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God: Self-Serving or Narcissistic for Judgment?

Usually, when I become aware of a new blog that has a post which I think requires an apologetic answer, I try to familiarize myself with it through the About page. Well, Fence Talk doesn’t have one of those. I had to go to another blog to find out what this one was about, and it was described as a “group blog with posts on parenting, Hollywood, social issues, nutrition, and more…” Sort of like The View, only on WordPress instead of TV.

The author of this post, who goes by Skinny Sushi, identifies herself as an agnostic. She and her husband were both raised Mormon, but for various reasons have walked away from the church. It seems that her primary reasons have to do with God’s judgment:

And any God who might be out there… wouldn’t he/she/it be rather pleased I’ve lived a good life and been kind to others?  There’s just something about the notion of an all powerful being who will punish me for not believing despite the quality of my life that seems a little… self serving?  Narcissistic?

In regard to the first point, Paul addressed this in the second chapter of Romans:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom 2:14-16)

So Sushi is right. People who do the Law without the Law are their own Law. No need for any divine intervention there. And, many people are good for goodness sake–without the Law.

However, Sushi doesn’t contend that God will reward those who do right, but she contends that God is going to punish those who don’t believe. In her mind, believing seems to be a “Get Out of Hell Free Card.” But is believing in God enough to get saved, as she seems to suppose? Jesus’ own brother, James, weighs in on this issue:

Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Jms 2:18-26)

The whole passage is an excellent denunciation of the idea that you can live any way that you so choose as long as you believe in God, but let’s focus closely on the relevant text: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Of course demons aren’t saved. James knew that. His audience knew that. But they believe that God is one–the same thing that we Christians believe.

So mere mental assent to the person and nature of God is not sufficient to save anyone. That’s Sushi’s biggest mistake here. Right belief does not automatically equal salvation. It’s one of the components of salvation, but by itself is not sufficient to save anyone.

The final charge that she levels at God is that he is being narcissistic by judging people who don’t believe rightly. Well, is he judging people who don’t believe rightly?

How do you get into heaven? Well, most would say by being a good person. Let’s go on that for a minute and see where it leads us.  After a lengthy speech on what it means to be good, Jesus concludes, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). So God demands perfection in our moral character.

Can we achieve that? Think about this:

  • Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Prv 4:25)
  • Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight. (Prv 11:20)
  • The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways. (Prv 14:14)
  • Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. (Prv 21:2)
  • As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. (Prv 27:19)

And Jesus himself reminds us: “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt 12:34).

With that in mind, let’s look at the sins of adultery and murder. I much doubt that Sushi has been unfaithful to her husband, nor do I think that she has killed anyone.

Here’s what Jesus had to say about adultery: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:27-28). So, merely undressing someone with your eyes is a sin. That’s bad news.

And murder? Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Mt 5:21-23). So, if you’re mad at someone and use some choice language to them, that’s pretty much the same thing as murder.

This perfection thing is pretty harsh. It doesn’t look like I can get into heaven that way, after all. And, if Sushi were honest with herself, she probably will come to the same conclusion.

Or maybe not. In her article, she says:

In fact, our background in the church might have given us a little too much morality…  For years with both had some issues with guilt and self-consciousness when it came to intimacy even though we were happily married, thanks to years of being told how wrong sex was.  So maybe it’s not such a bad thing that our daughter won’t get any religious themes when it comes to morality.  A cleaner, simpler lesson for her will be to just do the right thing.  Do it because it’s right, not because you fear retribution or judgment.

Too much morality? Yikes. Maybe she won’t come to the same conclusion that I just did.

But the real point I’m driving at is that God isn’t just punishing us for unbelief. That’s one of the many things that he’s punishing us for. He’s really punishing us for our actions, which is what Sushi thinks he should be judging us for: “And any God who might be out there… wouldn’t he/she/it be rather pleased I’ve lived a good life and been kind to others?”

The real problem is one of definition. What is a good life? Jesus defines it much differently than you or I do.

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on June 9, 2010, in God, Heresy, Morality, Religion, Sin, Theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Well said!
    It’s sad to see wordpress always promoting such so-called religious write-ups which are into inter-faith and Oprah Winfrey like “sharing sessions”.
    Thanks for breaking this down & God bless!

