When God Became the Devil

I've been reading Adam Kotsko's The Politics of Redemption. One of the interesting observations he makes in the book is how penal substitutionary atonement, which began with Anselm, turned God into the Devil.

Prior to Anselm, the main atonement theory used by the church was Christus Victor. Specifically, humanity was being held captive by the Devil and Christ died to free us from this slavery. The Harrowing of Hell icons in the Orthodox church, which are their Easter icons, depict this. In the Harrowing of Hell icons you see the gates of hell broken down and Satan being bound while Christ reaches out to a captive humanity with Adam and Eve first in line.

The thing to be noted here is that the evil, violent and diabolical aspect of salvation history was external to God. The problem was the Devil. Humanity was being rescued from an evil that was external to God's character and nature.

But with Anselm a change happened, a theological twist still alive today. Worried as he was about the role of the Devil in Christus Victor schemes Anselm shifted the problem away from the Devil and toward the character of God. The drama of salvation was no longer an external conflict between God and the Devil but an internal conflict within God's own heart, a conflict between God's wrath and God's love.

In short, the problem to be overcome in the atonement was no longer external to God's character. The problem--the evil, violent and diabolical forces arrayed against us--had been internalized, absorbed into God's character. The Devil was no longer the problem to be overcome in the drama of salvation. Having absorbed and internalized the diabolical aspects of the drama the problem became God's newly conflicted character.

We are no longer saved from the Devil. We are saved from God.

With penal substitutionary atonement God had become the Devil.

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74 thoughts on “When God Became the Devil”

  1. What would you say to the criticisms of Christus Victor that are expressed by Christianity Today? http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/aprilweb-only/christusvicarious.html. Genuinely curious, since the CT article is one of the first things that comes up when you search for "Christus Victor"

  2. I think Paul and the Gospel writers saw the life of Jesus as a new Exodus. This was the primary understanding of the Jesus event. Jesus leads his people through death and into life, liberating them. The Hebrews plunged into the water of the Red Sea to be brought back up into their freedom. The Exodus is God's free gift of liberation to a people who cannot liberate themselves.

  3. Excellent summary of the situation. So glad you are speaking up for other points of view on the subject of the atonement.

  4. Just my two paragraphs as an inquirer into Eastern Orthodoxy (planning to convert when I am able) who was drawn to it because of its theology of atonement:

    Like many other exponents of PSA, I see this article conflating it with "substitutionary atonement" (the phrase it uses to refer to PSA), equating substitution (which has strong biblical support and which Orthodox advocates of Christus Victor, at least, do not dispute) with penal substitution and all its attendant implications for God's nature, as Richard points out. Because Scripture teaches substitutionary atonement, it is taken to teach PSA. Likewise, the statement that Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews all contain "extensive discussion of [penal] substitutionary atonement" is based on a post-Reformation rule of faith that is not found in the patristic era.

    Christus Victor does acknowledge the reality of sin and the need for forgiveness, but views them in a relational rather than a forensic light, hence why believers in PSA with its assumptions about God's "justice" needing to be satisfied by a legal procedure wouldn't notice it. In CV's understanding, humanity's great need is not forgiveness and remission of guilt (for God stands waiting to forgive us like the father of the lost son in Luke 15), but liberation from the forces of sin and death that oppress and corrupt us.

  5. John, I'm agreeing with what David is saying here.

    I find it strange that the CT author would miss the role of substitution in Christus Victor. I always like to describe Christus Victor as "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" model of atonement. Aslan clearly substitutes himself for Edmund.

    And like David said, the issue about sin in Christus Victor is less about guilt than about sin as a power, a force in our lives. So while, perhaps, Christus Victor might minimize the role of guilt it has a very much more robust theology of sin.

  6. I like this, Richard. The problem I see is that for many of us who have moved into this way of viewing atonement and the work of the cross, we also have a hard time discussing the "powers". So, on the one hand we know that the cross is about the defeating of the powers, but on the other hand we fear that conversation leads to a literal reading of spiritual warfare, demons, etc. I find myself caught in the middle. What are your thoughts here? How do we develop a "robust theology on the powers" (as I think you called it in another post). Maybe you have a series of blog posts coming on this. If not, consider it?!

