Archives for category: Religious

Continuing with Dr. Stark’s Triumph of Christianity, in chapter 12 he explained how Islam killed and drove out scores of millions of Christians and Jews. The European pilgrims to the Holy Land were coming under ever-increasing attack and were being subjected to taxes and tolls, and as the Muslims threatened Constantinople, Europe responded, which is what he titled chapter 13 about the crusades.

The Crusades were hardly more than a defensive effort to secure the route to the Holy Lands, and to ensure access to and the security of the Holy Lands. As radicals are doing today, radicals then tore down historic sites and monuments. The Crusaders were only trying to stop that. They didn’t try to Christianize the residents either.

Check for yourself. You will see the Crusaders pretty much left everything alone on the whole. Sure, there were bad things, but it was a bad time for warfare. By the standards of that era, the Crusaders were typical, and the Muslims were worse, but not much worse, by the standards of the day.

The Crusades were not profitable. No one ever thought they would be. The Crusades certainly were nothing like colonization. They were preservative, not creative. There was no effort at all to establish any European culture, not Christian or otherwise. Keep in mind that Syria was a principal region of Christianity until shortly after the Muslims started killing them all.

Frankly, the Muslims thought of the Crusades as trivial, just a nuisance. Muslims tended to think it was better Palestine be a protectorate of the Franks than the Turks. (Islam had its racial and cultural divides as well, even from its earliest days.) It wasn’t until the Ottoman Empire began to fall apart at the beginning of the 20th Century that Islamic propaganda began decrying the West in any way possible, including dredging up whatever they could from centuries past.

There were Western denunciations of the Crusades, particularly from anti-Christian writers such as Voltaire and David Hume. Most of that was simply bias. The practical effects of the Crusades were positive, but short-lived. One could argue for or against, but history relegates the Crusades to a minor role, no matter the topic.

In chapter 14, he discusses the myth of the Dark Ages.

As an engineer, by training and by general understanding of history, I’ve always known there were no Dark Ages from an engineering standpoint. Architecture and all technical arts (metal working, machines of all sorts, etc.) grew and developed from the fall of the Roman Empire. Capitalism was born then. Good stuff.

Dr. Stark more or less says that the likes of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Edward Gibbon were simply blinded by their hatred of Christianity, and they simply refused to see all the progress of those times, simply because it was all associated with the Church.

Of course, it was only because of the foundations of Christianity that science, the arts, and all technologies advanced so thoroughly. Other schema can be proposed to similar ends, and there have been various eras of advancement in various cultures, but the Greco-Roman and most every other culture of the several centuries since the early Roman era, and also the cultures of Islam, all failed to significantly advance anything except for the rich and powerful. And, there was slavery. Slavery pretty much accounted for all the rich and powerful had, and slavery pretty much accounts for all that those societies accomplished and built. All non-Christian cultures have been based on slavery. While slavery was tolerated under Christianity, it was extincted by condemnation and neglect. Slavery began to end in Christian communities when the clergy extended the sacraments, particularly holy communion, to slaves. In Christendom, slavery began to diminish by the mid-600s (St. Bethilda is an example). By the end of the eleventh century, slavery was essentially abolished in all Christian cultures (which was essentially all of Europe, but only Europe, since Islam was effectively killing it everywhere else).

The last centuries of the Roman Empire strangled the world. It bound people to the state. For centuries it was the state and the gods of the state, then it was the state and the Church, which was wed by a relatively strong and egoistic ruler. That, obviously, was for the overall detriment of the common man. After Rome fell, the church did not. The church was significant and beneficial overall, but the church played in power and politics, and no good can come of such. No good comes from playing power and politics in general; so much the worse when granting it the imprimatur of divine sanction.

The state must be constrained, limited, and small for people to be free and to grow. Freedom is the essential ingredient to growth and progress in societies.

I’ve completed just over half the book so far, and I enthusiastically recommend it.

 

Regarding chapter 12 in Stark’s Triumph of Christianity, I find his opening assertions remarkable.

In chapter 9, on assessing growth, he points out that through Constantine’s conversion, to about 350 CE, we have sufficient reliable data to say that a simple logarithmic growth model of 3.4% per year holds. However, he points out that it had to slow rapidly after that.

Here is why:

Year Christians in Roman Empire
40 1,000 Thousand
50 1,397
100 7,434
109 10,044 Ten Thousand
150 39,560
178 100,887 Hundred Thousand
180 107,864
200 210,517
247 1,013,331 Million
250 1,120,245
300 5,961,288
312 8,904,029 (Milvian Bridge)
316 10,178,146 Ten Million
350 31,722,471 (around half the empire)
385 102,231,768 Hundred Million
454 1,026,840,633 Billion
523 10,313,835,968 Ten Billion

See the problem?

Dr. Stark presents the table above in chapter 9, and I’ve added some numbers for clarity.

I recalculated the numbers by dropping them in a spreadsheet, adding 3.4% per year, one year at a time. My numbers matched his. It is clear that the 3.4% growth rate dropped off rapidly after Christians became the majority. Otherwise, there would have been more Christians than living people. I’m sure various factors ensured it slowed rapidly. Probably the largest factor was that there were simply fewer non-Christians. If everyone you know is Christian, you can’t convert any of them. Probably official sanction slowed the growth too, simply because of loss of zeal.

Regardless, the growth seems astonishing when considering only the numbers, but when one thinks that 3.4% growth means that on average every 100 Christians brought 3 or 4 new converts into the fold every year, then it doesn’t seem remarkable at all, other than that it seems to have been so consistent. For over three centuries, the fervor of Christians stayed high.

