Authority and the “Judgment of this World”

“Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”

John 12: 31

“The one essential condition of human existence is that man should always be able to bow down before something infinitely great.” 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Demons  (1872)

None of those who disagreed with Scoot’s recent post are what St. Paul calls “children of disobedience.”  They are sinners, no doubt, to a man; but St. Paul’s “children of disobedience” do not merely sin.  They sin without guilt because men have blinded them to sin with “vain words.”  The children of disobedience therefore call “fornication” love, “covetousness” ambition.”  “Filthiness” and “foolish talk” they approve as  unpretentious.  When they sit down to sup and swill with a “whoremonger” or “unclean person,” the “children of disobedience” congratulate themselves for their liberal toleration (Ephesians 5: 1-7).

The “children of disobedience” glory in their disobedience.  They identify with their sin.  This is not, I daresay, what any of those who demurred at Scoot’s doctrine of docility are are all about.

Obedience is obviously good: the only question is, to whom.

* * * * *

Scoot’s premise is that every nominal authority is an actual authority because every nominal authority is, in the last analysis, a deputy, agent or instrument of God.  Thus obedience to God entails obedience to every nominal authority.  Despite what you may have been told, it is God, Scoot tells us, and not Vladimir Putin, who controls the outcomes of our elections.

The greatest problem with Scoot’s doctrine is that this world is not the Kingdom of God.  The “prince of this world” is the Devil, from which it follows that it is the Devil who controls the outcomes of our elections.

You may object that Jesus said that the “prince of this world” will be cast out “now,” and may suppose that “now” means at that moment or very shortly thereafter.  What “now” means, however, is in the cosmic crisis that was about to begin.  “The judgement of the world” means the crisis of the world—the great age of decision by the world.

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates coined the word crisis to denote the “hour of decision” in a terrible fever—the hour when the fever either breaks or the patient dies.  Hippocrates made the word crisis from the Greek krinein, or judgment.  The ”judgement of this world” is not Judgment Day.  It is not God’s judgment of the world.  It is the world’s judgement for or against God’s incarnate word.

It is the world’s great age of decision between darkness and light.

This “judgement of the world” has not ended, so the “now” to which Christ referred is ongoing and the Devil is still prince of this world.  And lest you think that a prince is somehow subordinate to a king, and the Devil therefore subordinate to God, let me remind you that a prince is the principal—the Number One, the Head Honcho, the Big Guy.  He is, until finally cast out of it, this world’s Ultimate Authority.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

* * * * *

With that said, I will be the first to add that obedience is good when rightly directed.  Indeed, it is supremely good because it is only by “bowing down,” as Dostoyevsky put it, “to something infinitely great,” that men have any goodness at all.  As Dostoyevsky wrote in the very next line,

“If men are deprived of the infinitely great they will not go on living and will die of despair.”

“Now is the judgement of this world.”  This means that now is the time when all men must bow down.  The only question is, to whom.  “The prince of this world” remains the Devil and one bows to him when one bows to his minions.   But since the Devil is not “infinitely great,” those who bow to him (and his earthly minions) “deprive themselves of the infinitely great,” and therefore, as “children of disobedience,” they “will not go on living and will die of despair.”

49 thoughts on “Authority and the “Judgment of this World”

  1. Great article JM, and you highlight an important point in this discussion, which is what exactly it means when we say “All authority comes from God.”

    I disagree with your characterization of my argument here, because of this confusion about authority coming from God (emphasis mine):

    Scoot’s premise is that every nominal authority is an actual authority because every nominal authority is, in the last analysis, a deputy, agent or instrument of God. Thus obedience to God entails obedience to every nominal authority. Despite what you may have been told, it is God, Scoot tells us, and not Vladimir Putin, who controls the outcomes of our elections.

    The greatest problem with Scoot’s doctrine is that this world is not the Kingdom of God. The “prince of this world” is the Devil, from which it follows that it is the Devil who controls the outcomes of our elections

    First, all authority is delegated to us from God. This means that God has allowed those in authority to exercise a portion of God’s governing authority. When it is delegated to us, it is granted to us to exercise freely. It can be used for good or ill, just as our free agency allows us in daily life.

    To illustrate by analogy, parents give a child an allowance. The child can use that allowance to, say, give to his sister on her birthday; to buy himself a baseball card; give to his cousin to use to buy drugs; put it in a bank account. There are innumerable options. Because the allowance came from the parents does not mean that the use of that allowance will be ordered to the will of the parents. The parents have delegated authority over that money to their child for him to use however he wishes.

