Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Learning to love WRATH?

One of the principal reasons that I do not believe in the existence of the God of the Bible is that He is a paradox.

We hear about 'the Wrath of God' perhaps in the same sermon as the 'all-loving God' and this, to me, is not consistent, a conundrum, a paradox, two puzzle pieces which don't fit.

No amout of looking hypnotically into the distance and repeating, "We cannot fully understand the mind of God." or somesuch can possibly mesh the ideas that God is all-loving and God can be wrathful for me.

There's certainly no getting away from God's Wrath in the Old Testament, the foundation documents for Him.

I recall broaching this subject with a nice elderly Jehova's Witness that used to come by of a Wednesday morning. "Why is it that God seems to change from the Old Testament 'full of Wrath' to the New Testament 'full of Love', then at the last chapter, back to 'full of Wrath' again?"

I forget the word for word response, although it must have been some classic Orwellian double-speak, double-think, 'We cannot know the mind of God' stuff. What else could it have been?

But what kind of rebuttal or apology can we expect from anyone on this logical, defining argument against the God of the Bible, that He cannot possibly be all-loving and wrathful?

Seems to me that 'you'd' have to back into it and spill a cartload of bullshit on it right away and THEN 'speak to it' as if it had already been defeated, thus:-

"Well, of course, you WOULD say this kind of thing, being that you have obviously turned away from God, accepted 'the god of this World' as your leader, allowing you to continue sinning in your lustful, cheating, stealing, perjurous ways!"

This may be preceded with, "You seem like a very insightful and intelligent person but.."

I think that perhaps this kind of 'treatment' is to demonstrate how the apologist 'can be' both loving (patronizing actually) and wrathful(disdainful actually) at the same time, 'proving', in a way that the anger/love thing is at least possible? (Just throwing that out there.)

This paradoxical idea that a being can be all-loving yet wrathful(all-wrathful?) is so obviously bullshit that one cannot even begin to demonstrate it, not for the historical lack of trying on Jews, Christians and Muslims parts, without coming across as batshit insane!

Biblically, "I LOVE you! And if I don't feel the love coming back to me in the required way(which you may or may not know), I'll have my 'people' exterminate your 'people'!"

Do you feel compelled to look off into the 'distance of your mind' and say something like, "One cannot know the mind of God."?

Well, do ya... punk?


Anonymous said...

Prolific Scotsman,

While I respect the use of 'batshit insane' as a reasonable conclusion...I must err on the side of normative insanity.

Well that's what I would call it.

Since I pretty much agreed with all your points, I was trying to remember what exactly I was thinking when I believed that.

In my mind at the time, I was obsessed with the bait and hadn't noticed the switch. The church I was approached by had community meetings about once a year.

They were held in series and focused mainly on a historical issue, harped on it actually. Their doctrine, all of it, centers around this issue.

Oneblood: "Wow! They're right!"

But they weren't right per se, because they were offering a package deal.

At the same time, I was dealing with issues of guilt, shame, and addiction. As you have alluded to, the other main lure is unconditional forgiveness and acceptance i.e. love.

The long and short of it is I only heard what I wanted to: historical 'fact', acceptance, etc. and I didn't think about the rest. The most important part of this though is the social reinforcement. Normative insanity.

I sat in church, felt the biochemicals, focused on what I still like about religion or the bait, and ceased thinking to an extent. At the end people would hug and we reinforced each others' belief through conversation.

Like the cliche says, "Sad, but true."

mac said...

oneblood's point? Yeah, I get it. But, sometimes, that same moderate view bothers me as much as the fundie's view. it would seem to me they "pick and choose" which descriptions of god they like. If the Bible is God's word, the whole shebang, as it were, how in the name of (pick your non-existant deity) can lowly humans choose which parts are real and which parts are just there as filler ?

mac said...

Not that oneblood bothers me, understand :-) Merely the attitude he mentioned seems common among moderate christians (Botts?). Sometimes, I think at least the fundies are honest about their beliefs....ie: the Bible is true -All of it, even the silly flood, and creation, and (pick your favorite impossible story here). To them the bad is as good as the good is bad (?)

