December 5, 2014 § 1 Comment
The reality of sin (Genesis 3, Romans 5) brings misery to the common human experience. The presence of evil and suffering in the world makes sense to most Christians, but many wonder why there is SO MUCH evil and suffering. Couldn’t a loving God just spare us from the high degree of heartbreak, disease, death, and natural calamity that we see on the news and in our own lives? Personally, I’d be okay with a lot less. But how much less would do it for me?
A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
Hypothetically, let’s say the amount of evil and suffering in the world was HALF of what it is now. Either the trials we endure are cut by 50%, or the number of people who endure trials is cut by 50%. What would our perception be? The news would still be filled with stories of crime and tragedy, and instead of everyone we know hurting, every other person we know would hurt. I think we would still ask God why there is so much evil and suffering in the world. The reality is, half of what we see now would not make much of a difference at all.
Suppose the degree of evil and suffering in the world were just TEN PERCENT of its current level. Instead of trouble striking me and most of the people in my life, only one in ten people met with trouble. Or instead of daily trials, we experienced trials only one day in ten. Would we still look to the sky and ask God why we must see so much pain and suffering? We all know hundreds of other people and are connected to many media sources, so even if we were fortunate enough to escape tragedy, I believe the suffering of those around us would still cause many to question God’s compassion.
So let’s go further. Imagine that we never personally experienced the amount of evil and suffering we currently see, but that only ONE PERCENT of the world did. Ninety-nine percent of our current trouble never touched us, or only one in a hundred people ever lost a house, a job, a loved one, or fell into addiction, illness, or died. Even in the middle of a good world, where the vast majority of us only knew joy, goodness, love, and perfect health, the 1% of the world that was decaying and corrupt would not go unnoticed. Its rarity might even highlight it more, and I’m sure the question would still be there.
That news story about the child who died from the rare disease. Why him, God? Things like that just don’t happen!
A small village buried in a landslide while the entire surrounding communities were untouched. Why them, Lord? How could you allow that?
God, You brought me so much good in my life for 80 years, and today I find out I have cancer. Why?!
I CAN’T GET NO…
What ratio of evil to good would truly satisfy us? The thing is, no matter how scarce evil, death and suffering were in the world, I don’t think many would express the sentiment: Yes, God, this is a good balance. Very few people suffer. This seems fair. The fundamental truth is that even ONE sin—one lie, one act of rebellion, one bite from the fruit, and one effect of the Fall—is too much for us to be content.
God isn’t satisfied with it either, which is why He didn’t leave us alone in the world we tainted with sin. Romans 5 reveals that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned… if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (vs. 12,17) God loved us enough to give us the free will to choose right and wrong, and He loved us enough to redeem us because we made the wrong choice. The atonement of Christ for our sin satisfies, and will one day deliver us from the effects of sin on the world.
We also have no idea how much MORE pain and suffering there could be in the world if it were not for the restraining hand of God. I might lose my job and then shake my fist to the heavens completely ignorant of the fact that God spared my life the day before in an accident that, by His providence, never happened.
HOW’S ABOUT ZERO PAIN AND SUFFERING?
Why a good God allows bad things to exist at all is a different category of problem, one which C.S. Lewis and countless other theologians have tried to address. To me, the most satisfying answer comes from remembering who God is.
He loved us enough to give us a free will, the freedom to choose to follow Him or to take our own path. Our own path was sin, which brought evil and corruption into the world. He could miraculously prevent us from sinning, but we would lose our freedom. And while preventing say, half the sin would result in losing just half our free will, the problem begins to look like the one above. How much of the freedom we have now do we want to be without?
It would also do us well to remember that an all-knowing, all-loving God is like a wise and loving parent who keeps a child from too much cake or a busy street, or must inflict pain to clean a wound before bandaging. These things hurt and seem unfair to a child who knows much less about the good plan the parent has for them. Finite minds can’t expect to know what God knows about what He has in store for us, and why we are going through pain. But we can know that He loves us, and that the Son of God went through it too.
OUR GOD REIGNS
We need an eternal perspective here. No matter how rare calamity was, we would still want less of it because we know God’s ideal was a good creation (Genesis 1:31). So for now, creation “groans” and “waits in eager expectation” for deliverance (Romans 8:18-23). But we wait for a God who is still on His throne in the midst of it all.
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.
December 14, 2012 § 7 Comments
My 4 year old boy gave me joy by announcing his failure. This perhaps is an unusual response for a father, but I think it was an appropriate response for a father concerned with carrying out the Great Commission at home.