  7. Right crime, wrong culprit. Or at least wrong culprit given the terms of the conflict -- anger and love. For Anselm, the problem is, yes, human sin rather than the devil (linked as the devil was to the repugnant idea of ransom), but sin
    understood as a violation of God’s honour, which is understood not as a personal affront that makes God angry but rather as a structural threat to the ordo universi, the order of the universe, which is secured by the allegiance pledged to the Lord by his people. And, yes, this broken order can be repaired by poena, but punishment is a messy business, so God opts for the social alternative, satisfactio, "satisfaction", which is provided by the death of Christ (whose innocence, not suffering is redemptive). Needless to say, it is the 11th century culture of empire -- of kings and vassals and a realm to be sustained -- which gives informs Anselm’s doctrine and gives it contemporary traction.

    Of course, all sorts of criticisms can be made against Anselm (e.g., the neglect of Jesus' life and teaching -- and resurrection; the over-emphasis on God's power relative to his love; the lack of a transformative dimension to God's action in Christ; the implicit blessing of empire, and with it the powerful rather than the poor) -- though not to Anselm alone! My point here is simply that that the anger/love binary is not his but Calvin’s (over 400 years later), and it is Calvin, not Anselm, who proposes a theory of Penal Substitution (which in addition to an Anselmian notion of debt requires both a Roman view of criminal law and a Jewish understanding of sacrificial propitiation). Above all, in his defence, key for Anselm is the threat of sin to the ordo universi. Anselm's harmatology is terrifically robust and not at all reducible to personal guilt and alienation, and he has a wonderfully aesthetic eye for the world’s harmony and beauty that sin distorts.

  8. A couple of typos - Grrr! I'm looking to hire a blog-comment editor. Let me know if anyone is interested. ;)

  9. This is a very interesting discussion. I am particularly interested by Ryan's post regarding a "theology of the powers." While it was certainly not Anselm's priority, his change in focus helps shift the blame from a third party (Satan) back to the two parties at hand (God and his people). The conversation on Christus Victor helps get us a little closer, realizing the problem of sin is on us. Many excellent thoughts here.

  10. Great post. This is why our denomination, the Evangelical Covenant, loves a Swede named P.P. Waldenstrom. It's also why we don't sing "In Christ Alone" with the traditional "wrath of God was satisfied" language in our church. It's not good theology. Thank you!

  11. But isn't this "Anselm's theory of atonement" already in the Bible itself (Isaiah 53:5):

    "But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed." (ESV)

    and (Isaiah 53:10):

    "Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makesh an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand." (ESV)

    If the Lord has "crushed Jesus", the wrath of God was focused on him. This is also teached by the New Testament (2. Cor. 5:19):

    "...that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." (ESV)

    Above is said, that God reconciled the world to HIMSELF, so the world was the object which had to be reconciled with God because God really hates the sin, although He doesn't hate the sinner. So, the world was to be saved from the hatred of God, which is not evil but holy, as Paul says (Romans 3: 5-6):

    "But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?" (ESV)

    It seems to me that the position about atonement which is under discussion here has been solved earlier than by Anselm. The Bible itself says like Anselm: Reconciliation is not only to save human being from the kingdom of Satan, but also from the law of God, from the righteous hatred of God. The hatred of God is against the sin of the world, and against the sin of every human being. The reconciliation of mankind with God happened on the basis of Crucifixion of Christ. So, God is not the Devil because the hatred is not always only a bad thing, namely when it is against evil.

    ESV = English Standard Version

  12. First, the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement has never ever taught that there was any conflict within God. In fact, all orthodox theologians have always taught the impassibility of God which precludes any such conflict.

    Second, the doctrine teaches that God must be faithful to His own nature which includes not only His love, compassion, longsuffering tenderness, grace, mercy, etc., but also His holiness, justice, righteousness, and wrath. Even the theory of the early church did not entirely eliminate God's wrath from the picture as that would have been completely unbiblical. They emphasized that the reason we were enslaved to Satan was because of God's wrath. The focus was on the fact that they believed because of this God had to pay Satan in some sense and had to trick him in some manner in order to make this work. It was those concepts that are terribly unbiblical and that Anselm sought to correct and for the most part did.

    Third, Anselm's theory, despite this constant misunderstanding, is not entirely the same as the later penal substitutionary atonement understanding of the later Reformers. Anselm's theory is properly known as the satisfaction or commercial theory.

    Fourth, while I hold to the doctrine of the Reformers I also admit that the atonement is extremely layered and so I understand that the full theory may not be entirely correct. Hence, I don't make it an essential of the Christian faith. But the idea that there is not a lot of biblical evidence in its favor is absurd, something that is admitted even by most of its opponents. Hence, to make such a strong assessment that our doctrine makes God into the Devil is egregious.

