Quote of the Day: “The Doors of Hell Are Locked on the Inside”

 

Eight days after I began work there, as the organization’s first staff member dedicated to supporting its personal computer users, the unionized employees at my local community hospital went on strike. It was February 1, 1990.

Early that morning, as instructed, I drove across a picket line for the first time in my life, showing up for work in blue jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers. I was handed a mop and bucket, and along with several dozen others, I suffered through a fifteen-minute in-service on the “right way” to clean a patient’s room. Then I was put in charge of a housekeeper’s cart and I spent the next 57 days scrubbing up the Labor and Delivery Unit. This was in the days before the hotel-like “birthing rooms,” where family members gather and watch Mom in extremis, surrounded by flowers, floofy bedding, snack trays, and piped-in music. This was in the days when Mom was wheeled off to the “delivery room” to have the baby, into a forbidding and sterile environment with four gurneys in each room (the hospital had two of these rooms), klieg lights overhead, lots of sharp-edged stainless steel, with no rounded corners on anything, and not a bit of floofery in sight. The floor of each of these delivery rooms was, I can testify, having mopped each of them twice a day (and more, in the case of messy emergencies) for almost two months, about the same square footage as that of an NFL football field.

I enjoyed my time in housekeeping, actually (perhaps mostly because I knew it would not be my life’s work). I got plenty of exercise, and I got to know a side of hospital operations that folks who work in non-patient care areas rarely see. Because I was new to the organization, and because it was a welcoming place, I made lots of friends very quickly. Meals and breaks in the cafeteria (which was also affected by the strike, and where the cooking and serving were also done by non-unionized staff) were social occasions and the source of much dark humor and enjoyment of our mutual plight.

One of the first friends I made at my new workplace was Marian, the Director of Instructional Media. I expect she and I bonded so quickly because she, like me, worked in a technology-dependent field, and because there were not, at that time, many “power users” of such, at this little hospital I came to love.

Marian, considerably older than me, and in less robust health, had been spared the more physically demanding jobs (housekeeping, maintenance, garbage collection, etc.) and had been assigned during the strike as a clerk in the Medical Records department. (I always figured this was down to the fact that Marian had, in a previous life, managed to pick up a PhD in mathematics, and that the powers-that-were who placed salaried staff in union positions during the strike assumed from this that she could reliably file things in alphabetical order, and that she knew how to count beyond ten without taking her shoes and socks off.) She was, in all aspects of her work and life, a very good egg, and she and I remained firm friends for the twenty years we worked together.

Once I got to know her, I realized that Marian, who could be a bit prickly and off-putting around strangers, had a quiet and rather mordant wit. A month or two after the strike ended, she and I were struggling through a Pagemaker upgrade together, and she remarked to me that more than anything else, her experiences during the strike had caused her to lose her fear of death. “Oh, and why is that?” I asked.

“Well,” she said. “I’ve always figured that after I died, I’d be sent straight to Hell, and that was pretty frightening. But the thought of being in Hell doesn’t scare me anymore. Not after I’ve been in Medical Records.”

C.S. Lewis devotes an entire chapter in The Problem of Pain to the nature and meaning of Hell, and why the Christian doctrine of hell is just and moral. His concept of how Hell works is quite different from that so flippantly expressed by my friend Marian. (Although Marian’s view of the matter is not uncommon–that Hell is a place, similar in lots of ways to other human places–just more horrible, rather like Medical Records in fact–into which one is consigned by an all-powerful Deity, after having lived a unChristian and unrepentant life. Consignment to Hell, many believe, is something that God does to one, after one has shown oneself unworthy of Heaven.)

Lewis believes (I think) that consignment to Hell is something one does to oneself through one’s choices in life, a result of one’s free will, and of what he calls “successful rebellion” against God. In his spare, elegant prose, he makes the case that Hell is nothing like a hellish and perverse mirror of human life on earth, full of screaming and tortured people, because there is nothing remotely human about it at all. People who end up in Hell are there, he believes, because they have turned away from both their own humanity and that of others. (I think Lewis is defying any notion that “Hell is other people,” and explicitly saying that Hell is the absence of other people and humanity in one’s life. Because by rejecting humanity, one rejects God.) Such people have made themselves inhuman outcasts, and they have chosen Hell for themselves. God’s part in this process and its outcome, Lewis believes, ends when He gives us the freedom to reject Him, and to condemn ourselves to everlasting Hell. (Lewis also has a fascinating bit of discourse on the time-space continuum and the physical world, at this point in his story).

