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McCain Dumps Hagee Over Holocaust Remarks:

Sen. McCain has rejected the endorsement of Rev. John Hagee, whose controversial, inflammatory statements on a variety of matters have caused him to be a liability to the McCain campaign. The final straw was a sermon from the late 1990s in which Hagee said, interpreted biblical prophecy about the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel: "Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun, and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. ... How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said, 'My top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.'"

This is a pretty stupid idea, but I don't find it "anti-Jewish." That's probably because I've heard similar statements from Orthodox Jews. For example, when I was in elementary school in an Orthodox day school, we were discussing why the Holocaust happened. One of my classmates volunteered that his father told him something like that it was necessary "for us to get Israel." As I understood the comment at the time and his further elaboration on it, his father was saying something like "God did something horrible to us for reasons known only to Him, and then paid us back (collectively) with a lasting benefit."

Even as a fourth-grader, I thought this was a repugnant idea, and that anyone who believed it should cease worshiping this particular God immediately, unless they were only doing so out of fear of what nutty, cruel thing He might do next (an attitude that admittedly is reflected in many Jewish prayers). But it reflects the trap you're in as an orthodox (small "o") believer trying to make sense of the Holocaust. Either (a) God really hates the Jews (and there are plenty of Orthodox Jewish rabbis who have suggested that the Holocaust was punishment for the sins of the Jewish people); (b) God isn't all-powerful, or doesn't care to use His power to prevent horrific crimes against His people; or (c) the Holocaust had to be part of some broader Divine master plan that would ultimately redound to Jews' benefit. The fact that Hagee takes the latter position hardly makes him an intellectual giant, or speaks well of his moral imagination. But color me unoffended.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Hagee on Hagee:
  2. McCain Dumps Hagee Over Holocaust Remarks:
  3. Are Big Ideas Bad Ideas?
JB:
As a Jew, I'd say that Biblical history is full of episodes where God punishes us for various reasons, and post-Biblical history has even more. The Holocaust is one of many instances where God allowed people to try to kill us, and they failed. Singling it out for explanation, and not doing the same for everything else from the Book of Esther to the failure of Bar Kochba to any number of medieval pogroms, is being historically blind.

Not that I literally believe any of that. In my personal view, trying to equate God's actions with any sort of human morality is a fool's game.

On a more practical vein, it's clear that since Hagee was starting to become an issue, and McCain wanted to avoid being Jeremiah Wrighted, the breaking point for him would be the next controversial thing of Hagee's that came to his attention, whatever it happened to be.
5.23.2008 12:22am
SMatthewStolte (mail):
I wonder if this is going to cause McCain problems by opening up the door to scrutiny of everyone who has endorsed him so far. "Well, you refused Rev Hagee's endorsement. Are you going to do the same with X who also said something offensive and, if not, could you please tell us what the precise distinction is?"
5.23.2008 12:26am
SMatthewStolte (mail):
One question I have about the McCain-Hagee issue is this. For Obama, the worry (whether justified or not) is that his association with ultra left-wing folks like Rev Wright (&Michelle Obama) is going to color his administration policies, by making left-wing answers into default positions for him. Is there a similar fear from people already nervous about McCain that some of Hagee's controversial/offensive views might influence McCain?
5.23.2008 12:42am
DG:
I think trying to conflate Wright, a guy who allegedly had a huge impact on Obama's life with Hagee is a stretch. McCain holds his nose when dealing with the religious right - his recent embrace is obviously political and short term. Obama may really believe in what Wright preaches - or he may just be a longer term opportunist as some have suggested. Obama seems pretty sincere, though.
5.23.2008 1:00am
Cornellian (mail):
McCain didn't just passively notice Hagee's endorsement, he actively sought it out and he didn't refuse Hagee's endorsement, he accepted it. Now that everyone can see what a nut Hagee is, McCain has tossed the endorsement. Obviously, McCain sought his endorsement because apparently a lot of people on the religious right like the guy, not because McCain actually believes any of Hagee's nutty views.
5.23.2008 1:02am
George Weiss (mail) (www):
david-if you chose b your probably not an orthodox believer-with any case of "O"
5.23.2008 1:03am
Christoph (mail):
As a child I had similar thoughts, but not from a religious point of view. My thinking was along the lines of Hitler would be amazed at what a profound failure he was; that far from destroying the Jewish people, he had sufficiently motivated them to fear for their own security and sufficiently shamed the international community for its own looking the other way that the Jews carved out their own powerful country -- more powerful in terms of raw firepower than was Nazi Germany at its height, incidentally.

I got a certain pleasure from that line of thinking.

Hagee's is just a religious version along the same lines. Again, I have Volokh's opinion about the God of the Old Testament and don't believe a person should follow that God even if true (which it isn't) for the reasons Volokh so eloquently laid out.

I have to my everlasting surprise recently concluded the New Testament is worse because Jesus doesn't stop at ordering rapes, genocide, etc., nor at collective punishment. Nope, allegedly he (lower case on purpose: not disrespect, there's just no evidence whatsoever he was anything other than a man if he even existed at all)... no, Jesus threatens people who do nothing wrong other than not believing in him with EVERLASTING torture in a lake of fire in hell.

No thanks.

If these Gods are true -- and they aren't -- I will oppose them on principle. Or, if I end up "worshipping" them, it will be literal fear of God, not love of God. I'm not sure on what planet true love comes about by threatening death and perpetual torture.

Anyway, so I think Hagee is either intellectually none to bright, immoral for his religious beliefs (true morality requires rejecting the above, and not by deluding oneself into wishing them away from the Bible, but from rejecting the Bible as the true revealed word of God), or both... but no more so than most religious people if they actually sat there and thought about what their beliefs mean.

So McCain, who is ahead of Obama in my estimation, may have done the politically useful thing here, I don't see it as a thing of principle.
5.23.2008 1:07am
DavidBernstein (mail):
George, I wasn't clear, but obviously an orthodox believer can't choose "b."
5.23.2008 1:08am
S7:
I'm Orthodox, and the only theological take on the Holocaust I can stomach is that of the late, great Rav Soloveitchik, because he admits we don't know "why". In Reflections of the Rav, Soloveitchik characterizes the period of the Holocaust as the state of hester panim, a "hiding of the divine face," a state when God turned His back, as it were, chaos ruled, and human beings had no sense of the divine presence in the world:
"We cannot explain the Holocaust, but we can, at least, classify it theo­logically, characterize it, even if we have no answer to the question, 'why?' The unbounded horrors represented the tohu vavohu [chaotic] anarchy of the pre-yetzirah [pre-Creation] state. This is how the world appears when God's mod­erating surveillance is suspended. The State of Israel, however, reflects God's return to active providence, the termination of hester panim."

Sorry if this too much theology, but theology having been brought in you should at least hear from a pro on the subject.
5.23.2008 1:13am
Consenting:
DG: 'Obama may really believe in what Wright preaches - or he may just be a longer term opportunist as some have suggested. Obama seems pretty sincere, though."

Of course, seeming sincere is a primary trait of the longer term opportunist...
5.23.2008 1:18am
Eds:
also worth noting that the Christian tradition holds God sent his only son, Jesus, to die for various of humans' sins. This suggests Hagee believes a man's suffering doesn't indicate he's unloved by God, and perhaps even the opposite. Too, as Hagee wouldn't minimize Jesus' sufferings, this probably shouldn't be taken as a downplaying of the Holocaust's horrors.
5.23.2008 1:19am
Mike& (mail):
Don't most Christians believe that an anti-Christ is going to arise, and that sometime after that, there is going to be 7 years of intense suffering on the Earth for all of those not raptured. And that anyone who does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and does not accept him into their heart will burn in Hellfire for eternity?