    Fifth, this is yet another example of Progressive Christians feeling the liberty to make some of the strongest charges against conservatives, while all the while constantly lambasting conservatives for being mean and unloving when we make very serious charges in your direction. I've pointed this out countless times, but once again, you cannot have it both ways.

  13. Sorry, can't agree with most of this. We are explicitly saved from sin and death/ the law of sin and death; not from the hatred of God, not from the hatred of God for sin, not from "hell", or anything else. The reason God hates sin is because of what it does to us. He's personally big enough to take it. Clearly. You misunderstand what Romans 3:5-6 is saying.

  14. but god is love! hatred exists outside of love (god).
    that wil never change if i understand correctly.
    regardless i intuitivly know it and therefore i try to act on my intuition that loving everyone, returning good for evil especially to enemies, is not only practical, possible, necessary but it is this faith in god's love & god's abilities to help me do these things that transforms the world.
    i know nothing by peer review, consensus, analysis or scholarly perfectionism & don't think anyone can.
    the strong illusion of one upmanship persists as a mania for power over others and above gods will and intentions. i think it's Therefore an evil activity that temporarily rules the human heart w/ a fantasy of control.
    The connection to god is a sense from w/in that is daily renewed & as cherished as life dependent on my next breath.

  15. I honestly have no idea what you are talking about. Progressive responses never cease to amaze me. They used to, but over the years I have learned better.

  16. You're right, I'm sorry, I have a very addictive personality. It's so bad I often don't see what enslaves me. Can you please tell me specifically what exactly I'm addicted to so that I can change?

  17. I was being sarcastic, but only because you are being so evasive. But I am always willing to dialogue and so if you would be more explicit I could actually give you a response. But if you are going to continue to make unfounded accusations based on no evidence simply because I disagree with you and try to hide behind your subjectivism then no we cannot dialogue as you are cutting off any ground for dialogue. I mean honestly, how could you possibly know my heart. I could just as easily accuse you of being addicted to your views in a vain attempt on my part to end the discussion. But I would never do that as I always seek to prove my points and disprove the points of my opponents on an objective basis. That is the only ground for fair and non-judgmental discourse. And I have often been proven wrong by opponents and admitted so when it happens which proves that I am not only interested in guarding my views or my "stash" as you say.

  18. Nope not going to hunt w/ that dog. There is some good research going on right now that might help you recover. A good place to start a search engine is 'cults', 'narcissism', 'structural violence'.

  19. I'm not trying to take sides here, but louismoreaugottschalk, I didn't understand what you were talking about, either. I don't think Dan Jensen's responses are meant to belittle you (and this comment certainly isn't), but to actually figure out what you were saying. I don't think I'm alone in not understanding.

  20. Let me get back to you on this. And thanks for your respectful request I sincerly appreciate it and am not being sarcastic.

  21. Bro, I genuinely think you need to listen to yourself. You may not like me, you may not agree with me, but you have no right, none whatsoever, to say that I'm cultic, narcissistic, or that I engage in structural violence simply because I pointed out facts, and yes I mean absolute facts. I understand that because you post here you may not like the fact that I point out the factual errors of Mr. Beck, but that does not thereby give you the right to slander me. Go through my response and you will see that every single thing I said is a fact. To say that the stating of facts means I am like a drug addict who is in denial is delusional, and I mean that in all sincerity and not because I'm trying to be mean. If you say that my theory of the atonement is not a fact and that was your focus, go back and read my response and you will see that I went out of my way to say that my theory is not a fact, but it is the theory I hold to. If you believe my theory is false, then challenge it, I'm very open to that.

    Essentially what you are saying, and what so many other Progressive Christians that I have interacted with are saying, is that you guys have the right to change facts because your emotions and intuitions give you that right and anyone who questions such an approach is a monster. That my friend is the very essence of arrogance, a judgmental spirit, and narcissism. I want to dialogue, you don't because you are just right and there is no questioning that. What can be more narcissistic than that???

    I have said this so many times after a few years now of trying to reason with Progressive Christians and I'll say it again: despite the veneer of being the loving, tolerant, open-minded ones, at the end of the day you guys do not want debate or discussion, you want absolute submission. That is scary stuff. And you proved me right once again.

