Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Question of Morality"

The following work is a response to my friend who is an agnostic / atheist. He from time to time challenges me on my faith and poses questions of interest. Since I haven't posted anything in a while I thought it might be interesting to post our conversation.


Greetings My Friend,
I was wondering how you would respond to the following:

If God gives us our morality, was it moral to use a human sacrifice to wash away someone else's sins? Yes, Jesus, if the story is true, was a human sacrifice to save others. Why is that thought to be, by Christians, the love of a compassionate God to brutally sacrifice Jesus for the faults of others? 

 For me, a compassionate God would have found a better way to "save" us than to kill Jesus. Didn't God command thou shalt not kill? Yet, God routinely killed in the Old Testament and the greatest kill of the Bible was the killing of Jesus. Such violence from a loving compassionate God--please consider that statement as an observation and not as an attack.

Yes, God didn't kill Jesus directly, the Romans did. Well true, but it was God's plan for Jesus to be killed for the saving of others (Jesus is used as a scapegoat). If one argues it wasn't God's plan to have Jesus sacrificed, then God certainly could have prevented it and did nothing to stop the brutal killing of Jesus.  

I hope you don't take my thoughts above as an attack on the Christian God or the Bible. For me, my thoughts above are reasonable to bring up. I think my thoughts and questions above are a real problem for Christians to give an intellectually honest defense of God's actions concerning the killings in the Old Testament, either done by God or ordered by God, and the brutal sacrifice of Jesus.

Looking forward to your response.

With kind regards to a good friend,

Gene

Response:

Now to your question, the short answer is “yes” to everything you said. You are correct in every accessement. Now the long answer, your question was multi-faceted and with several layers. Lets start with your statement, “If God gives us our morality, was it moral to use a human sacrifice to wash away someone else's sins? Yes, Jesus, if the story is true, was a human sacrifice to save others. Why is that thought to be, by Christians, the love of a compassionate God to brutally sacrifice Jesus for the faults of others?”


Mainly it is thought to be compassionate because most Christian don’t think beyond that, or they would be asking themselves the same question. In saying that, I’m not putting myself upon the smart pedestal, it’s just a fact most of us don’t think about it. We just accept it, believe it, and move on. I suppose it can also be attributed to our society today.

Our TV and media are filled with preachers of the so called Gospel that have very little if any formal training in the scriptures. The result is a mess of confusion spreading around the world. I study the scriptures but find I need help from time to time. Some of the tools I use that help me, after prayer of course, consist of mostly dead men. I study how they thought and what they wrote about the scriptures 1,800 years ago, 1,500 years ago, 500 years ago, and look for the consistence doctrine that can be followed throughout history. A good read would be after someone who has been dead at least 300 years.

There’s too many new idea’s and views of God appearing in the last couple of century’s, with an explosion in the last century of new understanding. This book (the Bible) has been poured over by men of great minds for near 2,000 years. For someone in this last century to be so wonderfully endowed with knowledge to discover some new doctrine that eluded the Church for two millennial is a bit of a stretch. 

The answer to your question, or at least for me to try, it does not rest in our view of morality, but our view of God. What is he? What does he consist of? etc. Then understanding what we are, what we consist of and how that relates to Him. All we can know about Him is what He has told us in the Scripture. I know you believe those writings are just old writings made up by men, but if we believed that, we wouldn’t have a God. Well, we would have one, but he would be one of our own making and imagination. So I’m gong to speak from my perspective and not yours.

First, what is God? He is a Spirit, {Joh 4:24  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.} He is incorporeal INCOR'PORAL, a. [in and corporal. Not consisting of matter or body; immaterial.] He has no specific location, is not limited by or confined to space. Therefore we understand Him to be present everywhere. {Psa 139:8  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  Psa 139:9  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; . . .} 

He is not like us, so in our minds we have nothing to relate to, no basis of understanding of which to lay a foundation, to form our understanding as to compare Him to something. The Old saints simply referred to His otherness. He is simply other, we know not what. {Exo 3:14  And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.} When Moses inquired of What God was, He simply replied, I Am what I Am. We are also told there is nothing else like Him in existence. {Isa 46:9  Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,} So all we have to go on is what He has chosen to reveal of Himself in Scripture.

