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2Does Anyone Fear Being Cast Into a "Lake of Reason?" Part 1

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  • distazo@aol.com
    Sep 19, 2003
      [Part One of a thoughtful, well-reasoned response from Ed that got him Yet
      Another Warning. I hope Ed will pardon me taking his post from CED "in vain," as
      it were, but the clarity of his responses in this and the following post set
      the tenor for the type of list I would like to cultivate as an answer to SEJ's
      suggestion that those who do not like playing his game are welcome to start
      their own.]

      This post is available in its entirety at:

      STEVE: As I have stated before ... Ed's position is most
      accurately described as anti-Christian.

      ED: My "attacks," or "witty challenging articles" as I prefer to call
      them, are directed at the claims that some Christians make that their
      faith rests on specific proofs or arguments that are rationally
      superior to the rational questions that arise as a consequence of
      such claims. My articles often mention specific verses and their
      interpretations (especially of those who claim to have discovered
      Bible verses whose "teachings preceded those of modern science"), and
      other Biblical/Christian truth claims. It was my efforts to seek the
      truth that led me out of the fold, just as you, Stephen, claim it has
      been your effort to seek the truth that led you to embrace
      progressive creationism, Biblical inerrancy, etc. From our own
      different perspectives, each of us is "anti-"something only because
      we are truth seekers first and foremost, or at least we can agree
      that we each see ourselves as truth seekers first and foremost. I can
      assure you that is how I think of myself, and I certainly assume that
      is how you think of yourself and would "most accurately" label

      I also have questions concering a wide variety of claims not just all
      of them specific to Christianity. But I have studied Christianity and
      the Bible moreso than most others during my lifetime, as well as
      their relation to science and history. I spent my sophomore year in
      high school, and my four years in college as well as nearly five
      years after I had graduated college, as an Evangelical Christian even
      being voted president of Chi Alpha, "Christ's Ambassadors" at Mercer
      County College, Trenton, New Jersey (my photo is in the campus
      yearbook for that organization). I was tireless in my reading of
      Christian apologetics during that period, Lewis (all of his
      Christian works and nearly all of his collections of theological
      essays), Chesterton (30 or so works, both theology and fiction and
      literary criticism), Charles Williams (all of his novels and two
      theology works), Francis Schaeffer (all of his major apologetics
      works), Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict, along with
      reading many first-hand Christian testimony books from Sadhu Sundar
      Singh's works to Richard Wurmbrand's, as well as reading ICR Acts and
      Facts and Impacts, Gish's book on the fossil record in two editions,
      subscribing to and reading the Creation Research Society Quarterly
      and reading The Genesis Flood, and Wysong's book, Creation Evolution,
      and Weston-Smith's books and other YEC literature. I also shared
      Jesus with fellow students and with my professors on campus, and
      debated two former evangelicals and one non-Christian by mail for
      several years trying to both rationally argue and pray for their
      reentry into the fold. After leaving the fold I continued to read
      Evangelical Christian apologetics, like Habermas's debate with Antony
      Flew in the book, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? and I read Habermas
      and Moore's book on the afterlife. I even wrote Habermas (professor
      of apologetics at Liberty University) to ask him questions concerning
      the story of the resurrection and we continued writing each other a
      few times and Habermas even submitted our dialogue to a publisher who
      however, declined to publish them in book form, though my final
      summation letter to Habermas is now on the web. I have also been
      involved in internet and snail mail exchanges with Evangelicals since
      the mid 1980s when I was still a Christian, albeit of a liberal
      variety, right up till today. Rev. White of Alpha Omega Ministries
      and I exchanged some lengthy letters, at least mine were lengthy.
      *smile* He preferred to send me copies of things he had previously
      written for me to comment on. I find that such exchanges stimulate
      me to read more, and interest me and draw upon everything I've
      learned in my lifetime. Should you Stephen, "leave the fold," you
      would probably also find yourself interested in discussing why you
      entered and left it, rather than simply walking away, because of the
      intellectual investment. I have also found time to continue to write
      music, which is something I have loved all my life. I have also
      happily played chess and ping pong and broken bread with Christian
      friends over the years, and I also work with and have a happy
      relationship with the Christian students and staff members with whom
      I work daily, and not a bad relationship with my Mother though she is
      quite a devout Catholic and loves hanging crucifixes above doorways,
      so I guess that proves I'm at least not a vampire, since I can handle
      such objects and even tack them up for her. *smile*

      STEVE: What Ed can, or cannot, believe is *irrelevant*,

      ED: But then why should your belief in all the books and verses in
      the Bible (as you presently understand and interpret them) be ANY
      MORE "RELEVANT" than rational questions directed at what the Bible
      (or Christian theology) says?