    For what it's worth I don't hate you or anything and I truly wish you and your family a great Thanksgiving. God bless.

  22. That anger is good fresh and clean. You are being honest about how you feel and I appreciate that. The next stage of recovery is bargaining I think. You are making quick progress through the changes! You are very intelligent! Praise the lord! I get inspired by kubler-Ross. I am thankfull for you this thanks giving. You are a blessing to many. More than you know.

  23. Of course, the big problem with the Ransom theory is that the Devil doesn't actually exist. Satan is a Christian-era reinvention of the "Accuser", who was a loyal member of God's divine council in Old Testament Judaism, combined with a dash of Zoroastrian theology and the Enochic fallen watchers.

  24. Nope, not at all. Maybe you should try not reading so much into me and actually responding to my posts.

  25. congratz! you're in the 'bargaining stage' you can skip to the end of the chapter if you wish and look at your future under the category 'acceptance'.

  26. Wow, I tell you what, I certainly accept the fact that you are a pompous ass! But you're good for a laugh that's for sure and I thank you for that!!

  27. I only accept that you are one of the most pompous people I've ever interacted with, but you sure are good for a laugh and I thank you for that!

  28. Not unless that metaphor represents the darkness within each of us. I think this is the true sense in which we are ransomed - we are ransomed from the darkness within us.

    When we are given something we don't deserve it brings about a profound change within us. If you have the time, watch these two short video clips which illustrate my point:



    Interestingly, this came to be the Jewish understanding of atonement during the time of the prophets. And would have been what the Jewish thinkers around the time of Jesus understood by the term atonement (something that rends our hearts, cleanses us of our own feelings of guilt and unworthiness, makes us grateful and brings us closer to God)

  29. The problem with Isaiah 53:10 is that it doesn't read like that at all in the oldest copies of the Old Testament that we have (The Septuagint)

    53:4 – This one bears our sins and suffers pain for us, and we accounted him to be in trouble and calamity and ill-treatment.

    53:10 – And the Lord desires to cleanse him from his blow. If you offer for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived offspring.

    In the Septuagint, God desires to save him, not crush him.

    The other problem with this passage is that it was primarily written for Jews of that day (it is only it's secondary purpose that is prophetic) the Suffering Servant figure of Isaiah—is a reference to the people of Israel as a whole, but not to any one person.

    > Above is said, that God reconciled the world to HIMSELF, so the world was the object which had to be reconciled with God because God really hates the sin, although He doesn't hate the sinner. So, the world was to be saved from the hatred of God

    Reconciling the world to himself can be understood in 2 ways:

    - Either God has to change (be appeased so that his wrath is no longer on the world)

    - Or the world has to change (be cleansed, rescued from sin, be given a change of heart so that it is no longer at enmity with God)

    We are told that before salvation, WE are the ones who were slaves to sin and were at enmity with God: (Romans 6:18, Romans 6:22, Galatians 5: 1, Colossians 1:21, John 8:36, John 8:32, 2 Co 5:17, Ephesians
    2:14-16, 1 John 4:19)

    With regards to Romans 3: 5-6, yes Paul talks about the wrath of God but there is no indication that wrath of God is our problem and Jesus came to save us from that wrath. Rather, that wrath of God is for us and intended to lead us to righteousness. This is how we see the wrath of God expressed consistently in the Old Testament.

  30. The problem is that you have to explain how that darkness became entrenched within us in the first place and what this process had to do with God and furthermore you must explain how the atonement frees us from this darkness. Otherwise, you really do not have a doctrine or theory of the atonement, but just vague assertions.

    This is one of the primary problems we have with the Progressive adherence to the Ransom Theory, namely that it is so vague and really almost pushes God completely out of the picture. And because of that it really isn't the Ransom Theory of old because the older theory of the Church Fathers made it clear that we were under the yoke of Satan as a punishment for our sin which was rooted in the wrath of God. While their theory was unbiblical in our estimation, it didn't amount to full blown heresy because it still located our primary problem as being the wrath of God.

    The Progressive twist is either heretical or comes dangerously close, depending on the advocate, because it passionately rejects the notion that the atonement is ultimately needed because of God's wrath despite just how clear the Bible is on this point.

  31. That louis... guy is full of it and has shown himself to very clearly not be a person of character. I can almost guarantee you he will not fulfill his promise of getting back to you.

