Ehrman’s Problem: He Misreads the Bible and Impugns God’s Fairness

Bart Ehrman, in his book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer, tries to make the case that neither Christians nor the Bible can answer why God, if He were to exist, would allow “the cesspool of misery and suffering” that many people endure. Ehrman says that he was once an evangelical Christian pastor but since he couldn’t reconcile his faith with horrendous evils, “I started to lose my faith, I now have lost it altogether. I no longer go to church, no longer believe, no longer consider myself a Christian. The subject of this book is the reason why.” (2-3)

But Ehrman errs.

I’m going to start responding to his book, beginning with a series on his first chapter, which largely concerns free will.

Throughout God’s Problem, Ehrman is correct when he says that most Christians, if asked why God allows evil, will appeal to free will. And they should! That God would desire to create significantly free creatures does explain much of the evil and suffering that humankind endures and inflicts upon each other. The free will defense, simply stated, is that evil and suffering entered our world because God created beings that could freely choose between good and evil.1 In other words, God wanted to create beings with the ability to truly choose to love or hate, be generous or selfish, be courageous or cowardly, and do good or evil and these things, as potentially wonderful or perilous as they are, can only be possible for creatures with free will. Free will, at its very core, means that we actually can choose between two alternatives; that we can do otherwise. If you can’t do otherwise, then you don’t have free will.2

Ehrman does grant that free will can explain much evil: “Yes, you can explain the political machinations of the competing political forces in Ethiopia (or in Nazi Germany or in Stalin’s Soviet Union or in the Ancient worlds of Israel and Mesopotamia) by claiming that human beings had badly handled the freedom given to them.” (12) Indeed. Much human suffering and evil can be immediately explained by humankind’s free choice to do evil. In fact, if you look at the rest of Ehrman’s chapters, you will see how the free will of created beings underlies the other biblical answers Ehrman discusses.

Ehrman presents five problems with the free will defense. First, he says the free will defense plays only “a very minor role in the biblical tradition.”3 (12, see also 229) Second, he asks, “If suffering is entirely about free will, how can you explain hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and other natural disasters?” (229) Third, he asks, “Why will people know how to exercise free will in heaven if they can’t know how to exercise it on earth?” (12-13) Fourth, he asks why God didn’t give humans “the intelligence they need to exercise” free will properly. (13) Fifth, he complains that if God “intervenes sometimes to counteract free will, why does he not do so more of the time?” (13)

Let us examine Ehrman’s objections one post at a time.

Answering Problem 1: The Free-Will Defense Plays Only a Minor Role in Biblical Tradition

Ehrman says, “In any event, as it turns out—much to the surprise of my students—this standard explanation that God had to give human beings free will and that suffering is the result of people badly exercising it plays only a very minor role in the biblical tradition.” (12) He also says that the free-will argument, though “very popular today, it was not heard nearly so often in biblical times.” (230) Here Ehrman seems to be saying that although we Christians commonly appeal to free will as the major answer to why God allows evil, we are somehow out of step with the Bible since, to Ehrman, the Bible doesn’t give it nearly that emphasis.

Ehrman agrees that “the fact that people are held responsible for their actions—from Adam and Eve, to Cain and Able, to David and Solomon, to Judas and Pilate, to the Antichrist and his minions—shows that the biblical authors had some notion of free will.” (120)4 But only “some notion”? That people could choose to sin or not to sin and would then be held responsible for that choice demands free will’s existence. Ehrman himself spends two chapters developing the concept that he calls “one of the most common [Biblical] explanations” (27) as to why people suffer: God is punishing them for sin. But one of punishment’s major purposes is to motivate people to make different free will choices in the future.

Also, doesn’t every command in the Bible pre-suppose free will? I mean, isn’t any command, whether Biblical or not, basically telling the hearers that they should choose to behave in one way and not another? I would think that Ehrman would agree that the concept was so obvious to the Biblical writers that it would go without saying. It wouldn’t even occur to them that they should bring it up any more than Joshua would think to instruct those that were to march around Jericho that marching could only be accomplished by putting one foot in front of the other. The Bible treats those who sin as if the sin was their choice and always holds them accountable for it. This is the very nature of free will regardless of whether those two words were used together in Scripture. Similarly, Christians consider the doctrine of the Trinity to best represent the teachings of Jesus and his apostles even though neither Jesus nor his apostles ever used the term.

The Bible teaches that moral and natural evil entered our world at the Fall. In Genesis 2:16 we read: “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die.’”

That’s about free will, right?

  1. Many works are valuable for a more technical examination of the free will defense. Alvin C. Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974). This is a seminal work on the free will defense but not an easy read. John Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problem of Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004). This is the best technical book I have read on the problem of evil but many will also find it difficult. Also helpful is Richard Swinburne, Providence and the Problem of Evil (Oxford: OUP, 1998). The book is easier to read and has a great section on the significance of free will. Of course, C. S. Lewis does a great job discussing free will in The Problem of Pain. []
  2. Some Calvinists define free will differently but that will have to be taken up at another time. []
  3. Emphasis mine. []
  4. Emphasis his. []
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65 Responses to Ehrman’s Problem: He Misreads the Bible and Impugns God’s Fairness

  1. “Also, doesn’t every command in the Bible pre-suppose free will?”

    Ironically, that was exactly the point of dispute between Luther and Erasmus.

    Luther could find no clearly stated doctrine of free will in the scriptures. Erasmus responded, basically, “what are you nuts? It’s everywhere you look, even if it doesn’t say so directly.”

    How good of Bart Ehrman to adjudicate this debate in favor of Luther and against the many, many Christians who have always seen free will in the Bible.

    • John H says:

      Peter Sean Bradley

      If the natural man has a free will to believe the gospel, then why does he need grace? If his will is naturally free then it would do away with the need for grace altogether. The need for grace in salvation demonstrates that free will is simply the the extra-biblical unaided logic of man.

      “Also, doesn’t every command in the Bible pre-suppose free will?”

      If you read Romans 3:19, 20 it declares that the purpose of the divine law is NOT to show man’s ability but his inability.

      “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being[a] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

      So any Christian who says they believe in free will and not the bondage of the will is simply being inconsistent. Can a person come to faith in Jesus Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. If you say “no” then you acknowledge that fallen man has no free will. Grace is needed to believe. Jesus himself says “…no one can come to me unless God grants it.” (John 6:65).

      • clayjones says:

        Man has a free will John, but sadly, natural man freely chooses to hate God. Arminius and Calvin both agreed that man, without the work of the Holy Spirit, will not seek God. Thus man needs God’s gracious work through his Holy Spirit (unconditional election for the Calvinist and prevenient grace for the Arminian) to break through man’s inclination to want himself to be God.

      • Calvinism…Reverse ?….You can’t have true saving Free-Will until God releases you too, by capturing you. A saved man has Free-will to choose not to sin. An unsaved man has no choice but to sin–so he does. Which I think you are saying thus he has no free will…?

        My thoughts on your thoughts.

  2. Roger Sharp says:

    “Ehrman Errs” – GREAT BOOK TITLE! Author: Clay Jones 🙂

    Roger

    • Jonas says:

      Ehrman’s view make sense. Why do people who have God have to suffer? And why God, if he is really the all-powerful allow evil to prevail and make his people suffer?

