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RE-POST : The Salvation Paradox By Ben Doublett

Epicurus (341 BCE – 270 BCE)

Epicurus (341 BCE – 270 BCE) was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism.For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil, that death is the end of the body and the soul and should therefore not be feared, that the gods do not reward or punish humans, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.

Recently, there has been an image going around the internet of a bust of the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, an early atheist and materialist who was the first to postulate the existence of atoms, with a clever quote from him that reads:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but unable?  Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?  Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him god?” – Epicurus

The quote is usually accompanied by the witty tag line, “Atheists:  Winning since 33 CE”.  I have some questions about the veracity of this quote, particularly because Epicurus died in 270 BCE and lived in a time and place when most people worshipped the Greek pantheon, which consisted of a variety of gods, none of whom claimed omnipotence.  But setting aside the dubious origins, the structure of the argument still works to disprove a god who claims both benevolence and omnipotence.

It is this structure that I want to borrow to construct a new argument, what I am calling the ‘Salvation Paradox’.  As always, feel free to publish this argument in any context, whether it is in your own blog or in a Youtube video, just please cite this blog as your source and credit me, Ben Doublett.

The paradox is constructed as follows:

Is god willing to offer all people salvation, but unable?  Then he is not omnipotent.
Is god able to offer all people salvation, but unwilling?  Then he is unjust.
Is god willing and able to offer all people salvation?  Then the Bible contains falsehoods.

Now, allow me to justify this.  First of all, it is obvious from reading scripture that no human is able to enter the Kingdom of God (heaven) on the basis of good deeds alone.  That is a fairly common misconception amongst Christians and non-Christians alike.  But Jesus was very clear on this point:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –John 14:6

The position of most Protestant churches is consistent with this; is only through the grace of god that we can be redeemed for our sin and not through good works.  It is important to note that two major exceptions to this rule exist; the Anglican and Catholic churches have both stated that it is their position that it is possible for sincere practitioners of religions other than Christianity to go to heaven.  Clearly, though, this position is not supported by scripture.

Why is this?  From my discussions with Christians, their belief seems to be that god simply cannot tolerate being in the presence of sin and every human sins.   Since god can’t tolerate our sinful nature, we have to be completely separated from him when we die, and that separation is the worst possible fate for a human being—hell.  But what about someone who manages to, in spite of all the odds against her, overcome every temptation and lead a perfectly sinless life?  Well, even that doesn’t count because she is held accountable for even thinking of doing something sinful!  The very fact that the idea of sinning occurred to her in her head precludes her from entering heaven.

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”  Matthew 5:22

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Matthew 5:28

Essentially, you have no hope of escaping eternal hellfire on your own.  You are doomed.  But, here’s the good news, you have an opportunity to get out!  God was able to figure out a loophole in the law he created himself whereby if he turned himself into a human then sacrificed himself to himself he could take the burden of all of our sins onto his own shoulders!

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  John 10:12

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

But notice the caveat:  Each individual human has to believe that this event happened in order to qualify for the salvation.  If you don’t believe it happened, the salvation doesn’t apply to you, and by default you go to Hell, whether you are Stalin or Gandhi.

Here is where the problem arises.  Not every person who lived between the time of the crucifixion and today was made aware that god did sacrifice himself to himself.  Far from it.  The event took place at a time when people where isolated by vast distances—there was very little communication between the Roman Empire and, for instance, the people living in China and the Far East.  There was very little communication between the Romans and the people living in Sub-Saharan Africa, or the people living in the Northern reaches of Europe.  And, of course, large portions of the Earth’s land mass remained undiscovered for centuries after the crucifixion—it would be 1600 years before Europeans made contact with the many civilizations in the Americas, 1700 before they made contact with Australian Aborigines.

The salvation that was offered through Jesus to those in the Roman world was obviously not available to many generations of people living in the rest of the world.

Is god willing to offer all people salvation, but unable?  Then he is not omnipotent.

Any god who is just would give the opportunity afforded to some to accept the crucifixion of Jesus as payment for their own sins to all.  Clearly, as I have shown above, this is not the case with the Christian god.  It took nearly 2,000 years for the ‘salvation information’ to become available to almost all people in the world—I say almost because that information is still precluded from people who live in remote areas in, for instance, the amazon jungle, from the severely mentally handicapped who are incapable of processing such information, and from those in non-Christian countries like, for instance, India, who may have a vague awareness of what Christianity is, but never really have it explained to them, the way we have a vague awareness of Hinduism but really don’t know what it is.

It would have been very easy for an omnipotent being to make this soul-saving information available to all.  He could have decided to perform his sacrifice in the modern era, when information could be easily distributed throughout the world in a matter of minutes through the internet.  This would make a great deal more sense.  Since we can infer from 1st Peter 3 that the crucifixion was retroactive, all the worthy people who would have died between then and now would have been saved, plus a lot more who might have chosen to accept salvation if it were ever offered.