  32. that moment in the courtroom light broke thru! have you read 'the great divorce' by c.s.lewis? i highly recomend.

  33. > The problem is that you have to explain how that darkness became entrenched within us in the first place and what this process had to do with God and furthermore you must explain how the atonement frees us from this darkness. Otherwise, you really do not have a doctrine or theory of the atonement, but just vague assertions.

    Why does this need an explanation? The fact that we have a darkness within us is self evident. We don't need to be able to point to a source.

    In any case, I think the source is this: It's the way we evolved. We evolved to out-compete others and that requires acting in self interest at times. Have a look at just about any animal an you will witness behaviors that we would call immoral if they were acted out by people.

    Put another way: It's the way God made us. Just like a child is born spiritually immature and without a developed sense of ethics, as our species has evolved, we also find ourselves in a position where we have to develop both spiritually and morally. This life is both a schoolroom and a hospital for the soul. We each have to undertake a journey of growing into spiritual and moral maturity and that is a journey that God has intended for each of us. It is what this life is about.

    The atonement starts us on a journey of becoming like Christ. It is the opening moment where we become a new man and it operates a bit like we see it operating in the two videos above. When we truly realise what we were given when we didn't deserve it, our response should be cathartic and this is the thing that sets us free from a bondage to the old sinful ways.

    God isn't out of the picture with this understanding of the atonement, rather Christ is completely central and crucial to this understanding.

    > isn't the Ransom Theory of old because the older theory of the Church Fathers made it clear that we were under the yoke of Satan as a punishment for our sin which was rooted in the wrath of God

    I don't see that at all. Yes they believed that we were under the yoke of Satan, but can you show me anything that says that this was a punishment from God because we had stirred his wrath?

    What I see rather when I read early fathers like Irenaeus and Origen is that God made us to be spiritually immature from the outset (otherwise why would "Adam" have disobeyed in the first place?) and intends to grow up which is a journey to be undertaken.

    The idea that we were once perfect and then triggered God's wrath by sinning which made things fall apart doesn't even make sense because why would we have sinned in the first place if we were perfect from the outset. It is also completely out of step with reality (namely sciences like Biology)

    This is neither a progressive twist, nor is it heretical. Arguably it is what Paul taught and it is what the early fathers taught. The heretical take on atonement would be penal substitution which as Richard has pointed out, turns God into the devil.

  34. Hey, thank you so much for the solid and heartfelt response, it is so greatly appreciated. Finally, someone who wants to dialogue! I'm really swamped with deadlines looming over my head, so I will probably give you a full response tomorrow afternoon, but I just didn't want you to think I was ignoring this response and I also wanted to genuinely thank you. So often I just get vague, dismissive, judgmental responses from Progressive folks, and so when I get a good one I am grateful.

  35. A poster on another blog wrote of meeting "good people who are desperately trying to protect [him] from the evil god they worship." This is the sense that I have, as an outsider, of much contemporary Christian theology: one is uneasily aware that the God being described is hard to tell from the Devil.

  36. Even playing into your fairy tale, god is the one who put the tree with the fruit of the knowledge of god and evil right down in the garden next to the two people who didn't know right form wrong? Why would he have done this except he intended for them to eat it? He certainly knew they would. The fall was a deliberate act on Yahweh's part.

  37. How is it self-evident we have darkness within us? What do you mean? Surely you're not talking about sexual desire?

    There is something else out of step with reality (namely sciences like biology),besides just original sin.

  38. The author of Isaiah did not and could not have known anything about Jesus. Written at least 200 years before Jesus (If you think that's a low estimate go read what the Copenhagen school is producing). Unless you think maybe he had foreknowledge through magic or something? But I wouldn't admit to that either if I believed something so simple-minded.

  39. So that flood thing was an affectionate embrace? Well, Hosea does call god a wife-beater.

  40. When traditional theologians use the term wrath they only use it in an anthropomorphic sense. We do not mean that God is actually angry or upset. What we do mean is that God is a completely just God who must according to His justice reward righteousness and punish sin. And if God is perfect He must have wrath in this sense or He would not be perfect, He would be an unjust god.

  41. So you're one of those new-fangled Christians who doesn't believe in Hell? What do you think 'saved form death means?" Do you really believe that after your brain stops producing the epi-phenomenon of your mind, something that you would call you is going to continue to exist anywhere? Is so, please elaborate.