  2. It’s impossible for anyone to be entirely perfect, even the most devoutly religious.

    I’d like to propose a scenario:

    Say we have two recently deceased people facing judgment before God. The only differences between the two are that one is religious and takes part in religious worship and activities devoted to God while the other one is not religious at all. Both otherwise go throughout their lives being compassionate to others, generous with their time and resources, and loving to all those around them. However, each makes the same small mistakes, perhaps saying a bad thing here or there about someone, which would prevent them from achieving “perfection” morally as you have defined it. Each is equally perfect and imperfect based on their non-religious activities and their overall lives would both be described by their fellow man as exceptionally good ones by any sane social standards.

    My questions for you then are thus: Would both receive salvation and acceptance into Heaven based on the lives that they lead? If not, and only the religious one is allowed into Heaven, how is that just? The issue here is that belief seems to be much more important than how one actually lives the rest of their life. Why should someone be punished with an eternity of torture simply for their non-belief in God if they live a life that most would describe as “godly” in almost every other way? Why do people accept a God who is so uncompromisingly brutal and, despite what is often said of him, completely unforgiving in this regard? Why is it more important in his eyes to have faith than to simply live a life of worthy deeds and support for the common good?

    • You started off strong, and finished weak. Here’s where you jumped the shark:

      Each is equally perfect and imperfect based on their non-religious activities and their overall lives would both be described by their fellow man as exceptionally good ones by any sane social standards. . . . Why should someone be punished with an eternity of torture simply for their non-belief in God if they live a life that most would describe as “godly” in almost every other way?

      Do you see it? You’re proposing that these two people are living lives that are described as good by worldly standards. You are completely ignoring God’s standards in this regard. God’s standard is, alas, perfection. That, as I hope I have succinctly covered, isn’t possible.

      The idea, as I’ve repeatedly said, isn’t just belief. It is to do something with that belief. Hopefully, someone isn’t going to just believe but not let it affect his life in any way. That isn’t the point of Christianity. Ours is an active faith. It isn’t more important to have faith, but equally as important to let that faith produce good works.

      • Except, as you have stated, it is impossible to achieve perfection through our good works. You are saying that good works matter, but in the end a man who has no faith and yet has done good works, potentially the same good works as a religious man, is doomed to an eternity of torture and pain while the religious man is rewarded for the good life that he lead. A life that was largely the same as the non-religious man. The only potential difference here is the addition of faith, and thus faith is all that really matters in your argument. As Andy goes on to say below, “I can accept his perfect sacrifice on my behalf and therefore be adopted into the family of God, NOT based on any deeds of my own!!!!”

        I don’t see how one can worship a god who would punish, for an eternity no less, a man who has done good works in his life but simply chose the wrong faith, whether it be by social circumstance, upbringing, or ignorance. I do not absolutely deny the existence of God, and fully admit to the possibility that I may be judged unworthy of acceptance into Heaven for my beliefs, but I just couldn’t bow down to a God who is so needlessly unforgiving and unjust. I believe that if one lives a good life regardless of their faith – Yes, as described by the common good, which in no way conflicts with religious belief except possibly on the issue of faith itself – they should be judged as worthy as anyone of faith to be rewarded in the afterlife.

  3. @SomethingNothing,
    Your first sentence hits the nail right on the head. It is IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to live a perfect life. Jesus Christ alone lived a perfect life. That is the point.
    We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. My quesiton is why do people make it should as if God MUST and SHOULD accept all into His presence. Only perfect people get into heaven. Since Christ is the ONLY perfect person (100% God in the flesh yet 100% man) who has EVER lived, I can accept his perfect sacrifice on my behalf and therefore be adopted into the family of God, NOT based on any deeds of my own!!!!
    There are many “religious” people who will stand in the same condemnation as the non-religious before God on Judgment Day because they both trust in their own works rather than the finished work of Christ on the cross.

    • I don’t believe that he MUST or SHOULD accept all into his presence, simply that those who have lived good lives, as dictated by their fellow man in name of the common good, shouldn’t be so unjustly treated in the afterlife based solely on their choice of faith.

  4. I suggest that the key to this is righteousness. Righteousness for a human consists of believing God (Genesis 15:6) and obeying Him (Deut. 6:25). When James wrote that faith with works is a dead faith, I believe he meant that belief without obedience is a dead belief. On the other extreme, being a good person without believing God is not obedience.

    In response to SomethingNothing, the choice is not between the relious and the unreligious, but between the one who believes and obeys God and the one who does not. Some religious people don’t believe God; some unreligious people believe God and obey.