That all seems pretty crazy - and cruel to me. Anyone wanna explain to me why the remark about six million Jews dying as part of God's Plan is crazier than what I just wrote?

Is McCain going to disavow the endorsement of every Christian who believes such things? If not, why not?
5.23.2008 1:22am
Christoph (mail):
Eds, I agree with you that what Hagee said makes sense in a religious context, just not in an American political context. And, in the end, politics trumps faith for politicians.

Since I have little use for faith and consider reason and love superior (reason being an attempt to find truth and love being a value choice), I'm more or less okay with that. But it is mighty hypocritical.
5.23.2008 1:24am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Isn't the fact that a candidate is endorsed by people with crazy, stupid positions more important and informative than whether the candidate "endorses" them?

I don't care what McCain says in response, but the fact that nutty religious people explicitly endorse him is a pretty powerful incentive for me not to vote for McCain (at least insofar as personal endorsements of candidates is a factor in my voting decision).

I don't care if a candidate publicly "disavows" the views of some person. I presume the candidate has told the person in private that "I agree with your statement/position but I have to publicly disavow it for political reasons... don't worry though, no matter what I say in public, rest assured that I support you and your hatred of Jews" (or whatever). Similarly, when a candidate "disavows" someone they are only doing it in response to public pressure and negative press. The disavowed person knows this, and does not get upset by the public disavowment (disavowel?).
5.23.2008 1:46am
Christoph (mail):
I don't think you have much of a point, BruceM. Besides, people of diverse religious faiths endorse candidates of each of the two major parties and all of the minor ones, except for maybe libertarianism. Maybe.

Barack Obama has plenty of even nuttier religious endorsements. No, I'm far more concerned with what the candidate believes than what each of his or her supporters believe.

A strong reason to support McCain from many religious people's point of view is him being pro-life. Other reasons are his track record of keeping spending low and earmarks nonexistent. Obama's supporters have different reasons for supporting him.

This is as it should be. I'd hate to think you're so incapable of thinking for yourself, you look at a candidate's endorsements and let them sway you to such an extent.
5.23.2008 1:56am
Mike& (mail):
"I agree with your statement/position but I have to publicly disavow it for political reasons... don't worry though, no matter what I say in public, rest assured that I support you and your hatred of Jews"


Actually, people with nutty Christian views usually love Jews. Just listen to Pat Robertson talk about the importance of Israel for one of many examples of that. One reason we're involved in a costly and irrational involvement in the Middle East is because of nutty views about Israel.
5.23.2008 2:10am
Frater Plotter:
"We cannot explain the Holocaust, but we can, at least, classify it theo­logically, characterize it, even if we have no answer to the question, 'why?' The unbounded horrors represented the tohu vavohu [chaotic] anarchy of the pre-yetzirah [pre-Creation] state. This is how the world appears when God's mod­erating surveillance is suspended. The State of Israel, however, reflects God's return to active providence, the termination of hester panim."

I'm neither Jew nor theologian of any stripe, but it seems to me that one problem with this argument is that the Nazi regime was not by any stretch of the imagination chaotic or anarchic. It was carefully planned, regimented, and controlled. It was orderly to a fault, its crimes almost defined by the words, "I was just obeying orders."

One might object that these orders and orderliness were false; that any true orderliness would be compassionate rather than cruel; that somehow the regimentation of society and the meticulous planning of the Holocaust operation were some kind of mask for inner chaos and anarchy. But to argue this is to make the words "chaos" and "order" meaningless.

The Greek word anarkheia, which became the English anarchy, literally means "lacking a leader". This is an absurd thing to say about the society that idolized Führerprinzip, or "the leader principle". No, the evil of the Nazi regime was not chaos, was not anarchy: it was an excess of obedience, and an order bent on evil.
5.23.2008 2:11am
SMatthewStolte (mail):
Don't most Christians believe that an anti-Christ is going to arise, and that sometime after that, there is going to be 7 years of intense suffering on the Earth for all of those not raptured.


I believe the traditional understanding of the Eschaton is that it is impossible for us to know who will be saved &who will not. Some protestant traditions believe it is possible for the person saved to know he is, but I wouldn't say that "most" Christians belong to such traditions. I don't know where the 7-year thing comes from but I'm guessing it's from a 19th century reading of Revelation. (Much earlier than that and you don't find anybody reading it as a decoder ring for the events of the end of time).

But you are correct, at least, that the doctrine of hell is not easy to teach without misanthropy. It requires making distinctions that might be accused of being over-subtle. Charles Taylor (the Catholic philosopher, not the war criminal), for instance, has suggested that we need to maintain the doctrine that hell exists but cannot make the assertion that it is populated. My own distinction would be on the practical side. If the question is, "how do I find salvation?" then the answer includes "in the Word &sacraments given through the church." But if the question is, "hey, is that atheist going to hell?" then the answer is, "No one but the Father knows." But, as I say, these may seem oversubtle. They certainly would to pastor Hagee.
5.23.2008 2:14am
Mike& (mail):
Many Christians (Pat Robertson, e.g.) also believe that Hitler's rise to power was one of the prophecies from Revelations that had to be fulfilled in order for a) the Anti-Christ to rise and b) for Christ to return.

So it is indeed the case that many Christians believe that the Holocaust was part of God's plan. Again, these people love Jews, so they are not happy about the suffering of the Jewish people. Rather, it's recognized that for Christ to return, it had to happen.

Just do some Googling about this stuff. Christians believe lots of really strange things. And both parties have lots of Christian support. So BruceM's point was just a thoughtless partisan attack.
5.23.2008 2:18am
fishbane (mail):
Other reasons are his track record of keeping spending low and earmarks nonexistent.

I thought you were being serious there for a second. But that is funny.

Elsewhere: Just listen to Pat Robertson talk about the importance of Israel for one of many examples of that.

I understand what you're saying, but 'love' of jews by these people should be construed the same way many people motor oil. A means to an end, not a partnership. I also think it is a mistake to conflate Jews with Israel.
5.23.2008 2:45am
Oren:
The standard answer we got in Conservative (with a capital C) religious school was closest to (b).

(1) God made man in his image --- he gave him the free will to make choices
(1a) Free will is an absolute necessity of living a moral life -- as contrasted with the angels that do not have free will.
(2) In order for true free will to exist, the possibility of choosing evil must exist -- If every time a human chose evil, God intervened then we would cease to be creatures capable of free will.

The net result is that, on the balance, it was better for God to allow the evil of the holocaust than to remove from humanity the fundamental godliness of our creation -- the ability to make moral choices.
5.23.2008 2:55am
S7:

One might object that these orders and orderliness were false; that any true orderliness would be compassionate rather than cruel; that somehow the regimentation of society and the meticulous planning of the Holocaust operation were some kind of mask for inner chaos and anarchy. But to argue this is to make the words "chaos" and "order" meaningless.

The Greek word anarkheia, which became the English anarchy, literally means "lacking a leader". This is an absurd thing to say about the society that idolized Führerprinzip, or "the leader principle". No, the evil of the Nazi regime was not chaos, was not anarchy: it was an excess of obedience, and an order bent on evil.



Not a theologian either but will take this a little further: the original was not Greek but Hebrew, and the word translated "anarchy" really means "formless and empty"--a kind of scary vacuum. Nothing to do with leadership. A person or system can be externally regimented and orderly, but empy inside. Just as a person can be intelligent and rational and yet commit monstrosities. It is often forgotten in these discussions that the Holocaust is at least as much of a challenge to those to glorify the human intellect as it to those who believe in Divine Providence.
5.23.2008 3:08am
Bama 1L:
Don't most Christians believe that an anti-Christ is going to arise, and that sometime after that, there is going to be 7 years of intense suffering on the Earth for all of those not raptured.

