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Jason Chamberlain

I think you may be missing the point. God is sovereign over His creation. Therefore, He certainly could have prevented a Katrina, a tsunami, etc. Is He hoping that people don't die when a storm hits or does He indeed have every hair of ever head numbered? Does He notice when a sparrow falls from the sky or doesn't He?

To attribute motives to storms is folly. However, I trust that God is good and He is wiser than I am even when I don't understand why things are happening.

What is the JW's position on the condition of man? Is man basically good or basically evil? I would maintain the historical view that man is born with Adam's sin imputed upon him. Therefore, no one deserves anything but wrath because of God's justice. However, in His grace He elected some for salvation. That seems unjust in our eyes, but the fact that He spared any is incredible to me.

tom sheepandgoats

"Is man basically good or basically evil?"

A little of both, really. I agree that man is born with Adam's sin imputed upon him.

We are created in God's image - that is, we have the capacity to reflect his good qualities, love, justice, etc. But we are tarnished with imperfection - inherited sin, if you will, due to rebellion of our first parents. I'm not sure why we deserve "wrath," it's not OUR fault that we're so tarnished, (though I guess wrath is appropriate when we willfully make it worse) but we have lost our God-given future of everlasting life. Death awaits us all, not because God willed it, but because Adam's transgression brought it upon us. In our view, that explains Rom 5:12

"That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned—"

God has provided the way out for those who put faith in that provision - the gift of his son, whose sacrificial death while he was a perfect man, offsets the sin of the only other perfect man (Adam being perfect before he sinned). Thus, we have Rom 6:23 -

"For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord."

Jason Chamberlain

I would then maintain that if man is born with Adam's sin imputed upon him then he sins by nature and by choice. Therefore, it is only by grace that Christ has not returned in glory to settle everything once and for all (2 Peter 3:9).

In other words, I don't think that we deserve God's common grace anymore than we deserve His special grace that has become available at the cross. As sinners we are in the same boat as the Canaanites that the new atheists love to defend.

Frankly, this gives me great hope. When I see atrocities like the holocaust or 9/11 I am comforted knowing that justice awaits the perpetrators. I'm looking forward to seeing how you handle that as you continue this series knowing that you do not subscribe to the traditional view of hell.

tom sheepandgoats

By nature, yes, but not necessarily by choice. Some do sin deliberately, of course, making their plight that much more serious. But others endeavor to do what's right, and may succeed to a degree, but their inherited sinfulness trips them up....despite their best intentions, they say and do things that fall short of their ideals.

With regard to your initial comment: "Therefore, He certainly could have prevented a Katrina, a tsunami, etc," our point is that he doesn't. A coastal city below sea level. Is God required to bless every short-sighted, often self-serving decision humans make? And the post pointed out that God's rule even includes control over natural forces. Man's rule doesn't. Our first parents, nonetheless, chose man's rule.

A significant difference between Jehovahs Witnesses and traditional churches is that we don't feel God's aim is to reform or "Christianize" this system of things. Rather, this system of things is destined for ultimate demolition (since it is all based upon Adam's rebellion with it's implied boast that humans don't need God's rule) and is to be replaced by God's own government. This is what Christians are to proclaim today - a better system of things to come.

To be sure, applying Bible principles will make the world a marginally better place, but today's world is based upon disobedience, rebellion, and sin. Bible principles are the "new wine" that will not go into the inflexible "old wineskins." "New wineskins" are needed, and we believe the "new system," an earth ruled over by God's Kingdom, to be the "new wineskins."

Tobias Fong

You present a good argument, but I still hold onto my opinions of the matter.

Maybe God is responsible, maybe He is not. But one thing I'm sure of, He did NOT do it to punish anybody, be it the Blacks, Iraq War, abortions or homosexuals. That's ridiculous. If He really wanted to, He could just destroy the whole of America, or the whole world. And by abusing His name to pass judgement on these people is going against His word. Who are we to interpret natural disasters as whose punishments? Are we not to judge?

Despite being Christian, I sure hold an entirely different view from them. And you're right, most atheists use this fact to argue against Christianity. We're shooting ourselves in the foot and further dividing the community by making unwise comments like that.

Though, I might buy your argument that Adam was our ancestor, I'm still not convinced that God had meant for Earth to be Eden, or for Earth to come under the rule of New Jerusalem...but I have to study for final year exams so I can't spend much time researching for an argument, which I could be wrong, anyway. TT__TT

DT

I think Jason's comment re: Hell is quite revealing. The upcoming justice he's so comforted by will be in the form of the eternal torture, burning and suffering of the guilty? It seems to me this would be a gross injustice, going against even our supposedly 'sinful' nature, as evidenced by the recent outrage over government sponsored torture here in the US.