Back to my point, chapter 12. He opens the chapter explaining how little information is still available about Christianity east of Jerusalem. He suggests Syria was the “center of gravity” of the entirety of Christendom until about 700 AD. There apparently is evidence that most of the eastern world had significant Christian populations, including India and China, until the coercive religions arose and wiped them out with the sword. (Of course, I’m referring to Islam, but I’ve only read a couple of pages of the chapter so far. I assume he will note other persecutions and massacres attributable to other religion and culture.)

What I find most remarkable is he concludes that Christians in the west (the Roman Empire) accounted for ONLY a third of all Christians in the year 500. Think of that.

There were tens of millions of Christians in the west. If there were twice as many Christians in the east and in northern Africa, that means the aggressive religions and cultures slaughtered around one hundred million Christians (100,000,000 people of several ethnicities). Actually, even more, since it was over centuries that they were wiped out. There would have been some births and conversions in that time.

Contemplate that.

I always encourage keeping perspective. Try to look at the big picture as well as the details.

The world wars of the 20th Century were horrific, and still in the minds of many of us. Estimates vary, but war deaths through the entire 20th Century are only about as many total as the deaths of Christians who lived in the east before they were extirpated.

Dr. Stark indicates that in many Muslim areas, Christians remained a majority, though repressed, until the beginning of the Fourteenth Century, at which point the Muslims conducted a relentless, violent extermination of the Christians, forcing conversion or death.

I suppose many acquiesced and switched allegiance, but we have ample evidence that a significant proportion of Christians will accept execution rather than renounce Christ.

From chapter 12:

After centuries of gradual decline, the number of Christians in the East and North Africa suddenly reduced to less than 2 percent of the population by 1400. With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Christianity had been essentially restricted to Europe.

I’ve made assumptions here, and calculated in ways Stark hasn’t suggested (at least not as far as I’ve read to date), but the fact is obvious. Christians of all ethnicities have experienced horrific violence at the hands of other beliefs and cultures.

When it comes to blame and grievance, I believe there never has been and never will be any shortage. On the whole, we are all in this together, and we just better keep working on doing our part to make it better. We must refuse coercion. We must live and act right in our own lives, respecting the life and property of others.

Do good and pray for those who despitefully use you.

My comments on Rodney Stark’s Triumph of Christianity are what strikes me, and not an effort to be thorough.

Constantine’s combining of Church authority with State power was a mistake. It has hurt society and humanity.

Constantine was tolerant and cooperative with the pagans and other religions, yet he was intolerant of dissent within Christianity from Christian orthodoxy. His objection to dissent, and his application of state power against it was probably mostly trying to keep a strong unity, probably largely motivated by political ambition and avoidance of schism, which tends to lead to strife. (I don’t think Constantine was power-mad. I think he was sincere, but perhaps suffering from some noble-cause-corruption.)

I suppose Constantine was generally traditional.

That would mean that he expected people to honor their traditions whether they were different from his or not. It seems the Roman distaste for Christianity from the beginning was rooted in an expectation of following tradition and honoring the beliefs and gods of one’s family and heritage. Conversion to Christianity thwarted that. Conversion to Christianity abandoned one’s religious heritage. Traditionalists are likely to be incensed by such a change. Gradual change over generations was one thing. The dramatic conversion to Christ alone was seen as extreme, extremist, and antisocial.

For Constantine, with his Christian mother, Helena, he probably did not see his own conversion as abandoning his heritage and tradition. However, he probably respected such traditionalism among the pagans and other religions. He probably also tended to judge individuals by the content of their character, their abilities, and their political loyalty. He apparently continued always to honor and promote people around him without regard for their religious beliefs. He probably only considered whether or not they were reliable, and consistent behavior with regard to one’s beliefs, whether Christian or other, was evidence of conviction and reliability.

Regarding Constantine’s conversion, I suspect he was raised consistent with general Roman pagan tradition and beliefs. He probably had significant influence from his mother with regard to Christianity, but as a likely ruler of Rome, Roman religious practice was probably his own before conversion.

If one runs the numbers, given reasonable and plausible mathematical models (as Stark does in the book), one realizes that the Christians, who had been feared as potentially adverse political opponents, were at least a large minority, and probably already a majority, especially in the aristocracy. Constantine probably was mostly an opportunist. He saw the trend of increasing Christian unity and population proportion, and he decided it was time to embrace his mother’s faith. I think he was sincere, but I am nearly certain he saw only advantages for himself politically. Emperors were often assassinated by troops or guards. Applying Christian ethics in his administration and military leadership was very likely to improve his chances of staying in good graces with his subordinates and bodyguards.

I close this comment by reiterating that I consider the use of state power with any regard to religion a mistake and inherently wrong.

In chapter seven, Dr. Stark addresses how the Christian faith appealed to women, and how that combined with related factors to increase the proportion of the population that was Christian.

It is popular in our times to badmouth the Church with regard to women. However, Christianity is almost singularly responsible for elevating women from chattel. Sure, there is much room for improvement, but women were hardly anything in most regards in most circumstances until Christianity started taking hold and changing hearts within society.

Women were given in marriage, usually without their own say, at almost any age. Men could force the wife to abort, or worse; he could simply expose the child, especially if the child were female. That, of course, means infanticide. The parents, specifically the father, could simply take the infant outdoors and leave her. Men could divorce wives for most any reason.

Women were expected to be chaste, but there was a double standard for men. A man tended to sleep with his wife to have a child, but he sought out prostitutes for most of his sex.

Christianity would not sanction such.