This is a portion of what he says:

I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside . . . they enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved: just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: ‘What are you asking God to do?’ To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what he does.

God is comfortable enough with his own omniscience that He empowers us to make our choice, without His interference. And we do. And the chips, as they say, fall where they may.

I first read parts of The Problem of Pain when I was in college, and, more than anything else, the phrase “the doors of Hell are locked on the inside,” has stuck with me. I find it to be such a powerful metaphor, not only for those of us (and Lewis makes it clear it might apply to any of us) who intransigently reject God and our own humanity, and who are determinedly condemning ourselves to eternal damnation, but also as an object lesson for some of the lesser trials and tribulations of my own daily life. There have been times (more than I can count; probably not more than Marian could count), that I’ve made myself thoroughly miserable trying to solve the unsolvable or fix the unfixable, or when I’ve found myself alone with destructive and hellish thoughts whirling around inside my head, as if in a maze with no exit. That’s when it’s helpful to remind myself that I do have a choice. That no useful purpose is served by making myself miserable. That I might be making things worse for myself by trying to handle everything on my own. That there are other people in the world. That perhaps I should, metaphorically, open a door inside my head and let some light in. That I might, if I’m feeling especially brave, try sticking my head through it (a clever trick that would be), and having a look round outside to see if there is anyone close by, made in the image of God, who might offer me a hand. Amazingly, there almost always is someone. Equally amazingly, when I do that, when I grab hold of that hand, when I reconnect with humanity, mine and someone else’s, I almost always feel better, and my problems very often become much more bearable. And I exit the temporary hell I made for myself.

In every instance, small or large, it starts with a choice. And if I make what I think is the right choice, the human choice, it gets easier from there. At least, I think so. What do you think? Do you agree with Lewis? Or do you believe in, or approach the matter, differently?

There are 61 comments.

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  1. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Outstanding.  Thank you, She.

    • #1
  2. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Your friend sounds like a true INT J. Was she?

    And agree the lock is from the inside. 

     

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    She: That no useful purpose is served by making myself miserable. That I might be making things worse for myself by trying to handle everything on my own. That there are other people in the world. That perhaps I should, metaphorically, open a door inside my head and let some light in. That I might, if I’m feeling especially brave, try sticking my head through it (a clever trick that would be), and having a look round outside to see if there is anyone close by, made in the image of God, who might offer me a hand. Amazingly, there almost always is someone. Equally amazingly, when I do that, when I grab hold of that hand, when I reconnect with humanity, mine and someone else’s, I almost always feel better, and my problems very often become much more bearable. And I exit the temporary hell I made for myself.

    Wonderful wisdom here, @she. We seem to have to learn this lesson over and over, but I tell folks that over time, we notice earlier in the process what we are actually doing, and make a better choice, or even catch ourselves on the brink of creating our own misery and go in a different direction. That knowledge, that understanding, is so liberating. A beautiful post. Thank you.

    • #3
  4. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Your friend sounds like a true INT J. Was she?

    And agree the lock is from the inside.

    Yes, I think that’s actually pretty accurate. 

    • #4
  5. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Lovely, as ever…Lewis gives us a broader picture – of the kinds of ways we can trap ourselves – in a fable he called: The Great Divorce.

    In this musical interlude, MercyMe offers yet another perspective.

    • #5
  6. HeavyWater Coolidge
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    I think one of the main deficiencies in C. S. Lewis’s reasoning is when he argues that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic or the Lord.  

    In the gospel of John you can read about Jesus saying things like “I and the Father are One,” “Before Abraham was, I am,” “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  

    But in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus never says these things.  If Jesus really did announce publicly that “I and the Father are One” and the response was that “the Jews took up stones to stone him,” it’s amazing that the authors of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke decided to leave that part out. 

    Did they run out of ink? 

    Maybe they had never heard of this part of Jesus’s ministry? 

