Apologetics lends itself to martial arts metaphors. Christian apologetics lends itself to many other metaphors too, besides combat, war and martial arts. Apologetics can be modeled after any number of other helpful analogies, for example (1) Cultivating an Intellectual Garden, (2) Worldview Surgery, (3) Theological Housecleaning, or (4) Ideological Homebuilding, etc. etc. I’m afraid my examples today fall in line more with images of combat, fighting, and warfare. But hey, the best movies in history tend to be love-stories and war movies right? Christianity has both, the epic love-story of all history set within a series of battles. In the end, the apparent tragedies dotting the timeline of history (crucifixion, tribulation, cosmic destruction) give way to a comedic ending, a heroic victory (Christ’s return), with wedded union (Church and Christ), and an eternal wedding party (heaven).
When someone tries to attack your faith, for example, claiming that the Old Testament has too much violence or injustice to be able to witness to a good God, here are some tactics you may try.
1) Stand Your Ground
Ask them to prove their claim, or justify their question. A lot of times, skeptics and antagonists don’t know a lot about the things they are attacking and it doesn’t take much to show that anyone can ask a question but only thinkers can give responsible reasons and make a good case for their position. Asking them to defend their position might even intimidate them a bit. Now I’m not talking about foolhardy bravado. I’m talking about a principled courage of conviction where you say something like, “That’s interesting. That sounds different from what I’ve read in the Bible. Would you give some of your reasons for interpreting that passage that way?” Or you might say, “That’s an interesting opinion, but since I’m not a scholar in the field, I don’t know how to tell whether you are on target or not. Do you have some experts or historical evidence to show why reasonable people should agree with you?”
2) Do some Logical Blocking
There are some common countermoves you can use which challenge the other person to improve their approach using better logic and stronger evidence before drawing their conclusions about Christianity. I recommend you phrase these as questions (which is how they are phrased here).
(a) Prooftexting–“have you interpreted the text fairly in light of the context?”
(b) Non-sequitur–Latin: “does not follow;” “have you taken a logical leap that doesn’t follow from the evidence?”
(c) Anachronism–“Have you inserted or interpreted something modern into an ancient setting, for example, prisons, standing police system, free-market economy, bill of rights, Geneva Convention, etc.?
(d) Hasty Generalization–“Have you rushed to a conclusion generalized from too few examples/evidence?”
(e) Steam Roller Fallacy–“Are you trying to bowl me over with more questions than could be answered in the time we have?”
(f) Causal Fallacies–“Have you called something a ’cause’ without enough evidence?”
(g) Illicit Assumption–“Have you assumed something that we haven’t agreed on or you haven’t proven?”
3) Duck the High Kicks
Sometimes people try to accomplish too much with their argument. For example, this verse is difficult therefore your Bible is false. Or in this case, they try to take out God entirely with just a few Old Testament verses about homosexuality or rape. Now those kinds of verses deserve a response, but let’s be clear. There could still be a God if all the world’s religions were deeply mistaken. There could still be a God in a different religion, but Christianity is wrong about him. There could still be a God, but the Calvinists are more right than the Arminians, or the Arminians are more right than the Calvinists, or the Jews are right and everyone else wrong. Maybe the Catholics are right, and Protestants can take a walk. Or good ole’ fashion inerrancy-affirming ecumenical Christianity is the most right of all and we just have to live with a degree of mystery and discontent about some OT passages. All of those are options, even if the OT violence can’t be answered.
When you duck the high kicks you are reframing the discussion so that their over-ambitious goal is out of reach. In this case, God’s existence is not really a target; that would be aiming too high. Instead, you are pointing out that there are problem passages in the Old Testament which might be answerable, but even if they are not, there could still be a God and we have some unresolved issues with how he works. There are some tough passages in the Bible which I’m prepared to admit are tough to resolve, and even if we grant inerrancy, and orthodoxy with it, we probably should never sit too comfortably with the ferocity and austerity of God’s justice. Mercy and grace are great, but our God is still an utterly holy God who exacts justice more pure than we can imagine.
