Monday, December 29, 2008

He's young for his age

A naturalist with whom I occasionally interact via email (whom I'll call "Joe") recently sent me one of the stupidest sets of arguments I've literally ever seen, no lie. Here it is with very slight modification (to remove names and such):


In my previous response to one of your claims about your YEC story, I inquired about the source of your authority for some of your language and asked: "What text is that? The King James Version assembled by consensus and put together by poets?"

My statements around your response is:

Joe: Prove that the meaning from the literally first version of the story in a culture where there is reason to think there was a limited vocabulary came over the years with the same and accurate meaning.

Rhology: Prove it? It says "on the 3rd day, God created..." The onus is on you to show that the "on the 3rd day" does not mean "on the 3rd day".

I've certainly seen the language argued to support a different interpretation

It seems you did go all the way back to King James English to 'prove' your source statement. I don't think they were speaking English around the campfires when this story got started. It is usually argued that they were speaking Aramaic, a short description of which follows:

Aramaic is a Semitic language with a 3,000-year history. It has been the language of administration of empires and the language of divine worship. It is the original language of large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and is the main language of the Talmud and Zohar. Aramaic was the native language of Jesus. (Note: Links are Joe's.)

Personally, I have doubts about Aramaic for the earliest versions of your YEC story but it is certainly closer to the original than your 'thee' and 'thou' loaded source. The language argument is that the word actually used in the earliest known versions of the YEC story, which gets translated to 'day' in the King James Version, would be better translated as 'period of time' without specifying a definite amount of time. I have no reasonably reliable idea what the 'true' version of this story is.

As for your argument that "The onus is on you to show that the "on the 3rd day" does not mean "on the 3rd day"; I'll be happy to take that one since the evidence so readily indicates that the events described did not happen in any three days. Just how blind do you have to be to be a Christian? If you have missed out on that much of what we understand about the small portion of the universe we can see, you really need to re-start your education.

While we are addressing sources, let me address the segment:

Joe: What text is that (referring to YEC)?

Rhology: Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and Jesus' and Paul's referrals to the literality and historicity of the people mentioned in the Creation account.

Besides the rather improbable time condensation of the origins of mankind, there being some more 'days' of remarkably rapid events, your source also goes into things like Noah's Flood which manages to disappear in the seemingly more minor events we can discern in the past. Your source does not stand as a reliable guide to events of the past and is disproved based on its own evidence. As for the value of Paul claiming it happened that way, it is of the same value as you claiming it happened the KJV way. You are both believers making a statement of what you have faith in and pretending it must be real because you believe it so much. It counts for naught.

On the matter of language, I would also like to revisit Darwin in this segment:

Joe: If you can argue that Darwin says man can't know what's going on, then other gods made land grants.

Rhology: What could the connection between these 2 possibly be?
Since Darwin DID say that, and Judges DOESN'T say that...
Perhaps you deny that it is possible to obtain a true interpretation. In which case your argument fails, since it wouldn't be true that other gods made land grants.
Or perhaps you deny that *my side* has the ability to obtain a true interpretation, which is nothing more than cheap special pleading. You'd need to provide a pretty good argument for that one, and you'd need to show a modicum of biblical knowledge.

Well, the connection could be that, since you get to take Darwin out of context, I get to take your Bible out of context and only have to consider the verse that has another god making land grants. Of course, there is also the possibility that a Judge of Israel did know what he was talking about, every word of the Bible is true I hear tell, and there was at least one more god at that time who could make land grants. (Note: He refers to the assertion which I rebutted here.)

As for the charge that I "deny that *my side* has the ability to obtain a true interpretation", I will say you have made some real reaches in the past and seem rather short on science, general knowledge, and logic.


So there you have it. My own response is unnecessary, but here it is anyway.

This message is one of the most pathetic and empty-headed emails I've ever gotten from a skeptic more than 15 yrs old. Sorry to say. I strongly suggest you go back to the drawing board on this.
Why would anyone talk to you about such matters when you won't even take account of the most elementary of relevant facts?

You said:
-It seems you did go all the way back to King James English to 'prove' your source statement.

? Absent an argument from you that the Hebrew is incorrectly translated into English, I don't know what you could mean here.

-It is usually argued that they were speaking Aramaic,

. Genesis is part of the *OLD* Testament, written in Hebrew. There was no Aramaic at the time.
You're conflating the spoken language of Jesus and the disciples with the OT. Sorry, that is a very amateurish error.

-Personally, I have doubts about Aramaic for the earliest versions of your YEC story

You are being such a poseur here! I can picture you sticking your nose in the air and saying this with an air of authority, blissfully ignorant of your ignorance.
As if you have any idea about the validity of ancient Aramaic, or Hebrew for that matter! Please. "Personally, I have doubts", sure. And the arguments for why the "Aramaic" version is incorrectly translated?

-since you get to take Darwin out of context, I get to take your Bible out of context

You know, that's usually not how rational argumentation works.
If someone takes a source out of context, the other guy is supposed to CORRECT him and offer an argument as to why, not to return the favor with an equal level of irrationality. Compounding error with error gets us nowhere.
Your arguments, anyway, about how I took Darwin out of context are based on your ad hoc and unsupported assertion that Darwin uses one specific permutation of a word, based on a modern dictionary. Good luck with that.

Peace and a little thought to you,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Atheist Experience in revue - And now, a rant: Christians can't be happy unless they're making gays unhappy. That's mean. Mean people suck.

As mentioned, the Atheist Experience blog 'disemvoweled' my comments, so I reproduce here the comment box from the And now, a rant: Christians can't be happy unless they're making gays unhappy. That's mean. Mean people suck. post.