    Or perhaps the author of the gospel of John was writing of events that did not actually happen.  Perhaps Jesus never said the things that the author of the gospel of John claimed that Jesus said.

    Someone living 2,000 years after these supposed events is in a difficult position to know for sure. It’s possible that all non-Muslims will go to hell for the crime of not being Muslim.

    I don’t believe hell is worth worrying about.  If God is a good as people say he is, he isn’t going to send you to hell based on your views about whether certain events happened or didn’t happen 2,000 years ago or in the case of Islam, 1,400 years ago.

    We don’t lose much sleep about the possibility that we will burn in hell because we haven’t become Muslims.  Why should anyone lose any sleep about whether the author of the gospel of John is accurate?

    • #6
  7. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    She,

    Sorry for this in advance. I just couldn’t help it. Ping.

    C.S. Lewis has got a point. I’ll try to remember it. Thanks.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #7
  8. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    The door to one’s *heart* is locked from the inside, as well, yes? For instance: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…”. (Revelation, chapter 3, verse 20ff., NAB)  By the way, it seems that Christ sometimes assigns/attaches friends, neighbors, colleagues to the detail tasked with standing/knocking/waiting. Didn’t John Milton say something about those who undertake that task each day? :-)

    • #8
  9. Pete EE Member
    Pete EE
    @PeteEE

    Hang On (View Comment):
    And agree the lock is from the inside. 

    I like your wording better. I think he means that the lock is opened and closed from the inside. Shouldn’t he, therefore, say the door “is locked on the outside”?

     

    • #9
  10. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Didn’t John Milton say

    The Mind is Its Own place and in Itself, can make a Heaven of hell, a hell of Heaven. 

    • #10
  11. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    I think one of the main deficiencies in C. S. Lewis’s reasoning is when he argues that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic or the Lord.

    I’m not fond of Smullyan-type puzzles myself, being far too thick to keep all the possibilities straight or even to follow the logic, once I figure out what I think it is.  But I can see nothing objectionable in taking an article of belief, holding it up to the light, coming up with some alternative possibilities, picking through them, and then reaching a conclusion.   Other than objecting on general principles to someone questioning what one thinks shouldn’t be questioned, I don’t know why that would bother a person.  And, in his position as a former atheist, and as an Anglican convert, I’m not surprised that Lewis’s frame of reference was different from many others’ and I think it’s an interesting argument to look at, whether you end up agreeing with it or not.

    In the gospel of John you can read about Jesus saying things like “I and the Father are One,” “Before Abraham was, I am,” “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

    But in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus never says these things. If Jesus really did announce publicly that “I and the Father are One” and the response was that “the Jews took up stones to stone him,” it’s amazing that the authors of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke decided to leave that part out.

    Not necessarily.  They were different men, writing from different perspectives, to different audiences.

    Did they run out of ink?

    Maybe they had never heard of this part of Jesus’s ministry?

    That’s certainly possible.

    Or perhaps the author of the gospel of John was writing of events that did not actually happen. Perhaps Jesus never said the things that the author of the gospel of John claimed that Jesus said.

    Or, any of the other gospels, or anything else in the Bible, in fact, if you want to propose that argument.  Hard to prove or disprove much of that, 2000 years later, as you say in the sentence immediately following.

    Someone living 2,000 years after these supposed events is in a difficult position to know for sure.

    Of course.  That’s why it’s interesting to explore the possibilities and look at the record.  As you point out above, the best that do we have in historical record is ambiguous, if not contradictory.

    It’s possible that all non-Muslims will go to hell for the crime of not being Muslim.

    Is that what Muslims believe?  And what is the difference in what they believe as far as afterlife for lifetime non-Muslims, versus Muslim apostates?  (My post wasn’t really about Muslims, you know.)

    I don’t believe hell is worth worrying about. If God is a good as people say he is, he isn’t going to send you to hell based on your views about whether certain events happened or didn’t happen 2,000 years ago or in the case of Islam, 1,400 years ago.

    I don’t see anything in my post about God sending us to Hell based on whether certain events happened 2000 years ago.  And I see nothing in my post about Islam.  I do see you, in an above paragraph, raising a question about whether certain events happened 2,000 years ago. I think you’re the one who brought that up, although you keep saying it doesn’t matter.

