July 11, 2014

America’s Greatest Sermon for America’s Greatest Need

by Mike Riccardi

While the United States celebrated her 238th birthday last Friday, many Americans are unaware of another significant anniversary taking place this week. On July 8, 1741, America heard what is often hailed as the greatest sermon preached on her soil from a man who is often hailed as the greatest theologian and thinker to minister on her soil.

In the years 1733 through 1737, Jonathan Edwards continued to preach in the  Northampton pulpit that was now his own, having been bequeathed to him by his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. During these years God had blessed Edwards’ preaching and ministry with revival in New England and beyond. Many were converted and others edified in their faith. Biographer George Marsden quips, “By March and April of 1735, the spiritual rains had turned the stream [of conversions] into a flood.”[1] Edwards himself describes the revival’s effect on his congregation:

Our public assemblies were then beautiful, the congregation was then alive in God’s service, everyone earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth; the assembly in general were, from time to time in tears while the Word was preached; some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbors.[2]

From 1739 through 1742, New England and other colonies experienced what historians now refer to as The Great Awakening. This was largely accomplished through the itinerant preaching of George Whitefield and the theological ministry of Jonathan Edwards. While Whitefield is known as the preacher of the Awakening, Edwards is often revered as the theologian of the Awakening. Nevertheless, Edwards was no less the preacher, as a perusal of any of his sermons would prove.

On July 8, 1741, Edwards traveled to a town named Enfield, where he had been invited to attend a church service. Enfield was a notoriously hard-hearted town. While the neighboring town of Suffield was enjoying much of the grace of God poured out in the revival, Enfield remained obstinate. A team of ministers devised a plan and “instituted a series of weekday services where they would travel back and forth between pious Suffield and impious Enfield, hoping to spread the infection of revival.”[3]

On that particular Wednesday, Edwards intended to hear a sermon, not preach one. But as providence would have it, the pastor of that church was sick, and Edwards was called upon to preach. He “just happened to have the sermon manuscript in his saddlebag,”[4] and so 273 years ago Tuesday he preached the most famous sermon delivered on American soil: “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.”

The light-hearted congregants of Enfield were sobered by the gravity of their desperate condition made known to them in detail. The sermon created a stir among them unlike anything before or since. Stephen Williams, a man in attendance, wrote of the service in his diary:

A most awakening sermon. … Before the sermon was done, there was a great moaning and crying out through the whole house. ‘What shall I do to be saved? Oh I am going to Hell! Oh, what shall I do for Christ?’ … The shrieks and cries were piercing and amazing. … Amazing and astonishing the power of God was seen. Several souls were wrought upon that night, and oh the cheerfulness and pleasantness of their countenances that received comfort![5]

I want to share with you some of the more memorable passages from this sermon that God so powerfully used in that Enfield church. My hope is that reading a bit from Edwards on the realities of the hell we deserve will do four things:

  1. That it would deepen our delight in the merciful and gracious God who rescues us freely from this just punishment of our sins;
  2. That it would cause us to love Christ even more, as He willingly endured the wrath of God in our place;
  3. That it would cause us to cling to the Gospel, and cherish the salvation we so undeservingly enjoy;
  4. And that it would compel us to urgently and unashamedly take this Gospel to the lost, knowing that without the Good News of salvation there are people in our lives who will endure this misery for eternity.

Here’s Edwards:

  • We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so ’tis easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that anything hangs by; thus easy is it for God when he pleases to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?
  • Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable.
  • Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security. … If it were so, that we could come to speak with [those in hell], and could inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of that misery, we doubtless should hear one and another reply, ‘No, I never intended to come here; I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself; I thought my scheme good; I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief; death outwitted me; God’s wrath was too quick for me. O my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter, and when I was saying peace and safety, then sudden destruction came upon me.’
  • This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything to take hold of: there is nothing between you and hell but the air; ’tis only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
  • The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment form being made drunk with your blood.
  • The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are then thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet ’tis nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment: ’tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep: and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up: there is no other reason to be given why you han’t gone to hell since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don’t this very moment drop down into hell. O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in.
  • Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy: but when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks  will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God as to any regard to your welfare; … for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel but only to be filled full of wrath: God will be so far form pitying you when you cry to him, that ’tis said he will only laugh and mock, Prov. 1:25–32.
  • It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity; there will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery: when you look forward, you shall see a long forever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all; you will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains.
  • ’Tis doubtless the case of some that heretofore you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you: their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living, and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned, hopeless souls give for one day’s such opportunity as you now enjoy!
  • And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has flung the door of mercy wide open, and stands in the door calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners. … Let everyone that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s Word and providence.

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David.

Seek the LORD while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the LORD,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-7

Mike originally published this post on July 8, 2011.


[1] George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 159.

[2] Jonathan Edwards, “A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), 1:348.

[3] Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, 219–20.

[4] Stephen Nichols, “Jonathan Edwards: His Life and Legacy,” in A God Entranced Vision of All Things, eds. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 42.

[5] As quoted in Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), 169.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    Well, if it were possible to be saved twice, it would be after reading that!

  • Pingback: Weekend Reading: July 11, 2014 | Disciples For Life()

  • george canady

    And yet Edward could not see his own sin against men created in God’s own image that were considered as complex property to be bought, sold and used like animals. I was sitting with a black man in the park on the third of July who expressed that the 4th of July celebration rings hollow for him.

  • Philip

    “You are then thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.”

    Is this true for anyone who committed any sins? How many sins must one commit before one is a thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours? I assume that the answer is “one”, but I wanted to check.

    “And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has
    flung the door of mercy wide open, and stands in the door calling and
    crying with a loud voice to poor sinners.”

    Has this opportunity been available to all humans at all times? No, it hasn’t.

    So, there are those who suffer for all eternity with no end to the exquisite horrible misery, and yet they were never given the opportunity to avoid this. They could not come to the waters, they could not buy wine and milk without money and without cost. They literally never had a chance.

    I ask this in all sincerity. How is this consistent with any notion of love or justice?

    • Brad

      Great points Philip!