Wow, thats just vindictive. You guys see any chance that your Supreme Court(s) will overturn this nonsense anytime soon, on the basis of equality/discrimination?



I believe there are suits being brought for just that purpose but I don't know how far they have gotten yet. The way the Supreme Court is balanced right now, with some people on the bench not even understanding what the basic principles of this country are, it's possible that even if a case does get taken all the way up to the Supreme Court and they agree to hear it they will rule the wrong way in the end. It should be part of all elementary school textbooks, in big bold print right on the first page, "This is not a Christian nation." That would help a lot with this kind of crap.


I would just like to add, I just read the article and I officially despise Kenneth Starr now. First he leads a witch hunt against Clinton for something that shouldn't have been anyone's business, and now he is working for the bigots behind Prop H8. He is now added to my worst peoples list.

Michael Russell

Silly they have standing to bring the suit?

I thought part of having standing for a suit was that you had to have a demonstrated harm against you.

Can they show a secular manifest harm that they are feeling because of these being on the books?


What a load of idiocy you've crapped on us today.
Just what would indicate that Christians would "favor" drug use from the mother of the boyfriend who illegitimately got the daughter of a Christian pregnant?


What a sickening cesspool of hate and fear Christianity has become.

Darth Rhology: There you go again with your moralizing, Martin. You cannot say why, on atheism, that hate and fear are bad.

Look, I know there are many decent and tolerant Christians out there

Darth Rhology: What makes decency and tolerance "good"? See my comments here.

What if I don't think tolerance is good? Provide objective evidence for this, if you can. And real Christians aren't tolerant. We're just diagnosing the disease and offering the cure. If a doctor tells you that you have high cholesterol and that you need to change your diet and exercise habits, is he being intolerant? Accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior is like getting a prescription for Lipitor, only you don't have to go to the pharmacist to get it.

You can't get morals from an immoral religion.

Darth Rhology: I agree. You can only get morals from the Bible and accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.

If you're progressive, tolerant, humane, decent, and Christian, well, one of those things is a fifth wheel. Pop it off. You don't need it.

Darth Rhology: Again, I agree. Tolerance is a fifth wheel. Pop it off and stick it in the trunk of your car.

After all, it's that fifth wheel that allows these confused people to set up websites called whose stated agenda is to destroy marriages by the thousands.

Darth Rhology: A real marriage is between a man and a woman. You can't destroy marriages between two men or two women, because they were never legitimately married to begin with. You can put lipstick on a pig, but that doesn't make it a beauty queen (no offense meant to Sarah Palin!)

Honestly, why is it that conservative Christians can't be happy unless they're making gays and lesbians unhappy at every opportunity?

Darth Rhology: Provide objective evidence why being happy is better than being unhappy or that making others unhappy is wrong. What if I'm happy being unhappy?

That's mean.

Darth Rhology: But you have no basis, on atheism, for determining whether something is mean and why being mean is bad.

Mean people suck.

Darth Rhology: Why do they suck? On atheism!

But then, so does Christianity.

Darth Rhology: You won't feel that way once you embrace reason and accept Him.

Peace, hugs and kisses,

Darth Rhology


Darnit Rhology! Couldn't you have held off just for a few more minutes?


Tommy, you forgot to capitalize Lord and Savior, and any instances of He or other pronouns or possessive markers that you have referring to God.


Thanks for the constructive criticism Sparrowhawk.

I did remember to capitalize "Him" though!


I just came over here after
'apologizing' for 'calling' you insufferable and arrogant over in the other thread Tommy.

I thought you had a good sense of humor before this. I think it's freaking awesome now.


Thanks -C. When I clicked on your blog and saw that you were in Malaysia, I thought my Malaysia Sucks series (not the country, but the Muslim whackos you have to share that beautiful country with) might have offended you.


In my country they ban homo-festivas, marches, any public events; now they are thinking of putting a ban on homo "propaganda" (which I'm assuming is going to be everything which is positive & related to homosexual activity or acceptance) since it damages children.


"Tolerant Youth Association (TJA) believes the law will ban homosexual websites, films such as Brokeback Mountain, discos, exhibitions, demonstrations and other public events."


I don't think it's fair to link the palin daughter boyfriend mother to the palins. However, gays committing to each other in marriage does not harm marriage. People of religious faith proclaiming about marriage, then sucking at it anyway, harm their marriages. And why does this institution of marriage need protection? What wonderful thing does it do that gay marriages hurt? What is marriage busily accomplishing for all of us that begins to disintegrate when gays pledge lifelong love and support to one another?

I have to conclude that yes, the anti-gay-marriage crowd are mean, or just evil in the banal bystander way.


Just what would indicate that Christians would "favor" drug use from the mother of the boyfriend who illegitimately got the daughter of a Christian pregnant?

It's called "snark," Rhology. Still, if that's the only part of the post you think I got wrong...



No, just the easiest. One gets tired of correcting you every single time you post.


That's cute. Since atheists are self-professed seekers and possessors of the truth, I'm sure you won't mind if I correct you where you got me wrong.
One thing I'll note - you mock here, and that's fine, but what would be really crazy is if someone would actually answer my arguments. I know, bizarre, insane thing to ask, but hope springs eternal.

See my comments here.

This isn't wrong, per se, but I think it's funny how people ask me to back up my statements, then mock me when I link to the backup. Damned if I do, damned if I don't.

And real Christians aren't tolerant

This is horsecrap.

Accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior is like getting a prescription for Lipitor, only you don't have to go to the pharmacist to get it.

