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fellside

Why Early Christians Would Die for a Lie

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You're saying that God is not blameworthy for The Fall, and I'm arguing God is blameworthy for The Fall.

Sorry, but things have gotten a little out of hand. It's hard for me to sort through the back-and-forth we've been having to find your argument. So, if you wouldn't mind, would you please just carefully lay out your argument?

Is it something like this?

(1) God's behavior in Genesis 1&2 meets the definition of neglect.

(2) Any behavior that meets the definition of neglect is morally blameworthy.

(3) Therefore, God is morally blameworthy.

Is that the argument? If so, then I deny either (1) or (2), since it still seems to me that any agent of the state who punishes a criminal has met the definition of neglect that you provided, and yet (at least sometimes) such behavior is not morally blameworthy. So either the definition of neglect that you provided is not correct (and so premise 1 is undermined) or premise 2 is false.

Edited by anreizen

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Can we agree on that?

Yes, we'll go from here.

If so, maybe we can move on to an argument (from you) for the conclusion that what God did was morally blameworthy.

This argument won't work: God wanted the Fall to happen, allowed it to happen, and facilitated its happening. The Fall brought about really, really terrible effects. Therefore, God did something morally blameworthy.

After all, I'll say that God only wanted the Fall as a means to an end. But then there are counterexamples to the main inference in the above argument: I wanted my wife to have a natural birth, I allowed it to happen, and I even facilitated its happening. Her natural birth brought about really, really terrible effects. But it doesn't follow that I did something morally blameworthy. For I wanted it only because she wanted it, I didn't want the bad effects as ends in themselves, and the bad effects were vastly outweighed by the good effects.

So what is the argument, exactly?

Well there are several problems with your argument.

First of all it's hard to argue that God didn't want the negative effects of the fall when he is the only reason they happened. Adam and Eve eat of the tree... then what? Then God decides to curse mankind with very specific (and somewhat random) punishments: Pain in childbirth, domination of women by men, having to toil the earth, and original sin. These punishments were not a disease outside of God's control. He decided for them to come about and set the specific punishment.

With chemotherapy we allow it to happen because if we do not, cancer will surely kill us. God allowed the fall to happen even though man was in perfection and bliss. He used the fall as a means to an end despite the fact that it brings about all the suffering on Earth.

In other words, the chemotherapy here is worse than the cancer. And here is the main part of our argument. God's means that you refer to are the most horrible means I can imagine, and they are not justified by the end. The eternal damnation of born sinners is the single most terrible thing in the Christian universe and yet it happens for what? So that God can put on a show for us? So that we can better appreciate grace?

We suffer, we die, we hate, we want, we mourn... for what? All because the blissfull life of Eden wasn't good enough? All of humanity must suffer because the bliss in the end will outweigh the bliss of the Garden? This just sounds silly to me.

Mankind could have grown in character without the fall. Mankind could have loved God fully without the fall. We could have even known anything God wanted us to know simply by hearing it from him or having the knowledge given to us in any way of God's choosing.

The answer that you offer and the answer that Paul offers in Romans 9 do not morally justify all of the suffering in this world or the impending eternal damnation of most people who ever lived. People will know nothing but agony and despair for eternity so that a select few could have the chance to appreciate God even more? Because the bliss of Eden wasn't good enough? It does not justify all of the suffering.

Edited by fellside

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in what ways are we shown that adam and eve are completely rational, logical, adult human beings?

asking this again because Anreizen seems quite content in the view that Adam and Eve were fully grown adult human beings capable of making complex decisions and understanding the consequences of such actions.

just so we can get on the same page, I think it's silly to assume they are, and they should be likened to "adults" who are not mentally capable of taking care of themselves. In fact, after eating from the tree they recognize their nudity and try to hide from God. Think about that, they try to hide from the person they know sees, hears, and knows all. They don't sound like people of sound mind, let alone the ones I want the fate of humanity to be put in.

third time's a charm?

