God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

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mfree6464
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God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by mfree6464 » 06 Dec 2018, 13:39

I posed this question to my seminary students several years ago and thought I'd throw it out here just for kicks. I don't want to muddy the waters with my personal interpretations so I'll just present my "thought experiment" and see where you all take it. Here it is:

Two twins are born, both live to the age of 80 and die on the same day. They live different lives but vow to be on equal ground spiritually so they can be together for all eternity. So when one sins the other commits that same sin. When one repents, the other also repents. When one does a good deed, the other also follows suit. They manage to successfully accomplish their goal and die having completed identical lives in the eyes of God ... with one exception unbeknownst to them.

At the age of 40, one twin gets a promotion at work and is transferred to Bermuda while the other twin remains behind in the USA. During this same year both men grow tired of "rendering unto Caesar" and decide to stop paying their federal income taxes. So they spend the remaining 40 years of their lives evading taxes - twin A not paying in USA and twin B not paying in Bermuda.


Here's the issue: there is no federal income tax law in Bermuda. Twin B only THOUGHT he was sinning by not paying taxes but in actuality no laws were broken. He died thinking he was a tax cheat even though technically he never was. Twin A however (as we all know) did break US law and therefore committed a sin by not paying taxes for 40 years.

This begs the question: are they in fact equal in sin? When judgement time comes, will they in fact be viewed as equals in a spiritual sense or no?
Last edited by mfree6464 on 06 Dec 2018, 14:56, edited 2 times in total.

Roy
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Re: God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by Roy » 06 Dec 2018, 14:04

My initial reaction is that the Bermuda twin's intent to break the law (and belief that he had carried it out) would have an impact upon his character.

Similarly if someone where in a virtual reality similar to the "Matrix" movie, they could commit many "thought sins" where the individual chose and believed that they were doing wrong but no real harm was done because it was all in the virtual world with computer characters.

Therefore both twins would be of the same spiritual character at the end of 80 years.
mfree6464 wrote:
06 Dec 2018, 13:39
They live different lives but vow to be on equal ground spiritually so they can be together for all eternity.
I understand that this is an important part of the thought expirament but I do not believe that this reflects our doctrine. 1) If people are segregated based upon their spirituality then Jesus would be segragated and isolated in a solitary kingdom of one. 2) Through the atonement all individuals that are made partakers of the grace of Christ are credited with His perfection. Therefore all of the "children of Christ" are made equal. 3) If we believe in eternal progression then each person will be permitted to progress and become whatever they have the potential to achieve, unless they - with full knowledge and choice - choose to stop. Damnation in the sense of restricted growth is a self imposed limitation in the eternities.

P.S. I am aware that points 2 and 3 conflict with the idea of a tiered reward in heaven and final judgement of our mortal deeds. There is contradiction and paradox that I have had to learn to accept.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

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AmyJ
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Re: God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by AmyJ » 06 Dec 2018, 15:00

This experiment presupposes that the expectations that God has for each of the twins (and for all of us by extension) are the same.

To me, the bigger question is really "what did each twin do with what they had" - the course before them. While the experiment made the playing ground equal sin-wise, it does not specify a) what the expectations were (aside from mutual sins), and b) the personal spiritual trajectory of each twin. Whenever life is distilled into 2 categories (sinning vs not sinning), a huge dimension of spirituality is lost also.

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DarkJedi
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Re: God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by DarkJedi » 06 Dec 2018, 16:15

It doesn't matter what each of them did. Though their sins be as scarlet they will be made white as now. There but by the grace of God go we.

The thread title really sums it up. Men want to make it much more complicated than it really is.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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dande48
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Re: God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by dande48 » 06 Dec 2018, 16:53

I think the root of your question is, does right action count, if done with the wrong intention. And I think, as far as intentions go, if a twin were to sin because they fell into temptation and lost their head, they'd be much better of than their sibling who chose to commit the same sin because the other did it.

For sin, I like the analogy of "Chutes and Ladders". Maybe that's why it's been around for 2500+ years. It's a very Buddhist/Hindu doctrine, not Christian (unless you want to be very liberal and selective with certain scriptures). But instead of a final judgement, where all our actions are taken into account, and we are consigned to our final state, Buddhists believe that the ultimate goal, the big "100", will be achieved by everyone. Some will just take longer than others. "Sin" is more of a roadblock or a chute, taking us back a few steps, rather than an eternal mark against us. They also look at sin as anything which brings suffering and discord (dukkha) into the world, rather than an a commandment from God. Back to the example of the twins, both of them took an action with the same intent, to disobey the law of the land. They both brought the same amount of "dukkha" upon themselves (theoretically). However, only the one in the USA brought "dukkha" upon others, since the Bermuda doesn't require those taxes.

Which one is "futher ahead"? That depends on much more than this particular "sin". But if I were to bet, I'd say neither one of them is very far.
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Roadrunner
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Re: God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by Roadrunner » 06 Dec 2018, 16:57

My first reaction was similar to DJ's: that it doesn't really matter much. But I'll add my $0.02 to hopefully continue an interesting thought experiment.

I'll look at it from a different angle. What if the two twins are born in a prison cell in a completely controlled environment. Everything about their lives is exactly the same. However, twin #1 for some reason has very vengeful and wicked thoughts while he is trapped in prison his whole life. All he wants to do is kill his captor and cause havoc in the world after he escapes. Twin #2 for some reason only wants to forgive his captor and wants to live a nice peaceful life after he escapes. Their actions are completely equal because neither can leave the prison cell - the only difference is their thoughts.

