Thursday, April 24, 2008

Point/Counterpoint on "Expelled"

A friend sent me a Facebook post from an acquaintance of his, on the movie Expelled, which I saw Sunday night. I thought it was pretty good, not great, a good starting point, by no means a coup de grâce (pronounce the "s" sound at the end of grâce, please, and the "p" of "coup" is silent).

Here's his point:

The new rage in movies currently is Expelled, or so I am told. I've had many folks asking about this movie over the past few weeks and thought I'd put my thoughts down for all to see (since so many of you keep prodding). In short, I have no real interest in seeing it and won't.



Now, to back up a bit, Expelled is an ID (intelligent design) documentary that looked to have promise when I first heard about it. Ben Stein and company were going to take a serious look at the plight of ID scientists in the field, or so I thought. In the end it seems to be nothing more than more propaganda, no different than one would expect out of a Michael Moore documentary (which I'm somewhat proud to say I've never seen).



The first hint that I was going to be more disgusted than excited at this film came from reading the tale of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins in getting into the opening screening. To make a long story short, Myers — one of the evolutionary scientists interviewed for the film was kicked out (they let Dawkins in though — he was also interviewed but wasn't recognized).



That got me reading further into things. It turns out that the producers outright lied to the scientists in order to get them to talk on camera. They claimed the interviews were for a movie entitled Crossroads that explored honestly the intersection of faith and science. Funny thing is though that the domain name for Expelled was reserved and set up months before the interviews occurred and the domain for Crossroads was never reserved, making intentions pretty obvious.



So we've moved from expelling some of the participants from the screening (something I'd look down on but could forgive) to outright dishonesty. There is a lot more "dishonesty" involved in this flick though so don't be easily fooled if you do go and see it. Scientific American lists 6 things in particular that immediately jump out as dishonest:

  1. Misquoting sources (particularly the quotes linking Charles Darwin to the holocaust).
  2. Ben Stein's speech was a setup, staged at Pepperdine and filled with extras paid off by the production company.
  3. I've already discussed their third item: the dishonest interviews.
  4. The ID researcher who "lost his job" was never actually an employee of the Smithsonian Institute. This is a big one because one of the primary premises of the movie is that scientists are losing jobs left and right because of this issue which isn't really true. If you want to look at (the university where I go), we have many ID sympathetic professors, but that's another story.
  5. A weaker weakness. Could take this one either way. Basically the approach of science towards evolution and ID isn't accurately portrayed.
  6. Specifically chose to interview only atheistic scientists and not any of the Christian scientists that might be sympathetic to evolutionary views. ("Mathis explained that his presence would have "confused" viewers. But the reality is that showing Miller would have invalidated the film's major premise that evolutionary biologists all reject God.")

And thus we are left with a documentary that pulls out all of the tricks to sucker people into believing everything they say. Again, there really aren't any difference in the above tactics and the charges commonly leveled against folks like Michael Moore. And it's a shame that this is all done under the guise of Christianity and a "Christian" film. Those that are going to be seeing it already have their minds made up about the ID issue and those that should be exposed to some ID thought aren't going to want anything to do with it. In their words,

"Christians have a growing reputation for their appreciation of dishonesty." (from PZ Myer's post above)

and

"Lying for Jesus" (from RichardDawkins.net)

So hopefully this all explains why I don't have much interest in seeing Expelled. I'd love it though if someone actually did what the producers told Myers, Dawkins and others they were going to do (namely create a serious exploration of the intersection of faith and science). Here's to hoping they do, and here's to hoping for integrity in any film-making that's going to be in some way associated with Christ.


My counterpoint:

I feel what this person is saying, yes.
At the same time, it's not a *Christian* film. Stein's no Christian. Jonathan Wells is a frickin Moonie. Berlinski is an agnostic (and a brilliant one at that!). It's mkted to churches, yeah, but so what? That's just good PR. Remember, it's the naturalists, starting with John Dewey, who want to keep church out of the affairs of state, gov't, and education. Not the other way 'round.
Expelling PZ Myers from the screening is NOT good PR. It was really stupid and makes Expelled look terrible, though Myers richly deserves that his face be ground in the dirt every time he shows his face in public. He is a very very bad dude and I don't care what happens to him.

Mentioning Christians and their growing love for dishonesty gives me a few thoughts:
-The naturalists started it. This is like Muslims complaining about the Crusades or Charlemagne's and Ferdinand's reconquista of Spain.
-The naturalists are finishing it as well. They leverage their power to silence the alternative voices. If a movie fails to focus well on that, it doesn't change the fact that it IS HAPPENING. It's a MOVIE. Like Forbidden Kingdom is a MOVIE. You believe most of what you see on the silver screen? You're a fool if you do!
-These guys would NEVER say the on-the-honest-side things they said in those interviews if the Expelled crew had identified themselves as pro-ID. They wouldn't've said anythg at all. Why not just say what you have to say if you're a big shot evolutionary biologist and claim in other situations that you have all the evidence on your side? This exposes their hypocrisy (much like Yasser Arafat saying "Peace, peace" in EN and FR and then "Push the Jew pigs into the sea" in Arabic a little later), and if that takes lying to evangelists of atheism (ie, false teachers), boo hoo. They are not my neighbors.

Propaganda - yes, that's precisely what I expected it to be.
-Maybe your standards were a little lofty.
-I don't begrudge Michael Moore his methods so much, but rather the wrongheaded conclusions he reaches.

Misquoting sources - well, they shouldn't do that, 'tis true. IF they did it, and I don't know how much I believe an obviously biased source like SciAm.
The reason one shouldn't do that is b/c there is plenty of ACTUAL evidence out there making those links - just do a little more research so you don't get exposed.

"at the university where I go, we have many ID sympathetic professors..."
-In the science department?
-One of the elders at my church is a prof of Stat and wanted to teach a class that was loosely related to ID and Information theory, which is close to his field. The univ said screw off. Fortunately this prof is tenured and not in the science dept, or maybe he'd be in the film as well!


"in some way associated with Christ."
-Again, it wasn't.

Those are my thoughts.
It was a good movie and I'd recommend it. It was almost exactly what I expected it to be, in fact. It's a STARTING POINT for these discussions.


To the reader - keep an eye on the combox. I've found that this movie engenders approximately the same level of emotional frothing at the mouth that discussions of the Iraq conflict do. Which is why I'm loathe to discuss either. Look for a probable lack of... well, me, in the combox on this one.

48 comments:

Rintintin said...

Morning Rho, glad to see you have a post up on one of my favourite subjects - unfortunately you had to pick the start of the 2 busiest days of my week to put it up, so I won't be able to reply much right away :)

As we've discussed at length, there are several major problems facing ID:

1. By the admission of some of its major players, there is no scientific theory of ID

2. They have yet to explain how some of their hypotheses could be tested using the scientific method, and how they could be falsified (since unknown designer working at unknown time by unknown mechanism(s) can fit pretty much any observation, whereas a scientific theory cannot)

3. Their complaints about no allowances for the supernatural/materialism - ie conflating methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism. I don't know of a scientific discipline that doesn't use methodological naturalism as its approach, but this doesn't discount the possibility of a God(s). I'm just curious to how a supernatural methodology would work

4. Genuine scientists are being put in a no win situation - if they don't allow the ID claims in they get accused of silencing dissenters/adhering to dogma, if they do let them publish (and there are a couple of their articles in journals, although none of them provide +ve evidence for ID as they are either reviews with no original data or attempts to highlight problems with evolutionary processes) the ID guys refuse to accept genuine critiques of their ideas (eg weaknesses in irreducible complexity, or mistaken assumptions in Behe's 'limits' to evolutionary processes). Accepting and responding to criticism is all part of the game, they can't have it both ways. There are several examples of people who had their ideas dismissed as nonsense only to later prove people wrong with good science. ID has yet to do this.

5. The fairly blatant links to religion - I've posted some of their quotes before, as well as some of the more ridiculous things like the 'cdesign proponentsists' textbook error, as well as the large number of evolution-denying pro-Christian parents/school boards that lap up ID (quite often without actually knowing any of the details about it from some of their statements). ID does have the benefit that it can adapt to any religion or God whereas biblical creationism cannot - this makes it an attractive proposition for a lot of people who are anti-evolution and looking to subvert church/state separation.

6. PZ Myers is apparently a bit more amiable in 'real life' than his blog would suggest from what I have read - atheism aside, if his science articles on his blog are anything to go by he's a damn good teacher since he explains the research and evidence very clearly and concisely.

Rhology said...

one of my favourite subjects

And one of my least favorite. Haha.

you had to pick the start of the 2 busiest days of my week to put it up

It was by design. :-D
Get it? Design? Ha. Ha. I crack me up.

On PZM, I didn't say he's a bad dude b/c he's a meanie (though he is), it's other reasons.
Anyway, as I said, I don't have much appetite for this discussion, so have fun!


-Rhology

Brandon said...

I'm the author :)

A couple of things -- It's easy to *say* it's not a Christian film and in essence it's true, but the fact of the matter is that those are the associations that immediately come to mind. And that is why I choose to distance myself from it. All but one of the people that have asked me about it specifically mention it as "Christian" regardless of who is making it. In my view (and it's just my opinion, which doesn't necessarily mean much), it's worth distancing from, particularly since the creators don't do anything to distance themselves from the "Christian" label and the market that it's appealing to.

As to the propaganda point -- I just grow weary of it and would expect more from a discussion like this. One example that comes to mind is a documentary called Prince of Peace/God of War that explores pacifism vs just war thinking within Christianity. It had its bias but did an excellent job (I thought) of letting both sides speak & discuss.

As to the knock on SciAm, well, all I can say is I've been a subscriber since 6th Grade (I'm 26 now) and have always enjoyed it.

And I went through the Microbiology/Chemistry departments at OU and had many professors be open about things and leave room for ID/Creationism/God. There of course were others that weren't, too, but many that were. Granted this was 5 years ago so things could be different but I expect not much has changed in 5 years. I went to several lectures on it as well in my days at OU.

Matt said...

Rho,

I thought it was pretty good, not great, a good starting point, by no means a coup de grâce

I also saw the film last weekend, and your statement pretty much sums up my opinion on it, as well. I think that the film's main value is in showing the air of hostility and censorship that exists in many universities towards scientists who don't toe the party line. The film also makes a good point that a scientific establishment that closes ranks around a certain ideology, and does not permit that ideology to be seriously questioned in academic discussion, is dangerous to the free pursuit of knowledge that is so essential to a free and prosperous society. Beyond this, I felt that the film was weak in many areas. However, it is what it is, and at that, I think that at the very least, the movie is good for provoking thought about these issues, though it is by no means the final word on them.

Rintintin said...

Hi Matt

Out of interest, why do you feel that huge numbers of scientists would close ranks round a particular idea purely for the sake of it? Any idea has to be able generate hypotheses, from which follows data and evidence, from which follows further hypotheses. If an idea is weak, there is always someone willing to do experiments that show where it is weak and provide a better explanation. If an explanation holds up to repeated testing and has wide explanatory power, then there is no reason to reject it simply for the sake of it (eg the core ideas of cell theory will not be getting thrown out any time soon, I don't know of any biologist who would question this, and anyone who did would not be taken seriously).

It is worth looking at from the opposite angle I think - why not ask why people continually attack specific scientific theories and not others (usually evolution, some aspects of geology, some aspects of cosmology etc)? Why not attack other theories in areas with no bearing on religion for not being complete, or for 'dogmatically' holding to certain ideas and so on? Do you not think it may be because some people know what conclusion they want to support when they start out, and therefore assume the natural world must support this conclusion, and anything that doesn't is wrong by default? Unfortunately for them, this is not how science works - it will eventually find evidence that some people will not like.

If you think it is because scientists are anti-God, why do people like Ken Miller, Francis Collins or Henry Gee accept the ToE? Finally, as I said in my previous post, there are guys (and girls!) who's ideas had people saying 'yeah right', but eventually people had to accept them since the evidence pointed to them being correct.

Matt said...

RTT,

Out of interest, why do you feel that huge numbers of scientists would close ranks round a particular idea purely for the sake of it?

When did I ever say that I felt this way? What I said, was that the scientific establishment (i.e. administrators of universities and other people with influence over what research is conducted, and how it is conducted) closes ranks around a particular ideology, using its power to disrupt inquiry into different ideas, and that this is dangerous for science in general, and ultimately for a free society as a whole. The question of why individual scientists hold to certain beliefs, is another matter entirely, and really out of the scope of the point that I was raising in my short comment. To properly deal with this issue, though, and the matter of the proper method of scientific enquiry, would require, in my estimation, a discussion of both epistemology and the philosophy of science - things which I do not have the time to talk about at present.

Rhology said...

Just to give credit where it's due, here is the original point from Brandon's blog.

Brandon,

If people ask me what you are and I tell them you're a Hindu, that's not your fault, even if you hang around with Indian people.

I see what you mean about the both sides thing... if you watch it, you'll see that there is extensive quoting of principal Darwinians like Dick Dawk, PZM, Dennett... even a little Hitchens (as if he's anythg like a scientist) thrown in.
But it's about how the other side restricts dialogue, so there's a case to be made that it's a good idea to get alot of the minority position out there.
That said, it contains almost no discussion of the substance of the scientific disagreements, but I didn't think that was a good idea anyway. Plenty of that out there. It's about the academic silencing of these otherwise fine academics.

Glad to hear that it's not as bad at OU as it apparently is at Iowa State and Baylor.

Peace,
Rhology

Rintintin said...

the thing is Matt, the people who review grants and so on to decide who gets funding, and who review papers for publication are are also scientists (at a variety of levels, from postdocs to professors). So for an ideology to be embraced would require scientists to do so en masse. Why would they do this? This is what I meant in point 4 of my first post - scientists are put in a no-win situation. If they allow it, ID people dont want to accept any criticism of their ideas (such as the major weaknesses in irreducible complexity), and are unable to offer any answers to questions regarding the actions of the designer (such as times/places/mechanisms/motivations), if they don't allow it they get accused of dogmatism of suppressing freedom of thought/speech.

If there is a suppression of dialogue, why did the recent Experimental Biology conference I attended show the 'Flock of Dodos' movie detailing both sides of the ID argument? Why have people like Mike Behe, William Dembski and Scott Minnich been invited to talk at other conferences and universities about ID if universities want to suppress their opinions?

Again, going back to other people's ideas that have been dismissed - why do you think those people's ideas were eventually successful and gained acceptance if there is an adherence to the status quo at all costs (some of which have had a bearing on the ToE, such as those of Lynn Margulis), but ID's ideas haven't been?

I don't think there needs to be much in the way of discussion on philosophy of science here or epistomology, the questions I'm asking are fairly straightforward.

Matt said...

RTT,

Scientists may comprise a number of those who are in a position to prevent certain research from taking place (or firing or denying tenure to those who express support for ID or question the Darwinian paradigm), but these are a small percentage of the greater number of scientists working within academia. Also, just because there is a general attitude of censorship doesn't mean that ID will never see the light of day, that speakers will be prevented from giving talks, or that movies that "give both sides" will be prevented from being shown. Such things (such as giving a talk one night at a university, or showing a video) are really insignificant compared to the loss of jobs, tenure, and the rejection of proposals to do research and/or teach classes based upon a variance from and/or opposition to the Darwinian paradigm.

Furthermore, your argument for why scientists are in a "hard position" doesn't make much sense to me. You say that If they allow it, ID people dont want to accept any criticism of their ideas (such as the major weaknesses in irreducible complexity), and are unable to offer any answers to questions regarding the actions of the designer (such as times/places/mechanisms/motivations). Why is this a bad thing for the Darwinists? If Darwinian theory cannot be challenged, then why not let challenging viewpoints be discussed, published, and researched, so that a substantive debate can ensue? If ID is a load of baloney, then I would think, as a Darwinist, that it would be in my best interest to led pro-ID scientists publish articles, teach classes, perform research, and have their say, so that when it comes time to refute them, that their errors can be seen all the greater. The higher one rises, the harder one falls. If anti-Darwinian theories are so baseless, why not let them be fully developed in serious academic enquiry, so that they can be fully and finally refuted, once and for all? Furthermore, in refuting false notions, one can often gain a better understanding of the truth, why it is true, and why the error is false. So, this doesn't seem to me like a hard position at all, as such a situation would be ultimately beneficial to everyone.

