Monday, July 25, 2011

What happens when you ask enough questions

For some reason, being a naturalist atheist seems often to carry with it a great deal of intellectual hubris, such that one feels totally justified in throwing out naked assertions without feeling the need to justify them. That's what happened last week over at ERV between "Fred" and me, and I reproduce some snippets here, so as to display the power of presuppositions. Note how Fred never answers my questions.

In the the extremely large portions that clearly discuss how to escape the wrath of God, which we all fully deserve, does it explain how a two year old escapes the wrath of God?
Posted by: Fred | July 18, 2011 7:53 PM

Yes, just like anyone else - the grace of Jesus.

The grace of Jesus? Seems a little vague.
According to the link you provide, one must pray a little prayer, or in some other manner, ask for ticket to the heaven ride. How does a two year old do this (let alone, a newborn)? How did this work during the Israelite conquest of Canaan? (It's pretty certain that there was no conquest, but for the sake of argument, we'll pretend that it happened.)
Posted by: Fred | July 19, 2011 1:19 PM

A two year old doesn't do that.
The Bible doesn't really tell us for sure what happens to young children who die, so I don't speak where God has not spoken.
How did it work during the conquest of Canaan? That's far simpler - those who had requested grace from the One True God receive it, and those who didn't, don't receive it.
And yes, I'm sure you have outstanding evidence that it didn't happen. You know, b/c sand never shifts in that area. And archæologists never miss stuff, never make new discoveries. That's so full of bologna.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reply to Ben from Canada

Ben has replied.

purely irrelevant commentary that masqueraded as relevant (yes, I know "proof" isn't the same as "persuasion"

Then why did Ben say in the original post:

How is it possible that such a concept can be true and yet not proved after millennia of people trying to prove it?

Sounds like kicking dirt over the evidence and hoping no one notices.

a bit of ignorance (he suggested all diseases are fatal...)

I was replying from a biblical framework where disease and death flow out of the Fall of Man, which was the original context of Ben's challenge.

an inability to grasp a joke (no, I don't expect any single article to end all religious debate)

On this I will admit fault; I didn't get the sarcasm. My mistake.

Now, I had listed 8 reasons not to believe Ben's assertion of "stupid design". Ben here replies:
1) Prove it. Do it yourself and let's see how far you get.

I don't have to do it myself to prove that I could do it better, given the tools and abilities your god is said to have.

So, Ben can't do it better. But we're supposed to believe that he can in fact do it better.
This is some serious hubris, but there's no way to verify whether it's true. I guess we can either trust Ben or trust Jesus.
But Ben hasn't given us any reason to trust him, it should go w/o saying.

I'd give us a blowhole, make it impossible for us to choke over food, strengthen the lower back to prevent the back problems that are so prevalent in our species, make our knees much stronger for the same purposes, eradicate allergies, and give us a set of gills too, just so we can avoid drowning. There. Better.

Then later,

I could re-write the laws of physics if I wanted to, and the laws of thermodynamics. There's one big one for you: I'd make it impossible for the heat death of the universe to happen.

A blowhole would have to be cleaned and maintained, and so we'd have to redesign our clothing.
And we'd have to be able to keep it clean but wouldn't be able to reach it with our arms the way they are, so I guess Ben would give us 360-degree rotational shoulders. But then we would require additional musculature to make sure that could happen, and how would it happen precisely? Wouldn't the muscles get twisted and torn pretty easily once they'd moved all the way around once? I suppose Ben would complain then too.
How would the tendons and ligaments work? Wouldn't we much more easily suffer separated and dislocated shoulders?

The point is not that we couldn't think of things that might make us think that we'd improved the design of man. The point is that the critic never thinks of the trade-offs. And if that's true of a mere blowhole, how much more when he proposes to rewrite the laws of thermodynamics?!

The critic also never proves the assertion that these things are actually better.
Just look at the answer to #7 that he already gave:

If naturalism is true, and it is, then we put the judgements on everything. But there are some cold, hard facts that are true regardless of teleology, like "more humans choke to death than dolphins". So clearly dolphins are better at "not choking to death".

And where does he give us any reason to think that "not choking to death" is indeed better. I certainly don't grant it, if naturalism is true.
So let's see Ben give us a good reason to think that "not choking to death" is indeed a good thing.