There is still a long way to go in society, but things are better. Of course, there is a long way to go both outside the church and within.

Things were bad generally compared to today, but they were especially bad for women. Christianity started changing that, and many women became Christian because of it.

The church needs to ensure it maintains the highest regard for women. With our documentation of history as it is now, I believe it is unreasonable for churches to prohibit women from any offices in the church. We need to hold to the standard of neither male nor female, nor any other external distinction. A faithful and capable servant must be honored as such and accorded appropriate position and authority.

Dr. Stark emphasizes compassion and integrity as keys to the growth of Christianity. We need to diligently ensure we stay true to the dignity of all and to the integrity of each of us individually.

Referencing my initial post on Stark’s Triumph of Christianity, https://gottadobetterthanthis.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/summer-reading/, a little more.

I didn’t double check it, but wikipedia summarizes Stark’s earlier Rise of Christianity. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_of_Christianity

My summary of the summary is that Christians were legit, and they proved it by sticking around and helping, and by preferring martyrdom to armed revolt. Christianity was also mostly strong among the working middle and upper class. The same can be said today. Like most religion, Christianity appeals to the downtrodden masses, but the poor can only take religion so seriously. Bread and health first. The soul second.

To lend credence to his view that Christianity grew only through one-to-one conversions dependent upon family bonds and social circles, he points to modern Mormonism. I think it is a valid point. From the perspective of sociology, it sure seems a sound comparison and good explanation.

I think it is worth mentioning the wikipage for Stark; again, I didn’t run the references. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Stark I found it interesting.

Changing subject, working from memory without rereading, Stark shows various aspects of Jewish history before and during the Roman era. He points out the armed rebellions, revolts, and simple acts of terrorism conducted throughout those centuries.

I couldn’t help but notice this is another similarity between the Roman Empire and the modern world, particularly similar to the USA. The Jewish people have become almost entirely peace-loving, though they are determined to defend themselves, and terrorism arises from a different source, though the root-causes look almost identical. It is quite legitimate to call for the complete withdrawal of the West from the region. Let them work out what they must. Frankly, it isn’t likely to be worse than what we are doing there.

We really don’t have the problem with oil now. We need to leave.

Here is the stark reality: Rome finally had enough of radical terrorism after the midpoint of the first century. Rome utterly destroyed all that was Jewish in Palestine, including Jerusalem and most of the region. Stark concludes chapter 2 thus, “This was the Jewish world into which Jesus was born and raised, conducted his ministry, and was crucified. It was a society of monotheists dedicated to the importance of holy scripture. In addition to sustaining a remarkable number of scholars and teachers, it was also a world prolific in prophets and terrorists. Hence, this tiny society of Jews at the edge of the empire caused Rome far more trouble than did any other province. It even might be said that in the end, despite having been reduced to rubble by Titus in 70 CE, Jerusalem conquered Rome.”

His point is consistent with the intent of his book. My point is that history is repeating itself.

I really don’t want to be part of a society that is responsible for the destruction of another, no matter how bad terrorism might get. If we leave, and it doesn’t get better, perhaps it will come down to survival. Perhaps the West will have to utterly destroy all that the current terrorists fight for. However, I really don’t see people as that suicidal. The radicals are self-destroying. The extremists die or wise up.

We need to leave. All of the West needs to get out of all of the Middle East. Let them sort out their religions and their politics. It doesn’t really matter if it takes centuries. History always takes centuries. Besides, I think if we let them alone and treat them as equals and as fair trading partners, well, I bet they start acting like equals and fair trading partners.

Let’s try.

The alternative is written in the world of the followers of Jesus in the First Century. We need to at least determine to not repeat that history. Let us learn its lessons and live.

 

What is God? I think that is a good question.

It seems necessary to assume God is who rather than what, but we think of ourselves and others with regard to what we are.

A man I look up to likes to refer to God in the feminine. I’m good with that. I don’t suppose masculine/feminine applies to God, so either convention works for me.

So that is a bit of the what. God transcends gender, and sex certainly doesn’t apply to spirit. However, it is not attributes like that which are prompting me to write. Sometimes we have to write to know what we think.

God is good, just, and merciful. That seems impossible to balance, so the omni-attributes seem essential. I’m still stuck with trying to figure out what that might mean.

I suppose I have an understanding of what is good, and what justice is, and what mercy is. I have to be on guard (thus the title) that I don’t start assuming I really know these thing. Moreover, I must not assume I can figure out God based on these things, and I must not presume in any way with regard to God.

It does seem that there are some things I have to expect, and accept.

God is the reason and the meaning. There just isn’t much point in worry about the notion otherwise. There are several atheistic tenets that assume no ultimate reason or meaning. And, that is what has me writing.

The orthodoxy of Christianity seems mostly required in order for me to hold a cogent and coherent foundational concept of God. The way other religions frame God leaves me flat. I find very little worth supposing. I can see how to build a thorough concept of God from some religions, but Christian orthodoxy seems to come closest. Note that I’m referring to orthodoxy primarily to identify the heterodoxies, the heresies.

When I think of God in the way Calvinists have tried to explain to me, I find a capricious God that fits justice so poorly as to judge it no different from simple atheism in the practical world. The God of Calvin doesn’t actually lead me any better than Richard Dawkins. Either way, nothing I do matters. Since I hold God as the meaning, things have to matter. Unless I want to suppose I’m just a puppet, robot, automaton for God, I cannot accept that what I do ultimately means nothing. What I do means something, even to God.

I can’t accept nothing, and I have to be on guard that I don’t accept my rejection of such as evidence of my beliefs.