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure how I have a moderate view. 'Normative insanity' is definitely pejorative, and I wasn't advocating my position at all.

What the church was 'right' about, doesn't much matter in the full context of what they and I believed.

pboy is right, and the God of Love and Hell is only one paradox of many in the evangelical construct.

Richelle said...

Funny how you can never get a concise response on the question of the wrathful/loving god.

Even when I was very young I would always ask myself how "god" could be so cruel to those that are supposed to be his children. Then once I had a child, the notion of the wrathful/loving god seemed even more absurd to me because I knew, and still know, that there is nothing Korbin could do that would ever make me feel hatred toward him.

And if that is true for me then you would think that god, as a superior being and all, would be capable of this as well, at the very least.

However, to be fair to some Christians, namely my husband, it isn't necessarily a requirement for one to believe everything in the bible as historical fact to be a Christian. Some of them see the bible as a book of stories mixed in with a message. Kinda like Aesop's fables only with a slightly twisted way of conveying that message (more so in the O.T.)

pboyfloyd said...

I enjoyed your post on you becoming a Deist, oneblood and this comment too.

Perhaps you could explain what is meant by 'normative insanity' as I never did understand the word 'normative' although I get a feel for it, that it is like 'acceptable', a philosophical way of saying 'reasonable-because-of-wide-acceptance', like that.

Am I even close?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think you articulated that better than I did.

It's not a set phrase that I know of. I liked the 'batshit insane' bit and tried to make a pun in response.

I wasn't really trying to be funny though. The Spanish phrase 'juego de palabras' fits better actually.

But yeah exactamundo :-)


"Then once I had a child, the notion of the wrathful/loving god seemed even more absurd to me because I knew, and still know, that there is nothing Korbin could do that would ever make me feel hatred toward him."

I agree 100% with that sentiment.

Anonymous said...

"The Spanish phrase 'juego de palabras' fits better actually."

Tried to clarify and ended up in ambiguity.

'Juego de palabras' is better suited to describe what I was trying to do than 'pun.'

Harvey said...

Since believers who see fit to join a church or some other recognized denomination generally do so for the reassurance that they "have it right" in their search for answers to both the frightening aspects of this existance and as to "what will happen" after they inevitably die, Oneblood's honest introspection should come as no surprise. Whereas belief in a god is a personal matter, which conclusion should be arrived at through that "kernel of faith", rather than be the assertions or teachings of others, all the rest of religion and the ongoing inquiry (usually lifelong) that appertains thereto is perforce tied up with what "everyone else" thinks. Hence, we have Rabbis, preachers, Popes, Imams, etc., etc., etc...., all of whom are engaged in convincing us that their particular take on things is the right one. If, in addition, we find further support and "fellowship" in whatever church we have chosen to join, it seems to me that this explains by far the majority of reasons that most "believers" remain under the spell of organized religion. Not only does this sequence of events reinforce already held beliefs, but there is, in addition, continued peer pressure not to "fall away" by even thinking about whatever inconsistancies in Scripture or doctrine may appear. I think, Pboy, that these inconsistancies are a common reason for some of us to separate from religion, but not necessarily from all belief in some possible
"creative force" for our Universe. Even if we conclude that such an entity does wxist, it is a huge leap from this to the thought that this entity either has any awareness of us poor mortals or that it requires any further attention from us in the form of worship or other propitiation.

pboyfloyd said...

oneblood, the word normative seems to be important to Plantinga's philosophy.

In that last sentence, I use the word 'philosophy' in the sense of 'thinking themselves wise they became foolish'.

Surely our would-be leaders in the pursuit of wisdom (is it?) don't have to try to trick us with ill defined words, first analysing what we know, separating out the fields into epistemology, cosmology and such to break us free of traditional/cultural 'folklore'(?), simply to create a back door allowing the drivel, painstakingly sorted through and rejected, back in?

I had thought that philosophy was, at least trying to clarify, as opposed to being a body of word-magical bamboozling designed to create new generations of bamboozling word-magicians.

Richelle, my 'argument' here, is designed to leave believers no back door, no escape from the inescapable predicament presented by their foundation document.