I do think it's a good thing that we not choke to death, but that's because I'm a Christian and death is an enemy, on Christianity. But, see, ALSO on Christianity, God is infinitely trustworthy and there is every reason not to doubt Him. So if we sometimes choke to death in this fallen world, it's because the world is fallen. Death happens. We are to be prepared for it, not by making stupid arguments about how we could have done it better, but by repenting of our sin and trusting Jesus.
Ben is a blasphemer, and the blasphemy is pitiful in its sad lameness - he can't improve on God's design, but instead just chucks rocks at it. He's the neophyte with a paintbrush and some Wal-Mart water colors sneering at the Van Gogh gallery. Certainly if HE had Van Gogh's abilities and funny hair, he could paint masterpieces valued in the $millions.
He can't do it, obviously. There's no way to test his blueprints. What's so funny about all that is that science is supposed to be built around experiment and observation. How can we observe that Ben's way is better? And, again, what standard do we use to measure? Ben needs to give us one.

Going back to the blowhole and the problems I suggested with it: if we indeed had a blowhole, what I mean to say is that Ben would criticise the surrounding problems with that as well. And then he'd say he could do better. And if God redesigned it again, Ben would just find another reason to rip God. Ben is being disingenuous; his real problem is that he hates God and won't be satisfied with what God made until he himself can usurp God and take His place, and do things like he wants to.

Which leads to the question: how has Ben managed his life thus far, by himself? Is he 100% happy?  Does he bring 100% happiness to 100% of others 100% of the time? Does he have a plan for his life that he is 100% certain will lead to outstanding success? If not, why would anyone else trust him?

4) Once you've figured how you'd do better, could you produce a prototype for the rest of us to examine? You know, subject it to peer review?

(Why would I have to?)

I'd like to know whether Ben is a critic of Intelligent Design, and if so, whether one of his reasons is that ID researchers don't do peer-reviewed studies.
Or, maybe he doesn't criticise ID on those grounds; will he criticise the zillions of Darwinianists who do criticise ID on those grounds, b/c peer review isn't necessary or helpful?

5) Make sure to use your own raw materials, by the way. Don't use God's.

(In this hypothetical situation I am god.)

I hate to break it to Ben, but he is actually not God. And yet with his puny Ben-sized intellect (ie, puny b/c he is human, just like we all are), he has presumed to criticise God.
No, Ben, this is no escape clause. Ben does NOT have infinite vision and know-how. He needs to substantiate his criticism as is, or abandon it.

we're edging dangerously close to overpopulation, if we aren't already overpopulated. And we only really inhabit a small percentage of the landmass of this planet, which itself only covers about a third of the surface. So no, this planet isn't optimal for humanity.

Ben clearly hasn't been to west Texas.
One wonders whether he has ever reflected on just how big his home country is, and how sparsely populated. It's difficult to take someone seriously who makes this kind of statement. The Earth is really, really big, and 6 billion is not nearly enough to cover it with people.
Ben may refer to other difficulties such as distribution of food and water, but that is not the same, not even close, as "this planet isn't optimal for humanity".
He can maybe imagine a fantasy world that would be better, like maybe Pandora. But that's just it - it's fantasy, imagination. Where is there any evidence that a better planet could exist? How does Ben know?

Finally, Ben comments about the "problem" of evil:
The first question asked if your god is able to prevent evil, but not willing. So simply answering "He is able" without commenting on willingness is lazy.

Ben is asking me about my worldview, so when I tell him about it, I'm lazy? OK.

The second question has nothing to do with human morality at all, and I have no idea why you mentioned it.

"Evil" is a moral word. The sooner Ben realises that, the better for everyone, most of all him. But until he does, there's no progress in the conversation on that matter.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I fully expect this to end all debate on this issue

...or so says @benfromcanada, who apparently thinks that half-baked questions for Christianity = an end to the debate over whether theism is true. Not only is it badly reasoned, it's a category error; Christianity != theism.

Anyway, here's the comment I left.

Hi Ben,

Several things I'd like to comment on here:
How is it possible that such a concept can be true and yet not proved after millennia of people trying to prove it?

Um, well over 90% of all humanity that has ever existed has believed in one or more gods. Atheism is not going to win any popularity contests.
Besides, proof is not the same as persuasion.

there is no way that there is a designer that cares about life, and if there is, s/he is an idiot...the basic gist is that if any god existed and created this universe in order to house life, then they could have done a much better job.

