Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). In saying this I am making two claims (both of which can be supported from John’s gospel): 1) The saving work of Jesus is the only way to be saved. 2) Putting faith in Jesus is the only way to appropriate that saving work.

In saying this, in espousing what is sometimes called “exclusivism,” I should be clear what I am not saying.

1. I am not saying there is nothing decent or honorable in other religions or in people from other religions. Ultimately, there is no good deed apart from faith, but Christians should recognize that Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus (and secular atheists for that matter) can be charitable, honest, and kind. Exclusivism does not demand that we reject everything about every other belief or every other religious person. What we do believe is that the most important doctrines of the Christian faith are not shared by other faiths and that even the most moral neighbor cannot be saved by good works.

2. I am not saying that Christianity is nothing more than saying the right prayer. Often in deriding exclusivism the contrast is made between the best, noblest adherent of some other religion versus the most crass, hypocritical, superficial adherent of Christianity. Raising your hand or praying the sinner’s prayer at camp does not automatically make you a Christian. If you are not changed and bear no fruit you have not been born again from above.

3. I am not saying that children who die at a young age, or those mentally incapable of expressing faith, cannot be saved. We know from Scripture that the Spirit can touch children in the womb (e.g., David, John the Baptist) and that the kingdom can belong to children (Mark 10:14). We see in Scripture that children from a believing household are in a different “position” than those outside the fold. They have Jesus as their covenant Lord (Eph. 6:1). When David’s son dies he says “I will go to him” (2 Sam. 12:23), this could mean “I too will die.” But in the next verse we read, “Then, David comforted his wife” (2 Sam. 12:24). I think it more likely that v. 23 was a comfort to David and Bathsheba because David knew he would see his child again in the next life. The juxtaposition of comfort makes less sense if David is simply assured he will join his son in the ground some day.

So I gladly affirm Canons of Dort, Article 1.17: “Since we must make judgments about God’s will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.” Beyond this, as a confessional Christian, I would not speak too dogmatically. Almost everything concerning salvation in the Bible assumes the presence of sentient human beings. Some of our other questions may not be answered directly.

4. I am not saying that unbelievers are punished because they did not put faith in a Jesus they never heard of. This may sound like the opposite of exclusivism, but it’s not. This is actually a crucial point that exclusivists and their opponents often miss. Those who never hear the gospel are not punished for not knowing Jesus. Not knowing Jesus results in punishment, but sin is the grounds for punishment. Those who do not put faith in Christ are punished for being sinners. They are punished in the next life for turning the truth of general revelation into a lie (Rom. 1:18-25). They have broken God’s law, and anyone guilty of even one violation is accountable for the whole law (James 2:10). Those with no knowledge of Christ will be judged less severely because they had less light, though that judgment will still be far from painless (Matt. 11:20-24). Our only hope in life and in death is that we are not our own but belong body and soul to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

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77 thoughts on “Clarifying Exclusivism”

  1. Eric Mattingly says:

    Steve,

    “Take a courageous man. . .”

    Let’s say I, a sinner (and certainly not a courageous man), die without excepting Jesus. You won’t bat an eye in saying I’ll go to hell for eternity. Alright. I object tediously (God must get a lot of this) that I was a decent person, good to my family, friends and lovers, etc. Why, I might ask, can’t I just go to hell for a few million (or billion) years? Surely that will outweigh the paltry sins I committed in my handful of decades on earth. Then God (or his interlocutors) would respond that if they let that happen it would render Jesus’s death and God’s sovereignty meaningless because 1) eternal death was decreed for those who aren’t saved and 2) god’s wrath, however secondary to his being, is eternal so the expression of it must be eternal as well. Also, and crucially, sin is defined as a trespass against his will. That means, in the end, exactly what I said. God’s wrath, justice, and sovereignty would become meaningless if he were to yield.

    iv. “Well, that nicely illustrates your village atheist exegesis.”

    me: argumentum ad neener neener neener? Or, argumentum ad you’re different from me so you suck? Whichever, you are being fallacious.

