Monday, July 09, 2007

Socrates meets Jesus

A good intro to Christianity.

There is one basic question that has always been uppermost in my mind. Although it has always been an insurmountable obstacle to me in my search for the truth and meaning, I am sure that with your learning you will find it far to easy and think me a foolish old man. I have always longed to live honorably and nobly, but it seems that I have merely stumbled through life without even even knowing what was honorable or noble. With my limited understanding, it often seems to me that life, even with all its sound and fury, really signifies nothing. Please tell me: How should a man live; what is the purpose of life.

If God is just or merciful, how can he do this to an enemy who fought him in battle. Why did God not simply pardon Satan after defeat as men often do to a captured nation after they defeat it? Mankind would seem in victory to be more merciful than God; for they do not treat the vanquished to such terrible torments for even a lifetime, let alone for all eternity. Why did God not show the qualities that you described as his justice, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness to Satan? Certainly God's warlike nature is in marked contrast with your definition of the term God as being peaceful, merciful and all forgiving.

And who for gracious sakes is the devil? Surely he must be a god to be able to visit such powerful calamities on mankind: Yet you have just said there is only one God. Also you have said that all that exists comes from God: And now you say that only good comes from God and all evil comes from someone called the devil. These would seem to be contradictions. I am afraid that your religion is far too complex for this old head to fathom. Yet I will be an eager student and try hard to understand, if you will but help me. Please explain: who is the devil and how can all things come from God and yet not come from God?

These qualities are, however, not necessarily consistent. It is not possible for a person to be just, peaceful and merciful, all in one instance or situation. If a person or a nation deserves punishment by the rule of justice, you must punish him or wage war on them, but this would be a violation of the rule of peace or mercy. No one being could have all these qualities because they contradict each other; they cannot exist together in the same person at the same time. It is as though a man had turned both left and right at the same corner at the same time, while still remaining whole and entire.

If Satan is locked in Hell, how can he bring plagues and torments on mankind and why does God allow it if he is all powerful and all good? If God is all powerful, how is it that he permits this evil Satan to survive? Why does he not destroy him? Although I begin to wonder, at this point, if the opposite course would not be better.

God allows Satan to be free to bring plagues and torments on mankind in order to punish man for his sin in the Garden of Eden.

Let me give you a specific example. Suppose the Oracle of Delphi told me a certain person was guilty of killing and raping my wife and that I should kill him or else he will kill me, fearing that I will discover his crime and kill him; and you tell me 'thou shalt not kill.' You tell me that I must believe by faith by whatever I am told. Following your injunction, I must kill the man because of my faith in the Oracle of Delphi and I must not kill the man because of my faith in Lord God. For I cannot both kill the man and not kill the man because they are contradictory. Therefore, I cannot believe in both the Oracle of Delphi and the Lord God. Therefore, it is impossible for me to believe anything by faith alone. There is an intellectual choice that you and I and all men make, whether it is voluntary or not, as to what we believe. What would you rather do: make choice by thinking, discussing and considering all the aspects of the problem or by blindly denying that there is any choice necessary? This choice is the most important one in a man's life because the answer to the question, "what is the purpose of life?" determines the whole course of a man's life. If a man is to direct his every move by his religion, as you advocate, then certainly, he must put a great deal of thought into his choice of religions. Let me tell you a parable: If you are to go from one city to another on some task that involves your whole life, would it not be wise to consider all the routes, whether some of them are frequented by robbers, whether there is not a closer or safer city to go to, or , indeed, whether there is any city there at all?

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