1) Prove it. Do it yourself and let's see how far you get.
2) How do you know what trade-offs the Creator had to make during the creation?
3) Once you've accounted them (I'd guess they'd be in the quadrillions, so you better drop everything and get started soon. Pack a lunch, too), how would you do better?
4) Once you've figured how you'd do better, could you produce a prototype for the rest of us to examine? You know, subject it to peer review?
5) Make sure to use your own raw materials, by the way. Don't use God's.
6) How do you know the purpose of the Creator in creating the given "stupid design" that way, that you know that it was "stupid"? Do you know His mind such that you can know He had a good idea but implemented it poorly, or had a bad idea?
7) If naturalism is true, to precisely what standard, what teleology, do you compare this? There is no designer, therefore no design. There is no "good" design and therefore no "bad" design. If the designer had _____-ed the _____, who are you to dictate that that would definitely be better than the way it is now?
8) Maybe the designer tried really hard and managed to design life more or less as it is but couldn't get all the minutiæ down pat, like he wanted. (Not a Christian view, but you can't overturn it.)

Clearly, if any deity exists that cares about or likes life, there would have been either less space, or more life in that space.

But, again, to what standard are you comparing?
How do you know this is true?
What if the Creator wanted humanity to multiply of their own actions and fill up more space gradually?
How do you know how much life would be required to "like" it sufficiently for you? You're really reaching with this one, and so is Christopher Hitchens,.

1: Why is there so much uninhabitable space?
2: Why is the earth so inhospitable to life, especially human life?

1: B/c God wanted there to be.
2: It's not - you may have noticed that there are 6+ billion people on Earth right about now.
Your objection flies in the face of the typical leftist whine these days anyway, that people are too numerous. How is that possible if "the earth" is "so inhospitable to life"?

Snakes lose their legs and have to drag themselves on their bellies

That particular serpent, specifically. No word is given about ALL snakes.

(the Fall) doesn't account for the creation of disease, not being able to breathe under water, not being able to survive in extremely cold or hot areas, etc. That's what I'm talking about.

If there's no death, how could there be disease?
And the others are accounted for easily by remembering that Adam and Eve had to leave the paradisical Garden of Eden, such that now they'd have to run more risks with their physical environment. Water deep enough to be submerged in, cold and hot areas, etc.

I fully expect this to end all debate on this issue.

Then you haven't thought about this very much.


Friday, July 22, 2011

A challenge on the problem of evil

Tweeter @benfromcanada has challenged me to deal with a blogpost of his.  I'm only too happy to do so.
Full disclosure; I also asked bossmanham to take a swing at it if he has time, since I'm sure that his response, as a Molinist, will be quite different from my take, as a Calvinist. Diversity!

The post is entitled: Christianity's problem with free will
Let me begin by establishing that I don't hold to "free will" with no qualifications. It is my position that the Bible presents to us a God Who is Himself totally free and perfect. He does not change His plan, He does not change His mind, He does not improve on anything or learn anything, because He is perfect, omniscient, and omnipotent.

I can't say it a whole lot better than Ephesians chapter 1:

7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

Notice that it is because of grace, unmerited favor from God. We humans are wretched and rebellious against God. We can't dig our way out of our problem by good works, for one thing because none of us care enough about doing so. Thus Jesus and His sacrifice, and thus it says in John 6:44“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45“It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me."
Everyone who who listened to and learned from the Father comes to Jesus, and v44 says that all who come are raised up. Straight progression, and it is the outworking of our sinful nature, how we don't care to come to God. So God transforms us, draws us, gives us a heart to love Him so that we afterward freely choose Him.  Before, we freely chose sin and death; now we choose life and Jesus.
It's not "libertarian free will", not unfettered and not uninfluenced. I know it can seem that way to us, but the Bible tells us far more and far deeper information than our own limited vision and introspection can give, because it is the expression of God, Who knows you far better than you know yourself.

Notice, v11 that we have been predestined for an inheritance - to receive Jesus' great gift of Himself and eternal life.

v11 - He works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His will. He is free and unfettered to create and work out a perfect plan. We are influenced and fettered by stronger powers than we - sin and death from birth until Jesus saves us, and slavery to Jesus and righteousness afterward.

v12 - to a specific end, for God's glory.

v13 - Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit. That seal can not be removed.