To me, the God explained by the Calvinists is devilish and against me. I’ll be better off in hell than with a God like that. Or, if Calvinism is as close to the truth as religion has gotten, then it seems to me that atheism must be even closer to the truth, and I just cannot accept such as possible. Calvinism and atheism are not reasonable.

Similar results obtain when considering universalism. This notion has always been around. Jesus seems to have went out of his way to indicate there are some people he never knew, and since I accept Jesus as an aspect of the triune God, and utterly timeless, the statement indicates eternal damnation in the traditional, orthodox, sense. Some people don’t make it to heaven, and never even tried, even though some pretend to try, even doing what they suppose to be mighty works for God.

Jesus talked of hell a lot, and how the torment there never ends.

People rationalize however they want, but Jesus seemed to be trying to make a point that not everyone enters into eternal life, not ever.

Free will is not an illusion. We are finding at all levels that the nature of the universe is not deterministic. We are finding that if anything at all is real, we have a freedom of will and choice. Being finite and nearly powerless, our choices are limited. I think that is why some rebel against the responsibility of free will. Some seem to find it unbearable that they cannot choose whatever they want, so they reject freedom entirely.  Some prefer to think that a random confluence of strings and quarks happened to interact such that we have an ongoing fluctuation disturbance in the nothingness that seems to give us a momentary illusion of something. In other words, the answer to the ancient question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” gets answered as, “It is all an illusion. There is nothing, never was.” I reject that notion as nonsense. It assume there is no such thing as reason, and that is not reasonable.

When I try to consider all we know, physical and spiritual, scientific and religious, it is all too much. There is more to it than we can discover. Much more than any one of us can know. It is foolish, simplistic, shallow, and worse to suppose we understand God, but I do think we can know enough to know it matters. Nonorthodox views substitute the meaningful mystery for meaningless platitudes.

If God ultimately, through punishment, or persuasion, or some set of processes and procedures reconciles all souls to Himself, what has been the point?

This life is too small in all regards. What use does an omnipotent creator have for us? We trust that He loves us, and we argue that this life lets us see that for ourselves. Yes, but if we ultimately cannot reject what He gives us, what is the difference of not having it at all? Why have this life-but-a-vapor-vanishing-away, if the end result is the same as not having experienced evil and suffering? Is there some wisdom in knowing how to harm your brother? I don’t see any possibility for it.

I believe there is a reason for this life, and I believe we all get to do with it as we please. I believe God will judge. I believe God will judge based on our choices, not on our sins. There is no choice if there is ultimately only one option. Accordingly, we would could never be judged on choice. There can be no judgement is if there is only one possibility. I choose to view God’s judgement a just, not imaginary. If there is such a thing as good, there is such a thing as evil, and there will be a day of reckoning.

Ultimately, there are two, and only two, possibilities. God, reason, meaning, purpose, reality, are real, or not. If yes is assumed, then two conditions must be real and eternal possibilities, with God, or not with God. None of it makes any sense otherwise. Of course, nothing hinges on whether or not it make sense, to me or anyone, but I just have nothing else to go on. If I assume God gave me this mind, and that reason is real, then I must do my best. My best rejects universalism at all levels.

To suppose the universe is only a few thousand years old makes God out to be a deceiver. I reject that notion and all that leads to it. To suppose universalism makes God out to be trivial and triffiling. Again, I reject that notion and all that leads to it.

There is only so much time. We’ve already used up about 13 billion years worth. That raises all sorts of questions. We don’t know how much more time there is, but a few hundred billion more years, something less than 100 times what has already passed, seems reasonable from what we know so far. And that is an unimaginable amount of time when considering less than a century for us humans.

Eternity is unimaginable even in light of hundreds of billions of years. And orthodoxy has assumed that eternity starts somewhere near the end of this brief moment of breathing. Nearly all of the greatest minds have agreed for two millenia now. Yet some think they know better. They have an easy way, and they are sticking to it. No, nothing is easy.

I believe in justice; I believe in God’s justice, and I do not think anyone is judged unfairly or without all that was needed for a favorable judgement. I don’t believe non-Christians all receive unfavorable judgements. I don’t believe the innumerable souls who died before Jesus, before Abraham, all receive unfavorable judgements. I believe each of us knows what is right, and if we choose to do it, I trust God’s mercy and judgement. Justice will be served, and that judgement comes at some point and eternity follows. There is no more time. No more possibility of appeal or commutation. The preliminaries are complete at that point, and with God or without, the real journey begins. Like the rich man in Jesus’ story of Lazarus, no one can cross over from one side to the other. Distance obviously didn’t matter, but the divide was immutable. Eternity must be immutable, or it is not eternal. (Thus, time, for now.)

If free will means anything, and nothing else can mean anything at all without it, then these are the things I must hold. This is what I must accept if I am to be honest.

I’ve grown up in theology and philosophical thinking. I’ve argued most topics over and over for more than four decades. I’ve never encountered universalism much. It has always been too shallow to consider. However, it has come up again and again for some years now, and lately, it has been put right in my lap, virtually, at least. I’m not really working much at what follows. So, I’m sure it will be even more rambling than normal for me, and less cohesive. Again, it isn’t something I’ve ever taken seriously. It is too silly to do so. It is wishful thinking, pie-in-the-sky thinking. Since so many would seem to end up eternally separated from us, we pine. We rationalize. We pretend it will all eventually be alright. Some day that evil, heinous monster of a relative who hurt everyone he ever came in contact with will be made right, repentant, and redeemed, because as bad as he was, eternal torture is just too unconscionable to bear. Blood is thicker than water, and all that.

