Saturday, April 14, 2007

Judge Not; Lest Ye be Judged

In my, what seems to be perpetual, wandering, I came across a parable of what a theist felt judgment day would look like. How God would dispense justice. Let’s look at that for a moment.

We have a complete absence (as I previously discussed) when trying to determine what God’s Justice looks like. It is a void. A blank. And, since we all feel like there is this thing—this concept of “Justice”--we fill in the void as best we can. With our own personal sense of Justice. What is right and what is wrong.

Imagine being at Judgment day. God busily doing what God needs to be doing. You are observing. Then God turns to you and says:

“Hey, I’m going to go grab a bite to eat. Can you fill in for an hour or so? It’s easy. We have your hell on this end, heaven on the other and whole world of possibilities between. I don’t have a certain set of rules I follow rigidly. Kinda gut thing, if you know what I mean.

“Sit right here. This is my computer, it gives you complete access to the person, including their true thoughts and motives (don’t listen to what they say, ‘kay?) and if you get into real trouble, Gabriel will come get me. Never fear, use the sense of justice I gave you and it will be fine. Back in an hour…

Case One. The first person you get is a murderer. (Thanks a LOT, God!) This man is a white supremacist that helped a group of his club lynch a black man. You see on the computer he really didn’t want to, and was caught up in the peer pressure of the group. He felt guilty and in fact God’s computer says that it was this guilt that cut 10 years off his life from worrying. But still and all, he is a racist murderer…you dispense justice.

Case Two. Another murderer. (Did God do this on purpose?) This is a woman that was high on crack, and desperate for a fix, held up a convenience store. She stole a grand total of $46. God’s computer informs you that she didn’t know what she was doing. Her brain did not even record her pulling the trigger. But still and all, she voluntarily began to take drugs, and she did kill someone…you dispense justice.

Case Three. Another murderer. Sorta. (This cannot be a coincidence. That tricky God!) Bit of a twist on this one. This is a woman who hated her neighbor. With good reason as near as you (and God’s computer) can tell. The neighbor was one of those miserable people that the whole world hated. Yelled at the neighborhood kids kicking a ball in his yard. Never joined the neighborhood picnic. Picked up each leaf that blew in from her yard with a grimace and condemning glance.

One day, she noticed that he had crumpled over in his lawn chair while monitoring the neighborhood. For a passing moment she thought of calling “911” but the stronger, second thought was, “if he WAS to die, all the better. Maybe a better neighbor could move in.” He did die. She never had a moment of remorse. God’s computer says that if she had called “911,” they would have saved him and he would have lived another 10 years. This one is tricky, but…you dispense justice.

And over the course of that hour, as you make your ruling, a pattern would develop. What we would see is that you provide justice based upon your own experience. Perhaps, if you were a minority, you would be less compassionate on the first person. If you had been addicted to drugs, you may be more understanding on the second. If you had a particularly rotten neighbor, you would be more forgiving of the third.

Or not, depending on who you are. See—our sense of justice has a great deal to do with the era in which we lived, our surroundings, and our upbringing.

If God (the lazy bugger) kept having different people filling in for Him, we would see different justice dispensed. In our current century, we would consider a slave trader a most reprehensible creature. Yet a person from 400, 500 years ago may not even bring it into consideration, other than it was the person’s occupation.

Depending on the person; when and where they came from, some would be harsh on prostitution, others would shrug. Some would be aghast at polygamy, others wouldn’t notice. Smoking pot? One person would dispense justice, another would ignore it entirely.

Remember that TV Commercial where the Native American sees the garbage dump, and a tear rolls down his face? Imagine, with our consumerism and “throw it away” mentality, what his hour would be like. The hour before, the fellow that tossed Fast Food wrappers out the window would be overlooked. That Native American would be tossing him in hell for a very, very long time.

All of which is a long and round-a-bout way of saying that our intuitive sense of justice varies dramatically from person to person, from time to time and from place to place. It is derived from our different experience.

If this is how we derive our justice, would a God do the same? If God’s sense of justice was established prior to creation—what experience did God draw upon to determine what was right and wrong? The only thing that existed would be God. He couldn’t interact with anybody but…God. He couldn’t punish anyone but…God. He couldn’t reward anyone but…God. He couldn’t even conceptualize of a person not doing what God says—no one ever had before. There was no one to do so.