There is a theological termed used to convey something of what He is, “Trinity.” Through out Scripture He is seen as One God, yet three persons. This is a difficult concept to express as we know nothing of a being that consist of such. We find this confessed by the church in the “Apostle’s Creed” dated around 150 AD. We find it more defined in a more specific manner at the council of Nicaea in 325 AD. This document was to address unorthodox teaching that was spreading throughout Christianity at that time. It states in part, {I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. . . And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.}

It is defined further in Athanasian Creed of the 4th century around 500 AD. I quote it in it’s full text for the information which it holds. Note that the term catholic is not understood as we would today. It simply means one universal faith. The Roman Catholic church today is an entirely different faith. 



Athanasian Creed

Whosoever will be saved , before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood; Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ; One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

This is seen throughout Scripture beginning in Genesis one at creation. It is stated that God created heaven and earth, yet we notice when it comes to the design of man, the phrase “let us make man” identifies the plurality of God. The Hebrew word here for God [Eloheem] denotes the plurality. We can see this in many examples throughout Scripture, but to keep us on our subject, It is stated in {Act 3:15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.} Here it is said God raised Christ from the dead. In {Rom 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you} It is here stated that the Spirit of God raised up Christ from the dead. In {Joh 10:17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. Joh 10:18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.} Here it is stated that Christ raised himself.

Now lets try and put this together, God is one God. { 1Jn 5:7  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.} but there are three eternal persons to this all mighty Godhead, all co-eternal, and co-equal in all aspects. They act as one in creation in their respective roles. The Word {Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Joh 1:2  The same was in the beginning with God. Joh 1:3  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.} which was with God in the beginning was God, of the same substance and being, and became flesh. You could say put on or wrapped himself in it. { Heb 2:14  Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;} and { Heb 2:16  For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.} and also { Heb 10:5  Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:}


We are told by Matthew {Mat 1:23  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.}  So He was more than a Son, but God himself that came and lived among us. Matthew was referring to {Isa 7:14  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.} which is dated to be around 700 BC. / R. C. Sproul states that God saved us from Himself, by Himself, for Himself.

Christ is seen in Scripture as the God man, fully God, yet fully man. When he took on flesh, he did not put aside his deity, but simply put flesh upon him. He is seen as having a reasonable mind, limited with all aspects of the physical mind, yet possessing at the same time the infinite mind of God. In His humanity He is seen being hungry, being limited to one place and seeing only where His natural eye’s let him see. Yet at the same time this man demonstrates when necessary His divine nature by controlling all circumstances and elements around him. He demonstrates knowledge and understanding far beyond the sight of his natural eyes.

Now His crucifixion, when he died upon the cross, the human man died. The mind ceased to function, the heart stopped beating, he died. But the God man cannot die, as He stated, he retained the power to take His life again. Did he suffer? Yes, he experienced what any man would experience upon on a cross. What happened in those 3 hours of Darkness which was seen upon the earth we are not told exactly; how the Divine person absorbed the wrath of God for us  is not so clear to our understanding. But what we know and understand from scripture is no created being could absorb the wrath of God. That is why hell is eternal.

So we see the cross as God Himself giving Himself to save us for Himself. The cross is not a tragedy, but a great display of his goodness to save a fallen creation. The mystery of the triune being of God is a part of His otherness, the I Am what I Am. It stretches our minds to conceive of a eternal being, an uncreated being existing, a self existing being from all eternity. From Him comes all things, space, time, matter, angels, men, all things. He knows all things because He created all things. Time is known from beginning to end because He is the creator of each moment from eternity. The time we see passing each day was created in the beginning, and has already been seen and understood by God.

Now “Thou shalt not Kill.” This does not imply death shall not be the means of punishment. But it is asked, what about the innocent? What about the women and children in the Old Testament that were commanded to be killed? Or the people of such like that die today in tragedies? This is understood by understanding what we are. The short answer again is, there are no innocent people. But this will need to be qualified.

It has to do with what we are, our nature and being. It might help to consider rattle snakes, it does for me! I will not bring them into my home, I will not be in their presence. I know what they are and what they do. They may be small ones and have never bit anything, but I know their nature. I know they are not innocent, all they need is time and opportunity. If I knew time as God knows time, I would know their danger all the more. I would know the only way to keep my home is to remove the snakes. Unless I could change their nature and make them something else, but I cannot do this.