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blows my mind how intelligent i used to think anreizen was as a kid vs how insane his replies are to perfectly rational questions...

one of my favorite being "Adam and Ever are adults!!!!" sure he didnt say it with such child-like enthusiasm, but the fact that he just stated that with no proof, while much on the contrary was posted seems to make him look like a child who just isnt paying attention to the facts.

So, you think that it's insane to say that Adam and Eve were adults. Or, if not literally insane, at least false.

Really? Do you think they were children (according to the story)?

I had never considered that possibility. I guess that the text is silent on their ages, so maybe they were children. Then it would start looking like it was pretty messed up for God to punish them so severely for disobeying.

But of course it's also consistent with the text (and in line with tradition!) to think they were adults. Then it's not so clear that God did something morally blameworthy.

And I guess I should point out that it's not really up to me to prove that they were adults. It's up to the person making the charge that God did something morally blameworthy. That person can't just assume that Adam and Eve were children, since the text doesn't say that.

Regarding the other stuff you said, I'm sure a lot has changed in the last 10 years (or however long it's been). But I don't think it's immodest to claim that I've become more informed and a clearer thinker on these issues over the last 10 years (I'm sure you have as well! It sure would be sad if we both became less informed and less clear over the passing years.). So if I used to sound persuasive and I now sound insane, I'm thinking that this is due to a change in you. You were at a place where what I was saying sounded pretty plausible, but now you're at a place where what I'm saying sounds nuts. I guess we just have to do our best to determine whether this was progress or regress on your part. And probably the best way to do that is to think carefully through some arguments, like the argument you've given above. If it really is insane to claim that Adam and Eve were adults, well then you've made progress. So let's try to establish whether that really is insane...

EDIT: JUST REALIZED THE POSTER ABOVE ME IS ASKING THE SAME QUESTION BASICALLY

smh... what i meant was: they werent "adults" in the sense that we consider adults today. how do you become an adult? by living to a certain age and experiencing a lot. how could someone who was just created have adult-like experiences without living a life?

and how did god cause childbirth to hurt? i dont understand how he made that work. how would it not have hurt before

Edited by prince zachary

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Sorry it's taken a while to respond; things have been busy around here. Good news, though: I finally got a tenure-track job! At this place. It's a tremendous relief.

Congrats man. It's obvious you'll be a good professor for a long time.

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Hi Fellside,

So I was trying to understand your argument in my last post. I thought that maybe you were arguing like this:

(1) God wanted the Fall to happen, allowed it to happen, and facilitated its happening.

(2) The Fall brought about really, really terrible effects.

(3) Therefore, God did something morally blameworthy

In response, I tried to show that the inference from 1&2 to 3 is invalid by describing a counterexample:

God wanted the Fall only as a means to an end. So consider this case: I wanted my wife to have a natural birth, I allowed it to happen, and I even facilitated its happening. Her natural birth brought about really, really terrible effects. But it doesn't follow that I did something morally blameworthy. For I wanted it only because she wanted it, I didn't want the bad effects as ends in themselves, and the bad effects were vastly outweighed by the good effects.

You replied:

First of all it's hard to argue that God didn't want the negative effects of the fall when he is the only reason they happened.

It seems like you think that I was trying to argue that God didn’t want the negative effects of the Fall. But I was willing to grant that he “wanted” them, i.e. he wanted them as a means to an end. But he didn’t want them as an end in themselves. So I wasn’t trying to argue that God didn’t “want” the negative effects of the Fall. I thought we had agreed on that, given this “as an end in itself” versus “as a means to an end” distinction.

Do you think that God wanted the negative effects of the Fall as an end in themselves? He didn’t permit (or, as you’d probably insist, cause) childbirth to become painful to achieve some end, for example retributive justice? Why think that?

With chemotherapy we allow it to happen because if we do not, cancer will surely kill us. God allowed the fall to happen even though man was in perfection and bliss. He used the fall as a means to an end despite the fact that it brings about all the suffering on Earth.

In other words, the chemotherapy here is worse than the cancer. And here is the main part of our argument. God's means that you refer to are the most horrible means I can imagine, and they are not justified by the end. The eternal damnation of born sinners is the single most terrible thing in the Christian universe and yet it happens for what? So that God can put on a show for us? So that we can better appreciate grace?

