Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stump the Theists

What are the hardest questions you have for our theist discussion participants?






64 Comments:

Blogger Aaron said...

#1 In our society we consider justice to be served when punishments are given which fit the crimes that are committed. How does a Christian consider this idea in regards to God being just when faced with situations similar to the fictional story of the destruction of Jericho in which all the inhabitants of the city, including infants and fetuses, were given the same punishment, God's decree of death, when not all individuals were capable of equal crimes?

2# We know from modern wars that soldiers suffer mentally when they are ordered to commit acts like murdering the innocent. We also know those who survive other traumas like violent crimes suffer mentally.

When God decrees actions like the death of all the inhabitants of Jericho, including the innocent, or the order for Abraham to kill Isaac, how does a Christian understand why God allows innocent people to suffer in order to teach lessons to others? How does a Christian understand God's orders to be good when, in order to be good, God's actions must result in the best possible outcome? If the outcome of mentally suffering soldiers and children is considered good, how does a Christian define good?

More to come after I get some more wedding planning done.

10/8/08, 4:58 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

#3 In the "Stump the Atheists" episode Kevin took issue with Dan's description of naturalistic morality because "it functions as a placebo and the more people realize it, the system breaks down". Isn't this bascially how many things function and work just fine?

For instance, when a man and woman reach the end of a date the man can ask if the woman would like to come up to see his etchings or have some coffee. The actual meanings of those phrases are widely known and the desired outcome of the situation for both parties (if interested) depends on each acting in a way that does not reveal their understanding of the phrase's true meaning.

A better example, but less fun, is a mechanism that drives capitalism. Producers make things to provide for their families. Consumers buy things to use in providing for their families. There is an interaction between the two from which both benefit each other but they act only on selfish interests.

10/8/08, 9:53 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

4# Is it a fundamental problem for theism that goodness is defined as whatever is willed by God whereas in non-theistic philosophy goodness is defined as what produces a positive outcome for humanity, which are not necessarily always the same?

10/16/08, 5:33 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

#5 One theistic argument that attempts to justify suffering is that suffering is, in part, the product of free will which humans must have for this to be the best possible world and, in part, the product of evil which also must exist in the best possible world. Yet, it is believed that heaven is a place in which free will exists but suffering and evil do not.

a) Is the idea of heaven a case of special pleading?

b) It is argued that we must suffer, properly mature, and be tempered in order to deserve to receive heaven where suffering does not exist. We humans progressively solve problems of suffering and it is possible on a long enough timeline that humans will solve the problems of suffering like diseases, poverty, hunger. Do future generations deserve to live in a world with less suffering or no suffering than those who have had to endur it? Should humans work towards eliminating suffering or should suffering be maintained so future generation can be properly matured and tempered to meet the requirements of entry to heaven?

11/5/08, 5:58 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Good questions! I hope these come up on the podcast.

Even after #1 is answered, many miss the impact of #2. Indeed, God's using the theocracy to judge abhorent nations would seem to induce the worst Post-Traumatic Syndrome on the soldiers of Israel. Even though there is strong biblical mandate that children who die go to be with God, how would that affect the psyche of the armies of Israel?

Two possible answers are that (1) God gave special grace to his people in these situations or, more likely, (2) these were some tough hombres in some tough times.

My grandfather, who is 93, said he doubts he could slaughter a hog today. At one time, it was just natural and necessary - part of life. He said he's been going to the grocery store too many years! Our sensitivities and sensibilities have changed. I think that illustrates it to an extent.

#3 may ask why we act certain ways, but leaves out the meta-ethical issues (i.e. whether we ought to do X).

BTW, the "etchings and coffee" has never worked for me! I prefer the "come see my theology books!" It works every time!

#4, that the Good is whatever is willed by God is punctured by one horn of the Euthyphro.

#5, my argument is not how we get to heaven or receive heaven, but how evil may run its course, permitting perspective and justice, etc. when we do receive heaven. I think there is an existential process - the Scriptures call it "sanctification".

