November 3, 2016 § 2 Comments
Many Chicago Cubs fans would say a curse was lifted late last night when their team won the World Series for the first time since 1908. The “Curse of the Billy Goat”(1) dates back to the 1945 World Series, when the Cubs were in game four leading the Detroit Tigers two games to one. William Sianis, owner of the local Billy Goat Tavern, tried to bring his pet goat to the game (he had two tickets). Wrigley Field told William his stinky goat was not welcome, and William pronounces the curse: “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs went on to lose that game and the series, never to see another post-season victory. Until last night, at 11:47pm Iowa time, with game 7 against the Cleveland Indians going into extra innings, when a Cubs victory broke the curse(2).
This was a welcome ending to our November 2nd, 2016, a day that began with news of the ambush-style murder of two Des Moines-area police officers(3) shortly after 1:00am. We’ve been lamenting the news of cops getting killed all over the nation, and yesterday it hit home. It was a day of mourning, of bringing flowers and other notes of appreciation to local police stations, of hugs and tears at two flower-covered street corners, of blue stripes and lights appearing on cars and houses across the city, of churches(4) like ours canceling normal Wednesday services and opening their doors for a hurting community to come and pray.
Thankfully, the alleged shooter was caught and neighbors came together to support one another, but the evil behind the killing of Des Moines Police Sgt. Tony Beminio and Urbandale Officer Justin Martin is a reflection of another curse. Genesis 3 tells us about the curse over creation brought on by sin at the dawn of creation. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)
I don’t want a comparison of the curse of sin to the “Curse of the Billy Goat” to make light of those fallen officers. A World Series win can’t bring them back. But maybe the Cubs’ day-ending and curse-ending victory could serve to remind us of the hope we have in Christ and God’s promises to us. Sin is the most serious business there is, and the evil and suffering brought by Adam’s sin in the beginning is part of a curse which will one day meet an end. The suffering of Christ for the sin that cursed creation will in the end heal it and renew it. “And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” (Revelation 21:5).
The truth of God’s Word bookends history; the tragedy that began the day of mankind will be made right by day’s end. In the midst of a broken and groaning world, we are “more than victorious” (Romans 8:37) with our trust placed in Jesus Christ, the one who has already proclaimed victory over sin and death. That’s a promise worth celebrating now.
January 25, 2016 § Leave a comment
A video attempting to address the Problem of Evil(1) prompted a Facebook comment from an atheist I’ve encountered before. Below is a brief conversation that followed.
He looks so proud of coming up with such a bad argument!
Cheesy video, and maybe an unfair dig against hippie hairstyles, but a good illustration. Whether the problem is “too much” evil and suffering (as the barber complains) or any evil and suffering at all, neither is evidence against the God described in the Bible.
First, objective evil (the only kind worth complaining about) only makes sense in light of objective good, which doesn’t make sense on atheism. Second, a good God creating humans with freedom to choose could not prevent our sin (the root cause of the world’s evil and suffering) without preventing our freedom to choose, and nobody’s okay with that idea.
And even if the world’s evil and suffering were a tiny fraction of what it is, the barber would still complain(2). God’s plan of redemption in Jesus Christ includes making all things new, so one day evil and suffering will be gone. The days the barber chooses to spend complaining and disbelieving are days that a good God has graciously given him as more time to come to repentance and faith (2 Peter 3:9).
You’re not going to be able to dismiss the Problem of Evil that easily…even the most prominent Christian apologists can[‘t] explain it away. As C.S. Lewis conceded, it’s the most powerful argument against the Christian god.
The problem of evil is not “easy”. That’s why it’s a “problem.” But a problem is something to think about and work through, not to discard because it’s a problem (like this list of unsolved problems in all types of fields of study(3)).
There are no “easy” answers because we’re the ones who see and often experience evil and suffering. C.S. Lewis knew it wasn’t easy but knew the logic behind it was sound, that freedom to love requires the freedom to do evil, which he summarized very effectively in The Case for Christianity:
“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”
Even though it makes perfect sense why there is such things wrong with the world, it’s a problem because we don’t know why “we” or why “they” suffer the particular way that they do. It’s personal, so of course we don’t like it. But it also makes sense that we wouldn’t be able to fully know the mind of God and His ultimate plan for eternal good that can involve our temporary pain (like the pain of surgery in light of a better life afterwards).
God has an answer in redeeming evil through His Son, because He is a personal God that knows and loves us, desiring to save us from what are in the end the consequences of our own sin.
Most arguments for atheism based on the problem of evil assume a God who is not personal (deism) and just doesn’t care to intervene, or that He is just plain mean. Neither fit the description of the God of the Bible.
Have a great day!
I’ll counter with two words that have nothing to do with personal choice or ‘sin’: bacteria and earthquakes. Yet cause unmeasurable pain and suffering.
Actually, they are linked to sin. After their disobedience, God told Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you.” (Gen. 3:17) and Paul writes that “the whole creation has been groaning” as a result of man’s sin and “waits eagerly” for redemption (Rom. 8:19-22). The corruptive effects of sin reach everywhere in nature, which God created “good” to begin with (Gen. 1:31). Ninety percent of all bacteria are still good, non-pathogenic and necessary, but some became harmful to humans after the Fall. Likewise, most earthquakes are still harmless and too small to be detected without sophisticated seismography, and they were likely a non-issue before a cursed creation. We shouldn’t expect to know why God allows certain things to happen and how He works natural disasters or disease for ultimate good. But how much less natural disaster or disease would satisfy? And how do we know God hasn’t prevented many more disasters and disease? It seems He’s kept harmful bacteria at a mere 10% and stabilized the earth’s crust sufficiently that most earthquakes are non-destructive.
Well, I guess if you believe that all the problems in the world are the result of one bite of a fruit, then we are just going to have to disagree. There’s not much more I can say if you are just going to suspend reason like that.
That is a pretty common sentiment among atheists, but atheism is the cause of that sentiment, not the result. If there is no God, the only law we can break is our own, and “small” sins are no big deal because the foundation for authority is relatively small. If I were to, say, tell a lie to an infant, there would be virtually no consequences for me. If I tell a lie to my older child, I may lose his trust. If I lie to my wife, I may lose her trust and get banished to the couch. If I lie to my boss, I may get fired. If I lie to the government, I could face fines or prison. If God exists, He is infinitely higher in authority than any power on earth. Even a “small” sin like eating of the one tree God commanded Adam and Eve not to, a decision actually rooted in pride, arrogance and disobedience, is severe when all sin is an offense against an infinite Creator who wrote moral law on our hearts (and without whom all moral assessment is arbitrary and meaningless anyway). It’s not about the size of the sin, but the sovereignty of who we are sinning against. Sin is sin to God, and “all have sinned and fall short.”
But thank you for the discussion, I always learn something and appreciate you taking the time. I hope you have a good week.
(Related post: Too Much Evil and Suffering in the World?)
November 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
To be clear, Robert Lewis Dear shot and killed 3 people and injured 9 others at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic on Friday, November 27th, 2015.
To be clear, the impulse to immediately politicize the crime as it unfolds is wrong, whether it’s pro-lifers (or “anti-choice”) celebrating the shooting or supporters of abortion (or “pro-choice”) capitalizing on the tragedy as a Planned Parenthood fundraising opportunity.
To be clear, contrary to some reports, Dear was not a Christian, which is evident in his premeditated, murderous actions. “By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:16)
To be clear, the only one on the scene who was evidently a Christian, at least so far, was 44-year-old veteran police officer Garrett Swasey, one of the first officers to respond. Swasey was an elder at an evangelical church and was “described by his fellow church members and friends as a courageous man and loving father who drew strength and inspiration from his Christian faith.” He was killed at the scene, sacrificing his life without hesitation for those inside. A co-pastor of Swasey’s for 15 years “noted that although Officer Swasey would disagree with the abortion industry, it would not have been a factor in his actions on Friday. ‘He was there to save lives. That’s the kind of guy he is.’”(1)
To be clear, the other victims at the scene deserve recognition too. The two civilians killed at Planned Parenthood were not publicly identified until late 11/29: They are 29 year old veteran Ke’Arre Marcell Stewart, a DJ, entrepreneur, and father of two children, and Jennifer Tarkovsky, a 35 year old Hawai’i native and mother of two. The unborn killed at the site are also due recognition, but will likely never be named.
To be clear, whether Dear makes conservative claims, is sympathetic to the pro-life movement, or identifies himself as a Christian (all of which are contradicted by his actions), his behavior does not reflect the vast majority of conservatives, pro-lifers or even nominal Christians. And if Dear is found to have identified as an “independent female” or a liberal or a martian, the vast majority of those groups are not reflected in his behavior either.
To be clear, what Dear did was murder. It doesn’t matter if Dear considers himself a Democrat or Republican, Christian or Atheist. He killed 3 people, and that was evil.
To be clear, abortion is also murder, but the fact that Planned Parenthood supplies abortions does not justify violence against its doctors, clinics or patients. Pro-life means exactly that.
