Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A realm of fantasy morals

Bjørn Østman said...

There is no correct or incorrect in terms of morals. Just opinions.

So it is not a fact that the Holocaust was evil. It's just SOME people's opinion that it was wrong.
If I rape and murder your wife and daughter and mutilate their bodies, it might be your opinion that that action is wrong, but it might be my opinion that my action is right. So there's no way to tell?
So any hope that we might make laws that are right and good are just a fantasy. Best we can hope for is that most people agree with those laws so that we'll have enough taxpayers to provide for a military and law enforcement force large and powerful enough to protect us from those who don't share the same opinions.
Sounds pretty arbitrary. Sounds pretty judgmental. Sounds like might makes right. And it is extremely counterintuitive, for what that's worth. What's more, I don't think you really believe it. You don't live your life that way, you just talk like it on some blog so you can advance your emptyheaded argument. Not saying something so inane and stupid would go a long way towards enhancing your credibility.

I challenge you to give your answer to my scenario.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Invasion of privacy

Bjørn Østman has been questioning me about God's revelation and the morality of doing foreign mission work.
I answer:

Specifically, in Rom 1 and 2 God communicates the following thru creation and thru the way He created people's hearts:
-He exists
-He is eternal
-Is powerful
-Is divine
-And has written His law in general on people's hearts

why does he not speak to them himself?

That is communication right there.
And there are other occurrences of God speaking to unblvrs in the Bible. I think what we're seeing here is that God didn't speak in the way YOU want Him to.

Why doesn't anyone who never heard about God from another man become a Christian?

1) I've heard many stories just like that, actually, where people had dreams and were prompted thereby to seek out a certain man at a certain place, went to that place, found the man (who happened to be a missionary) and was thereby converted.
2) If you check again those 2 psgs in Romans, the point of general revelation is that men might be w/o excuse. General revelation is not aimed at a positive conviction of sin and a need for a Savior, but rather that people would know that they are inadequate, and thus they will be condemned (if they don't repent).

God (supposedly) spoke to Moses and Abraham etc., so why not to other people today?

I'm not denying that God speaks to people today, though I do deny that He doesn't generally do so in the same way.

I am not of the belief that there is any moral absolutes.

OK, I'll remember that.
So, let's keep that in mind when you ask those questions about how God revealed Himself. You ask b/c He doesn't fulfill your expectations, but He hasn't done anything WRONG. Just different. I must ask how you feel that you have room to judge here.

It is my opinion that it is morally wrong to seek out people to convert them

And it's my opinion that it is morally right.
Is either of us correct? How can we know?

Otherwise it is extremely disrespectful of their beliefs, culture, and privacy.

And on what basis do you claim that it is morally preferable to respect people's beliefs, culture, and privacy?
Just for the record, I DO disrespect their beliefs and the religious part of their culture... b/c those beliefs are wrong. I respect the PEOPLE and their privacy and don't barge into houses to throw Bibles at people's heads, of course. Now, you think it's wrong to be disrespectful, maybe JoeBob says it's right to be disrespectful. Prove he's wrong and you're right, please.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


The King of Ferrets, a precocious 15-yr-old, has been engaging me on the topic of God's nature and how that relates to epistemology. I tell you what - I wish I'd been thinking about stuff at this level when I was 15. And I also wish I'd met someone like me now when I was 15. So, good deal for him!

Where did God tell you you weren't a brain in a vat?

In the Bible.

And if you bring up a source quoting God, I can argue it actually being God, and of course God telling the truth.

Then you'd need to tell me how I can know ANYthing and not have a great reason to doubt EVERYthing if God is not telling the truth.

So God rounds to a single sig fig then?

He did there. You'd have a point if He said the circumf was diameter times 58 or something, but He didn't.

He could at least say 31.

Then you'd just complain that He only went to one sig fig. Seriously, let it go. Game over.

What about the insect legs?

Oops, missed that part. To what psg do you refer? And sure, take that one on the house, doesn't count against your total.

I gave a reason why he might want us to see the truth; do you have a reason not to?

A good God? No.
An evil god? Plenty of reasons.

This means the Bible is subject to the evolution of society, because it can be interpreted multiple different ways.

It's TEXT. It has objective meaning by itself.
Or maybe you think I can legitimately say that your comment means that you have repented of your sin and trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord, and want to move to my town to come join my church.
Now, is that legitimate interpretation of your comment? It's not, is it? Why not? B/c it doesn't match WHAT YOU SAID.

Their version of morality was based on empathy, but only for those they viewed as human (or possibly only those they viewed as God's chosen people

The laws are quite specific for all of that. I suggest you educate yourself on said laws and come back with specific examples.

since they specifically forbid enslaving other Israelites

No they didn't. Israelites could sell themselves into slavery to Israelites to repay debts, etc.

they probably viewed others as subhuman

They might have, b/c they were sinful human beings. Question is - does the Bible lead them to do so? No.

Do you think sociopaths, people who lack empathy, have trouble with morality?

I don't understand the question. What does "have trouble with morality" mean?

It's all based on our empathy!

Prove it. I know YOURS is, but I got that the 1st time. You don't have to keep repeating yourself.

I see raping children as bad because it is not something I would want to have happen to me, and I emphasize with the victim.


There's no objective way to evaluate that

Alot of people think it's evil to believe that evolution is the mechanism by which the variety of life we see on Earth today came about. Alluvasudden, you won't agree. That's inconsistent.

How do they survive if they have a violent culture that sees nothing wrong with rape and murder?

Maybe they don't survive. You just got thru telling me that there's no objective value, so why place objective goodness value on surviving as a society? That's not good OR bad. It just IS. You're committing the naturalistic fallacy.

Did they get the idea that raping and murdering little girls works to keep God happy because they tried it and it worked, or something?

No, I'm introducing extreme examples to show that you can't live consistently with your own worldview. Of course God doesn't dig raping little children. I wonder why YOU have any justification to condemn it, though.

Divine command theory is, in fact, a pile of crap.

I don't hold to DCT, so maybe you should find someone who does and ask them to critique that post.

It's probably more arbitrary than the idea of an empathy-based moral system.

1) There's no way to tell that holding to DCT is morally preferable, so again, so what?
2) Even if my actual position were a result of God being arbitrary (which I might concede partially), God is the Creator of the universe. He is responsible for all the laws of physics and such, and the laws He has communicated are no less lawful and prescriptive and descriptive of the universe. Man can't set down morality arbitrarily b/c he's just one man among 6 billion others. He has no ontological position to dictate to other men.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Continuing my discussion with rotsaP loeJ...

I honestly didn't think that the biblical teaching on different levels of, well, badness of sin would be in question.
Jesus Himself made those kinds of comments many times.
21"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. - Matt 11:21
Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. - Matt 12:31
" Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation - Matt 23:14
"The second is this, ' YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these." - Mark 12:31
who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation." - Mk 12:40
"For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." - Lk 7:47
Jesus answered, " You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." - Jn 19:11

There are other NT examples, but hopefully that clarifies what I mean.
And yes, of course, any one sin, even a "small" one, is enough to condemn me to Hell forever. But OTOH, some sin leads to greater condemnation in Hell than others. An unrepentant dead Hitler is in a lower, hotter level of Hell than my grandma will be if she doesn't repent before she dies.

is it that Pilate's authority makes him less culpable for the crucifixion, or that Judas' lack of official status as a minister of secular justice increases his?

That's a good question.
On one side, I think it's irrelevant to our discussion, since obviously the fact that there is a greater sin remains.
My first guess would be that Judas spent no less than 3 years with God Himself incarnate, and yet he still thinks it's worth a mere 30 silver pieces to betray Him. Pilate had just met Jesus and knew little about Him.

But "weightier portions of the law" is a question of letter vs. spirit (the pharisees were using technicalities in order to justify being jerks)

Matt 23: 23"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

24"You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!"

I don't know if I agree with you on this one. Why did God spend so much breath and emphasis all thru the OT and reiterate it several times in the Gospels that "I desire obedience and not sacrifice"? Is it really a wash whether one tithes all his dill but shows no mercy or justice or whether one is very just and merciful and gives only 9% of his dill?

his great point is that 'unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and pharisees you are not fit to inherit the kingdom of heaven.'

True, and that's b/c His emphasis was there. It's far more important to preach the Gospel that'll get people saved from their sins, after all, than it is to discuss a finer point of theology.

my view is that the "something" may be anything at all, so long as it creates relational tension.

And I think there is the key! Buried within the first post, I said that, and I think it's key. Maybe I didn't say it or entitle it right, that may be. But just as constantly confronting my brethren for any little offense would rip apart our relations, so would my constant begging for forgiveness do the same. Don't you think?

Repentance is a necessarily selfless and virtuous action.

Which unblvrs CAN perform. Those acts are not meritorious before God, but they are virtuous and selfless.

I must acknowledge the objective basis of my sin

Yes, but people neglect to take things to their logical conclusions all the time. Atheist commenters on this blog are a perfect example.

the status of a sinner is such that he suppresses this knowledge with all his power, for otherwise how could he live with himself?

He can protect himself thru inconsistent thinking.

When he ceases to suppress it he becomes a Christian


you may disagree with my definition of repentance

I guess that is mostly what it comes down to.

On a related point, an excommunicated person must be a Christian. I don't agree that the excommunicant can have been faking.

What of 1 John 2, then?
18Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that (AW)antichrist is coming, (AX)even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.

19(AY)They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, (AZ)so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

And 2 Tim 2 and 1 Tim 1:

1 Tim 1:19keeping (BJ)faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to (BK)their faith.

20Among these are (BL)Hymenaeus and (BM)Alexander, whom I have (BN)handed over to Satan, so that they will be (BO)taught not to blaspheme.

2 Tim 2:16But (AM)avoid (AN)worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,

17and their talk will spread like [a]gangrene. Among them are (AO)Hymenaeus and Philetus,

18men who have gone astray from the truth saying that (AP)the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset (AQ)the faith of some.

