04 Mar 2012

The Two Thieves Crucified With Jesus: Encapsulates Everything

Religious 46 Comments

My pastor today said that the encounter between Jesus and the two thieves as they all hung on crosses crystallized everything he had been trying to say throughout the sermon. I’ve always loved this story as well, because it hits on so many crucial aspects of my views on redemption. So here is Luke 23: 32-43:

32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

And they divided His garments and cast lots. 35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”

38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew:

THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

So here are some quick observations:

==> Notice the theme of jeering. For me, that is the worst aspect of how “we” treated Jesus when He was physically present. It is one thing that the religious authorities whose prestige was threatened by His teachings, rationally decided to kill Him. That’s obviously reprehensible, but understandable. But yikes, while the Son of God is there, dying on our behalf, people went further and mocked Him? That still gives me the willies.

==> Even as He’s hanging there, dying an agonizing and slow death, Jesus asks for forgiveness for the people who have done this terrible deed. And why? Because He recognizes that they truly don’t realize they are murdering God. When I start getting snippy with some of the commentators on these Sunday posts, I need to (as always) look at how Jesus Himself handled people who, shall we say, weren’t fighting fair.

==> However, lest we conclude that nobody gets punished because Jesus just gives a blanket apology for all, there definitely seems to be the implication that only the repentant thief is spending that day in paradise with the Lord. This is interesting on several levels. First of all, it is crystal clear evidence that you don’t need to “live a good life” to get into heaven; what’s important is that you get yourself right with God before you die, and the way you do that is to humbly acknowledge your own guilt and Jesus’ innocence (and Lordship).

Secondly, notice what the cynical thief is doing. He’s not so much saying, “I don’t believe you are God.” Rather, he’s demanding that Jesus prove it. Now why is this interesting? Because–if we are going to analyze the gospel account at face value, which is the only sensible thing to do if we’re in the middle of analyzing a gospel account–Jesus has already been walking around, performing daily (?) miracles for years, including raising Lazarus from the dead. Indeed it was the latter miracle that made the religious authorities realize they needed to kill Jesus quickly, lest His fame become unstoppable.

I fully admit that when it comes to a legal code that “libertarian” judges would promulgate in a free society as I envision it, that offenses would be defined with respect to violations of property rights; somebody’s “attitude” would have very little to do with it, except to distinguish an accident from a crime. Yet when it comes to God’s criteria for which people should be “saved,” I think it makes perfect sense that a repentant thief would receive preference over someone who was jeering and yet hadn’t stolen anybody’s property during his life. Those are entirely different realms and it makes perfect sense to me that the human judge shouldn’t reward/punish somebody’s humility/willful arrogance, but that God would.

==> Last point: Undergirding my view of the infinite justice of God’s system, remember: I conceive Heaven as spending an eternity in the direct presence of God. In contrast, I define Hell as spending eternity in the absence of this personal communion. So it’s not that the mocking thief is being cast into fire because Jesus is spiteful, rather it’s that he himself chose to reject Jesus and so is getting the fate he picked.

46 Responses to “The Two Thieves Crucified With Jesus: Encapsulates Everything”

  1. Randy Jackson says:

    yo dawg, just remember

    “The good Christian should beware the mathematician and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of hell.” – St Augustine

    • Joe says:

      “confine man in the bonds of hell”

      Use math… confine man in the bonds of hell…

      Is this like using econometrics to make the case that people should have been buying Greek bonds all along? ;)

    • sisa says:

      Jesus is on the cross

  2. Robert Fellner says:

    Have you seen The God Who Wasn’t There? It’s on Netflix and addresses how the Jesus story appears to be a ripoff of many similar stories for Pagan guys such as Osiris and Mithra.

    It also discusses how Paul (I think he is one of the guys who first wrote stuff in the bible?) wrote of Jesus as a mythical figure, not a real person; and other historical inconsistencies which call into question the account that Jesus actually existed.

    Right now he’s ranting about the unforgivable sin of “denying the existence of the holy spirit” what’s up with that? Oh wait, looks like its online for free too: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-god-who-wasnt-there/

    • Mac says:

      I was once solidly in your camp Robert, truly and deeply.