4) Dodge a little (but not too much)
Some questions are loaded and shouldn’t be answered. For example, “How can your God support wanton killing of innocent people?” That’s a loaded question. It assumes things that you might not assume. You can’t answer it without granting that there is wanton killing of innocent people. In the case of a loaded question, first identify the loaded question and break them up into their component questions. Rephrase their question into those smaller questions, and answer those instead. “What do you mean by ‘innocent’ people? Do you mean the whole culture is innocent, just some of it’s members, or perhaps every individual there is innocent?” And “By ‘wanton’ do you mean it’s some sort of blood-thirsty rampage irrespective of justice or greater-goods?”
Other questions are fine, but they would be too involved to answer in a given time period. In that case, affirm the importance of the question and ask for a better time to answer it, or ask for a different setting where you can give that question proper focus and attention. If neither of those options work, then try to refer them to some sources that might help them get answers (see the resource list below).
Many people enjoy the questions too much to waste energy listening to answers, but that’s not your problem. If they ask you for answers about violence in the Old Testament, then you should assume (all else being equal) that they do want answers. If they really push you here, showing that they have no interest in answers then that’s the combat equivalent of heckling and throwing darts at the boxer without entering the ring. In that case you you might have to bid them good day, say “God bless” and be on your way.
Other times, there are just too many questions to answer (Steamroller fallacy). In that case, block the mistake by pointing out the logical fallacy involved. Then dodge any illicit or peripheral questions by asking if there’s one or two major points they would like a response to. Regardless, it’s helpful to have some good resources in mind to which you can refer them in case they are actually seeking answers and you aren’t really in a position to address everything they are saying.
Now don’t try to block and dodge everything. The good blocks and dodges are intended to keep you from getting sidetracked with unreasonable objections or distracting matters. The “judo” analogy breaks down when we remember that Christians are still supposed to absorb challenges to their theology, not as attacks, but as a refining fire. Intellectual and scholarly challenges to Christian ideas can serve as a cauldron of intellectual discipline training us to develop our theology. Without an array of challenges and objections we risk getting soft and fuzzy in our theology instead of strong and fortified in our knowledge of God.
Also, if we are too dodgy we risk being non-committal and insincere. Christians shouldn’t feign different belief systems for the sake of expediency in debate. We should not adopt theistic evolution for that reason, nor open theism, nor even orthodoxy if our main motive is to counter some argumentative atheist. Instead, we should hold to truth wherever we find it, and we should be willing (and preferably ready) to defend it where possible. We don’t have to be cocky or certain about our own faith, but we should be honest that we believe what we do, and willing to have probing conversations about it once in a while. Questions about Old Testament integrity, Biblical theism, Christian ethics are all important subjects not to be dodged. But neither should we answer absolutely everything asked of us, end indulge all opponents especially if the question is asked insincerely, based on prooftexts, or it’s intentionally distracting from more important mattters.
5) Hit Back, With Precision
When a person attacks the Christian God through Old Testament references there are a number of reasons why they may do this. You don’t know those reasons, in a particular case, unless you have a good understanding of the questioner. Your response to their questions can only be as powerful as they are sharply delivered on target. The person may be objecting to God’s apparently low view of women, because some OT passage treats women like property, as spoils of war. Your response might be to counter with a female-dignifying passage in Scripture, or a retelling of historical advances for women achieved through Christianized societies, or you might look closer at the passage and historical context to see if this was about women generally or about prisoners of war specifically. In the latter case, there were reduced options for the treatment of women and children when there was no Bill of Rights, or Geneva Convention, or even a standing prison system. Sometimes loaded words like “sex slave” or “torture” are used too loosely and a closer look at context can deflate things a bit. Be be careful to “pick your punches.” You have limited time and energy so it’s a good to target the most important yet most vulnerable claims.