    You are right, of course, that the devil is the prince of this world. The devil does not have authority to delegate–this is why we also give the devil the title of “tempter”, as he can only tempt but cannot control. The devil can tempt people to allow him to influence their exercise of authority, but he cannot wield it directly. This, in my analogy, would be like the cousin asking for the child’s allowance money to buy drugs. The cousin cannot use the child’s money directly, but can ask for it to use for evil ends.

    The other part of this is that you seem to conflate this delegation of authority from God with direct control when you discuss who “controls the outcome of elections”. The way you have framed it, perhaps an uncharitable reading would be that obedience to worldly authority is obedience to the devil. My argument, however, is that once God has delegated authority to someone, they serve God only to the extent their will is aligned to God, and they serve the devil only to the extent that their will is aligned to the devil. An authority who is aligned to the devil will issue unlawful and immoral commands, which it is unanimously agreed it is our duty to disobey. An authority who is merely sinful, perhaps not fully formed, neither perfectly aligned to God nor perfectly aligned to the devil, may conduct their private life in an unjust way, but may still issue lawful commands which are not morally repugnant. We must obey these commands. An authority who is perfectly aligned to God will only issue good, just, and moral commands–we have a duty to obey these commands.

    As far as elections go, the outcome is determined by the masses, and the extent to which the masses are aligned to God or the devil determine whether the outcomes are congruent with the will of God or the will of the devil. Not participating in elections, as I choose to, and praying instead for the will of God to be done, means that I am praying for the working of the Holy Spirit in the individuals who compose the masses to influence the election in favor of God. I am choosing not to participate in the decision making process directly, but indirectly through prayer for our authorities and our subjects.

    You are right, also, that obedience is good when it is rightly directed. The grand question at hand here is how we determine what “rightly directed” means. My proposed definition appears to be more expansive than many commenters on my last article were comfortable with.

    I hope this comment has been clarifying of my position, and to the extent that it elucidates other points of contention I look forward to hashing them out. I appreciate, as always, the continued engagement on this topic.

    God bless you!

    • Thanks, Scoot. I’ve just come in from a long round of exhausting errands and am feeling rather dull, so this comment may not amount to much. Throughout this whole discussion, I find myself increasingly baffled about the nature and properties of authority. We’ve resorted to analogies like a child’s allowance or a deputy sheriff, but none of these analogies seems altogether satisfactory. At the moment I’m thinking that which makes obedience and disobedience into moral and immoral acts. I do no wrong when I disobey some officious busybody who has no authority over me. If I do as he asks, I am obliging him, not obeying him. (How often we all say we are obeying a man when we are really obliging him, and say we are obliging him when we are really obeying!) But I am getting off track.

      If I have authority to command obedience and send a messenger to deliver that command, I have not given the messenger authority. I have given them a message that is empowered by my authority. If the messenger forges a new message, that would certainly defy my authority over my own message and messenger. But even a good and faithful messenger does not have some portion of my authority.

      I’m thinking a brief refreshing nap may be in order.

    • As far as elections go, the outcome is determined by the masses, and the extent to which the masses are aligned to God or the devil determine whether the outcomes are congruent with the will of God or the will of the devil. Not participating in elections, as I choose to, and praying instead for the will of God to be done, means that I am praying for the working of the Holy Spirit in the individuals who compose the masses to influence the election in favor of God. I am choosing not to participate in the decision making process directly, but indirectly through prayer for our authorities and our subjects.
      The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with it. If the electoral majority of people are stupid and/or evil, they will elect a stupid, evil regime. You know this, which is why you delicately backflip out of responsibility for the outcome of elections by refusing to participate in them.
      As I’ve said from the beginning of this debate, if you want a Christendom you will have to fight for it. The Holy Spirit is not going to drop it down on you after an election. After all, democracy is the popular mandate, not the Divine mandate.
      Conservative Christians are turning into dhimmah, or wandering Jews, dazed and in shock after the Romans level their God-promised Zion. There is no less delicate way to put it. Hunkering down in our suburban homes in individual praxis and personal piety is not going to move the ratchet backwards. We are witnessing the start of totalitarian democracy, with the COVID mandates and next to come, Climate Change!, with its $2,000 exhaust pipes and limits on ruminant farming and nitrogen fertilizers. The housing and credit markets are being diabolically manipulated already. To someone who came of age in the 1980s, it is absolutely incredible to watch.

