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Defeaters for (Christian) Theism

 
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:22 PM (19:22)     31        37252
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I was sent a link a while ago, and it made some sense. We are approaching the third age of humanity. The first age was the creation of the gods/god the second was the worship of said gods/god and the third age was the realization that we infact are god.
As humans, we're so-so *. As gods, we're major fuck-ups.


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* Though the humans of the Hub do better.
To be honest, id rather be a fuckup then infallible. I would rather make mistakes, learn, grow and understand then have everything go right. Knowledge and Understanding are the two things I like to chase after.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:23 PM (19:23)     32        37253
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Be human then. To be perfect is to be divine, to err is to be human, to learn is to be human.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 07:50 PM (19:50)     33        37255
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How so? There isn't any religion that says god is infallible. God(dess)(s) all have made mistakes. From the gods of the ancient greeks and romans, to the current god of the judeo-christian faiths and other similar faiths.
On the contrary, Blacksword. The Christian God is supposed to be perfect.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:00 PM (20:00)     34        37257
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How so? There isn't any religion that says god is infallible. God(dess)(s) all have made mistakes. From the gods of the ancient greeks and romans, to the current god of the judeo-christian faiths and other similar faiths.
On the contrary, Blacksword. The Christian God is supposed to be perfect.
your argument kind of nullified that
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:02 PM (20:02)     35        37258
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I said *supposed* to be. I did not say *is*.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:04 PM (20:04)     36        37259
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... On the contrary, Blacksword. The Christian God is supposed to be perfect.
Pretty much. By almost all standard Christian theologies of whatever type, ranging from ultra-Calvinist, to Anabaptist, to Lutheran, to Quaker, to mild Protestant, to Roman Catholic, to Greek, Serbian, or Russian Orthodox, to Armenian or Syriac Church, God is defined as Perfection itself, and sin is pretty much taken to mean distance from God.

There is a group of schools of Christian theology where that is not so, the group of theologies all called Wikipedia link for Process Theology Process Theology; there God is not defined as Perfection, but instead struggles towards it. But process theologies never really caught on with anyone much.

This is another problem for logika; does God mean Perfection for logika or not, and so on? And at some stage we're going to have to bring in the Book of Job into this, which will be a biggie.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:13 PM (20:13)     37        37261
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We could, Gurdur, but if logika is typical in the view of "God = Perfection", then my arguement really eliminates the need to get into Job. There's no theological ground to stand on after you eliminate sin and prove that God is a fuckup beyond all doubt.

I mean, seriously. That wasn't Adam and Eve's fault. That wasn't even the Serpent's fault. That was -God's- fault.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:24 PM (20:24)     38        37264
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why even create something like that? "Im going to make this thing that would completely damn anything that uses it."
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:34 PM (20:34)     39        37270
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If God were all knowing he would have thought of that. If God were all knowing he would have instilled in Adam and Eve an instinct to obey that would override someone saying "Hey, this shit's fun!". If God were all knowing he might have simply not even mentioned the tree, knowing that human beings will pretty much ignore anything unusual if you don't point it out to them.

He could have prevented it any number of ways, I'm sure you and I didn't even scratch the surface. But... Look at it this way.

Let's say he -is- all knowing. This leaves two questions: Why was he angry with Adam and Eve for doing the reasonable thing, and why didn't he do anything about it? If he's all knowing, then he's not all loving, all forgiving, or all powerful.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:38 PM (20:38)     40        37271
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why would he create a species that is curious by nature and throw a mystery at it.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:51 PM (20:51)     41        37273
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...And then be angry with them when they act according to the nature he gave them?
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:56 PM (20:56)     42        37274
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sounds like god was a nutcase
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 08:58 PM (20:58)     43        37275
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I usually liken him to the husband who beats his wife because it proves his love for her.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 09:01 PM (21:01)     44        37276
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why even create something like that? "Im going to make this thing that would completely damn anything that uses it."
There are theological roads around the problem, though those IMvHO are evasive, but I think all such theological escapes from that particular dilemma fall down on a logical defeater, and after that fall down on a practical defeater:

The logical defeater is:
The knowledge of Good and Evil is taken to mean giving ultimate power of being able to choose, to differentiate between good and evil. Yet the fact that Adam and Eve * were able to choose at all (to eat the fruit **) means they had power of choice already. And still this whole act is explained as having eventually necessitated the sacrifice of God's son in the Crucifixion.