Here, you seem to not only be saying that there is a back door, that is that the foundation document is essentially drivel to be 'taken' or 'left' on personal whim, taking a 'firm stand on mid-air' as it were, but you seem to be holding that 'door' open for them!

"Some poor Christians don't know what they really think, or believe, but they will defend that belief with all their hearts!" ???

How is that any different from, "God is all-goodness and, at times, all-wrathful, because(looking off in a hypnotic trance)after all, one cannot know the mind of God." ?

Harvey said...


Apropos your last post, I think that all this issue over acceptance or not of statements in Scripture is only important to those who want to believe that it is somehow what one needs to know to "get right" with the Abrahamic God. Therefore, it is very much the centerpiece of organized Chritianity, Judaism, and even Islam. This controversy, it seems to me, has no direct bearing upon anyone's belief in a deity, per se, but only in one's acceptance or rejection of a church or its dogma.

pboyfloyd said...

Harvey, what is this 'kernel of belief' that you imagine believers are hanging on to?

That there's a man(or at least, a mind) behind reality, an adult version of an imaginary friend, who is trying to communicate with us?

You think that it is some undirected or unresolved over-introspection on the part of the many being abused by the manipulative?

I think that anyone claiming to have that 'good bead on things' which so happens will take a life-time to explain is essentially teaching bullshit to the bullshitters(would-be manipulators) and to the bullshittees(wanna-be manipulated) alike.

The thing I detest about it is how it is mashed together with capitalism(or, "How one can starve amid plenty!") and used to justify capitalism(or "How to justify allowing others to starve amid plenty.") all the while claiming the opposite(there's a cosmic justice to it all).

Harnessing our greedy nature in the 'name of' transcending it is our most despicable lie, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, bear with me pboyishly good looking, I'm not sure what to make of the statement about philosophy you made.

Did I equivocate or contradict myself?

Or is this the 'me' in me saying what you wrote was directed toward me?

Because once again I would agree with you on this as one of philosophy's purposes.

On a side note, I'm not sure who Platinga is, but I will go look.


Per your response to Harvey, there are two interesting points.

The first is something I ask myself as a 'deist.' Why do you still believe in a god/God/final cause etc.? Is this reasonable? And if so, is your concept of god/God/final cause reasonable as well?

Frankly, I don't have an answer. Logically (from my knowledge base only) 'answers' seem to come from aesthetic/existential desires, but also x. Right now, or maybe for the rest of my life, x is untenable. I have to keep searching.

From this perspective, Harvey's proposal of a life-long quest/questioning seems reasonable. We as humans aren't going to come to the same conclusions en masse.

There may or may not be a creative force. So perhaps the "moral" to draw is that questioning beliefs, not stumping for absolutes, and trying to avoid meta-narratives should be a duty.


Your other point, about using metaphysical schemes (Harris' phrase) in order to prop up economic systems is well taken.

If history is right, the Puritans saw prosperity as a sign of God's blessing. And that belief I think is integral to how capitalism's potential brutality is justified here in America.


Lastly, concerning Richelle's comment, as humans we take information from our verifiable experiences. Even if we ignore some, or most of it.

To presuppose a norm, couldn't picking and choosing from the bible possibly be a good thing?
It's a book of disparate writings from tens if not hundreds of people.

I'm making an assumption, but Richelle's husband probably comes at the bible from a more rational perspective. One that recognizes compassionate points of view or the lack thereof.

Harvey said...


"Harvey, what is this 'kernel of belief' that you imagine believers are hanging on to?"

It is what I have as yet not "found" and without which no intellectually honest person can "believe" in any creative force that may or may not be responsible for all existance.

"You think that it is some undirected or unresolved over-introspection on the part of the many being abused by the manipulative?"