  2. Pingback: An Intellectually Dishonest Game | Winston Scrooge

  3. Without the sacred and inviolable we have nothing. Bow down to the infinite or welcome to hell. Maybe eschatology is as simple as that.

  4. The devil is in the world. And even prince. But as the Old Testament Prophecies demonstrate. God has in his providence directed the flow of history both before and after the cross.

    It is no different when God allows the Anti-Christ to be World Emperor before Jesus Christ our King seizes control over this world completely.

    • If what you say is true, then God is a sadist unworthy of worship. If he directs the flow of history, then he is responsible for all the evil that is suffered in history. And those we call evil-doers (including the Devil) are only instruments of a cruel God. Christ tells us that history is a “judgment”–a crisis–and that means the outcome is unknown. Christ trumps the prophets.

      • The Prophets merely are messengers of God and the Pre-incarnate Christ as the Angel of the Lord no doubt participated in the Prophetic process starting with Moses and as he lead Israel through the Wilderness in the Pillar of Cloud.

        As for evil even Angelic evil that is the price of Free Will compared to making us all automatons. True Agency and True Being requires a Will of one’s own that is capable at one point to defy God.

        I will also direct you to his flooding of the world and his destruction of evil world empires(Assyria,Babylon,Tyre)Of the burning of Sodom and of countless societies made smoking ruins because of his Wrath.

        Is God powerless to save? Does those examples show forth God’s powerlessness in Vengeance?

        Of the entire redemptive arc of history. Of the redemption of Mankind via the Cross for those who believe.

        And of the Last Judgment at the Great White Throne where all the individual sufferings will be avenged. It will be set right.

        Indeed evil has been wrought because of God allowing the Devil(on a tight leash) and human evil nature.

        In the Book of Job you clearly see God allowing the devil to inflict all those sufferings on Job. But was God being unjust or arbitrary when he does so?

      • Knowing how things will turn out does not entail causing it to turn out in that way. I’m not going to go into theodicy, but it is not at all easy to reconcile divine omnipotence, divine goodness, and the manifest evil of this world.

      • Divine intervention in history neither makes God responsible for sin nor makes Him cruel. Sin is rebellion against God’s will. God gives us undeserved blessings, not undeserved suffering. I think you may benefit from rereading Job 38-42. I think you may also benefit from reading the following reflection on Job: https://mereorthodoxy.com/objects-of-doubt/

        Christ does not tell us that history is a judgment; He tells us that the world shall be judged. Moreover, He tells us the outcome of that judgment. You seem to be introducing a conflict between Christ and the prophets where none exists. The prophets spoke as God moved them to speak, so there can be no conflict between what they say and what Christ says.

        2 Peter 1:19-21

        And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

      • If history is not judgement, then what is there for God to judge? In the case at hand, the crucial judgement is the judgement of Christ by the world. Is he or is he not the messiah? People (and peoples) made a judgement. Now God has something to judge. If I were the judge at an art show, I would be judging the artistic judgment of the artists. I would aim to reward the artists that showed good artistic judgment. What I say is not opposed to what you say, it is a necessary part of it. You’re getting hung up by what C.S. Lewis called the “dangerous sense” of the word judgment. The word takes in much more than handing out verdicts in a court of law.

      • “The world” is not judging anything at all. Individual people make judgments; an abstracted humanity does not. The world will never be wholly Christian nor wholly non-Christian, so it makes no sense to speak of “the world” judging anything as though it were something different from individual belief in the truth or falsity of what is objectively true (that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of those who believe, per 1 Timothy 4:10).

        Moreover, this kind of individual judgment has nothing to do with what Jesus said in John 12:31, which is what this discussion is supposedly about. You have claimed that the judgment which Christ spoke of in John 12:31 refers to a period of mankind either believing or disbelieving Jesus’s Messiahship; however, there were those who believed in Him even before the Incarnation (e.g. Abraham, per John 8:56). Since it is clear that there were believers even before the Incarnation, it makes no sense to say that the Crucifixion and Resurrection will be the start of the period in which men will either believe or not. Yes, the word “judgment” has senses other than the forensic sense, but the question at hand is how “judgment” is being used in John 12:31. The only kind of judging which fits John 12:31 is in the sense of handing out verdicts in a court of law.

