Your Golden Square Triangle

March 9, 2010 at 10:47 pm 39 comments

It seems to me that the godless waste to much time debating Christians over the logical possibility of miracles, the nature of the singularity, or the historicity of Jesus. If someone is arguing that the square triangle in their pocket is golden, and produce genuine gold flakes as evidence, we still know with absolute certainty that they do not have a golden square triangle in their pocket.

If the biblical god is logically incoherent, we can stop there. Let’s stop playing the silly games that Christians attempt to employ to divert attention away from Jehovah’s inherent absurdities and towards issues such as an incomplete evolutionary theory as if that will somehow redeem an incoherent Jehovah.

I’ve just started a new blog called The Impossible God dedicated to arguments against the logical possibility of the bible and the biblical god. Here is one example.

P1: Christ paid the substitutionary price for our sins.
P2: Christ paid 3 days of physical and/or spiritual death.
P3: The price for our sins is 3 days of physical and/or spiritual death. (P1 & P2)
P4: Sinners can pay for their sins with 3 days of physical and/or spiritual death.
P5: Sinners remain damned even after 3 days of physical and/or spiritual death.
CONCLUSION: Jehovah cannot do math, is a liar, or is a myth. (P3 – P5)

Feel free to comment or offer additional ideas for arguments that cogently demonstrate the absurdities of the biblical god.

– Phil

Entry filed under: Phil Stilwell. Tags: , , .

Statement of Faith What Would Yoda Do?

39 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mystery Porcupine  |  March 9, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Christians would say P3 is not complete. The price for our sins is 3 days of physical and/or spiritual death of a sinless person or god.

  • 2. Phil Stilwell  |  March 9, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Thanks for your speedy response, MP.
    Yes, I agree that christians will abandon the logic of the argument and appeal to arbitrary biblical claims. And I also believe that countering the claims of christians with logical arguments is less fun than engaging them on less tidy topics such as an objective morality and the like, but I believe that it will be the planting of the seed of the realization of the bible’s inherent illogic that will ultimately change the most minds, especially in this age in which even christians have a higher commitment to rational discourse. -phil

  • 3. Ubi Dubium  |  March 9, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    An obvious one is the traditional question from Epicurus:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?

  • 4. Phil Stilwell  |  March 9, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks UD,

    I typically avoid arguments about “evil” since it is difficult to tease out a definition of “evil” that does not carry the implication of some objective standard for “evil” that theists then tag “god”. -phil

  • 5. BigHouse  |  March 10, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Great post, Phil. It dovetails nicely with another thread going on talking about archaeological evidence for the Bible’s “truth”. Why focus on whether minute details may be factual or not (akin to your golden flakes) when the whole of the faith’s core is incoherent and unproveable even if it were true?

  • 6. Phil Stilwell  |  March 10, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Precisely, BigHouse. The apologists would like to swing the discourse to focus on peripheral “controversies” when the core of christianity is incoherent.

  • 7. amy  |  March 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    The price for our sins is 3 days of physical and/or spiritual death of a sinless person or god.

    Yes, they would just insert another meaningless “fact” into the mix.

    How can a god die? What would bring it back to life if it was dead? Oh wait. I forgot. The Christian God is three “persons”, and only one of them died. Because that makes sense.

  • 8. Phil Stilwell  |  March 10, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    I’ve been using versions of the argument on an apologetics site, and I’ve finally got them backed up to the statement “What is it about Christ’s utterance ‘It is finished’ that you don’t understand?” It all goes back to their blind commitment to the book.

  • 9. BigHouse  |  March 11, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Phil, it sounds like you have a masochistic streak in you, debating on apologetic sites πŸ™‚

    On a more serious note, have you encountered any good counter-arguments etc while there?

  • 10. Phil Stilwell  |  March 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Nothing yet. I am actually hoping for a good response to these arguments so I don’t have to say I was quite so illogical when I believed, but it doesn’t look good.

  • 11. BigHouse  |  March 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Hey Phil,

    I didn’t see a general comments spot on your blog to post this so I’ll do it here:

    I find the font very small and hard to read. Any plans to bump it up?

    Great site in any event..bookmarked.

  • 12. Gary  |  March 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Is it sinners who remained damned even after 3 days of physical and/or spiritual death, or is it unbelievers? I get so confused about these things….

    It seems to me that the whole Atonement thing would be so much more intellectually satisying if Jesus had gone to hell and stayed there.