One more thing:
Romans 8:6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

The non-Christian can not please God, and doesn't care to. His mind is in slavery to death.
The Christian's mind is in slavery to Jesus and to life. Neither of these are totally free, and that's OK. God knows what He's doing.

So, with that biblical framework in mind, we turn to your questions:

1: How do you reconcile your belief in free will with your belief that god has a plan for us all?

Answer: I don't believe in free will, so there you go. Ask someone who does.  :-)

2: Is free will a good thing or a bad thing? If it's good, why does god not allow it in heaven? If it's bad, why does god allow it at all?

Let me answer the question as corresponds to the proper biblical understanding: Will is neither good nor bad; it can be used for good or for ill and it depends on whether the person in question is under the control of death and sin or of Jesus.
Our wills are somewhat free, however, and yet my answer remains the same. Rick Warren has said "the greatest gift God gave us is free will", and that is idiocy.  The greatest gift God gave us is Jesus, and Jesus has saved us from the necessary outcomes of our wills' bad choices.
God allows free will in Heaven because He has given us new hearts and new natures that always desire Him. In this life we continue to struggle with the flesh and temptation (see Romans 7), but in Heaven those will not be present.
Your third sub-question is the entire problem of evil summarised. I recommend you see this article.

3: If you can't adequately solve the previous problems, how do you solve the Riddle of Epicurus?

I can solve them, but I'll also tackle this lame dilemma so there can remain no question.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
--He is able.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
--Unless He has a perfect plan that includes the pouring out of His grace on sinners to redeem them, and also pouring out His perfect wrath and justice on other sinners, to show the justice of His righteousness.
This question assumes that humans are neutral or even good, and that's just not the case. Humans are wicked and sinful.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
--Answered already.

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
--Good question; ask a Mormon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why we say that scientists should stick to their science-ing

The examples of scientists (read: those whose professions often involve them in the process of doing research, forwarding hypotheses, testing those hypotheses, and forwarding what should be tentative conclusions) stepping outside their fields of expertise to comment on matters about which they should know they're really sort of ignorant are numerous. (So are the examples of scientists who have zero idea of the philosophical basis on which science rests, by the way.)
Dawkins' latest few books are prime examples, but here I'd like to call attention to a woman who is working at the cutting edge of a field with the potential to save lives and reduce the suffering of millions.

Who?  Why, ERV of course!

Usually one can count on her throwing out one post with some ignorant leftist blather every so often, but when she put out two in two days, I just figured I'd call attention to it, as well as offer the suggestion to her that she stick to her study of gag, pol, and env and not abortion, ethics, or economics.

(Tom Coburn) says hes 'PRO-LIFE' yet he held up funds for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa because some of the organizations that would receive this funding offer family planning services which include abortion services.
Killing 'babies' while they are unfeeling, unthinking barely multicellular organisms: BAD!
Killing very real, very thinking, very feeling babies via long, painful deaths via AIDS: PRO-LIFE!!

It should be no secret that "pro-life" has a pretty specific connotation in the modern American political landscape - it means one opposes abortion. What is abortion? It is intentional destruction of a human fetus before birth. 
Yet are the two situations analogous? In abortion, someone takes what is in the vast majority of cases a fine, healthy baby and kills him/her, with intent. One does not accidentally insert forceps into a woman's vagina and accidentally crush a baby's cranium. Nor is it a case of leaving the baby alone; left alone, the baby will (again, in the vast majority of cases) grow to term, be born, and live his/her life. 
ERV's tendentious verbiage makes it sounds as if Coburn is walking around injecting African children with AIDS-infected syringes, and indeed pressing the plunger so as to guarantee infection, whereas in fact Coburn is angry that these organizations who lost out on the funding actually do far worse.

Did Coburn do the wrong thing, or was he forced to take the lesser of 2 evils, given (if the information here is correct) what he had to work with? These organizations that would receive this funding also offer abortion services. So which do these organizations care about more - AIDS treatment and prevention, or abortion? If the answer is AIDS, then let them dispense with their abortion services that they may receive these funds. The fact that they won't do so displays all that anyone needs to know about their priorities.  They'd rather risk losing good money to help AIDS sufferers than stop murdering babies in the womb. Hardly Coburn's fault just b/c he sees a problem with baby murder. Coburn is being consistent - let the money go to someone who cares about people regardless of their age. If no such organization exists, I'm sure one presently will, who sees an opportunity to snap up those funds.