Or Galatians 2:4But it was because of the (C)false brethren secretly brought in, who (D)had sneaked in to spy out our (E)liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to (F)bring us into bondage.

5But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that (G)the truth of the gospel would remain with you.

Satan wants to destroy the church, no? And so one of the best ways to do that is to rip it apart from within, and to introduce false teachers and false brethren. Ch discipline is for kicking them out once they're revealed, don't you think?

The whole point is that the disciplined person is a brother who will be now treated like a stranger.

Well, he's assumed to be a brother up until the time of excomm. Now we're not so sure, but the way is open for him to come back, if he specifically repents. Much like an unblvr has to repent to join the church.

because non-Christians are not capable of real repentance outside of God's transformative work,

I don't know if I'd agree with that. Definitely I agree that he can't repent BEFORE GOD outside of the Holy Spirit working in him, but truly repenting of having committed evil against another in a totally non-Christian context? I don't know if there's any biblical revelation either way, is there? You think that most of the societies in the world in history have been founded and gone their way w/o ever having experienced true repentance over wrongs? Not that they'd consider those wrongs in any consistent worldview, but people are capable of gross, grand, monumental inconsistency!

so threatening them with excommunication ...makes as much sense as threatening them with violence.

Well, obviously they have some reason for coming to church; otherwise they wouldn't come. Now they've lost access to whatever value they placed on churchgoing. That might be big or small, but that's all one can do. And it's another chance to share the Gospel and also to sanctify the congregation thru the removal of bad leaven and thru teaching the Scr's teaching on ch disc and holiness.

(your idea about withholding forgiveness seems indistinguishable from this to me. Is there a distinction you're making, or would you simply say the one is a more formal version of the other?)

Hmm, yeah, I'd probably call it a more formal version.


1) Fair enough - Simon hadn't specifically wronged Peter.
2) I asked: Shall we be more forgiving than God? So, maybe you could help make progress towards that - are we indeed to be more forgiving than God?
You answer:
I would say yes, certainly, and of course.

Hmmm, I don't know if I can buy that, you know? God is THE exemplar for our actions and thoughts. Forgiveness is objectively a good action. And yet I can exceed God in a good action? Me?

3) I think it's better to say that my judgment might be shaky as far as extrapolating from withholding forgiveness in the context of ch disc to withholding it for unblvrs in certain circumstances, since I dealt with the part about excommunicating (secret) unblvrs above.

One thing I haven't seen you take into account, and correct me if I'm wrong, is the concept that we withhold forgiveness certain times for the good of the person, for love of them. Since this action would be motivated by pure love of the offender, does that have anythg at all to do with it?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Looking for a challenge

I don't think this is a particularly new set of ideas or anything, but I can't recall seeing them discussed often in the channels in which I travel on the worldwide Internetosphere, so I'd like to post them here and invite anyone who holds to Darwinianistical evolutionary theory to comment.

Given the great care that the Darwinian camp has taken to differentiate itself from the Intelligent Design stuff, one would think that certainly said camp would be highly, strongly interested in providing evidence for its position, absent ANY INTELLIGENCE involved whatsoever. Given that, I'd like evidence that evolution from one type of organism to another is occurring TODAY with the following qualifications:
1) A laboratory injects intelligence into the equation. No lab.
2) Experiments observed on a REPEATED basis, as good science should be.
3) No intelligent (ie, human) manipulation of the events.
4) With ALL normal environmental factors present. No control group, no outside interference from intelligent agents (ie, humans).
5) With ALL normal other factors present, such as predators, weather, fluctuations in prey, water, and other nourishment.
6) And a good way of judging when the line of organism has become a different type (just for utility's sake, but I'd call this slightly less interesting or necessary than the other 5).

In other words, is it unreasonable to think that, if you're presenting what you allege is evidence for a currently-acting process of unguided natural selection acting on random mutations, you could show some evidence of it that is not guided artificial selection acting on partially-random mutations? Is that too much to ask? If so, why?

If your response lies along the lines of: "That's too strict - you've defined most of the parameters for normal experimentation out of the question", does that not mean that you concede that you lack any good evidence for your position over and against the ID position? That your side has spoken far too quickly, with far too much certainty and fervency, with respect to how clear it is that Darwinian evolution is correct and ID is wrong? If not, why not?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Someone accused me of being closed-minded today.

He's so closed-minded. Closed-minded against closed-mindedness and against closed-minded people. He needs to be open to diversity and diverse people.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Tom Foss Tossup

Tom Foss responded to a post I did a while back, thus continuing our interaction on the nature of morality. I unfortunately forgot to leave a comment on his blog notifying him of the response, so we happened to cross paths recently and I told him about the response. He wrote his post, and I finally have some time to knock out a response.

I don't plan to get to the peripheral issues in his post, such as the "worthy of killing" thing or the biblical psgs that Tom mentions as some sort of challenge to my position, as if citing Biblical Psg X would discomfit me, whose position is based on the Bible as far as I can base it. Perhaps I'll get to those at a later date.

Tom's central assumption is apparently that whatever helps human society continue to exist = morally acceptable.
Of course, I've been bringing this up the whole time. What does he say in response?

It starts with:
The start is the set of facts that require society to exist: namely, our desire for survival, our natural empathy for one another, and our mutual interdependence.

Tom has apparently not taken the next step with respect to these questions. For him it's enough to stop with society, but those of us who are a bit more, ahem, freethinking are not satisfied therewith.
So, I have to ask: How do we know that, in general, actions that further human and human societal survival are moral?
Why should I consider that someone's desires, or many people's desires, be the foundation for morality? What about desires makes fulfilling them moral? All desires? If not, how can we tell the difference, since desires are desires?
(I've already laid to rest this idea of basing morality on empathy, so we can leave that aside for now.)

He later refers to an earlier post of his, which I believe is simply the post to which I'm responding in my last response, seemingly to justify his foundation as society. Let's see what it has to say.

The "should" is determined by society, and at its core, by the necessary elements required for society to exist.

Why? How do you know?
He says he discusses this later in the post, so let's keep reading.

There is if the species is to continue. Granted, there are those individuals for whom that's not a concern. For the rest of us, that society exists is a given.

Completely unhelpful with respect to the question. We move on.

living together is necessary for prolonged survival, all of the time. Last I checked, humans couldn't asexually reproduce.

Again, unhelpful.

morals evolve as society progresses

As if anyone denied that morals evolve.
And of course "progresses" begs the question of whether it is progressing towards better or worse moral values. We're asking how we can know, to what standard we compare actions to find out whether they're good or bad.

Two, we come again to the closest thing society has to moral absolutes: the conditions necessary for society to exist.

Simply begs the question.

Much of law is arbitrary--arbitrary boundaries drawn in sand by democratic plurality or dictatorial edict. They vary from place to place, and that's not generally a problem.

And sometimes it is a problem, and people disagree and even fight. So how can we know?

It's not morally significant whether the highest speed limit in the state is 65 or 70 mph; the difference is arbitrary.

Notice how he doesn't bother backing this up with an argument. That's just the way it is.

More disparate cultures may disagree on more basic points, but even the simplest social animals have codes against killing members of the society and other basic, foundational principles.

Again, no one is denying that such moral standards exist. The question is whether they are right or wrong.

I don't see any other references in that earlier post. Our search for actual substantiation was in vain. Tom is a big fan of unsupported assertions.

Back to the later post...
The half that's wrong is that it's "enabling a natural process to take place." It's not; it's forcing a natural process to take place immediately rather than inevitably. Here in the real world, there's this thing called "time," and it has significance with regard to these natural processes.

How does he know?

we, as humans, however, would generally prefer existence to nonexistence. The necessity of society comes out of our desire to continue living.

And of course, preference does not equal morality. When will he get around to actually answering the questions I'm asking?

The prescription is this: given the facts that society exists, that we live in it, and that we generally benefit from it, our moral obligations are determined by the principles that ensure the continued existence of society, and thus assist our continued survival and benefit.

So, again, how does he know that it is morally good that society continue to exist?

No, in my view, humans couldn't have evolved otherwise--not and still be recognizable as humans.

Granting for the sake of argument that humans evolved from a different species, so what? Just b/c we evolved this way doesn't mean that we are right to behave in the way we behave.

Things happened according to one set of circumstances, and those circumstances dictate our morality.

I have to wonder whether Tom even understands what I'm asking. I kind of doubt it, b/c his response completely misses the mark.
No one is denying that people hold to moral codes. Are those codes right or wrong?

Society exists, we benefit from it.

Begs the question of how he knows what "benefit" means, without any objective moral standard to which to compare the status quo.

if we want to continue to survive and benefit from the comforts of society, then we ought to act in accordance with society's rules.

Once again he is stating a general fact, which I've never denied. He's answering the wrong question.

If we don't want to act in accordance with society's rules, then we ought to leave. We can't have our benefits and shirk the rules too.

Why ought we leave? Why not shirk the rules? What if the rules are bad? How can we know if the rules are bad and ought to be shirked?

I'm explaining that "ought" comes from "is."

He should take this up with David Hume. Of course, the way this is going, he'd probably title his paper "More on Hume" and provide a bunch of answers to Augustine or the Dalai Lama.

I said:
If it evolved that way, that's the moral right. Thus the danger of basing one's morality on humanity.
He responds:
Where on Earth did anyone say that?

As a matter of fact, Tom did:
No, in my view, humans couldn't have evolved otherwise--not and still be recognizable as humans.

Yes, Rhology, when the facts change, I change my position. What do you do?

This highlights the difference between our systems, and my question and his response illustrate that well.
On my view, when someone changes his behavior, I can know whether that change was for the worse or for the better.
On his view, if enough people change their view (though Tom can't tell us how many it takes), that changed view BECOMES the new "right".