As for philosophy, you ask why people should accept certain ideas, and speak of people accepting ideas based upon evidence, but such statements assume an implicit philosophy of the role of evidence in knowledge (epistemology), and the proper means of collecting evidence, and properly utilizing it to properly increase knowledge (philosophy of science). As I hold that Darwinists (especially atheistic Darwinists), in general, have both a flawed epistemology and philosophy of science (which in part explains ToE's widespread acceptance), the discussions of things which may seem straightforward to you, are most likely not straightforward, since our underlying philosophies are different. For instance, it is my contention that Darwinian evolution does not have adequate explanatory power to explain the origin of species (and this seems straightforward to me, from my philosophical position). However, in my experience, making such a statement and arguing for it usually accomplishes nothing more than getting Darwinists foaming at the mouth. Apart from the establishment of a proper philosophical context in which to discuss the nature of evidence and explanatory power, and thus why certain ideas should be accepted over others, I see no point in discussing such things, as such dialogues have been quite pointless in my experience.

Rintintin said...

Such things (such as giving a talk one night at a university, or showing a video) are really insignificant compared to the loss of jobs, tenure, and the rejection of proposals to do research and/or teach classes based upon a variance from and/or opposition to the Darwinian paradigm.

Noone has actually lost a job over ID - not Behe, not Minnich, not Sternberg. Gonzalez was denied tenure, but firstly tenure gets denied all the time and secondly his output had dropped to next to nothing after a promising start to his career - why would someone who is not being productive expect this to help their chances? In fact, it may interest you to know that even PZ Myers is on record as saying there is no reason why Mike Behe should lose his job for being heavily into ID. It's also worth noting that several pro-evolution people have come under pressure from evolution deniers, such as Chris Comer simply for forwarding an e-mail.

Could you give examples of what testable hypotheses ID would generate that would enable us to conduct research into a designer, its mechanisms, and times/places of 'design actuation events' that might form part of a research proposal? Could you also explain why despite having the availability of millions of dollars a year (a budget of over 4m in '03 and 3.5m in '04) and access to their own journal they have not yet been able to formulate or test any hypothesis to provide +ve ID evidence of the kind I described, come up with and publish any data or a coherent theory of ID? Given the previous sentence what exactly would one teach in a high school class that would show the usefuleness of ID compared to the ToE (where there are acknowledged gaps and differences of opinion on certain details)?

As for speaking against the 'Darwinian Paradigm', Douglas Theobold on talkorigins.org offers up suggestions of several falsifiers for the theory of common descent - this is a guy who accepts the ToE giving suggestions of how to prove the theory wrong! PZ Myers on a recent debate ran through a list of genuine scientific differences of opinion amongst biologists regarding evolutionary theory - hardly the mark of people trying to suppress investigation is it?

Why is this a bad thing for the Darwinists? If Darwinian theory cannot be challenged, then why not let challenging viewpoints be discussed, published, and researched, so that a substantive debate can ensue? If ID is a load of baloney, then I would think, as a Darwinist, that it would be in my best interest to led pro-ID scientists publish articles, teach classes, perform research, and have their say, so that when it comes time to refute them, that their errors can be seen all the greater.

Well you would think it would work that way, but it doesn't. ID quite often claims the Behe and Snoke article (2004) that Protein Science allowed them to publish as evidence of ID in a peer reviewed journal, despite the fact it doesn't provide any positive support for ID, attempts to restrict the limits of evolutionary processes with some seriously bad assumptions and (best of all) still ended up supporting evolution despite Behe's best efforts to unfairly constrain that possibility. The weaknesses in irreducible complexity examples have been pointed out to Behe thousands of times, and he still uses them! If this doesn't stop him talking rubbish, what good is teaching young kids in a classroom with no experience to differentiate between junk science and good science going to achieve? All that will happen is we end up with kids with a bad science education. Behe is on record as saying he considers suggested tests of his ideas a waste of time. Dembski openly states he doesn't have to provide mechanisms or explanations about the design process or designer. What is the point in giving them time if they are not going to attempt to answer these questions? I for one would like to know how the designer works and why it does what it does. So at best we have a scientific dead end. Not exactly useful or worthy of time.

There's also the argument that genuine scientists don't want to wade through junk arguments such as irreducible complexity, articles with no +ve claims or waste space that could be used to publish science that actually makes a +ve argument and will generate further hypotheses.

For instance, it is my contention that Darwinian evolution does not have adequate explanatory power to explain the origin of species (and this seems straightforward to me, from my philosophical position).

No evolutionary biologist is claiming to know every mechanism behind evolution, or every event that has occurred during evolution - however, it has been observed that natural selection can shape the characteristics of a population, and the theory of common descent has been tested to death without finding any contradictory evidence and continual supporting evidence (which I can discuss ad nauseum if really needed). You are aware that speciation has been observed repeatedly both in a lab and in nature, without any observed instance of a designer at hand if that's what you're meaning by 'origin of species'? If you're meaning abiogenesis, then you have the wrong theory in mind since that's not what evolution deals with.

Darwinian evolution and common descent is tested to the same standards as any other science - why single it out above any other? It can be falsified, it can't explain any and all observations etc etc.

Rhology said...

You are aware that speciation has been observed repeatedly both in a lab and in nature, without any observed instance of a designer at hand if that's what you're meaning by 'origin of species'?

1) Assumption alert. How about some actual evidence of ToE at work rather than just stuff you have to go to highly-disputed extrapolations to make work for you?
2) Saying that there is no observed instance of designer at work is begging the question, which is par for the course for Darwinians.

If you're meaning abiogenesis, then you have the wrong theory in mind since that's not what evolution deals with.

How conveeeeeeenient. ID deals with that! YEC deals with it VERY well. Suddenly ToE has LESS explanatory power than either of its despised rivals. Funny how turnabout works.

Peace,
Rhology

Rintintin said...

1) Assumption alert. How about some actual evidence of ToE at work rather than just stuff you have to go to highly-disputed extrapolations to make work for you?
2) Saying that there is no observed instance of designer at work is begging the question, which is par for the course for Darwinians.


Keep calm Rho, I will attempt to back up any statement I make if requested to do so - it appears this topic is your cookie jar a la atheists and moral judgements :) A few examples:

1) In the lab:

Drosophila giving rise to sterile hybrids - Dobzhansky, Th., and O. Pavlovsky, 1971. "An experimentally created incipient species of Drosophila", Nature 23:289-292.

In the outside world:

Culex molestus (quite an entertaining one - this was speciation of a population of mosquitos (Culex pipiens), that were in an overground population that entered the London underground). They have different behaviours and extreme difficulty breeding with C. Pipiens. This is actually cited as an example of speciation on AIG of all places - I think they feel this shows because a new species can arise rapidly from a parent stock that the world could have been repopulated at breakneck speed with mosquito species from the pair of mosquitoes on the Ark. I have to say that made me smile.

Ensatina eschscholtzi, which is a type of salamander, can no longer breed with one of the other 7 subspecies, and displays differences in DNA and behaviour. However, both can breed with the intermediate species - this is an example of a ring species.

http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~irwin/GreenishWarblers.html - this is quite an interesting page on another example of speciation in a ring species of green warblers.


2) So someone somewhere has observed the designer of ID actively creating CQR malaria, a flagellum or a new species? Can you tell me who this person was and when this happened?

How conveeeeeeenient. ID deals with that! YEC deals with it VERY well. Suddenly ToE has LESS explanatory power than either of its despised rivals. Funny how turnabout works.

1) Why is the theory of evolution expected to deal with explaining every single phenomenon that has ever occurred in the natural world?

2) Whatever anyone believes, abiogenesis obviously happened by some means whether it was natural or poofed into existence by God or put together by aliens, since we are sitting here talking (or typing at least).

3) The FSM or any other God I want to make up 'explains' it just as well as ID or YEC does. I can simply assert that I believe in God X, and that he created life from chemicals. I can do the same for aliens. Noone's ever observed them at work, or provided conclusive evidence of their actions, but I can assert they did it. Explanation done. Both the designer of ID and God are hypotheses as opposed to explanations. They could be correct, but then you would need to provide some +ve evidence for one/both.

4) Since either of those explain it so well, could you give the details of how all the chemicals were put together to make a cell, a dog or a human?

Benjamin said...

Like you, rho, this is not a subject I like to discuss and so I shall do my best to stray from the main topic. I would rather ask you about a few other things you mentioned which, as a Christian brother who cares about you, were troublesome to me. Perhaps I did not understand...

You urged, in the face of an accusation of dishonesty among Christians, that the "naturalists started it." This is not only a tu quoque fallacy but a rather ignoble attempt at passing the responsibility which every Christian has to live to a higher standard than the world. Whether naturalists "started it" or not, how does this excuse the Christian who is a prince in the house of GOD, a priest forever? How, indeed, especially given that, according to Paul, "what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?" (I Corinthians 5:12)

Second, you encouraged "lying to evangelists of atheism" on the grounds that they "are not my neighbors" and that the resultant exposure is worth the dishonesty. This does not seem to express a chief desire to glorify GOD precisely because one hardly needs to lie to an advocate of atheism in order to discover the truth, nor is this "truth" so very important to the cause of Christ that we must lie for it. Lying in these terms is not advocated in Scripture.

If you wish to lie, as Rahab did, to save the lives of others, do so with a good will, but that is hardly what you were advocating. To be so flippant about our witness before the world is both without Scriptural warrant and beneath the integrity displayed even by many unbelievers.

How can you call anyone to Christ by your testimony that His blood will secure the double benefit of being saved from the guilt of sin and also from its power when you show by your own life that, though the former might have been possible, the power of sin is still strong with you? If the blood of Christ does not save from the power of sin, then it promises no aid to remove the guilt of sin, either.

To become a liar in one area of our lives while touting the excuse that they "are not my neighbor" anyway, is to reveal that we are not really trustworthy anywhere whenever we decide for ourselves that someone is not worthy of our "honesty."

Rhology said...

Hi Benjamin,

I appreciate your thoughts and the manner in which they are presented and know the heart that underlies them.
And you may in fact be right... part of MY blogging, anyway, is thinking out loud and implicitly seeking correction from others. Problem is, atheists, agnostics, and Roman Catholics (with whom I spend most of my time dealing) rarely have anythg to offer as far as that goes...

tu quoque

You may be right! I'll have to think about that a little more.

We'll have to talk in the hypothetical b/c I don't think the Expelled people claim to BE Christians; Stein certainly doesn't. But we should ask whether these actions are morally commendable.
Every Christian is called to live at a higher standard than the world, yes. The very definition of higher standard is given by the Bible itself; one can easily be "too holy". For example, one can desire to be so far away from the world that one never touches alcohol. It is not a commandment but rather his choice to do so, that's fine, but it's not obligatory to another Christian. Similarly, when the 9th Cmdmt tells me not to lie about or to my neighbor, I take that 100% seriously. But I also reflect that there are those who are not my neighbors, false teachers and apostates being among them. I have no cmdmt about that... unless I am missing sthg, which is very possible. Very possibly other Scr psgs could be brought to bear that I am simply failing to remember at this time. I am getting older... :-)

How can you call anyone to Christ by your testimony that His blood will secure the double benefit of being saved from the guilt of sin and also from its power when you show by your own life...

1) Every Christian *will* let the unbeliever down in his personal holiness; we are not perfected.
2) I call the unbeliever to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is true.
3) I call them to Jesus Christ Himself, Who DID live a perfect life.
4) I call them to recognise their own sin. Etc.
5) In living out the biblical Christian life, I will do things that the unbeliever will find morally objectionable anyway. For example, I will vote against a 'woman's right to choose', thereby committing an offensive act to many. Can't help that.

All that to say, the question is whether this deceptive act by the Expelled guys is biblically permissible.

touting the excuse that they "are not my neighbor" anyway,

With respect, brother, it is not an excuse. It is a position that I believe (at this point, anyway) is supportable by Scr. I have no overwhelming desire to justify the Expelled guys, though, please be assured! I have criticised them a fair bit already in my post and freely admit I could be mistaken on this matter as well.

Thanks for your thoughts and any others that might be forthcoming.
BTW, you're welcome at our community group again any time.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

Seth said...

I think that the OT and NT leave ample room to maneuver in our dealings with unbelievers, especially hostile ones, without sacrificing honesty or clinging to the futility of a naïve Boy Scout-ish ethic. For those prone to the latter, recall the teaching to not cast pearls to the swine, or Jesus’ refusal to answer certain questions posed with the intent of trapping him in contradiction. I like when Solomon was threatened with deceit from the dueling mothers, he simply called for them to chop the baby in half and be done with it!

Now the issue of dealing with neighbors versus non-neighbors scripturally is a moot point. Case in point, consider the Torah context from which the ‘neighbor’ distinction is derived.

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” Lev 19:32-33

From the legal context, strangers and neighbors are indeed different entities, but the stranger is to be given the same treatment as the neighbor. Further, remember the parable of the Good Samaritan: the question is not whether or not the Samaritan* is indeed an outsider, but whether the insider is actually a neighbor. In this way, our attitude and actions towards the abortionist, evolutionist, etc., will give insight into if WE are the neighbor. (*Point of clarity, the cult of the Samaritans was quite bad according to the OT and history- they weren’t merely a suppressed ethnic minority as the telling often goes).

“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin” Lev 19:34-35

There is no provision given to have one standard of behavior with believers and one with unbelievers. Of course, we ought to practice wisdom knowing that nonbelievers are not looking out for our good:

“Little children, make sure no one deceives you… By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious…Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.” 1 John 3:7,10,13

One last point: in the political realm the contentious back and forth mud-slinging encroaches the ethical centerline with the goal of causing the opponent to actually slip and make some unforgivable comment or other terminal error. I think that’s why Paul petitioned (citing the OT):

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Rom. 12:17-21

Matt said...

I thought that I would take a minute and weigh in on the latest development in this combox. I would agree that we should not go around wantonly lying to people. However, the issue is not so clear-cut as if "always reveal the full truth under every circumstance" is the rule by which we are to live. Now, certainly, we should not lie to other Christians: "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices" (Col. 3:9). We also have that those who make a practice of lying with their lives give evidence that they were never saved, which is why Revelation states that such end up in hell: "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Rev. 21:8). Furthermore, we are not to walk as the world walks, and as Satan is at work in (lit. "energizing") those who live in rebellion to God (Eph. 2:2), and as Satan is the father of lies (Jn. 8:44), then lying is standard operating procedure for the world, and as we are not to walk as the world, then lying should not be a regular practice for us.

However, where does one draw the line, to say that in such and such a situation, this amount of deception is okay, but not more? Is it a sin to put a "Beware of the dog" sign on my fence, even if I don't have a dog? My intent in doing so would be to deceive potential thieves into thinking that there is a high degree of danger in entering my backyard, and in so doing help to protect my house from being burglarized. What about putting a light on a timer when I'm on vacation, so that it comes on every night, and makes it look like I'm at home? This too, is a means of deception. If we want to be totally honest, we should throw open the curtains and let every potential thief know exactly what his propositions are, if he should want to rob our homes. Now, these examples are a bit trite, but illustrate the point that total and complete honesty in every situation can be a very bad idea. What about the case of smuggling Bibles into closed nations? This usually involves a degree of deception, if not outright lies, on the part of the smugglers. Yet, I would say that such activities are not only permissible, but wholly commendable. What about a reporter, trying to break a story on a corrupt politician, whose corruption is adversely affecting the lives of thousands of people? Which is better, for the reporter to use some deception in order to get the facts and expose the corruption, or for him/her to say "I cannot tell a lie" and let the corruption continue unabated? I would say that the former is far more excellent than the latter. The general principle here, is not that the ends justify the means, but rather that people who are corrupt, who have given themselves wholly to evil and wickedness, and are oppressing others, need to be stopped, exposed, or thwarted, whenever possible, and that it is far superior to expose, stop, or thwart an evil than to not act on sanctimonious grounds, and that a suppression of the truth is no meaningful injury to those who themselves deceive and suppress the truth to further their own wickedness.

