Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby Ithilwen » Mar 01, 2014 12:20 pm

Aslanisthebest wrote:How will there be graphic designing in Heaven when some people, like the disciples, won't even know what a computer is?

I don't see why people in the afterlife would be limited in knowledge to the era they lived through while on earth. In the afterlife, we'll be all-knowing. So they would know what a computer is, plus a whole lot of other things.

I don't see how failure is bad. I don't think Heaven will be a place where, say, you're creatively perfect (you'll automatically get the right shot, the right words, the right layout), athletically perfect (you don't have to work on technique), or anything like that. I think, rather, it's being in a world that is perfect that allows for good growth. Having capacity for growth is not the result of a fallen world; lack of growth and growth in the wrong direction are.

Love this. :ymapplause:

As for hard work, you're right that we are measuring and describing everything in terms of how we understand our world. Work is the product of distance and time, and both of those contain things that you speculated will not be present in Heaven. Distance--physical source, and Time--which we know won't necessarily be in Heaven.

Revelation mentions in one part that "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour". So maybe there will be time in Heaven. The difference would be that, unlike our world where we slowly approach an end, time would never end in Heaven.



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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Mar 01, 2014 1:27 pm

One of the things that I think is interesting about The Last Battle is the phrase further up and further in—and the sense in which Lewis ends the book, saying that they were embarking on an adventure where every chapter is better than the one before.

It's not Time, per se, but it does indicate a sort of progression. It seems to me that they are on a neverending journey of being drawn deeper and deeper into the infinite heart of God. I would say it's hardly the same concept as "time" as we understand it here, yet there is still movement and infinite growth. A suggestion of some kind of past and future, though not in the same sense as we know them in the Shadowlands.

(Interestingly, Aslan says that while the giant lay dreaming, his name was Time, and now that he is awake, he will have a new name—I wonder if it relates to this? How I wish that Lewis was still around for interviews!)

At any rate, it's all a bit mind-bending. ;)) But a very interesting thing to ponder; Lewis had a lot of fascinating perspectives on this topic. The idea of further up and further in is, I think, a lot more appealing than a state of stagnation, or being walloped all at once with infinity.

Speaking of which—does anyone have any verses handy that talk about humans becoming all-knowing in heaven? While I have some general sense that heaven will be a place where truth is revealed, whether we'll all be lightning-bolt'd with infinite knowledge when we cross the threshold of heaven's gates or if we will exist on a plane where truth is perpetually revealed unto infinity—I don't know.

Because when I think about it... I'm pretty sure being clocked over the head with the infinite mysteries of life, the universe, and everything all at once would break my brain. ;)) Not to mention that one of my dearest joys in life is learning and researching... I think I'd be more than a bit sad if I couldn't do a google search in heaven, or the heavenly equivalent, because I already know exactly what the heavenly wikipedia article says.

(Although I must say, the idea of a heavenly, infallible wikipedia sounds quite nice. :D I'm looking at you, people who edit without citations. /:))
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby MinotaurforAslan » Mar 01, 2014 3:01 pm

Aitb wrote:
Mfa wrote:But the most logical version of heaven, it seems to me, is something quite similar to Shadowlander's childhood vision of an 'eternal church service'.
Just curious--how is that the most logical version?


The problem of evil is perhaps the most prominent argument against biblical theism. How can an omnibenevolent God allow a world with so much suffering?

This is usually resolved by saying that a universe with evil is preferable to a universe without one - that is to say, God has morally sufficient reasons for doing so. This can be articulated in two ways. One is to say that free will is a better state of being than preprogrammed behavior, and the ability to choose between good (God) and evil is what that free will is. The other is to say that without evil, we would not be able to recognize or appreciate good! For example, how would we know what to call loyalty if we did not understand its inverse, betrayal? How would we know honesty if we did not understand lying? In a world where everybody told the truth and had no idea how to lie, telling the truth would be no more noteworthy and moral than breathing!

But both of these solutions create another problem, the problem of heaven. Heaven is so often imagined as a perfect version of our world. But in order to solve the problem of evil, one has to make the argument that our current world is preferable to a perfect version of our world! Otherwise God would've just created the perfect world in the first place.

So if Heaven involves anything to do with activities, it logically contradicts any solution to the Problem of Evil.

My solution is to therefore say that in Heaven, you only ever make one decision - to be with God. That decision is what gets you into Heaven in the first place, and keeps you from hell. And once you are in heaven, you will just maintain the state of being with God. It will be like an 'eternal church service', except instead of the priest or pastor, there is God, and instead of doing all the formalities of a church service, you are simply there. Your presence is your affirmation of wanting to be with God, which is praising him.