      I think ‘free will’ is just being use as an alibi to justify the existence of God/religion.

  3. anita says:

    Don’t forget to note that Ehrman is one of the top bible textual critics in the world. Textual critics are the experts bible scholars go to for advice. What Ehrman says cannot be lightly discounted. As believers we must examine what constitutes a real relationship with our God. More than the written word, are our experiences that make God real to us. We must each grapple with our own faith and what is true. Ehrman has lots of good thoughts and challenges for the Christian world. We must answer them without judging him for questioning. Without questioning can we really resolve the great issues people have?

    • clayjones says:

      Hi Anita,
      You are absolutely right that Ehrman is a skilled textual critic and that is his expertise. But, he is not, I repeat, not trained as a theologian and Bible scholars certainly wouldn’t look to him for advice except for in his field of textual criticism. Also, Ehrman isn’t questioning, he is telling us what our conclusions should be on the matter. He is a self-identified non-Christian and so is not saved. Your comments make me wonder if you think we can know objective truth? Can we? Or is truth whatever we think it is for ourselves?
      Clay

  4. anita says:

    Please don’t get the Bart before the horse.

    • Post-Modern tone…and @ Yes, my guess and Anita, although an old post will prob never hear back..do you believe in Correspondence Truth, reality..sounds snarky..not trying to be. Just I have an overly active antenna for post modern jive, and that “comment” stuck out

  5. anita says:

    Ehrman/Wallace debate on biblical text. http://www.csntm.org

  6. Alex Blagojevic says:

    Great article, Dr. Jones. I think there is some hidden reason why Ehrman has denied Christianity. I cannot judge his heart, but I feel like with his knowledge of Scripture, he should know better than to make his case against free-will being Scriptural. Even if he chooses not to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, he still should acknowledge the incredible evidence for the life, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. That is why we, apologists, have come to believe so strongly in our Lord and Scripture. It is thanks to that faith in God and His sovereignty that we can unashamedly admit that we don’t have all the answers but trust God even through our sufferings. God bless you Dr. Jones. I miss you.

    • clayjones says:

      Hi Alex,
      It is good to hear from you! I agree with you. No one ever leaves Christ for honest intellectual reasons. They leave because they don’t want to believe. The Judgment will reveal the human heart.
      Clay

    • Steve says:

      Hi Alex,

      Yes, it is a personal reason why he left. It is with the issue suffering and evil, he says this in his debate with Michael L. Brown last year.

    • John H says:

      “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke16:31) Note: — the problem is not that people do not have enough data or evidence, but that their hearts are hard.

  7. Tim says:

    Free will? We created you in our image…In our likeness. You have totally free will to do whatever you want to do. Totally free choice. EXCEPT…You can believe in what you want to believe in but if you don’t believe in me then you’re going straight to hell. What a great choice and free will has been provided to all of humanity! Believe in me or burn for eternity.

    • clayjones says:

      You can choose to believe or refuse to believe based on the evidence, Tim!

    • Peter says:

      Hi Tim, I agree with your sentiments. Personally, the doctrine of hell has caused me to leave Christianity. I used to be a Bible literalist, fundamentalist Christian, but, I could never, ever justify the idea of hell. Reaping what we sow? Yes. Hell? No. It is amazing that as I see the Bible for what it actually is: ancient, barbaric myths told by a primitive war hungry, prejudice people, what I had actually ignored when I thought the Bible was from “God”. Even when I was a Bible literalist, I would cry as I read the Bible, because, the tales in the Bible didn’t match my own common sense and instincts of what love should be. Of course, Bible literalists will be quick to point out the verse: “Lean not on your own understanding…..” However, I believe God gave me a brain and mind of reason, and, I had been guilty for so long of not using it. I am not a theologian or an avid intellect, yet, my own common sense tells me there are some major problems with Christian doctrine and the Bible.

      • clayjones says:

        Hi Peter,
        I’m sorry to hear that you gave up Christianity because you trusted your “common sense.” You’ve made yourself God because you are the final arbiter about what is true in the universe. Eternal punishment is fitting for the eternally unrepentant.
        Clay

    • Well Tim…so be it. Believe in Martians and obey them, Accept Hitler and obey Him, Believe in whatever and do whatever…live drink die..yea that is the ticket….No not really a great future is it. Maybe their is something here worth looking at, your conscience has already brought you here so follow through.

  8. DagoodS says:

    Disclaimer: I have not read Ehrman’s book.

    The problem I see with Christian Free Will defense is twofold:

    1) How much God interferes with free will; and
    2) How dependent is free will on knowledge?

    Clay Jones, you state, “Free will, at its very core, means that we actually can choose between two alternatives; that we can do otherwise.” (emphasis added) What do you mean by “actually” and does it include knowledge?

    For example, imagine I provided two boxes: one resulting in death, the other in prosperity. But they are marked in Spanish. I know Spanish, you do not, and I refuse to provide the translation. Do you have Free will to choose? Well…Yes and no. You can choose whichever, but it is a blind choice. Would my providing the Spanish translation impact your Free Will? Is it necessary for “actual” Free Will?

    This is no mere mental exercise when it comes to the Bible. You ended the blog entry with Gen. 2:16-17. Yet without the knowledge of the difference between Good and Evil, how would Adam or Eve KNOW it was good or evil to obey/disobey God? Were they given full free will when God created them without the knowledge, but then expected them to know something He hadn’t informed them? (Note specifically Gen. 3:22 where God says only after eating the fruit did they acquire knowledge regarding the difference between good and evil. Little late.)

    Or Mark 4:11-12 where Jesus provides additional information to the Disciples, and explicitly states had that information been provided to the multitude, they would have turned, and the multitude’s sins would be forgiven. Jesus deliberately provides information to some; withholds information from others. Is that “actual” free will?

    Or 2 Thess 2:11 where God provides MISinformation so that people make decisions with the wrong facts. Or 2 Kings 22:19-23 where God sends a lying spirit to persuade Ahab to act. Isn’t God directly involving Himself in the Free Will process by failing to provide information or even providing the wrong information?

    The reason I bring this up is that you said:

    Clay Jones: No one ever leaves Christ for honest intellectual reasons.

    As much as I appreciate the opportunity to be called dishonest (again) for deconverting, does this really follow from the Bible? If God deliberate withholds information, or provides false information in other instances, what would prevent Him from doing so now? And to those who did, couldn’t they be completely honest, completely intellectual for leaving Christianity?

    If I am making free will choices based upon wrong information your God is providing me…is that an “actual” choice?

    • clayjones says:

      Hi Dagood,

      God gives enough information for those who want to believe to have their beliefs justified but not so much information that those who don’t want to believe will be coerced into feigned loyalty.

      • DagoodS says:

        Dr. Jones,

        Isn’t information a necessary component prior to “wanting to believe”? If I asked whether you wanted or not wanted to believe in a “snickerfritz”—wouldn’t you have to know what a “snickerfritz” is before even making that determination?

