25 October 2007

Suggested Bible stories for the next Barna survey

As I mentioned in my last post, a new Barna survey claims that two thirds of American adults believe in the literal truth of the stories in the Bible, and concludes that "people believe that their personal trust" in the biblical God "is warranted" from these stories.

But of course the entire survey was set up to produce the desired result. The selected stories were the safe and familiar ones found in children's Bibles (and are the only ones that most adults are familiar with today).

I wonder what the result would be if the Bible stories were selected at random. What would happen, for example, if the following six stories were selected?

1) God kills every Egyptian firstborn baby.

At midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle .... and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. Exodus 12:29-30

2) God sends fiery serpents to bite and kill his people (for complaining).

And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Numbers 21:5-6

3) Moses commands his soldiers to kill every boy, woman, and female child (except for the virgins).

And Moses was wroth with the officers ... And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? ... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Numbers 31:14-18

4) God orders the Israelites to kill every Amalekite man, woman, and child.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts ... go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. 1 Samuel 15:2-3

5) David buys a wife with 200 Philistine foreskins.

And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies. ... Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king's son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife. 1 Samuel 18:25-27

6) God kills husband and wife for not giving all their money to Peter.
(Or maybe for lying about the amount of money that they had.)

Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? ... And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: ... And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost. Acts 5:1-10

Would people believe in the literal truth of these stories? Would they still "believe that their personal trust" in the biblical God was "warranted" by them?

Barna should do a survey to find out. (I'll bet the believers would drop from two thirds to two percent.)

27 comments:

Matt said...

re: 6)

Aw, you skipped verses 4 and 8

4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

which makes it seem like they were killed for lying about how much they gave.

Steve Wells said...

Yeah, maybe God killed them for lying about the amount of money they made, not just for refusing to give all of it to Peter. Would that make the Bible story more acceptable to you, Matt?

I've added a note to say that God might have killed them for lying.

Robert said...

In my opinion that idea that god kills for such a minor infraction period is enough for any reasonable person to question gods morals and values. It definitely appears more likely the stories were generated by man to prove a point using god as their 'puppet'

Jason said...

God makes it clear that certain sins are punishable by death, specifically lying to the Holy Spirit. Point the finger at the individual, not God.

Dave said...

So Jason, if I clearly tell my daughter that if she lies to me I will cut her arms off ... and she does and I do... you will point your finger at her and not me?

Dude, you are sick. Seriously.

Jason said...

That's a false analogy (you're bound by the laws of the land, God isn't). Let's try this one: God tells His followers not to lie to the Holy Spirit. If they do, it's punishable by death. His followers heed the warning, recognizing God as the ultimate authority and not one to mess around with. One day, someone lies to the Holy Spirit. Oops. He's promptly killed. God set the law, God set the punishment, man broke the law, man suffered the consequences.

Here's another one. The Texas court system decides that anyone who kills another human being will be put to death as punishment. One day, John Smith kills Joe Blow. John Smith is put to death by the state. Whether or not you think this is "sick" doesn't change the fact there was a law in place with a corresponding punishment that condemned this particular act.

James said...

Yes, but this is one reason why people take issue with Texan law.

Texas doesn't claim to be perfect and all-knowing. God does.

Jason said...

Exactly. So because God claims to be perfect and all-knowing, then the laws He sets are also perfect and thus we're obliged to follow them.

Andrew said...

Jason, I can't believe you are trying to justify the horrendous and abhorrent acts that God performs in the Bible, by arguing that ‘God is God, so whatever he does is justified’

How can you possibly buy into this? God’s actions in the Bible are absolutely incompatible with our moral faculties.
For example: The Bible says that God will send the vast majority of human beings to hell “the place of eternal torment with weeping and gnashing of teeth” and that people sent there shall be “tormented with fire and brimstone . . . for ever and ever”

We know that torturing people is immoral! Certainly you would not think we should gather all the earth’s homosexuals, unbelievers, and other ‘sinners’ together and torture them until they die. This is ludicrous! It is absolutely incompatible with our human faculty of morality; our sense of empathy and sympathy for other human beings. Look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; almost all contemporary societies endorse the idea that all human beings are entitled to certain universal and inalienable rights. This includes the belief humans should not be subjected to torture.

If the absolute source of morality is whatever God commands, no matter how abhorrent, than why would God have endowed human beings with a moral faculty that goes completely against what He commands?

Jason said...

God’s actions in the Bible are absolutely incompatible with our moral faculties.

This doesn't make God horrible. It simply makes His actions incompatible with our moral faculties.

"The Bible says that God will send the vast majority of human beings to hell “the place of eternal torment with weeping and gnashing of teeth” and that people sent there shall be “tormented with fire and brimstone . . . for ever and ever”

No it doesn't. The Bible says that when people die, they suffer the same fate as the animals (Ecc 3:19-20) and their thoughts cease (Psa 146:3-4).

"Certainly you would not think we should gather all the earth’s homosexuals, unbelievers, and other ‘sinners’ together and torture them until they die. This is ludicrous!

I couldn't agree more.

"Look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; almost all contemporary societies endorse the idea that all human beings are entitled to certain universal and inalienable rights. This includes the belief humans should not be subjected to torture."

Great.

"If the absolute source of morality is whatever God commands, no matter how abhorrent, than why would God have endowed human beings with a moral faculty that goes completely against what He commands?"

Simple - because He didn't.

Andrew said...

Jason, I am open to arguments from theists, deists, and atheists. If you could prove to me that the Bible does not state that any humans will be sent to hell, I would honestly appreciate it (since if it does, I am likely going there). It would help make my understanding of Christianity correct. But, from what I have seen in the Bible it does state that God will send people to hell: (here’s a few examples)

- Rev 21:8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part [will be] in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
- Ps. 9:17: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."
- Luke 16:22 "Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 "And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment”
- Mark 9:41 "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,”
- Isa 66:22 "Then they shall go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, And their fire shall not be quenched; And they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind."
- Rev 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one [of them] according to their deeds.
# 14 And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire
- Matthew 13:49 It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous 13:50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, 62 where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth
- Matt 25:41: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." This passage relates to Jesus' judgment of all the world.
- Revelation 14:9: If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
14:10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:

So for now, it seems my argument is still intact:
1. Torturing a human being is an immoral action.
2. The Christian God has sent human beings to be tortured in hell.
3. Therefore, The Christian God has committed an immoral action.

Jason said...

Rev 21:8 - The lake of fire is the “second death”, not a place of eternal torment.

Ps. 9:17 - Hell is “sheol” in the Hebrew and is simply defined as the “grave” or the “earth”. See Gen 37:35, 42:38, 44:29, Numbers 16:30, 33 (pit), 1 Sam 2:6, etc.

Luke 16:22-23 – A parable. Here's why: 1. The passage speaks about bodies not souls. E.g., eyes, bosom (vs. 23) tip of finger and tongue (vs. 24). 2. The passage states that there was a great gulf fixed between Abraham and the rich man, yet they could both see and converse with each other (vs. 26). Is the great gulf to be taken literally? 3. Is heaven literally a place where conversations can be carried on between those enjoying bliss and those agonizing in hell? 4. How could Lazarus go literally to Abraham's bosom? Abraham (as now) was unquestionably dead and without his reward. (Heb. 11:8, 13, 39, 40). 5. If you were being tormented in flames of fire, as the rich man was, would you request only a "drop of water" to quench your agony? Would not a jug or jar, or even a handful of water be more logical? 6. Do you believe that the rich man was so stupid as to expect righteous Lazarus to leave the comfort of "Abraham's bosom" and spend time visiting the rich man in flames of fire?

Mark 9:41 – Hell is the “unquenchable fire”, not a place of eternal torment (are there immortal worms in hell?) Jesus is almost certainly quoting from Isa. 66:24. But this unquenchable fire is not the hell-fire of Christian teaching. Note the differences: 1. The fire is located outside Jerusalem in Israel. (Isa. 66:20). This is not the location of the hell-fire of Christian teaching. 2. Travellers will observe the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against God. Christian teaching consigns souls, not bodies, to hell.