      I had seen Zeitgeist and The Pharmacratic Inquisition, read The Christ Conspiracy and others that sought to prove that the man we call Jesus was this amalgamation of pagan idols.

      There are profound debunking materials for these works out there, and even large cash rewards for anyone who can prove that Zeitgeist’s data is accurate. No one has claimed it after years of being available. That is a very strong piece of evidence my brother!

      True evidence for God and the power of Christ can only be empirically found within our own hearts; not from our left brain analytical powers and research. However, if you will fight through the cognitive dissonance, you will find that there are two very distinct sides to this coin.

      One final thought: if Jesus and his story are fakes, why did his disciples all die horrific deaths because they refused to deny him publicly?

      • Mac says:

        some links on the topic Robert:

        http://manifestliberty.com/?s=zeitgeist

      • Anonymous says:

        True evidence for God and the power of Christ can only be empirically found within our own hearts; not from our left brain analytical powers and research.

        That isn’t true evidence.

        However, if you will fight through the cognitive dissonance, you will find that there are two very distinct sides to this coin.

        I think this image you set up of fighting through cognitive dissonance, is itself cognitive dissonance.

        One final thought: if Jesus and his story are fakes, why did his disciples all die horrific deaths because they refused to deny him publicly?

        Dying for the sake of one’s beliefs is not proof or even weak evidence of proof of those beliefs. It is only a proof of the strength of one’s beliefs, which may or may not be true.

        Also, is there any evidence that corroborates the disciples’ statements as found in the bible?

        • joshua says:

          Dying for the sake of one’s beliefs is not proof or even weak evidence of proof of those beliefs. It is only a proof of the strength of one’s beliefs, which may or may not be true.

          There is a difference between a person strongly believing something he cannot know to be false (i.e. “I strongly believe I will receive 72 virgins in the afterlife”) and a person strongly believing something he would know if it was false (i.e. “I strongly believe I personally saw Jesus alive after his death”).

          Also, is there any evidence that corroborates the disciples’ statements as found in the bible?

          I’m not an expert on this, but my general understanding is that the bible says little to nothing about the disciples dying horrific deaths because they refused to deny him, and that this idea comes from traditional non-Biblical historical accounts.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            There is a difference between a person strongly believing something he cannot know to be false (i.e. “I strongly believe I will receive 72 virgins in the afterlife”) and a person strongly believing something he would know if it was false (i.e. “I strongly believe I personally saw Jesus alive after his death”).

            This just again conflates beliefs with knowledge.

            There is a difference between believing something, and KNOWING something. This applies to both your examples.

            In both examples, people are BELIEVING something, but that is not the same thing as KNOWING it. Someone can believe to get 72 virgins and someone can believe they saw Jesus after he died (Elvis anyone?), but that doesn’t mean they KNOW it. KNOWING something requires more than mere belief. It requires logic and evidence to oneself, and to others if argued in discourse.

            I’m not an expert on this, but my general understanding is that the bible says little to nothing about the disciples dying horrific deaths because they refused to deny him, and that this idea comes from traditional non-Biblical historical accounts.

            Before or after, independent or dependent, of the gospels that were written?

            • joshua says:

              I think you’re still completing missing the fundamental difference between the firsthand position of the disciples and the secondhand position of any modern day martyr. It would be like the difference between, I don’t know, Colin Powell revealing evidence of a strong belief for or against 9/11-was-an-inside-iob and anybody two thousand years from now. They may both simply be proving the strength of their beliefs, but the former’s firsthand position also gives them the ability to know if their beliefs are fraudulent or not.

              You can argue that the disciples weren’t really in that position, or that maybe they were but they were mistaken (aka Elvis sighting), or that they knew it was fraudulent but gave evidence of strongly believing it anyway, but if they were in that firsthand position and believed something when they had the ability to know if it was fraudulent, don’t argue that this is identical to believing something secondhand that somebody told you when you don’t have the ability to know if it’s fraudulent.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                Joshua wrote:

                …but if they were in that firsthand position and believed something when they had the ability to know if it was fraudulent, don’t argue that this is identical to believing something secondhand that somebody told you when you don’t have the ability to know if it’s fraudulent.