So is this.
1) the Bible doesn't say that we need to "accept Jesus Christ", for one thing, so I don't say that. If you're going to satirise me, satirise ME, not Rick Warren. We need to repent of our sin and put our trust in Christ, so that HE accepts US.
2) The human problem is far worse than requiring a "prescription". You just made this up.

You can only get morals from the Bible and accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.

??? I hope your glutes aren't chafed from pulling things out of your butt.
1) The only way to objectively ground morality is to base it on the God of the Bible, whether you "accept Jesus Christ" or not.
2) Everyone has morals, as I've said over and over again. The question is - are your morals simply subjective and arbitrary? Do they have any meaning or applicability beyond yourself?

So, hope that helps. It's nice to feel so loved, especially around Christmas. ;-)


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Discussion with Sepherim

Sepherim from the aforementioned Bruce Prescott's blogpost has stopped by to continue the discussion we've been having over there. I'll just move our interaction to this new post.

Howdy Sepherim! Welcome.

no I am not an atheist posing as a baptist.

OK, good. :-) And just so you know, I'm a Calvinistic Baptist who attends a conservative SBC church.

am not a doctrinaire or doctinial or confessional Christian

Yeah, I got that from reading a few of your posts and your profile.

I do not see the traditional doctrines as particularly helpful when it comes to determining how God would have me live my life.

Hmmm. So the difference between Law and Gospel (which is a doctrinal question) doesn't help?
Or the doctrine of man? Or knowing what worship offends God and what is accepted by Him? Or what authority the Bible has? All those are doctrinal questions. Orthodoxy informs orthopraxy.

I no longer accept claims that if God says/does something it is good by default.

So what is the standard for good, if not God? That's one of the reasons I wondered if you were an atheist, b/c that's a classic problem for atheism.

God, being without sin, is qualified to cast the first stone.

Absolutely. It's like Jesus said:
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:22-23).

Jesus is without sin and He is everyone's judge. He didn't judge the first time around (John 3:17), but He will the 2nd time.

Jesus could have cast the first stone but chose not to.

Right. He warned that all will face judgment at death or at His 2nd Coming. Thank God for the time and opportunity to repent that He provided!
Now let us not overstep the bounds He's drawn; let us repent NOW. "Today is the day of salvation."

And regarding my being a hypocrit, I am unapologetically critical of ignorance where ever I find it

1) You seemed to be labeling the biblical positions that I am expressing a "ignorance" and therefore worthy of critique, which is why I bring it up.
2) You also acted like being critical is bad, but of course you are being critical of me. If you'd like to retract that, that's fine. Retractions are certainly OK around here!

I do find it somewhat disingenuous for you to claim "I'm not 'throwing stones' at all" by limiting what has become a common metaphor for self-righteous criticism to a woodenly literal meaning.

That's rich - you're apparently permitted to interpret the Bible whatever way you want to, but I don't get the same liberty with your own comments!
But feel free to point out where I am *SELF*-righteous. Rather, I think I express biblical ideas and expose error for what it is. I myself am a worm, a dirty sinner, given an awesome gift that I could never even get close to deserving. Bragging about how awesome Jesus and His truth are is not self-righteousness, I hope you'll agree.

(Quoting me) "Haven't I instead spent my time holding people to a better standard of reasoning and devotion to God, pointing out inconsistencies and blasphemies?"

Well, haven't I? Let's discuss where you think I haven't done so! That's why I blog.


Over at PhillyChief's place, I've been pressing him to answer basic questions about the standards he uses to make moral value judgments. True to form, he's running away as fast as he can from the questions. No surprise there.
Another commenter named Quantum_Flux made the assertion that Christianity is irrational. I asked him to prove it. He pointed me to three posts.
Here's the first paragraph from the first one.

Well, theism started out good at least. I mean, psychedelic Moses saw this burning bush that told him to poison the water of Egypt with LSD when there was a giant volcano event that allowed the Jewish people to escape into the desert led by a giant pillar of fire in the sky. There were trippy dreams about snakes chasing snakes and skinny cows eating fat cows. People thought that it took 40 years traveling in the desert to complete a miraculous journey that should have taken a week tops on camelback. Then this great big group of runaway slaves completely ransacked a whole bunch of cities and spared nobody except for the young women because Yahweh's booming voice of justice was heard loud and clear by the high preists who then wrote it down on papyrous scrolls in hebrew and passed it around to the group.

I'm nearly speechless at the sheer idiocy. This is what the Bible meant when it referred to the fool that has said in his heart, "There is no God".
Anyway, here's the comment I left:

So I ask you for evidence that Christianity is irrational and you point me to this post? Hahahaha, that's pathetic.
Let's just take the 1st section, b/c the craptacular nature of this entire post is overwhelming.

-Prove Moses was "psychedelic" (whatever that means). You probably mean that he saw things that you haven't seen, but haven't LOTS of people seen things you haven't seen?
-Prove Moses poisoned the water of Egypt with LSD.
-To what biblical event do you refer when you speak of a volcanic event?
-If the pillar of fire, how is it that the "volcano" showed up only at night and moved around the desert?
-Exactly which volcano was it in Egypt that erupted? Where is the lava flow? Can you point it out in some study or google earth or something?
-I didn't realise that Egypt had volcanic activity. What are the active or recently-dormant volcanos there?
-Prove the snake-chasing-snake thing was a dream rather than an actual event.
-Surely you realise that the skinny cows eating fat cows occurred in the book of Genesis, not Exodus. It was 400+ years before Moses' time.
-The 40-yr journey in the Sinai wasn't "miraculous" at all. It was more precisely counter-miraculous, a punishment from God for the Israelites' unbelief. Cherry-picking seems to be your specialty.
-They ransacked the cities b/c God was fighting for them. You know, the whole "walk around 7 times and the walls fell down" thing. If you have an omnipotent God acting in your behalf, don't you think that might make things a tad easier?
-They spared lots of people, depending on the instance you're talking about. You probably ignorantly think it was one big slaughter b/c you haven't even read the Old Testament. Pitiful.
-What biblical passage do you refer to when you speak of "Yahweh's booming voice"? I'm curious about this one.
-What biblical psg do you refer to when you say that "papyrous" (sic) scrolls were passed around to the group?