That then gets explained by the Christians saying God had placed a strict prohibition on eating the fruit, and all Adam and Eve needed to do was to follow the prohibition and not eat it. Yet without full knowledge, Adam and Eve were not moral, and could not be moral; their ignorant breaking of the prohibition of God's against eating the fruit was just that -- ignorant; and their breaking of the command cannot be morally judged as a moral or immoral act.

It's just like if we tell a dog not, repeat not, repeat not, to nose open the cupboard door and scarf down a whole lot of compressed mouse-food cubes meant for pet mice, since we know that it will not be good for the dog --- but if the dog goes ahead and does it, we do not morally judge the dog because of its breaking of an express commandment. *** The breaking of the command by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is just like that, it's is not an immoral act, since Adam and Eve were nort genuine moral agents, having not had any knowledge of good and evil before the act -- yet the entire story is presented as purporting to show that Adam and Eve acted immorally, and incurred wrath upon all their descendents for ever after as a result of the act. None of this makes logical sense.

The only logical way I can see to escape that trap is to either:
  • theologically claim there is no such thing as free will or genuine morality or ethics anyway, and we all will be forcibly returned to some kind of afterlife existence as happy witless beasts if we are saved
    or
  • to theologically claim we must all use our "knowledge of good and evil" to do only right things in our lives in order to be saved, whereupon we will be returned to some kind of afterlife existence as happy witless beasts; in other words, we must use morality to return to an existence in which we cannot comprehend morality.

A biot like having a truly radical frontal lobotomy where not only pretty much all of the frontal lobes of our brains get removed, but also a fair whack of our temporal lobes as well, just so we can be both "saved" and happy. That really doesn't sound terribly good to me on all sorts of levels.

The practical defeater that comes in after that is best summed up by Doulas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and many other books, who put it a bit like this:
if you are placed in a situation where an overall authoritarian has said, "Hey, go enjoy yourselves, just DON'T DO THIS SPECIFIC THING", and then that authoritarian hides all over the place and jumps out screaming, "GOTCHA!", when you do do it, well now, you might as well just go ahead and do it anyway, if you cannot figure out any other escape plan, since the authoritarian is obviously of the kind of personality that is just so going to get you anyway, regardless of how much time it takes.

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** The fruit was most likely a pomegranate. It wasn't an apple, since the ancient Hebrews and other Middle Eastern peoples had no knowledge of the apple back then. But I shall blog on pomegranates and apples later.


*** When I was young, I had a daschhound dog who did precisely that, and then felt thirsty and scarfed all its water down, which of course made the dried, compressed mouse-food cubes all swell up. When I came back home from school I found a very unhappy daschhound who looked like a huge beachball with legs. I was very worried about my dog, but she survived and recovered after a very uncomfortable day and a half.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 09:11 PM (21:11)     45        37278
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another way to look at that I suppose. Do we take the burden of knowledge and accept the punishment for it, or remain ignorant and in bliss?
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 09:23 PM (21:23)     46        37279
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lol. Thank you, Gurdur.

Suffice it to say, given the alternatives I'd as soon spit on such a God as worship him... Except it'd be a waste of perfectly good spit.

Blacksword, Eve gave me my humanity and made me different from my cat. I treasure that. I'll keep the knowledge, but I refuse to accept the punishment. It's not mine. :P

Er.

Wait, we were supposed to be testing faith. logika, how's that going?
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 09:36 PM (21:36)     47        37281
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It's also pretty ethnocentric. Do you believe god would have a "chosen people."? Others denied eternal salvation because of demographics and geography?
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 09:47 PM (21:47)     48        37282
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how many wars have been fought because god was behind both sides... some people just like the thought of having the universes ultimate power behind them
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 09:50 PM (21:50)     49        37284
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why even create something like that? "Im going to make this thing that would completely damn anything that uses it."
I hereby propose the "God is a /b/tard hypothesis" (i.e. he did it for the lulz).
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 09:54 PM (21:54)     50        37286
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why even create something like that? "Im going to make this thing that would completely damn anything that uses it."
I hereby propose the "God is a /b/tard hypothesis" (i.e. he did it for the lulz).
http://cdn0.knowyourmeme.com/i/3431/...l/the_lulz.jpg

it is safe for work
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 11:09 PM (23:09)     51        37288
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Has to be shopped.
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Old 22-Feb-2010, 11:49 PM (23:49)     52        37289
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why even create something like that? "Im going to make this thing that would completely damn anything that uses it."
I hereby propose the "God is a /b/tard hypothesis" (i.e. he did it for the lulz).

