12 March 2010

Redneck Atheism: The Hypocrisy of Secular Humanism

by Phil Johnson



've grouped two of our atheist friends' top ten taunts together, because they stem from the same faulty presupposition. Both of them impugn what Scripture says about the justice of God, and they implicitly hold up humanistic values as a superior standard:

  1. Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and animals.
  2. You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs—though excluding those in all rival sects—will spend eternity in an infinite hell of suffering. Yet, you consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."


Of course God by definition has the power of life and death. All that He created belongs to Him and is His to deal with as He pleases. Evidence is everywhere to prove that He ordinarily deals graciously and benevolently with His creatures—that "his tender mercies are over all his works" (Psalm 145:9; cf. Matthew 5:45). According to Scripture, He is the source and the epitome of all righteousness, and the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Goodness, justice, mercy, and kindness are defined by His character, and anyone who wants to hold Him to a different standard would need to give some valid justification for that standard—other than, "well, it seems to me."

Scripture also says that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23); that all sentient persons without exception have sinned (Romans 3:9-23); and that our entire race is altogether fallen, wholly corrupted with sin, and therefore under the condemnation of God (Romans 5:12-19). Moreover, Scripture tells us God is to be feared, because He has the right either to show mercy or to kill—and "after he has killed, [He] has authority to cast into hell" (Luke 12:5).

It is by no means remarkable or hard to fathom that a righteous God, perfectly just and rightfully sovereign, would punish someone with the due penalty of sin—especially civilizations as thoroughly wicked and self-indulgent as Gomorrah, Egypt, or the Amalekites. After all, He condemned the whole race of angels who fell, casting them from heaven without hesitation and without remedy (2 Peter 2:4; Hebrews 2:16).

So the real mystery is not that God sometimes destroys sinners with death, but that He ordinarily shows such extreme mercy.

The destruction of infants and animals by human armies under God's orders poses a deeper moral dilemma, of course, but it is a flat-out lie to suggest that Christians "don't even flinch" when we read those biblical accounts, much less when we ponder what Jesus taught about hell. (For those wishing to investigate that whole question in more depth, a good starting point is this video by John Piper.)

But let's note first of all that incidents of divinely-ordered genocide are highly unusual and confined to one or two specific points in biblical history. It is both spiritually naive and intellectually irresponsible to compare Joshua's military campaigns with wanton, willful, routine, and random acts of terrorism or genocide done in the name of religion. It is especially fatuous to suggest that slaughter and violence in the name of YWHW is characteristic of His people through the ages. That is a convenient argument for the lazy critic, perhaps, but it's not a very good one.

Frankly, the past century of humanism, scientific rationalism, and secularist "justice" is—or ought to be—far more embarrassing to Atheism than anything an atheist might criticize biblical Christianity for. The atheist record is even worse than that of religion in general, for that matter. As bad as false religion can be, we need to remember that it wasn't Islamic terrorism, Hindu violence, or suicidal cults that slaughtered the most people in the 20th century. It certainly wasn't Christianity. It was the followers of Darwin and Nietzsche: Nazis, Communists, and other totalitarian rationalists and social engineers.

And while our atheist friends are pretending outrage over the slaughter of innocent babies, let's talk about the death-toll brought on by abortion—a favorite cause célèbre of the humanist crowd and an evil that would not be possible at all if atheism had not left its indelible stamp on western culture.

Atheism is what gave us the most violent century in human history, and the atheists now want to make this the point around which they rally to oppose the God of the Bible?

The real issue here goes back to the question of biblical authority. Should humanistic moral judgments be evaluated by the Scriptures, or vice versa?
Atheism is what gave us the most violent century in human history, and the atheists now want to make this the point around which they rally to oppose the God of the Bible?
And if you want to set an artificial, atheistic moral code above Scripture, what is your justification and rationale for doing so? From where does your moral authority arise?

Scripture says God is a righteous judge, and the Bible also gives us every reason to trust Him. The dismal record of human judgment gives me no reason to trust that.

God's final judgment, though severe, will be perfectly righteous, and in the end, every tongue will confess that. It's neither "unloving" nor "intolerant" to warn those who are in danger of that judgment—and even some of your best-known atheistic allies acknowledge that.

This barely scratches the surface of an admittedly difficult question, I know. We'll draw out some more substance in the combox, I'm sure. But it's a busy day and I need to get to work now. Talk amongst yourselves.

Phil's signature

203 comments:

1 – 200 of 203   Newer›   Newest»
Frank Turk said...

Those weren't real atheists, Phil.

Watch: that's what someone will say.

Fred Butler said...

Frank.
I actually had an atheist tell me that with a straight face.

witness said...

From where does your moral authority arise?


No thinking atheist should attempt to answer this question. Not if he/she doesn't want to end up refuting their own argument.

DJP said...

Excellent, solid material, Phil. Thanks.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Would it be a waste of time to explain the scriptures to the atheist who claims this "merciless slaughter" deal - scriptures that show how God dealt mercifully with the nations he judged through Israel and forbeared with their wickedness until their time of judgment, as seen with His waiting until the sin of the Amorites was full up, the saving of Rahab and her family by grace through faith in God, and even the seven day march around Jericho? Although it wouldn't mean a hill of beans to the Atheist, wouldn't it still give glory to God to give this defense?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"The real issue here goes back to the question of biblical authority. Should humanistic moral judgments be evaluated by the Scriptures, or vice versa?

And if you want to set an artificial, atheistic moral code above Scripture, what is your justification and rationale for doing so? From where does your moral authority arise?"


Solid gold.

As an aside, how do folks normally react and respond to tu quoque counter arguments?

Do they just declare stale mate? Cede that they can't get one over you? And then move to the next pre-evangelism discussion issue?

I hope so.

Kurt said...

This one I liked, the two points practically beg one to describe the real God of the Bible and refute all those straw-gods they like to burn in effigy.

Personally I think the moral authority argument is a non-starter for most atheists, they don't have any and they don't care. Our incentive to cooperate on a friendly basis is entirely based on enlightened self-interest and a preprogrammed genetic desire for the survival of the species, full stop.

Some may notice this is the golden rule restated in a diminished secular form.

They believe we are conflicted by our primitive animalistic natures (think lions competing for a mate), which gives rise to self-destructive behavior like wars and so on. In all honesty, the jury isn't in yet if the human species will be able to overcome its primitive urges and survive to the (presumed) maturity necessary for a long-term stable civilization.

On a positive note, I never had a decent presentation of the God of the Bible made to me during my 29 years as a non-Christian.

Nobody ever introduced me to the terrifying majestic God of the Bible, who dares to say point blank, it's my way or the highway.

I think this post hits the spot there, thanks.

misty said...

Phil, I'm almost speechless....but not quite!

Your post is so delectably deep, so deliciously inspiring, so full of tasty meat that I could chew on it for the next 10 days. This blog rocks!

I wish I could add something profound, but you've got me swimming in some pretty deep exegetical waters here. I'm lovin' it!

"Nobody ever introduced me to the terrifying majestic God of the Bible, who dares to say point blank, it's my way or the highway."

Kurt, you said it. That's why A.W. Pink's The Attributes of God is my new favorite book. I thought I knew God until I read it. And the poor, blind atheist who came up with these objections...I'm gonna pray for him. Seriously, I pity him because he has no idea who our God is. Our God is BIG!

Samuel Skinner said...

"Of course God by definition has the power of life and death. All that He created belongs to Him and is His to deal with as He pleases."

Why does ownership or creation give the right to decide life or death? People who support abortion reject infanticide because there is a point where the offspring is not yours to control and command anymore.

" Evidence is everywhere to prove that He ordinarily deals graciously and benevolently with His creatures—that "his tender mercies are over all his works""

Yeah, you are nice to people all your life, but you brutally murder just one person...

More to the point the majority of humanity has lived incredibly poorly- an average LE in the 30s and 40s is not pleasent.

"Goodness, justice, mercy, and kindness are defined by His character, and anyone who wants to hold Him to a different standard would need to give some valid justification for that standard—other than, "well, it seems to me.""

I'm curious- you claim God is the source of this standard, but you don't say how you get this standard from God. In fact when he violates this standard it "doesn't count".

As for an alternative basing why is "it seems to me" wrong? Morality is based on the effects actions have on people and at its bottom is based on how it affects them. Why should there be some magical backing to it?

"So the real mystery is not that God sometimes destroys sinners with death, but that He ordinarily shows such extreme mercy."

Since God was the one who made the rule that sin leads to death, made humanity and carries out the punishment it really isn't mercy.

"It is both spiritually naive and intellectually irresponsible to compare Joshua's military campaigns with wanton, willful, routine, and random acts of terrorism or genocide done in the name of religion."

It isn't really genocide? Because what? Exterminating populations based on ethnicity is generally considered genocide.

"It was the followers of Darwin and Nietzsche: Nazis, Communists, and other totalitarian rationalists and social engineers."

The communists were opposed to Darwin and Nietzsche. In fact their opposition helped lead to one of Stalins more infamous death tolls- the 1932 famine.

"And while our atheist friends are pretending outrage over the slaughter of innocent babies, let's talk about the death-toll brought on by abortion—a favorite cause célèbre of the humanist crowd and an evil that would not be possible at all if atheism had not left its indelible stamp on western culture."

Aside from the hilarious irony of trying to defend a perfect god by saying "you do it to", the situations are not comparable. For starters, until a certain age a fetus does not have a mind and a mind, not human DNA is what grants something moral worth. If you treat animals with compassion you recognize this as surely as I do.

Samuel Skinner said...

"Atheism is what gave us the most violent century in human history, and the atheists now want to make this the point around which they rally to oppose the God of the Bible?"

Actually this was one of the better centuries on record. Sure millions died, but as a proporition, the number was alot less.

"Should humanistic moral judgments be evaluated by the Scriptures, or vice versa?"

Both should be judged by the same standard- what effects do these moral standards have when applied to the real world.

"Those weren't real atheists, Phil.

Watch: that's what someone will say."

Well the amount of help Stalin gave the Orthodox Church helped prevent it from falling into the dustbin of history. He also hated homosexuals unlike the rest of the 1920s revolutionary party. Still, it is rather irrelevant to his crimes- Mao was an atheist and managed to kill people in the same way.

"They believe we are conflicted by our primitive animalistic natures (think lions competing for a mate), which gives rise to self-destructive behavior like wars and so on."

BS. Humanity tendancy towards war comes from our cooperative impulses. Violence gives you mass murders, cooperative violence gives you warriors and eventually soldiers.

Sir Aaron said...

Kurt:

I've told some people I've encountered that have brought up moral objections that all of their objections were irrelevant. Because if God does not exist, then there are no morals. There is merely cause and effect, action and reaction, decision and consequence; but other than an undesired outcome there is no morality. If there is a God, then he sets the rules regardless of whether they're fair or whether you like them. So to say there is a God but I don't like how He operates so I'll merely consign myself to hell, is idiotic.

I have had a few tell me that they accept there is a God but the "price" of following is too high.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I have had a few tell me that they accept there is a God but the "price" of following is too high."

Hey, that's one step closer!

At least they admit that there's a God.

Kurt said...

Sorry if I was unclear skinner.

What I was implying was that our impulses (individual and collective in your terms), in the evolutionary paradigm, have evolved from lower animals.

We have some altruistic tendencies and social behaviors from the pack and herd animals (Home Sapiens is considered a social species).

We also have competitive drives to acquire mates and establish social dominance - in animals these drives promote the survival of the species, but in humans can also lead to excess and cause things like war.

Animals are not immune to something akin to war, in drought conditions, competition becomes fierce, watering holes become battlegrounds of a sort, many species engage in slaughter of each other in those competitive paradigms (lions in particular come to mind, hence my choice of that species as an example).

I was attempting to express the Darwinian competitive paradigm - survival of the fittest - in social and moral terms aimed at this audience. Didn't know I had a different audience.

It always helps to be clear, hope this clarifies.

Glad a real atheist finally showed up, you might want to be careful to not curse however, that will get you banned and unable to participate further.

Sir Aaron said...

Skinner, I can't get into a long debate here as my Iphone batteries are gettin low. I'm sure somebody else can certainly fill in. Darwinism had significant influence over all of the major Communist leaders including Marx, Stalin, Lenin, Engels, Herzen, and Mao. Marx and Stalin were both raised in Christianity and rejected it after be introduced to Darwinistic ideas. One of Marx's books was remarkeably published at about the same time
as Darwin's. Darwinism remains a core tenet of the current communist platform.

Worse period of history? Ok, Stalin killed 60 million. Mao killed 80 million. If you include the soldier's deaths, Nazism killed approximately 50 million. That's pretty darn close to 200 million. Which century was worse than that?

misty said...

Skinner, your arguments are thought-provoking. And I'm probably going to regret this because I'm no Phil Johnson, but I'm going to take the bait.

You said: "Why does ownership or creation give the right to decide life or death? People who support abortion reject infanticide because there is a point where the offspring is not yours to control and command anymore."

1. But isn't this how abortion-supporters think? "I own this fetus, therefore I can kill it?"

2. Why is there a point where the offspring is not yours to control? I watch Animal Planet and I know some animals eat their own young at times. Why does this not apply to us? Don't get me wrong - I agree with you, but on what moral basis do you make that statement?

You said: "Morality is based on the effects actions have on people and at its bottom is based on how it affects them."

So if I steal one of Donald Trump's cars, and he's got so many that he doesn't even notice (so it doesn't affect him) does that mean it's not an immoral act?

Or say I kill a homeless guy who has lost track with all family and friends and no one misses him, and he was a drain on society anyway, and yes, my killing of him did affect him, but he's dead already so who cares, and I hid the body so no one will find it - does that mean my act was not immoral?

Morality has got to be more than how our actions affect people, right? The standard must be higher than that, don't you agree?

You said: "Since God was the one who made the rule that sin leads to death, made humanity and carries out the punishment it really isn't mercy."

God didn't just make some arbitrary rule that sin leads to death. Sin does lead to death. That's just the way it is. That's reality. Any rebellion against God leads to death because...well...He's God.

Kurt said...

Soooo ... Skinner,

I read your arguments with interest, and it helps to clarify your views. Congrats on having the courage to show up by the way.

I am very curious, what would it take to prove that God (any God) exists to you? Or, why do you believe He doesn't exist? Either way works fine.

I would love a real answer actually.

I was once an atheist myself who believed science was the only reliable source of knowable truth, so I know what my answer was, but I am curious as to yours.

Phil Johnson said...

Samuel Skinner:

Most of your arguments are so convoluted and ill-founded that I'll just deal with the first one for now, which you state in two parts:

"Why does ownership or creation give the right to decide life or death?"

First of all "ownership" and the relation of a Creator to His creatures aren't entirely synonymous. To say that creatures "belong to" their Creator is not to suggest that every "owner" of an object or being has all the prerogatives of deity.

In other words, to point out that a pet-shop owner doesn't have an unfettered moral right to kill puppies and hamsters is no argument against God's absolute right as Creator to end or sustain the lives of His own creatures.

God's sovereignty over creation is not the mere "ownership" of someone who, say, whittles a flute out of a tree branch. As creator ex nihilo and the source of all life and power, God has absolute sovereignty and exercises infinite power over the whole universe, which (as I said) by definition includes the right to decide life or death.

SS: "People who support abortion reject infanticide because there is a point where the offspring is not yours to control and command anymore."

Really? Who is the determiner of that right and where do you find moral authority for it?

In fact, by what logic or authority other than popular opinion do you decide that prior to some unspecified "point" in your child's existence "the offspring" IS "yours to control and command" in the absolute sense, including the right to kill and dispose of it altogether if you choose?

You've confused the absolute rights of the creator with the derived rights of an owner or parent. No one has argued that the two are the same.

As suggested in the blogpost above you have erred in thinking that God is altogether like a human (Psalm 50:21).

Samuel Skinner said...

"Because if God does not exist, then there are no morals. There is merely cause and effect, action and reaction, decision and consequence; but other than an undesired outcome there is no morality."

Er, morality is about undesired outcomes (bad) versus desired outcomes (good). You are just changing the words around and declaring it is different without God... somehow.

" If there is a God, then he sets the rules regardless of whether they're fair or whether you like them. "

The Euthyphro dilemma refutes that.

"What I was implying was that our impulses (individual and collective in your terms), in the evolutionary paradigm, have evolved from lower animals."

What makes one animal "lower" and another "higher"?

"but in humans can also lead to excess and cause things like war."

Except while the rationale for wars may be competitive, the reason individuals serve are for reasons like patriotism, which are not competitive impulses.

" Darwinism had significant influence over all of the major Communist leaders including Marx"

The communist manifesto was published in 1848. The origin of species was published in 1859.

"Stalin"

Who banned Darwinian evolution and insisted on lamarkian evolution over decadent capitalist (Mendalian) genetics.

"Lenin"

His main contribution to the ideological base was his attacks on imperialism and the belief that a foward party does not have to wait for conditions to be ripe, but instead can build a communist state even in a backward nation. This is not remotely related to darwinism.

"Engels"

I'm not aware of Das Capital talking about evolution.

"Herzen"

He died in 1870. And he appears to be a socialist who attacked serfdom. I'm not seeing how he is a bad guy.

"Mao"

How is "the revolution can be built upon the peasents" remotely related to darwinism?

"Marx and Stalin were both raised in Christianity and rejected it after be introduced to Darwinistic ideas."

Technically Marx's parents were both jews who converted. And he was introduced to communism by Engel's in the 1840s. Stalin was from a family of political radicals. There really isn't anything surprising about their atheism.

" One of Marx's books was remarkeably published at about the same time
as Darwin's."

Yes, amazingly the men both lived during the 19th century. However, there is no reason to believe that Marx was influenced by Darwin given the fact that he wrote a good portion of his work before 1859.

"Darwinism remains a core tenet of the current communist platform."

Source? Can you link a current communist party website that lists darwinism as part of its platform? I'll even let you use Die Linke as a "communist party".

" Ok, Stalin killed 60 million. "

That is a third of the population of the USSR. I don't believe it is possible to kill that many of your own subjects. Do you have a source that is backed up by Soviet archieves?

" Mao killed 80 million."

I have never heard a number that high. Source?

"Which century was worse than that?"

The 13th and the mongols who managed to kill as many as the Nazis, but with less to start with, 14th century and the black plague (1/3 to 2/3 of affected areas die from disease and social breakdown), the 16th century (90% of the Americas drop dead- up to 1/5 people on the planet), etc.

Samuel Skinner said...

"1. But isn't this how abortion-supporters think? "I own this fetus, therefore I can kill it?""

No, the justification is that a fetus has no moral worth until it becomes a baby- aka it has a mind of its own.

"Why is there a point where the offspring is not yours to control? I watch Animal Planet and I know some animals eat their own young at times. Why does this not apply to us? Don't get me wrong - I agree with you, but on what moral basis do you make that statement?"

Because at some point it crosses a threshold and has a mind of its own. It capable of suffering and has moral value.

"So if I steal one of Donald Trump's cars, and he's got so many that he doesn't even notice (so it doesn't affect him) does that mean it's not an immoral act?"

People do actually think like that sadly enough- what do you think cheating on your income taxes is? However there are two things wrong with this.

-Donald isn't actually that rich- he keeps on going bankrupt but owing the banks so much they have to follow his lead.

-The individual in question uses the item. If you steal it they are forced to replace it instead of spend it on something productive.

If they aren't using it and aren't going to use it than it is considered squating and isn't morally wrong in some cases (although it is illegal).

"Or say I kill a homeless guy who has lost track with all family and friends and no one misses him,"

The homeless guy still values his own life.

" and he was a drain on society anyway, "

Half the population contribute less than average and so count as a drain on society.

"and yes, my killing of him did affect him, but he's dead already so who cares,"

There was a point before you killed him were he did care. You can't just gloss over the previous state on the transition to the current one.

" The standard must be higher than that, don't you agree?"

No. What would a "higher standard" even look like?

"That's reality. "

So you don't believe God created reality and the rules that you claim come with it?

"I am very curious, what would it take to prove that God (any God) exists to you?"

Evidence.

" Or, why do you believe He doesn't exist? "

Well there are alot of flavors of God (I'm assuming you mean the Jewish/Christian/Muslim one). However the universe is poorly designed for a diety who desires worship. For starters, if you replaced Earth and its orbit with a well designed ringworld you would have a world that was obviously designed for its inhabitants.

There are tons of things a diety could have done differently. Make a species whose dna has a high rate of self-repair and you get less mutations or cancer as well as reinforcing "chosen form". The list of things you can do is endless and that is before you begin to mess with the laws of physics.

"science was the only reliable source of knowable truth"

Technically science is the best method for knowledge. Direct experience, indirect information also give knowledge. Science is better because it is designed to compensate for the flaws in people.

Samuel Skinner said...

" As creator ex nihilo and the source of all life and power, God has absolute sovereignty and exercises infinite power over the whole universe, which (as I said) by definition includes the right to decide life or death."

You declare this is different from normal ownship, but I'm not seeing any justification whatsoever. Maybe I am dense- can you try to use a bullet point style list?

"Who is the determiner of that right"

The medical profession. They are able to tell us when an embyro becomes a fetus and when a fetus becomes a baby.

"In fact, by what logic or authority other than popular opinion do you decide that prior to some unspecified "point" in your child's existence "the offspring" IS "yours to control and command" in the absolute sense, including the right to kill and dispose of it altogether if you choose?"

Because it is physically part of your body?

"You've confused the absolute rights of the creator with the derived rights of an owner or parent. No one has argued that the two are the same."

No, you simply have used the same words to describe both of them and they are entirely the same in all respects. Not to mention as a Christian you believe in an absolute standard of morality that, by definition, includes everyone.

"As suggested in the blogpost above you have erred in thinking that God is altogether like a human (Psalm 50:21)."

I believe that the point isn't that God is different from humans, but that people think that because God has not acted against them he wasn't able to watch them (aka one like yourselfs). God procedes to point out he was aware and that he is going to judge them.

In fact the next part is someone asking God for forgiveness.

Mark Plus said...

Christians seem to want it both ways: Atheism made the communist Russians and Chinese warlike and violent; atheism makes the current Western Europeans (e.g., the French) pacifist and weak.

Yet today the least religious countries have relinquished the death penalty, provide universal health care and restrict firearms ownership. In many ways they value human life more than the United States. Even Cuba's government uses it relatively few resources to move its population out of the paths of hurricances, a benevolent task the last U.S. president didn't want to bother with regarding U.S. citizens in New Orleans.

Samuel Skinner said...

"atheism makes the current Western Europeans (e.g., the French) pacifist and weak."

That is only because the people who think that are idiots. The nations of Europe managed to survive decade long insurgencies without resorting to torture. While I won't say atheism has made them strong, the only weakness they are displaying is their lack of skill in assimilating immigrants.

"restrict firearms ownership."

With all due fairness this is more due to their urban nature than their atheism. Ironically the totalitarian USSR had a lack firearm policy due to the proliferation of guns following WW2.

Phil Johnson said...

I love the blithe illiteracy of some of these atheist comments.

Plus, if you can't deal with the argument on the table, you simply invent your own imaginary argument and argue against THAT? What do French pacifism and the "lack firearm policy" of the Soviets have to do with any argument the theists in this thread have made?

Notice rule 5 in the right sidebar of our front page. Any future off-topic, scattershot, obviously strawman atheist comments like these will be summarily deleted, without regret, apology, or further explanation. Be forewarned.

I realize sometimes the best an atheist can do is seed the argument with as many rabbit trails as possible, hoping the theists will chase a phantom bunny off into the distance. But we don't do that here. When you don't address the arguments that have actually been made, we regard that as a tacit admission of defeat. The tactic is predictable, but we don't usually see it so early in the thread.

Fred Butler said...

until a certain age a fetus does not have a mind and a mind, not human DNA is what grants something moral worth.

What defines "mind?" Would you have any qualms euthanizing autistic children or the mentally retarded?

Pooka said...

HEY! He didn't answer the question!

SS: "So if I steal one of Donald Trump's cars, and he's got so many that he doesn't even notice (so it doesn't affect him) does that mean it's not an immoral act?"

People do actually think like that sadly enough- what do you think cheating on your income taxes is? However there are two things wrong with this.

-Donald isn't actually that rich- he keeps on going bankrupt but owing the banks so much they have to follow his lead.

-The individual in question uses the item. If you steal it they are forced to replace it instead of spend it on something productive.

If they aren't using it and aren't going to use it than it is considered squating and isn't morally wrong in some cases (although it is illegal)."

Unless he just said "stealing is morally right" in all that mess up there.

Kurt said...

Skinner said:

"evidence".

Bingo, slam dunk, hit the nail on the head.

"science ... direct experience, indirect information"

Excellent. Complete agreement.

