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It’s your choice!

February 24, 2013

“God doesn’t send you to hell, it is your own choice to accept him, and salvation, or reject him and be damned to hell.” (Paraphrase of something the pastor said in his sermon today.)

If we accept this idea as true, and many evangelical Christians do, then it either proves that god cannot be omnipotent or that he is a sadistic, evil being. If god cannot control our destiny, then he isn’t all-powerful. If he were, and really desires that all be saved as most Christians will claim, then he could make it so.

The Calvinist (and I was one during the last stages of my Christian belief) believes that the sovereignty of god means he is in control of every minute aspect of the universe and knows everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen in the future. Because of this belief they accept that people only come to salvation when god wills it, or calls them to him. It is said that without the wooing of the holy spirit to salvation, man cannot understand the things of god and will never be saved.

I fail to see how anyone who believes that god is omnipotent and omniscient cannot believe this. However, the god in this belief isn’t a very nice being to condemn some to eternal suffering when he could call them to him and give them salvation. The only justification I’ve ever heard for why this god would call some and not others is the oft repeated phrase, “His ways are not our ways.” (Christianeese for, “I don’t have any clue but I’m going to believe this anyway.”)

The Arminian (and most Southern Baptists hold the Arminian view, so I was brought up in it) believes that god, being omnipotent, gives up his control over us, granting us the free will to make our own choices about our destiny. Now, the way I see it this idea has some flaws at a fundamental level. If this god is still all-powerful and all-knowing (as many who hold this belief) then it knows the final outcome of “butterfly effect” on your life. Perhaps the position of an atom at the creation of the universe being just a tiny bit different would effect your choice, god would know that and thus would still be able to change your destiny while still, at some level giving you the ability to choose. But let us not worry about these problems right now and assume that this is, indeed, the way this omnipotent and omniscient god works out destiny. What kind of being, knowing the consequences of such a choice, that some will not believe and because of that disbelief suffer eternal torment, would still make such a choice?

There are examples in scripture that say that god doesn’t want anyone to suffer for all eternity. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (ESV) If, as Peter says here, god wants everyone to be saved, then why would he either a) not call some to him, or b) give us the free will to make our own choice, knowing full well that some will not believe?

To put this in human terms let us use the example of a parent and and young children. Let us say two children between the ages of 3 and 5. This parent effectively has control over whatever the child does in life (not really so in reality, but parents certainly have a lot more control over the lives of their young children than anyone else in a free world). Let us say that the children are in immediate danger of running out into oncoming traffic and the parent is able to stop both them from doing so.

In the Calvinist example, the parent chooses to save one but allows the other to run into traffic and die. We have no idea why the parent made this choice, since they obviously love both of the children and do not wish them to die, and they knew that they would be able to save both. What would we think of this parent if we had all of this information?

In the Arminian example, the parent lets the children make their own choice: Will they run into the street or not? Sure, the parent calls out to the kids and asks them to come away from the street and back into the yard. They tell the kids they will die if they go into the street, but since they want to let the kids make their own decisions in life they don’t physically stop them when they are in the act of running into oncoming traffic (even though, as we have established, they would physically be able to stop both kids from running into traffic if they wanted to). One child heeds the parent’s warning and comes back but the other runs out into traffic and dies. How is this an example of moral parenting?

If the stakes involved in our salvation are higher than those involved in the example above (as most Christians believe that death is not the end of life) then how can we still consider the omnipotent, omniscient god many Christians believe in to be a good and moral being?

I began to see the failings of the commonly held Arminian view of many of the Baptists around me when I was in college. Perhaps because I was friends with a goodly number of folks who were starting to study “reformation” (essentially Calvinism) theology at that time and I began to look into it myself. In fact, I began to believe that it was the only possible way to make our religion make sense. However, I still saw that there were ways to interpret scripture in ways that supported both schools of thought, and I soon began to see that neither god was a very moral being if these things were true, and he was downright insane if he actually desires that everyone be saved but then goes about things in either of the ways I’ve outlined above.

I realize that there are plenty of Christians who do not hold to either view, that believe that god will, indeed, save every person in the end. I’m not entirely sure how many of them back it up in scripture but I am quite certain that they believe this because they are good and moral people who cannot believe in a god who is not good and moral. They are, as some have said, better than their religion, and have changed their religion to fit their own moral views. But there are still plenty of Christians out there who hold firmly to the Calvinist or Arminian views and believe that god is omnipotent and omniscient, wants everyone to be saved, but allows some to suffer eternally for reasons beyond our knowing.

I couldn’t make these ideas mesh into a coherent viewpoint so I abandoned it all together.