    We don’t lose much sleep about the possibility that we will burn in hell because we haven’t become Muslims.

    True dat.  I haven’t lost a moment’s sleep, at any time in my life.  And I spent the first ten years of my life in a Muslim country, have a Muslim name, and was officially adopted by a Muslim traditional ruler.  So we can talk about Muslims if you like.  But let’s do it on a different post.  Maybe you could write one?

    Why should anyone lose any sleep about whether the author of the gospel of John is accurate?

    I dunno.  But again, you’re the one who brought that up, and who keeps bringing it up.  Perhaps you could explain why it’s important, rather than engaging in snark about “running out of ink.”  I’d like to hear what you have to say, if it’s remotely relevant to anything discussed in my post.

    If you want to have an in-depth discussion on the Trilemma, have at it.  But this isn’t the place.

    Thanks for commenting.

    • #11
  12. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    And agree the lock is from the inside.

    I like your wording better. I think he means that the lock is opened and closed from the inside. Shouldn’t he, therefore, say the door “is locked on the outside”?

    Are you really an electrical engineer?

    I’m all about precision in language too.  And most “locked room” murder mysteries I’ve read (perhaps all of them), say at some point that the “door was locked on the inside,” with the implication being that no-one could have gotten in and committed the murder.  So whether it’s grammatically defensible in the prepositional sense, I am pretty sure that it’s idiomatically understandable to all.  Because the key word (haha) is “locked,” not “from” or “on.”  

     I think one could make a pretty good argument that the door is “locked” on the only side from which it can be “unlocked.”  In other words, the door is “locked” on the same side on which the key to unlock it can be found. It is not locked on the outside.  It is unopenable from the outside.  Or, you could say that it is not locked from the outside, and that it is unopenable on the outside.

    It is, however, locked from, or on, the inside.  Because that is where the key to unlock it lives.

     

    • #12
  13. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Didn’t John Milton say

    The Mind is Its Own place and in Itself, can make a Heaven of hell, a hell of Heaven.

    That’s what Lucifer says, in the first book of Paradise Lost, yes.

    • #13
  14. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    She (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Didn’t John Milton say

    The Mind is Its Own place and in Itself, can make a Heaven of hell, a hell of Heaven.

    That’s what Lucifer says, in the first book of Paradise Lost, yes.

    Actually, thinking of: They also serve who stand and wait; but this works, too. :-)

    • #14
  15. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Didn’t John Milton say

    The Mind is Its Own place and in Itself, can make a Heaven of hell, a hell of Heaven.

    That’s what Lucifer says, in the first book of Paradise Lost, yes.

    Actually, thinking of: They also serve who stand and wait; but this works, too. :-)

    Ah.  Now, that’s a great poem.  On His Blindness.  Half of it is whiny Milton complaining about going blind and being unable to write and use his “one talent it is death to hide” (dual meaning there) in the service of the government and his God, and his fear that when he meets his maker, his record of achievement will be found wanting and how is God going to survive without his talent anyway, and is He really going to make impossible demands when I can’t even see anymore?  Wah. Wah. Wah.

    Fortunately, Patience (either the personificiation of, or the inbred virtue,) shows up just in time, slaps him upside the head, and says, “You dolt.  God doesn’t need you. Harness yourself to God, do His will, and if all you can do is stand and wait, be the best stander and waiter you can.  Do that and you will be serving God, still.”

    It’s a fine poem.  And I don’t even like Milton all that much.

    • #15
  16. Chuckles Thatcher
    Chuckles
    @Chuckles

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    But in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus never says these things.

    @heavywater this is just a question, not intending to further an argument although it may sound like it, but just a curiosity:  Clearly you don’t take all four of the gospels as originally written to be “inspired”, that is “God-breathed”, so the question is, would you believe what John wrote if it was also quoted in one or more of the other gospels?  

    • #16
  17. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Chuckles (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    But in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus never says these things.

    @heavywater this is just a question, not intending to further an argument although it may sound like it, but just a curiosity: Clearly you don’t take all four of the gospels as originally written to be “inspired”, that is “God-breathed”, so the question is, would you believe what John wrote if it was also quoted in one or more of the other gospels?