Evil and suffering are not necessary but only possible - and actual because of free will, etc.

We get a glimpse of how it could be and could have been, even in the fallen world.

Christ also said he would put into motion certain aspects of God's kingdom which would grow and be beneficial in the fallen world but would be consumated at his second advent and the inaguration of the New Heaven and New Earth.

K

11/11/08, 2:19 PM  
Blogger Salvatore Enrico Paolo Indiogine said...

Regarding the Jericho question(#1), I would like to add the following:

1. Most historians consider this story not historical. That is, it never happened.

2. According to Baha'i theology, not all Scripture is necessarily revelation and even if it is revelation, it is not all on the same level.

3. Baha'u'llah has explicitly abolished "holy war." No appeal to violence can be made based on religious grounds. However, He was not a pacifist. The Baha'i teachings are clear that violence and aggression have to be opposed by all necessary means. The difference is that society has the duty to defend its members, ALL of them, and no distinction can be made based on religion.

11/13/08, 10:05 AM  
Blogger Salvatore Enrico Paolo Indiogine said...

Continuation on the initial questions.

#2 is actually part of #1.

#3, the question is not clear to me but maybe part of #4?

#4, short answer, no, it is not a problem.

#5, in the "next world" there is still suffering, it is a question of degrees.

11/13/08, 10:11 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Thanks for repsonding to the questions, Kevin. I too hope they are addressed on the podcast. I can't wait to continue on this topic after digesting the discussion on the show.

11/13/08, 10:53 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Hey guys. I'm just finishing up on this episode of the podcast. Thanks for addressing the first question I posed. I think I should mention in response to Enrico's comment above that I gave this fictional example as a relation to what is directly taught about God's character in the Christian bible. Other real world examples that should be mentioned are the ~100,000 children who in the Indonesian tsunami in 2004 who were killed just as dead as the good adults who were killed just as dead as the wicked, how disease affliction is not correlated with wickedness, etc.

Kevin, to my mind, in the podcast and in the comments here you've only addressed this question with special pleading arguments. Maybe God gave special grace, maybe the soldiers were just tough. Plus you equated slaughtering a hog to feed one's family to slashing open the stomach of every pregnant woman, tearing out the fetuses, and dispatching them to ensure every inhabitant of the town was dead. Can you see a level at which these two scenarios are unequal?

11/19/08, 6:23 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Kevin, to my mind, in the podcast and in the comments here you've only addressed this question with special pleading arguments. Maybe God gave special grace, maybe the soldiers were just tough. Plus you equated slaughtering a hog to feed one's family to slashing open the stomach of every pregnant woman, tearing out the fetuses, and dispatching them to ensure every inhabitant of the town was dead. Can you see a level at which these two scenarios are unequal?

KH> Yes I can. It's only analogous in that sensibilities/sensitivities wax and wane. In principle, there is an analogy, not necessarily a comparison.

And, by the way, on Naturalism, how does one determine that slaughtering pigs is any better or worse than slaughtering human babies? The same blind processes coughed up both!

I don't think it's special pleading to address the internal question of how God would facilitate the situation, or if the frequency and manner of death in those days prevented trauma to the soldiers. It's still difficult for me to fathom.

I think it is over-stating the case that bellies were slashed open, etc. That is not in the text, but does little to soften the situation anyway.

Geisler points out that women and children fled ahead of the battle anyway. Those who remained were indeed killed - and in a much more humane way than being burned alive to an idol-god by their pagan parents.

K

11/19/08, 3:33 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

[quote]And, by the way, on Naturalism, how does one determine that slaughtering pigs is any better or worse than slaughtering human babies? The same blind processes coughed up both![/quote]


This question is posed a lot by theists and I think it’s an important topic to understand. There is also a fairly available answer. I hope the theistic/atheistic dialogue can one day continue with this issue put to bed because I think it’s been definitely and demonstrably settled. Maybe we can work together spread the word?