  42. i experience darkness as disconnection from ppl. places and things. the feeling i get that nothing makes sense, I don't fit in socially anywhere. Where is my tribe? Nobody is there for me when I am lonely, sick, hurting. And I can't stop bad things from happening to me. And i hate myself and everyone and I don't know why. Btw you are asking good questions!

  43. I think the flood thing mite be a myth. There are a lot of things in the bible that seem improbable and/or I don't know, or understand. I don't know why anyone thinks the bible is 'innerrant'. But that's just me. You asked a question that is most thought provoking and i am trying to read between the lines about why anyone thinks a god good if it is a being capable of doing something so hideous!

  44. Hey sorry, for some reason your other response showed up in my email on my phone, but not this one. I just saw this one when I checked my email on my computer.

    Anyhoo, God certainly intended to allow them to eat it. But that in no way means that he intended it in the sense of tempting them or taking any sick joy in watching them fall. But yes, their fall was part of His greater plan to demonstrate both His love and His justice. So no the fall was most certainly not a deliberate act on God's part, but yes His decision to allow it for a greater purpose was. Adam and Eve deliberately sinned, God did nothing wrong and in fact did something wonderful as is the case with all of His actions because He was bringing about a greater plan.

    I read your other comments to other people and on a couple of occasions you use the straw man argument that we believe God has his power through magic. No one teaches such a thing, so please try to keep your comments accurate, it makes dialogue far more productive. Thanks.

  45. How is allowing evil to enter the minds of man demonstrating love and justice? A judge who dismantles the social safety net with the intent to increase poverty and drive people to lives of crime is not "demonstrating love and justice" when he then gives generous sentences the criminals he created.

    And have you forgotten? Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good and evil when the ate the forbidden fruit. How could they possibly understand it was wrong to eat it without the concepts of right and wrong? We don't punish infants for "bad" behavior for this very reason, we instead try to limit their environment. After all, they literally don't know any better!

    If you really believe in the literal story of Adam and Eve then you believe in a God who practices entrapment so that he has an excuse to punish and can pat himself on the back when he decides to be merciful.

  46. I think it means saved from the law of sin and death (whatever that means), not saved from hell. Also, lack of belief in hell is not really new in Christianity.
    As for the rest, that's a good question. I know what I was raised believing, but now I'm not as certain what happens after we die.

  47. One of my friends made a great list of attributes that could apply equally to a particular version of the God and Devil. Both claimed to be good. Both promised to reward those who sided and punish those who didn't. Both claimed that they would overcome the other in the final battle. Coupled with the belief that morality is entirely determined by an all-powerful God and beyond our ability to judge, it reduced Christianity to figuring out which side of a war was more powerful and therefore going to win.

  48. I was raised Catholic and I don't appreciate your insinuation I don't understand my own former beliefs. I never really though about what I had believed until after deconverting when I discovered it simply didn't add up.

    I'm sorry, but there is no way God's actions in the story of Adam and Eve were even remotely just. Since you didn't like my first analogy, how about another? Toddlers generally understand right from wrong "at some minimal level." When a parent tells their toddler not to touch something they are sincerely hoping for compliance. When the toddler in question does touch the forbidden object, they will indeed be punished by a time out or something similarly temporary. What we don't expect parents to do is drop their toddlers off at an orphanage or perhaps force them to live in the garage because of one instance of non-compliance. Either of these responses would be complete overkill! Parents tailor their response to their child's level of understanding. Teenagers get more severe punishments then grade schoolers, who get more severe punishments then toddlers. Adam and Eve's understanding of right and wrong prior to eating the fruit was minimal at best. As such, their punishment should have been scaled down to match said level of comprehension. Being kicked out of the garden and given a life time of cramps and birthing pains or hard labor was complete overkill.

    Even if by some strange metric you think the response was proportionate, consider the fact that such punishments were then extended to Adam and Eve's children! (And extends even to you and I.) To punish a child for the actions of their parents is cruel and entirely unjust. We don't jail the sons and daughters of rapists and murderers for the crimes of their parents. Why should God make everyone suffer on account of actions taken by some distant ancestors?

    Even if you rationalize that also knowing good and evil meant the children had to be punished as well, it raises the question as to why God allowed that knowledge to pass on to future generations. He is God! He could easily have changed matters so that children would not be born with Adam and Eve's knowledge of good and evil. He could have instead had the tree of knowledge, complete with it's warning, present itself to each person once they reached a certain age. Give them freedom to choose for themselves rather the suffer on account of a choice made for them. Allow the good children who don't eat the fruit back into the garden. It would still be a ridiculously harsh punishment for those who do choose to eat the fruit (because again, by definition they don't understand the potential evil that results from said choice) but at least the choice would be theirs!