    Does that make “believing” a get-out-of-hell free card? As Cory points out, the demons believe and shudder… they do not obey what they believe. But is being good a get-out-of-hell free card? No. Atheists and agnostics who do good, do not believe God and so cannot obey. In Paul’s language, neither extreme is “just”-ified.

    Solomon writes of the vanity in thinking that our works can bring about any amount of good, merely because we mean it to. And he means that even of believers! We do not know enough to determine the goodnes that will come, or the evil that will be averted. That is why God merely “credits” us with righteousness (Genesis 15:6), and only to those who believe Him. Our perspective is otherwise too limited. As Solomon summarizes in Ecclesiastes 3:14…
    14 I know that whatever God does,
    It shall be forever.
    Nothing can be added to it,
    And nothing taken from it.
    God does it, that men should fear before Him.

    And as Solomon writes elsewhere: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” One conclusion I draw: Believing the Lord is the beginning of obedience.

    • I just want to point out, I never meant to imply that I view faith was a “get out of jail free card”. I realize that it isn’t that easy even for a believer, that one must still live a good life by their God’s rules.

      However, I do view it, and this is a view you seem to support in your post, more of as a “this is the only way you’re getting into Heaven even if you are an otherwise good person” card. And I would refute that one can determine the goodness that would come from, say, volunteering to help build a new house for a poor family that lost everything they had to a powerful storm, or choosing to get involved in a program that would allow you to act as a good role model for an underprivileged child in a rough neighborhood, or volunteering at an animal shelter, or running in support of finding funding to help cure a disease, or any other number of worthy causes that one can do in the here and now, not out of obedience to any God but simply out of love for one’s fellow man.

      And that is where I take issue with the Christian God. If someone devotes a good deal of their life to aiding and supporting their fellow man and spreading compassion, understanding, and love, then I believe that it is an absolute injustice to sentence them to an eternity of suffering and torture simply because they didn’t choose the right God to believe in. And please note, I’m not asking that every non-believer be admitted into Heaven, simply those who have lived worthy lives, as dictated by the common good, regardless of their choice of faith.

      • Disclaimer: My comment below is my own.

        When I say that you cannot determine the good and evil that results from your deeds, I am referring to the unknowns. For example, I give to charities that do many of the “good” things you describe: building houses for poor families, providing good role models, helping cure disease, etc. Is that because I anticipate the good that comes from it? Absolutely. However, I need to make sure that I am doing it in obedience to God, because only He sees the big picture. Why is that important? Because an earthquake might hit a week after I am done building that house, and it might kill the family. That may be in God’s will, but what if it isn’t? Then God will not inspire anyone to build that family a house. If His followers are listening for His inspiration, then one of them might hear God say to donate plane tickets that let them relocate. In a world that believes in God, you will see these things happen frequently; in a world that doesn’t, you will not. So, what if you are also inspired by God to provide tickets, but do not realize it for what it is, and you offer money to build that house? What is the difference between the tickets I provide and the house that you provide? We both mean the same amount of good. The difference is that I believed God and obeyed Him. You did not.

        Now suppose God chose to inspire an atheist to provide those tickets. And suppose that atheist did so. The atheist would not believe the inspiration came from God, yet he did what God said. I believe this happens in our world, and is one reason why one can point at the good works that occur both within and without the church. However, what is it that God wanted the atheist to believe? That he should provide tickets? Or that it was God telling Him to do so? The answer will vary, and will depend on what else God has told him. What else has God said to this person that he believed and obeyed? Has the person done so? You might see a slippery slope for Christianity degrading into nothing, and so would many Christians, but if someone has never heard the gospel preached, yet has done everything ever written by the Lord on their heart, then I cannot imagine what else God requires of him or her, to have them in Heaven. Yet, if God has revealed Himself, let them in on the fact that Jesus died for their sins, and wants them to follow Him, and they do not believe and obey God, then they have made their choice. I do know this: when I hear Jesus described by many people who do not “believe” Him, they often are not describing Jesus or even God. So, what is it they believe or do not believe? And do they believe enough of what God has revealed? Personally, I leave that to God to figure out.

        The bottom line then comes down to what truths have been revealed by God to a person, and what of those truths that person’s believed. It is a different thing than saying that you have to believe that Jesus died for your sins… though it is exactly what He did. It is saying that as much as He has told you, He will hold you accountable for. And if He has told you that He died for you, and you do not believe Him, then it isn’t me who you have rejected, it isn’t the church, and it isn’t the Bible, but it is Him.