I think it is what allows an otherwise logical, reasonably intelligent individual to put up with the obvious inconsistancies and, yes, even outright bullshit that most organized religion represents. That "kernel" of faith is not subject to logic or proof, but, if it is found, many of the greatest religious apologists (Thomas Aquinas comes to mind) can mount cogent arguments for whatever their particular church teaches. Keep in mind, Pboy, that I do not have that faith, even after years of seeking, so that I agree with you almost universally that religion is at best irrelevant and at worst responsible for a huge amount of wasted time and effort on the part of most of humanity. I still feel that for those who do have that faith, belief in a Deity makes consumate good sense, whereas responding to that core belief with any of the present or historical organized religions or doctrines still makes no sense at all, at least to me.

Anonymous said...

"...not stumping for absolutes, and trying to avoid meta-narratives should be a duty."

Yes it's ironic, but not completely contradictory. I'll stress the should over the must, and that at the end of the day I've got a question mark not an exclamation mark.

Yet that sentence ended with a period. Irony leave me alone.


Platinga, I cheated, I wikipedia'd him. I'm probably with you on most of his philosophy.

Specifically, I don't think he can claim a solution to what even Augustine called a problem. Our discussion is of course related and so I would say that Platinga ends up with a paradox as well.

The God of Love and Evil.

That drives me nuts, because it makes me want to do more introspection to see if I'm still blatantly holding on to some paradoxes.

His argument against naturalism by way of evolution was cute though. But what was his conclusion after such a clever argument? God did it.

It's funny, while I believe that, I guess I feel admitting a tenuous grasp on truth is more mindful of our state of being.

mac said...

oneblood: I'm sorry. I meant, the type of religion you described practicing seemed moderate to me. I did not mean to label you something you are not....or label you anything, for this discussion :-)

mac said...

You know it's not so, and I know it's not so, as do most reasonable folks, oneblood. But isn't belief that one person-God- wrote the Bible requisite for believing the book itself? I agree the paradox of loving/wrathful god drove many of us from religion....I, however have lost the ability to see the paradox. To me, the entity described as god in the Bible hasn't many loving qualities. I suppose one might see the Love if they believed God was their life giver. I don't, therefore, he aint done much for me ?

Anonymous said...

mac, I appreciate the apology, but part of me was wondering if I'd erred in communicating my position.

Yup, that's a daily mistake of mine. Maybe even hourly.

"But isn't belief that one person-God- wrote the Bible requisite for believing the book itself?"

I think that's a good point. Maybe once a person starts picking a verse here and there, they prejudice their experience over the bible, but they don't view it that way?

pboyfloyd said...

"Did I equivocate or contradict myself?"

Nono, oneblood, I wasn't 'insinuating' anything.

Just the word 'normative' seems to me to be philosopho-babble, and, as I was saying, that irks me, it just grates at me.

Sorry if you got the feeling that I was saying that YOU grate at me.

Harvey, I was a bit worried that you might think that my questions were insinuating that you were implying something that I needed to rail against, but, I can see by your last comment that you took my questions in the spirit that they were asked.

Oneblood, (rolling eyes), he's so worried that I'm reading something that's not there that HE reads stuff that isn't there. (Prod, prod in the ribs, oneblood. LOL)

It's all good. Good comments.

Richelle said...

Regarding your response to my comment, pboy:

I think you're turning this into a false dilemma. You have a set of rules and boundaries in which you have placed all believers and if one demonstrates any way they might operate outside of those rules you cry foul.

There is no rule that says if someone identifies himself as a Christian that he must be a biblical literalist.

However, if someone relies on the bible for the framework of their beliefs and feels it is an accurate representation of "god", then your argument certainly applies and is a very valid one.

pboyfloyd said...

I especially liked your comment Richelle, anything that makes me think. :o)

Seems to me though, that non-literalist Christians are in the same boat as the literalists here inasmuchas there are so many stories that deal with the wrath of God and, in fact, depend on the wrath of God, from the 'casting out from Eden to the Flood, to the 'killing of the First Born' to the 'fulfilling' by the Hebrews of God's promise to 'give' them that land, that no matter how figure-of-speechy and or metaphorical one might like to get, we're still left with this horribly careless(of humanity) monster turning into the 'all-loving' variety of god in chapters of the New Testament, then turning back to his monstrous 'self' in the Revelation.

Man, 'you're' a pretty lame-sauce Christian if your entire Bible consists of John 3:16 and the rest is filler, don't you think, Richelle?