However, the bible is quite clear that many will spend eternity separated from God.

Jesus was quite clear that many will be cast out, even tormented for eternity. He said so while on earth before his death and resurrection, and he said so after in the revelation to John. There is no doubt. No room for speculation.

The goats and the sheep are about as clear as is possible.

In Revelation 3:4, they walked with him, clothed in white, because they were worthy.

One cannot become worthy by spending a moment in hell-fire. Penance isn’t biblical. Christ paid the price. The punishment has been met. There is no sin problem. There is only a heart problem, and those who choose not to submit their hearts will spend eternity separated from God.

The 25th chapter of Matthew shows clearly that Jesus knew that many would reject him eternally. http://biblehub.com/esv/matthew/25.htm

The Final Judgment

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Verse 41 can be translated, “Get away from me, I cursed you!”

He told them to go to eternal fire forever.

http://biblehub.com/greek/4442.htm
The word for fire means fire, but it often carries connotations of eternal fire. The word forever is “age-during” or aeon, but it clearly carries permanence in the meaning as used. “αἰώνιον” [αἰώνιος, ία, ιον]
http://biblehub.com/greek/166.htm

It is ridiculous to consider the meaning as a-long-time. No, it is the same context as the eternal life (same word) of the believer, the redeemed. Moreover, Jesus clarifies that this is the fire prepared for the adversary and all his demons. It is simply ridiculous to suppose this fire as other than truly eternal in the simple sense of forever and ever!

Then http://biblehub.com/interlinear/matthew/25-46.htm

These into just, fitting, punishment age-during! Indeed, the righteous into life age-during!
Same word: αἰώνιον and αἰώνιον
Same context, same meaning. Choose whatever meaning you like, because you will anyway. The New Testament consistently states we, the redeemed, have life age-during. This word,  αἰώνιον, cannot be construed to mean some length of time. It is timeless, beyond all ages, forever. Peter states that Christ’s glory is age-during. Same word.

Jesus, in the same story, in the same sentence, said κόλασιν (just, fitting, punishment) αἰώνιον  (age-during) AND ζωὴν (life, existence) αἰώνιον (age-during). There can be no doubt that Jesus intended the same meaning for the two phrases. Everlasting punishment for the selfish and everlasting life for the righteous givers.

Matthew 7, 21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Jesus specifically said not everyone will get into heaven. Plainly! Jesus said he knows who are his, and he clearly says that he never knew these lawless ones. Never knew them, never.

Revelation 20: 11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

I mean, come on! Duh! Second death can mean nothing other than eternal separation from God. Forever! Even θάνατος and ᾅδης are thrown in there. If the people thrown in come out, shouldn’t we expect death and hades too?

In verse 10, just before, the lake of fire is described as being for the age of the ages. It is not possible to state eternity more clearly or forcefully. Forever and ever amen.

Backing up to Revelation 14:9And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

Tortured and tormented, and the smoke of the torment to the ages of the ages, forever.

In 19:3 the smoke of Babylon goes up to the ages of the ages, forever.

These words are harsh, hard, cruel.

How do we square it? It is hard. It seems John went out of his way to say it was all just, justified. I would suppose he had a problem with it too.

There it is.

It is silly, superficial, and wishful to suppose God uses time after this earth, after our cosmos. We have our time. Time is a gift of love and grace. Without time there’d be no time to change, time to be tried, humbled and broken, time to hear the words of love spoken. And then, it is gone. New heaven and new earth–eternity.

God is timeless. Eternity is incomprehensible. To suppose that eventually God gets through to everyone is to suppose that God is bound by time. Not so. Not so.

There is so much more to it. So much more than we can even comprehend. It is literally not possible to know all. It is not even possible to study everything in the natural cosmos, much less in the spirit, in religion from the immediate and practical to the ultimate and eternal. We cannot know it all, not even collectively, not even with a trillion years to grow, expand, and try. And it is unreasonable to suppose our universe, the cosmos will remain that long.

We cannot know it all. We cannot understand God. We cannot reconcile all the bible says. We cannot reconcile all we see and do know.

Our experience exceeds our abilities continuously. We simply cannot figure it all out.

It does help a little to recognize that most of the things we consider bad are just part of life. The only true evil is when one harms, coerces, or defrauds another.

To suppose that God will coerce souls through some trial of torment is ridiculous. It is evil to suppose it. Time is pointless. As I’ve stated, God is timeless, but what is time in eternity? How long would someone suggest for punishment?

Again, Jesus met the punishment. Paying the penalty, paying the debt to society (in the heavenly-kingdom sense) isn’t the point. The point is you get to be with God or you get to be separated from God. Jesus stated a truth we know, there is no greater love than to lay down ones life. God loves us. Jesus showed us in a way we knew.

Accept it or reject it. I believe in the just and merciful judge. I believe that judgement comes to one and all and mercy and justice are satisfied. At some point, for each and every soul, that judgement is handed down. It is set at that point. Nothing can change it. Justice demands it. Mercy approves it. It is forever and ever.

 

Terry Scott Taylor panegyrized the stark harshness of our times when, with Daniel Amos, he had a father explain that for some of us, our lot in life is steel rain.

Larry Norman pointed out years before that life was filled with guns and war, and everyone got trampled on the floor.

He went on to point out:

the politicians all make speeches
while the news men all take note
and they exaggerate the issues
as they shove them down our throats
is it really up to them
whether this country sinks or floats
well i wonder who would lead us
if none of us would vote

and your money says in God we trust
but it’s against the law to pray in school
you say we beat the russians to the moon
and i say you starved your children to do it
you say all men are equal all men are brothers
then why are the rich more equal than others
don’t ask me for the answer i’ve only got one
that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son

Government is the greatest threat we still face.