6) Use their Momentum Against Them
It’s good to use your own tools of offense against a bad idea, but it’s even better to use the idea against itself. Oftentimes a skeptic will take a rhetorical lunge at you, like “Your God is evil! Just look at how the Bible promotes slavery and discriminates against women!” This kind of accusation has a lot of rhetorical force, but logical lunges like that leave the skeptic exposed. He or she has assumed that “evil” is a coherent concept without God, that he or she can recognize it without God, and that all the objections to slavery and sexism make sense even without God. That’s assuming a lot. And assumptions like that can be used against them.
Logically you can use their momentum against them by first blocking their lunge–identify their hasty generalization, illicit assumption, etc.–then grant all their moral indignation, letting their accusation come close, for example, “Yes, I agree that baseless prejudice and pointless cruelty against fellow human beings is terrible.” But then you trip them at the point that they feel strongest. For example, “That’s why I oppose abortion, where people kill half a million girl babies in America every year. Don’t you hate abortion?” Or “I’m wondering how your worldview justifies this moral indignation? It seems that nature is red in tooth and claw and can’t be trusted to give use true morality instead of just truthless wind.”
7) Be Able to Take a punch
Apologists don’t apologize enough or admit when we don’t know something. I think it’s a matter of pride. We get our personal identity mixed into the outcome of an argument, we end up defending ourselves more than defending the Gospel. When we aren’t humble and honest enough to admit error, or admit when the other person has a good point then we foster insecurity. We get emotionally invested taking responsibility for more than we should. We are not saving souls, God saves souls. We are not “winning the battle,” God has already won it. We are not defending truth worldwide all by ourselves, God is already doing that and it’s our privilege to be allowed to help. In short, we need to be secure in our own faith, in our own relationship with God, in our own worldview so that we can “take a punch.” Insecure proud apologists can do more harm than good.
One way to take a punch is by apologizing when we make a mistake. Before your interlocutor gets a full head of steam and rolls right over Christianity, you can absorb the blow saying something like, “I apologize, I misunderstood you. You make an interesting point and I don’t know as much about that as I should.” Then you can make some recommendations where they’ll better information than you could provide them. Here are a few sources regarding violence in the Old Testament.
My Personal Favorite on Slavery in the Bible. By Christian Think Tank
A Good Series by Clay Jones
Resources on Problem Passages, Including OT Violence
Hard Sayings of the Bible, by Kaiser, Davids, Bruce, Brauch, © 1996 InterVarsity Press
The Complete Book of Bible Answers, by Ron Rhodes, © 1997 Harvest House
Is God a Moral Monster?, by Paul Copan (c) 2011 InterVarsity Press
37 thoughts on “7 Tips For Apologetics Judo”
All Good points. Regarding number 6 – use their momentum/idea against them is particularly helpful. I made a similar point regarding their use of evil in an article titled “The Problem of Evil, Proof God exists.” You can see it here: http://rationalfaith.com/2015/04/the-problem-of-evil-proof-that-god-exists/
Keep up the good work!
Thank you. Much appreciated.
Thanks for the great advice. I wish that every Bible-believer would read this article.
I’m glad you like it. Thanks for the kind words.
Good stuff. Helpful and thoughtful. Thank you for posting.
I think you mean to say Calvinists vs Arminians (not Armenians) in #3. 🙂
Thanks for the spot. I get tripped up on which spelling applies to the historic people group and which refers to the non-calvinist theological system.
So tell me, what have infants done themselves that they can be held responsible for, even those born with significant mental defect (who will never be able to learn their own names in this life)…so tell me what they have done to deserve to be punished, even deserving a punitive death on the cross? You have to establish a legal basis for wrath against all men first, before getting into an innocent being punished in their place. Because of the phrase “all men” and penal substitution advocates “interpretation”…the case for wrath must be made against all men. It is either “for all men” or “in the place of all men”. So make your legal case. The infant is not responsible for what his father did(much less Adam), or his own state that he was born in. So make your case and use conservative principles of law to do it, and not your “interpretation”. I never studied judo, just theological law.