The long answer to your question:
True, evolution is a blind process without a predetermined goal. Genes mutate, forces within the environment cause selection of the genes of the organisms which are most likely to successfully continue genetic reproduction. The range of beneficial adaptations is very wide. One adaptation we’ve gained as a result of many diverse and converging changes is cooperative behavior. When we behave in a way that is beneficial to other members of our society we generally benefit with reciprocation. Altruistic behavior between members of a species is works like a positive feedback loop system. It’s a bottom up emergence, not a top down design.

With your theistic framework in mind, ask yourself who benefits from altruism? God? How? It seems unnecessary and untrue that God benefit from anything. People? If only we benefit from the altruistic behavior system then there seems to be a well defined dotted line where Occam’s Razor is to be applied where God is on the edges of the unnecessary piece falling to the cutting room floor.

The short answer to your question:
Slaughtering babies is worse than slaughtering pigs because there is a negative effect on the social structure of the society of which the babies are a part. The other pigs don’t give a shit.

11/20/08, 9:16 AM  
Blogger Zachary Moore said...

Just to let you know, we're going to continue this discussion through the next recording.

11/21/08, 2:45 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Great news, Zach. I'd love to be a part of the discussion if there's room!

11/21/08, 5:46 PM  
Blogger peacethruasatru said...

Like a dog returning to its own vomit, I keep returning to the Apologia podcast.

I find it helps to keep my blood pressure up, and has allowed me to cut back on my Midodrine.

Hopefully you will keep the format and not change anything, like for example actually getting questions answered, or something silly like that.

Along that line, I must really thank you for the "stump the theists" episode. Enrico was especially preachy and non-responsive, he really gave Kevin a run for his artistry. Don't ever let him leave the show, he's a true gem.

Thanks also for moving along from question #1 before risking recieving any clear answer from anyone. Not that it was close or anything, but thanks.

On a side note it was nice to hear Derek lose his poker face after while. That was funny.

11/23/08, 6:10 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Zach finally gets a non Christian theist on the program, and Kevin predictably sandbags him by dismissing his answer to Derek's question as "apologetics." What was the name of this podcast again?

We didn't get to hear Kevin answer Derek's question about epistemology, but if we had, hopefully he would have used the word 'revelation' somewhere along the way, which is essentially the epistemic origin of all religious claims. Of course, as Thomas Paine said, a second-hand revelation is not a revelation at all.

11/24/08, 8:45 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

This question is posed a lot by theists and I think it’s an important topic to understand.

KH> I know it tends to go straight for the jugular - I really don't see how it can be softened!

When we behave in a way that is beneficial to other members of our society we generally benefit with reciprocation.

KH> Yeah... but that just tells me what "is", not what "ought" to be. Why ought I cooperate with my genes, or my species, or my society? Even if I know it is just evolved behavior, and can lead to my comfort or survival, it still doesn't tell me what I ought to do or why I ought to even follow the "moral way".

With your theistic framework in mind, ask yourself who benefits from altruism? God? How? It seems unnecessary and untrue that God benefit from anything.

KH> You are correct. God lacks nothing and needs nothing. Yet, he is free to desire that which is in keeping with his own nature and self-consistency, i.e. his moral nature - his nature being the Good.

Slaughtering babies is worse than slaughtering pigs because there is a negative effect on the social structure of the society of which the babies are a part.

KH> When you use terms like "worse" ("better") and "negative" (positive) you are assuming a standard. That's the rub!

KH

11/25/08, 4:06 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Hmm, there seems to be something in my explanation that is missing you. I really hope to help you understand this, Kevin. Like I said, I think it’s important.