To be clear, Dear’s apparent mental illness does not excuse him from moral culpability. He had the mental capacity to plan and carry out his crime and he is able to take responsibility for it. We can’t blame gun laws, climate change, the GOP, or the growing opposition to abortion for Dear’s sin.
To be clear, the church needs to act as Garrett Swasey did and purpose to be a vehicle of selfless love, action and clarity in the face of tragedy.
December 15, 2012 § 3 Comments
This is a discussion under a Facebook post calling for a focus on mental health reform following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th, where 27 people, 20 of them children, died at the hands of a lone gunman. The comments reflect different ideas on the root of the problem of such heinous crimes.
Let’s get down to it people. This country needs renewed focus on mental health. There is a serious problem here that won’t be solved by wishing, giving or taking. This heinous crime was committed by a psychopath.
That’s true. Try to stop it at its source.
They’re closing all the mental health institutions due to budget constraints. This is what we get?
Maybe so, but it is greater than that. It starts at home. Greater consequences for a start. There is a world of knowledge available, and the signs of psychopathic behavior are freely listed and available to know, and act upon.
Does heinous crime come from being mentally ill, or do we decide he is mentally because he committed such a heinous crime?
I have to be honest, I don’t think there is a solution to this. Psychopaths exist. They do not empathize normally. They blend within our society, and are adept at manipulation so they may escape detection even within the aid of mental health professionals.
Modern science and psychiatry needs to be enlisted to determine what makes them take the move from desire or thought to planning and action.
But… That won’t happen. A sufficient enough part of the population has already made this their political rallying cry, or blamed the cause on a supernatural evil, or just can’t look because it hurts.
Mike, the nature of the crime… He killed his parents, then children at where his mother works in a premeditated manner, leads on to believe he lacks basic human empathy and has penchant for violence against the most defenseless.
I don’t see how it could be said any other way than a mentally ill psychopathic person acted upon that illness or the effects of that illness to commit the acts he did.
I agree that we won’t get to a solution the way we’re going, refusing to recognize evil for what it is: simply evil.
What is the threshold someone like this (whose name I’ve intentionally forgotten to rob him of any more fame) crosses that makes him the victim of a sickness rather than an instigator of evil to a high degree? Were the 9/11 bombers all merely sick? As you said, the act was premeditated. This crime was calculated and planned by a clear and morally responsible mind. A mindless drone acting on the effects of a clinical condition couldn’t have pulled it off. It’s so evil, we would rather think there is some cause we could isolate and treat with psychotherapy or a pill.
I don’t think there is healthy thought and desire behind a barrier of unhealthy planning and action. Each flows into the next.
We can’t blame his upbringing, or economics, or dismiss sin as a sickness we don’t carry responsibility for. If sin is a sickness, it’s self-inflicted.
I believe we will be learning more about this in upcoming days and weeks.
I am sure it will become clearer what made him a monster.
Exactly Mike. No one in today’s society can simplify it to that. There are some people who are just evil End of story. No doctor or social worker is going to help. The only thing we can do is protect our selves and our loved ones and get to know the people around us. Start talking to people again instead of texting and e-mailing. Start getting to know your neighbors and report the out of the ordinary…Stop avoiding and being politically correct.
I am with both David and Mike on this one. I think mental illness IS real, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to the extreme, horrifying ends witnessed yesterday; in fact, mental illness generally decays its victims slowly and often with little outside observation or, God forbid, acknowledgement from people affected by it themselves. It is a tragic disease that needs more, not less, attention in our society. That said, evil (and grace, and we often forget that) indeed exists in the world as well. That acts of evil is a manifest of sin itself, and I believe both extreme mental illness and evil were married together in yesterday’s news. Also think Edwin’s right…regardless of belief, we ALL need to know our neighbor’s better. Put the Smartphone down, and go next door to say “hello”…
Yes, this guy’s story will unfold in the days to come I’m sure, a story that began in Genesis 3. I think the corrupting effects of sin in the world are far reaching (Romans 5 and 8:22), that “creation groans”, even in the form of very real mental illness. But truly, we’re all messed up and need a Savior from what we saw yesterday.
Great thoughts. For me, the love for neighbor starts with the reality of sin and and its effects. But we’d all be better off to get in touch with people. Will be spending some quality time with my wife and son today, perhaps more than usual given yesterday’s events.
This society inspires crazy. Religion and belief can and do contribute to this, as well as the zeitgeist, and the simple fact that man is on the top of the food chain. We just make more of us us as it is to other animals.
The prisons are not filled with athiests.
We need to look at how we do things differently than other societies that are not subject to the same ills to find out what we have done to ourselves.
There is no supernatural element here, nor need for one to explain this, nor evidence that a supernatural element would have prevented this.
Again… Our overcrowded prison system is not full of athiests. Shouldn’t it be? Why not? Where is all the “evil” coming from? The answers I have heard are all a bit too contrived, and convenient.
Prisons are filled with people who do evil. Prisons are not filled with atheists simply because you don’t need to be an atheist to do evil. Evil doesn’t come from atheism, it comes from being human. Humans are created in the image of a moral law-giving God (Gen. 1:27), and we know good and evil innately (Rom. 2:15). We’re all made with a free will that can choose evil (Gen. 3).
Evil is universally recognizable. What person, atheist or not, will deny this murder spree was just plain evil, without putting it in “quotes”? Evil is an objective reality that is the absence of good (another objective reality). We all live as if moral good and evil are objective reality, atheist or not.
Nature obviously can’t explain the existence of evil. If the moral law that says the unprovoked slaughter of innocent children is wrong was conceived by people, we ought to find an abundance of people who think that such a thing is morally good, and that’s unheard of. Such a crime would be viewed as a crime regardless of who did it, where, or when it was done. The obvious alternative then is super (outside of) natural. God’s transcendent moral law is what we are all made to regard.
I’m not sure where you would find “societies that are not subject to the same ills”… Less crime, perhaps, but no one lives in a sinless country where the same type of tragedy couldn’t happen. Sin is the common denominator. I can’t prove the Biblical God as the source of objective morality—no more than the atheist can show evolution or something else as a source—it must be accepted on faith. But when God-given morality is accepted, it makes perfect sense of good and evil, whereas the alternatives don’t.
David, changing the topic to avoid the issue
I am totally 100% cool with anything anyone believes that does no harm.
What I am not cool with is getting battered with bible verses, or an acceptance of a “truth” without evidence, a hijacking of a culture based upon cult of personality. I also have no interest in changing the beliefs of others. Keep it away from me, and especially from my child.
Find your path and follow it, preferably respectfully. I am on my path.
Well, there’s the dismissal I was anticipating. If I quote no scripture save a few references, yet you feel “battered with Bible verses”, it may just be that you feel a bit threatened by the truth projected. Just a theory. 😉
Truly I mean no disrespect and certainly no harm, but I’m willing to sign off here to avoid giving that impression. Just know that we’re kidding ourselves if we say we have no hopes of changing anyone else’s view about good and evil and what is true (in fact your posts do the same).
Mike, we all have a threshold for annoyance, ad-infinitum twisted repetitive arguments. You are confusing it with feeling threatened. We not in the flock get bombarded with this every day… on the internet, at work, from family. I am sure you just feel great when you hear about Scientology, or Mormons, or whatever that comes around you that you don’t believe in.
I don’t care what people see or view. I prefer to gather with like minds and to observe those who think differently. If I want a bible verse, I will find a bible and read it. But, actually reading it got me where I am today, with the help of some of that good ole repetitive annoyance I wrote about above.
You keep doing you, Mike… but you either do not know where the threshold is, or don’t care. Can’t swing at someone and follow with “just kidding”… so, I think you did mean to disrespect.
So, congrats. I am amazingly hard to insult these days… but you persevered.
Thankfully, man is not the sum of his ideas. The call to love and respect people God created doesn’t apply to the ideas they may come by, which whenever presented are always open for scrutiny, challenge, and reasoned debate, and they will stand or fall by the same.
Non ad hominem. David I love and respect.
June 1, 2012 § Leave a comment
While debating the moral argument for God from the question I posed: “Do Atheists Judge God’s Morality?” at AskAnAtheist.wordpress.com, (you can also read that debate here), this debate happened. It follows the same type of discussion but later focuses on the problem of evil and suffering, often the biggest deterrent an atheist sees to accepting the reality of God.
Forget the bible and god which are created by humans. Look around and it is usually obvious what is right and what is wrong. A good guide is provided by Buddhism which is a non-theistic path – if it causes more suffering it is wrong; if it relieves suffering and leads to happiness it is right. The Buddha insisted you make your own mind up. Slavish observance of holy books leads to mega ****loads of suffering therefore…..
Bad answer, ‘cos it challenges your brainwashed views? Bad answer ‘cos it pulls open your blinkers ? Or maybe bad answer ‘cos it is true.
I’m guessing ‘bad answer’ because it really isn’t an answer or a challenge to theism. You say morality is obvious (correct) but say nothing to account for its source. You say Buddhism is a “good guide” but offer no foundation for “good.”