Fire is used in Scripture for utter destruction, not for preservation in torment. Consider Sodom and Gomorrha, which were destroyed by fire and brimstone and are now set forth as "an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 7 cf. Gen. 19:24). But are these cities still burning? Scripture affirms that these cities were overthrown in a moment. (Lam. 4:6) and turned to ashes. (2 Pet. 2:6 cf. Deut. 29:23).

Isa 66:22 – See above.

Rev 20:13 – “hades” (or hell) isn’t a place of eternal torment since the entire city of Caperneum is condemned to “hell” in Mat 11:23. The word is translated as “grave” in 1 Cor. 15:55, which, using this meaning, makes sense given the context of Rev. 20:13 since death and hell/the grave will symbolically die the “second death” in the lake of fire, marking the end of sin and death in this world.

Matthew 13:49-50 – the “fiery furnace” is utter destruction, not eternal torment (see John 15:6). The weeping and gnashing of teeth come as a result of those individuals who are not permitted into Christ’s kingdom (see Luke 13:28).

Matt 25:41 – Everlasting fire, not everlasting torment (see Mark 9:41)

Revelation 14:9 – Figurative, not literal. Consider: 1. In the first occurrence of the expression, "fire and brimstone" is said to issue from horses' mouths. (Rev. 9:17)… 2. If literal torment in hell were intended, then the language of the passage would require Jesus to be with his angels in hell because of verse 10. 3. Consistency demands that if "tormented with fire and brimstone" is literal, so much "the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation". (Rev. 14:10). But the latter is an obvious figure drawn from Jer. 25:15. Why then insist on literal fire and brimstone?

Andrew said...

Jason, you seem to know the Bible very well, and I appreciate your response.
I’m still somewhat confused and have a few questions:

1. If people are sent to a fiery lake of burning sulfur, would that not be torment to them?
2. You say hell is an unquenchable fire but not a place or torment? I think most would consider being sent into unquenchable fire to be torment whether eternal or not.
3. Matthew 13:49 indicates being thrown into a fiery furnace (which you call utter destruction) and where the people are weeping and gnashing their teeth (the reason for why doesn’t matter)
- being thrown into a fiery furnace with weeping and gnashing of the teeth seems to constitute torture to me. - and if the fiery furnace is simply “destruction” how would they be weeping if they have been destroyed?
4. You argue that being cast into everlasting fire would not entail torment, please explain

I also have a few more quotes I hope you could take the time to address:
- "Anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:22, quoting Jesus)
- "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28, quoting Jesus)


My most important question has to do with Luke 16:22 which you say is a parable not literal, and Revelation 14:9 you say is figurative and not literal.

How do you know what sections of the Bible are to be taken literally and what sections of the Bible are not? We are imperfect human beings very much capable of error. Whether the Bible is to be taken literally or to be seen as a metaphor or parable is a subjective judgment. There is no empirical objective basis in which you can prove that a section of the Bible is to be taken literally or not; it is only your subjective interpretation. For example, According to a 2004 Gallup Poll 92% of those who attend church weekly believe in hell. It seems your interpretation of hell is very much a minority opinion; so why should anyone believe that your interpretation is the one that is correct? How can you take a doctrine of the Bible to be an authority, if the Bible is open to be interpreted in different ways by any imperfect human being?

Jason said...

1. The fiery lake of burning fire is the second death, not a place of eternal torment. People “sent” there die the “second death”. That is, they are utterly destroyed (no chance of resurrection).

2. Hell is simply the grave and the unquenchable fire is utter destruction, not physical torment. As previously stated, fire is used in Scripture for utter destruction, not for preservation in torment (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrha - Jude 7 cf. Gen. 19:24). Also: Mat 3:12 “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Mat 13:40 “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.” The tares and chaff are symbolic of the wicked and, like tares and chaff, they will be utterly destroyed.

3. The weeping and gnashing of teeth is a result of being kept out of Christ’s kingdom, not being burnt in hell-fire. Note how the KJV words it: “And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (i.e. the wailing isn’t happening in the furnace of fire)

4. Everlasting fire doesn’t entail torment because everlasting fire is symbolic of everlasting destruction (e.g. Sodom & Gomorrah, Jude 7). The punishment is everlasting, but it is not conscious eternal torment. The punishment will be final and complete cutting off (Psa. 37:9, 34). Life eternal is reserved for the righteous, but the wicked are to die "the second death" (Rev. 21:8) which in Scriptural terms means to be without thoughts (Psa. 146:3,4; Eccl. 9:5).

The word "everlasting" is used of a result, not a process. Similarly, "eternal judgment" (Heb. 6:2) and "eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12) do not mean that judgment and redemption will continue throughout eternity, but rather that their results are eternal. Other Scriptures either state or imply a termination of the torment. For example, speaking of those who "know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ", the Paul states that they "shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." (2 Thess. 1:9). Jesus also states that "if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6). To be "cast forth as a branch" and "burned" suggests termination of the burning when that which is burnable is consumed.

Matthew 5:22 – mentions nothing about eternal torment

Matthew 10:28 – God is the only one who can completely destroy an individual by not resurrecting them after death.

Luke 16:22 must be treated as a parable unless the questions I asked can logically be explained.

Revelation 14:9 is figurative given the context. The entire book is extremely symbolic and we must be careful what we take literally.

How do you know what sections of the Bible are to be taken literally and what sections of the Bible are not?

By first looking at the context, and then comparing these sections to other sections in Scripture to see if the message is consistent.

There is no empirical objective basis in which you can prove that a section of the Bible is to be taken literally or not; it is only your subjective interpretation.

I completely disagree. We simply use the information and evidence provided to come to a logical conclusion. If a Biblical ‘interpretation’ doesn’t hold up when challenged with other parts of Scripture, it should be discounted.

It seems your interpretation of hell is very much a minority opinion; so why should anyone believe that your interpretation is the one that is correct?

It’s not my interpretation, it’s the Bible’s. Just read the text. The very first book of the Bible describes what happens once someone dies – “dust to dust”. If life continued after death, surely God would have mentioned it here.

How can you take a doctrine of the Bible to be an authority, if the Bible is open to be interpreted in different ways by any imperfect human being?

Man has the freewill to interpret anything, including the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say Adam & Eve ate an apple, but people assume they did. This isn’t the Bible’s fault. God never says that when good people die, their immortal souls go to heaven, but people like to think they do because it’s easier to deal with emotionally. This isn’t the Bible’s fault.

Eternal life is only granted to those judged righteous. The problem with "hell-going" is that it requires eternal life to be granted to the condemned, something you won’t find in Scripture. What you will find is that death is the punishment for sin. Restoration from death is the reward of those judged righteous. The condemned simply go back to being dead. The momentous problem for the immortal soulists is explaining why the doctrine of the resurrection is so important. If Jesus was still alive after he died then so what if he was raised from the dead? Likewise, so what about the Day of Resurrection at the return of Christ if everyone who died is still alive?

Andrew said...

Jason, I appreciate the discussion. However, I am still unconvinced.

You state that we know what parts of the Bible are to be taken literally “by first looking at the context, and then comparing these sections to other sections in Scripture to see if the message is consistent.”
Your two criteria for the correct interpretation of a Biblical passage, then, are consistency with other Scripture, and context.

The first criteria you give, seems inadequate.
If a certain interpretation is to be discarded for not being consistent with a different Scripture, how can you be certain that the passage you are using as a proof is being interpreted correctly? Perhaps it is the passage you are referencing that is figurative or symbolic. How can you know which of the two interpretations to discard?

It is incoherent to prove the interpretation of a passage is correct by referencing another passage, if the other passage is also subject to interpretation.

The same problem would occur if a person tried to justify the interpretation of a particular passage by testing it’s consistency with the message of the Bible as a whole. The problem is that “The entire book is extremely symbolic” and people’s interpretation of the Bible and it’s message ‘as a whole’ varies drastically. This is why we have so many different religions and different sets of belief coming from the same book. There is no established interpretation of the Bible’s message “as a whole”.