What is socialism, even in the ideal, if not state-enforced charity?

1“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Is not this a direct injunction directly from the mouth of our lord against socialism?

 With socialism, not only does our left hand know what our right is doing, but so does half the government.

 Forced charity, forced humility, is worthy of no accolades.

Let’s make sure we don’t repeat the obvious mistakes.

http://www.history.com/news/little-ice-age-big-consequences

The Little Ice Age was bad. Similar global cooling now will be harsh. Hopefully earth won’t significantly cool, but we have more reason to prepare for cooling than warming. A little warming is a good thing. A little cooling will cause famine and worse.

From the article, and this is my point:

Witch Hunts
In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII recognized the existence of witches and echoed popular sentiment by blaming them for the cold temperatures and resulting misfortunes plaguing Europe. His declaration ushered in an era of hysteria, accusations and executions on both sides of the Atlantic. Historians have shown that surges in European witch trials coincided with some of the Little Ice Age’s most bitter phases during the 16th and 17th centuries.

I consider it exaggerated to blame that pope for ushering in an era of hysteria, but the official papal declaration did lend credence to the noble-cause-corruption evident. Of course, the Pope held responsibility for the Inquisition in his day.

I doubt I’m the only one with misgivings regarding the Pope’s recent stances on environmentalism, socialism, and a few other ominous topics, especially his assertion implying Trump cannot be Christian (and by association and extension, all who support wall-building).

Similarities between now and more than a few grave moments in history are striking.

Let us not lose sight of what is right. Do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Too many lives were sacrificed in learning those lessons and overcoming the mistakes.

No one can claim history has not warned us.

http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-35607597

The Pope backtracked a bit, but he erred when he judged Donald Trump as not a Christian.

Click the link and watch the statements. Someone might make something of translation, but I think the Pope was clearly judging Trump. If he had simply said something like, “Good Christian charity focuses on building bridges, not walls…” I could have supported him. Nope. Not with this.

I supported the Pope when he refused to judge a homosexual. I agree, if you are honestly seeking God, who am I to judge?

Fundamentally, none of us can judge another person’s soul. We do not know if a person is a Christian. That is why it was wrong to judge the President. He has made a declarative statement. Actions and fruit from his life give us indications, but they do not allow us to judge.

Such judgement is exactly what Jesus forbid.

Good thing we know the Pope is human, subject to the frailties common to us all.

An acquaintance, Ken, posted on Facebook (his page) a question that struck me as tending to incite. The question provided three formulas related to salvation, in the Christian sense, and the formulas seemed to me likely to offend all, each of them. In other words, I thought the question would get lots of comments with more heat than light; sometimes such are referred to as flame wars.

There were several comments of various leanings, more polite than I expected, but some of it was just nonsense. Apparently the author intended to discuss points honestly, and no nonsense was intended. It is often easy to be nonsensical on the internet, especially when trying to be brief.

I made a few comments, to the author and to other commenters, and I composed this rather long statement, at least quite long for Facebook.

As to the universalism you hint at in your comment to Summer, well, it has all been argued before, perhaps since the very beginning of Christianity. There is obvious lack of depth in the thinking that allows for universalism to a soul.

I have always adamantly argued that Christ redemption was for all of creation. All. I have come to accept that includes all life, all. So, not only will Spot be in the New Creation, but so will the dinosaurs, et al. The scriptures seem to clearly indicate that all creation will be made new. All of it. The infinite, immortal God died for it. How could one suppose otherwise? All means all.

Thus, the extension to every individual soul, every person, seems natural, but that is the key. It is only natural. It does not allow for the divine aspect of free will, that absolute truth, “that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”

Fundamentally, we cannot grasp it. We are dealing with God and eternity. There is always farther up and further in. There is more than can be imagined, as the scriptures clearly state.

There is perspective in time and in the vastness of it and the spacial universe. Note that the vastness of time is only vast because of our short time here on earth. We think of billions of years as long, but we often find that a few billion years is not long at all.

Think of the time of humanity. Think of the Paul’s statement to Timothy, “God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Consider the eons before Christ. Consider the millennia since Christ. How long? How many?

During this protracted time, before Christ and since, God, who does not change, desires all to be saved and to know truth. Yet, how many have? Before Moses, essentially no one called upon the name of YHWH. Given what archaeology tells us now, it is hard to take the Moses story as more than an allegory, but still, it is clear that very few knew of the God, the object of our faith, before the time of the Jewish kings, and the Jews made no efforts at evangelisation. With Jesus, he sent out a few to tell the good news, and he instructed them to baptize and disciple.

We have scripture indicating all will hear the good news before the end will come, but in the general sense, that happened some generations ago, yet in the specific sense, it is unreasonable to suppose it could ever happen, and in the absolute sense, it cannot be at all, since so many died without opportunity to hear.

Perspective.

What is God up to?

I assert God because I believe in reason. I think it unreasonable to assert there is no reason for it all, there there is no reason for me to base my reason on. I find atheism to be irrational on its face. Thus, I assert reason, yet I cannot comprehend the reason, at least not in the ultimate sense.

Thus, what is the reason?

Coequally, what is God up to?

I assert there is no “problem of pain” because life is good. Suffering, pain, death, et al., are just parts of life, and life is good. That opens me up to all kinds of objections, but I’ll take them. Kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten. I assert that is part of the good of life.