(p.s. words mean things and it is a courtesy to answer questions exactly and according to how they were asked.) So tell me, what have infants done themselves that they can be held responsible for, even those born with significant mental defect (who will never be able to learn their own names in this life)…so tell me what they have done to deserve to be punished, even deserving a punitive death on the cross?
“What have infants done themselves that they can be held responsible for?”
Nothing. They aren’t morally responsible for anything. And they don’t themselves deserve any punishment. I’m not a strong calvinist so I’m not sure your objection applies to me.
You do however have an interesting objection to the (strong) Calvinist definitions of total depravity and original sin.
Your answer contains an admission of a legal principle. And I would think by force, because it is impossible to use principles of law to suggest that infants and those of mental defect are responsible for their state and actions. Next comes the line of legal distinctions between unlawful states and deeds which are non-punitive and unlawful states and deeds which are punitive-or do call for punishment…and the line of legal distinction between the two is that some things are under a man’s control and there are other things which are not under a man’s control. (i.e. robbing banks, rape, murder, unjust scales, etc., are under a man’s control…The type and state of a man’s body that he is born into, the corrupt biological instincts and impulses are not under a man’s control.) Do you agree?
Um, Timothy are you responding to the article about apologetics judo? Your question seems like it’s coming from left field so I’m struggling to identify your context, why you’re asking, and what you’re getting at.
I’m getting lost in your context. You seem to be assuming a particular sense of the word “legal” to which I responded by noting that there are multiple senses, neither of which guarantee that we are talking about what is morally right or wrong. The moral rightness or wrongness is what I’m concerned for when it comes the questions of moral guilt among infants and any subsequent punishment. I’m not a calvinist so it sounds like you are assuming things about Christianity, in your original question, that I don’t grant. Now if you want to argue that Christianity necessarily entails a doctrine of moral guilt among infants and subsequent punishment then please state your case. Some Christians believe something akin to that. But this Christian does not. If you are suggesting that noncalvinists are equally implicated in your accusations then please explain. I’m not seeing it. Maybe I’m just too dense for what you’re saying but I am trying to understand your claims so I can answer your questions.
I am sorry you are having trouble comprehending my questions and are unable to perceive that the “context” was contained in the questions themselves. My questions were about principles of law and reality itself, of course. It’s a very simple exercise in establishing a legal line of reasoning and legal premises, which one is either forced to admit to…but there are other options, like becoming easily offended, avoiding answering questions (even when the answers are beyond obvious and academic), and another option is to start bearing false witness…such as attempting to depict my simple questions as though they are “accusations”. Wouldn’t you agree? I guess my last question you decided not to answer and my next question could be “why” you did not…but I would rather simply ask you again if you could answer my last question, rather than avoid it. And here I was quite expecting you on the contrary to use number 6) Use their Momentum Against Them or number 5) Hit Back, With Precision. Thanks much 🙂
(p..s. if someone asks me “Are there certain things that are under a man’s control and other things which are not under a man’s control?(and cited examples of each as i did above)”…I would simply answer “yes”. rather than try and depict their simple question as if it were an “accusation”. )
p.s.s. I especially liked this part of the article
[Apologists don’t apologize enough or admit when we don’t know something. I think it’s a matter of pride. We get our personal identity mixed into the outcome of an argument, we end up defending ourselves more than defending the Gospel. When we aren’t humble and honest enough to admit error, or admit when the other person has a good point then we foster insecurity.]
Timithos, if you want to be understood and you have an honest and fair-minded question I will gladly oblige you. But if you want to play “Gotcha” and insult me, well I’m probably not going to be any fun.
