Is God the Author of all Evil?

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Heavenly Pilgrim, Sep 20, 2006.

  1. Heavenly Pilgrim

    Heavenly Pilgrim
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    There appears to be but two positions to take. Either Evil has existed eternally within the Godhead, or there must have been a point in time that evil made its ugly entrance upon the sands of time.

    It takes power to do evil. It is not just happenstance or randomness, but a willful act of disobedience. My question to the list is where did evil receive its impetus, its source, its power to form an intent in direct opposition to God? If God’s nature is indeed Moral Goodness, Love, Benevolence, and Justice (among other Infinite Virtues) what causes evil? Can Moral Good 'cause' evil? Is God the Author of all evil?

    These questions are indeed valid especially in the light of every discussion I have ever been in concerning freewill. The notion always arises that freewill must be in error due to what some say is the facts surrounding the so-called infinite regression of causes. The idea is floated that behind every act there must be a cause, and if one retreats in time one will end up in what they seem to feel is an infinite regression of causes that leads to nowhere. This they point to as a fallacy of freewill, in my understanding of their position.

    Is this a fallacy of freewill, or does this very same process of regression of causes lay a sinister and wicked trap on the doorstep of God Himself as the author of all evil for those holding to necessity? Will not the regression of a cause direct them back to the inevitable conclusion that God Himself is in fact the Author of all evil? If you believe in necessity, (code words, ‘compatabilistic freedom’) can you stop the regression of necessity with Satan?

    It has been suggested by Brandon C. Jones that if you start down the road of regression one must of necessity end up with ‘unending regression’ or “nasty causality.” Are these our only two choices? What he seem to fail to understand is that necessity is in fact regressive as well. If there is necessity, something or someone must necessitate it.

    My question to Brandon or others holding to like views, is to explain to us how they avoid God as the Author of all sin, holding as they do to necessity that appears to be tied inseparably to that nasty end of necessity, God as the Author of all evil.
     
    #1 Heavenly Pilgrim, Sep 20, 2006
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  2. Brandon C. Jones

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    Wow I must be special to be named not once but twice in this OP in a topic as old as theology itself: the origin of evil.

    I'm not quite sure if I agree with what you say I said, but I don't really care to bother with checking all of that out on the other thread (it seems that you think that I value necessity more than I think I do, but that could just be my lazy posting).

    Have I failed to see that if there is necessity, then something must be necessitating it? Well, no I don't believe so and here's why.

    Your getting at one of the classic problems of evil, namely the logical problem of evil (there is also the evidential problem in various forms and the religious problem in various forms).

    The logical problem of evil-

    Christians believe: A) God is all-powerful, B) God is all-loving, and C) Evil is in the world (or for those who believe that evil is a privation of good and the like "agents make evil decisions in the world"). This is a contradiction because if God is really all-powerful couldn't He have the ability to stop evil acts and if God was all-loving wouldn't He want to stop evil acts? Thus, either God wants to stop evil but is impotent to and not all-powerful or God has the ability to stop evil but doesn't want to and is not all-loving. The atheist proudly proclaims victory by pointing out this problem for Christians. Now Christians have answered this question with not a few theodicies depending on one's metaphysics and theolgical bends. The idea that this is not a problem for those who hold to libertarian free will is silly-this is a Christian problem.

    The story goes: God didn't have to create anything. He chose to create this world knowing (whether passively or actively) what would happen. He is ultimately responsible for what happens in His creation.

    The atheist mocker of Christianity couldn't care less whether you believe in libertarian free will or not to make this argument. In her opinion God is the author of evil just the same by creating this world in the first place given the evil that is in it.

    You can invoke the free will defense if that floats your boat (you know greater good and all valuing free will above the consequence of evil, etc., etc.). You can invoke a different defense (I prefer the one developed by John Feinberg in "The Many Faces of Evil").