And that's just the 1st paragraph. Your crusade has started with an epic fail. Who exactly were you expecting to take this seriously?



I'll be dealing with the other two posts over time. This one is a nice Christ-mas present, though.

Friday, December 12, 2008

God the great abortician

I can never be sure whether a comment I leave over at Dr. Bruce Prescott's blog will survive the moderation process. He's not apparently quite as fond of debate as he is of liberal politics, vicious assaults on President Dubya, unthinking social gospel "theology" and naked assertions.

Anyway, a recent post of his accuses the pro-life movement of "refus(ing) to address" this issue:

(quoting someone else) We know now that perhaps 30 percent of fertilized human eggs spontaneously cease development and are thus aborted in the early stages of pregnancy—often undetected. A considerable number of embryos miscarry during later stages of pregnancy. If we use the phrasing of the country’s founders — Nature and Nature’s God — what do we make of this reality? Should we view Nature or God as the supreme abortionist? A friend of mine who is a churchgoing fertility specialist speaks of such events as “accidents” but the theological and philosophical implications are enormous. A current metaphor is that not every acorn can or does or should become an oak tree.

(then his comment) If nature is so wasteful toward human embryos, how can anti-abortionists be so sure that there is a divine imperative to preserve embryos that were produced by rape, incest and in instances where the life and health of the mother is at risk?
Here is the comment I left:
The main problem with this reasoning is that it conflates God with man.
Sounds familiar, really.

God is not a human. He is the Creator and has the right to take life, just as He gave it. Indeed, He takes all life. Doesn't everything die? Of course, and it's all His "fault".

He can take life at any time, be it adult or really young, and it is 100% justified, especially human life since all are sinners. The question is: What actions is man justified in undertaking? Murder of human life is not among them. Abortion is therefore unjustifiable.
It's an easy argument to deal with; I don't know why anyone would call it sthg the pro-life mvmt "refuses" to deal with. Let me suggest Randy Alcorn's book on pro-life answers. It's the best I've ever seen.

This brings up something that Dr James White sometimes says. I love the man; he is a rock star. I just don't agree with EVERYthing he says. And one of those things is when, in his capacity as apologist, he is faced with the question of what happens to infants when they die. Personally, I thought John MacArthur's book Safe In the Arms of God was thought-provoking and confidence-inspiring, but the confidence is not bulletproof. So I say that I guess maybe I'm 80% sure that all infants go to Heaven if they die young, but I don't really know. I sure hope they do, b/c I miss my miscarried daughter and want to hug her someday, but the Bible is not clear on this question.

Anyway, Dr White says on this question: "If all infants who die young go to Heaven, then abortion is a huge populating influence in Heaven." He apparently has a problem with that concept, but I do not see why, so it puzzles me why he uses this argument in this context.

1) Ironically, see this post from Prescott - lots of babies do die every year from miscarriage, whether the pregnancy was known or unknown. So whether by abortion, miscarriage, accident, whatever - children are dying and going to either Heaven or Hell every year. Seems like we'd have to question God's justice in putting ANY child to death in any way...

2) That's God's business whether He wants to populate Heaven that way. We are not in a position to judge God. Dr White is usually stickler on this point; the implications of his statement must escape him in this case. And that's OK - we all have blind spots. Even rock stars.
One can't say the same thing for Prescott - most of his worldview is blind, with the occasional clear spot. It's a sad way to live.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Help, help, I'm being repressed!

A typically clueless editorial appeared in a local student paper and raised my hackles a bit when it said:

It is almost forgotten that Jesus was a civil disobedient, pacifist, minimalist who lived in a colonized state and spoke of redistributing wealth. We rarely look at his example anymore.
In response, it's irresponsible and just a poor understanding of the New Testament to say that Jesus was:

-a civil disobedient

Look closely, again, and you'll see that Jesus consistently refused and in fact assiduously avoided civil disobedience.
For example:
John 6:14-15 - Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world." So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

People of His time were expecting a military, conquering Messiah, whose kingdom would be of this world, who would overthrow the prevailing Roman domination and set up a kingdom.
They did not realise that this would be a hallmark of his SECOND coming, not His first, for if He came in judgment and power the 1st time, EVERYONE would die and go to Hell, because His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection are the only way for any sinful human to be with God in Heaven forever.
John 18:36 - Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."

-a pacifist

He taught people not to resist evil people when they insult you, to turn the other cheek, yes. Why? Because now is a time of grace, but that has not always been the case, nor will it always be. Jesus was the One Who commanded the slaughter of Canaanite tribes in the Old Testament, and Jesus will destroy the stubbornly unrepentant, later.
He came, the 1st time, to "seek and save that which was lost" (Lk 6:45) and "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). The 2nd time around, He won't be "nice" at all.

2 Thessalonians 2:8 - Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming...
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 - For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
John 12:48 - He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
Romans 2:16 - God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 4:3-5 - For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Revelation 19:11 - And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.