                Hey! Don’t tell MF what to do. You theists are such control freaks.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I think you’re still completing missing the fundamental difference between the firsthand position of the disciples and the secondhand position of any modern day martyr. It would be like the difference between, I don’t know, Colin Powell revealing evidence of a strong belief for or against 9/11-was-an-inside-iob and anybody two thousand years from now. They may both simply be proving the strength of their beliefs, but the former’s firsthand position also gives them the ability to know if their beliefs are fraudulent or not.

                But that again presupposes they know the truth, rather than just having beliefs.

                I don’t think you are getting the distinction I am making, and you are too focused on getting me to see the difference between two things that my position doesn’t even distinguish, in the scientific sense.

                For both Powell and writers 2000 years from now, there will still be a distinction between what Powell and the future writers believe and what Powell and the future writers know.

                My only point is that believing is not the same thing as knowing.

                Now, if Powell says that he has information that will lead him to believe that 9/11 was an inside job, and if writers 2000 years from now say the same thing, then you’re asking me to BELIEVE Powell “more than” the future writers.

                But for BOTH parties, I will not accept either person’s beliefs as knowledge until they can support it with logic and evidence. So the distinction you want me to address, actually melts away, and my distinction remains.

                You can argue that the disciples weren’t really in that position, or that maybe they were but they were mistaken (aka Elvis sighting), or that they knew it was fraudulent but gave evidence of strongly believing it anyway, but if they were in that firsthand position and believed something when they had the ability to know if it was fraudulent, don’t argue that this is identical to believing something secondhand that somebody told you when you don’t have the ability to know if it’s fraudulent.

                I wasn’t equating those two. I understand the difference between someone who is in a position of potentially knowing whether a proposition is fraudulent or not on the basis that they are there to observe it, versus someone who is not in a position of potentially knowing whether a proposition is fraudulent or not on the basis that they are not there to observe it.

                Having said that, I can’t even say the first part without presupposing it is truth and is known by someone. I can’t say “there is someone there with the opportunity to know it through directly observing it” without implicitly saying that something did occur and the only question is whether it was directly observed by a person, or relayed to them by one who did observe it, or relayed to them by someone who had it relayed to them by the person who observed it, and so on.

                The point here is that I cannot even accept something was observed until I can address the distinction between what is believed and what is known, and conclude that what is claimed as being believed, is also KNOWLEDGE.

                This is the distinction that I will reassert to be fully encompassing of the distinction you are making, which you accused me of equivocating, when in reality I did not.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                MF wrote:

                I don’t think you are getting the distinction I am making, and you are too focused on getting me to see the difference between two things that my position doesn’t even distinguish, in the scientific sense.

                MF, do you really mean to tell us that if I say the following, you think I’m speaking nonsense and am being unscientific?

                “I don’t get too upset about Johnny Cochrane for defending OJ, because Cochrane couldn’t really know for sure if OJ did it. But OJ himself–he knows if he is lying or if he’s truly innocent.”

                You’re telling me you don’t think that’s an important point to draw, and that I would be committing some sort of epistemological foul with the above claim?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                MF, do you really mean to tell us that if I say the following, you think I’m speaking nonsense and am being unscientific?

                “I don’t get too upset about Johnny Cochrane for defending OJ, because Cochrane couldn’t really know for sure if OJ did it. But OJ himself–he knows if he is lying or if he’s truly innocent.”

                You’re telling me you don’t think that’s an important point to draw, and that I would be committing some sort of epistemological foul with the above claim?

                All I would say is what I have been saying all along, that we have to distinguish beliefs from knowledge, and only accept a belief as knowledge if there is evidence, for both OJ and all others like Johnny Cochrane. I reject your assertion that Cochrane couldn’t know, as if evidence cannot allow anyone to know anything. If Cochrane can’t know on the basis of evidence, then evidence can’t even let OJ know either.

                Your example makes it difficult to show what I mean, because your example presupposes some knowledge that OJ already has, regarding the killing of Nicole Brown, when that is precisely the sort of thing that I am saying we have to first identify, as either a belief or knowledge.

                So if you don’t mind, I will tweak your example a bit:

                “I don’t get too upset about Johnny Cochrane for defending OJ, because Cochrane couldn’t really know for sure whether OJ is stating his beliefs or if he is stating his knowlede. But OJ himself – he knows if he is lying or if he’s truly innocent, but only as long as there is evidence that allows OJ to do this, and should others claim to know, then only as long as there is evidence for them too.”