I’m still trying to understand your original body of questions (before moving on to your other questions). Your original questions sound like you are presuming that I’m calvinist. But since I’m not, then I can’t tell how your questions apply to me. Do you retract your original questions about infants and punishment? If so, then we can move on to your next line of questioning. If you do not retract your original question please clarify for me why I should consider them rightly aimed at me. I don’t believe that children prior to the age of accountability have any moral guilt for which they’d need to be forgiven or punished. If you think my worldview somehow betrays that belief then please explain. I don’t see it. But maybe you do.
I would also reiterate that there are many different senses to the words “law” and “legal” and since I’m not a divine command theorist (and don’t focus my ethics on legal code) and since I consider human laws to be only sometimes identified with moral goodness I’m therefore more interested in the metaphysics of morality UNDERNEATH all legality. I’m not trying to divert from your questions about legality, I’m trying to get to the deeper and more objective issue of morality that makes justice even possible.
I beg your pardon. Where were my questions not honest? It seems you might be a bit over reactive and a little sensitive. Did you read the article?
The last question I asked was rather simple. If you did not want to answer the question you could have said so. If you did not know the answer you could have simply said so. I don’t see the need to retype the question since it is still there, but I will. I don’t see any deception or “gotcha’s” in my question…anymore than I see any accusations in my question. I find it troubling that you seem to insist in characterizing me personally in a negative light, such as accusatory, less than honest, as if i am playing a gotcha game. I have been asking honest questions and they are very simple ones. So if you would be so gracious as to give answer to the question I asked, rather than getting into my alleged motives, or getting into thinking my questions are about you personally, and please avoid the negative character assignments I would greatly appreciate it.
(the now thrice posed question)
Next comes the line of legal distinctions between unlawful states and deeds which are non-punitive and unlawful states and deeds which are punitive-or do call for punishment…and the line of legal distinction between the two is that some things are under a man’s control and there are other things which are not under a man’s control. (i.e. robbing banks, rape, murder, unjust scales, etc., are under a man’s control…The type and state of a man’s body that he is born into, the corrupt biological instincts and impulses are not under a man’s control.) Do you agree?
I went to your youtube site and skimmed some of your stuff about penal substitution. That helped to clarify what you are getting at. That filled in a lot of the context. Generally I like to know who’s asking and they they are asking but I commit much effort to answering their questions.
I’m open to objections regarding penal substitition, That’s only one of the options among scholars on the subject. so I’m all ears on that one.
If I were to answer my own question, it would be: Yes, there are things under a man’s control and offenses a man can and many have avoided. Bank robbery is not forced upon a man and rape is a crime that man does not have to commit, just as it is with the rest of the criminal code of avoidable offense and crimes. As to unlawful states and offenses that a man is not responsible for, he surely is not responsible for the state of his own body that he was born in, and man is not responsible for being born ignorant, as things like that are beyond a man’s control and frankly are none if his own doings. As for the impulses of the flesh which rise up and instincts which a man may not wish to have, he is not responsible for them. I further add that ‘slavery to sin is limited and is only referring to certain states and offenses…not the entire criminal code of criminal acts. It’s rather simple really and in the bible where God says “hey stop doing that”, it is because men can stop doing those things and in fact did not have to do those things in the first place. It is very clear and is observable in real life observations that there are things that are under a man’s control and can and are avoided by many…and there is a specific and limited class of states and acts that man cannot control or avoid.
Timithos, I’m glad that you are not playing “gotcha”. I’ve encountered that among several commentors so I’m a bit leary from past experience. It’s good to see that you are sincerely asking.
As to your follow-up question, you asked what is called a complex question. You mention a lot of ideas and then ask me if I agree when I may agree with some points but not others. It would be more fair-minded, towards me, to ask one piece at a time.
“Next comes the line of legal distinctions between unlawful states and deeds which are non-punitive and unlawful states and deeds which are punitive-or do call for punishment…and the line of legal distinction between the two is that some things are under a man’s control and there are other things which are not under a man’s control. (i.e. robbing banks, rape, murder, unjust scales, etc., are under a man’s control…The type and state of a man’s body that he is born into, the corrupt biological instincts and impulses are not under a man’s control.) Do you agree?