While on our way to visit Santa at the local Bass Pro Shops, my wife asked Levi if he was thinking about asking Santa for something for Christmas. His reply was, “But I’ve been bad.” This may sound strange, but the idea that my child thinks, rather knows, he is bad, excites me.
Don’t get me wrong, we praise Levi for the good he does, and often consider him a “good boy.” But the truth is that he, like me and every other human being, is on the naughty list. We are the modern manifestation of Adam. We’re bad, and realizing this early on is very good.
My hope is that Levi discovers the love and forgiveness of Christ, but like any solution, the problem—sin, in this case—needs to be known first. The truth of Romans 3:23, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, is the logical first step toward salvation. In fact, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves… If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8,9).
The bad news makes way for Good News: “My little children… if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1) Jesus saves once we understand what we need saving from. I am rejoicing in Levi’s first steps in the truth, thanks in part, I guess, to Santa Claus.
September 25, 2012 § 28 Comments
Genesis 3 says that Adam and Eve didn’t know good and evil before they sinned. How could they be held morally responsible for sin without the knowledge of good and evil?
The text in question is from Genesis 3:22, where, following Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden, “the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.’” (NIV)
The Hebrew term for “knowing” in this verse (also in verse 5) is not unique to this passage or chapter; it’s the same word “yada” used elsewhere, some 960 times in the Hebrew scriptures. “Yada” can mean to learn, to perceive, to discern, to distinguish, to know by experience, to recognize, to consider, to be acquainted with, and other fairly ordinary definitions of the word listed in Hebrew lexicons (Strong’s #3045). But, there is no particular sense of “knowing” indicated in Genesis 3.
So what meaning of “knowing” is intended? I think the definition “to know by experience” best fits this usage of “knowing”. Imagine what life would have been like for Adam and Eve. At the end of the description for each day of creation, God’s calls His creation “good” or “very good.” (Gen. 1:4,10,12,18,25,31) Adam and Eve knew the “good” that God had made for them, but they would probably not have had the mindset to identify it as good. God knew good and evil; Adam and Eve knew only good, because they had experienced only good. For Adam and Eve to say “all that God has made is good” might mean they would have to understand a distinction between good and evil. They had witnessed or practiced nothing with which to contrast good. Before their own sin, no evil had been known to them in the experiential sense.
Does this mean they didn’t know right from wrong before they sinned? I don’t think so. God tells Adam in Genesis 2:16-17: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” God’s command no doubt informed Adam that there was a specific standard and that a deviation from the standard was possible. He would have been innately aware of God’s moral law, being created in His image, but here he received a specific moral directive. He was also taught about the presence of something called “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Adam may have inferred the existence of “evil” as 1) something that was tantamount to deviation from God’s law or directive, and 2) something he was to avoid knowledge about. (Related: Good Ignorance: Handling the Knowledge of Evil)
From that deduction, Adam would have known of evil only as a vague concept, or a theory. Similarly, the consequence God warned Adam about—“you will certainly die”— for disobedience wouldn’t have been fully understood without experiencing death in any of God’s creatures. But he would have perhaps recognized it as a potential ending to what God had provided, a consequence Adam naturally would want to avoid.
I suppose before the fall Adam would have knowledge of evil as someone like myself has knowledge of the President. Do I know the President? Well, I know who he is, and I know about him, but I don’t know him personally. If I met the President, I would know him in a very different sense than simply having heard of him or read about him. When Eve and then Adam in turn disobeyed God’s command, they came to know sin first hand. They had experiential knowledge of both good and evil.
I think it’s fitting and nothing approaching revisionism to say that Adam and Eve knew good because it was all they truly knew, and that they knew only of the potential of evil at Creation, but came to know evil by experience when “their eyes were opened” (Gen. 3:7) following their acts of disobedience to God.
August 31, 2012 § 1 Comment
A post on an atheist’s Facebook page makes the following claim:
If god is all loving and forgiving, would he forgive someone for not believing in him, without being asked? If not, then he is not all loving and forgiving. If so, no one need to believe nor worship him.
The first assumption is flawed because it implies that God is only loving and forgiving. He is also righteous and just.
If a loving and forgiving judge lets a criminal go free without retribution, would he be a good judge, or a criminal himself?
Hebrews 10:17-18: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” And Hebrews 8:12: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
…the Christian god lets criminals go without retribution all the time. That’s pretty much his biggest selling point.