    In any case, Jesus’ claims to divinity can also be found in the synoptic Gospels.

    • #17
  18. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    But in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus never says these things. If Jesus really did announce publicly that “I and the Father are One” and the response was that “the Jews took up stones to stone him,” it’s amazing that the authors of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke decided to leave that part out.

    Did they run out of ink? 

    John gives us the answer himself at the end of his Gospel: Jesus did and said too much for it to all be easily recorded.

    M, M, and L had their own ways of highlighting Jesus’ claims to divinity and other aspects of his work, person, and ministry.

    Mark, I suspect, came first and was mainly interested in giving some quick written structure to a vibrant oral tradition.  (If the last few verses of Mark were not even in the original, it’s clear enough why he would leave that out.  The oral tradition had the rest well in mind–and in mouth.  Closing with the references to the women in Mark 16 was as good, in Mark’s context, as saying “So the day of the inauguration finally arrived; Trump put his hand on the Bible, and you all know what happened next.”)

    Matthew imitates Mark and builds in his own direction, aiming to make things clear to Jewish readers deeply concerned with the Davidic kingdom and Messiahship.  Luke imitates Mark and builds in his own direction, making things clearer to Gentile readers (“most excellent Theophilus”) more interested in other matters.  (In which ones I’m less clear on, but it might be best just to say that they were interested in a somewhat bigger picture of the Messiah in relation to the Old Testament revelation–hence the early-on genealogy from Adam to Jesus and the later story of the road to Emmaus.)

    • #18
  19. HeavyWater Coolidge
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Chuckles (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    But in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus never says these things.

    @heavywater this is just a question, not intending to further an argument although it may sound like it, but just a curiosity: Clearly you don’t take all four of the gospels as originally written to be “inspired”, that is “God-breathed”, so the question is, would you believe what John wrote if it was also quoted in one or more of the other gospels?

    Maybe yes and maybe no.  The gospels were written decades after Jesus died by people who were literate in Greek.  So, the gospels fall into the category of hearsay, not hard evidence.  

    Imagine someone gives you a copy of the Koran.  Are you going to read it cover to cover and live your life by it in order to go to heaven and avoid hell?  Not likely.

    • #19
  20. HeavyWater Coolidge
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Chuckles (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    But in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus never says these things.

    @heavywater this is just a question, not intending to further an argument although it may sound like it, but just a curiosity: Clearly you don’t take all four of the gospels as originally written to be “inspired”, that is “God-breathed”, so the question is, would you believe what John wrote if it was also quoted in one or more of the other gospels?

    In any case, Jesus’ claims to divinity can also be found in the synoptic Gospels.

    Jesus makes much less direct claims to divinity in the synoptic Gospels compared to the claims he makes in John.  But, gosh, we could talk for weeks about this.

     

    • #20
  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Chuckles (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    But in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus never says these things.

    @heavywater this is just a question, not intending to further an argument although it may sound like it, but just a curiosity: Clearly you don’t take all four of the gospels as originally written to be “inspired”, that is “God-breathed”, so the question is, would you believe what John wrote if it was also quoted in one or more of the other gospels?

    In any case, Jesus’ claims to divinity can also be found in the synoptic Gospels.

    Jesus makes much less direct claims to divinity in the synoptic Gospels compared to the claims he makes in John. But, gosh, we could talk for weeks about this.

    Claiming to have the authority to forgive sins–indirect, perhaps, but plain, striking, and no less unambiguously blasphemous if untrue.

    (Indeed–weeks at least.)

    • #21
  22. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    She (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Your friend sounds like a true INT J. Was she?

    And agree the lock is from the inside.

    Yes, I think that’s actually pretty accurate.

    I can relate.

    • #22
  23. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Chuckles (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    But in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus never says these things.

    @heavywater this is just a question, not intending to further an argument although it may sound like it, but just a curiosity: Clearly you don’t take all four of the gospels as originally written to be “inspired”, that is “God-breathed”, so the question is, would you believe what John wrote if it was also quoted in one or more of the other gospels?

    Maybe yes and maybe no. The gospels were written decades after Jesus died by people who were literate in Greek. So, the gospels fall into the category of hearsay, not hard evidence.