The grammar here is confusing–it’s a run-on sentence with several ambiguous modifiers. It would be easier for me to understand what you are saying if you separated your complex question into it’s component questions. That said, I’ll TRY to answer what I think you are asking, but honestly, there’s a lot of implied questions inside of that paragraph so I’m not confident that I understand you.
I affirm Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul that sins is the one who will die.” As it regards children, that means that children who are not yet morally aware are thereby morally innocent in the eyes of God. Only those who can sin are morally responsible for whether or not they sin. The same goes for anyone beyond the age of accountability (whether that’s 5 years old for some kids, or 85 years old for a disabled person). People will not face eternal punishment for someone else’s sin, or for any legally defined wrong (sin) for which they were wholly unable to be know or obey. People are morally responsible (to God) only for what they capable of knowing and capable of doing.
If it helps clarify things, I don’t affirm the strong calvinist version of original sin or total depravity.
Interesting that you mentioned Ezekiel 18:20, as the context of “the soul that sins shall die”, is referring to a specific list of criminal offenses and detestable acts of which many are capital level criminal offenses in which death is called for. (and not the soul that commits just any sin).
I am sure you are aware of the offenses listed in Ezek 18 and each one listed are unlawful states and acts which were under the man’s control, even to avoid.
“He eats at the mountain shrines.
He defiles his neighbor’s wife.
12He oppresses the poor and needy.
He commits robbery.
He does not return what he took in pledge.
He looks to the idols.
He does detestable things.
13He lends at interest and takes a profit.
To further add, the son in Ezekiel 18 does not need “delivered” or “saved” or “salvation” from those elective crimes, as they are under the man’s own control, to either do or not do. One of the reasons I posted is to point out that the ramifications and reality is, that salvation or deliverance is from things beyond a man’s control, not things that God expects and requires the man to do himself. This is why it sounds insane and exactly like liberal law, to suggest that a man needs salvation or deliverance from robbing banks and other such elective criminal acts. The famous “That which I want to do, I do not and the very thing I hate I do…” is not referring to rape,robbery,murder,idolatry and like crimes. Man is not enslaved to the commission of elective crimes. The reason why God said to Israel “stop worshiping idols” is because it was up to them to stop such detestable practices, and was not a matter of “salvation”.
You’ll need to defend your dichotomy between earthly/temporal judgment and heavenly/eternal judgment as it regards righteousness. You said this passage was not a matter of salvation/condemnation but was instead merely about acquital/capital punishment. But you haven’t shown that these exclude each other in the OT context for Ezekiel. You are right, however, that this passage does explicitly include a temporal context of court systems illustrating how justice treats the “sins of the father.” But it appears that the passage is using this example to illustrate how God perceives righteousness as it concerns heavenly rewards.
So, you’ll need to show that this passage cannot be referring to both earthly and heavenly contexts.
When it comes to righteousness, and whether it’s “passed on” by family right, Ezekiel is clear that people should not be punished for the sins of their ancestors. That makes perfect sense in the temporal sense of court proceedings, but it also reminds us that God doesn’t have grandchildren. No one goes to heaven or hell because of their parents faith or non-belief.
There aren’t two systems of law, only 1. The review judgment before God is simply that, a review judgment. There are no new findings of fact or search for evidence in the review judgements. It is not a dichotomy. The two tiered systems of “justice” which are actually two completely different sets of laws…which totally contradict each other and are hostile toward each other, was an invention by satanic heretics. There is only 1 law and only 1 system of justice. NOT TWO.
Caesar is God’s servant to punish wrongdoers, to dispense the wrath of God as God sees fit. This is also why when Samuel said to king Saul “you failed to execute God’s wrath on the Amalekites”. So whether Caesar does it or God directly, the execution of justice is the execution of justice. Caesar being a servant does not another system of justice and law make. It’s all the same, whether delegated through Caesar of hands on by God Himself.
