Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Answering a question by "free thinker" Paul Baird

Paul Baird WRITES:
Every once in a while someone posts a comment on a forum that encapsulates a viewpoint brilliantly, and in this post 'emr' says
I have asked many Christians, including people on this website, whether they believe Hitler would go to heaven if he had regretted all that he'd done and given his life to Jesus a week before his death - and whether the six million Jews he killed would go to hell for rejecting Jesus. A large number respond in the affirmative - the ones that don't tend to go around the houses a bit, or invoke a re-interpretation of scripture.

My point is that if that is the theistic concept of a loving god, one that punishes for eternity people who do not believe in him, and rewards for eternity people who commit the most terrible atrocities, then the whole concept falls flat on its face. Whatever your personal standards of love, justice, morality and goodness are, none of those standards would or could include torturing someone for eternity. If a god exists who can torture someone for eternity and still be considered 'good' then that god must be operating by completely separate standards from our own - and given that from our perspective we can have no idea what that standard is, statements like god is good, god is loving, god is just, god is moral become completely redundant and meaningless.

Well, I'd like to hear a Christian rebutt that.

The question/objection is based upon a faulty premise and interpretation of Scripture:

Crime #1: Person kills millions of people 

Crime #2: Person doesn't believe in Jesus

According to the objection, the second of the two crimes is less serious.  And in some sense, i'd agree, which is why I said that the question is built upon a faulty premise.  The questioner seems to think that because a Jew is a good, morally upright person, then they are not deserving of God's wrath.  But this is not what the Scriptures teach:


Here we see that, Scripturally speaking, Jews do not incur God's wrath simply because they rejected Jesus.  Instead, they incur God's wrath because they are sinners.  Of course, the Bible is not arguing that all sinners will be equally punished, as some will receive a greater judgment (Matt. 10:15).  But it must be understood that both Hitler and the unbelieving Jew will receive their just punishment unless they repent and accept the only one who can save them from God's wrath, Jesus Christ (John 3:36).

As Paul would probably anticipate, I must raise a question: in a naturalistic worldview, why would it matter if a Jew receives a greater punishment than Hitler?  In the natural world, both "good" and "bad" people suffer.  Do you shake your fist at the universe when good people needlessly suffer?  Of course not, because the universe doesn't care.  Yes, you may object, "But I care!"  And that's the thing.  I have my worldview that is based upon God's judicial reckoning and you have your worldview that says, "Paul Baird is the judge of all things."  And if this is not the case, then who are you to say that my theological persuasion "isn't fair?"  I am one bag of cells uttering one thing and you are another bag of cells uttering something else.  Who judges who is right?  

The God of the Bible isn't simply a loving God; He is a just God and can only judge in accordance with His Holy and Righteous character.  But there is a reason why the Bible calls the gospel "foolishness" to Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:23).  The following should illustrate:

“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.“The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14)   



Rey Discomfort said...

I'm sure the chances of Jews converting to Christianity (accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior) as death looks them in the face is on par with Christians who convert to Islam under similar circumstances i.e., rare.

Anonymous said...

Religions teach that a loving God gives us a choice between serving him or spending eternity being tortured - and we are told , we are free moral agents - free to choose to love God .

Kind of like a father holding a flame thrower to his childs head and saying if you dont accept me as your dad and love me , Im gonna give you a good basting with this -but its your choice you choose !

And anyone who dares questions or challenges the morality of the fathers actions gets it too.

Christendom has held billions captive in fear , throughout history and continues to emotionally blackmail humanity with the absurdity of this doctrine . How could anyone be drawn to such a God , surely it would be morally repulsive to even worship such a God . Oh but then we dont have a choice !

Paul Baird said...

Hi Mike,

You're basically reinforcing the point that emr was making and that I was endorsing, and which I've made in other posts although phrased slightly differently.

The key to Christian salvation is (AFAIK) to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and to sincerely repent of your sins.