        You may have heard it said that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. That is very true. Mankind initiated religion; God initiates relationships. For all of those people who engage with God at the level He reveals Himself to them, why wouldn’t He bring them into His Heavenly kingdom when they die? Why wouldn’t He? And being a just God, for all those people who have not believed anything He has said to them, why would He bring them in? I mean think about it: they don’t want to believe in a God that they have to believe. Would they prefer a God who lies? Who hides things from them? What kind of God cannot be believed? Yet the one who can be is one the people reject, and it is precisely because they don’t want to. And God will honor their choice… He has even said so. People don’t believe Him now… but they will.

  5. @Geocreationist

    So basically, by what you are saying, a person who has simply lived a good life without knowledge of God is considered a good person in God’s judgment until they have heard of him. Once they do, they are no longer a good enough person to enter into Heaven until they bow down before him. And once they have this knowledge they MUST do this or suffer eternal punishment. And you then you go onto to say that this is not God’s fault for sentencing them to eternal punishment, but their own for deciding simply to continue leading the good life that they had before he and his judgment ever entered into it. How can you not see that there is something wrong with that? If a person was worthy enough without knowing of faith in God, why should it matter whether they ever take up that faith once knowledge of it is gained?

    It actually reminds me of the story of Adam and Eve, only this time it’s God and his followers shoving the apple of knowledge, that knowledge being the knowledge of God, down the throat of the unknowing non-believer to force them into “obedience” and fearful compliance. It’s not about love, it’s about control.

    “And being a just God, for all those people who have not believed anything He has said to them, why would He bring them in? I mean think about it: they don’t want to believe in a God that they have to believe.”

    Why would he bring them in? Because what justice is there in condemning a man who has done good in his life to an eternity of pain and suffering over something so trivial and petty as faith? As you mentioned there is the possibly in your eyes that they may have even done God’s will despite their aversion to faith. Belief should be the least of anyone’s worries, only something to possibly add on to a person’s worth, not something to define them by. How you actually spend the limited time you have in your life and how you treat your fellow man is what really matters, both in the short and long terms. Once you die, all your personal faith matters for to this Earth is which piece of land you end up rotting in and possibly what the stone you’re buried under looks like. It’s our actions and deeds that will truly live on through the people and places we have touched.

    • What you’re missing now is the person’s spirit or soul. If someone is going to believe what God reveals to them, then they will. If they won’t, then they won’t. Trying to work out the fairness of it all merely distracts from the ultimate view that a person is going to have regardless of anything else… that God should be believed and obeyed or not.

      And to answer your question about what justice there “in condemning a man who has done good in his life to an eternity of pain and suffering over something so trivial and petty as faith”, I have already answered you, but I will clarify. Because only God knows everything, only God can truly guide you toward achieving the good that you wish to achieve. Anything else is a shot in the dark, because of the unknown factors that you cannot take into account.

      Considert this. If it is only just to judge a person on the goodness that they do, and not their obedience to God, then what makes an action good? If it is the result, then God must judge a person for the accidents of their actions, as well as their intentional results. And this is true of both the good and the bad that comes from everything you do. Therefore, if you are not held accountable for the bad that you accidentally affect, then it may seem fair to let you into Heaven because of what you intended; but it is unfair to the persons or people you accidentally harmed. And we have all lived such lives, as both actors, recipients and victims. What then are we to say of justice when eternity negates any temporary punishment or reward for our actions? The options are: either justice is eternal or God does not exist. And if justice is eternal, how can one be judged?

      To not judge a person for the results of their actions is unjust to the victims of what you do. To judge a person for their actions with no basis for making a choice is unjust to the ones who act. Therefore, God has given us a solution out of this debacle, where no other “religion” offers one. First, He gives us each the ability to know Him. That includes you. Those who believe Him will act in obedience; those who do not will not. Second, knowing that good and bad come of our actions, God put in place the manner in which our penalty will be borne… on the Cross, by Jesus… another revelation for us to believe or disbelieve, but the only justice that you will find in any religion based on a god. In this manner, the bad that ones affects has been minimized, the good maximized, and the punishment borne by the very God meting it out.

