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Author Topic: What's everyone's opinion of this quote?  (Read 1542 times) Average Rating: 0
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plutonas
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« on: June 10, 2003, 04:41:00 PM »

I found this quotation somewhere and I'm interested in hearing some religious opinions/perspectives on it (e.g. why it is wrong, etc.):

"A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made everyone of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell - mouths of Golden Rules, and forgiveness and multiplies by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor abused slave to worship him!"

-Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger
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CDHealy
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« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2003, 04:49:29 PM »

"A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones;. . .

"Preferred"?  How does Mr. Twain know that this was God's "preference"?  What does Twain mean by "good" and "bad"?  Would a child "made good" (seemingly apart from the child being a free moral agent) really be better than a child "made bad"?

. . . who could have made everyone of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; . . .

Again, "happy"?  What does Twain mean?  How does he know that God never "made a single happy one"?

And by this point you get the tenor of my reply.  It seems to me that just about every phrase is hardly acceptable on its face, but rather begs all sorts of questions.

In other words, it's pithy, attention-getting, and pure Twain.  Is it worthy of serious adherence?  I think not.
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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2003, 07:34:17 PM »

What sort of work is this quotation from? Does Twain say it himself or does a character say it? It's all lying rubbish, btw. Wink

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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2003, 08:31:37 PM »

Quote
It's all lying rubbish, btw.

Wasn't one of the characters in that story the evil one himself ?
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Keble
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2003, 10:07:20 PM »

It's one of Twain's characters talking, but it is really Samuel Clemens himself talking. I could put the essay "Why I Am Not a Christian" (Bertrand Russell) right next to it. Well, not exactly. The Russell essay is a lot stupider.

Anyway, the problem with criticizing the passage is with love. It's easy enough to say that it is a bunch of malarkey/lies/whatever. If someone is saying these things to you, how are you going to respond in love? By telling him that he's a dunderhead for believing these things?

These things are all part of the scandal of a Good God. Glib responses are worse than unwise; they endanger those who make them as well as being unconvincing. The only real hope is to engage the speaker as a person and try to jostle them lose from their secular certainty, adn get them to sit up and listen for the real God instead of taking potshots at paper gods.

Plenty of theologians have systematic answers against Clemens's denuciad. The hard part is getting people to engage them.
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Linus7
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« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2003, 01:38:21 AM »

I agree with you, Keble.

I used to think exactly like that quote, and those thoughts still occasionally arise in my mind.

That passage was simply Clemens' way of expressing the problems of Evil and of Suffering, problems that have undoubtedly stymied the greatest minds since the world began.

I think one must face the questions expressed in that passage sooner or later.

I guess my (short) answer is that I choose to have faith.

When I was an atheist I had to fight off doubts about it. As a Christian I must also fight off doubts, but now I seem to be fighting for something. As an atheist I was fighting for nothing.
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« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2003, 03:21:17 PM »


Anyway, the problem with criticizing the passage is with love. It's easy enough to say that it is a bunch of malarkey/lies/whatever. If someone is saying these things to you, how are you going to respond in love? By telling him that he's a dunderhead for believing these things?

These things are all part of the scandal of a Good God. Glib responses are worse than unwise; they endanger those who make them as well as being unconvincing. The only real hope is to engage the speaker as a person and try to jostle them lose from their secular certainty, adn get them to sit up and listen for the real God instead of taking potshots at paper gods.

Plenty of theologians have systematic answers against Clemens's denuciad. The hard part is getting people to engage them.


Keble I agree with you 100%.  I could not have said it better myself. Glib answers do nothing except to alienate those who have the doubts as in the Clemens passage.
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2003, 02:09:16 AM »

Quote
A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones

This is simply blaming God for our own badness. I don't buy it. When I sin, it isn't God's fault, it's my fault.

Quote
who could have made everyone of them happy, yet never made a single happy one

I wonder where he lived. I've seen plenty of happy children. Tons of 'em. Children seem to WANT to be happy, and find ways to make the best of even the worst situations. And yet, through no fault of their own, they are born into a fallen world.

Quote
who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short

This is talking out of both sides of your mouth. If life is bitter, what's so stingy about cutting it short?

Quote
who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it

Again this speaks to the fallenness of the world. Originally God put us in a garden of plenty and heaped quite unmerited happiness upon us. Our first Father Adam broke that happiness and we inherit the corruption and death he introduced into the world. And yet all this time God has been doing all He could to restore us to paradise through His Son. Earn it? We could never earn it. But we may have to work for it. It doesn't seem too high a price to this pilgrim.

Quote
who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body

Again we brought these curses on ourselves through our Father Adam. They are not part of God's intention for us, and will be done away with in the fulness of time.

Quote
who mouths justice, and invented hell; mouths of Golden Rules, and forgiveness and multiplies by seventy times seven, and invented hell

Did He invent Hell? I don't buy it.

Quote
who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself

This is an interesting claim but needs to be fleshed out before I can even respond to it. What the heck does this mean?

Quote
who frowns upon crimes yet commits them all

I need specifics here.

Quote
who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon himself

This is weird. How can you ask permission to create something that hasn't been created yet? Man is responsible for his own acts. Each man is responsible for his own acts. Grow up, Sam. Being an adult means taking responsibility for your actions, not shuffling them off on God.

Quote
and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor abused slave to worship him!

Only because he knows nothing is better for us and will ultimately make us happier than worshipping Him.

This is just a long-winded and emotional way of saying "I don't do what I know I should do, nor does any man, and it's God's own darned fault."

I ain't buyin' it. Sorry.
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Seraphim Reeves
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2003, 01:24:04 PM »

Sin is a consequence of freedom.  It is within the power of the great God to create morally free creatures.  The kind of compulsion required to create an instantaneous utopia (and one which would endure no matter what), would require this freedom not exist.  In which case, God would not have created men, but something else...intelligent beings perhaps, but ultimatly robots...arguably not even real "persons" at all (but simply entities having the fascade of individuality.)  Obviously there is in God's reckoning, a greater good to be had out of all of this chaos and wickedness.  That greater good being the human soul's chosen committment to God.  We choose to love Him.  At some point, even admitting that all has to be a synergy to be successful, there is a choice made in light of the conscience of man.  Since this is the state of things, there is going to be much wickedness - but the good that will come of it will be incomparably greater than the misery.  This misery is a growing pain...the birth pains of the universe, giving birth to the sons of God.

Seraphim
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