        Here I am trying to understand what God (there are many proposed by theists) I am “wanting” or “not wanting” to believe, and I cannot even get the information. Let alone make the choice of desire. You didn’t answer my questions. You didn’t respond to a single verse. You didn’t provide a single verse, argument or item of evidence in support of this utterance.

        You simply tossed out an unsupported assertion that is contrary to the verses I cited (where was “desire” listed as a requirement with Adam and Eve? In Mark 4? Or 2 Kings?) as well as contrary to Rom 9:16 specifically stating it is not up to the human, but up to God. I would also point out the example of Pharaoh (as Romans 9 does) where Pharaoh DID desire to exert his own free will upon learning new information and God deliberately impinged Pharaoh from doing so.

        And the “feigned loyalty” claim from accurate information is very weak. Do you feel “feigned loyalty” to the heliocentric theory of our galaxy because you have information supporting it? Of course not—you believe because you have the facts. If there was a God, and the God consisted of certain attributes—this would simply be a fact. As factual a fact as the earth orbiting the sun is a fact. To believe it requires no more or no less “feigned loyalty.” Certainly (just like there are geocentrics) one may not be convinced by the facts—but I am uncertain how obtaining more and more accurate information somehow “impinges” one’s free will. (Indeed, one could argue if this was true, then the less information one has, the MORE free will one has. Those with no information at all would have the freest will of all! Is that really what you want to argue?)

        Is this the best answer Christian apologetics has to answer the questions raised by these verses?

        • clayjones says:

          Greetings Dagood,

          Here are a couple of examples of the kind of passages where the Bible is teaching that there is enough information for those who wish to see it.

          In Luke 16:27-31 we read about a dialog between a rich man and Lazurus after they had died. “And he [the rich man] said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”

          Notice that the argument from hell is that there is that you didn’t give us enough evidence. The response basically is “there was plenty of evidence; Moses and the prophets are enough evidence.”

          Then in Matthew 12:38-42 we read: “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.'”

          Again, the queen of the South seeks God simply because she hears that Solomon is wise. Nineveh repents because a guy named Jonah preaches to them. They responded positively to the information they had.

          As you know, Dagood, many/most atheist scientists today say that the universe popped into existence, out of nothing, uncaused. That’s cognitive dissonance.

          Clay

          • DagoodS says:

            Thank you, Dr. Jones, for the response. Although you didn’t directly answer my question, it would seem you agree that information IS a necessary component of free will choice. [The Rich Man’s brothers had Moses and the prophets; Jesus’ generation had the sign of Jonah.]

            Further, the amount of information does appear to impact the choices made. (Matt. 11:21-24) Nineveh received more information through the sign of Jonah than Sodom did. And I hope you have enough humor to appreciate the irony within the Rich Man and Lazarus story. Abram says, “Not even if someone comes back from the dead will they be convinced” yet the Number One Christian apologetic used today is that people should be convinced by the claim that someone—Jesus—came back from the dead! If Paul, for example, had sufficient information then a vision of Jesus would not be necessary. Yet that is what it took to convince him, according to Acts. Hmmmm……

            Be that as it may, this still doesn’t address the verses I mentioned earlier. Jesus still deliberated limited information that would have caused the multitude to turn from their sins. God still claims to send deceiving spirits and prophets. Adam & Eve still were not provided the necessary information to make a choice. Pharaoh was provided so much information, he wanted to exercise free will and change his mind, and God forced Pharaoh to be unable.

            Providing additional verses (with interesting tangential problems of their own) does not make the original problems I raised go away.

            I presume at this point, there is no adequate response to the questions I raised.

            And I am called “dishonest” because Christian apologists won’t (can’t?) answer my questions….curious.

            • clayjones says:

              Hi Dagood,
              Your suggestion that certain individuals weren’t given enough information to make an informed choice is no more than an assertion. The Bible teaches they were given enough evidence. The resurrection of Christ is enough.

              Now it is true that sometimes God chooses to break through hardened hearts (as in the case of Paul) but He is not obligated to do that all the time.

              I never called you “dishonest.” I think the best term for atheist unblief is cognitive dissonance. The belief of many that the universe popped into existence, out of nothing, uncaused is best explained by that.

    • clayjones says:

      About the dishonesty issue, Dagood: do you think I reject atheism as false because I don’t have the mental capacity to understand the arguments or because I am blinded by my desire for Christianity to be true?

      • DagoodS says:

        This is a false dichotomy—I think you believe Christianity because you are persuaded facts and evidence support Christianity as conforming to reality, thus eliminating atheism as an option.

        I must put a large caveat on that—I equally understand humanity has a large spectrum of motivations. And that entire spectrum encompasses reasoning for theistic belief. It is very possible you believe Christianity for a different reason than I stated—I do not know you personally or well enough to determine.

        Look, in human relationships we initially project our beliefs/feelings/desires on others, and then make modifications based upon their responses. If I like American football, I will initially say to you, “Did you see the big game yesterday?” Depending on how you respond will impact the continued conversation. If you say, “Wasn’t Manchester United great?” I understand we are talking about two different things!

        We do this all the time without thinking. “Do you want to go to a Chinese restaurant?” “Don’t you think her words were offense?” The responses give us direction, information and insight into the other person. Only the most immature demand others respond to life exactly as they do—that the other person MUST like football or they are not worthy.

        In the same way, what motives us, we often presume motivates others. Certainly we have all seen people who are motivated by money—they presume others are as well. Or if they have a wandering eye, they initially presume a divorce was caused by an affair. I have often thought we reveal quite a bit of ourselves when we attribute motives to others.

        Therefore I tend to attribute my motivation to you, Dr. Jones, as to why you are not an atheist. Because I deconverted for intellectual reasons (whether you believe it or not) I presume you are a Christian for the same. The difference is that I understand there is a very wide range of human motivations, and you may not be motivated for the same reasons as I. People deconvert and convert for a variety of reasons—to expect them to ALL deconvert because “No one ever leaves Christ for honest intellectual reasons” is as simple and incorrect as believing ALL people like Chinese food.

    • Well, I may be wearing out my welcome here, and I hop I am not, but this is too juicy not to chime in and hopefully make some contribution worthy a momentary thought… or longer. But Dagoods, does make a point that I think we all have wondered about with initial two voices of authority and what did Adam and Eve know before vs after and relating it to free will–tuf inquiry if indeed I am understanding.

      First God knows who are his (We do not know such details in our parallel/Time tethered world–This is critically important to understand. As to the first couple, a deal of sorts between God and the Dragon–I have only to wonder, but it is these twin bookends that we humans work between. God told Adam and Eve all that they needed to know–dont eat from that tree.

      So free will in what we are told was a pre-sin world was truly free–yet the Will of mankind desired to be like God–just like the Will of the Dragon. Could it be the dynamic of the Dragon +Mans Free will (which God knew) was the elixer that delivered death, and after which post-edenic man had the curse of sin which was actually the desire to not only raise his will which he could do before, but now in a way completely detached from God…

      I realize this does not sound like much. But there is something that has to be differnt, that the holy spirit must bring back to mankind at least in a post cross world. I am still wrestling with some aspects of the free will that truly isnt free until God rescues man (salvation) which is what I tend to believe. But prior to that Man is a slave to sin, post eden and perhaps this all semantics, but this slave to sin is free will–because man left to himself less the garden is freely going to sin and destroy himself….

      ok now I have confused myself–time for supper

  9. Michele Marshall says:

    Tim says:

    The choice is simply, “Choose God or don’t choose God.” “Hell” can be understood to be nothing more than natural consequence.