This method of justification also has another problem. The Bible seems to contain a great amount of inconsistencies in it’s doctrines. If in the Bible there exists contradictions, than surely one cannot use scripture as a justification, since it could be used to prove opposing conclusions.
Look at these contradictions for starters:

(Does God tempt people?)
"And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham." Gen 22:1
"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." James 1:13
(Should we fear God?)
DT 6 - And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart
DT 6:13 - Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
John 4:18 - There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.
(Does God always tell the truth?)
PR 30:5 - Every word of God is pure.
EZ 14:9 - And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet
(Will children suffer for their parents sins?)
DT 24:16 - The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
IS 14:21 - Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers;
(Should we follow eye for an eye justice?)
LE 24:20 - Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.
MT 5:38 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
(Should we be wise?)
PRO 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
ECC 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
(What is the order of creation?)
GEN 1 - Day 1: Sky, Earth, light - Day 2: Water, both in ocean basins and above the sky
Day 3: Plants - Day 4: Sun, Moon, Stars - Day 5: Sea monsters, fish, birds, land animals, creepy-crawlies - Day 6: Humans
GEN 2 - Earth and heavens, Adam, the first man, on a desolate Earth, Plants, Animals
Eve, the first woman
(What is Moses Personality?)
Num.12:3: "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the fact of the earth."
Num.31:14, 17, 18: "And Moses was wroth, . . . And Moses said unto them, "Have ye saved all the women alive? ... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman, ... But all the women children ... keep alive for yourselves."

There seem to exist many contradictions similar to these. If the Biblical passages contain inconsistencies than it’s passages cannot be used as a proof.

The second criteria you give, is that we should judge the correctness of an interpretation by using context to come to a logical solution. This criteria also seems inadequate. Hell, for example, you interpret to be a grave and not a place of torment. The problem is that millions of Christians and many eminent theologians have interpreted the Bible to indicate that hell is a place of eternal punishment. The Churches of Christ, The Church of the Nazarene, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of America, The Evangelical Free Church of America are a few who have taken this view. These theologians have examined the context, many of them have devoted their entire lives to understanding the Bible. If examining context would produce the one true interpretation, than why have millions of Christians and Theologians alike examined the context and come up with different interpretations than you?

The people that use context as an approach for determining which interpretation of a passage is true, do not come to realize the truth of a specific interpretation, but rather, many different interpretations. Therefore, it seems the use of context, is an inadequate tool for humans to determine for certain which interpretation of a passage is true.
- Context can be interpreted in many ways and I think you will agree that it cannot provide the basis for faultless knowledge.

Jason, I appreciate your discourse but we have also strayed very far off topic. Hell was simply the first example that came to mind in posing my argument. If I granted that Hell is not a place of eternal torment I could quite easily reformulate my argument to either of these.

Argument 2:
1. It is immoral to subject a human being to cruel and unusual punishment.
2. God sentences human beings to be punished in cruel and unusual ways.
3. Therefore, God has committed immoral actions.

Or

Argument 3:
1. It is immoral to subject children to capital punishment.
2. God subjects children to capital punishment.
3. Therefore, God has committed immoral actions.

Argument 3 has been brought up by Dave in an earlier blog, but you have not provided a response.

Please address these new arguments as well if you have the time. Thanks.

Jason said...

It is incoherent to prove the interpretation of a passage is correct by referencing another passage, if the other passage is also subject to interpretation.

If this is actually true, then by extension you must accept my belief about hell to be just as true as the belief that such a place exists. According to you, neither side can prove their point through Scripture. So why bother having this discussion?

The problem is you obviously think the Bible proves the existence of hell and you accept there's Scriptural "proof" saying as much. Not only does this contradict your above statement but what criteria are they using to prove their point that you consider to be acceptable?

I'm also a little confused as why you don't think that Christians are routinely ignoring symbolic language and instead taking things literally to prove hell is a place of agonizing torment (specifically immortal worms in hell, literally cutting off limbs to avoid going to hell, Abraham's bosom and the great chasm, Sodom and Gomorrah burning in unquenchable fire, the lake of fire, etc.). Are these not symbolic?

Even ignoring that, the Christian belief in hell quite obviously contradicts the Bible's message about the death state, yet this doesn't seem to bother you. Why not? What do you think the Bible says happens once someone dies?

Andrew said...

“If this is actually true, then by extension you must accept my belief about hell to be just as true as the belief that such a place exists.”

- Yes, I do.

“The problem is you obviously think the Bible proves the existence of hell and you accept there's Scriptural "proof" saying as much”

- No, I don’t.

“Not only does this contradict your above statement but what criteria are they using to prove their point that you consider to be acceptable?”

- None that I know of.

“I'm also a little confused as why you don't think that Christians are routinely ignoring symbolic language and instead taking things literally to prove hell is a place of agonizing torment (specifically immortal worms in hell, literally cutting off limbs to avoid going to hell, Abraham's bosom and the great chasm, Sodom and Gomorrah burning in unquenchable fire, the lake of fire, etc.). Are these not symbolic?”

- I could care less.

“Even ignoring that, the Christian belief in hell quite obviously contradicts the Bible's message about the death state, yet this doesn't seem to bother you. Why not?”

- This doesn’t bother me because it further proves my point that the Bible is inconsistent.

If you haven’t got it yet, I don’t care if you take the Bible literally or as “extremely symbolic” my goal was to argue against doing either one.

I argued in the last post, that if the Bible is not to be taken literally, but to be interpreted as symbolic and figurative in parts; that using context, and consistency with other scripture as the criteria for how certain passages are to be interpreted is an inadequate method for producing certain knowledge of the correct interpretation.

Along with this argument, I put forth the argument that if you do take the Bible literally, which a surprising number of people do, or if you take certain passages literally, such as the ones that indicate a place of eternal torment, cruel and unusual punishment, or the capital punishment of children then the God you are worshiping is an immoral one. Like I said in an earlier post, Hell was simply the first example that came to mind in proving that argument. I later provided two more arguments using other immoral actions.

The reason I quoted passages from the Bible was to show that it indicated that there exists a hell consisting of eternal punishment (an immoral action) because you denied that the Bible did indicate this. I provided passages to show that it did. Once you argued that certain passages were to be taken figuratively, I moved to argue that it seems to me there isn’t a coherent way to determine for certain which passages are, and which passages are not, to be taken figuratively.
The reason I questioned some of your specific interpretations was to see what reasons you had for holding them.

Jason said...

“The problem is you obviously think the Bible proves the existence of hell and you accept there's Scriptural "proof" saying as much”

- No, I don’t.


You said: If you could prove to me that the Bible does not state that any humans will be sent to hell…from what I have seen in the Bible it does state that God will send people to hell.

I accepted the challenge and now you're saying you were never interested?

“Not only does this contradict your above statement but what criteria are they using to prove their point that you consider to be acceptable?”

- None that I know of.


You quoted a number of verses that Christians use to ‘prove’ hell, saying that from what you’ve seen, the Bible does state such a place exists. So if Scriptural references are good enough to prove hell, why aren’t Scripture references an acceptable criteria to prove it doesn’t exist? I don’t mean to be picky about this but it seems you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth.

...Are these not symbolic?”

- I could care less.


Ouch. You could have told me this from the very beginning!

I argued in the last post, that if the Bible is not to be taken literally, but to be interpreted as symbolic and figurative in parts; that using context, and consistency with other scripture as the criteria for how certain passages are to be interpreted is an inadequate method for producing certain knowledge of the correct interpretation.

I don’t think so. Most people just can’t be bothered following the links through Scripture for the meaning of a particular symbol. For example, the lake of fire. Scripture clearly states the lake of fire is the “second death”. However, by ignoring this link, the lake of fire seems like a literal place where people will be swimming in molten lava.

Along with this argument, I put forth the argument that if you do take the Bible literally, which a surprising number of people do, or if you take certain passages literally, such as the ones that indicate a place of eternal torment, cruel and unusual punishment, or the capital punishment of children then the God you are worshiping is an immoral one.

There is no place of eternal torment except eternal death. Do you consider this punishment to be immoral?

Once you argued that certain passages were to be taken figuratively, I moved to argue that it seems to me there isn’t a coherent way to determine for certain which passages are, and which passages are not, to be taken figuratively.

I explained why they’re to be taken literally by asking questions such as, are there really immortal worms in hell? Does a literal chasm exist between heaven and hell? Does God expect believers to literally cut off a limb to save from going to hell? It should be obvious, to anyone, that these passages are figurative. We can even find the links that explain what the symbols mean. However, if these passages are literal, where are all the other verses talking about what those immortal worms are or why cutting off a limb would decided between redemption or torture?

Andrew said...