In which case a sincerely repenting mass murderer like Hitler, Stalin or even Pol Pot, would get in, but the whole post Jesus Jewish race would not, which is a bit crappy as it was their religion in the first place (BTW what happens to all of the Jews who died before Jesus was born ?).

Nonethless, thanks for linking to mt blog.

The Apologetic Front said...

Paul, you can believe whatever you want about this, but that is what is so amazing about the gospel; its a free gift that anyone can choose to accept if they turn from their sins and follow Christ. Just as it was in Jesus' day, the worst sinners embraced the gospel while the righteous rejected it. Yes, it truly is foolishness and I wouldn't expect you to view it any differently.

Paul Baird said...

Hi Mike, would you mind if I quoted your responses and my question on another blog ?

It's at http://www.mandm.org.nz/2007/07/the-dawkins-delusion.html#comment-110753


The Apologetic Front said...

Not at all, as long as you link to my blog so that readers can get the full context :-)

Paul Baird said...

Thanks - I was asking because the blog owner appeared to take a different line from you, and every other Christian that the question has been put to, and he's a public speaker and seems quite well qualified in his field.

Mariano said...

Great question Paul.
Mike, indeed, it is always a good idea to consider the question before considering an answer and the question is premised upon theology that is not Judeo-Christian.
As the post states, the issue is not beliefs—a mere intellectual assent of sorts—the issue is our sin and forgiveness through grace.
Someone is not innocent of sin because they were murdered. Likewise, a guilty person who asks for forgiveness in true repentance will be forgiven.
In a God-free universe; Hitler lived an enviable life, in a manner of speaking (and I speak as a Jew who actually had relatives murdered in concentration camps), he enjoyed his power, did as he pleased, had thousands of adoring followers and in the end when he decided that it was all over, he took his own life and then…
Then nothing. Nothing but a styled perfect peace of annihilation.
In not providing transcendent justice atheism makes it so that people such as Hitler simply get away with it. Since atheism does not provide justice then it is itself unjust.
Atheism makes evil even worse by guaranteeing that it is for nothing. And though I am tempted to say that what I mean is that evil serves no greater purpose in a God-free universe, that is not correct.
In a God-free universe evil is actually good as everything that we call “evil” plays a beneficial role in evolution by ridding us of the less fit. This is why atheists such as Sam Harris, Michael Ruse, etc. argue that rape played a beneficial evolutionary role. Evil also plays a beneficial role in that the evil doer gets to enjoy themselves and then…
Someone may note that of course atheism does not provide transcendent justice because atheism is a mere idea (or a set of ideas). True and that is just the point. Atheist is a mere impotent concept while YHVH is a potent living being. Jesus chose to take upon Himself the punishment for sins that He did not commit and therefore satisfy justice through grace.
But what is to be done to such a being? A being who would have forgiven Hitler?
Perhaps He should come to earth and see how He likes it!
He should live as do we and suffer like us all!
He deserves to be mocked, beaten, spat upon, pierced and murdered!
…and He still loves us.

Paul Baird said...

Mariano, you're confirming that Hitler would indeed get into the Christian heaven if he had repented and the Jews would not because they didn't.

Sorry, but that's nuts.

The Apologetic Front said...

Paul, isn't naturalism nuts as well? The good suffer needlessly and the evil prosper. Maybe you should write a few blogs expressing your distaste for evolution; where the weak die and strong survive? And perhaps the next time a tsunami utterly destroyed the lives of thousands of good moral people, you should express your distaste for nature's cruelty. However, such would be pointless, because the universe doesn't care. So why do you care?

Paul Baird said...


"The good suffer needlessly and the evil prosper."

This happens already, in the predominantly Christian USA - why ?

"and perhaps the next time a tsunami utterly destroyed the lives of thousands of good moral people, you should express your distaste for nature's cruelty. "

Or perhaps I could say it was God's judgement on them instead ansd suggest that had they prayed more often it would not have happened or that it did happen was a morally just lesson for them to learn ?