If Christianity can be accepted at all, though, I must acknowledge that life is not good enough as it is, or Jesus would not have come to bring us life, and life more abundant. So, why does God seem so content with the slow pace? Why don’t we see more success in evangelisation? Why do we see so much corruption in all aspects of what we recognize as churches?

Again, I don’t see clear answers. I don’t even see possible answers. With Job, I realize there are things beyond me.

These things do give us perspective. We can begin to understand some.

Further, I mentioned the vastness of space when mentioning the eons of time. Time, is not, in fact, very vast. Space is.

Space is vast not only beyond comprehension, it is vast beyond all possibility of comprehension. If faster-than-light travel proves impossible, as all available evidence leads us to believe, then we will never venture beyond the Milky Way. Never. Even if we assume humanity continues and continues to recognize itself as humanity, even if we develop power and propulsion systems beyond our imaginations, we cannot go to the next galaxy. It is too far. It is an intractable engineering problem. Its cost will always exceed any reasonably expected value.

If we go ahead and throw caution and reason to the wind and assume faster-than-light travel possibilities, such as Star Gates, or quantum-entanglement type displacement, something like an electron tunneling, then we may be able to get to many galaxies, but if we assume the universe is actually finite, as seems certain, it is extremely improbable that we could explore the entire universe in even trillions of years.

Now, that is vast. What was God thinking? Why make so much?

Again, I have no answers, but these are the sorts of facts in evidence that I try to include, try to comprehend while contemplating the vastness of God, infinity, and eternity.

The calculus tells us much of infinity. Still, it is bigger than we can comprehend, even though we can deal with it effectively mathematically.

God is bigger than that. Free will is divinely bestowed by God. It is unwise to suppose any limits on it, at least not any spiritual or ultimate limits. As with my quote of the stylized William Wallace, there are physical limits to our free will. Those who would enslave us might force us into slavery, might even take our lives, but our freedom, innately, remains. That is why coercion, all coercion, is evil.

Your comments seem to be questioning the existence, the possibility, of hell. Well, the concept of hell was unknown to the ancient Hebrews, and it was not thorough in Jesus’ time, but He talked of it. We could argue the point forever. We could even argue of the nature of the adversary, the devil. A real being, something we generally think of as a person? Most would argue yes, many will argue no. I don’t much think it matters. That which is against us is unquestionable. We are opposed, physically and spiritually. Splitting hairs will not change the fact.

I assert that not all souls will accept God. It is not a matter of unbelief. It is a matter of freedom. God allows me to refuse Him today. God changes not. (I don’t think it matters what one labels wherever not-with-God is.)

God is sovereign, and at some point, my will falls under His sovereignty, but He will not violate my will. At some point, my will becomes finalized in that I am the center of all things in my universe, and exclude God, or I accept that I am not the center, and I am subject.

The great prophet of the 60s said it simply, “You’re still gonna have to serve somebody.”

God chose. We see the results.

Now, for we only have the moment, we choose. We will see the result. “We’ll all know soon enough.”

Ken, I cannot suppose I’ve answered your question. In fact, I really am only guessing at what your question is, but I have tried. My aim was simply to state my view and support it with basic thinking. I’m willing to pursue it further, but I’ll ask you to be specific, and to not assume motives. We cannot be sure of one another’s motives even if stated. We certainly err if we assume or ascribe motives.

Thus concluded my comments on that Facebook post.

I add, Calvinism = Universalism = atheism for practical purposes.

Each leads logically and inevitably to moral abuses because each ultimately asserts that no judgement, by the standards of human understanding, befall the perpetrator.

An atheist cannot assert that there is no meaning, no ultimate, while asserting that his actions, his assertions, have meaning. It is irrational. Asserting no ultimate, no divine, ultimately means there is no such thing as punishment.

Likewise the universalist must admit that ultimately there is no punishment at all.

Finally, while the Calvinist asserts ultimate punishment, it is all up to God. The Calvinist asserts that if I’m elect I cannot be damned. Factually, historically, there are far too many Calvinists who acted damnably to allow that assertion to have significance. That is, while the Calvinist avers punishment, judgement, it is not something we humans can understand, at least not until God shows His glory in full finality. And, for practical purposes, that means nothing we do matters, just like the universalist and atheist assert.

I wrote, on Facebook, the comments below in response to an old First Things article.

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2001/05/lchaim-and-its-limits-why-not-immortality

Good, in-depth look at what might be wrong with the desire to solve aging and eliminate disease and to try to make us able to live indefinitely. Insightful.

Still, he only addresses conquest of life’s gradual degradation. I really don’t think we can, but even if we did solve all the problems of aging, the problems of the aged, and cured all disease, we wouldn’t approach unending lives. There are too many other problems. Accidents, homicide, and suicide are not problems science or modernity can solve.

Some commentators have speculated that risk aversion would become the primary consideration if no one simply died of natural causes associated with longevity. For instance, such speculation assumes that no one would ride motorcycles. Yeah, sure. That will be the day.

We are all familiar with stories of long-livers, and the power, and enemies, they accumulate. Much less motivation has resulted in far too many murders.

And then there is suicide. Roughly speaking, around one in 10,000 persons lose the battle and intentionally end it. Such a circumstance exists throughout history and across all cultures and groups. For better or for worse, for grand cause or desperation, such it is. No medicine will change it.

Life focused on self implodes. Life without honest and appropriate consideration of others is hardly worthy of the title.

He addresses procreation, and nothing shows more routinely the greatest love than the selfless parent who sacrifices for the children. Balance in all things, and certainly there is ample meaning for those who go childless, by choice or not, but for most of us, it is our truly meaningful accomplishment, having and rearing our children such that we know we are justified being proud of them. It is, as the article explains, our true way of overcoming our mortality.