      • This is hair-splitting. A couple of the disciples may have sort of believed he was the Messiah before the resurrection, and even then Thomas had his doubts. Even Peter “the Rock” was until then more like quicksand. The decision for The World (humans generally, not collectively) came afterwards, in most cases long afterwards. God has no grounds for judgment until this great age of decision is concluded. If God judged the world when Jesus made his declaration, there are a dozen saved and a tens of billions in Hell. Big win for Satan, in other words.

      • As I have already stated, there are multiple judgments described in Scripture. This discussion was about the judgment which Jesus spoke about in John 12:31. You either fail to understand that there are multiple judgments, or you refuse to stick to the topic. Either way, I’m done with this discussion. May God enlighten you by His Holy Spirit.

      • @JMSmith

        As you well know. God has all possible worlds in view. Every decision he must make must also respect free will.

        It takes all his wisdom and all he has to come up with the best of possible outcomes within allowable ranges.

        As for those examples cited. It is God himself responsible for telling the Prophets what he is doing and ultimately cause to happen. Don’t think God is some passive do nothing sovereign.

        If your philosophical lenses don’t fit the biblical data. Then it’s the issue of said lenses not with what is.

      • I actually know very little about God. I’m not persuaded he is playing four dimensional chess and has everything under control. I’ve made a reasonable study of theodicy and think the problem of evil remains a problem.

      • @JMSmith

        If you philosophical lenses don’t fit the Biblical Data. Then the problem is with one’s philosophical assumptions.

        God has avenged himself on evil again and again. Yet God somehow allowed evil to carry on without direct intervention in Israel for example.
        https://biblehub.com/bsb/isaiah/5.htm

        And only when delegated Authority fails and society doesn’t repent that God avenges and destroys said society.

        Satan was only decisively defeated at the Cross. Because then what is described in the Book of Revelation comes to pass. That the Lamb that was slain was worthy to unseal the scroll in God the Father’s hand.

        This implies Satan couldn’t be deposed without the blood of the lamb making the unsealing of the scroll of judgment and the consummation of history possible.

        Ending the cycles of history of endless evil. Perhaps now is the “judgment of the world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out ” is the anticipation of the final defeat since by the cross the defeat of Satan and his Angels is irrevocable.

        It has the flavor of having happened but not yet. The Kingdom of God has come(Luke 17: 21) but not yet in fullness until the appointed time at the Millennium and thereafter.

      • The defeat of Satan may be inevitable, but it clearly hasn’t happen yet. The resurrection may have been Satan’s Gettysburg or Stalingrad, but there is a difference between a “turning point” and a “final conquest.” The resurrection defeats Satan in the sense that it redeems the dead who are saved, but it is merely the first shot in the battle (the judgment) for the living.

      • “I actually know very little about God. I’m not persuaded he is playing four dimensional chess and has everything under control. I’ve made a reasonable study of theodicy and think the problem of evil remains a problem.”

        Indeed as that was as Job argues. But four dimensional chess is indeed the truth in terms of Divine Revelation God has revealed to us.

        Otherwise one must deny God as being God in terms of powerlessness and incapacity or sadism. Making God evil and unjust.

        That would make a lie of Divine revelation who says: “All his ways are Justice”.

      • It is sadism to break a man’s leg and then pay his hospital bill. Four dimensional chess requires a utilitarian calculus where innocent suffering in the present is justified by some future state of affairs.

      • @JMSmith

        “The defeat of Satan may be inevitable, but it clearly hasn’t happen yet. The resurrection may have been Satan’s Gettysburg or Stalingrad, but there is a difference between a “turning point” and a “final conquest.”

        As the parable of the tares demonstrate:
        “27The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

        28‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

        So the servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

        29‘No,’ he said, ‘if you pull the weeds now, you might uproot the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

        https://biblehub.com/bsb/matthew/13.htm

        God must have the maximum number of people saved. The Gospel has to be preached to all Nations. Because God must have representatives of every tribe and tongue.

        Matthew 24:14
        “14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

      • You’ve slipped something into your paraphrase of Matthew 24:14. It says nothing about representatives of every tribe and nation accepting the gospel, only hearing it. As for the parable of the tares, the landowner is not omnipotent. He cannot get rid of the tares until the end. There is no four-dimensional chess here. The tares are bad and he cannot at present do anything about them.

      • JMSmith: …it is not at all easy to reconcile divine omnipotence, divine goodness, and the manifest evil of this world.

        Yes, it’s easy. God permits harm to be inflicted on his children because permitting this serves a greater good and because all these harms will vanish into relatively trivial inconsequentiality next to the unimaginable joy the saved will experience after resurrection.

