Q + Tree = Dignity.......What???

I must say, I have yet to succeed in getting into the blog rhythm. Many many a thing interest me in the topic under which I created this blog, but so often the subject, as it comes up, frustrates me too much, fades away too quickly, or I just simply find myself too busy to feel justified in spending my time on typing it for the internet world to see...as if I really cared. Well, I suppose I do care a bit, because I like dialogue and conversation, and I'm told that's what blogging is all about. So maybe for a while I'll attempt to blog about things that I can sum up in few words and then perhaps it won't demotivate me so much from blogging at all. We'll give it a shot...

So this one goes back a few months, but I've never been able to let it go in my mind. I have this scholar friend of mine. He is a thorough Christian thinker with a master's degree in apologetics (Christian apologetics, to be clear). A small handful of you who may read this know who he is; most of you don't. Either way, it doesn't really matter, as he will remain nameless. I used to meet with him once a week for breakfast to talk about Christianity, theology, philosophy, etc. Many of the things that came out of those conversations will make it on to this blog at one point or another; some already have. My point is that I am not mentioning him so that I can attack his character. Rather, I am intrigued and often frustrated by some of the things that he believes and argues and thus, they make for good blogging material. I just wanted to make that clear: this isn't a bash-fest.

Moving on, here's one particular topic we talked about one morning over breakfast. We entered onto the subject of the traditional Christian doctrine of hell. This is a subject that I've spent so many hours thinking about over the years that I would actually just like to say "screw it" and get some of those hours back for more productive purposes. However, the devil himself probably couldn't even make that happen, so we'll just live with it. Here's the conversation. I was asking the following question, which may resemble my personal beliefs to some degree that perhaps not even I am aware of. But more importantly, it was for the purpose of discussion.

(from the human perspective) "Why does a finite amount of sin warrant an infinite amount of punishment?"

The following is his response (verbatim):

Well, a finite crime against an infinite being warrants an infinite amount of punishment.

Now here's my response to that (that unfortunately I did not have at the time). Why on earth would someone think this makes sense? From the viewpoint of a logician, this is absurd. The reason so many people in the western church culture would buy this argument (among many many other reasons, I think) is because is sounds really nice. In fact it sounds very mathematical. However, there is no real logical basis for it. Who says a finite amount of crime against an infinite being warrants an infinite amount of punishment? Why doesn't a finite amount of crime against an infinite being warrant a finite amount of punishment? Why does the punishment reflect the victim rather than the crime, or even the criminal? I'm not trying to rule out anyone's response to this, but I honestly don't think an American court system analogy would do any good here, as I'm not talking about a general consensus of morality. This subject is clearly much bigger and unfortunately, abstract.

Anyway, there's the food for thought. Please understand that I am not trying to spark a debate about the existence, reality, consequence, or doctrine of hell. That subject is way too big for right now and I have no interest in going into it as a whole. So please, any thoughts you may have out there should only relate to the above argument, not the topic at large.

There, so much for keeping it short.


T.D. Newton said...

Anything times infinity equals infinity, apparently, except when you're dealing with beings and actions I'm not sure you can just make it equal math and call it a day.

(what does the blog title mean?)

Jake Eisele said...

This is Jake Eisele. I found your blog through Steve Cochenour's. Anyway, about hell.

It's not a matter of the amount of sin. It's about the choice to be with/for God or without/against God. I don't see hell as being as much about punishment as it is about being completely void of God. It is the only place/state-of-being where you are entirely separated from God. He can't hear you, He doesn't see you, you can't reach out to Him. Hell is the natural outcome of your sinfulness. It's like lung cancer. Lung cancer is not a punishment for smoking, but it is a natural outcome of smoking.

If you want to keep going with the "finite sin" argument, one could argue that sin is a state of being, and thus you are sinful, whatever your existential status (i.e. living, dead, undead, Dick Clark, etc.), and thus your sinfulness is infinite. It's who you are and always will be. The only way to become un-sinful is to follow Christ.

I hope that helps. Remember when we worked at Harbor together? That was great. I miss you and all your Tonyness.

Tony said...


I must be honest. I think your comment is exactly what I was referring to when I talked about not going into the subject at large. I don't wish to address that subject in this kind of setting because it's so incredibly highly opinionated and there are a "hell" of a lot of people out there who are really sure of themselves on this topic (among others). I don't know you well enough to know if you're one of them, but for the record I have little patience for it. But to each his own. The point is that the purpose of this blog, if you hadn't gone back and read the first few posts, was to get away from just that and have an atmosphere that encourages open discussion. If people post comments that don't allow for discussion of the subject, it becomes very unencouraging to others who may have had something to say. This is a general reflection of my own experience over the years in the Christian bubble culture and my relationships with others who have gone through the same.

However, needless to say I have many many thoughts and responses to your comment. If you care to hear them, drop me an email and perhaps we can continue the discussion privately.

Tony said...


Right, the title...

If the equation Q + Tree = Dignity doesn't seem to make any sense whatsoever, that's the point. The idea is the same with this particular hell argument (again, NOT necessarily the whole hell idea at large, just this particular argument).

Again, for the record, the post was only about this argument. It had nothing to do with my personal beliefs and I don't have an agenda with it, I just thought it was interesting enough to blog about.