As opposed to what? A system based on what an arbitrarily chosen deity supposedly said?

Yes, precisely. Tom apparently has difficulty with hypotheticals. But IF my position is true, then there is an objective standard by which to judge things good or bad. IF his position is true, there's not. Simple as that.

any book that advocates public execution as a punishment for laziness and rebellion is morally reprehensible.

This is an interesting statement. Perhaps Tom could also tell us (while he's spinning his wheels avoiding the question of how many = a societal "consensus") when the cut-off point is for a moral position to change. Notice how he's standing from his 21st-century position and judging people from ~3000 yrs ago. But that was THEIR societal consensus! Why the inconsistency? In 3000 yrs, does Tom think it'd be OK if someone looked at his moral positions and judged them to be "reprehensible" if the future man's positions were different? Would he be right if he did so? Approximately when does the switchover occur from "societal position, which defines 'right'" to "past societal position, reprehensible"?

Explicitly, the social consensus is represented in the law, though that's not always an accurate depiction of social values (see, for instance, Prohibition).

And of course, all these things he's complaining about in the Mosaic Law were, um, the law.

A few decades ago, homosexuality was generally assumed to be morally wrong; today, the social conversation is far, far more divided, and the consensus is shifting toward the contrary position.

So how long until he'll be able to say that the older position is morally reprehensible?

Real-world morals don't provide blanket black-and-white, always-right/always-wrong judgments.

Didn't he just finish telling us how "morally reprehensible" those acts commanded in the Bible were? Why didn't he apply his own standards to those?

What are "correct and incorrect desires"?

I don't know why this is hard at all. I am asking whether the thoughts I think are morally permissible? He misses the point completely when he refers to "thoughtcrime", since I'm not talking about the law. I want to know whether it's OK to think certain thoughts, morally speaking. How does his societal consensus model answer that question?
That leads me into another interesting question, actually. Society doesn't always discuss or poll itself about certain things. One's thought life is one example. If an action is not discussed, is it good or bad to commit that action? Again, is it right or wrong to think that societal consensus is the correct moral position?

Now, I move on to another point, in which I point out the total lack of clarity on the question of how he knows what the societal consensus is. He keeps saying "societal consensus" and all, but I've asked him many times how to define "consensus". Let's see if his answers are anything close to satisfying.

The consensus is not a matter of percentages, and I'm sure you're not stupid enough to think that it is. It's represented in the ongoing conversations about rights, the progression of laws, and the overall changing social attitude. (quoted from the Morality and Such post).

Notice how completely vague that is. ANYone could say that.

Let's go back to this, since it fits under this section as well:
Explicitly, the social consensus is represented in the law, though that's not always an accurate depiction of social values (see, for instance, Prohibition).

How he knows the difference between a law that does not line up with "societal values" and one that does, he doesn't say.

You want a percentage?

Yes. Is he going to be angry if I ask for a little more than just his say-so?

Take a damn poll.

Why doesn't HE take a poll? Maybe he forgot who's advocating which position.
Perhaps he's unfamiliar with Barna, Gallup, and those zillion other professional pollsters out there. Or is Tom saying that he hasn't actually done any research on this? He just makes his assumptions and runs with them.

Otherwise, you can just pay attention: what kinds of moral issues are being debated in the society?

Generally, when society is strongly debating a topic, I conclude that society is strongly debating that topic. So, is there simply no way to figure out whether that action is wrong until "society" "decides"?
What about the question: Is it morally right or wrong to think that morality is determined by societal consensus? Is THAT question under debate? Or can Tom cite some poll on that topic? Or rather, is it an axiomatic statement that Tom takes on faith and as a foundation, so that it is not itself dependent on the standard it expresses? Tom has a long way to go here.

as opposed to decisions made during an unobservable and unexaminable period of time by an invisible, undefined God working through an amorphous, undefined group of writers in an undefined area on undefined questions.

Tom is just speaking from ignorance here. He obviously hasn't bothered to acquaint himself with standard biblical scholarship on these questions. The period of time of Bible books' writing is hardly unknown. God is not undefined. Virtually all of the authors of the biblical books are known. And I have no idea what he means about "undefined questions" - has Tom ever read the Bible? It answers all sorts of questions, and asks others. One has simply to read it to know Tom is just shooting off his mouth here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Definitely feeling the Tiber-love

A devoted son of Rome said:

It is clear that you are thoroughly convinced you're right, and are only interested in winning silly arguments rather than coming to any kind of charitable understanding of the matter.

With that in mind, the only question that really matters is, and I have asked you this already elsewhere, what are the spiritual and psychological reasons why you approach the teachings of the Catholic Church with a spirit of unreasonableness and dissent?

Did your daddy beat you as a boy, and now you're taking it all out on the Church? Were you the dumb kid at school who never answered any questions correctly in class, so now you go about bashing Catholics because you want to feel intellectually superior? Otherwise, there's really no good reason to hold the sort of opinions you have about the Catholic Church because, if you weren't blinded by whatever spiritual or psychological stumbling block that's in your head, you could do some clear-minded research and see that her teachings are in no way evil or malicious or contradictory.

Hey buddy, I'll have you know that I'm sending you my counseling bills.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Summary of my 10 arguments against SSM

Over the Christ-mas break, I had me some fun over at the Atheist Experience on the topic of same-sex marriage. I kept referring the commenters to the posts I've recently done on this topic, but they wanted me to take up a bunch of combox space retyping everything. So I just copy-pasted representative quotes. They form a devastating case against the idea of SSM and, despite many dozens of posts from the other side, only a few of my points were even interacted with, much less refuted. Having survived the gauntlet of the knowledgeable (and fairly nasty) atheists over there, I figure they bear repeating in the same form. For your edification...

1) Homosexual behavior is just that - BEHAVIOR. Why should we change a societal institution to accommodate and include people based only on their behavior?

2) Just b/c one is born with a tendency does not mean that one is therefore justified in carrying that tendency out in behavior.

3) Homosexual people have the exact same rights and privileges related to marriage that I have - the right and privilege to marry someone of the opposite sex. To change that is to demand a super-right, one not granted to me. I do not see why, based on a simple behavioral preference, the law should be changed in this way, especially one related to something so fundamental to society as the family unit. Perhaps I should pursue a change in law that would rewards me for carrying out my from-birth predilection to be a drunk. And maybe I like to drive. So maybe I can get the drunk-driving law annulled by my efforts towards "equality".
You might say:
-But drunk driving a) is dangerous and b) hurts people and c) it's foolish to change the law just based on your desire to carry out your own weird tendencies!

A few responses:
a) Indeed, but who are you to judge my chosen lifestyle! Seriously, who are you?
b) Homosexual behavior is dangerous as well. And it hurts people - the average life expectancy of a homosexual is vastly shorter than a heterosexual. It's just the way it is, and it's b/c homosexual sex is harmful. It involves activity using a part of the body that is designed for something completely different, and that part of the body just happens to be the canal for eliminating poisonous waste, which is easily introduced into the body if it is damaged by, say, sexual contact.
c) Quite so. So let's just leave it the way it is, capiche?

4) Since we're changing the definition of marriage, why not remove the 'by mutual consent' part of it too? Just b/c YOU say so? What reasonable answer will we have for someone who sues to get married in a few years to someone who doesn't consent, or to sthg that can't give consent, and they accuse you of consent-centrism if you refuse?
Here is the now definition of marriage:
One male adult, one female adult, by mutual consent.
You want to change one part of that, the male/female part.
For what reason could you say that the other parts are off-limits for --ahem-- extension?

5) Marriage is not simply a private ceremony or agreement. There are witnesses, a judge, neighbors, children, in-laws. It's the foundation of society, for childbearing and child-rearing, of societal stability. Has been for millennia. When there's no good reason to tinker with it, why tinker with it? Just b/c people want to be legally recognised as different and flaunt their differences, the way they were able to bend the gov't to their will?
As I'm sure you'd agree, it is not laudable that the Atheist Haters and Eaters Society of America would probably like to bend the gov't to their will so that it be legal to hate and eat atheists.

6) Homosexuals are ALREADY, NOW highly promiscuous. Why validate that with sham marriages?

7) If we change the law for you, we have no plausible denial when someone asks to marry:
-a grapefruit
-a dead person
-a 3-yr old
-a parakeet
-a tree

If you answer "But, but, consent!!!" see #4.

8) If we change the law for you, we have no plausible denial when someone asks to marry 4 people at once. All consenting adults. Maybe we should change the law for that, too, huh? What would be your argument for why, since we changed it to give YOU a super-right, why we shouldn't change it for anyone else?

9) Since we're all good naturalists here, I'd really like to know on what basis we ascribe rights to any human at all. Sure, you can assume them, or say you prefer to live in a society that ascribes everyone the same rights, but that's called wishful thinking.

10) I'm still waiting for your argument FOR same-sex marriage beyond what amounts to "but homosexuals are such nice people! They deserve to be able to get married!" That is also called wishful thinking. I thought you were all beyond that here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Molly Worthen of the NY Times on Mark Driscoll and Calvinism

Here's the article.
I wouldn't call myself a 5-point Calvinist, but I think I understand Calvinism well enough to explain it out of the context of this article, and I'm CalvinistIC in my thinking and theology, to be sure. Plus, I'm mostly a fan of Mark Driscoll; I liked him before I heard this sermon, now I like him a lot.

Coming from my side, this article shows a lot of naïveté about Driscoll.
Yes, he's called "the cussing pastor", but I've never heard him cuss.
Yes, he talked about Ecclesiastes 9:10 that way, and that was the grossest thing by a decent distance I've ever heard him say. You know, that's not saying much about his grossness. So what? Or maybe I'm just too edgy at the ripe old (and yet still, of course, 100% hip) age of 31...

The article gets Calvinism wrong pretty bad on the 1st page, and that's just a shame, but what should I expect from NY Times? Fair treatment? Hardly.