The idea that there will be a rapture before the reign of anti-Christ (pretribulation premillennialism--the double second-coming theory) is a minority position in Christianity, although a lot of evangelical Christians in this country hold it and it's put out by many television preachers and lots of books and movies, particularly the well-known Left Behind series. It was practically unknown before the nineteenth century and became prominent in the mid-twentieth, attracting many Protestants.

The Catholic, Orthodox, and mainline Protestant churches (Anglicans, Lutherans, Reformed, etc.) do not teach this and indeed discourage such beliefs. Augustine and the leading reformers (Calvin, Luther, et al.) were probably not aware of pretribulationism but did reject the premilliennialism of which it is a species. (They thought it was impossible to predict the second coming; that the durations mentioned in scripture were figurative, and that the second coming and last judgment would coincide at the end of history.)

I'm not sure, though, that this is the detail you meant to emphasize. If you just mean that most Christians believe some people--possibly rather a lot of people--are headed for eternal damnation, then you're probably right. If, on the other hand, you mean that Christians feel obliged to explain historical events in eschatological terms, then you're definitely not; Augustine saw the problem with that.
5.23.2008 3:53am
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
Well, McCain has shown religious bigotry against conservative Christians before. I don't understand why conservative Christians like my parents keep voting for him for Senate. Jews don't vote for people with such contemptuous views of Jews; blacks don't vote for people with such contemptuous views of blacks. I think conservative Christians like my parents just take that whole turn-the-other-cheek thing too far.

As for those of you who are holding forth on Hagee's views without actually knowing anything about those views other than brief descriptions, mostly written by people who are not sympathetic to the views, there is nothing particularly nutty or hateful about them. They are just foreign to you. If these were the foreign views of some recent immigrants from Africa, or the religious views of Muslims, then we would all have to respect the people and their culture even if we didn't agree. But since they are conservative Christians, all the rules of multiculturalism and respecting other belief systems go right out the window, don't they?
5.23.2008 4:29am
BABH:
Frater Plotter:
It seems to me that the rabbi was not saying that the organizing principle of Germany at the time of the Holocaust was chaotic, but that the organizing principle of the universe at the time was chaotic.

And FWIW, guys like Pat Robertson "love Jews" in the sense that they look forward to their cries of repentance (too late!) when Jesus returns in glory to disembowel the unconverted. The "Left Behind" books are gleefully graphic in this regard, and guys like Pat Robertson worked hard to make those books bestsellers.
5.23.2008 5:55am
BladeDoc (mail):
If you believe in the "classic" judeo-christian God i.e. omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent doesn't that necessarily mean that everything, good bad or indifferent that happens is part of the plan?

Saying that God turned his face away and let chaos reign doesn't relieve him of the responsibility if he were to have "known or should have known" (that's the legal terminology right?) the consequences of his action/inaction. If you purport to be omniscient I would think it'd be hard to argue that you had no way of knowing what would happen. Ergo Hagee's statement should be unremarkable among the group that believes in the three O God.
5.23.2008 7:17am
Jamaica Bay:
Let me make a wild guess. This retard John Hagee is a fellow resident of Walther and W. (and a few more similar geniuses). A state for intellectually challenged.

I wonder how drunk that same God was crating the above three and placing them in the same state.
5.23.2008 7:23am
Just Saying:
The net result is that, on the balance, it was better for God to allow the evil of the holocaust than to remove from humanity the fundamental godliness of our creation -- the ability to make moral choices.

... thus making god, if it exists, irrelevant to our daily lives. What use is prayer if he can't or won't intervene?
5.23.2008 7:28am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
The final straw was a sermon from the late 1990s

Leaving out the theologicals -- and all theologies have to wrestle with that Why -- how can a final straw have happened long before the candidacy? Was that sermon, and (if it's the same guy) the anti-Islam sermon, only just now discovered?

(Back to the theology, a strongly observant and serious Orthodox relative has told me the Messiah will come when all the Jews strictly obey some subset of the Law. I asked him if this was a literal prophecy and he said it was. I then asked him if this meant that our best chances for the Messiah to come would be if the next one who comes to destroy us comes even closer to succeeding, so that there were only a handful of Jews left, making it statistically more likely that they would strictly observe the Sabbath two weeks in a row. I wasn't satisfied with his explanation of why I was misinterpreting. I also wasn't satisfied with his explanation of Psalms 37:25 [I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread] - either this refers to rewards in the world to come, or if we see someone forsaken then it is evidence that he wasn't truly as righteous as he might appear. One can handwave anything with Job 38:4 [Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.] but that doesn't motivate me to study and understand, only to accept that some things are unknowable.)
5.23.2008 7:30am
Jam:

Don't most Christians believe that an anti-Christ is going to arise, and that sometime after that, there is going to be 7 years of intense suffering on the Earth for all of those not raptured. And that anyone who does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and does not accept him into their heart will burn in Hellfire for eternity?


I am an orthodox, evangelical, fundamentalist, bible believieving Christian. I am also a critic of Hagee and his brand of eschatological inventions. I do not like Hagee.

Hagee is not an anti-Semitic nor anti-Jew. That is a an absurd accusation. Although, in Hagee's end times view the Jews must return to Israel for Christ's 2nd coming to occur. Never mind that 2/3 of the Jews will die in the events leading to the 2nd coming of Christ.

One of the problems I have with the Hagee types is that they take a Bible verse from the Old Testament, that has an immediately prophetic fulfillment, like Ezekiel, and transpose it to today's events per newspaper reports. I call it newspaper eschatology. People like Hagee also insert meanings into the text where the text and context do not warrant such. For example, they see a rapture before a great tribulation in 1st Thessalonians where the text is talking about when Christ actually returns, that is, Revelation 19:11.

People like Hagee scare me. They think that regardless of their actions they will escape horrors. Well, I read history and I know what happened to the Christians for 300 years. I have no clue where Hagee gets that we Christians, and non-Christians, will be spared from similar sufferings.

Not too long ago WW 1 was the leading event, then it was the Nazis, then the Soviets and today it is the Muslims. Sorry, the radical fascist Muslims.
5.23.2008 8:50am
Isaac (www):
The teaching that Oren described comes up frequently in Orthodox Jewish theological teachings, too.

I recommend this essay by Rabbi Yehuda Amital, a Holocaust survivor who is now one of the heads of a major Religious Zionist yeshiva in the West Bank. He doesn't exactly take a position on the "Why" question, but his exposition of what he sees as the proper response seems to indicate that his understanding would be closest, given DB's choices, to (b). (See, in particular, the section headed "EVEN IF HE KILLS ME, I WILL STILL TRUST IN HIM!")
5.23.2008 8:50am
genob:
BruceM...

How is Hamas' endorsement of Obama going to influence your vote?

Please.
5.23.2008 9:31am
Michael B (mail):
McCain should have taken a more nuanced tack, he could have even used this is an opportunity to better distinguish himself, but it's pure politics and means little indeed. When people need to be offended, whether the motivating reason is deep pockets or politics or some other rationale, they will in fact be offended - or, minimally, will express sufficient umbrage in order to convince themselves that they are in fact profoundly offended. Harrumph.
5.23.2008 9:42am
eric (mail):
Regarding the stuff from Revelations, which is the main part of this end times theology, is there not really good evidence that this book does not belong in the Bible at all. I think the author is generally unknown and the book, frankly, is completely out of place and reads more like Nostradaumus than the Bible.
5.23.2008 9:42am
JRL:
Who is this Hagee guy, anyway? I'd never even heard of him until the leftists started all this moral equivalency stuff between him and Wright.
5.23.2008 9:49am
Waldensian (mail):

But it reflects the trap you're in as an orthodox (small "o") believer trying to make sense of the Holocaust. Either (a) God really hates the Jews (and there are plenty of Orthodox Jewish rabbis who have suggested that the Holocaust was punishment for the sins of the Jewish people); (b) God isn't all-powerful, or doesn't care to use His power to prevent horrific crimes against His people; or (c) the Holocaust had to be part of some broader Divine master plan that would ultimately redound to Jews' benefit.