  10. Michele Marshall says:

    Tim says: “Totally free choice. EXCEPT…You can believe in what you want to believe in but if you don’t believe in me then you’re going straight to hell.”

    However, the choice is simply, “Choose God or don’t choose God.” “Hell” can be understood to be nothing more than natural consequence.

  11. Alex Blagojevic says:

    Tim,

    You are right in saying that it seems absurd for God to say “believe freely in me” or burn in hell. It actually minimizes our freedom. However, you are forgetting one major Biblical teaching. God does not owe us anything. We are guilty of sin and deserve hell. All of us. What God provides (and we can choose freely) is grace. Grace is a free gift of not only forgiveness of our sins but change of our nature, from guilty to innocent. So it isn’t that God is unjust in limiting our free-will, but rather that has a perfect judge and holy God, He has to judge us accordingly. Blessings.

  12. Alex Blagojevic says:

    Tim,

    You are right in saying that it seems absurd for God to say “believe freely in me or burn in hell.” It actually minimizes our freedom. However, you are forgetting one major Biblical teaching. God does not owe us anything. We are guilty of sin and deserve hell. All of us. What God provides (and we can choose freely) is grace. Grace is a free gift of not only forgiveness of our sins but change of our nature, from guilty to innocent. So it isn’t that God is unjust in limiting our free-will, but rather that as a perfect judge and holy God, He has to judge us accordingly but in His infinite love, He provides a way out for us. Blessings.

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  14. Alex Blagojevic says:

    DagoodS,

    I understand where you are coming from. You are right, it seems like God gives some information to some and not to others. Therefore, how can someone respond to the Gospel freely if he or she is not entitled to that information.?
    I believe that argument to be a false dichotomy. Indeed, it can very well be argued that God provides a certain knowledge to those he knows would respond positively to his call/offer. Moreover, although you accuse Dr. Jones not to provide any Biblical support for his position, I would remind you that the Bible (especially the New Testament) speaks of the condition of the heart. In other words, Jesus looked straight at the heart and its motivation. It is not the knowledge we have/acquire that saves us. It is through the regeneration of our heart from the Holy Spirit. Does every born again believer have to have specific Biblical and salvific knowledge prior to death? No one really knows. Jesus could appear himself to believers (like he did with my dad). That is up to God. However, Scripture tells us that if we seek God with all our heart, mind, and strength, he will reveal himself to us (in whatever manner he decides to). Think of these two examples. One lady in communist Russia cried out to God for a sign. She was walking down the street when a Bible fell at her feet. She started reading it (which was prohibited in Russia at that time) and got saved. A man in communist China desired to learn about God. He wanted to read the Bible but the only ones available where in English. He decided to learn English for 5 years so that he could read it. So he did. And he got saved and became a pastor. In other words, all these people desired deeply in their hearts to know God. God made it possible for them. Their knowledge came in accordance with their deep heart desire. Knowledge itself, Scripture warns, devoid of love and the regeneration of the heart, is actually dangerous and inconsequential. Your example of the two boxes in Spanish is irrelevant because it does not take into consideration an omnipotent and omniscient God.

  15. DagoodS says:

    Alex Blagojevic: Indeed, it can very well be argued that God provides a certain knowledge to those he knows would respond positively to his call/offer.

    Perhaps. Who knows until someone provides the argument? And no one has yet….

    Again, Adam & Eve had no desire (they didn’t even have the information as to what to desire) and yet God made a choice to deny them necessary knowledge. A expected result of God demonstrating his power in Egypt was that Pharaoh gained knowledge and wanted to change his mind. And God deliberately interfered in Pharaoh’s free will, hardening Pharaoh’s heart.

    Romans 9 specifically says it is NOT up to the human as to what God provides—that is up to God. And, one would have to argue the entire Mark 4 multitude (by amazing coincidence) did not have the desire and the entire inner circle (including Judas) did.

  16. Alex Blagojevic says:

    DagoodS,
    Once again I respect your points. You obviously have some knowledge of Scripture to make your case.
    You claim that no one has provided a good argument for my claim of God’s foreknowledge prior to his actions. You also bring forward Romans 9 to support the view that it is God who decides what to provide, not humans. All your examples and citations are correct, such as Pharaoh’s case. Nevertheless, those should be seen in light of Romans 8:29 that states: “For those God foreknew he also predestined.” In other words, the argument I was making about God providing knowledge to those he “foreknows” would respond comes straight from that verse. God can then interfere in man’s affairs because he foreknows already before creation not only what we will do in reaction to what God does, but also what we “would” do in all possible situations. It is within that knowledge that God chooses to act and predestine men to their fate, leaving our free-will intact.

  17. DagoodS says:

    Alex Blagojevic,

    Foreknowledge (and Romans 8:29-30) is a fascinating concept regarding an omni-potent and omniscience creature. But it doesn’t really help your position previously stated, “…that God provides a certain knowledge to those he knows would respond positively to his call/offer.”

    There is no limitation—those who would “respond positively”—in Romans 8. It is the reason Paul goes on to say in Romans 9:16-18 that God will have mercy on those He will have mercy, and it is NOT up to the humans. (Otherwise, there is no point to Rom. 9:19-24, where Paul says to not whine about it if God doesn’t show you mercy. If it was up to human reaction—if it was up to humans responding positively or negatively—Paul would say, “You only have yourself to blame.”)

    Mark 4:12-13 states the people would respond positively, yet Jesus continues to speak in parables to them. And Pharaoh remains a particularly sticky problem. Let me expound the story of Pharaoh a bit…

    Pharaoh rules over people, including a not very powerful group known as the Hebrews. The Hebrews ask to be released from slavery, and given the right to form their own nation. Understandably…predictably…Pharaoh laughs in their face. But then the plagues start to happen. Water to blood. Frogs, lice, flies, livestock death and boils. Now after this, understandably, Pharaoh realized the Israelites did have power, and intended to relent. God, to keep it from happening, has to impinge Pharaoh’s free will, and harden Pharaoh’s heart. (Exodus 9:12).

    God specifically “foreknew” before all ten plagues happened, Pharaoh would want to let the people go. And that God would have to take steps, hardening Pharaoh’s heart. (Ex. 4:21) Simply put, God knew Pharaoh would respond positively to the information, and God STILL would not let Pharaoh act in Pharaoh’s free will.

    The reason I bring all this up, is that it was stated, “No one ever leaves Christ for honest intellectual reasons.” If it was foreknown by God I would not respond positively to information, so God doesn’t provide the information—how is this “dishonest”? Further, as there is no limitation (and two definite counter-examples) that God would deprive information and even impinge on free will when there WOULD be a positive reaction, how could that be “dishonest”?

    • DagoodS….