      I believe it is unfortunate that "Some religions promise an eternal
      reward for excellence of the will (to believe) or for excellence of
      the heart, but none for excellence of the head or understanding."
      (Arthur Schopenhauer) "I do not believe that the same God who endowed
      us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo
      their use." (Galileo) "The silly fanatic repeats to me that it is not
      for us to judge what is reasonable and just in the divine Being. That
      His reason is not like our reason, that His justice is not like our
      justice. Eh? How, you mad demoniac, shall we judge justice and reason
      otherwise than by the notions we have of them? Do you want us to walk
      otherwise than with our feet, and speak otherwise than with our
      mouths?" (Voltaire)

      STEVE: being just "the argument from personal incredulity".

      ED: Actually, rather than trying to twist things as being my fault
      for not believing (my "personal incredulity" as you put it), I was
      hoping for a more specific response, namely just how eternal
      damnation/"vengeance"/"jealousy" (all traits listed of God in the
      Bible), and, "infinite compassion," fit together as "easily" as you
      seem to have that faith that they do.

      Think about it, eternal damnation, tossing people into a lake of fire
      whose smoke rises for all eternity, and "infinite compassion?" What
      definition of "compassion and infinite" are you using?

      Eternal hell = infinite compassion?

      It would appear that eternal hell = infinitely unforgiving justice,
      not infinite compassion.

      So I guess after you die, the "compassion" part just falls away like
      the alleged trap door leading down to the firey lake.

      It further appears that we are commanded to "love our enemies," and
      treat others as we would like to be treated, and love our neighbors
      as ourselves, but only until they die. Then to hell with them. Or
      perhaps even to hell with them sooner in a very real "this worldy"
      sense if one were to become convinced that another person was "damned
      already" as it says in John chapter 3, "He who does not believe is
      damned already."

      That reminds me, did you know that Melanchthon (great Christian
      theologian, Reformer, and close associate of Martin Luther) justified
      the use of torture on prisoners, by arguing, "Why should we treat
      them any better in this life than God is going to treat them in the

      And Luther himself signed a paper that Melanchthon drafted that
      demanded the death penalty for anyone in Saxony who did not agree
      with the Apostle's Creed.

      Did you also know that Calvin had a small child beheaded for striking
      his father, had adulters tied together and drowned in the Rhine,
      prosecuted people for being "witches" (they were executed too), put
      people in jail for dancing too gaily at their own daughter's wedding,
      had Servetus burned at the stake for arguing in favor of
      Unitarianism, I could go on about Calvin.

      Luther as I have pointed out, wrote that Calvin's beliefs concerning
      the Eucharist would send anyone to hell who believed as Calvin did
      concerning the Eucharist. And Luther and Calvin were fellow
      Reformers! They were men who loved the Bible, were fairly intoxicated
      with it. By the standards of their own day and their own Biblical
      understanding they were "right on," for the Bible taught Luther and
      Calvin that people were horrendous sinners (if you don't believe
      that, then just look at what Jesus had to suffer for sin), hence they
      both argued that people needed nothing less than heavy handed
      Christian magistrates to rule them, blasphemy laws, things to keep
      that "sin nature" from damning individuals, and from having God send
      plagues to your nation for its "sins."

      Luther also argued that loving your neighbor went only so far,
      because if your neighbor spoke a single word against the God's word,
      the Bible, then to continue to love and assist that particular
      neighbor, even handing them a glass of water, would be tantamount to
      endorsing that neighbor's blasphemous utterances. Hence, according
      to Luther, the "love your neighbor" command went only so far. (For
      direct citations from Luther and Calvin, along with some of the
      verses they employed from the Bible, see Leaving the Fold, chapter

      Another argument used was that a father had the right in the Old
      Testament to kill a man who was trying to kill his son. How much more
      right did society have to kill blasphemies and peddlers of unorthodox
      ideas, i.e., in order to preserve the souls of children being
      threatened with eternal death if they should heed such ideas?

      Hmmm. Do you find such things, or at least a few of them,
      as "incredulous" or "incredible" as I do?

      STEVE: The fact is that the Bible says that God is "all-
      compassionate and all-wise" and yet will "cast ... into a lake of
      fire", *anyone* whose "name was not found written in the book of
      life" (Rev 20:15), i.e. who is not a Christian (Rev 3:5; 13:8; 21:27).

      ED: Aren't you confusing the phrase, "The fact is that the Bible
      says..." with the phrase, "What the Bible says is a fact?" Or to put
      it another way, is it relevant to simply cite verses from the Bible
      to someone who does not see the necessity of taking any whole book
      and all of its verses as totally and literally true? (It certainly
      is difficult to think of a direct connection between "infinite
      compassion," and, "casting people into a lake of fire.")

      I read in THE CASE FOR FAITH that G.K. Chesterton wrote that "Hell is
      God's great compliment," though a Chesterton scholar who runs a
      prominent Chesterton site on the web told me he had conducted a
      thorough investigation yet was unable to verify the authenticity of
      that alleged quotation. By the way, my reply to such a saying, even
      if it should prove to be genuinely Chestertonian, is simply this, If
      eternal hell/punishment/vengeance is God's "great compliment," then
      what does God do when he wants to "insult" someone?