If I ask, “is it O.K. to hit someone?” your mind starts to crunch and analyze. What are the facts surrounding this hitting? How hard? What is the relation of the people involved? What led to this hitting and what was the reaction. And, as our brains are processing, we are comparing to past experiences and knowledge in our life.

God wouldn’t have that luxury. Nothing to draw from to answer the simple question “is it O.K. to hit someone?” ‘Course we could say that he looks into the future as to what could happen, but by virtue of that, God’s reflection on what happens in the future becomes an event in the past. God sees the future, but thinking on that is based on something that happened in the past—God’s seeing the future. (Bakes one’s noodle a bit, eh?)

But God would have to create that future (at least the possibility) first. That, too, is in the past. How can God create something that he has no knowledge of, in order to review it, and after that reflection, create justice, to learn how to implement it on the future event? Good luck with THAT one!

I often read what theists propose God will do at justice-time. Many, horrified (rightly in my opinion) at the concept of eternal torture, do not hold to an everlasting Lake of Fire. Yet in this discussion, what I see is a description of what God’s justice looks like, premised with the two-word qualification, “I think…”

How persuasive is it? This “I think…”? Sure, we “think” that human sacrifice is a reprehensible concept. Our “intuitive” justice would say that this is a problem. Yet, if within that hour on the Judgment Seat, an Aztec sat in that throne, they would not consider human sacrifice anything more reprehensible than a necessary event, like clothing or eating. Over the extensive course of history, that “I think…” would be extremely different between different cultures and different times.

This is one of many areas that I see humans making god in their own image. They determine what they think justice should look like and voila—so does their god. They cannot image a god dispensing justice in a manner they would not and voila—neither does their god.

Seriously, we could not have a clue. We can’t verify what God’s justice is, AND we cannot share with God the basis of our own. Thus it is useless to imagine any such justice is similar to ours. We have experience. God wouldn’t.

When I see a theist indicate what God’s justice will look like; two thoughts come to mind. First, dependant on the type of justice is often a reflection of who that person is. I see some gleefully proclaiming an everlasting torture chamber and wonder if, in life, they equally feel a sense of revenge in punishment. Not retribution, not rehabilitation. Revenge.

Secondly, I wonder if the theist realizes that their imposition of their own sense of justice on god is another nail in god’s coffin. If God is a human construct, it follows that God’s justice would be a human construct as well. If humans cannot agree as what is “just” it equally follows that the god(s) they create cannot agree either.

It’s nice to have an idea of some sort of “ultimate” justice with rewards and punishments for rights and wrongs. But what are the chances, in reflection of history, that God’s sense of justice happens to correlate with our very small vision of our time? Our place? Our culture?


  1. **In our current century, we would consider a slave trader a most reprehensible creature. Yet a person from 400, 500 years ago may not even bring it into consideration, other than it was the person’s occupation.**

    This is one of the things that's always troubled me about considering the Bible inerrent and infallible (I don't). Those who supported slavery, who supported women having no rights saw the Bible in that light, and that to do otherwise was to go against 'God's word.' I mean, even thirty years ago, wasn't a portion of Southern Christianity racist?

    So if an eternal lake of fire bothers somebody, then maybe that person should listen to the voice, much like many people started listening to the 'slavery is wrong' voice all those years ago, even though it went against the Bible.

  2. Heather,

    But the problem is—how does one know whether that small voice is god, or merely one’s upbringing. For example, racism was quite prevalent in the south not that long ago. Their “small voice” (due to where they were raised) did not flinch or qualm at it.

    Yet they thought guys and girls swimming together WAS wrong. Their “small voice” spoke very loudly against it.

    Who is to say which “small voice” is correct? The one that has no issue with racism, but says mixed sexes cannot swim together or the one that has no issue with mixed bathing, but says racism is wrong?

    Our internal voice is partly guided by our upbringing. It can also be affected by what we want. I see many Christians (rightly) deploring an eternal hell. But in the removal of hell, they leave a void. An empty. What goes in its place?

    What they want. Based on their experience. Is that not just as unfounded and unverifiable as the eternal hell they had previously?

  3. Hi Dagood
    There was a proof of God in your argument. The slave trader is an ordinary person of his era, but we see him as wicked now. Why the change? What brought us to think that? In fact, you can apply that truth to most anything. Stalin was "Uncle Joe" then, he's a devil now. The Roman Empire was cruel and mighty, then it fell. Same with the Soviet Union, the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, etc. etc. Any empire seems to have its days numbered. Why do they fall? Cutting to the chase, there is something forcing these events, something drawing us forward.

