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God's Test of Human Souls: Is it fair?

Discussion in 'Christianity and World Religion' started by copernicus, Sep 15, 2004.

  1. copernicus

    copernicus Kinder, gentler atheist

    Thanks, Emmy. You seem to agree with my premises. You did not comment on my conclusions.

    Carico, the test is whether we believe God or not. I don't know how I could make it any clearer to you.

    Thanks, UMP. Job seems to have had a poor grasp of astronomy and earth science. Beyond that, all he seemed to be saying is that humans ought not to question God's fairness. I disagree, and that is why I wrote the OP.
  2. Soul_Searcher

    Soul_Searcher Contributor

    Other Religion
    Hi Copernicus,

    "1) God is omniscient.
    2) God creates human souls.
    3) God gives human souls natural lives to test their ability behave according to standards defined by God.
    4) God rewards those souls that pass the test with a reasonably pleasant immortal existence.
    5) God fails to reward those souls that do not pass the test.

    This seems close to Christian thought, though I don't accept anything after point 2.
  3. copernicus

    copernicus Kinder, gentler atheist

    That's ok with me. Not everyone defines their gods alike.

    I think that you have confused the "criteria" with the test conditions. Those test conditions are not the same for everyone. For example, some of us are given greater opportunities and/or temptations to sin than others. Mark Twain, one of America's best known religious skeptics, used to joke that an ethical person is "a Christian with four aces". The point is that it is easy to claim the moral high ground when you have never had to climb a hill. The "criteria" are merely that you find yourself sitting on the top of a hill. How you get there are the test conditions. :)
    And you need to understand the criteria of unfairness here. God does not expose us all to the same experiences, which include opportunities to learn about God, moral dilemmas, physical and mental abilities, etc. That is the essence of my argument.
    You contradict yourself when you say "God doesn't require us to pass any tests, he requires us to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior." That acceptance is the test, and not everyone is even given the opportunity of knowing about Jesus. The acceptance poses different hurdles for all of us. In my case, being able to resolve the logical conundrum I have posed in this thread is one of those hurdles.
  4. UberLutheran

    UberLutheran Well-Known Member

    1) God is not completely omniscient (although God knows far more than we do, and allows us to learn about the universe and what comprises the universe as a way of learning about how God creates and God works).
    2) God creates human souls.
    3) God expects us to be fully human, so the tests we are expecting may not necessarily be the ones we get. The tests we are given might include things like:
    - Can we show gratitude for what we have?
    - Can we demonstrate compassion and caring for others?
    - Do we have a sense of humility, e.g., knowing what we are capable of doing and what we are NOT capable of doing?
    - Can we ask for help?
    - Instead of asking "Why?" or "Why me?", can we look for the "so that" in our experiences; and in doing so find God working in our lives?
    - Are we capable of living our lives, and treating those around us as though the Kingdom of God is in the here and now?
    4) We have no way of really knowing how God rewards or does not reward; but the reward is not justification in and of itself for living fully and compassionately, and treating others as we would be treated.

    I think it's a spurious question to ask whether God is "fair" or "unfair". God promises us "grace sufficient for every need" but God does NOT promise us "fair". Moreover, if we build a house 100 yards from the ocean in Florida, it's not God's fault that our house is blown down and flooded by a hurricane; nor is it God's fault if we get hit by a tornado, should we decide to live in a trailer in Oklahoma! Diseases, accidents and death are all things which happen to everyone. We won't find God in looking for "why something happened [to us] -- we're more likely to find God in "something occurred so that something else could occur."

    And, of course, I have a tendency to irritate conservative religious folks like a bad case of the seven-year itch! ;)
  5. copernicus