{Gal 6:15  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.} In the Gospel, our nature is changed and we become something else.

Every human being, even from our perception of innocence, though not yet having done any good or bad is guilty by nature. All we need is time and opportunity. Every human being is guilty even before their conception. {Psa 51:4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Psa 51:5  Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.} Evil, tragedies, pain, suffering exist because God has deemed it right and just for us in this life and eternal punishment in the next, therefore we suffer the curse from Creation. But the Gospel offers not only forgiveness but a changing of our nature as we grow in Christ and are sanctified throughout our life.

But someone might say, “For me, a compassionate God would have found a better way to "save" us than to kill Jesus.” In the Scripture we do not see a God trying to find the best way to save us. We find a God creating by design in a manner that most satisfies His purpose and Glorifies His being. If it was His purpose to have a creation without sin and suffering and rebellion, then that is the creation we would have. Again, to quote R. C. Sproul, evil is never good, but it is good there is evil. It takes a while to think on that. The fact there is evil, illuminates the value of virtue.

I have heard it said that we give our kids all we can so they can have the things we never did. Yet, we do not consider the fact, the things we never had made us what were are. There is a great divine plan playing itself out, it will consummate as the most Glorious display of this eternal being. All of His attributes will be on display for those who love Him to admire for all eternity. His eternal justice will be on display along with His blinding holiness by experience for those who hate him.

It will be said, He is not fair, He created evil therefore He is unjust to punish it. {Jas 1:13  Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: Jas 1:14  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Jas 1:15  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.} Evil has never or ever can be attributed to God, Yet it did so please Him that it should exist in the creation. He so created in such a way that it was possible for it to originate within the creature. {Eze 28:15  Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.}

Now to understand the necessity of eternal punishment one must have some concept of the Holiness of God. It is another concept that is difficult for us to grasp, for again we have nothing of which to make comparison. We have our concepts of good and evil by comparison, but this cannot transcend into the Holiness of God, nor what it would mean for that Holiness to be violated. All we can do is look at what we have. A single act of unbelief in departing from the living God as in the beginning brought ruin upon the whole creation and man kind. It had previously brought ruin upon the heavenly places and angelic beings of which no redemption has been offered. To the Glory of His great mercy, that is not so with us. It did so please Him from all eternity to save us, thus the Gospel is offered. But for now {Rom 8:22  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Rom 8:23  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Rom 8:24  For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? Rom 8:25  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.} Even now it continues, and will continue to the consummation of all things in Christ.

Now our morality, our morality is not from Him, for our morality is in ruin. Observe the history of mankind, it is said we are evolving and getting better. Yet, this past century is the bloody century in hisory. We have moments of reprieve when this evil is restrained, but only to break out again. It is our just reward, and an eternity of justice awaits us.

But it is then asked, why the death of Christ? If He is God, why just not forgive? He can’t just forgive, He is God. Because of His perfections, all His Attributes are interwoven. His Holiness and Justice flow in the same perfections as his Love and Compassion. Sin is an eternal concept, once committed and cannot be uncommitted. To just forgive is to leave an injustice, which is impossible to do and leave justice in perfection. To make it just, make it right, something or someone has to pay retribution. If it is a divine injustice that has been offended, any natural retribution will for ever come up short. Thus we have the need for God Himself to pay the penalty. [PROPITIATION, n. propisia'shon. 1. The act of appeasing wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person; the act of making propitious.] { 1Jn 4:10  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.} Divine judgment unlike our institutions of corrections will not be something hid in an obscure place out of sight, but on display for all eternity. { Rev 19:2  For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. Rev 19:3  And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.}

Most of the problems we have with God and His actions are a result of making Him in our mind something like ourselves. Making Judgments upon His actions based upon (our) understanding of right and wrong. Yet we ourselves have never seen or understood true perfection or Holiness, it is a concept much like eternity. Our minds recognize it’s properties, but it’s comprehension transcends us. Therefore we assign to it skewed judgments.

Of course all these understandings are not necessary for one to become a Christian, that requires faith in Christ, but it is a joy of discovery once the journey has begun. {Rom 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Rom 10:10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.} 

David