-a minimalist

A minimalist with regard to the things of THIS world. Why?
Matthew 16:26 - For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 6:19-21 - "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

He taught that we should desire SPIRITUAL, HEAVENLY treasures, and in great abundance. Those are gained by obedience to His Word, love, peace, mercy, etc. But to say He was a minimalist is not specific enough and is therefore misleading.

-spoke of redistributing wealth

Oy. He spoke of GIVING, yes, which I guess is, strictly speaking, redistributing wealth.
But compulsory giving thru high taxes is not giving at all but extortion. Jesus commanded us to pay rightful taxes, but never said those taxes had to be high.
Given the extremely high levels of corruption in the government, it's ridiculous to use a buzzword like "Jesus spoke of redistributing wealth". That is merely code for "take money by force from some, swallow significant portions of it in gov't overhead, corruption, bribery, and waste, and give some of it to people, some of whom will really use it and some of whom will waste it. And for God's sake don't hold them accountable!"
Note from the two quotes above as examples from Matt 6 and 16 - Jesus was concerned with the heart, not with the outward actions. Compulsory "giving" is not His speed - He wants to change HEARTS so that they will give sacrificially and voluntarily.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A specific account

I might have spoken too soon, honestly.
Jason Streitfeld believes that I have misrepresented his views on the basis of morality in his worldview, and you know what? Maybe I have. I'm not perfect, and I'm big enough to admit that I might have screwed up.
Let me just quote him, as I've done before:

-...morality is a process whereby people justify their actions to one another.

-Morality is a process of deciding what is best for humanity and civilization.

OK, so we agree that on his view morality is a process. So as to understand his view better, I'd like to invite him, whenever he has a chance, to take a concrete example, any example, of a moral question, any moral question, and then write up a semi-brief account of how, on atheism, he thinks the answer to that moral question has been arrived at, by whom, and approximately when and where. I'd like to ask him to be very specific, but I wouldn't insist on the imposition of only large-scale, macroscopic cases here. Feel free, Jason, to make it on a smallish scale, not worldwide necessarily (if you don't want to), but on the other hand not "Jason and his wife" or something like that.

In return, I will answer from my own worldview the exact same issue of morality, as if Christianity were true.

Jason has said that he will be answering the Triabloggers shortly, and I'm in no hurry. If you'd like, Jason, maybe you can find a way to fit this question into your response; if you might be so kind as to link to it in this combox afterward, that would be terrific. Or you can answer on your own blog, or in a comment here, whatever.
Much obliged for the clarification. It is not my goal to misunderstand or misrepresent your view, so hopefully this will help.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Emergent pork chops and homosexuality

Former Coordinator of the Emergent Village, Tony Jones, has made some stink recently by deciding that he now believes that "GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state."
The "Q", by the way, is "questioning", I think.

Much hay has (rightly) been made of this, so I'll restrict my comments to two topics.

1) Statement in the same post: "I could feel myself drifting toward acceptance that gay persons are fully human persons and should be afforded all of the cultural and ecclesial benefits that I am."

He had to drift there, did he? That's so crazy - I've been a fundy Bible-thumper (something like that) for ~15 yrs now, and that was never a question for me or any of my friends. Not in the charismatic, Pentecostal, ORU-type circles in which I used to run, not in the Reformed Babdist or Southern Babdist communities in which I am firmly ensconced, along with my near-beer and my wide variety of dangerous firearms. I feel bad for this man that he had to grow out of such a messed-up position.
Which part did he doubt? He doesn't explain, really. That GLBTQ people were human? Or that they should have the same cultural and ecclesial benefits that everyone else has?
I'm curious now. Which churches have thought that they aren't humans?
Which ones have denied them the right to marry just like everyone else? I don't get it, but there's a lot about Emergents that I don't get, I freely admit.

2) He goes on in a subsequent post to cite a comment from whom I assume is a reader.
Ben the commenter says:
The Holy Bible is very clear on a lot of things. Circumcision, for instance. And what about Leviticus 15? That's pretty clear, I think. It's always amazed me how so many of the rules of God can be dismissed by man, while others are so violently upheld.

Ben exhibits no understanding of circumcision or on what basis a Christian today should apply OT commands.
Circumcision was a sign of the covenant that God made with Israel, as God explicitly said in Genesis and Exodus. This could be tackled from many angles. Less obvious - What is the sign of the covenant now? Baptism!
Slightly more obvious - circumcision **OF THE BODY** is often referred-to in the NT, explicitly, as a meaningless issue. Rather, circumcision of the heart is that which is required. That circumcision is accomplished through repentance and faith in Christ, at which time Christ transforms the man, justifies him, circumcises his heart by giving him a heart of flesh, adopts him as His child, etc.
Yet more obvious - the entire frickin book of Galatians, Acts 15, Paul's defense of Titus' remaining uncircumcised. Circumcision is NOT REQUIRED FOR SALVATION. Why would Paul resist the circumcision of a partner in his ministry? Well, we know one thing - Ben (and my guess is, Tony) don't know.

when I asked my mom (as she was frying pork chops!) about why we don't follow all the rules in the Old Testament she wisely explained her take on it in terms that her 9 year old could understand. It may or may not have been entirely accurate

Emphasis on the "may not".
Here's the answer.

at the time God made them, every rule had a purpose whether man [sic] understood it or not. For instance, pork wasn't able to be easily preserved so it could be dangerous to eat it.