    copernicus Kinder, gentler atheist

    UberLutheran, thanks for your intelligent remarks.
    UberLutheran, I would like to be the first to admit that I am not "completely omniscient" either. :) I suppose that the real question is "What does God know, and when does he know it?" The omnisicience claim was important to part of my argument. It addressed the question of whether it made sense for God to conduct a test. In this case, you seem to be claiming that God cannot predict the future--that he does not know what choices we will make or what circumstances we will encounter. A corollary of this belief is that God is time-bound in just the way that humans are and can make fallible decisions. So your objection to this claim is going to raise other conundrums, but it does knock down part of my argument.
    Again, I think that this raises the question of the difference between criteria--where to set the bar--and test conditions. Clearly, we can create a test where everyone has to jump over a bar in order to pass the test. But is it fair to make the paraplegic take the test? Is it fair to judge the compassion of a person who has known little but violent conflict from others against that of one who has known little but kindness from others? It still seems to me that how well we pass the test is very much a function of the conditions under which we take it. (An interesting aspect of religions that believe in reincarnation and karma is that one gets to keep taking the test over and over until one passes. :))
    I don't quite buy that. Why would there be tests and rewards in the first place, if that were true? I am not arguing against the idea that we all ought to have compassionate, fair demeanors. I am pointing out that you believe in the test/reward, but you seem to have some trouble accepting it for what it is.
    To the extent that there is a test, it is legitimate to ask whether the test is fair. I don't think it matters who proposes the test. If God tests us unfairly, you may still be willing to exempt him from the judgment of "unfairness", but I do not see how one reasonably can. Some would argue that an omnipotent being is being unfair in not preventing evil or ill fortune to befall innocent beings. The question here is not why God does not act to prevent such things--whether it is his "fault" that such things happen. It is whether God's criteria for rewarding our choices and our behavior is fair in light of the very uneven circumstances that drive or influence our choices and our behavior.
    But, of course! Your religious views are not conservative, and my argument was couched in fairly conservative terms. I think that it still poses some dilemmas for you, though. You buy into the test/reward way of thinking about God. It is hard (possibly impossible) not to, given that Christ's death, the central event in Christian doctrine, is supposed to be about redemption for our sins. It is supposed to help us pass the test. My view is still that the test conditions render the test unfair.
  6. 12volt_man

    12volt_man Well-Known Member

    You are on a Christian message board, in a Christian forum, addressing Christians about the Judeo-Christian God, premising your question on what Christians supposedly believe and asking Christians for our opinion. Since you know that our opinion is based on scripture, it stands to reason that you should appeal to scripture at least once.

    What could I say that Paul didn't say in Romans 5? Like I said, he explains it in great detail.

    I don't believe that the chapter is subject to much interpretation. It's pretty clear. You may not believe what the Bible says, but that wasn't your question in the first place. You simply asked if your premise was "a fair description of beliefs that Christians hold".

    I'm merely showing you from the source, authoritative to Christians, what Christianity teaches.
  7. copernicus

    copernicus Kinder, gentler atheist

    I know that opinions are based on interpretations of scripture, and those interpretations very often differ. Simply citing a section of the Bible proves nothing. You have to say how it applies to the issue at hand. You did not do that.

    That's easy. Just give a simple explanation of how you think that the passage is relevant. What does it say that contradicts or speaks to my premises 4 and 5? Then we will all understand what you are talking about.

    If that chapter is clear, then your synopsis or paraphrase of it should be relatively straightforward and uncontroversial. On the other hand, others may interpret the text differently (which, I suspect, is what you fear). It is best to be clear about your understanding of the text by putting it in your own words. Why is that so difficult? I thought that the OP was rather straightforward, and I have been getting some very clear statements on why people agree or disagree with it. You seem very reluctant to address the issues head-on.

    And it is very easy to see that not all Christians agree on what that source teaches. To find out what they believe, you have to listen to how they explain Biblical passages.
  8. 12volt_man

    12volt_man Well-Known Member

    I have explained how it applies. You are premising a question about what Christians believe. Since you know that Christians draw our beliefs about the nature of God from the Bible, it is reasonable to ask you how, scripturally, you came to these conslusions.

    What is there to understand? You asked if your premise was what Christians believe. I have told you where to go to find out what CHristianity teaches on the subject. In Romans, chapter 5, Paul addresses these two very things clearly and succinctly.

    If you don't have a Bible, go to crosswalk.com, type in "Romans 5", click on "KJV" and "Pauline Epistles". It will come right up.

    I'm not sure why you're so afraid to read this chapter. After all, the Bible couldn't possibly be true, right?

    No, I don't fear that at all. This chapter is very "straightforward and uncontroversial". The chapter is very clear and very simple. It says what it says and there is very little room for interpretation.

    It's not difficult at all but my understanding comes directly from that passage and there's nothing I could tell you that you wouldn't find in that passage.

    Again, why are you so afraid to look at this passage?

    I'm not reluctant at all. You asked a question and I answered it and told you where you could go to learn in greater detail the answer to your question.

    OK. Feel free to show two people who disagree over this passage.

    The bottom line is, you asked a question. I answered. Either you were sincere or you're not.