All my lulz r belong to God. >.<
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Old 24-Feb-2010, 11:31 PM (23:31)     53        37376
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I'm sorry that I haven't been able to contribute to this thread since my initial posts, though I've tried to keep up to date with what you have all said. I have some free time (hopefully) at the weekend which I'll use to respond to as many points as I can.

Gurdur, your questions about faith have really helped me to think more fully about the nature of faith and it's practical implications: many thanks for that. I hope to blog on some of those ideas some time soon.
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Old 25-Feb-2010, 12:20 AM (00:20)     54        37378
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Good stuff, logika, and please make very sure to give us links, feedback and your thoughts!
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Old 27-Feb-2010, 08:46 PM (20:46)     55        37540
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Once again, apologies for the time it has taken me to make this reply. This first post is in response to Gurdur's moral argument. Gurdur made a number of points: (1) if God exists, we should only worship him if he is worthy of worship; (2) the sun shines on the good and wicked alike; (3) the concept of an afterlife raises too many hard questions; (4) if God is good, and so long as we do the best we can (by our standards), then it most likely makes no difference to us if we believe in him or not.

The flow of the argument seems to be as follows: he seems to imply from (2) that God is unjust, and since (3) it is unreasonable to believe that there is an afterlife (which would allow God to "balance the scales" so to speak) and therefore God, if he exists is unjust, and so he is unworthy of worship. So far, this just seems to be a form of the problem of evil argument. (4) then adds that even if God is good, then it makes no difference to us if we believe in him or not, so long as we try to live good lives.

I want to start off by commenting on the form of the argument. The conclusion is not that belief in God is unreasonable (or immoral as I was expecting) but that it makes no difference whether we believe God exists or not. But this is true of many beliefs (quarks exist, the universe is expanding, etc). We don't believe things based on whether they make any difference to us, but on whether or not there are good reasons (logical, empirical, moral, etc) to believe them. So in terms of offering a defeater for theistic belief, it seems to me that the argument is not attacking in the right direction. But perhaps I have misunderstood the argument?

So, let me now look at the argument as I understand it, starting with (1). This point is entirely correct. We then have to ask the question, "What would God have to be like or have to have done to necessitate our worship of him?" This, then, really leads to us to ask what it means to "worship" God. Worship (by my understanding from a Christian perspective) means to devote one's life to something (which is very different from just believing that God exists or even believing in God). It seems to me that a necessary (and sufficient?) condition for a God to be worthy of worship would be that his purposes for the world (and human life in particular) were wholly good. Would you agree?

(2), then, is really the heart of the argument. However, I have two main objections to it. Firstly, I fail to see why this is incompatible with theistic belief. Why should God "look after" his believers more than non-believers? One can think of plausible reasons why he might not. Secondly, in my experience people have said that God does "look after" them - not by preventing pain, but comforting them in it and sharing in it. So I fail to see why this is a (factual) defeater for theistic belief. To me, it seems that the standard problem of evil is a stronger contender to be a defeater for theistic belief.

As for (3), that a proposition leads to hard questions is a weak reason not to believe it. For example, the existence of free will leads to many difficult questions and dilemmas, but many (such as myself) do not find this a good reason to disbelieve in free will. I also don't see why an afterlife is necessary in order for God to be just; for example, perhaps the "reward" for leading a good life is being remembered well-of, or that it is a meaningful life, or that doing good is its own reward (as Augustine said, "sin" is its own punishment). Also from a Christian perspective, if one finds the evidence to show that Jesus' resurrection was a historical event (as I do), that gives strong grounds for belief in a more general resurrection.

