Truth Seekers discussion

Superstition versus Humanitarianism

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message 1: by Mark (new)

Mark Johansen | 8 comments I see Mr Harmon just joined this group. And reading his profile, I see he writes, "I appreciate and attempt to exercise the humanitarian teachings of Jesus without getting hung up on supernatural or religious beliefs."

Well, I can only say that I disagree with that statement completely! Maybe we can have a good argument about it ... I mean discussion. :-)

Whether the supernatural and religious things that Jesus said (or which the Bible claims that he said, if you prefer) are true is a question of vital importance. If it is true that those who accept Christ as their savior will spend an eternity in paradise with God, while those who reject him will spend eternity in Hell, then what you do about Christ is the most important decision you will ever make in your life.

Don't get me wrong: Of course I believe that we should be nice to our fellow human beings and try to help each other and so forth. But if there is an eternity ahead of us, than how we will spend the next million years is surely more important than how we will spend the next few decades.

message 2: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 9 comments Thanks for the welcome, Mark! I see there's no flying under the radar here! :)

You get right to the crux of the matter when you discuss spending an eternity in Hell; that is the very doctrine that most disturbed me and led me ultimately to a more liberal Christian perspective.

So, yes, a humanitarian (eg: here and now) appreciation naturally grows stronger in a Christian who has lost faith in eternal reward or punishment.

message 3: by Cherie (new)

Cherie Clayton (cherieclayton) We are suppose to live in the here and now...but we are to have our focus on the eternal reward that befalls us. I have a question for Lee....What disturbed you about spending eternity in hell. This statement is geared toward Mark. You stated that we should be nice to our fellow humans..but I will raise the standard with this...John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We are not just supposed to be nice and help them...if we truly are His disciples we would love others as Christ loved us.

message 4: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 9 comments Cherie, there has never been a person in the history of the world who deserves hell. But the scripture is clear: few that be that find the true way. I went through some serious depression. I would walk down the street and look into the eyes of people I knew were probably going to hell, and would want to throw up. I sometimes wondered if the point of life was to bring me to the point where I would pray that God would drop the idea of hell. Was I supposed to offer to take the place of sinners in hell, so they could go free? I prayed the words, but insincerely, because I detested the idea of heaven just as much: how could anyone be happy living with a God who would banish people to hell?

I talked to ministers about it, and eventually gave up. It's like Christians are taught to ignore the evil of hell and think only about heaven. But I couldn't, so I spent years studying religion, history, science, archaeology, cosmology, studies of life after death, trying to figure out how much of the Bible was true. It's been quite a journey.

message 5: by Dan (new)

Dan Barker | 6 comments Cherie wrote: "We are suppose to live in the here and now...but we are to have our focus on the eternal reward that befalls us. I have a question for Lee....What disturbed you about spending eternity in hell. T..."

Yes, loving all others is the heart of what Jesus taught! That sometimes confuses people, because they think in terms of emotional love. They worry about how that is possible. We do not have to initially feel an emotion of love - the point is to act lovingly.

message 6: by Mark (new)

Mark Johansen | 8 comments There are two very different questions here. One is whether or not Hell is fair or if people deserve to go there. A very different question is whether it is real. The two questions have little to do with each other. Reality does not bend to our wishes.

I don't think my father "deserves" to suffer from kidney failure. But it would be foolish to say that because it would be unfair, that therefore I refuse to believe that he has this medical problem and therefore we will not seek medical treatment.

Likewise, maybe you don't think it's fair for people to go to Hell. But to conclude from that that therefore Hell doesn't exist just doesn't follow logically. If Hell is, indeed, real, and you refuse to acknowledge the fact and take steps to save yourself and others, it is the equivalent of saying that you refuse to take medicine or refuse to give your children medicine, because you don't want to believe in illness.

I react to the horror of Hell by warning people to avoid it, not by pretending it doesn't exist.

message 7: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 9 comments Mark, some of my research went into the evolution of our ideas about hell. What did first-century people (Jew and Greek, mostly) believe before Christ? How did those ideas evolve into what's written in the New Testament? How did the ideas continue to evolve through Christian history?

You begin to realize these are human ideas. Thank God, huh? It would be sickening to imagine that God planned that stuff.

A carrot works better than a stick. At least, that's my experience.

message 8: by Cherie (last edited Feb 14, 2011 02:18PM) (new)

Cherie Clayton (cherieclayton) Lee wrote: "Mark, some of my research went into the evolution of our ideas about hell. What did first-century people (Jew and Greek, mostly) believe before Christ? How did those ideas evolve into what's writte..."

God did not intend for humans to go to hell. It was a place created for the devil and his demons. (Matthew 25:41) However, if man denies God, he is serving satan and therefore will go to hell. Not because God sends them there, but because they have rejected God. The word says 1 Peter 3:9 that God does not want anyone to perish and that he is patient with us. So, according to word, this "idea" of hell is very real and it was not intended for man....but because of human depravity we have rejected God and therefore God had to bring justice.

message 9: by Cherie (new)

Cherie Clayton (cherieclayton) Lee wrote: "Cherie, there has never been a person in the history of the world who deserves hell. But the scripture is clear: few that be that find the true way. I went through some serious depression. I would ..."

