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    April 24th, 2012 @ 7:57 pm by Kevin

    There are times when a Christian apologist’s chief task is to so corrupt our reason and morals that we are no longer able to tell the difference between truth and falsehood, right and wrong.

    So begins “Deacon Duncan’s” devastating critique of apologist William Lane Craig’s free will defense of hell, as found in Craig’s book On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision. Apparently, Duncan believes Craig employs neither of these tactics, because in his critique, Duncan points out a number of logical inconsistencies in Craig’s arguments, my favorite of which is #4:

    [Craig’s words]: “Our eternal destiny thus lies in our own hands. It’s a matter of our free choice where we shall spend eternity. Those who are lost, therefore, are self-condemned; they separate themselves from God despite God’s will and every effort to save them, and God grieves over their loss.”

    [Duncan’s critique]: Let’s count the inconsistencies in these three brief sentences… a misinformed choice is not really free. God does not show up in real life, which limits us to the kind of choices where you either gullibly embrace whatever men tell you about God (and let’s face it, that could be almost anything) or else you stick to the facts, which ends up making you an atheist. If God is real and is hiding from us, His absence is denying us the opportunity to know what our real choices are, and thereby denying us the opportunity to make a truly free choice.

    This exchange helps to highlight where I both agree and disagree with Duncan. First of all, as I’ve pointed out in numerous comments and posts, I’m also skeptical of free will. It seems to me that any being who is neither omniscient nor omnipotent will always be in at least partial bondage to fear, ignorance, deception, emotional wounds or self-destructive desires. Therefore, his or her choices can never be truly free. And it does seem the height of injustice for God to hide himself and then punish us for not believing in him. As Duncan says, “If He’s truly offended by our failure to see Him while He’s hiding, then why hide?”

    Furthermore, Duncan points out, “When you preach an omnipotent God Who is the creator of literally everything else, you don’t get to appeal to circumstances beyond His control.” Which means arguing that free will prevents God from saving everyone simply won’t work.

    Let’s remember who we’re talking about here. If God is everything Christians believe him to be, he is the same being who created an expanding universe composed of at least 300 sextillion stars, a universe whose mass consists of 83% dark matter in addition to those stars, and the outer limits of which we may never be able to observe, never mind explore. And you’re telling me he can’t figure out a way around my stupid decisions?

    Where I disagree with Duncan is his statement that sticking to the facts makes you an atheist. That’s certainly an option, but there’s nothing about the facts of life (so to speak) that obligates us to reach such a conclusion. Sticking to the facts may cause us to reject certain forms of Christianity or particular interpretations of various doctrines, but rejecting William Lane Craig’s defense of hell is hardly tantamount to rejecting Christianity altogether.

    And yet, without hell, Duncan doesn’t see the point of Christianity. As he says at the end of his post, “Without a Hell to be saved from, what do you need a Savior for?”

    Sadly, this is also the view of many Christians. It was my view for years. Salvation was primarily about escaping hell when I died. I acted as if Christianity also had something to offer in the here and now, but it was mostly fear of the consequences that kept me on the straight and narrow–and even that didn’t work so well…

    So while many Christians may be offended that I would take the side of an atheist vs. a Christian apologist, I wonder how many of those same Christians also side with Duncan without actually realizing it.

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    I may weigh more in on this later, but for now, a quote:

    “The liberty of the God that would have his creature free, is in contest with the slavery of the creature who would cut his own stem from his root that he might call it his own and love it; who rejoices in his own consciousness, instead of the life of that consciousness; who poises himself on the tottering wall of his own being, instead of the rock on which that being is built. Such a one regards his own dominion over himself–the rule of the greater by the less, inasmuch as the conscious self is less than the self–as a freedom infinitely greater than the range of the universe of God’s being. If he says, ‘At least I have it my own way!’ I answer, You do not know what is your way and what is not. You know nothing of whence your impulses, your desires, your tendencies, your likings come. They may spring now from some chance, as of nerves diseased; now from some roar of a wandering bodiless devil; now from some infant hate in your heart; now from the greed or lawlessness of some ancestor you would be ashamed of if you knew him; or it may be now from some far-piercing chord of a heavenly orchestra: the moment it comes up into your consciousness, you call it your own way, and glory in it!”
    ~George MacDonald

    • That’s a great quote, Justin. Where was it published? I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read much of MacDonald, a problem I need to rectify.

  2. Bundesbedenkenträger April 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Well then, butter to the fish (as we say in Germany): What is salvation then if not the exit card for hell?

    Actually, I don’t think it’s the exit card either, I guess we are pretty close in thoughts to one another, but I am myself having problems putting it in words, so I thought I’d provoke you a bit.