I suspect these are, indeed, the only alternatives if you're an orthodox believer. Awfully painful, aren't they?

How much easier it is to go with a nonbeliever's option, e.g. (d): God is almost certainly imaginary, and the Holocaust is simply one more chapter in a human history filled with evil and suffering, often due to the pernicious effects of religion.

In fact, to the extent current conditions on Earth suggest that there was an "Intelligent Designer," I'm forced to conclude, based on the Holocaust and many other events, that Earth was designed as a home for wretched scum and villainy.

Who can convincingly argue that the available evidence suggests otherwise?
5.23.2008 9:56am
Rickm:
So David Bernstein is not offended by Hagee's claim that God sent Hitler to destroy the Jews so they could go back to Israel, but he is offended that Norman Finkelstein compared Abe Foxman to the images of Jews in Der Sturmer.

Got it.
5.23.2008 10:11am
Anderson (mail):
I saw this story over at the Carpetbagger Report, where I noted that George Steiner puts pretty much the same theory that Hagee's spouting, into the mouth of Hitler himself, in the concluding scene of The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. (which, for those unfamiliar therewith, is a novel about Jewish Nazi-hunters who capture the aged Hitler in his South American jungle hideaway):

Hitler offers his defense to his ad hoc judges, &wraps up with the biggie:

"But did Herzl create Israel or did I? Examine the question fairly. * * * Perhaps I am the Messiah, the true Messiah, the new Sabbatai whose infamous deeds were allowed by God in order to bring His people home.”

The quote is from the last couple of pages of the book, which can be perused on Amazon if you are so inclined.
5.23.2008 10:23am
one of many:
As I grow older I am becoming far more fundamentalist in my religious belief so the answer is absurdly easy for me (b)(2), the divine chose to allow the Holocaust. It all comes down the basic tenant that the nature of the divine is dissimilar to the nature of mundane such that complete understanding of the divine is beyond those of us who are mundane. One of the nice things about being a fundamentalist is that so many of the hard questions are answered as articles of faith, no handwringing is necessary.
5.23.2008 10:24am
Ben P (mail):
RE: "Evangelical Christians (particularly of the end times crowd) love Jews"

I don't think this is true. They certainly take a very strong interest in Jews and Israel, but love is not the right word.

They don't bear any particular special affection for them, the Jewish people are simply very important to their particular beliefs on the end of the world. Depending on who you listen to: Israel has to survive as a country defeating some massive attack, possibly destroy Damascus, rebuild the temple, and Jews have to convert to Christianity.

They see Jews and Israel as characters in this "prophesy," so they take an immense interest in them, but they don't have any special connection to them.
5.23.2008 10:30am
Poppler:
Re. the eternal hellfire thing:

I don't think most Christians believe that people will be eternally tortured because they didn't believe in Jesus. Rather, they will be eternally tortured as the just payment for their sins, which they could have avoided by believing in Jesus. Of course, assuming that belief in Jesus is the sole necessary and sufficient condition for staying out of hell, an argument can easily be made that the two are functionally equivalent. But I think it's important to actually articulate what they themselves say.
5.23.2008 10:40am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Glad you're paying attention, Rick M. But to be accurate, what Finkelstein said was "should people like Abraham Foxman, Edgar Bronfman, and Rabbi Israel Singer get a free
ride because they resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Sturmer?
5.23.2008 10:53am
Kirk:
BladeDoc,

No. Sovereignty and Determinism are not synonyms. If that's what you want I recommend you give Islam a look.
5.23.2008 11:03am
TruePath (mail) (www):
What religious person doesn't believe that Hitler served some larger purpose of God's. Now I think the problem of evil is a pretty good indictment of religion but once you accept an all powerful god you need to either believe he has some positive purpose in massive disasters and genocides or he's not a very nice guy. So in fact of the intellectually coherent positions a religious believer is likely to have this seems to be one of the best.

Ohh, and don't give me some explanation about how god lets these things happen to allow for human free will. That just reflects a lack of imagination about what can really be accomplished with omnipotence.

The best response (IMO) is to simply argue that the Jews harmed in the holocaust were spared any suffering, e.g., god lifted their souls up to heaven during the period so they didn't actually experience any pain (but leaving appropriate memories when the ones who survived had their souls returned).

Unfortunately most religious people seem less interested in theological/intellectual coherence than in sticking to those beliefs they feel safe and comfortable with and any reasonable solution to the problem of the holocaust (or mass evil generally) will force people out of their comfort zone.

Sigh, even though it was one of the things that really helped me make the leap to atheism I still can't help being horrified by the lack of thought most people put into what they insist is the most important thing in their lives. For instance every member of a non-jewish religion should be hoping for the conversion of the jews and everyone else (after all everyone should believe true things) and anyone who believes in a second coming or life after death must believe that when the truth is revealed everyone will accept their beliefs as accurate.
5.23.2008 11:12am
Michael B (mail):
It's difficult to fully appreciate the stereotypical and reductionist thinking of the pseudo-liberal outlook. Not all secularist oriented Jews - Ben P., et al. - are typified by the Lazar Kaganovich's of the world, much as not all evangelicals are typified by your categorical outlook and cynicism. Which is why, once the discussion becomes more rationally and empirically grounded, the pseudo-liberal runs away with their tail tucked between their legs.

Via analogy, it's reminiscent of the historical fact that no more than ten thousand, and very likely no more than five thousand were put to death during the 250 or more years of the inquisition. By contrast, between one-hundred million and one-hundred-fifty million, and often en masse, were put to death during the 70 years of Leninist, Stalinist, Maoist, etc. totalitarianism.
5.23.2008 11:15am
yankev (mail):

(a) God really hates the Jews (and there are plenty of Orthodox Jewish rabbis who have suggested that the Holocaust was punishment for the sins of the Jewish people)
Your assumption does not follow from your parenthetical. When I was a kid, I thought my parents punsihed me because they hated me. When I grew older, I realized they had punished me because they loved me. The immediate form taken by that love was painful at the time for me, and at times for them, but was for my ultimate good.

We don't know everything G-d does. We are finite, He is infinite. This issue is not confined to the Holocaust, but is implicated by every instance of human suffering, whether at the hand of other human beings, illness, or natural disaster.
5.23.2008 11:20am
Jam:

Regarding the stuff from Revelations, which is the main part of this end times theology, is there not really good evidence that this book does not belong in the Bible at all. I think the author is generally unknown and the book, frankly, is completely out of place and reads more like Nostradaumus than the Bible.


Huh? I guess, self identification does not cout. Sheech. Yes, I am a little acquainted with attempts to discredit earliest dating of the the Revelaton of Jesus Christ to John. As to the comparison to Nostradamus, no comparison. Revelation is full of Old Testament imagery and prophetic hyperbole. Bottom line, Christ will return and the age of The Fall will come to an end.

No one knows when it will happen. As Scripture says, all of life will apear as always; people marrying, wars, earth quakes, sufferings, etc. Then, as thief in the night He will return. But His return, will not be a secret nor require human help or setups.

Want to be concerned about His return? Do not be. We hear about people who live 110 yrs these days (give or take). Worry about how many days you have left to live and live in a manner that is worthy to be commended by the Creator; do justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God.
And remember our progeny and what they will have to face thanks to us.

-------------------------------

Revelation 1

1The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

(snip)

9I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Revelation 22

8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"
5.23.2008 11:21am
Bad (mail) (www):
"The fact that Hagee takes the latter position hardly makes him an intellectual giant, or speaks well of his moral imagination. But color me unoffended."