    And finally,

    “Give me some evidence that any of what I said is false.” You’re the one trying to convince me that I should become a Southern Baptist no? You don’t get to start from the assumption that you are right and argue from there. You know, burden of evidence and the like. I’m waiting.

    “Of course, that’s a trick question since you’ve built your jaundiced formulation into the question.” Not a trick question at all. God certainly ordered the death of children. He also almost certainly burned some alive when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. John Piper says he had the right to do so. Do you? Again, I find it hard to swallow that somebody could make that statement with integrity or compassion, and your refusal to answer (and John’s refusal) shows me I am correct. So let me ask again: did he have that right? Yes or no.

    Hope you find the time to respond!

    Vale
    eric

  2. steve hays says:

    Eric Mattingly

    “So what if secular ethics are just as arbitrary as Christian ethics? That doesn’t make yours any less arbitrary. Besides I’m not making a judgment on them (in this case) just an observation.”

    Now you’re prevaricating. It’s obvious that you’re rendering value judgments about Christianity. If you don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with Christianity, what’s your incentive in attacking it?

    “God’s righteousness relies on his sovereignty, i.e. power is the central divine attribute. I personally don’t like the implications of such a view but since I don’t believe it anyway it’s no skin off my nose. You seem to be the one who doesn’t like it.”

    Once again, you’re merely repeating what you already read from your cue cards, without bothering to respond to my counterargument. Looks like you shot your wad in the first round.

    What’s your problem? Are you just reciting arguments you picked up from a book by some village atheist? Can’t you think for yourself? When you run out of pat objections, are you unable to adapt to the situation?

    “In the context of the current discussion it doesn’t matter whether might makes right for atheism does it? We’re not talking about secular ethics.”

    To the contrary, a moral relativist forfeits the right to moralize about Christian theology.

    “We’re talking about exclusivism and how God is justified in sending people to hell.”

    I realize that you’d like to avoid exposing your own flank. But your attacks invite counterattacks. That’s the way it goes. Man up.

    “And even if it were the case that Moral Error Theory (or Moral Nihilism) is true at least it’s because the universe is cold, uncaring and absurd not because the God who built it is a jackboot and made it that way to glorify himself.”

    Actually, God made it that way to glorify his people.

    “Jackboot” plays on the odious connotations of the term. But if you’re an atheist, and atheism leads to moral nihilism, then your recourse to judgmental terminology is self-refuting.

  3. Eric Mattingly says:

    Steve,

    But we’re talking about the righteousness of YOUR God. I’ll concede for the sake of argument that Moral Nihilism is the only logical outcome of atheism. But how does that make God moral to send people to hell? From my view I find the idea distasteful but again let’s stipulate that distaste has no moral connotation. Again so what? We’re talking about the ethics of God not me.

    Your only response to my Euthyphro argument was that it applies to me to. Well, sure, I suppose it does but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t apply to God. And, interestingly, it seems you affirm that God exemplifies a moral standard rather than creates it. Beautiful! Now how do we know he exemplifies it always and forever with perfect fidelity? And do you disagree with Piper that we have no rights when it comes to God? That everything he decides is right? If not, does the moral standard only apply to God? How is that any different from voluntarism?

    I’d be up for a discussion of secular ethics but I’ve been trying to keep on topic. Even my obnoxiousness knows some bounds.

  4. steve hays says:

    Eric Mattingly

    “Let’s say I, a sinner (and certainly not a courageous man), die without excepting Jesus. You won’t bat an eye in saying I’ll go to hell for eternity. Alright. I object tediously (God must get a lot of this) that I was a decent person, good to my family, friends and lovers, etc. Why, I might ask, can’t I just go to hell for a few million (or billion) years? Surely that will outweigh the paltry sins I committed in my handful of decades on earth. Then God (or his interlocutors) would respond that if they let that happen it would render Jesus’s death and God’s sovereignty meaningless because…”

    How they ought to respond is to point out that your hypothetical is predicated on a false premise, viz. “A few million (or billion) years in hell outweigh “paltry sins.”

    “You’re the one trying to convince me that I should become a Southern Baptist no?”

