The Mystery of Christianity: 1. The Problem of Evil

Recently, we have been able to establish, reluctantly by some and without an official admission, that God could not have spared Adam and Eve from the consequences of their disobedience that led to sin, which resulted in aging, diseases, suffering, natural disasters outside of paradise and then eventually death…

The main premise of this issue is that if God had shielded Adam and Eve from the consequences of their sin, it would have made him a liar, as He had stated clearly, that if they were to eat the forbidden fruit, they would definitely die…

Genesis 2:16-17

16 God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

So, if God had forgiven Adam and Eve, as some have suggested He should have, and let them stay in the paradise to have access to the tree of life, Adam and Eve would not have died, but God would have been clearly proven a liar…

Not only that, by forgiving Adam and Eve, God would have proven Satan’s slander true, when he (Satan) said in:

Genesis 3:1-5

“1 Now, the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the God had made. And he (Satan) said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden? 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die. 4 The serpent said to the woman, You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan is identified by many Christian and other religions as the one “hiding” behind the serpent or snake…or using it as a deception…

Some claim that ever since Adam and Eve were ousted from the paradise, God causes all the bad things that happen in the world today, including tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, diseases etc.

Is it true?

It doesn’t seem to be true at least in case of Job and his family, as the verses from Job 2: 16-19 show that Satan was the one who caused all the natural disasters and diseases that directly affected Job and his family…

Job 2:16, 18, 19

“16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” …

“…18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

So from these Biblical accounts, we can clearly see that Satan, and NOT God, was causing all the natural disasters and diseases that affected Job and his family…

There are several issues needing consideration:

1. Why Satan had the power to cause all the bad things to Job and his family?

2. If Satan had the power in times of Job to cause natural disasters and diseases,  is he responsible for them today? If God is, what proof is there?

3. Any suggestions?

Regarding Christian views of God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence please see the OP by vjtorley. 

Please try to focus on the main theme of the OP. If there is something that is not directly related to this OP but it is important to you, create your own OP, so that we can try to stay on the same theme as much as possible…

 

 

244 thoughts on “The Mystery of Christianity: 1. The Problem of Evil

  1. Mung,

    Personally I find the whole ELS thing fraudulent.

    I have not looked at it closely enough to form an opinion. What are your thoughts here on why it is fraudulent?

  2. Kantian Naturalist: Do Christians believe that Torah was written by God and dictated to Moses?

    I can see how, if the person of Jesus Christ is to function as a new revelation or testament, then Christians must believe that the Torah was the old one.

    But if that’s right, then there’s no reason why Christians would need accept any parts of the Old Testament other than the Pentateuch as being divinely inspired.

    “Written by God”, “dictated [by God]”, “revelation” and “inspired” are not interchangeable, not freely anyway.

    Quran is said to be eternal, written by Allah and dictated to Muhammad. Torah is said to be dictated to Moses. The Bible (in Christianity) is said to be inspired revelation. The doctrine of inspiration has its interpretations from very liberal (inspired and inspiring roughly the same way as works of art) to literal-verbal dictation. Somewhere in between there’s the view that scripture, even though written by men, is inspired by God so that it’s spiritually binding, more authoritative than church fathers whose writings are merely commentaries on the scripture.

    These are all occasionally important distinctions to keep in mind. From the analytic or critical point of view, there’s the additional aspect of whether the meaning embedded in the selected term makes sense. For example, did God dictate Moses’ death to Moses and Moses wrote it down?

  3. John, to colewd:

    Your credulity on this subject [ELS] makes a fascinating contrast with your skepticism on common descent. How can we account for those differences?

    It’s the Jebus Effect in action.

  4. Mung:

    It’s pretty clear that God wasn’t speaking of physical death.

    No, that isn’t clear at all. It’s just something Christians made up to rationalize away God’s obvious lie.

    I love watching Christians fight the Bible out of one corner of their mouths, while praising it as the word of God out of the other.

  5. And how bizarre that Christians are OK with God commanding the Israelites to commit genocide, and perpetrating a mass slaughter himself in the form of the Flood; but when you suggest that God lied, well, them’s fightin’ words.

  6. keiths:
    CharlieM,

    J-Mac does, and I’ll bet Sal and Byers do too.Besides being a Biblical literalist, what other reason is there to be a young-earth creationist?

    Well I also disagree with anyone who entertains such a literal interpretation.

    And for those who aren’t literalist but still think the Bible is the inspired word of God, the question is this:Why did God include all these stories that paint him in such an unfavorable light?