Ah, I think we might be making progress here. I think we could probably agree that it would have been alright for God to permit/cause the Fall, so long as the ends justified the means, i.e. so long as the Fall accomplished more good than evil.

And you think that the Fall resulted in millions (billions?) of people being eternally damned and tortured. And you think that nothing could outweigh such heinous evil, not even the Incarnation, the Atonement, and all the stuff I’ve said about being creditable for our perfected characters in heaven.

So maybe this is your argument:

(1) God wanted the Fall to happen, allowed it to happen, and facilitated its happening.

(2) The Fall brought about really, really terrible effects, God foresaw these effects, and these effects far outweigh the good effects.

(3) Therefore, God did something morally blameworthy

I think this argument is a great improvement. And it would make trouble for someone like me who was trying to wield the “principle of double effect” to get God off the hook. That is, I was trying to say that so long as God didn’t intend the bad effects, there’s no problem (that’s the reading of 1 that I’ll insist on: God didn’t want the bad effects as ends in themselves). But the principle of double effect also has a proportionality condition: the bad effect cannot be “out of proportion” to the good effect. This new premise 2 argues that the bad effects were out of proportion to the good effects.

So, can we agree that this is your argument? I think we might have finally nailed it down.

If so, here’s my response. I think the third conjunct of the second premise is false. That is, I don’t think that the terrible effects of the Fall far outweigh the good effects. Mostly that’s because I disagree with you that the majority of humans will suffer eternal damnation. I don’t think I’m a full blown universalist, though I do hold out *hope* for universalism (that’s the official Catholic stance on the issue: HOPE for universal salvation).

Here’s some evidence that has softened me up on this issue: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~kd47/univ.htm

I know that website looks like it was designed on Geocities back in the 90s, but Keith DeRose is a *super* smart philosopher at Yale, and he’s a Christian. And I mean *super* smart. Definitely among the very top tier of living philosophers, Christian or otherwise. But of course he’s not a theologian, so perhaps his Biblical arguments concerning universalism go astray in one way or another. I’d encourage you to read them, since I think this might undermine your confidence in your second premise in the above argument.

Even if you don’t accept full-blown universalism, it might be that damnation is not eternal. And it might be that fewer people than we might have supposed are damned. Sure, Jesus talks about the narrow path and how only a few find it, but it’s not clear that he’s talking about heaven there, or implying that many people will be eternally damned. And I think the same goes with other verses that might come to your mind (though let me know if you have any troubling verses!).

And here’s another reason that I’m not so sure about your second premise. You said this:

We suffer, we die, we hate, we want, we mourn... for what? All because the blissfull life of Eden wasn't good enough? All of humanity must suffer because the bliss in the end will outweigh the bliss of the Garden? This just sounds silly to me. Mankind could have grown in character without the fall.

Let me tell you a little more about this “righteous characters being creditable to us in heaven” business. First of all, Adam and Eve didn’t have perfectly formed characters, obviously, since they sinned. Yet God could have made them so that they would not have sinned. So that, when facing temptation, they had the character not even to feel the pull of the temptation. So why didn’t God make them like that?

I think it’s because then THEY would not have deserved credit for their perfected characters. GOD would have, since he made them that way. They would have been little better than robots, following a program that God gave them. And that’s an OK creature for God to create, but God could have done better. And I believe he will. Let me explain.

Here on Earth, we face tremendous adversity and temptation. We’re thereby given ample opportunity for “self-forming actions,” i.e. the ability to freely perform acts that slowly turn into habits that slowly turn into character traits. And some virtuous character traits, for example generosity, courage, and compassion, require for their development a fallen, sinful, evil world like ours. (How could one be courageous in a hedonistic paradise, for example?)

By the time we develop those character traits, through our own volition and exertion, the character traits are credited to us, and not merely to our maker. And I think that, eventually, most if not all of us will achieve a state in heaven in which we have perfectly formed characters, and these characters are creditable to us. That’s an improvement over the Edenic state, and that was the whole point of these 80 or so years “in this vale of tears.”