I don't buy arguments that God could have done things differently. Unless you know his motivation for acting, such arguments are meaningless. How about we table that one for now, since for all you know it is a superkid who just wants to pull wings of of little flies he just made. I could take some of your earlier bait and answer what gives him the right, and the answer is simply that he can. And others in this thread seem to be taking that one on adequately.

However, theologians will argue that the Bible adequately describes a God that accounts for the world we see, you may disagree, but I suggest you defer to them on that particular point, since you discredit your position if you don't in my opinion.

Don't worry though, unless those theologians can prove from evidence the Bible is true, such a concession is no threat to your position.

I need to break this into two posts to get it to fit, end of part 1A.

Kurt said...

More for Skinner:

Are you familiar with any of the intelligent design arguments? They are the first link in the chain of evidence that Christans can produce.

Lets start here:

Q: what kind of being would God have to be to fit what science tells us about the universe?

A: Time and space had a joint origin, therefore God must be transcendant from space and time. The Big Bang gives us this tidbit. So do other bits of physics.

I want to make the point that the Bible describes such a being, and to my knowledge none of the other (non old testament based) major religions of the world do, so we can eliminate them from further consideration), that is not a proof however, so moving on.

I'll skip the cosmological arguments, except to mention that even atheists like Steven Hawking have admitted that the universe is extraordinally fine tuned for life as we know it to exist and that (his statement paraphrased): arguments for God have more plausibility now than at any other time in the history of scientific knowledge. Unless you are a better physicist than Steven Hawking I will ask you to at least admit this particular point has some validity, since he already conceded it.

A good next hurdle is the origin of the single cell. I challenge you with the same thing you asked for - evidence - show me the evidence it could have formed by natural processes. Such processes should be duplicatable to some degree in a laboratory as I will demonstrate.

There are 10^23 atoms in a mole, and about 12 moles in a 16 oz glass of water. Drop 5-10 orders of magnitude for the simplest and smallest cells around today, which is roughly a bacterium, so a few trillion or so atoms in one of those. Much smaller than that and you get into problems of irreducible complexity.

If you know anything about prob and stat, the chances of that cell forming are so small that all the mass of the universe, taken over the age of the universe (if the whole thing was an ideal molecular soup) still leaves us with an infinitesimal chance to work with. I have a degree in mathematics, and have some statistics, not so sure if non math people can follow this but the numbers are strong to the point of being ridiculous.

I further claim you need to show mechanisms exist to create the various cellular structures. The ideal molecular soup would have had to be pumping out proto-cell structures in large quantities for there to be any chance of a complete cell forming. You are as obliged to produce a chain of evidence as we are. Show me yours, and we'll show you ours.

Consider some of the things needed: DNA forming in nice long coherent sequences, cell walls, RNA, all those fantastically complex metabolic pathways. We have 9 atom micro-pumps in cell walls, complete with a piston and a rotor. When DNA is copied it is check-summed to prevent copy errors. This reduces the mutation level well below what is estimated to be needed for the complexity we see today to have evolved given the time available, or so the argument goes.

It is analogous to asking how many times would a volcano have to blow up before some metal congealed into a working steam engine. The answer is self evident, volcanoes blowing up don't create machined parts. Throwing nearly infinite amounts of time at the problem is not a solution. If volcanoes routinely pumped out pistons, gears, pushrods, rivets, and couplings, in partially assembled forms, then the argument has some merit.

A lot of studies to try to demonstrate the mechanisms I mention in the original molecular soup have actually been done, without any convincing success to my knowledge. And that is the rub.

In conclusion I contend it takes as much blind faith to believe in natural processes as it does in intelligent design, and the numbers weigh in pretty strongly against natural processes.

Part 1 complete.

Does anyone else want to take on the prophetic, textual, and historic evidence? The prophetic is the only real evidence of supernatural origin IMHO, the rest is gravy.

misty said...

Misty, Phil said don't chase the phantom bunny. Don't chase the phantom bunny, Misty! This always gets you into trouble!

Oh, I can't help it. I'm gonna chase one.

Skinner, you said: "Morality is about undesired outcomes (bad) versus desired outcomes (good)."

So morality is the eye of the beholder? If a man wants to get rid of his wife and marry the sweet young thing he's having an affair with and he deems that desired outcome to be good does that make it moral? You can say it's not right because he's hurting his family, but what if they have no kids, and all his friends agree that his wife is unattractive so he should dump her? The majority side with him, so does that make his actions moral?

And Pooka's right. Are you saying stealing is morally right? Ever? Just because someone isn't using the item?

If you don't believe in an absolute moral code, then you must decide morality by taking a yearly worldwide survey on what the majority believe to be desired outcomes (good) vs. undesired outcomes (bad), and you've got to consult the medical profession since they apparently define life (a frightening concept). And your morality is going to change over the years of doing this survey so that there will be no true, absolute morality.

The point of all my questions is this: that you do believe in an absolute standard of morality or a "higer standard" even though you refuse to admit it. In fact, you are judging God because He doesn't meet your "higher standard" of morality.

But if there is no higher standard, if morality is truly a situational desired outcomes vs. undesired outcomes thing, then you have no right to judge God. By what standard do you judge Him?

In reality, the standard is God. Not that God sets the rules, but God is the rule. The buck stops with Him, not a higher standard beyond Him. You are aware of this higher standard because God created you and imposed this standard on your conscience so you would ask, "Why is this right? How do I know this is wrong?" and hopefully seek Him - embodiment of the higher standard.

But you won't even admit you believe in a higher standard, not because there isn't one, but because you have no way to define it. The standard is God, but you hate Him, so you refuse to go there.

In fact, the standard only makes sense in reference to God. It's wrong for me to kill the homeless guy not just because it hurts him (a frail, rickety, man-centered definition of morality), but because God created him and killing him denies that truth. I shouldn't defraud the IRS, not just they might catch me and put me in prison, but because God is the ultimate provider and stealing denies that truth. That guy shouldn't leave his wife not just because the dissolution of marriage hurts society, but because God created the man and the woman and marriage and the rules regarding marriage and the purpose of marriage and divorce denies that truth.

The Euthyphro dilemma? Let's face it: if God is real (and He is) and He is the moral code (and He is), the Euthypro dilemma is going to be very little comfort to you. If we Christians could have made a fluffy, sweet little god who could be easily explained and contained, don't you think we would have?

God is God. He's got the right to take us all out.

But you don't agree, I know. I'm foolishly chasing the phantom bunny.

Kurt said...

Hey Misty, you gotta keep the atheists entertained and chase some of their bunnies. :-)

And I forgot to mention, my appeal for help for the the whole prophetic, textual, and historic evidence thing, it has to be in 4096 characters or less. :-)

Ok, I need to go to bed now. :-)

Sir Aaron said...

Skinner, now you're spitting upwind. The facts I mentioned are not even widely disputed and can be found even on wikipedia. I'm not inclined to do all you're research for you, especially on my Iphone. However, I did find a rather good summary at Answers in Genesis, a website I rarely frequent.

http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v15/i1/communism.asp

Johnny Dialectic said...

The communists were opposed to Darwin and Nietzsche. In fact their opposition helped lead to one of Stalins more infamous death tolls- the 1932 famine.

Skirting here the actual point, because Communism and Naziism were responsible for in the vicinity of 100 million deaths in the 20th Century. Thems the facts. How many deaths attributable to Christianity?

Please. Deal with facts here.

Plus, let's not be embarrassed about another fact: the overwhelming majority of GOOD that has been done in history has been done in the name of Christianity (can't wait to hear someone shout "Crusades" or "Inquisition" as the great, timely counterarguments).

Without Judeo-Christian monotheism, we wouldn't have notions of human dignity and worth. We wouldn't have this blog. We'd be trying to shove spears through each other, and perhaps having bites to eat of same.

I crack up when people like Sam Harris try to make the case that the 20th Century was sort of a "wash" in the atrocity department. Such people are not truly serious. They argue from their own dark, psychological place where facts do not matter.

Frank Turk said...

I can't believe that it took this long to get an actual atheist into these posts, and I'm sorry I didn't have a day where I could engage him.

Samuel --

You mention the Euthyphro dilemma. Do you understand that this dilemma is what it is if and only if there is no way to determine which came first, the moral law or the moral law-giver?

The first matter that is sort of incongruous for you is that dear Plato was, himself, a theist. You need to mull that over for a while because if the best argument from atheism regarding the morality of God is a self-critique of our understanding of God, then atheism itself is frankly (again) indebted to theism for being honest. But then again, because as an atheist objection this is badly handled.

I know, I know: many people have dealt with some form of Euthyphro -- like Thomas Aquinas. He's a Christian and he's worried about it. But the problem si that in dealing with the problem, Aquinas never once cracks open Scripture to see if, since he is a Christian of some kind, God has already said.

The real irony of Euthyphro is that it is actually Plato's method of debunking polytheism, not for abandoning the idea of theism. It is his way of defeating capricious piety. It was in no way an argument against the divine origin of all things.

This is evident when Socrates makes his crushing blow against Euthyphro -- the intellectual move by him which fairly ends Euthyphro's ability to object reasonably:

[QUOTE]
But, friend Euthyphro, if that which is holy is the same with
that which is dear to God, and is loved because it is holy, then that
which is dear to God would have been loved as being dear to God; but if that which is dear to God is dear to him because loved by him, then that which is holy would have been holy because loved by him. But now you see that the reverse is the case, and that they are quite different from one another. For one (theophiles) is of a kind to be loved cause it is loved, and the other (osion) is loved because it is of a kind to be loved.
[/QUOTE]

The first place Plato takes the argument to be solved is to one God, not as a matter to be resolved among many gods.

But his point plainly is that the matter is settled -- either by the a prior "loveableness" of the object in question, of because the affections of the one true God makes that thing beloved.

And here's the thing: Scripture does tell us which it is. In your view, the Bible merely lets God do anything without regard to, for example, the right punishment of the unjust, or without reference to his own mercy and self-sacrifice.

The dilemma is only a dilemma if there is no way to resolve it. For Plato, there was no way -- but he had confidence that God was the creator of all things, including the moral order. It was his confidence in that tenet that allowed him to believe in a moral order and still dismiss the capriciousness of the Greek pantheon.

You should, in his honor, have the same confidence. Especially if you're going to bring it up.

Frank Turk said...

Before I comment on another of these poster, I admit I am envious of the handle "Mark Plus". He should have his own comic book.

Mark Plus said:

[QUOTE]
Christians seem to want it both ways: Atheism made the communist Russians and Chinese warlike and violent; atheism makes the current Western Europeans (e.g., the French) pacifist and weak.
[/QUOTE]

Much like temporary violations of the conservation of energy, Mark, one can have it both ways -- one just has to look past a kindergarten view of cause and effect.

See: on the one hand, the USSR was, in fact, the bloodiest regime ever -- until Mao took over China and had to one-up on the body count. It's an irrefutable fact that Mao and Stalin killed more of their own people as a percent of the population than any ruler before them.

But the exact same moral ambiguity which allows that the murder of peasants to advance a political agenda is acceptable is the exact same moral ambiguity which says no war is worth fighting, and punishment of criminals is barbaric.

But the latter is actually caused by the former. When pure totalitarian utilitarianism renders a result that can be seen by anyone with eyes as a moral travesty, the atheist cannot retreat to God (or morality inspired by God, since that must be false as it is from a false source) to learn what the right use of the state is: they have to try something else that they dream up. So when it's proven that pure communism results in mass murder, the moral move is this: well, tie the state's hands when it comes to punishment.

It's a bizarre appeal to libertarianism -- because the state's hands aren't tied, for example, to decide what sort of health care any individual requires, even thought the same result will be had when the state is making those decisions for you as when they are driving the socio-political results of the nation from the Politboro.

We can and do get it both ways -- because it is what it is. In the same way the conservation of energy is observed to be violated from time to time, atheism does cause both mass murder and radical passivity. Just not at the same time.

[QUOTE]
Yet today the least religious countries have relinquished the death penalty, provide universal health care and restrict firearms ownership. In many ways they value human life more than the United States. Even Cuba's government uses it relatively few resources to move its population out of the paths of hurricances, a benevolent task the last U.S. president didn't want to bother with regarding U.S. citizens in New Orleans.
[/QUOTE]

The question of whether the death penalty is unjust isn't solved because countries who rely on the US to fight wars for them (and therefore can say they don't believe in fighting wars) also don't have the moral ambition to enact justice.

Whether that has anything to do with whether the Governor of Louisiana sold her people out by not ordering an evacuation when she knew the big rain was coming (which, geographically and politically, is a far better and more logical comparison) needs to be worked out more successfully before it gets tossed into the ring here as a legitimate way to think about the problems you say you have with things.

Gov98 said...

Luke 16:6-9
And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.

7"And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?'

8"And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;

9and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"

We get so caught up in the idea that we are "entitled" to take up some of the master's ground. But we are not, we just are not. If we are not bearing fruit, then every year we stay on this planet is past of God's great mercy, allowing us to forego immediately seeing God's justice.

It's easy for the wicked to have a hard time with that. Yes God you planted me in this spot, you fertilized my soil, you provided me water, but even though I completely reject your command to repent and believe, you sure as better keep providing for me.

Sorry, that's not always the way it works, that's a demonstration of God's great mercy, and how thankful we ought to be for that great mercy! But let's not forget that it is God being merciful.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I think John Piper said it very simply, at least for me anyway.

"The Potter has rights that the pots do not."

Something to that effect.

mike said...

I'm tempted to disregard Phil's bunny-trail admonition and ask why a pro-abortion atheist could object to the death penalty...but I won't.

Instead I'll tightrope the edge of rule 5 w/ the following observation. Hopefully the moderators will interpret the sideline by soccer rules rather than basketball rules and call it in-bounds:

These same arguments against God's justice addressed in Phil's post are also used by postmodern theists to argue against the doctrine of Christ's substitutionary atonement. The atheist says there was no infraction; the postmodernist says there is no penalty; both deny Romans 2:12 and therefore don't understand the answer provided in Romans 3:21-26.

Keith Crosby said...

To Samuel Skinner:

"For starters, until a certain age a fetus does not have a mind and a mind, not human DNA is what grants something moral worth. If you treat animals with compassion you recognize this as surely as I do."

Says who? This is a bold statement. And what is the basis for this moral worth? Who decides a separate DNA (or fingerprint) isn't enough? To what authority do you appeal? What is moral and who says so?

Stalin considered himself moral authority. Hitler did, too. I suppose you are the basis of your authority---I wouldn't say you're in good company.

You've got your own bible and you are the author. I'd rather trust in the Transcendent God and objective truth than the subjectivism to which you appeal and (no doubt) will refuse to defend, feigning "moral" indignation).

So, what is the authoritative basis for your claims?

Bill Honsberger said...

on Euthypro - Isn't it funny how it was Jewish and Christian commentators on Plato who really kept the Platonic tradition afloat for so long? (whether that was good is a different question) If the dilemma was a true either/or - you would think Augustine and the others would have avoided Plato like the plague - but since it was a false either/or - there is at least one if not other options- then theists of all stripes have no problem with Plato.
The dispute between socialist like Hitler and Mussolini and communists like Stalin was over a matter of degree - not direct opposition. You can see this in Gramisci's complaint against the fascists. Socialists and communists are both on the same side of the fence, but like Sunna and Shia muslims who kill each other over their respective "lack" of true submission to Allah in the relevant way - Communists see themselves are more purely marxists and not "half-steppers" like the socialists. Btw - Nietzsche wrote Marx and derided him as some sort of closet Christian for being insufficiently Darwin - too much care for the masses. Nietzsche criticized the utilitarians for the same thing. Borrowed Christian capital to determine maximum good and all that. If you truly want to be an atheist - my advice is to try go with Nietzsche - get past all this good and evil stuff (like when you are worrying about negative consequences!) and truly embrace the horror of nihilism - no ethics, meaning, value, truth and so on. Be bold in your atheism - quit half stepping and acting like their is morality in the jungle or the protoplasm that has ascended somehow from the ooze.
But when you embrace this fully - then wonder why you are still haunted by these false notions of morality that keep coming back to you in the middle of the night. Be troubled why the pictures of Auschwitz and Rwanda and Kampuchea and the library at Columbine still make you feel like somethings wrong. And you will find just like Nietzsche did, and Sartre, and Russell and even clowns like Harris and Dawkins - that this notion of good and evil and conscious does not go away - even though you deny its only logical source. Play with that and see where you come to.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

The destruction of the wicked is very problematic to the unregenerate. It may be a staggering and sober doctrine even for the newly indoctrinated Christian, but the more we learn of the depth of God’s sovereignty, the more it fits and becomes us as a Christian.

I truly think at the deepest level of our loving the Reformed view of God’s sovereignty, is the fact that we ourselves, as Christians, love God’s glory, righteousness and holiness so much, yet still imperfectly in this world, that we in great measure understand the destruction of the wicked. After all, we have the mind of Christ and we HATE sin. Not just the world’s sin, which would be hypocritical, but also our own, as well.

I am not saying we take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, as Christians, as God doesn’t either (Eze 33:11), but our overwhelming desire, our ultimate joy is to see God glorified, and to see His purity and holiness prevail. We love the hard sayings and judgments of God because we love His holiness. Atheists, agnostics, and the unregenerate, whatever you classify them as, they are all in the same hot soup. They do not understand the destruction of the wicked because they have no elevated sense of the holiness of God, and certainly no reverential fear of Him either, they just don’t see it.

As far as the entitlement theory of the wicked, Gove98, you are so right. Their philosophy is: All things were created for me, for my glory, and for my intended purposes (little god’s they are, Kenneth Copeland clones). God operates the same way, but their godless autonomy creates the evil that aborts babies, commits suicide, fratricide and genocide and all manner of wickedness. But when God eliminates this self-impregnated evil, intervenes in man’s evil schemes, the unregenerate cry, “foul play.” Give me a break!

Good article, Phil. Love this blog!!!

Misty, you and I have something in common; my all time favorite book is “The Attributes of God, by A.W. Pink. I can’t get enough of God’s sovereignty and His glory. So awesome!

Samuel Skinner said...

"What do French pacifism and the "lack firearm policy" of the Soviets have to do with any argument the theists in this thread have made?"

Well, people have accused atheists for being responsible for the crimes of communists. At the same time, the same individuals also seem to believe Islam is a threat towards the continued existance of western civilization (specifically Europe) due to the lack of backbone exhibited by them

While you haven't made the second argument, you have made the first one and the second one is a rebuttal to it. If atheism leads to atrocities, the current nature of western europe is hard to explain.

It is NOT off topic especially since the difference between the USSR and the EU is rather obvious- one was a poor totalitarian state and the other is a wealthy democracy.

"What defines "mind?" Would you have any qualms euthanizing autistic children or the mentally retarded?"

Yeah (I have qualms). For starters, autism doesn't mean retarded- it refers to differences in the brain chemistry. In general the standard I use is that as long as you have most of your brain intact and are able to function I count you.

"Unless he just said "stealing is morally right" in all that mess up there."

I said stealing is wrong except in certain cases being

- you need the item in order to save someones life and the person you are taking it from doesn't need it for that capacity

- squatting

There are probably others, but "stealing is wrong" works as a good rule of thumb rather than trying to memorize them all.

"Unless you know his motivation for acting, such arguments are meaningless. "

Why not? the bible makes it pretty clear he wants worship.

" since for all you know it is a superkid who just wants to pull wings of of little flies he just made."

If you want pain and devestation there are much better methods.

"answer what gives him the right, and the answer is simply that he can."

Might makes right?

Samuel Skinner said...

"but I suggest you defer to them on that particular point, since you discredit your position if you don't in my opinion."

Why? Give the reasons they list and I will listen. By the way, I'm not refering to anything that would require a different laws of physics.

"therefore God must be transcendant from space and time."

What does that mean?

" none of the other (non old testament based) major religions of the world do"

I'm fairly certain sects of Hinduism and Buddhism hold the same belief.

"the universe is extraordinally fine tuned for life as we know it to exist"

Except it isn't. You need to broaden your gaze- Earth's surface is. Most of reality is not Earth's surface. Most of the matter in the known universe is tied up in stars, gas giants, black holes and dark matter (whatever that is). Most of the elements in the universe are hydrogen and helium. While hydrogen is needed for our form of life the proportions are horribly wrong and helium is entirely useless (like the rest of the noble gases.

"I will ask you to at least admit this particular point has some validity, since he already conceded it."

Not at all. The problem with this argument is that it assumes life is the purpose of the universe. However your previous post you argued that we cannot know what Gods goals are. If they are unknown, how can we use this in favor of the idea of God?

"show me the evidence it could have formed by natural processes."

That is the default assumption. Given that everything else has so far been shown to be based on natural process I see no reason why this is a leap. Or do you seek to hide your God in the current gaps of scientific knowledge. What makes this different than the question of what moved the planets?

Samuel Skinner said...

" I have a degree in mathematics, and have some statistics, not so sure if non math people can follow this but the numbers are strong to the point of being ridiculous."

You are using the wrong model for atoms. For starters, you are assuming that they only interact by random collisions and that aside from that they have no affect on each other. It is a bit like claiming that if you add sodium and chloride together nothing will happen because the odds of the individual atoms reacting with each other are so low.

Now, how life forms out of this is (not surprisingly) complicated. I do know that you don't need to have all the parts at the same time. All you need to start with are self-replicating organic molecules like RNA. You do need the component parts of RNA to naturally form, but once they are available they naturally form chains.

"I further claim you need to show mechanisms exist to create the various cellular structures. "

I find it ironic that I was accused of creating false trails to lead the argument away. Apparently claiming victory because science isn't perfect is considered acceptable.

Anyway given the large number of structures inside a cell I cannot do that for all of them. I simply don't have that much time or knowledge. I can give info on the mitochondria (which is responsible for burning oxygen to make ATP). It was perviously a free floating bacteria that came into a symbiotic relationship with cells. The same holds true for the chloroplasts. The cell membrane is simply a double layer of water averse/water loving molecules so it naturally comes into its form.

" The ideal molecular soup would have had to be pumping out proto-cell structures in large quantities for there to be any chance of a complete cell forming. "

Actually the only structures a bacteria needs are RNA, ribosomes and a cell membrane. Everything else is extra. RNA and cell membranes are automatically assembling. Ribosomes are made of RNA and proteins. I don't know anything about protein formation except that it is complicated.

" DNA forming in nice long coherent sequences,"

DNA was not the earliest molecule- in fact the reason our bodies use DNA is that it cannot do this. It is nice and stable unlike RNA.

" all those fantastically complex metabolic pathways."

Those came much later. The earliest cells were surrounded by food because nothing had evolved to take advantage of it yet.

"We have 9 atom micro-pumps in cell walls, complete with a piston and a rotor. "

Do you have a source? I'm almost positive the cell wall is more than 9 atoms thick.

" When DNA is copied it is check-summed to prevent copy errors. This reduces the mutation level well below what is estimated to be needed for the complexity we see today to have evolved given the time available, or so the argument goes."

The argument is based on the idea that the organisms had such feature for the entire history of life. The problem with that is that such a feature makes sense as part of multicellular life... which is about 1/2 billion years old.

Samuel Skinner said...

"It is analogous to asking how many times would a volcano have to blow up before some metal congealed into a working steam engine. "

I know. How do you get God? Or are you allowed to claim exemption from the rules?

" If volcanoes routinely pumped out pistons, gears, pushrods, rivets, and couplings, in partially assembled forms"

Given that we have found organic molecules in the vaccum of space self assembly does work.
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060808_st_life_molecules.html

"without any convincing success to my knowledge. "

The following are hypothesis for how life origionally formed.
-black smoker stacks
-ice is nice
-organic soup
-tidal pools

I believe the organic soup has fallen out of favor for precisely the reason you mention. The other ones have the adventage of explaining high concentration of organic molecules and the necesary energy. Of course if I was read up on this I could tell you how good the explanations are, but I'm not.

"I contend it takes as much blind faith to believe in natural processes "

All process that have ever been explained have been explained in terms of natural processes.

"So morality is the eye of the beholder? "

That isn't remotely what I said. You are implying I am saying it is arbitrary- it isn't. It is based on people.

"If a man wants to get rid of his wife and marry the sweet young thing he's having an affair with and he deems that desired outcome to be good does that make it moral?"

Are you asking if I find divorce moral?

"You can say it's not right because he's hurting his family, but what if they have no kids, and all his friends agree that his wife is unattractive so he should dump her?"

An individual who marries based solely on attractiveness is an idiot. There is nothing morally wrong with his actions, they are just those of someone who is completely irresponsible. Unless this is entirely new (individual has suffered brain injury) the first wife should have known that her husband was a shallow idiot.

"The majority side with him, so does that make his actions moral?"

This isn't about the majority taking sides, but the effect it has.

"Are you saying stealing is morally right? Ever? Just because someone isn't using the item?"