    I'm not speaking of evolution because that would reveal a survival of the fittest not the inevitable demise of the fittest. There's something about the course of history that is kind of otherworldly.

    The one thing that does stay constant is every generation's ability to create some injustice that is acceptable to them. We have it now with abortion, forcing the working poor into starvation, the demeaning of women and so on. But history will clarify those cruelties just as it clarified slavery, the Holocaust, and others.

    Pointing to man's ability to mold Scripture to his own likeness doesn't take you one cent towards disproving the Christian God. Your first post by a Christian (and an earthling) showed that dynamic well. Heather says that opposing slavery "went against the Bible". Against what Bible? Against the southern racist bible perhaps, but I humbly recommend she re-read Proverbs and Philemon to name two books of many that deal with the issue of slavery. Heather is thinking that she will prove an injustice in the Bible. That is a current (I mean future) injustice itself, isn't it? University social clubs are doing a bible for porn exchange. Turn in your Bible, get some porn magazines. The statement obviously, Bible is merely porn. I'm not saying that Heather is going that far, but I see an influence from our current culture that passing judgment on the Bible is somehow a just thing to do. I started out thinking the same thing Heather does about the Bible, but I couldn't hold up any of my own arguments. [Now I'm a Bible teacher.]

    Oddly enough, God's Word has stayed completely intact despite countless attempts by the corrupt and powerful to bowdlerize it. That is another curiosity that seems to run against worldly wisdom. Even while the Crusader was cutting people down with his sword, the Bible in his other hand was preaching against it. Not a word changed.

    One last point on judgment. There are two kinds, one that condemns the person and one that rebukes the person. The only way we can condemn anyone is to judge their heart, or better put, their soul. Only God can do that and we're in big trouble if we try to do that. (Romans 2)

    Always a pleasure dialoging with you Dagood and Heather. I'm not so sure of "secret rapture" though. :)

    P.S. - Sorry for the book...

  4. **Heather says that opposing slavery "went against the Bible". Against what Bible? Against the southern racist bible perhaps, but I humbly recommend she re-read Proverbs and Philemon to name two books of many that deal with the issue of slavery. Heather is thinking that she will prove an injustice in the Bible.**

    I was actually using that to point out why I see it dangerous to hold the Bible to be inerrent and infallible. It wasn't a comment on the Bible itself, it was a comment on how the Bible was used. In those times, to go against slavery was to go against the Word of God for many people. Same with women's rights. One could even argue that you are molding the Bible to fit your viewpoint that slavery is wrong. :) It simply feels that in order to acheive social rights, society often has to fight against the Bible, rather than on the side of the Bible.

  5. Jim Jordan,

    Not sure why you would say slave trading, the Roman Empire, or the Ottoman Empire was “more” fit than now. In fact, I would debate quite the opposite that humanity has improved in many ways over history.

    You are correct, I think, that things we currently find immoral may be later, in a different society determined to be moral. And things we find moral may later be considered ghastly horrible. Who knows? 100 years from now they may consider us ignorant buffoons to have failed to criminalize smoking. Whereas homosexual marriage will be accepted without a twitch.

    The past has demonstrated that tendency. Reasonable enough to believe it will continue into the future.

    Jim Jordan Pointing to man's ability to mold Scripture to his own likeness doesn't take you one cent towards disproving the Christian God.

    Maybe not. But it sure doesn’t help the proposition of a God that cares to protect the integrity of its supernatural revelation through the course of experience. If I wanted to disprove the Christian God, it is not all that difficult (despite Christianity’s belief to the contrary.) All I ask is that the theist comes up with a method of how to determine the truth of a claim of divinity. Then I apply that method to Christianity.

    Jim Jordan: Oddly enough, God's Word has stayed completely intact despite countless attempts by the corrupt and powerful to bowdlerize it.

    I reached a point I cannot even guess as to what you mean by that.

    “Intact” in a literature sense? But at the time of closing of the Tanakh, Christians would assure me it most certainly was NOT intact, since we did not even have the New Testament writings yet. Not intact at Paul’s writing. Not intact at the writing of Gospels/Acts. Not intact at the other Epistles or the other Gospels. Not intact at the writing of the Johannine letters, or James or the Epistles of Peter. Not intact at the time of 1 Clement, Epistle of Barnabas or Shepard of Hermas. Not intact at the writing of Apocalypse of Peter.