I suppose you'd be similarly unoffended if he had declared Jews to be spiritually dead and without living souls, right?

Oh wait, he did do that, in the same sermon.

So, basically, I suppose for you to be offended, he'd have to become a Democrat, right?

Personally, I have no time for chickenshit theology that praises God for causing certain events (like the Holocaust) but then denies that they themselves do not endorse those events. You can't have it both ways: that degree of separation does not undo the celebration anymore than you can get away with praising the actions of Hitler directly but then claim that you yourself are not anti-semetic just because you personally would never have committed genocide.

An action cannot be right for one being to cause but wrong for another. Either the Holocaust was a good thing to cause, on balance, or it wasn't. You can't both condemn Hitler and praise God for the same events.
5.23.2008 11:57am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Jesus threatens people who do nothing wrong other than not believing in him with EVERLASTING torture in a lake of fire in hell.

Not my Jesus. I agree that Revelation seems disconnected from the rest of the New Testament. But all it says is that if you're not in the book of life you're going to the lake of fire. I did not notice any particular belief requirement for book of life eligibility.

Contemplating the Holocaust and Israel: Hitler did a fairly effective job of extracting Jews from all over Europe for annihilation. Now, except for North American Jews, they're pretty well concentrated in a small place. Wouldn't that make a future Hitler's task all the easier? Could it not result in a Masada- or Warsaw Ghetto-like last stand?
5.23.2008 12:08pm
Oren:
If you believe in the "classic" judeo-christian God i.e. omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent doesn't that necessarily mean that everything, good bad or indifferent that happens is part of the plan?
No. God gave us free will. If he manipulated everything we did, we'd lose more than we gain.

In all, it is better to live with even the most monstrous evil than to surrender our free will.

We are finite, He is infinite.
Not exactly, at least in the Jewish mystical beliefs. Human immortality can be achieved through virtue because we were created from perfection (note: this is a terribly condensed paraphrase of a complex point).
5.23.2008 12:09pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"Oren:
The standard answer we got in Conservative (with a capital C) religious school was closest to (b)."

Note that there are an absurd number of reasons why this argument is philosophically unsound, even if "free will" wasn't an incoherent concept to begin with (a will free from... what... itself/yourself?).

1) If we are made in God's image (i.e. God has free will and also makes only good moral choices), then we've already conceded the point that it's perfectly possible for free will to be compatible with perfect character, thus pretty much undermining the entire argument and most of Christian theology.

2) Lots and lots of evil comes from sources that do not begin with any person's choices: such as natural harm (including things like malaria, which you must believe that God not only endorses on some level, but ultimately designed/intended to be a rather exquisite engine of torture). This is not, by the way, merely a problem with the world not being perfectly nice. It is rather that it seems inevitable that God would have had to carefully choose a very specific amount and construction of natural evil: everything from earthquakes to diseases to genetic problems that lead to the death of countless infants long before they have a chance to make moral choices, and so on.

3) The basic argument assumes that bad moral outcomes all start from intentionally bad moral choices. But this assumption is dramatically inconsistent with experience. Perhaps even more often than not, moral harm comes from choices with good intentions, which then go bad because of misunderstandings, mistakes, poor communication, different or confused but sincerely held values, mental illness, lack of knowledge, and so on. Many of these problems would be solved if human beings could have better understandings of the outcomes of their choices, and if they did, this would seem to be a BOON to their "free will" not a hindrance. But instead we have many many areas of ignorance or inability to have foresight that inevitably lead to bad moral consequences that we did not intend or perceive from the start.

4) If the Bible is to be believed, God seems to have no problem with intervening, and openly, when it suits his purposes. In fact, the Bible is basically one long piece of evidence against the idea that anything from God's direct and dramatic interventions in history to mere knowledge of God would somehow "ruin" people's ability to choose bad things.

5) If merely the possibility that evil can be chosen is all that needs to exist, then no actual evil needs to exist or chosen by anyone... unless of course by "possibility" you mean "some percentage of random chance of something occurring" in which case you've given up the idea that people are morally responsible for their choices in the first place.

6) The very idea of salvation and heaven seem to work directly against the idea that the "on balance" best thing is freedom but with horrible suffering. Either people in heaven have full free will or some lesser form, but in either case, they won't choose evil things or suffer for it. But if they have full free will, the idea that people must ever choose evil to have it is necessary falls apart. If they have some sort of lesser form of free will that allows them to never choose evil, then it turns out that God is okay with this lesser form: (and okay with it for all eternity!), and the idea that "on balance" freedom is an acceptable price for evil and suffering makes no sense.

And so on...
5.23.2008 12:23pm
deepthought:

Don't most Christians believe that an anti-Christ is going to arise, and that sometime after that, there is going to be 7 years of intense suffering on the Earth for all of those not raptured.


Do the last 7 years count?
5.23.2008 12:25pm
Jam:
I find it amusing that people who call themselves Christian ("not my Jesus") run away from the fact that the New Testament does teach that all who are not "in Christ" are not written in the Book of Life and are to spend eternity separated from God. As to the nature of the separation, there is plenty to debate, after all, human language is used to describe something that is not part of the physical cosmos we indwell. But Jesus did use Gehenna as a metaphor.

Anyone who has not come to accept Jesus as Saviour is destined to eternal separation and, therefore, is spiritually dead. Nowhere it is taught that people have no soul/spirit.

Imagine living in a world like we are now, through eternity. That would be a hell enough. Don't ya think?
5.23.2008 12:34pm
yankev (mail):
Oren --

Not exactly, at least in the Jewish mystical beliefs. Human immortality can be achieved through virtue because we were created from perfection (note: this is a terribly condensed paraphrase of a complex point).

Immortality, yes; omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence -- not as far as I know. But basically we are in agreement.
5.23.2008 12:36pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Oh, geeez, guys, can we just reference "theodicy" and leave off? After 5000 years or so, I don't think we're gonna get an answer, at least better than the one that says "we can't understand God anyway."
5.23.2008 12:38pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"Now, except for North American Jews, they're pretty well concentrated in a small place. Wouldn't that make a future Hitler's task all the easier? Could it not result in a Masada- or Warsaw Ghetto-like last stand?"

This has always troubled me strategically. It's always seemed like, if you take for granted the idea that Jews are specially (and one might say, supernaturally, by some sort of divine bad karma) threatened as a minority and need to do the best they can to make sure they survive against everyone out to the get them, that the best strategy for the long term survival and thriving of Judaism is the spread of secularized liberal societies throughout the world.

Israel is a great short-term solution for ensuring the security of Jews, by Jews (and I make no bones about it being a legitimate reaction to such fears and history), but it also means that if even just a few crazies ever get sufficient numbers of WMDs together, they could target millions of Jews all at once in the same tiny area in a way even Hitler could never have dreamed of doing. If anything, as we move forward, the fear for Israel is less and less nation-state enemies like Iran, and more and more just the possibility that anyone, no matter how small, could amass the technology necessary to target huge numbers of people all at once, provided that they are all within the same tiny area.

Places like Iran are going to be the major threat to Israel, but as we move forward, it seems increasingly clear that we cannot afford genocidal craziness anywhere, no matter how small-scale. The technology of WMD production will simply never stop getting easier and easier for everyday people to grasp and employ. The only hope is that we'll reach a point where no one will WANT to employ it.
5.23.2008 12:39pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"Charlie (Colorado) (mail): Oh, geeez, guys, can we just reference "theodicy" and leave off? After 5000 years or so, I don't think we're gonna get an answer, at least better than the one that says "we can't understand God anyway.""