So there’s a bit more reason to doubt your premise 2 above.

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in what ways are we shown that adam and eve are completely rational, logical, adult human beings?

Well, I think I addressed this a bit in my last post to Zachary, but let me say more here. I wouldn't claim that Adam and Eve were *completely* rational and logical. I haven't met anyone like that, ever. All I believe is that Adam and Eve were rational and logical (as you say, "adult") enough to merit punishment for their actions. I think that's a pretty low bar. I mean, take our criminal justice system, for example. We make exceptions for people who are minors, insane, or mentally handicapped. Otherwise, the defendant is on the hook.

Is it really so hard to believe that Adam and Eve weren't minors, insane, or mentally handicapped? I don't think so. As far as I can tell, that's the traditional interpretation of this Genesis story. But, if so, it looks like they can merit punishment.

But let's also be clear about this: I don't have to prove that Adam and Eve actually did merit punishment, according to the story. That is, I don't have to claim that the story entails that Adam and Eve were rational, logical, and "adult" enough to merit punishment.

The burden of proof is on the person who is trying to show that God actually did something morally blameworthy, according to the story in Genesis. That person has to show that, given what the story says, God definitely did something wrong in punishing Adam and Eve. That's a heavy burden of proof to bear, since if it's even possible that Adam and Eve were "adult" enough to merit punishment, then God didn't do anything wrong. And so one must show that the text rules this out.

So it's actually up to the person who is trying to show that God did something wrong here to show how the text entails that Adam and Eve were something like minors, or insane, or mentally handicapped, so that they didn't merit punishment.

(And no, I don't think the fact that they hid from God demonstrates this, since the text doesn't say that Adam and Eve knew that God was omniscient.)

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So maybe this is your argument:

(1) God wanted the Fall to happen, allowed it to happen, and facilitated its happening.

(2) The Fall brought about really, really terrible effects, God foresaw these effects, and these effects far outweigh the good effects.

(3) Therefore, God did something morally blameworthy

So, can we agree that this is your argument? I think we might have finally nailed it down.

This is fine.

If so, here’s my response. I think the third conjunct of the second premise is false. That is, I don’t think that the terrible effects of the Fall far outweigh the good effects. Mostly that’s because I disagree with you that the majority of humans will suffer eternal damnation. I don’t think I’m a full blown universalist, though I do hold out *hope* for universalism (that’s the official Catholic stance on the issue: HOPE for universal salvation).

Here’s some evidence that has softened me up on this issue: http://pantheon.yale.../~kd47/univ.htm

Even if you don’t accept full-blown universalism, it might be that damnation is not eternal. And it might be that fewer people than we might have supposed are damned. Sure, Jesus talks about the narrow path and how only a few find it, but it’s not clear that he’s talking about heaven there, or implying that many people will be eternally damned. And I think the same goes with other verses that might come to your mind (though let me know if you have any troubling verses!).

I agree that some sort of universalism or even annihilationism would soften the blow of the argument. If it is the case that all suffering is merely temporary and eventually people will experience some pleasure at the end of all this chaos, then perhaps the fall is worth it.

I did read the article you posted and it's insightful. I'd like to see how he deals with the book of life and the book of death. Perhaps his hermeneutic would prioritize easy to understand verses from epistles over complicated apocalyptic writing. Still, it certainly seems like John in Revelation is saying there is the church and the reprobates, and the latter will be thrown into judgement. There are even verses where angels celebrate at the wrath of God on the non-believers.

By the time we develop those character traits, through our own volition and exertion, the character traits are credited to us, and not merely to our maker. And I think that, eventually, most if not all of us will achieve a state in heaven in which we have perfectly formed characters, and these characters are creditable to us. That’s an improvement over the Edenic state, and that was the whole point of these 80 or so years “in this vale of tears.”

So there’s a bit more reason to doubt your premise 2 above.

What about the huge number of individuals who die before any sort of character can be developed? Babies, children, mentally handicapped, etc. Do you think their characters develop in some sort of purgatory?