      I don’t think this article is trying to answer the questions you are asking. Yes, one sin against God is enough to make us “abominable” in God’s eyes. I think the article is highlighting the extraordinary grace and kindness you and I have been given by God, if we have come to believe in the gospel. In the Calvinist position, we are damned unless God takes mercy on us…and God doesn’t choose to take mercy on everyone. I have struggled with this truth, but I think it is accurate. At the end of the day, the only conclusion I can come to is that God has mercy on us so that we might take “the wine and milk without money” to those who would never otherwise have a chance to eat and drink. That is why I attend a missional church. Unfortunately, today’s Calvinists don’t really make that connection in any real or meaningful way.

      • Philip

        “I don’t think this article is trying to answer the questions you are
        asking.”

        I didn’t think that it was. My comments are just thoughts that come to mind every time I read about one of these “angry God” sermons.

        “Yes, one sin against God is enough to make us “abominable” in
        God’s eyes.”

        Well, then it appears that God lacks a sense of proportion.

        “God doesn’t choose to take mercy on everyone. I have struggled with this truth, but I think it is accurate.”

        I appreciate that you have struggled with this, but I think it still remains a problem.

        • Dan Freeman

          “Well, then it appears that God lacks a sense of proportion.”

          Dear sir, have you any sense of God’s holiness? Do you realize how repugnant it is to His nature?

          As far as “angry God” sermons as you call them, have you never read Psalm 11:5 (just to name one passage)? “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who does violence.”

          The Lord will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. Even when we when we as unregenerate persons hear the gospel, we have neither the desire nor the power to believe, for, we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves. Even the faith by which we believe is a gift from God, The man who hears the gospel every week is just as incapable of repentance as the man who has never heard, save for the marvelous grace of God.

          • Philip

            “Dear sir, have you any sense of God’s holiness? Do you realize how repugnant it is to His nature?”

            A three year kid steals a cookie, and God holds him over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire? For a cookie? Doesn’t matter what the sin is, kid gets the same punishment as Hitler? You’re right, it’s kinda hard for me to wrap my mind around this kind of holiness.

            “The Lord will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.”

            Ok, but how is this consistent with any notion of love or justice?

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Two words: Straw man.

            I think you’re trying to paint a picture of God that makes Him look bad, and then justifying your doubts on that basis.

            I could be wrong (and I’m sure it’s not the first time or the last), but there is an argument to be made that—despite the fact that all of us are “born in sin”–God does not hold young children accountable for their acts any more than He would find fault with a mentally retarded person who cannot grasp his world.

            At some point in our development, if we are possessed of normal faculties, He gives us responsibility for our own acts. We are all predisposed to sin, and all reflect that tendency. Daily.

            How anyone is saved is the debate that won’t end, but the fact that you are even bothering to discuss it here says you sense the need for it at some level. We all do.

          • Philip

            “I think you’re trying to paint a picture of God that makes Him look bad, and then justifying your doubts on that basis.”

            Have I said anything that is inaccurate? I’m just describing God as various Christians describe God.

            “God does not hold young children accountable for their acts any more than He would find fault with a mentally retarded person who cannot grasp his world.”

            I think you missed my point. If it helps, we could make the kid a six year old. Point is, there are “accountable” kids stealing cookies and there are mass murderers. All are held over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire. No sense of proportion here.

            “How anyone is saved is the debate that won’t end, but the fact that you are even bothering to discuss it here says you sense the need for it at some level.”

            What I sense is that the Bible contradicts itself.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            But you are accusing God of injustice based not on anything the Bible states, but on the basis of what “various christians” say about Him. “Various christians” also say God gave them a specific message that He has not given others; “various christians” say God will save everyone but the most heinous (or damn everyone but them and a very few others); “various christians” say women should not work outside the home.

            I’d be willing to wager you don’t accept those assertions, right? So why one that condemns a child to eternal punishment for stealing a cookie?

            I can’t necessarily give you a fixed “age of accountability”, as that would be speculative on my part. Perhaps others here can. But in a number of instances in Scripture, there are clues that God recognizes an age when one is held to account. David said he would “go to him” (his just-deceased child he had with Bathsheba), but that the child would not return to him (i.e., come back to life). And we know David knew the Lord (“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”).

            So I think it’s safe to say that child was in heaven and David would one day join him there.

            Some (“various christians” again) claim that since all of us are born in sin, hell is our lot from the jump and that only God can save us at a later age. And if that’s true, then your cookie problem would obtain. But I’m not wise enough to decide that.

            In the meantime, I suppose, don’t steal cookies?

          • Philip

            “I’d be willing to wager you don’t accept those assertions, right? So why one that condemns a child to eternal punishment for stealing a cookie?”

            Well, I believe that this is what Edwards believed. The post is about Edward’s sermon, a sermon that one assumes was based on the Bible or Mike would not have posted it here.

            Way back at the start of this, I asked how many sins must one commit before one is a thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours? The answer was “one”. Commit one sin, and you are held of the pit of eternal torture. I think that this is what Edwards said, I think that Edwards was talking about kids, too, and again, I assume that he drew his conclusions from the Bible, the Word of God.

            Now, there’s no reason this one sin couldn’t be the theft of a cookie by a child who had reached the age of accountability (whatever that age might be). So, one must wonder about the justness of a god who…holds the kid over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire…for the theft of a cookie, especially when the kid’s fate is the same as a genocidal madman.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Well then, I’d say you’re being naive to think we’d quit at one cookie theft. We both know that’s never true. Sort of reminds me of those parents who seem to believe that if they never show their young child even so much as a picture of a gun, he’ll never have anything to do with guns as he gets older. Then, much to their dismay, he goes and chews a Pop Tart into the shape of a Colt .45 at lunch one day, or makes a finger gun and says, “Bang!” Boys like guns. Period. And humans sin and sin and sin from the time they can say, “Gimme dat.”

            We can “What if…” something all day long and twist ourselves into a knot with questions that are actually of no real moment, like whether God is so powerful He could make a rock even He couldn’t lift. Useless.

            Show me someone who has lived a perfect life, save for stealing a cookie at six, and we’ll go from there.

          • Philip

            “Well then, I’d say you’re being naive to think we’d quit at one cookie theft.”

            Actually, in Edwards’ day, kids dropped dead in huge numbers of infectious disease. So, yes, it’s quite likely that a kid could die with only one sin to his name. Steal a cookie one day, and die of cholera the next. And for one sin, this kid could be tortured for all eternity. Remember, if God is hypothesized to be always, perfectly and eternally just, then we only need one case of injustice to disprove the hypothesis.