And suffering does not necessarily equate to evil. There is pain and suffering in childbirth, healing, some forms of exercise, and telling and hearing the truth, and these are good things. There can be happiness in painless activities such as lying, adopting ignorance, smoking weed, or murdering someone with chloroform, and these are obviously wrong.
>You say Buddhism is a “good guide” but offer no foundation for “good.”
Atheists don’t have to provide an alternative to theistic morality. We can and do, but that is irrelevant to whether God provides a basis for morality.
>And suffering does not necessarily equate to evil. There is pain and suffering in childbirth, healing, some forms of exercise, and telling and hearing the truth, and these are good things.
They are only good things when they are necessary to achieve a greater good. An omnipotent God would never have to use suffering. He could accomplish any logically possible end via any logically possible means.
We know he left many horrors out of creation. It seems he could have omitted one more. If he could have created a kinder world and just didn’t, then that is chilling. It seems he just likes suffering.
“Atheists don’t have to provide an alternative to theistic morality. We can and do, but that is irrelevant to whether God provides a basis for morality.”
But in the attempt, an atheistic basis for morality is incoherent. The only logical source for morality is something that would have to be remarkably similar to the God described in the Bible, if not God Himself. As I’ve argued above, (Dec. 7 post), and the point of this thread, the mere fact that you pass moral judgment on the character of the Christian God shows that you already assume your moral obligations have enough scope and immutability and authority to actually obligate God. Can you do otherwise?
“An omnipotent God would never have to use suffering. He could accomplish any logically possible end via any logically possible means. We know he left many horrors out of creation. It seems he could have omitted one more. If he could have created a kinder world and just didn’t, then that is chilling. It seems he just likes suffering.”
This was a “kinder world” when God created it (Gen. 1). It was mankind who sinned by choosing to rebel against God’s good moral law. Is it “logically possible” to create man without a free will with which to make choices? Yes, but what kind of world would that be? In His omnipotence, God could intervene and stop our sin right before we do it by suddenly changing the course of our actions and thoughts when we are headed in the wrong direction. But what sort of maddening experience would that be, every hour of every day, waking up in a new place in spacetime with new thoughts? In His omniscience, He could logically prevent the desire from which sin always grows. But how miserable would we be without desire? God could remove everything and everybody in our lives that could tempt us and lead to evil desires. But since any thing and any person can be a temptation, what would be left?
Out of love, God made a “good” creation. Humans messed it up, and God, again out of love, provided a solution to our mess through the atoning sacrifice of His Son on the cross. And obviously suffering was a crucial part of that, but it passes your own requirement for acceptable suffering: It was “necessary to achieve a greater good”, which was redemption. This was the only suffering that pleased God.
OK. You can not show me this god that you posit. ( For he is imagined), but suffering is not imagined, and the world has plenty of that. Forget biblical ideas about ‘evil’. Buddhism asks you to look around and decide for your self. If something causes more suffering it is unskilful, if it reduces suffering, causes happiness and freedom, it is skilful. It is a simple but far reaching and profound basis for morality without divine intervention which, if we consider the history of theism has been a cause of immense suffering. ( One might even call that evil if one thought in these atavistic terms.)
>But in the attempt, an atheistic basis for morality is incoherent. The only logical source for morality is something that would have to be remarkably similar to the God described in the Bible, if not God Himself.
This is a good discussion to have, but it certainly is not a necessary conclusion. There are many candidates for naturalistic morality. But again, that has nothing to do with this thread.
>the mere fact that you pass moral judgment on the character of the Christian God shows that you already assume your moral obligations have enough scope and immutability and authority to actually obligate God.
No. I am arguing on Christianity. Yahweh fails to be loving under Christianity. He is sovereign and under no jurisdiction that could pronounce him good or evil. To say he is Good without applying an external standard is like saying Kim Jong Un is good. We can say that, and hope that every action he takes is the best possible thing for the country, but then good becomes meaningless. He can order opposite things and we would have to say they were both good.
So, either goodness does not apply to God, or we apply some standard of goodness to him and see how he measures up. Yahweh only measures up against an authoritarian standard that renders Goodness empty.
>This was a “kinder world” when God created it (Gen. 1). It was mankind who sinned by choosing to rebel against God’s good moral law.
Come now. Are you prepared to dump science? Do you accept that the world was a paradise before The Fall? If so, you render yourself unconversable on countless topics. But EVEN IF, this were true, God had some choice in what followed from The Fall. After The Fall, women didn’t start exploding during childbirth. Their pain was multiplied. God had choices. Thus, it seems that even if ALL the suffering was caused by The Fall, God still determined what is possible and what is not.
We can’t kill with our thoughts. God left this power out of creation. It seems he could have left more horrors out, say pediatric cancer.
Here’s a funny video that makes this point:
>Is it “logically possible” to create man without a free will with which to make choices?
Much suffering has nothing to do with human free will. EVEN IF it was ALL caused by human choices, it is not just for infants to suffer because of the sins of others.
>Humans messed it up
Horrendous animal suffering existed for eons before The Fall. EVEN IF we say it didn’t, we drop science and say that the lion lay down with the lamb in the pre-Cambrian, it would be unjust for an infant to suffer a birth defect for the sins of her ancestors.
>God, again out of love, provided a solution to our mess through the atoning sacrifice of His Son on the cross.
But he could have just forgiven us. The brutal spectacle of the cross was optional. Again, it seems he just chooses more bloody methods than he has to. He has options and excellent connections. He could have ‘saved’ us in any way at all.
It seems reasonable to say that an omnipotent God could have achieved all his aims with less suffering than we observe. If he couldn’t, if ALL of it is necessary, then God is locked in. He can’t answer prayer. He is more like a force of nature, a bystander to creation.
God either can’t or won’t reduce suffering further. And he could do it without infringing on our free will. Humans don’t have a bomb that can destroy the solar system. God set things up so that we haven’t discovered it yet, or it isn’t possible. He could have set things up so that we couldn’t have made nuclear weapons, without infringing on our free will. Hiroshima was made possible by God’s choices, too. With great power comes great responsibility.
Any conceivable god is weak, evil or absent.
” I am arguing on Christianity.”
As an atheist, you morally condemn God using morality that, according to your own worldview, can have no jurisdiction over Him. In that respect you are arguing from atheism (but making a pretty good case for theism).
On Christianity, God is beyond condemnation from anyone because He doesn’t reside below any moral law but also because He doesn’t contradict His own moral law. Any and all good comes from God as part of His nature. He didn’t decide to be good; good doesn’t exist apart from Him. There is no comparison to Kim Jong Un’s moral compass and God’s moral law, because Kim is a follower and God is ultimately the leader. Kim recognizes objective moral law and tries to follow it, often poorly, and can be shown to contradict himself. All humans fail at this at some point. God cannot be shown to contradict Himself. It is reasonable to think that moral law has an external origin (Christianity claims it comes from God) but there is no reason to assume that God would need some external standard to pronounce Him good. Then we’re on to an infinite regress.
There is really nothing that shows we have to “dump science” to accept a historical Genesis account as there is plenty of conversation out there about that, most of which will be way off topic here. The Bible makes clear that man’s sin began with the fall in Genesis 3, but there was probably a certain amount of pain before then. I don’t think we can blame all pain and suffering on sin. Adam may have stepped on a stick, and Eve’s pain during childbirth “increased”,; it didn’t suddenly appear. Much more pain and suffering is present in the world because of the decaying effects of sin and we often react to it sinfully. God didn’t create cancer; cancerous cells are most likely a biological effect of sin—not necessarily directly the sin of the one with cancer, but the sinful condition of the world (Romans 8:19-22).
And of course God retains the ability to choose, but He clearly allows us the ability to choose between right and wrong. And God rightly judges and must punish sin, of which pain and suffering is often part of those consequences. Is it fair for sin to go unpunished? Justice is something we all crave because we are made in the image of a just God. It’s a logical absurdity to expect God to deal with some sins and forgive other sins. He couldn’t “have ‘saved’ us in any way at all” because logic is also a part of His nature—He cannot arbitrarily ignore sin and still be just. The very nature of justice is that payment is made for crime, by someone. The only payment that could be made for all sin perfectly is the blood of a perfect sacrifice. Only God is perfect and sinless and therefore adequate payment.
Thanks for the video link. It fails however because it completely ignores the reality of sin and its role in pain and suffering—God allows evil in that He allows us freedom to choose good or evil. The God represented in the video isn’t true to the Biblical form. And to suggest that if “Mr. Deity” allowed disease and natural disasters then no one would believe in Him doesn’t square with the present reality of a world that is conservatively 90% theistic, in spite of disease and natural disasters. But yes, it was funny. 🙂
I’ve explained why God just couldn’t logically set up the world in some way that doesn’t take away both our opportunity to sin and our freedom. It’s true that children often suffer from no direct action of their own, and I admit there is no easy way to talk about that. But sin always has consequences that affect others, and we expect that. If the CEO of a company goes to jail for insider trading, the company may suffer and jobs may be lost as a result his choices. We then blame the CEO and his sin rather than the system of cause and effect that is a necessary reality. If God is the Creator and Author of life, He has the right to allow life and to allow it to be taken away. He could have morally good reasons for doing so according to a plan that we should have no expectation as finite humans to be able to know or foresee.