    The Christian tradition by and large has never attributed God as the author of evil despite giving Him the credit for freely creating this world that has evil in it. Even Augustine notices that God did not create man sinful but able to sin (some atheists would say that that alone qualifies God for being the author of sin). You see how relative this charge of God being the author of evil is? Typically, if one believes that God actively controls more things in the world than you do, then that person makes God the author of evil. Kind of like the old joke that the definition of a hyper-Calvinisit is somone who is more Calvinistic than you.

    I know this may seem like dodging the fancy philosophical and logical question since people (i.e., Norm Geisler) think that the determinist has no choice but to label God as the author of evil. But we still believe that God merely permits sin (which implies He could prevent it), but is never the cause of it and tempts no one to do it. He does work through second causes to accomplish His ends even if it includes evil actions (i.e., the crucifixion of the innocent God-man Jesus Christ).

    Whether or not God merely foreknows or foreordains the events of the world matters not to those who want to charge Him with being the author of evil since both views hold that God permits sin which implies that He could prevent it. Scripture clearly shows that God can prevent sin, but He didn't in the first place and He doesn't quite regularly for His own purposes.

    PS-I mention necessity in talking of things like God necessarily having the same essential attributes in every possible world (as far as I can tell that's the nature of essential attributes) and necessarily existing in every possible world (not using the ontological argument or the like but grounding it in His concrete existence). I'm no logical fatalist or perfect being theologian, but I do believe in contemporary essentialism and that God has an essence that includes moral goodness. So no I don't believe that if God necessarily exists, then there must be a cause since I don't view God's existence as an effect. I've never purposely used the word necessity as a code word for compatibilism. That would surely be absurd. God can decree whatever He wants, His hands weren't tied before the foundation of the world. He is able to accomplish His ends without treading on human freedom because I act based on my desires without constraint (and foreknowledge is no constraint as many Arminians would even agree). I think one problem is that you fail to see any freedom in compatibilism so it all looks like necessity to you regarding human freedom. If one is holding the libertarian free will hammer, then all talk of God foreordaining things looks like necessity-the proverbial nail? Hopefully, that will clear some things up.
     
    #2 Brandon C. Jones, Sep 20, 2006
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  3. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Have you ever considered a political career? Your answer sounded to me much like the answers of a lot of politicians I know might have given.:smilewinkgrin:

    Seriously, I fail to see a direct answer to the questions I posed on this thread. Let me ask them again, and see if you can give a straight forward answer to them. I know you implied that you do not attribute God as the Author of sin, but sin is in effect an effect, and effects do have a cause…….or are you suggesting that sin must have somehow lied latent in the “essence of God” without God being the Author of it?

    The questions I asked were as follows. It takes power to do evil. It is not just happenstance or randomness, but a willful act of disobedience. My question to the list is where did evil receive its impetus, its source, its power to form an intent in direct opposition to God? If God’s nature is indeed Moral Goodness, Love, Benevolence, and Justice (among other Infinite Virtues) what causes evil? Can Moral Good 'cause' evil? Is God the Author of all evil?
     
  4. Brandon C. Jones

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    Hmmm...I don't know any politicians, thankfully.

    You answer first since my post answered that this is not a problem unique to me or others who believe like me but a problem for you too. You've had ample time to present your metaphysical understanding of the euthrphro question or whether or not God chooses to be morally good and if that entails the possibility for Him to be morally evil or if evil has always existed apart from God or is simply relevent to God's character. Instead, your response has been ineffability. I could've used that answer too, but my metaphysics are on the table, and I saw no need to dodge the questions and hide behind ineffability.