Yes, that is recognized as squating. For example, if you don't have a home it is okay for you to make a shack on an unused plot of land or find one that the bank foreclosed and sleep in it. Especially if the alternative is freezing to death.

Samuel Skinner said...

"If you don't believe in an absolute moral code,"

Define absolute moral code. What does that mean? For example if you say murder is wrong is it absolute if the definition of murder changes?

"you've got to consult the medical profession since they apparently define life (a frightening concept)."

I know, isn't it? It is the inevitable result of being able to save people's lives- what was once considered death is now just an annoyance for surgury.

" so that there will be no true, absolute morality."

This is the sticking point for you and the error you make. I do claim that there is a standard- I don't claim that I am positive what it is. Just like science claims that it can know how the universe works (but doesn't have it all down yet), I claim the same for morality.

So yeah, my standards may change as I gain more imformation. I make not claim to perfection or infallibility.

"an absolute standard of morality or a "higer standard" even though you refuse to admit it."

There is no "higher" standard. I hold God to the same I hold myself and all other people.

" if morality is truly a situational desired outcomes vs. undesired outcomes thing, then you have no right to judge God. By what standard do you judge Him?"

Given that the moral standards I am using aren't based on "rights" how do I have no right to judge? How do my standards not apply to all?

"In reality, the standard is God."

I'm not seeing how this works. Given that we consider genocide bad and God calls for genocide we have a mild contradiction.

" You are aware of this higher standard because God created you "

What about sociopaths?

"But you won't even admit you believe in a higher standard, "

You use higher standard like it is a magic word- what does it even mean, how is it different from a "normal" standard? From what I can see the difference is that one allows apologetics for genocide and mass murder while the other does not. I don't know about you, but I consider mass murder wrong because it causes people to suffer and die.

"but you hate Him"

No, I don't believe in God.

"a frail, rickety, man-centered definition of morality"

Which is bad because...?

"killing him denies that truth"

So what about self defense? It denies that truth equally. In fact what does "deny that truth" even mean in this context?

"That guy shouldn't leave his wife not just because the dissolution of marriage hurts society"

Er, society is not based on marriage. Divorce doesn't hurt society.

"because God created the man and the woman and marriage and the rules regarding marriage and the purpose of marriage "

God is obcessed with contract law? I thought Islam was the religion funded by merchants, not Judaism.

"the Euthypro dilemma is going to be very little comfort to you."

So your responce to logic is that it does not apply to God? You know another word for illogical is? Nonexistant.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Phil,

the fact that the genocides were "highly unusual" and only occured a couple of times is supposed to excuse it? If I only commit one murder instead of being a serial killer, does that somehow justify my one murder?

Egypt may have been corrupt but did the infant first-born deserve to die? I know your answer because I know Calvin's. If the genocides were recorded in any other book besides your chosen holy book, you too would be appalled.

And for the old canard about atheists killing more people than Christians ever have. First, it might be because they had better weapons. What if the Protestants and Catholics had modern warfare back in the 16th century, during the 30 years war? With their primitive weapons around 7 million were killed. In addition, Hitler was not an atheist and I think you know that.

Samuel Skinner said...

"The facts I mentioned are not even widely disputed and can be found even on wikipedia."

Than provide them.

" However, I did find a rather good summary at Answers in Genesis, a website I rarely frequent."

I'm going to just highlight the worst parts.


"In addition, the communist core idea that violent revolution, in which the strong overthrow the weak"

The core idea of MARXISM (not communism) is that the proletariat overthrowing the capitalists and create a communist state. They are defined by their relation to ownership of the means of production and NOT evolutionary fitness.

"as are communists today, that evolution had taken place, that all biology had evolved spontaneously upward, and that inbetween links (or less evolved types) should be actively eradicated."

Communism is universalist and egalitarian. It is totally opposed to such eugenics measures. No modern communist party has endorsed such an approach.

"it was very difficult for these radicals to persuade the masses to accept communistic (or other leftist) ideologies. "

Totally false. The French revolution occured in 1789 and the ensuing backlash was the reason that there was little reform.

"inspired Marx to develop his new godless worldview now known as communism."

Communism predates Marx.

" Darwin’s universe was purely materialistic, and the explication of it no longer involved any reference to unobservable, nonmaterial causes outside or “beyond” it."

All scientific publications work like this. By definition science seeks to explain phenomena and doesn't include items beyond that.

"On the shelves of the socialist bookstores in Germany the words of Darwin and Marx stood side by side’."

The link provided is for social darwinism in American thought. I'm not sure how such a source is remotely related to German bookstores.

"until he encountered Darwin’s writings and ideas at the University of Berlin."

Marx left the university of Berlin in 1843. The Origin of Species was published in 1859.

"Marx saw the living world in terms of a Darwinian ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ struggle, involving the triumph of the strong and the subjugation of the weak."

Karl Marx was obcessed with social classes, not individual fitness.

"‘Clearly, for Marx man has no “nature”."

Except Darwinism insists man has an inherent nature.

"‘fewer but better’, a restatement of natural selection."

Natural selection is about having the most offspring. Fewer but better is about efficiency.

"murdered an estimated 60 million people."
Antonov-Ovesyenko, A., The Time of Stalin: Portrait of a Tyranny, Harper and Row, New York, 1981.

The source predates the fall of the USSR. It is useless as it is an estimate and not actually based on archival evidence.

"Darwin became ‘an intellectual hero in the Soviet Union. "

Trofim Lysenko work had Darwin rejected until 1965.

"Christianity generally has served as a force that resisted depriving people of the fruits of their labor. "

Like liberation theology?

"Mao had continued to embrace the Judeo-Christian worldview "

No comment.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

One can't be moral without God? Oh please. Professor Matt McCormick: There are a billion or so Buddhists on the planet, and several hundred million atheists, just for starters, who do not believe in any sort of divine being, but it would be absurd to suggest that none of them act in a morally decent, law abiding manner.... [But doesn't one have to assume their is a God or ultimate law-giver in order to have a proper basis to even discuss morality?] Again, this can’t be true either. Kant, Mill, Rawls, Aristotle, and many other respectable, plausible moral theories give accounts of how moral decisions should be grounded without any requirement for the actor to believe in God. If the someone wishes to defend this claim, then they will need to argue that none of the widely respected, studied, and emulated moral theories that have been developed in history are right and that no acts that are done in accordance with them are moral. .

Finally, what standard of morality do we find in the Bible? Slavery, genocide, polygamy, treatment of women as inferior, cruelty to animals, killing of homosexuals, and etc. represents a superior moral standard? Come on.

Samuel Skinner said...

"How many deaths attributable to Christianity? "

I don't know. Unlike the communists, Christianity tended towards more local activities so there is not exactly a paper trail. I can give current activities and we can extrapolate- we have a witch hunt in Nigeria, a gay hunt in Uganda and the union of corporatists and christianity in the US.

" the overwhelming majority of GOOD that has been done in history has been done in the name of Christianity "

Given that people of all religions (even communists) do good things, I'm going to have to claim empathy is responsible.

"Without Judeo-Christian monotheism, we wouldn't have notions of human dignity and worth. "

Other religions managed to come up with these on their own. Jainism for example insists that all life is sacred.

"We wouldn't have this blog."

Because only Christians do technology despite the fact that China was in the lead until the 18th century at the time when Christianity's grip on Europe was weakening?

"only if there is no way to determine which came first"

You do not understand the dilemma than. It is irrelevant to it which came first.

"The first matter that is sort of incongruous for you is that dear Plato was, himself, a theist."

And your point is? Am I not allowed to use gravity and Kepler's laws as proof of materialism because their discovers were theists? Are you not allowed to use the zero because its discovers were Hindu?

"But his point plainly is that the matter is settled -- either by the a prior "loveableness" of the object in question, of because the affections of the one true God makes that thing beloved."

That is my point. If the first case is true than God does not set the moral standard. If the second is true than the standard is arbitrary. Hence the dilemma.

"The dilemma is only a dilemma if there is no way to resolve it."

And you have completely ignored the dilemma. How have you solved it? You have merely restated it and claimed it solved!

"on the one hand, the USSR was, in fact, the bloodiest regime ever"

False. The Nazis managed to kill more. The death toll in Belarussia was measured in deaths per minute.

" It's an irrefutable fact that Mao and Stalin killed more of their own people as a percent of the population than any ruler before them."

British rulers of India managed to kill more as a percentage of the population and the Mongols may have done the same.

"So when it's proven that pure communism results in mass murder, the moral move is this: well, tie the state's hands when it comes to punishment. "

Anti-death penalty advocates existed in the 18th century. They did not form as a reaction to communism.

" to decide what sort of health care any individual requires,"

Which actually works- or are you claiming we give the troops substandard medical care? I know the veterans hospitals in the states suck but that is due to lack of funding. The field hospitals are the best in the world and keep getting better and it is all government run.

" In the same way the conservation of energy is observed to be violated from time to time, "

Conservation of energy is never violated. Scientific laws, by definition, are never violated.

"because countries who rely on the US to fight wars for them"

Given that the US and not europe was attacked on 9/11 they are helping us fight our war.

"also don't have the moral ambition to enact justice."

How is executing someone justice?

"Whether that has anything to do with whether the Governor of Louisiana sold her people out by not ordering an evacuation when she knew the big rain was coming "

Yes, it was entirely the governers fault. It wasn't like the levy system was defunded due to the war effort or anything like that. Or that emergency relief is the responsiblity of the national government.

Samuel Skinner said...

"We get so caught up in the idea that we are "entitled" to take up some of the master's ground."

Once again I am accused of being a moral relativist while my opponents claim that murder is perfectly fine. If you cannot see the irony, fine by me, but please realize the irony.

"The Potter has rights that the pots do not."

So you support abortion?

"ask why a pro-abortion atheist could object to the death penalty"

I'm curious to why someone would take the opposite grounds.

Anyway the reason for me is because legal abortion doesn't cause harm while the death penalty does (the US legal system is rather... poor). If the rate of false convictions drops low enough, I will support the death penalty.

"Says who? This is a bold statement. And what is the basis for this moral worth?"

Because only minds care what happen to them. How is this a bold statement? Is breaking rocks in half ever been considered wrong?

" Who decides a separate DNA (or fingerprint) isn't enough?"

Because than organ transplants would be wrong?

"To what authority do you appeal?"

None. Arguing from authority is a logical fallacy. I argue from premises to conclusions.

"Stalin considered himself moral authority. Hitler did, too. "

Really? They came out with books telling people what they should and should not do? My struggle is about Hitler's goals which is close, but hardly counts as a blueprint for morality as it is all about the goals of the German nation.

"I'd rather trust in the Transcendent God and objective truth "

And you know these things exist because...? You really want them to? Isn't that subjective?

" Isn't it funny how it was Jewish and Christian commentators on Plato who really kept the Platonic tradition afloat for so long?"

I'm pretty sure it was Islam and the Eastern Orthodox that were responsible.

" there is at least one if not other options- then theists of all stripes have no problem with Plato."

You know, it would be nice to clearly list an answer.

"The dispute between socialist like Hitler and Mussolini and communists like Stalin was over a matter of degree - not direct opposition."

Yeah, that is why Hitlers objectives were the complete and utter destruction of communism. Fascists HATED communism.

"acting like their is morality in the jungle or the protoplasm that has ascended somehow from the ooze."

But when oozes work together all the oozes are better off. Why would rejecting theism nullify this simple truth? After all, if there is no God than altruism exists because it is the best method of insuring your survivial.

"Be troubled why the pictures of Auschwitz and Rwanda "

I am. That is why I am repeled by individuals here claiming that is God does the equivalent it is okay.

"but their godless autonomy creates the evil that aborts babies,"

So the crime isn't murder, but killing people without permission? If atheists merely asked and gotten Gods approval before hand it would be okay?

"But when God eliminates this self-impregnated evil, intervenes in man’s evil schemes, the unregenerate cry, “foul play.” "

So you believe that if someone is evil, it is perfectly fine to kill them? And that if they complain about mass murder and genocide they are whiners?

Sir Aaron said...

Yes, it was entirely the governers fault. It wasn't like the levy system was defunded due to the war effort or anything like that. Or that emergency relief is the responsiblity of the national government.

The only illustration of iliteracy we need. Also happens to simultaneously illustrate the major difference between athiests and Christians. Ironic.

"The facts I mentioned are not even widely disputed and can be found even on wikipedia."

Than provide them
.

I did. I gave two sources that both have external sources. Since you are trying to contradict normally accepted fact, prove me wrong. But even extremely conservative figures place the total deaths caused by all the men/groups I mentioned between 100 to 150 million.

Sir Aaron said...

Just to clear up my last point,

The National Response Plan actually states that emergency planning, response, and relief is firstly a local responsibility. And the governor didn't order evacuations until after the President was forced to call to urge the evacuation.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Kai Nielsen, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Calgary and one of the 20th Century's best known atheists, is honest. He wrote: "Reason does not decide [morality]. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me. Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality."

Samuel Skinner said...

"The only illustration of iliteracy we need. Also happens to simultaneously illustrate the major difference between athiests and Christians. Ironic."

You know, if you declare someone to be wrong you are normally required to provide proof.

"Since you are trying to contradict normally accepted fact, prove me wrong."

Except the numbers you give are estimates pulled from thin air. The numbers we have for Nazi crimes are based of the records they had. The records from the USSR were not opened until after the fall of the Soviet Union. As such they are WORTHLESS. If you are willing to provide numbers that are actually backed by evidence I will look at them.

"The National Response Plan actually states that emergency planning, response, and relief is firstly a local responsibility."

Which was written in 2004. Yeah, I'm sure giving local government a year to prepare for major disasters will not cause major screw ups.

Seriously, your objection is that it isn't the federal governments fault... because they dumped it on the local governments. Even though federal style responce worked for all the previous disasters.

"Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.""

Of course- goals are not based on reason and goals are the foundation of morality.

Fred Butler said...

You still haven't really defined what you mean by mind?

Yeah (I have qualms).

With the definition you give, why?


For starters, autism doesn't mean retarded- it refers to differences in the brain chemistry. In general the standard I use is that as long as you have most of your brain intact and are able to function I count you.

Well, I was making a distinction between mentally retarded and autism. The two are not the same. What are you defining as function and intact? A fetus has its brain intact and is functioning fairly early. Is it the matter of the one (in this case an unborn baby) being dependent upon the other (in this case a mother) that counts as "functioning?" So far, I don't really see any difference between you and the early 20th century eugenicists.

Samuel Skinner said...

"You still haven't really defined what you mean by mind? "

Mostly because it is hard to define. Where do you draw the cutoff line is a question I don't have an answer to.

"What are you defining as function and intact?"

Function meaning able to be a member of society. Intact quite literally- some people are missing large parts of their brain and after a certain point I stop counting them. This is mostly useful for individuals in comas as if they are still able to function it isn't a critical amount of damage

"A fetus has its brain intact and is functioning fairly early "

Not functionual enough to count- I'm using a full grown person as the standard. It takes a while before it has a brain more complex than the rest of the animal kingdom.

" So far, I don't really see any difference between you and the early 20th century eugenicists."

For starters I realize that poverty is not caused by poor genes. Additionally I realize that fitness is measured in offspring so the idea that the poor are reducing fitness by breeding too much is ridiculous.

Fred Butler said...

Mostly because it is hard to define. Where do you draw the cutoff line is a question I don't have an answer to.

So you're willing to make life and death decisions with human beings based upon something you can't even define nor have an answer to? And you can't see the hypocrisy of atheism in their claims of morality?

Function meaning able to be a member of society.

So in your worldview, unborn babies don't qualify as being members of the society? Just because they don't have a "mind" yet, which is a concept you can't even begin to offer an answer?

Intact quite literally- some people are missing large parts of their brain and after a certain point I stop counting them. This is mostly useful for individuals in comas as if they are still able to function it isn't a critical amount of damage

So they have to have a certain percentage of their brain in order to be considered a functioning member of society? Do paraplegics fall into this category? People in a coma not sustained by any means of life support?

Not functionual enough to count- I'm using a full grown person as the standard. It takes a while before it has a brain more complex than the rest of the animal kingdom.

Functional is different from developed. A baby has a fully functional brain. It isn't developed like a full grown adult. According to your position then, a baby wouldn't count.


For starters I realize that poverty is not caused by poor genes.

Eugenics dealt with more than just poverty. It also entailed vague definitions of those who were considered "feeble-minded." Similar vague definitions you have offered here.

Samuel Skinner said...

"So you're willing to make life and death decisions with human beings based upon something you can't even define nor have an answer to?"

We do that all the time. What makes you think that life comes prepacked with easy answers? The hard sciences are difficult and hard to comprehend, why should morality be easy? Because it offends your sensibilities that it is hard?

"And you can't see the hypocrisy of atheism in their claims of morality?"

How is this hypocritical? Alot of concepts we use are difficult to define.

"So in your worldview, unborn babies don't qualify as being members of the society?"

Correct.

" Just because they don't have a "mind" yet, which is a concept you can't even begin to offer an answer? "

Conciousness, sense of self, ability to respond to stimula, self-awareness, etc. Don't be dense- it is obvious what I am refering to. The problem is that these concepts are vague and finding where they end is difficult which is why I don't feel comfortable using them.

"So they have to have a certain percentage of their brain in order to be considered a functioning member of society? "

Well this is to be applied to people in comas. If they are up and about the parts they are missing are obviously non-essential.

"Do paraplegics fall into this category? "

No. They can still think.

" People in a coma not sustained by any means of life support? "

It depends on where the damage is.

"Functional is different from developed. A baby has a fully functional brain. "

Yes, but a fetus doesn't. That is what makes it a fetus.

"Eugenics dealt with more than just poverty."

You said and I quote:

" So far, I don't really see any difference between you and the early 20th century eugenicists."

They did focus almost exclusively on the poor.

"It also entailed vague definitions of those who were considered "feeble-minded.""

The people they are refering to would be classified as learning disabled or retarded. As I have already stated, I consider them human.

"Similar vague definitions you have offered here."

Are you willing to offer a definition? Or are you willing to give any justification for your stance?

Fred Butler said...

We do that all the time. What makes you think that life comes prepacked with easy answers? The hard sciences are difficult and hard to comprehend, why should morality be easy? Because it offends your sensibilities that it is hard?

We make life and death decisions based upon vague definitions all the time? Really? Give me one example?


How is this hypocritical? Alot of concepts we use are difficult to define.

You advocate for being pro-choice and the easy termination of life, and seem to have a problem with God doing the same thing.

"So in your worldview, unborn babies don't qualify as being members of the society?"

Correct.

" Just because they don't have a "mind" yet, which is a concept you can't even begin to offer an answer? "

Conciousness, sense of self, ability to respond to stimula, self-awareness, etc. Don't be dense- it is obvious what I am refering to. The problem is that these concepts are vague and finding where they end is difficult which is why I don't feel comfortable using them.


Fetuses respond to stimuli, have conscienceness, act self-aware. I am taking it you never had a kid? You need to bone up on biology.

"So they have to have a certain percentage of their brain in order to be considered a functioning member of society? "

"Functional is different from developed. A baby has a fully functional brain. "

Yes, but a fetus doesn't. That is what makes it a fetus.


We were talking about babies. Not a fetus, though a fetus does have a fully functional brain, you're just wrong about that.

"Eugenics dealt with more than just poverty."

You said and I quote:

" So far, I don't really see any difference between you and the early 20th century eugenicists."

They did focus almost exclusively on the poor.


You need to bone up on your history of the eugenics movement, too. It went beyond just eliminating poverty. Buck vs. Bell, the court case up held by the Supreme Court in 1927 that legalized forced sterilization was based upon the qualities of "feeble mindedness" and "insanity" and had nothing really to do with helping to eliminate poverty. If anything, eugenics policy were racial in nature.

The people they are refering to would be classified as learning disabled or retarded. As I have already stated, I consider them human.

Carrie Buck, the gal used as the patsy to get Bell vs. Buck into legislation was hardly retarded. Her feeble-mindedness was based upon what was considered worthless character traits.


Are you willing to offer a definition? Or are you willing to give any justification for your stance?

Originally you stated that DNA doesn't determine a person's worth, the mind does:

You wrote:
until a certain age a fetus does not have a mind and a mind, not human DNA is what grants something moral worth.

And then you added,

No, the justification is that a fetus has no moral worth until it becomes a baby- aka it has a mind of its own.
...
Because at some point it crosses a threshold and has a mind of its own. It capable of suffering and has moral value.


First, I am not making the argument that a fetus has no worth until it has a mind, you are.

Second, you continue to beg the question, which causes me to ask in light of these two other comments, what exactly is that threshold a baby crosses that gives it moral value? You seem to think once the baby comes out the birth canal, it has moral value, but can you tell me what baby exists that fulfills your qualifications of moral worth, ie, has a mind of its own? Babies are pretty much dependent upon a parent until they reach at least their teen years. According to your criteria laid out for us, in principle, a baby doesn't really have moral worth, because it certainly doesn't have a "mind of its own" and thus can be safely euthanized.

Isabelle said...

"Not functionual enough to count- I'm using a full grown person as the standard. It takes a while before it has a brain more complex than the rest of the animal kingdom."

...Huh? If a fully-functioning adult brain is the standard that you have been using this entire time, then, based on that, infants and children would not "count". Shall we begin murdering them as well, then? Lovely...

Samuel Skinner said...

"We make life and death decisions based upon vague definitions all the time? Really? Give me one example?"

The value of a human life. For example, the government has to set a numerical dollar value on the value of a person so it can decide how much pollution is acceptable.

"You advocate for being pro-choice and the easy termination of life, and seem to have a problem with God doing the same thing."

Not at all- God is perfectly fine with causing spontaneous abortions (which happen often). I care about killing people.

"Fetuses respond to stimuli, "

After a certain point they do.

"have conscienceness, act self-aware."

No, that requires part of the brain that has to develop.

"We were talking about babies. "

No we aren't.
http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3424

"Fetus: The unborn offspring from the end of the 8th week after conception (when the major structures have formed) until birth. Up until the eighth week, the developing offspring is called an embryo. "

" that legalized forced sterilization was based upon the qualities of "feeble mindedness" and "insanity" and had nothing really to do with helping to eliminate poverty. If anything, eugenics policy were racial in nature. "

Since blacks in the US were also poor and the "feeble minded" and "insane" individuals who were targeted were also poor, my stance that it was targeted against poor people is accurate.

If it was meant to be used against other races, the retarded and the insane, it would have been exported to the colonies. To my knowledge it remained the province of the "civilized" world.

"Carrie Buck, the gal used as the patsy to get Bell vs. Buck into legislation was hardly retarded. Her feeble-mindedness was based upon what was considered worthless character traits."

How is this relevant towards me stating that I don't consider mild retardation something to kill people over? I already know the eugenics movement was screwed up (although not as creepy as the movement to lobotomize people).

"First, I am not making the argument that a fetus has no worth until it has a mind, you are."

Than tell me when it has worth any why. Stop evading the question. We both agree that a baby has worth and you believe a fetus has one. Does an embryo? Why or why not? What about the constituent sperm and egg?

"You seem to think once the baby comes out the birth canal, it has moral value,"

Actually I believe the point happens before hand. I don't know exactly when because I don't have a PhD in medicine and neuroscience.

The situation does change when the baby emerges from the birth canal because it is no longer a strain on its mother.

Of course, it is rare for there to be a need for an abortion in the 3rd trimester due to the fact that most women are smart enough to notice they are pregnant in the proceding 6 months.

" Babies are pretty much dependent upon a parent until they reach at least their teen years. "

Dependancy is not related to having a mind. You can tell babies have a mind because they gradually go through different stages as their view of the world is slowly put together inside their head. Developmental psychology goes over them, like the discovery that objects have permanence, the ability to consider others perspectives, etc.

"thus can be safely euthanized."

Abortion is safer than giving birth- why wait?

"If a fully-functioning adult brain is the standard that you have been using this entire time, then, based on that, infants and children would not "count". "

Moral weight is a matter of degrees, not absolutes. A dog is not as valuable as a person, but its value is greater than nothing.

Greg said...

This was especially inconsistent:

"Moral weight is a matter of degrees, not absolutes. A dog is not as valuable as a person, but its value is greater than nothing."

Seems like you only apply degrees of morality to the worth of human life. Saying a dog is not as valuable as a person, but is more valuable than nothing is not a degree it is an absolute standard. For your point to be true, at least some dogs would have to be as valuable or more valuable than human beings. Likewise, nothing would have to be as valuable or more valuable than some dogs. All you've done is successfully proven that you have very little value for human life, because human life is apparently not worth anything absolutely where as a dog is always more valuable than nothing, but less valuable than people.

Frankly, I think the dog has the better going rate in your world view.

Isabelle said...

"Moral weight is a matter of degrees, not absolutes. A dog is not as valuable as a person, but its value is greater than nothing."