    Don’t flatter yourself. Trying to convince you would be a fool’s errand. You’ve put yourself beyond the reach of reason. I’m doing this for the benefit of lurkers.

    “You don’t get to start from the assumption that you are right and argue from there. You know, burden of evidence and the like. I’m waiting.”

    I’m simply responding to you on your own terms. I don’t have to adduce independent evidence. Just expose your fallacious, ignorant objections. You’ve been setting the bar for the failure of your own arguments.

    “Not a trick question at all. God certainly ordered the death of children. He also almost certainly burned some alive when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.”

    You use tendentious terms like “rape,” “murder,” and “genocide.” You need to exegetically justify your terminology.

  5. steve hays says:

    Eric Mattingly

    “But we’re talking about the righteousness of YOUR God.”

    And I’ve also responded to your fallacious objections directly.

    “Again so what? We’re talking about the ethics of God not me.”

    That’s what you’d like to talk about, but your self-serving agenda doesn’t dictate the terms of the debate.

    “Your only response to my Euthyphro argument was that it applies to me to.”

    No, that’s not my only response. You have yet to argue for the Euthyphro dilemma. You merely assert that the very ultimacy of a standard makes it arbitrary. But where’s the supporting argument? Why does ultimacy entail arbitrariness?

    Why would the ultimately explanation for something be arbitrary? Isn’t the whole point of demanding explanations to arrive at the final explanation that truly accounts for the phenomenon? A sufficient condition?

    “And, interestingly, it seems you affirm that God exemplifies a moral standard rather than creates it.”

    No, I said God is the moral exemplar. A moral exemplar doesn’t exemplify morality. Rather, moral instances exemplify the moral exemplar. Master that elementary distinction.

    “Now how do we know he exemplifies it always and forever with perfect fidelity?”

    Now you’re shifting ground from the metaphysics of morality, which is what the Euthyphro dilemma is about, to the epistemology of morality. Is that a tacit admission that your original argument failed, so you’re having to abruptly change the subject?

    “And do you disagree with Piper that we have no rights when it comes to God? That everything he decides is right? If not, does the moral standard only apply to God?”

    To evaluate his statement, I’d have to have the actual statement, in context, and not your summary.

    Keep in mind, too, that Piper is a Reformed pastor, not a Reformed philosopher.

  6. Eric Mattingly says:

    Steve,

    I don’t wish to contribute any more to your bad humor so I’ll just respond quick and dirty and withdraw. I don’t much like being called names but, frankly, I’ll have forgotten about you by the time I get home from work and start playing Super Metroid (it’s the weekend!).

    I suppose the believers in the audience will agree that my arguments are fallacious. I disagree and feel you haven’t sufficiently proven that. No matter. For me the most interesting thing is that you won’t answer my simple question: does God have the right to kill children and send them to hell? Does he have absolute rights over his creation? You prevaricate (pot meet kettle) by insisting I “exegetically justify” the terms “rape,” “murder,” and “genocide” as if there is a different definition for God that makes them any less ugly. My question is made with respect to the ordinary meaning of those words and not some abject theological hand-wavery that tries to assert and obscure at the same time. If genocide is the obliteration of an ethnic group by force then God commanded genocide. The only question is whether it is right and, if so, why. The same with hell. It would be wrong for me to stuff people into a barrel of acid because they refuse to worship me (or because they have inherited from their father an unholiness that makes me sick). Why is it ok for God to do worse? Does he have that right with babies?

    Anyway, I’ll not respond again unless you answer that question yes or no. Sad news I know. But on the bright side you get to claim victory. You win the internet! Here’s the truth though. In the real world you still lose. Maybe your children, and almost certainly grandchildren, will not believe in the God you believe in– if they believe at all. Your church will continue to hemmorrhage members (and we all know the SBC has been lying about its membership for twenty years anyway). Gays will get married, young earth creationism will continue to be ignored, and people will abandon belief in hell. Because that’s happening right now. None of this proves me right, of course, but it doesn’t matter. Short of taking the government by force and hanging people from goalposts you can’t do anything about it. And that’s why you’re angry. And I understand. I really do. I wish you peace in the long decline.

    eric

  7. Eric Mattingly says:

    P.S.