    Again, I don't understand why you're so afraid to look at this chapter. You seem to be backing away from it like a man trapped in closet with a cobra.
  9. wvernon

    wvernon Senior Member

    Copernicus, I think you are right in criticizing my #1. I had always reconciled your #1 with my reason. However, I was thinking of another possibility for #1. I'll write it sometime soon when I can eloquently express it.
  10. God of Love

    God of Love Regular Member

    Hi, Copernicus,

    I am responding to you from the perspective of a Near Death Experience survivor, based on those things I learned during my experience and during my long-term walk with God since the time of my NDE. While I do no openly claim to follow a specific Christian denomination, my belief system is comparable to some of the more liberal Christian teachings ... especially those of Canada.

    I agree in a certain extent, that God is indeed "omniscient". He is also "omnipresent" and "all-powerful". (I will expound on this shortly).

    I would agree that God creates human souls, but souls are not exclusive to humans.

    I disagree with this statement. While God gives humans souls, He has no need to "test us". An all-powerful God requires absolutely nothing from His creation -- not even our belief. While it will benefit us to believe in Him and form a relationship with Him, it is only "desired", and never "required". In fact, the concept of "need" ("Behold the lillies of the field.." or "Behold the fowl or the air, they neither sow nor reap...) is a fallacy of man, created by man to drive his own ambitions and agenda.

    God requires nothing of us.

    Our purpose in life is simple: to experience. Before Biblical creation, when there was nothing but God in existance, God created the universe and all aspects of Life from Himself. In effect, while we are provided seperate conciousnesses, the concept of being seperate from God and "one-another" is merely an illusion. Our challenge is to become more and more "Christ-like", and "return to God" through this journey and learning (while retaining our own conciousness). This, in effect, was Christ's ultimate lesson and example to us.

    In the truest sense, we are indeed "God's Children".

    God's purpose for creating us was to allow Himself to experience Himself experientially. By being "all" (I am within you, and you within me), God is indeed omnipresent, omniscient, and all-powerful. In effect, we cannot learn anything "new" that God does not learn, because God experiences all events simultaneously.

    Here again, I disagree. The concept of "death" is yet another fallacy of man. God is Life and Life is God, and "death" is merely a "horizon" (I can honestly say "I've been there -- done that -- LOL"). It's much like sunlight passing through a pain of glass. While part of that light may be shed off as heat (like our physical bodies are shed off), the light continues to exist.

    While life may change forms, by default it cannot end. Were it to end, it cannot be "life" to begin with.

    To God, ALL of His children are loved and cherished. There are none who are more special than others. We are each special. (Would you love your "unruly" child less than the "behaved"?)

    YOU are special and loved by God.

    None are "chosen" or exclusive or superior (despite the claims of those with low self-esteems, who must feel they "God's favorite ones" and will do whatever is necessary (inlcuding lying to themselves) to prove this to themselves).

    God Loves ALL of us -- without condition.

    God always "accepts", and never "excepts".

    In the truest sense, a God who loves unconditionally cannot and does not "judge us". After our "death", we are our own harshest and most critical judge. We reflect on our lives, and can clearly see how and when we had opportunites to be more loving and "Christlike", yet choose to act upon our own desires and insecurities. In effect, we create our own "hell" by not living more Godlike while we are here.

    The "reward" (per se), is ours all along for the taking. The problem is, most of us trade it off during life through material pursuits (store not your treasures upon Earth, but in Heaven).

    God Bless,

    God of Love.
  11. copernicus

    copernicus Kinder, gentler atheist

    Thanks for your perspective, God of Love. Since you disagree with my premises, the argument does not apply to your concept of God. However, I was clear in the OP that it was only about God in the sense of premises 1-5.

    It would be interesting to know which premises of mine you reject, and what the scriptural basis for your rejection are. However, I have nothing to say, given the limited information that I have about your interpretation of scripture. What is clear to you is not clear to me. I have asked you to clarify it an you refuse. So we have nothing more to discuss on this issue. Sorry, but you'll have to spell it out for me if you want to discuss the relevance of the passage to the OP. :(
  12. 12volt_man

    12volt_man Well-Known Member

    I told you: #3-5. You even repeated it back to me.

    As I've told you several times now, my scriptural basis is from Romans 5.

    What is there to clarify? What part of Romans 5 do you not understand?

    OK. I remain fascinated that you are so terrified of a couple of paragraphs in a book you say you don't believe, anyway.
  13. hordeprime

    hordeprime God loves Atheists.