        A lot of Christians flinch from this because it means God is morally responsible for the harm he permits to occur, but there’s no way around it that doesn’t involve ludicrous handwaving. The practical answer is that, if you wind up in Heaven with God, you will no longer care about any deliberate or accidental harm you suffered on Earth.

        (I’m not a Christian, but that’s my understanding of how many Christians resolve this.)

      • I think your description of the common argument is fair but I don’t think the “dry every tear” line is very compelling. It’s just breaking my leg and then paying the hospital bill. Why bring good out of evil? Why doesn’t God just bring out good? This simple answer is that he is not omnipotent.

      • I think the “dry all tears” doctrine is really handwaving. Suffering occurs in the present and is not erased when one reflects, from some happier later state, that “it (the later state) was worth it (the suffering).” I no longer care that I broke my arm when I was ten years old, but the ease of old Jonathan in no way diminishes the the pain young Jonathan actually suffered all those years ago. Getting over something is not the same as never having suffered it.

      • @JMSmith

        The reasoning is given in the text itself. So that some of the wheat do not get pulled up.

        Said Wheat referring to believers that are yet to repent and be saved.

        And the reason I slipped in that paraphrase into (Matthew 24:14) is that it accords with the other sayings of our Lord when it says that the Gospel will be preached to all Nations then the end will come.

        Indicating that there is yet wheat to come that must grow up with the Tares until the last day.

        God self-limits himself from violating the free will of his creatures when it comes to choosing and rejecting him.

  5. The problem with Scoot’s blarney is that Scoot doesn’t actually have a point, the logical argument of his post boils down to “you should obey just authority”, which nobody needs to be told. Scoot is poorly read, poorly educated, egregiously conceited, and needs a hobby, probably something involving physical labor. My comments to this effect are the essence of Christian charity, because it’s painfully obvious Scoot is wasting his life and doesn’t have anyone to set him on a better path, so it is the duty of his elders here and elsewhere to get him out of the rut he is in. I pointed this out in my comment on that post, in which I directed all the supposedly trad Cath responders to GO READ THE CATECHISM on the subject. (The Protestant responses were mostly what you would expect from heretics, I have no issue with them. They are wrong but mostly well thought out and consistent, certainly more so than the tradcaths.)

    The problem with the response to the responses that this execrable nonsense has engendered is that now people like JMSmith, who is normally not this retarded (proper use of the word, not an insult) are conflating AUTHORITY, which was what Scoot said absolutely nothing of importance about, and OBEDIENCE, which is what JMSmith is talking about now because a reasonable response to Scoot is impossible since Scoot didn’t say anything within reason. Can anyone see Cairo from here? Maybe it’s on the other side of that iceberg.

    This has been a wonderful blog for years, and in the recent weeks has suffered severely from foolish attempts to “respond” to Francis Berger, who makes interesting points WHICH ARE IRRELEVANT TO ORTHODOXY, something about which he is very explicit, and to Scoot, who is a Moldbug/neocameralism fanboy LARPing at fixing what he thinks are the world’s problems (how about consulting Belloc?) via a make believe utopian monarchy. The difference is that Scoot very clearly has no practical knowledge of anything important, whereas Yarvin built, like, you know, an OS, so knows a bit about system design.

    As an outsider who has greatly benefited from and enjoyed reading this blog, I implore the blog mafia here to STEP OVER attempting to engage with or respond to this nonsense and go back to writing about what you normally write about. You have a nice garden. Stop trying to hack at the jungle and deal with the weeds outside your door.

    • I know that Christian charity involves more than handing out lollypops, but I think you have carried charitable chastisement too far. Scoot is very far from being the blustering buffoon you say he is. Possibly callow in places, but weren’t we all. And when callow mellows into cranky, I’m not sure there has been improvement.

      The summer ructions over romantic Christianity surprised me. I’m reading St. John’s Revelation just now and thought that Apollyon, the demon of destruction, had at last decided to destroy the Orthosphere. Berger’s points are irrelevant to orthodoxy because orthodoxy is irrelevant. He doesn’t oppose orthodoxy or the people who practice it; but it is a senile old man: weak, vain, confused, and without answers.