    Good point on the “exemplar” versus instances. Do you believe God has the right to murder babies and send them to hell?

  8. steve hays says:

    Eric Mattingly

    “For me the most interesting thing is that you won’t answer my simple question: does God have the right to kill children and send them to hell? Does he have absolute rights over his creation? You prevaricate (pot meet kettle) by insisting I ‘exegetically justify’ the terms ‘rape,’ ‘murder,’ and ‘genocide’ as if there is a different definition for God that makes them any less ugly. My question is made with respect to the ordinary meaning of those words and not some abject theological hand-wavery that tries to assert and obscure at the same time.”

    In “ordinary” usage, “killing” is not synonymous with “murder.” That’s your bait-n-switch tactic.

    “If genocide is the obliteration of an ethnic group by force then God commanded genocide.”

    i) God didn’t order the execution of the Canaanites because they were ethnically Canaanite (whatever that’s supposed to mean). He ordered their execution because they were wicked.

    ii) There was provision under the Mosaic code for foreigners to convert to the true faith. So it was never an ethnic thing. Are you too ignorant of Scripture to know that?

    “The same with hell. It would be wrong for me to stuff people into a barrel of acid because they refuse to worship me (or because they have inherited from their father an unholiness that makes me sick). Why is it ok for God to do worse? Does he have that right with babies? “

    That’s another trick question because you’ve posited a tendentious analogy between hell and a vat of acid.

  9. Eric Mattingly says:

    Steve,

    Did God have the right to kill the babies in Sodom and send them to hell?

  10. steve hays says:

    God had the right to kill them. As for infant damnation (or not), I’ve discussed that elsewhere this week.

  11. Eric Mattingly says:

    Steve,

    At last! Now why is it ok for him to kill them and not, say, you or me?

    I’d be interested in your remarks re: infant damnation. Might you let me know where they are so I can look them up?

    eric

  12. steve hays says:

    It’s okay for him to kill any sinner, including you or me.

    There are also double effect situations in which it’s okay to kill the innocent. That’s not punitive.

  13. Eric Mattingly says:

    Steve,

    But what gives him the right but not anybody else?

  14. John Thomson says:

    Lads

    I have ‘enjoyed’ the cut and thrust of this debate as an observer (mainly). Naturally, I am on the side of Steve though I suspect all of us are a bit too guilty of simply trying to score points.

    Eric

    I suspect, unless God steps in dramatically, that your prediction for the future (in the West) is likely. I am sorry it is. I live in the UK and see the destruction liberal moral relativism and the demise of Christian mores (not to mention belief) has had on society. Dysfunctional families, soaring crime, alcoholism, drug addiction, avarice and rage are creating serious societal breakdown. The future looks bleak.

    I doubt if the demise of belief in hell will make for better people, or even psychologically less troubled people. In fact, the more moral restraints are removed, the less rooted and secure people become. Everyone begins to do what is right in his own eyes. Lying and cheating are of no consequence. Since God does not exist and hell is no more the only sin is being foolish enough to be caught out.

    I see little proof that the brave new world is one to relish.

    ‘Did God have the right to kill the babies in Sodom and send them to hell?’

    There are two questions here. Does God have the right to a) kill babies b) send them to hell.

    As Steve points out the straightforward answers to these questions (which you already know, I’m sure) are likely to grist to your mill and open to misunderstanding. It’s always a judgement call whether to answer openly (normally the desirable course) or refuse (as Jesus did on ocassion)on the basis that the question is asked with dishonest motives (simply to try and catch out and trip up). I suspect Eric you fit more easily into the latter category of inquirer than the former. However, I will answer nonetheless.

    1. According to the Bible, God does destroy (kill) large groups of people and included are people of all ages, including babies. This may happen in disasters or wars. He even, according to the Bible, destroyed many of his chosen people so his motive is never racial or ethnic cleansing.