Richelle said...

Ooow, "especially liked" it huh? Careful, you might make me start to think I'm special or somthing.


I get what you're saying. It's hard to deny the morbid brand of love espoused in the bible even if one takes it figuratively. And I agree with you on that point.

But, you're still leaving something out.

One could reasonably conclude that the basic story of Jesus and his message were not what is conveyed in the bible. That the bible is a distortion, maybe even a perversion, of the true message. That all these stories are not a representation, even figuratively, of the Christian god, but a creation of men due to their misunderstanding (or personal/political agendas).

I'm not implying that this applies to most, or even many, Christians. But I know, personally, of at least one and I'm willing to entertain the possibility of there being a few others.

pboyfloyd said...

So, you're saying that, along with all the atheists in the World, pointing at the Bible and saying, "See this? Bullshit!", there's at least one Christian pointing at the Bible also saying, "See this? Bullshit!"

Is Rod Serling narrating this or something?

Richelle said...

In a way, yes.

mac said...

If this one christian thinks it's all bullshit - and it is- then in what does this one christian base their belief ? If the Bible is Bullshit, how did this one christian come to know Jesus was the "one" above of all the others ?

mac said...

BTW, Richelle, I like your "one christian's" attitude. I merely wonder how the conclusion was hatched :-)

mac said...

BTW, Richelle, I like your "one christian's" attitude. I merely wonder how the conclusion was hatched :-)

Richelle said...

This is Danny Richelle's husband (the christian she was talking about.) I am not a biblical literalist, and I find it easy to find faith in Jesus' teachings. Love one another, Love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek and not to judge others. I believe there are many pathways to God. Jesus was a revolutionary of his time and through the years the Church has distorted his message of love and turned it into one of exclusiveness and judgement. That's why I choose not to belong to a church that is full of biblical literalists. They have perverted the teachings of the man they are yearning to live like. My pathway to God works for me and I am at peace with it. I do not judge any other pathway whether it be muslim, hindu, or agnostic/atheist. I believe we are capable of love and obtaining that essence of the divine in all of us.

Anonymous said...

One cannot know the mind of God, Ian, but that has nothing to do with understanding His wrath or His love. God is no more of a paradox than you or I--after all, we are made in His image. There are some in the Christian community that believe God is incapable of changing His mind because that would imply that He made a mistake of some sort. I am not one of those. I do not believe a change of mind equates making a mistake, or not being all-knowing. I believe a change of mind shows His love and that I can bend God’s ear, so to speak. But I’m getting away from the subject. God has every right to be full of wrath. He created a perfect, beautiful world and His thanks was disobedience from man. Any parent would be angry. He led the Israelites out of captivity and saved them many, many times only to be scorned when they built altars to other gods and continued in disobedience in other ways. He has standards, Ian. And when His children go in the wrong direction, He corrects. What father is loving if he does not correct his children? I was in the grocery store yesterday and there was an older toddler screaming at the top of his lungs. Then he spit on his brother in the face. Where were the parents? Right there! Both of them, not caring. I could still hear him when we were on opposite ends of the huge store. I felt pity for that child, not the parents. My daughter said, “Boy, is he going to get it when he gets home,” because she knew what would happen to her if she did anything remotely like that. And I said, “No, Sarah, he’s not or he wouldn’t be doing that right now.” So, because I would take my daughter home and discipline her--give her my wrath--for that kind behavior, does that make me unloving? No, quite the contrary. Wrath and love are not opposites, Ian, they can go hand in hand. And God’s love was never more evident than when He came in the form of man and bore the sins of all on the cross and endured His own wrath on our behalf because He knew we could not ever handle it. What love! I pray that someday you and all of your fellow bloggers allow yourselves to experience it. I think of you and Emma often. Take care, ~Christina

Anonymous said...

Of course I love Wrath of Khan. Who wouldn't?

What kind of Star Trek blog is this anyway?

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

pboy! come over and weigh in on my most recent post. It begs for your perspective!

Anonymous said...

pboy, do you know what happened to Stacy's blog?

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