    I also answered that this charge of God being the author of sin is far from objective and one's presuppositions, metaphysics (including ethics), and theological beliefs create different levels of "authorship" so to speak. I'll stand by my answer and am waiting for yours. I also didn't answer directly if the concept of redemption lied latent in the essence of God either, but if it did such a concept would entail evil and sin. What say you on those things? Scripture presents Christ as slain before the foundation of the world, is that decree consistent with God's essence because it entails human death, which according to Scripture is an effect of the fall which is an effect of sin, which is an effect of creatures who choose to sin, which is an effect of creation, which is an effect of God's decision to create creatures? Scripture blames creatures for their sinful deeds, but the atheist claims that there'd be no sin if God just would've created them differently or chose not to create at all--in other words He's still the author of sin in your view according to the atheist. Thus, I'm not sure why you think the questions in your OP have any teeth that only apply to my theological views they seem to be fit for your views as well.

    (By the way why the scare quotes in your post around essence? Is God a person or an event or the ground of all being in your view? You see this is getting old debating with someone who asks multiple metaphysical questions of me but hides behind ineffability when the tables are turned on him or her).

    You're right evil actions don't just randomly happen, so why did God decide to create agents that could choose evil actions knowing that they would and yet still be a good person? These are questions that a good theodicy will answer for a roughly $15 you can buy Feinberg's book to get a good treatment of the issue. He covers answers thatt involve voluntarism, essentialism, consequentialist and non-consequentialist ethical systems, determinism, and libertarianism. He includes some historical answers like those of Irenaeus and Augustine. If you don't want to spend the money, I'm sure CCEL has "Against Heresies" and the works of Augustine available for free. You could even read Lebniz's theodicy, but it's rather odd. There's also one offered by John Hick, and the list goes on and on.

    This is an interesting topic indeed, but not one unique to a particular division of Christian theology-it applies to all orthodox believers.
     
  5. Jarthur001

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    If you understand what sin is..you will have your answer.



    In Christ...James
     
  6. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: And what do you see sin entailing?
     
  7. Marcia

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    "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." 1 Jn 1.5

    Evil does not come from God and is not in His nature, or He would not be the Biblical God. Evil is sin, and resides in man's nature and we know for sure is in the nature of fallen angels.

    Man is made in God's image so he has will. This will went against God and so sin happened on earth. God made man good, but not perfect nor unable to sin, or there would be more than one God. God cannot make another God -- only God can exist.

    I think ultimately this is a mystery and we don't know how man could decide to go against God (as did Satan) but he did. And for sure this sin/evil did not originate in God.
     
  8. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: What I saw on the table was a complete avoidance of the real question, and an interjection of a lot of ideas that I did not address or ask about,…. and several Augustinian/Calvinist resource materials. :)

    Whether or not God could have stopped all evil, or if in fact being All-loving He should have stopped all evil, are great questions for another thread. I simply addressed the issue from the standpoint of our agreement that evil exists. I asked where in fact did the power to commit evil come from? You could have said God, or you could have said man, or you could have said Satan, or any other place you felt appropriate, but I failed to read even a hint of your feelings in regard to my specific question. It is easy to overlook ones answers when buried in a pot of metaphysic soup. Possibly you might just point me to the paragraph that reveals your answer if in fact you honestly feel you gave one?

    God is Infinite. I am fully aware that you realize that, but what I do not see from what I have read thus far is a willingness from you to admit that metaphysics do not and cannot hold the answers to or reveal to our minds the gap that is and remains between our finite understanding and His infinite existence and attributes. When I point to this, you see it as ‘hiding behind ineffability.’ If one does not find some ineffable qualities of God that lay far beyond our abilities to explain by the use of our metaphysical approaches, it will be our ignorance revealed on the table along side of our metaphysics that lay bare for all to see.

    God has revealed to us some truth that we can be certain of, to guide us in our pursuit of truth. God has given to man first truths of reason, truths known and recognized by all men of reason, so plain and fundamental that they need no further proof or substantiating evidence. One of those first truths is that in order to do anything blameworthy or praiseworthy one must have a choice to do something other than what he or she does under the very same set of circumstances. That truth des not come from man, but is given to us by God Himself to utilize in the discovery of truth.

    For one to fail to utilize or contradict the first truths of reason God gives us in any approach, yes including how we approach and understand His nature and attributes, is to build in error into any conclusion one might reach.