(Just 2 examples)
Isaiah 13:11 I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. … “I, the LORD,
will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sin
2 Samuel 15:2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt.
Even under the law, it was an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, life for life, etc. No sacrifices…the offenders were punished. Now to speak of inheritance and rewards or the loss thereof, that is concerning believers and whether they do something on this earth, some crime and are punished, then they are. Issues that are resolved here, ARE RESOLVED. Issues not resolved here (like someone not learning their lesson and being rebellious unto death)..the issue continues and is resolved at the review (or at second advent when He returns…some no stripes, some a few stripes and some will suffer many stripes)…just as there are not two completely different systems of justice and law, but only 1. There is only 1 offense and when 1 offense is committed it is in God’s system of justice, whether Caesar is used or God deals with them directly is simply up to God. It’s not complicated deceivers make things “complicated”, ON PURPOSE, for the reasons of trying to make a lie seem like it is true. There is nothing hard to understand here.
1 Peter 2:13-14 Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether to a king as supreme or to governors as those he commissions to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do good. (I don’t see two different systems of justice or law here, only one)
Romans 13:1-5 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. (I don’t see two justices here, only one)
Timithos, I agree that Ezekiel doesn’t have two different standards in mind but understands them to interrelate seemlessly. That’s why i was wondering why YOU introduced a dichotomy, interpreting Ezekiel like his words about earthly punishments/justice could not ALSO be clued into punishments/justice int he afterlife. It seems to me that Ezekiel understands these to be two periods or phases of the same judicial standard, not two different standards. God’s standard of righteousness has always been that of literal perfection, and no one and nothing short of that standard is permitted into right relationship with him.
I’m wondering now if your system of thought, however, is properly guarded against legalism and works-based salvation. Also, I’m wondering if your system of thought is suggesting that there is no heaven, only an earthly legal system? I don’t want to assume too much. I didn’t presume you believed in God, nor did I presume you are a Christian, or that you are free of cult or heretical agendas. If you could clear these things up for me that would help me understand where you are coming from. When I asked for context earlier you seemed indignant when I’m genuinely trying to be fair and understand you, yet a key piece of understanding what a person is saying is understanding the person himself. You may be innocent on all accounts, indeed I hope so. But I am led to wonder about these sorts of things since you chimed in on a blog with a wholly unrelated line of questioning that seems agenda driven towards the subject matter of your self-published book. We might agree on a whole lot, or be best of friends if we met, but I don’t want to assume. You probably know what happens when we assume.
BTW, you never really addressed my initial objection about how all this talk about “legality” and “law” is secondary compared to the more primary issue of morality. It’s at that level that righteousness, goodness, and justice are grounded but you haven’t yet been willing to interact at that level with me. You can debate theology and textual issues, and that’s fine, but if you aren’t willing to address the moral framework undergirding all laws and legality then you are handicapping your entire course of argument.
Well, it is rather easy to explain, and in fact is addressed in chapter 1 of our PLS book. That which is lawful, is also moral, is also noble, is also good, is also spiritual, is also loving, is also of good intent…or it is none of them at all. You cannot divorce legality or lawfulness from morality or any other positive trait from righteousness. One cannot be lawful and yet immoral. One cannot be righteous and be unloving. Righteousness is moral and is lawful or it is neither one and isn’t righteousness at all. So the idea that being lawful is “secondary” to “morality” is in error, because one has to be both and more…all at the same time.
You see if one were to describe righteousness, how it behaves, how it acts, what it’s disposition is…it is all positive and good virtues and character traits….not some of them. To be frank with you, most Christians do not think or view things according to the fundamental principles of law, as to how God adjudicates a case, conducts legal inquiries, prosecutes cases and so forth. There is not just a decorum to God’s court but Gods judgments are always according to the irrefutable most fundamental principles of law, always with good intent, and of course it goes without saying that God is surely moral. Just as there is only 1 body of law, there is only 1 morality…for they are one and the same. One cannot be moral without being lawful at the same time(and I am not referring to the world bastardized unreal version of grey undefined morality).