  • 13. Phil Stilwell  |  March 12, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Yeah, the font is a bit small. Thanks for mentioning that. Some people use Ctrl + to enlarge it on Firefox, but not everyone uses Firefox. Cheers.

  • 14. Mystery Porcupine  |  March 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Phil – unfortunately I don’t see how this argument really shows the Bible’s illogic. You claim that because a “sinless” person could pay for sins (points 1-3), that sinners can pay for sins (point 4). I know there are all kinds of logical fallacies, and this would appear to be one of them to any Christian. Because this “error” is so glaring, a Christian will be too busy seeing the error in your logic to question their own when they read this.

    I think you should stick to arguments that clearly show errors in Biblical logic, even assuming that Jesus was sinless and the world was made by God, yada yada. You know there are plenty of them! Judging from your ability to reason and communicate, I am just sure that this is not your best material. I guess that is my point. πŸ™‚

  • 15. Phil Stilwell  |  March 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I think I understand where you are coming from, but let me explain my logic.

    When the bible says that the “wages of sin is death”, it is unclear what this means.

    However, since Jesus became a man to pay the price for the sins of humans in a substitutionary redemption, we merely need to consider the price Jesus actually paid to assess what the wages of sin must have been.

    A judge who condemns a man to eternity in prison for lying, then claims that 3 hours of his own son’s time spent in prison paid the price is not just by any coherent standard. If his substitutionary son pays 3 hours of imprisonment, then the only just penalty on the actual liar is 3 hours of imprisonment.

    Does that help to explain things?

    Here is a fun illustration of the problem.

  • 16. DSimon  |  March 15, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    That is a buff apologist!

  • 17. dmabus  |  March 20, 2010 at 10:48 am

    add some comment moderation to your blasphemy blog…

  • 18. Kari  |  April 28, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    @Phil – esp re: (2,

    It sounds like you’ve set up a straw man argument. The fact that Jesus is believed to be God is not peripheral, but central, to the Christian doctrine of atonement.

    P4 does not follow from P3 since the subjects of the propositions have different natures. What is applied to Christ cannot be automatically applied to sinners.

    Disagree and debate all you like, but be fair in your definition of terms.

  • 19. Jesse Alex  |  April 29, 2010 at 3:05 am

    Wow.. that’s the most illogical and senseless post I ever read.. ha ha.. either you guys are really stupid (for both posting and commenting on a post like that) or you guys are really blind.. and there is nothing I can do to help you people…

    I could put some sense if I wanted to.. but then the Bible says that do not throw the pearls to the pigs.. lest they trample over them.. so guys, go ahead and have fun talking Gibberish on an utterly nonsense theology (or whatever you folks call it)

    P.S. (still LOL at all of your ignorance level)

  • 20. Phil Stilwell  |  April 29, 2010 at 5:02 am


    It would help if you could explain why Jesus became “flesh”. Most theologians believe he had to in order to have the “same nature” of those he was redeeming. Do you have another reason? Why did there have to be a god incarnate?


    It is always good to have salient examples of christian reasoning to encourage the deconversion of those embarrassed by its “depth”.

  • 21. Kari  |  April 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    My point is not to argue for the truth of the Christian doctrine of atonement; only that one must argue against the actual doctrine, instead of a made-up oversimplification that (surprise surprise) makes no sense.

    Christians would say that Jesus became “flesh” (human) in order to identify with humanity, so that his death could atone for their sin – like with like.

    That’s why your set of propositions is flawed – the author of Hebrews argues for the necessity of a perfect sacrifice to atone for sin. It could only be made by God himself, because humanity has been cursed since Adam. No person could do it – that’s kind of the whole point.

    Also, your assignment of definition in P2 is arbitrary. Why is 3 days the payment, and not death itself? Nowhere does the Bible claim any ontological, quantitative significance for the length of time Jesus was buried. The only significances are literary allusions (Jonah, etc).

    (Also – for clarification, I’m not a Christian (anymore).)

  • 22. Phil Stilwell  |  April 30, 2010 at 2:21 am


    The argument I presented is only for those who accept the premises. I’ve spent a great deal of time exploring the bibles own description of redemption and have gone from pastor to pastor asking for one coherent description of redemption. For as many pastors as I went to, I found that many different versions of redemption. My argument addresses one of the more common formulations.