Rose wrote:While I have some general sense that heaven will be a place where truth is revealed, whether we'll all be lightning-bolt'd with infinite knowledge when we cross the threshold of heaven's gates or if we will exist on a plane where truth is perpetually revealed unto infinity—I don't know.

Because when I think about it... I'm pretty sure being clocked over the head with the infinite mysteries of life, the universe, and everything all at once would break my brain.


This is where it comes in handy to have a clear definition of what exactly is a soul. Because the reason we'd get clocked over the head with the infinite mysteries of everything is that our brains have a limited capacity for knowledge and memories. What part of our minds exactly perishes with our brain when we die, and what part moves beyond? The answer to that question, I think would give a lot of insight into our final destination.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Mar 01, 2014 4:14 pm

I'm not sure I'm totally following you on the problem of evil vs. the problem of heaven, MfA. (Good chance I could be missing something; haven't been getting much sleep lately.)

Are you saying that if it was preferable for God to create a universe where evil existed, then therefore that makes heaven less preferable because evil does not exist there?

I don't think that heaven being free of evil should therefore mean that you can no longer choose evil in heaven—that there is the elimination or forfeiture of free will upon entering paradise. (After all, some of the angels fell—though my fledgling pet theory on the reason that happened is because they were originally at one with God and did not appreciate it for that reason, whereas we are estranged from God and thus caused to realize precisely why we need Him.) If it is valuable to God for His creation to voluntarily love and worship Him, then I don't think that would change after the end of the world, either. But if anyone has any verses on our ability to choose, i.e. our free will, being taken away upon entering heaven, I'd be interesting in looking at them, though in general, I'd say that not sinning is not the same thing as not being able to sin.

I think that heaven (and new earth?) being free of evil would probably be largely attributed to the direct presence of God, the reality that it is a realm fully under His dominion because everyone there has chosen God and chosen to be in an obedient and loving relationship with Him, and the fact that we no longer live in a deceptive, broken world that muddles our minds and makes it harder to see the truth for what it really is. (Think how Aslan told Jill in the beginning of The Silver Chair that when she went into Narnia, the air would thicken and to not let it confuse her mind.) But again, I'd always love to look at verses related to this sort of thing.

Still have that sneaking suspicion I completely misread your post. ;))

As for the question on what is a soul and what we take with us from this life to the next... I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure I've seen people argue that we will have physical, glorified bodies in the new heavens and the new earth, but I'm not sure which verses they base that idea from. It's something I need to read more about.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby Ithilwen » Mar 01, 2014 4:31 pm

MinotaurforAslan wrote:This is usually resolved by saying that a universe with evil is preferable to a universe without one - that is to say, God has morally sufficient reasons for doing so. This can be articulated in two ways. One is to say that free will is a better state of being than preprogrammed behavior, and the ability to choose between good (God) and evil is what that free will is. The other is to say that without evil, we would not be able to recognize or appreciate good! For example, how would we know what to call loyalty if we did not understand its inverse, betrayal? How would we know honesty if we did not understand lying? In a world where everybody told the truth and had no idea how to lie, telling the truth would be no more noteworthy and moral than breathing!

But both of these solutions create another problem, the problem of heaven. Heaven is so often imagined as a perfect version of our world. But in order to solve the problem of evil, one has to make the argument that our current world is preferable to a perfect version of our world! Otherwise God would've just created the perfect world in the first place.

I think solving the problem of evil is a bit more complicated than just saying an evil world is preferable. The problem of evil does not have just one explanation, nor does it have one question. There are a range of factors, including issues concerning free will, was this world temporary or permanent before the fall, how much like heaven was this world before the fall, how much changed because of the fall, how much Satan had to do with the Fall, how Satan came to be evil in the first place, if Satan invented evil, how a being such as Satan could create something apart from God (if that is indeed what happened). The whole thing is one big complex mystery, and we aren't given the answers. Probably because we don't really need to know right now.

As for the issue concerning Heaven, I don't think it would be "less preferable" just because evil and pain don't exist there. If it's lack of comparison you're worried about, the fact that we'll be omniscient (or something at least closer to omniscience than we are now) should put your mind at ease. If we know everything, we will also remember life on earth, back when evil existed. We can use our memories as a comparison. We can use the people in hell as a comparison. Sin and suffering may disappear for us, but our ability to compare present joy to past pain, present obedience to past rebellion, will remain.

Rose wrote:Speaking of which—does anyone have any verses handy that talk about humans becoming all-knowing in heaven?

There are probably more verses than this, but this is the one that came to mind right away:

1 Corinthians 13:9-12 wrote:For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.


MfA and Rose, I am not really familiar with this site, but it has an article here which provides some interesting examples concerning the remembering of life on earth once we are in the afterlife. It also provides an example of people suddenly knowing things during a supernatural experience, which they could not have known from anything they encountered during their earthly life. This shows that just a simple encounter with the spiritual can cause a "supernatural info dump" of sorts. ;)) You can imagine then, the sort of info dump that would occur if we were directly in God's presence.


