Saturday, May 12, 2012

The reality of the offence of the Gospel

In a previous thread, I have been having a interesting exchange with the author of the article I was critiquing, Steve Jones, an exchange which is very much worth reading. I would like to draw attention to (at the writing of this post, recent) comment he made:

OK, you've mitigated the guilt of religious killers. You've deemed all humans, even the most decent and loving, evil as Hitler. You've presented a theology in which people are responsible for doing what they're incapable of doing -- then punished horribly for not doing it. You've set forth an end-time scenario in which God burns people with fire, strips them down to the most depraved level possible, then hurls them into a place of endless toruture [sic].

Tell me, is that faith beautiful and appealing to you?

The question goes right to the crux of the issue. Can one see Christianity beautiful and appealing to us? Are we ashamed of sin, of hell, of the damnation of those who did not receive (not merely reject) Jesus Christ, and final judgment?

The offence of the Gospel shines through here. As it is written:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Cor. 2:14-16)

The Gospel message is death to the ears of those who are perishing. It is foolishness to them, morally repugnant and revulsive to their senses. Their very persons feel ill at the understanding of the Gospel message. It is a fragrance of death unto death for them.

Yet the Gospel message is life to those who believe. We see ourselves as creatures under a Creator. We see our wickedness. We see how wretched and blind we are. We know that God does not owe us anything, not even our lives. We grasp unto Christ, the Wisdom of God, for He is our only hope.

All Christians should be able to say yes, such a faith is beautiful and appealing to us. Not because we are sadists who love to see people in hell, but we see here the mercy of God towards us who justly deserve the same punishment. That all men are originally destined for hell due to sin is a reality, and that God is still just and loving if He wants to send everyone there. There is no injustice in God. Yet God has mercy on those whom he saves, freely of grace.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Eph. 2:1-5)

Amen.

30 comments:

Linda said...

I say if anyone didn't deserve the wrath of God for our sins it was the sinless son of God who in willful submission left Heaven and came down to this fallen sick, and evil world to bore our sins upon himself so that WE who are SINNERS and deserve what we get-eternal damnation could be reconciled to God through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He didn't have to but in his Great love he chose to. God is JUST, HOLY and RIGHTEOUS..
it is man who is unrighteous, unholy, and unjust.

"The soul that sins shall die"-Genesis 2:17. In creation all sin is deemed worthy of death. Every sin is a capital offense. In creation God is NOT obligated to give us the gift of life. He is not in debt to us. The gift of life comes by His grace and stands under His divine authority

I say it's beautiful beyond words to describe. It's the must subliminal loving act God demonstrated for us.

Who are WE? We forfeited our rights to LIFE-to our very existence the moment God gave us our first breath of air to draw. It is HIS AIR, HIS EARTH and everything belongs to God. The fact that we have ANY good in our lives is from GOD. Who are we to complain? We deserve what we get.

God bless

PuritanReformed said...

@Linda:

Amen, sis

SteveJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SteveJ said...

A person simply can't win when you employ this deck-stacking line of reasoning. It reminds me of a conversation that goes like this:

"You're in denial about being an alcoholic."
"No, I'm not. I've never been an alcoholic."
"See what I mean? You're in denial. You just proved my point."

Here's what's going on: You set up your version of the gospel and remind people that those who disagree with it are manifesting wicked hearts. In fact, you even predict that people of wicked hearts will reject it because, well, they have wicked hearts. Then when you fail to convince someone, you can tell everyone that the rejector has just vindicated your gospel. "See! The wicked reject our message, just as we predicted."

Of course, Muslims say the same thing about you. It proves nothing.

Suppose I set up a religion called Zoobyism. One of the Zoobyist dogmas is that non-Zoobyists will always reject Zoobyism. So when you do reject it, I can cite your rejection as proof of my religion's veracity.

Pretty stupid, isn't it?

As long as you preach that God demands an action that we're by nature incapable of carrying out, you're preaching absurdity. People will quite properly continue rejecting it ... as rational beings should. Not because of inward depravity, but because what you're saying is senseless.

PuritanReformed said...

@SteveJ:

I am not speaking of proof per se, just the facts.