This does not even have to do with my comment. You stated that a fully-functioning adult mind is the kind that counts, to which I responded, "Then, based on that, infants and children would not 'count'." After all, they do not live up to these standards of yours—to have a fully-functioning adult mind—anymore than a human fetus does, so why do they, and not the latter, get a free pass in your eyes? Mine was not a question of morals. You very simply stated that a fetus has no life worth because its mind is not up to par with that of an adult— and therefore neither does a newborn or even an eleven-year-old...heck, I'm not legally an adult for another few months, do I get tossed out as well? See? No shades of gray to speak of. And that is what I was addressing. I'd look into revising that argument if I were you.

Bill Honsberger said...

I mentioned that the Jewish and Christian tradition kept the platonic tradition afloat and you retort that it was Islam and Eastern orthodoxy??? This is serious right? Eastern orthodoxy does not become a formally separate group until the 11th century but regardless of that is still part of the Christian tradition - which actually proves the point. But writers like Plotinus, Augustine and many others had been reading and perhaps sadly incorporating Plato for many centuries before the birth of Islam (632 a.d.) Muslims might be credited for discovering some of Aristotle's writings in the ruins of Alexandria - but then that doesn't support your theses that euthypro is some sort of mortal wound for the Christian faith.
You want an example out of the false dilemma? No problem. One horn is that if God merely made up the rules than they are arbitrary - God could have chosen otherwise. This is the standard argument given by atheist philosophers such as James Rachels and others. The other horn of course is that God discovers morality, which obviously is not acceptable to the Christian.
One possible solution to the alleged dilemma is that ethics flow from God's very character - therefore they are not arbitrary nor could they be otherwise. To be honest, loving, holy, etc is who and what God is.
You never answered the points I made vis a vis Nietzsche. If there is no objective viewpoint (or God for Nietzsche) then there is no objective morality and we simply make it up as we go. It was almost funny to read the one comment that included Kant as one who didn't need God to make morality rational. You cant possibly understand the categorical imperative without the backdrop of God. True enough Kant wanted to come to ethics through reason and not simply divine command theory - but his own VERY famous argument for the existence of God was based on the existence of absolute objective morality. As i mentioned with Nietzsche and Marx and the utilitarians earlier - Nietzsche accused Kant of keeping God around just for that purpose alone - giving a foundation for morality.
Rawls and the Utilitarians all cheat in the same way - borrowing standards which do not come from within their world view and then pretending that they do. Good liberal enlightenment figures like Rawls have noble ideals about feeding the poor, egalitarian democracy and the like - but he has no basis other than sentiment to call anyone to such positions - that is without some value to people that atheists can only base on - well lets see - we can go with egoism, ethical egoism, emotivism, cultural relativism - and the consistent thing about all these ethical theories is that taken consistently they all come down do either individual or community subjectivity. Either path makes human life, kind of like with beauty - purely in the eye of the beholder. So feed the poor - eat the poor -depends on how I feel at a given time, or at a given temperature, or wether its Tuesday or not. Nice try with this one.
At least to his credit Nietzsche tried to theorize what it really meant that God was dead.
And to whoever wrote that all the Buddhists were atheists - talk to enough different brands of mahayana Buddhists and you will see they are definitely not materialists. Most sound more like advaita vedanta hindus with there being one thing in existence and that one thing being god. As well read virtually any of the ancient buddhist literature such as Vimilkirti and every time the story starts with zillions of spirts of all sorts in attendence. Not exactly stone cold materialists here, but it does sound a bit more like Sam Harris.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Johnny Dialectic,

I would like to know the source of your quote from Kai Nielsen so that I can read it in context. I have a feeling he is being misrepresented, unless he has totally repudiated his 1991 book, God and the Grounding of Morality.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Bill Honsberger,

I have two questions for you:

1. How do you know that your God is good?

2. Does it matter what "God" a person believes in in order to arrive at an objective morality? You mention that Kant and some Buddhists really do believe in a God (although obviously their gods are much different than yours).

Johnny Dialectic said...

Ken:

Kai Nielsen, “Why Should I Be Moral?” American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1984), p. 90.

Sir Brass said...

No, atheists CANNOT be moral without God.

This is as factual as saying, "One cannot breathe without air."

Atheists can deny the existence of God up and down the corridors of time but neglect the fact that the ONLY reason ANY of them have a shred of morality is because they are made in the image of God and their sinful lusts are at this very moment being restrained by His almighty hand.

So, yes, atheists can be moral, but the only reason they are is because of God. To deny otherwise is as irrational as saying that man can breathe in a vacuum.

Phil Johnson said...

Ken Pulliam: "the genocides were "highly unusual" and only occured a couple of times is supposed to excuse it? If I only commit one murder instead of being a serial killer, does that somehow justify my one murder?"

Oh, come on, Ken. You understand the argument better than that. The point is that when God does command that some summary judgment be carried out, it is for a specific--and good--reason.

It's YOUR assumption, not mine, that God is unjust in His judgment. The point I made (and let's face it, it wasn't easy to miss; you had to really work hard at it) is that God's judgments are ordinarily tempered with extreme, unmerited mercy. But it is folly to think that because God is ordinarily so merciful, His mercy is what we deserve and judgment without mercy is therefore somehow "evil."

You have embraced that folly, and it is to your shame. But don't try to superimpose your fallacious presuppositions onto my point of view. Try to keep up here.

Again: it was NOT wrong for God to command the destruction of the Amalekites, and no one on the biblical side of the argument has ever suggested it was. If you could try to keep in your head what the actual argument is, we wouldn't have to cover the same ground repeatedly.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Phil,

Correct me if I am wrong but it sounds like you are simply saying its not wrong because God did it. Thus, anything God does is automatically good and cannot be questioned.

So, if God commands the Israelites to "dash a baby against the stones," it must be a good thing. The killing of infants runs counter to our moral sensiblities which according to your belief system is supposed to be derived from man being made in the image of God. Why is it that it seems wrong for us to kill an infant but if God commands it, we are supposed to suppress our intutitions and just believe that for some reason, it must be okay.

There seems to be a huge disconnect between the morality reflected by Yahweh in the OT and the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the NT. Jesus is reported to have said: You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matt. 5:43-45

DJP said...

Heights of trancelike self-parody:

(1) An atheist criticizing anything as "immoral."
(2) An atheist still breathing, yet faulting God's patient mercy in any specific.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

DJP,

First, I am not an atheist.Second, I don't agree that one must believe in your God or any God before he can use the words, moral or immoral . Take a look at the dictionary definition of the word moral. Third, if you don't see a moral issue with killing an infant, then I surely don't want to adopt your morality. Fourth, yes I am still breathing but those poor Canaanite and Amalekite infants aren't. They didn't get to breathe very long.

DJP said...

Well, of course. No one is really an atheist. For instance, to you, you are god. So with all atheists.

There we differ, infinitely.

Samuel Skinner said...

"Seems like you only apply degrees of morality to the worth of human life."

I don't interact with nonhuman intelligences often.

" Saying a dog is not as valuable as a person, but is more valuable than nothing is not a degree it is an absolute standard."

How is having a slot on a scale not a degree?

"For your point to be true, at least some dogs would have to be as valuable or more valuable than human beings."

Yes, if we breed an intelligent super dog than it would be more valuable than a brain dead person.

"because human life is apparently not worth anything absolutely "

What does "worth something absolutely" even mean in the context of human life? I measure the value of a human life in the amount of effort taken to protect it. What do you count it in? Happy thoughts?

"This does not even have to do with my comment."

It has everything to do with your comment. Am I going to have to hold your hand through this?

You see children do not have adult minds. However they do have parts in common. It is a shade of grey you seem to be completely unable to understand. Do you think the a person suddenly becomes an adult when they cross over an imaginary line? NO! The parts are there when they are a child.

"This is serious right? "

The renisance was started when scholars fleeing from the Byzantine Empire came to Italy. I think I am safe seperating the Greeks from the rest of Christiandom.

"One possible solution to the alleged dilemma is that ethics flow from God's very character "

Except this means that they are arbitrary because they are decided by God's character. You are claiming that God has no free will for starters AND that morality can somehow "flow" from character.

"If there is no objective viewpoint "

Correct. In fact this has been proven to be true thanks to physics! There is no priviledged frame of reference.

"then there is no objective morality and we simply make it up as we go."

I'm not seeing how objecting to the nature of reality changes it.

" but he has no basis other than sentiment to call anyone to such positions"

You do realize you are arguing that you are only good out of self interest? Now, I know I am an anti-theist, but even I don't think theists are motivated exclusively out of greed and selishness.

Being good is not supportable by appealing to rational self-interest. That is why it is considered good!

Phil Johnson said...

Ken Pulliam: "Correct me if I am wrong but it sounds like you are simply saying its not wrong because God did it. Thus, anything God does is automatically good and cannot be questioned."

Well, you are wrong, and you know full well that the point being made is even more basic than that, Ken:

I know that I'm not "good" (nor are you), so it would be the very height of arrogance for me (or you) to subject the benevolence of our Creator and Lawgiver to the judgment of bare human reason as if we have in our own minds some higher standard of goodness and justice.

In order to appear to be sidestepping that problem (while desperately trying to justify making yourself God's judge) you have invented some tenuous "contradictions" in Scripture.

For example, you now claim that the principle of Luke 12:5; 18:7-8; Romans 3:8; Psalm 9:17; 2 Peter 2:3-21 contradicts the truism of Matthew 5:45.

But I know that you know the Bible better than that, and you are fully aware that the Bible teaches from start to finish that the condemnation of the wicked is both just and inevitable (though delayed). If you now refuse to interpret Matthew 5:45 and Psalm 145:9 in that larger context, that is your fault, not a "contradiction" or defect in what God has revealed.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Phil,

You say its more basic than just presupposing that everything God does must be good but you don't explain how. It seems to me that your view is predetermined by your presupposition that the Bible is plenarily and verbally inspired. If that is the reason, fine, but you should say so.

Its constantly argued that without God one cannot know what is good but I have to ask you, since you believe in God, how do you know what is good? I imagine you will say good is defined by the nature of a perfectly holy God but how do you determine what the nature of that God is, unless you look at the actions of that God? Is it good to kill infants? It must be according to you, in SOME cases (doesn't sound like an objective moral standard to me).

You say that is arrogant for man to think that he knows what is good and has a higher standard than God. But I am sure you believe that man is made in the image of God. According to most theologians, one of the consequences of being so made is to have a sense of morality. Paul said in Rom. 2:14 that the Gentiles had this knowledge even apart from revelation. Virtually all human beings believe that its wrong to kill infants (not talking about abortion here but infanticide). If your theology is correct, that universal belief that its wrong to kill infants must derive from God. Yet, we read in Joshua and 1 Sam. 15 that God ordered the killing of infants. See the problem?

As for scriptural passages that teach judgment, yes there are quite a few. However, the teachings of Jesus seem to be much more moderate. That can be explained in a lot of different ways but in general it seems to me that if the most complete revelation of the nature of God is seen in Jesus, then his teachings should be used as the benchmark around which to interpret the rest of the Bible. As you know there are many different teachings within the Bible and in order to try to harmonize them, one has to choose which ones are to be the benchmarks around which to understand the others. For example, the Calvinist uses Romans 9 and similar passages as the basis to understand passages that talk about "whosoever will," etc. Whereas the Arminian give precedence to the "whosoever will" passages and then makes Romans 9 and others fit with that understanding. So, do you want to take the judgment passages such as the genocidal commands as your benchmark to understand passages like Matt. 5?

Samuel Skinner said...

"I know that I'm not "good" (nor are you), so it would be the very height of arrogance for me"

Than I stand guilty of the charge of arrogance. It has no relevance to the truth of my statements.

"to subject the benevolence of our Creator and Lawgiver to the judgment of bare human reason"

Bare human reason? What makes reason weak? Reason, like math, is transendant.

"as if we have in our own minds some higher standard of goodness and justice."

Apparently we do, otherwise the fact that God commited genocide would not be commented on. You are using a morality seperate from God which is why you have to justify his actions.

"(while desperately trying to justify making yourself God's judge) "

Are you claiming that have enough power puts you above the law and the rules? No one is above the rules. To declare otherwise is to invite in the poison of relativistic morality where the rules apply- except when they don't.

"start to finish that the condemnation of the wicked is both just and inevitable"

The problem begins when merely existing is considered a criteria for being wicked and murder is considered an acceptable responce.

"Well, of course. No one is really an atheist. For instance, to you, you are god. So with all atheists.

There we differ, infinitely."

If I was a God, I could shoot fire from my hands. Since I cannot, I am not a God.

" it is for a specific--and good--reason."

This GOD. He is all powerful. He could simply encase the fools in jello.

"It's YOUR assumption, not mine, that God is unjust in His judgment."

Actually you guys are the one claiming that atheism is bad because it leads to atrocities like the nazis and marxism. Which commited similar crimes to what God is supposed to have done.

"your fallacious presuppositions onto my point of view."

Translation- you need to prove that genocide is evil.

drmack said...

another stimulating post. I was enjoying just reading the comments but I see Mr. Skinner has brought up the fact that:

"reason, like math is transcendent"

My question is, how do you account for immaterial universal absolute and "transcendent" laws such as the laws of logic, reason, mathematics from within an atheistic & materialistic worldview?

Maybe I'm butting in, but I thought I'd ask.

Respectfully
dm

Samuel Skinner said...

"My question is, how do you account for immaterial universal absolute and "transcendent" laws such as the laws of logic, reason, mathematics from within an atheistic & materialistic worldview?"

Materialism deals with things that physically exist (I know someone might argue non-material things might have a non-physical existance- but that just means they are incapable of interacting with reality). Math and logic don't have a physical presence in the universe because they are ideas.

Technically they could be contingent upon existance, but it is impossible to know that as the point of observation we have is inside reality.

allen said...

"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools"--Romans 1:22

Samuel Skinner said...

I have never professed to be wise, merely correct.

Phil Johnson said...

Ken Pulliam: "You say its more basic than just presupposing that everything God does must be good but you don't explain how. It seems to me that your view is predetermined by your presupposition that the Bible is plenarily and verbally inspired. If that is the reason, fine, but you should say so."

Actually I have said so, repeatedly. But you previously phrased your challenge this way: "anything God does is automatically good and cannot be questioned." The "more basic" point, of course, is that Scripture is God's self-revelation and therefore is true.

Ken: "Its constantly argued that without God one cannot know what is good but I have to ask you, since you believe in God, how do you know what is good? I imagine you will say good is defined by the nature of a perfectly holy God but how do you determine what the nature of that God is, unless you look at the actions of that God? Is it good to kill infants? It must be according to you, in SOME cases (doesn't sound like an objective moral standard to me)."

Of course it doesn't. If you accepted all of Scripture as authoritative, you would think differently. By definition, because you regard your own thoughts, preferences, perceptions, and imaginations as more authoritative than what God says, you have rendered the possibility of an objective (outside yourself) standard unthinkable for you.

"You say that is arrogant for man to think that he knows what is good and has a higher standard than God. But I am sure you believe that man is made in the image of God. According to most theologians, one of the consequences of being so made is to have a sense of morality. Paul said in Rom. 2:14 that the Gentiles had this knowledge even apart from revelation. Virtually all human beings believe that its wrong to kill infants (not talking about abortion here but infanticide). If your theology is correct, that universal belief that its wrong to kill infants must derive from God. Yet, we read in Joshua and 1 Sam. 15 that God ordered the killing of infants. See the problem?"

No, and neither would you, if you had not followed the course of Romans 1 and allowed your own thinking to be hopelessly corrupted. The illogic and untruth of your argument is laughable. You yourself would have confessed that 10 years ago. You know very well that no reliable theologian ever taught that the human consience is infallible. The human conscience is universally flawed because we are universally fallen--and the proof of that is everywhere. Nevertheless, the universal existence of the conscience is proof that a standard of righteousness does exist outside our own desires and passions--a standard we ourselves don't even like and cannot possibly obey.

(continues in next comment)

Phil Johnson said...

Ken: "As for scriptural passages that teach judgment, yes there are quite a few. However, the teachings of Jesus seem to be much more moderate."

Now I know you are being purposely dishonest, playing to the untaught and easily confused. You're quite familiar with what Jesus taught about hell. He had more to say about hell, in more vivid and fearful terms than any other writer or prophet in all the Bible.

Ken: "in general it seems to me that if the most complete revelation of the nature of God is seen in Jesus, then his teachings should be used as the benchmark around which to interpret the rest of the Bible. As you know there are many different teachings within the Bible and in order to try to harmonize them, one has to choose which ones are to be the benchmarks around which to understand the others. For example, the Calvinist uses Romans 9 and similar passages as the basis to understand passages that talk about "whosoever will," etc. Whereas the Arminian give precedence to the "whosoever will" passages and then makes Romans 9 and others fit with that understanding. So, do you want to take the judgment passages such as the genocidal commands as your benchmark to understand passages like Matt. 5?"

You have not demonstrated a single real contradiction in Scripture. In fact, if you wanted to, surely you could do better than citing the tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. There's enough material in print explaining why none of the doctrines you cite are contradictory to keep you busy reading nonstop from here till the year 2500. If you want to prove your objections serious, you'll have to do much better than that, and I think you know that.

Seriously: if you're going to spam our comment thread with half-hearted non-arguments that I know you already know the answers to, what are you actually here for? The dull-witted pretense doesn't really fit you, Ken.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Samuel Skinner,

Do you realize that God is just? He declared the death sentence on the entire human race, saying that the soul that sins will die. He destroyed everyone but Noah and his family in a flood because of their wickedness, and in time He will bring judgment on the whole earth because of their continued sin and refusal to repent - and eventually He will bring all that have died back to life and render eternal condemnation in Hell to those who did not believe on Jesus. All of this because of man's sin and, like you, their refusal to repent and believe.

But He is merciful too. He clothed Adam and Eve after Adam brought death into the world. He spared Noah and his family by grace through faith. He spared Lot by grace. He spared the first-born of the ones who painted their doorposts with lamb's blood in Egypt. He saved Rahab and her family by grace before laying waste to Jericho. He forebeared with the Amorites who did all kinds of evil, including worshipping a god whom they would offer their children as sacrifices; they, like Jericho and all of Canaan, would have heard about how God delivered Israel from their enemies, and like Rahab had a chance to believe and repent. But there is no better an event of God's mercy and grace toward mankind than when He sent His Son, who was killed according to the scriptures, bearing our sins (see the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount to look into the mirror) in His own body - He took the just punishment of anyone who would believe on Him. He proved that His sacrifice was acceptable when He rose again from the dead defeating sin and death.

He will have mercy and show grace to the one who humbles himself, but he will reject the proud.

Today we stand 2000 years removed from the historical event of Jesus's sacrifice and resurrection, but the fact still stands: There is no other name given under heaven by which we can be saved from God's just wrath that He will give mankind for their sin. Why will you die? Abandon your vain philosophies and look into what's really going to matter in a hundred years. Read the Gospel of John with an open heart willing to admit to sin and repent. Do it while you have time, because on the day that you get the proof you're looking for, it will be too late. Repent my friend.

drmack said...

thanks for the respone Mr Skinner,

Your statements accurately decribe what materialism, logic and math etc. are but do not really account for them. I think you hit the nail on the head when you stated that

..."it is impossible to know..."

This radical skepticism always seems to emerge in any non-Biblical worldview. I would leave you with this: as a Reformed Christian I can account for the universal, immaterial, absolute transcendent laws of logic, math, rationality because these qualities are derivitive. The have their source in the one true living God of the Bible. Man is created in His image. We are analogous to God. We reflect Him and so we think logically, use mathematics and engage in rational discourse with one another. Biblical Christianity also gives us THE explaination of our origin, meaning, purpose and destiny that comports to reality. I don't expect you to agree but I do hope you would eventually become a Christian. (This is my ultimate motive in sharing my thoughts here.)

Thanks again,
dm

Samuel Skinner said...

" The "more basic" point, of course, is that Scripture is God's self-revelation and therefore is true."

So you claim God is good... because God claims to be good.

"By definition, because you regard your own thoughts, preferences, perceptions, and imaginations as more authoritative than what God says, "

Except those are supposed to be derived from God. Meanwhile the bible has gone through constant revisions, translations and a selecting process.

"The human conscience is universally flawed because we are universally fallen--and the proof of that is everywhere."

He isn't talking about the fact that humans do bad, but the fact that conciousness is universal. This is an emperically testable belief and it turns out that for the most part people have similar moral systems.

"a standard we ourselves don't even like and cannot possibly obey."

Actually there are people who do manage to do that. All you need is an individual who gets joy out of helping others and suddenly being altuistic isn't such a problem.

Or, for a more concrete example, Mr Rogers.

"You have not demonstrated a single real contradiction in Scripture."

God is good.
Genocide is okay if God commands it.

"Do you realize that God is just?"

Not really.

" He destroyed everyone but Noah and his family in a flood because of their wickedness, "

I'm not seeing how this is remotely sane.

"All of this because of man's sin and, like you, their refusal to repent and believe."

Because humans or evil. Or possibly because people find the idea that their lives have no meaning outside of fullfilling the ego of being who views them as dirt is not sane and probably doesn't adequately describe reality.

"He will have mercy and show grace to the one who humbles himself, but he will reject the proud."

Why? Are you saying your God fears the proud? Is he not an inclusive God? Does he not talk the rich and poor, black and white? Why is pride such a grevious offense? An all powerful being has nothing to fear from humans emulating a diety- after all, is not imitation the sincerist form of flattery?

"Why will you die?"

Because evolution has no need for non-reproductive individuals?

"Repent my friend."

You have no idea how many other religions say the same thing.

Samuel Skinner said...

"as a Reformed Christian I can account for the universal, immaterial, absolute transcendent laws of logic, math, rationality because these qualities are derivitive. "

You do realize that is impossible, right? For starters, rationality and logic aren't seperate- rationality is behaving logically. Secondly, I need to see an actual proof for derivation.

"THE explaination of our origin, meaning, purpose and destiny that comports to reality."

Which is? I don't see meaning or purpose in any of this. I see origin (God created man... for some reason) and destiny (everyone dies).

Exactly why this is important is beyong me. People need a purpose in their lives other than help others?

Bill Honsberger said...

Samuel - I think you have completely miscontrued my argument. I never even talked about my acting out of self interest - I fact i think that is entirely the problem with so many of the ethical theories I mention - they justify and even glorify self interest. It is this subjectivity that leads to the kind of confusion that you seem to display. Samuel decides what is moral and what is sane. Well then Bill decides what is moral and what is sane. So again I ask the question - help the poor - eat the poor? Is it tuesday or am I left handed. You have no basis on making a consistent judgement and no way to to argue with someone who disagree. So you don't like God's judgment - but you offer only your own and then act like God is the hypocrite. So is it the God of Abraham or the God Samuel? Gee which do I go with. You may not like the God of Israel - but you act like you have something by which you can make a case about God's immorality. At best you are left with yucky and yummy and most consistent atheists have come to this from Hobbs to Hume to Nietzsche, Russell and Sartre - you are sharing your emotions - fine but don't pretend that represents something true about the nature of morality or nature.
You keep playing with the Greeks and miss the point. My original point was that the platonic tradition was kept alive by Jewish writers and Christian writers who were not dismayed by euthypro. You want to separate the Greeks and then think you have answered the point. I don't care if you move the Greeks to Mars - the orthodox readers of Plato didn't fall down faint at the reading of euthypro. How in the heck did the renaissance come into that discussion????? And you make a rather basic category error to mix physics with moral relativity. Einstein himself denounced that mistake. Also assertions about the nature of reality do not equate to actual proofs - you begged the question on that one.
The arbitrary nature of the euthypro complaint involves that God could have chosen the exact opposite. So as Rachels asserts - God could have chosen child abuse to be ok and all "good" people know better. But this is dramatically wrong - arguments about "good" people certainly beg the question and the point of my response to euthypro is exactly the opposite of Rachel's claim. So if you have a different reason than Rachel's then bring it out and well talk about it.

Bill Honsberger said...

To Ken -
Phil and others have already answered this point - but do you really think that Bill Honsberger's point of reference of morality somehow impinges upon God's? What the heck does the word "good" mean? Nietzsche perhaps whimsically worried about the mental health of those who even used terms like "good"? You may not like the God of Israel's viewpoint but for one of us to pretend we have a rock big enough to stand on to make a judgement is more than problematic. And part of your complaint seems to center on the supposed hypocrisy of God doing what he commands us not to. But that is an equivocation - we don't criticize the emts for speeding from an accident - because we know their is a higher/greater good involved. We are not in a position to know why allow why causes x or why he allows x - but you make the assumption that it is not possible for it to be a good. How do you know that? On what basis can you ever claim that? The whole story of the book of Job is about that question. I can barely understand why I do some of the things I do - I have only been married 32 years and I am still clueless as to the thinking of my wonderful wife and forget understanding my teenage daughters!!! So how in the heck could I presume to understand why God does such and such. This is why I get sick when Falwell used to open him mouth sometimes and make such arrogant statements about things - the very poster child of hubris.
Kant had at least some sense of loyalty -albeit formality alone - to the Biblical God. The mahayana buddhists as I mentioned tend to be monistic panthiests and you can see this in modern buddhists like Robert Thurman and Ken Wilbur.
And certainly it does make a difference as to which God one is talking about. Muslims also argue for an objective morality - but then point to Allah - WHO IS NOT LIKE YHWH!!!

drmack said...