That Christians would be comforted in the knowledge of, and even looking forward to, the future agony of others (good or evil) seems to be a huge contradiction.

On this point, I have a huge amount of respect for Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm not myself a JW (I have family who are), and while I believe that all religions are equally untrue, I think the JWs throwing out the ridiculous idea of Hellfire deserves praise.

While the idea that justice through eternal torture really excuses one from reasonable discourse, the JWs teaching that divine justice is meted out through a final extermination is, at the very least, a debatable issue.

In other words, I could find a debate on the merits of the death penalty to be nuanced and useful, with good points most likely being made by both sides. But I don't think someone wanting to argue for the merits of torture as a just punishment for wrongdoing would find anyone willing to take up such a fatuous argument.

Jason Chamberlain

Tom --

Are you saying that there is anyone who has not willfully sinned?

I think that my eschatology is likely not that much different than yours. My reading of 2 Peter and Revelation tell me that Christ is going to return in victory, the whole Earth is due to be destroyed by fire, and the New Jerusalem will be over the earth. Those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb will get to enjoy it forever in their resurrected bodies.

I agree that God doesn't prevent a Katrina. However, He certainly could, right? I agree that building New Orleans was incredibly short-sighted. My point is that God is sovereign enough to have prevented the destruction of Katrina. Therefore, to some degree He has control over whether or not the storm ravaged the town the way it did. I think that we actually agree, but we seem to be talking past each other.

tom sheepandgoats

DT:

"I think the JWs throwing out the ridiculous idea of Hellfire deserves praise."

They threw it out because the Bible doesn't teach it. They also threw it out long ago, at the movement's modern-day beginning. Thus, C.T. Russell was known during his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire."

tom sheepandgoats

Jason: I agree, it is mostly semantics we debate over. With one exception - we do not agree that the earth will be destroyed. What bad thing did it do for that to happen?

If you, as a landlord, have tenants that trash your property, you toss them out on their ear. You don't burn down the house. We think God will toss the unruly tenants and keep the earth, which will realize its true potential for beauty under His government.

tom sheepandgoats

Tobias:

Those final year exams are bears, aren't they?

Tobias Fong

No, they're demons. Just joking.

Jason Chamberlain

Tom,

Sorry to be so long in responding. Any chance you could have comments emailed?

At any rate, when I read 2 Peter I read it with the same idea of a decrepit shopping center that simply needs to be razed before anything useful can be built on the property. What do you do with all the fire imagery in chapter 3?

tom sheepandgoats

If, by the fire imagery, you really mean your illustration of razing a decrepit shopping center so that something useful may replace it, I have no problem with it. When the end of this system comes, perhaps much of human building and infrastructure will come down with it. But the earth itself will endure, we feel, since it is the home God created for man in the first place.

What is your take on the heavens, that along with the earth, is spoken of as being reserved for fire in 2 Peter? Is that to be literally burned up as well?

Jason Chamberlain

To me, the most straightforward reading of 2 Peter 3 tells me that all of creation is going to be burned up and rebuilt as good. I see creation and restoration as a mega-theme of the Bible. Man messed up Eden with sin, but God is going to purify all of creation to make things right again. This is similar to the flood narrative in Genesis.

Bill in Detroit

Jason, not all 'fire' is literal.

The comparison ("by the same word")made in vs 6 & 7 is in trouble if the understanding is to be literal because in the destruction of Noah's time, the heavens were not destroyed.

Jason Chamberlain

Bill -- I don't understand how there is a problem with "by the same word." The Word is God's sovereign decree over His creation that upholds everything and will someday destroy it to create the New Jerusalem. Just because He did not destroy the heavens in Noah's time has no bearing on whether He will do it later.

ChrisL

Hi Jason -- To fully understand any Bible passage, it's vital to consider other scriptures that bear on the point. All scripture, being God's Word, agrees with itself, so we must make sure any interpretation is in "scriptural context" and does not disagree with other portions of the Bible. For example, Ecclesiastes 1:4 (NIV) says "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever" and Proverbs 2:21-22 (NIV): "For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it." And then there is all of Psalm 37 and many others. These help clarify what we read in 2 Peter and Revelation. Clearly, the earth "remains". It is the wicked who are removed, leaving the blameless on a cleansed earth, just like in Noah's day--which is the very point Peter was making in v5-7.

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