I have often accused atheists of only being able to understand the big man in the sky rather than more expansive views of God, such as process theology or Existential ontology. But I've slowly begun to realize that they really are using "God of the Bible" as a means of venting in a cathartic process of battling their own super egos. Look at the way they sound when they rant about how evil God is, they sound like teenagers who have just moved out of the house becuase they an't stand their father. One such prime example is that of a poster on carm:Roarian
Indeed, I would put him straight in the category of malevolent and elitist : he doesn't care one bit about what you did with your life or what you believed, but merely what you did not believe : if you weren't a part of his posse, you're out forever.
Can't you just hear a pot smoking kid of the 60s saying 'Dad doesn't care about me?' not that I mean to belittle this guy's feelings by saying that. Most guys my age have been there, even with the pot smoking. The fear that God is only concerned with penalizing you for believing wrong things rather than with how good you may be because you believe a few right things, this is not only a tortured understanding of the Gospel, but also reminds me so deeply of a wounded kid in a struggle with his/her father.
Instead of giving all people an equal and fair chance at getting it right, he makes an imperfect world that is extraordinarily bad for getting 'good souls' if you will : he knows beforehand that billions upon billions will never even hear of him, and billions of others will be brought up in opposing beliefs, which are in this world equally unsupported by any evidence.
Such complaints are fraught with misunderstandings. As Christians we look at the wonderful love of Jesus dying on the cross for your sins and at the parables of Shepard chasing down lost sheep out of pure love. The atheist is the wounded inner soul who looks at the fear that he's being held accountable for getting it wrong. No attempt to reason about the nature of theodicy. Of course there are plenty of theories one could support, C.S. Lewis the Problem of Pain, or dare I say in the same breath (not to compare) My own Soteriolgoical Drama. Which I think covers the bases pretty effectively. The issues of billions and billions who will never know Jesus existed (where do these guy's live?) going to hell because they are in the wrong religion is merely an outright misunderstanding of the Gospels which is countered by Paul himself in two different books.
He then expects everyone to just go on faith that this particular religion among thousands is correct. He has his instructions penned down and translated several times, many of which incorrectly, in a tome some 2000 years ago in a sparsely populated area of the world.
The atheist's special vehement hatred of the Bible must be brought into it because its one of the few concrete pieces of data they actually have that's not just opinion. The understanding what we are to do in spreading the Gospel is of course totally inadequacy since it assumed the wrong translation of the Great commission* and does not come to terms with the concept of being a witness or spreading the love of God. These unhappy creatures who can't find their creator because they want to look in the right way think that it's all a matter of just spouting the right cods; we as Christians let them down when we fail to show by example that its not about bringing belief to the world but bringing God's' love to the world.
He then sits around and billions continue to die without ever being able to even known Christianity, while the bible writers sit around waiting to be inspired, finally in 300 AD or such resulting in the Bible.
But of cousre this view that God is "sitting around" rather than working every moment to draw people to himself is indicative of their lack of receptivity and their own refusal to respond. Of cousre he must mix it with the hatred of the Bible because that's really their own tangible piece of evidence, which is largely based upon poor reading skills.
This book is so poorly written that it is then misinterpreted and used as an excuse for hatred,Poorly written. Has he ever ever read it? It's written in Greek and Hebrew you know. Most likely he's only a translation so he really don't know how it's written. Since he probably doesn't read it daily but relies upon atheist message boards to spread his venom and only cares about finding contradictions not finding value in it he really has no room to talk. Sure enough he has no argument to make as these are nothing more than platitudes he's mouthing.
and millions head to hell because of internal strife between different factions of his one chosen people, sending millions more to hell because nobody can agree on the correct religion and wars and dark ages break out. This all goes on for about 1700 years, ultimately ending up today, where a guy called Metacrock would call him omni-benevolent.
Of course it's only going on in his imagination because he's making fundamentalist assumptions instead of seeking to truly understand the Gospels.
Popular misconceptions of the nature of the Gospel.
"Gospel" means "Good News." The Good News is not that people are going to hell. The Good News is that God cares and provides a way to orient our lives toward him so that we can know him in this life, and in the world to come.
Are there really well meaning people?
"All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God." From a human perspective, relatively speaking from one human to another there are, of course, well meaning people. There are good people all around us, from a human perspective. Relative to the Divine however, no one is good, no one is capable of meriting salvation. We all have our sins, we all have our human frailties. We are all caught up in "height" (our ability through the image of God in which we were created to move beyond our human finitude and seek the good) and "depth" (our nature burdened in the sinful wickedness to human deceit).
These are Augustinian terms and they basically mean that we are both, good and bad, saint and sinner. God knows the heart, He Knows what we truly seek. God is merciful and is able to forgive our trespasses. But, if we are really well meaning toward God we will seek the truth. If we are seeking the truth than God will make it plan to us.