Finally, notice ERV's assumption that unborn children are unfeeling and unthinking. How precisely does she know that? Answer: she doesn't know that; she has guessed it. She is the equivalent of the hunter in the forest who, upon seeing bushes rustle 200 meters away, aims and fires without waiting to see whether if the cause of the movement was a deer or a fellow hunter.

So, now that we've seen that the possibilities that ERV could nightlight as an ethicist are limited, what about her doing economics on the side?
Ah well, its just plants, right? No big deal, 'the ends justify the means'.
The link implies that the Greenpeace fanatics' destruction of the genetically-modified wheat has some causal connection to starving African/Haitian/whatever children.
Yet what causes famines in Africa? Is it the destruction of a particular wheat crop in Australia?
Or is it more along the lines of what David Chilton describes in his discussion of the iconic Ethiopian famine of the 80s?

The most blatant recent example, certainly, is the famine in Ethiopia, which first received widespread attention in the fall of 1984. While some have attempted to blame capitalism and the West for this terrible mass starvation, the fact is that Ethiopia is virtually a textbook case of what unbridled socialism can accomplish. The famine has been caused by the collectivist Mengistu regime, which, in the name of socialist “equality,” confiscates most of what its citizens produce - and then devotes billions (46% of the nation’s GNP) to military spending in order to secure its bloody hold on the country. Socialism is, in effect, the politicization of every area of life, a condition which cannot be accomplished without numerous acts of violence and terror by the government against its people. Ethiopia is no exception: in fact, the severity of the famine has been deliberately increased by the state and used as a weapon to force the people into submission, It is, to a large degree, a planned famine — a calculated, intentional matter of government policy. Provident farmers who attempted to store food from good harvests for future seasons of drought have been charged with 'capitalist accumulation' and executed for treason against socialist ideals. There is probably no nation on earth whose government is so slavishly devoted to the Soviet Union and its collectivist agricultural policies. Mengistu’s socialist tyranny has triggered patriotic insurrections against his regime in at least twelve of Ethiopia’s fourteen provinces. (David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, Preface pages xii-xiii)

And what Archbishop Abba Mathias described in his Appendix to the same?

The communist regime’s imposition of an alien, atheistic, Marxist-Leninist ideology and its attendant policy of forced collectivization in agriculture has so alienated the Ethiopian peoples that there has been a raging civil war in the country for the last ten years. The regime’s mismanagement of the country’s resources and affairs, coupled with drought has brought the country to a position of total collapse. (Cited by David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, page 373)

The problem with hunger is not found in the mass of food production; it is in the uneven distribution of that food caused mostly by war and bad politics and economics. I think the Greenpeacers are fools, but ERV is a fool, too, to act as if there is any connection here. Perhaps she does not suspect that economics are a bit complex, but it wouldn't be the first time (nor the second) that her "I'm a scientist" hubris has led her to pontificate where she has no knowledge.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Damion said:

I should also mention the widely-studied case of Henry Gustav Molaison, as well as other cases of retrograde amnesia. Can you find any cases in which this condition was caused by the loss of a limb, a kidney, or anything other than bits of the brain?

This brings up a very interesting thought. This comment, you'll note, occurs in the comment box of a thread related to the permissibility of abortion. Earlier in the comments, Damion has been arguing for the justification of abortion partly based on what turns out is his evidence-free assumption (one more in a long line of such in modern science and modern "science") that very young babies don't have memories, and they don't have memories because they don't have functioning brains yet.

Therefore, it is permissible to put them to death.

One can only wonder whether Damion would argue for the permissibility of putting Molaison to death for the same reason. Does he have any good reason not to?

Riffing off the Gospel

I got an email question from a reader of the Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma blog and decided to answer it with an avalanche of Bible.

Hi ____,

It's my pleasure to read your email. Thanks for writing.
Yes, I am a Calvinist, and a recent one, actually. It was only just over 2 years ago that the implications and meaning of John 6:44-45 reached up from the page of the Bible and smacked me right between the eyes.