      “God specifically “foreknew” before all ten plagues happened, Pharaoh would want to let the people go. And that God would have to take steps, hardening Pharaoh’s heart. (Ex. 4:21) Simply put, God knew Pharaoh would respond positively to the information, and God STILL would not let Pharaoh act in Pharaoh’s free will.”

      This is not correct (please correct me if I am wrong) Dagoods makes a critically wrong assumption. “Pharaoh would want to let people go” No truly he did not, and that is why the idea of hardning the heart is used this phraseolgy does not mean that Pharaoh was a good guy just so much trying to help out these Hebrews, and really Repented of his prior ways…no.

      Also back to Adam and Eve another False Assumption you make. That Adam and Eve did not have the knowledge to make a decision regarding the tree/fruit. They did have the knowledge–enough to know God said dont touch…thats all they needed.

  18. Hasdrubal says:

    I find it amusing when people discuss suffering as if it is a science. Until you truly suffer, you cannot know what “God’s Problem” even is.

    This is not a problem that can be addressed by third parties. It is between the sufferer and God.

    Viktor Frankl has, perhaps, addressed this issue in greater detail.

    No one can begin to assume someone else’s reason, not even Bart’s, for no longer believing. We would do better simply to pray for him, seek to relieve suffering, and stop the dialogue about the eternal ramifications of suffering.

    Go to a place where human suffering is inexplicable and try to dialogue with those who ONLY WANT RELIEF. Talk of Esau and Jacob will not mean a thing.

    How did we as Christians get to this place?

    • clayjones says:

      Hi Hasdrubal,

      A few things to consider.

      First, I’ve truly suffered.

      Second, your contention that the issue cannot be addressed by third parties is mistaken on two counts. For one, you yourself are addressing it here so apparently it can be addressed by third parties (and apparently you think Frankl wrote some helpful things about it and he’s a third party, right?). For another, who says third parties can’t address it? That’s just an assertion on your part without any logical support.

      Third, perhaps you didn’t read it very carefully? It wasn’t my assumption: Ehrman himself says he left Christianity over the problem of evil.

      Fourth, how did Christians get to this place? By not thinking about it diligently enough. Your trying to cut off the conversation is emblematic of many of the problems Christians are having in this area. Beware the arrogance of “If I haven’t figured it out then no one else has either.”

      Clay

  19. Alex Blagojevic says:

    DagoodS,

    You see, as a Molinist, I believe God knows how people would react to certain situations (even hypothetical ones) so he places us where He can bring His glory while preserving our free-will. HOWEVER, I do believe that God intervenes by limiting our free-will. Let me explain. If God knows one is born for self-destruction, then why can’t He use that person in whatever way He desires. In other words, if Pharaoh is a cohort of the devil, why can’t He interfere with His will and harden his heart? On the other side of the coin, what is the greatest desire and prayer of a Christian? “Not my will be done but yours!” I do not want pure free-will. Because if God were to grant it to me, I WOULD MESS UP every time! I want my will to be aligned to God’s will. I want to surrender to God’s will. So, I pray that God WOULD interfere and limit my free-will.
    (P.S. You quote the verses about our free-will limitation, saying “If it was up to human reaction—if it was up to humans responding positively or negatively—Paul would say, “You only have yourself to blame.” However, you do not mention all the verses–that make up for virtually the entirety of Scripture– about God warning people to obey Him and do right, choose life and not death, i.e. free-will. See Deut. 30:11–19 for example of “you only have yourself to blame”).
    Now, just because God says that He will have mercy to whomever He will have mercy, and vice versa, does not mean that the reason He does suppress our BIG PICTURE free-will to choose or deny the Gospel, i.e. the free gift of salvation through Christ.

  20. Alex Blagojevic says:

    DagoodS,
    Stuart Chase once said: ““For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”
    Quite profound.

  21. DagoodS says:

    Alex Blagojevic,

    O.K., so we would agree, it seems, the Bible claims God does intervene in free will. I would question, if God intervenes, how one could “actually choose” especially if one’s choice would be contrary to what a god desires—i.e. Pharaoh.

    Alex Blagojevic: If God knows one is born for self-destruction, then why can’t He use that person in whatever way He desires.

    *shrug* I see no reason why He couldn’t. We are talking about a God, here! The way I see it, a God can do pretty much whatever He/She/It desires. What I do question is why the human would then be declared “dishonest.”

    Look, God can refuse to provide me necessary information. It is a God. God can lie to me—it is a God. God can force me to make a decision contrary to what I desire…It is a God! What baffles me…though…is how one makes those claims, and then declares the only reason I am an atheist is because I “don’t want to believe.” God can withhold, lie and force…fine…but I am told after all that, I didn’t make an “honest, intellectual choice”? Who is tickling whose ears?

    If God can suppress our free will, then He can. To assert God is limited in some free will decisions, but not others is mere speculation. There has been no support, argument, or verification of this hope.

    Hmmm…profound statements…here’s one from an unknown source: “You can’t reason a person out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.” If “wanting to believe” is the only requisite proof of a position, then any reliance on evidence, argument, reason and biblical review is a waste of time. We should all just pick what we want and be done with it.

  22. DagoodS says:

    clayjones: Your suggestion that certain individuals weren’t given enough information to make an informed choice is no more than an assertion.

    No…I backed it up with evidence and argument from your own claimed authority—the Bible. I will do it again.

    God told Adam to not eat off the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Gen. 2:16-17). The simplest moral code ever existed—there was only one (1) immoral act: eating off the tree. Of course we know what happened next…but notice what God says after they eat from the tree: “Behold, man has become like us—to know good and evil.” (Gen. 3:22) What did God mean, humans NOW became like God? I can think of two meanings:

    1) Humans now had knowledge as to what was good (moral) and evil (immoral). They did not have knowledge before, so when God told them to not eat of the tree, they didn’t know the difference between whether they should/should not/didn’t matter. Like telling a two-year-old, “Don’t cheat on your tax returns.” They don’t what tax returns are or what cheating is. Let alone how to put them together.

    OR

    2) Humans had now experienced what it meant to commit immorality. While this may get one off the knowledge hook in the previous meaning, it creates another interesting wrinkle that means God ALSO has experiential knowledge of committing an immoral act. Simply put—God has done an immoral act!

    For free will discussion, I focused on meaning one. If you had replied, “No, I think Gen. 3:22 has a different meaning,” I would have continued from there. Instead you ignored the entire argument, and now claim it is an assertion. (!)

    Secondly, Mark 4:1-20 is the famous parable of the sower. Jesus gives the parable to (1) the multitude and (2) “those around him with the twelve.” (Mark 4:1 & 10) Neither group understood the parable’s meaning! (Mark 4:10-13) Jesus then says he will specifically inform Group Two the meaning, because, “to you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.” (Mark 4:11)

    Group Two gets the info for a definite reason; Group one does not. It doesn’t stop there; Jesus says what would happen if Group One got the message: “Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.” (Mark 4:12) Frankly these are hard verses that are often discussed, due to their difficulty. I’m a little surprised this hasn’t come up before.

    Jesus says, “I’m not telling Group One the meaning; they may turn and their sins be forgiven.” If Jesus thought they already had enough information to turn from their sins, why would he say they didn’t without the parable’s meaning?