                The problem is that you keep looking at things from a God’s point of view. Without even realizing it, you are just hastily presuming to know what happened such that OJ would know it or not. I am saying take a step back, and stop presuming that beliefs are equal to knowledge, and only take that step once YOU know of evidence.

                Again, I didn’t say it’s wrong to distinguish between a case where someone has an opportunity to directly experience “something”, and a case where someone only has recourse to being told by someone else that they or someone else experienced “something.” My only point is that I can’t claim to know, and nobody else can claim to know, unless they experience proper evidence. What is proper? This goes back to reproducibility.

                Since I think OJ is guilty, it is difficult for me to use an analogy, but if you can suspend what you think about his guilt or innocence for a bit, then an analogy would be that it is possible for OJ to BELIEVE he killed Nicole Brown when he really didn’t. Maybe he was doped up on painkillers and he hallucinated it, whatever. In order for his beliefs to go to knowledge, from my perspective and from his perspective, from any humans’ perspective, is for there to be evidence of his guilt, so that his beliefs (which may be his actual knowledge but I can’t know that) are elevated to being knowledge understood by himself and others who claim to know.

                As long as you are willing to admit that it is possible for someone to believe they killed someone when they really didn’t, then there is a chance that beliefs might not overlap knowledge. This is why I insist upon evidence in order to distinguish beliefs from knowledge.

                I hope this is clear on why I at least don’t bother distinguishing between OJ’s beliefs and Cochrane beliefs if there is no evidence. I am not going to assume OJ’s beliefs are actual knowledge, without any evidence, just so that you can have an analogy for your own experiences as being the reflection of actual knowledge and not just your beliefs.

                I am not saying to you “Murphy, I grant that you have actual knowledge of some kind, through your experiences, but this is how that knowledge must be communicated so that others can claim to have the same knowledge.”

                I am instead saying “Murphy, I grant that you have beliefs of some kind, through your experiences, but this is how those beliefs must be interpreted and dealt with before they can turn into actual knowledge, known by both you and anyone else you want to convince.”

              • Adam Hickey says:

                The human mind is highly suggestible. Have you ever heard of false memory syndrome?

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_memory_syndrome

                I’m not saying the disciples were hypnotized, I’m just using false memory syndrome as an example of how suggestive and unreliable human memory is.

                It is entirely plausible that someone could believe they did/saw something that was entirely untrue (even to the point of believing so much they would die testifying their memories were true).

                I don’t know what happened with the early christians, but what current neurological research is showing is that people can have memories of their past of things that did not actually happen. And not only that, memory has also been shown to change drastically over time.

                So the fact that someone has a firsthand memory of an experience does not validate the experience actually happened, you would need actual independent evidence to verify the events.

        • Matt Flipago says:

          But it is very convincing evidence that the disciples believed Jesus was more than a mythological figure, s suggested above. Dying is also evidence for sincerity. When one puts together persecution, poverty, and early death together, it makes a strong case that early Christians seriously believed these evens occurred, Also the Bible does have accounts of disciples being martyred. St. Stephens and James. We also have numerous non-biblical sources of martyrs, and the bible itself mentions the threat of martyrdom as very real.

        • az says:

          they died for him cause they saw it and knew it was true. guaranteed. I know what’s written in that book those disciples SAW. How I know I won’t get into- but I know FOR SURE.

          don’t ever for one second think those are just some guys who wrote a book, no matter what any scientist or the media says, who are modern day liars I might add- or plain ignorant.- those guys ( the disciples) were truly given the word of the creator.

  3. joshua says:

    Have you read The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis?

    “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

  4. joeftansey says:

    “Because–if we are going to analyze the gospel account at face value, which is the only sensible thing to do if we’re in the middle of analyzing a gospel account”

    Waiting for your Noah’s Ark post.

    “Undergirding my view of the infinite justice of God’s system, remember: I conceive Heaven as spending an eternity in the direct presence of God. In contrast, I define Hell as spending eternity in the absence of this personal communion”

    Hang on, in real life Justice usually means something like you have to pay restitution or suffer for your crimes. How is it a system of “infinite justice” if it depends SOLELY on a set of beliefs?