Now, with respect to Expelled, one can make an argument that the situation there is similar - film producers trying to expose what they considered to be a much greater corruption and evil, by the use of some deception, which in the end was rather insignificant - the producers told the scientists that they were being interviewed for a film, and they were indeed being interviewed for a film, the only difference being the name of the film, and its theme. Now, I can't speak for the producers personally - Expelled makes no claims to be a Christian film, and as such, what they did to get their interviews is something that they will have to deal with personally, with their own consciences, before God. For the rest of us, the film has been made, and is being shown, so I don't see the point in wrangling over whether or not the producers of Expelled told a lie in the film's production, when the issues addressed by the film itself are of much greater significance to us.

Rintintin said...

Hi all, I would just like to chip in with my $0.02 worth at this stage:

while I can see the point about not being entirely truthful to serve a greater good, the problem is the greater good is completely absent in this case. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, I will say again:

1. there is no scientific theory of ID (as admitted by Paul Nelson, Philip Johnson). I have asked many times, including in this combox, what would constitute the scientific theory of ID and how it could be tested to give us mechanisms/times/places of design events and how we could discover the designer. I have yet to read an answer to this question

2. The proponents feel they do not have to test their ideas or provide any explanations (Behe, Dembski)

3. They have millions of dollars for research (which is a lot more than most labs) and a journal to publish in (http://www.iscid.org/pcid.php - last issue 2.5 years ago). If they have all this positive data plus a means for publication, lets see it.

4. Noone has actually been 'expelled' for supporting ID. I know of people who have for supporting evolution (Chris Comer, Richard Colling for example) - noone on the ID side seems overly concerned about 'academic fairness' or 'viewpoint discrimination' in these instances.

5. For something that is supposed to be a non-religious proposition, I have yet to read an explanation of why Philip Johnson says things like:

"Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools."

"We are taking an intuition most people have (the belief in God) and making it a scientific and academic enterprise. We are removing the most important cultural roadblock to accepting the role of God as creator."


6. I have listed positive data and observations/discoveries found as a result of testing evolutionary predictions, both for common descent and evolutionary mechanisms in a variety of posts on here. I have listed examples of practical applications of the ToE. I have yet to see an example of where ID has improved areas such as technology, medicine etc, or generated any testable ideas.


Given the complete absence of any scientific output from ID (despite there really being nothing stopping them doing research) this means that films like Expelled don't actually have any basis for any complaints they have. If they have no science, then why on earth should they expect preferential treatment? The lying clearly doesn't stop with simply trying to deceive people into interviews, it's the basis for an entire movement that contributes absolutely nothing.

I could go on, but I feel I would be wasting my time since I've posted this sort of stuff repeatedly, but for some reason people who are pro-ID simply refuse to take it on board for reasons best known to themselves, as if they can't possibly believe that the ID proponents might be lying to them. The irony is most of the evidence of ID's nonsense comes straight from the mouth of the prominent ID proponents themselves.

Benjamin said...

Thank you for taking my comment, rho. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about these subjects which I know to be at the heart of our concerns for a more glorifying apologetic. I would like to take a moment and clarify a few points that you discussed with brotherly affection and offer whatever I may.

"We'll have to talk in the hypothetical b/c I don't think the Expelled people claim to BE Christians; Stein certainly doesn't."

Yes, of course, you're right, but I was not so concerned with the main topic admittedly because I don't enter into this discussion. It was only you and your sentiment that any Christian (or anyone else for that matter) might be justified to embrace dishonesty because someone else did so first.

". . .one can easily be 'too holy'. For example, one can desire to be so far away from the world that one never touches alcohol. It is not a commandment but rather his choice to do so, that's fine, but it's not obligatory to another Christian."

True, and I have no desire to make it a commandment. Yet, Paul's attitude always favored denying our liberty as a sacrifice of love in the face of others' immaturity of judgment or moral weakness. The movement was always for Paul away from an emphasis upon liberty with regard to those brethren (often among our own beloved Baptist ranks) who are nevertheless more adamant about abstinence from alcohol as an essential provision, for instance, than you or I might be... More often than not, the question of whether one can toe the line of sin in faith comes to the forefront.

"Similarly, when the 9th Cmdmt tells me not to lie about or to my neighbor, I take that 100% seriously. But I also reflect that there are those who are not my neighbors, false teachers and apostates being among them. I have no cmdmt about that... unless I am missing sthg, which is very possible."

Let me say, first of all, that I apologize for having referred clumsily to this as an "excuse" in my initial comment. I had meant that term as a reflection upon an "impoverished reason," though I can see now that it could be taken to mean a deliberate attempt to evade a clear moral responsibility. I wasn't using "excuse" in that sense.

I am not familiar with the arguments which brought you to conclude that an atheist is not one's neighbor. Do you mean to say that the second of the two great commandments, to love your neighbor as you love yourself, does not apply to such people?

Seth's brief analysis seems to undercut this notion, if it is what you meant, and there is much more to be said of it. I would rather learn more of your meaning before venturing further in response to it. What did you have in mind and where did you discern that such people are not our "neighbors"?

"Every Christian *will* let the unbeliever down in his personal holiness; we are not perfected.
2) I call the unbeliever to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is true.
3) I call them to Jesus Christ Himself, Who DID live a perfect life.
4) I call them to recognise their own sin. Etc."


All this I agree with entirely, of course. In regard to these points, you are implying the invalidity of casting aspersions upon your confession because of the occasional hypocrisy of your life. Indeed, ad hominem abusives and circumstantials and tu quoque fallacies are an invalid form of reasoning. On the other hand, a logical fallacy simply addresses the fact that the conclusion has yet to be proven.

I am, as I think you are, too familiar with the general excuse, when learning of the wretchedness of others, that everyone has their faults and sins at times. All this reveals, rather than a valid justification, is that everyone is to be condemned and would be so... were it not for the sacrifice of Christ. Let His Name be praised forever for His beautiful perfections.

Here, however, there are certain things revealed in Scripture which do attest to a real change and difference in the lives of Christians which mark them out from the rest, which is given a particularly clear testimony in the first epistle of John. Those who are not fit for such a description are not Christians, and if none of us are, then there are no Christians at all and our faith is a false one... as false and hopeless as though Christ were never raised, for we would obviously not have been raised with Him. Our hope would be futile and so would be our testimony.

It follows from this, then, that if Christians were to follow the reasoning of embracing practices which you are willing to condemn in others because they started it, all our professions would be questionable and so would our faith be. What we do is very much a reflection upon our religion and when our enemies point to this, it cannot always be cast aside as a cheap ad hominem. This attitude (which I do not think is necessarily your own) has encouraged a great moral laxity among lay-apologists who have neglected the fact that one of the greatest apologetics of the Christian faith is the testimony of our love. Without that, even Paul said that our testimony would be as a clanging cymbal and we would be as nothing.

"In living out the biblical Christian life, I will do things that the unbeliever will find morally objectionable anyway. For example, I will vote against a 'woman's right to choose', thereby committing an offensive act to many. Can't help that."

To be certain, but of course my complaint was not that your righteous was hurting the eyes of the unbelievers.

"All that to say, the question is whether this deceptive act by the Expelled guys is biblically permissible."

As Matt provides some reasons to think it might be, I shall address him in a separate comment.

Again, thank you for so warm a reception, dear brother. May the LORD continue to sharpen you for the privileges of His service, to the glory of His Name.

Benjamin said...

Thank you, Matt, for the response and the charity of your counsel, Matt, particularly in your desire to instruct through the Word. As much of what you said touches upon my initial comment, I would like to respond and learn more from you if I may.

"However, the issue is not so clear-cut as if 'always reveal the full truth under every circumstance' is the rule by which we are to live."

Though I am not so very gifted as an expositor of these ideas, I hope that I have not left you with the impression that I think the issue is quite so simplistic as that. My mention of Rahab as an example of where one might boldly lie "with a good will" would reveal that I am not an exponent of the common misconception that Biblical ethics are primarily deontological (principle driven).

"Now, certainly, we should not lie to other Christians: 'Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices' (Col. 3:9)."

And even here there are exceptions, of course. It may have been justifiable for someone to have lied to David when accepting the order to have Uriah killed. It seems that Scripture does not reject the lie of Michal to her father when protecting herself and David in his escape.

Initially, you offer a couple of connected circumstances in which a lie might be justified and one slippery slope. They are these:

1. "Is it a sin to put a 'Beware of the dog' sign on my fence, even if I don't have a dog?"

2. "What about putting a light on a timer when I'm on vacation, so that it comes on every night, and makes it look like I'm at home?"

3. "If we want to be totally honest, we should throw open the curtains and let every potential thief know exactly what his propositions are, if he should want to rob our homes."

In each case, certainly the question of whether the act is done "in faith" must prevail. As to the first, if you do not wish to have a dog, then there is no need for a limp suggestion like this when the LORD Himself is our protection. Of course, we must do what is necessary to keep our family safe, but a dog is better than a sign and a deception is unnecessary in the face of the much greater Reality. I would not do this because the LORD does not seem to wish us to live with the fear of having our belongings taken. We are, in fact, not even to demand them back (Luke 6:30), but be charitable over and above what we have suffered. Nevertheless, it seems a matter of personal conscience, does it not?

I'm not sure how the second is even a credible deception, much less a "lie." The Scripture seems to suggest that a "deception" is something like a snare, but again does not one's conscience prevail in the sense I mentioned above?

As for the third, I do not know why full disclosure is to you the same as complete honesty. That seems a cultural notion that I do not share and which Christ (who was perfectly honest) did not exemplify when He remained silent in the face of Pilate's questioning. I do not need to speak nor reveal anything to be "totally honest."

4. "What about the case of smuggling Bibles into closed nations?"

This is not a deception or a lie but a rational act on the ground that it is commanded by the LORD to give the Scriptures to all as they are able to make anyone wise unto salvation through faith in Christ and which are sufficient to equip the man of GOD for every good work. As all other authority in heaven and on earth is derived from the Authority of GOD, for any alleged authority to contradict Authority Himself would be self-refuting. Thus, any law or action meant to curb Christian habits cannot be obeyed precisely because it is semantically empty, rejecting the Authority of the One that establishes in Himself all other authority.

As for keeping lives safe through hidden methods, that is already the example of Rahab.

5. "What about a reporter, trying to break a story on a corrupt politician, whose corruption is adversely affecting the lives of thousands of people? Which is better, for the reporter to use some deception in order to get the facts and expose the corruption, or for him/her to say "I cannot tell a lie" and let the corruption continue unabated? I would say that the former is far more excellent than the latter."

You would say? Do you mean on your own authority?

"And they have conquered [the Accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death." (Revelation 12:11)

Though it may seem inexplicable at first, I would not agree that all people who lie or cheat or abuse others need to be "stopped" by us anymore than all suffering is bad or must be opposed at such a cost. Certainly we may oppose the enemies of Christ with our testimony, with arguments and the Gospel and the blood of the Lamb, but where do we glean from the Word that it is ever a good thing to establish righteousness on the back of doing a little wrong?

As many of the puritans have said, there is more evil in the least sin than in all the suffering which one might endure.

". . .a suppression of the truth is no meaningful injury to those who themselves deceive and suppress the truth to further their own wickedness."

We are not--at least I am not--discussing whether a "supression of the truth" (a phrase that echoes Romans 1) harms those who consistently deceive others but whether this glorifies myself in furthering my own aims rather than glorifying GOD by a pure witness. Does it advance the glory of GOD and can this be demonstrated?

"Now, with respect to Expelled, one can make an argument that the situation there is similar - film producers trying to expose what they considered to be a much greater corruption and evil, by the use of some deception, which in the end was rather insignificant. . ."

It cannot be established from Scripture that whatever a person deceives themselves into believing to be a good cause justifies whatever they do. The friends of Job certainly thought themselves right and innocent to speak as they did of the LORD and I should say that most professing Christians would find it very difficult to pinpoint precisely where they spoke wrongly of Him. Nevertheless, the LORD was so angry that they had spoken wrong of Him, He would not even accept their sacrifices unless Job mediated for them.

There is no such thing as "insigificant" sin and, if that is your meaning, it is indicative of a grave insensitivity to the whole question. A deception is either good or it is evil because it either glorifies the LORD or it does not. It cannot be insignificantly good or insignificantly evil (because nothing insignificantly does or does not glorify GOD).

The remainder of your comment was not directed to my concerns with the remarks of rhology, so I shall leave them here as I think the point is made. Thank you very much for your time and your thoughts and I sincerely welcome any criticism from Scripture which you might wish to provide.

I can always do with a marvelously humbling correction from the mind of Christ.

Benjamin said...

To Rintintin...

If any of your observations were directed to me, I do not wish you to think I have ignored them. They are poignant but altogether not very applicable in my case. I am not a proponent of ID, though perhaps for different reasons than yourself, so I do not wish to defend it. In that case, please excuse me from responding to you which I would otherwise be sincerely pleased to do.

Rintintin said...

Hi Benjamin

No problem - they were not directed at you, as I noted earlier you stated you did not want to debate ID, which is fine (I understand it's not a topic that is of interest to everyone).

I was directing my statements and questioning toward Matt and Rhology to find out on what basis they feel ID proponents are persecuted, and therefore whether they were justified in deceiving some of the interviewees to bring attention to the aforementioned claims of persecution.

Matt said...

Benjamin,

Thanks for your reply. I don't have much time for a detailed discussion, but here is a response, such as it is.

For points 1-3, I myself said that they were trite examples, because they are a bit ridiculous, (but merely intended to be demonstrative). I agree that everything that we own is in the hands of the LORD, but at the same time, this does not alleviate our responsibility as stewards of those posession. It seems to me that we should do everything that is "reasonable" within our means to safeguard what we have been given, for to do anything less is (other things not considered) bad stewardship. If God wants what He has given me in the hands of thieves, then the thieves will succeed even against my intentions to keep the property safe. The "Beware of the dog" might, in fact, be a preventive measure to theft. In any case this is a matter of conscience and of accounting before God for the management of one's posession.

I define deception as an attempt to make another person believe something that is at variance with reality. One can say true statements, and still be practicing deception, if one purposefully makes true statements that lead another to a faulty conclusion (unaccepted enthymemes are a good example of this). Now, what the Bible defines as lying, I guess is possibly a different matter, and I guess one would need to do an in-depth word study to determine exactly what Scripture says is a sin in this regard.

As for point 4, I agree with you about the issue of authority (I would have talked about it myself, but it was out of the scope of the previous post). However, suppose that a Bible-smuggler comes to a vehicle checkpoint, and is asked if he has anything to declare, or if he is carrying contraband. In answering no, this is a lie. Furthermore, in hiding the Bibles in such a way as to appear that there are no Bibles in the vehicle when there are some, this is a deception. I guess this really boils down to semantics, and how you define things. However, in Bible-smuggling, one is presenting a picture of reality to another that is inaccurate.

As for point 5, I said "I would say" precisely because I have neither moral authority, nor a rigorous argument from Scripture to back up this stamen. However, I do have my own moral sensibilities (as flawed as they are), and some general Scriptural principles which I think apply. The point I was trying to make with the corruption, is not that all oppression must be actively opposed. There is a place for suffering for the Gospel, and for martyrdom, and it is a blessed place indeed (Matt. 5:11-12). However, if I am in a position to end, or help end the oppression of others, or to stop an evil that is harming my brother, would I not, out of brotherly love, do what is necessary to help my brother? If I can help to end an evil or an oppression, how do I not know that I have not been placed in such a situation for such a time as this (cf. Est. 4:14)? To me, it speaks more of brotherly love, to put one's own well-being on the line, to go and attempt to thwart or put an end to an oppressive evil when on has the opportunity to do so, then to sit back and count the virtues of suffering. Certainly, Esther took this point of view, in putting her own life on the line, in order to alleviate the potential suffering and death of her people. There is a place for suffering, and when we are powerless to prevent it, then that is one thing, but if someone can work to end it, then it seems to me that that would be the loving thing for that person to do.