    However, if anyone would like to present a rigorous description of redemption that I perhaps have not heard before, feel free to post that.

    To respond to your understanding of redemption, why did need to become man to redeem us? The type of perfection mentioned in Hebrews is moral perfection. Why not use an angel? And how can finite sin generate infinite wrath that can be satisfied by a finite 3 days of temporary death? Are those 3 days not arbitrary? Why wouldn’t 3 minutes have sufficed? And why do we not pay for our sin after 3 days in hell? And if Jesus had to become human and die a human death to redeem Adam, what additional price was paid for the other billions of people? And if a finite number of sins does makes use deserving of infinite torture, why what makes Jesus exempt from suffering eternal torture?

    You’ll have to define your terms well without an appeal to arbitrary biblical affirmations. Present any version of redemption in a syllogism. I’d like to assess its logical coherence.


  • 23. Joe  |  April 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    “And if a finite number of sins does makes use deserving of infinite torture, why what makes Jesus exempt from suffering eternal torture?” (#22)

    According to the Bible Jesus did suffer eternal torture. The Father (who is eternal) placed his (eternal) wrath on Jesus on the cross. Jesus bore the brunt of that wrath for every person who has been or will be born on this earth. And that is why God became a man. Only God Himself (as the Son) could bear the brunt of “eternal” wrath (The Father).

    So the question actually becomes—if Jesus suffered “eternal” wrath is he still “suffering” while he is “reigning”? Did God actually give up part of Himself to redeem mankind? Could that be why those who reject his “infinite” sacrifice are therefore eternally damned?

    The question may not necessarily be “doctrinal” and is just conjecture, but I have often wondered if the sacrifice of Jesus cost something eternal? Otherwise, why the terrible suffering involved to redeem mankind?

  • 24. Phil Stilwell  |  May 1, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Sorry Joe, but torture is a process. Whatever is a process is not eternal unless lasting eternally.

    It would be like talking about “infinite blue” or “infinite goodness”. There are many things that become incoherent when attaching “eternal” or “infinite” to them. Another one is “infinite wrath”. Christians invoke this “infinite wrath” (how can an emotion be infinite?) to explain why we deserve “infinite torture”, but at the same time don’t explain why god’s “infinite love” for us does not supply “infinite patience” as agape in 1 Corinthians is defined.

    Your use of the term “infinite sacrifice” is also incoherent since there was nothing eternally sacrificed (3 days is quite distant from infinity), and everything was restored to Jesus. Or is the composition of Jesus now lacking something he began with?

    The words “eternal” and “infinite” are thrown around as if they were magic plugs for doctrinal incoherencies. That is why Santa can get around to all the children on Christmas Eve because his sleigh is “infinitely” fast.

    So the price of sin for both the man Jesus and all other humans is either 3 days or eternal damnation. You can trade me 4 quarters for a dollar, but not a nickle for an infinite debt.

    The inevitable conclusion is that Jehovah can’t do math.

  • 25. Scott Nelson  |  May 2, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    It’s all well and good to blow stupid articles of faith out of the the water, but it may be worthwhile to note that the finiteness of human understanding and the flimsiness of our arguments do not define reality. Therefore our having dispatched bad logic doesn’t explain away or diminish the infinite.

    Plato described this as the philosophical worst-case scenario in his Death of Socrates, saying basically when we stop criticizing ourselves for not having defined truth and conclude rather that truth has no existence, we have made the one fatal mistake a philosopher can make. So therefore let us find better arguments to criticize.

  • 26. Phil Stilwell  |  May 2, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Dispatching bad logic dispatches bad logic. Given the role bad logic plays in debilitating ideologies, why would anyone not dispatch bad logic when encountering it? The frailty of human reasoning is noted, but to suggest that it makes our efforts to eliminate bad logic futile is to say that the fact we are all mortal makes our efforts to remain physically fit futile.

  • 27. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 7:42 am

    For what it’s worth, I’m an unbeliever who finds the OP rather unconvincing. P2 assumes that death means “being dead” rather than “the process of becoming dead.” P3 assumes that human death is equal to divine death.

    If I find the thinking here unconvincing, how much more so will the True Believers find it unconvincing? I suggest you try another tack.

  • 28. BigHouse  |  June 5, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Thomas, I’d try re-reading the proposition again. It looks to me like you are introducing adjectives into the argument capriciously and ones that cannot be defined or evaluated. Why go beyond what the text says?