/"You do realize that is impossible, right? For starters, rationality and logic aren't seperate- rationality is behaving logically. Secondly, I need to see an actual proof for derivation."/

I do realize that the aforementioned qualities are interrelated.

As far as proof, what would suffice?

The words of Christ from Luke 16 apply here: “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. [6] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers [7]—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

The emphasis on "Moses and the Prophets" refers to the Bible (OT).

If you will not listen to the Bible, there is no proof left for you.

"To answer objections, is an endless task, it is like trying to empty a flowing fountain with bottomless buckets."
-- CHARLES SPURGEON

misty said...

Oh, Samuel Skinner!

I have read this thread all weekend with great interest - honestly, I've been spellbound. I have read every argument you have made, I've read everyone's response, I've your counter-arguments, their responses to that, and on and on. I've thought, "maybe if we explain it this way or maybe if we point this out, he'll understand." I've wanted to jump back in and explain, illustrate, plead, etc.

But I give up. Not on God, but on explaining God to you. It's an impossiblity. We are at an eternal impasse. It simply comes to this: The Christians are in one area, you and the non-Christians are in another and there is a gulf between us so vast that it cannot be traversed by human arguments and reasoning. Try as we might, we cannot explain God to you so that you can understand.

You said: "I'm not seeing how this works. Given that we consider genocide bad and God calls for genocide we have a mild contradiction."

But there is no contradiction. I know you will say, "Well, then you have 2 standards! One for yourself and one for God! Or you believe that whatever God does is good simply because He's God! Or your God is completely illogical and therefore nonexistent! The Euthyphro dilemma!"

Nope. None of those statements is true. And the Euthyphro dilemma is no dilemma at all since both sides (Is God good because He does good things or are things good because they are done by God?) are fallacious. They suggest that there is a standard, separate from God, that can be used to judge God. There is no such standard.

But you can't see this because you are sitting in God's place and you will not step down from His throne long enough to have Him explained to you. You cannot see that morality has never been and will never be defined by how actions affect humans. Morality = honoring God. Immorality = dishonoring God. Therefore, God can act however, through whatever means, and whenever to exact punishment on those who dishonor Him or extend mercy by revealing Himself.

You won't get this either. It's hopeless. Maybe I should just try to answer Ken Pulliam, Ph.D.'s excellent question.

misty said...

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D.,

You asked: "How do you know that your God is good?"

Awesome question!

When I look at creation - humans, animals, the earth, the skies, the universe - I can see that the Creator (because you can't have a creation without a Creator) appreciates beauty because He has filled the world with glorious colors, textures, and tastes. He loves order because the human body is so intricately and expertly designed and the moon never slams into the Sun. He is compassionate because He provides food and water for both the lowly little squirrels and the kings of nations. These things are good.

But He didn't stop there. He gave me a conscience, a mind that thinks, ears that can hear, eyes that can see so that I can discern, think abstractly, ask questions, obtain answers, seek justice, help others, love my neighbor, hate what is evil.

And yet, He didn't stop there. Our God is a God who communicates. Richard Dawkins asks, "Why don't you just believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster then?" Because the Flying Spaghetti Monster has never communicated to us. God wants us to know who He is (the Almighty), what He's done (everything), what He wants (our complete devotion), and how He's going to get it (through Christ). In reading His written revelation, I can see that He is good, all He does is good, He has never contradicted Himself, He has never acted unjustly.

But that's not the end of it. On June 10, 2007 between 3:25 and 3:35am, God tapped me on the shoulder and gave me something by which I could completely understand Him: He gave me His Spirit.

So how do I know my God is good? Because I know Him. I don't simply know about Him, I personally, intimately know Him. And this is actually what came first - like the question, "Which came first? The chicken or the egg?" The full-grown chicken came first. God gave me a full-grown understanding of Him which in turn made creation, my conscience, and the Bible all make sense.

allen said...

Defiant men do not want to be convinced. They only seek to justify themselves. They pile up words 'ad nauseam' to hide behind and think they are safe.
The final words will be God's-not a little man's with an attitude or a degree.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Phil: The "more basic" point, of course, is that Scripture is God's self-revelation and therefore is true.

And how do you know that? Is it just simply by faith? Or is it because of some mystical subjective experience which Christians call "the inner witness of the Spirit" (which is indistinguishable from the Mormon, "burning in the bosom") Or is it because Spurgeon said so? Or is it for some other reason?

Phil: because you regard your own thoughts, preferences, perceptions, and imaginations as more authoritative than what God says...

No, I regard my own thoughts as more authoritative than the thoughts of some middle eastern tribal peoples who lived during the late Bronze age.

Phil: if you had not followed the course of Romans 1 and allowed your own thinking to be hopelessly corrupted. The illogic and untruth of your argument is laughable.

So I have followed the course of Romans 1? I guess I must be a homosexual with some carved idols that I worship. That is what is laughable. Paul says in Rom. 2:14 that the Gentiles know right from wrong even in their fallen state. So, even if I assume the truth of your book for a moment, whatever Paul thought that the fall did, it didn't totally wipe out man's sense of right and wrong. The fact remains that it is virtually universally believed by mankind that its wrong to kill babies and toddlers. The only way child sacrifice has ever been justified in history and today in Uganda is that certain psychotic people thought their God had ordered them to do so. People will do illogical things when they have surrendered their reason to a religious belief (e.g., Islamic terrorists who blow themselves up).

Phil: Now I know you are being purposely dishonest, playing to the untaught and easily confused. You're quite familiar with what Jesus taught about hell.

No I am not being dishonest (thanks for the insult). The fact is that Jesus never wrote anything. The words that we have today attributed to him came from a lot of different sources, was passed along for at least 25 years (probably 40) by word of mouth before ever being written down, and then went through some editing and redaction. To me, that explains why we have two pictures of Jesus in the Gospels. The main picture is of a loving, merciful, forgiving person who taught things that were revolutionary to the thinking of the Jewish people (e.g., love your enemy) but there is also a minority report in which Jesus talks about hell and punishment.

CONTINUED BELOW

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Phil: You have not demonstrated a single real contradiction in Scripture. In fact, if you wanted to, surely you could do better than citing the tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

Any one who has ever read the Bible knows that there is tension over a lot of different teachings. If there wasn't, we wouldn't have over 100 different Christian churches, sects, denominations, etc today all with different takes on how to interpret the Bible. The only way they can harmonize any of the tensions is to take one group of passages as their benchmark and then reinterpret (sometimes ingeniously) the passages that seem to be in contradiction. I could give examples all day long on this. Electon and free will is just one. We could talk about MacArthur's lordship salvation vs. Charles Ryrie's simple faith. We could talk about those who insist that baptism is a requirement for salvation vs. those who say its not, or those who believe one can lose his salvation vs. those who think that one cannot, or those who believe in a pretribulational rapture vs. those who believe in a post-trib or those who believe in premillennialism vs. those who believe in amillennialism. As you know, the list is almost endless. In each case, verses can be marshalled that support one or the other position. How you wind up in your final understanding depends on which set of verses you give priority to.

Phil: if you're going to spam our comment thread with half-hearted non-arguments that I know you already know the answers to, what are you actually here for? The dull-witted pretense doesn't really fit you

Phil, I am sorry you feel the need to be rude and insulting. Yes, I know the "pat answers" that Calvinists (as well as other varieties of Christians) give to these objections. As you know, I used to teach them myself. The more I thought about them, though, the less convincing they became. I eventually had to be intellectually honest and admit that the answers were ad hoc. It was not an easy thing to do. It would have been much easier to just put my head in the sand and go on. I had spent 20 years in Christianity, 9 of those in college studying for the ministry. Now, I was 36 years old with a wife and two children and not prepared for any other vocation. The easiest thing would have been to suppress my doubts and accept the pat answers.

Phil, if you don't want me here just say so and I will gracefully leave. I didn't come here to spam. I came here because you were mocking unbelievers. I thought perhaps you or some of your readers were interested in some serious discussion. If anyone is interested in thinking, I have a twelve part series entitled: Grasping at Straws--Evangelicals Defend Genocide. BTW, your explanation is only one of the twelve.

Cordially,

Ken

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Misty,

Thanks for your answer to my question: how do you know God is good

You say that its because of the beauty of nature and how that God provides for all the little squirrels, etc.

I wonder if you would have a different opinion if you woke up this morning in Haiti or Uganda or some other place ravaged by a natural disaster or disease and famine? God may provide for the little squirrels but what about human beings? I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said: 26,000 children starved to death yesterday, why should God listen to your prayer? Its easy for us to sit here in our comfort and say how wonderful God is.

As for your personal experience, I won't question your sincerity. All that I will say is that its a subjective experience and there are many people around who claim to have mystical experiences with the supernatural (e.g., the Mormon burning in the bosom; Catholics who believe Mary has appeared to them; new age types who have seen angels; people who claim to have been abducted by aliens, etc. etc.). They can't all be right can they?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Ken, your profile is interesting. You obviously do know the faith you have walked away from, and thus the "hot spots" for doubt. You describe yourself as an agnostic atheist, which suggests to me that your doubts go both ways, though for now there are more doubts about God and the Bible.

I'd just be curious to know what you think of Jesus these days. If we could strip away all other questions, interpretations and evidences, and were left only with his testimony about God, what would you make of it? Is Jesus a reliable witness as far as you're concerned?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Johnny,

No I don't see the words of Jesus in the gospels as reliable because they were passed along by word of mouth for many years before being written down and then edited and redacted. I believe that some of what we read in the Gospels Jesus really said but its hard to know for certain what parts those are.

If Jesus were the only person in the history of the world who claimed to speak for God, it might be different but he is one of thousands. I can hear the objection coming now, yes but he is the only one who came back from the dead. First, he is not the only one who supposedly came back from the dead, there are many. One example is Apollonius
who is believed to have lived contemporaneously with Jesus. Second, I don't find the evidence for a bodily resurrection of Jesus to be viable. I won't go into detail here but we can discuss it if you like.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Ken, I really am not asking about Gospel reliability, other experiential claims, Jesus-exclusivity or the resurrection. I'm not looking to go over debating points, either. I was just interested if you thought Jesus, whom you believe existed and taught about the existence and character of the Hebrew God (everyone, at least, agrees with that much), was deluded in some way, or was a credible witness?

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Mr. Ken,

After reading your bio, I have to ask why you have abandoned Christ for agnostic atheism. I read that you had your doubts, but what was the real clencher, and what do you say of I John 2:19?

misty said...

Ken,

I know I should stop. This discussion could go round and round for all eternity. But your questions are such good ones. Really honest questions that I have asked myself. So I have to respond as best I can.

Yes, of course, I see the same horrific places and people suffering from disease, natural disaster, and starvation that you do. I have fed hungry children in orphanages and soup kitchens, I have given money, time, and physical effort to try to relieve the suffering of people whose lives are nowhere near as blessed as mine. Could I do more? You bet! I don't do enough. I should do more and I will. But that still does not change my beliefs about God.

I have to ask you, especially regarding the 26,000 children who die of hunger daily - if God gives us the resources we need to provide for chidren and adults who are starving worldwide, but instead we use all our resources buying ipods and clothes and expensive restaurant meals and don't bother to devote any of our excessive resoures in providing for these people - is that God's fault? Should we shake our fist at God because the Haves keep getting fatter and the Have-Nots are starving and all the Haves care to do is stick a bumpersticker on their car?

And do Christians really not care? Surely you would not deny that Christians have run to Haiti, they ran to help in Katrina, Christians are in Uganda and the Sudan and Tanzania and North Korea, for that matter, working tirelessly to relieve suffering in any way they can. Not only Christians, I realize. But it's dishonest to suggest that Christians just sit around worshipping their God and ignoring human suffering.

In fact it is Christianity, the knowledge that man has value because He was created in God's image that move Christians to create hospitals, do search and rescue missions, find cures to debilitating diseases. I mean, there is a reason you won't quickly find "Darwin's Sacred Heart Hospital" or "Richard Dawkin's Happy Times Geriatric Center" or "The Primordial Goo Home for the Infirmed".

And I'm not saying that atheists don't care. I'm just saying that The concern for suffering in the world is in no way disconnected or in opposition to the love and worship of the God who, yes, sent the disasters, diseases, and famine that are causing all the suffering in the first place. God takes responsibility for it. He does not dodge it (see Isaiah 45:7).

The question is not: "Why are all these people starving and suffering if God is truly good?" The question is: "Why are we ALL not starving and suffering and choking and burning and festering with wounds every single day?" If God punishes the wicked and we are all wicked (and we are) why are things so good so often?

But then I'm sure we have a different definition of wicked, so this won't help.

Oh well, I tried.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Johnny,

I tend to think that Jesus was a lot like other religious teachers through the years. He gave his ideas about God and spiritual things.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Webster,

There was no single thing. It was an accumulation of a number of things.

As for 1 Jn. 2:19, I think that groups (not just religious ones) typically say when one of the members leave and join an opposing group that they were not really one of us to begin with. I hear that about ex-Mormons, ex-Muslims, and even ex-Democrats. Its human nature to say such things.

You raise a good point though. If I was not a genuine Christian, then how do you know that you are? How do you know that you might not some day come to the conclusion that you have been wrong and walk away? According to the Calivinstic doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, you were never really a Christian unless you persevere in faith until you die.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Misty,

I commend you for the work you have done with the less fortunate. However, I have to ask myself this question: why does it seem like Misty has more compassion than God does? God took care of his "chosen" people in the wilderness by giving them manna from heaven, so if you believe the Bible, there is a precedent for God feeding the hungry. He seems to care about some people and not about others (of course that is exactly what Calvinism teaches).

I also don't buy the Calvinistic line that we all deserve nothing but death and misery anyway. Why is that? Because Adam and Eve were deceived in the garden and disobeyed a single command? That was enough for God to damn all of us to hell for eternity? Doesn't that seem a little extreme? If Calvin's doctrine of original sin is correct, there is absolutely nothing I can do about the fact that I am born a sinner and as result will be damned to hell forever (unless I happen to be one of God's favorites, aka., the elect).

Douglas said...

Ken - "As for 1 Jn. 2:19.....You raise a good point though. If I was not a genuine Christian, then how do you know that you are? How do you know that you might not some day come to the conclusion that you have been wrong and walk away? According to the Calivinstic doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, you were never really a Christian unless you persevere in faith until you die."

Read the rest of First John.

misty said...

Ken,

You’re bent on believing that God is the Big Meanie in the Sky, so there’s nothing I can do. I’ll just leave you with 2 thoughts.

1. Since the Bible is a progressive revelation, it’s dangerous to pluck incidents out here and there and assign your own meaning to them. God sending down manna to the Israelites in the desert is not an example of Him feeding the hungry. Remember, it was God who caused the Israelites to be driven out of Egypt (where there was food) into the barren desert (where there was no food). So this is not simply a “God feeds the hungry from heaven cuz He cares” story.

And before you go there, neither is Jesus feeding the 5,000. I know a lot of people like to use this incident as proof that Jesus cares about the hungry. But if you read that passage carefully, you will notice those 5,000 people were not starving or in desperate need of food. They simply came, heard Jesus preach a sermon, got hungry around 5pm, hadn’t eaten since breakfast, didn’t bring a packed lunch, there were no stores around and Jesus did a miracle and fed them. The point of the miracle was not Jesus cares for the starving, because they weren’t starving. Besides, he could have sent them home to eat.

2. Since you brought up the elect (with a bit of disdain, I noticed), think about this: Paul was elect yet he was stoned, beaten with the rod, hungry, homeless, naked, shipwrecked. Stephen got stoned to death. John (the disciple Jesus loved) got boiled in oil and exiled. Many of the apostles and disciples were crucified, eaten by lions, impaled….and many Christians continue to be martyred even today. So God isn’t always “nice” to His elect, either.

What’s the point (because I seem to be giving you more ammo to shoot at God)? There’s more to God than just what you’re seeing on the surface (and I think Phil’s right – you know that). You can look to God to answer the questions you have (a good place to start would be reading the entire Bible in context) or you can just write Him off (keep on reading about the babies dashed against the rocks, getting madder and madder).

allen said...

Welcome everyone to the world of Ken, where Ken is king, and there is no god but Ken. He has no "carved idols" for he himself is one, with one of them there college degrees by his name.
Methinks that phd may stand for pontentate, haughty and defiant, who can with a blog or three dismiss scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ.
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh."-Ps.2

Johnny Dialectic said...

I tend to think that Jesus was a lot like other religious teachers through the years. He gave his ideas about God and spiritual things.

But Ken, you're not directly answering my question. You must believe that Jesus was deluded about God, and that everything he said was "his ideas" and had no relation at all to objective truth. (I'm assuming you don't think he was a deliberate fraud who went around lying to people). You must believe that Jesus was completely wrong about the existence and character of God.

Do you think that?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Douglas,

I have read the rest of 1 John. It says for example 3:6 says: No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. So, let me ask you, have you reached sinless perfection? Do you habitually sin? What constitutes habitual sin? Is Seems pretty ambiguous doesn't it?

5:1-3 says that we will know that we are born of God if we keep his commandments. Are you keeping his commandments? What are the specific commandments you are keeping? How perfectly must one keep those commandments? Lets say you are keeping them today, how do you know you will tomorrow or next year?

I think the Bible is not nearly as plain on eternal security as some may have led you to believe. For example, 1 Cor. 15:1-2 talks about the possiblity of having believed in vain. 1 Cor. 10:12 warns you to take heed lest you fall, etc. Heb. 6 and so on. Interestingly enough some Calvinists such as some of the Puritans saw this. They realized that yes if they were part of the elect, they would persevere but how could they be certain they were part of the elect.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Misty,

My point was that your God has the power to feed people miraculously and if the story is true then he did for 40 years in the desert. But my question goes deeper, why doesn't God apparently care about these starving children? Most human beings would be moved to compassion and would feed them all if it were within our power to do so. Why doesn't God have the same compassion?

And yes Paul and other believers (see Heb. 11) have suffered greatly, that is not the point. The point is that there temporal suffering is nothing in comparison to the eternal suffering that billions of people, according to your theology, are going to be subjected to. At least physical suffering ends, hell will never end.

And as far as reading the bible in context, I think I have done that. I spent many, many years studying and teaching pretty much the same theology that you believe now.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Johnny,

I am an agnostic. I don't know and I don't believe anyone knows ultimate reality. So I can't answer the question you pose. Do I accept what Jesus is reported to have said as absolute truth? No, I don't.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Mr. Ken,

I know because of what was done in me. I believed God's promise, and He made good on it. The Bible was to me like Jesus was to the woman at the well and "told me everything I ever did." I saw the truth and like the blind man whom Jesus healed I cried out, "show Him to me so that I can believe on Him". And like the tax collector I hung my head and beat my chest crying out, "God have mercy on me, a sinner."

Mr Ken, you have been educated beyond your intelligence. For whatever reason you've exchanged the praises of God for the praises of men. Please humble yourself before Jesus Christ before He humbles you on the last day. Look into His Word like a mirror and repent, before God's forebearance with your rebellion is done and His judgment falls on you. You can be saved if you will come humbly. I'll add you to the list of atheists I pray for, that God will enlighten your hearts and make you alive in Christ.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Ken, thanks for the answer. I know you have sincere doubts, even extending to Jesus. I would say that as an agnostic you really do not know with the degree of certainty you desire that Jesus was in fact deluded. When I get to points like this, my default is to give the benefit of the doubt to Jesus and God. I hope you do the same someday and return.

misty said...

Ken, God is compassionate. Infinitely more than we are. Why does He let little children starve everyday with no intervention? Why did He order the deaths of little babies? I don’t know. I can’t answer those questions.

There are many passages in the Bible that are very difficult to assimilate. They don’t go down easy at all, even with a huge spoon full of sugar. They are extremely hard to understand, painful to read, very uncomfortable to contemplate.

But God is still God. The fact that we don’t understand why He does some things doesn’t change that fact. I also see no reason not to trust Him or His judgment just because I don’t understand everything He does. For instance, I don’t know for certain what happens to all those innocent little babies after they die (I believe Scripture shows they go to heaven – my thoughts on that would go on for pages), but I trust that whatever God does with them is right, just, and compassionate because God is right, just, and compassionate.

If mankind was responsible for putting the Bible together, this stuff would have all been excised out. If Christianity was simply a man-made religion, most people would have thought, “Man, this hard stuff is just not gonna fly. Let’s take it out!” But God preserved His word to include every discomforting, painful, and hard to explain passage because each one teaches us who He is and what His authority is. God’s not stupid – He surely knew how some of these passages would be taken. But He wanted us to know unequivocally that He has the absolute right to give life and to take it away whenever and however He wants, to build nations and to tear them down, to send the rain and sunshine as well as typhoons, pestilence, and disease. It’s as if He’s saying, “There is no authority beyond Me and I don’t apologize for that.”

It’s the same way with hell. Why is hell so hot and why does it go on forever?

I see it this way: If I steal a pack of gum from the store and the store clerk catches me, will I get the chair? Of course not, in fact I probably won’t even be charged with a crime. The store clerk will likely just throw me out of the store.

If I murder someone in cold blood, I will get the chair. Or the needle.

What’s the difference? The seriousness of the crime.

How serious is rebellion against God? Judging by the punishment, extremely serious. Serious to the Nth degree. Again, this is what God wants us to know. He gives no apologies.

Samuel Skinner said...

"So again I ask the question - help the poor - eat the poor? "

Why would I eat poor people?

"You have no basis on making a consistent judgement and no way to to argue with someone who disagree."

I do actually have a method of making a consistant judgement- just because the foundation is arbitrary doesn't mean the follow through isn't consistant.

After for dealing with people who disagree, they are either inconsistant which can be resolved by highlighting that or use a different baseline goal.

" but you offer only your own and then act like God is the hypocrite. "

God claims to be good yet contradicts what it means to be good. You can't say that this is "my opinion". As you put it, your God given faculties allow you to know genocide is WRONG.

"you are sharing your emotions"

Please. For starters, the communists were atheists... and yet don't fit "yummy" atheists OR nihlist atheists. Turns out you my morality is not based on emotion?

"fine but don't pretend that represents something true about the nature of morality or nature."

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/

How odd. Apparently morality is defined in relation to what individuals put foward.

"You keep playing with the Greeks and miss the point."

That you are making repeated arguements from authority? We are talking about people baffled by Zeno's paradox- they are not the last word in logic.

"And you make a rather basic category error to mix physics with moral relativity."

It isn't mixing physics with moral relativity. The nature of reality is that there is no absolute frame of reference.

"Also assertions about the nature of reality do not equate to actual proofs - you begged the question on that one."

It is one of the implications of special relativity.

" arguments about "good" people certainly beg the question "

Except I'm not making that argument. Here is the dilemma since you don't seem to know my argument.

-God decides morality. Morality is arbitrary.
-God is good, but morality is external to him and we use that to measure God.

Samuel Skinner said...

"What the heck does the word "good" mean?"

Putting the concerns of others before those of yourself.

" we have a rock big enough to stand on to make a judgement is more than problematic."

Even a child can see if the emperor wears clothes.

"because we know their is a higher/greater good involved."

Actually it is because traffic laws are arbitrary. In fact we have different speed limits for different individuals- trucks have a lower limit for example.

"How do you know that? On what basis can you ever claim that?"

Because being all powerful allows the choice of less bloody options.

"As far as proof, what would suffice?"

Math or logical proof. Start with assumption and go step by step to conclusion.

"If you will not listen to the Bible, there is no proof left for you."

You do realize that the rich man in the story was a good person who was willing take time out from being tortured to try to save his family?

Also sounds disturbingly like maoism.

Samuel Skinner said...

Note- appologies for the number of posts. I'll hence forth list the person who is being responded to.

Misty

"Try as we might, we cannot explain God to you so that you can understand."

You'd think God would be considerate enough to make his creations able to comprehend him.

" They suggest that there is a standard, separate from God, that can be used to judge God. There is no such standard."

That is the second option"if they are good because they are done by God" means that there are no standards seperate from God.

"Morality = honoring God. Immorality = dishonoring God. "

That how can God's actions be moral?

"appreciates beauty because He has filled the world with glorious colors, textures, and tastes. "

Or people evolved to find things beautiful because it helped them survive (like attraction to sugar and fats).