Either way alot of people die but only Christians offer the most implausible excuses.

Mike Felker said...

Paul, my point had nothing to do with location, but of suffering in general, regardless of where you are from and what the cause is (Natural disasters, people being evil, etc.).

Regardless of the excuse that Christians offer, what is your excuse? Why are you not writing blogs about how repulsed you are of your own worldview?

Paul Baird said...

That's a curious point of view Mike.

You might as well as why I don't protest at the sunrise every morning.

I don't because I don't infer any moral position from nature.

The Apologetic Front said...

Paul, but in your worldview, humans are no more products of nature than a volcano. So why do you argue against my worldview, as if its any more a product of nature than anything else?

Paul Baird said...


"So why do you argue against my worldview, as if its any more a product of nature than anything else?"

Are you seriously arguing that position ?

If my worldview had any moral inferrence ie shit can happen to everybody - go figure. Then it would be that it does not discriminate against anyone.

Whereas the Christian worldview says shit happens, and it's either your fault, or it's for your own good, or don't worry it all gets better when you're dead.

I think I'd rather have the worldview without the bull.

The Apologetic Front said...

Paul, if I understand your worldview correctly:

The universe doesn't discriminate on who suffers. Many will and many won't. Sh$% happens. Get over it.

Is Hitler a product of nature? Did Hitler discriminate? Sh$# happens. Get over it.

The universe doesn't care, so why be repulsed when the universe kills people; whether its via organic matter (humans, lions, flesh eating bacteria, etc.) or inorganic matter (volcanos, tsunamis, etc.)?

Rey Discomfort said...

Why bother being repulsed when we can do our best to understand the forces that operate around us?

Do the many people that die miserable deaths daily really get in the way of you going to sleep at night Mike? Do starving, diseased children dying slow deaths stop you from living your daily life?

If any of the above happened to someone close to you would it affect you more? Would you then lose sleep, sanity and possibly the ability to function as you normally do?

There's only so many things that are in our control, and i'd be lying if I said that the suffering of other people on other continents that I'll probably never see first hand keeps me up late at night.

The Apologetic Front said...

Rey, being repulsed at evil behavior is an attribute of being made in the image of God. I don't lose sleep over what goes on in this world, though it does remind me of what my sin has done in bringing death into this world.

Much is out of my control, I agree. But God is in control, and I trust that He knows what He is doing as His sovereign plan continues to unfold.

I'm not sure if this answers your point, but I just wanted to make sure you knew that I don't take death lightly, as it is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Paul Baird said...

Mike - your question "is Hitler a product of nature ?"

The answer is "yes"

your question "Did Hitler discriminate ?"

is to muddy the waters.

The point that I made was nature does not discriminate, although somewhat predictable, nature is generally random.

There was an earthquake in Wrexham and a tornado in North London in recent years. What explanation or justification would you like to offer the residents who suffered damage ?

I think 'shit happens' just about covers it, and 'are you insured ?'

There is a great deal of difference between seeking to act to ameliorate suffering and coming up with some spiritual excuse for why the suffering happened.

Going back to my original point
- we are all here
- we are all going to die
- only some of us are claiming an exclusive afterlife based on a specific set of beliefs rather than based on any other criteria of worth.

And in my humble opinion, that is nuts.

Mariano said...

According to your worldview no one gets into heaven.
There is no heaven into which one may get.
According to your worldview Hitler and the Jews (and 6,000,000 other he murdered) end up the same: worm food.
No justice.
Therefore, atheism is unjust.
The fact of evil and suffering is one of the very best reasons for rejecting atheism since atheism makes evil and suffering even worse.

Paul Baird said...

Mariano - so you're saying that the six million not getting into heaven because they're not Christians is justice ?


Mariano said...

I discern that you are avoiding the implications of your “worldview” by constantly expressing incredulity as to other’s. While this is psychologically fascinating, I am not certain that “Wow” serves as a coherent retort.