I bet it has been a journey. We all deserve hell! We deserve to be condemned for our sins...but the beautiful thing is that Christ came so we wouldn't have to. He did away with sin, and whether we come to that saving grace is totally up to us. He is the only one who can and has paid the penalty for our sin. We don't need to take the place for the sinners, because Jesus did that already. However, we need to share the love of God with everyone so they will have the opportunity to accept Jesus as their savior. I am not a theologian by no means...and sometimes I feel as if theologians can become to caught up in the "religious" aspect of Christianiy. If I may be honest with you Lee, and I don't mean to offend...but what really is it about God that you despise? I think there may be more to it than what you are giving into. I may be completely wrong, but I believe that anyone who experiences the magnificent love of the Father would rejoice over heaven, and grieve over the lost and do thier best to bring as many to Him as possible. I don't know...just a thought from a momma of four.

message 10: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 9 comments omg...we deserve hell? Have you ever studied what hell is like? for 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years?

I don't despise God! Not unless you try to convince me that God is going to banish even one person to hell. Then, yes, I would despise him.

Perhaps God isn't going to. I've talked with some Christians who believe God is powerless to save people who won't save themselves; by believing God would never purposefully send anyone to hell, they escape the disturbing conclusion that God is evil.

Here is what I think: Most Christians find God to be good and loving, and that doesn't jibe at all with what the scriptures say about hell, so they ignore hell and assume all will somehow be well. That's fine, if you're able.

message 11: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 9 comments Cherie, suppose you have a loving, compassionate father, and you dote on him. Everybody loves him.

One day, you discover he has a prisoner chained in his basement, where he tortures him day and night. What would you do?

You might try to understand. You might next try to set him free. You might then try to reason with your father. You might eventually come to despise your father. One thing I guarantee, though, is that you would not remain unchanged.

message 12: by Mark (new)

Mark Johansen | 8 comments Lee: On what basis do you conclude that the statements in the Bible about Heaven and Hell are invented by humans and not by God? Sure, we can trace ideas about Heaven and Hell in historical sources. But it's not clear to me what that proves. Maybe you're aware of historical documents that I am not. (I certainly haven't read even a tiny fraction of all the ancient documents that survive.)

Do you really have solid historical documentary evidence that Hell is a human invention? Or is this just something that you believe because you would like to believe it? In the same way that people will say, "I refuse to believe that my wife had an affair with Mr Jones", by which they mean, okay that's where the evidence leads, but it's too unpleasant so I just won't believe it.

message 13: by Mark (new)

Mark Johansen | 8 comments The Bible is rather vague on the details about Heaven and Hell. So there's a lot of guesswork.

Heaven is generally understood to be a place where people spend eternity with God. If, as many want to believe, everyone goes to Heaven, what about people who don't want to be near God? I've spoken to many atheists over the years who hate the very idea of theism because they don't like the idea of being subject to the rules of any God. They talk about atheism as freedom. Would God force these people to live with him in Heaven even though they don't want to be there? Would he allow them to live there but not have to follow the same rules as everybody else? But if God allowed some people to live in Heaven but not be required to obey rules against lies and deceit, violence, rape, whatever, wouldn't that destroy Heaven for everyone else?

(Maybe I should make clear that I'm not saying that all atheists are thieves and rapists, or that all Christians are morally flawless. But Christians WANT to obey God's laws, while atheists don't.)

What if you had a loving compassionate father whom you loved? And then he kidnapped someone and forced this person to live with your family. He called this person by his own last name. And he insisted that he was doing all this for this person's own good, because living with him is so much better than living anywhere else.

If God forced everyone to live in Heaven, that's what he would be doing.

message 14: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 9 comments Hi, Mark, it's possible to trace the evolution of ideas about Sheol through the Bible, and through non-canonical scriptures like 1 Enoch. (We have to take these extra scriptures seriously, because N.T. writers like Jude and Revelation did.) It's also possible to see Hellenistic ideas merging with Hebrew ideas. The story of Lazarus and the rich man sounds more Hellenistic ... more like Hades than Sheol. And, of course, the ideas continued to evolve through the centuries of Christian development.

differing opinions in the N.T. don't bolster my confidence that anyone really knew, either. Paul didn't believe in hell.

It's just that the more I studied, the more it seemed every ancient writer had a different opinion.

Here is a fun overview:

message 15: by Mark (new)

Mark Johansen | 8 comments Lee: On what basis do you conclude that Paul did not believe in Hell? I find no place in Paul's writings where he says that there is no such place. He doesn't say a lot about it, but he does explicitly mention Hell in at least one place: 2 Corinthians 15:54-56.

message 16: by Mark (new)

Mark Johansen | 8 comments By the way, to go back to your "keeping a prisoner in the basement" analogy. Tone your analogy down just one step. Suppose you had a father whom you loved, etc, and then you discovered that he was the warden of a prison where convicted felons were locked up. Would that make you conclude he was really an evil monster? Or would you say that these felons deserved to be locked up and your father was serving justice?

message 17: by Lee (last edited Feb 28, 2011 07:02AM) (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 9 comments Mark, I don't see anything in 1 Cor 15:54-56 about hell. You might have to interpret for me. Paul's understanding about the afterlife for bad fellas seems summed up in his statement, "the wages of sin is death." Centuries later, this would be called the annihilation theory.

I'm happy to tone down my analogy if you're also toning down the way hell works. Maybe you have a kinder, gentler hell in mind.

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