            “Show me someone who has lived a perfect life, save for stealing a cookie at six, and we’ll go from there.”

            I think that you’re losing forest for the trees. It’s clear that people are not equal in terms of the total number and nature of their transactions. Some die as kids with a handful of sins to their names, and some die as genocidal dictators. And yet all are treated as equals, regardless of differences in terms of the total number and nature of their transactions. All are held as loathsome insects above the eternal fire. All deserve the same indescribably horrifying fate.

            So, we still have a problem with respect to proportionality.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            I can see by your other responses that two conclusions are inevitable for you: 1) God must surely be unjust; and 2) He would be immensely more worthy of your worship and respect if He would simply see things as you do.

            I can’t imagine what’s holding Him back.

            If I had been on the Titanic and were offered a seat on the last lifeboat (after seeing that all the women and children had been off-loaded), I don’t think the fact that the number of open seats was far less than the number still on deck would prevent me from accepting the offer.

            How God handles these matters and by what measure He judges us all is not for those who will stand before Him to evaluate. Sorry. You aren’t the first to object to His ways, nor will you be the last. In any event, I really don’t think He’s going to be taking your advice–or mine.

            Essentially you’re saying, if I understand you correctly, is that if all who you see as righteous are not eventually saved, you will refuse to be as well. Not a formula that I’d sign onto, but that’s just me.

          • Philip

            “I can see by your other responses that two conclusions are inevitable for you, God must surely be unjust.”

            It’s not “inevitable”, it’s just what the data suggest.

            “How God handles these matters and by what measure He judges us all is not for those who will stand before Him to evaluate.”

            Or maybe, God doesn’t actually handle things the way you think God handles things. Maybe the Bible is simply inaccurate. The point of my “objection” is to suggest that maybe the Bible isn’t quite what you think that it is. If one doesn’t ask questions, then one won’t know when one is mistaken about something.

            “Essentially you’re saying, if I understand you correctly, that if all who you see as righteous are not eventually saved, you will refuse to be as well.”

            Um, no, that not what I’ve been trying to save.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            I’m not sure how you propose to evaluate the truth of something (e.g., the Bible) without an immovable standard against which to measure it. If I say a football field is “100 yards” from goal line to goal line, there’s just one basis upon which that statement can be verified: if we both agree on what constitutes the unit called “yard”, we can measure it. Your suggestion that the Bible may be “inaccurate” tells me you must have another standard that renders it such. Just what is that? Your sense of justice? Mine? Someone else’s? Or something else?

            What you seem to be saying is that since the system of Divine justice “various christians” say is the biblical one appears unjust to us, that must mean either those “various christians” are mistaken as to what it says, or what is says is just wrong to start with. And so the question returns: by what standard have you drawn that conclusion? And why should that standard be trusted? What makes it superior and authoritative? Will you abandon that standard when it fails you and find another?

            I’ve looked at a lot of religious “systems” that try to account for such things as our individual and collective behavior, our sense of not being alone in the universe, our standards of right and wrong, etc., and I’ve got to tell you: despite many things I can’t explain or account for, even to my own satisfaction (to say nothing of others’), I’ve yet to find a more complete “system” that matches and explains more of what most of us experience than the Scriptures of christians:

            It explains simple things, like why you don’t have to teach a child to be selfish; why we tend to hide our acts that we’re ashamed of; why we instinctively know that coming to a drowning person’s rescue–despite the danger to ourselves–is the right thing to do; why breaking a promise, or walking naked down the street, or double-crossing a dear friend, is unacceptable and wrong.

            Yes, it leaves a lot of things unexplained. Yes, we often can’t get our minds around some of it. Yes, we argue about it and often resent what it tells us. But we keep coming back to it, over and over again, because there’s something there we know is Right and True. If we didn’t, we’d turn away from it like a bad movie and forget it.

            Some people believe strongly in the reality of extraterrestrial UFOs. While I admit there are reports of things all over the world I can’t explain, I also have little more than those reports–by people I don’t even know–to substantiate them. But when it comes to the Bible, I may have a lot of gaps in my understanding of what it says, and I may misconstrue a lot of it. But from the first day I read it seriously in college, I simply could not escape the sense of an invisible Hand or Mind behind the pages as I turned them, a sense that I’ve not been able to shake in the 40+ years since.

            Maybe you’re still on the “pre” side of that; I don’t know. But if I were still trying to get all my objections met and all my questions answered about it before I embraced it, I’d still be back there spinning my wheels and not being very satisfied with my life.

            So I don’t know what else to tell you. But if you think you’re ever going to arrive at the place where you can finally square every circle, dot every “I” and cross each “T”, you’ll run out of time, my friend, and–if “various christians” were right– have to face that very judgment you’re uncomfortable with now before you manage to do so.

            I pray that doesn’t happen. You’ve still got today. Tomorrow? Who knows?

          • Philip

            “I’m not sure how you propose to evaluate the truth of something (e.g., the Bible) without an immovable standard against which to measure it.”

            First, in part, I’m using the standards of the Bible itself when I evaluate what is just and what is loving, and then I try to apply a little reasoning to the problem. For example, God is said to live us as a parent loves a child, so from this, we can derive an immovable biblical standard or description of love. So, given biblical descriptions of love and justice, does God then behave a manner that if loving and just? Is the eternal torture of those who lacked any knowledge of Jesus truly consistent with the concepts of love and justice given by the Bible itself? Is eternal torture for a single sin consistent with the biblical descriptions of love and justice? I honestly don’t think so.

            But beyond that, I don’t think we necessarily need “immovable standards” before we consider what is loving and just. There are basic, widely-used definitions and descriptions available to us for what is loving and just. These aren’t specifically mine standards or your standards, but they still exist. To paraphrase Potter Steward, we know love and justice when we see them. If you have kids, then you know what it means to love your kids. You know what love is. Would you ever consider torturing your kids for all eternity, especially if you never provided you kids with the means for avoiding that torture? Would you expect less from God?