    Nice posting, as usual by the way. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a problem with Craig in some points…

    • I appreciate the prod. I think Jesus came to save us from several things, but most certainly not from himself. He saves us from death, first of all, and fear of death–which is the driver of sin. In this sense, you could also say he saves us from ourselves, because we are really our own worst enemies. He sets us free from bondage to the fear of death and then shows us how to live in the light of the resurrection–through self-giving love.

      • Bundesbedenkenträger April 24, 2012 at 9:35 pm

        Wow, well said. It looks so easy to put this in words, but I don’t think I’d have it written down in so few words and still so precise. Thank you.

      • Amen to all that, Kevin. But first and foremost, I believe He came to save us FOR Himself; His bride, His body, the Father’s sons and daughters, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

        And why should we desire salvation? Because we get HIM. What could ever compare with that? He IS heaven.

      • Actually Jesus did say that he came to save us from himself, unless you are suggesting that he was referring to someone else that is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (see Matthew 10:28)
        Mat 10:28 KJV
        (28) And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
        Jesus was pretty clear that if we will not repent he will put us to death, and I am not sure how one can reckon “Universal Salvation” when he speaks of destroying both soul and body in hell. Even Duncan realized that the very title of “Savior” means that one has to be saved from something (and that something must be a real possibility and not an imagination.)
        Incidentially, praising the athiest against Craig is a type of straw man argument. If you think that his arguments were so great, why don’t you borrow them (adjusting them however you like) and ask them yourself, where people can see how you respond to the answers in a public forum?

        • Andrew: the context of that verse is Jesus giving his disciples a pep talk prior to sending them out to minister. He’s not threatening them–or us–with annihilation in that passage. He’s encouraging the disciples not to be afraid, because they serve a God who is stronger than any man.

          • Kevin, who is Jesus referring to that he says is able to “destroy both body and soul” in hell?

          • God of course, but there’s a big difference between being able to do something and being willing to do something. Also, the word translated “hell” here is actually Gehenna.

          • Also, Kevin, what does the word “destroy” mean? Does it mean to preserve, retain, refine, or save? Or does it mean …. to remove, to break into its base components, to annihilate, to render it utterly lost?

          • Ok, so far we have an agreement that according to Jesus, God is able to destroy body and soul in hell.
            1) Yes, the hell that Jesus is referring to is hell fire, gehenna, hell on fire.
            2) Are you suggesting that God is unwilling to destroy soul and body with hell fire? What saith the scripture?
            Mar 9:47 KJV
            (47) And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
            Mat 25:41, 46 KJV
            (41) Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
            (46) And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
            Rev 20:15 KJV
            (15) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
            Rev 21:8 KJV
            (8) But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
            That sounds like God is both able and willing to destroy the wicked with hell fire, and I do not see how one could justify taking the original statement from Jesus and suggesting that Jesus was saying God was able to destroy soul and body but would not actually do it.
            Duncan (the atheist) even understands this, that if we are offered a savior, there must be something that we need saving from. God is not only able to destroy soul and body in hell, but he has promised that he will destroy soul and body in hell. It is plainly stated in black and white.
            I could continue to prove this from scripture over and over, and you would continue to argue that we cannot expect to understand the bible or claim that it contradicts itself (although you have never once offered one instance of any of these alleged contradictions.)
            It seems to me that an honest apologist would not back away from a challenge to their belief, that they would attempt to prove what they believed in a convincing and persuasive manner, and failing that, they should be willing to reconsider that perhaps they might have been the one in error.

  3. People have itching ears and heap to themselves…people like YOU! lol
    You are dead wrong. God does not hide Himself. Romans 1 says God is obvious to everyone so man is without excuse. There is no such thing as an atheist for real. They know but do ‘not like to retain God in their knowledge’.

    However, I too side with atheists when it comes to ridiculing religious con men and the nincompoops who ‘sow seed’ in their ministries.

    • I agree with you, David. I just got back from a walk in a nature preserve, and to me, Nature literally sings of a Creator. But Darwin looked at the same pantheon and saw nothing but a brutal struggle for survival, where the survival of virtually all creatures depends on the death of others. What are we to make of this? So when I say God is hidden, what I mean is he hasn’t descended on the White House lawn in all his glory so we can see him as he is. We may see evidence for God in nature, but that’s a far different thing than what Deacon Duncan is talking about.

      • One issue here is that scripture seems to declare both. On one hand David raises a valid point that God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen. On the other hand people can’t see the light of the gospel because the god of this world has blinded them.

        So on one hand people are not blind and on the other hand they are. On one hand they know what they’re doing on the other hand they don’t.

        I wrote about a dilemma I noticed regarding the Sanhedrin’s murdering Jesus and Peter accusing them, and Jesus’ declaration that they didn’t know what they were doing. Paul too declares that he was a murderer and received mercy for his ignorance and unbelief. Leaving me to think this Atheist has more pack to his punch than most Christians credit.

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