to save us from all the suffering, God's knowledge of the world is such that he recognizes that constant intervention in our lives will interfere with our ability to become virtuous agents and will be an overall detrimental action. While we might not like it much, ultimately the most charitable thing God can do for us is to let us suffer and grow rather grow content and stagnate.

Or something like that...

Matt McCormick said...

It's a good set of points, Alexander, as good as any I've seen about this particular point. But the problem still remains. Hick's response to the problem of evil is, more or less, "suck it up you babies!" His claim is that acquiring virtue through struggle and choice makes a person better than if they are that way naturally. So that would seem to entail that the way that God got level capped, as you put it, is through moral growth. But that can't be for an omni-God. So Hick still has a dilemma. Your hit points example seems to illustrate the problem really nicely. In fact, it looks like humans could end up with lots more virtue points at the end of the game than God has. And the theists can't possibly agree to that.

The soul-building defense can't be reconciled with God's being morally perfect, even if it seems like a good account of why we have to suffer.

MM

Eric Sotnak said...

Alexander wrote:
"God, however, is level capped. He has the maximum possible virtue level....There is no higher level to get to if he had achieved it rather than had it naturally."

But what determines that God is level capped?

Why is there no higher level? Suppose God's virtue level is set naturally. Now someone asks, "But what if God had achieved that virtue level instead? Wouldn't that have been better?" You suggest the answer is 'no' because there is no such thing as 'better' here. But I'm not convinced this reply is non-arbitrary.

Suppose God collects marbles and has n of them, where n is defined as the maximum number of marbles anyone can have in a collection. I then ask, 'But what if God added another marble so that he had n+1 marbles instead?' The reply here is that such would be impossible because n is defined as the maximum number of marbles anyone can possibly collect. But I want to know what non-arbitrary reason there is for setting n as the maximum? One way to do this is by stipulating that n is not really a number (not an integer, at any rate) but an order of infinity of some sort. But is it plausible to try to run the same gambit with degrees of virtue? The theist can SAY that God is infinitely virtuous, but what exactly does this mean?

In any event, I think, again, the theist will have to reject the claim that for anyone S and any virtue V possessed by S naturally, it would be better if S had obtained V though soul-building. It is just that here the reason is that there can be no 'better' in the case of God's virtues, and now I think the question is what sets the limit. It seems to be a dodge simply to stipulate that since, by definition, God is supremely virtuous, nothing can have a higher level of virtue.

Here is an example: Suppose God had permitted everyone in New Orleans to have been drowned in Katrina. Would God, then have been morally worse than he is in the actual world? If God, by definition, is maximally virtuous, then not only does it not matter whether his virtue level is the result of achievement or natural possession, it also doesn't matter to his virtue level what he does or permits. That is grossly implausible.

Reginald Selkirk said...

Perhaps the reason for hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons (humanoid or no,) tsunamis, or High School Musical 3 is to maintain a regular world for humans. Perhaps it is the case that in order to have a world in which the variables which are conducive to higher order intelligence (i.e. Us) such as temperature, air pressure, or gravity level are self-perpetuating, or not requiring God to constantly micromanage every facet of the universe, certain bugs in the system are unavoidable....

Perhaps. Perhaps not. But could you please tell me who sets these obscure and unapparent rules that God has to follow? Apparently it is someone greater than God. Or perhaps omnipotence is vastly overrated.

Alexander said...

Eric wrote:

"But what determines that God is level capped?

Why is there no higher level?"

Because this is the assumption that we are running with. Now if you want to scrap it and say that God doesn't have to be omni-benevolent, all-loving, maximally good, that's OK. But then the problem of evil goes away by itself. If God is evil, or neutral, or even just mostly good, then the presence of evil in the world no longer functions as a proof against God's existence. Genocide could be something that God decided to let slip by.

What the theist and the non-theist are assuming in the argument from evil, however, is that God is Maximally Good, Virtuous, Kind, what have you. And if that is the case, then it is impossible to be any more good than God.

Another possible tactic you could take is that God is as good as any being can be. There may be more virtue out there to get, but God can't handle any more. He's over saturated with benevolence. But this again is going to absolve the theist from the Problem of Evil. God, with all the goodness that any one being can have, can still let evil go because there are still good qualities that God just can't get to.