  5. LvM says:

    Eternal life is not exactly the fate I would pick, even in the direct presence of God. Do you know how everything gets boring after a certain amount of time, sometimes even bothersome? Now try to extrapolate that concept to an infinite amount of time. Personally, I get sad thinking about that prospect. Does spending an eternity in absence of God mean that I can have some variation as to what or who I spend time in direct presence with? If so, I’d reject Jesus just because of that.

    By the may, may I ask you how you got to this definition of heaven and hell? Did God tell you, or was it arbitrarily picked out of some alternatives? It’s certainly not the definition that all Christians hold, so it doesn’t seem to be self-evident.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      It isn’t from the NT bible, which speaks of hell as a “lake of fire and brimstone.” (Revelations 20:10), an “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), and an “eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).

      “Absence of God” is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is the “official” Catholic text:

      “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.”

      • LvM says:

        Thanks. So let’s rephrase (to Dr. Murphy): Did God tell you the Catechism of the Catholic Church contains the truth, or was it arbitrarily picked out of some alternatives?

        Does the nature of a person fundamentally change when he/she enters heaven or hell? With things destined to get boring after a while and all.

  6. Jonathan M.F. Catalán says:

    But yikes, while the Son of God is there, dying on our behalf, people went further and mocked Him? That still gives me the willies.

    If you’re a Jew who doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah (or anybody who calls themselves is the Messiah, for that matter), or a Pagan Roman, it’s not that hard to imagine mocking Jesus. There was absolutely no part of their body which ever believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

    Also, if I’m reading the story right, he’s not asking God to forgive those mocking him (unless he does say this in the part you don’t excerpt here). He’s asking God to forgive the two criminals next to him.

    Finally, depending on how you interpret this story, it goes to show that Jesus’ miracles were not as clear to everyone as you’d like to think they were. There were evidently some who were not persuaded by his miracles, or maybe even never saw one occur (although, clearly, they do know his reputation).

    • Dan says:

      “If you’re a Jew who doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah (or anybody who calls themselves is the Messiah, for that matter), or a Pagan Roman, it’s not that hard to imagine mocking Jesus. There was absolutely no part of their body which ever believed that Jesus was the Son of God.”

      Even if you didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah it is still hard to understand why you would mock someone as the are dying a horrible death. I can understand mocking him as he’s walking around but once he is being tortured to death maybe it’s time to cut the guy a little slack.

      • Jonathan M.F. Catalán says:

        Many people mock other people while they die or their deaths in general. I’m not sure what’s so hard to imagine about this or why this gives anybody “the willies.” If you think it’s bad, I understand — but, being given “the willies” is almost as if you are surprised at this happening, or it’s hard for you to accept that this is happening.

        Did it give anybody “the willies” when the assassination of Osama bin Laden was celebrated? Did it give anybody “the willies” when American soldiers were torturing Iraqi inmates? What about when this stuff happens all the time in African countries in the middle of civil wars? What about when it happens on the streets of the United States (by bullies or gangsters)?

        • Dan says:

          Yes, those things give me “the willies” too but I can understand why it might not for others. Still, I find it more surprising that people would mock a man who was in the midst of being tortured to death for claiming to be the Messiah. If Mother Theresa had been tortured to death and people stood by and mocked her as she was dying it would’ve gave me the willies too and I wouldn’t understand how they could do such a thing.

          • Jonathan M.F. Catalán says:

            If people saw Mother Theresa as a false prophet (from the p.o.v. of the Jews) or essentially terrorist (the Romans), then it becomes easier to understand. In other words, you can’t compare Jesus to Mother Theresa, because the comparison presupposes holiness.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Jonathan Catalan wrote:

          Did it give anybody “the willies” when the assassination of Osama bin Laden was celebrated? Did it give anybody “the willies” when American soldiers were torturing Iraqi inmates? What about when this stuff happens all the time in African countries in the middle of civil wars? What about when it happens on the streets of the United States (by bullies or gangsters)?

          Well Jonathan, I said “It really disturbs me.” Does that count?