    The basic reason people die (old or young) is that they belong to a race that is morally corrupt. The race morally deserves extinction. We are a moral cancer in creation. A righteous and good God should wipe us out immediately in an act of moral cleansing of the universe. That some don’t die but live is an act of mercy (and great patience)not justice. Why mercy to one but not another we are not normally told. Or rather, we are reminded that we are mere creatures and have no right to question God. God has proved himself loving and gracious both in his providing for our needs and his provision for our sins. His kindness and love is not in doubt. We must be content to leave questions that are too big for us. In a word, God has revealed enough of himself and his plans to satisfy our legitimate intellectual integrity but will not cater to our intellectual conceit. We are not God and he will not allow us so to be.

    2. Are babies in hell? The Bible simply does not tell us. Christians tend to think that children under the age of responsibility (and mentally disabled people) are redeemed through the death of Christ. In the last analysis this is one more issue we must leave with God.

    I intend this to be my last comment here. I hope it is. Thanks for the discussion.

  15. Eric Mattingly says:

    John,

    I’m sorry to hear you impugning my honesty again. What have I done to warrant that? Do Christians count evidence (even of wrongdoing) as important for anything at all? Or are we so morally depraved we deserve to be libeled as well?

    Moving on, given that God has the right to kill anybody WHY does he have that right? What special property of God gives him the right to kill anybody he wants. By analogy, say somebody killed a person I loved. They may deserve to die (and I may certainly feel like they do) but I don’t have the right to break into the person’s house and kill them myself. Nor do I have the right to send my minions to do it either. Why does God get that right? Does God have absolute privilege over his creation by virtue of being God or does he have some responsibility in the deal as well?

    You say his kindness and love are not in doubt but I see no reason to believe this– and the only ones you seem to be presenting for that belief are “you’re lying if you say you don’t agree with me” or “you’re just a trouble maker trying to trip me up.” It’s another manifestation of the “argumentum ad you’re different from me so you suck” fallacy.

  16. James S says:

    Agree with John Thomson’s statements all through these replies and I appreciate his taking the time to try to explain things to people.
    Many who are debating him are, obviously to me, shining examples for all of us to see of the following: –
    those which the Bibles speaks of as having gone on rejecting God and His revelation for SO LONG that they are under judgement right now.
    The judgement is that God is causing them to believe and love a lie (and lies plurally). That is the real-time judgement of God on people while they still live. Those under that kind of wrath, which is resting upon them currently, rarely, if ever, make it back to truth.

    Let those who have eyes to see understand this.

  17. James S says:

    Sorry, that should say bible, (not bibles).

  18. steve hays says:

    Eric Mattingly

    “Moving on, given that God has the right to kill anybody WHY does he have that right? What special property of God gives him the right to kill anybody he wants.”

    For one thing, omniscience. God discerns the heart. He knows what motivates the culprit.

    For another thing, God isn’t swayed by irrelevant considerations.

    For yet another thing, God is holy, unlike sinful judges who judge fellows sinners, where the judge’s judgment is often clouded by his own sin.

    “By analogy, say somebody killed a person I loved. They may deserve to die (and I may certainly feel like they do) but I don’t have the right to break into the person’s house and kill them myself.”

    Frankly, that’s just a social convention. There are many cultures in which it would be your duty to avenge the wrongful death of a friend or relative.

    However, cultures generally regulate who determines guilt or innocence and metes out punishment to avoid social anarchy. Someone to play traffic cop.

    Also, there are obvious benefits to having guilt or innocence evaluated by a disinterested, third-party.

    But you’re a hothead who will say any dumb thing that crosses his mind to attack the Christian faith.

  19. Eric Mattingly says:

    James S.,

    I appreciate all the hard work and thought you have put into this conversation. If it weren’t for you dropping in and throwing sanctimonious stinkbombs I don’t know how I would have been able to maintain this long.

    Steve,

    OK. Let’s ignore the whole “obvious benefits to. . . a disinterested third party” since 1) God is clearly not disinterested, 2) traffic cops and the like don’t have the authority to condemn somebody eternally, and 3) those same traffic cops are given authority within the context of a complex society and derive their it from a more abstract notion of rule of law– unless, of course, they derive their authority from an autocrat with absolute power. In other words my analogy breaks down here, which is not too awful since all analogies break down. It’s just not very interesting at this point (unless you take the autocracy path but then you’d be conceding my point).