            There simply may not be immovable standards for concepts such as love and justice, but then again, but there are no immovable standards for any number concepts that humans describe and consider. We crave immovable standards, but I’m not sure that they exist. For example, there’s no immovable standard for what is beautiful and what is ugly, and yet we consider beauty and ugliness all of the time. Somehow, we manage to define these terms. Somehow we manage to understand and discuss these concepts. Even in the absence of absolute standards, we still evaluate and draw conclusions about beauty and ugliness (and about many other concepts as well).

            “And so the question returns: by what standard have you drawn that conclusion (etc.)?”

            See above.

            “I’ve looked at a lot of religious “systems” that try to account
            for such things as our individual and collective behavior…I’ve yet to find a more complete “system” that matches and explains more of what most of us experience than the Scriptures of Christians.”

            I appreciate that you have thoughtfully and thoroughly considered other systems. However, many others have done the same thing and concluded that the “Scriptures of Christians” is not the best system or the best explanation. Some are Jews, some are Muslims, some are none of the above. Now they may be wrong and you may be right. Or it could be the other way around. Or all could be wrong. Either way, these folks have done as you have done, but come to different conclusions.

            “It explains simple things…etc, etc.”

            I think that other systems and other ways of looking at the problem have also provided good explanations for these things.

            “Yes, it leaves a lot of things unexplained. Yes, we often can’t get our minds around some of it. Yes, we argue about it and often resent what it tells us.

            I appreciate your acknowledgement of the problem, and it may be that some things are simply inexplicable and yet true. I would agree that the lack of explanation is not necessarily an automatic reason for rejection, and personally, the older I get, the less I know.

            However, the absence of an explanation may also be a sign that something is wrong here. Maybe the resentment is
            well-founded after all. Maybe this is telling you something important. Maybe the Bible simply does not accurately reflect or describe what one might call “God”.

            “If we didn’t, we’d turn away from it like a bad movie and forget it.If we didn’t, we’d turn away from it like a bad movie and forget it.”

            Many have, in fact, concluded that it is, indeed, a bad movie and have forgotten it.

            “But from the first day I read it seriously in college, I simply could not escape the sense of an invisible Hand or Mind behind the pages as I turned them, a sense that I’ve not been able to shake in the 40+ years since.”

            I certainly don’t question your sincerity or the depth and importance of your belief. However, our “senses” often
            steer us wrong. Personally, I’ve seen too much, read too much and thought too much to have the same reaction to the Bible. Just the way it is.

            “So I don’t know what else to tell you. But if you think you’re ever going to arrive at the place where you can finally square every circle, dot every “I” and cross each “T”, you’ll run out of time, my friend, and–if “various christians” were right– have to face that very judgment you’re uncomfortable with now before you manage to do so.”

            I sincerely appreciate your concern for me, but as I understand Calvinism, if God decided before time began that I was to be elected, then I will not run out of time. So, no need to worry. On the other hand, if God has already decided that I’m to be tortured for all eternity, then time will run out and there’s really nothing that can be done about it.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            The parent/child analogy with regard to “love and justice” only goes so far when it comes to God and man. No parent controls the universe and everything that happens in it. No parent has the power of death and life in his hand, or brings about blessing and calamity for everyone in existence. No parent has access to all knowledge. What makes sense to us as human parents bears only a tangential relationship to how God chooses to act, but there are parallels:

            Every child needs discipline, but will probably get very upset when it comes and accuse the parent of being mean and nasty. Each child must be told “no” from time to time; again, we’re mean and nasty. A parent sometimes lets his child make a mistake, or even get a bit hurt, to bring a needed lesson. But that child doesn’t appreciate the point until later. He doesn’t understand how we could not have bailed him out of jail or given him the money. How unjust and unloving of us. Ever notice how much smarter your parents got as you got older?

            God does these things, too, and sometimes it’s a very hard lesson. Sometimes it’s a lifetime of difficulty or disease or pain or something else, and we wonder what kind of God would do that if He is loving and just.

            But we discover that He does all things to bring glory to Himself and to move us to depend on Him more. Of course, some will choose not to do so and instead blame Him for being “unloving and unjust”, but that’s to miss the lesson and the blessing.

            In the final analysis, we have to either believe or reject what He says about it all: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Each of us must decide if we can live with that or not. Some will; most won’t.

            As for other religions, I simply don’t know of any other ones that have a workable remedy for the sin problem. They virtually all acknowledge (other than atheism) that each of us is imperfect and that God is perfect. Beyond that, it’s either 1) God will forget our deficiencies, so don’t worry about it; 2) He’s going to compare your sin and your righteousness and you’d better hope your pluses outweigh you minuses; 3) only the Hitlers of the world have anything to worry about; or 4) death brings about nothing–no God, no judgment. We’re done existing at the grave.

            Some religions offer nirvana in this life, some total consciousness, some a few dozen virgins in eternity, or whatever. But none offer a remedy for our sin, a way for us to be forgiven in total for our iniquity, regardless of how our “balance” is going. And this remedy is in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, a figure that even those embracing other faiths have no more worthy a person they can point us to.

            So I’m throwing in with Him. I’m convinced the evidence shows He raised the dead and came back from the dead Himself. Whatever someone like that says is, for my money, leading the pack. I’m not worried about Calvinism or election or about if this life is just a movie that’s been filmed already and there’s nothing I can do about the ending. All I know is that I’m responsible for what I’ve been allowed to know, and so is everyone else; and I know about Him and what He said.

            So there’s no excuse for me. I’m not going to reject the message by rationalizing that I was predestined to reject it; I’m going to accept the gift of life and let the philosophers spend their days worrying about that.

          • Philip

            I’ll be brief to avoid redundancy.

            I think that I know love when I see it and when I feel it. No parent would torture his child for all eternity. More significantly, no parent would deny a child the knowledge required to avoid eternal torture. You can wave this all you want by talking about God’s knowledge or how God is so much greater than us or how there are inexplicable mysteries, but that’s just all hollow rationalization. The only “solution” to this problem is an Orwellian one; you have to render words like “love” and “justice” utterly meaningless.

            Let me be clear. I’m not blaming God for anything. I’m not rejecting what God says about it all. In stating that “we have to believe or reject what He says about it all”, you’ve overlooked a possibility. Maybe any entity which might be called “God” simply didn’t say what you claim that God said. If God never said it, then one does not have to believe it or reject it. This seems to me to be far more likely to be so than the conclusion that God said what you claim that God said.