1) Yes, and beef, quail, and fish are harder to preserve.
2) Can't you salt pork and make it nearly indestructible?
3) Or was it b/c pigs are unclean animals, and God was interested in His people Israel maintaining ritual purity as a light to the surrounding nations (a goal they almost never even approached, but still)?

as time passed and people and situations naturally changed there needed to be new rules.

1) So time didn't pass between when the law was given and 4000 yrs later when Christ came?
Or is that just not enough?
2) The Emergents are fond of changing just about everything just about as fast as they can, and Tony Jones couldn't even wait long enough to allow a more organic, natural answer come to the homosexual question, but jumped the gun on Guru McLaren's proposed 5-year moratorium.
3) Jesus doesn't share this pitiful opinion about the Scripture. He said that the law shall never be broken, that He came to fulfill the law, that not one jot nor tittle shall pass away from the law until all is accomplished. Or what of Paul's inspired opinion from Romans that the law is "holy, righteous, and good"?
So, what does it mean that Jesus explicitly said that all foods are clean in Mark 7?
Read the book of Hebrews! Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of full ritual purity for all people. This purity is attained through repentance and faith in Christ.
Notice how this twisted view of the OT Law undercuts the entire basis for the Gospel. It's a dangerous view.

Eventually, as people followed the rules, God recognized that there was one really big rule that He needed everybody to understand.

When did people follow even close to all the rules? What history book is he reading?
And just what did it mean when Jesus said that all the Law and the Prophets were summed up in the 2 great commandments?
If people follow the rules, for what reason do they need a perfect Savior?

He sent his only son to make sure everybody knew that to get into Heaven the most important thing to know is that He expects all of us to treat every other person with love and respect.

And thus is displayed the grandest error of the Emergent whatever-it-is and the social "gospel" as a whole - a complete screw-up of the biblical doctrine of man. Where is any recognition evidenced of Romans 3-8? Of Ephesians 1-2's pronouncements of humanity's lying dead in transgression and sin? Of Isaiah's denunciation of our good works as dirty, disgusting menstrual cloths in God's sight?
Why do we need a Savior at all? We don't. We apparently just need a good moral teacher.
One wonders why Jesus bothered at all - just stay up there in Your heavenly glory, Jesus; we don't need You. Just send another prophet, or even just a nice, charismatic man who makes cool videos. We promise that THIS time we won't abuse, scorn, persecute, or murder him! We're more enlightened in this day and age to be so barbaric!

No, the problem is that we CAN'T treat every other person with love and respect. We sin. We sin against others and against God.

If everybody could treat other people the way he or she would want to be treated we'd all get to go to heaven.

Finally a true statement, and yet so misguided.
That's an enormous IF. Problem is, we CAN'T treat other people like that. Our desires are wrong. Our acting on those desires is wrong. Our treatment of others is wrong.

I feel strongly that we're to treat every person with the respect God demands regardless of whether they eat pork, or if they're circumcised, or on their period, or gay.

I'm glad he "feels" it strongly. God help him if he only had the Bible to educate him!
No one is arguing that GLBTQ people should be mistreated.
Perversely, Ben would have us withhold the greatest news and greatest love that a GLBTQ person could ever hear - you may not think you have sinned (or you might), but you have, and you have no hope of eternal life by yourself, but a wonderful and wonderfully loving God has given Himself FOR YOU, to stand in your place, to redeem your whole life and to redeem you for eternity. Walk His road and give up on your own, the one that leads to death.
No, Ben would prefer we blow sunshine in their faces to blind them from their greatest need. These men are serious hindrances to God's work in the world. I pray they will repent.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dr. Scattergun

In answer to Dr Funkenstein's post:

Got some time today. I must say, I'm pretty disappointed with this effort. It's a scattergun approach, refuses most of the time to take the internal vs external critique differentiation into acct, and neglects to interact with even the most basic of standard Christian answers to a lot of these questions. Must we really reinvent the wheel every time? What good does that do anyone, even skeptics like yourself?

it is possible to even start with another equally arbitrary god figure that shares the necessary base requirements with TGOTB but has enacted a completely different set of events in our world

The Jolly Nihilist already tried that, and initially failed miserably with his two examples - the Green God and the Music God, if I'm not mistaken.
I do plan, actually, to flesh this Flying Spaghetti Monster objection out more in the future.
But the devil is in the details in this one - propose one, and subject it to the scrutiny to which TGOTB is subjected over and over again on my blog alone.

Second, when you say 'account for' logic (or morality, or existence, or whatever you prefer), what do you actually mean?

It's a good question.
The idea is that, from the standpoint of the real world, here and now, I'm thinking about WHAT IF there is no God? WHAT IF naturalism is true? I take on naturalism for the sake of argument.
Now, thinking as a naturalist, I try to figure out whether there is any good reason to think that laws of logic exist, are objective, timeless, unchanging, etc. IOW, I perform an internal critique of naturalism. And I don't see a good accounting for, an explanation of how, these laws' existence, objectivity, etc.

you have previously agreed that you don't know the ins and outs of how it all happens (bar using the term 'supernatural' mechanism

Well, it all depends on what we're talking about.
In this case, logic reflects the thinking of and character of God.
He is a God of truth. He has set the universe in order and gives identity to things, people, etc. He differentiates them. He does not accept contradictory claims as both true.
Etc. Thus He created the universe like that.

And I don't see why I should expect that a naturalistic universe have laws of logic. Especially absent a cogent explanation from naturalists.

packaging these things under the bracket of 'Goddidit' doesn't really explain an awful lot, if anything

It may not explain the MECHANISM in detail, but it provides a sufficient knowledge of the necessary preconditions for the laws of logic.

I can't 'account for' it, you may say.