Of course, he leaves off the ultimate. He discusses life everlasting, and admit it or not, we all believe. Still, eternal life is, or it is not, and we all will know soon enough. Yet, for what we know, in what we must accept, we cannot ultimately overcome our impermanence. Ultimately, it is not given to our universe, to this natural reality, to continue. It is finite. Even if we have a billion generations, it will end eventually. Physicists speculate variously, but they all agree it will end, and no evidence allows for alternatives. How long? Does that actually matter? Is even 1,000 years long when life as we know it has been around about a million times longer? For that matter, is just a few years short? Just a few months? Just a few minutes? As sad is it may be, and truly we are justified in feeling sad and deprived at untimely death, the truth is, we all die young.

I also note that the article is a decade-and-a-half old. That dates much of what he says. Some of what he feared is continuing, but much of it has faded as reality marches on and our unfounded hopes are dashed. Yet, now we hear of transhumanity, of technological longevity in some presumed digital facsimile of ourselves. This too shall pass. So too shall each of us.

I found an article at the Libertarian Christian Institute web page, titled:

Conservatism, liberalism, or non-aggression?

It was a guest post from Randy Peters, who writes at TheGutDoc.com.

http://libertarianchristians.com/2016/01/20/conservatism-liberalism-non-aggression/

He opens by noting that many people attribute their politics to their faith. Hmm…

I’ve always had trouble understanding how people I know have strong and sound faith can have such differing views from my own, particularly in politics.

Part of it is I can never loose sight of the fact that coercion is evil. God never coerces.

I really do not understand why that is hard to see. I don’t get how other people don’t get that.

God always allows us freedom. God does uphold consequence. Accordingly, wisdom is encouraged. Of course, I always say that pain is the only true persuader of error. Experience is a harsh teacher, but often effective.

I like his thought experiments, both the right and left.

I’ll repeat this:

I submit that when any one of us – with civil authority or without it – takes upon himself the presumption to coerce others to do as we think God would have them do, we are no longer walking humbly with God. We have become the Pharisees, enjoying our long robes and places of honor, thanking God that we are not like other men and imposing upon them grievous burdens for which we will not offer the help of our little finger. There are many human behaviors condemned in the Holy Scripture; haughtiness may be one of the most condemned.

Make no mistake: when one argues that government is to be the arbiter of compassion or righteousness, one is arguing that violence is to be the tool by which those goals are achieved; for how else does government achieve its purpose? Taxes, fines, regulations, laws boundaries all rest on the discretion of the government to use violence to enforce them. When one maintains that the state should force his neighbors to do something, he is saying that violence should be used ultimately to accomplish that directive. Note that there are areas wherein there is unanimous agreement that communities or governments are justified in using force: to defend themselves from violence, to protect the lives of their members, to stop other crimes against persons or their property. But can one say that government has a legitimate and justifiable role to use its police powers – its exclusive claim on the use of violence – to force charity? To force acts of service? To force men and women to comply with “moral laws” with which they do not agree and which may not enjoy wide-spread acceptance in a community? Furthermore, may a disciple of Christ take upon himself the authority under God to say to his neighbors, “I speak in the name of God, and I order you to do thus under pain of imprisonment or death.”

Note there are no exceptions. If there is a law, it is using the power of the state, the threat of violence, imprisonment, even death, to enforce it. “Oh, but the penalty is only $50.” Of course, that is how it starts. You know what happens when you give a mouse a cookie.

Sure, we try to keep punishment consistent with the crime, but we also make too many crimes. We let one drink alcohol, but we imprison the one who smokes weed. We feel sorry for the mother driving with her quarrelling toddlers in the back, and though there is nothing more distracting than that, we bother to stop, fine, even take the driving license of the mother who was texting a quick instruction while driving.

We call the 19-year-old driver negligent and criminal for texting, but we give the late commuter a pass for shaving or donning makeup while careening through rush-hour traffic.

Some claim it is justified, but carry it to the end. The 19-year-old has some reason, rational or not, that makes him (or her) bolt when the lights come on the patrol cruiser. The teen is now truly jeopardizing lives, including his own. Perhaps he crashes, perhaps the officer successfully pulls over the car, but perhaps the teen is now too far committed, perhaps even irrational, and violence ensues, arrest, or worse.

Is it worth it?

No!

We have far too many laws. We criminalize far too many behaviors.

We justify too much in the name of safety. We rationalize too much in the name of morality and civic responsibility.

It is a sad world we live in not because of unfairness, lack of opportunity, scarcity, and want. No, it is so sad because so many soft tyrants have sufficient power to coerce.

I used a couple of widely debated examples in criminalizing drug use and texting while driving, but how about school?

Nobody talks about how absurd it is to coerce persons to education. We need not even consider the failures of the education system. We need look no farther than the simple coercion, compulsion of education and truancy laws.

Again, we pretend our punishments are evenhanded and proportional, but they are not. Seldom do those with power us it only for good, and perhaps it is even impossible to do good when the power is being used to enforce the evil of coercion from the start point.

People, persons, individuals, children of God. Yes, that is what we all are from our beginning, from even before our first breath. I bring up hard issues, and people ignore. We need to discuss. We need to look hard and freely at the facts. We need to stand and openly defend our views, and we need to examine closely our own and all others presented. We manage to live together in most instances.

We tend to fight here and there, but it is mostly about who has the power, and how it is used, especially about how it is abused.

Let’s limit the power more and more. Let us be free.

Let us live free.

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