no idea why one would assume everyone to get into heaven or to be sure of Gods grace, it is just the idea that God could have forgiven him and the question if I would be able to forgive him - or my enemy.
Roger, I find you address here a relevant point: To foster the dialogue with YEC, and also to counter attacks against Revelation coming from some atheists, it may be useful to stress that the attack against the Old Testament originates in some philosophers of Enlightenment and led to the demolition of Judaism in Germany.
In this respect the case of Voltaire is particularly significant because he combines destruction of the Jewish religion with racism against the Jewish people. I briefly outline his role in the following:
The way Voltaire demolishes Judaism and his explanations about the religious origin of “the hatred of the Jews for other nations” clearly reveal Spinoza’s influence. So he declared: “if one can appraise the character of a people through the prayers it addresses to God, one can ascertain that the Jews were a carnal and sanguinary people.” Voltaire then presented a number of quotations from the Psalms, unfairly selected and out of context, and concluded: “It can be seen that if God had heard all the prayers of his people, only Jews would have remained on earth, since they detested all the other nations, they were detested; and asking God incessantly to exterminate all those they loathed, they seemed to implore the ruin of the whole earth.”[Essai sur les mœurs, Tome I, Introduction]. Theodor Fristsch used Voltaire’s analysis and authority to argue that “the Jews’ fanatical hatred of others even passes into their prayers”, and their God “is a spirit of treachery and malice”.
Voltaire also shares the belief that life after death was not an issue in Jewish religion and culture: “You ask, what was the philosophy of the Jews? The answer will be a very short one—they had none. Their legislator himself does not anywhere speak expressly of the immortality of the soul, nor of the rewards of another life.”[Dictionnaire philosophique, Juifs, Section I]. “It is always a matter of the greatest certainty that the system of a future life, of an immortal soul, has no place in this book [the Pentateuch]. It is sure that almost all the other nations around the Jews […] acknowledged the immortality of the soul, while the Jews had not even examined this issue.”
But Voltaire’s obsession with the hatred of the Jews clearly shows that he regarded them as radically different from the rest of humanity. His vivid descriptions of hatred as the historical constant and the very national identity of the Jews, provided an arsenal for anti-Semitic agitation:
“You will only find in the Jews an ignorant and barbarous people, who for a long time have joined the most sordid avarice to the most detestable superstition and to the most invincible hatred of all peoples which tolerate and enrich them. Still, we ought not to burn them.” [Dictionnaire philosophique, Juifs, Section I]
“It is since Mahomet that they actually ceased building a body of people. Simply following the historical path of the little Jewish nation, one sees that it could not have another end. […] It dares to display an irreconcilable hatred toward all nations, and revolts against all masters; always superstitious, always greedy for the well-being enjoyed by others, always barbarous - cringing in misfortune and insolent in prosperity.” [Essai sur les mœurs, Tome I, Introduction]
“You are struck about the hatred and the contempt all nations have shown for the Jews: it is the inevitable result of their laws; it was necessary that either they subjugate all, or that they were crushed. They were commanded to abhor the other nations.” [Essai sur les mœurs, Tome III, Chapitre CIII]
In the last years of his life Voltaire combines his demolition of the Jewish religion with his racist metaphysics, coming to the following conclusion:
“They are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts, just as the Bretons and the Germans are born with blond hair. I would not be in the least bit surprised if these people would not some day become deadly to the human race.” [Lettres de Memmius a Ciceron, Lettre deuxième].
“I know that there are some Jews in the English colonies. These marranos go wherever there is money to be made…But whether these circumcised Jews who sell old clothes claim that they are of the tribe of Naphtali or Issachar is not of the slightest importance. They are, simply, the biggest scoundrels who have ever sullied the face of the globe.” [Lettre à M. Le Chevalier de Lisle, 15 décembre 1773].
“You seem to me to be the maddest of the lot. The Kaffirs, the Hottentots, and the Negroes of Guinea are much more reasonable and more honest people than your ancestors, the Jews. You have surpassed all nations in impertinent fables in bad conduct and in barbarism. You deserve to be punished, for this is your destiny.” [Il faut prendre un parti, ou le principe d’action. Diatribe].