If you want to argue proof, we can do so. Prove to me that you exist apart from the use of Scripture. In fact, prove to me that you have a basis for anything at all.

PuritanReformed said...

Rational beings? You are not rational. Christianity is the supremely rational religion, for it alone gives the basis for rationality.

I challenge you to prove rationality, without resorting to arguing in circles.

All unbelievers are fundamentally irrational. As the Scriptures say, "claiming to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1:23)

PuritanReformed said...

But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction,
(2 Peter 2:12 ESV)

SteveJ said...

Proof?

If we're talking about proof, you have no actual proof that any given book of the New Testament is divinely penned scripture. None. You proceed on the basis of enormous religious assumptions, without a particle of proof.

For example, how do you prove that Matthew was written under a divine unction that renders it scripture? The author is anonymous, makes no claim that the book was written supernaturally and borrows wholesale from Mark. There's not even a hint that the book is an eyewitness record.

Where's your proof?

PuritanReformed said...

@SteveJ:

you have no proof that Matthew borrowed wholesale from Mark, just mere conjecture based upon speculative theories about Q, as if similarity= same source.

You have no proof that any of the Scriptures are not breathed out by God. You don't even understand the difference between dictation and providential inspiration. You don't have any proof that Matthew is not an eye-witness record.

Need I say more? Try applying your ahistorical criticism to any ancienct literature and you can't even prove that Plato was not a fictitious individual whom the Socratic school dreamed up. Oh, did I mention the Socratic school? How do you even know Socrates existed?

SteveJ said...

I don't have to prove that Matthew wasn't written by God. You're the one making the claim that it was, therefore, the burden of proof rests squarely on your shoulders to demonstrate why your claim is worthy of belief.

SteveJ said...

BTW, similarity does strongly suggest the same source when the language itself is the same -- almost verbatim -- as it is often among the Synoptics.

PuritanReformed said...

@SteveJ:

you don't have to prove it if the default position is that Matthew was not written by God. But why is that the default position?

You start off with an anti-supernatural position as the default. Please justify your assumption.

And no, similarity does not necessarily imply the same source. A Honda look similar to a Ford, but they do not come from the same source.

After that, of course, you have to prove that having similar witnesses (not same source) behind the books means that the books are not Scripture. Again, you have presuppose that inspiration implies dictation.

SteveJ said...

The default position is not that God (though whatever means of inspiration you deem) wrote any particular book. For example, I don't begin with the assumption that God wrote the Koran, the Book of Mormon or the Rig Veda. And neither do you. It's up to the adherents of those books to tell us why their extraordinary claims are true. Same holds true for you.

PuritanReformed said...

@SteveJ:

and how do you know that? Why must I accept your anti-supernatural presupposition? I reject those other positions because of my Scripturalist position, not an anti-supernatural position.

Let's go back to our original question in Epistemology: Prove that you exist. I don't think you can.

SteveJ said...

I have no interest in proving my existence. I'm convinced of it and if anyone else is unconvinced, well, that's their problem.

But let me address this charge of being anti-supernaturalist, because it's a false charge. Just because I don't necessarily believe that the book of Matthew, for instance, was written under divine inspiration and maintain such a view as my default position doesn't mean I'm anti-supernatural in general. I simply believe that if you're affirming such a thing about Matthew, then it's incumbent upon you to tell us why it's so. It's not incumbent upon me to explain why it isn't so.

You're the man making the positive claim. You're the one who needs to make the case.

Besides, you are yourself anti-supernatural when it comes to all faiths except your own. If a bald religious devotee in flowing robes walks up to you and says he has a book that God himself inspired, your default position (and mine, too) is to reject the claim. You deny the supernatural inspiration of his book out of hand.

Does that make you an anti-supernaturalist?

Linda said...

I hope you don't mind me entering your convo. Not trying to be rude or anything but,,,,

SteveJ, the bible is basically a trustworthy Historical Document--and that's the basis for anyone who is studious and sincere

Investigating the evidence and weighing the pros and cons is what every intelligent, thinking person should do. Maybe if you set out to look for historical probability~

History is the field in which we can test the claims of Christianity. So the question has to be decided on the level of historical argument.

The resurrection remains an event within history and the Bible is an Historical book passed down to us.