Finally, I have already talked about (4) as a conclusion to an argument against theistic belief, but allow me to say something more about it to finish off (as I'm aware this post is now getting long). It is possible that belief/faith/worship could make little or no difference if there is some kind of afterlife; it is also possible that they make all the difference in the world. It really depends on whether they are of any value or not in the here-and-now, which brings us back to the questions you asked me. What does faith mean? Does it have any real effect in people's lives now. I will be writing a lot more about these questions soon, but for now let me simply say this: in my experience faith (not just in God) has a real effect (both good and bad) on the way that people live. And for my part, all my experiences of faith (which at heart is trust that God is good) have been immensely positive intellectually, emotionally, morally and practically.

There is more I wanted to say about the argument, but perhaps that will be more relevant as we dive into the issues more deeply. I hope I have understood the gist of what you were saying, Gurdur, and that I've represented your argument fairly. I look forward to getting into the finer details of this tricky subject.
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Old 27-Feb-2010, 09:14 PM (21:14)     56        37544
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.... I hope I have understood the gist of what you were saying, Gurdur, and that I've represented your argument fairly. I look forward to getting into the finer details of this tricky subject.
I think you made two missteps as to what I actually think and am saying, but since you're in good flow, and they're not huge biggies, I don't feel like interrupting, and I would much rather listen to what you say next. Many thanks!
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Old 27-Feb-2010, 11:36 PM (23:36)     57        37562
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So, let me now look at the argument as I understand it, starting with (1). This point is entirely correct. We then have to ask the question, "What would God have to be like or have to have done to necessitate our worship of him?" This, then, really leads to us to ask what it means to "worship" God. Worship (by my understanding from a Christian perspective) means to devote one's life to something (which is very different from just believing that God exists or even believing in God). It seems to me that a necessary (and sufficient?) condition for a God to be worthy of worship would be that his purposes for the world (and human life in particular) were wholly good. Would you agree?
Perhaps others here would, but I would not. My mother has my best interests at heart, but I sorely disagree with her what those interests are. In order for a God to be worshipped on the premise that my good is at his heart, he'd better be all knowing and all powerful too, and then he'd better either a) be able and willing to explain to me why he's doing what he's doing, or b) take away my ability to criticise the job he's doing. Cause really, if I think someone's doing a bad job in management I'm going to criticise. It gets me into more trouble than you know, but that's how it goes.

This isn't me being philisophical exactly, I'm just saying that good intentions alone do not a worthwhile God make.

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(2), then, is really the heart of the argument. However, I have two main objections to it. Firstly, I fail to see why this is incompatible with theistic belief. Why should God "look after" his believers more than non-believers? One can think of plausible reasons why he might not. Secondly, in my experience people have said that God does "look after" them - not by preventing pain, but comforting them in it and sharing in it. So I fail to see why this is a (factual) defeater for theistic belief. To me, it seems that the standard problem of evil is a stronger contender to be a defeater for theistic belief.
If God isn't going to look after his people more than anyone else, why in the world would we want to worship him over a God who does offer advantages? Also, I'd like to know what your arguements on that are, if you don't mind giving them. Being the "what do I get out of this" sort of person, I'd love to know what would motivate me to worship someone like that if I got nothing out of the deal.

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As for (3), that a proposition leads to hard questions is a weak reason not to believe it. For example, the existence of free will leads to many difficult questions and dilemmas, but many (such as myself) do not find this a good reason to disbelieve in free will. I also don't see why an afterlife is necessary in order for God to be just; for example, perhaps the "reward" for leading a good life is being remembered well-of, or that it is a meaningful life, or that doing good is its own reward (as Augustine said, "sin" is its own punishment). Also from a Christian perspective, if one finds the evidence to show that Jesus' resurrection was a historical event (as I do), that gives strong grounds for belief in a more general resurrection.
So what about folks who live their whole lives as sinful, evil bastards and never see a day's punishment for it? At what point there is God just? They obviously aren't missing God, and God's not punishing them now. Without an afterlife that doesn't leave much room for improvement.