In the words of Arthur Hertzberg: “This is racist anti-Semitism. Such opinions helped open the door to the horrors of our century.” Indeed Voltaire’s diatribes show an amazing structural similarity to the attacks of the German “völkisch” activist Theodor Fritsch (“leader of the German anti-Semites”), who quoted many of them in the Manual of the Jewish Question.
Thank you again, Bro. Antoine.
I must admit that I am shocked to learn that philosophers of the Enlightenment, are depicted as rational would be do irrational. I probably should not be surprised because they are just reviving the Barbarian/Gentile divide that existed at the time of Jesus and before and never really went away. In a real sense philosophy did stand in stark opposition to Judaism and thus preserve this sad divide.
Fortunately Christianity although not without its faults in this area does preserve much of the Hebrew Biblical tradition in its theology and must stand as a bulwark against hatred of our Jewish brothers and sisters.
I think the advantage (both theologically and metaphysically) is to harmonize God’s omniscience and human free will:
When you suddenly realize that you are not acknowledged and don’t count for nothing in a domain where you think to be an expert, this seems to me is the greatest frustration you can experience in this life.
To be condemned means precisely this: freely choose to have no name, to be nobody and insignificant forever.
God knows only the names of those who go to heaven. However nobody is predestined to be damned. God doesn’t know the names of those who are condemned because they remain without name.
So it is right that in hell there is “nobody” (no being with a name), nonetheless it may be right as well that hell is plenty of nameless beings.
I am compelled to reject the idea that if God is omniscient, then humans lack free will.
I can predict a chess master will defeat 100 local chess players… and the 100 challengers still lose because of their deficient powers of choosing. - - not because they do not have free will.
I fully agree.
In my view the unusually harsh ban against Spinoza on 27 July 1656 by the Council of the Amsterdam Jewish Community confirms what you say. The Council intuited that Spinoza’s demolition of the Old Testament and the Jewish religion reduced the Jews to a mere race and a state in the state. This reduction was perceived by the Council as a “threat to life”.
Unfortunately the influential Jewish salons in Berlin at around 1800 kept to Spinoza instead to Moses Mendelssohn. This was a fatal delusion.
Doubtless, the German culture of the time was marked by aversion to the Old Testament and the God of the Jews, as witnessed by the Protestant theologian Eduard Lamparter in his impressive 1928 declaration against anti-Semitism.
I think it may be interesting for this discussion that you summarize your “Framework of Understanding”.
Thanks for this Roger.
I share your view.
The possible histories human freedom can make happen, they are all contained in God’s mind. However the Goal of all of them is Jesus Christ, the purpose of Creation, and the means to reach this purpose is the Holy Spirit.
This means that independently of whether humans freely choose to sin or not to sin, the purpose of Creation is God’s Incarnation in order Creation can be brought into the glory of the Son of God. In my view this can certainly be called Original Blessing (using @aleo’s wording).
Consider now the scenario where humans freely sin. For this case God in His mercy foresees the means of Incarnation with Redemption in order Creation by action of the Holy Spirit can be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21). And this is also Original Blessing:
“God has bound everyone over to disobedience (the stage of Original Sin) so that he may have mercy on them all” (Romans 11:32).
Or as you very well state:
The Framework of Understanding based on the One and the Many.
The One and the Many has been understood as Which is Prior, the One Or the Many? However Experience indicates that neither the One or the Many, even though our Philosophy generally makes the One (Being) as prior.
If neither the One nor the Many is prior, when we have a continuum with the One at one end and the Many at the other and combinations of both or the And in the middle. The And is the relational aspect that makes a combination of the One and the Many possible.
In terms of knowing, the physical or experience is the Many. Thinking is integrating our experience with the information we have in our Mind, which is the One. This active, integrative process is the And.
Reality is composed the physical (matter/energy,) the rational (the rational order of the universe, including space.) and the spiritual (love, time, meaning, and purpose.) The spiritual and the rational seem tp be often confused, but they ate clearly different, but interdependent.