I think we've gotten an answer already: theodicy is nonsense. The fact that it almost always ends up as you do: by retreating into unintelligibility, is pretty much conceding the point: the philosophical equivalent of knocking over the chessboard to avoid a loss. And if you allowed a similar excuse in any other circumstance, you could justify literally anything at all.
5.23.2008 12:45pm
Oren:
If we are made in God's image (i.e. God has free will and also makes only good moral choices), then we've already conceded the point that it's perfectly possible for free will to be compatible with perfect character, thus pretty much undermining the entire argument and most of Christian theology.
I suppose it's a good thing I'm not a Christian then, eh?

Lots and lots of evil comes from sources that do not begin with any person's choices: such as natural harm (including things like malaria, which you must believe that God not only endorses on some level, but ultimately designed/intended to be a rather exquisite engine of torture). This is not, by the way, merely a problem with the world not being perfectly nice.
This is silly -- man has long since been expelled from the Garden of Eden (because of his free will, no less).

The basic argument assumes that bad moral outcomes all start from intentionally bad moral choices. But this assumption is dramatically inconsistent with experience. Perhaps even more often than not, moral harm comes from choices with good intentions, which then go bad because of misunderstandings, mistakes, poor communication, different or confused but sincerely held values, mental illness, lack of knowledge, and so on.
Absolutely. To phrase it another way, awareness is an absolute prerequisite for moral action. Those that are not aware of themselves and of others are incapable of being truly virtuous.

If the Bible is to be believed . . .
The Bible is not to be believed. It is to be studied in order to understand what animates it. The Zohar analogized it like this: the bible exists on the plane of the angels and, like the angels must don a human form to descend to our plane, so too must the bible put on earthly garments. The narrative of the bible is the garments but more important than the narrative is the body of the torah (it's core meaning) and more important than that is the soul (the spirit that animate it).

If merely the possibility that evil can be chosen is all that needs to exist, then no actual evil needs to exist or chosen by anyone...
Well, it follows from the fact that people can chose evil that they do chose evil, either through malice or lack of awareness. That is the nature of free will.

unless of course by "possibility" you mean "some percentage of random chance of something occurring" in which case you've given up the idea that people are morally responsible for their choices in the first place.
No, I mean the "possibility of choosing". Everyone is morally responsible for their choices because those choices were freely made.

The very idea of salvation and heaven seem to work directly against the idea that the "on balance" best thing is freedom but with horrible suffering. Either people in heaven have full free will or some lesser form, but in either case, they won't choose evil things or suffer for it.
The angels do not have free will. They are mere agents of God's will.

But if they have full free will, the idea that people must ever choose evil to have it is necessary falls apart.
You are going around in circles. It is necessary that people have the choice between good and evil. It follows that some will eventually chose evil because they are either unaware or malicious.

If they have some sort of lesser form of free will that allows them to never choose evil, then it turns out that God is okay with this lesser form: (and okay with it for all eternity!), and the idea that "on balance" freedom is an acceptable price for evil and suffering makes no sense.
The angels have no free will at all, human beings have full free will. There is no lesser or greater -- either one is free or one isn't.
5.23.2008 12:51pm
D Palmer (mail):
your 4th grade view is largly the reason that, at age 42, I don't choose to believe in the judeo-Christian God, or frankly in any omnipotent supreme being who guides my daily life.

The God of the Old Testament, the one who killed substantially all living creatures via flood, who "tested" his follower by demanding that he slaughter his beloved child, who expelled his creations from paradise because they ate from the fruit of a tree God placed there, is not a God I choose to honor. He (for lack of a better generic pronoun) is not a loving God, but a childish, petty, cruel God.

The supposedly more kind and loving God of the new Testament who sacrificed his son for our benefit is little better.

Bono said it well: "...My God isn't short of cash mister".

I don't want to hear about God's unknown plan. Any God whose plan that includes the rape, murder, and death by starvation of children is not a God worthy of my adoration or worship.
5.23.2008 1:01pm
Oren:
Nor does anyone that believes in the Judeo-Christian God advocate rape, murder and death by starvation today.

Unfortunately, those things were part of society at the time the bible was written. People change, religions change (this is primarily the same argument I get in with more fundamentalist religious folks that are unwilling to discard traditions and strictures that are no longer useful).
5.23.2008 1:54pm
Former Belgian (mail) (www):
The controversial chemistry professor (and Orthodox rabbi) Yeshayahu Leibowitz said many things I vehemently disagree with, or that were stated in such an exaggerated "shock jock" fashion that they had the opposite effect.

I'll always remember one though: an interviewer asked him, "As a religious Jew, what is the meaning of the Shoah for you?"

He answered (in Hebrew): "The Shoah has no meaning. Perhaps the most terrible thing about such things is that they have no meaning."
5.23.2008 2:03pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Christ died that all mankind be saved, not just the few who happen to believe in him. Think of all who died without sin before he lived on earth -- are they going to hell? Is the Dalai Lama going to hell?

1 John 2

1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
5.23.2008 2:15pm
Johnnie (mail):
Well, if God never does things we disagree with, such as punishing people, what are we left with? What was the time in Egypt, the Babalonian Captivity, the destruction of the 10 tribes by Assyria, etc. Were not the Jews punished in Exodus for the worship of the golden calf? Was not the Jews close cooperation with Communism worthy of punishment? If God does not punish, either in this world or the hereafter, what is the point of worshiping and obeying Him? Sounds like the slippery slope to atheism.
5.23.2008 2:18pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Fascinating where this discussion has gone, very quickly sliding into a discussion of the intersection between free will and divinity. Much better discussion than many of the more political ones I see here. Thanks.
5.23.2008 2:24pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"Oren:I suppose it's a good thing I'm not a Christian then, eh? "

I dunno: you tell me if it's a good thing or not. Do you have the view that, for whatever theology you do hold, that man must needs be evil? Do you hold the belief that God has free will, but never does evil? If so, then everything I said applies.

And it seems that you used a response to a single implication in the final line to avoid saying anything at all about the rest of the quoted material.

"This is silly -- man has long since been expelled from the Garden of Eden (because of his free will, no less)."

This is not a coherent answer to anything I've said: silly only in that sense. Telling a story is not the same thing as providing a philosophical or moral justification.

"Absolutely. To phrase it another way, awareness is an absolute prerequisite for moral action. Those that are not aware of themselves and of others are incapable of being truly virtuous."

And yet this refutes the idea that this sort of evil is necessary for free will. The fact that humans exist lacking all sorts of relevant capacities necessary to know how and when they can avoid evil consequences needs justification beyond merely appealing to "free will."

"The Bible is not to be believed."

This is, again, an irrelevant response that doesn't address the thrust of anything I argued. Do you disagree with the idea that God intervenes in history? Or that at various times people have been actively aware that God existed on a very direct level?

"Well, it follows from the fact that people can chose evil that they do chose evil, either through malice or lack of awareness. That is the nature of free will."

No: you need to demonstrate that this is the nature of free will, not merely assert it. You're trying to justify evil here, and you're doing so with a concept "free will" that I don't think you can explain beyond merely that you think it somehow lets a God off the hook for any moral evil apparent in the world. I've already given several reasons why it doesn't make sense to say that the nature of even what YOU claim "free will" is is consistent with evil, none of which you've addressed.

"No, I mean the "possibility of choosing". Everyone is morally responsible for their choices because those choices were freely made."

Again, this doesn't answer the basic incoherency I've pointed out. Saying that choices were "freely made" doesn't really say much of anything: it implies that those choices were made without some sort of influence (which you've left conveniently undefined), but not how they WERE made.

You can't have a purely privative definition of choice and still retain any sense of moral responsibility. You need to be able to link the choices made back to some consistent agent: denying that the nature of the agent has any deterministic affect on the choice made hurts your case, rather than helping it.

"The angels do not have free will. They are mere agents of God's will."