    Goodness, love, benevolence, etc. are all moral ideas that without choice have no relevance to morals or truth. Regardless if I cannot establish a first cause for our God, being Infinite as He is, I can still be assured that without choice no morality can be predicated of any intent or subsequent action. Yes, I admit to my ignorance in understanding or explaining how can God’s morality works itself out having no first choice due to the Infinite quality of His existence, and yet I cannot allow the things I cannot understand, and hold no hope for any further enlightenment in this finite world due to the fact they are hidden from my purview, confuse the things God allows me to know of certainty. Without choice, without the possibility existing of contrary choice, no morality can be predicated of ones intents or subsequent actions.

    This is not hiding behind ineffability, but rather I am openly admitting my human shortcomings of understanding. Just the same, I refuse to allow the things I do not understand to confuse the things God has universally revealed to the heart of everyman. Without choice, no morality can be predicated of any intent of man. I can see no reason why this in fact does not apply to God as well, even though as I have repeatedly stated, I cannot logically understand how this works itself out with the Infinite Existence of our Loving God.

    I hope you can see my openly admitted to ‘human shortcomings’ dealing with our Infinite God and His attributes on the table, if in fact you never see anything else.

    If I were to answer the question of this thread myself, I would say that God grants to man the power to commit sin. Sin has not always existed but the power of contrary choice has, and is an essential component of Gods’ moral character transferred to us being created in His Image as an essential component of our moral character.
     
  9. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Amen. There is a mystery that surrounds sin or righteousness. God created us as moral beings, the first cause of our intents, and as such morally responsible and rightful recipients of praise or blame. Admitting to the existence of this mystery is essential to the promotion of truth... and humility.

    In spite of our ignorance of the mystery surrounding iniquity, there is still first truths of reason given to us by God that we indeed do know of certainty, and a wayfaring man, though a fool, can understand what they need to know about morality if they will but heed the voice of reason instilled in us by God.
     
  10. Brandon C. Jones

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    It's above: Scripture holds creatures accountable for their evil decisions (and this is surely true for one who is a compatibilist).

    Great, lets quote the last verse of Romans 11 and call it a night then? We both believe it. Do I believe we can sit down and think really hard about God's nature? No, I'll always admit that, but He has revealed much about His nature. If this last post reveals your heart then why all of these metaphysical questions? Your presuppositions include much more than the supposed "first truths" and I was simply trying to get you to reveal them in order to address you. That is why I charged you with hiding behind ineffability. Every time I tried to figure out your metaphysical presuppositions, you revealed none but certainly post with them firmly in place when you're on the attack.

    Here's a good example of what I'm talking about. You try to have it both ways: take the high road and say we can't really figure God out with our finite minds, but then by the end of the post you speak for Him universally revealing your presupposition regarding libertarian free will's necessity for praisworthiness. Surely you did not arrive at such a position sticking with ineffability (and this example is only the newest not the first in my recent dealings with you).

    Quote: "God has revealed to us some truth that we can be certain of, to guide us in our pursuit of truth. God has given to man first truths of reason, truths known and recognized by all men of reason, so plain and fundamental that they need no further proof or substantiating evidence. One of those first truths is that in order to do anything blameworthy or praiseworthy one must have a choice to do something other than what he or she does under the very same set of circumstances. That truth des not come from man, but is given to us by God Himself to utilize in the discovery of truth."

    BJ: Where did God reveal this to you?

    Here's any easy modus tollens:

    Definition:

    P: In order to do anything blameworthy or praiseworthy one must have a choice to do something other than what he or she does under the very same set of circumstances.

    A: If P is a first truth, then P will be "known and recognized by all men of reason, so plain and fundamental that [it] needs no further proof or substantiating evidence.

    B: P is not known and recognized by all men of reason, P is not so plain and fundamental that it needs no further proof or substantiating evidence.