    So let’s concentrate on the explicit reason you gave: omniscience. This is curious since it seems you are implying that having more knowledge, or being capable of having more knowledge, is sufficient to give you the right to condemn somebody in particularly severe ways. So, you are far more knowledgeable and intelligent than me: does that give you the right to punch me in the face? Why? What status does greater knowledge confer upon you that I don’t have? Same with God– just because he knows everything that gives him the right to condemn somebody to infinite punishment? That’s a strange leap, brother, and only makes sense if you already assume God has the right to begin with. So, to make a point, why does he have that right? And let’s assume here that your diseased notion of humanity is correct: we are all scum and thoroughly nasty with no hope of ever being righteous. Given that, what makes God the ultimate judge of our fate?

    I’ve been called a dummy, irrational, a LIAR, a reprobate, a “village atheist” (I don’t even know what that means but it sounds pejorative) and more in the course of this conversation. I on the other hand have done nothing more than ask questions. And I’m the hothead? One might accuse you of self-righteous hypocrisy but I won’t since I like you :).

    cheers,
    eric

  20. steve hays says:

    Eric Mattingly

    “Let’s ignore the whole ‘obvious benefits to. . . a disinterested third party.’”

    The ellipsis is deceptive. I didn’t say it was a benefit to the disinterested third party. That would be nonsensical. Rather, it’s beneficial to the accused that he be judged by a disinterested party. Or does that escape you?

    “Since 1) God is clearly not disinterested.”

    Since you’re so slow on the uptake, I guess I’ll have to slow down and go at your own pace, walking you through the argument in baby steps so that you can keep up.

    What do I mean by a disinterested party playing the role of judge? Is that really so hard for you to grasp? Let’s see.

    If one teenage boy kills another teenage boy, it’ s not a good idea to have the father of the dead boy be the judge. He’s too close to the situation to evaluate the situation objectively. He’s biased in favor of his dead son, even if his dead son had it coming.

    Do you get the point, now, or do we need to explain it to you further?

    “2) Traffic cops and the like don’t have the authority to condemn somebody eternally.”

    Now you’re playing hopscotch. Having lost the argument, you jump to a different square.

    You talked about God’s right to “kill” anybody, and you compared that with you not having the right to avenge the death of a loved one.

    So that comparison wasn’t predicated on eternal condemnation, was it now? The fact that you lack the honesty to stick to the terms of your own argument shows that you argue in bad faith. But that doesn’t surprise me since you’ve admitted that you like to argue for the sake of argument.

    Is that just a way for you to fill the time in your empty, godless life?

    “Those same traffic cops are given authority within the context of a complex society and derive their it from a more abstract notion of rule of law– unless, of course, they derive their authority from an autocrat with absolute power. In other words my analogy breaks down here, which is not too awful since all analogies break down.”

    Once again, since you’re so slow on the uptake, let’s go back and take it more slowly to see if you can catch up this time.

    Was I talking about literal traffic cops? No. What was the point of my comparison? Well, as I explained, cultures generally designate certain individuals to judge crimes and mete out punishment to avoid social anarchy. Vigilantism.

    They don’t necessarily do that because they believe vigilantism is intrinsically wrong. A society might think an aggrieved father does have the right to kill the rapist who murdered his daughter. But society has other concerns as well. If everyone takes the law into his own hands, that, too, can lead to wrongs equal to or exceeding the original crime. Hence, that duty is often reassigned to a disinterested third party.

    The ‘traffic cop” metaphor was related to the social “anarchy” metaphor. Get it? Or is that still too subtle for you?

    “It’s just not very interesting at this point (unless you take the autocracy path but then you’d be conceding my point).”

    Does that represent your feeble attempt to be clever?

    “So let’s concentrate on the explicit reason you gave: omniscience. This is curious since it seems you are implying that having more knowledge, or being capable of having more knowledge, is sufficient to give you the right to condemn somebody in particularly severe ways.”

    Did I postulate that as a sufficient condition? No. I said “for one thing.”