          And anyway, I feel to see the point of your comments here. Suppose for the sake of argument that I’m sincere when I say I think Jesus was literally the Son of God who came down to Earth, went around healing the sick and giving gorgeous lessons on how to live. Then people nailed Him to a cross and mocked Him as He bled and suffocated to death. And you seem to be upset that I would be given the willies for that, more than I’ve publicly expressed concern for other victims of violence?

          I think if, say, my brother died in a violent assault, and you heard me expressing outrage, that you probably wouldn’t be as cynical about my attitude, and wonder at the apparent inconsistency. And yet when it comes to religious beliefs, that seems to be what you are doing.

          (I don’t intend this to be snippy; I’m really puzzled by what your point is with this comment.)

          • Jonathan M.F. Catalán says:

            Right, but the way you word it seems that it gives you the willies because it is the son of God that they are nailing on a cross. If they were mocking some random guy they had nailed on the cross, then supposedly that would give you a lesser degree of the willies.

            But, to the Romans and Jews, Jesus was that random guy.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Right, but the way you word it seems that it gives you the willies because it is the son of God that they are nailing on a cross.

              Yes, of course that is relevant.

              If they were mocking some random guy they had nailed on the cross, then supposedly that would give you a lesser degree of the willies.

              But, to the Romans and Jews, Jesus was that random guy.

              Right. They knew not what they were doing.

              Maybe we’re just moving in a circle here, I dunno. It feels like I’m falling over because some guys killed my brother, and you’re saying, “But Bob, you seem to think this is worse because it’s your brother. To those guys, he wasn’t their brother. I never heard you complaining when some random guy was mugged in Sri Lanka last week. What’s your deal?”

  7. John G. says:

    “…I define Hell as spending eternity in the absence of this personal communion…”

    I would have guessed that Hell for you, Doc, would be serving in an Economics Department chaired by Herr Doctor Professor Krugman.

  8. Major_Freedom says:

    But yikes, while the Son of God is there, dying on our behalf, people went further and mocked Him? That still gives me the willies.

    Should people get the willies when they learn that US Christian soldiers who torture and murder Muslims who believe they are children of God, are mocking them as well? Or are these willies reserved for non-Christians only?

    Even as He’s hanging there, dying an agonizing and slow death, Jesus asks for forgiveness for the people who have done this terrible deed. And why? Because He recognizes that they truly don’t realize they are murdering God.

    God can be murdered now? That would imply God is mortal. But the concept of God includes eternal immortality, so a concept totally immune from murder cannot possibly be murdered.

    When I start getting snippy with some of the commentators on these Sunday posts, I need to (as always) look at how Jesus Himself handled people who, shall we say, weren’t fighting fair.

    Speaking of fighting fair, I think I am not alone in waiting for you to fight fair when it comes to valid evidence, if logic is out of the question. Week after week it’s unfair dodging, contradictions, and straw men.

    First of all, it is crystal clear evidence that you don’t need to “live a good life” to get into heaven; what’s important is that you get yourself right with God before you die, and the way you do that is to humbly acknowledge your own guilt and Jesus’ innocence (and Lordship).

    OK, I plead guilty of the offenses I have committed, and I will concede that the man Jesus was innocent and shouldn’t have been murdered, and I also concede that Jesus was viewed as, and believed himself to be, “Lord”, whatever that means. But I am still an atheist, and I am still living a good life. Are you still fine with me and others like me experiencing infinite torment?

    Secondly, notice what the cynical thief is doing. He’s not so much saying, “I don’t believe you are God.” Rather, he’s demanding that Jesus prove it. Now why is this interesting? Because–if we are going to analyze the gospel account at face value, which is the only sensible thing to do if we’re in the middle of analyzing a gospel account…

    Ah yes, the tried tested and true begging the question. Take it all at face value, as true, then interpret the words of the skeptics and cynics. That ought not cloud our judgment. No, not in the slightest.

    Jesus has already been walking around, performing daily (?) miracles for years, including raising Lazarus from the dead. Indeed it was the latter miracle that made the religious authorities realize they needed to kill Jesus quickly, lest His fame become unstoppable.

    Except to the Christian that was allegedly God’s doing. God killed Jesus before his fame became “unstoppable.”