    Thirdly, I mentioned Matthew 11:21-24 in passing. I didn’t bother expounding, as no one has addressed the previous verses listed. Jesus stated, “Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” Again, God recognizes information would have caused Tyre and Sidon to repent, and God did not provide that information.

    Now Dr. Jones, you are certainly free to disagree with me, but to claim this is only “assertion” seems a bit mistaken, given I had listed out arguments in support of my position. (And more, space does not allow me to repeat myself further.)

    clayjones: The Bible teaches they were given enough evidence. The resurrection of Christ is enough.

    Oh. I guess you didn’t get the irony of utilizing the Rich Man story saying, “Even if someone comes back from the dead they won’t believe.”

    The Bible varies as to who was given what evidence. Who was given “a sign”? Paul and Mark say no sign was given. (1 Cor. 1:22-23; Mark 8:12) Matthew and Luke say one sign. (Matt. 12:39; Luke 11:19) John has so many signs, he has to number them! (John 2:11; 2:23; 4:48; 4:54; 6:2; 7:31; 11:47) Again, listing a verse contradicting a previous verse does not make the previous verse disappear.

    clayjones: I never called you “dishonest.”

    So when you said, “No one ever leaves Christ for honest intellectual reasons” (which I say I did) what you meant by “honest” was….o.k…..I’m stumped. Not sure how this could read anything BUT “honest.” You wouldn’t have included the adjective “honest” unless you presumably meant….honest. I speculate you didn’t suspect a dishonest skeptic would actually call you out on it. *wink*

    • clayjones says:

      Hi Dagood,

      Let me deal with the “dishonest” issue first. I don’t think you or other athiests are intentionally dishonest. As I have now mentioned twice, I think it is cognitive dissonance, or, if you prefer, denial. That is a type of dishonesty but not intentional. I don’t think you have been intentionally dishonest with me or yourself. Those who believe that the universe, with all of its complexity and wonder, popped into existence, out of nothing, uncaused, are living in denial at the very least. Thanks for “calling me out”!

      Adam only had to know that he shouldn’t eat of the tree and God made that clear to him.

      The question with the parable of the sower is “why was the ground hard?” The answer to that is that they didn’t want to believe: “the light has come into the world but men love the darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil.

      Clay

  23. Alex Blagojevic says:

    DagoodS,
    You say: “What I do question is why the human would then be declared ‘dishonest.’
    Look, God can refuse to provide me necessary information. It is a God. God can lie to me—it is a God. God can force me to make a decision contrary to what I desire…It is a God! What baffles me…though…is how one makes those claims, and then declares the only reason I am an atheist is because I “don’t want to believe.” God can withhold, lie and force…fine…but I am told after all that, I didn’t make an “honest, intellectual choice”? Who is tickling whose ears?”
    I do believe men ARE born dishonest. Scripture very clearly states that the heart of man is corrupt and loves evil rather than good. So in that sense, we are dishonest.
    God can refuse to provide necessary information to those who are dishonest. Absolutely. But even if God provides the information, it is not sufficient. God has to first change our heart’s condition (born again) so that we can truly understand His love and grace and accept His free gift.
    You say: “God can force me to make a decision that is contrary to my desire.” Do you not understand the Scripture’s teaching? God does not force us to make any decisions that are contrary to our desire. Our heart’s desires are of evil. Pharaoh’s heart was corrupt and evil. So God did not force Pharaoh to make a decision that was contrary to his desire. His heart was corrupt. He may have pretended to desire something good (don’t politicians do that often), but his heart was corrupt and evil. So God denied him some action, but not because it went against his heart’s desire.
    You say: “God can lie.” God cannot lie. “God is not a human that he should lie” (Numbers 23:19).
    You state: “What baffles me…though…is how one makes those claims, and then declares the only reason I am an atheist is because I “don’t want to believe.”
    Once again, you are misunderstanding Scripture. The reason anyone is an atheist is because our heart’s are unregenerate and because of our sinful nature, WE ARE INCAPABLE OF BELIEVING. So in that sense, yes it is true that an atheist does not want to believe, because MAN’S HEART DOES NOT WANT TO BELIEVE in God’s truth. Only after the heart has been changed by the Holy Spirit and the veil of ignorance lifted from one’s eyes, can one DESIRE God and His truth. The blame is not on God, we are the guilty ones. That’s why when one comes genuinely to Christ and His grace, it is the most humbling experience ever.

  24. DagoodS says:

    Dr. Jones and Alex Blagojevic,

    While I appreciate the efforts to spin the comment regarding honesty, at this point you are only convincing yourselves.

    You continue to make claims the opposite of what the verses are saying. (E.g. “Adam only had to know that he shouldn’t eat of the tree and God made that clear to him.” But Adam didn’t “know” because according to Gen. 3:22, he didn’t have knowledge yet. Or, “So God did not force Pharaoh to make a decision that was contrary to his desire.” But Exodus 9:12 states God did harden Pharaoh’s heart to make different decision than Pharaoh wanted.) Alex Blagojevic, you do get some credit for at least citing a verse against the proposition God can lie, but as I stated earlier, giving another verse contradicting the verses I cite does not make the verses I cite disappear. It only means your authority has contradictory positions.

    No reason to continue if all you have left is asserting the reverse of what your own claimed authority says with no justification, evidence, argument or proof.

    Dr. Jones, I realize you find mileage in the canard, “you can’t get something out of nothing” and I am sure those who already believe as you do are thoroughly impressed. It may even appease the average man or woman one might encounter at an airport or a soccer game. But it is not successful against the educated skeptic. (Heck, I don’t qualify as a semi-educated skeptic in this field, and I grasp some of the difficulties involved. It doesn’t easily boil down to cliché.)

    Dr. Jones, I don’t see you grappling with the verses I cited; I am therefore not at all interested in discussing the far more complex field of cosmology with you.

    This will be my last comment on this blog entry (barring some unforeseen monumental necessity.) Thank you both for the revealing conversation.

    • clayjones says:

      I’ve said three times, Dagood, that it’s cognitive dissonance and agreed that that is a type of dishonesty but not of the intentional sort. I don’t know how to make it clearer than that.

      You agree, don’t you, that there are different levels of knowing things? Although Adam didn’t yet possess “the knowledge of good and evil” as the Lord meant that term, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t know that he was forbidden to eat of the tree lest he die. You’re trying to make something out of nothing. To say that there is no sense that Adam didn’t know that he wasn’t to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is to suggest that he was almost incapable of rational thought on the subject.

      God knows those who already desire to resist Him. And God knew that Pharaoh’s heart was already hardened towards Him (Ex. 3:19). God knew that Pharaoh would not let Israel go because Pharaoh was already not disposed to allow that. In other words, Pharaoh had no intention of obeying God. Now, of course, once God decides to start doing miracles, even those who are not disposed to obey him will find the evidence for His existence incontrovertible. But God doesn’t want people to obey Him because He has dramatically demonstrated His power so much that they feign loyalty. He wants people to come to Him because they want to.