    Some men of reason (labelled as pesky compatibilists) do not believe P and offer a Frankfurt counterexample to at least show that it is less than a first truth:

    Brandon C. Jones is carried, while asleep, into a room where Heavenly Pilgrim is also sleeping. Brandon C. Jones is locked in the room, and can't leave the room when he awakes unless someone unlocks the door. Brandon eventually awakens and is pleased to see Heavenly Pilgrim there because he enjoys annoying Heavenly Pilgrim (perhaps because Heavenly Pilgrim tries to make his theological views tantamount to the laws of logic). Instead of leaving the room, Brandon waits for Heavenly Pilgrim to wake up, knowing that Heavenly Pilgrim will be annoyed when he sees Brandon. Eventually Heavenly Pilgrim does awaken, and is furious when he sees Brandon. Now in this case Brandon could not have left the room even if he had wanted to do so, but does that mean that he is not responsible for annoying Heavenly Pilgrim?

    C: P is not a first truth.

    In another thread you masked an attempt to define away my position as a "clarification." That was annoying, but this takes the cake: assuming that if one disagrees with your beliefs on libertarian freedom then she is arguing with the laws of logic, which are revealed by God Himself.

    Let's not elevate an argument for libertarian free will's necessity for morality to the same logical status as the law of non-contradiction. Philosophers who agree with you surely have answered my example of a Frankfurt counter-example above, but this requires further proof and substantiating evidence to which compatibilists offer counter-arguments. This topic is treated differently than actual "first truths" like the laws of identity and non-contradiction which fit your criteria perfectly without carrying water for certain theological positions like libertarian free will and those who want to try to equate it with logic itself.

    We must be humble and commit ourselves to our Creator, but this advice would surely apply to both sides of the freedom/foreknowledge debate, no? Perhaps some people can admit that what is a first truth is the place of freedom for praiseworthiness or blameworthiness, but the verdict isn't quite out as to if that freedom is libertarian or compatibilistic. I'll admit that I could be wrong and I think that does take humility, but it's frustrating when people equate their view of this debate as the only real one and all others are chimeras.

    Okay, this is going no where and again and I've said my peace with the most feared 21st century pilgrim of them all :).

    Take care my friend and may we all revel in the God who is beyond anything we can possibly imagine!
     
    #10 Brandon C. Jones, Sep 21, 2006
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  11. BobRyan

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    I agree with this except I would say that "God DID make man perfect, made the angels perfect, made Lucifer perfect".

    None of them " desired sin" and none were "inclined to sin". They were all made in perfect harmony with the character of God.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  12. webdog

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    No...it means the person who carried you into the room is responsible, unless you don't believe the person carrying you into the room would have any idea that HP would be mad and sin. Since it's God in your flawed analogy doing the carrying...He would know the outcome of His action of carrying you into the room...making God the author of sin.

    If I take two cock fighting roosters and put them together knowing it's illegal, can I tell the cop arresting me that the roosters were the ones fighting and should be held responsible...not me?
     
  13. Inquiring Mind

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    Sin is the by-product of freewill.

    We are created with freewill.

    God creeted us.

    Col 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
     
  14. Inquiring Mind

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    God put the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" in the garden.

    Gen 2: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

    Evil existed prior to at least the creation of the Garden of Eden.
     
  15. Jarthur001

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    Bingo....

    Evil was not made by God. Evil pure and simple is....."Not God".

    It is Man wanting his will over Gods will.
     
  16. Brandon C. Jones

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    Webdog that sounds like an argument and an attempt for further proof and substantiating evidence. The point of my argument was not to prove that P is false because it fails to do that. The point was to prove that P is less than what HP calls a "first truth." It does accomplish that.

    You assume that there is no difference between cocks and humans, the Bible disagrees with you. I never said God put me in the room. I'm still responsible for my actions though because I acted based on my desires and my action was not constrained (foreknowledge is not a constraint as many Arminians would even agree with that), in other words I acted freely in a compatibilistic sense.