Take this:
Yet his message seems radically unfashionable, even un-American: you are not captain of your soul or master of your fate but a depraved worm whose hard work and good deeds will get you nowhere, because God marked you for heaven or condemned you to hell before the beginning of time.

Yes, it's an un-American message. Bring it on. The church at large needs a lot less America and a lot more Scripture.
It's not true that your hard work and deeds will get you nowhere. They'll get you to Hell! You just aren't good enough. No one is, Driscoll and John Calvin included (gasp!). Our deeds are not good at all.

Isaiah 64:6 - For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Romans 8:6-8 - For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because 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, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

The Bible knows nothing of the American "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" idea. We depend wholly on God's grace.

It gets better on page 2 - "Driscoll’s theology means that his congregants’ salvation is not in his hands. It’s not in their own hands, either — this is the heart of Calvinism."
The paragraph that starts with "Human beings are totally corrupted by original sin" is half-right.
It goes wrong when it says: "(Calvinism) strike(s) many modern evangelicals as nonsensical and even un-Christian. If predestination is true, they argue, then there is no point in missions to the unsaved or in leading a godly life. And some babies who die in infancy — if God placed them among the reprobate — go straight to hell with the rest of the damned, to 'glorify his name by their own destruction,' as Calvin wrote."

-No mention so far of whether the Bible teaches it. That would be a good 1st step, though it is probably beyond the scope of this article and almost certainly beyond the reach of the writer, if not the entire NY Times staff put together. If the Bible teaches it, one must ask who cares whether "modern evangelicals" embrace it?
-*SOME* argue this about Calvinism, and it is based on a faulty set of ideas with the label "Calvinism" slapped onto it. This sentence actually describes Hyper-Calvinism. "Regular" 5-point Calvinism teaches that God uses means to accomplish His will, like missions, leading a godly life as a witness to others, sharing and explaining the Gospel, etc.
-Calvinists are divided as to the fate of people who die in infancy. The article doesn't address that at all.
-And of course, Roman Catholics and others are divided on that as well. For example, was the baby baptised, in which society and at what time was he born, etc. It seems to throw negativity on Calvinism, b/c most people think "Oh! Babies?!?! In Hell?!?!? But, they're so INNOCENT!" It's an appeal to emotion and to ignorance.
-Finally, the article whiffs on the "if God placed them among the reprobate". EVERYONE is reprobate, and 5-pt Calvinism states that God is pleased to save SOME of them, whereas He's not obligated to save any. A beginner discussion on original sin would be nice. Again, one might argue this is beyond the article's purview, but why even bring it up if you didn't want to deal with it fairly?

It says:
Facebook groups with names like “John Calvin Is My Homeboy”

Tee hee. My daughter.

being a persecuted minority proves you are among the elect.

No, it doesn't. It proves you're among a persecuted minority.
Adherence to God's Word and repentance and faith in Jesus are among the proofs that one is among the elect.

Page 3 -
Traditional evangelical theology falls apart in the face of real tragedy, says the 20-year-old Brett Harris...“There are plenty of comfortable people who can say, ‘God’s on my side,’ ” Harris says. “But they couldn’t turn around and say, ‘God gave me cancer.’"

Amen to that.

Though they believe that God has already mapped out their lives, Calvinists have always been activists.

B/c God uses means to accomplish His plan.

we are totally depraved, yet held to the impossible standard of divine law.

We are totally depraved WHEN HELD TO THE STANDARD OF divine law. If there's no law, there's no depravity. Or commendability. There just IS.
And of course, a faithful Christian is held to the standard, and found wanting every time. God judges that Christian's sin by punishing Jesus Christ, Who willingly sacrificed Himself to take that punishment in the place of all who repent and believe.

American Protestant culture — a culture that (Driscoll) has called the domain of “chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists

This earns him a lot of scorn in that same American Protestant culture. Maybe people could get over it - it's not like he wakes up with that on his lips and that's all or even close to the majority of what Driscoll talks about.

Page 4 -

“It’s only since women have been in church leadership that this backlash has come,” says the Seattle pastor Katie Ladd, a liberal Methodist who holds that declaring Jesus a “masculine dude” subverts the transformative message of the Gospel.

Here's a chance to see just how another Seattle-based, liberal woman pastor fared in discussion on this very topic.

embedded in the notion of Adam as the “federal head” of the human race is the idea of man as head of the home.

Also embedded in there is Jesus Christ as federal head of all the redeemed. That's a far more central part of Driscoll's/Calvinism's message than this minor point about complementarianism, but again, that's a lot to ask of the NY Times.

Driscoll’s hypermasculinity

Sigh. There's your journalistic objectivity.

The Reformed tradition’s resistance to compromise and emphasis on the purity of the worshipping community has always contained the seeds of authoritarianism: John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake

Par for the course in Calvin's time, and anachronistic judgment from this author. Perhaps the NY Times has heard of the Inquisition and the Counter-Reformation, the Jesuits, the Muslim invasion of the entirety of North Africa, etc. Or maybe even Pol Pot.

When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him.

That's called church discipline. No mention is made of the New Testament teaching on this.

Critics on the left and right alike predict that this delicate balance of opposites cannot last.

Yeah, critics said that about 1st-century Christianity too. I'm just sayin'.

Driscoll’s ego

Quoth the author...
I don't see a big ego, but I'm an outsider. Just like the author.

Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.

??? It does BOTH, silly. We are emboldened, not b/c we are bad, but b/c we have such a great Savior that He saved us out of our incredible wickedness, and we want others to know that freedom from the slavery of sin and self-serving desires that we have found.

Anyway, that's a pretty disappointing performance, from my vantage point, from this NY Times author, Molly Worthen. I don't feel like the article was all that fair to Driscoll, and it was pretty unfair to Calvinism. It's exactly what I would expect if someone told me, "Hey, the NY Times is going to do an article on a young Calvinist pastor".

Monday, January 12, 2009

Forgiveness and Luke 23:34

rotsaP leoJ has commented on my last post about Christian forgiveness.

I respond:


Thank you kindly for your thoughts. I did say this was an exercise in discernment. :-D Let me try to see if I can form an explanation that satisfies both of us.

1. The way I interp the Willis' intentions is that they withhold the consolation of forgiveness from the imprisoned Gov. in hopes that it will play a part in stimulating him to repentance.
I don't think that "do not feel capable of forgiving" is a fair way of describing their state of mind at all. That link branches off to several others, and I read them all, so that might help you understand them as well.

You said:
our forgiveness cannot be predicated upon the other fellow ceasing to sin.

-In most cases, I agree - see Point 1 of the post.
-In certain cases, I disagree, but I would restate it to say "predicated upon the other fellow more or less explicitly repenting of his sin", rather than "ceasing to sin" - the "70 times 7" thing would knock out the "ceasing to sin" part.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, the prayer goes; and we are forgiven - that is, the penalty of our sins is satisfied - long before we have the capacity to repent.

No argument there at all. But on the grand scheme, forgiveness of sin is ACQUIRED thru repentance and faith.

it violates the example both of Stephen and of Christ, forgiving those who obviously were not close to repenting.

It is true that their examples present a difficulty for my position. I'd say a few things in response.
1) Christ - Lk 23:34. That verse is actually a textual variant, interestingly, of at least questionable origin.
As for Stephen, I'd say that he was following Christ's example. Possibly, in fact, since the Acts psg is not in question wrt textual crit, perhaps it was copied back into Luke by some scribe a little later on. Or perhaps Christ did indeed say that or sthg like that from the Cross, but it wasn't in the autograph. (Both of those are proposed as possibilities in the NA27.)

2) The situation is that Christ is being nailed to the Cross. This is the ultimate and infinite injustice, that the sinless and holy Savior should be put to death by sinful men for hypocritical and untrue accusations, mostly just to get Him out of their way. God has responded in the past to such blasphemy and horrifying disobedience by the following actions:

-Causing flaming brimstone and fire to swallow up a few entire cities
-Killing everyone on Earth with a flood
-Causing the ground to swallow up Korah and 100s of others
-Sending a plague to destroy 1000s of others the day after Korah
-Sending burning serpents to kill 1000s of others on a different occasion
-Utterly wiping Israel (N Kingdom) and later Jerusalem off the face of the Earth
-Ditto with Tyre
-Ditto with Nineveh

etc. So I see a parallel there, between those great sins and the great destruction that followed. Jesus is interceding for humanity, to this effect: "Father, we both know that this is an infinite injustice; there is no question it's worthy of obliterating the entire planet with a wrathful explosion. Yet do not do that, I pray. Do not destroy, but let us be patient and save for ourselves a people for our own possession." Sthg like that, specifically related to the horrible act of crucifying God.

3) John MacArthur suggests (I seem to recall) that He is interceding for those who are participating, and who would eventually repent and believe.

4) 1 Cor 2:8 - the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Ignorance of the Law is no excuse, ultimately, but it does play a part in mitigating certain consequences.

2. presumably the Willises do not imaging they are delivering Gov. Ryan over to Satan.

Yes, but I'm not trying to apply the considerations from every "don't forgive absent repentance" scenario to all of them.

3. of course no-one can forgive offenses to other people, conditionally or otherwise. The condition of the person seems highly irrelevant.

Perhaps it is irrelevant, though I don't know about highly. I think I was relating the idea of withholding forgiveness to the idea of confronting the offender and asking them to repent. Obviously, if one forgives the offender unilaterally, no confrontation takes place. And of course, as you said, a 3rd party has no standing to forgive anyway.

4. I submit that such formal arrangements for the constitution of the church are not directly intended to govern individuals.

I'd be inclined to agree, so I could have made that a little more precise in terms of differentiating between how we treat fellow blvrs and how we treat unblvrs, it would appear.
If we direct the idea straight at intra-church relationships, however, I think this is still highly relevant b/c a grave offense against a fellow blvr will need to be dealt with for the good of the offender and the church itself.