  • 29. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 8:44 am

    I’m sorry BigHouse, but I’m not following you. I only see a few adjectives in my comment – unconvincing, dead, and True. None of these seem like words that I’m introducing at all, let alone capreciously.

    At any rate, my point is that if I find it unconvincing (regardless of my reasons), it will be even less convincing to a believer. If we accept that you could change my mind, I’d still have to ask why you’d want to.

  • 30. Phil Stilwell  |  June 5, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I agree that some believers will manipulate the bible in all its vagueness to paint themselves farther back into an ever-shrinking corner of logical possibilities. But it is while they are consciously engaged in this process of applying ad hoc fixes to the incoherency of their god that provides us the opportunity to point out to them what they are actually doing, and appeal to their intellectual honesty.

  • 31. BigHouse  |  June 5, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Maybe adjectives was the wrong word. You redefine “death” and introduce a differentiation between human and divine death without explanation of why or sourcing your reasoning. I’d ask you to defend why you did that.

  • 32. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 11:24 am

    By no means did I redefine death. I just double checked my Great Encyclopedic Dictionary and the first definition is the same as the one I used. The second definition is the same as the one Phil seems to be using in the OP. I didn’t read any further definitions because I’d already seen enough to know that even dictionary writers (with no vested interest) can see botth interpretations – perhaps with a slight lean in the favor of my interpretation.

    As for the difference between divine death and human death, I will leave that as an exercise for the reader. I contend that this difference will be intuitivly obvious to any beliver. After all, if one divine death can be propriation for all of humanity, there must be /some/ difference between the two.

  • 33. BigHouse  |  June 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    After all, if one divine death can be propriation for all of humanity, there must be /some/ difference between the two.

    This is begging the question.

  • 34. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Of course it’s begging the question. I don’t see the point in convincing you one way or the other, and I don’t have to convince the believers.

    At the same time, the OP could skip the whole thing (P1-P5) and just say that God doesn’t exist and be done with it.

    Doesn’t it just make sense that fairy dust can make you fly and superman blood can wash more sin than moral blood?

  • 35. BigHouse  |  June 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    That’s the whole point, Thomas. Many christians want to say that their belief is logical. This is one example that shoots that notion down. If someone is a “fairy dust” kind of Christian then obviously logical arguments won’t sway their thinking.

  • 36. Thomas  |  June 6, 2010 at 6:23 am

    I don’t think you can prove the non-existance of fairy dust by saying that fairies weigh less than boys who don’t want to grow up.

  • 37. Phil Stilwell  |  June 6, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Unless the definition of fairies requires that fairies weigh less than boys. I often simply ask theists to define their notions of justice with human scenarios, then demonstrate that, in order for their god to be just, they’ll have to abandon their human standard of justice to salvage their attribution of “justice” to their particular deity. They can choose to abandon conventional definitions, but this will create a cognitive dissonance based on a realization that they have employed a double standard for a single term.

  • 38. Thomas  |  June 6, 2010 at 8:47 am

    I can see how definitions of justice can be relevant to P1, but not to P2 or P3 – and it’s in P2 and P3 that I see the flaw in this approach.

  • 39. Phil Stilwell  |  June 6, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Correct. There are other definitions in those premises for which christians will need to offer consistent definitions. The syllogism is a starting point for a rigorous treatment of redemption with christians to show inconsistencies in their application of terms such as “substitutionary”. I’ve found that christians most commonly end up admitting that they are defining terms differently for god and humans, and/or are arbitrarily adding/expanding denotations in an ad hoc fashion rather than with a cohesive system of causation/explanation.

    I often ask christians whether a judge who offered up his own son to die as a “substitution” for a murderer condemned to death, then who simply jailed his son for 3 days would be a “just” judge. I then add that to parallel the biblical account, this 3-day incarceration of the son of the judge would need to cover the “deserved” deaths of billions of criminals. That’s a pretty good starting point for demonstrating the absurdity inherent to biblical redemption.

    There is a deeper issue here centered around the equivocation on whether redemption is an appeasement of god’s wrath, or a product of his “justice”. Christians will have to choose one. Both lead to incoherencies. If redemption is appeasement, then you have god unforgivingly wrathful towards the very humans that he demands forgive each other without bloodshed. If redemption is a product of god’s “justice”, then anything other than a balanced substitution of a life for a life cannot be defended.

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