    As to my view making God the author of sin I'd be careful how narrowly you want to pin that charge because most Arminians believe that God passively foreknew the evil actions in this world but chose to create this world as it is anyways, yet they do not believe that this alone makes God the author of sin. I agree with them that their view does not make God the author of evil, and my view does not either. We should all agree that God holds creatures responsible for choosing evil actions because Scripture reveals this to us.

    BJ
     
    #16 Brandon C. Jones, Sep 22, 2006
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  17. webdog

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    While not arminian, I don't agree that God "passively foreknows". God is omnipresent and omniscient. He just "knows". The term "foreknow" is for mankind...bound by time...to get a slight glimpse of the awesomeness of God. God doen't "fore" anything, as He is not bound by time. Knowing is not the same thing as decreeing.
     
  18. Brandon C. Jones

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    Regarding know and decree see above unless you hold that God doesn't permit sin in this world which in that case there are other issues I suppose.
     
  19. BobRyan

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    Agreed.

    The Angels that chose NOT to sin - did not sin.

    The angels that chose TO sin -- fell and can not blame God since He did not create them "defective" in anyway.
     
  20. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: As I understand your intents, what your are trying to accomplish with your illustration is to debunk the notion that in order to do anything praiseworthy or blameworthy, man must have choice. The question is, does this illustration do it?

    First let’s go to the last of the illustration to see what is being blamed. You say that you are responsible for annoying me, even though you had no choice in being in the room. What you define as ‘responsible’ on your part really has nothing to do with anything necessarily that you did. Your presence was not a choice, for you were carried in asleep. You did not form an intent to go into the room to annoy me, and in your illustration did nothing while in there intentionally to annoy me. If I am annoyed, it is my problem not yours. Am I not directly responsible for my attitudes, or is it proper to blame others for my ‘furious’ fits of anger? If I follow the logic you are presenting we will have given everyone an excuse for any and all problem attitudes. Blame it on someone else.

    What ever happen to personal responsibility for ones attitudes, regardless of what others do to us, especially when it amounts to nothing more than the necessitated presence of an annoying purveyor of illogical, truth defying scheme of necessity? :smilewinkgrin: (Just kidding. You by no means annoy me. Sorry!)

    What does being in the room have to do with the annoyance you say you are being blamed for? What jury would convict you of being an annoyance, when according to your illustration was perpetrated by simply your presence in the room, when in fact you of necessity were put there? Not a fair minded and just one for sure.

    Sin is heinous, willing rebellion against a known commandment of God. Sin carries a punishment of eternal separation from God, in a burning lake of fire known as hell. Are you going to tell me that if there was no other possible intent or action possible, that God would hold a man accountable, let alone punished for failure to do the impossible, i.e. overcome necessitated fate? Even God cannot do that.

    I cannot see for the life of me how you feel this illustration proves that one can be punished or praised for an intent without any choice being involved in the formation of the intent to annoy me. It neither illustrates or proves any such thing.

    Let’s consider another possible side to this illustration. There is the possibility that you could be blamed for your annoyance, even if you were already dead when they carried you into that room and your presence dead or alive DID NOT annoy me in the least. (We are assuming for illustration sake that being an annoyance is indeed blameworthy and as such punishable)

    If you had purposed in your heart to be an annoyance, but were killed before being able to carry it out, the Scriptural principle of being held accountable for ones intents still applies. If one lusts in their heart, the sin has been committed already even if the opportunity to carry out the formed intentions of that lust never occurs. The same goes for hate. If one purposes in their heart to commit murder, but is killed on the way to carry it out, God judges that person the same as if though he had killed the other person. In morals, intent is everything.

    Just the same, in order for intent to be established, choice must be present. To consider otherwise violates the first truth of reason you have not proved wrong in the least so far. In order to do anything blameworthy or praiseworthy, one must have a choice.
     
    #20 Heavenly Pilgrim, Sep 22, 2006
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