EDIT:
Rose wrote:As for the question on what is a soul and what we take with us from this life to the next... I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure I've seen people argue that we will have physical, glorified bodies in the new heavens and the new earth, but I'm not sure which verses they base that idea from. It's something I need to read more about.

Here's a short article on the bodies in which we will exist while in the afterlife. I'm sure there is more information than that. But that is what I have on hand right now.


~Riella =:)
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Mar 01, 2014 5:44 pm

We won't be all-knowing on the New Heaven and the New Earth (that would make us God) but we'll know more than we do now.

Also, we don't understand holiness in light of evil, we understand that evil is the absence of God's holiness. The only reason we can understand evil and recognise it as bad, is because it is absent of God's holiness - He who defines everything.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Mar 02, 2014 12:57 pm

Thanks for the links, Ithie! :)

1 Corinthians 13 is an intensely beautiful chapter, but it's also a little tricky to wrap my head around. Looking at the entire collection of verses, it seems that Paul is primarily talking of revelation about God, how we imperfectly relate to Him now and how we will perfectly relate to Him in the future. Paul speaks of "all mysteries and all knowledge", but again, if I'm viewing it in context, it seems like it would be the mysteries and knowledge which relate to the character of God.

I need to look at it more closely, but if you remember any other verses that indicate human omniscience in the world to come, I'd love to look at those, too.

Back to the topic of sin/free will and heaven. There's a good chance this post will probably end up being rather rambling, but something I think is relevant to the discussion is this question: what is our goal as Christians? My understanding is that our mission is to become like Jesus, the one perfect example of what being a true child of God means. He showed us, in his words and actions, what the kingdom of God looks like.

Yet Jesus also had free will. He didn't sin because he could not, but because he would not. The temptation of Christ and Jesus's words of "not my will, but Yours" indicate that Jesus had an individual will, but that it was always the will of the Father that he held paramount. If Jesus had free will in this life and still served the Father faithfully, is it reasonable to expect that his free will would have been taken away upon ascension? And therefore, is it reasonable expect that our free will would also be taken away, if our quest is to become like Jesus?

I think one of the reasons why the idea of being unable to sin in heaven is rather pervasive is because we have such a hard time conquering it in this life. So far have we fallen, we think that the only way we would not sin is if we could not; that we cannot turn away from it on our own and need God to literally intervene and separate it from our souls. And to some degree, I think that is correct. If we are led out of sin, it is by the hand of the Father.

But I don't think it happens with some magical clap of thunder where all of our idols suddenly disappear and somehow we just don't care about them anymore. No, we have to be willing to relinquish them. It's not that we can conquer sin on our own. It's about being willing to turn away and to do the will of the Father, in loving obedience, and thus letting Him conquer our sin.

Something I think is rather analogous to this is being a child and then growing up and maturing. When you're a little kid, there are so many rules it feels like you cannot possibly ever do any good or be what anyone expects you to be, and often the only reason you are obedient at all is because you're afraid of the consequences. Your focus is on yourself, not others.

As time passes and you grow up, however, your focus (hopefully) shifts—it turns out that following the rules isn't impossible and you start to care about the needs and concerns of other people. Instead of only ever being obedient out of fear of consequences, you are obedient out of love. In many ways, I think the evolution of our relationship with God is a lot like the process of growing up.

... And wow—it kind of looks like my rambling post unexpectedly came full circle there. That was cool. @-)
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby King_Erlian » Mar 03, 2014 10:14 am

MinotaurforAslan wrote:What I do think Heaven is like? Very simple. We get to be in the presence of God. That's it. What makes that appealing is that God is the apex of truth and goodness. To be in the presence of that would be infinite joy. Any activity that involves finite happiness just wouldn't compare. Time won't pass at all, or even if it does, we won't sense it passing, because we'll always be in the same state of being.

The trouble I have with this idea is, I wouldn't be me. There would be nothing distinctive about any of us. Indeed, there'd be nothing to connect any of us with any of these "entities". And it makes the whole of our earthly lives completely pointless. No matter what you'd experienced, how much you'd suffered, what good you'd done... it would all be erased and have no effect on your existence in Heaven. All we'd do is exist. You might say that we'd love God, but would we? Love is an active thing, not just something we say, or feel. If there's no action, I don't believe there can be any real love.