- Jason, I will reiterate what I tried to convey in my last post.

“You said: If you could prove to me that the Bible does not state that any humans will be sent to hell… from what I have seen in the Bible it does state that God will send people to hell.

I accepted the challenge and now you're saying you were never interested?”

- Yes I did say that. I was interested in why you thought that the Bible didn’t indicate there was a place of eternal punishment, since taken literally, it seems that it does.

“You quoted a number of verses that Christians use to ‘prove’ hell, saying that from what you’ve seen, the Bible does state such a place exists. So if Scriptural references are good enough to prove hell, why aren’t Scripture references an acceptable criteria to prove it doesn’t exist? I don’t ean to be picky about this but it seems you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth.”

- Jason, I’ve already addressed this. I quoted verses I had seen to show that if taken literally the Bible seemed to imply a place of eternal punishment similar to the one pronounced by many religions. Once you said the passages were not to be taken literally, I argued that there seemed to be no justifiable way to prove your particular interpretation is for certain, the correct one.

“You could have told me this from the very beginning!”

- Sorry if you were mistaken as to my intentions. I was interested in why you didn’t think the Bible indicated there was a hell. If you consider our discussion a waste of your time, I apologize. I find your interpretation of hell, and your justification for that interpretation interesting.

“I don’t think so. (In reference to my arguments against using consistency and context as criteria) Most people just can’t be bothered following the links through Scripture for the meaning of a particular symbol.”

- I argued this in a previous post, you can address those arguments. There are thousands of philosophers of religion, theologians, religious authorities, and other academics who have different interpretations of hell than you. To say that they simply just didn’t “follow the links through the scripture” seems unreasonable.

“There is no place of eternal torment except eternal death. Do you consider this punishment to be immoral?”

- No, your interpretation of what the Bible says happens to humans when they die does not seem immoral.

“I explained why they’re (not) to be taken literally by asking questions such as, are there really immortal worms in hell?”

- How could I know there isn’t? Because that’s not consistent with other passages?
I’ve already been over this.

“Does a literal chasm exist between heaven and hell?”

- Again, how should I know? Because it’s not consistent? Same argument.

“Does God expect believers to literally cut off a limb to save from going to hell?”

- Why would I believe otherwise? Same argument.

“It should be obvious, to anyone, that these passages are figurative.”

- Jason, again, millions of people, including academics, philosophers, theologians, and priests who spend great amounts of time on the subject disagree about your interpretation of hell, so no, it’s not obvious that your interpretation of hell is the correct one.

“However, if these passages are literal, where are all the other verses talking about what those immortal worms are or why cutting off a limb would decided between.”

- I don’t know. Are you implying that because something is mentioned only once in the Bible it should be assumed that it is not literal? Why would that be an adequate criteria?

- Jason, I have appreciated the discussion and find your justification of your particular interpretation of Hell interesting; but I am arguing here that upon admitting the Bible is symbolic it seems you don’t have any solid criteria by which you can obtain with certainty what the correct interpretation of Bible passages are. Here is my argument, again:

Your two criteria for the correct interpretation of a Biblical passage, then, are consistency with other Scripture, and context.

The criteria of consistency seems inadequate for the following reasons:

1. It is incoherent to prove the interpretation of a passage is correct by referencing another passage, if the other passage is also subject to interpretation.
If a certain interpretation is to be discarded for not being consistent with a different Scripture, how can you be certain that the passage you are using as a proof is being interpreted correctly?
The same problem would occur if a person tried to justify the interpretation of a particular passage by testing it’s consistency with the message of the Bible as a whole.

2. The Bible seems to contain a great amount of contradictions in it’s doctrines. If in the Bible there exists contradictions, than surely one cannot use scripture as a justification, since it could be used to prove opposing conclusions. (I posted examples previously)

The criteria of context seems inadequate for the following reason:
3. You say that we should judge the correctness of an interpretation by using context to come to a logical solution. The problem is that philosophers, theologians, and religious authorities
who use context as an approach for determining which interpretation of a passage is true, do not come to realize the truth of a specific interpretation, but rather, many different interpretations. Therefore, it seems the use of context, is an inadequate tool for humans to determine for certain which interpretation of a passage is true.

Jason said...

Yes I did say that. I was interested in why you thought that the Bible didn’t indicate there was a place of eternal punishment, since taken literally, it seems that it does.

It does indicate this. What it doesn’t indicate is the existence of a place of eternal physical torment. Any literal reading of the Bible will also show that upon death, all thoughts cease. The existence of hell is a non-issue if you start at the beginning.

Once you said the passages were not to be taken literally, I argued that there seemed to be no justifiable way to prove your particular interpretation is for certain, the correct one.

I had thought I had clearly shown why they shouldn’t be taken literally. Do Christians believe in immortal worms? Do Christians preach believers should literally cut off limbs to avoid hell? Why not? If someone is going to take a concept literally and then ignore the problems this causes with the context, it must be questioned.

There are thousands of philosophers of religion, theologians, religious authorities, and other academics who have different interpretations of hell than you. To say that they simply just didn’t “follow the links through the scripture” seems unreasonable.

It may seem unreasonable but that doesn’t make it wrong. How many 'educated' Bible scholars over the centuries have taught people that Lucifer is a supernatural evil force?
How could I know there isn’t [immortal worms]? Because that’s not consistent with other passages? I’ve already been over this.

Are immortal worms consistent with the Christian teaching of hell? Why not?

“Does a literal chasm exist between heaven and hell?” - Again, how should I know? Because it’s not consistent? Same argument.

Is it consistent with the Christian teaching of hell? Why not?

“Does God expect believers to literally cut off a limb to save from going to hell?” - Why would I believe otherwise? Same argument.

Is it consistent with the Christian teaching of hell?

...millions of people, including academics, philosophers, theologians, and priests who spend great amounts of time on the subject disagree about your interpretation of hell, so no, it’s not obvious that your interpretation of hell is the correct one.

Who agrees that people should literally cut off their arm so they don’t go to hell?

Are you implying that because something is mentioned only once in the Bible it should be assumed that it is not literal? Why would that be an adequate criteria?

It’s not. But if a Christian is going to use the Bible as the authority on matters of salvation, where are the rest of the pages teaching a believer should cut off a limb to avoid going to hell (instead of, say, praying for forgiveness)? From a Christian perspective, why would cutting off a limb make a difference? The point is it doesn’t since the Bible makes no claims that literal limbs are the source of sin.

Jason said...

The criteria of consistency seems inadequate for the following reasons:

1. It is incoherent to prove the interpretation of a passage is correct by referencing another passage, if the other passage is also subject to interpretation.

Who decides a verse is subject to interpretation?

If a certain interpretation is to be discarded for not being consistent with a different Scripture, how can you be certain that the passage you are using as a proof is being interpreted correctly?

If it’s consistent with the rest of Scripture, I would say this is proof in itself.

The same problem would occur if a person tried to justify the interpretation of a particular passage by testing it’s consistency with the message of the Bible as a whole.

This is precisely how it should be done.

The Bible seems to contain a great amount of contradictions in it’s doctrines. If in the Bible there exists contradictions, than surely one cannot use scripture as a justification, since it could be used to prove opposing conclusions.

If the Bible contains contradictions, hell is inconsequential. ☺

You say that we should judge the correctness of an interpretation by using context to come to a logical solution. The problem is that philosophers, theologians, and religious authorities who use context as an approach for determining which interpretation of a passage is true, do not come to realize the truth of a specific interpretation, but rather, many different interpretations. Therefore, it seems the use of context, is an inadequate tool for humans to determine for certain which interpretation of a passage is true.

Using context to understand meaning is something people do every day, whether in reading an e-mail or conversing with a friend. Context applies to the Bible as much as it does anything else. We don’t read the account of the Flood as if God were instructing us to gather the animals two by two because we grasp the context. Believers aren’t killing themselves en masse an account of Paul because they understand the context of his words in Romans 6 about being dead with Christ.

Andrew said...

Jason:
- I’ve been very busy with work and school, sorry for the late post. Here is my reply.

You said:
“What it doesn’t indicate is the existence of a place of eternal physical torment. Any literal reading of the Bible will also show that upon death, all thoughts cease.”