One might argue that since Jesus taught about committing adultery in our minds that perhaps that might apply to committing murder in our minds. Based on that, one can conclude that the twin who wanted murder, while perhaps understandable, didn't live the gospel as well as the more peaceful twin.

Back to DJ's point, though, I think that God will ask why the vengeful twin had such negative thoughts. Perhaps he had a gene that was flipped that made him more predisposed to violence. Perhaps the scenario wasn't completely equal because he was first out of the womb and therefore his life isn't completely equal. In the end I have to believe that God is more merciful than we can possibly imagine - it's the only way I can wrap my head around all the terrible things supposedly good people do in this life.

mfree6464
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Re: God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by mfree6464 » 06 Dec 2018, 17:35

DarkJedi wrote:
06 Dec 2018, 16:15
It doesn't matter what each of them did.
I likely would have disputed this a few years ago but now I strongly agree with you. It's just what life has taught me recently and I really can't deny that at this point.
DarkJedi wrote:
06 Dec 2018, 16:15
The thread title really sums it up. Men want to make it much more complicated than it really is.
I intentionally made the title a little click-baitish, sorry about that :D . I recognize that it doesn't even necessarily have to be a God vs man law thing. How about this:

Recognizing that God's law changes (Law of Moses, Word of Wisdom, Polygamy, to name a few examples) it's fair to say that in the hereafter we may be existing with individuals who all lived under various sets of commandments. Let's extend that and hypothetically say that God commanded North American saints to live the Word of Wisdom but never put the saints in Bermuda under the same command. Twin A was living in Bermuda at the time God gave this commandment but somehow he missed the memo that he was exempt. Twin B calls up twin A and says, "Hey God just commanded us to quit drinking but I don't wanna!" Wanting to stay together they both drink on, both believing they are in violation of God's will.

Same question: Are they both in the same place spiritually?

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SilentDawning
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Re: God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by SilentDawning » 06 Dec 2018, 19:42

I think this is an interesting question, but for me, it doesn't have an answer. Part of me wants to quote that we are equal in the sight of God except for sin. But who sinned? If you make a choice to sin, thinking you are sinning, and then find it isn't a sin, is it still a sin? It is a gray area where, sadly, I think we may never know, even after judgment day.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

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mfree6464
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Re: God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by mfree6464 » 07 Dec 2018, 06:57

SilentDawning wrote:
06 Dec 2018, 19:42
If you make a choice to sin, thinking you are sinning, and then find it isn't a sin, is it still a sin?
That is the question. Interestingly, if the answer to that question is YES then that brings a new set of consequences into play. Example:

Say someone is placed on an island at birth, completely isolated with enough food to survive on his own for 80 years. He would never hear of God and his commandments nor would he learn of man's laws. Say he came to the conclusion on his own as a young man that chopping down trees was murder. Then at 40 he grew tired of searching for fallen firewood and climbing palms for coconuts so he just chopped down trees for the rest of his life, all the while feeling terrible guilt that he was committing murder. At death he felt tremendous fear at the thought of meeting his maker and being held accountable for his great sins. Would God hold him accountable the same as he would say Hitler or any serial killer?

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SilentDawning
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Re: God's Law vs Man's Law Paradox

Post by SilentDawning » 07 Dec 2018, 07:26

If my time on earth is any indication, there was a time I thought I'd done something terribly wrong and went to the Bishop to confess and accept any penalties. It turned out that what i did was really, really minor. I THOUGHT it was grievous, but it wasn't so there was no penalty and I was told I didn't even need to confess it! I was really, really young, and a new member of the church....

If Bishops really are judges in Israel, inspired and all that stuff, then the guy who lived on a desert island and chopped down a tree, thinking it was murder, wouldn't receive punishment.

There is no definitive answer here, as scriptures are written to be general enough to be used in a wide variety of situations. People can justify opposing points of view with the same set of scriptures.

So, I'm left with personal belief... I believe that if there is judgment, and we continue to exist after this life:

1) There is an absolute standard of morality.

We won't be judged against standards of morality that are higher than the absolute standard. So if we think tree felling is murder, then there is no penalty for it.

If we sin but this sin is due to cultural upbringing, misinformation, lack of training, mental illness, or extreme circumstances that make 'sin' the only alternative for the reasonable person with an otherwise good heart, then there will be little or no consequences. Kind of like suspended sentences, or probation, but no jail time, or less.

2) There will be considerable judgment applied for the host of situations that don't fit neatly into any one "box".

3) There will likely be more mercy than we think there will be.

4) Any punishment is likely to be temporary except in perhaps the most extreme of cases. There always has to be allowance for the extreme. Satan was apparently not sick, misinformed, or mentall ill -- he was just evil.

Here are a few drivers of my opinion.

1. Personal experience with being in a judgment seat.
2. The fact that it takes resources to punish people for eternity. Even God will have to use some resources to keep people in whatever form of "hell" God places them. Is it realistic to keep those resources in place for eternity, even if rotated or shared?
3. God is supposed to be merciful. Is it fair to consign people to hell for eternity based on their relative blip of a life on earth? I think not, particularly if God, who can see all, knows the person has changed their character and truly repented.

I think this eternal damnation thing is a remnant of harsh times when hands would be cut off for stealing, people were tortured, publicly beheaded etcetera -- before we had more merciful approaches to punishment.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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