The central point of Christianity is that Christ took on the retribution we deserved, in our place. The payment for our sin was paid in full, “once for all.” (Hebrews 10:1-18)
Jesus Christ was God, so the payment was adequate to cover our crimes, and He became a man so that He could suffer on our behalf.
The righteousness and justice of God requires that the penalty for sin must be paid, but His love is what caused Him to make that payment for us. Our willing acceptance of that free gift is where forgiveness comes in.
God can do whatever he wants, there is no rule book that he has to follow…he writes the rules (theoretically). Isn’t it more admirable to forgive unconditionally than to require a payment to be made? Real forgiveness doesn’t require payment. I think you might be confusing justice with forgiveness. I could go on and on about how crazy it is that a god would create humans with free will and then eternally torture them for actually using it…
Thanks for the reply, these are great things to think about. I can tell you have. 🙂 God can’t change what is logically necessary (1+1=2) because logic is part of His nature (so if that is a “rule,” then no, God doesn’t “write” them, rather they’re conditions that extend from who He is). That crime must be paid for is actually a logically necessary state of affairs, and this makes sense when we look at where law comes from.
Only God can forgive sin (Mark 2:6,7 & Luke 5:21) because sin is a violation of God’s moral law, which is rooted in the nature of God. His law was broken and only He would have the authority to forgive. But even when God forgives, a payment must still be made. So of course there are conditions to God’s forgiveness. A guilty sinner can pay for his crimes by God’s judgment, or he can accept the payment that God provided through the atoning sacrifice of His Son on the cross (1 John 2:2) by repentance and faith. Either way, the debt is satisfied.
When a government makes civil laws (usually based on an understanding of an undergirding moral law, but that’s a separate discussion), we fully expect there to be payment for breaking those laws too, in the form of a fine or retribution. When it doesn’t happen, we cry foul. That’s because being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), we have an innate understanding of justice and the truth that crime requires payment.
On a personal level, we can forgive people, but not their sin. In the case of, for example, a physical assault, we can “let it go” and forgive the offender “unconditionally”, but the laws they have broken in their offense are a separate issue. Breaking God’s moral law is an offense against God. Breaking civil law is an offense against the state. Forgiveness is a renunciation of the violation, which happens within the context of justice (so yes, they are separate doctrines) but the violation must always be addressed in order for justice to be done.
It’s also logically necessary for there to be the possibility of sinful choices in the context of free will (and we would not want to imagine a world without freedom). “I could go on and on about how crazy it is” that God, moved by love for sinful people, provided a perfect Solution to the problem that everybody faces. Payment for sin is required, but the good news is it’s available from Christ, because we can’t come up with it ourselves.
I love how god and be forgiving and unforgiving, loving and unloving, just and unjust, logical and illogical depending on what verse you read in the Bible. You can pretty much use it to say whatever you want. But a big thing that bothers me about this god is that he would eternally punish a morally good person forever, but lavish blessing and paradise on a mass murderer for what? Belief. What is so good about belief? And really, what ‘sin’ is so bad that it would warrant eternal torture? That’s not true justice. I can understand serving a few lifetimes, but infinity? You lost me…
God can be forgiving of repentant sinners and unforgiving of unrepentant sinners. There is no problem there, just as there is no problem with Him loving sinners but hating sin. Nowhere in Scripture though do we find God being unjust or illogical. (I am curious by what standard on atheism or naturalism that you would consider God to be either of those anyway).
In reality, there is no such thing as a “morally good person” because all have fallen short of God’s standard of good (Rom. 3:10,23). For those who want nothing to do with God, being eternally separated from Him in hell is really just a continuation of that person’s desires in this lifetime—God is really giving the sinner what he wants. I almost wonder if damned souls would actually get used to “torture” after a while. Either way, I think the severity of hell matches the true severity of sin, but it would take a heart that was ready for repentance to actually see the true severity of sin against a holy God.
Forget about earning your way to heaven, as your question “what is so good about belief?” implies. The message of the gospel is that there is nothing we can do to earn our way to a perfect God. I certainly don’t deserve it. That’s why He provided a way through Christ, the only perfect sacrifice. Belief is not something we use to buy our way, but the way we, using our free will, choose to follow Christ, recognize that sin has been paid for and enter into a relationship with Him—something that God desires all along. We can get hung up on the severity of God’s judgment and the simplicity of belief in Christ as the answer. Or we can recognize that yes, judgment is severe, but belief is simple: A loving and forgiving God made a way out of God’s judgment and into His presence that is simple enough for anyone to understand.
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.