    In fact, if we used the Bible from the time of Eusebius, you would be assured that your version, without Clement, Barnabas or Hermas is not intact! Luther and Calvin would say that you could cut out the Apocalypse of John and it still is intact.

    “Intact” in a written sense? Only within the past 50 years have we started to categorize and investigate the manuscript documents. Did you know only 100 years ago, if there was a textual issue, the scholars would use the Codex to make a determination? With the cataloging of manuscripts and more information, such a concept is almost laughable. We know so much more. And the Bible, specifically the Textus Receptus most certainly was NOT intact, as we now discover.

    “Intact” in a historical sense? Not that long ago, the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon were considered historical fact. Now they are relegated to myths in which only those dedicated to the proposition of a literal Tanakh still faithfully maintain their literal historicity.

    Study of higher criticism has brought into question the historical claims of the Gospel, many of which are now recognized as Midrashic manufacture.

    “Intact” in a scientific sense? I don’t have to reiterate the belief of a young earth and global flood which science has completely decimated in the past 2 centuries. Or geocentricism. Or flat earth. Or the size of space.

    “Intact” in a philosophical/moral sense? If one thing has remained intact it is the claim there is nothing new under the sun. There were moral codes before the Tanakh, and moral codes after. There were Golden rules before and golden rules after. Gods coming in the form of humans. Gods sacrificing for humanity. Love your neighbor. All these things existed both before and after the Bible.

    Further, there is morality that did not stay consistent. Polygamy. Slavery. Food. Genocide. Lawsuits. Women in church. All of which people have both supported and decried using the same Bible.

    Jim Jordan, I appreciate that you desire it to be true. I understand that you hold the principles within to a high regard, whatever the historical basis. I just don’t see how that remotely makes it divine.

  6. Hi Heather
    The people who say the Bible is inerrant and infallible are indeed making quite a claim for which they should have at least studied the Bible thoroughly. That's why many rebukes of Christians come from other Christians. Right now people are speaking out about the "prosperity gospel" and the literal reading of the "week of Creation" although not enough. Christians should question their brothers and sisters who might be grossly errant and fallible.

    By "intact" I was referring to the text that we have now. The original copies in Hebrew and Greek are constantly used to check the translations. They have not changed nor were there any differences of any substance between the translations.

    Your complaints on your 18:18 post are pretty much the same as at HIS's site. I responded to them over there. Take care.

  7. Jim Jordan,

    I backed out of that blog entry for fear I was beginning to monopolize the conversation. I didn’t see were I covered such things as higher criticism or textual criticism in that comment. However—if you feel that you responded appropriately there, you are free to not respond here.

    So when you said “God’s word has stayed completely intact” how do you get around the various changes that have been introduced and discarded over the centuries? Not the least of which, of course, is the ending of Mark, the Pericope Adultera and the Johannine Comma. All of which were not in the original, were introduced over the course of time, beginning in the 8th Century if I recall, and remained until only about 100 years ago.

    How does that qualify for “intact”?

    Further, I think all those scholars in the field of textual criticism who argue, debate, discuss and disagree over the various translations and introductions of errors would be stunned to discover their life work was a complete waste of time. If what you are saying is true that it is obvious to everyone that these words “stayed intact.”

    I ask out of genuine interest, NOT some showboating technique, or to be a jerk or anything like that. What books have you read on textual criticism? What has led you to believe that these texts have stayed “intact.”?

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fall on the complete other side of the scale and claim we must throw the whole thing out because of the disagreements. Not at all! The study is rich and full and gives us an opportunity to discover and delve and attempt to get as close to the divergent point (where the mistakes first were introduced) as possible. Much of the arguments for what the original said are very persuasive to me. Some are not.

    The leading textual critic (in my opinion) was Bruce Metzger. Happened to be a Christian, so no fear of any atheistic tendencies there. And he recognized that part of the study was the realization that there are variations that we simply don’t know. Either (or neither) possibility of a translation could be true. Hence all the argumentation over which translation is correct.

    But no textual critic would ever say that God’s word has stayed completely intact. The evidence is far too overwhelmingly against it.

    And, now that we have narrowed it down to textual integrity, who are these “corrupt and powerful” who attempted to bowdlerize it? In fact, in reviewing the history, as the examples I have pointed out above, we have seen more of an attempt to ADD to it, rather than take away.