As for Hell, I don't think there is such a place, at least in eternal terms. I think all the verses in the Bible that talk about "people being thrown into the fire, and the fire will not be put out" refer to people being totally and permanently destroyed, just as Satan will be totally and permanently destroyed. For there to be a Hell of everlasting torture means that everybody has eternal life; it's just whether you get "nice" eternal life or "nasty" eternal life, and that's not what Jesus taught. He said that those who believe in him will receive eternal life. What's more, for there to be a Hell of everlasting torture means that the Devil would not really be God's enemy but that they would have shaken hands and agreed that God could have some souls and the Devil have the rest for each to rule over. If the Devil and his angels (demons) are really to be destroyed, then who's going to inflict all this torture on anyone? I'm convinced that the whole point of the establishment of a New Heaven and a New Earth is that all of creation will be reconciled to God and there won't be anywhere in the universe - in the multiverse, even - where God is absent. So where, physically, could all these lost souls exist? To me, the only logical answer is that they won't - if they don't accept God, they'll be destroyed. That's what I believe the Bible teaches. I think the "Hell as everlasting torture" thing is a misinterpretation of Scripture.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby MinotaurforAslan » Mar 03, 2014 9:14 pm

The Rose-Tree Dryad wrote:Yet Jesus also had free will. He didn't sin because he could not, but because he would not.


I don't see how Jesus could possibly have free will. For Jesus to sin would be a violation of his very nature. It would be akin to God creating a rock so big he can't lift it (an omnipotence problem that Christian apologetics solve by asserting that God can only do logically possible things).

Once upon a time, three researchers sat a walahooga in front of the plate of beans and a plate of carrots 1 billon times and asked it to choose a plate to eat, and every time it chose the plate of beans. One researcher said it would be logical to assume now that walahoogas will always choose beans. A second researcher said, "But we haven't tried the experiment an infinite amount of times! There might be an infinitesmial chance that the walahooga would choose the carrots!" But then after the third researcher discovered that the very definition of walahooga is "one that will never choose carrots" they realized it would be pointless to keep trying. They concluded that the walahooga didn't have any real choice in the matter to eat beans or carrots. If it did, then it simply wouldn't be a walahooga anymore.*

*Full disclosure, I made this story up.

If a possible outcome of a situation will literally never happen, then it's not really a possible outcome.

So if we are in heaven, and have the choice to sin, but simply choose not to literally every time for the rest of eternity, I wouldn't say there's any real choice there. If we ever did sin, we wouldn't be in heaven anymore, because heaven would no longer be an perfect place.

King Erlian wrote:The trouble I have with this idea is, I wouldn't be me. There would be nothing distinctive about any of us. Indeed, there'd be nothing to connect any of us with any of these "entities". And it makes the whole of our earthly lives completely pointless. No matter what you'd experienced, how much you'd suffered, what good you'd done... it would all be erased and have no effect on your existence in Heaven.


Three responses...

One, I don't care if I wouldn't be me. A perfect version of me wouldn't be me anyways. All the meaningful aspects of our personalities (our virtues or lack of thereof) are created by how we respond to sin. All the trivial aspects of our personalities (our food preferences, favorite sports etc.) are contingent on existing in imperfect bodies with physical urges in a fallen world.

And secondly, don't the significance of our earthly lives need to be diminished as much as possible, because the more they are magnified, the more Christianity doesn't really make a lot of sense? Why would God bother with all this pomp and circumstance of a complex fallen world with every soul born and living under completely unique circumstances to test out which ones were worthy of heaven when he could've just lined everybody up in front of him and had them choose to accept Him or not?

All the good deeds we perform on earth are nice and matter right now, of course, but after a trillion zillion years when we're up in heaven playing a perfect version of croquet for the upteenth time, who's gonna really care about what anyone did on earth beyond whether they accepted God or not?

One of the biggest hurdles of Christianity that bothers me time and time again is that most people in the history of the world have never heard of Jesus. The stock response I hear to this problem is to "trust in the mercy of God", i.e. God will judge everyone according to the true nature of their heart, so it won't matter all so very much whether they prayed to Yahweh or The Great Beetle-King as long as they did it with the right intentions, because as soon as they got up to heaven they'll see that the Great Beetle-King was a farce and Yahweh was the one they would have wanted to worship all along (see: Emeth, The Last Battle).

Thirdly, if God is infinitely good, then being with him would be inifinitely more fulfilling than being with anyone else. What more would we have a need to recognize or distinguish each other? Any interaction we could possibly make with each other would pale in comparison to interaction with God.

King Earlian wrote:You might say that we'd love God, but would we? Love is an active thing, not just something we say, or feel. If there's no action, I don't believe there can be any real love.


That's why I said Heaven consists of doing exactly one action - choosing to be with God. That action has infinite benefits for us and lasts for an eternity.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby Ithilwen » Mar 03, 2014 11:01 pm

MinotaurforAslan wrote:So if we are in heaven, and have the choice to sin, but simply choose not to literally every time for the rest of eternity, I wouldn't say there's any real choice there.