Science is moving from the Many to the One, as opposed to philosophy which moves from the One to the Many. Of course both ways of thinking are helpful and necessary. When scientists ascribe to a strictly materialist methodology and worldview they deny the rational and the spiritual or the One and the And.
Christian theology is based on the One And the Many. Islam and Hinduism are based on the One. Buddhism (both types) is based on the Many and the Chinese faiths, Confucianism and Daoism are based on the And. A big advantage of the Framework of Understanding is that it is truly ecumenical. It covers all of the primary faiths of humankind. .
I also think that the first human sin (“Adam’s sin”) was “the rebellion against God”. In this sense the sin can be compared to that of the fallen Angels: It was a free and deliberate transgression of God’s commandment, and therefore involved in fact such a deep rejection of God that the first sinners (“Adam and Eve”) had never been able to repent by their own forces.
However, by contrast to the Angels, it is not impossible that human sinners atone with help of God’s Grace.
Apparently God was interested that a number of humans reach eternal life (Matthew 25:34), and so He had two alternative scenarios:
Let sinners join “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), so that only righteous people remain on earth.
Let sinners remain on earth and “bound all in disobedience in order to have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32).
As we know, God choose the later possibility: the path of Redemption.
Marvin, you have given better wording to my hope that Christian dogma can eventually recognize that Original Blessing (and humankind’s failure to take full advantage of it) better explains our “brokeness” than does Original Sin. It would seem that the early Fathers of the Church realized that most humans begin life at the simplest stage of morality–if you’re bad you’ll be punished–and in exploiting that fact, have tended to keep the faithful at that stage–rather than wanting to be good because our Creator is All Good. I thought there were signs that Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI were leading the Catholic church in that direction, and our present pope, Francis, being a Jesuit (like Teilhard) might overcome past inertia. I just wondered if @AntoineSuarez had any insights into this possibility.
Antoine, being somewhat of a skeptic myself, I can appreciate that skeptics like Schermer do make intellectually attractive arguments for agnosticism. I have a great grandson who is impressed by them. When we craft a good argument for Christian Faith that today’s teen agers can readily accept, is it wise to refer to Fallen Angels and analyze the contrast between their rebellion against God with Adam’s? To a greater and greater degree science can give us some insights into the way God created humankind through the process of evolution. How, or even IF he created angels long before he created us, this must remain a matter of pure, unsubstantiated Faith. While I do not doubt that God could have created spirits who later rebelled, I feel one can have a truer picture of God’s nature if we do NOT postulate the existence of these personified beings. If the existence of angels is a dogma that necessarily must be accepted to be Christian, I fear we have blocked out a significant number our brightest youth who want to make science their profession. I just know I cannot make the case for their existence to my great grandson.
You make a good point and I agree with you. I think that the belief in angles derives from the historical nature of our faith arising out of the OT and not based on NT theology. The Hebrew faith was born is a world that was filled with gods. This is called henotheism when the God of Israel YHWH was superior but shred power to some extent with the gods of other nations.
It only became clear during the Exile that YHWH was the God of the whole world and not just Israel. Psalm 82 seems to explain how and why YHWH, Elohim pronounced judgement on the gods and left YHWH as God alone.
Angels are messengers or gofers for God. They provide diversity to God’s unity. Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the NT provide diversity to the Father’s unity. Jesus is God with us, so we no longer need angels to be God with us and for us. The Holy Spirit provides direct communication with the Father and the Son.
Thus I see angels as no longer necessary to understand the nature and character of God.
In my view Christianity is today widespread all over the world because people realize that Jesus Christ is the path to reach eternal happiness.
If we want that youth (science fans and others) becomes aware of this, then we should make our best in order they encounter Jesus Christ’s life and teaching, that is, inspire them to read the Gospels, pray for them, and let the Holy Spirit act.
However, in the Gospels there are many references to angels and the devil, like for instance: Luke 1:11, 26; 2:10; 22:43; Matthew 4:11; 18:10; 28:5.