Like the Willises, again: I see no reason to suppose that Gov. Ryan is legitimately a brother subject to the discipline of their church, so what on earth are they trying to prove by withholding forgiveness?

Yes, I agree, no ch discipline is possible here. But I think you are leaving out sthg I tried to emphasise. I should think this paragraph from the post answers:
And let us remember the distinction we made earlier about the freestanding commands not to remain angry, not to let bitterness take root in us. It is all about the attitude of the offended party in these cases – we don’t want the offense to remain, we want to forgive, but we postpone and withhold forgiveness b/c it bolsters the possibility of a better outcome in the future for the offender. This motivation is out of love as well, and this fits very well into God’s overall scheme for forgiveness of humans.

so are they just going to try to wait him out until Ryan becomes a Christian?

Keeping in mind the caveats I mentioned, this is kind of a crude way of putting it, sort of.
Ryan's repenting of ALL of his sin before Jesus' Cross is the best-case scenario. For him to at least say that he did wrong and apologises for THAT sin, I should think it would suffice for forgiveness to be extended, since that's the example of Scr. One hopes and prays for the former with a ready heart to forgive when true repentance is offered.

If sincerity is to be the test, no non-Christian can ever really repent

I should think this comment confuses sincerity with full realisation of the gravity of the offense.
They may not know how bad their action was, but they can know that it was bad and that they are sorry for it.

What about people who cut them off on the interstate?

Really, I think my post is sufficiently clear to be able to differentiate between the offense the Willis family suffered and being cut off in traffic. This strikes me as a bit of a cold comment from you, and that surprises me a bit.

Anyway, I hope that helps. As always, more discussion is welcome.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sunday School notes on Christian forgiveness

This is a study is entitled “A lesson in applied discernment and scrutiny among church members. Subtitle is: Rhology teaches, what better opportunity will you have?” that I taught at my church last Sunday.

Today we are discussing forgiveness, particularly between human beings and how the way God forgives humans applies in that consideration.
It’s a study in avoiding 2 extremes – hard-hearted self-righteousness on the one side and undiscerning, pacifistic, universalism on the other. And by no means let us consider this to be the final word on this topic. This is to get the brain juices flowing on everyone’s part, including mine. As always, stop me anytime with a question, a comment, a challenge, or an ego-stroking, oozing compliment.

Definition of forgiveness: John MacArthur defines it (in his book The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness) as a choice made by the offended party to set aside the other person’s transgression and not allow it to cause a breach in the relationship or fester in bitterness.
And a point to keep in mind – there are freestanding commands to keep oneself free from bitterness and longstanding anger and grudges. That is a distinction to remember.

Analogy – God forgives in two ways, you might say. You might say that Jesus, while walking the Earth before His ascension, forgave in a different way than God’s overall way of forgiving, and this distinction is consistent with the differences between Jesus’ 1st Coming and His 2nd Coming. Follow me on this as we look at things from a human perspective.

Bottom line: the imputation of all of our sins, past and present, to the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, as well as the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to each of us. Our situation went from horrible to awesome with the sacrifice of one singularly perfect and loving God-man. Out from this flows all possible forgiveness that we could extend to anyone else. Is forgiving loving? Of course, and “we love because He first loved us”.
Yet we still sin. Each and every sin that any of us commits, no matter how “small”, is enough to separate us from God forever and send us to Hell forever. Some sins are worse, weightier, than others, yes, and that plays a part in these considerations as well. And each one of these sins has consequences and God disciplines His children for sins (Heb 12), and are not the consequences very often/always part of the disciplining He performs? Consider the consequences and the discipline that typically comes from taking a toy from your kid brother vs that from being caught in the act of adultery by your own spouse. Big difference, right?

So today I’d like us to consider a few things about forgiveness, some obvious and one or two perhaps not quite so obvious, with respect to the way in which we are to forgive others for their sins against us.
Thesis statement: Ephesians 4:31-32 - 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (cf Col 3:13)

Point 1 – for ‘merely’ big bad sins, let us overlook them and forgive them.
Prov 10:12, 17:9, 19:11
1 Cor 13:5
2 Cor 5:19
Eph 4:1-3 – let us remember that no one is perfect and we can’t spend all our time going to each other with corrections b/c such would not be conducive to the bond of peace or acting very lovingly towards others.
1 Pet 2:21-25 – in simply bearing the offense, the offended party is following in Christ’s footsteps.
1 Pet 4:8. Just a thought – does “a multitude” mean all here? ;-)

Anyway, why are we overlooking these sins? B/c nobody is perfect. We simply cannot spend all our time on this, and constant correction from one fallen human to another feeds resentment and bitterness on the one side and ego on the other. Let us remember the oft-eisegeted and almost always incompletely-quoted text Matthew 7:1-5. V.2 – you’ll be judged by the same standard. Can you stand up to that standard? If not, then think more than twice before confronting people all the time with these petty offenses. Love enough to do that. This is the way Jesus walked on Earth, and it is the default position.

BUT, Point 2:
Caveats: We are to be always ready to forgive in our hearts and attitude. We are not to hold anger in our hearts beyond the day – Eph 4:26-27.
And of course, we never return evil for evil – Rom 12:17, 1 Thess 5:15, 1 Pet 3:9
We must always entrust ourselves to Him who judges righteously – 1 Pet 2:23. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord – Heb 10:30-31.

Forgiveness involves at least two people, so let’s say two for example. What happens when we forgive? Plenty of things. Among those things is the clearing of the consciences of each party with respect to himself and to each other. In a sense, doesn’t the offended party grant that clearing of conscience to the offender when he forgives him? What if the offense is grave, such as the murder of a child or spouse or something horrible like that, or a negligent homicide by drunk driving? Shall the offended party simply forgive such an offense (theoretically speaking; I doubt very many people would in reality be able to do this) right after it happens? After all, why wait? The offense is done, it’s in the past. While the driver is still drunk and the body of the loved one is still warm, why not just call it good and concern oneself no more with it? Is there any good reason why this wouldn’t be the best course of action?

Would this not be more of a sham forgiveness than anything else? That is, does it make the situation better to ignore the severity of the offense?
Of course, we need to address the issue biblically.

1 Jn 1:9
It is obvious that God forgives sin based on repentance and faith in God. See Lk 18:13 for an example. There is a breach in the relationship between God and the sinner. The sinner is repentant and asks for forgiveness. Both sides benefit from this. In what ways (ask for input)?
(God gains a worshiper, God is recognised as glorious, as holy, as authoritative to forgive sins, as powerful to forgive, as generous, as merciful, etc, which is what He wants. The sinner is forgiven from the guilt on his own conscience and on his account before God and gains eternal life.)

Go into the consequence of the universalism, mentioned earlier – if our forgiveness reflects the way that God forgives and we forgive that way, what is the implication of how God then forgives sinners? Implications of how sin then does not matter in the slightest. Not only does the sin not matter, but reconciliation doesn’t matter, restitution is irrelevant b/c there’s no wrong committed. You may feel bad but that’s not bad either.

Relate Jn 20:23 and Matt 18 ch discipline psgs.
Lk 17:3-4 “if he repents”
In Jn 20, Christ gives the disciples the authority to share the Gospel and to do church discipline. The option to retain sins is interesting here, isn’t it? On what basis might they retain someone’s sins? No, it’s not b/c they’re priests and can absolve you, my son, if you say 10 Hail Marys and make sure not to miss Mass this month. It’s unrepentance, right? Like in Acts 8:22 with Simon Magus – he probably wasn’t really repentant of his sin. So the point is that the NT allows for the withholding of forgiveness for certain purposes.

So how do we distinguish between these 2 situations? When do we overlook a sin unilaterally out of love and when is the sin of sufficient gravity to confront and deal with it bilaterally?

Grave offense – we can certainly forgive unilaterally, keeping in mind all the things mentioned above, such as love, unity, peace, etc. But there may be times when extending this unconditional forgiveness would be counterproductive.
1. When the offense will/might end up hurting the offender. Gal 6:1-2
-The example of the Willis family and Gov George Ryan of Illinois. Note how the motivation is love for the offender. Tie it in to the benefit of the tax collector vs God in the Lk 18:13 example. They both benefit, but the offender far more, and in this case he stands in need of forgiveness from God for all of his sin. It would be the best day of his life if God were to grant him repentance and a broken heart over his sin.
2. Church discipline – when the sin is damaging to the body of Christ, is scandalous – read Ronnie’s book for more, a lot more, on that.
3. When the offense is serious but not committed not against you but someone else, especially if that someone is weaker or defenseless, such as the orphan, the widow, the alien (of course, unless the other person tells you not to confront the offender) (Isaiah 1:17).
4. When a relationship is broken absent formal forgiveness – Lk 17:3 and Matt 18:15 – “you have won your brother”
5. When the name of Christ might be publicly besmirched (I’d call this one a weaker example than the others)

Of course, one could certainly not fault another for acting out of excessive forbearance and love, right? Better to err on that side, certainly. But it bears consideration in these certain cases to what extent we as humans are responsible to extend forgiveness on a different basis than that on which God Himself extends it – repentance.
And let us remember the distinction we made earlier about the freestanding commands not to remain angry, not to let bitterness take root in us. It is all about the attitude of the offended party in these cases – we don’t want the offense to remain, we want to forgive, but we postpone and withhold forgiveness b/c it bolsters the possibility of a better outcome in the future for the offender. This motivation is out of love as well, and this fits very well into God’s overall scheme for forgiveness of humans.

Final note, somewhat of an aside: If someone isn’t repentant, let’s remember, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s not bothered by his evil deed. “Burning coals” indirectly speaks to this situation; that is, the answer is not necessarily to cease all relationship with the person, but it does not mean we extend forgiveness to them. The relationship is certainly changed, one would have to admit.
2 Cor 2:7 – “otherwise, this one might be overwhelmed with excessive grief”. Repentance is evidenced by her actions.