Now, as for deception in combating evil - let me bring a couple of more dilemmas. Can a Christian in law enforcement legitimately "go undercover," or participate in a sting operation? Both of these involve deception with respect to identity (e.g. I'm a criminal like you, and not a law enforcement agent). Yet, undercover and sting operations bring thousands of criminals to justice each year. Is it more justifiable for a Christian to not participate in such operations, and let crime run more rampant, then to participate, and bring criminals to justice? My thought on the matter is that criminals (or corrupt politicians, from the reporter example) have no right to conduct illicit activities, and thus, if we have the opportunity to put an end to them, especially, if they are harming others, then this is the loving thing to do. In the case of government, law enforcement officers have more than an obligation of love, but an obligation of their specific God-instituted office to provide justice for society (Rom. 13:4). What about witness protection, to save one's own life? Is it better for a Christian to not undergo witness protection (which entails lies about one's identity), in order to be honest, and so be killed by some criminal? It seems to me like a waste of one's life - bad stewardship of one's days, to not take such measures to protect oneself against those who have no right to take one's life. Perhaps David had a similar state of mind when he engaged in deception before Achish, in order to escape a needless death that he feared was imminent (1 Sam. 21:10-15).

I guess the question, for me comes down to the Rahab situation - if you accept that Rahab was justified in deception to save lives, then you would also accept that deception is justified in certain circumstances (such as Bible-smuggling). What are these circumstances, then, and what are the means by which they can be enumerated? If a particular situation falls under that set of circumstances, then deception would be justified, and if not, then not. My sensibilities at this point are that using deception to stop corrupt and evil men from harming others falls within those proper bounds. We need to be mindful of our witness, yes, but if I have an opportunity to stop a great evil, and do nothing, then what witness does this send about me, and my love for others who are being oppressed?

Now, w.r.t. Expelled, I was saying that one could argue that the specific situation of the producers fell under the set of allowable circumstances for deception. I'm not actually making this argument, only saying that one could argue for that position.

Finally, I do consider the deception of the producers insignificant, not from a sin or moral point of view, but from a consequences point of view (in terms of damages). The scientists interviewed, did not get ripped off, have their identities stolen, etc. - as far as deceptions go, there could have been a lot more significant consequences than being interviewed and put in a movie.

In closing, I'm short on time this week (and shouldn't really being replying to this), but if you still contest my position, do you have some criteria by which a set of acceptable deception circumstances could be enumerated? This seems to be the whole point of contention between our two positions, and I would certainly benefit from having such a set of conditions.

Matt said...

RTT,

I was directing my statements and questioning toward Matt and Rhology to find out on what basis they feel ID proponents are persecuted, and therefore whether they were justified in deceiving some of the interviewees to bring attention to the aforementioned claims of persecution.

As for what basis that ID proponents feel persecuted, one only needs to listen to their own testimony on the matter. You can dispute that all you want, but if someone says that they were discriminated against on the basis of dissent from the Darwinian paradigm, then I'm more inclined to believe their stories (also based on what I've personally experienced at a secular university), over bureaucrats looking to explain dismissals, disciplinary actions, etc., in other terms, in order to save face (which is a likely explanation for their explanations). Sorry, but we're just going to have to disagree on this one. As for Expelled, the movie is being shown, and while I personally wouldn't have wanted to lie to obtain interviews, I don't think that the means by which the film was produced detracts from the issues to which it brings attention.

As for the theoretical aspects of ID, 1) I'm not completely on board with ID as such (for philosophical and theoretical reasons), and 2) discussing the proper role of ID in the greater context of scientific research would require, at least for my tastes, an established context of epistemology and the philosophy of science which grounds my position. However, my greater concern here is that dissent from the Darwinian paradigm be allowed, and from what I've heard and experienced, this cannot be done in many cases without discriminatory repercussions. That is my concern, which I think Expelled addresses to some degree.

I don't know if I can really add much more to the conversation at this point, but I do appreciate your comments and congenial interaction, as they have lent to a good discussion, in my estimation.

Rhology said...

RTT,

No time now, but I wondered if you've seen this website. Just FYI.

Daniel said...

I think this is a great discussion because it gets to the heart of what I consider “moral dilemmas,” which if left unaddressed, could leave atheists and others with the impression that the God of the Bible is simply too naïve to understand real life situations. In reality, the Bible, when taken in its entirety, reveals that God masterfully instructs regarding the complexities of life and society, but is also adept and boiling it down to a bottom line. Even more, He made a way for our messes to be cleaned up and He came to live in those who long to serve Him in order to guide them in decision making on the finer points. I agree much of what Rho, Seth, Matt and Benjamin have been writing here, and don’t feel the need to weigh in further.

I do want to address rintintin.

1. there is no scientific theory of ID (as admitted by Paul Nelson, Philip Johnson). I have asked many times, including in this combox, what would constitute the scientific theory of ID and how it could be tested to give us mechanisms/times/places of design events and how we could discover the designer. I have yet to read an answer to this question

From my understanding, I have questions, as it appears Matt and Benjamin do, as to the “scientific” nature of ID. What I mean is, can it be proven by the scientific method? If it’s not real science, as I know many opponents claim, then perhaps it shouldn’t be taught as science.

I say this as objectively as I can, which is why I continue…

5. For something that is supposed to be a non-religious proposition, I have yet to read an explanation of why Philip Johnson says things like:

"Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools."

"We are taking an intuition most people have (the belief in God) and making it a scientific and academic enterprise. We are removing the most important cultural roadblock to accepting the role of God as creator."


I think a strong case could be made that no theory on the origins of life and/or the universe are scientific – that is, testable by the scientific method. Conversely, this means they're all based on some level of evidence and some level of faith, which you call "religious".

The Darwinian origin of species certainly is not testable. It takes a great leap to say that variety within species or even speciation serve as proof for macro-evolution. I've found every fossil that's been cited as proof to be easily explainable without taking the leap of faith that I think evolution requires. I don’t plan to debate the specifics here, though I grant that that’s what it would take to show that evolution is also faith-based/religion.

Building on that, however, my point is that if we were to keep science completely pure, free of philosophy, and focused only on that which is observable – describing and analyzing the natural world – then neither theory has a place in scientific circles. (In other words, believe what you want, just don't call it science.) Perhaps it would be best to let theories of origins be discussed in the realm of philosophy, religion, and history. After all, there are ways of establishing something to be true, or extremely likely to be true, by methods other than the scientific method.

I have found most evidence for Creationism not through the ID theory, but through the evidence for the historical, archaeological, geological, sociological, prophetic, spiritual, political, etc, evidence for the truth of the Bible. This evidence combined affirms the Bible as a trustworthy account of the presence and purpose of existence and the natural world. I find irreducible complexity as a fantastic witness to those truths, but to me it only serves as convincing evidence when combined with those truths.

Theories on origins are more a matter of probability than fact. Creationism, like evolution, does take faith since we weren't there. However, the combined areas of evidence I listed make the validity of the Bible - the account of people that were there and described what they saw - so incredibly probable, it might as well be considered fact. It goes without saying that I consider this far far more probable than macro-evolution.

Again, I think the objective solution to the conflict you raised is to allow science to just explain the material world in as much detail as it can and let us consider all the evidence to conclude why it is the way it is and how it got here.

Nonetheless, if theories such as macro-evolution are to continue being considered a part of science as seems likely to happen, then let them fight it out - I think it's only fair that ID should be included as well.

Matt said...

Daniel,

From my understanding, I have questions, as it appears Matt and Benjamin do, as to the “scientific” nature of ID.

Just to give a quick statement of my position (which is unsupported by requisite argumentation), from my understanding of ID (after reading The Design Inference), ID is not ultimately an empirical enquiry, as are modern scientific theories, in attempting to explain the phenomena that we observe in nature, so as to better understand how the universe "works" and better make predictions about what will happen in the future, given present and past data. ID, on the other hand, is ultimately mathematical, in attempting to detect design in observed patterns. The ultimate criterion for whether or not design is detected reduces down, ultimately, not to derived theories which explain past observations, but to mathematical definitions of randomness and patterns. According to Dembski, if an observed event is of sufficiently small probability, and if a pattern, independently drawn from a set of specifications, "matches" the given event, then one is justified in attributing design to the event. As such, I contend that ID has a place in science, not in "explaining" (I lean towards Instrumentalism) natural phenomena, which is what the scientific method does, but in "filtering" observed events for evidence of design. As such, I see no conflict between ID and science, because the two, at least in my mind, complement each other.

Now, while I agree with the general idea of ID (detecting design in patterns), I have various theoretical problems with a few of its formulations (i.e. - what is a specification, how small should an event's probability be in order to infer design, how does one calculate such probabilities in a principled manner, what is randomness (especially if God designed the universe), and so on). Personally, I would like to see these issues more rigorously formulated to make the theory more sound and applicable to real-world problems. However, even at this point, I think that ID has its applications. In Computer Science (my own field of research), I've seen a few areas in which a method by which design could be distinguished from randomness would be quite useful.

As for philosophical objections, I hold that Scripture is the fundamental principle of authority in knowledge, and as such, our views about the origin of life should come primarily from Scripture. Thus, the idea that ID is the primary means by which we know the universe to be designed is inaccurate. However, ID provides a means of confirming what Scripture already states, because if the universe is designed, we should be able to detect design in it. However, my own view is that ID should not be seen as an end-all to Darwinism in and of itself, but in conjunction with a proper epistemology and philosophy of science (under which Darwinism has a hard time standing on its own).

Rintintin said...

Haha, I see I will have a fair bit of writing to do to answer the latest series of posts :) I'm busy during the day for the most part for next few days, but will attempt to reply either this evening or over the weekend when I have more time. Thanks for your patience.

Rintintin said...

Hi all, I will try and go through the responses in separate posts so as not to end up with a huge continual stream:

Rho:

I am aware of the Gonzalez case, although not that particular website until now:

1. Sean Carroll, who works in the same field as Gonzalez, has an exceptionally impressive CV (http://preposterousuniverse.com/cv.html), and is a fairly outspoken atheist. In 2005 he was denied tenure at U.Chicago. At no time has he cried persecution. From what I gather, getting tenure is apparently something of a lottery at times. A little research has shown that the ISU physics dept has not awarded tenure in 4 out of 12 cases in the last decade.

2. GG's previously impressive publication rate in the years leading up to his tenure interview had nosedived since he left U. Washington for ISU (http://scienceblogs.com/neurotopia/2007/12/a_handy_graphictimeline_of_gon.php). Unlikely to have helped his cause, since he appeared unable to initiate or complete research in his new setting.

3. Only successfully mentored 1 grad student - counting off the top of my head, my old lab has seen 4 successfully pass and 4 more in the process of finishing in the last 4 years or so. Apparently he had attracted little or no funding money to conduct research at the time of the tenure interview, despite ample opportunities to conduct successful research.

4. Hector Avalos' petition was circulated in '05, the tenure hearing was '07. It was also directed against ID generally as opposed to GG specifically.

"Then: In the summer of 2005, Avalos e-mails ISU faculty, inviting them to sign a statement calling on "all faculty members to ... reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science" because of the "negative impact" due to the fact that "Intelligent Design … has now established a presence … at Iowa State University." Guillermo Gonzalez, being the only well-known ID proponent who has "established a presence" at ISU, is the undeniable target of such a statement. Later: Avalos asserts publicly in the ISU Daily, "The statement we wrote was in no way targeted specifically at Gonzalez."

^^^from the DI (http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/12/cataloguing_darwinist_denials.html)

False: Tom Ingebritsen is also pro ID at ISU, and even taught an ID related course since 2000. Gonzalez arrived at ISU in 2001.

On the hand, Dr. Tom Ingebritsen, associate professor of genetics in Iowa State's The Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology (GDCB) has been teaching a course called "God and Science" for the past five years that presents intelligent design in at least a more neutral, if not favorable, light.

also from...drum roll...the DI (http://www.evolutionnews.org/2005/12/for_darwinists_there_is_no_pre.html)

Hmm, interesting...I wonder if the full sentences in Avalos' petition target GG?

1. Intelligent Design has become a significant issue in science education, and it has now established a presence, even if minimal, at Iowa State University.

2. Accordingly, if you are concerned about the negative impact of Intelligent Design on the integrity of science and on our university, please consider signing the "Statement on Intelligent Design by Iowa State University Faculty" below.

3. We, therefore, urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of "science and technology," convey to students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science.


No they don't. Imagine that.


5. GG submitted the 'Privileged Planet' work as part of his tenure materials, so presumably he wanted his ID-related work evaluated as part of the process. As we've yet to see any data produced by ID, then one can only conclude his ID research was not a success. There's also something that doesn't make sense from one of the DI's releases:

Moreover, ISU faculty complained about Dr. Gonzalez's intelligent design work that was conducted completely outside of any relationship to ISU. First Amendment forbids a government entity like ISU from discriminating against an employee like Gonzalez on the basis not of his job performance but on that of ideas expressed outside the work environment. (emphasis mine)

fair enough, people can hold pretty much whatever opinions they want outside of work. But...

First, ISU had previously approved and administered a grant to Gonzalez, to help write this very book The Privileged Planet supporting intelligent design from the entirely mainstream and prestigious Templeton Foundation. That demonstrates that the university had already accepted the concept behind the book as the subject for legitimate scholarship. (emphasis mine)

http://www.evolutionnews.org/gg-bckgrndr.final.pdf (a pro ID website)

So was he working on ID or not as part of his work at ISU? If he was, then it's reasonable to have it evaluated in his tenure application. In fact, the DI reference the fact that he worked at ISU quite a few times, despite their claims that his DI position was completely independent of his ISU work.


6. The DI has not yet provided transcripts of the full faculty emails that it claims show persecution. Since they are an organisation notorious for misquoting scientists to suit their agenda (see point 4 above), it's hard to know exactly how reliable their excerpts are likely to be. Even reading through the excerpts from the site you provided, it seems the faculty's main concern was the no-win situation they were being put in, and how being seen to be pro ID would affect the department's reputation since the movement has produced no positive data to speak of.

7. GG has apparently stated that ID is a scientific theory, despite at least 2 major ID players admitting there is no scientific theory of ID. This casts doubt on his ability to teach science properly if he thinks ID has a scientific theory when even the DI admits they don't.


One response done, 2 more to go when i get a chance :)

Benjamin said...

You made some excellent points, Matt, and I appreciate your kind regard for my ideas. I'll do my best in responding to keep my misunderstandings to a minimum. I truly do value the sacrifice of your time and, if you don't feel you can pursue these questions as you would like, please do not feel any obligation toward me. I have already gained much from this exchange...

"For points 1-3, I myself said that they were trite examples, because they are a bit ridiculous, (but merely intended to be demonstrative)."

Yes, please forgive me but I found it very difficult to embrace the conclusions of your modest appraisal. I thought they were useful and important examples and wanted to treat them as such.

"I agree that everything that we own is in the hands of the LORD, but at the same time, this does not alleviate our responsibility as stewards of those posession. It seems to me that we should do everything that is 'reasonable' within our means to safeguard what we have been given, for to do anything less is (other things not considered) bad stewardship."

Agreed, and I interpret your use of quotation marks around "reasonable" as a recognition that this is the focal point of the contention. What is morally (or Biblically) reasonable, given the overall thoughts of our Father?

There are other assumptions that play a key role as well...

We are to be "good stewards," as you mentioned. Certainly those terms carry a basic truth. But sometimes one can be the best steward of one's wealth in allowing others to steal it. We can be most rational in that moment when we allow ourselves to be cheated or abused without concern. These are just the sort of counter-intuitive doctrines that Christ sometimes taught (Luke 6:29-30).