So we have to give a coherent account of this teaching: Lack of coherence would scare youth.
I myself “have made science my profession”, and think it is fitting to use the language of today’s science to speak about angels: https://arxiv.org/abs/0705.3974
Antoine, I have better reasons than anyone I know to defend the existence of angels, especial Guardian Angels. In a couple of past posts I mentioned the fact that my wartime experience in 1945 appeared in a best selling book, ‘Where Angels Walk’ by Joan Wester Anderson. (She also referred to it in another book, ‘Where Miracles Happen’) I can recall that at the age of five, my Mom taught me a nighttime prayer, ‘Angel of God, my guardian dear…’ and I imagined a personal being whom God assigned to look after me. That was easier for a 5 yr. old mind to comprehend–God delegating and not micro-managing everything.
Now, at the age of 92, I can look back on that event when I was 19 (and at least five others where an impending tragedy was averted) and I still wonder: Was it just a matter of 'dumb luck’, as most of my scientific colleagues maintain, and I should just “thank my lucky stars”, and let it go at that? No Way !! I would rather believe what my Mom taught me, even knowing it’s probably an over-simplification.
So I can understand how the authors of Scripture wrote about angels; e.g. your quotes from Luke and Mathew–they just describe a God who prefers to delegate rather than micromanage. I consider it another matter when a multitude of angels are postulated to have existed prior to humankind’s creation. Antoine, what other reason was there for this postulate, other than to explain (?) that rebellion against God was present in the universe before Adam fell? Personally, I feel that our present knowledge of evolution provides a much better explanation than a Pre-Original Sin committed by angels.
As I point out above, taking a different perspective on these passages from Luke & Mathew is NOT being inconsistent. My great grandson, for one, would welcome them. More worrisome is some of the inane arguments that have arisen about the attributes of angels as spirits; i.e. ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’? Silly, perhaps, but Dawkins has used it effectively to illustrate how theological studies pale in importance to science. In any ‘battle for the hearts and minds of today’s youth’, I don’t fear that inconsistency with scripture will play as large a role as inconsistency with the world that surrounds them–a world which science and technology seems to dominate.
I would rather state:
According to the New Testament: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit provide diversity to the God’s unity.
Angels never have been necessary to understand the nature of God.
However, consistency requires that God’s work of Creation contains pure spiritual beings (angels).
Angels’ sin is not necessary for humans to sin.
Nonetheless temptation by the devil is clearly declared in the New Testament.
You may be interested in considering these points to further elaborate your “Framework of Understanding.”
The five points above which you offered for Roger’s consideration do seem worthy of further elaboration. Points 2 & 3 seem, at least to my mind, to be contradictory. If angels never were necessary to understand the nature of God, how are they then required (as spiritual beings) for consistency in God’s work of creation?
In past posts, I have proposed that temptation to sin was the tendency to revert to one’s evolved animal instincts after God gifted humankind with a conscience. One of the most pertinent passages in Scripture relating to this is Math.4:1-11, which describes Jesus’ experience in the wilderness prior to beginning his ministry. Here he is clearly described as having a one-to-one conversation with Satan with no one else present (apparently). So Jesus must have personally imparted this ‘temptation experience’ to his disciples for Mathew to record it. Could it be that Jesus sought this privation experience to finalize his growing realization that he was, indeed, God’s chosen one, differing from the rest of mankind in that he was the perfect Image Bearer, truly the Son of the Most High. Even from the time he stayed in the temple ‘to be about his Father’s business’, he must have sensed that he was special, but it was not until the Wilderness Experience was the die cast. It was then that he began his role as Savior of a humankind that was losing its battle to overcome its animal past.
Is this so foreign to Christian belief that it could never become orthodox?
I think that we can all agree with this point. In a sense I would like to leave it at that.
The word “angel” as I understand it means “messenger.” This means to me that angels were seem as go-fers for God. They did not have any will outside of God’s, which for me is reinforced by the Letter to the Hebrews. Thus we could say that angels are extensions of God and since God really does not need any extensions, they are superfluous.