    I fully admit that when it comes to a legal code that “libertarian” judges would promulgate in a free society as I envision it, that offenses would be defined with respect to violations of property rights; somebody’s “attitude” would have very little to do with it, except to distinguish an accident from a crime. Yet when it comes to God’s criteria for which people should be “saved,” I think it makes perfect sense that a repentant thief would receive preference over someone who was jeering and yet hadn’t stolen anybody’s property during his life.

    Of it makes perfect sense that after abandoning perfect sense you will accept nonsense, where logic is abandoned and replaced by “logic in an illogical realm.”

    Those are entirely different realms and it makes perfect sense to me that the human judge shouldn’t reward/punish somebody’s humility/willful arrogance, but that God would.

    This idea of “entirely different realms” is in actuality just the dichotomy between logical and illogical discourse. On Earth, logic is (often only reluctantly by Christians) accepted. It is in the “spirit world” that illogical explorations “reside”.

    Every person on Earth, no matter how evil they are, no matter what they did, no matter who they hurt, can have eternal bliss and eternal existence in “the other dimension” if only they accept the validity of illogical discourse. If they refuse to accept the validity of illogical discourse (which is a rank contradiction right there), then they aren’t invited to it, and thus aren’t invited to where logical discourse is not invited: Heaven.

    Last point: Undergirding my view of the infinite justice of God’s system

    Infinite justice? You just apologized for massive injustice on Earth, as long as the individual merely “repents” just before they die, and that is supposed to be a reflection of “infinite justice”? You know what I notice? Every time you apologize for and defend injustice in some theological assertion, you tend to immediately follow it with a hammer-like “AND THAT IS INFINITELY GOOD JUSTICE” smack-down right after. It looks VERY much like textbook reaction formation in psychology.

    You believe that it is just for atheists, even good ones in their Earthly lives, to experience infinite torment as “punishment.” Since any human who is not a raging sociopath would feel SOME anxiety and remorse with that belief, there is a strong urge to cover that hate and hostility with a focus on ostensible love and benevolence.

    I conceive Heaven as spending an eternity in the direct presence of God. In contrast, I define Hell as spending eternity in the absence of this personal communion. So it’s not that the mocking thief is being cast into fire because Jesus is spiteful, rather it’s that he himself chose to reject Jesus and so is getting the fate he picked.

    …which MUST be infinitely just and good and awesome and fair and loving and how things should be. Whew! Being a Christian is hard work.

  9. Markham Gross says:

    Great post, Robert.

  10. Kevin Murphy says:

    “First of all, it is crystal clear evidence that you don’t need to “live a good life” to get into heaven; what’s important is that you get yourself right with God before you die, and the way you do that is to humbly acknowledge your own guilt and Jesus’ innocence (and Lordship).” What is the criteria for heaven for someone who has not heard of Jesus? How aware of his works do you have to be in order for the acceptance/rejection of his Lordship to matter? If someone raised in a Buddhist household is somewhat aware of Jesus, but rejects him as Lord, does he/she have a chance for Heaven? What about a Native American strolling the Plains in the year 700AD?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      What is the criteria for heaven for someone who has not heard of Jesus? How aware of his works do you have to be in order for the acceptance/rejection of his Lordship to matter? If someone raised in a Buddhist household is somewhat aware of Jesus, but rejects him as Lord, does he/she have a chance for Heaven? What about a Native American strolling the Plains in the year 700AD?

      “To hell with them all!”

      [Anxiety/remorse]

      “God (meaning my belief) is still infinitely just and benevolent.”

      [Then something about only having to believe in "a" God; then something about how Christians must "save" those who aren't aware of Jesus; then something about how Christians don't have all the answers; then some stuff about being humble and not being responsible for people going to hell. Then some stuff about a grand master plan that is incomprehensible to us lowly mortal creatures who must prostrate themselves in order to "get" it.]

      Problem solved!

    • AC says:

      For some reason, God was just really really interested in the Middle East a few thousand years ago. Didn’t really care about anywhere else, or other time periods.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Reminds me of this Hitchens quote:

        “Let’s say that the consensus is that our species, being the higher primates, Homo Sapiens, has been on the planet for at least 100,000 years, maybe more. Francis Collins says maybe 100,000. Richard Dawkins thinks maybe a quarter-of-a-million. I’ll take 100,000. In order to be a Christian, you have to believe that for 98,000 years, our species suffered and died, most of its children dying in childbirth, most other people having a life expectancy of about 25 years, dying of their teeth. Famine, struggle, bitterness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years. Heaven watches this with complete indifference. And then 2000 years ago, thinks “That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene,” and the best way to do this would be by condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate parts of the Middle East. Don’t lets appeal to the Chinese, for example, where people can read and study evidence and have a civilization. Let’s go to the desert and have another revelation there.”