When one is talking about God, man, satan, wrongdoing, man, sin salvation, judgments, justification and so forth…its a matter of law and legal ethos. You simply cannot be “moral” and yet “unlawful”…and so therefore lawfulness isn’t “secondary” to morality.
So, are you saying that all laws are morally good? Surely you don’t agree that legality is strictly synonymous with morality since slavery and spousal rape have been legal, and even divine laws have a cultural and covenental context shaping which moral goods can be accessed in a given society. Hence we are allowed to eat pork where ancient Jews were not. The moral value underneath that law (health, hygiene, life, etc.) can be timeless while the biblical law is culturally specific.
Are you a divine command theorist? I’m a divine essentialist in my ethics. So your response shot right past my main reasons for opting against the brand of divine command theory you seem to be asserting. You haven’t really addressed the grounding problem which, if valid, distinguishes morality from legality so that only some laws are good but other laws are bad. Still other laws could be morally neutral, such as rules in a game or rules in a fictional world.
You are doing what people always do…when talking about God’s law, morality, system of justice…you start talking about human societies and human laws varying moralities of the world. And of course the Jewish pork thang…Nothing you have said invalidates or even deals what my statements. Because what I say is irrefutable. And we are done here. buh bye
You haven’t established that God’s laws are the only laws, or that that aspect of legality encompasses all of legality. Hence my point stands.Legality isn’t synonymous with morality.
Plus, earlier you said they are the same and I just gave examples where they are not.
If you want to talk only about divine law then you still need to prove that God’s laws toward us are somehow fundamental to his nature in the same way as is his moral perfection. Otherwise you are stuck with the euthyphro dilemma.
Notice also I’m not saying that morality and legality are SEPARATE, I’m just saying they are distinct concepts and can be distinguished conceptually. In practice they may always appear together in God. We have to defend that God is essentially good (morally) so that we can trust that his laws are good. It doesn’t work the other way around. Just because God has the authority and power to order us around is not itself a guarantee that his laws are good.
I am saying that which is moral is also lawful and that’s it period. You cannot be immoral and lawful because immorality is a violation of law. And your false premise (also known as lying which is immoral and illegal) that lawfulness comes second to morality…is utterly asinine. You cannot be one without the other. Moral and lawful or immoral and unlawful. You are trying to put more importance of one over the other…WHEN ONE CANNOT BE ONE WITH BEING THE OTHER ALSO AT THE EXACT SAME TIME. I will tell you the truth, what you did was go on a tangent BECAUSE YOU COULD NOT DEAL WITH ANYTHING I SAID..AND YOUR SO FULL OF PRIDE THAT YOU CANNOT BE TAUGHT OR CORRECTED…BECAUSE IN YOUR MINDYOU ARE THE BASTIAN OF TRUTH AND YOU DON’T KNOW SQUAT ABOUT THEOLOGICAL LAW. I will tell you this…if I misspoke one iota YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN ALL OVER IT! And because I did not misspeak and you can refute what I say…you gotta pretend like you are my contemporary and you are not even in my league. It is unbelievable that you would suggest God condones slavery in the old testament…He never did, slavery was never allowed. In that sense you resemble what classic atheists do in their arguements. IF IT IS IMMORAL IT IS A VIOLATION OF LAW, PERIOD.
I’m sorry to have offended you so badly. Please accept my sincerest apologies. We may disagree about some things but I’ve clearly upset you and that’s not likely to aid understanding. I mean no offense.
Timithos, you are not in open court…you are coming across very argumentative and if you want someone to listen to point of view you may considering lacing your points with grace and humility – rather than a sledgehammer.
I could care less what a person’s verbiage, demeanor is like, neither did Christ. “Liberal Christians” like you are like that, hyper sensitive. What you can do is go cry in a corner.
Nice article, waiting for your another blog.