- What? Jason a literal reading of the Bible will indicate both a death where thoughts cease and a hell of torment.

when I offered passages to indicate that if taken literally they seemed to indicate hell as a place of punishment, you said they were to be taken figuratively.

For example, when I offered this passage:
Luke 16:22 "Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment”

You replied saying this: “A parable”

If this passage is taken literally it seems to indicates a man being tormented in the afterlife.
Are you now arguing that even taken literally the passages I quoted don’t indicate that, I’m confused?


You said:
“I had thought I had clearly shown why they shouldn’t be taken literally.”

- No, you didn’t.


You said:
“Do Christians believe in immortal worms? Do Christians preach believers should literally cut off limbs to avoid hell?” “Why not?”

- Most don’t, some might. Relevance?

When I said this:
“There are thousands of philosophers of religion, theologians, religious authorities, and other academics who have different interpretations of hell than you. To say that they simply just didn’t “follow the links through the scripture” seems unreasonable.”

You said:
“It may seem unreasonable but that doesn’t make it wrong”

- Haha, no Jason it doesn’t make it objectively wrong, just very unlikely.


You said:
“Are immortal worms consistent with the Christian teaching of hell?” “Why not?”
“Is it (chasm between heaven and hell, and cutting off a limb to save from hell) consistent with the Christian teaching of hell? Why not?”
“Who agrees that people should literally cut off their arm so they don’t go to hell?”

- I don’t know. What is your point? Jason, are you are trying to prove that some Christians interpret these three passages the same way you do? Where does this get you? I have already argued that anyone (including Christians) who interprets the Bible as “extremely symbolic”, does not have certainty as to the correct interpretation of the Bible. The fact is many Christians believe that hell does exist and it is a place of eternal torment whether or not they believe the three lines you quoted are literal or figurative.


In reference to my argument that you have no grounds for rejecting that a passage be taken literally on the basis that it is only mentioned once in the Bible

You said:
“It’s not. (An adequate criteria for rejecting the truth of passages) But if a Christian is going to use the Bible as the authority on matters of salvation, where are the rest of the pages teaching a believer should cut off a limb to avoid going to hell (instead of, say, praying for forgiveness)?”

- Jason this argument is completely incoherent. You agreed that a passage’s literal translation should not be rejected due to it’s only being mentioned once, and then directly argued that there need to be other pages teaching the same thing for it to be accepted. You completely contradicted yourself.

“From a Christian perspective, why would cutting off a limb make a difference? The point is it doesn’t since the Bible makes no claims that literal limbs are the source of sin.”

- Jason, you seem to be begging the question. You said that the reason the Christian perspective does not agree with the doctrine of literally cutting of a limb is because the Bible does not make the claim that literal limbs are the source of sin. You have just assumed the point that you are trying to prove.
- Even if the Christian perspective doesn’t agree with a literal interpretation, where does that get you?


When I argued this:
“It is incoherent to prove the interpretation of a passage is correct by referencing another passage, if the other passage is also subject to interpretation.”
You said:
“Who decides a verse is subject to interpretation?”

- Where is the question going Jason? Lots of people decide that the Bible verses are subject to interpretation. You yourself interpret passages, you said “the Bible is extremely symbolic” and you said that certain passages are not to be taken literally.


When I argued this:
“If a certain interpretation is to be discarded for not being consistent with a different Scripture, how can you be certain that the passage you are using as a proof is being interpreted correctly?”
You said:
“If it’s consistent with the rest of Scripture, I would say this is proof in itself.”
When I said this:
“The same problem would occur if a person tried to justify the interpretation of a particular passage by testing it’s consistency with the message of the Bible as a whole.”
I provided this argument as to why:
“The same problem would occur if a person tried to justify the interpretation of a particular passage by testing it’s consistency with the message of the Bible as a whole. The problem is that ‘The entire book is extremely symbolic’ and people’s interpretation of the Bible and it’s message ‘as a whole’ varies drastically. This is why we have so many different religions and different sets of belief coming from the same book. There is no established interpretation of the Bible’s message ‘as a whole’.”

You replied this:
“This is precisely how it should be done.”

- Jason, I’m starting to get the impression you don’t want to put in the effort to make an argument. For your conclusion to be accepted you need to provide me with some premises to support it.


You said this:
“Using context to understand meaning is something people do every day, whether in reading an e-mail or conversing with a friend. Context applies to the Bible as much as it does anything else. We don’t read the account of the Flood as if God were instructing us to gather the animals two by two because we grasp the context. Believers aren’t killing themselves en masse an account of Paul because they understand the context of his words in Romans 6 about being dead with Christ.”
“If someone is going to take a concept literally and then ignore the problems this causes with the context, it must be questioned.”

- Yes Jason, context can be used to help guide an interpretation; BUT it can only lead to a high probability of certainty in situations where context provides a certain indicator that figurative language is being used; and all readers are in agreement.
For example: if the story line of a fiction novel follows a man’s life, and somewhere in that story a metaphor is used such as “John became a wild animal”, the reader can assume that John did not actually transform into a wild animal due to the fact that the every other event in the entire story conforms to our scientific laws and the purpose of the story is to tell a realistic tale. I could also attain confidence in my interpretation due to the fact that every other reader made the exact same interpretation that I did. At this point, it is highly probably my interpretation based on context is correct.

Can we achieve certain knowledge, or even very high probability that we have correctly interpreted the passages in the Bible based on their context? I don’t think so, and here’s why:

1. Unlike the novel that I spoke of, we cannot determine if a passage in the Bible is to be taken figuratively on the basis that the passage does not agree with reality and the natural laws. Almost everything in the Bible is contrary to our scientific laws; to reject any breach of our scientific laws as not being literal would mean rejecting almost everything in the Bible. You can’t reject a literal interpretation of a Biblical passage because it’s absurd, because that would mean rejecting nearly everything.

2. Another clue as to the presence of figurative language in literature is certain words or phrases that introduce it. For example: “He stood straight like a pole”. But I doubt you’ll find enough indicative language in the Bible to prove all your interpretations.

3. Your criteria of consistency also fails the test. Consistency could be used as a judge in a novel like the one I described above, where a realistic story line is followed, and all readers can agree on the overall story. The fact that it wouldn’t be consistent with the overall story for John to have transformed into a wild animal is a decent indicator of figurative language.
The reason this doesn’t work with the Bible is because “the entire book is extremely symbolic” and there is no interpretation of the Bible as whole that is agreed upon which can be used as a check for consistency. (I gave my argument for this earlier in the post)

4. Another reason your criteria of consistency fails the test is that the Bible seems to contain a great amount of contradictions in it’s doctrines. In the novel I described, It would be possible to use the passages after the line, “john became an animal” as indicators that John was actually still a human, and you would not be able to find other passages that contradict them. The Bible on the other hand, contradicts itself in so many ways that you could find passages to support opposing interpretations. One example from those that I cited earlier is this:

(Should we follow eye for an eye justice?)
LE 24:20 - Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.
MT 5:38 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek . . .

Also, on a similar note, how is this contradiction any different than the contradiction between hell as described in the old testament (your interpretation of hell as a grave) and the description of hell in the new testament? There are passages to support either interpretation. For example:

1 Kings 2:6 - Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace.


Revelation 20:10 - And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

5. My biggest concern is that you think context “obviously” establishes the correctness of your Biblical interpretations. The problem is that millions of Christians and many eminent theologians interpret the Bible differently than you do. If context is a sure indicator of a correct interpretation than why are there so many different interpretations. The example of the metaphor about John becoming a wild animal would be unanimously agreed upon, interpretations of what is literal and what is figurative in the Bible (hell for example) are nowhere close to unanimous but rather stacked against your interpretation.

Jason said...

Jason a literal reading of the Bible will indicate both a death where thoughts cease and a hell of torment.

The Bible never says the wicked are now being consciously tormented in burning fire. What the Bible does say is that the dead all go to the same place (the grave) and that when Christ returns, the wicked and the righteous will be resurrected from the dead and subsequently judged.

Luke 16:22 - If this passage is taken literally it seems to indicates a man being tormented in the afterlife. Are you now arguing that even taken literally the passages I quoted don’t indicate that, I’m confused?