Whether or not something is a choice is not determined by what choice we make each time. The only thing that determines whether something is a choice or not is if the decision is left up to us, and if we can, of our own free will, choose one path or another.

Let's say a great banquet is going to be held every year, and there are multiple places to hold it. Every year, the choice is yours where you want to hold the banquet. You like one banquet hall more than all the others, so every year you decide to hold it there. Every year, you can choose to hold it somewhere else if you want. But because you like that one so much, you keep choosing to hold it in the same place. Just because you make the same decision each time, that doesn't mean you "have no choice". The decision is still in your hands.

A perfect version of me wouldn't be me anyways. All the meaningful aspects of our personalities (our virtues or lack of thereof) are created by how we respond to sin. All the trivial aspects of our personalities (our food preferences, favorite sports etc.) are contingent on existing in imperfect bodies with physical urges in a fallen world.

There is actually a lot more to us than our virtues and how we respond to sin.

Let's say one person decides to serve God by using their intelligence and creativity to be an inventor, and makes interesting, useful inventions. Let's say another person decides to serve God by using their love for beauty and creating a beautiful garden. Let's say another person decides to use their passion for song in order to sing praises to the Lord. All of these people are different, unique, and are choosing to live very different lives from each other. None of them are being defined by their responses to sin. All of these people could live in a sinless world and still be unique from one another due to their specific talents, preferences, and experiences. There are also many other things we do in a day besides jobs, and many of them are neither virtues nor sins. Quirks, habits, expressions, reactions. Many of these are neutral things. They help define us now, and they can help define us in the next life.

Also, why would we need to have imperfect bodies or be in a fallen world to like one food over another, or one activity over another? Having a preference is not a sin. Activities and playing sports is not a sin. And even though we won't need food to survive, the Bible is still clear we will eat in the afterlife. I see no reason why personal preferences wouldn't still help define us in the afterlife.

All the good deeds we perform on earth are nice and matter right now, of course, but after a trillion zillion years when we're up in heaven playing a perfect version of croquet for the upteenth time, who's gonna really care about what anyone did on earth beyond whether they accepted God or not?

Actually, there are many parts of the Bible that hint that what we do on earth, beyond just accepting Christ, will be a defining factor when it comes to what sort of life we live in the afterlife. So not only are all our lives on this earth important, they are literally taking a part in shaping our eternity.


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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Mar 04, 2014 1:08 pm

(Sorry about all of the links to follow; I just like to list references, and I'm a BibleHub addict.)

King_Erlian wrote:I'm convinced that the whole point of the establishment of a New Heaven and a New Earth is that all of creation will be reconciled to God and there won't be anywhere in the universe - in the multiverse, even - where God is absent. So where, physically, could all these lost souls exist? To me, the only logical answer is that they won't - if they don't accept God, they'll be destroyed. That's what I believe the Bible teaches. I think the "Hell as everlasting torture" thing is a misinterpretation of Scripture.


There are definitely verses that indicate that God will indeed be "all in all"—Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 15:28, and Romans 14:11, for instance.

It's possible I'm missing some instances, but by my count, there are about seven verses that use the word "eternal"—and I'm assuming that it's the correct translation, rather than age-long—in connection with fire and punishment in the New Testament. Three of those relate to the eternal fire, which rather makes sense to me, since God is described as a consuming fire and He is, of course, Eternal. One of them mentions eternal judgment, and one of them speaks of the eternal sin of those who look on the miracles of the Holy Spirit and blaspheme them of being from a power of evil. And then there's one that speaks of eternal destruction, which I often see proponents of annihilationism cite.

The verse that I've been getting really hung up on lately, though, is Matthew 25:46. In just about every translation, kolasin is merely rendered as "punishment," but when I look at the concordance, I find words like "chastisement" and "correction"—which is odd to me, because frequently hell is represented as a place where there is punishment merely for punishment's sake; it is not a tool for teaching desired behavior and there is no ultimate purpose for it.

Yet if I'm to believe that the dictionary definitions apply, a word like correction seems to imply the opposite. It indicates discipline and training with a purpose of rehabilitation and reform. But what is the point of rehabilitative punishment if the sinner cannot be saved at this point? Or is it only eternal punishment until the sinner no longer needs to be punished because they have at last learned the lesson; that the conditions that sent them to hell in the first place no longer exist?

I'm pretty mystified, to say the least, and it's something I'd like to spend a lot more time researching, especially since the word kolasin only appears twice in the Bible and the word it originates from only appears twice as well—not exactly a lot to go on when trying to form an understanding of what it means. The Greek Lexicon section on the concordance page lists Aristotle as having defined kolasis as disciplinary, differentiated from a word like timória which indicates punishment for the sake of vengeance. Plato, too, if I'm reading it right. It also says that there are other usages that don't always recognize such a distinction, though. Oh well, it's a place to start.