Now, thus far we have, in part, been dealing with hypotheticals: what would have happened if Hitler had repented?

Now, let us deal with, as far as we know, the reality of the matter according to two “worldviews”:

Christianity: Hitler is being held accountable for his evil deeds. Justice was served. He did not escape. He is guilty and paying the price.

Atheism: Hilter got away with it.

Please justify holding to a “worldview” that allows Hitler to get away with it when he decided to take his life.

Beyond that, you may want to justify how you condemn Hitler in the first place.
And/or how you condemn Christian theology.
And/or how you condemn anything.
And I mean; how do you condemn them beyond appealing to your personal preferences that are premised upon personal preferences.

Paul Baird said...

Mariano - ok, how was justice served ?
Was justice served because Hitler was a genciodal maniac or because he did not accept Jesus as his saviour ?

Your choice.

Under atheism - exactly how did Hitler get away with it ? If he got away with anything then what did the Jews who did not accept Christianity also not get away with ?

Mariano - unfortunately you're caught on the horns of a dilemma, which is what the question is trying to get you, as a Christian, to think about.

"Beyond that, you may want to justify how you condemn Hitler in the first place.
And/or how you condemn Christian theology.
And/or how you condemn anything.
And I mean; how do you condemn them beyond appealing to your personal preferences that are premised upon personal preferences."

Please tell me you're a Presuppositionalist - this could introduce a whole new level of fun.

L said...

Ok, a couple of comments that may help Paul:

There is no eternal hellfire. There are two Greek words commonly translated 'hell' - hades and gehenna. Jesus went to hades (the grave) 1 Cor 15:3,4 and Gehenna means complete annihilation/destruction Rev 20:14.

The Bible teaches that accidents just do happen (Ecc 9:11), and Jesus taught that we are not punished via accidents/disasters (Luke 13:4,5)

Basically everyone will have an opportunity to accept Christ, as there will be a resurrection of both 'righteous' and 'unrighteous' people.

We choose the Christian life because it makes sense, reconciles us with God and gives us real hope. Your view does not make sense, ignores God and has no hope beyond this life.

With regard to our presuppositions - our world view makes sense and is harmonious. If it doesn't make sense to you, that is because you have not adopted it. In fact, I would suggest you have not even tried to comprehend our view. If you were serious about understanding 'the other side', you would stop avoiding issues and tackle them head on.

Paul Baird said...

Ha ! I was born and raised as a Christian, and followed the Christian path until my teens when I, like many others left.

Otherwise L - I'll get back to, your post has made a bit more sense than the others.

Vas said...


What is evil behavior ? Is it reduced to an action, thought or something that goes against God?

Vas said...

I didn't get to finish my though and accidentally posted the above:

But, what is evil? Is murder always a sin, even when God commands a people to conquer another people?

Note: I finally got around to changing my username from "Rey Discomfort" to the current "Vas"

The Apologetic Front said...


Yes, murder is always a sin. But keep in mind that, biblically, murder is different from killing. So no, when God commanded the conquering of another city, it was justified killing.

Paul Baird said...

Hi Mike - could you define murder for me ?

The Apologetic Front said...


"MURDER Intentional taking of human life. Human life is given great value in the Bible. Persons are created in the image of God; and persons are called to obey, serve, and glorify God. Human life is viewed as a sacred trust. It is because of this that taking human life is viewed as a serious crime in the Bible.
The prohibition against murder is found in the Ten Commandments, the heart of Hebrew law (Exod. 20:13; Deut. 5:17). Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being by another. Deliberately taking the life of a human being usurps the authority that belongs to God. The prohibition against murder is a hedge to protect human dignity. The OT (Gen. 9:6) prescribed that a murderer should be prepared to forfeit his own life. In Num. 35:16-31 careful attention is given to determining whether a killing is to be classified as murder.
Jesus removed the concept of murder from a physical act to the intention of one’s heart (Matt. 5:21-22). According to Jesus, murder really begins when one loses respect for another human being. Spitting in the face of another, looking with contempt upon another, or unleashing one’s anger are signs that a murderous spirit is present. Jesus forces us to move to the spirit behind the prohibition of murder. We are compelled to do all that we can do to protect the life of our neighbor and help it flourish. The writer of 1 John pushed Jesus’ teaching to its ultimate: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:15 HCSB)."