I’m arguing there’s no good reason to take this parable literally. Is there a literal chasm between heaven and hell? Can those in heaven and those in hell converse with each other? Could Lazarus go literally to Abraham's bosom if Abraham (as now) was unquestionably dead and without his reward? Not only do these not correspond with Biblical teachings of death and judgment, they also don’t correspond with Christian teachings about hell as a place of eternal conscious torment. This would explain why Catholic doctrine also refers to Abraham’s bosom as a “parable”…

“Do Christians believe in immortal worms? Do Christians preach believers should literally cut off limbs to avoid hell?” “Why not?” - Most don’t, some might. Relevance?

If Christians don’t believe in literal immortal worms, they’re obviously admitting that some imagery in the account is symbolic. So if immortal worms aren’t literal, why would you automatically assume unquenchable fire is a literal place of conscious torment reserved for the wicked prior to Christ's judgment?

“It may seem unreasonable but that doesn’t make it wrong” - Haha, no Jason it doesn’t make it objectively wrong, just very unlikely.

“Unlikely” isn’t intellectual grounds to discount anything. The inhabitants of Jericho thought it unlikely the Israelites would destroy their city, but they did.

Are you are trying to prove that some Christians interpret these three passages the same way you do? Where does this get you?

I’m asking if the three concepts I mentioned are consistent with the Christian teaching of hell. So are they or not?

My point is that a teaching of hell as a place of conscious torment runs contrary to your opinions on how a Biblical doctrine should be proven; Christians pick and chose between literal and symbolic ideas within individual verses to prove their point without any additional Biblical evidence to support their reasoning, yet you consider this acceptable as a means to prove their point. This is a double standard. Either choose to debate from an atheist standpoint or a Christian standpoint. If the former, then it doesn’t matter to you what anyone thinks about hell.

You agreed that a passage’s literal translation should not be rejected due to it’s only being mentioned once, and then directly argued that there need to be other pages teaching the same thing for it to be accepted. You completely contradicted yourself.

I did agree but I never said there's "needs" to be other teachings for it to be accepted. I'm simply stating there's cause to question why a teaching that could effect something as vital as salvation is only mentioned once. In the same manner, hell as place of eternal conscious torment is never mentioned once in the OT. God never threatens the Israelites with painful torment in fire and no one is ever said to have gone there. If hell is timeless and the wicked have been going there since the beginning of time, why would such an important concept be excluded from fully one half of Scripture? For many, myself included, this is adequate criteria to more closely examine the likelihood of such a place existing.

Jason, you seem to be begging the question. You said that the reason the Christian perspective does not agree with the doctrine of literally cutting of a limb is because the Bible does not make the claim that literal limbs are the source of sin. You have just assumed the point that you are trying to prove.

Mainstream Christianity doesn’t teach a literal cutting off of the limbs because mainstream Christianity understands this verse is symbolic on account of the fact the Bible never makes a claim that literal limbs are the source of sin.

Even if the Christian perspective doesn’t agree with a literal interpretation, where does that get you?

It doesn’t need to get me anywhere. You’re the one arguing that my mode of interpretation is wrong. If a Christian perspective doesn’t agree with a literal translation, then claiming that the Bible states hell is a literal place of conscious torment is questionable at best.

“Who decides a verse is subject to interpretation?” - Where is the question going Jason? Lots of people decide that the Bible verses are subject to interpretation. You yourself interpret passages, you said “the Bible is extremely symbolic” and you said that certain passages are not to be taken literally.

Red herring. Who decides a verse is subject to interpretation?

Jason, I’m starting to get the impression you don’t want to put in the effort to make an argument. For your conclusion to be accepted you need to provide me with some premises to support it.

:) I’ve made the argument already: hell isn’t a literal place of conscious torment and I’ve shown you why. You’re arguing against this as an atheist posing as a Christian – you disagree with my claims not because you have Scriptural references refuting my claims, but because you reject the methods I’ve used to prove my case. The Bible says all thoughts cease when someone dies. From a Christian point of view, how do you reconcile this with the concept of people living forever after death in hell?

Yes Jason, context can be used to help guide an interpretation; BUT it can only lead to a high probability of certainty in situations where context provides a certain indicator that figurative language is being used; and all readers are in agreement.

No, all readers do not have to be in agreement. The lake of fire is symbolic of the second death. Scripture states as such. If a million people claim it’s literal, this doesn’t make it right. Lucifer isn’t Satan, Scripture states as such. If a hundred million people claim otherwise, this still doesn’t make it right.

Can we achieve certain knowledge, or even very high probability that we have correctly interpreted the passages in the Bible based on their context? I don’t think so, and here’s why...

You’re now arguing the relevance of Scripture from an atheist point of view. What exactly do you want to discuss – the existence of hell or the inspired nature of Scripture?

The Bible on the other hand, contradicts itself in so many ways that you could find passages to support opposing interpretations. One example from those that I cited earlier is this: LE 24:20...
MT 5:38...


This is precisely why so many interpretations of the Bible exist. You’ve completely ignored due diligence. The Old Testament laws were given to the Jews and the Jews alone. Upon his death, Christ ushered in a new law which did away with the old law. This is commonly accepted knowledge within Christianity and well documented within Scripture.

Also, on a similar note, how is this contradiction any different than the contradiction between hell as described in the old testament (your interpretation of hell as a grave) and the description of hell in the new testament? There are passages to support either interpretation. For example...1 Kings 2:6…Revelation 20:10

There is no contradiction. As previously stated, the lake of fire is the “second death”. We know that the lake of fire is the place of destruction, so whatever goes in there will not last 'forever'. Note that the very fact that death and the grave enter the lake of fire proves this. Unless you can prove that death and the grave will literally suffer conscious torment in literal eternal fire…

My biggest concern is that you think context “obviously” establishes the correctness of your Biblical interpretations. The problem is that millions of Christians and many eminent theologians interpret the Bible differently than you do.

This isn’t a concern of mine. If you’d like to discuss these issues from a Christian perspective, I’m prepared to do so.

If context is a sure indicator of a correct interpretation than why are there so many different interpretations.

Because, as you’ve shown in your previous post, people ignore the context. The lake of fire isn’t a place of conscious torment. The law given to the Jews was done away with by Christ. Etc. Etc.

The example of the metaphor about John becoming a wild animal would be unanimously agreed upon, interpretations of what is literal and what is figurative in the Bible (hell for example) are nowhere close to unanimous but rather stacked against your interpretation.

Then let’s discuss how the Christian interpretation of hell stacks up with the interpretation given by God using the Bible as the sole authority.

Andrew said...

Jason, you consistently ask questions that I've already answered, and use arguments that I have already provided counterarguments for, please look at what I've already said before asking questions.

Here is my reply:

You said:
“I’m arguing there’s no good reason to take this parable literally. Is there a literal chasm between heaven and hell? Can those in heaven and those in hell converse with each other? Could Lazarus go literally to Abraham's bosom if Abraham (as now) was unquestionably dead and without his reward?”

- Yes and your argument fails. According to the Bible all kinds of absurd and unrealistic things happen, what makes these things you mention any more unbelievable than a virgin birth, or the multiplying of loaves and fishes? Why couldn’t there be a literal chasm between heaven and hell, and why couldn’t those in heaven and hell ever converse, lots of absurd things take place in the Bible? And even if someone did accept that they weren’t to be taken literally, that doesn’t provide grounds that the line about the man being tormented shouldn’t be. Metaphorical sentences are followed by literal sentences in literature all the time. You have no proof for your argument that the line about torment can’t be taken literally.

“Not only do these not correspond with Biblical teachings of death and judgment, they also don’t correspond with Christian teachings about hell as a place of eternal conscious torment. This would explain why Catholic doctrine also refers to Abraham’s bosom as a ‘parable’”
- Yes I know the Bible is inconsistent, that supports my argument not yours. So what if the Catholics call it a parable? Parables are used to illustrate truth, how do you know for certain that Jesus wasn’t intending part of his parable to illustrate what would truly happen to those who were wicked? AND PLEASE DO NOT SAY BECAUSE IT’S INCONSISTENT, do not continue to use the same tired argument over and over again that I have already provided solid counter arguments to disprove.

You said:
“If Christians don’t believe in literal immortal worms, they’re obviously admitting that some imagery in the account is symbolic. So if immortal worms aren’t literal, why would you automatically assume unquenchable fire is a literal place of conscious torment reserved for the wicked prior to Christ's judgment?”