In fact there’s more historical evidence that proves that Jesus lived, died and rose from the dead than there is of Alexander the Great, Caesar, and Herod put together. We would have to first dump our entire knowledge of Greco Roman History if one refuses to not deal with ALL historical Documents with the same homogenous scrutiny that have been passed down to us historically. Our knowledge of Greece and Rome depend upon documentary evidence less adequate than the documentary evidence for Jesus Christ and YET why aren't they questioned with the exact same scrutiny?


Most unbelievers apply one set of standards to the Bible because of philosophical prejudices and not to "all" historical literature which is very bias and strangely inconsistent to say the least.

SteveJ, your conclusions are not based on History but on philosophical and personal prejudices that inhibit you from even searching with the proper arguments to begin with.

The Christian has primary source material that is submissible in a court of law... 6 independent testimonies to the fact of the resurrection. 3 are by PRIMARY eyewitnesses: John, Peter, and Matthew. Paul, writing to the churches at an early date, refers to the resurrection in such a way that ((it is obvious)) to him and his readers that the event was well known and was accepted WITHOUT QUESTION.

These men were real living people in history that were martyred for their faith. They were martyred because they preached and KNEW Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. These men existed.

Mohammed-eyewitnesses to his death and still dead in the grave.
Buddha-eyewitnesses to his death and he's still dead in his grave.

All religions founders -DEAD

Christianity-Jesus is alive-Eyewitnesses testified


2 Peter 1:16-21 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.

"We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

1Jo 1:1 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

SteveJ said...

Thank you, Linda. No, you're not being rude at all and I welcome your explanations.

A couple of things:

I'm not denying the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth any more than that of Alexander. And I do believe that all documents of antiquity should be subjected to the same level of scrutiny. It's just that no one is telling me I'm going to hell over something that's written in Homer's Iliad, so the Bible is going to get a lot more attention than Homer.

I disagree that the NT testimony rises to the level of court-submissible evidence. First, we don't know who wrote the gospels ... we really don't. All four are anonymous. None of them read like an eyewitness account. No where do we read anything like, "And I saw the risen Christ with my own eyes." It's strictly third person hearsay. And despite what PuritanReformed says, it's painfully obvious that the first three gospels either borrowed from one another or from a common source (with John alone being written independently).

The fact of the apostles' martyrdom is far from established. We don't know how they died for certain. But their deaths really prove very little one way or another. Joseph Smith was martyred for his faith, too, yet I doubt you'd argue that his death seals the veracity of Mormonism, right?

Again, thanks for your efforts here. I'm not trying to tear down Christianity in all its forms. If a person wants to embrace a liberalized faith that doesn't require a belief in the utter infallibility of the Bible, I'm all for that. My own views are constantly evolving and I'm certainly open to what people have to say.

PuritanReformed said...

@SteveJ:

the problem is that you want to assert something (your existence) essentially by faith. Yet, you claim that my dependence upon Scripture cannot be by faith.

Why is it that I must prove my positive claim, but you are allowed to assert your positive claim without proof?

As such, I don't see the need to make a "positive case" for anything.

The fact is that you are skeptical only of things that your autonomous reason wants to be skeptical about. You have your own faith in your own reason, and your irrational rationalism has sat in judgment over God's revelation, yet you do so without any rational basis for your own rationality.

As for other faiths, you are in error. I am not anti-supernatural with regards to other religions. I am just anti-error with regards to other religions. In point of fact, read 1 Cor. 10:20.

SteveJ said...

First, I'm not demanding on pain of eternal damnation that you believe in my existence. That being the case, there's no dire necessity laid upon me to prove to you that I exist.

Second, your charge of anti-supernaturalism falls to the ground in so many ways. It is no more valid that a Roman Catholic's similar charge against you for not believing in transubstantiation, or Marian appearances or claims of outlandish medieval miracles.

Third, it's not a matter of what my "autonomous reason wants to be skeptical about." Some things strike the ear (particularly the modern ear) as manifestly unbelievable. For example, if you were to read of an account in, say, Suetonius about a talking donkey, I'm fairly confident you'd reject the account automatically and by default. I'm guessing you'd deem it utter nonsense without much of a hearing. But if such a story appears in the book of Numbers, your foregone conclusions and default positions force you to accept what you'd never accept from any other source.