    I believe that the Bible is a compendium of various writings. Many of the stories are later writings taken from oral traditions. And they originated from the experiences of initiates who had access to higher realms of existence ..Different ancient cultures have similar myths, not because of copying or any form of plagiarism, but because they are taken from the same source. The initiates relayed to the masses their individual interpretations of what they had witnessed.

    The written words of the many versions of the Biblical texts such as in the Book of Genesis are only a faint, weak echo of the words spoken by the elders to the ancient Hebrews. “Bereshit bara Elohim; et haShamayim ve’et ha’aretz” (In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth), the sound of these words would have had a powerful effect on the feelings of the listeners, far greater than they have on us as we read these words today. Dry, abstract, analytical thinking is only a later development in the evolution of consciousness. It was not something that people possessed in those ancient times.

    So we have to understand the words of the Bible in their context, who were they primarily meant for and how we should understand them today. Written words tend to kill language. The Word of God is not anything as static as a series of words written in a book, no matter what book we are talking about. The Word of God is the Living Christ.

  7. CharlieM,

    I believe that the Bible is a compendium of various writings. Many of the stories are later writings taken from oral traditions. And they originated from the experiences of initiates who had access to higher realms of existence.

    The question is whether you think God is responsible for the Bible’s contents. If he is, then why did he include all those horrible stories? Does he want to be seen as an unloving monster?

  8. keiths:
    CharlieM,

    The question is whether you think God is responsible for the Bible’s contents.If he is, then why did he include all those horrible stories?Does he want to be seen as an unloving monster?

    No. Humans are responsible for the Bible’s contents.

  9. CharlieM: No. Humans are responsible for the Bible’s contents.

    Those contents aren’t the word of God?

    You must be a heretic. Get the hell out of my church.

  10. Charlie,

    I’m glad to hear you say that.

    But if humans are responsible for the Bible’s contents, and not God, then how do you decide what to believe about Jesus?

  11. Pedant, to CharlieM:

    Those contents aren’t the word of God?

    You must be a heretic. Get the hell out of my church.

    I think he’d get that reaction from a lot of his fellow Christians.

  12. God’s bad PR in the Bible isn’t limited to moral atrocities. The Good Book also portrays him as incompetent and stupid.

    Consider the Flood story. The saga begins with God regretting his big screwup:

    6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

    Genesis 6:6-7, NIV

    After the Flood itself, in which this psychopathic deity slaughters almost everyone on earth (including innocent children and animals) to “fix” his screwup, he realizes that the Flood was itself a screwup, and vows never to do it again.

    So what happens? Noah’s family and their descendants repopulate the earth, and humanity is evil, just like before. What did the mass slaughter accomplish? Nothing.

    It’s just one fuckup after another with this God.

    To top it off, God knows he can’t trust himself to remember his own promise. He puts the rainbow in the sky not merely as a sign of his promise to humanity, but also as a mnemonic device to remind himself not to wipe out the planet the next time he gets pissed off:

    14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

    So we have a doofus God who screws up right and left, and needs to tie a rainbow around his finger so he won’t forget his promise and wipe out humanity again.

  13. keiths:
    Charlie,

    I’m glad to hear you say that.

    But if humans are responsible for the Bible’s contents, and not God, then how do you decide what to believe about Jesus?

    If we believe with St Paul that the resurrection of Christ is factual, then the details of what I believe about Jesus are not that important. I know that my knowledge is imperfect and limited and all I can do is to try to refine my views into a consistent unified whole and to eliminate contradictions.

    I grew up in a family that were never Church goers but for as long as I can remember I have always believed in the reality of Christ.

  14. keiths,

    You have brought up valid criticisms of some contents of the Bible if it is read from certain points of view. But there is another point of view which I believe invalidates your criticism. Much of it has to do with the evolution of consciousness and in understanding that the originators of these ancient stories had a different consciousness from that possessed by our modern Western minds. And the Bible must be understood in that light.