Here’s an analogy to prime you to understand my point using the movie “I Am Legend”. (SPOILER ALERT)

Will Smith’s character was the only human on the otherwise deserted island of Manhattan. He was surrounded by the belongings of others and used them to aid him in his survival without any permission granted and without knowing if the people would be returning or not. He stole cars, food, hunting supplies, movie rentals, etc. Could one say he acted immorally? When Will Smith’s character came upon a woman and her son, if he would have stole from them, could one say he would have acted immorally?

I used this analogy to break down the subject to its most basic components in order to demonstrate that morality is only required in a system of interaction between people. If for morality to work an interaction between one person and God was also required we would see a difference that is simply not there.

To get to an “ought” all you need is a goal and a directive towards that goal. As gene replicators we have both but I think what is missing you is the fact that our having a goal and a directive towards is are not something we decide consciously but in our genes just as we have the goal of staying alive by breathing and the directive to do so but our breathing isn’t consciously maintained but rather controlled by our bodies which were formed by our genes. Our genes have a goal of continual reproduction and a genetic directive towards that goal. In this respect, it is logically possible to use comparative terms to judge what is more or less likely to move one closer to accomplishing that goal. The standard by which I measure is the effect actions have on the probability of continuation of the social structure from which we all individually and collectively benefit.

So how does acting morally help move one to accomplishing the goal of continual genetic reproduction? Here’s another analogy. (No spoilers this time)

When a building is built a foundation is poured, the structure is erected, a floor is placed, plumbing, electrical, and HVCAC lines are run, walls are clad with siding, brick drywall, etc, doors and windows are set, a roof is placed, etc. This all makes for a well made house. But in my list there is something that is ignored. For that well constructed house to be long lasting and useful, the land on which it is to be placed needs to be prepared. The land must be graded, utilities must be brought to the house, etc. When we have babies….I’ll skip the birds and bees speech here as I’ll assume you well know the mechanics involved. How morality affects having children is like how the civil work on the land affects a house. We individually affect and prepare the environment into which our children are born so that their survival is more probable and are able in turn to become the next step in the continual reproduction of our genes.

Does any of that help? Maybe it would be helpful for you to explain our understanding of what I wrote so I can assess its effectiveness.

I think once we are both on the same page on understanding the "theory of morality" I am providing we can move onto how it fits into a functional model of the world. That's where things get really exciting.

11/26/08, 6:14 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Quick correction to my last post:

Maybe it would be helpful for you to explain [Y]our understanding of what I wrote so I can assess its effectiveness.

11/26/08, 7:34 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Zach finally gets a non Christian theist on the program, and Kevin predictably sandbags him by dismissing his answer to Derek's question as "apologetics." What was the name of this podcast again?

KH> I hope I didn't appear unkind or flippant. I was just amused at how similar apologetics for each view is:

"Many smart people with Ph.D.s are followers of X".

"There are historical records which support X".

"You don't have to be a big dummy to be a follower of X".

Enrico used all three of these, and aside from the first one being an Improper Appeal to Authority, each requires justification that would have taken us too far from the topic.

Ever notice how some people do apologetics against apologetics? Enrico said he "hated apologetics" right after engaging the three above.

I often hear people say "Here are my reasons for why we don't need reasons".

My "Seals and Crofts" comment fell flat as well. Were it not for S&C millions would never have heard of the Baha'i Faith. It was a throw-away comment.

We all engage in apologetics - whether we like it or not.

We didn't get to hear Kevin answer Derek's question about epistemology, but if we had, hopefully he would have used the word 'revelation' somewhere along the way, which is essentially the epistemic origin of all religious claims. Of course, as Thomas Paine said, a second-hand revelation is not a revelation at all.

KH> First, what Derek and I need to work out is (1) how his view is not self-refuting("we cannot use language to talk about God")and(2)how making statements about statements doesn't just push the issue back a step ("I'm not making statements, I'm making statements about statements, i.e. meta-statements").

Derek claims he's not doing either of those two things.

Further, if God cannot be expressed or exhaustively expressed does that mean God does not exist?