Sure you can. Dell/HP/whoever assembled it.
Maybe that will help clarify what I mean.

That doesn't really fly in the case of God, since millions of people claim to 'know' the fact that mutually incompatible gods all exist(ed),

But why would I care about what other people think, who have contradictory and internally inconsistent worldviews?
If I happen upon one that seems to be more well put-together than most of the others, I examine it in detail. So far, I've examined quite a lot and all fail.

you have the issue of problems originally attributed to the supernatural through history that now have plausible alternative solutions (eg psychological diseases etc and demonic possession - this still is the case in some places, for example in this study some people thought their facial twitching was a result of possession.

This is an invalid comparison.
The Bible does not attribute all diseases/maladies to demonic activity, but only some.
Those that are attributed to demonic activity, there is no way for you to study THOSE w/o a time machine, which I'm sure you don't claim you have.

The problem is, this renders reality completely subjective, a little like being in a movie where the director/animator/etc can make the project take whichever direction he or she pleases.

Subjective? Not at all - if the computer screen blinks out of existence suddenly, it would objectively be the case that the computer screen would at that moment no longer exist.
Thing is, TGOTB has created the world and made certain promises in the Bible to the effect that the world will remain constant and consistent, running according to certain laws, until a certain time that He will put an end to time and this world.
OTOH, on naturalism, there is no reason to think that the future will be like the past, even wrt the laws that describe how it usually operates. That is the problem of induction. You are in a much worse situation here than the theist.

you can't even be sure if your God belief is real or not, or whether any facts actually obtain as you think they do.

Sure I can - the Bible tells me that I can know that God is real and that He is the true God, and that I am redeemed by Him.
Conversely, the naturalist has no reason to think that his beliefs correspond to reality. Did he evolve such that his cognitive faculties produce true beliefs or only such that he exhibits survival-adapted behavior? Surely the latter, as one can believe truth and still die, and one can believe all sorts of falsities but still survive to pass on his genes, given that he behaves 'correctly'.

Divine Command morality, for example, runs into the Euthyphro dilemma

Perhaps it does, but I don't hold to DCM, so...

You've countered this before by saying that morality flows from God's nature

Correct. I give you kudos for actually remembering it. ;-) Many don't.

in which case, large parts of the bible become unnecessary or pointless (eg the 10 commandments) if people can know morality without commands.

Which is totally unrelated to the question of what it means that morality flows from God's nature.
I'm talking about the ORIGIN of the foundation of morality, not the communication of it, the way people know and access it.
God commands thus and such because of the morality that is grounded in His nature. So His commands are necessary for US to know, but that's a different question.

All you've really done in terms of Euthyphro is switched 'divine command' for 'God's nature'.

Yes, that's "all" I've done, but I don't see why Euthyphro applies now.

but (2) and (3) just shunt the burden as you've outlined it from 'because human(s) say so' to 'because God says so'.

Part of the problem is that
1) "human(s)" is vaguely defined
2) other humans say the exact opposite of virtually any moral statement. So who's right and how do you know? I never get a close-to-adequate answer to this.
3) God is, as I've said, the very definition of good, so it's pointless to separate it out. Humans are not the very definition of good. God is.

other than begging the question by simply asserting 'God is good'

I've argued for that before, though.
If God is not good, we can not know what is good. Every option is an abject failure but that one.

if God's nature imbues the universe or us with morality, morals are not and have not been uniform through society/history?

Here is just another example of an atheist forgetting sin. I don't know how many times I have to say it.

Even the most despicable acts you can think of, you can easily find groups or individuals who didn't bat an eyelid when carrying them out.

1) Which is perfectly in line with the biblical worldview, where humans are evil and bound in sin.
2) Which is a serious strike against any notion of utilitarianism or social contract morality.
3) One wonders how an atheist can label ANY act as "despicable". Talk about begging the question!

the evil God card could be played here too.

That's been done and answered.

a criteria you have used previously for validating a 'worldview' is internal critique, stating that the inerrancy of the bible is validation of the truth of your starting assumption. But

Not at all.
I wouldn't say it validates it at's more like a negative test. If your worldview isn't consistent within itself, then it's obviously a failure.
Rather, it goes like this:
-The biblical worldview makes sense of reality and intelligibility, so it provides a basis for rational thought.
-Whether the naturalistic worldview can account for reason and intelligibility is a point of contention.
-Therefore, STEP INSIDE the Christian worldview and level critiques based on its own presuppositions to see if it is consistent.
It's a test for consistency.
-Plus, if I just say "Atheism is wrong - the Bible says that the fool says there is no God!" Would you accept that?
Similarly, to say something like "OBVIOUSLY natural processes are the way the world works, and there's nothing outside that. The Bible is therefore wrong!" is just as inane.

Another example of an external critique is to say "the Bible condones despicable acts". On atheism, you must provide a justification for labeling something "despicable". You can't, as we've seen time and time again; it's an invalid external critique.
You would need to prove that, on Christian presuppositions, the evil condoned by TGOTB is a gratuitous evil. You haven't even begun to do that.

the numerous numerical inconsistencies it has (eg 1 Chronicles 21:5 vs 2 Samuel 24:9)

I already gave you your chances to provide a biblical contradiction.
Why don't you just pull up a standard difficulty-solver like Gleason Archer's "Encyclo of Bible Difficulties" or Geisler's "When Critics Ask", or at the very least go over to tektonics or CARM and rebut their answers to these kinds of questions? Do you think this sort of thing is new, that no one's ever heard them before?

basic factual errors such as what sort of classification bats fall under

That's been dealt with before at my blog and in other places. You don't interact with the answer here, so what should one conclude on this?

the completely different endings the 4 gospels have,

Why would anyone care that documents written by 4 different men might exhibit different styles, emphases, etc?
If you think they're contradictory, make an argument. But make sure to actually interact with the standard responses, so as not to reinvent the wheel. Don't waste everyone's time.
Start here.

known embellishments that have been added down the line

You mean, possible embellishments, the quality and probability of which vary from case to case.
Seriously, why not interact with the standard answers to these questions? This is nothing more than warmed-over zombie pie.

eg that Christians can pray for things and receive what they pray for.