Your questions raise a lot of common questions, and I encourage you to open your Bible and keep it open as you're working through them. God took the trouble to reveal Himself to us poor rebels, and so let's be sure to follow Him wherever He leads. The questions you're raising have a great deal to do with the relationship of election/predestination and assurance.  How do we know that we belong to Jesus and are not self-deceived?

Let me start off with a biblical foundation and then we can go from there.

Eph 1:3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Note here the intersection of the glory of God and the pleasure He takes in choosing some rebel sinners to whom to show kindness in saving them.  He really likes showing mercy to sinners, even to the point of dying on the cross!  He loved us so much to do that for us.
Note how it's "in love He predestined us" - it's not "in cold logic He predestined us" or "just because He felt like it He predestined us".  His actions toward us are motivated by love and kindness, just as it says in Romans 5:6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

God demonstrated His LOVE for us in sending Jesus to die on the cross!

Do you believe that?  Cling to the cross; tell Jesus that you're His. Ask Him to save you, every day. Don't walk in discouragement or fear, though. Rather, pray through the Gospel every day, along the lines of 1 Tim 1:15It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Now, what does the Bible say about those who are not saved?

Jeremiah 17:9“The heart is more deceitful than all else
         And is desperately sick;
         Who can understand it?

10“I, the LORD, search the heart,
         I test the mind,
         Even to give to each man according to his ways,
         According to the results of his deeds.

Romans 3:9...we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;

10as it is written,









Romans 8: 5For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

The mind and heart that is lost and who is still in rebellion against God doesn't care about Jesus.  Lost people love their sin, just as Jesus said in John 3: 19“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

So do you care whether you have life? Do you recognise your hopelessness apart from Jesus?  Rejoice! He is a perfect Savior. Though you (and I) are a great sinner, He is a far stronger and greater Savior than you are a sinner. Rejoice because if it depends on you in any way, you are hopeless, but since it depends totally on Jesus, we have a great and joyful future. Remember how it says that He predestined us for "adoption as sons"?  We were once enemies of God, but now we are adopted children. We are heirs of eternal life. We have been given the seal, the down payment, of the Holy Spirit.

Listen to 1 John 5: 12He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. 13These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

Do you believe in the name of the Son of God? Then you have eternal life, and you can know it.

Now, a few other questions you asked.
Arrogant?  Far from it. Rather, biblically speaking, we were rebels and dead in sin.
Ephesians 2:  1And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Boasting? Continue with Ephesians 2: 8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Romans 3:23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
 27Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Notice v27 - by what kind of law? Of works? No, a law of faith.
The point is that if it were by law, by works that we did, then we might have some temptation to boast. But we didn't do anything to earn our salvation from sin.  Rather, we contributed sin! Jesus contributed the righteousness.
That is why we boast in the cross.
Galatians 6:14But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

We talk big about Jesus because He is that awesome. We talk ourselves down because we are sinfully prideful and because we are in fact nothing, while Jesus is everything.

Anyway, you said "How do I know I'm in the lucky few that made it?"
It has nothing at all to do with luck. Rather, it has to do with God's purpose. Look at Romans 9:10And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

Now, that's not to say that I know the entire purpose or even very much about it. I know that it's God's purpose to save people for His glory, but there is a lot I don't know.  And that's OK! That's God's business; He's smart enough to take care of that, and because He has transformed me, I trust Him.

Why evangelise? Simply put - God told us to. That is sufficient by itself.
But other reasons - we don't know who the elect are. As far as you know, everyone around you is elect, but only God knows that and He's not telling. He told you to tell people about Jesus and make disciples, so let's go for it and obey Him.
God uses the means to accomplish His will.  He doesn't zap people into the kingdom. He uses the proclamation of the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 1:18For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

19For it is written,

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

      26For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God.

You said, "I also know that Moses was able to change God's mind"

Was he?  Maybe read the passage again, and ask yourself whether God was receiving new knowledge at that time, or if He was leading Moses along, provoking Moses to intercede for Israel, and then engaging Moses at Moses' level of knowledge.  God doesn't learn. He doesn't change His plan.  If He did, the original plan wouldn't be perfect, would it?  And God would have been corrected, would have improved.  The implications are staggering, but if we realise that God talks in baby-speak to us tiny humans, we can realise that He is instead just sharpening and sanctifying us.
Plus, in leading Moses to intercede, God was showing a foreshadow of the Messiah, who would be the one advocate, the intercessor between God and man (1 Tim 2:4-6).