It would be difficult for me to say, with this in mind, just how far one is to go in protecting one's goods or whether protecting them is even a very high priority. But Paul seemed to think it wasn't when he said, "Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." (I Timothy 6:6-8) To be overburdened with much concern over what happens to our possessions is, ironically, to be impoverished by them and perhaps even enslaved.

Returning to the list of assumptions, there is also the notion that we have a right to "say" what we believe on less than solid grounds and that, in merely saying it without suggesting that it is "of the LORD", we have avoided doing wrong in misrepresenting the Truth. That seems plausible, yet "Jesus answered them, 'My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory. . ." (John 7:18a)

This is why I asked you whether you were speaking on your own authority or whether your teaching was from GOD. You responded, "I said 'I would say' precisely because I have neither moral authority, nor a rigorous argument from Scripture to back up this statement. However, I do have my own moral sensibilities (as flawed as they are), and some general Scriptural principles which I think apply."

Another example of this sort of thing from your writing...

"I define deception as an attempt to make another person believe something that is at variance with reality. . . . Now, what the Bible defines as lying, I guess is possibly a different matter. . ."

In that case, you seem to be speaking on your own authority and I shall respectfully leave you to make the application.

Perhaps both of us should study more before speaking what we dare not. At the very least, I have tried to provide examples (Rahab and Michal) who, in each case, were attempting to save lives through their deception. Even your example of David pretending to be mad only demonstrated a desire to preserve life. In offering these examples, I am asking why we ought to go further than lying on these strict terms alone... for the saving of lives.

You seem to wish to interpret the matter more loosely and grasp at a more general principle such as, "It is good to lie when it benefits the people of GOD" or "when it furthers the truth" or "when it refutes the schemes of the unbeliever." None of these things have, as yet, been justified by the Biblical examples provided. We cannot go beyond the common pattern and we should not have a desire to edge as close to the abyss of sin as possible. This is not at all to say that your motive is to get away with toeing such a line. Perhaps we are simply not being as careful with the treasure of Scripture as eternal Life would require.

". . .suppose that a Bible-smuggler comes to a vehicle checkpoint, and is asked if he has anything to declare, or if he is carrying contraband. In answering no, this is a lie. Furthermore, in hiding the Bibles in such a way as to appear that there are no Bibles in the vehicle when there are some, this is a deception. I guess this really boils down to semantics, and how you define things. However, in Bible-smuggling, one is presenting a picture of reality to another that is inaccurate."

Of course, we agree that, logically, we have no duty to anyone who wishes to compel us to disobey the LORD. But shall we lie to them in our attempt to obey? Did these men lie to protect their lives? If they did so, we have clear precedent from Scripture for this. Did they lie to keep from prison? Where then is the warrant?

There have been many Christians who suffered in prison for the sake of the faith where they might have lied to avoid it. Why, for instance, does Scripture never once applaud a lie such as, "Yes, Caesar is god and I deny Christ" to avoid beatings or a prison sentence or even execution? Why is Peter condemned for lying three times to the enemies of Christ who, by the logic of the replies I’ve received thus far, we would assume deserved no consideration from him?

Were those people, who were right in the midst of the most heinous act ever to be perpetrated by man, any less enemies of GOD or any more Peter's "neighbors" than the "evangelists of atheism" of which Rhology spoke? If we consider the question of consequences, the lies which Peter told would have seemed even more "insignificant" in consequentialist terms, as you defined them, than anything the makers of Expelled had done.

In the case of the writers of Expelled, they apparetly fabricated a story to draw Dawkins and others into saying what they might not have said (or at least what might have been granted a fuller defense and explaination) in other circumstances. In the case of Peter, his lies, you might say, simply avoided compounding the sin of the people with two wrongful deaths instead of one as they would likely have sought to kill him. His lies seemed to save him from persecution or even death and yet, they were to be wept bitterly over, not emulated.

Not even all lies for the safeguarding of a life are, therefore, worthy. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, did not pretend to offer up worship in an empty fashion to the great idol in order to save themselves, as undoubtedly many Jews did. That would have been an act to save their own wretched lives by harming the spiritual lives of others through their pathetic example. Thankfully, this was not their testimony to the world.

"As for point 5, The point I was trying to make with the corruption, is not that all oppression must be actively opposed. There is a place for suffering for the Gospel, and for martyrdom, and it is a blessed place indeed (Matt. 5:11-12). However, if I am in a position to end, or help end the oppression of others, or to stop an evil that is harming my brother, would I not, out of brotherly love, do what is necessary to help my brother? If I can help to end an evil or an oppression, how do I not know that I have not been placed in such a situation for such a time as this (cf. Est. 4:14)?"

In light of such reasoning, I have to wonder why the early Christians were not more political. They could have put an end to their dreadful suffering and the piling up of Christian bodies in Rome by acting in such a way as to put a stop to the unmitigated oppression and tyranny of Roman authorities. Instead, they spent their time seeking the good of the lost, sometimes hiding but never “fighting against oppression,” and when they were arrested, they did not seek rescue or escape (unless they accepted divine intervention) but found it to be an actual honor and a privilege to suffer even to the point of death for the Name.

If you wish to save another man's life by lying, including the lives of unbelievers, then I am with you. Nevertheless, beyond illustrating an immense charitable concern for others, the example of Esther does not, as far as I can see, strengthen the case for lying, especially for any reason less than the saving of lives. Remember that Esther's courage was exemplified in telling the truth. She did not lie.

"To me, it speaks more of brotherly love, to put one's own well-being on the line, to go and attempt to thwart or put an end to an oppressive evil when one has the opportunity to do so, then to sit back and count the virtues of suffering."

I apologize and mean no offense, but here I shall affectionately decline to accept your authority to define this issue even for yourself, good brother. Your remark was not apparently an inference from Scripture. It is more like an intuition of a principle which you see is loosely suggested by Scripture. Besides, it misses the point and begs the question.

". . .as for deception in combating evil - let me bring a couple of more dilemmas. Can a Christian in law enforcement legitimately 'go undercover,' or participate in a sting operation? Both of these involve deception with respect to identity (e.g. I'm a criminal like you, and not a law enforcement agent). Yet, undercover and sting operations bring thousands of criminals to justice each year."

There are two major assumptions you are making here which affect the legitimacy and meaning of your question. First, you assume that Christians ever should go into law enforcement. Second, you assume that the work of police serves "justice," which is itself questionable given Paul's rather low view of "justice" among the unbelievers of this world (I Corinthians 6:1-7). He encourages Christians rather to be defrauded than take a case against each other to the courts of the world.

Whether these assumptions are legitimate will tell greatly upon the legitimacy of your illustration and the question that it produced. But, perhaps more importantly, you simply assume that bringing “thousands of criminals to justice” is something that Christians ought to be seeking so zealously that they ought to be willing to lie to do it. Where, however, do you glean this liberty from the Scriptures?

I great apologize if I have misunderstood, but your approach continues to strike me as basically intuitive. You put forward examples as though they ought to represent dilemmas which any moral theory needs to deal with as though these examples represent obvious goods we would wish to salvage. That begs the question.

“Is it more justifiable for a Christian to not participate in such operations, and let crime run more rampant, then to participate, and bring criminals to justice?”

Another assumption: that if we do not use such methods as you’ve outlined, crime will “run more rampant.” I do not agree that this is a necessary conclusion in the least. In fact, I should say that a man who is faithful to the strictures of what GOD has revealed will find his work producing the sort of fruit that the less faithful person can only struggle to attain, if GOD is willing, with lesser methods. Why do you feel that we absolutely must adopt these methods to do “justice,” and how--if the lying is wrong--would such methods really serve “justice” in the world?

Catching criminals is not the chief purpose of a police officer. Glorifying GOD is.

“My thought on the matter is that criminals (or corrupt politicians, from the reporter example) have no right to conduct illicit activities, and thus, if we have the opportunity to put an end to them, especially, if they are harming others, then this is the loving thing to do.”

Again, dear brother, your “thought on the matter” (or mine), unless it is the teaching of GOD, is of no consequence. It is, in fact, less than nothing.

“What about witness protection, to save one's own life? Is it better for a Christian to not undergo witness protection (which entails lies about one's identity), in order to be honest, and so be killed by some criminal?”

I think we have dutifully covered the relative value of deception to save lives.

“I guess the question, for me comes down to the Rahab situation - if you accept that Rahab was justified in deception to save lives, then you would also accept that deception is justified in certain circumstances (such as Bible-smuggling).”

Here again is the strange jump from one to the other. If Rahab is faithful to lie and save those who are pleasing to GOD, we must assume it is alright to lie for the sake of smuggling Bibles? How does this follow without watering down the example of Rahab into an ambiguous principle?

“What are these circumstances, then, and what are the means by which they can be enumerated? If a particular situation falls under that set of circumstances, then deception would be justified, and if not, then not. My sensibilities at this point are that using deception to stop corrupt and evil men from harming others falls within those proper bounds.”

And it is just here that the ambiguity flowers... You move from lying to save lives to lying to keep others from being “harmed.” Then it is easy to extend the notion of “harm” to cover anything from the threat of death to the threat of being swindled, even to the possibility of not being told the truth (though this is not even something the Scriptures reproach). Why do we feel that Dawkins (or anyone else) owes us full disclosure? Is it wrong if they remain silent? May we so adamantly demand that they speak to us that we are justified to get it from them by deceit? Have we really swallowed the lie of the media that we have a right to know?

“We need to be mindful of our witness, yes, but if I have an opportunity to stop a great evil, and do nothing, then what witness does this send about me, and my love for others who are being oppressed?”

Perhaps it sends to the world the profound testimony that there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest suffering.

“In closing, I'm short on time this week (and shouldn't really being replying to this), but if you still contest my position, do you have some criteria by which a set of acceptable deception circumstances could be enumerated? This seems to be the whole point of contention between our two positions, and I would certainly benefit from having such a set of conditions.”

If we have reached any conclusions about when it is acceptable to lie, we cannot go any further so far than simply that it is acceptable to do so (as quite a few examples in Scripture indicate) in order to save lives, but that not even all lies in this regard are honorable (such as Peter’s denials).

There are various other kinds of deception in Scripture, some of which is done for reasons which are hard to discern. We would need to take these examples case-by-case. It would do no good for me to simply whip out a formula or a blueprint that I have concluded for myself from Scripture because you would have no reason to accept it (and would likely find it initially problematic). I do have an informal structure of reasoning and analysis which I might offer on these questions, but I hesitate to provide it at length here, both because of the oddity of the context of doing so in a combox and because I doubt many here really have the time to dive in quite so very far. If you don’t really have the time to pursue this, I completely understand and wish you well with a good heart.

Please, feel welcome to respond to anything I’ve said and, again, thank you for all that you have put into this so far...

Benjamin said...

Daniel...

How is it possible to keep science "completely pure" and "free of philosophy"? Isn't any empirical inquiry impossible without certain philosophical assumptions and axioms underlying the entire process which make it even possible? At every level of experience, we are interpreting what we receive and all interpretation rests upon philosophical assumptions.

How then can one separate science and philosophy?

Rintintin said...

Hi Matt

As for what basis that ID proponents feel persecuted, one only needs to listen to their own testimony on the matter. You can dispute that all you want, but if someone says that they were discriminated against on the basis of dissent from the Darwinian paradigm, then I'm more inclined to believe their stories

But from what I've posted on Gonzalez, it seems the claims of persecution are not as straightforward as the ID people would have us believe, and again they have used somewhat dishonest approaches to highlight persecution against specific people where there did not actually appear to be any. Someone simply stating they have been persecuted is surely not enough evidence to assume they have been.

Similarly, academic freedom is not a license to teach whatever an individual wants - any idea in question has to prove itself in the relevant field first.

(also based on what I've personally experienced at a secular university), over bureaucrats looking to explain dismissals, disciplinary actions, etc., in other terms, in order to save face (which is a likely explanation for their explanations). Sorry, but we're just going to have to disagree on this one. As for Expelled, the movie is being shown, and while I personally wouldn't have wanted to lie to obtain interviews, I don't think that the means by which the film was produced detracts from the issues to which it brings attention.

I've been through 3 universities (2 of which were in the UK), and haven't been aware of any instances where people were dismissed for having personal opinions against the status quo (provided they weren't obviously intended to be offensive). This is just my experience though, others may have been different.

As for the theoretical aspects of ID, 1) I'm not completely on board with ID as such (for philosophical and theoretical reasons), and 2) discussing the proper role of ID in the greater context of scientific research would require, at least for my tastes, an established context of epistemology and the philosophy of science which grounds my position. However, my greater concern here is that dissent from the Darwinian paradigm be allowed, and from what I've heard and experienced, this cannot be done in many cases without discriminatory repercussions. That is my concern, which I think Expelled addresses to some degree.

Regarding dissent from the Darwinian paradigm, it actually took a long time for NS to be accepted as a mechanism of evolution - it was dismissed for a long time in favour of ideas like Lamarckism and orthogenesis.

Other discoveries since NS was accepted include Kimura's theory of neutral evolution, which is a non-Darwninian mechanism of evolution. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_theory_of_molecular_evolution for a brief description) Much debate has centred over which is the more prevalent mechanism

The idea of relatedness of organisms was actually proposed prior to Darwin, and many of Darwin's ideas have been discarded - eg such as Lamarckism being a supplemental mechanism to NS.

So from the evidence available, there has been plenty of examples where Darwin's ideas have been challenged successfully.

I don't know if I can really add much more to the conversation at this point, but I do appreciate your comments and congenial interaction, as they have lent to a good discussion, in my estimation.

Likewise - there has been no frothing at the mouth that Rho predicted yet :)

Rhology said...

RTT,

I'll let you have the last word, but the emails about GG explicitly and specifically stated that his denial of tenure was b/c of his ID-related activity.

Rhology said...

RTT said:
no frothing at the mouth

Well, everyone here except you is a Christian, RTT. :-D

Seth said...

Benjamin commented to Daniel: At every level of experience, we are interpreting what we receive and all interpretation rests upon philosophical assumptions. This seems correct. Just consider trying to define “pure” science versus philosophically “tainted” science. Classically “pure” science is dictated by the demands of naturalism: there is a physical, natural explanation for something observed. Not there should be or might be, but rather IS, by definition. Now, a categorically predetermined ‘IS’ is distinctly different from ‘has been found to be true’. Like it or not, naturalism is the framework by which scientific observation is conducted. ID challenges this naturalistic postulate saying there is a metaphysical, supernatural explanation for a physical, natural creation. True or not true, if you undermine the framework of a thing, that thing ceases to be what it was and you ought to call it something different!

Rhology said...

I can't help but be confused by the enormity of implication here, but sometimes that's life.
Naturalism cannot account for the reliability of one's cognitive faculties with respect to producing true beliefs.
IOW, on naturalism there's no reason to think that my brain can interpret data, form intelligible communication, or understand truth or reality. At all.
And yet we can't go around thinking that every event in nature is a miracle from God; if everythg is a miracle, then nothing is.
At the same time, if science is based on naturalism, so much the worse for science. Better to pull the whole thing down than to deceive ourselves into thinking we're finding out truth about the world.

Fortunately, the Christian worldview comes riding to the rescue once again. God is the basis for intelligibility, so check.
And God has revealed that it's proper most of the time to expect that the world acts according to certain "laws", so to speak. And yet sometimes those are intruded upon.
If I'm following the thought correctly, it would seem that we continue in a path similar to the current one, but given that naturalism is not an option (and thus, for any fact that seems to be evidence for naturalism [which there are SOME], an alternative connection must be diligently sought b/c naturalism is false), the scientific community needs to be a LOT more humble.
For example, they must stop making these strong pronouncements on things that they have limited exploratory power to analyse. Can they go back in time and relive 1 million yrs of history? Even 1,000? Even one second? No.
This some of the thinking that has led me to reject the idea that natural structures and objects have much useful info to tell us about their age. A tree is not an alarm clock. A rooster isn't either, but it happens, sometimes, to act like one. A set of geological strata is not a clock, you don't know how much of Element X was in a rock when it started decaying, etc.