  6. I have no idea where you got the idea that the “judgment of the world” which Jesus spoke about in John 12:31 means that the world is doing the judging. The far more natural reading of that passage, and the one which accords with the rest of Scripture, is that it is the world which is being judged. More specifically, what was being decided is who holds ultimate authority over the world. Jesus tells us that He is that ultimate authority, that He would conquer the devil, and that He would reveal the devil as a lying usurper who never had any authority at all. Jesus has already accomplished this by His suffering, death, and resurrection. Therefore, the outcome is not in doubt; Jesus has already won.

    • I know that is the standard reading but I think it wrong. Outside of universalism, Jesus doesn’t exactly conquer the devil, or at least not until the end of time. If he did conquer the devil, it is hard to see what there would be to judge in the judgement of this world. Jesus revealed the devil as a lying usurper to some, but certainly not to all. I think it makes more sense, and fits the facts of history, to say that the “the judgment of this world” is this worlds judgement of Jesus, with part of the world judging him to be the messiah and part of the world judging him to be something else.

      • That Christ has already conquered the devil does not imply universalism, and I’m not sure why you think it does.

        God’s Word speaks of multiple judgments. The judgment Christ spoke of in John 12:31 was settled in the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The Final Judgment is a judgment of individuals, separating those who trust in Christ for our salvation from those who do not.

      • If the devil is conquered, why does evil remain? I can see how the resurrection doomed the devil, but old scratch is still kicking and is not conquered today.

      • Evil remains because we are still born from corrupted seed. Additionally, “conquered” and “slain” are not synonymous.

      • Was Hitler’s Germany conquered at Stalingrad? Conquered means defeated for good, not destined to be defeated one day.

      • Christ has already defeated the devil for good. Again, you are confusing “defeated” and “dead”. It is clear from Scripture that the condemned (whether angels or men) will not be utterly destroyed; they will be thrown into the lake of fire, in which they will suffer forever, and from which there is no escape.

        You seem to think that the continued rebelliousness against God means that God’s victory is not yet complete; however, by this standard, God’s victory will never be complete, because the condemned will still be rebellious against Him, even as they are burning in the lake of fire. You are not making the necessary distinction between a soldier on the field and a prisoner of war, refusing to recognize that those prisoners are, by definition, defeated. There are still rebels, but they are all in prison; the fact that God has not yet tightened the chains as much as He could, and is not yet subjecting them to the full weight of His wrath, does not alter this basic fact. The devil’s rebellion has failed; man’s rebellion has failed. God’s reign/rule can never be shaken. Glory, praise, thanks, and honour be to God, Who was, and is, and is to come.

      • I don’t seem to think it. I do think it. A victory in which the enemy is still fighting just as fiercely as before is a very strange victory in my book.

      • I don’t seem to think it. I do think it.

        I don’t presume to be a mind-reader.

        A victory in which the enemy is still fighting just as fiercely as before is a very strange victory in my book.

        Assumes facts not in evidence. The frothing tirades of a prisoner are far different from a soldier on the field armed for battle.

  7. JMSmith,
    In a reply to info you said,

    It is sadism to break a man’s leg and then pay his hospital bill. Four dimensional chess requires a utilitarian calculus where innocent suffering in the present is justified by some future state of affairs.

    What innocent suffering? None of us are innocent. We all deserve both temporal and eternal punishment. The suffering we endure in this life is but a trifle compared to what we deserve. We should be praising and thanking God for His mercy, not defaming Him as a sadist.

    • The doctrine of unbaptized infants roasting in Hell has made more atheists than all the infidel philosophers combined. Do children deserve to be raped and murdered and beaten and starved and bombed and carved into little pieces by evil men? This is repulsive Christianity. None of us are innocent but some are way, way more innocent than others. Evil is real and evil is undeserved harm. Your theodicy erases evil by saying no man (or child) deserves better than he gets.

      • Did I say that unbaptized infants are doomed to hell? No, I did not. God saves us though baptism (it is a means of grace), but it is not the only means by which He saves us (it is not the only means of grace). Lack of baptism does not condemn anyone. Unbelief is what condemns someone, and it is clear that infants (even those still in the womb, e.g. John the Baptist) can have faith.

        Did I say that anyone deserved to be raped, murdered, etc. No, I did not. Rape, murder, etc. are all sins, and noone deserves to be sinned against. Sin is always unjust, by definition. However, I note you are changing the subject. You said that there is such a thing as innocent suffering, implying that there are some people who don’t deserve any suffering at all. I replied that none of us are innocent, so we all deserve to suffer, and far more than we do. I was quite obviously speaking in terms of magnitude, not in terms of kind. I was also quite obviously speaking about what we deserve at God’s hands, not about what men do to each other. God forbids rape, murder (by whatever means), and unjust beatings, and He commands us to feed the hungry. Therefore, I have no idea why you would even bring these up in a conversation about what God does to punish us.