  25. john cogan says:

    Dagood seems to make some good points, but there is one thing I always stumble over and that is , “What is ‘evil’?” If we are indeed the products of a universe whose beginning and existence are inexplicable, evolved from non-life to life, and whose consciousness is only a matter of brain chemistry, how do we define “evil” except as something that evolution bids us avoid or something we do not like. Is everything I do not like therefore ‘evil’? Do we define ‘evil’ as that which is opposed to human flourishing or human happiness? Why does any of that matter when the grave awaits us all in a very few years? Evil, pain, suffering as well as happiness are temporary conditions which really only exist in the chemistry of the brain; all of the arguments presented above are just so much brain output and mindless mash. I cannot see any meaning to life unless we just agree to deceive ourselves into believing meaning exists.

    On the other hand, if there is an absolute Moral Power to which we answer, then there is true meaning outside of ourselves. We may not understand God or even His Word, but there is meaning to life only if God exists. True evil cannot exist unless true good exists first. If true good does not exist, then the question of the existence of evil becomes meaningless.

    • clayjones says:

      What good points are you talking about, John?

      • john cogan says:

        Without explicitly stating it, DagoodS raises the difficulty of election versus free will; how we can be free to act if God controls our actions as He seems to do, for example, with regard to Pharaoh in Exodus? It is a good question.

        That is not to say there is not an answer, because there is. But DagoodS’s real problem with Christianity is that he thinks God is not fair. How can he love a God he sees as being less just than himself? How can he bow down to someone who is beneath him? His real objections are emotional, not intellectual.

        Until a person recognizes who God really is, what His immeasurable Holiness is, that His justice is beyond our puny understanding, that He created a vast universe subject to physical laws of His design, and that we are failed sinners, a person cannot and will not humble himself before the throne.

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  28. Joe Grech says:

    Dagood’s so called “good points” only serve to demonstrate he has the cognitive functions necessary to hear, to understand, and thereby to know. His honesty, therefore, may rightly be called into question for he can have no excuse as he has demonstrated he comprehensively understands all that he has chosen here to deny. Indeed, he boasts of his learning and superior knowledge (note his references to the educated skeptic, the semi-educated skeptic and cosmology – cringeworthy, to say the least). His defiance is born out of the “hardened heart” previously referred to and is plainly revealed by his glaring failure to acknowledge the “dissonance” that offends even it. He, for instance, cannot in any honesty deny, though he may try, the existence in his heart of the shock of recognition of the commitment of a sin each and every time it is committed. No matter how menial, it is known in his heart. This is the knowledge of good and evil he abhors for it indicates the Law, and the Law is God’s. Our will is free and its freedom is expressed in our deeds in full knowledge of the Law as written in our hearts. The deadliest of the Deadly Sins is Pride, and for good reason. It equips up with all that is needed to deny the truth and to do it defiantly till the end. He is aware of the truths he chooses to deny and proceeds as an apologist to defend the lies his hardened heart would prefer to be so.

    Yes, it all comes down to the heart and its condition. All hearts have their preferences and the hearts of the vainglorious are no exception. God knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of men and he may choose to use these men to fulfil his decrees for he knows freedom of will may be impinged upon by a full knowledge of the facts and “good deeds” may be performed for all the wrong reasons, hence their status as filthy rags. Pharaoh’s heart was rotten and God would not be fooled.

    Satan, of course, knowing all this continues to act contrary to God’s will – this because of his pride and his desire to be in God’s place. Even his full knowledge of the certain final outcome and his end in the eternal lake of fire does not transform his heart for his pride is immeasurable and his desire insatiable.

    So, Dagood, first there was freedom of will and a single command that was made understood – don’t eat of that tree. And then there came the knowledge, and with it, the accountability. Now the freedom of will would truly be exercised.

    The knowledge of good and evil exists in all of us, and so too does the freedom of will that governs our actions. But through pride (and Dagood you possess an unfortunate over-abundance of that) we deny God’s sovereignty and seek it for ourselves so that others may bow before us.

    That’ll do for theology today. Now I’ll go and brush up on my cosmology.

  29. DagoodS says:

    Robert Leonardo,

    To clarify, this discussion centered around the Bible’s position on Free Will.

    I raised a question regarding information’s impact on free will. We touched on a few Bible passages. One was Gen 3:22 where God said only after Adam & Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil did they “know Good and Evil.” No one has responded to what the difference was between Adam’s knowledge prior to eating as compared to after, nor what characteristic of God Adam acquired by doing so. The closest thing was Dr. Jones claiming there were “levels of knowledge” without addressing what “level” Adam & Eve had before, and what “level” they had after, and how that then made them like God.

    I also raised the issue of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4. 14:8, 14:17) A difficulty recognized by Paul in Romans 9:17.

    No one addressed it beyond glib one-liners.

    I raised Mark 4;11-12, where Jesus specifically withheld information, and 2 Thess. 2:11 and 2 Kings 22:19-23 where God sends MISinformation. Those verses remained unaddressed.

    A robust and energetic discourse regarding the difficulties raised would have been welcome. Alas, instead of actually addressing the issues, raising arguments, or providing biblical support for countering position, I was told I “did not ‘leave Christ for honest intellectual reasons’” or I’ve “made myself God” or “cognitive dissonance” or “I think God is not fair” or I have a “hardened heart” or I have pride or….

    More curious, I was informed “God gives enough information for those who want to believe…” making God’s actions [providing information] dependent on the human [their desire] in direct contradiction to Rom. 9:15-16. Need I say this contradiction was left unaddressed? I do not.

    Of course the greatest irony is that this discussion took place under a claim Earman misreads the Bible (I have no idea whether he does or not) where the skeptic (me) kept bringing up Bible passages, and the Christian response was to avoid those passages and give platitudes, placards and placebos.

    You all are free to make whatever claims you desire about my motivations, thoughts, desires, etc. *shrug* I’ve heard it all before. But likewise I am free to be amused by the Christian running away from the Bible verses the skeptic raises, and then informed it is I who engages in “cognitive dissonance.”

  30. Hello Dagoods,

    Somehow I get the feeling you are trying to proselytize…Not working.

    Your initial question/complaint/claim that no one is answering you regarding the prior knowledge before the the first couple took fruit from the dragon is answered in Romans 1. and at least in a round about way through several posts you have been answered. But you already knew. Knowledge vs obedience seems to be your pitch although your framing it to shield your way of thinking or living–won’t work.
    Read Romans 1 over.

    Let’s get a few things straight. God owes you 0. Me 0. Humanity 0.
    Justice is… we all die now, in fact count it pure grace if your reading this.

    Sometimes less is more

  31. My Apologies,

    Dagoods and all,

    I am very tired and did not give you my full attention to all your inquires. Romans 1 does provide a starting block. I think every paragraph you wrote I can give a reasoned response, but it will require more then I am capable at the moment due to health issues, and other commitments. I am sorry for the sweeping generalizations–I don’t know you other then the skepticism that you offer which I normally enjoy responding too. There is an answer for all that you have presented as I see it. I guess I just feel given the answers/responses you have offered, that you know them, and even if we could not answer all of them, I am curious what direction you would have us go…

    I hope to do better next time, again sorry for the glib

  32. Well let me try this again. Your first inquiry:

    “To clarify, this discussion centered around the Bible’s position on Free Will. I raised a question regarding information’s impact on free will. We touched on a few Bible passages. One was Gen 3:22 where God said only after Adam & Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil did they “know Good and Evil.” No one has responded to what the difference was between Adam’s knowledge prior to eating as compared to after, nor what characteristic of God Adam acquired by doing so. The closest thing was Dr. Jones claiming there were “levels of knowledge” without addressing what “level” Adam & Eve had before, and what “level” they had after, and how that then made them like God…..