"He loves order because the human body is so intricately and expertly designed"

The existance of the field of medicine disagrees with that.

"the moon never slams into the Sun."

Actually the moon is moving away from the Earth. Given enough time it might go into its own orbit... or slam into the Sun.

" He is compassionate because He provides food and water for both the lowly little squirrels "

And he is hateful because he takes the seeds from trees to feed the squirrels. So the trees are forced to have large number of seeds and the weaker ones die. Why must the plants always be the first to suffer?

"He gave me a conscience, a mind that thinks, ears that can hear, eyes that can see so that I can discern, think abstractly, ask questions, obtain answers, seek justice, help others, love my neighbor, hate what is evil."

Actually your parents and society are responsible in part.

"Because the Flying Spaghetti Monster has never communicated to us. "

What about Islam? Sikhism? Shintoism? Hinduism?

" I was just interested if you thought Jesus, whom you believe existed and taught about the existence and character of the Hebrew God (everyone, at least, agrees with that much), was deluded in some way, or was a credible witness?"

We are actually pretty sure Jesus existed. Sure, there isn't a lot of written records about him at the time, but the Roman Empire isn't noticed for caring about the affairs of poor people. That and records are poor. The senators- the creme of the rich and upper class? We only know the names of about 12-25% of them.

Samuel Skinner said...

"if God gives us the resources we need to provide for chidren and adults who are starving worldwide,"

Actually we have only had the resources since the... 17th century? Prior to per capita calories were lower.

"but instead we use all our resources buying ipods and clothes and expensive restaurant meals and don't bother to devote any of our excessive resoures in providing for these people - is that God's fault? Should we shake our fist at God because the Haves keep getting fatter and the Have-Nots are starving and all the Haves care to do is stick a bumpersticker on their car?"

It is a free-rider.scale problem. If there were five hungry people, everyone would fix it in a heartbeat. But the sheer number is daunting and many of the efforts won't work unless a large number chip in.

" Christians are in Uganda "

Not a good example. They just homosexuality illegal. Also questioning the law is illegal.

"I mean, there is a reason you won't quickly find"

They might have some of those in the communist states.

""Why are we ALL not starving and suffering and choking and burning and festering with wounds every single day?" "

Because than we would go extinct. Actually, individuals who were shorter, had thicker/darker skin and smaller noses would be prefered.

"why are things so good so often?"

Because our ancestors worked until they dropped to provide us with the industrial base we all know and love?

Samuel Skinner said...

" into the barren desert (where there was no food)."

Canabalism? I'm more curious where the water came from.

"with one of them there college degrees by his name."

You say that like an insult. Norman Ernest Borlaug had one as well and he earns the record for "greatest human in history". Seriously. How many of us can say they saved the lives of over a billion people?

"Mr Ken, you have been educated beyond your intelligence."

Are you claiming that religious people only believe because they are uneducated? I'm pretty sure such insults will get you banned from here.

"for the praises of men."

You say that like exhaulting mankind is a bad thing.

"You can be saved if you will come humbly."

Why do you need to come humbly? Why not curiously? Why not any other way?

"When I get to points like this, my default is to give the benefit of the doubt to Jesus and God."

You are assuming your conclusion is true to argue your case.

"I don’t know. I can’t answer those questions."

Can't? Or won't?

"I don’t know for certain what happens to all those innocent little babies after they die"

But aren't all people horrible sinners? How are the babies any different?

"If mankind was responsible for putting the Bible together, this stuff would have all been excised out. "

Humans are responsible for marxism. Reading the communist manifesto, you quickly come to the conclusion that further editions would drop the sheer insanity of the origional. I have no idea why they keep it- I guess no one bothers to actually read it.

" “Man, this hard stuff is just not gonna fly. Let’s take it out!”"

Do you believe Mormonism is manmade? Okay, bad example- they do revision. How about Shintoism or Hinduism?

"How serious is rebellion against God? Judging by the punishment, extremely serious. "

Only a finite being needs to fear rebellion.

Ben Cheney said...

Hi all. Sorry for the drive-by interaction, but I'm in the mood.

SS:And he is hateful because he takes the seeds from trees to feed the squirrels. So the trees are forced to have large number of seeds and the weaker ones die. Why must the plants always be the first to suffer?

Are you suggesting that plants "suffer" in any meaningful way? (In the same way that humans and animals suffer?)

That small query aside, SS, I get where you're coming from. However, for Christians, God is the first cause, the Prime Mover, or whatever you want to call it. So when you say stuff like "actually, it's your parents and society that are responsible for your conscience", no thinking Christian will disagree with you. But, what Misty is saying about conscience being given by God is also true within the Christian worldview. And, it is a richer and higher-level truth, to which the truth "parents and society are responsible for your conscience" is subservient and most truly understood by.

Christians believe that all people, matter, societal structures, etc. are derivative. They're all created. So when we thank our parents and modern society for the functions they provide to us, we do it under the larger banner of thanking God for being the ultimate creator and sustainer of those good institutions.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Do you realize that to be more loving than God, according to your thinking, Ken, you have to embrace evil as your friend?
Which means you deny the sacrafice by Jesus upon the cross. He died to save people from evil, but not ALL people. Even the Arminians agree to this, as they do not believe in Universalism.

If God were loving in the way you believe, He would have to look askance at sin and allow evil to exist. Sin and holiness do not a good mix make. Not so good Kimosabe.

I can say that because the original radio Lone Ranger was from my home town. :)

Also, if I were to kill a rat in my house because it brings in disease, spreads that disease to everyone who lives there, and bites my child, am I unloving and awful?

And no, I do not understand the killing of babies, but I do know and believe one thing very firmly. The God of all the earth will do right. Who knows any better than God the horrible depth of what sin truly is, I suspect if we knew its full blown capacity, our thoughts and opinions would be much more reflective of God's.

Samuel Skinner said...

"Are you suggesting that plants "suffer" in any meaningful way? (In the same way that humans and animals suffer?) "

No. However not all animals are herbivores.

"And, it is a richer and higher-level truth, to which the truth "parents and society are responsible for your conscience" is subservient and most truly understood by."

That is a bit like saying that her upbringing was part by her parents... but it is a higher truth that it was done by the secretary of education.

Unless you believe God is literally pulling the strings for every action a human takes, than the person who actually did the work gets the work credit and God only gets the planning credit with the organizational credit going to society.

"They're all created."

That is a misnomer. You mean Christians believe they are all designed. Atheists believe people, society and matter are created as well. We just think the womb, humanity and existance are responsible respectively.

" sustainer of those good institutions."

You'd think the existance of the USSR or other anti-theistic states would dampen such belief. Oh well, they switched to captialism and embraced belief... and watched as their social institutions disentigrated into mush.

Ben Cheney said...

That is a misnomer. You mean Christians believe they are all designed. Atheists believe people, society and matter are created as well. We just think the womb, humanity and existance are responsible respectively.

I'm saying it's a both-and, not a strict hierarchy. Yes, Christians believe God designed parenthood, and whatever else, and that human agents participate in the development of such institutions. But we also believe he sustains all these things "by the word of his power", to borrow a phrase from the book of Hebrews. That is to say, He is the foundation of existence. Without God, there would be no logic, no matter, no institutions, no people. The analogy you used doesn't describe what I'm getting at, because if there was no secretary of education, there would still be parenthood. Without God, there would be nothing, period.

Incidentally, what does "existence is responsible for/created matter" mean?

You'd think the existance of the USSR or other anti-theistic states would dampen such belief. Oh well, they switched to captialism and embraced belief... and watched as their social institutions disentigrated into mush.

No thinking Christian claims that all worldly institutions are always good - it's a fallen world. Not sure who you're arguing with there. A mere belief in God's existence is not the goal of Christianity anyway - true discipleship of Christ works itself out in social contribution and goodwill. Just because some Christian have conflated their faith with conservatism/capitalism/liberalism/Marxism/whateverism does not mean that God's original and ideal intention for worldly institutions is bad.

Sir Brass said...

allen said...
"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools"--Romans 1:22

Samuel Skinner said...
"I have never professed to be wise, merely correct."


Game, set, match. The arrogance and defiance is absolutely glaring. He can go round and round on all the other issues, but when confronted with scripture that god-hater comes clean and clearly shows that he is, above all, devoted to living in defiance of the very One who continues to allow him to draw breath.

I'm reminded of a passage of scripture that Jonathan Edwards preached on once: "Their foot shall slip in due time."

CR said...

Ken: Egypt may have been corrupt but did the infant first-born deserve to die?

Ken, yes and it has nothing to do with Calvinism. It has to do with what is the essence of sin. The essence of sin is this: we do not live entirely for the glory of God alone. That's why there is death, disease, sickness, murders and wars.

And what about that infant who has done nothing. He could not have had a better representative than Adam. It's easier for Americans to understand federal headship because we live in a constitutional republic. But in our system of government we have representatives that represent us in the federal government. Many of us are complaining whether our representatives are really representing us. But we could not have had a better representative than Adam. You, I or that Egyptian infant would have done no better than Adam.

Ken: One can't be moral without God?

Yes, one can. But the moral person is still ungodly.

Ken: Finally, what standard of morality do we find in the Bible?

Here is the standard of godliness in the Bible, not morality, but godliness. (1)Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul every single day, all the time (e.g., our love must transcend all desires, we must delight to do His will all the time no matter how difficult it is, His glory must motivate everything we do) (2)We must love our neighbor as ourselves (i.e. always treat others with the same love we have for ourselves, never show selfishness, irritability and indifference towards others, never resent any wrongs done to us).

All of us fail that standard and there is only one Person who has met that standard and that is the God-Man Jesus. More in next comment.

CR said...

Ken: And how do you know that? Is it just simply by faith? Or is it because of some mystical subjective experience which Christians call "the inner witness of the Spirit" (which is indistinguishable from the Mormon, "burning in the bosom") Or is it because Spurgeon said so? Or is it for some other reason?

Ken, us Christians are by nature a problem to those who are not Christian. The natural man, that is to say, the man who is not a Christian he does not understand these things of the spirit of God. He's accustomed to taking things in a scientific manner and does it with his natural mind and follows the ordinary rules and say, "but I just don't understand this." And neither do you because the natural man doesn't understand the things of God, they are spiritually understood.

So Christians have an understanding but no one understands us. And it's not because we are smarter than non-Christians. If intelligence were the issue, than all of the intelligent people would extremely moral, godly, there would be no alcoholism or suicides, etc. No, we have this understanding because of the extraordinary life that has been given to us.

So, there is something mysterious about this Christian life so that the first thing we have to do is not try to understand it but submit ourselves to the rules that this new life prescribes for us who are anxious to receive this new life. I'll answer that in my next and last post.

CR said...

What are the rules?

Know that you are sinner and failure in the sight of God. If you don't believe in sin, Ken, you'll never understand and be a Christian. If you think you are perfectly well and healthy you won't go to your doctor, it would be a waste of time. The only man that goes to the doctor is one who knows something is wrong. Again, to sin against God is not to be living entirely for His glory. We were made for that and if we don't do that, we're terrible sinners.

The sin of all sins is to live for yourself and be independent of God. It's infinitely worse than murder, homosexuality, and adultery. Acknowledge that you can't trust in yourself and that there is a principle in you that makes you prefer things over what you should not. Our nature is twisted and perverted and it is absolutely impossible to change ourselves (again, look at human history).

How many times have we read good books, made new year resolutions, stood over graves with good intents to change, and nothing changes.

Lastly, second rule, after you've come to the end of yourself, realize this, Jesus has come down to us deal with ourselves in helplessness. God gave man His law which we could not keep but Jesus did, perfectly. And Jesus died for our sins, He put the sins of those who would trust in Jesus, on Jesus. Lay your sins on Jesus. Leave your education and PhD aside. Don't bring anything to Christ, but your sins.

If you don't do this, well, Ken, let's hear the words of John the apostle. That apostle of love which we are all familiar with. Okay, this is the apostle of love, John, saying this:

He says that sinners "will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night." (rev 14:10-11)

Now, you just read that Ken, and you (all of us) need to just be still. Let that sink in: everlasting, never-ending, infinitely powerful, divine wrath. Some scientists believe that the universe is 13-14 billion years. Well, after 13-14 billion years of everlasting punishment, you have more punishment still.

I have pleaded my case. Others have pleaded case. God pleads His case in Scriptures. I implore you, take heed, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

CR said...

I did not read Ken's profile until after I posted my last post.

I did not know he was an apostate. If I've learned anything with dealing with apostates, it is this, when sharing the gospel with them, God has mercy, or they crucify Christ and have greater contempt and hatred for the gospel. (Heb 6).

I pray the former for Ken and if not, maybe others will be edified.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

CR, I am very familiar with the federal headship theory. I preferred the natural headship theory when I was a Christian, but I find all of the theories of the imputation of Adam's sin to be unethical. Our moral intuitions tell us that it is wrong to be held guilty or culpable for what someone else has done. These intuitions according to your theology come from the belief that we are made in the image of God. Even small children have this notion. Try punishing one of your children for what his brother or sister did. They will cry out: "but thats not fair."

I really think that Paul, and he seems to be the first to do so, came up with the idea of "original sin" because of the concept of "collective culpability" which was the mentality of the peoples in ancient times (and still is today in some primitive societies).

You say that the standard is "godliness in the Bible, not morality." So, as I pointed out to Phil and several others, your theology is that whatever God does equals good. If God orders the killing of infants, that must be good, because after all, he is God. My question is how do you know that your God is good? My guess is you would say because the Bible says so. Can you not see that is just circular reasoning?

The rest of your post seems to be a sermon. I have preached many of those myself. I used to believe pretty much the same things you do now. I have come to see that I was in error. I did not come to this conclusion quickly or even willingly. I wanted desperately to maintain my faith. Its very difficult for someone to admit that they have believed an error. Most people will not even allow themselves to go there because its too unsettling emotionally and psychologically. Thus, very few people who have been really devoted a religion will ever leave that religion. It doesn't matter which religion we are talking about. The psychological reasons are the same in each case.

As for the idea of eternal punishment, this was one of many things that led me to eventually forsake my evangelical faith. Imagine the worst human being you could think of, perhaps Adolf Hitler? We would all agree that he ought to be punished. We might even agree that he ought to be tortured. But would we torture him forever and ever without end? No, I think even the most vengeful of human beings would at some point say, Okay thats enough, put him out of his misery." Yet your God will torment even those who died without ever hearing the name of Jesus forever and ever without end! I am sorry but whoever would do that is actually worse than the one he is punishing.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Listen to this comment by Charles Hodge (one of the greatest Calvinist theologians of all time):

It is impossible that God should do, approve, or command what is morally wrong. It is impossible that He should require us to believe what contradicts any of the laws of belief which He has impressed upon our nature. It is impossible that one truth should contradict another. It is impossible, therefore, that God should reveal anything as true which contradicts any well authenticated truth, whether of intuition, experience, or previous revelation.

Men may abuse this prerogative of reason, as they abuse their
free agency. But the prerogative itself is not to be denied. We have a right to reject as untrue whatever it is impossible that God should require us to believe. He can no more require us to believe what is absurd than to do what is wrong.
(Systematic Theology)

Now, for some reason Hodge didn't follow his own advice here but I think his advice is "spot-on."

allen said...

A free recipe: "How to make an apostate"
1. Appoint yourself as judge of God!and judge of scripture!This may seem awkward at first but go ahead --it gets easier;
2. Make the final verdict of any dilemma to always rest upon this-"it seems to me"(remember # 1 -You are God's judge)
3. If necessary, use scripture snatches to prove your point as long as you ignore the immediate and larger contexts.
4. Dashes of Systematic theology can also be used.
5. Boast in human titles and human reasoning.
6.Strain out all the unpleasant stuff like the infinite holiness of God, sin, judgment, eternal wrath, the exclusivity of Jesus Christ....
7. Half-bake all the above until you say its ready.
8. Serves multitudes, but leaves them starving

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Allen,

I don't consider myself a judge of God, but rather a judge of what people have said about God. As far as being a judge of scripture, well what do you think those who decided which books would be in the canon were doing?

Your position is to surrender your intellect and accept whatever these ancient peoples who wrote the books which are in your canon (which was decided by a group of men using their judgment)said about God as being divinely inspired and therefore inerrant even if it a lot of what they said doesn't make sense.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Ken,

I just read some of the recent posts and then clicked on your profile.

I think I can safely assume that many of the responses so far... you've seen them before, albeit worded a little differently.

FWIW, I prefer your "honesty" about your spiritual status than Professor James McGrath's. McGrath still calls himself a Christian. I'm glad that you have, contra McGrath, the integrity to not call yourself a follower of Christ anymore.

And fwiw, I have always wondered whether an apostate is always lost. Their hearts hardened so much that they never taste the Living Water.

Well, lo and behold, I read about a British journalist who was apostate for many years and later came back to become a follower of Jesus.

I hope that happens for you too. If not, well....

allen said...

Ken,
1.I do not surrender my intellect. I seek to employ it. But I do not regard it as infallible and omniscient. Do you?
2.As to the canon--God determined it! Man then recognized it as such and received it with humility. Remember humility? Back before you knew everything?
3.As to scripture not "making sense", I would say: There are "some things hard to be understood", but if you twist these things you do so "unto your own destruction" (2Peter 3:16); I would also say, "See number #1."

DJP said...

Allen, I think one of the funniest snipes of the nothingburger is that Christians surrender their intellects. So, knowing a few things on a sound basis is seen as vastly superior to "knowing" everything on no basis.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Allen,

I am an agnostic which by definition means that I don't claim to know . You and other fundamentalists who have presupposed the Bible to be the infallible Word of God are the ones who claim to know so much about a deity, an after-life, etc.

As far as man just recognizing and not determining the canon, yep, I remember reading that in Norm Geisler's book on the Intro to the Bible. It sounded good but when I investigated it historically, it just wasn't true.

allen said...

Ken,
For one who claims to be an agnostic( "no knowledge/ ignorant") you sound cock-sure and dogmatic in your rejection of God and His government over people as He wills. Are you sure you should do this? Are you sure of anything? How do you know?

The historical investigations you made that brought you to such conclusions about the canon of scripture--were these historical sources some of those "ancient people" you frequently disparage?

Interacting with you has caused me to marvel anew at these words:
"Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."-- Matthew 18:3

And, "The foolishness of God is wiser than men."--1 Cor. 1:25

And, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." --Matt.11:25

As for me, one word from God is worth infinitely more than volumes from those who "do not know".

"I know whom I have believed".

"One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see."
So ring on frail little hammers, the anvil remains unharmed!

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Allen,

You are right. One does have to become as gullible as a little child to believe the things you believe.

Some RCC's have the same mentality: The church said it; and they are authoritative; therefore I believe it. Or the Muslim who says: The Koran is the Word of God (which they accept by faith) and therefore whatever it says is truth. . Or the Mormon who says: Joseph Smith was a prophet; therefore the Book of Mormon must be truth and they have further attestation because of their "burning in the bosom."

So, once you surrender your intellect to any religious book or authority, you have ceased to think for yourself.

allen said...

Who is your authority?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Allen,

I don't have an absoulte authority like you do. What I have is what you use in every area of you life other than religion.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Mr. Ken,

I was wondering something. I have talked to a number of agnostics/atheists who claimed to have been "saved" early on in their lives, and when I ask them why they abandoned Jesus Christ, you and they have said the same thing, "It's a long story." Surely though, there was an "AHA!" moment when the final piece of the puzzle came in and you decided that you had found the answer.

I am curious because on merely an intellectual level, I would have had to search every area of everything that ever existed and exhaust every piece and bit of history, and be able to understand all things, and in fact, I'd have to travel back in time to check what I had found against the real events that happened before I decided what you have. I would have to obtain absolute knowledge to reject the claims of salvation and judgment in Scripture to be satisfied that I had made the right decision.

Mr Ken, I believe the One who wrote the Scriptures, and His witness is credible. He has made promises and has kept them to whomever he made them to, be it judgment or blessing. You say you studied the scriptures when you were "saved", but did you, like the pharisees search the scriptures looking for eternal life while rejecting Jesus at the same time - the very one the scriptures point to? My friend, you need to read again, because God has not relented in keeping His promises in the past, and He won't in the future either - and He promises that anyone who rejects the salvation made available in Jesus Christ, His Son, will be condemned forever.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam --

First, let's make sure that, at least, you're honest about your own beliefs. Your Blogger profile says, "If I had to pigeonhole myself, I would say I am an agnostic atheist."

If you're not actually any kind of an atheist, then you should stop trolling for street cred amongst the baser naturalists and positivists. If your high-minded epistemic virtues render you an actual "agnostic" and not an "atheist", I say good on you -- but agnosticism is actually a harder row to hoe than atheism because of the things you have to do every day that must violate actual epistemic agnosticism.

This is the problem when you start chiming in about "authority": you say you don't have an "absolute authority", but let me point out that you do. If you're an honest atheist -- for example, like Dr. Gordon Kane at the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Michigan -- you would admit that the way things actually are have to have some kind of absolute authority over us. So, for example, we have the much-proven fact of the Conservation of Energy -- and the much-proven fact that this is observationally violated in some systems. So we have once description of things which is true, and a contradictory description of things which is true, and it turns out that arguing that they cannot both be true is simply stupid: they are both true. The world proves our descriptions to be, at best, ours for a time.

The world as it actually is is your absolute authority. If it's not, calling Christians ign'nant is a categorically-irrelevant and unfounded statement.

Isaac said...

You sidestep a lot of questions, Ken. I've been reading through your responses and you have at least twice sidestepped the question of what you hold in authority.

I'm with allen in declaring that you hold yourself in authority, despite your indirect claims to the contrary, but I'd like to hear an honest answer from you about what you think you hold in authority.

So, instead of sidestepping yet again with something like, "I hold to no ultimate authority" please direct your keen intellect to your own basic assumptions and see if you can derive from what you are taking your authority, then state it clearly.

Since you aren't sure there isn't a God and your arguments strongly suggest that you fancy yourself a seeker after truth, you should have no fear of stating the true basis upon which you set all of your judgement of both God and Christians.

Frank Turk said...

Regarding Kai Nielsen and the moral order of things, I think that Dr. Nielsen's best self-popularization of his own thoughts on this subject are here:

[QUOTE]
We know, for example, that there are some old and distinguished religions unlike Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--for example, Buddhism--with many adherents who have neither God nor worship. Yet Buddhists, as far as I can see, have been able to make sense of their lives and find a sense of objective value. Even within our culture, while many people feel that they cannot make sense of their lives without God, many like myself do. They are not only intelligentsia but ordinary people in various cultures. In Canada and the United States, people get very hung up about God. In Iceland and Denmark people find this very peculiar. (It has something to do with the level of wealth and education of the society.) You may feel you cannot make sense of your life without God, but a lot of people do.
[/QUOTE]

The key here is the minimalist approach to morality which Dr. Nielsen is arguing for. Notice that you just have to be able to make sense of your own life, and that's enough.

What's pretty dramatic in saying this, though, is the first example here lists: Buddhism. There's not question: Buddhism is an ancient religion without a god and without worship. But when Dr. Nielsen says that Buddhists have "made sense of their lives", that's not the same thing, for example, as saying that there is a moral code which, objectively, is necessarily applicable to you and to me.

You know: Buddhism says that all life is suffering; suffering is caused by craving or a sense of want, which is an illusion; suffering is not overcome by satisfying craving but by extinguishing craving; the path of the Buddha shows the way to extinguish craving and eliminate the illusions of want.

That does make some kind of sense of the world, doesn't it? But do you think Physics and Chemistry make sense in a world where the moral order is "want not"?

My point is saying this is to point out that Dr. Nielsen's arguments toward a moral order without God are not really founded on whether or not that moral order makes sense in light of the authority of the real world.

Thoughts?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Webster,

There really wasn't an "aha" moment as you call it. It was an accumulation of things. If it were only one thing, then I would have been foolish to jettison my faith. Let me mention three of the more important things that led to my de-conversion.

First, the doctrine of the penal substitution . I have blogged on this in a lot of detail but to summarize: 1) Its unjust to punish an innocent in place of the guilty. We all recognize that basic fact. Yet on the basis of the death of Jesus who was sinless, God is propitiated and able to forgive. 2) Why would only the Father need to be propitiated and not the Son nor the Spirit? 3) How could the Son experience the wrath of God without their being a break or division in either the Trinity or the person of Christ? 4) Why can't God just forgive without requiring blood? We consider it a higher moral ethic if a person forgives another person without exacting punishment from that person. Why isn't the same true for God?