        Evil is not defined as undeserved harm. It us defined either as sin, or as harm.

      • You did say “the suffering we endure in this life is but a trifle compared to what we deserve.” This would mean that the person in whom we find the greatest suffering and innocence combined, say an infant consumed by fire, should really thank God for letting him off so lightly. This is a perverse theodicy that erases evil by exaggerating human depravity. Philosophers define evil as undeserved harm, deserved harm being punishment. Sin often causes evil, but sin and evil are different things. I suppose you might call sin undeserved harm to one’s own soul.

      • I have never heard of a doctrine of unbaptised infants going to Hell. I was taught that they went to Limbo, a place of perfect natural happiness. I have since learned that even Limbo has not been absolutely defined. So, the question is open-God may well take them into Heaven. Perhaps, it is best left in doubt, lest the prospects of unbaptised babies going to Heaven encourage abortion?

      • “Infant damnation” in implicit in Calvinism, although I think it was more often in the mouths of critics of Calvinism than of Calvinists. I have read letters by people who left Calvinist churches over this doctrine. I raise it he to combat the perverse theodicy that evil is not evil because the harm humans suffer is deserved. I think this is false and dishonest. False because Adam’s sin really is not strong in some people and dishonest because those who advance this theodicy never propose to suffer harm themselves. I know the Catholic doctrine of limbo, but am pretty sketchy as to its character. I remember once reading that it isn’t all that nice, but I have no personal opinion. Your last point is good. Infanticide might begin to strike some parents as a better alternative to the risk of Hell.

  8. I previously said I was done with this discussion, but then I was reminded of the following and consider myself duty-bound to share it.

    Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. -John 16:7-11

    See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

    And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him. -Colossians 2:8-15

    Make of that what you will. If you will not be convinced by God’s Word, then you will not be convinced by anything.

    • Don’t you suppose that we both might be right? I don’t for a moment deny that men and women are under judgement, but at the same time think that men and women should be reminded that they cannot be judged until they judge. And the principal judgement on which they will be judged is their judgment of Jesus. Is he or is he not the Christ? Everything else is secondary.

  9. I had intended to leave this topic alone, but the Spirit bids me type.

    First, I wish to extend an apology. In 1 Peter 3:15 we are commanded to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give reason for the hope we have, but to do this with gentleness and respect. I fear that, in my interactions with you, I have not been as able a communicator as I ought to have been, and that I have not always done so with gentleness and respect. I regret and apologize for my failings.

    As to the substance of that part of our discussion in which you expressed (at least so it appeared to me) doubts about God’s omnibenevolence and/or omnipotence, I think your argument contains a contradiction, albeit one which is not readily apparent. The basic form of your argument may be expressed as follows:
    Premise 1 If persons suffer any unjust harms, then we have rational basis for doubting God’s existence, goodness, and/or power.
    Premise 2 Some of the harms which people suffer are unjust.
    Conclusion Therefore, we have rational basis for doubting God’s existence, goodness, and/or power.

    Most attempts at refuting this argument focus on attempting to explain why there is no contradiction between God’s existence/goodness/power and the fact that some of the harms which people suffer are unjust. That is, they focus on proffering reasons why the omnibenevolent, omnipotent God allows people to suffer unjust harms. From what you have written, you find these explanations wanting; therefore, you continue to uphold premise 1 (again, assuming I have read you correctly). However, I do not think it necessary to explain why premise 1 is false if it can be logically shown that premise 1 must be false.

    First, let it be understood that in speaking of God, I am speaking about the Uncreated Creator; that is, I am asserting that Existence/Reality is, at its most fundamental level, personal rather than impersonal. Therefore, if God exists, He is necessarily omnipotent; indeed, He is Omnipotence. If God exists, then He is the eternal source of all contingent power, and the continuance of contingent powers is dependent on His will. Moreover, if God exists, then He is necessarily omnibenevolent, and, indeed, Omnibenevolence, because He Himself is the objective standard of moral goodness. Therefore, to doubt or deny God’s goodness or power is to doubt or deny God’s very existence.