We didn't get to hear Kevin answer Derek's question about epistemology, but if we had, hopefully he would have used the word 'revelation' somewhere along the way, which is essentially the epistemic origin of all religious claims.

KH> Depends on what you mean. Is the discovery of a new species a "revelation"? Yes.

Is the data of the revelation warranted? Maybe, maybe not.


K

11/26/08, 7:58 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Aaron,

Three quick things, and I like your "I Am Legend" analogy. We'll get into that.

First, I would go further than saying morality is a property of "people", but would say "persons" instead.

Second, apply the following to your moral account:

The goal of the Nazis was to better mankind; to have a better world, free of undesirables; to have a better, more thriving, survival rate.

The goal of forced female circumcision is to better mankind; to thwart the undesirable aspect of female sexual pleasure and prevent promiscuity. The removal of the clitoris and outer labia preserves the dignity of the woman and family.

The goal of NAMBLA is to better mankind. To remove the undesirable and immoral taboo of sex between adults and children. To promote the evolution of the sexuality of children so they can enjoy sex as well as adults. To therefore help children's genetic codes to accomodate the negative psychological effects of sex with adults.

Third, I already addressed Reductionism ("breaking morality down to it's basic components"). Even if I do that, why OUGHT I obey my evolutionary predispositions? Keep in mind that morals are prescriptive, not merely descriptive.

11/26/08, 8:20 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Kevin,

I look forward to talking more about the "I Am Legend" example.

I guess you are declining my invitation to describe your understanding of my post until you read it more thoroughly. I understand you’ve responded fairly quickly after only a cursory reading.

First, I agree in a way. Morality is a spectrum among people. Individual persons fall on a specific point within that spectrum. Within a society, morality is an amalgam of the individuals.

Second, thank you for providing the Nazi, female circumcision, and NAMBLA examples. Addressing them will dovetail nicely into the point I have continually made. The motivation of all three may have been to make a positive mark on mankind. But is it motivation that makes something moral? How does that saying go…the road to hell is paved with the best intentions? So if it’s not an action’s motivation that makes it moral what is it? Well, what about its effects?

The Nazi’s actions were encampment and murder and the threat to the safety and liberty of all humans. What effect did this have on all humans? What effect would it have on you personally? What effect does this kind of fear have on a society?

Female circumcisions have many negative effects on individual girls and women that can take a toll on the society in which they live. The females are forced into subservience, they lose personal control over their bodies, they lose independence and liberty. What mental effects does this have on the females? What effects does this mental state have on on the society in which they live?

A child who is brought into a sexual relationship with an adult forcibly (all children who are entered into a sexual relationship are done so forcibly since they are unable to make the decision for themselves) has lifelong lasting mental effects. What effects do these mental states have on the society in which the child lives?

Question the effect of an action and not the motivations behind it to judge whether it is moral.

Third, the Reductionism question you’ve raised is confused and I've somewhat already addressed it but I'll try again. It can be partially answered by saying morality is prescribed the your evolutionary history that has shaped your genes to make you a social creature that acts reciprocally with others in order to increase your prospects of successful continual gene replication which benefits not only you as an individual but also the super-organism of the species. Otherwise the question is equivalent to a piece of glass asking why ought it be rigid, made of silica, and break into sharp pieces. You do what you do because you are what you are. There’s simply no possible way of disobeying that.

You can accept that the shapes of hills are prescribed by the wind. Can't morality also be prescribed by natural forces?

11/26/08, 9:39 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Kevin,

I thought 'revelation' was a term of art. What I mean by 'revelation' is what Aquinas meant by 'special revelation', and I think it's what Derek meant by the 'doubting Thomas treatment'.

11/26/08, 5:57 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I see no posts have been made for quite some time. I guess our theist friends are officially calling themselves stumped? :-)

12/2/08, 1:10 PM  
Blogger Jean-Michel Abrassart said...