    Do you know what that means? Or do I also need to explain to you the difference between “one,” “two,” “three,” or “many”? I don’t want to go too fast for you.

    And is sufficient conditionality germane to your original question? No. Rather, you’re question was asking for differential factors between God’s right to kill and our right to kill.

    Try to at least follow the terms of your own argument, pitiful as that may be. I don’t think it’s asking too much that you keep track of your side of the argument.

    Or is that too much of an imposition on you? Should we issue you flash cards so that you brush up on what you said before the next round?

    “So, you are far more knowledgeable and intelligent than me: does that give you the right to punch me in the face?”

    Once again, I realize that it’s hard for you to keep up, so I’ll slow down once more and help you along. Go back and notice that when I cited divine omniscience, I also included some epexegetical glosses, such as God “knows what motivates the culprit.”

    Frequently we can’t assess the licit or illicit character of a deed from the deed alone, for oftentimes intent is a morally salient consideration. Was there criminal intent?

    Are you capable of absorbing that rudimentary distinction, or do we need to explain it to you in more detail? I must never assume too much about your capacity to grasp the argument. Sorry if I overestimated you in our earlier exchanges.

    “That’s a strange leap, brother.”

    You’re not my brother.

    “And let’s assume here that your diseased notion of humanity is correct: we are all scum and thoroughly nasty with no hope of ever being righteous.”

    Well, one thing you’ve done quite well is to illustrate the Reformed doctrine of total depravity. I’ll give you that.

    “I on the other hand have done nothing more than ask questions.”

    You think anyone is taken in by that line? Attacks masked as “questions.”

    You play hopscotch. You attack. You feint. You deflect. When you lose one argument, you instantly jump to another square, then act as if that’s what you were saying all along.

    Like Tellerites, you don’t argue for reasons–you simply argue.

    Here’s a parting thought: if you were diagnosed with terminal cancer tomorrow, and given six months to live, would you fritter away your remaining days with these flip, cutesy, superscillious back-patting attacks on the Christian faith, or would you drop the pose and actually get serious for once in your vain little life?

  21. Eric Mattingly says:

    Steve,

    But you are my brother. You really are. Why? Because your anger says to me that you know I’m right. There is no God. No heaven. No hell. You cling to this rotting and irrelevant faith like a child trapped in a burning building who doesn’t want to watch the flames consume him. Perhaps the children of Sodom felt the same way as their bodies were devoured for the appeasement of God’s righteousness.

    The thought of facing reality as it is terrifies you so much that you would accept anything: Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, whatever, if you had been born in the right time and place and it allowed you to avoid the truth. Can you guess what image I saw when I read your last post? Weeping and gnashing of teeth. I thought to myself, my brother is in hell and he is suffering and I felt a great yearning to free you. But of course I can’t. That’s reality, see. You can only free yourself. Plus, I’ve got my own suffering, though thank goodness it’s nothing like yours, and a long way to go until I’m where I need to be.

    By the way, I like being a Tellerite. You know he won’t speak on television unless somebody obscures the bottom portion of his face? I’m not much of a magic aficionado but those guys rock.

    I’ll answer your question as my last comment in this conversation. Sometimes I’m very afraid to die. I had a habit, when I was dealing with depression a few years ago, of keeping myself awake for days obsessing over cancer (it runs in my family, mainly due to smoking which I’ve never done). If what you asked happened I wouldn’t become a Christian. I don’t think I could and I certainly wouldn’t want to. For me the ideal is to face the truth: we will cease to exist (it’s more complicated since it is only a fiction that we “existed” in the first place i.e. Buddhism) and after that nothing. Nothing. It took me a long time to come to terms with that but I feel mostly at peace with it now, though I can’t say I never fall back into my old habits. So if I were diagnosed with inoperable cancer tomorrow I would, at first, be as upset as anybody. I’d rail at fate and cry and curse and ask “why me?” I’d do that until the absurdity of acting like this became apparent at which point I would find peace. I really would. I will die at peace. And I will have kept my sense of humor too because I WANT the last thing I say to be an irreverent joke (did you ever hear about how W.C. Fields, a lifelong atheist, was found reading a Bible on his deathbed? When asked what he was doing he quipped: “Looking for loopholes!” Imagine it in his voice and it is hilarious).