            I won’t bother with a discussion of other religions except to note that millions of others would tell you that their religions provide a workable remedy for the sin problem. You can
            disagree, but they would tell you that you are wrong, and they would explain in great detail how their faith solves the sin problem. But I’ll leave it to those of the various other faiths to make their cases.

            “So I’m throwing in with Him.”

            I mean this with all sincerity when I say that I’m sure that this is a great comfort to you, so I’ll let sleeping dogs lie. Thanks for the discussion.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Yes, perhaps it’s all one big mistake or misunderstanding and God never really said any of that. Perhaps. And perhaps all of us are just characters in a giant turtle’s dream. Who am I to say?

            I find it interesting that many of those who are quick to point to Jesus’ words about love, forgiveness, compassion, do unto others, etc., when they see christians being hypocritical or judgmental are never quite ready to also believe Him regarding salvation, the lot of the unsaved, and eternity. They like to pick out the “nice Jesus” and ignore the hard one.

            Look at the “torture” issue this way, if it’ll help:

            Regarding those who do not want anything to do with God in this life because He’s unfair, a tyrant, unloving, etc., as it seems you would posit, why would a loving God compel such a one to be in His presence for all eternity? Would you want to spend even a single week in the constant presence of someone you considered horrible, ugly, mean, tyrannical, and brutal? How about forever?

            If God is all loving, He would not force His love on anyone, either. If you truly loved someone, you would eventually–after trying all you could to make them love you back and not seeing them do so–let them have their desire to go their way and be out of your presence. They would be free of you, someone they despised and cursed, someone they considered awful and unspeakable.

            In short, God eventually gives us the real desire of our heart: to be away from Him forever. In that case, it’s our choice; He did all He could to turn us around, but we would not have it.

            Your objections still boil down to matching God’s justice with your own and insisting that His is twisted. And we both know our perceptions can be dead wrong, no matter how they appear to us. Try to spear a fish in a lake and you’ll miss because of refraction: the fish is not where you think he is, despite what your eyes tell you. That magician sawed a woman in half right before your eyes; you saw him do it. Son of Sam said the dog told him to kill. He got his marching orders directly from that animal. He was certain he heard those commands. But he was a broken person and his “receptors” were non-functional.

            But somehow it’s impossible that OUR sense of justice and OUR example of love is not reliable and all-encompassing. I beg you to consider the possibility–just as you beg me to consider that God may never said any of this–that our limited sampling of justice and love in this life, in this place, in this context we are limited to, is NOT all we need to evaluate what justice and love are.

            I happen to think that the Person of Christ is sufficient and reliably accessible to draw conclusions about all this. If I’m going to cite Him when I talk about perfect compassion or perfect forgiveness or perfect love, I’m stuck with believing Him regarding God’s perfect justice.

            It’s either that, or make up my own religion and hope for the best. Include me out on that one.

          • Philip

            I’ll be very, very brief as I think I’ve said what I wanted to say, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so. Just three quick comments here.

            “And perhaps all of us are just characters in a giant turtle’s dream.”

            I think it’s more like the old and insightful joke which goes…

            In the beginning, God created Man. And Man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment.

            “They like to pick out the “nice Jesus” and ignore the hard one.”

            Or maybe the nice Jesus and hard Jesus represent an internal inconsistency and/or contradiction that is a clue to the human origin of the Bible.

            “Your objections still boil down to matching God’s justice with your own and insisting that His is twisted. ”

            Actually, in part, I was trying to “God’s justice” to what is said about love and justice in the Bible.

          • Philip

            My apologies, but I missed this point yesterday.

            “If God is all loving, He would not force His love on anyone.”

            If one individual says to second individual, “love me or I’ll torture you for all eternity”, then this is indeed forcing love on the second individual. The first individual is not simply allowing the second individual to just “go their way.” This is not the alternative to loving the first individual, but instead, the alternative to choosing to love the first individual is eternal pain. Most observers would not be inclined to view “love me or be tortured” as the words of an
            all loving individual. Instead, this is closer to an act of extortion by a psychotic.

          • Dan Freeman

            Are you actually going to interact with the Scripture that I quoted or alluded to/bring up other relevant texts and interact with them, or are you simply going to judge what God has set forth in His Word by your own pre-conceived notions of love and justice?
            If the former, we can have a discussion, examining Scripture and interpreting it. If the latter, I’m afraid that any reasonable discussion will be impossible and fruitless.

          • Philip

            “Are you actually going to interact with the Scripture that I quoted?”

            Yes, I read the Scripture you quoted. I just don’t see how this addresses the points I have raised. However, it does illustrate how the OT and the NT contradict each other.

            “Are you simply going to judge what God has set forth in His Word by your own pre-conceived notions of love and justice?”

            The notions of love and justice I’m referring to here are derived from the Bible itself and/or are derived from widely accepted definitions and descriptions of what these terms mean. They are not simply “pre-conceived”.

            Let me put it this way. Let’s say you have two kids. Both inevitably do wrong things. The one kid is told, “here’s what you can do to escape a horrible punishment.” The other kid is told nothing and is beaten senseless on the daily basis. Loving? Just?

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            Philip, may I ask if you believe in God?

          • Philip

            Define God. I’m not being flippant. There are thousands of definitions of God, so first I need to know what “God” refers to.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            The God that created you.

          • Philip

            Well, I think your answer may be begging the question.

            However, to more this along, I would ask which creator god you have in mind. Again, I’m not trying to flippant, but there are countless creator gods to chose from. We need to narrow this down a little.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            To narrow this down then, which of the countless creator gods created you?

          • Philip

            Again, you’re begging the question.

            You asked if I believed in God. It’s still not clear what or which god you’re thinking of here, so I’m not sure how to answer the question.

          • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

            I am not begging the question, and why should your ability to answer that question have anything to do with what god I’m thinking of?

            You claim that there are countless creator gods to choose from so educate me as to what other god has claimed credit for creating mankind? And if so, which one do you believe is responsible for creating YOU?

          • Philip

            Yes, you’re begging the question. Look it up.

            If you wish to play games, if you do not wish to define which god we’re talking about when you ask what I believe, then I have no basis for an answer. I’ve explained why you need to describe which god you’re asking me about, and if you do not wish to clarify, well, I guess that’s the end of it.