“God either can’t or won’t reduce suffering”.
God does reveal enough of His plan, which involves redemption (John 3:16) and a new creation (Rev. 21:1-4). This is the end of unneeded suffering. I understand that it’s hard to see past all that is wrong with the world now. It may seem easier to say any conceivable god is weak, evil or absent. But weakness just doesn’t fit a God who created the universe, and evil doesn’t fit a God who represents good, and absence doesn’t fit a God everyone seems to want to talk about (and to) so much. Without power, goodness or presence I don’t think He would have the following He has, or at least without power and presence, wouldn’t be able to trick anyone into following Him. The good news about faith is that you don’t need 100% certainty to put it in something. Nobody has 100% certainty about crossing the street safely, yet we all take the steps, despite the fact that some don’t make it across alive. Faith requires reasonable belief.
” I am arguing on Christianity.” As an atheist, you morally condemn God using morality that, according to your own worldview, can have no jurisdiction over Him. In that respect you are arguing from atheism (but making a pretty good case for theism).
My worldview is irrelevant. Suppose Golda Meir was accused of murder and Hitler is the prosecuting attorney. His worldview would have no bearing on the case. He could present facts and definitions that would hold no matter what he thought. That’s what I’m doing. Comments about me are irrelevant.
I am pointing out contradictions within Christianity. Jesus told us to love God and our neighbor. But that requires us to love a God who does not love our neighbor as much as he could. The facts show that God could have created a kinder world and still reached all his aims. Thus, there is more suffering than is necessary for Him for any purpose.
>On Christianity, God is beyond condemnation from anyone because He doesn’t reside below any moral law
Yes, you can say this, but then Good loses all meaning. God is not Good in this scenario because there is no way to judge him to be Good. He is simply God, and if we follow him, we are following mere Power, not Goodness. He may not be evil. Goodness may simply not apply to him. But we can’t say he’s good, either.
>God cannot be shown to contradict Himself.
If God allows more suffering than is necessary, then he is not as Good as he could be. We know God left some horrors out of creation. It seems he could have omitted one more. There is no contradiction in a world without Stevens-Johnson syndrome, for example, yet there it is. God had something to do with that.
To keep God, we must admit he is not as loving as he could be and he plays favorites. I can’t follow such a God and love my neighbor, because following him requires that I sign on to a regime that could, with no effort at all, treat my fellows better, but simply doesn’t.
>there is no reason to assume that God would need some external standard to pronounce Him good.
For Goodness to have any meaning, there must be some standard. This is a general rule. Many victims of abuse say their abuser loves them no matter how he treats them. (This is Job’s situation.) If ‘love’ can mean anything, then it means nothing.
>cancerous cells are most likely a biological effect of sin—not necessarily directly the sin of the one with cancer, but the sinful condition of the world (Romans 8:19-22).
This is plainly unjustified scientifically, and it would be unfair even if it were true.
>Is it fair for sin to go unpunished?
Are you suggesting that having a child born without a brain is a suitable punishment for something? If we say it is, then Justice means nothing. 1,000 kids die every hour of starvation. The sheer amounts of suffering make a mockery of any notion that our world is Just. And if we say it is Just in some inscrutable way, then we are simply saying we don’t know HOW it is Just. This is the same as saying we don’t know IF it is Just. If Justice can mean anything, then it means nothing.
>He couldn’t “have ‘saved’ us in any way at all” because logic is also a part of His nature
There is nothing illogical in God doing something kinder than the Crucifixion. Pepsi can make its ads violent, sexy or soothing. They have choices, and so does God.
>It’s true that children often suffer from no direct action of their own, and I admit there is no easy way to talk about that.
This is all we need to cast doubt on God’s goodness. It boils down to our emphasis: do we place more weight on an invisible, disputed God, or the solid, incontrovertible agony of our fellows?
>But sin always has consequences that affect others
Give God some credit. He could be a perfect accountant and have set things up so that sin accrues, fairly and proportionately, to each sinner.
>If God is the Creator and Author of life, He has the right to allow life and to allow it to be taken away.
Ok, but then he is a tyrant. I have 3 kids, but I don’t have the right to kill them. Once a being is conscious, we don’t own them. If God uses kids for his purposes, then he is a sadistic psychopath, ESPECIALLY because it would never be necessary for him for any purpose. He could accomplish anything at all without using kids.
>redemption (John 3:16) and a new creation (Rev. 21:1-4). This is the end of unneeded suffering.
What is God waiting for? If he can end suffering, it seems sadistic to stand by for centuries letting some sort of script unfold.
Any legal judgment appeals to a higher law, so you’re right that personal views of right and wrong don’t really matter in that case. Any moral judgment also appeals to a higher law, correct? If not, then we are appealing to the very thing you imply should have no bearing on the case—our own worldview. And if moral judgment is an exception to that, then why? If relative morality is true, then no two person’s moral claims are guaranteed to be the same, and all claims are meaningless. I don’t think you believe that your claims are meaningless.
Clearly, we don’t live as if morality was conceived by humans. Morality presents itself as universal law over and above humanity. Christianity makes perfect sense of objective moral law, and atheism really doesn’t know what to do with it. The reason your worldview IS relevant is because your arguments are based on an atheistic worldview and are self-defeating. Your claim that God is immoral is grounded in objective moral law that couldn’t exist without God, or some other being that has many of God’s attributes, including the intelligence and transcendence to place His law on our hearts.
You are free to critique Christianity and morally condemn God for “not loving our neighbor as much as he could.” But in doing so you are obviously expecting any God to respect the same moral codes humans respect (or at least the ones you respect). If atheism is true, then any being outside of humanity cannot be held accountable to human law. If theism is true, then moral law would naturally be seen as something that is relevant to our understanding of God.
If Good comes from God, then good isn’t meaningless; God gives meaning to good. Isn’t the reason you reject an ultimate standard for good because you reject God? You hold the concept of God up to a human standard for good, (so you can’t really say “goodness may not apply to him”) and a human standard can have no logical jurisdiction over Him. Good has to come from somewhere, and if everyone uses it to measure God to discuss whether He is good or evil or something else, then on the level of God is where we would find the source of good.
Your note and your voice against Stevens-Johnson syndrome and other disease make a very compelling argument. You have my respect. I don’t have any love for the degree of suffering and death in the world either. You seem to have an ideal in mind of a degree of love and fairness we should expect from God, that He “does not love our neighbor as much as he could”; that “there is more suffering that is necessary”; that He “could have created a kinder world.”; that “He could have omitted one more” horror; that “He is not as good…” or “…loving as He could be”; that He should treat us “better”.
The fact is that everyone sins, whether we think that sin is big or small (1 John 1:18; Rom. 3:23). At what level on the severe-o-meter should God start judging? If God only judged sin according to the degree of the sin, how would you match the judgment to the severity of the sin? And how would you determine the severity of the sin? How could we know the severity of some sins that may seem smaller but have far-reaching and long-lasting effects? And how do we put sin-value on the murder of a homeless man who has no family or friends? Would that earn a more or less severe punishment than a boy whose mere words scar another boy for a lifetime? If a clerical error causes a murder to go free and he goes on killing, who is worse, the murderer or the clerk? I think this type of justice administration is much better suited for a omniscient God. It seems you expect such a God to handle this task with His goodness and justice, but you condemn Him, according to a human and therefore irrelevant system of morals, for not doing it “right”, trumping His infinite knowledge with your finite knowledge. Is this reasonable?
Even a newborn child, for which it’s hard to imagine disease as a fitting punishment, is infected with a sin nature. There are no easy answers for the mother of a child dead at birth or born with disease or deformity, but there are answers. A creator is an owner of that which he creates. Owning people is not immoral when it is God who owns them, because only the Creator has that right. If He owns us, He has the right to give and take away (Job 1:21). When we say He doesn’t own us, we imagine ourselves bigger than God. That much we can know and understand, but it’s by faith that we can trust God has good reasons for what He does that in the end outweigh the death or suffering we endure. And there’s no rational reason to expect that He would not have good reasons and therefore no contradiction in His character.
The “agony of our fellows” is undeniable, but your conclusions for the reason behind the agony is. Why make the assumption that a God who would create, provide a world for, seek fellowship with, and redeem human beings would also allow them to suffer for unjust purposes? I imagine that my 3 year old son assumes that all of our discipline is unjust. If I deny him a second cookie before dinner, put him in a time-out for hitting someone, or forcefully prevent him from running into the street, he will think that I’m unfair, that I could be kinder, that I’m not as good or loving as he thinks I should be. As a parent I know and see many things that he cannot. He won’t understand this until he’s older. I’m not comparing the discipline or correction of a child to grown-up suffering and death except to say that to a child who thinks he’s been treated unjustly, it is every bit of a tragedy as the ones adults experience. Most tragedies adults can get through without screaming or tantrums. Any God that fits His description in the Bible will have knowledge and foresight that we can’t possibly have and an ultimate plan we can’t possibly see. If we trust and obey God as a child should a father and accept His Son’s sacrifice as the solution to the sin that condemns us all, there is still no guarantee of a pain-free life on earth. But we are not relegated to a life, and more importantly an eternity, of isolation from our Creator and the potential joy that brings.