        “This is nonsense. It can’t be believed by a thinking person. Why am I glad this is the case? To get to the point of the wrongness of Christianity, because I think the teachings of Christianity are immoral. The central one is the most immoral of all, and that is the one of vicarious redemption. You can throw your sins onto somebody else, vulgarly known as scapegoating. In fact, originating as scapegoating in the same area, the same desert. I can pay your debt if I love you. I can serve your term in prison if I love you very much. I can volunteer to do that. I can’t take your sins away, because I can’t abolish your responsibility, and I shouldn’t offer to do so. Your responsibility has to stay with you. There’s no vicarious redemption. There very probably, in fact, is no redemption at all. It’s just a part of wish-thinking, and I don’t think wish-thinking is good for people either. It even manages to pollute the central question, the word I just employed, the most important word of all: the word love, by making love compulsory, by saying you MUST love. You must love your neighbour as yourself, something you can’t actually do. You’ll always fall short, so you can always be found guilty. By saying you must love someone who you also must fear. That’s to say a supreme being, an eternal father, someone of whom you must be afraid, but you must love him, too. If you fail in this duty, you’re again a wretched sinner. This is not mentally or morally or intellectually healthy.”

        “And that brings me to the final objection – I’ll condense it, Dr. Orlafsky – which is, this is a totalitarian system. If there was a God who could do these things and demand these things of us, and he was eternal and unchanging, we’d be living under a dictatorship from which there is no appeal, and one that can never change and one that knows our thoughts and can convict us of thought crime, and condemn us to eternal punishment for actions that we are condemned in advance to be taking. All this in the round, and I could say more, it’s an excellent thing that we have absolutely no reason to believe any of it to be true.”

        • AC says:

          Great quote. How can a believer, let alone a Biblical literalist, respond to this? Bob wants us to think that because he’s obviously intelligent, that his beliefs aren’t crazy. The burden remains squarely on him. Save our souls.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        AC wrote: For some reason, God was just really really interested in the Middle East a few thousand years ago. Didn’t really care about anywhere else, or other time periods.

        No actually, that’s not an accurate recapitulation of the argument advanced by the people with whom you disagree. In fact, just recently one of these so-called Christians was saying God had personally communicated with him on several occasions–right here in the good old USA!

        Really guys, do you at least see what I mean when I say you’re not even trying? This would be like you arguing with Krugman and saying, “For some reason, Keynesians think the government needed to spend money in the 1930s in the US. Only time, only place. What a weird worldview.”

        • AC says:

          No, I don’t see what you mean by not really trying. Your evidence is that you talked with God?

          Your analogy doesn’t work. Even if God has been busy with trivial interventions, and maybe some other stuff, the ultimate book that is the basis of your beliefs is made up of stories from the Middle East 2000 years ago? Why? Why does your God seem completely ignorant about the world?

          • az says:

            he’s the furthest thing from ‘ignorant’, it’s more like humans are ignorant or lost. the stuff in the book is true and I know for sure.

            it’s not ignorant, it’s specific and detailed and 100 percent truth. It’s beyond the minds comprehension and breaks the boundaries and barriers of time/space it’s so intelligently written and truthful.

            just cause you don’t get it or fail to get it now doesn’t mean it’s not true.

            why do you think they fight so hard against him and that book?

  11. RichardsDay says:

    Excellent exposition, Bob, I’m proud of you. Couldn’t even find anything worth nit-picking about.
    God bless you.
    Richards

  12. Jean Pierce says:

    Can you tell me what happen to the two theives that was hung on the cross when Jesus was cruified

    • Jim Jones says:

      Can you tell me why they are unnamed and why they didn’t appear anywhere else in the story? This is very poor writing – “Plan 9 from Outer Space” was constructed better.

Leave a Reply