    Here are some of Steiner’s remarks on viewing the Bible:

    We may probably say: the time begins when one should understand more and more that there are four levels to look at the Bible today.
    The first level is that of naive faith. It takes the Bible with undeterred certainty and anticipates nothing of the objections that are made against the Bible today.
    The second level: these are the clever people, the Bible critics, who find — either by investigating internal contradictions or by the scientific point of view — that the Bible was the primitive legend work of a humankind not yet doing research. They are way beyond the Bible, they do no longer need it, and they attack it from the most different directions and say: it was good for the childish humankind. Now, however, humankind has outgrown the Bible. — These are the clever ones, the freethinkers.
    Then there is the third level: the human being outgrows this cleverness. Indeed, the human beings of this level are also freethinkers, but they are way beyond this second point of view; they see symbolic and mythical covers of inner soul experiences in the stories of the Bible — the Old and the New Testaments. You see what the human soul imagines shown in the Bible in symbols in the abstract. Some freethinkers have been forced to this attitude. They had to transform the viewpoint of the freethinker into that of the mythical symbolist.
    Then there is the fourth point of view. This is that of spiritual science I have characterised today. The day after tomorrow we follow up on this spiritual-scientific viewpoint. It shows the spiritual facts again in simple descriptions, indeed, in such a way as one can see these spiritual facts in imaginations. These are the facts that are described in the Bible.
    Someone who had to leave the naive viewpoint and has become a clever person or maybe a symbolist as researcher may get to the viewpoint on which the spiritual researcher stands, and then he can become able to take the Bible again literally, to take the words literally in a new sense to understand them really.

  15. Paul C: One wonders what all those religous wars were about then.

    What are any wars about? Human selfish greed and people trying to impose their own will on others. As in this

  16. CharlieM: What are any wars about? Human selfish greed and people trying to impose their own will on others.

    And yet, despite the bible, that all happens and continues to happen. It’s almost as if despite being able to understand the bible properly, as you say, they went to war anyway.

    So if even the people who by your definition can understand the bible correctly don’t care about it’s message, why should anyone care now?

  17. Paul C: And yet, despite the bible, that all happens and continues to happen. It’s almost as if despite being able to understand the bible properly, as you say, they went to war anyway.

    Who in particular went to war despite being able to understand the Bible? Do you think that Hitler, or that the various popes over the centuries, of the founder of the Church of England, had a significant understanding of the Bible? It is quite often the case that those with understanding are not in a position to influence events and those with the power to make things happen do not understand the possible consequences of their action. Trump?!!

    So if even the people who by your definition can understand the bible correctly don’t care about it’s message, why should anyone care now?

    How do you know that someone who has a good understanding of the Bible does not care about any message they take from it? And why should it follow that someone who does have this understanding is also a person of high morals? It is one thing knowing the correct course of action and yet another following that course. It is often much easier to follow our own selfish desires than to do what is right.

  18. keiths:

    But if humans are responsible for the Bible’s contents, and not God, then how do you decide what to believe about Jesus?

    CharlieM:

    If we believe with St Paul that the resurrection of Christ is factual, then the details of what I believe about Jesus are not that important.

    Why should we believe that the resurrection of Christ is factual?

    The accounts were written well after Jesus’s death, by people who were not eyewitnesses. They also contradict each other, and one of them — the gospel of Mark — was doctored after the fact by someone who was unsatisfied with the ending and tacked on some verses — Mark 16:9-20 — in which Jesus appears to his disciples.

    And if it was important enough for Jesus to appear to the disciples, and to Paul, in order for them to believe, then why doesn’t he appear to each of us? Why should the good news be limited to those who are gullible enough to buy the cockamamie accounts in the Bible?

  19. keiths:
    keiths:

    CharlieM:

    Why should we believe that the resurrection of Christ is factual?

    No one is forced to believe it. We have been given the freedom to believe it or disbelieve it as we so wish. It is our choice.

    keiths
    The accounts were written well after Jesus’s death, by people who were not eyewitnesses. They also contradict each other, and one of them — the gospel of Mark — was doctored after the fact by someone who was unsatisfied with the ending and tacked on some verses — Mark 16:9-20 — in which Jesus appears to his disciples.

    Steiner: from his lectures on the Gospel of Mark

    …it is very difficult to establish the facts about Jesus of Nazareth. In the first place all the principal documents that must come under consideration are the Gospels and the Pauline letters. But it is obvious that documents such as the Gospels cannot be counted as historical. There are four Gospels and from the external materialistic point of view they all contradict each other…

    …evidence follows that He cannot have existed historically, so He must be fictional, a fiction that originated in the period assigned to the Mystery of Golgotha. So there has been a kind of return from Jesus to Christ in recent years. But Christ is in no sense real; He lives only in human thoughts. So we may say that everything in this realm today rests without solid foundations…

    …Those people who wish to remain materialists and to believe in nothing whatever beyond what can be attained by materialistic consciousness based on sense perception can find no path leading to Christ Jesus.