It’s obvious you have a very clear grasp of the amount of evil and pain in this world. God agrees that our pain is not the ideal, and there is of course cause to doubt—but it doesn’t have to end there. I suggest that it isn’t by reason that you reject God, but by your own will. You haven’t shown any real contradictions within Christianity and have actually helped prove the origin of morality to be well outside of human convention. I would recommend taking a look at Peter Kreeft’s Making Sense Out of Suffering, it’s very good. The question/answer format in your note reminded me of some of his style (he’s a fan of Socrates). There’s an audio by Dr. Kreeft which is along the same vein as his book. I listened to the first part, he gets into the good stuff pretty early on. Thanks for the discussion, I’ve enjoyed it. 🙂 Enjoy your weekend.
Having a limited awareness and knowledge does not apply in this case. Remember, there are two kinds of claims we make, analytic/relations of ideas (like ‘bachelors are unmarried’) and synthetic/matters of fact (like ‘all swans are white’).
We don’t need perfect knowledge to make the first type of statement. And we can’t be wrong about them. They follow from definitions.
I’m not making factual statements about God’s goodness. I’m evaluating ‘relations of ideas’: is he Good by a given definition.
And if we don’t evaluate him against a standard other than himself, Goodness loses all meaning.
Kreeft says “the protagonist must undergo suffering before the final triumph of good over evil. He urges us to view ourselves as protagonists in the midst of our own life stories. If good finally triumphs, as Christians believe, then the story is worthwhile, even with its inevitable suffering.”
Please notice the word “must”. Defenders of God use such words to constrain God’s great power. They want to say that even God is required to do certain things. I don’t know how they justify this, except to save God’s skin.
I can’t see why God humans “must’ undergo suffering. It seems that God could have ordained something involving less suffering and still achieved all his aims.
The answer, of course, is staring us in the face. We are animals living in the natural world. It appears that our world was not set up this way on purpose, and that is a huge relief. Otherwise we would live in a divine petri dish.
“Kreeft says ‘the protagonist must undergo suffering before the final triumph of good over evil…’ Please notice the word ‘must’.”
I don’t remember that part in Kreeft’s audio, but I don’t think it’s useful to get hung up on the word “must” when it seems that logic is what requires suffering. Because logic is part of who God is, of course He is bound to it. He cannot create freedom and not allow freedom to choose evil, because that potential exists in every single choice we make. Thankfully God chose not to create a world full of amoral robots, and if we had no freedom to choose I think we might wish for suffering in order to make freedom possible—if we even had the freedom to wish for something. Would a little less freedom be an amicable trade for a little less suffering? Would it be acceptable for God to remove almost all freedom in order to remove almost all suffering? A logical Creator created a universe where logic exists, and it’s no more reasonable to expect God to lessen suffering without lessening freedom than it is to expect Him to make a round square or a rock too heavy for Him to lift. It’s simply absurd.
To say we are merely animals and nature is all there is I think is the most unsatisfying answer because it only leads to more unanswerable questions: The most basic being the proposition that nature caused nature. What, then, made nature? Logically we need something supernatural to create something natural. The moral question is absolutely unanswerable on naturalism because absolutely every moral evaluation we make appeals to obligations that could not possibly have evolved. At least the maltheist or misotheist could point to a basis of God’s moral law to condemn God. Moral evolution would create relativistic rules that simply don’t apply to God or anyone else for that matter. Of course even if we could explain life without God, we would still have suffering and death, but no hope for overcoming either.
In your animal farm note you wrote that if God exists, we’re screwed. But if you imagine that the God described in the Bible exists, then you ought to imagine that how the Bible portrays Him is also true. There is nothing Biblical that suggests we are merely a science project for Him to observe and squash when He’s finished. “He must also be good, fair, just and loving,” and the Bible says He is (Jer. 29:11; Ps. 19:9; 1 John 4:16). Although “fairness” would mean we got what we deserved, and as sinners we deserve death, which God offers salvation from. So I’ll give you that God is not fair. If God exists as He is described in the Bible, then we can’t really say that hell is on earth, that God saves based on our getting on His good side, or that suffering is the result of divine meanness. Christianity doesn’t actually teach that. On Christianity, there is no way humans can fully comprehend God (1 Cor. 2:11). That means that in order to conclude that God is not good and suffering is unnecessary, you must claim to know the mind and plan of God, or that you’re talking about a different god.
> He cannot create freedom and not allow freedom to choose evil, , because that potential exists in every single choice we make.
Not all evil is due to human choices. That is ‘moral evil’. We still have ‘natural evil’. Natural evil seems due to natural law, which God set up. If he had any choice in the matter, it seems he set up this world to be more brutal than he could have.
>Logically we need something supernatural to create something natural.
We don’t know for sure this is a necessary relation. It’s a good discussion to have, but there’s no contradiction in saying a natural world could exist without a supernatural one.
>The moral question is absolutely unanswerable on naturalism because absolutely every moral evaluation we make appeals to obligations that could not possibly have evolved.
Do you claim that morals are actually IMPOSSIBLE on naturalism? That’s a strong claim. There are many naturalistic approaches to morality. The best ones in my opinion follow from our evolution as social animals. If you don’t find them satisfying, that’s one thing. But it’s much harder to say that they aren’t ‘moralities’.
At any rate, this has nothing to do with whether God is Good. Atheists just don’t have to provide an alternative to theistic morality to show that theistic morality fails. We can show that it is authoritarian (and thus amoral), contradictory, bogus or incoherent.
>as sinners we deserve death, which God offers salvation from.
But we know infants suffer horribly. They don’t deserve death. And if we say they do, then we must say God is using his own, higher version of Justice. If we can’t comprehend HOW his system is Just, this is the same as admitting that we don’t know WHETHER it is Just.
>On Christianity, there is no way humans can fully comprehend God (1 Cor. 2:11).
Ok, but then you don’t know if he is good, either. Christians should want to avoid this version of a fine-tuning argument: That God is all-powerful and at choice, but is weak or constrained in exactly the right way to account for each and every instance of animal and human suffering that has occurred or ever will occur.
What if you ended up in heaven, but alone? Would you still sing God’s praises? Or would you feel a pang for humanity, not at its poor choices, but at the injustice of their fate?
If there is no state of affairs where you would say God is not Good, then Good means nothing.
I heard this from a Christian this week:
“I believe I’m an enemy of God because of what I’ve done and you believe you’re an enemy of God because of what he’s done (or hasn’t done).”
He and I agree on this.
“Not all evil is due to human choices. That is ‘moral evil’. We still have ‘natural evil’. Natural evil seems due to natural law, which God set up. If he had any choice in the matter, it seems he set up this world to be more brutal than he could have.”
The curse from Adam’s sin in Genesis 3:17-19 shows a change in how nature would respond, including “painful toil” and the prevalence of “thorns and thistles”, and a change in the resilience of the human body: “from dust you are and from dust you will return.” In Romans 8:20-21, Paul says that “the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay…”. God allows the world to reflect the consequences of man’s sin on creation. God set up nature, but it was sin that brought widespread natural disaster. What you call “natural evil” was not inherently evil from the beginning.
“…there’s no contradiction in saying a natural world could exist without a supernatural one.”
Yet everything we empirically observe about nature involves causation. Hence, the “Law of Cause and Effect.” Assuming that nature is ultimately uncaused makes a lot of unnecessary assumptions.
“Do you claim that morals are actually IMPOSSIBLE on naturalism? That’s a strong claim. There are many naturalistic approaches to morality. The best ones in my opinion follow from our evolution as social animals. If you don’t find them satisfying, that’s one thing. But it’s much harder to say that they aren’t ‘moralities’.”
Morality as we relate to it could not exist on naturalism because we clearly appeal to something beyond nature. Or at least our appeal goes higher than the highest intelligence we can imagine in nature (and as I said, it’s a big enough umbrella to include supernatural creators.) In my discussion with The Atheist [another poster/owner of askanatheist.wordpress.com] I laid out my understanding of the distinctions between human morality and animal “morality” …
“Atheists just don’t have to provide an alternative to theistic morality to show that theistic morality fails. We can show that it is authoritarian (and thus amoral), contradictory, bogus or incoherent.”
But you haven’t shown any of that. 🙂 God is authority, but if authoritarian submission means blind submission, that isn’t what God requires. We are given a free will to choose and a mind with which to reason it out (Isaiah 1:18). The last 3 adjectives only hold on the assumption of the first, which doesn’t hold. It’s also wrong to assume that because God doesn’t, that God can’t for lack of power or knowledge (re: a “weak or constrained” God).
“But we know infants suffer horribly. They don’t deserve death. And if we say they do, then we must say God is using his own, higher version of Justice. If we can’t comprehend HOW his system is Just, this is the same as admitting that we don’t know WHETHER it is Just.”