Hello,

Some requets by a fan for futur episodes:

- I don't know a lot about the Bahá'í faith (I don't think there is a huge Bahá'í community in my country, Belgium), so it would be nice to have an episode who would be a Bahá'í 101 - "for dummies".

- Also, I discovered this podcast while listening to the Evolution 101 podcast by Dr. Zach. I would be interested to have an episode on the topic of Evolution, Intelligent Design, Creationnism, the Design argument and so on. I'm sure everybody (theists and non-theists) would have a lot to say about those issue...

Keep up the good work.

12/19/08, 7:06 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Aaron,

Better late than never - you asked me to put the view you expressed in my own words. It seems you are saying:

1)."Through blind, random processes, human beings have acquired, over time, certain responses to being in close proximity to one another".

2). "Among those responses are various cooperational behaviors which tend more toward survival mechanisms and flourishing than extinction".

3). "Over time, these utilitarian behaviors have compounded into what humans call altruism or morality".

4). "While this process may merely define what is, one must look further to define what ought to be".

5). This is answered, in brief, 'To get to an “ought” all you need is a goal and a directive towards that goal'".

6). "Therefore, the goals and directives which most closely adhere to the above process comprises what individuals and societies 'ought' to do".

Did I leave anything out?

K

12/26/08, 12:06 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Hey welcome back to the conversation, Kevin! I'd say overall it seems you've got a pretty good grasp on what I've said and so I'm pretty interested on how this conversation continues. There are a few comments I could make but I think they would probably get flushed out as the conversation continues.

Hope you had a good Christmas.

12/27/08, 11:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

First, I would clarify my #1:

1)."Through blind, random processes, human beings have acquired, over time, certain responses due to being in close proximity to one another".

Now, taking it all together, it seems the "ought" problem still remains. And as much as I hate to use the Nazis analogy, it seems the best example.

The Nazis had goals and directives that, on your definition, supplied their prescriptive ought (if you're tired of Nazis, insert any other facist group, past, present, or future).

By ridding the world of "undesirables", they adhere to human flourishing, "progress", and evolution. Eliminate the sick, crippled, weak, inferior belief-systems, and other races and ethnicities that potentially taint the purity of racial and genetic identity.

Your view, my view, and the Nazi's view all have the same ends in mind: the best possible existence, happiness, and holistic fulfillment of every individual and society.

You cannot say that your view is superior to the Nazis' (though I agree it is)because that assumes a transcendent standard beyond you and the Nazis.

It is also problematic to declare we ought to most adhere to our evolutionary development. The blind processes of biological evolution cannot prescribe anything. Morality is a property of persons not impersonal processes.

The problem also remains - why ought I obey biological evolution or genetic proclivities? I may desire, as a group in San Francisco does, the elimination of the human race so that the pristine beauty of nature can again flourish on the planet.

This makes your view vulnerable to Might Makes Right. Whoever gains power, societal pressure, or persuasion determines right and wrong.

Your view means there is no progress, only process. One must have a standard by which progress is gauged.

However, our sense of moral progress implies a Design Plan with which we are ultimately in touch. The "designer" is either personal or impersonal.

Since moral values and duties are properties of persons that means impersonal processes merely give the illusion of morality and act as a placebo.

But it makes more sense that our strong intuitions of real moral values and duties derive from something personal. The designer of the design-plan is personal.

That moral values and duties are objective goes in the God column. In fact, if there is only one objective moral fact, then theism is more likely true.

Here is an objective moral fact: it is always wrong to physically torture human babies merely for fun.

This all leads to the Euthyphro Dilemma.

12/27/08, 1:15 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Thanks for the quick, yet long, response, Kevin.

I think we already covered your first point in our discussion here but it might be helpful to go over it again. The level of morality of one's actions can't be (necessarily) judged by their motivations, ie the Nazi's motivations for the Holocaust. The effect of one's actions determines its level of morality. Remember how the saying goes...the road to hell is paved with the best intentions. I'm sure you personally could write an even longer response detailing the negative effects the Nazi actions had on the local and global societies, couldn't you? It seems a point you've made revolves around that very issue.