Paul said "To those who through persistence seek glory, honor and mortality he will give eternal life.But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the good and follow evil there will be wrath and anger...first for the Jew and then for the gentile; but glory honor and peace for everyone who does good. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will perish apart form the law and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
Indeed when Gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirement of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences bearing witness and their hearts now accusing, now even defending them..." (Romans 2:7-15). New American Standard and other translations say "their hearts accusing, now excusing them..." Most Christians are afraid of this conclusion and they down play this verse. Often Evangelicals will come back and say "he makes it clear in the next passage that no one can really follow the law on their hearts." Well, if they can't, than they can't. But if they can, and do, than God will excuse them. God knows the heart, we do not. The verse clearly opens the door to the possibility of salvation (although by Jesus) through a de facto arrangement in which one is seeking the good without knowing the object one is seeking (Jesus). In other words, it is possible that people in other cultures who follow the moral law written on the heart know Jesus de facto even if they don't know him overtly. Paul backs up this conclusion in Acts 17:22 Paul goes to Athens as is asked by the Athenian philosophers to explain his ideas to them.
These were pagan followers of another religion. Paul stood up and said to them, "Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious for as I walked around and observed your objects of worship I even found an alter with this inscription 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD' Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you."He basically says that they are worshiping God, they just don't know who he is. That's why he says "I will make it known to you." He doesn't say "you have the wrong idea completely." Most Evangelicals dismiss this as a neat rhetorical trick. But if we assume that Paul would not lie or distort his beliefs for the sake of cheap tricks, we must consider that he did not say "you are all a bunch of pagans and you are going to hell!" He essentially told them, "God is working in your culture, you do know God, but you don't know who God is. You seek him, without knowing the one you seek. He goes on,(v27)"God did this [created humanity and scattered them into different cultures] so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him though he is not far form each one of us." This implies that God not only wants to work in other cultures, but that it is actually his paln to do things in this way. Perhaps through a diversity of insights we might come to know God better. Perhaps it means that through spreading the Gospel people would come to contemplate better the meaning of God's love.
In any case, it does mean that God is working in other cultures, and that God is in the hearts of all people drawing them to himself. Of their worship of idols, Paul said "in past times God overlooked such ignorance but now he commands all people everywhere to repent" (v30). Now what can this mean? God never overlooks idolatry or paganism, in the OT he's always commanding the Israelite to wipe them out and expressly forbidding idolatry. It means that on an individual basis when God judges the hearts of people, he looks at their desire to seek him, to seek the good. That their status as individuals in a pagan culture does not negate the good they have done, and their ignorance of idolatry does not discount their desire to seek the good or the truth. IT means that they are following Jesus if they live in the moral life, even though they follow him as something unknown to them. IT also means that all of us should come into the truth, we should seek to know God fully, and when we do that we find that it is Jesus all along.
Justice of Punishment.*
Jesus himself never speaks directly of hell, but always in parables. The other statements of Hell are mainly in euphemistic passages or in apocalyptic passages such as the book of Revelation. But I suggest that for some crimes hell is deserved. The slaughter of innocent people, the disruption of thousands of lives, the Hitlers of the world, and those who rationalize the deeds through "following orders" deserve to suffer the consequences of their actions. Evil has consequences, and those who commit evil should suffer the consequences, and they will.I have no direct knowledge of what hell is. It is based upon the Greek mythological concept of Tartarus which got into Hebrew thinking through Hellenization. There is no "hell" in the Tennach or the Pentateuch ("OT"). In the Hebrew scriptures there is only mention of Sheol, or the "the grave" to which everyone goes. But in the books of Revelation it does speak of those who work inequity being "outside the Kingdom of God." I don't' believe that hell is littoral fire and brimstone, I do believe it is some state of anxiety or desperation from God.
Heb. 8:10-12 "...I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man say to his neighbor 'know the Lord' for they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more." This passage promises a "personal religion ship with God."The word for "to Know" is the Greek Term ginosko, which means personal expirential knowledge. To give one's life to Jesus means to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus said (John) "My sheep know my voice..." Personal relationship means that it is more than a set of rules, more than an ideology or a belief system, but a matter of the heart, the emotions, religious affections. IT may not be through dramatic miraculous effects (although I do believe that that is open to all Christians) but it is deeper than mere rule keeping, and does make for a satisfaction nothing else can match.God acts upon the heart. Salvation is a matter of "knowing God" not of mere intellectual assent. What does it mean to know God? It means that being a Christian is a matter of experiencing God's love in the heart and of loving God and others. It is also a matter of being "led" by God through impressions upon the heart, and not merely a set of rules or a list of beliefs that one must check off. IT is the development of "religious affections."The excitement of knowing God is unequaled by anything else in this life.
There are so many misconceptions to disabuse them of, but I really put the blame on myself and other Christians. We have to show them the love of God. This is the only way we are going to correct these misconceptions.
*This was one of the first articles I put on Doxa years ago. At that time I still had a sort of Hell light idea, with some form of separation but not the big fire stuff. Now I don't believe in hell at all. I do believe that those who reject God and die in their sins will cease to exist and perhaps they will before doing so realize what they did wrong. But I also believe that God is love, so I don't know if even this much hell is real. I know God is mercy and I also know that atheists expect to cease existing so they really complain about it too much if that's the case. what I don't believe is that God will torture people becuase they believe the wrong thing. That idea is childish and it was never what the Bible said.
*The right translation of the great commission should say "where ever you happen to be going" not "go ye." It's not in the imperative so it's not a command.