Responding to difficulties: Lk 23:34, and cf. 1 Cor 2:8

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A little on OT slavery

I've been involved in a long thread on the issue of same-sex marriage for a few weeks now. It's going quite well in my estimation as approximately half of my 10 points have seen interaction with the numerous commenters, but none of that interaction has been very successful.

Anyway, today a commenter named Ai Deng has begun questioning me on a tangential, indirectly relevant issue. At first we were wrangling about subjective/objective morality, and now s/he is asking me about slavery.

Ai Deng asked:
Do you consider slavery to be objectively moral or immoral? On what grounds do you base this judgement?

I answered: "Slavery" is too broad to be able to say yes or no. What kind did you have in mind? I'll need a fair amount of detail.

Ai Deng said: I thought it was obvious, but I'm refering to slavery of human beings. Objectively moral or immoral? Grounds?

I said:
Sorry, I wasn't specific enough in my question. There have been many instances of human slavery in human history. To which institution(s) do you refer?

As for the grounds I use, I use the objective standard of the Bible, just as a preview. So you might pick out a given instance of slavery, and I'd analyse it in light of biblical moral teaching.

Ai Deng: In not outright condemning human slavery as either moral or immoral, it seems you are leaving open the possibility that some forms of human slavery are objectively morally justified. Would you care to share some instances in which you feel the slavery of human beings is objectively morally justified?

I: The Old Testament form is the only one that comes to mind offhand.

Ai Deng: What is objectively moral Old Testament slavery?

Do you think that it still applies today? I mean, could I own a slave and that would be good and acceptable in god's eyes?

This discussion is beyond the pale of the topic of that thread, so I'm creating this one for Ai Deng's benefit and also to preserve the continuity of other thread.
I answer:
I am unsure actually what "What is objectively moral OT slavery?" means. Does it mean "What is objectively moral ABOUT OT slavery?" or are you asking what the nature of OT slavery is?

If you mean the former, the God of the Bible is the transcendent and objective source of objective morality. His character is the very definition of good, and He always acts in accordance with His nature. He was the one who revealed the Mosaic Law, in which are found the provisions of OT slavery, so He commanded that that institution be put in place.

Incidentally, OT slavery might be better thought of as indentured servitude for modern parlance, since the laws governing it provide a great deal of rights for the slaves, with limited time of slavery, the limitation of which could be forfeited by the slave, not by anyone else. It doesn't resemble, for example, the slavery of the 19th-century American South all that much, though the word "slavery" leads most people to think that b/c they haven't really looked into it.

If you meant the latter question, check the following links for more information, or better yet, read Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Exodus and Deut in particular are not worthy of the typical "bore me to tears" appellation, IMHO. I'd also highly recommend, say, the John MacArthur commentary on Philemon, which is a short NT book.

Here (point 14)
Here (on Lev 25:44 specifically)
Here (also helpful in addressing the 2nd set of questions)

These laws do not apply today b/c they were part of the civil structure of OT Israel, the theocratic kingdom, and we are no longer part of that society. Theoretically, if one wanted to set up a country using the Mosaic Law as the law of the land, I should think that slavery as defined in the OT would be justifiable, though not the best. But as it stands today, no, you would not be justified in owning a slave.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Disemvoweled by the Atheist Experience

I'm not sure what happened, actually.  I was an on-again, off-again commenter at the Atheist Experience blog. For a stretch of numerous months, I would read the AthExp blog, and if they had something about which I had something to say, I would comment and engage people in discussion or debate, depending on whatever the other commenters wanted to do.

But without warning or email, at least that I saw, they banned me from commenting.
Yet they left my comments alone, which I appreciated.

Now, I'm typing this on 14 April 2011, which is when I had time to do this housekeeping. I noticed about a month ago that my comments had been "disemvoweled", so now they're pretty much illegible. That's a clever term for a clever concept, but I'm not at all sure why they waited so long to do that.  It's pretty weak, if you ask me, but if they want to remove the legibility of a commenter like me who clearly reduced their arguments to absurdity numerous times, that's their business.  I had, however, saved the comment boxes for these posts, so I'm replacing the links.

Here they are:

The Atheist Experience in revue - Money and thermodynamics

The Atheist Experience in revue - Oh, I just had to send off for one of these!

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.

The Atheist Experience in revue - The inherent fallacies of Rhology's presuppositionalism

The Atheist Experience in revue - Oh, I just had to send off for one of these!

As mentioned, the Atheist Experience blog 'disemvoweled' my comments without warning.
I reproduce here the comment box from the Oh, I just had to send off for one of these! post.


-C said...

Why are 'humanism' and 'post-modernism' listed as things that are destroying america?

Martin said...

Uh, because this magazine is written by stupid people?

Just a wild guess.

-C said...

Well yes, obviously, but I wanted to know the stupid people viewpoint because I thought it might be illuminating/entertaining.

Martin said...

Patience, Grasshopper, all will be revealed.

TigerHunter said...

So you really ordered one? I can't wait to hear about it.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

You good sir have too much time on your hands :)

Robert said...

I actually saw an episode of the 700 club where Pat Robinson answered an email question about postmodernism. He said that it promoted an anything goes mentality that took us away from biblical truth. This is why postmodernism is evil and wrong.

I doubt you will find any who profess a postmodernist philosophy who will be Christian (excluding those in the Quaker and Unitarian Universalist churches perhaps).

Robert said...

ARG! for some reason I also write Pat Robertson's last name as "Robinson." My apologizes.

-C said...

Thinking new things is bad and evil and wrong: Religious defense Mechanism #234

Travis Morgan said...

Evolution is leading to our demise? Is that the same evolution that led to our very being? LOL.

radiometricx said...

Sounds like a winner.

Okay, maybe not.

arensb said...

The request form has an entry for "Organization". Out of curiosity, did you fill that in, or did you prefer to remain officially unaffiliated?

Tommy said...

If America is going into decline because we are turning away from "God", then now is it that so many civilizations managed to achieve periods of without the alleged benefits of Christianity? Some how the Chinese managed the feat several times (Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Song Dynasty, and others), India under the Mogul Akbar and his immediate successors. Heck, even the Roman Empire achieved its peak while Christianity was still just a small sect. Interestingly enough, the Western Roman Empire collapsed as Christianity increased its in power and influence, though I should caution that Christianity was not responsible for the collapse.

Was God on the side of the Muslim Arabs when they conquered an empire that stretched from Spain to Central Asia? Because a Muslim would argue that the early successes of the Arabs were due to the divine favor bestowed upon them by Allah.

Rhology said...

Wow, Godwinning right out of the gate!

You do realise that this is an example of the genetic fallacy, don't you? What is it about this site that proves to be such a classic-fallacy-magnet?

Martin said...

arensb: I really did consider putting "Atheist Community of Austin" down. But considering the possibility they might then not send me the mag, I left it blank. They may have sent it anyway, which would be fun, but I left it blank anyway.

Rhology: You do realise that this is an example of the genetic fallacy, don't you?

Okay, Rho, do you think they are right to claim 25 similarities between America and Nazi Germany? I predict that when I get the magazine, the article will be revealed to be a massive load of paranoiac, lamely argued bullshit. In addition to being an example of Godwinning, that is. There is, I agree, a chance it may be a brilliant exercise in reasoning, which would entirely invalidate my prediction. (Example 1: Nazi Germany had trees. America has trees. Example 2: Nazi Germany had buildings. America has buildings...) Somehow though, I'm dubious.

As you're the guy who's constantly leveling accusations of "question begging" when no one is question begging, I'm not sure you're as well versed in the classic fallacies as you seem to think.

Improbable Joe said...

I'd almost be concerned about giving those sort of people my home address, and I wouldn't want to send that sort of thing to a work address.

Maybe I can figure out a way to shoplift one?

Rhology said...

Well, I do know that I'd have to actually read the article before I make any judgment calls on it. But given that America as a whole is responsible for 40+ million abortions/murders, I'm at least willing to hear them out.

As you're the guy who's constantly leveling accusations of "question begging" when no one is question begging, I'm not sure you're as well versed in the classic fallacies as you seem to think.

I can't help but laugh a little, b/c this statement is also an example of the genetic fallacy in action.
And yes, I'm probably not as well-versed in them as I should be, just to answer the question.

-C said...

If I made a magazine that said Christianity, faith, and the Catholic Church were destroying America, I'm pretty much going to get judgment calls no matter what's in the darn thing.

Archaneus said...

I'm President of an atheist student group on my campus and I ordered 25 to give out for those who want a good laugh. I put right on the application form the name of the group and it's kind of hard to misunderstand so we'll find out if they are going to send atheists their rags or not.

-C said...

Well if they do send it off, credit can at least be given to them for sincerely wanting to propagate their beliefs among those who disagree with them rather than just their own flock.

Martin said...

I can't help but laugh a little, b/c this statement is also an example of the genetic fallacy in action.

And it's also an example of something you have in fact done a number of times here. I'm just sayin'.

dethanos said...

"You do realise that this is an example of the genetic fallacy, don't you?" - Rhology


Godwin's Law doesn't judge the merit of an argument. A Nazi comparison may be entirely correct and valid, but it is still a Godwin.

Even if you assume that calling something a Godwin implies a lack of merit, it wouldn't be a genetic fallacy. How would it qualify as a genetic fallacy when it makes no statement or implication regarding the origin of the article?

Rhology said...


Feel free to prove it anytime. Of course, given that you switch to mocking mode whenever I come around and start asking for proof of your assertions, I'm not holding my breath.


The obvious inference from Martin's statement is that "Godwinning" means that the statement is self-discrediting.
There are Nazi comparisons and then there are Nazi comparisons.

Martin Williams said...