          • Dan Freeman

            You were/are questioning how God could hate/punish sinners. A verse which speaks of God’s hatred of sinners is exceedingly relevant.

            Right. Because from John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ preaching of judgment and hell to the descriptions of judgement in Revelation and everything in between, there is not even a hint that God is in any way angry with sinners.

            The problem with your analogy is that the other kid is not told nothing. Every human is without excuse, as is laid forth in express terms in Romans 1:18-2:16.

            Now, to answer what you said above regarding the child stealing the cookie, what you see is the change of ownership of a cookie, a minor occurrence. However, what you don’t see is the motivation behind the theft. Beyond the sin of theft, is the sin of coveting, the sin of discontentment, by rejecting what he had, he was rejecting God’s sovereignty. Further, by spurning the gracious gifts God had provided for him as part of common grace, he returned God’s goodness with evil.

            James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” Clearly, this child has already broken the law at at least half a dozen points, and is thus guilty.

            “But”, you say, “eternal punishment in hell is way out of proportion.” Not so. For the greatness of the offense is directly related to the holiness of the one offended. To use and analogy, a sailor would not be offended by cursing as much as my grandmother would be, because of the greater holiness of the one offended, at least in that particular area. God is infinitely holy. Thus, any sin against Him becomes infinitely terrible and infinitely worthy of punishment.

            Your saying that the child would be punished to the same severity as Hitler is a straw man for the Bible teaches that, though all suffer eternally, there are degrees of punishment, some suffer more severely.

          • Philip

            Your response is going to take me a little time to address than I have at the moment, but stay tuned. If you’re interested, I’ll get to this tomorrow at the latest.

          • Philip

            “You were/are questioning how God could hate/punish sinners. A verse which speaks of God’s hatred of sinners is exceedingly relevant. From John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ preaching of judgment and hell to the descriptions of judgment in Revelation and everything in between, there is not even a hint that God is in any way angry with sinners.”

            It’s not relevant, because my original point was about the failure of God to provide the means for certain sinners to escape the punishment for their sins, so I think you missed my point. I did not say that God’s hatred of sinners is inconsistent with principles of love and justice, although as long as you introduced this into the discussion, it really is an odd thing, don’t you think? God is a loving god. But God hates sinners. Since all humans sin, the loving God hates everyone. God creates humans with a capacity for sin, God knows from the start the all will sin. Predictably, inevitably, the loving God ends up hating all. Very strange.

            Anyway, the problem here is not that God is mad at sinners. The problem is that God provides the means of escape to some, but not to all. That’s the part that inconsistent with notions of love and justice.

            “Right. Because The problem with your analogy is that the other kid is not told nothing. Every human is without excuse, as is laid forth in express terms in Romans 1:18-2:16.”

            Ah, yes, the old “no excuse” passage from Romans. I’ve seen this many times. Well, first, I think that the evidence
            suggests that there have been many cultures which did not know what Romans says they allegedly knew. The data do not support the assertions of Romans. But more importantly, again, you missed my point. My point was not that the beaten child is told nothing about sin. My point was that the kid is told nothing about how he can escape punishment for the sin. According to the NT, the only way to escape eternal torture is through knowledge of Jesus, but clearly there have been numerous cultures over the last 2000 years in which the knowledge of Jesus has been totally unavailable.

            “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. … The greatness of the offense is directly related to the holiness of the one offended. God is infinitely holy. Thus, any sin against Him becomes infinitely terrible and infinitely worthy of punishment.”

            Ok, so all sins are equally terrible and infinity terrible and infinitely worth of (horrible) punishment. One cookie theft is just as terrible and horrible and deserving of eternal torture
            as a million murders. One sin is infinitely bad, and so there’s no difference between one sin and a million sins.

            However, this is not the concept of justice that is laid out by God to the Israelites. The OT describes an endless list of sins, and assigns various punishments for these sins, but the
            punishment is not the same for all sins. There’s an absurdly long list of sins are punishable by death, but at least some sins are punishable by fines and other sanctions short of death. That is, some sins deserve a more severe punishment than others, suggesting that some sins are worse than others. There is a sense of portion here. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but you but don’t execute a man for the ANE equivalent of a parking ticket. (Further, it’s not at all clear that the punishment for any sin in the OT includes eternal torture.)

            Also, I think that this creates a another contradiction in the following way. You posit a god that is capable of creating
            universes, and god that created millions of species on earth, a god that created the magnificent human brain. Now, this is truly a majestic, inspiring and awesome god.

            Then you say that this god would torture a cookie-stealing child for all eternity. Really? This unimaginably magnificent god is so bothered by a cookie thief that the response is eternal torture? I know this is going to offend, but this seems like such a small, petty, ugly and twisted response to the child’s actions. Isn’t God bigger than this? God creates an entire universe, and what bothers God to the point where God must torture for all eternity is a kid stealing cookies? This is not the behavior of a universe-creating god, this is the behavior of a two year old. It simply does not make sense to me.

            “Your saying that the child would be punished to the same severity as Hitler is a straw man for the Bible teaches that, though all suffer eternally, there are degrees of punishment, some suffer more severely.”

            Yes, I’ve heard Christians say that there are degrees of punishment, but I’m not familiar with the biblical references for this position. And I’m not sure the J. Edwards would agree with you at all as I believe that he says that the fiery pit is just as awful for kids are for mass murders (remember, we’ll all disgusting insects, regardless of age.)

            And exactly would this work? I’m always curious about logistics. How do degrees of eternal torture work? Is there mild eternal torture and extreme eternal torture? Different temperatures within the fiery pit or maybe kids get Sundays off from torture? Seriously, isn’t eternal torture eternal torture?

            More significantly, I think we have a bit of a contradiction here. First, you’ve worked very hard to say that God
            is infinitely holy and any sin against God is infinitely terrible and infinitely worthy of punishment. So, if all sins are infinitely horrible, then all sinners deserve the same infinitely horrible punishment right?.

            So, ok, so there should not be any proportionality in God’s response because even a single sin is infinitely horrible. Cookie theft is infinitely horrible, and mass murder is infinitely horrible. All sins are equally horrible, so I assume
            that all sins deserve the same infinitely horrible and eternal punishment.