Within Christianity, there is no reason to expect we can fully comprehend God’s justice, no more than a baby is expected to understand why she needs surgery. There is enough revelation of God that we can comprehend by looking at what Christ did for us: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.” (Rom. 3:23-25). Whatever the details of God’s plan are, we can see that it is redemptive in nature, and that He is just, righteous and merciful.
And yes, we can know if God is good because the Bible describes God as the source of good. If you insist on an external definition to define God as good, then I have to insist on an external definition for what you consider good. Within Christianity, however, there is no contradiction in the attributes of a sovereign God. And again, to say there is “too much” suffering begs the question, how much is too much? Others may have differing views about the degree of acceptable suffering. Isn’t there the potential of much more suffering and evil? And if it were cut in half, or a tenth, wouldn’t we still complain? There is enough we can observe about God’s power (ie. creation) to trust that He is not powerless in the face of evil and suffering. There is enough we can know from Scripture about His goodness that we can have faith that He is not just a brute arbitrarily permitting certain evil and suffering. I hate that children suffer and the sin that bought about the world’s corruption and decay, but while the creatures can question the Creator as Job did, we aren’t guaranteed an answer or the right to accuse. (Job 40:8; Rom. 9:20)
Christianity is internally consistent, and its Gospel calls us not to strain over the question of whether God is just, but rather ask if we are just. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
“What if you ended up in heaven, but alone? Would you still sing God’s praises? Or would you feel a pang for humanity, not at its poor choices, but at the injustice of their fate?”
There’s no reason to think I would be alone, but even in that case I think the presence of God would satisfy. I also assume that my knowledge will be much more complete than it is now and I won’t view the condemnation of souls lost in sin as unjust. That much I can actually understand now.
>God allows the world to reflect the consequences of man’s sin on creation.
If God had any choice in what consequences followed from the Fall, then he is not as loving as he could be.
>“What if you ended up in heaven, but alone?
>even in that case I think the presence of God would satisfy
This is Christianity. We can’t love God and our neighbor at the same time. We can’t follow the First and Second Great Commandments at the same time. This is the central contradiction of Jesus’ teaching.
“If God had any choice in what consequences followed from the Fall, then he is not as loving as he could be.”
I still don’t understand what you have in mind for the ideal of “as loving as [God] could be.” Would you settle for anything other than a complete absence of evil and suffering? “Not as loving” sounds as if you were hoping for something along a sliding scale ranging from the evil and suffering we know now to an absolutely sinless and painless world. What does your ideal balance of freedom/suffering look like? At what point on the scale would belief in a good God become tenable for you?
“We can’t love God and our neighbor at the same time. We can’t follow the First and Second Great Commandments at the same time. This is the central contradiction of Jesus’ teaching. “
The greatest commandment is loving God, which means IF I had to choose between people and God, I should choose God. The “second is like it” (Mat. 22:39) because God also commands us to love our neighbor, and through obedience of that we show love for God, and because people are made in the image of God. It’s important, but secondary, to love people. In any case, we can have both, because we are neither alone here nor will we be alone in heaven.
You say you have made the choice to love people over God because your concept of God is one who doesn’t love, or at least doesn’t demonstrate that He loves us “enough”. I don’t believe the dichotomy that forces your rejection of God exists, but rather it’s an illusion stemming from a fundamental misunderstanding of God. Suffering and evil in the world are the result of sin. Sin is a choice made by people because we have freedom to choose. Any revocation of that opportunity is a revocation of freedom. Zero pain = zero freedom.
God is logical and not free to contradict Himself and therefore didn’t create an illogical world where sin isn’t allowed and at the same time freedom is still available. Because of this, we are able to comprehend and make sense of the world. Evil and suffering wasn’t part of God’s original creation, and while He allows it out of logical necessity and for other reasons naturally beyond us, God’s love and compassion far outweigh and outlast His judgment and the pain He allows. Among many other selfless acts, Christ’s atoning sacrifice covering ALL sin is the greatest example of this. To focus on and draw conclusions from only one part of God is not making an accurate judgment of God—a judgment that (pointing to the point of this forum) we shouldn’t be allowed to make anyway if there is no moral Law-giver.
I believe we’ve covered this ground. Not all pain is the result of free will. Animal suffering preceded humans. Even if The Fall introduced all the suffering we see, it wouldn’t be fair for an infant to have a heart defect because her distant ancestor got in the cookie jar.
The world makes sense on naturalism. To say God set up this world, this way, we have to say Bad is Good. And we can’t follow God without signing on to a regime under which billions suffer needlessly.
>Would you settle for anything other than a complete absence of evil and suffering?
Christian theology says God promises this in heaven. If that’s true, what is he waiting for? If he could take his followers to heaven a second sooner, he is not as loving as he could be.
I’m breaking a key rule of authoritarian regimes: I’m second-guessing the Dear Leader. But we have to evaluate God if we are to be moral ourselves. If we hold God to no standard, then it means nothing to say he is Good.
I’ve agreed that pain probably existed before the Fall. It was “greatly multiplied” or “increased” as a consequence of sin (Gen. 3:16). There is no record in Genesis of animal suffering before the Fall, but if it occurred it was probably the same type of pain Adam and Eve would have experienced before it was increased because of sin.
“The world makes sense on naturalism.”
A defense of naturalism with naturalism is hopelessly circular, much like a defense of reason by reason, or any other approach that seeks to limit explanations to humanity or nature, particularly when these things obviously appeal—as morality does—to something outside their spheres.
“what is he waiting for?”
To ask why God delays heaven is the same as a child asking why his parents delay whatever the child thinks he is immediately entitled to. Children think this unfair and may even doubt the reality of what was promised. Parents have good reasons and a good plan.
“we have to evaluate God if we are to be moral ourselves”.
But you can’t morally evaluate anything unless you are a moral being to begin with. And it certainly doesn’t make sense to morally evaluate God if moral law didn’t come from Him. How can the evaluation have any meaning or relevance? I’ve yet to see a coherent answer to this question on atheism.
“we’ve covered this ground”
You’re right, we are repeating arguments, and I think that may signal an impasse. Thank you again for the discussion. I’ve learned a lot from it and I wish you the best. 🙂
May 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
I posted a response under a video on Atheism.tv, “Sean Faircloth – Bullying, lies, and discrimination aren’t “religious liberty,” created by an atheist politician and author. In the video, Mr. Faircloth talks about Mitt Romney’s speech at Liberty University in May in which Faircloth makes several untrue claims, including one that Romney makes bigoted remarks about homosexuals.
Calling creationism “lies” and a “con” without anything to back that up is not an argument.
When Mr. Faircloth demonizes the mentality of “the inside group vs. the outside group”, he should be aware that he is also demonizing himself. I doubt he would accept that the position he holds is inferior to or even equal to opposing positions. He excludes outside views just as everyone else does.
Did Romney really say “treat gay people unfairly” in his Liberty U speech? Or is that Mr. Faircloth’s interpretation? Discrimination is something everyone does every day, and it’s necessary. To make a claim that certain discrimination is done unfairly, you should quantify what you mean by unfairly. Military chaplains and others who oppose homosexuality are considering (or should be) behavior of an individual, not their skin tone—which is fair. The author’s comparison at 5:20 is rooted in the false premise that such behavior is no more under a person’s control than skin color. Religious liberty is the freedom to follow moral convictions, exactly what Mr. Faircloth does in discriminately condemning religious people based on his own moral convictions.
In my opinion Mr. Faircloth is only attempting to shed light on the misuse of public funds and hypocrisy by Mr. Romney and Liberty University. If you had evidence he is attempting to create an us vs. them mentality I would join you in condemning that type of behavior. However if you are truly concerned with “demonization” of groups I suggest you investigate how the religious have attempted to portrait the LGBT community. They continually attempt to portray gays as immoral and corrupt that has been demonstrated many times and continues to this day (the new constitutional amendment in N.C.). By definition ANYTIME YOU TAKE RIGHTS FROM A GROUP OF PEOPLE IT IS UNFAIR. So Mr. Romney supporting this type of behavior is proof of his convictions and bigotry.
Also, I am extremely interested in hearing your justification of the statement “Discrimination is something everyone does every day, and it’s necessary” Pleas respond & clarify what you mean by this.
I find it SAD that its 2012 and you seem to truly believe the homosexual lifestyle is a choice. I challenge you to engage in a thought experiment: First imagine an individual that when you personally imagine having sexual relations with them its is repugnant to you. To be clear you may like or even love this individual but having sex with them is unimaginable. Could you somehow “choose” to engage in sex with them? For the homosexual the thought of intercourse with the opposite sex is exactly the same as your reaction to engaging in sex with the person you imagined earlier.
If you can make the “choice” to engage in sex with a person of the same sex you are at least bi-sexual and I feel sorry for you knowing that you may feel your desires are somehow wrong.
Next, I would ask what part of the following do you find to be in error. “Have as much fun in your life as possible as long as your actions harm no one in the process.” With the in mind I ask you to evaluate the following assertion “Two human beings loving each other is the best part of humanity.”
