Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Was Bertrand Russell Right?

In Why I Am Not a Christian Bertrand Russell said that Jesus was morally deficient because he believed in the everlasting torture of the wicked. I think he is right (See Matthew 25:31-46). The burning of sinners in an eternal fire is not consistent with the idea of God as loving, merciful, and compassionate.

Medieval theologians countered the objection that an infinite punishment for finite sins was unjust with the notion that the sin was against an infinite value (God), and therefore it was just.

Most of us find that defense singularly unconvincing. But it is amusing to watch how easily modern liberals, who reject the notion of an everlasting hell as contrary to the character of the nice, kind God they believe in, combine this idea with their affirmation that Jesus is the supreme moral authority.

However, all the churches I know also totally ignore Matthew 10:8 in which Jesus sends out the Apostles and commissions them to cast out demons and raise the dead. Most churches claim their task is to continue the ministry of the Apostles to preach the Gospel and do deeds of love and mercy. Yet I know of no church that has a ministry of raising the dead. Only a few even pretend to be able to cast out demons.

I conclude from all this that all Christians selectively obey Jesus in practice while claiming in theory to obey in all matters -- or at least that they ought to. You can check this out by looking at how Christians find ways of avoiding the hard sayings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-48). When all else fails, you can always ignore completely.

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