You all seem surprised by the type of content being published in the magazine. Yet you have been looking at the same type of magazines at checkout stands for years. You know the Sun, Globe, National Enquirer.

Todoke said...

But given that America as a whole is responsible for 40+ million abortions/murders, I'm at least willing to hear them out. 

Then you shouldn't be happy to hear that god aborts even more.

Oh yeah i forgot. When god kills then its called "working in mysterious ways" mysterious that the total of natural caused deaths always result in perfectly predictable and uniform statistics.

Rhology said...

Todoke (or anyone else),

If you're interested in interacting with a rebuttal of that wrongheaded assertion, feel free to stop by.

-C said...

Rhology: Secular rebuttal please?

Rhology said...

On a theological point? How exactly would one go about doing that?

-C said...

The entire problem with that is you're founding your entire argument on a position (The Bible) that we do not accept. It's akin to assuming all fish are pink when launching into a marine biology discussion

Rhology said...

If you look closely at Todoke's comment (to which I responded with my link), you'll see it's a statement about God. I didn't see you jump in with such a comment to respond to him, but for the sake of your own consistency I'll assume you're talking to him too.

At any rate, he made a claim about the God of the Bible. My post rebuts it. The end.

maddogdelta said...

At any rate, he made a claim about the God of the Bible. My post rebuts it. The end.

I read you "rebuttal".
In other words, "God is God, so he can do anything he damn well pleases, but we can't".

Consider this analogy (which I actually get from theists quite a bit). People with pets don't allow those pets to do certain things, like eat at the table, climb on the couch etc. Well, that is the analogy to God!

On the other hand, I'm not allowed to poop on the rug, hump my house guests leg, or bite the mailman. All of these are behaviors which we try to teach our pets not to do, but we don't do them either.

What I'm saying here, is that there are certain standards of behavior which, if they are expected of us, should be expected of any deity in charge of us. Killing is bad, then the deity shouldn't kill (what's that with a flood?) We shouldn't keep slaves, neither should the deity. We should forgive, so should the deity (honestly, infinite punishment for finite crimes...Not just "crimes" but for "blaspheming the Holy Spirit"? Are you farking kidding me? Ted Bundy gets a pass because he says he's really really sorry, but I say that I see no evidence and Blammo! Lake of fire forever time!)

Nope. Morality is morality. None of this religion inspired "moral relativism" for me.

Rhology said...

Yes, your in other words is right. And God always pleases to do what is right. We usually please to do what is wrong. I'll take those odds all day.

You're missing 2 parts of the point. God commands us to do X and Y.
Part 1) To do X and Y is good and right. Thus, not to do X and Y is bad and wrong. We can know this objectively, on the Christian worldview. We can know this for certain.
Part 2) Humans usually choose to do wrong. This pains God, and it also gives Him abundant, just grounds to punish us in Hell for our lawbreaking. Yet He provided His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice, a substitute, a propitiation, in our place. He offers that all the punishment for those lawbreaking acts fall on Him, not us. We can acquire this propitiation by faith and repentance, not by doing some laundry list of stuff (b/c, again, that's what got us into the problem in the first place - what we do).

To clean up the rest:
Killing is bad, then the deity shouldn't kill 

Who's arguing "killing" is bad? Murder is, killing isn't necessarily.
Read this - it'll help.

We shouldn't keep slaves, neither should the deity. 

Who's arguing keeping slaves is necessarily immoral? Not me.

We should forgive, so should the deity

He does. If you ask.

Ted Bundy gets a pass because he says he's really really sorry, but I say that I see no evidence and Blammo! Lake of fire forever time!)

It's b/c you're lying when you say you see no evidence. You are rebelling against God and suppressing the truth of the evidence that is plain to see all around you.
Besides, where do you get off judging anyone else? Are you some kind of Pope of Morality? Who gave you the power to go around telling people they're bad or morally wrong? Justify your moral statements.

Morality is morality.

How do you know? Where do you get your morality and how do you know it's the right one?
I'm discussing that over here. You're invited.


Tommy said...

In other words, "God is God, so he can do anything he damn well pleases, but we can't".

Of course, if such a being existed, it could do whatever it wanted to. Kind of like Charlie X in that episode from the original Star Trek series, who could make people disappear if they laughed at him or displeased him. Or the kid from the Twilight Zone episode who sent people he didn't like to the corn field. "You're a bad, bad man, and I don't like you!"

Tommy said...

Who's arguing keeping slaves is necessarily immoral? Not me.

Massa Rhology, you need any help with cleaning up around the house?

Rhology said...


The "read this-it'll help" link will answer that question.

And you can help, but I don't pay well. ;-)

maddogdelta said...

He does. If you ask.

Jesus begs to differ:
# LUKE 12:10, "And everyone that says a word against the Son of Man, that will be forgiven; But he that blasphemes against The Holy Spirit will not be forgiven
MARK 3:29, "Whoever blasphemes against The Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of everlasting sin."
MATTHEW 12: 31-32 "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come".

Not only does Jesus say it, but in 3 out of the 4 Gospels. I would have to go with Jesus' opinion, rather than yours.

How do you know? Where do you get your morality and how do you know it's the right one?
I'm discussing that over here. You're invited. 

Hmmm, you and Jefferson Davis. I'm sorry, but any god who advocates slavery (and does so in the New Testament, as well as the old), Genocide Gang rape (remember, Lot is a good and just man...), incest (see previous comment about Lot), infanticide (there were children in Sodom and Gomorrah. What's up with that?) etc... I choose not to get my morality from such a heinous, loathsome god.

Do you get your morals from Leviticus and Exodus? Do you stone your children if they are bad?

Do you try to excuse away the Old Testament by saying that it is wiped out by the New Testament...
Again, Jesus' opinion is different than yours:
5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Care for some shrimp?

Tom Foss said...

It's b/c you're lying when you say you see no evidence.

Um, who made you the Pope of telepathy, Rho? You presume to tell people what they think? That's just about as arrogant as assuming that your interpretation of God's mind is right.

Rhology said...


blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

You apparently don't understand the nature of that sin, but I don't care to discuss it right now.
For the sake of argument, I concede the point. Now, you need to give me an objective reason why it's morally reprehensible for God not to forgive that sin. That was the original point.

Same thing with slavery, incest, infanticide, etc. You beg the question when you call TGOTB "heinous, loathsome". What is the moral standard you use to judge?

You know, it's not like this is some brand-new argument. Why can't atheists around here learn from previous interactions? This is the very first question I always ask. The fact that you keep acting like you've never heard that question before is dumbfounding to me.

(BTW, just b/c the Bible records it doesn't mean it's approved - re: Lot's incest.)

Do you get your morals from Leviticus and Exodus? Do you stone your children if they are bad?

See my answer here.

Tom Foss

I see no one has answered my Pope of Morality comment yet. Typical. You guys leave more points unanswered around here than the Detroit Lions.
And no, I claim no telepathy. God said that, and He reads minds. Romans 1 and 2.

as arrogant as assuming that your interpretation of God's mind is right.

Hahahaha, I seriously expect more from you. Hopefully you were drunk when you typed this.
I don't "assume" my interp of God's mind is right. I read the Bible, in context, and then --gasp!-- argue for my position. Give it a try some time. The reading the Bible and the arguing for your position, both.


maddogdelta said...

@Tom Foss
@Rhology It's b/c you're lying when you say you see no evidence.

Um, who made you the Pope of telepathy, Rho? 

I didn't want to comment on this one earlier because, to be quite straightforward, calling me a liar is the easiest way to spin me up.

I know this is not any kind of absolute proof, Rho, but I will submit that in 1981, I graduated from the Virginia Military Institute (not known as a hotbed of liberalism, doncha know). That particular institution had the most rigid honor code of any school in the country: "A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do." Violate the code, and you were literally drummed out of the corps. People took final exams on their own schedules, those exams weren't proctored. People would leave cash on their desks in unlocked rooms, and would find it there later. When you were accused of an infraction, and it was an unjust accusation, the administrator hearing your case would take your word. Was this, in a very limited sense, an ideal society? Yes. However, almost every graduate is able to understand the value of this kind of trustworthiness in society. Most carry the code with them until they die.

I am one of those that still carry that honor code with me.

What do you have to demonstrate your trustworthiness?

Rhology said...

No offense intended, maddogdelta, but in your own words, I would have to go with Jesus' opinion, rather than yours. Romans 1:18-28.

maddogdelta said...

What is the moral standard you use to judge? 

I use a moral standard that, in general, tries to promote the good of humanity. Failing that, to do, and encourage others to do, what causes the least amount of harm.

See, that wasn't too hard. I don't need to read a bronze age text on bats being birds to tell me how to behave.

And if you think about it, my sense of morality which comes from promoting human welfare, and doing the least harm, is actually workable.

But a little more specifically, there has been research in a field called moral psychology, which actually seeks to answer your question in a verifiable, scientific matter. I will admit, my moral sense does not come from some "outside source" telling me what to do other than my own perceptions as to what is best for myself and others. But the cool part is that what is being learned in moral psychology studies is that humanity actually evolved these traits.

In other words, yes, I have heard that question plenty of times, and very few theists can believe that I can be a moral person without being threatened with a lake of fire. Furthermore, as an adult, I find that people telling me that I need threatening with a lake of fire for me to act morally is an insult. I don't need threats to act morally, or to tell the truth. As an adult, I understand the benefits of these behaviors, and act accordingly.

See my answer here.
So, Paul is a better source than Jesus? I find that....interesting.

Either that, or people looked at the restrictions of what it took to live like Jesus said to live, by following the law, and decided that telling Romans to get circumcised (Today only! Half Off!) would not encourage any converts. So, let's just rework the text, wave our arms and tell all the newcomers that the "old rules" don't apply, they can now eat shrimp.