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Well, I think I addressed this a bit in my last post to Zachary, but let me say more here. I wouldn't claim that Adam and Eve were *completely* rational and logical. I haven't met anyone like that, ever.
Try living outside of Church, heyoooo, boom roasted! sorry. I actually am sorry, and I know exactly what you mean, but if you're going to take the context so literally then I can't help but to make jokes on the subject. I think you know what I meant, in fact I furthered exactly what I was saying in the second post to you that you purposefully didn't quote.

All I believe is that Adam and Eve were rational and logical (as you say, "adult") enough to merit punishment for their actions. I think that's a pretty low bar. I mean, take our criminal justice system, for example. We make exceptions for people who are minors, insane, or mentally handicapped. Otherwise, the defendant is on the hook.
I know we make exceptions for those people, that's exactly why I likened Adam & Eve to the mentally handicapped (and let's be honest, minors as Eve had quite literally no life experience that we know of as she had only been created from Adam's side to make him whole a few lines before meeting the serpent who talked her into eating the apple to become more like God, which some would argue is a noble intention). And I know you have made the assumption that they are adult enough to merit such punishment, but I don't see why. There's quite literally almost nothing we know of these people to assume such a position and I would say that it's on you to prove such a claim.

Is it really so hard to believe that Adam and Eve weren't minors, insane, or mentally handicapped? I don't think so.
Why? I find it very hard to believe they weren't akin to minors or the mentally handicapped, insane is also a possibility though less likely (even though they were talking to an animal, which to me usually is a sign of insanity, but we'll let that one slide since God can do some crazy/insane things). What is your reasoning for thinking that's so easy to believe?

But let's also be clear about this: I don't have to prove that Adam and Eve actually did merit punishment, according to the story. That is, I don't have to claim that the story entails that Adam and Eve were rational, logical, and "adult" enough to merit punishment.
See, outside of Christianity, the burden of proof usually falls on people who want to prove things. For example, that the stories in the old testament (or new) are anything more than stories. The burden of proof isn't on the non-believer, unless the believer says it is because that's what he believes to be the truth and if you're asserting otherwise, it's up to you to prove it. In fact, after reading your own thoughts that the fall may just be a story and not an actual account of events, I'm wondering how you can assert that the burden of proof is on anyone to prove anything in what you feel may be just a fabricated story.

The burden of proof is on the person who is trying to show that God actually did something morally blameworthy, according to the story in Genesis.
See, I would have stopped at "The burden of proof is on the person who is trying to show that God actually did something" but again, that's just me sitting in my secular position.

So it's actually up to the person who is trying to show that God did something wrong here to show how the text entails that Adam and Eve were something like minors, or insane, or mentally handicapped, so that they didn't merit punishment.
It's hard to prove that given less than a paragraph to work with, pretty easy out on your part. I don't see how one could "prove" anything of their sanity or ability to make rational or logical decisions based on what we know of them from the bible, but my assumption off of the little we do know is that they are morons. If you disagree, maybe you could explain to me why these fully adult beings created in His image went against God.

(And no, I don't think the fact that they hid from God demonstrates this, since the text doesn't say that Adam and Eve knew that God was omniscient.)
See, this is where I feel you damned (LOL!) yourself. You don't think that Adam and Eve knew that God was omniscient? So you think the first ever man who was created from dust with God blowing into his nose, and the first ever woman who was made from the man's rib/side after God had put him into a deep sleep were not capable of understanding God's greatness but you do feel they should be held accountable for their actions?

I'm sorry, but if someone created me from dust and then removed my rib to complete me (which is a funny thought itself), I think I would probably assume some things about his powers. In fact, if someone couldn't comprehend His grace from those acts alone, I would think they are insane, mentally handicapped, or children not capable of making complex decisions that damn a lot of humanity to eternal suffering.

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<p>just wanna take a second to thank Phil for being a rational human being making great points. tom, on the other hand, i dont understand how he isnt understanding... just keeps dancing around every point :/

Edited by prince zachary

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so wait someone remind me why i get punished today for something someone else did to a tree thousands and thousands of years ago

because after this thread now i'm thinking it's because the lady in the garden was insane cause she was talkin to a snake

Edited by mychael

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