    Is this Romans 5?
    From here: http://bibleontheweb.com/Bible.asp

    Anybody got some Cliff's Notes?
  14. copernicus

    copernicus Kinder, gentler atheist

    Indeed, Hordeprime. Not only is the early Modern English dialect a bit hard to read, but I would settle for an explanation of how this passage contradicts anything I said in the OP. The logic of the passage is a bit of a mess, but it does make several references to God's "judgment", which seems to support my position. What 12volt_man sees in it is a mystery to me. :scratch:
  15. wvernon

    wvernon Senior Member

    I have an answre for proposition C. God is omniscient and he does know how his creations will behave. Therefore, he does know whether people will choose Christ or not. So does this make God unfair in that he still allows men to be born who will not accept Christ. I will refer to my previous post where I said that God gave us a choice to love him or not for our love for Him could not be true if we did not have a choice. Now if you say that God would be fair if he did not allow people to be born who did not love him, then how do the people that are born express true love? For they have no choice but to love him because if they did not love him, then they would have never been born. He has given men free will to accept him or to deny him and he does not interfere with that free will. If he did, then we could not truly love him.

    Proposition D may be a while in coming, I'm still coming up with an answer for you on that one.
  16. 12volt_man

    12volt_man Well-Known Member

    I don't know why. You seem like an intelligent guy to me. Have you even bothered read it yet?

    Why don't you look into it and tell us what it says.
  17. Petr

    Petr Gnostic Christian

    Israelites themselves ;)
  18. Petr

    Petr Gnostic Christian

    No problemo, I'm just making sure that you guys know there is a little number of Christians who have quite concerns than the majority :)
  19. mystricat

    mystricat New Member

    In response to Logic:

    It seems to me that everything that defines who we are iswithin our physical body. If someone's physical body gets damaged, (they get hit in the head with a shovel and rendered stupid) their soul isn't going to remember stuff for them.

    Our body is just a vessel for this life on earth. Our spirit lives on after our bodies die. Even if we are rendered stupid by a shovel.

    I'm not even going to touch that, do you understand how unjust and cruel that concept is?
    Judgment is not cruel at all. Our God is a Just God. He gave us the criteria to enter heaven...He must follow through on His Word, because He is a JUST God. He gave you the free will to either accept His criteria (Jesus) or reject Him. To me that is beautiful not cruel...He is actually giving us a chance, where no chance existed by our own accord.

    The conditions are not the same for everyone, think about moslems who think the same thing about you. You had a chance to accept Allah as lord, but you rejected it, was Allah's test fair for both you and them if you've only had a good deal of exposure to christianity?
    Still...We all fall short of the glory of God. It matters not what religion someone is. Allah...first of all isn't God. There is only ONE true God and that is the One I serve. He is The Father, His Son Jesus sits at His right hand in Heaven and His Holy Spirit dwells within those who believe in Him. Being from the civilized world with knowledge at my finger tips..I could have made Allah my God. But I chose to reject him, why? Because I have a free will to do so. Just as you have the free will and choice to reject Jesus.

    You're saying that God has already planned for some of us to suffer eternal damnation, he must have weanted us to.
    No. It isn't God's plan. Believe it or not God is a loving God...but again He is a just God and has a criteria laid out for us. If we reject Jesus we will suffer eternal damnation. It is such a simple plan. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son...that whoever believes in Him should not perish...but have everlasting life." Praise Jesus Forevermore!!

    Love in Christ,

  20. copernicus

    copernicus Kinder, gentler atheist

    At this point, you are slipping into (D). The point of (C) was that the test is unnecessary. A craftsman might test a manufactured item in order to verify that it proves adequate for its purpose. God is like a craftsman who never has to test what he manufactures. It may trouble some that not all his creations turn out able and willing to do what he wants--love and worship him--but that is yet another issue. God doesn't need to expose a soul to evil in order to know how it will choose to respond.

    How so? God did not have to actually expose us to the choice in order to know how we would choose. The purpose of life is a test of faith in order to qualify us for the afterlife. But the test is unnecessary.

    I have heard the argument that "God does not interfere", and it does indeed seem true (to me, anyway) that God never does. However, most Christians appear to believe that he interferes all the time, and they pray for that interference in the expectation that he does. So that interference, if it ever happens, could count as further messing with the test that he doesn't need to make. But the main point I would make here is with respect to the failures--those who don't go on to a heavenly reward. They don't need to actually show their lack of love and disrespect for their creator. Every soul can be judged properly without it having to go through the Test.

    One final point. You spoke of being given the opportunity to accept God. That is central to my argument. The opportunities provided us all are unequal. Some people grow up in conditions where the Christian message is only faintly heard, or not at all. Others grow up in conditions where they can't escape hearing it every day.

    I think that you've already begun to address the issue of fairness.