As for the purpose of the lost, the non-elect, remember that they hate God. They want to destroy and supplant Him despite all His kindness to them in giving a wonderful world in which to live, and breath and food and water and love.
Read Romans 9's discussion of pots and the potter.  We won't fully understand God's purposes about that but we can know that one of the reasons God creates them is to display His sovereignty and the difference between mercy and justice.  Fundamentally, though, we have to ask ourselves to what extent we get to doubt, question, or judge God.  The answer: to no extent.  Let us humbly ask forgiveness and mercy for questioning Him, gratefully accept His forgiveness provided through the cross of Christ, and pray for grace to believe Him more fully.

I hope that helps. Let me know if I can be of any more help.
Romans 11: 33Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Grace and peace,

(Please leave any comments at the Triablogue cross post.)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Helping @dreamspeak with consistency - 2

So @dreamspeak decided to show up and talk after all.
I'm glad, honestly; Twitter is not a sufficient forum for discussing difficult topics with any depth.

Perhaps here I could refute your asinine claims more thoroughly than on Twitter

By which you no doubt mean "perhaps here I could start to refute your asinine claims". You didn't do any of that on Twitter.
Just a reminder.

you can declare unilateral victory in your little echo chamber without the benefit of an actual back-and-forth debate

Your amazing blindness to the irony of this statement is stunning.
Did I not invite you numerous times to comment here?  Don't be so melodramatic.

Empathy -noun: 1.
the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Yes, quite so.

Projection -noun (psychology)
a. the belief, esp in children, that others share one's subjective mental life

Yes, quite so.

Imagining what someone else's experiences might be and realizing that pain inflicted on others is a negative

Whoa whoa whoa, stop right there.
Here you've skipped right past the big question that I've been getting at.  You don't seem to get that I want an answer to this, so let me make it easily accessible to you: How do you know that pain inflicted on others is a negative?

is not the same thing as imagining that your desires are the same as everyone else's

How can I or anyone else know the feelings of another, except by comparing it to one's own feelings?
It's identification with the feelings of another.
Anyway, without your connecting the dots between "inflicted pain" and "negative"/"morally wrong", this goes nowhere for you.

It's the difference between seeing someone in pain and knowing what that feels like and wishing FOR THAT PERSON to feel no pain versus thinking everyone thinks the way you do and perceives the world the way you do.

The funny thing is, as I pointed out, you do the exact same thing in imagining that most ppl think about pain the way you do and therefore thinking that you know what's morally correct.

FURTHER; it is important to note that on many levels MOST humans experience the world similarly

You have no idea whether that's true. Where are your exhaustive study and survey results?

I can IDENTIFY in someone else a feeling that I MYSELF would not wish upon them

Hmm, sounds like you're "projecting", and therefore doing exactly what you're criticising in me.

HOWEVER I have never suggested that NO HUMANS EVER have aberrant or abnormal inner lives

Good, now take it to the next step. Deal with the fact that "abnormal" and "aberrant" are merely statistical terms, with no necessary bearing on morality. Connect the dots for us.
How do you know the "normal" is right and the "abnormal" is wrong? So far you've merely begged that question.

which is why I said that it is a COLLECTIVE result of society

You've asserted such, yes, but not given any reason to think it's true or meaningful.
Tkalim's society thinks it's morally obligatory to kidnap, rape, torture, and kill little girls from the nearby city. Presumably you can make no moral objection to that.  If you do forward an objection, how are you consistent with what you've just said?
I'd like to know how you know what the contract is; who signed it; if no one signed it, how you know who agreed to it; how one agrees to it; and what % of the population is required before it's a contract?  Thanks.

Also, it might do you some good to read this, so as to avoid stepping in even more old cowpies.

the levels of empathy that are required for EVERY level of moral or ethical behavior

Naked assertion. What's the argument?

This is why we condemn the Columbine shooters rather than excuse them.

They were scattering protoplasm. I see no reason to think there was anything wrong with what they did, if atheism is true.

We recognize their behavior as immoral because it causes pain in the victims and survivors that we wish on no one.

Don't say "we" w/o citing your sources.
Say "that *I* wish on no one".  But then you need to tell us why we should care what you think.

Neither I would ever suggest that we have a perfect solution

That's a start. The next step is realising you in fact have no solution at all unless you can answer my challenges.