Sunday, February 8, 2009

More From Jim Babka on the Natural Law & God

Once again I'd like to turn your attention to my friend and co-blogger Jim Babka, an orthodox evangelical Christian, president of Downsize DC, and former Press Secretary to the late great Harry Browne (for whom I proudly voted). Yet Babka also rejects Sola Scriptura, embraces evolution and endorses a notion of "future rewards and punishments" that is far more rational and consistent with the "natural law" than traditional orthodox notions of eternal damnation, especially of the evangelical bent. I have compared Babka to Benjamin Rush and I believe Babka's Christianity is far closer to America's Founding political theological ideals than what we see coming from most evangelicals and fundamentalists.

As he writes:

HELL

There seems to be some concern about the Divine Judge issuing punishment. “Is that not coercive?” Of course it is! No one here is opposed to all forms of coercion. It’s doubtful anyone here would, for example, say there’s never a reason to send any man to prison. The Constitutional standard is that such coercion can’t be deployed without due process of law. Again, I wonder why the objection is only raised when a personal God is suggested. Is he not likely to be a fair judge?

Jon Rowe has compared me to Benjamin Rush in that I have some heterodoxy mixed in with orthodoxy. I don’t like everything I know about Rush, but in the limited context Rowe presents it, I tend to agree. And to make the comparison more apt, like Rush, I believe in a form of universalism which occurs after death, and probably after a visit to something we might call Hades, Purgatory, or pick your preferred Dantesque analogy.

I know I’ve opened a can of worms by suggesting such a “backwards” belief. Hell understandably makes people anxious (and please don’t assume what I think about the subject, I’ll try to write about it in the future). But I do so for this reason…

COSMIC JUSTICE

I want Hitler to serve time in hell — and for this part, it should have demons, fire, and torture (perhaps, like sitting in a pot of burning oil). That is just. He deserves it. He can have the space next to Stalin, Pol Pot, and more minor serial murderers who lacked the benefit of a government to do their evil.


To which I responded:

Jim,

I think your idea of the afterlife makes a lot of sense. The biggest problem I have with traditional orthodox Christianity, esp. of the evangelical bent, is that folks like Hitler could have a last minute conversion, have all of their sins forgiven and spend no time in Hell when all of the Jews he executed because they didn’t accept Christ get eternal damnation for their ordinary sins like stealing a box of chocolates when they were younger. And to compound this, if Hell really is that bad, it’s just unthinkable that ordinary folks are being punished in that sense for their ordinary sins.

This dynamic of Christianity makes it a non-starter for me. It’s like an Islamofanatic trying to convince me of the “reasonableness” of Allah sending those airplanes into the WTC and rewarding them with virgins. I can’t even begin to logically debate something so illogical, but just reject it out of hand as a self evident lie.

7 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

This dynamic of Christianity makes it a non-starter for me.

Jon, I thought we'd agreed that our personal theologies are inappropriate here. For the record, Matthew 20 is an elegant parable which basically says another man's reward is none of our goddam business. And "'Vengeance is mine,' saith the Lord" applies to punishments as well, and Romans 12:19 adds "I will repay" if that makes you feel any better.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Point well taken. I thought though that the post related to Benjamin Rush & the Founding ideal of theology that mixed orthodoxy & heterodoxy. I shouldn't have reproduced the gratuitous attack on that aspect of orthodox Christianity with which I have a problem. Though, given I'm someone who doesn't often put his theological cards on the table, at least it helps folks to see what my personal view is and how that might affect my line of argument and perspective.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think you argue honestly, and your views are reflected therein. Except when it comes to our friend Mr. Goswick, who mixes in the occasional killer point with his spaghetti...

Jason_Pappas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason_Pappas said...

The problem with Jim’s thesis is that most conceptions of God don’t only punish rights-violations (i.e. Hitler) but punish all breaches of morality (i.e. Scrooge). This suggests that virtue requires an illiberal ruler of the universe. How does His example explain that men should only use coercion to deal with rights-violations and not ethical-violations in general?

The founding fathers held that virtue is required for a republic and that went beyond mere respect for rights. Yet, they came to advance a liberal order (for the most part) where virtue wasn’t punished but only rights-violations were punished. I don’t see how Jim’s view of theology at our country’s founding explains the use and limits of coercion.

It's an important question since both virtue and liberty were extremely important to the founding fathers.

Matt Huisman said...

Jon,

Tom covers the relevant bases of the justness of orthodoxy, but I'd encourage you to take another look at the older brother at the end of Luke 15 (prodigal son) too. The return of any son is reason to celebrate - the inability to do so speaks to how we value what we have been given.

Kevin Craig said...

folks like Hitler could have a last minute conversion, have all of their sins forgiven and spend no time in Hell when all of the Jews he executed because they didn’t accept Christ get eternal damnation for their ordinary sins like stealing a box of chocolates when they were younger.

Adam and Eve were not kicked out of the Garden of Eden (and all of humanity with them) for stealing 39 cents' worth of fruit. They were kicked out for declaring total war on God's right to command them.

Goldberg isn't sent to hell because he sinned against Smith by stealing Smith's chocolates. He's sent to hell for sinning against God and His right to say "Goldberg, Thou shalt not steal."

During his life, Hitler was just more rigorously consistent with his claim that he was his own god than Goldberg was. But both made the claim.

We all like to think we're better (less consistent) than Hitler and so we deserve to go to heaven. Grace is God not sending everyone to hell.

Preterism and Hell