    I’m not bragging when I say this but I know for certain my life is not vain. Vanity has never been my major “sin.” Mine has been pride. Pride led me to peek into your suffocating, smoke-filled building and comment on the ugliness of the colors. Naturally I was rebuffed because (I admit) it was kind of a jerk move. Who wants to have the only house they’ve ever known mocked by a stranger? Still, in the end, all I really want is for you to come outside. There’s a whole world out there and, I’m sorry, but the wallpaper really is terrible.

    I wish you a good life my brother,

    Eric

  22. steve hays says:

    Eric Mattingly

    “Because your anger says to me that you know I’m right.”

    That’s a polemical cliché.

    “There is no God. No heaven. No hell. You cling to this rotting and irrelevant faith like a child trapped in a burning building who doesn’t want to watch the flames consume him.”

    You’re trying to shame Christians out of their faith by assuming the role of the disapproving parent. However, you face a dilemma. If atheism were true, then it doesn’t matter whether we’re childish or not. If atheism is true, the corpse of the “childish Christian” and the corpse of the enlightened atheist are empirically equivalent. If atheism is false, you lose, but if atheism is true, you also lose.

    So your hackneyed tactic of trying to shame Christians out of their faith by your faux adult, finger-wagging posture is meaningless given your secular outlook.

    “The thought of facing reality as it is terrifies you so much that you would accept anything: Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, whatever, if you had been born in the right time and place and it allowed you to avoid the truth.”

    If atheism were true, we’d have no epistemic duties to be true to truth. So atheism slits its own throat.

    “Can you guess what image I saw when I read your last post? Weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    Well, since I didn’t say anything about hell, what you must be psychotic. Or perhaps you were high on acid.

    “You can only free yourself.”

    There’s no freedom in atheism. If atheism were truth, then you and I would merely be the byproduct of physical determinism.

    “Pride led me to peek into your suffocating, smoke-filled building and comment on the ugliness of the colors.”

    If atheism were true, your value judgment would be the illusory projection of values on a valueless world.

  23. steve hays says:

    Eric Mattingly

    “Pride led me to peek into your suffocating, smoke-filled building and comment on the ugliness of the colors.”

    More likely you thought to yourself, “Christianity is a house of cards, so I’m going to blow it down in three easy steps, then leave these Christians tongue-tied.”

  24. Vito Monico says:

    You’ve got to be thinking at this point that the union of fellow atheists is desperately trying to revoke this mattingly character’s membership card and disavow that they had ever known or admitted him.

  25. Luke James says:

    Though I understand that you are trying to help people, this is wrong. Exclusivism is evil. Religion is a beautiful and life-fulfilling thing, but exclusivism drags it down. Think about it. Every conflict, ever war, every account of torture and execution of ‘heretics’, has not been caused by religion. It is caused by exclusivism.
    You must understand that there are many paths to the top of the mountain. All religions have equal standing, so long as they are based on happiness. The number of people that have lived out their lives without praising Jesus is astonishingly high. Are you saying they are denied heaven, even though they do just as much, if not more, good as Christians? Why should they be punished for not dropping their lifetime spiritually to join some faith on the other side of the world because they heard of it a few times? Loads religions say theirs is truth. How should you know? Is it like relgions dice, where you roll and if it lands on any religion except for one in particular, they are condemned to punishment no matter what good they do? Live your life and enjoy it; telling them they will burn in hell if they don’t do exactly what you do is utter nonsense, and goes against nature. No two people have had the same experience, and so therefore no two people will have the exact same opinions on everything. Disagreement is a healthy and natural part of being alive – it is not bad. It’s only bad if you exclusivists kill people for it.
    This should be some good food for thought. You should all understand that religion is not about avoiding hell – it’s about making this world a better place for others.

    For those wondering, this is coming from a follwer of Woldenry. (Which is a sort of mixture of christianity and paganism.) Good words can come from anyone.
    God bless, all.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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