Ultimately, if the Problem of Evil is going to work, then the atheist must assume that that God has the metaphysical limit of Virtue. Anything less than that, and God can escape.

Matt wrote:

"In fact, it looks like humans could end up with lots more virtue points at the end of the game than God has."

Again, if you are making the claim that it is possible to be more benevolent than God, then you are denying the assumption that God is maximally benevolent. And if you do that, if God is only Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Good and not Maximally Good, then you don't have a problem of evil. God could be just good enough to refrain from one day removing oxygen from the planet, but still not good enough to eliminate natural disasters. You need to assume that it is impossible for God to be any better for the problem of evil to even get off the ground.

Reginald wrote:

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. But could you please tell me who sets these obscure and unapparent rules that God has to follow? Apparently it is someone greater than God. Or perhaps omnipotence is vastly overrated."

I don't know. And perhaps knowledge of the truth of those claims could lie outside of our epistemic framework, thus making it humanly unknowable. However, knowledge of whether or not in THIS world that God is bound by his desire for intelligence and regularity is not necessary for a defense. All that is needed is to establish a possibility of such, to tell a story that is consistent and logically possible to defend against the problem of evil.

Reginald Selkirk said...

I don't know. And perhaps... All that is needed is to establish a possibility of such, to tell a story that is consistent and logically possible to defend against the problem of evil.

Nay, possible is not enough. I ask that you establish that these things are probable, that there is some reason I should believe that they are so.

Alexander said...

There's a quick answer to the question of probabilities and there's a more involved one. At the moment, its late and I'm tired, so I'll just give the quick one.

Probability Claims require of the claimant sufficient access and evidence to set their reliability. In other words, we need to have knowledge of the numerator and the denominator, such as "a 1/100 chance of x," if we are going to make the claim that "x is more probable than y."

The problem is that we as slaves of our own history and perspectives are simply in no position to make accurate, reliable, or even plausible claims about the likelihoods of the instantiations of possible worlds. We have no access to any other possible worlds, ones with God and ones without, ones with suffering and ones without, and as such, can't properly evaluate the probabilities of worlds with the level of suffering in this world and having a God present versus that of a world with the same level of suffering but without a God.

In short, probability claims from our epistemic framework about other possible worlds are not knowable, and thus we are left with establishing possibilities alone.

If that's unclear, I can write more tomorrow.

Reginald Selkirk said...

In short, probability claims from our epistemic framework about other possible worlds are not knowable, and thus we are left with establishing possibilities alone.

Sure its clear. As long as you're willing to acknowledge the possibility (rather than probability) of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Bigfoot and aliens.

Bror Erickson said...

matt mccormik,
I came by your blog by way of your entry on Veith's blog. I hope to enjoy reading more of your posts. I like to read the "other" side.
I do have to say though at the outset of responding to this post. As a Christian, as a pastor, especially as a pastor, I reject Hicks hypothesis out of hand. I would have argued against it from a different theological basis myself. I don't believe in becoming good. I believe in being made good by the work of the Holy Spirit, and not fully seeing the fruits of that this side of glory. I'm one of those that believes in the simul iustus et peccator. However, I don't know that I would have thought of it from your angle which I find intriguing. That this would make the Christian overcoming temptation to be better than God.
Yet, as has been mentioned here, God did face temptation, probably more temptation than we humans have ever faced, when the devil met Jesus Christ in the desert after He was baptized. But that has already been mentioned.
Some body here asks why God doesn't do what he can to eliminate suffering in this world. (I love Hume). Well my answer is actually he has done quite a bit, He died on the Cross for you. What more charity can he show? He could just end the world today and bring us Christians home, but he would like to bring a few more along at this point.

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks for your input Bror. There are a couple of puzzles in what you've said here, and I think both of them suggest that the being you're describing isn't very impressive, or at least isn't the all powerful, all knowing, all loving creator of the universe that is the center of many people's theism. Maybe you're ok with that. First, if God/Jesus really has to overcome temptation, that is, if temptation is a real thing for him, then he's far from perfect and far from being the omni-being. Second, if all that he can manage to diminish suffering is this vague spiritual redemption scheme by conversion that you allude to, then it would appear again that he's not all powerful, all knowing, or all good. He's the one who set the whole suffer-until-you-repent scheme in the first place, afterall.