Alternatively, god could have chosen to send a son (or daughter) to every civilization.  They could have operated under the same name, taught the same lessons, and performed the same sacrifice.  Imagine what wonderful, undeniable evidence this would have constituted for the truth of Christianity!  If every culture around the world had independently developed the same religion, then no sensible person could deny the truth of it.  I would certainly have accepted it if this were the case.  It would be as plain as day.  Not to mention the fact that many, many people who would have gladly accepted that salvation, had it been offered, would have received it.

However, the god of Christianity apparently chose to perform his soul-saving sacrifice only once and only to a small group of people at the edge of the Iron Age Middle East.  The obscurity of the time and place of what is claimed to be the most important event in human history is truly remarkable.  Obviously, no being who would wish to offer salvation to all people would have chosen this time and place to do so—any being who did would clearly not be omnipotent, because he would be unable to do so at another time.

Is god able to offer all people salvation, but unwilling?  Then he is unjust.

But god is claimed to be omnipotent, therefore the Christian must assume that he chose to perform his sacrifice in obscurity, knowing full well that it was not the optimal time or place to do so.  Any omnipotent god existing outside of time would clearly know that a time would come in the course of human history where the story of his sacrifice could be disseminated across the world in a matter of minutes and accepted by all the people willing to do so.

We have to assume that the god of Christianity wants to keep the information that will save the souls of many people from hell exclusive to a degree.  Why he would want this is a mystery, but we can surely tell that any being who would make this choice, with better options clearly available, is fundamentally unjust.

It is completely unfair!  Why should your eternal fate be decided by an accident of birth?  Why does someone born in Medieval England deserve a chance to get into heaven but someone in 14th century Australia does not?  It would appear that god can forgive any sin except being born in the wrong time and place.  It is very easy to see that such a god is not just.

The only type of god that could claim to be just would be one that offers salvation to each human being in some way or another.  Numerous Christians, including the Catholic and Anglican churches, have acknowledged this and declared that Jesus is, in fact, not the only way to heaven—that plenty of people get to the Father without him!  By sincerely practicing another religion, Islam or Judaism for instance, an honest, good person can get inherit the Kingdom of god.

Is god willing and able to offer all people salvation?  Then the Bible contains falsehoods.

So we have established that a just god must be willing to offer salvation to all and that an omnipotent god must be able to offer salvation to all.  However, this type of god is clearly not the god of Christianity!  The Bible is very clear on this matter in John 14:6 (quoted above.)  Any teaching to the contrary fundamentally contradicts the bible.  We can say that god offers salvation to all, but ultimately if we do say that then we acknowledge that scripture contains a falsehood, and that is a victory for the atheist.  This is the heart of the Salvation Paradox.

The claim that ‘god is just‘, the claim that ‘god is omnipotent’ and the claim that ‘the bible is the perfect word of god’ are contradictory—the Christian must be willing to admit that at least one of these statements has to be false in order for the others to be true.

***EDIT–It has since been explained to me that the 33 AD in the Epicurus graphic is referring to the crucifixion, saying that atheists have been winning since the birth of Christianity.

Ref : http://foolofpsalms.blogspot.com/2011/01/salvation-paradox.html

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About Darc xeD

Sometimes its good to write a lil' story about your life, for it's about sharing the experience you have to the world.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “RE-POST : The Salvation Paradox By Ben Doublett

  1. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil. This was realized in a wondrous way by God in the death and resurrection of Christ. In fact, from the greatest of all moral evils (the murder of his Son) he has brought forth the greatest of all goods (the glorification of Christ and our redemption). (CCCC 58

    Posted by borrico1965 | August 10, 2012, 3:12 PM
    • With your answer, you just confirm that your god is not perfect as what many of your religious people proudly proclaims because he have to permit evil just to realize good that “come from that evil” which is a form of imperfection and which in the first place should be realized (if god really is all-knowing and all-powerful) even before the creation of man. As we see, god didn’t know everything (even what’s in your mind right now), and have to sacrifice his “only-begotten son” to “the glorification of Christ and our redemption”, which we all know also fails since the day he died.

      In the end, the result is : EPIC FAIL!

      And one more thing, you just made a questionable remark when you said “from the greatest of all moral evils (the murder of his Son)”, is it moral evil when it is (according to you bible) predestined that his son should die that way? By your remark, you just judge those people (the Jews in Christ’s time) as moral evil even though they are just tools or part of the plot just to realize the predictions of the prophets that the son of god should die (sacrifice).

      Did you know that due to your kind of remark “from the greatest of all moral evils (the murder of his Son)” the “Holocaust” was made by your fellow Catholic Adolf Hitler and his cohorts?

      Please be responsible to what you will say because you might create another Hitler out there with that kind of remark.

      Posted by Darc xeD | August 11, 2012, 9:04 AM

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