Where's the exegesis?

This is quite easy to refute - all a true believer has to do is pray for my computer screen to turn into an apple, and I personally will send them a cheque for $1000

This is an example of an external critique.
Where's the exegesis?
Where's the argument that God = circus monkey in the Christian worldview?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Inconsistency and circularity as ethic

For those interested in the Jason Streitfeld saga, it's been going hot and heavy over at the Triablogue, mostly along the lines of the topics of materialism and its epistemology, Jason's laughable "reasons" for disaffirming the Bible as a good source of moral judgments, and Jason's simply ignorant assertion that the term "God" as in "the God of the Bible" is incoherent and unexplained by Christians.
In chronological order:
The really long initial thread
Slightly shorter, subsequent thread
The still-ongoing slightly-summarised thread

In my humble opinion, it's not going well for Jason, but of course anyone can see for himself.

Today I'd like to discuss a few serious problems with Jason's morality as he's been expressing it.

1) He tells us that evidence and reason lead us to see morality as a social contract.
Then he tells us that the social contractually-agreed-upon morality is to act in accord with evidence and reason.
Then he tells us that evidence and reason lead us to see morality as a social contract.
All this in response to the never-ending "Why ought I follow the morality you espouse?" question that I ask. He directs us to circular claims. I fail to see why this should impress.

2) I've asked him many times WHY I should follow the social contract. His position amounts to "IF you want this, then this". It is goal-oriented. First choose the goal (ie, a stable society) (or he begs the question by assuming that being nice to people or something similar is a good and laudable goal), then figure out, rationally, using evidence, how to attain that goal.
Problem - morality is supposed to inform what we desire as well as what we do. So where and how does his position inform that?
Maybe he'd make another IF-THEN statement along those lines. Fine. Where does his position inform that?
It's an infinite regress.
Where does it end? With faith in his self-derived, question-begging, fundamental moral presuppositions. It's not based on "evidence" or "rational process" at all. Down the toilet go his lofty proclamations of a purely reason-based morality.

3) He speaks of morality as basically a social contract. I've asked him before how he knows what the contract is; who signed it; if no one signed it, how he knows who agreed to it; how one agrees to it; what % of the population is required before it's a contract; etc. I've as yet gotten no answer.

4) Jason's explicitly-affirmed worldview is materialism. Thus, one would reasonably expect the social contract to be material. Where is it located? Is it written down? Who wrote it? Where can it be examined? Of what is it composed? What grade of paper and what tone of ink were used?
Or is it conceptual? How is a concept "material"?

5) From this comment of Jason's, I answer:

if our interest in the world is not justified by something else, then our interest cannot be the foundation for a moral system.

1) But WHY SHOULD my interest in the world be the foundation? I'm looking for a good REASON for that.
2) You may have noticed, if you ever read the news, that disparate interests exist in diff people. Somali pirates' interest is in stealing oil tankers. OPEC doesn't want them to.
Phred Felps wants to picket dead soldiers' funerals and announce that they are certain that said soldiers are burning in Hell, while the families don't want them to.
I accuse aborticians of murder, while pro-baby-murder activists think I'm a dangerous freaky fundamentalist that should be silenced.
So who's right and how do we know? Each is expressing his interest.

You are working under the assumption that moral questions must be answerable by some standard which is "good" in itself, without reference to any particular set of interests.

You have forgotten that you yourself take the same assumption - namely, that referring morality to a particular set of interests is good in itself. The difference between us is that I've thought my position (and yours) out to their logical conclusions, and you're only halfway there.

you say God is a moral authority because God's interests are Good in themselves. why should I accept that, especially since (as you know) the term "God" is incoherently defined?

1) On Christianity, He is.
On atheism, there is no moral authority at all, so...
2) Your claim about God's incoherent definition is being pwnd over at the Triablogue. Have you ever heard the term "systematic theology"? I can recommend a decent primer. Far more ink has been spilled on the topic of God's definition than has ever been on your novel idea of materialism.

The very idea of "good in itself" is incoherent, because it admits of no frame of reference.

I presume, then, that "our interest as foundation for a moral system" is not good at all.
What good (pardon the pun) is it, then?

For you, morality is just playing by God's rules.

No, read my post on the topic again. I reserve the right to correct you when you misstate my position, and you certainly have.

morality is aiming for the most justifiable position available.

Which is apparently not good, though, according to what you said above. How about that? A morality devoid of any judgment on what is good and bad. Sounds suspiciously like no morality at all.

You ask me to just assume, hypothetically, that Christianity were true.

You have demonstrated over and over again your inability to understand the difference between internal and external critique.
I am firmly convinced that atheism is founded on incoherency, but that doesn't stop ME from making internal critiques of it. All I can do is link to the post that explains it and hope that someday you'll get it.

You may as well ask me to temporarily suppose that "in blue ambulatory with massage and purple mustang, although not, and entirely because" were true.

Funny - that's exactly the kind of thinking that we're left with if we take your position on the laws of logic.