- Jason, I wouldn’t automatically assume that the lines about torment are to be taken literally, but I am arguing that you can’t know for sure that they’re not. Yes the Christians might admit that some imagery in the account is symbolic, that doesn’t mean the entire thing is. Maybe that’s why the same Christians assume immortal worms aren’t literal and also assume there literally is a hell where there will be torment. My point is you can’t know for certain.

You said:
“‘Unlikely’ isn’t intellectual grounds to discount anything. The inhabitants of Jericho thought it unlikely the Israelites would destroy their city, but they did.”

- Please don’t compare the unlikeliness of citizens not thinking they will be attacked to my argument that “there are thousands of philosophers of religion, theologians, religious authorities, and other academics who have different interpretations of hell than you. To say that they simply just didn’t “follow the links through the scripture” seems unreasonable.”
Unlikely is a word that needs to be qualified, it is very different to say “it’s unlikely that it will rain today” and to say “it is unlikely that the force of gravity will stop being effective today and mass will no longer attract mass”. One is much more unlikely than the other. It is VERY unlikely that thousands of intelligent people who spent large periods of their life researching the Bible simply didn’t “follow the links through the scripture”.
Come one Jason, in a debate if someone puts forth a premise that in all probability is likely not to be true, it should be rejected. I’m sure anyone will agree with me on this point.

You said:
“My point is that a teaching of hell as a place of conscious torment runs contrary to your opinions on how a Biblical doctrine should be proven; Christians pick and chose between literal and symbolic ideas within individual verses to prove their point without any additional Biblical evidence to support their reasoning, yet you consider this acceptable as a means to prove their point. This is a double standard.”

- Jason, how many times do I have to tell you this. No I don’t think that Christians have an acceptable means to prove their point. I have said this over and over and over again. My point, that I have already stated, is that there is no way to know for certain how Bible passages should be interpreted.

“Either choose to debate from an atheist standpoint or a Christian standpoint. If the former, then it doesn’t matter to you what anyone thinks about hell.”

- First of all I’m not an atheist or a Christian. Secondly, why can’t what people think about the Bible matter to Atheists? Are you saying Atheists aren’t allowed to be interested in debates concerning the Bible?

You said:
“I did agree but I never said there's "needs" to be other teachings for it to be accepted. I'm simply stating there's cause to question why a teaching that could effect something as vital as salvation is only mentioned once. In the same manner, hell as place of eternal conscious torment is never mentioned once in the OT. God never threatens the Israelites with painful torment in fire and no one is ever said to have gone there. If hell is timeless and the wicked have been going there since the beginning of time, why would such an important concept be excluded from fully one half of Scripture? For many, myself included, this is adequate criteria to more closely examine the likelihood of such a place existing.”

- Jason, the Bible is inconsistent, I agree. The fact that the Bible contains many contradictions and inconsistencies works to support my argument, not yours. The fact that Hell is described differently in the OT and NT, if anything, provides more support for my argument that consistency with scripture isn’t an adequate criteria for certainty of an interpretation. How does proving the Bible is inconsistent lend support for your argument that you know for certain that the Hell described in the OT is the correct interpretation?

“It doesn’t need to get me anywhere. You’re the one arguing that my mode of interpretation is wrong. If a Christian perspective doesn’t agree with a literal translation, then claiming that the Bible states hell is a literal place of conscious torment is questionable at best.”

- Just because a line in a passage is taken figuratively doesn’t mean the all other lines are also figurative. We wouldn’t apply that logic to normal literature, so why apply it to the Bible?

When I said this:
“Where is the question going Jason? Lots of people decide that the Bible verses are subject to interpretation. You yourself interpret passages, you said “the Bible is extremely symbolic” and you said that certain passages are not to be taken literally.”
You replied:
“Red herring. Who decides a verse is subject to interpretation?”

- red herring? Jason, do you even know what a red herring is? A red herring is when someone in a debate ignores a criticism and launches a counter-attack by raising a different issue altogether.
I’m not attacking anyone here, and I’m not raising a different issue either. I’m actually just unsure of what your question means. You asked “who decides a verse is subject to interpretation?” and I gave you an empirical answer: lots of people do, and you are one of them. I’m lost on how this is a red herring and how this question is even relevant.

You said:
“:) I’ve made the argument already: hell isn’t a literal place of conscious torment and I’ve shown you why. You’re arguing against this as an atheist posing as a Christian – you disagree with my claims not because you have Scriptural references refuting my claims, but because you reject the methods I’ve used to prove my case. The Bible says all thoughts cease when someone dies. From a Christian point of view, how do you reconcile this with the concept of people living forever after death in hell?”

- Jason, you use the same tired argument over and over again, and still have yet to justify it in regards to the criticisms I have posed. CONSISTENCY IS NOT AN ADEQUATE CRITERIA. Before you keep using this argument please address the criticisms I have posed as to why it is not adequate. Yes Jason the Bible does say that all thoughts cease when someone dies, it also says that people will be tormented after they die; it’s inconsistent. How do I reconcile Christian inconsistencies? Christian inconsistencies work to further prove my argument. My position is that no one, Christians included, can know for certain how the Bible passages are to be interpreted. I’ve said this before Jason.

You said:
“No, all readers do not have to be in agreement. The lake of fire is symbolic of the second death. Scripture states as such. If a million people claim it’s literal, this doesn’t make it right. Lucifer isn’t Satan, Scripture states as such. If a hundred million people claim otherwise, this still doesn’t make it right.”

- Jason, I never once indicated that the majority of people who hold an interpretation are automatically right, if you actually read my posts you would see, that what I did say was that in order to gain a high probability that one is making the correct interpretation, the fact that EVERYONE else makes the same interpretation provides a good proof that one is likely correct.
As I illustrated: “The example of the metaphor about John becoming a wild animal would be unanimously agreed upon, interpretations of what is literal and what is figurative in the Bible (hell for example) are nowhere close to unanimous”

You said:
“This is precisely why so many interpretations of the Bible exist. You’ve completely ignored due diligence. The Old Testament laws were given to the Jews and the Jews alone. Upon his death, Christ ushered in a new law which did away with the old law. This is commonly accepted knowledge within Christianity and well documented within Scripture.”

- I’ve ignored due dilligence? Jason my example works just fine, regardless of the fact Christ ushered in a new law. What your stating isn’t even relevant. If you believe that Jesus ushered in a new law, than how can you possibly know that he wasn’t also ushering in a new punishment (hell)? You just admitted that the NT changed things established in the OT, so why couldn’t the afterlife also have been changed?

When I said this:
“Also, on a similar note, how is this contradiction any different than the contradiction between hell as described in the old testament (your interpretation of hell as a grave) and the description of hell in the new testament? There are passages to support either interpretation. For example:
1 Kings 2:6 - Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace.
Revelation 20:10 - And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

You said:
“There is no contradiction”
- Jason, how the %*$& is this not a contradiction between a grave and “the lake of fire and brimstone where. . . they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”.

“As previously stated, the lake of fire is the “second death”. We know that the lake of fire is the place of destruction, so whatever goes in there will not last 'forever'.”

- Jason, you are begging the question, again. You are assuming your interpretation of the lake of fire as being only a place of destruction and not possibly a place where torment could occur. The problem is you haven’t yet proved that your method of making interpretations is the correct one.

When I said:
“My biggest concern is that you think context “obviously” establishes the correctness of your Biblical interpretations. The problem is that millions of Christians and many eminent theologians interpret the Bible differently than you do.”
You said:
“This isn’t a concern of mine. If you’d like to discuss these issues from a Christian perspective, I’m prepared to do so.”

- Jason, again, you don’t even make the effort. My argument in this statement is that context doesn’t obviously establish the correctness of your interpretations. You response to my argument is that it doesn’t concern you? I guess your implying I’m correct here? If not provide a counter argument as to why I’m not.

You said:
“Because, as you’ve shown in your previous post, people ignore the context. The lake of fire isn’t a place of conscious torment. The law given to the Jews was done away with by Christ. Etc. Etc.”

- First of all my previous post shows no such thing, since the post didn’t ignore context.
- Second of all if you are trying to prove thousands of philosophers of religion, theologians, religious authorities, and other academics who have devoted large portions of their lives to studying the Bible, have a different interpretation of hell than you, because they simply didn’t look at the obvious context. Showing one example of a person that didn’t correctly use context is not even close to an adequate proof.