Anyway, I've struggled a lot with making sense of eternal punishment as well, and it's obviously something I continue to study. Something that's also worth studying is universal reconciliation, which is an interesting approach to reconciling verses that say God will be all in all with verses that clearly state that some people will go to hell. This is an article that lays out a general case for it, though I have issues with a couple of the arguments listed there. Whether or not it is a scripturally-sound doctrine is something that I continue to examine.

MinotaurforAslan wrote:I don't see how Jesus could possibly have free will. For Jesus to sin would be a violation of his very nature. It would be akin to God creating a rock so big he can't lift it (an omnipotence problem that Christian apologetics solve by asserting that God can only do logically possible things).


What do you make of his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, in Matthew 26:36-46 and Luke 22:39-46? Jesus is in anguish. He does not want to go through with the crucifixion. He is beseeching the Father to take this cup away from him. But in the end, he does not ever waver from his devotion to the will of the Father.

Not my will, but yours be done. That clearly indicates that Jesus had an individual will. But if sinning would have been a violation of Jesus's very nature, wouldn't the temptation to violate the will of God be the same? After all, there was nothing inherently wrong with eating a piece of fruit in Eden. It was wrong because it was rebellion; it was not the will of God. For Jesus to submit to his own will instead of the will of the Father would have been to rebel—and thus to sin, if rebelling against the will of God is the basic definition of sin. At least, that's my understanding of it.

MinotaurforAslan wrote:Once upon a time, three researchers sat a walahooga in front of the plate of beans and a plate of carrots 1 billon times and asked it to choose a plate to eat, and every time it chose the plate of beans. One researcher said it would be logical to assume now that walahoogas will always choose beans. A second researcher said, "But we haven't tried the experiment an infinite amount of times! There might be an infinitesmial chance that the walahooga would choose the carrots!" But then after the third researcher discovered that the very definition of walahooga is "one that will never choose carrots" they realized it would be pointless to keep trying. They concluded that the walahooga didn't have any real choice in the matter to eat beans or carrots. If it did, then it simply wouldn't be a walahooga anymore.

*Full disclosure, I made this story up.

If a possible outcome of a situation will literally never happen, then it's not really a possible outcome.


Well, I think that would only be correct if our behavior was completely random, but every day we make choices based on our unique perspectives and needs and desires. For instance, you're not likely to walk out in front of heavy traffic if you're in your right mind, but no one disputes that it is possible.

(And technically, since God is infinite, He can try the experiment an infinite amount of times. But maybe I'm not completely understanding your point.)

Perhaps a better way to look at it is that the Walahooga sometimes wanted to eat the carrots under certain circumstances, but there was always another force at play. Perhaps the Supreme Walahooga didn't want the Walahooga to eat carrots because beans were much better for him. Because the Walahooga cared more about the opinion and desire of the Supreme Walahooga than he did his own, he always chose the beans. And that never changed, unto infinity, because the Walahooga's relationship with the Supreme Walahooga was always going to be more important than eating some carrots.

*Full disclosure: I totally imagined the Walahooga as looking like the hillbilly character from AMinotaursJourney. ;))

MinotaurforAslan wrote:If we ever did sin, we wouldn't be in heaven anymore, because heaven would no longer be an perfect place.


Or maybe we wouldn't be in heaven anymore because we'd left. It was possible for the angels to fall; I don't know enough to say it's impossible for humans. I know that no one can snatch them out of the Father's hand and God will never drive away those who come to him, but we all know that many Christians go through periods of rebellion throughout their lives. That doesn't mean they've been snatched out of God's hand or that God is driving them away; they're just rebelling. Would the ability to make these choices change upon entering heaven? It's something I'm still researching.

Even if it were possible for the saved to fall, though, I think it would be much less likely for people to rebel in heaven because the air is clear, so to speak, and it is much easier to see reality for what it actually is. It won't be nearly as easy to fool ourselves and talk ourselves out of obedience as it is on earth. In general, it would be a lot like Jill's experience talking to Aslan at the beginning of The Silver Chair.

EDIT: Forgot something else I wanted to comment on... because this post wasn't long enough already, right? :P

MinotaurforAslan wrote:Thirdly, if God is infinitely good, then being with him would be inifinitely more fulfilling than being with anyone else. What more would we have a need to recognize or distinguish each other? Any interaction we could possibly make with each other would pale in comparison to interaction with God.