Finally, we hear these Holy Spirit claims a lot. I know that a lot of people have some passionate feelings and strong convictions that there is such a thing. And the describe it in lots of subjective, emotional terms. But honestly, I haven't got the faintest idea what a Holy Spirit is, or what it would mean to say that it exists. What exactly would the world look like if there wasn't one, granting for the moment that people are perfectly capable of fabricating or imagining these sorts of things? Here's another question: a lot of people have powerful feelings of spirituality in their lives--how does one tell the difference subjectively between an authentic visitation from the Holy Spirit and a spiritual moment that is inauthentic? Do you just check with yourself and wonder if it is the real thing? For those of us who are not inclined to just accept these Holy Spirit claims at face value--we've learned our lessons from fakers, con artists, drugs, hysteria, confabulations, and deceptions--what should we make of it when a believer insists that this Holy Spirit thing is real? Merely pointing to the fact that people believe it and they change their lives on the basis of it won't be sufficient, of course; people did that for David Koresh and for Jim Jones.

MM

Bror Erickson said...

matt mccormick,
First, it isn't suffer until you repent, that would be a huge misunderstanding of Christianity. Christians of my stripe (Lutheran) actually believe you may end up suffering more for being Christian.
"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. [25] It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:24-25 (ESV)

No we will suffer either way in this world as the result of our sin that stays with us even after conversion until we die. Only in heaven will we ever be relieved of the suffering in this world.

You objection to Christ meeting temptation is fairly amusing, an attempt at a catch 22 I presume. But then it was anticipated. This is where the doctrine of kenosis comes in a Greek word meaning the emptying of. This doctrine finds its foundation in the second chapter of Phillipians :
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, [8] he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philip. 2:5-8 (ESV)
So though he was and is God He became in every way like us except for sin. He met temptation as one of us. Kind of like a dad who agrees to wrestle with his son, while having his hand tied behind his back if you will.
Finally, I understand your skepticism concerning the Holy Spirit. Actually I wonder many of the same things when I hear of people "experiencing" the Holy Spirit. I don't ask you to experience anything of that sort. That isn't what I was claiming at all, sorry to have confused you. No I only believe that my faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit that came from hearing the Gospel. The Holy Spirit has sanctified me (that in no way implies some sort of experiential conversion.) It means that in God's eyes I have been made holy, made good. Though I for the life of me would never see that in myself. When I look to myself I see myself a sinner no better than anyone else, and definitely not any better than I was yesterday. The only indication I have that I have the Holy Spirit at all is the fact that I have faith in the all sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ for my sins on the Cross. I believe that on the historical testimony of eye witnesses.
Well I look forward to more conversation with you. I will be gone for a while, though. I hope I cleared a few things up concerning my position.
I had an art teacher once who railed against Christianity. He was a great teacher except for one thing he did not understand at all that which he railed against. a good 2 thirds of western art seems to deal with Christian themes though. So when he would be discussing paintings he would get the facts wrong. Sometimes it helps to understand your opponents position before you attack it.

Eric Sotnak said...

Bror Erickson wrote:
"So though he was and is God He became in every way like us except for sin. He met temptation as one of us."

But for us there is a real possibility of yielding to temptation. Is the same true for Jesus? Was it really possible for Jesus to yield to temptation? What would have happened if he had yielded to temptation? Is there a possible world in which Jesus sins? In that world is Jesus still one with God?

Caroline Miniscule said...

>>Even more, he has to love this creation of his, no matter how ruined we are--I mean, think about it, we ruined his Edin, worshiped false idols, killed his begotten son, a.k.a., himself.

The bit about "killed his begotten son" amuses me. Jesus was set up from the very begining, wasn't he? He had to die so that "we" could be saved. That's why I've never understood why people hate Jews as "Jesus-killers", when they too were set up by God to do the deed.

You guys spend sooooo much time tying to prove that God does not exist. Why bother? He doesn't, end of story! (But, those who have "faith" will never be convinced otherwise, even when their home disappears in a flood or a loved one comes down with cancer or some horrible disease - the fact that god tests *them* by causing their loved ones to suffer umimaginable pain... doesn't dent their faith for a second.

SaintStockton said...