“MURDER,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, n.p.

Paul Baird said...

Hi Mike, I'm glad I asked the question then.

I'm tempted to take the discussion in a different direction based on that, but I'll leave it for the moment - I'd like to have a bit of a think. :-)

Nonethless, many thanks for letting me comment on your blog.

The Apologetic Front said...

Paul, you are welcome here anytime. If there's an issue that you'd like me to address that is not so relevant to a current post, shoot me an email or leave a comment and i'll give consideration to writing a new blog in which I address the topic. This way we'd be staying on topic with the current post.

Vas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vas said...

So murder is the intention of taking human life and is thus a sin, but when it's done in accordance to God's will it's no longer murder, it's killing which is not a sin? Is that about right?

Hypothetically speaking, if it were revealed to us that Hitler acted in accordance to God's will, would everyone systematically mur.. killed, be fine, because at the end of the day, justice has been served?

The way I currently understand it, a sin is something that goes against God, not necessarily something we might ordinarily identify as a sin e.g., murder, rape, torture which are all identified as something else if condoned by God. Right?

The Apologetic Front said...


1) Yes, that is basically correct.

2) If you're referring to God's prescriptive will, then no, this would be completely inconsistent with what God had previously revealed about his character and law.

3) Biblically, its not that there is an external law that is different from "something we might ordinarily identify as a sin." According to Romans 2:15, the law is written on our hearts whereby our conscience will bear witness to what God's law confirms.

But its not so much that its wrong merely because God said so; its wrong because the act itself is intrinsically wrong. That is, like the laws of logic, the laws of morality exist ontologically. Whether anyone agrees or not, murder is wrong.

Vas said...

2) If you're referring to God's prescriptive will, then no, this would be completely inconsistent with what God had previously revealed about his character and law.

How so? God ordered Joshua to destroy a whole people for various reasons, how would that hypothetical be any different?

The Apologetic Front said...

Vas, unless I misunderstood your comment about Hitler, are you suggesting the possibility that Hitler would have been to God what Joshua was to God? Namely, his appointed agent to carry out his will?

Vas said...

Not necessarily, there's probably an enormous amount of reasons for why he cannot be God's Joshua, but, hypothetically someone in a similar position destroying a "nation" of people because they're "wicked" doesn't quite come across as "just".

The Apologetic Front said...

Vas, I understand where you are coming from. But this would go back to how we justify just from unjust, good from evil, etc.

But the point is, the nations destroyed by Joshua were wicked by God's standards and thus deserved to be punished.

Vas said...

Would I be wrong in asserting that those 6 million+ Jews (as well as us) could probably be considered just as wicked, if not more so, according to God's standards?

If that's the case, then justice or how we perceive it, is really irrelevant since all justice amounts to is God's will, i.e., you could very well live your life and by all means, be considered a Saint by all those who know you and maybe even fall from God's grace (because, sometimes that happens) perish in an accident and face an eternity of suffering Vs a person who lives a long (by our standards) life of causing suffering and misery to all those who surround him/her -- come into old age, and upon the realization of how fragile we really are, decide to accept Jesus, die and spend eternity in Heaven .. and that's just?

The Apologetic Front said...

Vas, if I understand what you're saying, I would agree that such would be unjust. If you re-read the blog post, I made it clear that people like Hitler will incur a much harsher judgment than the Jews. Obviously, I don't know the heart of every Jewish person that was killed, so I can't say what their judgment will be like.

But I think what is worse is a worldview where "good" people can die horrible torturous deaths and "evil" people can prosper and die an easy death. This would make atheism evil and unjust.