That makes it sound like if you're choosing to love or spend time with anyone else, then therefore you are not fully choosing or loving God. I don't think that's the case. We're all part of Him; we're basically His family. What we do for each other out of love and obedience to His will, we do for God. Maybe some people would say this is a stretch, but it seems to me that loving someone is also loving God, and spending time with someone while living in loving obedience to God is essentially spending time with God.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby MinotaurforAslan » Mar 25, 2014 1:38 am

So as to revive the dormant creature that is CR&P, I have a topic that I've never seen discussed here before (at least while I've been here), but have recently become interested in.

What do y'all think of the Non-Canonical Gospels?

I bring them up because for the entirety of my Christian life experience, I've learned about Jesus through the tried and true 4 Gospels that everybody knows and loves...Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

However, that's a rather sparse amount of material to learn about literally the most influential human in all of history (a fact that stands regardless of your religion)! The Canonical Gospels have the aura of divine infallibility that makes them so very beloved. But certainly, that doesn't mean that the non-canonical Gospels are completely false and inaccurate! There could potentially be something to learn from them.

I know that most of the non-Canonical Gospels have good reason to be ignored, having been written centuries after Jesus's death and generally unreliable. But there are some Gospels that were written very closely after Jesus's death and I think have good reasons to be considered somewhat reliable, and have something genuine to add to our image of Jesus.

For example, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas contains a narrative of Jesus's life from age 5 to 12. Reading it was utterly fascinating for me, as Jesus's childhood had always been a blank spot in the traditional Gospel narrative of his life, save for the lone story about finding him in the temple. After I was done, I felt like including the Thomas narrative in my head gave me a more complete mental perception of the life of Jesus. Only knowing the circumstances of his birth and the 3 final years of his life previously wasn't much to go on!

There's a couple of really nice stories in there, like one about Jesus making clay birds on the Sabbath. A adult comes by to reprimand his behavior, working on the Sabbath and all, but Jesus commands the birds to fly away, and the clay birds become real and the elder doesn't accuse him of working anymore. That's a cute little story I could see being put into any Children's picture book on the bible. In fact, several of the stories, like others which talk about the games Jesus would play, or helping his dad in the carpenter's sop sound like they'd be much more relatable to kids than most biblical stories.

I know why the infancy Gospel probably wasn't included in the final canon. It contains stories of Jesus that suggest he had a bit of a temper, and lack of control and discernment over the best ways to use his divine powers and knowledge. But the final story, finding Jesus in the Temple, we know to be true due to the divine infallibility of MMLJ. So at least one of the stories is accurate. Are all the other stories merely heresay and tall tales? :-s What does that say about the easiness of fabricated legends to be able to spread abou Jesus so quickly? (The Infancy Gospel can be dated to have been written as early as the same time as Luke!)

Another is the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, only just recently discovered in the 1940's, which is a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. About 70 of them have direct parallels to verses on the Canonical Gospels, so we know that it's at least mostly accurate! Some of the additional 40 sayings are seen as designed to simply promote a certain heresy prevalent in the time, but might some of the sayings be genuine teachings of Jesus that we have had no prior access to? Maybe we should study them!

There are more and more of these Gospels, another one being the Gospel of Peter. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... brown.html

I found it strange when reading about these Gospels how I had never heard of them mentioned before in any Christian setting. More information about Jesus? Sign me up! This is incredible!

So, my question is, to other Christians, how do you view the Non-Canonical Gospels like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and others? Are they potentially a haven for additional information about Jesus's teachings? Red herrings from some malevolent force? Or something else? I'm genuinely interested.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby Aslanisthebest » Mar 25, 2014 1:56 pm

Minotaur, I have no current opinion on those. The Bible itself as the canon is such a hot issue in church that it can be hard to have genuine conversation without garnering some flame-up. I do not view those as Canon. I want to study the Council of Nicea and how the Bible was overall 66 books. I would say that the Holy Spirit, ultimately, (not people's interpretations of the Holy Spirit's words, mind you) has the final say. But even if you look at the Reformation and see the worldviews of believers then, it's very different than the one era of Christianity that we grew up in and know. I am interested in studying the councils that decided that, as well as seeing the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The most flexible opinion I have heard is that these might contain some truth but they are not canon; the most rigid is that they are, yeah, from a malevolent force. I think that both statements could be true taking each account individually. I have never studied it, so I can not say what my opinion is.

But first I have to attend to my homework... Such is life. :P
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Mar 25, 2014 3:39 pm

Minotaur for Aslan wrote:There's a couple of really nice stories in there, like one about Jesus making clay birds on the Sabbath. A adult comes by to reprimand his behavior, working on the Sabbath and all, but Jesus commands the birds to fly away, and the clay birds become real and the elder doesn't accuse him of working anymore. That's a cute little story I could see being put into any Children's picture book on the bible. In fact, several of the stories, like others which talk about the games Jesus would play, or helping his dad in the carpenter's sop sound like they'd be much more relatable to kids than most biblical stories.