In fact the persecuting Jews did Christians a service. They were the mechanism for the transference of all sin: past, present, and future from them to Jesus.

Really, Jesus + Jews = Salvation

I'm with Dawkins in viewing religion as a mind virus. It has evolved through the natural selection of the in-groups which held that belief. Yahweh prevailed because the belief system which created him promoted genocide. Consequently, the followers of Baal didn't fare to well because they were peaceful. Sticking to that metaphor, I view faith as a "survival" mechanism of religion, it works to prevent someone from escaping from the belief.

Though, I haven't really seen much talk of memes here, perhaps McCormick isn't a fan

jamie said...

saintstocken
yeah, sure the followers of Baal were peaceful (cough, cough).

good job though trying to paint the followers of Yahweh in a bad light. but hey, if you don't have real argument, insults and untruthful evidence is always helpful (both atheists and theists use these tactics so don't think I'm attacking one or the other side).

Bror Erickson said...

Eric Sotnak wrote:
"But for us there is a real possibility of yielding to temptation. Is the same true for Jesus? Was it really possible for Jesus to yield to temptation? What would have happened if he had yielded to temptation? Is there a possible world in which Jesus sins? In that world is Jesus still one with God?"

Sorry not to get back to you sooner, been busy. You raise some good questions that have often perplexed people. I'll just say one can't really be tempted if there is not possibility that they fall into the temptation. Of course the true temptation behind all of it was the Jesus not go to the cross. The result would be what many evangelicals hope for with the millenialist ideas, an earthly kingdom of God on Earth, that quite sounds like hell to me. I have seen in the past, though not sure of every millenialist interpretation of the Bible, the cross equated as plan B.

I don't know about alternative or possible worlds. I know this one, where Christ met the temptations on our behalf, and died on the cross as a propitiation for our sins. And on the third day rose again from the dead. That is what I know and believe.

Eric Sotnak said...

Bror Erickson wrote:
"I'll just say one can't really be tempted if there is not possibility that they fall into the temptation."

That does seem right. But I think my question is still unanswered. If Jesus is "of one being with the Father" and God cannot sin because that would be contrary to his nature, then it seems for Jesus to have sinned would also have been contrary to his nature. Therefore, Jesus was not genuinely tempted, because yielding to temptation would have been contrary to his nature or essence.

jamie said...

By necessity, Jesus had to have the ability to give in to temptation. Otherwise, the whole deal would be null and void. If He wasn't actually able to give in, wouldn't He be using 'God power' to cheat temptation rather than mastering temptation? I don't think its a subtle difference at all.

Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15 (read in the the context of the entire book) give good perspective to why He was tempted - so that He can identify with us, empathize with us and help us. Jesus was tempted and didn't give in, but being fully human He had that capacity. But being fully divine, could resist.

Eric Sotnak said...

Jame wrote:
"BY NECESSITY, Jesus had to have the ability to give in to temptation." (emphasis added)

But also it seems that BY NECESSITY, God is unable to sin.

Now, Jesus = God (and presumably, in fact, BY NECESSITY Jesus = God)

But having the ability to give in to teptation = being able to sin.

See the problem?

Bryan Goodrich said...

Eric,

If you notice, the idea is that Jesus is God, but Jesus is also human which God is not human. There's something paradoxical in that idea. It almost seems like the idea is that God wanted to be like humans, or as was said, to empathize with us (because he didn't know how??). To do that he had to find himself in a meat bag without his super powers. I'm sure there was an episode of any great super hero story that covered this plot. It builds his character, something happens, he goes back to being a better super whatever. Does it make sense? Absolutely not, but it isn't as simple as a contradictory substitution as you presented in your last comment since the emphasis is on there being a fundamental difference behind what was named as Jesus and what was named as God, even if there is a clear relation that Jesus is God "in the flesh" i.e., Jesus is human, but carries the divinity of God (whatever that would mean, but clearly doesn't mean he has all his super powers).

Anonymous said...

There is no problem with God being man and then God. Jesus, God in man and God, are two different stages in God existence much like Bryan at T1 and Bryan at T2.

Also, God has to do nothing by necessity because he has true free will. Imagine what this would be like beyond our limited freewill...

God cannot be contrary to his nature because there is no other God from God...he cannot be compared to himself...he is all and nothing more...