Fourth, your presuppositionalism doesn't appear any different than the presuppositionalism of other religionists. The Muslim fanatic who believes in the piety of suicide bombings is also a staunch presuppositionalist; by default, he assumes his faith is true and that's that. But of course, his presuppositions are wrong. So isn't it at least hypothetically possible that yours are, too? If not, why not?

And besides that, aren't most presuppositions culturally based? In Taoist lands, Taoism is presupposed. In Islamic countries, it's Islam. In the West, it's Christianity (at least it has been, historically), and so on. Don't you think most people's religious "default positions" are strongly influenced by the accidents of their births? And isn't that cause for some suspicion?

Linda said...

"Why is it that I must prove my positive claim, but you are allowed to assert your positive claim without proof?"

You hit the nail on the head PuritanReformed...

SteveJ, Where is your proof and where are the documents and facts?

All you are doing is merely dismissing the New Testament and it's truth's. That's merely assertions and assertions are just that- a declaration stated positively with no support and without any (attempts) at proof.

If' you're going to dismiss things only contingent on arbitration then you have no basis, no voice. You would be like a negligent lawyer who has not done his homework and is misinformed of the facts.

Again: Who has the most evidence and eyewitnesses?
Which has first hand accounts to the resurrection? You or the Apostles?
FACTS are backed up by testimonies, evidence, eyewitnesses, -history


Have a good day

SteveJ said...

Again, Linda, there's no real proof that the authors of the gospels were eyewitnesses to the resurrection. The gospels are not first-person accounts and the authors never even identify themselves at all -- look for yourself. That being the case, the claim of eyewitness testimony is pure speculation on your part (and I might add, wishful thinking).

I'm not saying the resurrection didn't happen or couldn't have. Just that your claim of eyewitness accounts doesn't hold water ... and it doesn't.

Darrel said...

@SJ, If proof is what you seek before you believe the Gospel, then you will never believe the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not based on the proof you seek, rather it is based on faith and faith only. You can argue from now 'til the day that you pass into eternity that your version of proof is required before you believe the Gospel and you will pass into hell. This is fact and no proof will be given. The simplicity of the Gospel is this: Jesus Christ died and rose again to save sinners. That's the "nut shell" simplicity and beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ. You may demand "proof" all you like, but none will be given. The Gospel is to be believed, not proven. Once one does believe and is regenerated, you simply know that His Bible is true and you will no longer be seeking something that He will not provide to you.

I hope that repentance and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ are not too far off for you.

Darrel

SteveJ said...

Darrell, I'm not asking for proof in the sense that we can prove the point at which water boils. Both PuritanReformed and Linda have made statements about the New Testament that, as far as I can tell, are unsupported by any evidence. Is it asking too much that you furnish some compelling evidence that what you're saying is actually the truth? Otherwise, you're in effect saying to me, "Just take our word for it without question." Trouble is, the Muslims want me to take their word for it without question, too. David Koresh demanded that his followers just buy his product without asking why. Same with Jim Jones. That's generally not a good idea. So why is it that I should just gulp down what you're saying? How am I supposed to know that this time -- this time -- you're the one with the correct answer?

PuritanReformed said...

@SteveJ:

you see, you are not getting the point again. I am not the one one threatening eternal damnation; that is a fact. The issue here is truth and what are the true facts. Taking the existence of hell as a threat is no more different from treating the idea the warning that graviry exists and one would die if one jumped from the top of a building as a threat.

The question again is about FACTS, FACTS, FACTS.

Secondly, I am not anti-supernaturalist. Are you actually reading my comments? There is nothing inherently wrong about a talking donkey. Perhaps you have not read the account of Balaam's ass.

The question is about truth and falsehood. How does one determine what is truth or error? The reason why I reject all the other claims is not because they "strike the ear as unbelievable," but because they contradict the Scriptures.

Speaking of "striking the ear as unbelievable," this shows that you are blind to your own presuppositions. Unless you want to say that YOU and your reason are the measure of all things, why is it that these "unbelievable things" strike the ears of others as evidently believable? The issue is that you think that your presuppositions based upon your secular materailist worldview are the epitome of rational thoughts, all the while refusing to see that your rationalism and materialism are themselves hung in mid air without rational foundations. In this postmodern age, such modernist arrogance is especially and surely the height of hubris.