      As for the meaninglessness of faith, yours equates to an opinion that what God says is meaningless, as you proceed to subsitute His judgement with your own. You then wonder about God’s justeice, when God tells you how to maximize the goodness in your life and you ignore Him. Are you really saying that God should reward those who achieve the most good? Are you willing to stand by that opinion? Because those who achieve the most good are those who act from a vantage point of maximum knowledge… and you can only be assured of that you are if you listen to God and believe Him, and obey Him. Everyone else simply falls short.

      • “Consider this. If it is only just to judge a person on the goodness that they do, and not their obedience to God, then what makes an action good? If it is the result, then God must judge a person for the accidents of their actions, as well as their intentional results. And this is true of both the good and the bad that comes from everything you do. Therefore, if you are not held accountable for the bad that you accidentally affect, then it may seem fair to let you into Heaven because of what you intended; but it is unfair to the persons or people you accidentally harmed.”

        You’re making this more complicated than it need be. An action is considered good if it works toward the overall betterment of society. You should only be judged for any accidental harm that you do if it is directly the result of your own action, not for the poor choices of someone you helped, and you are made aware that the accidental harm actually happened. Unless there is a reasonable opportunity for them to make it right, you cannot blame the person for any accidental harm they may have caused. For an example to the first point, you cannot, say, blame a company for providing 2x4s that are sent to, recalling a previous example, help rebuild a home for a person who lost theirs in a storm if one of those 2x4s is then picked up by a manic and used to beat a man to death. It’s not the company’s fault, it’s the maniac’s.

        “Second, knowing that good and bad come of our actions, God put in place the manner in which our penalty will be borne… on the Cross, by Jesus… another revelation for us to believe or disbelieve, but the only justice that you will find in any religion based on a god. In this manner, the bad that ones affects has been minimized, the good maximized, and the punishment borne by the very God meting it out.”

        If a man does bad in his life he should have to balance it out with good in order to be worthy once again of admittance Heaven. I didn’t ask for Jesus to die for my “sins”, and I’d rather not be given any sort of help in that regard. I want to be judged based on what I actually do with my life, not given a break simply because I chose to worship the “right” God.

        And I truly think that the world would be a better place were it not for Jesus giving people such a ridiculous out within the Christian faith. How’s that for the flawed possible accidental harm that you tried to peg non-believers with? Imagine where the world might be today if more people were compelled by their faith to actually go out and do something of worth to support their fellow man. Perhaps a child somewhere who died of starvation could have been saved if Jesus hadn’t claimed to take on all of man’s sins and actually required them to work a bit more for their salvation. But, of course, you’ll just explain that away as a part of God’s will.

        As it is, I know far too many Christians who think a few prayers and going to Church on Sunday is all they need to do to be considered good enough for Heaven. I’m not saying they haven’t gained something of worth from their faith and their relationship with God, but I feel like it could have been so much more were they not given the excuse that Jesus’ death provided for them.

        “Are you really saying that God should reward those who achieve the most good? Are you willing to stand by that opinion? Because those who achieve the most good are those who act from a vantage point of maximum knowledge… and you can only be assured of that you are if you listen to God and believe Him, and obey Him. Everyone else simply falls short.”

        Not necessarily only those who achieve the MOST good, but simply those who have lived worthy lives – again as dictated by the common good – and contributed to the spread of understanding, compassion, and respect amongst their fellow man. It’s not about being the best, but simply making a concerted personal effort to improve the world bit by bit, smile by smile, family by family, community by community, nation by nation, until one day, together, all our lives are improved.

      • SomethingNothing,

        You are contradicting yourself, but I dont’t think it can be helped.

        I think you are saying that a man should be judged with how well his life, on balance, has bettered society, and that this can make up for the bad he has done in his life.

        How does the murder of someone balance out with the subsequent dedication of the murderer’s life to prevent children from going into crime? When has he done enough? At what point has balance been achieved? When he makes the commitment? or when he saves enough lives? How many lives is a murder worth anyway? And what if he falls one life short, while another does not? Will you really have someone miss out on Heaven because he was one action short of achieving balance?

        And then there is the common good.

        The common good would include those things that you do not know, but that God does know, which is exactly what I was saying. But that is what you are saying is not fair. How much better did you make society? You can only know if you account for accidental outcomes of your actions, as well as the intentional ones. Anything less is not a judgement on society’s betterment, but on your intentions, your heart, which starts to bring us back to Christianity again.

        And as for get-out-of-hell free cards… is it the good that one does, or the good that one means? “Does” is an untenable position that will unavoidably bring you to the point where your salvation teeters on a single action at one time of life or another. “Means” is a judgement of the heart, and is basically black and white to those who can truly see it.