    Imagine someone gives you a copy of the Koran. Are you going to read it cover to cover and live your life by it in order to go to heaven and avoid hell? Not likely.

    Better qualify that with “fewer than four to five decades after the events they report  and therefore more reliable on that score than anything written about Alexander the Great Plato, Socrates or Aristotle.” Or Sun Tzu. Or Lao Tzu. Or Kung Fu Tze. Or Siddhartha Gautama. Or Mohammed, come think of it. The first texts that even mention Mohammed appear 100 years after his supposed death. If elapsed time between event and first records committed to writing is the standard, the NT is well in the range of  the gold standard in the ancient world. 

     

    • #23
  24. HeavyWater Coolidge
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Claiming to have the authority to forgive sins–indirect, perhaps, but plain, striking, and no less unambiguously blasphemous if untrue.

    Here is an example of a dialog that does not appear in the gospel of John where Jesus’s divinity isn’t presented in terms as elevated as those I mentioned a few comments back.

    Mark 10:17-20

    As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”

    Luke 18:18-20

    A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’”

    Matthew 19:16-17

    Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

    Notice that in Mark and Luke, Jesus comes pretty close to denying that he is God.  Matthew edits the dialogue so that Jesus isn’t denying his divinity.  

    Can these differences be harmonized into a single theology?  Sure.  Of course.  But if one allows each gospel writer his own “voice,” one could conclude that they did not subscribe to the same theology with respect to Jesus, soteriology (salvation theory) and other issues.  

     

     

    • #24
  25. HeavyWater Coolidge
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Better qualify that with “fewer than four to five decades after the events they report and therefore more reliable on that score than anything written about Alexander the Great Plato, Socrates or Aristotle.” Or Sun Tzu. Or Lao Tzu. Or Kung Fu Tze. Or Siddhartha Gautama. Or Mohammed, come think of it. The first texts that even mention Mohammed appear 100 years after his supposed death. If elapsed time between event and first records committed to writing is the standard, the NT is well in the range of the gold standard in the ancient world.

    But we all know of situations where people have made claims of the miraculous and our general response was one of skepticism.

    Like those folks who talked about the Elephant Milk Miracle in 1995.  Are we obligated to believe them just because the events they claim to be describing supposedly happened recently?

    Or take the Ferguson, Missouri police shooting that gave the Black Lives Matter movement a large boost.  The “hands up, don’t shoot” meme got started and gained momentum.  There were some witnesses who testified to the District Attorney who were later found out to not even be at the location of the shooting.

    So, I would argue that if you die and God asks you why you didn’t believe Mohammed (Islam) or Joseph Smith (Mormonism) or some other so-called prophet or savior, you could genuinely say to God,

    “God, you gave me a skeptical brain.  I applied my skeptical brain to the questions posed to me and I did the best I could.”

    Is God really going to burn your limbs for all eternity?  If so, why would you worship such a moral monster?

    What about someone who isn’t very smart and isn’t very capable of separating false claims from true claims?  Is God really going to burn this person for an infinite period of time because he has a low level of intellectual ability or was born into a family where the “wrong” religion was taught and the person died young in a mudslide?

    Is God really going to be such a brute to imperfect human beings such as these?  If so, again, why worship a being like that?

    • #25
  26. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    Is God really going to be such a brute to imperfect human beings such as these? If so, again, why worship a being like that? 

     Why not?  

    • #26
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Claiming to have the authority to forgive sins–indirect, perhaps, but plain, striking, and no less unambiguously blasphemous if untrue.

    Here is an example of a dialog that does not appear in the gospel of John where Jesus’s divinity isn’t presented in terms as elevated as those I mentioned a few comments back.

    What now?  Is that supposed to be evidence for some conclusion?  By that reasoning, I can prove whatever it is you’re trying to prove just by citing Matthew 2:11, since Jesus doesn’t claim divinity there either (or indeed speak at all).

    Mark 10:17-20

    As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”

    Luke 18:18-20

    A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’”

    Matthew 19:16-17

    Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

    Notice that in Mark and Luke, Jesus comes pretty close to denying that he is God. Matthew edits the dialogue so that Jesus isn’t denying his divinity.

    Can these differences be harmonized into a single theology? Sure. Of course.