Your story makes sense if you believe in magic, and that suddenly, like the Mormons with polygamy, someone had a revelation saying that it was ok to change the rules. My story makes more sense if you have studied human behavior, even from the standpoint of an amateur. Hell, during my time at VMI, there was all sorts of hand wringing about how we had to make life easier, not as strict, and maybe relax the honor code to get more students. Why would the early church leaders be any different? (And Acts 15 pretty much describes this exact process.)

Your idea that it is Okee Dokey for God to cast people into the lake of fire, ETERNALLY, for any finite sin is abhorrent to my sense of morality. You may disagree, which is fine. But I would expect better behavior out of someone who is presented as my superior in any way. Pro basketball players get paid to play basketball and I don't, because they are better at playing basketball. Opera singers get paid to sing and I don't because they sing better than I do. If I am to take moral instruction from someone, I would like to think that they are more moral than I am. Is that too much to ask? We do that everywhere else, but God gets a pass because, well, he's God and allowed to make up the rules as he goes along. Eat Shrimp, Don't eat shrimp. Engage in polygamy, don't engage in polygamy. Keep slaves, just don't beat them so hard that they die in one day (two days is fine, so read up on CPR and tourniquets)...Wait, the slaves bit was never rescinded.

Our society is more moral than your god. I see no reason to take moral lessons from him.

The reading the Bible and the arguing for your position, both.
Amazing that you should ask that we do that, since I would guess that many of the people on this board (myself included) are atheists (at least in part) because we read the bible.

Tommy said...

Our society is more moral than your god. I see no reason to take moral lessons from him.

Mad Dog, you might want to word things differently than that. To state that you see no reason to take moral lessons from TGOTB is to make it sound like you do believe such an entity exists and that you don't want to abide by its morals, which plays right into Rhology's "liar" accusation.

Personally, and this is what you probably mean as well, after careful consideration of the matter, I came to the conclusion that TGOTB does not exist and that the Bible does not represent the inerrant truth of some supreme being. We might find some of the things that TGOTB does in the Bible abhorrent, in the way that we find Darth Vader or Anton Chigurh abhorrent, but our opinion of the morals of TGOTB do not make TGOTB any more or less real.

It would be fairer to say that we have a host of religious and philosophical traditions, including the Bible, as well as the vast weight of human history, personal experience, and observation, to draw on in formulating a way of conducting our lives in an ethical way.

As for Rhology, for his own personal reasons, he needs to believe that the Bible represents not just a guide for living one's life, but THE guide. He doesn't want to recognize that it is someone's else'e subjective morality wrapped up in the guise of divine command, because he can't. He has too much of himself invested in the belief that it is.

Just think of him as someone who believes that he has the best recipe book in the world, which offers the healthiest and most delicious meals that one can have. You can tell him that you have tried some of the recipes in his book and didn't like them, but he will just say that you must not have followed the recipes properly or that you simply just don't know what is good for you, whereas he does.

You don't have to get mad at him, as I have learned, you just have to recognize and accept him for what he is.

maddogdelta said...

You don't have to get mad at him, as I have learned, you just have to recognize and accept him for what he is.

Point made.

As I mentioned earlier, what really pushed the wrong button was being called a liar. I'm usually a little calmer on these boards than that.

// there is one other way to get me frothing, but I don't think that will show up within the context of this board.

Rhology said...


Your response is a mishmash of self-righteousness and question-begging assertions. To what moral standard do you appeal in making all your "reprehensible" statements? I already asked you before, are you planning to answer?

And irony of ironies - you, in denying that you're a liar about deceiving yourself that God exists, are calling Jesus a liar. Is that OK with you? Why is it OK for you to call Jesus a liar but not OK for me to call you a self-deceived liar to yourself?

maddogdelta said...


And irony of ironies - you, in denying that you're a liar about deceiving yourself that God exists, are calling Jesus a liar. Is that OK with you? Why is it OK for you to call Jesus a liar but not OK for me to call you a self-deceived liar to yourself?

I wasn't calling Jesus a liar. I was pointing out that you were taking stances contradictory with Jesus' teachings, adopting Paul's instead.

You know, like the part where Jesus said that the old law still applies...Remember, the one I quoted, when I was trying to point out to you that, well, the old law still applies.

Pardon me, but I was always under the impression that "Christian" implied "follower of Christ", rather than "Denier of Christ and Follower of Paul".

I stand corrected.

Rhology said...

cipher said...

Why on earth do you people even bother arguing with Rhology? It doesn't matter what you say. Your logic may be impeccable. You may defeat all of his arguments. You could show him an affidavit from God, attesting to your rightness - none of it would matter. He will always believe what he wants to, then devise arguments to support his a priori conclusions. This is the nature of addiction.

Every blog I read maintained by atheists, former Christians or deconverted Orthodox Jews has at least one character like Rho. They convince no one, and no one convinces them, but, for some reason, they never leave. I have to see this as a manifestation of addiction as well. Occasionally, I'll ask one of them why he/she remains. Most of the time, they don't respond. When they do, it's generally something along the lines of, "I'm crusading for the truth!" I've never received a real answer.

Tommy said...

Every blog I read maintained by atheists, former Christians or deconverted Orthodox Jews has at least one character like Rho. They convince no one, and no one convinces them, but, for some reason, they never leave.

Come on, Cipher! Don't you know that Rhology really, really loves you and is just concerned for your spiritual welfare? He's desperately trying to save us from the pit of fire that surely awaits us all.

Of course, what Rhology doesn't know is that my immortal soul is made from asbestos, so the flames can't harm me. :-)

cipher said...

Tommy, to continue with the addiction model - I don't believe that the proselytizer is concerned with our "spiritual welfare". Most of the time, the proselytizer isn't really trying to convince us; he's attempting to convince himself. If he can convince you that he's right, then, he reasons, he must, in fact, be right, and he can stave off for a little while longer the ever-present doubt that threatens to overtake him.

Tommy said...

I guess I should have added a smiley face, Cipher.

cipher said...

No, no - I knew you were kidding. It just gave me an excuse. :)

Rhology said...

. Occasionally, I'll ask one of them why he/she remains. Most of the time, they don't respond.

You didn't ask, but I'll answer anyway. ;-)

I enjoy it. I get to watch you guys, who in EVERY other scenario, demand evidence and proof and all that, and then when I come around and ask you to back up your position, you make fun of me for asking for evidence and proof. It's priceless.


cipher said...

I enjoy it. I get to watch you guys, who in EVERY other scenario, demand evidence and proof and all that, and then when I come around and ask you to back up your position, you make fun of me for asking for evidence and proof. It's priceless.

In other words, you use it to make yourself feel superior.

In the brief time that I've been coming here, I've seen them refute your arguments repeatedly. You simply dismiss their arguments while clinging to your own. You will always believe what you want to believe. Again, this is the nature of addiction.

Have the last word. I wouldn't waste my time interacting with you. Your belief system is an abomination.

-C said...

I've sort of been teetering on the fence on this issue, but this thread in particular hath swayed me. I'm enacting a Rhology rules-of-engagement for myself, i.e. do not interact with the man.

He's not interested in rational debate, he just makes it look like he is to legitimatize his presence. His post above is a perfect example:

"I get to watch you guys, who in EVERY other scenario, demand evidence and proof and all that, and then when I come around and ask you to back up your position, you make fun of me for asking for evidence and proof. It's priceless."

Secular rationalists such as those on this space are based _entirely_ on evidence and proof. The person making the claim against the evidence has the burden of proof.

He then pretends that sites maintained by the ACA like (which is evidence and proof aplenty) do not exist, never mind or any high level biology text.

Rhology's arguments, I'm sad to say, consist entirely of 'No, you!' and 'The bible says so.'

Unlike some other posters who possess opposing positions, I no longer believe that Rhology comes here in good faith, and should be ignored.

Suggest you all do the same.

cipher said...

Honestly, -C, I have yet to meet a conservative evangelical who approaches atheists without agenda. There are a few progressives - Jim Wallis types - but they are far from the norm.

Tom Foss said...

I see no one has answered my Pope of Morality comment yet.

There's a difference between "not answering" and "having answered it many times in the past, but having seen it summarily ignored by the person asking for it." It's simply lying at this point, Rhology. We've repeatedly told you where our moral sense comes from, whether or not you accept that as a legitimate source (it's okay, we don't accept your claimed source either). You may disagree, but there's a difference between disagreeing and ignoring.

Incidentally, nice dodging of the point, Rhology: how exactly do you have any idea what any other person thinks or believes?

I don't "assume" my interp of God's mind is right. I read the Bible, in context, and then --gasp!-- argue for my position.

And yet, there are plenty of other Christians who read the Bible, in context, and then come to wildly different positions. How is an outsider supposed to know which position is the real Biblically-supported one? How do you know that your positions are the correct ones, while other Christians' positions aren't?

Tommy said...

How is an outsider supposed to know which position is the real Biblically-supported one? How do you know that your positions are the correct ones, while other Christians' positions aren't?

Tom, as someone who does not recognize that the Bible is the revealed word of some universal creator, I, of course, don't care which is the correct Biblical interpretation.

arensb said...

Yes, but the wider point is that when there's an actual discernible objective truth, experts' opinions tend to converge on a consensus. This is particularly obvious in the sciences (steady state or Big Bang? Consensus: Big Bang), but is also evident in other fields: if a vast majority of experts agree on questions like "are teflon washers better than nylon ones?" or "is it okay to use margarine instead of butter in couscous?" or "is serving mediocre food cheaply and quickly a valid business model?" or "is object-oriented programming better than procedural programming?", then that consensus is likely true.

What Tom is pointing out is that in matters of religion, there is no expert consensus on many questions, even major ones like "how many gods are there?", "is the Quran the word of God?". And, just within Christianity, major doctrinal disagreements still exist on whether women can be ministers, who goes to hell, what one must do to be saved, and so on and so forth.

To me, this strongly suggests that religion does not provide objectively true answers.