    (In that second paragraph Steiner is giving a typical modern view of Christ and, obviously, this is not his own view)

    Mark was a pupil of Peter and he compiled the Gospel in oral form. It was put into writing at a later time.

    keiths
    And if it was important enough for Jesus to appear to the disciples, and to Paul, in order for them to believe, then why doesn’t he appear to each of us?Why should the good news be limited to those who are gullible enough to buy the cockamamie accounts in the Bible?

    The disciples and Paul had to undergo long preparations in order for Christ to appear to them. It was not just a passive receiving on their part.

  20. CharlieM: No one is forced to believe it. We have been given the freedom to believe it or disbelieve it as we so wish. It is our choice.

    So is believing that Santa manages to visit every home in the world in 24 hours, but…um…well…

    The disciples and Paul had to undergo long preparations in order for Christ to appear to them. It was not just a passive receiving on their part.

    Not according to Paul’s account of his “encounter” on the road to Damascus. In fact, I can’t find any statement from anything in the bible that even gives this impression. Where are you getting this?

  21. CharlieM,

    No one is forced to believe it. We have been given the freedom to believe it or disbelieve it as we so wish. It is our choice.

    That we can choose between belief or disbelief is obvious.

    My question was about the rational basis for taking the resurrection to be factual, when the accounts are so untrustworthy.

  22. CharlieM: I don’t know. No later than 70 A.D. would be my guess as to when it was first written down.

    So that’s a gap of what, a generation at least?

  23. Robin: So is believing that Santa manages to visit every home in the world in 24 hours, but…um…well…

    Unless you know otherwise there is a major difference between belief in Santa and belief in Christ. In the case of Santa I do not know of any adult who has gone from a position of non-belief to belief. Where Christ is concerned it happens all the time. Why do you think this is?

    Not according to Paul’s account of his “encounter” on the road to Damascus. In fact, I can’t find any statement from anything in the bible that even gives this impression. Where are you getting this?

    It is true that Paul’s conversion was a complete surprise to him, but because of his background and previous experience he believed that a Messiah would come. I believe that he was an initiate of esoteric Judaism just as Plato was an initiate of the Greek mysteries.

    The disciples had been prepared directly by Christ’s teachings.

  24. keiths:
    CharlieM,

    That we can choose between belief or disbelief is obvious.

    My question was about the rational basis for taking the resurrection to be factual, when the accounts are so untrustworthy.

    If the accounts are treated as a history physical events then they would obviously be seen as untrustworthy. But the Gospels were not composed in order to be taken as historic records, they were composed and included in the New Testament for the deeper messages they contain. There are reasons why they begin so differently and why they lay stress on different aspects of the life and death of Jesus Christ.

  25. Paul C: So that’s a gap of what, a generation at least?

    There would have been no gap between the oral recitals and the time they were first written down. Although I would say that there are many differences between what we read in modern translations of the New Testament and what was conveyed orally at the beginning.

  26. CharlieM: Unless you know otherwise there is a major difference between belief in Santa and belief in Christ. In the case of Santa I do not know of any adult who has gone from a position of non-belief to belief. Where Christ is concerned it happens all the time. Why do you think this is?

    That’s simply a variation of an appeal to widespread belief (bandwagoning). That some adults come to believe in Jesus as some lord and god isn’t actually any kind of evidence for such or that he is more valid a belief than Santa.

    In any event, from my perspective, there is no difference between a belief in Santa or elves or Sauron or Christ. They are all equally myths based on my research.

    But of course, that’s neither here nor there. My whole point, really, is that people are free to believe pretty much anything, but freedom to believe adds nothing to determining whether said belief has any validity.

    It is true that Paul’s conversion was a complete surprise to him, but because of his background and previous experience he believed that a Messiah would come. I believe that he was an initiate of esoteric Judaism just as Plato was an initiate of the Greek mysteries.

    Where are getting this? Paul’s background was as a tent maker. He did not believe anything about the Messiah before his alleged conversion. And he turned in many of his fellow Jews to the authorities for believing in the Messiah. He states pretty unequivocally that he did NOT believe that Jesus was the Messiah before his conversion.

    The disciples had been prepared directly by Christ’s teachings.

    Methinks you are just making things up…

  27. keiths:

    My question was about the rational basis for taking the resurrection to be factual, when the accounts are so untrustworthy.

    CharlieM:

    If the accounts are treated as a history physical events then they would obviously be seen as untrustworthy. But the Gospels were not composed in order to be taken as historic records, they were composed and included in the New Testament for the deeper messages they contain.

    You’ve acknowledged that the Bible accounts were produced by humans and not by God, and you’ve acknowledged that the accounts are not historically trustworthy.