When I said this:
“The example of the metaphor about John becoming a wild animal would be unanimously agreed upon, interpretations of what is literal and what is figurative in the Bible (hell for example) are nowhere close to unanimous but rather stacked against your interpretation.”
You said:
“Then let’s discuss how the Christian interpretation of hell stacks up with the interpretation given by God using the Bible as the sole authority.

- Jason, WTF are you even talking about here?

Jason said...

Abraham’s Bosom: Yes and your argument fails…You have no proof for your argument that the line about torment can’t be taken literally.

According to you, every passage is subject to interpretation and since we can't know if a passage is literal or symbolic, it can't be proven hell does or doesn't exist. Why are you arguing the point then?

So what if the Catholics call it a parable? Parables are used to illustrate truth, how do you know for certain that Jesus wasn’t intending part of his parable to illustrate what would truly happen to those who were wicked?

Because the parable doesn’t refer to the rich man as “wicked”.

Maybe that’s why the same Christians assume immortal worms aren’t literal and also assume there literally is a hell where there will be torment. My point is you can’t know for certain.

Actually, your point is that no one can know for certain if the descriptions of hell are literal based on these verses alone.

It is VERY unlikely that thousands of intelligent people who spent large periods of their life researching the Bible simply didn’t “follow the links through the scripture”.

You say "no one can know for certain how a passage should be interpreted." Intelligence is therefore irrelevant.

Come one Jason, in a debate if someone puts forth a premise that in all probability is likely not to be true, it should be rejected. I’m sure anyone will agree with me on this point.

It can’t be rejected. You’ve already stated no one can claim passages dealing with hell are literal or symbolic. No one can be right, no one can be wrong.

No I don’t think that Christians have an acceptable means to prove their point. I have said this over and over and over again. My point, that I have already stated, is that there is no way to know for certain how Bible passages should be interpreted.

Then once again, why are you debating the existence of hell from a Christian perspective? Why bring up the same stock verses Christians use to prove hell exists? If people can’t be sure how these stock verses should be interpreted, they can’t be used as proof of anything.

Secondly, why can’t what people think about the Bible matter to Atheists? Are you saying Atheists aren’t allowed to be interested in debates concerning the Bible?

The Bible being filled with “absurdities” and “inconsistencies” and “contradictions” aren’t logical Christian arguments when it comes to debating the existence of hell. I’m asking you to pick a side to debate from: Bible critic or Bible believer.

How does proving the Bible is inconsistent lend support for your argument that you know for certain that the Hell described in the OT is the correct interpretation?

The Bible is consistent. Therefore, any Christian teaching that makes the Bible inconsistent is wrong. That's my proof. Your proof is that there is no proof to claim anything so by extension I'm just as right as all those "educated" Bible scholars :)

Just because a line in a passage is taken figuratively doesn’t mean the all other lines are also figurative. We wouldn’t apply that logic to normal literature, so why apply it to the Bible?

It follows then that since we don't apply the logic that no one can truly know the interpretation of normal literature, there's no reason to apply it to the Bible.

You asked “who decides a verse is subject to interpretation?” and I gave you an empirical answer: lots of people do, and you are one of them. I’m lost on how this is a red herring and how this question is even relevant.

You’re of the belief that no passage can be determined to be literal or symbolic so I suppose it no longer matters. :)

Yes Jason the Bible does say that all thoughts cease when someone dies, it also says that people will be tormented after they die; it’s inconsistent. How do I reconcile Christian inconsistencies? Christian inconsistencies work to further prove my argument. My position is that no one, Christians included, can know for certain how the Bible passages are to be interpreted.

Then if no one can know for certain, you must admit I may very well be right.

I never once indicated that the majority of people who hold an interpretation are automatically right, if you actually read my posts you would see, that what I did say was that in order to gain a high probability that one is making the correct interpretation, the fact that EVERYONE else makes the same interpretation provides a good proof that one is likely correct.

Following your theory, there is no such thing as “likely correct” since no Biblical teachings can be proven or disproven using…er, the Bible.

I’ve ignored due dilligence? Jason my example works just fine, regardless of the fact Christ ushered in a new law. What your stating isn’t even relevant. If you believe that Jesus ushered in a new law, than how can you possibly know that he wasn’t also ushering in a new punishment (hell)? You just admitted that the NT changed things established in the OT, so why couldn’t the afterlife also have been changed?

You just finished comparing Leviticus (Old Law) to Matthew (New Law) as proof of a Biblical ‘contradiction’. This is wrong because it’s not a contradiction. Hence, you’ve ignored due diligence. BTW, are you implying Christ “created” hell…? :0

1 Kings 2:6, Revelation 20:10 - Jason, how the %*$& is this not a contradiction between a grave and “the lake of fire and brimstone where. . . they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”.

The lake of fire is the SECOND DEATH. Death and hell are also cast into the lake of fire. Will a literal death and a literal hell also literally be tormented in…er, hell??? No, these verses are simply stating that death and the grave will be “killed”, that is, they will cease to exist. No different then the fate of those who are not found in the book of life (Rev 20:15).

You are assuming your interpretation of the lake of fire as being only a place of destruction and not possibly a place where torment could occur. The problem is you haven’t yet proved that your method of making interpretations is the correct one.

Er, the lake of fire is the “SECOND DEATH”. Death, hell/the grave, and the wicked will all go there. What exactly is left for interpretation? Not that it matters. You don't believe anyone can claim a "correct" interpretation.

Jason, again, you don’t even make the effort. My argument in this statement is that context doesn’t obviously establish the correctness of your interpretations. You response to my argument is that it doesn’t concern you? I guess your implying I’m correct here? If not provide a counter argument as to why I’m not.

lol I’m not making the effort? How can anyone make an effort considering your theory of the futile nature of interpreting Bible passages? ☺

First of all my previous post shows no such thing, since the post didn’t ignore context.

Er, you took a passage from the OT and a passage from the NT and stated they were contradictions... Reading both in context (old law vs new law) shows they’re not.

Second of all if you are trying to prove thousands of philosophers of religion, theologians, religious authorities, and other academics who have devoted large portions of their lives to studying the Bible, have a different interpretation of hell than you, because they simply didn’t look at the obvious context. Showing one example of a person that didn’t correctly use context is not even close to an adequate proof.

I’m not using it as proof for anything. I’m simply showing you how easily, and quickly Biblical doctrines can be corrupted because the context is ignored. Remember, most of the “scholars” out there belong to churches who claim infallibility. The church makes a doctrinal mistake 1600 years ago. Can they correct themselves? Not if they want to remain infallible. So they adjust the new doctrine to maintain the lie and then try and incorporate it back into Scripture. The immaculate conception, infant sprinkling, limbo, purgatory, the Trinity, etc. etc. all have their roots from “academics” who, for one reason or another, tried to change Bible doctrine to fit their concept of religion.

Jason, WTF are you even talking about here.

Christians don’t claim the Bible is filled with contradictions or absurdities and they don’t maintain people don’t know if a passage is to be taken symbolically or literally. So like I said, let’s discuss how the Christian interpretation of hell stacks up with the interpretation given by God using the Bible as the sole authority.

Satantiago said...

It's such a shame a supposedly universal revelation used the garbage dump of an unremarkable city (before Xtianity was all the rage) as metaphor for eternal punishment.

Said Atabalipa the Inca: Jerusawhat? Yeshuawho? OH DEAR CONQUISTADOR DON'T MAKE THE THUNDER ROAR NOOOOOO!!!! BANG! BANG!

I like Jason's view of hell. Once you die you're dead for good. The difference is that Jason and his Christadelphian brethren will be the only ones to be reanimated because they correctly interpreted the Babble. Enjoy eternal life Jason, hope it will be like a never ending orgasm for you, don't let priapism stiffens your gait though.

Jason said...

The difference is that Jason and his Christadelphian brethren will be the only ones to be reanimated because they correctly interpreted the Babble.

Really? I'd be interested in knowing where you're getting this idea from.

Enjoy eternal life Jason, hope it will be like a never ending orgasm for you, don't let priapism stiffens your gait though.

I appreciate your well wishes :)