I like Daniel's idea a lot - these conjectures about the origin of the earth and the development of the variety of life around us should be removed from the label "science" and placed elsewhere - history, religious studies, something like that. Restrict science to that which you can study and observe. Repeatedly.
(You can't study what happenED repeatedly, unless you have a time machine.)
Modern scientists are generally at the forefront of defending just that as the nature of the scientific methodology...except when it touches the sacred cow. Then you're lucky if the mob doesn't push your car upside down.

Peace,
Rhology

Benjamin said...

Thank you, Seth. Yes, even the definition and nature of "science" is itself a philosophical question. When scientists venture their opinion on the question of whether this or that is a "science" or what "science" is, they are not speaking as scientists any longer but as lay-philosophers. Although, again, I have different reasons for not embracing ID theory, it is clear to me at the very least that no scientist can hope to make the issue of whether ID is "scientific" a focus of science.

Nor is the nature of the so-called "scientific method" a scientific topic. It is a philosophical question and philosophers have analyzed the subject and adequately demonstrated that there are many different "methods," not merely one which deserves the exclusive conjunction, THE. What is even more interesting is that the apotheosis taught in many lower level textbooks which they label, "the scientific method," is a positivist construct which no one actually employs in the field.

What I usually discover is that, when a scientist (usually untrained in philosophical rigor and analysis) discusses the question of the nature of "science," there is a kind of accordion affect that takes place. At one moment, "science" is very narrow, drawn into itself, an exclusive pursuit in which no religious ideas can ever hope to find a footing. In the next moment, "science" is being spread out full and wide, embracing everything in light of its etymological roots, as scientia (the Latin for "knowledge"), and it is suggested that "science" is simply the pursuit of knowledge or it is merely the attempt to gain knowledge by means of evidence.

Of course, from that point of view, it would be less taxing to ask ourselves what would not fit into the category of science, as almost everything can be said to ba "knowledge" of some kind and there are few disciplines that do not seek knowledge by means of evidence, in some sense.

I've watched, for instance, Sam Harris equivocate in this very way when debating. When he wishes science to appear to be capable of answering all the important questions of life, he draws it out, wide and welcoming. Science takes everything into its scope and even Biblical questions can be answered most beneficially by scientific means. The scientist has quite a bit to say about Biblical topics and the supernatural in history. However, when a religious advocate wishes to use science to speak on supernatural topics or theology threatens to become, on this perspective, a "scientific" pursuit, or ID or any other competitor insists that it is legitimately "scientific," he quickly crunches inward and narrows his meaning so that the borders of science cannot be penetrated by illegal immigrants.

Keep it accessible only to those in the guest list while making sure it contemplates everything and everyone so that any inquiry of importance is beholden to science. It isn't necessarily a game of equivocation he's playing. He may not even be conscious he's doing it. It is simply his desire to make science as grand and all-embracing as he believes it could be (and should be) while retaining its usefulness and integrity (as he defines those things).

Nevertheless, he's granting his vision for science a very privileged status, beyond serious debate.

Daniel said...

Re Benjamin's comment:

How is it possible to keep science "completely pure" and "free of philosophy"? Isn't any empirical inquiry impossible without certain philosophical assumptions and axioms underlying the entire process which make it even possible? At every level of experience, we are interpreting what we receive and all interpretation rests upon philosophical assumptions.

You're right - I agree. Any person, whether they be a scientist or not, will somehow interpret that which they observe through their personal experience and/or philosophy. I admit it's a bit idealistic to claim we can achieve a completely "pure" observational science. However, I still propose that it would be a good ideal to strive toward.

How then can one separate science and philosophy?

Completely? It's not possible. But one can strive for high standards of objectivity. IS something or IS it not? If we don't know or are ill-equipped to tackle it, let's leave it to other realms of reasoning. (more below)

Re Seth's comment:

Classically “pure” science is dictated by the demands of naturalism: there is a physical, natural explanation for something observed. Not there should be or might be, but rather IS, by definition.

That's an enlightening statement, indeed.

If we begin with the assumption that there IS or MUST BE a physical, natural explanation for something observed, then the goal of this thing we call "science" is not to objectively discover whether anything IS or IS NOT... only what IS or IS NOT physical and/or natural.

This makes science excellent for some purposes, worthless for others - it depends what it's used for. It's great for explaining, for example, what IS or IS NOT in the natural world. There IS a boulder there. It IS whitish. It IS translucent. It DOES taste salty. This is practical, too. It makes my soup taste better.

On the other hand, the system would be entirely unequipped to handle ANY evidence whatsoever, no matter how strong, historical, etc, that anything supernatural exists. It's not that science finds "no God" to be more probable after analysis; it seems that science is inherently required to be blind to the supernatural. Not only that, but as rhology points out, it is also blind to other non-physical things that we know to exist: "Naturalism cannot account for the reliability of one's cognitive faculties with respect to producing true beliefs."

Consequently, anyone who looks to science for all of life's answers is also necessarily blinded to true objective research on what IS or ISN'T.

It means that they simply cannot honestly consider historical documents that suggest the supernatural. Numerous cultural catastrophic flood accounts must be coincidence. Fulfilled Biblical prophecies must have been forgeries. Dramatically changed lives must be wishful thinking. Science, by definition, has no room for these things.

This doesn't make science bad, but it does make it foolish for anyone to put one's trust in it, expecting to gain all objective data about what IS or ISN'T. It's a system that is inherently unable to consider all data in that question.

Bringing this back around... Given the limited definition, is incorporating ID into the scientific world a real solution to the problem of getting people to consider God which we know we have reason to believe in? ID doesn't seem to fit within science by the definition given by Seth but if anyone sees it, please explain.

If it doesn't fit, this seems to leave us with at least two options.

1. Simply accept that fact; let science reach purely naturalistic, if faulty, conclusions/theories; recognize them for what they are while acknowledging that they're based on limited evidence; inform as many as possible that this is the case; reach our personal conclusions based on all data

2. Influence the scientific community to acknowledge the limitations of the tool of science. In so doing, scientists would choose to use it only to explain the material world in as much detail as possible, leaving the questions that science is ill-equipped to answer (history, etc) for other realms of study.

Again, I propose number two. Easier said than done, I know.

I understand the problem of practicality here in what I'm proposing. Where do you draw the line between observable science and theoretical science? After all, theoretical science - theory functioning as a hypothesis (for lack of a better way to explain it) - has been known to yield fairly concrete results. An example of this problem that springs to mind may be the examination of bacteria for medical cures. Does an un'proven' hypothesis that did result in a medicine that works reside in the "definitely" pile ("pure science"), the "probably" pile, or the "maybe" pile ("more belief than science")?

Like I said, it's admittedly difficult, if not impossible, to separate all philosophy from fact because even people's individual ideas of what's "practical" may vary. However, I still propose the ideal. It wouldn't get rid of all the marbled fat within the meat of science, but it might get rid of most of the grizzle.

An addendum: Benjamin’s recent post on the relative and varied definitions of “science” ring true with the term’s real-world usage, whether technically accurate or not. Without a definition, however, this makes discussion all but impossible for the reasons that Benjamin pointed out. How, then, could anything be excluded from scientia if it holds a claim to all knowledge? But then how does it gain this knowledge? By what method(s)? Only those which reach the conclusions agreed upon by the elite and/or majority?

Perhaps that’s the reason Expelled was filmed.

Rintintin said...

I can't help but be confused by the enormity of implication here, but sometimes that's life.
Naturalism cannot account for the reliability of one's cognitive faculties with respect to producing true beliefs.
IOW, on naturalism there's no reason to think that my brain can interpret data, form intelligible communication, or understand truth or reality. At all.
And yet we can't go around thinking that every event in nature is a miracle from God; if everythg is a miracle, then nothing is.
At the same time, if science is based on naturalism, so much the worse for science. Better to pull the whole thing down than to deceive ourselves into thinking we're finding out truth about the world.


Some interesting assertions here:

1. Let's grant your premise that we need some kind of higher power to make these things for us. What necessarily makes this your God any more than some random deity? Maybe the supernatural effector wouldn't even need to be a deity, since we don't actually know anything about the possibilities that exist in the supernatural world.

2. It's interesting what you are willing to attribute to supernaturalism given that we don't know if a supernatural realm even exists. the natural realm can be observed by simply looking out the window. Would it not be an idea to show that the supernatural exists before claiming what it can and can't do?

3. If the supernatural can come and act in our world, how does it bridge the gap between natural and supernatural - can I observe this taking place? Whereabouts does it happen?

4.You've simply asserted what natural mechanisms can't account for without really explaining why.

5. Your variant of supernaturalism includes talking snakes and plants, neither of which possess the cognitive ability or anatomy to talk - is there any reason I should take this viewpoint any more seriously than I do Scientology's ludicrous tales?

Fortunately, the Christian worldview comes riding to the rescue once again. God is the basis for intelligibility, so check.
And God has revealed that it's proper most of the time to expect that the world acts according to certain "laws", so to speak. And yet sometimes those are intruded upon.


Uhoh. How can one utilise things like logic as a tool if the world potentially will not behave in a logical fashion 10 minutes from now dependent on the whim of a God, especially as you have no means of knowing when it will change or how often it has changed in the past (there is no guarantee he will give warning when observed laws will be subject to change). Under your worldview, you can't realistically make the assumption that things will not be radically different 5 minutes from now, since they apparently have been countless times since the Earth's conception.

If I'm following the thought correctly, it would seem that we continue in a path similar to the current one, but given that naturalism is not an option (and thus, for any fact that seems to be evidence for naturalism [which there are SOME], an alternative connection must be diligently sought b/c naturalism is false), the scientific community needs to be a LOT more humble.

First of all, science employs methodological naturalism as opposed to proving that naturalism is the be all and end all. the same process you use when you try and fix your sink. You don't resort to supernatural guesswork to try and fix the sink, since any and all logically coherent supernatural 'explanations' could describe why the sink is blocked without actually helping solve the problem.

So where do we stop with naturalism and start with supernaturalism? Demonic possession used to be attributed as the cause of mental illness, and is in line with biblical thought (Jesus cures many people of such afflictions). Should we be advocating this line of thought in other disciplines apart from cosmology and biological origins? Can I shout 'viewpoint discrimination' if psychiatric journals won't allow me to publish my demonic theory of mental illness?

The majority of people in the 'scientific community' are fairly humble (although not all). This is something I have a lot of first hand experience of - do you? Go on a facebook discussion page on Cre vs Ev and watch various creationists who can't even get the most basic scientific ideas correct state that they know more than people who are experts in various fields simply on the basis that it butts with their presumptions. Not that people cannot question science or experts, but let's face it people who can't even get the 2nd law of thermodynamics correct are not in a position to be claiming superior levels of scientific knowledge. That is a lack of humility.

For example, they must stop making these strong pronouncements on things that they have limited exploratory power to analyse. Can they go back in time and relive 1 million yrs of history? Even 1,000? Even one second? No.
This some of the thinking that has led me to reject the idea that natural structures and objects have much useful info to tell us about their age. A tree is not an alarm clock. A rooster isn't either, but it happens, sometimes, to act like one. A set of geological strata is not a clock, you don't know how much of Element X was in a rock when it started decaying, etc.


So God has given us tools such as inductive logic, yet when we use these tools and find things that certain groups don't want to hear, then we are apparently no longer allowed to use the tool in question or by default must have used it incorrectly? the phrase 'having your cake and eating it' comes to mind here. This tends to happen if you start with a pretty big assumption such as a particular deity and book accurately describing the world then try and make everything fit around that assumption whether it actually does or not.

As for the secondary properties of natural objects, you don't object to things like protons being used in MRI scans, so again where do you draw a distinction between what counts as acceptable use and what doesn't?

And there are actually ways of working out how much of a given element is taken up into a rock at the point of its formation http://www.geocities.com/lflank/radiodte.htm.

I like Daniel's idea a lot - these conjectures about the origin of the earth and the development of the variety of life around us should be removed from the label "science" and placed elsewhere - history, religious studies, something like that. Restrict science to that which you can study and observe. Repeatedly.

(You can't study what happenED repeatedly, unless you have a time machine.)
Modern scientists are generally at the forefront of defending just that as the nature of the scientific methodology...except when it touches the sacred cow. Then you're lucky if the mob doesn't push your car upside down.


Repeatability refers to the fact that any given person could use the methodology for any given test and obtain the same result, not that you have to watch every event happen again and again. At least get the facts of what you are arguing against correct.

I assume you are also firing off letters to the judiciary as we speak demanding that all murderers that weren't witnessed in the act be released since this type of science apparently isn't valid? is time the only confounding factor for science, or does any indirect observation not count? how do you decide?








Benjamin:

regarding why some ideas are not considered science in relation to the supernatural:

1. like I asked Rho - can we even show this realm actually exists, and how? Where can we observe it, or find out when it will interact with our world?

2. Do you know of any observation that would prove God wrong? ie falsify him? i know of things that would falsify common descent, but i can't think of any for God.

3. Since 'Last Thursdayism' and solipsism explain any data just as well as a supreme creator or intelligent designer, should we consider those ideas as science?

4. Supernaturalism is used largely as 'God of the gaps' or some kind of default setting eg 'there is no known natural explanation, therefore it must be a supernatural force', yet no evidence has been provided to support that claim.

5. God is not part of science, but what he is purported to have done is - a global flood is a testable proposition, as is a young Earth. it may interest you to know that the early geologists who argued against both of these being true were Christian creationists who had expected to find evidence to support both.

6. Some of ID's claims are actually testable, even though they cannot provide support for design - eg irreducible complexity. Since Mike Behe says (for example) all parts of the flagella are well matched, necessary for the function and specific to that system, all i have to do to prove him wrong is find two flagella that don't use all the same proteins or that use proteins also involved in non-flagellar function. Since both of these things are true (eg FlgA is not present in the flagellum of gram +ve bacteria and FliB is absent from E-Coli amongst others). since all Behe's claims can similarly be shown to be false (eg dolphins don't have Hageman factor in their clotting cascade, unlike the supposedly IC human cascade), he has no reason to demand that science pay further attention to his claims.

Rintintin said...

Oh and Rho, on the old earth thing, there's not even any need to use radiometric dating.

The sheer volume of fossils works against a young Earth:

earth apparently has around 38bn acres of surface land. Creationists usually state that the flood was what caused the death and fossilisation of these animals, around 4,500 years ago.

The Karoo formation has an estimated 800bn vertebrate fossils, average size around fox sized. The Karoo formation also accounts for less than 1% of the world's fossils.

This works out to around 2100 animals per acre preflood, or 1 per 18 square feet. this also doesn't take into account animals that didn't fossilise, as well as non-vertebrates and plants etc. So preflood the world would have been so covered with animals noone could move.

So even without radiometric dating, is it realistic to say that the world is only a few thousand years old?

Matt said...

Benjamin,

Your post raises some good points - however, I think you have misunderstood and misrepresented some of what I am saying. This is, by the way, one of the things that I hate about blogging and comboxes - when one says one thing, others have a tendency to read things into it that are unwarranted. Maybe I haven't been clear enough in what I have written (I have written more hurriedly the normal over the past few days), but going back and trying to explain what I've said in detail to avoid misunderstandings is a bit tiresome, and as I don't have time to go back and forth, this will be my last post on the subject of deception in moral dilemmas, unless you have specific substantive comments on the salient points that I raise here.

Let me boil down the argument that I was trying to make in the last post, and refine it somewhat:

1) Since you seemed to argue against alleviating the suffering of and oppression of others, I was offering an argument (from brotherly love, which incorporated Esther as an example) for the moral excellence and superiority of alleviating the suffering of others when given the opportunity. This was independent of what means are allowable in the alleviation of such suffering (i.e. lying). Thus, the statement about Esther never lying was irrelevant to the point that I was trying to make.