 


 

In just a bit of site news, I apologize for abandoning this blog for nearly four months. I really have no excuse other than I’ve just been spending time doing other things, none of it overly important. November and December were, of course, two of my busiest months with holiday travel and lots of extra music stuff around Christmas time, and January is always kind of my mental recovery time for that.

I’ve also been spending more time these past few months playing video games. So, I was in Dunwall helping to find the young princess and stop a coup, in Skyrim going on various quests, wandering colonial America looking for an artifact to help stop the end of the world, or in Detroit getting killed and being revived with cybernetic augmentation techology by the biotech firm I work security for. All very important things, of course!

I think, too, that I had much of what I’d intended to say when I started this blog and was suffering from a bit of writer’s block. Sometimes the level of stupid that comes from the pastor’s mouth is just too much for my mind to process… At times this blog has been a way for me to blow off the steam of listening to it, but sometimes I think I just need to let it pass and forget about it.

I won’t promise to post more regularly, but I will promise to try!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2013 5:31 pm

    Welcome back. I sometimes find myself almost paralysed by having so much to say that I don’t know where to start, but I think it’s often helpful to just start writing and see where it takes you.

    In other news, I think you mean Arminian (a theological position), not Armenian (a nationality). Not a big deal, but thought you might want to edit.

    • February 24, 2013 5:54 pm

      Thanks for pointing out my error, I think I got them all corrected! That’s what I get for starting posts on my phone, it automatically corrected (incorrectly) the spelling (of which I was not sure) and I went with it rather than googling the correct spelling!

  2. February 24, 2013 5:49 pm

    I understand sometimes our lives get busy, so the blog gets put on the back-burner. You were one of the first atheist blogs I started following, so I always look forward to your post. I think (atleast for me personally) getting away from the blog is sometimes helpful, because it is an indicator where you are in your de-conversion journey and your healing from religion. Atleast for me, I feel that The last day I no longer need this blog, will be the day I no longer need this outlet. It will be a day I no longer feel the need to talk about religion, god, or even atheism. It will be a day I no longer feel the need to defend non-belief. It will be a bittersweet day, because I will be free to move on with my life, and simply just live and no longer have to think or worry about religious dogma and all the nonsense that comes with it.

    As for the calvinist-armenian, I do have alot of calvinist friends, and when bringing this doctrine of limited atonement with them, and when referenceing the scripture, there logic is that God does not love everyone, because if he did, then everyone would be saved.

    • February 24, 2013 6:01 pm

      Yeah, another reason I haven’t had a lot to post lately is that I’ve built up a pretty good social circle of unbelievers over the past two years. Initially, I thought I was the only atheist on my group of friends and this blog was a way for me to reach out and find people of like mind. It did that, and I got involved in a local freethought group. I also found out quite a few of my friends also do not believe, and at least one has gone from agnostic theist, to pantheist, to identifying as an atheist recently.

      • February 24, 2013 6:03 pm

        maybe you should do more post on that, just life after christianity, finding friends and community. Becuase for those who grow up in the christian community, going from leaving that can sometimes be a hard transition.

        • February 24, 2013 6:43 pm

          I’ve mentioned some of it in the past (in one of my “year in review” type posts either for New Years last year or for my blogging anniversary, I can’t remember which), but perhaps I could work something up on how I went about what I did. I actually found the local freethought group DIRECTLY because of my blog. One of the people who came across it in the early days is a guy who is local to me, and told me about the group and encouraged me to come to a meeting. Eventually it worked out that I could start attending meetings and I’ve been quite involved since and have made a lot of new friends thanks to it.

  3. February 24, 2013 7:26 pm

    I think the most fundamental (and obscene) aspect of the “God doesn’t send you to hell; you choose to go there” quip is that it’s rather like mob goons beating and terrorizing a shop owner just so the mob boss can come along afterword and offer “protection”…for a small fee, of course. If the shop owner chooses not to pay for the “protection,” well that’s his choice. The mob boss isn’t responsible for what happens next, is he?

  4. Margaret permalink
    August 14, 2013 8:20 pm

    John Piper writes I have three sons. Every night after they are asleep I turn on the hall light, open their bedroom door, and walk from bed to bed, laying my hands on them and praying. Often I am moved to tears of joy and longing. I pray that Karsten Luke become a great physician of the soul, that Benjamin John become the beloved son of my right hand in the gospel, and that Abraham Christian give glory to God as he grows strong in his faith.

    But I am not ignorant that God may not have chosen my sons for his sons. And-, though I think I would give my life for their salvation, if they should be lost to me, I would not rail against the Almighty. He is God. I am but a man. The potter has absolute rights over the clay. Mine is to bow before his unimpeachable character and believe that the Judge of all the earth has ever and always will do right.

    This belief is horrific and was the last straw for me! No longer a believer now a beleaver!

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