    Notice, rather, that in Mark and Luke Jesus leaves the listener to ponder the conclusion that would follow from the two premises that Jesus is good and that only G-d is good.  In Matthew he does precisely the same.

    But if one allows each gospel writer his own “voice,” one could conclude that they did not subscribe to the same theology with respect to Jesus, soteriology (salvation theory) and other issues.

    An interesting conclusion.  What on earth are your premises for it?

    • #27
  28. HeavyWater Coolidge
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    Is God really going to be such a brute to imperfect human beings such as these? If so, again, why worship a being like that?

    Why not?

    If it’s all about minimizing my own pain and suffering, sure.  I would worship that God.

    But don’t we admire people who refuse to support immoral leadership, even when the immoral leader holds the whip hand? 

    Does an immoral act become moral just because someone with power says it’s moral?

     

    • #28
  29. HeavyWater Coolidge
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Claiming to have the authority to forgive sins–indirect, perhaps, but plain, striking, and no less unambiguously blasphemous if untrue.

    Here is an example of a dialog that does not appear in the gospel of John where Jesus’s divinity isn’t presented in terms as elevated as those I mentioned a few comments back.

    What now? Is that supposed to be evidence for some conclusion? By that reasoning, I can prove whatever it is you’re trying to prove just by citing Matthew 2:11, since Jesus doesn’t claim divinity there either (or indeed speak at all).

    Mark 10:17-20

    As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”

    Luke 18:18-20

    A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’”

    Matthew 19:16-17

    Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

    Notice that in Mark and Luke, Jesus comes pretty close to denying that he is God. Matthew edits the dialogue so that Jesus isn’t denying his divinity.

    Can these differences be harmonized into a single theology? Sure. Of course.

    Notice, rather, that in Mark and Luke Jesus leaves the listener to ponder the conclusion that would follow from the two premises that Jesus is good and that only G-d is good. In Matthew he does precisely the same.

    But if one allows each gospel writer his own “voice,” one could conclude that they did not subscribe to the same theology with respect to Jesus, soteriology (salvation theory) and other issues.

    An interesting conclusion. What on earth are your premises for it?

    I think if one reads the four gospels without assuming that they are all supporting the same theology, one can see theological differences between them.  

    I realize that if one starts with the Nicene creed and works back from there, the four gospels would appear to be in perfect alignment.  But the Nicene creed appears quite a bit after the gospels were written.  

     

    • #29
  30. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Better qualify that with “fewer than four to five decades after the events they report and therefore more reliable on that score than anything written about Alexander the Great Plato, Socrates or Aristotle.” Or Sun Tzu. Or Lao Tzu. Or Kung Fu Tze. Or Siddhartha Gautama. Or Mohammed, come think of it. The first texts that even mention Mohammed appear 100 years after his supposed death. If elapsed time between event and first records committed to writing is the standard, the NT is well in the range of the gold standard in the ancient world.

    But we all know of situations where people have made claims of the miraculous and our general response was one of skepticism.

    . . .

    So, I would argue that if you die and God asks you why you didn’t believe Mohammed (Islam) or Joseph Smith (Mormonism) or some other so-called prophet or savior, you could genuinely say to God,

    “God, you gave me a skeptical brain. I applied my skeptical brain to the questions posed to me and I did the best I could.”

    So what?  Epistemic parity matters: Treat like claims as like, treat like evidence as like, and employ consistent standards.

    We all know Socrates died in Athens from drinking hemlock after being condemned by the Athenian jury.  We know that by historical evidence that satisfies the criteria for good historical evidence.  The resurrection of Jesus the Messiah satisfies the same criteria, only much, much better than the evidence for Socrates.

    Should there be a higher evidentiary standard for extraordinary claims, like claims about miracles?  Of course; I’ve been saying so all along, at least since page 6 or so of “Knowledge and Faith Can Be the Same Thing” back in 2015.

    The Gospel is historical evidence for the sort of claims that fit historical evidence–historical claims.  As befits 90-something percent of historical evidence, it is largely testimonial evidence.  It is also extraordinary testimonial evidence, which befits the extraordinary nature of the claims.

    Epistemologically speaking, I can’t see any problem.

    • #30

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