2) A distinction needs to be made between suffering for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, and suffering in a context which is not primarily for Christ and the Gospel (i.e. - a greedy politician oppresses a minority, irrespective of religion). The former is blessed, and a vital part of the spread of the Gospel, and should not be resisted. However, this does not mean that we should seek it out, but in the course of following Christ, when the suffering comes for the sake of His name, we should count it a blessing. However, such suffering is rooted in the evil one, and wrought out in practice in the world. As the dominion of Christ extends to all nations and political entities (though those who do not recognize His dominion are in rebellion to Him), political action, through the use of Biblically-sanctioned means, is commendable, for the sake of bringing earthly governments into subjection to Christ. As the Gospel pervades the world and as the Kingdom advances, we should expect to see governments reconstructed according to Biblical principles, to see themselves in proper respect to God, as His divinely ordained ministers of law, order, and justice (Rom. 13:4). Thus, when the "right" opportunity presents itself (and as this is not a political treatise, this will remain undefined), we should be politically active to bring governments into subjection to Christ, and if this entails the end of suffering of some, for the name of Christ, then so be it. In either case, the alleviation of suffering and oppression of others, when given the opportunity, is morally superior to allowing the suffering to continue, given the chance to stop it. The question, then, is what means are acceptable to end the suffering of others?

3) The question of the use of deception still reduces down to a matter of when it is allowed. If it is allowed (or even commended) in some circumstances, then there are principles which state why it was acceptable (or commendable) in those circumstances, though not in others. Since God is not arbitrary, if those principles are valid in one case for a set of circumstances (assuming the complete set of circumstances is known and considered), then they are valid, in principle, in every case for which that set of circumstances obtains. You state that saving lives is one area in which there is a Biblical warrant for the use of deception, and I would agree. As for other circumstances, I would admit that more study is necessary to determine the precise nature of the situations in which deception is warranted, and whether or not it includes the thwarting of evil and the alleviation of the oppression of others.

4) The initial argument that I was trying to make was in terms of love - love for a brother being oppressed outweighing the concern for the oppressor (I think this has Biblical weight, especially in the Psalms, where there are frequent cries against the wicked, prayers that they be slain (Ps. 139:19), statements that they will be brought low, and verses that talk about the LORD treading down the foes of the people of God (e.g. Ps. 60:12)), and furthermore, that using deception against one who already suppresses the truth (Rom. 1:18) is no meaningful injury to them. However, you have raised some good objections to the second part, and also objected that the first may be overruled by a higher principle of righteousness. I'll have to consider these issues and objections more carefully before continuing in this line of thought.

Now, you bring up the issue of authority, and you misrepresent me here. Just because I say that such-and-such are "my own thoughts on the matter" does not mean that I have not attempted to ground these thoughts in Scripture. To speak about Scripture, one has to read it, then think about it (interpretation involves thinking about it), and thus, to speak about Scripture is to speak one's thoughts about Scripture (unless you are quoting it verbatim). And, to speak one's thoughts about how Scripture addresses a matter, is also to "speak one's thoughts on the matter." Furthermore, I don't know where here I have said anything regarding morals or absolute truths on my own authority, but I do quite distinctly remember saying that I don't have any authority to speak on such things. To speak on one's own authority is to say "I think such-and-such" AND to say "such-and-such is true, because I say so." Now, this is valid for thoughts that we ground in our own minds, such as how we are feeling, or what we think about such and such (God grounds these ultimately, though we ground them proximally, or directly). However, since God proximally grounds the world, and morals, and all truths that sentient agents do not proximally ground, then it is folly to attempt to ground statements about such things in anything other than what God has spoken about them. However, since my mind is not God's mind, I can only know what I read in Scripture, what I see to be the most logically consistent interpretation in Scripture (Scriptures consistent with other Scriptures), and by the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. Thus my own understanding of God's Word is always imperfect (though hopefully always growing), and thus when I speak about something as it relates to Scripture, I can only speak on my understanding of what Scripture says about it, and if Scripture does not address it directly, only what can be deduced about it from Scripture and Scriptural principles. Furthermore, the general expectation (Ac. 17:11, 1 Th. 5:21) is that when someone speaks on these issues, that they are known and recognized to be fallible, and since no speaker has a perfect understanding of the whole of Scripture, one cannot assume that one speaks the truth as a virtue of their speaking, and thus, the listener must critically analyze what the speaker has said in light of Scripture. Thus, even when one endeavors to speak according to the truth of God's Word, the words we speak (unless they are inspired), come from our own understanding of God's word, and thus must still be privately scrutinized in light of God's Word by the individual listeners. Thus, to speak one's thoughts according to one's understanding of Scripture is not to speak on one's own authority, for the implicit standard by which the statement is uttered is God's Word, and it is Biblically understood that such statements are to be justified on the basis of God's Word alone. Authority, then, can be seen in two senses: The first is the standard by which the speaker, in his own mind, justifies his thoughts, and the second, is the standard by which the speaker expects the audience to judge his statements, and thus on that basis either accept or reject them. Because I have made it clear on numerous occasions (at least on my own blog) that Scripture is the highest authority of knowledge, I have generally assumed that this is understood, that when I talk about my own thoughts, that I refer to my thoughts on the matter, as best as I can match them to Scripture at this point in time, and if not to Scripture directly, then by deduction from Scripture and Scriptural principles (But I guess this assumption was not valid in this case). If I, woefully aware of my own ignorance as a human, want to cautiously couch my words, knowing that they may very well be incorrect, but also knowing that they are the best understanding that I have, at the moment, of how Scriptural truth applies to a concept (and even this, imperfectly, as we do not ground our own minds, and there may be thoughts not brought captive to Christ of which we are unaware), then am I to be condemned for "speaking on my own authority"? By definition, I have not spoken on my own authority, either in how I justify my own statements, or how I expect them to be evaluated. I know that my own understanding of Scripture has a long way to go, but if "speaking on our own authority" equates to not speaking till one has a perfect understanding of what Scripture says or entails with respect to a matter, then we can do nothing but speak on our own authority. Somehow, I don't think that this is what Christ had in mind in John 7:18...

With respect to moral dilemmas, I raise them because any moral system worth its salt should be able to account for them. Part of my purpose in presenting them was to see how you would respond, and thus get a better idea of your system. Also, raising moral dilemmas has an effect of further developing one's own moral system, for given a situation, exploring the Scriptural reasons why a certain situation is right or wrong helps us to better understand the intricacies of real-life ethics, as well as helping us to better become more Scriptural in our moral sense (for if I initially think something is right or wrong, and then upon further analysis of the dilemma, discover it to be the opposite, then going through that process can tell me why I was initially wrong, and hopefully correct the problem).

I won't address the other points (except for a minor aside about law enforcement - inasmuch as there are laws to be enforced (such as Ge. 9:6), this implies law enforcement, and as this is God-ordained, then there is nothing proscribing a Christian from doing this, and that inasmuch as a law enforcement officer's duty is to bring criminals to justice, that this is glorifying to God, as it fulfills his God-given purpose, and brings law, order, and peace to a community of people created in the image of God, to operate in a way closer to the original intention, as opposed to violence and lawlessness), as responding would open up too many tangents to the main point under discussion.

steve said...

rintintin said...

“Maybe the supernatural effector wouldn't even need to be a deity, since we don't actually know anything about the possibilities that exist in the supernatural world.”

You’ve obviously not done any reading in theistic modal metaphysics.

“It's interesting what you are willing to attribute to supernaturalism given that we don't know if a supernatural realm even exists. the natural realm can be observed by simply looking out the window.”

Really? Can one observe abstract objects by simply looking out the window? Can one observe consciousness by simply looking out the window?

“Would it not be an idea to show that the supernatural exists before claiming what it can and can't do?”

Would it not be an idea for Rintintin to acquaint himself with some of the standard apologetic literature which does that very thing.

“If the supernatural can come and act in our world, how does it bridge the gap between natural and supernatural - can I observe this taking place? Whereabouts does it happen?”

One can observe supernatural effects, just as one can observe mental effects, although neither the mind nor the supernatural is directly observable.

“Your variant of supernaturalism includes talking snakes and plants, neither of which possess the cognitive ability or anatomy to talk - is there any reason I should take this viewpoint any more seriously than I do Scientology's ludicrous tales?”

You might try to properly exegete the Biblical verses your alluding to. Otherwise, is there any reason I should take your jejune interpretations any more seriously than I do Scientology’s ludicrous tales?

“Uhoh. How can one utilise things like logic as a tool if the world potentially will not behave in a logical fashion 10 minutes from now dependent on the whim of a God, especially as you have no means of knowing when it will change or how often it has changed in the past (there is no guarantee he will give warning when observed laws will be subject to change).”

If you want to play that card, then you have no means of knowing that you’re not a brain in a vat.

“Under your worldview, you can't realistically make the assumption that things will not be radically different 5 minutes from now, since they apparently have been countless times since the Earth's conception.”

What specific, global examples do you have in mind?

“The same process you use when you try and fix your sink. You don't resort to supernatural guesswork to try and fix the sink, since any and all logically coherent supernatural 'explanations' could describe why the sink is blocked without actually helping solve the problem.”

Christian theology distinguishes between creation, miracle, and providence. You suffer from the typical, self-reinforcing ignorance of the unbeliever. Try to learn something about Christian theology before you go tilting at windmills.

“So where do we stop with naturalism and start with supernaturalism? Demonic possession used to be attributed as the cause of mental illness, and is in line with biblical thought (Jesus cures many people of such afflictions).”

More of your self-reinforcing ignorance. The synoptic Gospels distinguish between natural illness and demonic illness.

“Can I shout 'viewpoint discrimination' if psychiatric journals won't allow me to publish my demonic theory of mental illness?”

Yes, that’s an excellent example of viewpoint discrimination. All your doing is to offer intellectual snobbery in lieu of serious argument.

To take one counterexample:

“I’ve had similar experiences with mental health professionals, including MAs, PhDs, and MDs. I’ve come to know quite a few members of that community since writing my book on multiple personality. Once it became know that I’d done extensive and open-minded research in parapsychology, many started confiding to me apparent psychic episodes involving their patients. They also made it very clear that these conversations needed to remind confidential…They were simply unwilling to risk possible ridicule and ostracism by revealing their experiences to their colleagues,” S. Braude, The Gold Leaf Lady (U of Chicago Press, 2007), xviii.

Here’s another:

http://sunzi1.lib.hku.hk/hkjo/view/19/1900147.pdf

“As for the secondary properties of natural objects, you don't object to things like protons being used in MRI scans, so again where do you draw a distinction between what counts as acceptable use and what doesn't?”

Alan didn’t say he objected to the human use of these secondary properties. He simply pointed out the potential limitations of that application. And when Alan draws a distinction between a rooster and a Rolex, that’s a good place to start.

“Do you know of any observation that would prove God wrong? ie falsify him? i know of things that would falsify common descent, but i can't think of any for God.”

Do you know of any observation that would falsify an abstract object like a possible world?

“Supernaturalism is used largely as 'God of the gaps' or some kind of default setting eg 'there is no known natural explanation, therefore it must be a supernatural force', yet no evidence has been provided to support that claim.”

You continue to illustrate your self-reinforcing ignorance of Christian theology. The Bible doesn’t deny second causes.

“God is not part of science, but what he is purported to have done is - a global flood is a testable proposition.”

It would behoove you to exegete a text before you try to debunk it.

Rhology said...

Rintintin,

I answered you here.
Whoever wants to can keep conversing here. Or there. Whatever.

steve said...

Rintintin said...

“You are aware that speciation has been observed repeatedly both in a lab and in nature, without any observed instance of a designer at hand if that's what you're meaning by 'origin of species'?”

Two points of clarification:

i) Mark Ridley, in his standard textbook on Evolution, lists five different definitions of species (biological, ecological, phenetic, phylogenetic, typological).

So it’s easy to equivocate over examples of speciation.

ii) The Bible doesn’t operate with the fundamental unit of a species, but with the fundamental unit of a natural kind. So speciation, per se, wouldn’t contradict Scripture.

Benjamin said...

To Matt...

A response worthy of you, my brother, and I offer my humblest apologies if I did indeed misunderstand and merely further that misunderstanding about you here. I am sorry.

First, I wish to say that I read carefully through your every word. I am a thoroughgoing presuppositionalist, so your arguments and much of their significance were not lost on me. In fact, you and I likely see eye to eye on a good deal. Your explanation of the process of an implicit reasoning from Scripture was very helpful.

However, as you probably already know, the sinfulness of man is essentially an ethical dilemma and the ethical nature drives every epistemological potentiality. That is to say, because we are evil, we are also very capable of reasoning badly precisely because we wish to reason in a way that serves ourselves. Even as Christians, this is possible to us (and, of course, you have admitted to being morally imperfect), so that I cannot assume that you are reasoning from Scripture simply because you say that you are nor because you insist formally and would attest wholeheartedly that Scripture is "the highest authority of knowledge." Whatever your confession, you aren't always consistent with it and it would be silly of me to ignore this possibility.

On the other hand, I would not suggest that you are speaking on your own authority simply because you don't trail Scriptural references behind your every remark. That would be as irresponsible and sloppy an accusation of another brother as the sort you suggested I was actually guilty of.

Rather, I provided a couple of useful examples wherein you offered your own ideas and then followed this by admitting that you either weren't confident of what Scripture said on the matter or else simply didn't know. I'm assuming one would have to be confident of knowing what Scripture teaches (or at least be in possession of a necessary deduction from first principles) to offer a genuine "teaching from GOD," at least if one is to act in faith. It is quite impossible for me to say, in faith, “I think this or that,” while following this up with, “but what the Bible teaches may be another matter altogether.” In either case, I leave it to you to decide whether my examples were truly errors or not, as I pointed them out only for your edification and for the sake of our mutual testimony which we both take very seriously. May the LORD humble the proud and may I receive that privilege before you.

In the meantime, referencing Scripture more often is perhaps a good practice as it helps avoid those "unaccepted enthymemes" you mentioned and which we might suspect each other of operating under.

As for Esther, you may be right and I may have misunderstood, but I would like to offer my humble explanation as a possible aid to clarity amidst the labrynth we've been weaving all about us. You initially seemed to be arguing that lying could, possibly, be justified on the grounds that it aids those who are suffering or in some sense oppressed.

My initial response was not that to aid those suffering or oppressed was wrong in general, but merely that it is not always right to do so, as you seemed to believe. Thus, it does not follow simply from the fact that someone was aided in their oppression by a lie that the lie was a righteous act. Helping those who suffer, in other words, is not a justification for anything we might do to achieve this end.

If I accept, however, that it is sometimes correct to aid those who suffer or are oppressed, bringing up Esther as an example of someone who aided them does nothing to eliminate the difficulty, for her story would simply represent one of those cases where it was right to aid those who are suffering... something I have never disagreed with.

At least, this does not help us with our original question unless she aided those who were suffering by lying. Yet, in her case, she did not utilize the method of lying to help her oppressed people, therefore, this draws us not a step closer to a resolution of our original problem. That is why I brought it up.

I understand that you used Esther as an example of the importance of sometimes helping those who are oppressed. If I doubted that this was ever in any circumstances a good, I would have thought it was a waste of time to converse with me at all, for by such a denial I would have proven myself ignorant of the greater swath of the Scriptural witness. In that case, you demonstrated inordinate patience with me, if that is what you suspected I believed. Given this, I appreciate the brotherly compassion you showed me (without any sarcasm, in the least). Thank you.

Examples (and counter-examples) are useful for testing our theories, to be sure and I often like to propose my own perspective to others like yourself in hopes of receiving some enlightenment I would not likely have soon come to on my own. At the same time, examples and counter-examples are only useful for this purpose if we really do already know them to be dilemmas for the conclusion or theory in question, and we cannot simply assume that they are.

This is why I brought up your use of police work and why I expected we would be getting round to the political question if we pursued this much further. They are linked precisely because you see them, as you said, as areas of life to be redeemed by the life and work of Christ. Yet, at this point--and please forgive me if I have read the clues of your text incorrectly--I do not embrace the covenantalist hermeneutic you choose to employ (nor am I dispensationalist, so we needn’t go in that direction). Neither do I accept what I perceive to be your reconstructionist (theonomist) position. Clearly the latter is impossible without the former. I do agree with you that all of Creation is to be redeemed, as Paul teaches in Colossians, but I do not accept the manner in which you think this will take place nor exactly the subjects which you think it will involve.