Second, the Bible does not read like one would expect a divine revelation to read . 1) It is very ambiguous and subject to a multitude of various interpretations. If my child were separated from me and I could write a letter to my child telling them how to find me, I wouldn't write it in such ambiguous language that it would be subject to multiple interpretations. I would write it as clearly as I possibly could. If I would do that as a finite being, why couldn't God as an omniscient being do it? 2) There are many things in the Bible that seem to be unworthy of a perfectly good God, e.g., the killing of infants and toddlers, the praising of David for gathering 100 foreskins of the Philistines, the condoning of human slavery, the cruelty to animals, and etc. 3) There is nothing in the Bible that demands it come from a supernatural source. It would be impressive if God had revealed to man that antibiotics would cure diseases, or that the earth revolves around the sun, or that the universe is 13 billion years old or that seizures were caused by epilepsy and not demon possession, etc. 4) When I read the Bible I find the ideas and beliefs of primitive people not the revelation of an omniscient deity.

Third, the personal lives of Christians did not really distinguish themselves from non-Christians. If Christianity is true, then the most moral, the most compassionate, the most forgiving, the most honest and the most humble people on the globe ought to be Christians. While some Christians are all of these things, so are some Mormons and so are some Muslims and so are some Hindus and so are some atheists. Now I am not asking for perfection, I am just asking for a demonstrable difference between those who supposedly have been regenerated and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and those who do not. In addition, I see organized Christianity as it is practiced in America to resemble more the culture of the corporation than it does the ministry of Jesus. So much emphasis on buildings, budgets, etc., rather than on people.

Now, these three things are by no means the only reasons why my faith disappeared but I would say they were three of the bigger ones.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank, I chose the term agnostic atheist very carefully because it best describes my position. Agnostic atheists are atheistic because they do not have belief in the existence of any deity, and agnostic because they do not claim to know that a deity does not exist. So I don't believe in any gods but I cannot say with certainty that no gods exist.

As for an absolute authority, what I meant was that when it comes to metaphysical subjects such as the existence of the supernatural, or life after death, possibility of reincarnation, etc., I have no special authority such as you do. What I have is what we all have in every other area of our lives. We have reason, we have experience, we have the testimony of history. None of these things are perfect and infallible, therefore our understanding of the world is not perfect nor infallible. It is adequate enough to allow us to live our lives.

Men want deeper answers though and that is why philosophy and theology developed. These are, in my opinion, worthwhile pursuits but I am skeptical of either ever being able to provide fully complete and satisfactory answers.

As it relates to an objective moral code which you apparently claim to possess, I would be very much interested in you describing that code for us.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam said:

Its unjust to punish an innocent in place of the guilty.

This is an interesting statement. I think what Dr. Pulliam means is that if any innocent person has to pay for the crime of any guilty person, this is inherently a violation of "justice".

My kids were playing in the street last week when Spring sprung in our neighborhood -- playing catch with a hard ball. There's a house under construction across the street, and it turns out that the windows are not bullet-proof. I know this becuase my little one was able to launch a ball through the large plate glass which opens up to the future living room.

I know the guy who's building the house, so I called him and told him what happened -- and I wrote him a check for the window & the labor to replace it.

Was it unjust for my child to get off scott-free for breaking the window? What it unjust of me to pay the price for the damage -- knowing that the child could not pay the price?

I ask because I want to know what it means for punishment to be unjust when one person accepts the punishment for another person -- befcuase the right Christian narrative is not merely that the Father inflicted the punishment of sin on the Son, but that the Son willingly accepted the punishment that the father ought to have given to us.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam also said this:

[QUOTE]
what I meant was that when it comes to metaphysical subjects such as the existence of the supernatural, or life after death, possibility of reincarnation, etc., I have no special authority such as you do.
[/QUOTE]

Indeed, I think you are kidding yourself.

Do you think that the facts of Physics relate, for example, to the right operation of commerce, Dr. Pulliam? If you say "no", then you can rightly say that you "have no special authority" regarding "metaphysical subjects". But if, for example, you think someone's resume has to have a specific correspondence to their work history in order to rightly-require that they receive some level of compensation (that is, that the existence of past actions ought to rightly influence the present and will influence the future), you have a metaphysical framework -- and there's some kind of authority which governs it which you personally believe ought to govern the actions of other people.

As soon as you need values to somehow apply to more people than the ones wearing your socks and undies right now, you are dealing in metaphysics, Dr. Pulliam, and the need for an objective, vicarious source of meaning.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam:

I can describe my moral code in less than 50 words -- but I'd be willing to do so only if you'd be willing to explain to me why I should not lie on my resume in order that I could become CEO of AT&T.

Let me be clear about what I am asking: I am certain I can construct a resume which could get me the job, including references -- so the answer to the question cannot be, "because it will not work." I am asking what ought to govern the socio-economic process of the job search which should cause the applicant to tell the truth and the hiring body to accept the word of the applicant as evidence that his job history reflects what actually happened.

500 words or fewer, if you please.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Frank Turk said...

Incidental note from Frank to all other readers who are not atheists.

Dr. Pulliam said this:

[QUOTE]
The personal lives of Christians did not really distinguish themselves from non-Christians.
[/QUOTE]

There are about 10 objections I have to Dr. Pulliam saying this, but if I say even one of them it will mitigate for you that actual point that we should take away from this objection: Do you lead your life as if you actually believe that a Holy God is angry with sin, is offering you forgiveness, has made the offer good in Christ, and therefore you have an infinite basis of gratitude upon which to found the rest of your life?

Whether Dr. Pulliam is doing what is right in his own eyes or not, if he's right about you, no argument is going to change his mind. He knows you -- you're evidence that I'm a liar.

Frank Turk said...

TUaD --

I removed your post because it's too far off-topic. It was a decent, reasonable question -- but nowhere near the topic at hand.

I can send it to you if you want to save it for another day, or find a post which suits the question better. But that question will splinter the disucssion here too far.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

No problem, Frank Turk.

Carry on.

I'm glad that Dr. Ken Pulliam is interacting on this thread. I was just curious as to the motivation, that's all.

misty said...

Ken, you said: "The Bible does not read like one would expect a divine revelation to read."

You’re an expert on how divine revelations should read? Based on what? Your 10 years of experience being God in a sister universe?

See, it’s comments like these that don’t make sense to me. You talk about God as if He is just some human elected official. He has to run His plan of substitutionary atonement by you for approval. He has to re-write His divine revelation according to your specifications.

If that is your concept of God, that explains a lot. It explains why you lost your faith – although, I’m beginning to believe you really didn’t have a faith to lose.

I’m not saying you weren’t sincere. I think you did earnestly study Christianity sort of like an intellectual pursuit of philosophy. But you were never a converted Christian because to be a Christian you must believe that you are a sinner who has sinned against a Holy God and is in desperate need of a Savior. And you have to really believe that, not just give lip service to it. You must agree with God when He says through the apostle Paul, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Complete agreement that you are a sinner and trust in Christ alone for your redemption is the entrance into Christianity. You’re not really a Christian if you just hang out at church, go to seminary, and say, “Christianity seems like a neat idea, so I’ll join up.” You may be a Christian sympathizer or a theology junky, but you’re not a Christian.

Your comments reveal this: You do not see yourself as a sinner – at all. In fact, just the opposite: You accuse God of being a sinner and declare yourself to be righteous and just. Hence you don’t understand penal substitution, you don’t understand the Bible, and you have no use at all for Jesus Christ.

You can’t say you turned away from what we believe if you never believed it.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank,

Your example of paying for your child's error is a case of you taking responsibility for the actions of your child. It involved a debt that could be paid monetarily. That is a huge difference from a penal debt. If your child robs a bank or commits a murder, do you think the judicial system is going to allow you to go to jail or to the electric chair in his place? Why not? You are willing and you volunteer. Because its a fundamental notion of justice that the one who commits the crime is the one who must do the time. The difference in your analogy also is the difference between taking responsibility for the actions of someone for whom you are legally responsible. Responsibility is something that can be shared or transferred, however, personal guilt is not.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank,

Why do I believe that its better not to lie on your resume? The proper operation of a business or any enterprise in life is built around the need for correct information. Once intentionally incorrect information is passed along it dilutes the pool of knowledge that is needed for effective communication to take place. In addition, once an individual is found to have lied, it pollutes his reputation and character and thereby makes him a less effective leader. BTW, this is not an attempt to formulate a fully-orbed theory of ethics but merely a response to your specific question.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam said:

[QUOTE]
The difference in your analogy also is the difference between taking responsibility for the actions of someone for whom you are legally responsible. Responsibility is something that can be shared or transferred, however, personal guilt is not.
[/QUOTE]

That's a metaphysical statement, Doctor. Prove it.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

As for the one who asked what is my motivation to be here on this site. Well, I came because I saw non-believers being unfairly mocked in my opinion. I also saw what I felt was a very weak argument on why one should not view the genocides in the OT as a moral evil. Since I have spent considerable time studying these matters, I thought it appropriate to respond. After my first response, I have been inundated with questions. What should I do? Not answer your questions?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank,

Its an accepted point of jurisprudence. If you go to court, ask the judge to prove to you why you can't be punished in place of your child. It goes against our innate sense of justice to punish an innocent person. As a matter of fact, I don't even think you really can punish an innocent person. At least the word "punish" is not appropriate in that context. You can inflict suffering on an innocent but not truly punish them. Therefore the doctrine of penal substitution is really an oxymoron

Frank Turk said...

While Dr. Pulliam ponders whether he can prove a metaphysical truth or not, let me say this about that:

If I invent the cure for cancer, I can do a few things with it:

A. I could sell it. I suspect that by selling the cure for cancer, I would be a good man because of the things other people do with my invention.

B. I could give it away, dispensing it myself. I suspect that by giving away the cure for cancer, I would be a good man for the things I have done.

C. I could tell no one and sit on it until I die. I suspect that would make me a bad man for doing nothing (some might be courageous enough to say, "doing something bad") when I could have done something good.

In B and C, I am credited for the value of the deeds I have done. In A, I am plainly credited for the work others have done. That is: it would seem right to credit me with good deeds even though I didn't do the good deeds. It would seem plainly incongruous to say that I did nothing good even though the deeds would be the dispensed by someone else.

I wonder why we would make the transfer of that kind of righteousness and good work a sort of moral given in our reasoning, but would think that no one can pay the price for our guilt? It seems arbiytrary to me to think that it only works one way -- if we're really about to reason at the metaphysical level, anyway. Maybe all metaphysics is complete horsewash and talking about value judgments as if there had a weight and mass and force in the real world which actually affect people.

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam said:

[QUOTE]
The proper operation of a business or any enterprise in life is built around the need for correct information. Once intentionally incorrect information is passed along it dilutes the pool of knowledge that is needed for effective communication to take place.
[/QUOTE]

Huh. "incorrect information"? Says who? How can information be "incorrect" is there is no objective arbiter of "correct" and "incorrect"?

However, this is even better:

[QUOTE]
BTW, this is not an attempt to formulate a fully-orbed theory of ethics but merely a response to your specific question.
[/QUOTE]

Aha! We don't want to form a "fully-orbed theory of ethics", but we want to talk about the "pool of information", and an "enterprise in life", and "effective communication".

Seems to me that ad-hoc reasoning -- that is, Kai Nielsen's view of "making snese of your life" one person at a time -- doesn't want to make a "fully-orbed theory of ethics", but it needs one to survive in a world where there is more than one person.

You can't say "effective communication" in any meaningful way, Dr. Pulliam, unless there is some method of arbitrating "effective" -- something which necessarily pursuades two people to agree that "X" is either effective or ineffective.

Or you can want not. I could respect that.

Samuel Skinner said...

"Incidentally, what does "existence is responsible for/created matter" mean?"

Matter is not a fundamental building block- it can be converted into energy. Something about existance is fundamental to it and so is responsible for its existance.

"No thinking Christian claims that all worldly institutions are always good - it's a fallen world. "

Post-Stalin the USSR's institution were better than the Russian Federation's.

"true discipleship of Christ works itself out in social contribution and goodwill."

"God's original and ideal intention for worldly institutions is bad."

Where do you get this from? It seems as much an ideology as that you attack.

" The arrogance and defiance is absolutely glaring. He can go round and round on all the other issues, but when confronted with scripture that god-hater comes clean and clearly shows that he is, above all, devoted to living in defiance of the very One who continues to allow him to draw breath."

Yeah, declaring the chain of reasoning I use is correct is arrogant. You know compared to say... KNOWING THE MIND OF GOD. Guess which one of use is doing the second? I'll give you a hint- it isn't me. I'm just going over the version of God you profess.

" He could not have had a better representative than Adam."
"But in our system of government we have representatives that represent us in the federal government."

The system you are talking about is called virtual representation. Guess what the American colonies rebeled against on the grounds it was just another form of tyranny?

The essence of representation is the picked individual is accountable to those who choose him. Your example fails to qualify.

"But the moral person is still ungodly."

But than being ungodly is not immoral.

"The natural man, that is to say, the man who is not a Christian he does not understand these things of the spirit of God. He's accustomed to taking things in a scientific manner and does it with his natural mind and follows the ordinary rules and say"

So non-Christian religions are rational?

"No, we have this understanding because of the extraordinary life that has been given to us."

Random chance? Basically Calvinism's elect?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank,

Of course there is correct information and incorrect information. Do you really need a full blown philosophical theory to recognize that? But since you ask, there are basically three theories relative to how to identify correct information: The theory of correspondence; the theory of coherence; and the pragmatic theory. I think all three are valid in various circumstances. For a brief description of these three theories, see link.

Michelle said...

Really enjoying this discussion.

Dr Pulliam reminds me of what John Piper put up on facebook yesterday:

"Bumper sticker. “Born okay the first time.” O for the day when every people on the planet knows enough to rebel like this."

Samuel Skinner said...

"If you think you are perfectly well and healthy you won't go to your doctor, it would be a waste of time. The only man that goes to the doctor is one who knows something is wrong."

Unless you go for preventative checkups.

"We were made for that and if we don't do that, we're terrible sinners."

So to be a sinner means to not completely subordinate ourselves to God. How is that bad? As you said, it isn't immoral so it can't be bad to be a sinner.

"The sin of all sins is to live for yourself and be independent of God. "

Why do you hate freedom?

" It's infinitely worse than murder, homosexuality, "

Hey, if you believe abortion is murder, homosexuality is a virtue- it reduces the amount of sex that leads to pregnancies that would otherwise be aborted.

"Our nature is twisted and perverted and it is absolutely impossible to change ourselves (again, look at human history)."

Which is why the murder rate has dropped over the course of human history. Or why slavery is now considered wrong. Or pedophilia. Or rape. Or torture.

"Lay your sins on Jesus."

What does that mean? You make Jesus sound like a used car salesman.

DJP said...

I'm calling it.

Hey, if you believe abortion is murder, homosexuality is a virtue- it reduces the amount of sex that leads to pregnancies that would otherwise be aborted.

Skinner's jumped that shark he brought.

DJP said...

Ooh! Ooh! I want to do a Skinner-parody responding to myself!

I'm

But who are you? If you think you were just created 4000 years ago, do you really have the right to be saying anything?

calling

But didn't that mythological whatever-figure invisible friend of yours tell you not to judge? It's just like the Middle Ages, and you're like Torquemada.

it

Find, Inquisitor. Where's my rack?

Skinner's jumped that shark he brought.

Must be nice just to say something's so, and think it's so.

(plus 5000 more whirling words)

< /Skinner >

Samuel Skinner said...

allen

" Appoint yourself as judge of God!and judge of scripture!"

Welcome to the wonderful world of Protestantism. Or are you a Catholic?

"I do not surrender my intellect. I seek to employ it. But I do not regard it as infallible and omniscient."

Previously you said

"He has no "carved idols" for he himself is one, with one of them there college degrees by his name. "

"As to the canon--God determined it!"

You do realize that historically a bunch of individuals got together and choose what was canon and what was not, right? There was no divine relevation involved in the process.

"So, knowing a few things on a sound basis is seen as vastly superior to "knowing" everything on no basis."

Why? Because it "feels right"... which you guys have been attacking as wrong?

"I would have to obtain absolute knowledge to reject the claims of salvation and judgment in Scripture to be satisfied that I had made the right decision."

So what if you were born a Muslim?

"If you're not actually any kind of an atheist, then you should stop trolling for street cred amongst the baser naturalists and positivists."

Well, people call themselves agnostic because they think comparing God to Batman might be a bit insulting. I mean, really, when was the last time Batman killed women and children?

" you would admit that the way things actually are have to have some kind of absolute authority over us."

Atheists must accept external reality? Does that mean you reject it?

"Conservation of Energy and the much-proven fact that this is observationally violated in some systems."

I'm going to need proof. I have NEVER seen an example of this being true.

"That does make some kind of sense of the world, doesn't it? But do you think Physics and Chemistry make sense in a world where the moral order is "want not"?"

Sure. How is this different from a world where the rules exist because they are the will of God?

"Was it unjust for my child to get off scott-free for breaking the window?"

Yes. He should have been at the least scolded.

DJP said...

(That was not a parody)

(Not an intentional one, anyway)

Samuel Skinner said...

"Do you think that the facts of Physics relate, for example, to the right operation of commerce, Dr. Pulliam?"

Of course. It just happens that deriving them from physics is more complicated than using the field of economics.

"you think someone's resume has to have a specific correspondence to their work history in order to rightly-require that they receive some level of compensation"

I don't. The employeer on the other hand does and they are the person paying you.

"I can describe my moral code in less than 50 words"

That is impossible. Nothing that short could be applicable to all situations.

" I am asking what ought to govern the socio-economic process of the job search which should cause the applicant to tell the truth and the hiring body to accept the word of the applicant as evidence that his job history reflects what actually happened."

If they can't check up on your prior job history and they can't tell from the work you put in with them, than actual experience is irrelevant to the job you are doing.

"You’re an expert on how divine revelations should read? "

It should be as accessable as possible (so that as many as possible can comprehend it), have a clear table of contents and organization (so it can easily have parts looked up), be written in langauge easy to translate, etc.

Bill Honsberger said...

To the merely correct person - do you think restating the argument from euthpryo helps your point? I am curious as to how. I pointed out that early Jewish and Christian writers interacted with Plato routinely and you respond by playing hid the Greeks and with some bizarre reference to the renaissance. I pointed out that the dilemma is a false either/or as there are other options out there. Saying there are other options doesn't mean you have to like them or accept them - but it does show that the either/or in this case is a fallacy.
You want to argue against the facts and quibble with the word "flows". Fine I will drop the descriptive mode and say it this way. Arbitrary according to most philosophical usage means some version of "it could have been otherwise". As I pointed out, the atheist James Rachels in his text on Ethics (pretty standard undergrad ethics) describes that probably using the example of child abuse. It could have been that God says that child abuse is ok - when all good people know better. Starting there I pointed out that this is problematic on at least two levels - 1) the definition of "good" people (facts not in evidence/fallacy ad populum) and 2) God is the source of ethics and they are derived from His basic nature/essence. In other words God's laws are based upon his character. They are not arbitrary in that they could not be otherwise. You hint that you understand this when you said that I am saying that God does not have free will. If by that you mean that God cannot act otherwise than what He is - then fine I will go with that. A bird is what it is - it cannot be what it is not. God is whom he is and therefore the morals are not arbitrary. You may not like this answer and that is fine but you cannot argue that Jews and Christians have not postulated at least one (and there are others) out of the dilemma. So euthypro is not big club.
On a different level I have never met anyone who abandoned their faith on the basis of euthypro. What a lame club to use. The much more problematic argument - as you can see from Ken's complaints about genocide, etc - is the theodicy question.
Maybe you don't like this list - but atheists like Hobbes, Hume, Nietzsche, Russell, Sartre and many others have said that once you remove God from the picture - then morals is purely subjective - and one can interpret them individually or communally but they have no referent point. ( you have still ignored Einstein's own thoughts on relativity vis a viv physics and morality - I might humbly add that he may have a more "correct" position on it then you!)

Thus you are left with something like yummy/yucky dressed up in big words sometimes. And your problem is not "why would you eat the poor?" but why shouldn't anyone else eat the poor? Also and this may terrify you - but your definition of what it means to be caring - by placing the needs of someone else above your own needs - is dangerously close to a standard Christian definition. You are perilously close to the Kingdom of God when you say things like that!!! Now as soon as you can show us where the jungle teaches us such niceties we can proceed further.

Ben Cheney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samuel Skinner said...

"That's a metaphysical statement, Doctor. Prove it."

Because personal guilt is personal and if it is transfered it stops being personal guilt?

"In A, I am plainly credited for the work others have done. "

You spent time researching the cure. That is work or do you think science is a magical process?

"Says who?"

Previous employeers.

"How can information be "incorrect" is there is no objective arbiter of "correct" and "incorrect"?"

Incorrect- doesn't match reality. Correct- matches reality.

"Skinner's jumped that shark he brought."

ON SHARK JUMPING AND LOGIC
Not really. Here is the chain of reasoning.

-People will have sex.
-People have sex for pleasure.
-People can have heterosexual or homosexual sex (simplification, but work with it).
-Homosexual sex has no chance of pregnancy.
-Reducing the number of people who are pregnant will reduce the number of abortions.
-Reducing the number of abortions is good.

Therefore
You should encourage homosexual sex.

Of course, you could use birth control, but that costs money and as misty has pointed out, that money could be used to feed starving people.

Now, you can object to the premises, but the chain of reasoning and conclusion are valid.

DJP said...

QED

Bill Honsberger said...

Ken - I don't see what your problem with genocide is. Is there some problem when certain protoplasmic bags of chemical reactions/brewing at certain temperatures rearrange the atoms of other protoplasmic bags? Whence the moral outrage? You mean to say that it makes you feel bad? So what - it makes others feel good? So why should anyone else care how Ken is emoting on a particular subject?
and as Samuel pines for the good old days of the USSR, he ponders about the alleged drop in the murder rate, lessening of slavery, pedophilia and rape - this would all be laughable if not so patently untrue. The most conservative accounts of Stalins murder of the Ukrainians put the number somewhere around 20 million victims, 60-85 million Chinese in the Great Leap forward, two million in the killing fields of Kampuchea, Rwanda, Uganda, etc etc ad nauseum. Not to mention Hitler, the Turks, and other lesser known atrocities. How exactly has the murder rate gone down??? And as for slavery - many sources argue that there are more slaves in the world today than at ANY other time in history - especially because of the sex slave trade. And as far as pedophilia - well I guess all the extra prisons we are building all of which have to include special wings/building for the rising number of convicted pedophiles, and so on and so on again.
Yes bring back Stalin - things were so much tidier then.
Again for both you and Ken, - what makes these kinds of things morally objectionable in any objective way? Or are you happy saying yucky?

Samuel Skinner said...

To Bill

" I pointed out that the dilemma is a false either/or as there are other options out there."

Than state them. The only one you gave... was one of the two referanced in the dilemma!

"the definition of "good" people"

It is a good thing I'm not making that arguement than, isn't it?

"God is the source of ethics and they are derived from His basic nature/essence. In other words God's laws are based upon his character. They are not arbitrary in that they could not be otherwise."

And you know they couldn't be otherwise because?

"If by that you mean that God cannot act otherwise than what He is - then fine I will go with that. A bird is what it is - it cannot be what it is not. God is whom he is and therefore the morals are not arbitrary."

That is the very definition of arbitrary. Things are this way... because that is the way things are.

"is the theodicy question."

It has nothing to do with the existance of God. Just his niceness.

"then morals is purely subjective - and one can interpret them individually or communally but they have no referent point."

How does having a moral referance point work? It seems to be that you are saying that you need someone to say "murder is wrong" for morality to function. I don't see why that is the case. If you get people to agree that murder is wrong and someone disagrees... well, really, it is a self-solving problem. Most of ethics works that way- if you have everyone agree to a system based on maximizing happiness and people disagree with the goal, they get excluded.

" why shouldn't anyone else eat the poor? "

Prions. Unless you mean kill and eat in which case society breaks down as the social contract disolves and all the openly sociopathic people die in the infighting until the next generation is more moral.

"but your definition of what it means to be caring - by placing the needs of someone else above your own needs - is dangerously close to a standard Christian definition."

Not really. The definition people here give is placing the needs of God above all else.

Samuel Skinner said...

So DJP, do you retract your statement or are you going to show how the logic I demonstrated is flawed?

"Whence the moral outrage? You mean to say that it makes you feel bad? So what - it makes others feel good? So why should anyone else care how Ken is emoting on a particular subject?"

They shouldn't. And if the population was entirely comprised of sociopaths they wouldn't. However that is not the case and most of these "protoplasmic bags of chemical reactions/brewing at certain temperatures " would like to remain that way.

"and as Samuel pines for the good old days of the USSR,"

A million people died in the collapse of the USSR. Fortunately they now get to enjoy the freedom of... oh wait, no it still isn't really a democracy.

Also, as long as the USSR existed, Muslims focused on them more because of the whole godless thing.