    This is a question that I and others have wondered about. I use experience to answer this. My daughter struggles with drug addiction. I have often wondered what of the many parenting mistakes I have made caused this. She tells me she was just a curious person. I think about Eve in the garden, and the Dragons attraction. She has been in this struggle for some time, and I have tried everything I know to help her–but she enjoys her drugs (sin).

    There are times she seems sincere to want to stop….and for a short time she does, and then she goes back to it again. I bring her addiction up because i did not understand the pull, the never ending desire for her to run to this drug–until I fell unconscious some time ago and woke up surrounded by doctors who explained to me that I had a mass on my brain.

    I was put on many medications one of them was synthetic form of Heroin, called Oxycodone. As I fought against my physical disability, I begin to notice that although my body was recovering, I had new desires, I had a desire to take my medication. For the first time I understood perhaps what the “addict” feels. I realized this new feeling was not something I contained in me before, or it was not expressed.

    DagoodS, I wonder if the scenario I and many others with different experiences go through is not in some way similar to the Garden account. In the sense that Eve/Adam knew God is to be obeyed, this is implanted in their conscience. Upon eating this forbidden fruit the knowledge they acquired was a new experience, and a new desire for experiences, outside the covering of God. Now don’t confuse this with the sensation of eating a new food, or tastes, smells….much more insidious then that. An opiate that one fixates their mind on daily…I believe the differnce before and after is somehow like this.

    Is your issue that God is not even-handed with his salvic information…? Thus He does not exist, or its what? In my first response above with the Romans 1, particulary 1:18 and on, would seemingly address this. So if this scripture is understood by me correctly, I get the impression we all know God at least in a general revelation way, enough to be judged accordingly if we don’t follow through…many here may have much better explanations then I do. RC Sproul helped in subject with his work called The Holiness of God.

    http://www.nestentertainment.com/holiness-of-god_p31427.aspx?utm_source=google&utm_medium=shopping&utm_campaign=feed&gclid=CKjbz5-j364CFUPc4Aod_yh7ZQ

    Couple of thoughts
    What school of thought are you are coming from…Here is why. In some of your posts, (I would have to go back through) it seems like you implicitly use the correspondence theory of truth/Aristotelian thinking…and rely on it, but then turn around and use a Post modern abstraction, a dose of of relativism, to question what should be an obvious line of reason.

    I find this odd. Because if your going reason as you do, and then relativise at other points in a argument I feel that you are not being fair…and fairness seems to be at issue here correct? I mean lets not make moral claims if you don’t believe in universal truth because you are smuggling in things you dont believe in …right? Help me out.

    What does it matter what Adam or Eve did or how they felt if in the end they are just mythological characters…? I think before we go any further, I believe its reasonable to ask you where you stand…I am not upset, just I want to use my time wisely as you do. I am certain others here can answer questions too.

    As to God and Pharoh and mis-information….again Roman 1 answers this.

    A bit off topic, but the article below describes some of the thinking that I find troubling and perhaps you do too…?
    http://conservativedailynews.com/2012/02/the-swindlers-how-four-vain-philosophies-threaten-american-liberty/

    I hope to hear back from you.

  33. DagoodS says:

    Robert Leonardo,

    What I hope for—where I am coming from—is Christians and non-Christians having intelligent conversation, infused with charity, over points of disagreement without the necessity of imposing caricatures and stereotypes generated by our own worldview. I understand amongst Christians it is de rigueur to accuse deconverts of losing the faith because of sin, or pride or pain or (in this present situation), lack of intellectual honesty—I like to push back a bit with a few questions to see if the Christian position can stay consistent.

    Here, the very basic question being, if God imposes on Free Will, can we necessarily say it was a free choice? Or, for a more specific example, could God provide false information and/or directly modify a human’s free will to the point one honestly believes something that is not true?

    Now, I understand the initial reaction is, “No!” with a follow-up study searching in support of that answer—I deliberately raised verses indicating God does intervene in Free Will (Pharaoh), God does provide False information, (Mark, 2 Thess. And 2 Kings) and God does impose responsibility despite lack of knowledge (Adam & Eve.)

    I was curious whether people were willing to go beyond Sunday School answers and deal with the actual verses. [Again, the very premise of these blog entry series was that Dr. Earhman was wrong in his biblical interpretation. I was looking for what one claims is “correct.” Alas, the responses have been less than persuasive.]

    Frankly, I find the pat sentiment, “God give information to those who desire it” to be in direct contradiction with Romans 9:15-16, and have yet to see anyone explain how Romans 9:15-16 means the exact opposite of what it says. What I have seen is my particular inquiry ignored repeatedly.

    As to your particular responses, I would agree “experiential knowledge” could be what God was talking about in Gen. 3:22—the change in Adam & Even “knowing good and evil” was their experience of committing evil. (Indeed, if you look through my comments, I offered such a suggestion to Dr. Jones.) However, remember it also says Adam & Even have now become like God; if the change was their experiencing evil, and they became like God, it follows God has experienced committing evil.

    Allowing God to do pretty much anything within the moral spectrum, throwing out concepts like Justice, and allowing God to mess with Free Will as he pleases, leaving the same conundrum.

    Romans 1 does not adequately address Pharaoh. Obviously even Paul did not think it adequate, as he goes on to write Romans 9. All Romans 1 says is that everyone knows there is a God. It gets deism. (Perhaps theism with Romans 3 conscience.) It doesn’t say God will or will not provide false information. It doesn’t say whether God will or will not interfere with Free Will. And, as commonly stated, if Scripture interprets Scripture and we have places where God does intervene in Free Will (Romans 9) and other places where it is silent as to God’s ability (Romans 1), than Romans 9 trumps Romans 1.
    Robert Leonardo: What does it matter what Adam or Eve did or how they felt if in the end they are just mythological characters…?

    It doesn’t to me. But the people I am discussing with DO believe Adam & Eve (history or myth) holds theological truth. I am questioning whether Christians are willing to stay consistent. Seeing whether there is a way to align what is being said about God with the words they claim describe God.

    Or will questions be dismissed as not having a desire for knowledge? (Curious, yes?) Or told daring to READ the Bible causes one to misinterpret Christianity. (More curious, yes?)

    Use your time as you desire, Robert Leonardo. If you hope to convert me back to Christianity, to be fair, I doubt that will happen when I have hundreds of questions beyond this. If you hope to convince other Christians, I wouldn’t bother—the vast, VAST majority will believe anything supporting their desire anyway. Nuts, look how many times I raised actual verses and got bumper sticker replies? And the bumper sticker replies win the day…

    If you want to actually wrestle with these concepts…well… that is up to you.

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