Interesting indeed. But it also shows that Jesus might have been precisely the sort of child who is hard for even informed adults to deal with, especially with other children who haven't learned yet what Jesus knew about their surroundings. A genius to be sure, but still too innocent to keep himself out of trouble of one kind or other.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby The Old Maid » Apr 12, 2014 12:40 pm

Here'a an article on the best age for baptism. We all wrestle with such questions, for children and for ourselves. Thoughts?

...

Okay, to answer my own question: for the most part, a solid article. The steps a parent can take to guide a child toward baptism look Biblically sound and compassionate.

Regarding age, though, I am not convinced, personally, that the Bible teaches an “age of accountability” or “innocence” for children. (You are welcome to try to persuade me, though.)

Many teachers will say that “sin and sin nature aren’t just things that we do; they are things that we are.” That is, a belief in Original Sin or a similar understanding—that you don’t have to do or fail to do anything specific to not be in right relationship with God. Coyotes don’t give birth to zebras, and sinners (including sinners saved by grace through faith) don’t give birth to the sinless.

As harsh as this approach is, it does solve certain problems. I don’t mean the believer/non-believer debates such as “why does the toddler who bit his father, hit his mother, and pushed his baby sibling’s stroller down the stairs get to go to Heaven, while Gandhi gets to go to Hell” … more like the debates about when and why children could lose a free ticket to Heaven if it’s so free. That kind of debate. Debates such as to whether children who would have received eternal life if they died young but are somehow stripped of eternal life if they live even a month longer. Are they born saved, or even conceived saved, and then eventually get un-saved, stripped of salvation, and have to get saved again and get it right this time?

There’s a wonderful book called The Truth Is Out There: Christian Faith and the Classics of TV Science Fiction by Thomas Bertonneau and Kim Paffenroth. One of its discussions really stuck with me. Here’s why:

Augustine argued that “The weakness of little children's limbs is innocent, not their souls” (in Confessions, I, 7). He believed that we mistake physical helplessness and spiritual ignorance for spiritual purity. And of course our abiding love for these little ones (who are mighty cute, after all), makes us wish for the best.

But in the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a good life”,” the narrator Rod Serling warns us that a “monster” is slaughtering the people of a terrified small town. We (like Bilbo Baggins who doesn’t know that “Time is the answer”) are mentally prepared to see a dragon, ogre, troll, or other such dark power. Instead we are introduced to six-year-old little Anthony, a beautiful boy, and portrayed by the equally appealing gifted child actor Billy Mumy. Anthony is the monster. He has superpowers, and uses them to get his way—say, by wishing people dead if they cross him. Yet little Anthony’s tantrums are not significantly different than the tantrums of any normal child, including you and me when we were little. Bertonneau and Paffenroth argue that this episode illustrates Augustine’s argument that children are not innocent. If a child had the strength to pursue its own will, we would recognize the difference. Anthony has that strength, and it is chilling to see.

Anyhow, enough on that note. I very much liked the blogger’s observation that “If you are on the fence, my advice would be to to err on the side of grace and allow them to be baptized.” It reminds me of an exchange in the Isaac Asimov’s novella “The Bicentennial Man.” A sentient robot asks for his freedom by declaring that it seems to him that only a being capable of being free would want to be free. He wants to be free. It was this observation that convinced the judge. She wrote that “Freedom cannot be denied to any being sufficiently enough advanced to grasp the concept and to desire the state.” And as the blogger notes, God loves our children. So, in the spirit of Matthew 19:14, let the little children come unto Him and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God.

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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VI!

Postby Puddleglum » Apr 12, 2014 9:36 pm

Minotaur for Aslan.
Though I would agree with you about being curios about the childhood of Jesus, I find it also comforting to know that while the Bible does not give explicit details beyond his adventure in the Temple at the age of twelve ( Luke 2:41-50 ), it does say in verses 51-52 that they returned to Nazareth Where he was raised by his parents, and "increased in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God, and men."
Anything beyond that is pure speculation.
I have heard the tale of the clay birds before, and I have to dismiss them purely on the grounds of there contradicting scripture. In John 2:11 points to the turning of water into wine as the first of Jesus miracles. I know people have argued otherwise simply on the grounds of what the miracle accomplished, but I find no reason to disbelieve scripture.
Also this was soon after His being baptized, not only with water, but with the holy Spirit. John 1:33; Matt. 3:16, etc. I don't know who else may attest to this, but I find that it is usually following the receiving of the Holy Spirit that most believers express the Spiritual Gifts that are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. I find it no coincidence that the first miracle mentioned by John's Gospel followed his receiving of the Holy Spirit as well.
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