"The most conservative accounts of Stalins murder of the Ukrainians put the number somewhere around 20 million victims, 60-85 million Chinese in the Great Leap forward, two million in the killing fields of Kampuchea, Rwanda, Uganda, etc etc ad nauseum. Not to mention Hitler, the Turks, and other lesser known atrocities."

Sources for these? I know the first 3 are wrong- the last because the numbers are closer to 3 million than 2.

" How exactly has the murder rate gone down???"

The 19th century witnessed 6 million people "accidentally" dying in Congo, repeated famines in India and the wars of the French Revolution, which were so bad they got the powers of Europe (normally in conflict) to agree to work together to avoid anything like that happening again. And it held for 30 years if you count the Crimean war or 100 if you count WW1.

"And as for slavery - many sources argue that there are more slaves in the world today than at ANY other time in history - especially because of the sex slave trade."

How about per person, the only measure that actually counts?

" well I guess all the extra prisons we are building all of which have to include special wings/building for the rising number of convicted pedophiles, and so on and so on again. "

Because we used to throw them in with the rest of the imnates and let them get beaten to death?

"Again for both you and Ken, - what makes these kinds of things morally objectionable in any objective way? Or are you happy saying yucky?"

According to you God says yucky. This is completely objective... just don't look behind the curtain!

Frank Turk said...

Dr. Pulliam sees the bullet coming and says:

[QUOTE]
Of course there is correct information and incorrect information.
[/QUOTE]


Well, I say "of course there is," but I believe that there is a universe (and a universe-maker) that is apart from me which is the arbiter of whether the "information" is "correct". That is: I believe that "correct" can be arbitrated by something which is external and objective apart from me.

You have rejected this idea all the way back at 3:19 PM. Don't tell me you're going back on that now -- abandoning both atheism and agnosticism in one comment in order to not be wrong is a little evasive.

[QUOTE]
Do you really need a full blown philosophical theory to recognize that?
[/QUOTE]


Well: yes. That is: anyone who wants to criticize as unreasonable some other fully-blown philosophical system does need a competing system to be credible. Drive-by "free thinkers" can settle for the fact that what is "moral" in Buddhism and what is "moral" for those who believe that Physics is a wholesome use of one's life and mind are not at all the same set of ethics or behaviors and call it settled, but people who are asking this question seriously need a better answer than, "because I think so."

So: yes. My answer to your question is "yes".

[QUOTE]
But since you ask, there are basically three theories relative to how to identify correct information: The theory of correspondence; the theory of coherence; and the pragmatic theory. I think all three are valid in various circumstances.
[/QUOTE]


The crazy thing is that I agree with you -- but I wonder why you have now abandoned your agnosticism to posit these theories? All three of these posit that there is some external arbiter of how to know if some statement is "correct" or "true" -- and they also posit that the idea of "truth" requires this external playing field to be coherent.

The problem is that you think that the moral assessment "correct" needs an external arbiter, but that is cannot be God. That is: prima facie, you reject God as a cause of value.

I wonder why?

Frank Turk said...

I asked for Dr. Pulliam to substantiate his metaphysical statement, and Skinner quipped:

[QUOTE]
Because personal guilt is personal and if it is transfered it stops being personal guilt?
[/QUOTE]


I love the objectivization of emotions. So Skinner -- your view is that in the same way that I can pour water from one glass to another, I can pour guilt from me onto another person and they have the same state I had, quantitatively?

What unit of measure do we use for that, my friend? It seems to me that you are demanding Physics where none can be represented. Of course, if you admit that "guilt" is a metaphysical state, all bets are off: because you have just admitted there is at least the paranormal if not the flat-out supernatural.

Can it really be that you're not an atheist at all? I don't believe that.

Bill Honsberger said...

Hey Samuel I will type this slower so it can be more understood...
There was one option give by Frank earlier, there is another in the Irrational Atheist by Theodore Beale and there was mine - And probably many more if I felt by like doing the legwork. Point is even one other option, however much Samuel doesn't like it - destroys the dilemma. My point is that the arbitrary complaint is not the problem that people like Rachels think it is. Again if you want to show why Rachels and other atheists are using this incorrectly then feel free to clean up their problems.
Your then meta complaint that in me saying God is the source of ethics then makes God or His choices are then arbitrary. I suppose gamer logic is wasted on you - but in some sense all knowledge might be arbitrary. But we don't normally rail against the "arbitrary" nature of the laws of physics. They are just so - our understanding of them changes but their nature doesn't. They are what they are. Of course by objective I am meaning objective to us as human beings. So you attempt at elucidating a regress doesn't really grab anyone.
You hinted at some utilitarian solution - please please say this openly. The joys of Gumby ethics - it really is possibly the worst ethical theory on so many grounds, but I think this hints at helping us understand your pining for Stalin. And critiquing Stalin does not require affirmation of Yeltsin or Putin or anyone else.

How exactly are the first three wrong? You can find all sorts of historical data on these, and certainly historian disagree, but unless you are going with a clown like Zinn I think you will at least find the numbers in the ballpark as it were.
And quit cheating like when you say sociopathic behavior might be wrong or immoral as if those words had actual meaning. They are just arbitrary terms you know...
You have not heard anyone hear talk about the "needs" of God - Red herring at its finest.
You had too many non- sequitars fo chase them all down. But try these ones for a start and we can keep going.

Samuel Skinner said...

"Well: yes. That is: anyone who wants to criticize as unreasonable some other fully-blown philosophical system does need a competing system to be credible. "

False. You merely need to identify inconsistencies.

"I love the objectivization of emotions."

What does that even mean?

"So Skinner -- your view is that in the same way that I can pour water from one glass to another, I can pour guilt from me onto another person and they have the same state I had, quantitatively?"

Water has a physical existance. Guilt is an emotion and a description of a person feeling bad for doing something wrong. It is not transferable.

" because you have just admitted there is at least the paranormal if not the flat-out supernatural."

You do realize materialism doesn't exclude the existance of ideas or descriptive terminology?

"
Hey Samuel I will type this slower so it can be more understood..."

Actually paragraphs would work better.

" Point is even one other option, however much Samuel doesn't like it - destroys the dilemma."

Of course. However you haven't given an alternative, merely restated one of the answers.

"but in some sense all knowledge might be arbitrary."

False. All knowledge is arbitrary if we assume an external frame of referance from the universe from which knowledge is derived. Unlike you I do not assume an external frame.

"But we don't normally rail against the "arbitrary" nature of the laws of physics."

The laws of physics are descriptive. God is supposed to be intelligent which is a major difference.

"You hinted at some utilitarian solution - please please say this openly."

You have an objection to utilitarianism.

" The joys of Gumby ethics - it really is possibly the worst ethical theory on so many grounds,"

Name them.

"And critiquing Stalin does not require affirmation of Yeltsin or Putin or anyone else."

Because politics exists in a magical vaccum? Leaders are evaluated in terms of the alternatives. And I'm not defending Stalin, I am defending Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.

"How exactly are the first three wrong? "

I could have sworn Pol Pot killed more...
Anyway, for Stalin the death tolls
http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713662903&db=all

Gives 3 million directly executed. There were other deaths from repression and added with the Ukranian famine gives a death toll of about 20 million total. Your claim was that Stalin killed 20 million in Ukrain alone. I don't have any sources for China's death toll but I doubt the data is accurate due to the governments refusal to admit responsibility.

"And quit cheating like when you say sociopathic behavior might be wrong or immoral as if those words had actual meaning. They are just arbitrary terms you know..."

So what? Why is it wrong for me to use them if the terms are arbitrary? Language itself is arbitrary- there is no special relation English has to reality that French does not.

You might ask why I get upset than, but really I am arguing with a person who is defending genocide. I am not upsetable, just through.

"You have not heard anyone hear talk about the "needs" of God - Red herring at its finest."

If God does not have needs, why does he require people to serve him?

DJP said...

Skinner: So DJP, do you retract your statement or are you going to show how the logic I demonstrated is flawed?

Oh, I'll do even better.

I'll give you the opportunity to prove whether you are as you pose (i.e. an expert on Christian faith who is too brilliant to be caught by it), or whether you are an arrogant, self-absorbed, verbose gasbag.

You tell me what the Christian response to your idiotic suggestion is. I think a 10-year-old could answer it sufficiently. But you're the expert on Christianity: you tell me. It can be done in very few words, and no more than one paragraph.

That, or stop wasting serious folks' time. Please.

Samuel Skinner said...

If I was an expert on Christianity I WOULDN'T BE POSTING HERE.

I'm posting, not because I think I will convince anyone, but because I want to make sure there are no inconsistencies in my beliefs. The easiest way is to get people who are convinced you are wrong to go over what you belief.

Why do you think I am willing to get completely sidetracked? I know that I am incapable of seeing my own blind spots so I list what I think so that others can.

Ben Cheney said...

"If God does not have needs, why does he require people to serve him?"

Because people have needs. We are contingent; God isn't. So we serve God for our own benefit, or ignore God and cut off the basis of our existence. Answering from a Christian worldview, of course.

DJP said...

I don't believe you, Skinner - nor am I obliged to. You imagine yourself to be under notranscendent, fixed moral absolutes. You could lie just as easily as tell the truth. You'll have to prove it.

I haven't seen you admit one of the many gross errors you've made. But you pick. What are the five most recent specific times a Christian's argument brought you to admit you'd been dead-wrong?

Samuel Skinner said...

"So we serve God for our own benefit, or ignore God and cut off the basis of our existence."

"Our benefit" is not being punished by God. It is like he mafia being an insurance industry.

"I don't believe you, Skinner - nor am I obliged to."

I honestly have no idea what you are talking about. Also, you didn't advice my point concerning homosexuality. Unless you believe it is worse than infanticide, what I said makes perfect sense.

"You could lie just as easily as tell the truth. You'll have to prove it."

Why don't you? After all, if not believing in God leads to eternal hellfire, it is your obligation to bring people into the flock- and all means are justified to achieve that.

However, to defend myself, I should point out none of my comments require me to be truthful. Since I am arguing about logic, you can check the validity of them yourself.

"What are the five most recent specific times a Christian's argument brought you to admit you'd been dead-wrong?"

About Christianity? None. If there was I wouldn't be an atheist. About other topics? I don't know- I generally do not ask people their religious beliefs when discussing non-religious topics.

Does this histority of Jesus count? I doubt the "carried out miracles", but believe the existance and crusification part.

DJP said...

Then arrogant, self-absorbed, verbose gasbag it is.

And no, as a matter of fact, the Bible expressly says not to spend time on such.

And so, I won't.

Samuel Skinner said...

"Then arrogant, self-absorbed, verbose gasbag it is."

I openly admitted that the reason I am posting is so that others can point out errors. You on the other hand have posted contentless responces and hurled insults like a child.

When you feel mature enough to act like a grown up, than please- respond with substance. I know it may be hard but everyone else has managed it so it isn't a problem with Christians in general, but you in particular.

Matt Gumm said...

Verification word: goller

Mr. Skinner: Let's try this one:
-Reducing the number of abortions is good.
-Less access to abortions will reduce the number of abortions.
-Less doctors performing abortions will reduce access.

Therefore
We should reduce the number of doctors performing abortions. By any means necessary.

Your argument for homosexual sex to reduce abortions & the argument to reduce abortions by reducing availability by using all means (implicitly violence) are similar, in that they are both purely pragmatic.

I'm guessing you're a believer in pragmatism, based on both your comments about killing unborn babies earlier in the thread, as well as this more recent statement (your comment in bold).
"You could lie just as easily as tell the truth. You'll have to prove it."

Why don't you? After all, if not believing in God leads to eternal hellfire, it is your obligation to bring people into the flock- and all means are justified to achieve that.


"The ends justifies the means" doesn't work in Christianity, because God specifies that both the ends and the means be according to His rules.

By the way, speaking of the unborn, you asked earlier about how we define life, and if that got answered, I missed it. There's plenty of folk who could prolly answer this better than me, but I wanted to give you a couple of things to consider.

Human life is valuable above all else because man is created in God's image. That includes, but is not limited to the fact that each human has a soul - something other creatures don't have.

There's a surprisingly nice illustration of the competing worldviews on moral and ethical treatment of life found on page 6 of The dignity of living beings with regard to plants, the draft report on plant rights published by the Swiss in 2006.

In the "theistic worldview" column (my category, not theirs), it has this: "God counts for his own sake. A living being counts because of its relationship to God." That's a nice summary of what we as Christians believe.

The remaining columns are also useful to follow and understand how morality and ethics are all derivative from God, and also to see what happens to when God is eliminated from the equation.

I raise all of this to revisit another of your statements:

I do claim that there is [an absolute] standard- I don't claim that I am positive what it is. Just like science claims that it can know how the universe works (but doesn't have it all down yet), I claim the same for morality.

In your world, in which all life (including yourself) came about by random chance, on what basis do you claim an absolute standard? Why should my random molecules believe your random molecules about a standard?

CR said...

Samuel Skinner:So to be a sinner means to not completely subordinate ourselves to God. How is that bad? As you said, it isn't immoral so it can't be bad to be a sinner.

The essence of sin is this: refusal in any way, shape or form to live entirely and only for the glory of God everyday, all the time. We are meant to desire God with our whole being and not to do so, is sin.

Samuel Skinner: Which is why the murder rate has dropped over the course of human history. Or why slavery is now considered wrong. Or pedophilia. Or rape. Or torture.

This is of course not true. The 20th century has been the bloodiest century of all centuries. More people have been exterminated in the 20th century that in the 19th century combined. (40 million - Mao Zedong, Stalin 20 million, Hitler 6 million just to name a few).

Samuel Skinner: What does that mean? You make Jesus sound like a used car salesman.

My apologies. It means this: you have come to end of all your own righteousness, all your own goodness, all your own religiosity, all your own “churchianity”, all your own efforts, and you say there's nothing in it, it's refuse, it’s dung, and you rest entirely on the Lord Jesus Christ, alone, who died for the transgressions of those who would believe in Him.

CR said...

sorry, left out the part of Samuel's last question on what does it mean to lay your sins on Jesus.

Samuel Skinner said...

"We should reduce the number of doctors performing abortions. By any means necessary. "

Which is what some people actually do. However this falls to account for the fact that you can perform abortions yourself- it is just much more dangerous.

Plus that involves murder and if murder of infants is wrong, so is murder of doctors. By contrast homosexuality requires no murder. All you need to do is segregate individuals by gender to encourage situational bisexuality and eliminate the stigma. You could get the same effect if people didn't have vaginal sex, but I have little doubt someone somewhere would screw that up.

" in that they are both purely pragmatic. "

You say that like it is a bad thing. If you think abortion is the equivalent of murder... well, I don't see how being pragmatic to protect people's lives in wrong.

"I'm guessing you're a believer in pragmatism,"

There is an alternative to pragmatism? How can you justify letting people die so that your hands are clean? Isn't that like obedience to an immoral state?

""The ends justifies the means" doesn't work in Christianity,"

Where is that stated in Christianity? Judaism accepts the end (saving peoples lives) justifies the means (breaking the rules). In fact it requires it.

"Human life is valuable above all else because man is created in God's image."

That only means it is valuable to God- it has no relationship of the value of humans to each other.

" A living being counts because of its relationship to God."

So if we create life independantly from God it has no value? Lets hope we never make AIs and give them access to the internet- they might take such a stand... poorly.

" on what basis do you claim an absolute standard?"

My claim is

-People share a goal
-The goal is arbitrary
-However, people value it and term it morality
-While the goal is arbitrary, methods of achieving it are not
-Given the constraints of reality there is a best way to achieve said goal

"Why should my random molecules believe your random molecules about a standard?"

They have no reason. Your cells on the other hand do as they benefit- namely they get to keep being cells longer if everyone acts morally.

CR said...

Ken: Our moral intuitions tell us that it is wrong to be held guilty or culpable for what someone else has done. These intuitions according to your theology come from the belief that we are made in the image of God. Even small children have this notion."

Actually, this teaching is in line with the OT teaching on sacrifices. Christ's atonement parallels everything that is taught in the OT about priests making animal sacrifices.

Specifically, to your point that someone be held culpable for what someone else has done to which the reply is, that when an innocent person volunteers takes upon himself the sins of others and asks God tp put on him, and punish in him, there is actually no injustice at all. This was the great decision of the eternal Godhead between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There was perfect agreement and therefore no injustice.

Ken: So, as I pointed out to Phil and several others, your theology is that whatever God does equals good.

Whatever God does is holy because He is holy. His hatred and separation of sin and all that is evil. He is many other things including good, but first and foremost he is holy.

Ken: My question is how do you know that your God is good? My guess is you would say because the Bible says so. Can you not see that is just circular reasoning?.

It's not circular reasoning. The only reliable source of truth we have of God is the Holy Scriptures.

Ken: As for the idea of eternal punishment, this was one of many things that led me to eventually forsake my evangelical faith. Imagine the worst human being you could think of, perhaps Adolf Hitler? We would all agree that he ought to be punished. We might even agree that he ought to be tortured. But would we torture him forever and ever without end?

You're not understanding to whom the sin is primarily done against. In your example, the sin is horrible against the Jews, but the sin is primarily done against God who is an infinite being.

For example, if I ran into Frank Turk, and decided to throw a water balloon to his face or throw a pebble, well, I mean, that's bad, not cool, Frank could probably let it slide. If went to manager's office and decided to pour the coffee from the coffee pot to her lap - well, now, we're getting a little bit serious. Probably lose my job. If I decided to throw a bucket of water on the Governator's stogy, bigger problem. If I decided to throw a rock against President Obama's motorcade, now, we're talking serious. Secret Service would be let loose and if caught I would be thrown in the slammer.
You have to think about to whom the sin is being done to.
Sin against an infinite God, that deserves infinite punishment. And only Christ could endure such an infinite punishment.

Samuel Skinner said...

"when an innocent person volunteers takes upon himself the sins of others and asks God tp put on him, and punish in him, there is actually no injustice at all."

The injustice is that sin has to be punished at all.

"It's not circular reasoning. The only reliable source of truth we have of God is the Holy Scriptures. "

God is supposed to have created the heavens and the Earth- how is there image not a reliable source of information about him as well?

"You have to think about to whom the sin is being done to.
Sin against an infinite God, that deserves infinite punishment. "

Actually the reason for escalating punishment is because it is suspected you are trying to kill them the higher up you go. God doesn't have that excuse.

There are cases where pranks have been performed against politicians without major reaction- however, it only works when the individual does not have power or fame.

God, not having to deal with death threats or assassination attempts doesn't really have that excuse.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

CR: "For example, if I ran into Frank Turk, and decided to throw a water balloon to his face or throw a pebble, well, I mean, that's bad, not cool, Frank could probably let it slide."

CR, I'll give you 5 bucks if you chuck a grapefruit-sized water balloon at Frank Turk's face and it bursts and drenches him.

Send the video to America's Funniest Home Videos and you might even get more money.

;-)

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Frank,
I don't claim to be agnostic about every proposition only those that involve ultimate realities. I mentioned the three ways of verifying the truth of various propositions. For example, if my wife says: "It is raining outside." How do I verify it? I step outside and see. If what I see and feel corresponds (the correspondence theory) to the accepted definitions of what constitutes rain, then I accept her proposition as true. If she says: "The lawnmower needs to be brought inside or it will rust in the rain." How do I know if her proposition is true? I know from past knowledge that if metal gets wet it will rust. Her statement coheres (the coherence theory) with other accepted and verified beliefs. If she says: "If you put a tarp over the lawnmower, it won't get wet." How do I know if that is a true proposition? I put a tarp over the lawnmower and wait till it stops raining and then see if the lawnmower is wet. If putting the tarp over the mower works (the pragmatic theory), then I know that her proposition was true. However, if she says: "God is sending the rain." How can I verify it? I can't. Thus, I am agnostic about that proposition.
Now, do I need to believe in a deity in order to verify any of the four propositions above? Yes, the 4th one but not the first three.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

CR,

You say: that when an innocent person volunteers takes upon himself the sins of others and asks God tp put on him, and punish in him, there is actually no injustice at all. This was the great decision of the eternal Godhead between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There was perfect agreement and therefore no injustice.

Essentially what you are saying is that because God "decided" (an impossibility for an omniscient being, but nevertheless) that it was just to punish an innocent in place of the guilty, then it must be okay. That is the same answer Phil and others have given as to why the Canaanite genocide was okay--God commanded it and since we have already presupposed that whatever God does must be right, therefore, the genocides were right and the punishing of an innocent is right.

The fact remains that both of these actions run counter to the moral sensibilities that we all possess. Your theology says those sensibilities come from God himself. So in your theological system, you have a contradiction. I therefore conclude that your theological system is in error. Phil tried to mitigate this by saying that the image of God in man is damaged as a result of the fall. Fine, but Romans 2:14-15 says that even after the fall, man still recognizes what is right and what is wrong. We recognize its wrong to kill infants and we recognize its wrong to punish an innocent person.

Now, if you folks were a little more sophisticated theologically, you would be telling me that the doctrine of imputation solves the dilemma of how Jesus could be justly punished. Well, I have thought about that one too and it is full of problems.

CR says: Whatever God does is holy because He is holy. His hatred and separation of sin and all that is evil. He is many other things including good, but first and foremost he is holy.
It is not circular reasoning. The only reliable source of truth we have of God is the Holy Scriptures.


So, you know that God is good because the Bible tells you so. How do you know the Bible is true?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

CR says: You have to think about to whom the sin is being done to. Sin against an infinite God, that deserves infinite punishment. And only Christ could endure such an infinite punishment.

I actually used this line of reasoning when I taught Theology. It was one of the "pat answers" that I had learned from evangelical theologians. However, when I thought about it deeply, I found it unconvincing. If you sin against me (i.e., hit me with a water balloon), I am justified in paying you back in someway (i.e., getting even). No one would fault me if I sprayed you with a water hose or something similar. However, I could also just choose to do nothing to you. Many people would say that it would be higher moral virtue for one to forgive without "getting even." But I would be justified in doing either of the two things. However, if I pulled out a gun and shot you dead, everyone would say that was unjustified. That would be punishment that exceeded the crime.

Now, lets escalate the situation and say that I hit President Obama with a water balloon. Yes, I am going to be in deep trouble because the Secret Service may shoot and kill me before they realize that I am only throwing a water balloon and not a bomb. If they did that they would be justified, but only because they are not omniscient, if they knew before they shot that I only had a water balloon they would not be justified in shooting me. Why? Because a water balloon poses no real danger to the President. Now, I would still get arrested and punished in some fashion, simply because he is the President and we cannot allow people to go around throwing water balloons in his face.

Now, lets think about man's sins against God. How do they put him in danger? How do they hurt him? Why does someone need to be punished so severely simply because they did not believe in Him?

misty said...

Ken, Skinner,

I will concede that you two are at the head of the class, the self-appointed kings of flawless logic, but at best that only means you have "A"s in Finite Logic. God is an infinite being - wouldn't that mean He uses infinite logic? And if He uses infinite logic, how can you employ your finite logic to understand His infinite logic?

That's what I was getting at when I asked, "How do you know how a divine revelation should read?" If you're not God (despite thinking you are) how would you know how God would reveal His Word? And maybe some of those "pat answers" seem so pat to you because your finite brains can't comprehend infinite logic. Maybe it's not "circular reasoning" after all.

That brings me to another question: how does the fact that men put together the Bible canon make the Bible less true? None of us is claiming the Bible fell out of the sky - inspired men did write it. If you study how they put the canon together you will find it was done quite logically, putting likes with likes and such. So how does that make it untrue? Men put together science books and history books, too - you don't seem to have a problem with that.

And speaking of truth, why should we be ashamed of believing a book written by ancient men (I'm refering to an earlier comment by Ken)? If truth is truth, what difference does it make that the men who wrote it died a really, really long time ago? Are you suggesting that you two, the Mighty Men of 21st Century Logic, are in possession of all the truth? Could it be possible that we, the Theologically Unsophisticated Dodo-Heads, have discerned that the truth these ancient men wrote down is still true?

It's funny, because when it suits you, you bring out your own ancient men to prove your points (i.e. the Euthyphro dilemma), claiming their truths to be eternal, but you make fun of us for doing the same. So is this just an Our Ancient Men vs. Your Ancient Men contest?

How illogical.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Misty,

I really don't think using insulting language is helpful to your position.

I am not saying that the Bible is wrong because it was written by ancient man. I am saying that it reads like one would expect a document written by ancient man to read. There is nothing in it to make me think its origin is divine.

I don't think you are any other fundamentalist Christian is a "Dodo head." Some of the smartest people I have known were fundamentalist Christians. However, I also have known a lot of really smart Mormons and I used to wonder, how can such a smart person believe something that is obviously non-sensical. I also know very smart people who are Roman Catholics. The fact is that as Michael Shermer has said: "smart people can believe weird things."

And I am not claiming that I have all knowledge but if your God is real, he created me with a brain. What I am supposed to do, just pretend there are no problems? Some people can do that but I can't.

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