Your use of Romans 13 in some eschatological sense is not at all commensurate with its context in Paul’s discourse wherein he contemplated the dominion of GOD over every seat of power as a plain reality in his own time which we were, all of us, to submit to not reconstruct. Nor did you respond in your last entry to my example of the early Christians who were constantly martyred and who, for several centuries, showed no inclination to eliminate suffering and oppression by political means. If there were ever a time to do so, it would certainly have been then, especially as they expected that Christ was soon to return. But even the Apostles proposed no political agenda, showed not the least concern for senatorial representation or political maneuvering and never advocated anything like a carryover of Old Testament law into secular politics, especially in light of the fact that it cannot work because the law of GOD is impossible for the fleshly man to keep. The only potential, then, is to attempt to secure order by stripping the law of its true reflection of the holiness of GOD.

It was hardly an original and theoretical twist for Christ to reveal that one breaks the commandments of GOD in the heart and not merely by outward activity. If, however, we pare those laws down only to the outward element on the excuse that we have no capacity to judge the heart, we have not only stripped the law of GOD of its guts, but we encourage Phariseeism everywhere and make Pharisees of every law abiding citizen. It was easy to be a Pharisee precisely because there was no heart to his “righteousness.” Outward conformity was never the law and because the Jew believed that it was, GOD was never satisfied with his apparent lawfulness and his sacrifices. The theory you seem to be propounding would simply regurgitate, at best, the pathetic example of ancient Israel and could hardly be labelled a government or a nation brought “into subjection to Christ.”

True subjection to Christ is only accomplished by salvation, not outward conformity, and you cannot compel subjection in this sense. And if you do not, then you will not have a government in “subjection” to Him anymore than governments have always been in subjection to Him already without your effforts by the might of His right arm. Political action will always produce temporary and rather blunted transitions precisely because there is no change of heart involved. That was the lesson of national Israel, that the heart of man is not and cannot be in subjection to the LORD (and therefore cannot keep the law) apart from His work in wholly transforming it. If Christians attempted to institute the law of GOD over a body of secular peoples, there would be nothing but civil strife and war.

How does all this relate to the question of lying and under what circumstances it may be practiced? It relates at least in the following way... Why is it that we no longer desire to attain the will of GOD through the casting of lots? Why is it that we do not literally smash the heads of our enemies, as it was spoken of in the Psalms, but rather turn our cheek to them to be abused, leaving all vengeance to GOD whose right it is to repay (Romans 12:9)? Why is it that, if we wish to heap burning coals on the heads of our enemies, we do not do this literally but figuratively through waging the warfare of love, outlasting and overcoming all evil with goodness? Why is it that David was not allowed to build the Temple because he was a “man of blood” and, after a list of things GOD enabled him to become and to do as a king and enforcer, of all the attributes of GOD, David declared that it was His gentleness that makes us great (Psalm 18:31-35)? Why does Christ allow us to lawfully divorce on the grounds of sexual immorality (on account of the hardness of our hearts) yet it is clearly not the perfect way of the bondservant?

The way of the ancients was for another time and another purpose and it was not the most perfect way, not the most righteous, not the example of Christ who washed the feet of His enemies and never once harmed them or took legal proceedings against them. This is precisely because the way of Christ is the only way that really brings anyone or anything into useful subjection to what is righteous. In other words, it is the only way that makes sense of suffering and frees the oppressed even in the midst of their oppression (hence, the New Testament’s discourse on remaining a slave even as a Christian). It is the only way that saves.

It may prove “just” on some leaner level to bash the heads of our enemies but it was not why Christ came. He did not come to equip and lead an army of Christian prosecutors. That is so unsophisticated a view of the transition from Old Testament to New that I should think anyone would be ashamed to hold onto it. And, if Christ’s way is the most righteous and judgment is to come in the next life and not really in this one, then it is less than perfect to lie for the sake of freeing those who are oppressed, even if this can be said to be commendable on some level. Just as David’s campaign against those who hated Israel was an extension of GOD’s pictured wrath against those who are enemies of the cross, while nevertheless Paul can show us a still more perfect way through a Love which is patient and kind and endures all things, even suffering and oppression (I Corinthians 12:31). To return to the former is to go back to a lesser revelation and miss the sabbath in Christ.

Anything less than this is not to attain to the mind of Christ, not to grasp what Paul meant by contentment and a peace which surpasses all understanding, not to testify to the Most High GOD, not to discern and reason with the highest vision and not to draw others through the highest example toward the high calling in Christ Jesus. Therefore, what life are we freeing the oppressed to live through our lies? Is it not a life settling for lesser things than the best of Christ?

This may all seem a hard saying, and it probably is. The LORD knows that I see it and long for it but haven’t attained it. I simply know that there is a transition from first to last to a final fulfillment in Christ, who is the perfect Way. It is why perfect love casts away all fear.

Matt said...

Benjamin,

I appreciate your careful and well-read response, but let me respond to a few more things.

First, with respect to authority, I can see why you would think what you thought, given what I said, but in the specific case of what Scripture means by lying - and what exactly the sin is, this wasn't an issue of deriving my own definition in a vacuum, and then seeing what Scripture has to say. Rather, it was an issue of translation, having read, learned, and been taught according to the English translations of Scripture, along with the English meanings and connotations of those words, I have a certain concept of what I believe Scripture to say, based on this. What I was saying, is that though the translations are often accurate (else they would be of benefit to no one), there may be nuances to this meaning that require further study to draw out. That was what I was referring to when I placed the division between "what I think" (based on what I've learned in English) and "what Scripture actually says" (the subtle nuances of meaning in the original). This is merely a recognition that my own knowledge of Scripture is imperfect, and that while I believe that Scripture says this based on what I've studied, that to learn more may provide new meaning (or it may just confirm what I've already concluded). Once again, to relegate this to speaking on one's authority is to say that no one can ever but speak on their own authority, (or in a lesser case, that no one can speak from Scripture, but accomplished Greek and Hebrew scholars) but I don't think that this is what you mean.

As for reconstructing government, I never said anything about using force, or changing only the outward forms while leaving the inward corrupt. My point was not eschatological, either, but applies to any point in time in the Church Age when certain conditions obtain. My point is, is that as the Gospel spreads, and society becomes more and more Christian in substance, that the forms of society will naturally become Christian as well. Whatever sector of life that Christians are in, if we consider Christ to be Lord in that area, then we will operate according to His Word in that area. As more and more Christians do this, then society will become gradually reconstructed along Christian lines. Also perhaps at certain points in time, according to God's sovereignty, opportunities will arise for Christians to take places of influence and operate according to the Word in those places. That's all that I'm saying. Furthermore, as operating according to the Word is in harmony with man's original design, then such societies will operate more smoothly, and produce better benefits (such as freedom, learning, advancement in technology, as Western Christianized society has produced) that those which operate according to the principles of darkness and the world. This is not to say that reconstructed, or partially-reconstructed societies are perfect, for the natural world is still plagued with the effects of sin, and opposition from the world and the evil one will always be present, though hopefully to lesser and lesser effect, as more people turn to Christ and overcome the world in Him. Also, my use of Rom. 13 was not eschatological either, but demonstrative of a present reality that those in governmental authority are God's ministers, and that those who do not minister according to His Word are in rebellion to Him. If God should place Christians in positions of government (which He has in many historical instances), then they, as His ministers in that domain, should operate according to His Word. Once again, that's all that I'm saying here, and I don't see how this conclusion is not warranted by the passage.

As for the Psalms I referenced, I never said anything about using violence, or its use being good, or sanctioned against our enemies as a general rule. After all, we have Christ's words to pray for them (Matt. 5:43-44). The only point that I was trying to make is that in those Psalms, there is a principle that regard for the oppressed outweighs regard for the oppressor. What you do with that in terms of allowable means of action is another matter, which I did not address.

Finally, I don't understand one of your final statements, nor do I see the Biblical warrant for it: Therefore, what life are we freeing the oppressed to live through our lies? Is it not a life settling for lesser things than the best of Christ? However, I do see a Biblical mandate to help those who are being oppressed: "learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause" (Is. 1:17), and that in loving them by helping them, we demonstrate Christ's love for them, as well as His love and concern for the oppressed. By not acting, when we can and should, we demonstrate a lack of regard for them, which shows a lack of regard for God's regard for the oppressed - that they get justice. How is this glorifying to God?

Benjamin said...

Thank you for the response, Matt. It was well received. May the LORD be tender with us in our great ignorance. May Christ plead our cause when we speak wrongly of our GOD.

1. Because the question of authority and its uses is so important, I want to say very briefly something that I think you may have passed without noticing, perhaps because of a lack of time. Some of the Biblical examples I use are passed in silence. I'm sure you're weighing them somewhere in your mind but, without comment, I cannot see what you are doing with them in your evaluations.

Let's take the example of Job's friends. They reasoned from what they took to be sound principles of revelation. They certainly did not receive a picture of the Almighty that many professed Christians today could not match (and some of whom simply echo) for its apparent profundity. They reasoned, in other words, in a similar manner as you described to be a faithful acceptance of divine Authority. Nevertheless, GOD made His displeasure at their having spoke wrongly about Him very clear. Their offense was worthy of death.

Let us be honest. The error of the friends of Job is not obvious. It is not easy to see where they went wrong. They argued that GOD may do as He pleases, that He is always right and just, that man is nothing before Him, a wretch who is perishing, that even the angels are of no account, and that no man can be just before His eyes. They did not accuse Job of some special sin, as some preachers have awkwardly suggested. They accused him of being sinful and that, therefore, he could hardly hope to plead his case as an innocent man.

Where did they go wrong? I do not ask this because I think there is no answer nor because I have not found one, but simply to demonstrate that, having believed in one's own intentions and reasoned from a background knowledge of revelation does not of itself guarantee that one is speaking according to the Authority of the Father and rendering a teaching from GOD. His perfection requires more than that... and it makes us appear like darkness before Him.

Just because you do not perceive the fault in yourself, you are not thereby acquitted (Proverbs 12:15; 16:2; 21;2; I Corinthians 4:4).

2. I'm not sure why you continue to portray an optimistic picture of Christian government in a secular world according to the law of the Old Covenant which even the elect nation of Israel could not keep. As even so well-established a Reformed thinker as Warfield pointed out that the laws of Israel were "in-house laws" and are for us, the elect by the seed of the Spirit, only. Everything in the word of GOD describes the plan you outlined briefly in your last comment as a failure, a "ministry of death" and a "ministry of condemnation." Paul declares this bluntly and there are no examples in the New Testament of any political interest or ambition of any kind when it would have been, of all times, most prudent to advance such a policy rather than watch thousands of Christians be slaughtered. That is "suffering and oppression" on a grand scale.

3. What was the Church's (and the Apostle's) response? Their response was to embrace suffering and return to their persecutors a blessing for the glory and honor of the Name. Indeed, suffering is absolutely necessary to know Christ and become like Him, for even He, being a Son, learned obedience through the what He suffered (Hebrews 5:8) and was in fact made perfect through it (Hebrews 2:10). I think it obvious that the Father, who is kind in all that He does, would not inflict upon the Son anything that was not absolutely necessary. Not one ounce of gratuitous suffering exists anywhere in the world.

The clear connection between suffering, oppression and sanctifying perfection is outlined by Paul:

"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. . . " (II Corinthians 4:6-5:1)

And then, in the next chapter:

"We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything." (II Corinthians 6:3-10)

And again, in chapter 11, Paul explains what makes him a "better" servant of Christ:

"Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one––I am talking like a madman––with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." (II Corinthians 11:23-30)

Would you, by your charitable efforts, rob me of the suffering that I receive from the hand of GOD? Much less, would you lie or deceive to do this...? It may seem virtually mad to the world (even mad to other professed Christians--take note of Paul's remark about speaking as a madman when writing to them), but to us, it is the promise of a great inheritance.

Let me say that I think there is a nugget of truth in what you are trying to get across, but it must be ferreted out and rinsed and polished a bit.

There are four levels of aid that can be offered, as far as I can see.

1. We may fight to eliminate suffering and oppression for the brethren.

2. We may work to comfort the brethren and ease their suffering and oppression.

3. We may share the suffering and the oppression of the brethren so that they do not suffer alone.

4. We may exemplify in ourselves the boldness of spirit of one who suffers cheerfully thereby emboldening the brethren to suffer well.

I would argue, from Scripture, that the latter two are best, the second is to be sought in many cases and the first almost never. But it seems that it is the first which you have been arguing in favor of generally practicing, even to the point of lying in some cases to achieve it. Not only does this evidence a spirit of fear but one which is unwilling to suffer as Christ suffered, even to champion the elimination of much of the suffering we might endure. That is the heart of a Peter who slashes fiercely the ear of a servant to "save" Christ from the cross.

Christ did not even make loaves out of stones when He was hungry, precisely because, as I've been saying, there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest suffering we can endure. Indeed, there is much to be cherished (as Paul argues above) in great suffering, even if it may not superficially appear that way.

Christ suffers, we suffer a little, and it is all marvelous.

4. In his book, Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris favors an ethic which is concerned chiefly with the "happiness" of mankind achieved primarily through the elimination of suffering. Although I know that you have no intention of arguing in favor of Harris' absurdly childish notions, nevertheless, he argues consistently that abortion of a blastocyst (made of 150 cells) for the sake of stem-call research is not a significant moral issue precisely because it involves no real suffering or anguish in the cells themselves. He compares it negatively with the suffering endured by swatting a fly (the brain of which is made up of 100,000 cells).

Now, obviously your logic is not at all on this level, yet I do think it allows too much to the world to argue that suffering is something we should be so very concerned to avoid or eliminate. That is not the mind of Christ who Himself sought to suffer purposefully for the glory of the Father and the perfection of His service.

I am not accusing you of trying to avoid all suffering. Nor am I suggesting that all kinds of suffering are good and should be embraced. Not at all. I am merely suggesting that to suffer is, in most cases, something not to be feared but to spiritually profit from. It does not cleanse us as some monkish aesthete might believe. It does not purify us because it impoverishes the body and thereby frees the spirit. Hardly... It simply teaches endurance for the sake of obedience and patience and, in this, imitates and glorifies the One who endured everything for us because of His kindness. We shall become sons of the Most High in our suffering for He, too, is kind to the ungrateful and to the evil of this world, just as He was kind to us even while we were yet His enemies.

I encourage you to think on these things and to abandon what is not good, what is not according to His word. Thank you for your patience, precious brother.

Deepspacebeans said...

If by "The naturalists started it" you mean that "the naturalists found that the exploration of natural mechanisms for natural phenomena best explain the natural world"...

The simple fact is, the proponents of Intelligent Design do not want to "play ball" with science. They wish to circumvent the process which every other theory must follow in order to find acceptance in the scientific community. If they wanted to print peer-reviewed articles and enter the academic arena that is the scientific community, then all the power to them. That is what they should be doing.

However, as seen in the several court cases in the United States, ID proponents seek to insert their claims directly into the the science class and bypass the peer-review process entirely. This undermines the scientific process itself.

The simple fact is, science is not a democratic process. The truth cannot be decided by popular vote, but by rigorous testing and evidence. So far, all available evidence is in support of evolution, therefore we are compelled to accept it as the best explanation of the observable natural world.

jeffperado said...

Rho,

Not to nitpick, but you sound a bit "elitist" by your having to define how to pronounce 'Coup de Grace'.

If your readers are not academically equipped to pronounce it correctly, then maybe you need to upgrade your readers.

I am sorry about pointing this out. Because I would never feel the need to show my readers how to pronounce latin, or any other language, because I would hope they are intelligent enough to figure it out on their own.

Maybe that has to do with the fact that Christianity is mind-numbing and requires additional God-inserted knowledge to cope. Your posts all seem to conform to this standard.