I suggest you that you revisit slavery, the U.S. civil war the jim crow laws of 1876-1965. I realize you made a pinot to distance yourself from racial bigotry. However I see no difference between them and the restrictions of both groups stem from (at least in part) a literal reading of scripture.
NEGATIONofP, thanks for your reply.
Mr. Faircloth is holds a particular view that is at odds with the views of others. That is an “us vs. them mentality”. This is nothing special as that is true for everyone, which was my point there. Truth or fallacy is found in the particular view, but there is nothing inherently wrong in the fact that we hold different views.
People who understand a Biblical view of sexuality realize that God designed human relationships to work a certain way (Gen. 2:24), and when the “religious…attempt to portray gays as immoral and corrupt”, they are calling out homosexual behavior as the sin that it clearly is shown to be in Scripture. (Lev. 18, Rom. 1, etc.). But of course the assumption that a homosexual is beyond choice or moral responsibility is going to affect your conclusions about discrimination, bigotry and rights in general. For instance, you are assuming that people have some inherent “right” to pursue relationships with the same sex, but on what basis do you assume this to be a basic human right? Clearly you discard a Biblical view, so I’m curious as to how you discern what rights we all have.
The statement “Discrimination is something everyone does every day, and it’s necessary” is true because any time we make a choice about anything, we are discriminating. You were discriminative or prejudiced when you picked out a shirt and ate breakfast today. Some throw terms around in blind condemnation, but the fact is that some discrimination is good and some is bad. From parental discipline to criminal courts, there are many examples where discrimination against certain behavior is proper and expected.
Two problems with your thought experiment:
One is the false dichotomy in your assumption that a person who thinks they are gay is required to engage in sexual relations at all. If I knew I was made to relate to females but felt an attraction to males, maybe the best course of action is to be content in celibacy until such a time when my emotions align with my knowledge of how humanity is designed to relate, and there are many testimonies from people who have done just that. And if a person is unable to overcome same-sex attraction, that is no justification for doing something that is contrary to God’s design and purpose.
This leads to the second problem: the assumption that because someone has a strong desire for a course of action, the course of action is right. An individual can experience strong compulsion to a range of activities… Stealing, gambling, alcohol, codependency, anger, porn, etc. To some, it’s the only lifestyle they know and it’s out of their control. Does this mean that the compulsions are innate foe them and it’s impossible to change? Of course not, as many other testimonies will show. I have not always had the desire to forgive the man who sexually assaulted a friend of mine—it used to be unimaginable—but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right thing to eventually do. I can’t imagine myself summiting Everest, ever, but that doesn’t mean the pursuit isn’t a good thing. I do, however, desire a 2nd donut, but that would not be a good course of action. Desire is just that, a desire.
Here is a thought experiment. Imagine a course of action that, if carried out to its fullest extent, would result in the self-destruction of the human race in one generation. Now imagine that the majority of the population carried out that course of action, the human race would survive but would only mostly be destroyed. Now imagine that really the only saving grace of this course of action is that very few people engage in it. Would you identify this course of action as a good idea? Mankind flourishes by the union of a man and a woman, and has for millennia.
The error in this worldview–“Have as much fun in your life as possible as long as your actions harm no one in the process” is that you cannot sin without ultimately harming yourself or others. Furthermore, what “harm” are we talking about? Because this view allows me to steal from others or slander them behind their back since this really produces no direct “harm”. And “Two human beings loving each other is the best part of humanity” is wonderfully poetic and true when love is acted out the way it was designed to be acted out. But if a pedophile loves a 10 year old girl, suddenly everyone has a problem with your assertion. If a brother wants to marry his sister, mother, or son, we have more issues with it. Obviously even a very liberal view of “love” has exceptions, and you can’t argue that there are no moral complications to doing things however you want so long as minimal criteria of “humans” and “love” and “harm no one” are met. And on what objective moral code do you ground your conviction that “harm no one” should be the only exception to uninhibited fun? And really, why limit the pursuit of “love” to “humans”?
From what part of Scripture do you find the teaching of racial bigotry? If race is a classification system used to categorize humans into large and distinct populations or groups by heritable phenotypic characteristics, geographic ancestry, physical appearance, and ethnicity, how do sexual habits have anything to do with race?
No problem we will see if you still appreciate my reply after this response
I hope my comments don’t offend you. I have a writing style described by some as condescending and abrasive. I only wish to educate not belittle and/or embarrass. With that in mind ill jump in.
“Clearly you discard a Biblical view, so I’m curious as to how you discern what rights we all have.”
This seems like an attempt to use the old argument that without god we have no basis for morality. This is an argument that has been well trounced so I will save everyone the pain of rehashing it and just suggest If you really are not familiar with the multiple ways this argument has been proven to be erroneous that you search ”Human ethics” coupled with any/all of the following: evolution, science, logic, physiology, pack animals, herd mentality, society.
“discrimination against certain behavior is proper and expected”.
I feel you are being a little disingenuous in posing an argument by attempting to force us to use such a narrow definition of the word in this conversation. You clearly understand the way in which the word was being used and the context.
“Two problems with your thought experiment:
One is the false dichotomy in your assumption that a person who thinks they are gay is required to engage in sexual relations at all.”
This is not a false dichotomy due to the fact (as you have proven for me) the only way to increase the their options is to limit their freedoms. Following you line of reasoning why not just suggest they self restrict ALL their freedoms by suicide?
“This leads to the second problem: the assumption that because someone has a strong desire for a course of action, the course of action is right. “
No I in no way claimed this to be true. This is a straw man of epic portions and fails so completely that most people would not even bother to respond any further. However, I will address it if for no other reason that I hope you will learn something in the process and NEVER attempt such ludicrous tactics in the future.
1) Identifying the straw man: You claim I asserted the stronger the desire somehow makes that desire valid. When,& where did I make this assertion?
2) By earlier claiming I made use of a “false dichotomy” one could be fairly certain you have at least a basic understanding of logic and its most well documented fallacies.
3) Therefore we are only left with a few options when attempting to discern how you could make such a statement.
a. You are in fact not as educated in logic as I gave you credit for
b. You are versed but lack the intellect to understand logic (rote knowledge only)
c. Your are unbelievably disingenuous
d. You believe I do not understand logic and therefore could slip this past me.
Let it not be said of me that I am without mercy. So, if in fact you do have another explanation for responding in such a fashion I would be willing to give it all the consideration is deserves.
“you cannot sin without ultimately harming yourself or others”
Really? Lets test that shall we.
I believe my god “XETHYG” is greater than Jesus and I am envisioning carving a statue of her riding an eagle who is holding a diamond in one talon and a jellyfish in the other. After doing this on the next Sabbath, I will bow down to her and serve her as she commands, I think I will use marble I am planning on stealing from the worker at the quarry that I am fantasizing about having sex with (I am married but not to her) and also planning to kill. After that I picture myself going over to my parents house and dishonoring them both verbally and physically. Then I plan on going to the police and telling the officers I witnessed my neighbor kill the worker at the quarry while longing for his house. But really I just think you are wrong God damn it!!
You do realize just by the very act of imagining this little diatribe according to Matthew 5:27-33 I HAVE just broken ALL Ten Commandments (sin x 10)!!!
If the god of the bible does not exist who did I harm?
If you assert god does exist you must prove that claim before you can even begin to argue I “harmed myself”.
Even if you could somehow demonstrate Jesus existed I could always be “saved” before I die. If this were to happen who did the sins I just committed harm?
“this view allows me to steal from others or slander them behind their back since this really produces no direct “harm”.”
WOW, now you cant even do simple math? Ok, lets do a little algebra. I have an amount of legally acquired wealth. It allows me certain freedoms that in turn bring me a certain level of happiness. Let’s label this total wealth “X” and the happiness “Y1”.
You steal some of my possessions thus decreasing my wealth; so, my “X” value will change. I will label my new wealth reduced by your action as “Z”.
Basic algebra tells us that if Y is a function of X and X is reduced leaving Z inserting the new X value (Z) we find Y2 is less than Y1.
Let: Y=f(x) where f(x) is monotonically increasing
If: 0 < z < x => f(z) < f(x)
So all we need to concern ourselves with the question “is the reduction of happiness harmful?” Well is it?
“on what objective moral code do you ground your conviction that “harm no one”
And there we have it the age-old argument without god we can have no basis for morality. Ok, just remember you opened this can of worms. If you have not researched the previously mentioned topics please do so. However if you want to read this first that’s fine with me also.
So, if we are using Biblical ethics to define our own ethics we must identify what the bible finds ethical.
The bible lets us know its ethical to:
Harm to others through inaction: Genesis 3:1-7 & 3:22-24
Engage in Bigamy: Genesis 4:19
Commit Mass genocide: Genesis 7:11-24
Offer your daughters to a mob to be raped: Genesis 19:8
Commit Incest: Genesis 19:32-38
Kill, rape, plunder, enslave: Genesis 34:13-29
Kill someone for masturbating: Genesis 38:9
If you notice I have not even included everything in Genesis but ill stop there due to the fact if I attempt to do this with Exodus your eyes would bleed due to the volume of atrocities committed in the name of your god or by your god himself.