    Why then do you regard the resurrection as “factual”?

  28. Mung,

    Hilarious. keiths finally figures out that the biblical texts were actually written by humans.

    Instead of just making shit up, why not get on over to this thread and answer the questions in terms of your sophisticated, non-sky-daddy God?

  29. keiths: Instead of just making shit up, why not get on over to this thread and answer the questions in terms of your sophisticated, non-sky-daddy God?

    Because I’m still trying to digest your stated desire for Creationism to be true. Why don’t you start an OP on why you wanted Creationism to be true?

    Was it because you wanted to please your mommy?

  30. Mung,

    Because I’m still trying to digest your stated desire for Creationism to be true.

    Because it was a part of my faith, and I wanted the whole package to be true.

    I dropped the fundagelical stuff first, and pretty soon the whole thing unraveled.

    Now stop stalling and get on over there.

  31. keiths: Because it was a part of my faith, and I wanted the whole package to be true.

    But that makes no sense!

    It was part of your faith in what your mommy told you? She told you about Santa. And she told you about the tooth fairy. And she told you that she loved you.

    And they all turned out to be lies?

  32. keiths: Stop stalling, Mung.

    By some miracle or other I managed to navigate my way past the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus, and not conclude that everything my parents told me was lies. I believe they loved me, in spite of the spankings I got.

  33. Robin: Where are getting this? Paul’s background was as a tent maker. He did not believe anything about the Messiah before his alleged conversion. And he turned in many of his fellow Jews to the authorities for believing in the Messiah. He states pretty unequivocally that he did NOT believe that Jesus was the Messiah before his conversion

    You have contradicted yourself here. You cannot claim that Paul (Saul) had no beliefs about the Messiah and then rightly claim that because of his understanding of what the Messiah should be he judged that Jesus could not have been it.

    Paul (Saul) was well versed in Jewish culture and beliefs and from his understanding of what was expected of the Messiah he could not see how someone who claimed to be the Messiah would have allowed himself to suffer such humiliating treatment and death. He had very firm beliefs about the Messiah and it was because of those beliefs that he persecuted Christians.

  34. If only God would come down from heaven, take on human form, and allow himself to suffer, be crucified and die, THEN I would believe in God.

  35. CharlieM: You have contradicted yourself here. You cannot claim that Paul (Saul) had no beliefs about the Messiah and then rightly claim that because of his understanding of what the Messiah should be he judged that Jesus could not have been it.

    No, I’m being generalistic and using colloquialisms. I was not saying that he had no beliefs about the messiah, but rather that he did not believe any of Jesus’ claims about being the messiah and did not belief any of the claims of any of the supposed “Christians” about being the messiah. And he makes that pretty darn clear.

    Paul (Saul) was well versed in Jewish culture and beliefs and from his understanding of what was expected of the Messiah he could not see how someone who claimed to be the Messiah would have allowed himself to suffer suchhumiliating treatment and death. He had very firm beliefs about the Messiah and it was because of those beliefs that he persecuted Christians.

    If that’s all it took for Paul to be “prepared” for Christ’s coming, then 99.9999999999% of the world is prepared as well. Your theology seems rather ad hoc to me and not well thought out.

  36. CharlieM,

    You’ve acknowledged that the Bible accounts were produced by humans and not by God, and you’ve acknowledged that the accounts are not historically trustworthy.

    Why then do you regard the resurrection as “factual”?

  37. Mung,

    If only God would come down from heaven, take on human form, and allow himself to suffer, be crucified and die, THEN I would believe in God.

    What do you mean, “allow himself”? He demanded it and made it happen:

    e) [God] decides that everyone must be tortured for eternity, because Adam and Eve ate from a tree that he was stupid enough to put in the Garden;

    f) decides that he might be willing to forgive everyone in exchange for more blood and gore;

    g) in the ultimate act of self-loathing, tortures himself to death; and

    h) with his blood lust satisfied, finally agrees to forgive people;

    i) except that even with his bloodlust temporarily satisfied, he’s still an asshole; so

    j) he decides that he’s still going to torture for eternity the folks who don’t believe in him at the moment of death, and only forgive the ones who suck up to him.

    Can’t you feel the love?

    Christians, pause and ask yourselves: What happened to me? How did I end up believing something as stupid and ridiculous as Christianity? Why am I labeling this monstrous God as ‘loving’?

    The Holy Spirit is a wondrous thing. It descends on people, making them incredibly stupid. It even makes them forget what love is.

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