        “Does” defines justice in a cold manner, based on when things “balance” out. “Means” judges a person for who they are, and what they try to affect in their actions. You are trying to justify going to Heaven for what I person “means” his actions to be; but betterment of society can only measure what one “does”. What if someone would, but cannot? Or if someone does, but does not mean it? You see, betterment of society cannot be the measure, and neither can balance.

        Another problem with finding “balance” is that some people will turn from their goodness at the the end of their life. On balance, they have done more good, but they have died evil. And then there are those who have lived an evil life, but turned to good at the end of it. What of them? What of the balance that they achieved? What matters more then? What people do, or who people die as, in their heart? Balance against the betterment of society leads to letting an evil person into Heaven, despite the abandonment of their goodness vs. condemning the good man to hell despite his repentence for his evil.

        But if one can still get into Heaven somehow, then there is the matter of the bad that people have done. Somehow, it must be paid for, if justice is to be done for thost actions, yet ones heart be the final deciding factor. There are two levels of justice that must be achieved.

        God loves every person on this world, enough to let them into Heaven for who they die “being” good in their heart. He knows when they will die, and how much time they have to reach that point, and how long they will as such. He will give them that time, and reveal Himself to every one. Some will believe it is Him and some will not; some will believe and repent, and some will not; some will obey what they believe and some will not. No one however, on balance will have done enough good to outweight their bad. Not one. And so God does not judge how well your life balances out… because no one’s does… because you do not know the impact you have, both the positive and the negative. American politicians take money I need for my mortgage, and give it to people who need it for rent… and genuinely believe they have done good; others do it the other way around. Well, some bad came from it. Is nobody responsible for the negative that comes from a man’s well-meaning actions? Or are we all responsible?

        God says we are all responsible, but that He is willing to take that burden off our shoulders under the condition that we repent and follow Him; and if we do then He will take that burden on his. Why? Because if you do not, then you have accepted the burden yourself. You have even said so. You do not want Him to take it. Fine. The Holy Spirit is a gentelman. And so be it, you will bear it yourself, achieving the good you mean, unaware of both the good and evil that you don’t mean. And finally, when you die, having said that you want to be judged on the balance of your actions, and your benefit to society, you will. And yet, you say that isn’t just.

  6. @Geocreationist

    “How does the murder of someone balance out with the subsequent dedication of the murderer’s life to prevent children from going into crime? When has he done enough? At what point has balance been achieved? When he makes the commitment? or when he saves enough lives? How many lives is a murder worth anyway? And what if he falls one life short, while another does not? Will you really have someone miss out on Heaven because he was one action short of achieving balance?”

    When I speak of balance, I’m not necessarily speaking in absolutes. I don’t necessarily mean that say, murder gives you 5 evil points and that you have to balance it out by donating to a charity (2 Good Points), and volunteering at a homeless shelter (3 Good Points). I mean simply that the person has realized their evil action, shown regret for it, and sought to make themselves a better person through making a concerted effort towards apologizing for their misstep and learning how to avoid making that mistake again in the future.

    Really, it’s a combination of many things. If a man who has been on the path to redemption for quite awhile dies just short of achieving his goal “balance” wise, yet he can demonstrate to whoever it is to judge him that based on how he has been living his life his good deeds would have continued on were he to still be alive, then I absolutely think it’s fair to let him into Heaven. I can see where you might think this goes against my belief, that he should be judged only for his actual actions, but in reality that’s exactly what this situation calls for. It’s all about the credibility that the man has built up through his good deeds since the mistake was made.

    “The common good would include those things that you do not know, but that God does know, which is exactly what I was saying. But that is what you are saying is not fair. How much better did you make society? You can only know if you account for accidental outcomes of your actions, as well as the intentional ones. Anything less is not a judgment on society’s betterment, but on your intentions, your heart, which starts to bring us back to Christianity again.”

    Intention shouldn’t be the only thing that’s considered, but it should matter.

    If a man does an action that works towards the betterment of society at first only to have another man come along and use the gains brought about by the original good action for his own evil, it is not the fault of the original man. It wasn’t he who committed the evil.

    However, if an unexpected evil does come from a man’s personal action, it should only be counted against him if he is somehow made aware that it has happened and is capable of making up for it in some way but instead chooses to run away from his responsibility to fix it.

    “What if someone would, but cannot?”