    However, if God does not exist, then there is no such thing as objective morality, objective purpose (telos), or consciousness, because these things can only exist if God exists. If objective morality does not exist, then “just” and “unjust” are meaningless terms, because they refer to things which cannot exist, even in principle, because they refer to an objective moral standard which cannot exist. Likewise, if objective purpose does not exist, then “benefit” and “harm” are meaningless terms, because they refer to things which cannot exist, even in principle, because they refer to an objective teleological standard which cannot exist. Finally, if consciousness does not exist, then “person” is a meaningless term, because it refers to something which cannot exist, even in principle, because consciousness cannot arise from non-conscious phenomena. Consequently, since “harm”, “people”, and “unjust” refer to things which cannot really exist, premise 2 is meaningless babble, and, therefore, false.

    Therefore, if both premise 1 and premise 2 are accepted as true, they lead inevitably to the conclusion that premise 2 is false; they lead inevitably to a conclusion which contradicts one of the premises. Since contradictions cannot be true, at least one of the premises must be false. We have good reason to think premise 2 is true; therefore, premise 1 must be false. Therefore, the fact that some of the harms which people suffer are unjust is not a rational basis for doubting God’s existence/goodness/power.

    At this point, the question becomes why the omnibenevolent, omnipotent God allows people to suffer unjust harms. The short answer is that we cannot know. I realize that this is an intellectually unsatisfying answer, but I think is the only intellectually honest answer. This question is of a type which inquires into God’s reason(s) for doing this rather than that. Like all questions of this type, this can only be answered by Divine revelation; it cannot be answered by human reason. Remember that the rules governing a finite system cannot be wholly known from within that system; the rules governing a finite system can only be wholly known within a higher-level system. The rules governing that higher-level system, where they are not the same as those of the lower-level system, cannot be discovered from within the lower-level system. Therefore, we have no rational basis for thinking we can, by our own efforts, come to know God’s reason(s) for doing this rather than that; we can only come to know His reason(s) to the extent He reveals it/them to us. God has not revealed, at least not fully, His reason(s) for allowing people to suffer unjust harms; therefore, we cannot know the reason(s). Additionally, it must not be supposed that God owes us an answer to this question; being the Uncreated Creator, He does not owe anything to anyone (except to Himself). Everything we receive from His hand (including answers), we receive as a gift, not as a wage. Nor should it be supposed that we may justly withhold worship from Him until He answers us to our satisfaction; we always owe Him worship as His just due, so we are never justified in withholding it from Him.

    There is more that I could do to elaborate on this topic, but I think what I have typed should suffice. I hope you find it edifying. Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

    • I appreciate you persistence and courtesy, and must confess I do not remember every twist and turn in our exchange. I don’t think I said the existence of evil is a rational basis for atheism, since as you explain that argument is incoherent. On the other hand, I may have said something like that since I am often sloppy or impetuous in my arguments, especially in my arguments in comment threads. I’m no expert on theodicy, but I have read a few books on the topic and generally accept what I remember of the theodicy of Richard Swinburne. I should also say that my interest in rationalist theology is very limited and I find much of it deeply repellant. Rationalism is, for me, only the outer defense that permits us to continue living the Christian life on an entirely different footing.

      I don’t see how you get from “uncreated creator” to omnipotent without employing a circular argument, but the real problem is that the set all things that are be done is smaller than the set of all things that can be imagined. We humans can imagine impossible (or at least unrealized) states of affairs, and most of us do this all the time. When we imagine an impossible state of affairs that is even more horrible than the world that is, we are relieved that we were for some reason spared that horror. When we imagine an impossible state of affairs that is even more pleasant than the world that is, we are disappointed that we were for some reason denied that pleasure.

      But we are in every case impressed that Creation does not include every imaginable state of affairs, and that the “uncreated creator” must therefore (1) lack the imagination to think of those states of affairs, (2) lack the will to produce those states of affairs, (3) lack the power to bring those states of affairs into being. The first answer is absurd because it make the creature greater (more imaginative) than the creator. The second and third answer contradict the hypotheses of omnipotence and omnibenevolence.

      Faced with this contradiction, you slip into mystery. This is fine with me, since, as I said, I have only limited use for rationalist theology. Apart from a somewhat flickering intuition that God exists, and an even more intermittent intuition that God doesn’t absolutely hate me, I know very little about God. I will argue against an atheist because he claims to know more than he can possibly know, and I will argue against a dogmatic rationalist Christian for the same reason. But I will extend the hand of brotherhood to anyone who frankly declares himself mystified. But, with all that said, omnipotence and omnibenevolence are objects of faith, not reason, for those of us who are mystified.

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.