      Speaking of Christian beliefs, you must know that major theologians
      of the past have believed in such things as "infant damnation," as
      well as that the saved would "see" the damned experiencing awful
      punishments and rejoice at such sights for all eternity. Apparently
      the Bible verses and arguments that were cited in reference to those
      Christian beliefs are being ignored today, though for centuries
      Christians who believed in the inspiration of the Bible and in the
      Holy Spirit's ability to lead them into "all truth," believed such
      things. Hopefully we can at least agree that "infant damnation,"
      along with "the sight of hell's torments for eternity" are
      incredulous Christian teachings, though Augustine, Aquinas and
      Jonathan Edwards did not think so. And they had a perfect book and
      the Holy Spirit leading them into all truth. Hmmm.

      STEVE: Now of course the Bible and Christianity could be false, but
      then what God is Ed talking about? Not the Christian God, but a
      figment of Ed's own imagination.

      ED: Are you arguing that if the Bible and Christianity are false then
      all subsequent arguments concerning "God" are nothing more
      than "figments of the imagination?" By saying so, you are merely
      revealing that you believe the Bible and all of its books is "true"
      in a more profound sense than that of any other books or thoughts or
      spiritual experiences of others, and that there is only one genuinely
      Christian interpretation of the Bible, and that alone is true
      (regardless of centuries of Jewish interpretation of the Old
      Testament portion of the Bible). Well, that is your claim, and I
      dispute it. In fact, I think your belief in such things is
      more "figmentary" (to coin a phrase) than honest thoughts and
      commonsense questions that come to mind concerning such claims.

      In fact, an all-compassionate, all-wise being would
      know of the shortness of man's lifespan, what little
      time any of us has for study, and would likewise know
      of the pains and difficulties and desires and frustrations,
      physically and psychologically, and communicatively,
      that every member of our species faces each day, along
      with the uncertainties, the attitude of religions and
      denominations, and surely would not cap that all off
      with eternal hellfire. *smile*

      STEVE: That is Ed's problem. God does indeed know Ed's heart (Gn
      6:5; 8:21; Jer 17:9). And God knows that Ed choses to spend "the
      shortness of [his] lifespan" and "what little time [he] ... has for
      study" on *attacking* Christianity.

      ED: Are you not simply denying me my own truth seeking perspective,
      which is that I am attempting to promulgate common sense and a
      rational and heartfelt honesty?

      Concerning the shortness of my life and how I have spent it, I must
      admit that I see no reason to try and turn the tables and imply
      anything about how you may end up after you die, though I bet there
      are at least a few Christians and groups on the internet who doubt
      your "salvation" due to your rejection of say, a young-earth, or
      inability to speak in tongues, or since you reject being baptized
      into THEIR particular holy community of Christian faith, or since you
      may listen to contemporary Christian music, or due to the fact of how
      you wear your hair, or whether or not you accept Jesus as Savior (or
      accept Jesus as both Savior and LORD of your life with a lot of
      concomitant "biblical rules" for your life), or due to the fact that
      you read translations of the Bible other than the King James Version
      (which are "Satanic corruptions" in the eyes of some King-James-Only
      Christians), all of which probably constitute "signs" to one group of
      Christians or another that you do not exude the scent of having
      been "truly saved." And since you don't worry about what such groups
      think of you and your odds of getting into their heaven, just process
      that information, and use it to imagine how deeply I worry about the
      odds you are giving me. *smile*

      STEVE: As for "uncertainties", Ed could reduce them if he really
      wanted to, like I (and millions of Christians) have.

      ED: You wrote, "millions have..." Hmmm, Argumentum ad populum?

      Please continue and tell me how to "reduce uncertainties." You
      believe I could if I "really wanted to?" I am afraid that a mind
      once stretched by new data and new questions never snaps back
      completely to its original dimensions. Not completely. And it's
      not a matter of "what I want." I will pray with you if that's what
      you want me to do, I still pray by the way, and I can do so fervently
      and in all hope of receiving an answer. I can also still speak in
      tongues if I want to. However, none of my prayers have miraculously
      unstretched my present thoughts back to their evangelical Christian
      dimensions. I still find inerrancy a shallow position (though I
      tried defending it for several years in my old letter debates that I
      mentioned I had with two former Christian friends). I still have
      doubts about the Bible and Christianity. I could no more go back to
      where I was than you can sincerely imagine yourself going back to
      early views you once held concerning various "Bible-science"
      questions. In both our cases we continue to believe what we think we
      know best and have studied the most.

      (You might also read the essay on "The Assymetry of Conversion" at
      the LEAVING CHRISTIANITY website run by Steve Locks to understand
      differences between the experiences and testimonies of those leaving
      the fold and those entering it.)

      And lastly what kind of an argument are you employing by writing to
      tell me, "if I really wanted to?" Does that address the person, or a
      person's argument? It appears to address the person and also appears
      to be no argument at all. For instance, how would you react if I
      wrote, "If you really wanted to, Steve, you could become a fine-
      tuner and give up being a progressive creationist. But apparently
      you don't really want to. That's your problem."