I certainly do not recall any place for angels in Paul’s theology. However, if someone wants to believe in angels, that is okay.
There is a issue as to how the devil came into existence. This is part of the serious issue of God and evil. The Framework of Understanding does come into play here, because good is right relationship with God and others, while evil is wrong relationship with God and others, not a thing.
From this I would conclude that the heavenly battle between Michael the Archangel and Lucifer never took place; i.e. there was no Angelic Fall before Adam’s fall. And so perhaps there was no Fall that required ‘explaining’. Occam’s Razor suggests that if a postulate does not explain anything, get rid of it. IMHO, Original Blessing does God more honor, since it does not postulate that His first two efforts at creating sentient beings were failures.
Angels are not necessary for God’s interior life and in this sense they are not an ingredient in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
Moreover, from God’s nature one cannot infer any necessity of Creation, neither of angels nor humans.
Nonetheless it is plain that God freely wanted to create beings different from Him. Given this, it would have been awkward if He had created say only stones. In accord with His infinite wisdom one has to accept that God’s aim was to create beings endowed with free will, capable of freely loving Him, that is, either pure spiritual beings (angels) or incarnate spirits (humans).
Angels are pure spirits and as such immensely more powerful minds than humans. In particular, they are always conscious, while humans have to sleep.
Therefore the perfection of Creation requires that God first and foremost created angels and thereafter humans.
“Messenger” does not refer to the nature of angels but their office. The Letter to the Hebrews claims:
“In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire’.” (Hebrews 1:7).
If angels “don’t have any will outside God’s” and are “extensions of God”, then they are God after all and, as you rightly say, would be completely superfluous.
By contrast in Hebrews 1:6 we read:
“when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’.”
“To which of the angels did God ever say ’Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’.” (Hebrews 1:13).
From all this it seems clear that angels are creatures completely different from God, called to worship God’s Son Jesus Christ, who is superior to them.
Here some interesting places for our discussion:
- Ephesians 6:11-12
- 2 Corintians 11,13-14
- Acts 27:23
Antaoine, what I am attempting to do is to ‘construct’ a pair of bifocal glasses with which I view the material world focused thru the ‘science lens’, and view the incorporeal & moral world thru the ‘spiritual lens’. But in using either lens to discern what God may want of me, I must realize that MY view of God is necessarily anthropomorphic. So your statement that “it is plain that God wanted…” is true only because, if I were God, that’s what I would want–UNLESS, of course, God directly imparted to a human mind in the past some knowledge that no human would have discovered on their own. And that knowledge has been passed down, inerrantly thru Scripture.
For many reasons (too many to list here) I feel that the O.T. is not a reliable enough to be depended upon for such inerrant knowledge. (In reading it, I am left with the impression that God is all too human–a vengeance seeking despot.) So I am left with the logical but anthropomorphic conclusion that God designed the material Cosmosphere so that it would produce Life, the Biosphere; and following that, eventually evolve a creature that (in the Noosphere) had the potential to understand and love both the Creation and its Creator. I think it is an act of true worship that astrophysicists have been able, not only to describe the formation of a neutron star, but to describe the gravitational waves that result when two of them collide and annihilate each other.
But getting back to the belief in angels as individual spirits and especially Satan, as such. In Math.4:1-11 Jesus speaks of Satan as an individual as he described his temptation in the wilderness. But in relating this event to his disciples, I think it likely that he described it as a sort of vision that was, in part, brought on by his fasting and suffering in the desert heat. He probably did not wish them to believe that Satan literally transported him atop a steeple or atop a mountain where he could see the entire earth. So when we examine other quotes from the New Testament referencing Satan or other angels, are we to take them literally or figuratively? The one passage that seems unequivocal to me is Gabriel’s announcement of Mary’s pregnancy. It seems to me that, if one takes that figuratively, it follows that the entire Virgin Birth story is a myth. Personally, I’m not sure that messenger has a God-given name, but I’m not ready to write off good old Gabe entirely.