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Finally, I have already talked about (4) as a conclusion to an argument against theistic belief, but allow me to say something more about it to finish off (as I'm aware this post is now getting long). It is possible that belief/faith/worship could make little or no difference if there is some kind of afterlife; it is also possible that they make all the difference in the world. It really depends on whether they are of any value or not in the here-and-now, which brings us back to the questions you asked me. What does faith mean? Does it have any real effect in people's lives now. I will be writing a lot more about these questions soon, but for now let me simply say this: in my experience faith (not just in God) has a real effect (both good and bad) on the way that people live. And for my part, all my experiences of faith (which at heart is trust that God is good) have been immensely positive intellectually, emotionally, morally and practically.
I have to be in agreement that faith, or lack thereof, plays a big part in people's lives... And I'm glad that for you it has been positive. But when I look at someone like my father, who would -also- claim that it's been positive... As someone who's *not* him, I would say that it's been a crushing, destructive force in his life. He thinks it's wonderful, but his beliefs end up being used as a tool of oppression for eveyone around him. And he is not an isolated incident, he's just the petty person I've dealt with who's most memorable. History is littered with examples of what happens when faith becomes a destructive force, and while the good no doubt does some balancing work, the reality is that you don't hear much about it.
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Old 28-Feb-2010, 01:25 AM (01:25)     58        37573
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Originally Posted by alicat View Post
If you want logical and factual then consider that creation story. Do you believe that's how it happened? Or maybe you can be a Christian and still believe in evolution. But what happens without that concept of original sin? Our species fell into a dummy trap for sinners and muddled around killing animals for centuries because we pissed god off and dead animals somehow made it better, then god got around to sending an aspect of himself to serve as a perfect sacrifice to himself and now we can be saved by faith. really? Also you might want to think about how some of the tenets of christianity made it a good "cattle" religion for the state during the late Roman Empire, medeival times etc.- be nice and humble, do as you're told, don't worry about earthly things, wait for glory in heaven.
I find no problems reconciling evolution with Christian belief. For me original sin is simply that people's sin affects those around them, and so when we are born we are negatively influenced by our surrounding environment. Thus our characters become warped very early in life (you could call this our "sinful nature"). This seems to me to be very natural whether you read human history from a theistic or an atheistic perspective (replacing sin with immoral action).

Understanding the sacrificial system properly really requires looking at it in its ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) context, which I can go into if you like. It is in this context that we can then go on to understand what it meant for Jesus' to be the perfect sacrifice for sin.

I'm not aware that the Bible teaches people no to "worry about earthly things" - in fact it seems to me that it teaches quite the opposite.
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Old 28-Feb-2010, 01:44 AM (01:44)     59        37574
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This is another problem for logika; does God mean Perfection for logika or not, and so on? And at some stage we're going to have to bring in the Book of Job into this, which will be a biggie.
I wouldn't define God as "Perfection" (as this seems to me to not be a very useful definition), but I would say that God is morally perfect (that is, all of his actions are good). I am happy with the labels omnipotent and omniscient in the sense that God has unlimited ability to do anything or know anything that it is possible to do or know. That doesn't mean that he always uses this abilities to their full potential. For example, I am an Open Theist, which means that possibilities for future events are actual and God does not know which possibility (which humans as free agents are able to choose) will occur. So God, in a sense, really does "learn" as the future unravels.
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Old 28-Feb-2010, 02:15 AM (02:15)     60        37581
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I wouldn't define God as "Perfection" (as this seems to me to not be a very useful definition), but I would say that God is morally perfect (that is, all of his actions are good). I am happy with the labels omnipotent and omniscient in the sense that God has unlimited ability to do anything or know anything that it is possible to do or know. That doesn't mean that he always uses this abilities to their full potential. For example, I am an Open Theist, which means that possibilities for future events are actual and God does not know which possibility (which humans as free agents are able to choose) will occur. So God, in a sense, really does "learn" as the future unravels.
According to dictionary.com:

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om·nis·cient
Quote:

   /ɒmˈnɪʃənt/ Show Spelled[om-nish-uhnt] Show IPA
–adjective 1. having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things.


–noun 2. an omniscient being.

3. the Omniscient, God.
Looking at what you said, and looking at the dictionary, I draw the following conclusion:

Your god is not omniscient.

Last edited by Makbawehuh; 28-Feb-2010 at 02:20 AM (02:20).
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