"For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." - Romans 9:17-18
Paul's rant seems to get longer and more mind bending by the day.
Paul starts out chapter 8 by talking more about sinful nature vs. the Spirit. He says that you are either saved through the Spirit of Jesus (the Holy Spirit?) or you are controlled by your sinful nature. This sinful nature, as Paul previously defined, is laid out in the Old Testament laws.
Paul continues on, saying that if we live with the holy spirit we will never die, and if we don't we will die. I'll assume he means to say that we'll live an eternal spiritual life as opposed to physical life, but he never actually says this. Paul conveniently leaves out any mention of hell. Why isn't he warning us about the eternal hellfire if we don't believe in Jesus?
This is where it gets interesting. Paul says, "It [morality?] does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy". He uses the example of Pharaoh, and how God hardened Pharaoh's heart (preventing him from freeing the Israelites) so that God could glorify his name (through plagues). Paul seems to have just shat all over the idea of "free will".
First of all, thanks for backing me up Paul. Whenever I bring up the God hardening Pharaoh's heart incident I'm invariably met with, "No no no no, you're reading it wrong/taking it out of context/not translating it right/trying to find fault with the bible" (example). Paul is clearly saying here that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Either admit that God did it, or admit that Paul doesn't know what he's talking about.
Paul then tries to vindicate God, he asks the hypothetical question, "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?". Man, Paul explains to himself, has no place questioning God. He says this would be like a potter's lump of clay talking back to him.
The problem with this example is that no clay actually does talk back to it's pot maker. To relate this to my own field, if I could create a sentient computer, wouldn't it have the right to not be enslaved or unreasonably punished? If I somehow tortured my sentient computer, would that be intrinsically moral just because I created it? I don't think so. But I also wouldn't form my creation so that it was unable to detect me and left to forever ponder my existence. So I guess Yahweh and I have some fundamental disagreements.
Chapter 10 is all about salvation through Jesus (again). Paul says that Jesus was the end of the law. But wait, I thought we had to live out the law so that we won't be slaves to sin. In a way we're still bound by Old Testament laws, because if we're being "slaves to sin" we can't be slaves to the Holy Spirit. With this logic, Jesus hasn't really done anything. I think Paul's blathering may have scrambled my brain.
Paul then asks some very good questions:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?
This is essentially my question of how tribal people/Iranians can be saved by Jesus if they've never heard of him. Unfortunately, Paul just answers this by quoting an OT passage that says that the word of Christ has gone "to the ends of the world". This simply isn't true.
I don't even know what to say about this one:
I am not a religious person but I realize religion’s importance to provide moral guideposts for a civilized society.
So this is someone who's not religious, saying that people can't be moral without religion. Go on:
The smear and vitriol that some on the Left have heaped on religion, especially Christianity, has brought us to what they gleefuly call “a post-biblical period.” They go back centuries to the Crusades and the Salem Witch Trials as examples of religious abuse. However, they say little about the moral vacuum they have created. We have rampant crime, STDs, drug addiction, divorce and many unwed mothers. Then there is the putrid stench of corruption in the federal government and some of our state governments so pervasive that to correct it will be tantamount to cleaning the Augean Stables. Much of big corporate America is just as bad, but the government’ answer is more regulations.
First of all, there's no evidence that rampant crimes have anything to do with atheism. As for STD's and unwed mothers, wasn't it the religious organizations championing the ineffective "abstinence only" education programs? I'm also finding a few websites that say atheist divorce rates are considerably lower than that of the religious in general. The writer then descends into a political argument. Government is corrupt? How is that an argument for religion?
I believe that morality is the glue of society and if we Americans cannot agree between us on what is right or wrong, then Big Brother will.
Who does this guy think is deciding what is right and wrong right now? One of the biggest duties of any government is to make and enforce laws. This could be a news flash, but God doesn't descend to punish criminals. If he did there would probably be a lot more dead adulterers/Sabbath breakers.
America has decided what's right and wrong (the Constitution?). "Big Brother" does enforce the laws that our Representatives have decided on. I don't think people deserve to be in jail for breaking the Sabbath laws, or being an adulterer. It's time to reject these biblical "morals" and start embracing true morality that actually cares about humanity.