I didn't say anything about angels: so how is this bare assertion relevant to anything?

"You are going around in circles. It is necessary that people have the choice between good and evil. It follows that some will eventually chose evil because they are either unaware or malicious."

No, it does not follow at all. We can imagine people free to choose evil that never do. And once we imagine this, we can imagine that everyone could be like this: perfectly free and yet of the sort of character that they do not will evil. At this point, there ceases to be any moral justification for it being any other way for anyone. This would definitively refute the claim that "free will" makes evil necessary even without getting into the flat-out non-concept of "free will" (again: free from WHAT?)

"The angels have no free will at all, human beings have full free will. There is no lesser or greater -- either one is free or one isn't."

Again, I didn't say anything about angels. This does not answer anything I said.

And, again: free from WHAT?
5.23.2008 2:25pm
Anderson (mail):
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Yes, but under orthodox doctrine, it's like one of those mail-in rebates -- if you don't send it in to Jesus, you don't get the salvation.

I am sympathetic to universalism myself, but let's not pretend there's no New Testament authority to the contrary.
5.23.2008 2:28pm
Oren:
Johnnie -- "worshipping and obeying" god is something I would teach an 8 year old (and not a particularly bright one, at that). If that's as much as you can see in a religion then you should certainly be an atheist.

Tony -- John also says a few chapters later that nobody goes to the Father except through Christ (more or less).
5.23.2008 2:31pm
Oren:
it's like one of those mail-in rebates
Thread winner: Anderson!
5.23.2008 2:33pm
eyesay:
Anderson: "I am sympathetic to universalism myself, but let's not pretend there's no New Testament authority to the contrary."

This spotlights the problem of using scripture to prove a point. There is Tanachic and New Testament authority to establish an enormous range of contradictory viewpoints, which is why scripturalists disagree so profoundly with other scripturalists, and one reason why there are so many sects of Christianity.
5.23.2008 3:08pm
LM (mail):
Jamaica Bay,

Let me make a wild guess. This retard John Hagee is a fellow resident of Walther and W. (and a few more similar geniuses). A state for intellectually challenged.

I wonder how drunk that same God was crating the above three and placing them in the same state.

Are you Garden, posting under a different name?
5.23.2008 3:27pm
denny:
someone asked the question:
"Is there a similar fear from people already nervous about McCain that some of Hagee's controversial/offensive views might influence McCain?"

Yes. Hagee's strong views on the Middle East (all Jews must return to Israel, - War in the Middle East is a good thing, - Israel must not negotiate with any enemies, or surrender one iota of land) are all based on Biblical prophecies, - Hagee has been a strong supporter of Bush - wrote a book saying that he was "God's candidate" - and has been an adviser to Bush, and strongly advocates particular foreign policies.

Spend a few days reading about Hagee as I have. He has had the ear of many Republican politicians. He is a political player in the GOP.
5.23.2008 3:34pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
nobody goes to the Father except through Christ

This is a mere truism. It doesn't mean that all Buddhists, for example, are going to hell. It's more like "Nobody can live without eating food."
5.23.2008 3:34pm
Oren:
I dunno: you tell me if it's a good thing or not. Do you have the view that, for whatever theology you do hold, that man must needs be evil? Do you hold the belief that God has free will, but never does evil? If so, then everything I said applies.
Yes to both questions. Without the possibility of choosing evil, man cannot have free will which means he cannot be a moral creature.

This is not a coherent answer to anything I've said: silly only in that sense. Telling a story is not the same thing as providing a philosophical or moral justification.
Well, the point of religion is to speak allegorically. When man developed the intelligence necessary for moral self-reflection (i.e. when he evolved to be more than a monkey) he also developed the ability act virtuously if he so choses.

And yet this refutes the idea that this sort of evil is necessary for free will. The fact that humans exist lacking all sorts of relevant capacities necessary to know how and when they can avoid evil consequences needs justification beyond merely appealing to "free will."
So you think we should have been given omnisciences as well as free will? I believe that every human being has the capacity to live a virtuous life but that she must first achieve a self-awareness (or a lack of self-deception) in order to see clearly her own motivations and desires. That is the first step.

No: you need to demonstrate that this is the nature of free will, not merely assert it. You're trying to justify evil here, and you're doing so with a concept "free will" that I don't think you can explain beyond merely that you think it somehow lets a God off the hook for any moral evil apparent in the world.
I'm not trying to justify anything or let anyone off the hook. Evil needs no justification and god does not need absolution from you.

Let me turn it around, suppose god created man without the ability to chose evil -- what would he be in that case? A mere animal.

I've already given several reasons why it doesn't make sense to say that the nature of even what YOU claim "free will" is is consistent with evil, none of which you've addressed.
I'm trying, you aren't really listening.

We can imagine people free to choose evil that never do.
That's a pretty weak sort of freedom. Like saying that people are free to get chocolate or vanilla ice-cream but they always get vanilla. In what sense are these people actually free?

And, again: free from WHAT?
Free from acting according to the first instinct.
5.23.2008 3:39pm
Oren:
This is a mere truism. It doesn't mean that all Buddhists, for example, are going to hell. It's more like "Nobody can live without eating food."
That is a very charitable (and ecumenical) interpretation of the Book of John -- one that I whole-heartedly support.
5.23.2008 3:55pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
I, too, am having a hard time seeing why Norman Finkelstein's statements are more anti-Semitic than Hagee's.

As far as I know, Finkelstein is not one of the radical leftists who misrepresent or exaggerate Zionist "cooperation" with the Nazis, allegedly to get more Jews to Israel and to induce guilt in Western governments, but if he were, how would one distinguish that from Hagee?
5.23.2008 4:04pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Without the training of WW2 and the vast array of loose weaponry Jews would have never held against the Arab armies.

And then there was the little deal about moral force.
5.23.2008 4:31pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Oren sez: 'Nor does anyone that believes in the Judeo-Christian God advocate rape, murder and death by starvation today.'

And I say, met any Croats?
5.23.2008 7:33pm
psychdoc (mail) (www):
no, Jesus threatens people who do nothing wrong other than not believing in him with EVERLASTING torture in a lake of fire in hell.

You know, Christoph, I am afraid it is even worse than you imagine. Cardinal Ratzinger expressed the opinion in Truth and Tolerance that it is the height of intolerance and arrogance to claim that any particular belief is necessary to avoid hell. So, in speaking for the Pope, may I note that you may continue your intellectual affiliation with the Catholic Church.

"Some emotions can best be sung," my boss told me when I inquired about his interest in opera. Emotionally I know there is truth in religion; I just don't know in some sense how I translate that truth or what I translate into other things we know. As for Revelations, Haggee's text, Catholic tradition has it to do with some reflection on the reign of the Emperor Nero.
5.23.2008 7:34pm
Jam:

Tony Tutins:

Christ died that all mankind be saved, not just the few who happen to believe in him. Think of all who died without sin before he lived on earth -- are they going to hell? Is the Dalai Lama going to hell?

1 John 2
1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.


And it is sin to not believe in whom the Father has sent.


John 6

39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

41At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."
5.24.2008 9:02am
Jam:
As to the angels not having free will, that is patently wrong. After all, how many did rebel ad followed Lucifer? What was Lucifer's sin? The couple of the differences between angels and mankind are:
1) ontology - They are incorporeal beings that are outside our cosmos.
2) soteriology - The angels did not get a second chance to repent and seek forgiveness.

In pain and mortal life we have been given a second chance, so to speak. An expensive one. To not believe and accept God's way to salvation a personal level carries an eternal consequence.


2 Corinthians 6
1As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. 2For he says,
"In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."[a] I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

John 3

9"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.