    Then it should not be held against him. The only thing that matters is that you do whatever you can, within reason, based on what you are capable of as an individual. That will of course mean different things depending on the person, but this is not unfair, it’s simply a duty that every person should have towards supporting their fellow man.

    You should want to give of your time and resources to help raise up those around you. By doing so, they eventually will be able to give more to those who are below them, and they below them, until one day we’re all comfortably taken care of when it comes to the really important stuff: food, water, shelter, and the support of our fellow man.

    “Or if someone does, but does not mean it?”

    This is why intention is important. If you intend to do evil, but only good comes from it, you are still not a good person. You may have bettered society, but it is not a goal you made any real conscious effort toward achieving.

    “Another problem with finding “balance” is that some people will turn from their goodness at the the end of their life. On balance, they have done more good, but they have died evil. And then there are those who have lived an evil life, but turned to good at the end of it. What of them? What of the balance that they achieved? What matters more then? What people do, or who people die as, in their heart? Balance against the betterment of society leads to letting an evil person into Heaven, despite the abandonment of their goodness vs. condemning the good man to hell despite his repentance for his evil.”

    Again, perhaps I was wrong to mention balance without expanding upon it.

    There’s certainly more to it than simply building up a bunch of good points that counteract your bad ones. If, at the end of your life, you have shown a purposeful trend towards evil or a lack of commitment to continuing good then you have destroyed your credibility, even if you lived a great life, and as such that should certainly be weighed against you. Whether it’s enough to prevent you from entering into Heaven will depend on just how thoroughly you have shot that credibility.

    As for the man who lives an evil life but turns to good at the very end of it, there should certainly be hope for him if his commitment to doing good achieves amazing things, but for the most part he should have to suffer for his evil. It’s his own fault for not making the commitment earlier on in his life. He can certainly try, and I think such attempts should be considered, but it will take quite a lot.

    And I’m sure your next question will be, “But why should he try if he’s likely doomed anyway?” The answer is because at least it would allow him some dignity in death. The man who asks such a question is the kind of man who likely didn’t deserve salvation in the first place. I fully realize that I myself will likely burn in hell for an eternity despite my attempt to live a good life, but it’s not something that deters me from doing good regardless.

    “God says we are all responsible, but that He is willing to take that burden off our shoulders under the condition that we repent and follow Him; and if we do then He will take that burden on his. Why? Because if you do not, then you have accepted the burden yourself. You have even said so. You do not want Him to take it. Fine. The Holy Spirit is a gentelman. And so be it, you will bear it yourself, achieving the good you mean, unaware of both the good and evil that you don’t mean. And finally, when you die, having said that you want to be judged on the balance of your actions, and your benefit to society, you will. And yet, you say that isn’t just.”

    What isn’t just is putting the responsibility for the evil actions of one man onto the shoulders of another. In God’s eyes, a man is guilty until proven innocent, doomed to Hell as soon as he learns of his existence and potentially before he has even personally done evil to another. And the only way to prove your innocence? To bow down before him, not out of love but fear. Fear that if you do not you will suffer for an eternity regardless of how you have lived. This fearful manipulation is masked as love, but simply saying that one thing is another doesn’t make it so.

    Now, I realize that my personal belief is quite complex and likely still very imperfect, yet it’s already certainly more fair and just than the way that God judges. Christianity provides a simple, easy way to reach salvation, which is likely part of why it’s so popular. However, as I’ve learned over time, when it comes to an important issue such as one’s eternal salvation, the best answers are usually anything but simple.

    • I appreciate the time you have taken to respond, and to stick with me here. I don’t really enjoy interchanges like this to be honest, but I appreciate your willingness to consider my position, and respond to me honestly.

      I wanted to respond to you at least one more time, because I can see that you still do not quite understand my position, and are putting me in the same group as most other Christians who do not understand their own faith much in my opinion… perhaps you still will, and that’s okay.

      Let us suppose that you are in fact going to go to Heaven, yet Christianity is true. How would that work? Well, first of all, you have the attitude toward your fellow man that God wants you to have. He has clearly written His law on your heart, and you appear to be living it out. So, if you are going to Heaven, then that is why. Everyone gets details wrong here and there, but not all of them are salvific. Of course, the very things you reject are the very doctrines that are in fact salvific… once God reveals them to you.