            However, now you say that there is differential and proportionate punishment in Hell. Some folks go to the good part of Hell and some go the bad part of Hell (where they are forced to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians for all eternity). And the basis for the differences in punishment would appear to be the differences in the sins. Now all sins are equal, but some are more equal than others? I’m so confused!

          • Dan Freeman

            I will not answer your comments in detail right now because it seems that there is a more fundamental issue to be addressed. I hold the Bible to be wholly inspired by God, completely without error and thus authoritative to every aspect of life. You do not appear to hold this view. From your responses on this thread, your view (and correct me if I am wrong) is that the Bible is certain men’s thoughts about God. It might be wrong and is thus under some higher authority(ies), apparently including “data” and “evidence.”

            Without coming to an agreement on this issue, I do not see how any further theologically related discussion will profit; it would be like playing a game without agreeing whether we are playing Scrabble or football.

            So then, since the Bible is apparently not your standard of what is true, I have two questions: what is your standard of truth, and how do you know that it is an accurate standard?

            But lest any should think there be no answer, allow me to briefly address your comments.

            Do you not hate that which threatens or destroys that which you love? Would not any other response call into question the reality of that love?

            As I mentioned above, God is not so concerned about the cookie stealing per se, as He is with the rebellious motivation behind the theft.

            I find it ironic that you ask for biblical references in support of degrees of punishment after so casually brushing aside another passage because it does not fit your “data”. Nonetheless, here are just a handful of supporting texts: Matt.11:20-22, Luke 12:47-48, and one of the more important, Heb. 10:29.

            All sins are equal in one sense. They are all rebellion against God and thus worthy of eternal punishment. All sins are not equal, in that some sins are deserving of greater severity of torment than others.

          • Philip

            “Without coming to an agreement on this issue, I do not see how any further theologically related discussion will profit.”

            You are probably right. I’m willing to consider the possibility that I might be wrong and you are not.

            “So then, since the Bible is apparently not your standard of what is true, I have two questions: what is your standard of truth, and how do you know that it is an accurate standard?”

            Well, as Pilate said, “what is truth?”

            I believe that I’ve mostly answered this in my response to
            4Commencefiring4. To add to this a bit, in the end, being human, I evaluate the world in the same way that you do. We all use information given to us by other. For example, you hold the Bible to be wholly inspired by God, completely without error and thus authoritative to every aspect of life because someone told you this was true or you read that this was true. Then, in addition to what we’re taught, we make our own observations, we use a little reasoning, and we derive models of how the world works. Then we test the models to see if they’re predictive, modify the models, try to make sense of things, etc. This is how we come to conclusion that something is “true”. It ain’t perfect, but it’s what we have to work with.

            “Do you not hate that which threatens or destroys that which you love? Would not any other response call into question the reality of that love?”

            Of course, but then I’m not a great as God, right? God is supposed to be a much bigger entity than me. And again, you’re still trying to address a different question from the one I asked at the start. I repeat, I’m not asking why God hates sinners (although I do find it odd).

            Regardless, how would eternal torture after the fact prevent the destruction of that which I love? Once something is destroyed, the punishment will not bring it back. Further,
            if God wish to prevent the destruction of something that is loves, is eternal torture truly the only means to this end.
            Is God this limited?

            “I find it ironic that you ask for biblical references in support of degrees of punishment after so casually brushing aside
            another passage because it does not fit your “data”.

            I didn’t brush aside the previous passage. As I’ve said repeatedly, it simply didn’t address the question raised. That’s not the same as “brushing aside” something that “does not fit the data”. That’s simply a failure to address the
            original question.

            “Nonetheless, here are just a handful of supporting texts: Matt.11:20-22, Luke 12:47-48, and one of the more important, Heb. 10:29.”

            Thank you for the references. They were informative, although I think that the first one is most likely a prophesized judgment about the fate of cities on Earth and not about the
            assignment of individuals to Heaven and Hell. The other two were more on point.

            It’s good to see that cookie thieves will suffer fewer blows over the course of their eternal torture than the mass murderers. That makes it all better. If you think regular Hell is bad, wait until you see Super Hell! Why, Mild Torture Hell sounds almost like Heaven. Problem solved.

            Not really. Consider two states of being, eternal bliss and eternal torture. Now, within each state, let’s assume that there some degrees of difference in the bliss and the torture.
            The problem is that the difference between the two states is so massive and overwhelming, that any degree of difference within the two states is largely irrelevant. It’s like considering the distance from one side of the street to the other when one is dealing with things on the scale of solar systems. Cookie Thief may have it slightly better than Mass Murder, but this still isn’t really a proportional response to sin. I can see how you might conclude that God’s response includes “degrees”, but they’re awfully small degrees when considered in the grand scheme of things. The basic problem is that sinning is a continuous function, while the response to sinning is essentially a discrete function.

            “All sins are equal in one sense. They are all rebellion against God and thus worthy of eternal punishment. All sins are not equal, in that some sins are deserving of greater severity of torment than others.”

            Ah, so it’s true that all sins are equal, but some are more equal than others! Isn’t theology fun?

            Problem here is that sin are INFINITELY equal. Now, once one says that two things are both infinitely terrible, it’s awfully hard to walk that back to a point where there can be said to be a degree of difference between them. If two things are both infinitely terrible, then it doesn’t make sense to say that there’s any difference between them or that there should be a difference in the severity of the response to them. Infinite is infinite. The values for both acts are pegged at the max.

          • Dan Freeman

            Well you answered my first question (what is your standard of truth) but to my second question (how do you know that it is accurate) you admitted that “it ain’t perfect” (which is, I suppose an answer.)

            As 4CF4 pointed out, our sensory information, our reason, and our models, can be grossly in error. When dealing with matters about God, this propensity to error is even greater since our senses cannot sense a transcendent being and our reason is corrupted and inadequate. It would be a pity to be wrong on a matter of such import.

            “I didn’t brush aside the previous passage. As I’ve said repeatedly, it simply didn’t address the question raised.”
            Perhaps I should have been more explicit. Romans 1-2 shows that every man is culpable for not worshiping God, whether or not they heard the gospel. Why? Because even if they did not know, they should have known. Natural revelation is sufficient that they should have realized that whatever gods they worshiped were false, and it gives enough information that they could have begun worshiping the true God. However, none did this.