10"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[d] 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.[e]

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.[g] 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."[h]
5.24.2008 9:15am
Bad (mail) (www):
Oren, I think I understand you quite well and have listened. I don't think you've listened to yourself because you don't make any sense.

"Yes to both questions. Without the possibility of choosing evil, man cannot have free will which means he cannot be a moral creature."

But you've just conceded, JUST NOW, that it is perfectly possible for a being to have free will AND to never actually choose evil. If you disagree with this concession, what are you saying, really? That God only has what you'll later describe as a "pretty weak" sense of free will?

I'm not sure your thinking about free will, like most thinking about free will, even has any coherent definition. You've certainly not offered any: you've merely listed a bunch of bare assertions about what we would expect if something had free will, amongst which is, apparently, some level of choosing evil things. But why?

In fact, if I'm reading you correctly, it's even worse in your case than in most, because you seem to hold the somewhat Kantian view that both freedom and moral perfection increase as human reason and moral appreciation improve. But this is, again, self refuting. We can do away with evil in those ways without impinging on freedom, then the argument that evil is necessary falls apart all the more.

"Well, the point of religion is to speak allegorically. When man developed the intelligence necessary for moral self-reflection (i.e. when he evolved to be more than a monkey) he also developed the ability act virtuously if he so choses."

Now you're simply heading even farther away from the original objection. Again, this is a sequence of events, not an account of free will or a justification of suffering in a world ostensibly created by a benevolent god.

"So you think we should have been given omnisciences as well as free will?"

??? Do you understand the purpose of philosophical argument: of supporting and criticizing certain assertions by assessing them logically? I ask you this because I keep getting the feeling that you think this is some sort of personal discussion about what you or I might like or enjoy, rather than an examination of specific assertions and whether they make any sense.

"I believe that every human being has the capacity to live a virtuous life but that she must first achieve a self-awareness (or a lack of self-deception) in order to see clearly her own motivations and desires. That is the first step."

...and would you agree that once taken, both free will and moral behavior will increase? If so, you're basically arguing against yourself here.

"I'm not trying to justify anything or let anyone off the hook. Evil needs no justification and god does not need absolution from you."

Again, this is merely non-responsive. Playing the "well god is too awesome to bother with tiny little problems like not making any coherent logical sense" card doesn't get you very far in a philosophical discussion. Evil does need a justification in light of the basic claimed qualities of god: that god is good, wishes only good, is all powerful, all knowing, etc.

"Let me turn it around, suppose god created man without the ability to chose evil -- what would he be in that case? A mere animal."

Except you've already conceded this point: God exists, has free will, and does not choose evil. Is God a mere animal? Are humans that have taken your "first step" increasingly like animals?

"I'm trying, you aren't really listening."

Again, I don't think you understand what is necessary to address a logical assertion. I think I'm listening fine: I just find a heck of a lot to criticize.

"That's a pretty weak sort of freedom. Like saying that people are free to get chocolate or vanilla ice-cream but they always get vanilla. In what sense are these people actually free?"

In every sense: they are free to choose chocolate, but are also such that they never want to. These two ideas are not incompatible: how can they be? What possible alternative account of choice are you prepared to explain in which they are inconsistent?

"Free from acting according to the first instinct."

This again, is incomplete. For your sense to be correct, they must also be free from not merely the first instinct, but also every other one until the last. And all rational values. And literally everything at all having to do with their own character. In other words: they would have to be free from themselves, which doesn't make any sense at all.

And of course, none of this has gotten even close to justifying, say, the existence of river blindness, specifically.

Or explaining how God's apparent interventions in history were okay sometimes, without any apparent damage to whatever you think free will is, but not today.

Or explaining how it is that there are already countless natural constraints on the exercise of free will: which both makes no sense if free will is so important that it must not be curtailed, and also puts to the lie to the idea that God's intervention to prevent certain major evils would be too traumatic to free will to be tolerated. No: it would merely be one more of countless common restraints on people's choices, which are extremely common, and yet which you seem to feel are all perfectly in accordance with free will.
5.24.2008 10:24am
Smokey:
This thread is a little off track. I don't mind, because it's interesting, but concerning the issue that a McCain supporter/wannabe is being compared with Obama's actual long-time friends and supporters, look here. Apples & oranges.
5.24.2008 11:17am
TruePath (mail) (www):

Contemplating the Holocaust and Israel: Hitler did a fairly effective job of extracting Jews from all over Europe for annihilation. Now, except for North American Jews, they're pretty well concentrated in a small place. Wouldn't that make a future Hitler's task all the easier? Could it not result in a Masada- or Warsaw Ghetto-like last stand?


That's why Israel has nukes. It's never a good idea to existentially threaten someone with hydrogen bombs.
5.24.2008 12:21pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Smokey -- Regarding Rashid Khalidi: Do you advocate the Amish practice of shunning? How should one faculty member know that he must avoid all contact with another faculty member. What precautions should a faculty member take when his colleague is also a neighbor? How should a faculty member and neighbor explain to his children that they must never speak to or play with the children of their parent's colleague and neighbor?

Further, what are the criteria for avoiding such a person? Is is sufficient that they have one parent born in Palestine, or should they have committed an overt act themselves?
5.24.2008 3:36pm
scooby (mail):
This thread is a little off track.

Just a tad. More on track: the reason McCain is dumping Hagee is because it's obvious that the left will try to make Hagee McCain's Wright. The media will never present any more about Hagee than a few soundbites that make him sound crazy.

The big lie is that Hagee is equivalent to Wright:

1. Hagee has been a long time opponent of anti-Semitism, both Catholic and Protestant. He has even criticized Martin Luther's original anti-Semitism, and he has been lauded by a number of Jewish groups for his work against anti-Semitism.

2. Both McCain and Hagee have obviously agreed that the way his remarks are being shallowly interpreted are counter to both their messages.

3. Obama and Wright really do hold black liberation theology as part of their core belief system. They understand it's unacceptable to most whites and many blacks (not to mention all the other races, e.g. Jews), but assume (correctly) that their base and the media will not only give them a pass, but run interference for them.
5.24.2008 7:07pm
Smokey:
Tony Tutins, you're making this really easy.

It's not just Khalidi, see? Khalidi is only one of many, many highly questionable long-time friends of Obama. Khalidi is another brick in the wall, as you'd see if you'd read the article. And more like Khalidi and Ayers and
Dohrn and Wright will come out over the coming months.

One swallow does not a Spring make. But you start looking at all the dirtbags that Obama hangs with, and a clear pattern emerges: Barry's cronies are all far Left. Where are his conservative friends of twenty years' standing? *crickets*

The plain fact is that Obama is weak. He's WEAK. He may be a nice guy, but he's weak. Who do you think wears the pants in his family? Him?? C'mon. He's weak, so he collects friends like William Ayres, he goes to a hate-America church for decades, his wife is filled with hatred for America [at least until the thought of being 1st lady entered her consciousness], and he's being run by the same sort of very strong, very far-Left personalities. Because he's weak, they're running him. That's how it works in the real world.

So, yeah. If Khalidi were the only one, you'd have a reasonable argument. But let's look at the long-term pattern. The jury decides in November.
5.24.2008 7:57pm
yankev (mail):
Jam, you have identified one of the many differences between Jewish theology and non-Jewish theology. In Jewish theology, Lucifer did not rebel against G-d, and the concept of an angel rebelling against G-d is a contradiction in terms --in part, because in Jewish theology angels have no free will. I have also heard the explanation that angels see the truth so completely that the concept of not carrying out G-d's will would no more occur to them than the concept of jumping off a cliff for no reason at all would occur to a perfectly sane lucid human, thereby rendering them for all practical purposes as though they had no free will.

Either way, offering the example of rebellious or fallen angels is not a relevant refutation because in Jewish belief, such a thing never happened and could never happen.
5.26.2008 5:36pm