Is this the morals you speak of and guide you?
“From what part of Scripture do you the teaching of racial bigotry?”
Genesis 9:25: In retaliation for Ham’s “sinful act” of seeing his father nude, Noah puts a curse on his grandson Ham, being ‘blackened by sin’ and ‘forced to become a servant’. (Ham’s son). Canaan: ?Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers” Over time, this curse came to be interpreted that Ham was literally “burnt,” and that all his descendants had black skin, marking them as slaves with a convenient color-coded label for subservience.
Leviticus 19:19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.
Deuteronomy 7:3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
Deuteronomy 22:9: “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.”
“how do sexual habits have anything to do with race?”
The correlation is the bigotry your religion instills and requires of its followers not the specific acts.
I hope you did not take offense to my style. If so I apologize I realize I tend to get carried away.
No offense taken at all, I appreciate you speaking your mind.
“You claim I asserted the stronger the desire somehow makes that desire valid. When,& where did I make this assertion?” You asked me to imagine what it would be like to do the opposite of what my natural desires would have me do, which led me to think that was your basis for justification of same-sex relations. Wasn’t that your point, that gays are unable to choose, or that it’s unfair to ask them to, thereby removing their responsibility for their actions?
“If the god of the bible does not exist who did I harm?” Previously I asked you to clarify what you mean by “harm,” (“…what ‘harm’ are we talking about?”). Apparently we’re including verbal offenses and hurt feelings from neglect of perceived ‘rights’. Sin in any form distances people from God because sin is an offense against God’s moral law. If we’re calling personal offense harm, then you harm God, and separation from God by eternal judgment falls under any definition of harmful.
But you’re right: If God doesn’t exist, I’m mistaken on the aforementioned and in the above diatribe you have harmed no one, nor would you have any rational basis for why there is a problem with harm in the first place. But more on that in a bit.
First, your equation makes a couple more assumptions: One is that happiness is supplied exclusively by monetary wealth, and two, you seem to think that I equate quantifiable harm by any definition to evil. Even if truth is given in a “tough love” fashion, the truth can offend and is basically considered harmful, but basically good. Consider that it’s still true that if I took money you would never miss, it’s still theft and therefore morally wrong. A wealthy man’s bookkeeper can steal $100 from his account that would really do nothing to affect his happiness. If the bookkeeper used a distraction to get away with the theft, and the distraction included a stock tip that ended up earning the rich man another $10,000, by your formula he is even happier, but nonetheless the victim of theft, and that theft is still wrong. Or, an unrelated lawsuit is filed and wealthy man loses millions, but his wife gives birth to a son, and he realized he is happier now than when he was wealthy. Is the rich man still harmed by pain he no longer feels from his loss of money, or the pain he never experienced by his bookkeeper’s pilfering? If the man later forgets the blessing his wife and son are to him and decides to leave them to pursue happiness with another woman. His disenchantment with his family can be called “harm” because he’s lost happiness there, and his newfound happiness with the mistress can be called “harm” of himself and others because by the endeavor he has destroyed his family and left behind what is truly good in his own life, becoming an unfaithful liar. But, as I said, the problem is not necessarily with perceived harm, but with moral right and wrong. And thankfully, algebra cannot solve all our problems (I suspected this in high school
Your ethical objections to the Bible are unfounded for a number of reasons.
1. Your conclusions are based on a misunderstanding of who God is. If God is the Creator and author of all life then He is ultimately justified whether He gives it or takes it away and doesn’t contradict His nature by doing so. He may take it away in judgment for evil and He may do it for reasons that are ultimately good in accordance to a plan that finite human minds would of course have no way of knowing or seeing beforehand.
2. Because the Bible contains descriptions of evil done by humans does not mean the evil is prescribed for us. For instance, it describes the acts of Lot’s daughters in Gen. 19:32-38, which were sinful, but doesn’t prescribe incest. One does not (& should not) take history books about the Holocaust to be instruction to kill Jews.
3. You have assigned alternate meanings to passages by misreading the text or an ignorance of context. It’s hardly possible to provide thorough exegesis on all the texts you reference, but here are a few…
– Adam and Eve had a free will and chose to sin; God allowing them that was not sinful.
– Canaan (not Ham) was “cursed” but if you read it carefully, Noah doesn’t say it was because of Ham’s act of seeing him naked and making a joke of him to his brothers rather than covering him up (which is what probably happened). The curse on Canaan and his descendants were because of the future sins of Canaan and his descendants as Noah’s words were prophetic, in a “like father, like son” manner. And nowhere in the Bible is it taught that the curse led to Africans in slavery, in fact Canaan’s immediate descendants were probably more of a middle brown.
– God judged Onan because he didn’t fulfill a cultural duty to marry his brother’s widow and produce offspring. In his selfishness he refused to take her as his wife and to give her children that would be credited to her brother’s line. The offense wasn’t masturbation. That isn’t even what Onan did.
– Re: Slavery, bigamy, polygamy, etc. God allowed certain conditions to exist in a fallen world, but He does not create or condone those conditions, people do.
– The confusion of ceremonial Levitical laws with moral laws is common in the OT, but the distinction becomes clear when you consider the context. There was a larger lesson for Israel in remaining separate from other nations because they were God’s chosen people, which God would naturally have the right to do.
I find it interesting that any atheist would have an opinion on the moral acts of a hypothetical deity and still believe they can reconcile their atheism. If morality evolved as a human convention, it would logically only govern the behavior of human beings. You speak of “the volume of atrocities committed in the name of your god or by your god.” How is it that you readily apply human ethical standards to not only ancient humans in far-off cultures, but to the hypothetical Creator of the universe (and aliens, whenever we write stories about invasions)? You do this because our moral obligations are objective, absolute and universal and you can’t even imagine them any other way. Evolution and atheism require the opposite, yet strangely, nobody lives as if morality is at all subjective or relegated to human beings.
Another thought experiment: Try to imagine the very first act or thought that we would consider to be morally good. The problem for moral evolution is, whatever that first moral good was and whenever it occurred, it would have required a pre-existing moral standard for good to already be in place. Otherwise we would have no way to look back on it and define it as morally good.
If you say that the first moral act began as, say, sharing food or protecting another species in order to gain a favor in return which would increase your survival chances, you still have a problem. Because today, when we are morally compelled to help a stranded motorist, we generally do not consider that the same motorist will likely one day return the favor if our car breaks down. Nor do we turn in a lost wallet in good will thinking it will increase our chances of securing a mate. We do those things because we think it’s the right thing to do (and likewise when we don’t do them we know that it’s wrong). If moral good began as reciprocity, at some point it stopped being about reciprocity and started being about good will. At that moment, we still need a moral standard by which to register and measure it.
And actually, if we’re considering that the idea that sharing became morally good because survival or reproduction was a good and right thing, we’re begging the question and again need a precluding standard for the moral good in survival and reproduction.
Such is the dilemma in attempting a naturalistic explanation for morality, or really any type of fundamental first principal that Christians understand as rooted in the nature of God. It makes sense that if we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), and the God described in the Bible is a moral Being, we are moral agents, knowing innately of His law written on our hearts of which our conscience bears witness (Romans 2:15). Atheism has to find another way, so it shores up morality with a relatively shallow definition that simply doesn’t square with the morality we observe and interact with.
Of course I can’t prove the existence of God—I don’t discount that faith is a prominent element in what I believe, just as it is in what you believe. But considering that logically, the origin of morality had to be outside of humanity, apparently a law-giver that is transcendent, intelligent, complex, and of course, moral—and if moral, personal. If it isn’t God, it’s something a lot like Him.
This is getting way to long of most people interested in reading comments to follow. With that in mind I was wondering if you would like to participate as a guest in a live BlogTV show that me, AtheismTV, Livelife8072, & a few others are trying to get off the ground. You seem very well spoken, & your responses are well thought out , and I think this type of venue would better serve everyone in discussing such lengthly topics such as this. Also, BlogTV will allow us to reach a much larger audience. The show is NOT an attempt to bash religion &/or its followers. We truly want a to create a place where the free exchange of ideas and discussions of religious topics will allow the audience to consider BOTH sides of the beliefs while encouraging them to do further research for themselves.
What do you think?
Thank you for the invitation! I will consider it for sure. I hesitate only because it’d be a completely new format for me, but I’m not above trying it out. Thanks again for the consideration, and for the discussion.
It’s very tempting to see NP’s last post as a dodge and a concession to losing the argument, mainly because I have yet to hear a coherent answer from any atheist on the last point on morality I made. I looked at NP’s YouTube profile and noted that of religion, he invites viewers to “watch it die” and personally vows to “crumble those walls of arrogance” in his “Message to All Religious Fundamentalists” video) and he admits to an apparent “condescending and abrasive” argumentative style here. I also previewed the channel belonging to Livelife8072, an atheist comedian who routinely “bashes religion”. If the BlogTV show NP invited me to is to be hosted and moderated by these two, it seems likely that the intent would NOT be an opportunity for the free exchange of ideas, but probably just another forum in which to team up against theists. I will most likely not take him up on it.