            As Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, [you see here that they did know God, and thus, the way to avoid punishment] they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened”

            All you have shown is that finite creatures cannot comprehend infinity. But to use an analogy, although I am certain it is flawed to one extent or another, differences in punishment could be described as the difference between one flogging a minute and twenty floggings a minute for all eternity.

            But you are absolutely correct that even the “light” punishment is grave and terrible, but you are wrong in seeing this as out of proportion. Two salient points to this. One, as I mentioned, God’s infinite holiness is infinitely offended at any sin. Two, that cookie thief is still rejecting and hating God every moment he is in hell, thus continuing to heap judgment upon himself.

          • Philip

            Let’s see if I can wrap this up quickly as I’ve mostly had my innings.

            “It would be a pity to be wrong on a matter of such import.”

            Yes, it would, and this statement applies to you as well as me.

            “When dealing with matters about God, this propensity to error is even greater since our senses cannot sense a transcendent being and our reason is corrupted and inadequate.”

            No argument here.

            So, we cannot sense a transcendent being, and yet we must rely on our physical senses (by which I mean our physical brains, too) to sense inspiration from a transcendent being in order to create the Bible, and we must rely on our senses to interpret the Bible. Now you claim that the Bible is supposed to be completely without error and thus authoritative to every aspect of life. However, the Bible itself and its interpretation are products of our senses. But our senses are corrupted and inadequate, especially when dealing with matters about God. I think we have a problem here.

            “Natural revelation is sufficient that they should have realized that whatever gods they worshiped were false, and it gives enough information that they could have begun worshiping the true God.”

            Well, that’s a nice idea, but again, I don’t believe that this is supported by anthropological or historical evidence. The evidence suggests that the Bible is simply wrong here. In the cases of countless cultures over thousands of years, there is zero evidence that they had even the slightest hint that they were supposed to love, honor and worship Jesus Christ, the Son of God (or whatever it is that you’re supposed to do with Jesus), in order to escape eternal torture.

            This fact has been acknowledged by Christians over the centuries, because it is one of the primary moving forces behind missionary movements. Missionaries were to bring the knowledge of Jesus to those IGNORANT of Jesus. So, Christians themselves understand that Romans is wrong.

            Any other comments I might make would be redundant.

  • Bill Moroski

    Church attendees can barely suffer a 10-20 min. sermon, let alone a 20 page hellfire sermon. What does that say regarding the Spiritual void in America today?
    wpm

  • Mary Elizabeth Palshan

    Philip: What you are essentially saying is that sinful man
    is more loving than God, because we would have more compassion for a child
    thief, or even sins of a “seemingly” innocent nature. When you/anyone tolerates sin of any proportions, you’re saying that sin isn’t so bad; let’s accept all sinners just
    as they are, even those who have not had their sins atoned for by Jesus. My
    friend, this makes a totally mockery of the cross. Indeed, if this were to be
    the case, then there would have been no need for Christ’s sacrifice.

    For example: If I were to kill a rat in my house because it brings in disease and spreads that disease to everyone who lives there, according
    to you I am unloving and awful? That poisonous rat depicts sin and its
    destructive nature. God has every right to clean His house of poison just as WE
    do in our own homes. Why deny God that right? after all, He is the Creator of
    all things, and all things He created are at His disposal. He can do whatever
    He wants with His OWN creation. We have no right to question His wise
    judgments.

    To be more loving than God means we would have to love the very thing that put
    Christ on the cross—SIN. We would have to accept sinful people unatoned for,
    which makes Jesus ‘sacrifice a farce. To be more loving than God means we would
    have to lower our standards of right and wrong. To be more loving than God
    makes sinful man judge and jury. God cannot tolerate sin of any nature. For Him
    to do so would make Him evil. May that never be.

    The God of all the
    earth will do right. Who knows any better than God the horrible depths of what
    sin truly is; I suspect if we REALLY knew sins full-blown capacity and true
    nature, our thoughts and opinions would be much more reflective of God’s
    thoughts.

    The Bible is very clear: “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on
    them that fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His
    goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off (Rom 11:22).”

    Bill Moroski: So nice to see you posting on The Cripplegate.
    Great article, Mike!

    • Philip

      Your comments seem similar to Dan’s. I’ll have to get back to this a little later.

      • Philip

        Mary Elizabeth,

        Based on your comments here, I’m afraid that you may have misunderstood some of what I’ve been trying to say. Much of
        what is here does not seem to address my points. Rather than be redundant, I would suggest that you look at my reply to Dan. I
        think that I addressed most of your comments in that reply, but if you think I missed something in that reply to Dan, please let me know.

        But to address a few things that you’ve covered in your comments…

        “He is the Creator of all things, and all things He created are at His
        disposal. He can do whatever He wants with His OWN creation. “

        Interesting concept. Am I free to destroy anything that I create?

        “We have no right to question His wise judgments.”

        Ah, but I’m not actually questioning his judgment. You see, I’m not actually questioning God here. I am questioning whether or not
        certain human-created versions or concepts of God are correct or accurate. I’m not commenting on a entity that might be called “God”. I’m commenting on what humans have written about that entity. Do these writings make sense? Is there consistency in these writings? Maybe these writing do not accurately reflect the actual nature of any god-like entity. So, that’s not quite the same as questioning God.

        Beside, the cry of “no right to question” has been the clarion call and tool for control of political and religious leaders for millennia. I should think that we should always question.

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  • Dee Andrew

    amazing. i read the comments left here, then it is no wonder why there is no more revival. If Christ Himself came to hold the revival, we would argue His theology, His mannerisms, His background, His associates, His choice of Words, His ethnicity. Forget it. We’re surely and certainly doomed.

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  • http://thecripplegate.com Mike Riccardi

    This was a very disappointing comment thread. I was on vacation, and so was not able to participate nor keep the conversation at the caliber that I think represents helpful discourse. The entire thread is a string of responses to one person who has repeatedly insisted upon not understanding when things are patiently and biblically explained to him.

    If anyone is stumbling upon this post and is planning to read this thread, let me encourage you to steward your time a bit more faithfully, as I don’t find that there’s much that is helpful here.

    Instead read this post, in which I tried to briefly summarize what happened here, and offered my response to the objections that hell makes God unloving and unjust.

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