      You make the very good point before that it would not be fair for someone to have accepted everything God has revealed to them, and then suddenly God drops one more truth on them (the Cross), and then that’s the truth that condemns them to Hell. When people become Christians however, the truth that they generally accept (for those truly “converted”) is not a fear-based realization that they just avoided Hell, but the realization that they were made by a God who loves them. When I attends baptisms, these are acts of love and desire for God. When people are given a word from God in my church, the word is not that someone will burn in Hell so repent (though we believe in Hell), but it is generally either praise to God or encouragement to trust God in ones trials.

      If it turns out you are saved, then it is because you are not rejecting what God has revealed of Himself to you, but you are rejecting what people have revealed about themselves when witnessing to you about God. If you go back to my original response, I was trying to allow for “salvations” like this. However, I am a bit skiddish in suggesting it, especially on another Christian friend’s blog, because I cannot say this with authority. Why not? Because I cannot know your heart. God knows what you have accepted, and what you have rejected, and who you have rejected. I do not. I only know what you write.

      The Christian God you describe is not the one I worship, though His actions and requirements look conspicuosly close to my God’s. So for you to describe Him as you do is to completely misunderstand the love behind what He does and means.

      If you are saved, it is because you would and do accept the most important of those truths that God will ever reveal to you. Apparently, Christians have revealed to you a God who looks for excuses to torture people. Mine looks for people to save. Your God judges how well a person has done in this life. Period. Mine helps you do you the best you can, and makes up for the lack.

      I find this interesting: you appear to have projected some of your own notions of God onto the Christian’s notion of God. You seem to believe God judges how well a person does in order to let them into Heaven. You seem to believe that the Christian’s notion of God works the same way, but with the added perversion that He’ll try and trip you up while doing it, and then He holds you accountable for it. That is not God at all. Not only does God not judge your Heaven worthiness on how well you do in this life, He doesn’t try and trip you up. Yet, we trip.

      In my opinion, God judges you for what you learn in this life. Some people go through horrendous lives and learn that God hates them (he doesn’t); others learn to love God and others through the horrendousness of their life. Some people lead priveleged lives and learn to be selfish; others learn to love God and others with their wealth.

      If you are saved, then Jesus died for your sins. If you are not saved, then God has not revealed the love that was on His heart when He did this. If you are a person who believes God about Himself, but not man when he speaks on God’s behalf, then perhaps you are still God’s. If that turns out to be the case, then seeing your heart, and seeing what has made its way through your personal filter, would explain it all.

      If you are not saved, then you are missing something, and there is some other motivation in your heart that is not being expressed in your writing, or I am missing it. I am not saying I think you are or are not saved, because your own words reject God’s sacrifice for you. But, I am allowing for the possibility that God sees the heart with which you write that, and perhaps you are not rejecting God per se, but man’s representation of Him… and the church is a notoriously poor witness.

      Neither of us has worked out everything… but God has. Somehow. What God has revealed to you is true; what he revealed to me is true as well. The rest of what we believe is our respective imperfection at filling in the blanks, and hence the source of your our disagreement. It is why I study the Bible. It is why I pray. It is also why I occasionally debate with decent people like yourself… God wants you to know how much He loves you. Perhaps you do know… but you appear instead to prefer a statement like, “God sees the goodness in you.” Where do you think that goodness comes from? You appear to have hope within you. Where do you believe that hope comes from? Do not misinterpret this as an attempt to take away credit for your actions or a description of a God who persersely chooses who to give goodness and who to give hope. Please do not go there. Just look inward into yourself, and ask yourself what kind of God would choose write the goodness you have on your heart, and give you the hope that expressing that goodness will let you be with Him one day? Have you done bad things? Well, you judge yourself more harshly than He, yet less. Less because through your experience in this world, you now even see bad motives in the Good News of Jesus; yet you judge yourself more harshly because God can wash away what you seem to believe He cannot. If you are not saved, it is because your are trying to do good things for the sake of earning your way into Heaven… that is an impure motive; if you are saved, then it is because the goodness you do is for its own sake, independent of what happens to you… and God will make up for the rest. He might even reveal to you personally what I can only express in words… but because He is not perverse, He will wait until a time when you will believe it.

      • I wrote: “Not only does God not judge your Heaven worthiness on how well you do in this life…” He does judge you, and will find us all unworthy, but then Jesus will come alongside us and say, “Hey, he’s alright. He’s with me.”

      • I then wrote: “In my opinion, God judges you for what you learn in this life. ” It is the in the context of getting into Heaven with Jesus as your advocate.

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