    If your God's actions are not self absorbed, then why does he require worship at all? A good parent is satisfied to raise a happy, healthy, kind and responsible child and does not expect said child to constantly sing their praises. (Especially not if the parent gave their child up for adoption, has never even met the child, and makes no attempt to contact them in any way that can be definitively traced back to them.) Sadly, parents who would rather their child praise them then be happy, healthy, etc. do exist. They are called narcissists. God is not exempt from narcissism by virtue of being a god. Just as parents can be judged by their children, gods can be judged by their followers. We are no more obligated to praise our deities then we are our parents, especially not when they cause us to suffer unduly.

  49. I am not insinuating anything, you clearly don't know that much about historic orthodoxy. Your responses reflect that. I was raised Episcopalian. So what? I knew nothing of historic orthodoxy even after I was converted to Christ. I only knew about it once I studied it in-depth.

    So, I will try again. Your new analogy still reflects great misunderstanding. Genesis never tells us how much Adam and Eve knew and so to compare them to toddlers is simply gratuitous on your part. All it says is that they were completely oblivious to just how evil evil can be. That in no way implies that they did not understand the greatness and majesty of God and that one act of disobedience amounts to cosmic treason and the punishments God gives to us for this treason are actually mild compared to what we deserve. They were not toddlers, period, and the church has ever taught they had more than adequate knowledge to understand the severity of their actions.

    As far as original sin is concerned, the church has given many good explanations for this. I can detail all of them, but I can only give my position as I believe it makes the most sense. The Bible, it seems to me, teaches that all of us actually participated in that first sin on some level. That if we were there we would have done the same exact thing and therefore we are justly deemed guilty as they were. God is omniscient and does not need to place us in the garden to show us all what we would actually do. It's enough to do it once and to tell us how we all would have acted in the same situation.

    And once again, you completely and entirely fail to take into account the Trinity. You don't even attempt to deal with it. You continue to talk as if I believe in a unitarian god and then proceed to smash down the straw man you have erected. But it won't work, precisely because I do not believe in a unitarian god, but worship the one true Trinitarian God of all things. He is not my preferred deity, He just is deity whether I prefer Him or not or whether you or anyone else prefers Him or not. I do not expect my kids to constantly sing my praises, but I do expect them to respect me, obey me, and love me as long as I am being a good father. But I do expect them to sing their mother's praises and often because SHE DESERVES IT!! And I will hold them accountable if they act in disrespectful ways towards her. The same is true of God. The Father will protect the glory of the Son and the Spirit, the Son will protect the glory of the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit will protect the glory of the Father and the Son. There is nothing narcissistic about that, it is relational to the max.

    Attempt to deal with what we actually believe and we can have a meaningful dialogue.

    Finally, if you do not believe in Christianity, what do you believe in?

  50. "Traditional theologians"? I don't think that's the way Augustine used it.

    Still, how can god punish human beings for sin? Sin is something god put into human beings. Even you don;t think the "fall' was a plot by god to put sin into human beings, he is still the one who put the sin there as punishment for the fall. I didn't ask to be born with sin. Isn't that like punishing a black man for being black?

  51. What you are talking about is the experience of being a human being and an animal. Nothing supernatual required. But you're carrrying it to extremes. if you hate yourself and everyone else this is irrational--somthing for psychotherapy.

  52. You think something that is physically impossible might be a myth. I see.

    You let me know me know if oyu find out, "why anyone thinks a god good if it is a being capable of doing something so hideous!" The answer might be simpler than you're making it out to be.

  53. Augustine may not have used that exact phrase, but he was one of the most vehement defenders of orthodoxy, so committed to traditional catholic theology that as a Reformed Evangelical I think he often goes too far in that direction. So I am not at all sure what your point was on that one.

    The church has never taught that God put sin into human beings and if you had read any of my other comments you would see how clearly it is that I don't believe that. Even after the fall God does not put sin into human beings, but removes the empowering of the Holy Spirit so that it comes as a natural result. You didn't ask to be born with sin, but if you had been in the garden you would have done the same thing and so you are justly born in sin.

  54. i am more puzzled about why you are asking me. it seems to me you have already found the answer.

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