I don't reject an account because "it sounds unbelievable." I do not make my own perceptions the criterion of truth. Many things that once was thought of as unbelievable are accepted by people today, like for example the theory that light is both wave and particle.

That other religions are presuppositionalists is correct to some extent, but so are all philosphies like your rational materialism. Your presuppose that all reality must make sense to your reason, and that anything that sounds "unbelievable" to you is to be rejected, a priori. The issue is not whether one has presuppositions, but whether one admits them. In this postmodern era, it is sad that there are still people who think they are the abslutely unbiased, totally objective person around.

Once we admit our presuppostions, then there is ground to converse based upon the coherency of our presuppositions with themselves and with the world. As I have mentioned, your presuppositions do not internally cohere since there is no way that rationality can prove rationality.

As for presuppositions and culture,just FYI, I am a Chinese, so please don't play the culture game with me. Plus, Christianity is not a "Western religion." Europeans were worshipping Thor, Mars, Jupiter and Zeus etc before Christ came.

PuritanReformed said...

@SteveJ:

History is not science in the lab. Requiring infallible proof of the apostolic authorship of the Gospels while discounting the historical eye-witnesses of the early church and the Church Fathers is just plain bad historiography. Using that type of critiera, there is no proof that Napolean actually existed, since after all we today have only eye-witnesse testimonies to Napolean and probably some artefacts, all of which could have been doctored.

PuritanReformed said...

@SteveJ:

the problem is that you have discounted a priori the historical evidence as being of no validity. As I have said, using the type of skepticism to all other historical events must mean that they also don't exist.

As I have said, the type of historical skepticism you used to deny the relevant evidence a priori, if consistently applied, must make you skeptical of the existence of Napolean, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and about everything else that you have not personally experienced within your liftime.

SteveJ said...

Sigh,

I can demonstrate the existence of gravity. You can't demonstrate the reality of hell, except to put your finger under a text in an ancient book and say, "there!" Nor can you even demonstrate why that ancient book should trump all other considerations ... except to say that, well, it's just a fact. A fact, fact, fact. But as I've been saying, the Muslim claims his book is factual, too, so where does that leave us?

And as I've already stated, I'm not requiring proof. You really aren't paying much attention to what I'm actually writing here, PuritanReformed. I'm saying things and you're responding to other things that I'm not saying at all.

You think a talking donkey is credible, fine. I don't. Since you refuse to present any evidence of your POV, there's no point in discussing it further. All you're doing is asserting that something is a fact without saying WHY it's a fact. At least Linda is attempting to provide some reasonable explanations -- you're not even trying to do that.

I think you might profit by trying to develop some listening skills. They may come in handy some day.

PuritanReformed said...

@SteveJ:

you can demonstrate gravity? Prove it beyond all doubt. This time we can reverse roles, and I will be the persistent skeptic.

I am even more skeptical than the solipsist, just fyi.

It is one thing to claim that I am not listening. It is another time when you yourself are not listening, and think you do.

Darrel said...

@s SJ, I wonder is your quest for "truth" just a ruse to avoid admitting that you really are full of sin and all things loathsome to the Lord? Everyone who has been born again has had their playhouse of lies and tricks to "fool" God destroyed when their own sin is made real to them. I had mine and they were made into nothing the second my sin was revealed to me. My only response was "God forgive me." Again, you will not find the answers you seek outside of believeing upon the Lord Jesus Christ. By the way, the Koran is riddled with contradictions and lies as are all the other names you brought up---want proof, go read what they said.

Darrel said...

SJ, God is under no obligation to prove anything to anyone-you, me, everyone. Equally He is not obligated to provide a remedy for the sin mess we have made on earth-sin brings death, death brings eternal damnation. However, He did provide a remedy, an escape from the penalty of sin including eternal damnation. The remedy's name is Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of men and rose again for their justification. This is the only remedy He will provide and it is effective ONLY BY FAITH. If one chooses to not believe that this is God's only remedy he is in effect calling God a liar because he has not believed the account God gave of His Son. A yery dangerous place to be.

Darrel