To answer your question:

why ought I obey biological evolution or genetic proclivities?

Could you give me an example of how you could and how doing so would benefit you?

Could you put a name to the San Francisco group to which you are referring? Even though it would be surprising if a group wanted to eliminate the entire human race it wouldn't do anything to my view of morality since, as I've said, there is a spectrum of moral actions and ideas across all people and some will fall on the extreme ends of the spectrum. It would be troublesome for me if this group were the norm. Having never heard of them I have to assume they are a tiny group or perhaps their views are being somewhat misrepresented.

I'm enjoying our discourse and although it still seems you're ever approaching an understanding, I'm sure we're going to get you there.

12/28/08, 8:40 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

I'm enjoying our discourse and although it still seems you're ever approaching an understanding, I'm sure we're going to get you there.

I think I understand that we agree on:

1). One ought to pursue and live a moral life.

2). Morals are prescriptive not merely descriptive.

3). There are moral facts.

4). Moral values and duties are properties of persons and are incumbent upon us.

We even seem to agree that 5). moral values and duties are objective.

Now, in your words, where do you think we disagree?

12/28/08, 6:09 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Hi again, Kevin. I agree we're on common ground on the points you've outlined. I've added some comments to further explain my position:

1). One ought to pursue and live a moral life as a consequence of enlightened self interest which benefits one with the added effect of benefiting others which, like a feedback loop, in turn, gives one benefit.

2). Morals are prescriptive not merely descriptive and are prescribed by society for individuals to follow

3). There are moral facts which are discovered through time by a trial and error process (ie we had to figure out slavery wasn't a healthy mechanism to maintain a society, Hitler had certain misinformed ideas about how to strengthen society which were obviously wrong, etc)

4). Moral values and duties are properties of persons and are incumbent upon us by our own genetic nature and by society.

We even seem to agree that 5). moral values and duties are objective. Agreed without issue.

12/29/08, 5:22 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

1). One ought to pursue and live a moral life as a consequence of enlightened self interest which benefits one with the added effect of benefiting others which, like a feedback loop, in turn, gives one benefit.

KH> How is that objective?

2). Morals are prescriptive not merely descriptive and are prescribed by society for individuals to follow.

KH> How is that objective?

3). There are moral facts which are discovered through time by a trial and error process (ie we had to figure out slavery wasn't a healthy mechanism to maintain a society, Hitler had certain misinformed ideas about how to strengthen society which were obviously wrong, etc)

KH> That morals are discovered and not determined is a good point and shows their objective nature. But you require further an objective standard(s) by which to gauge "healthy", "maintained", and "misinformed". What is it?

4). Moral values and duties are properties of persons and are incumbent upon us by our own genetic nature and by society.

KH> Impersonal genetic chemistry can only describe. And we judge societies for the evil they do. Again, how is #4 objective?

Sorry to keep piling it on, but you disagree with rape. But on your view, rape can be beneficial, utilitarian, and promote survival.

1). One's genetic proclivities urge one to procreate. Rape satisfies that.

2). Rape weeds out weak women and promotes survival of the fittest.

3). Rape satisifes male sexual release and pleasure, with the added benefit of adrenaline-rush and cardio exercise.

4). Women will adapt and evolve to tolerate forced sexual intercourse and it will no longer be taboo nor unpleasant/unhealthy to the woman.

5). Forced sex ensures the survival of the species.

6). Men will have access to sexual pleasure when their usual mate is sick or otherwise preoccupied. And they won't have to pay for it, nor sneak around, nor fail with pick-up lines at bars.

7). Societies could come to embrace rape and celebrate Rape Day, complete with festivals, dances, and sales at Wal-Mart.

8). Women will further become second-class citizens but that is best for society.

The Moral Argument for God is:

1). If God does not exist,objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2). Objective moral values and duties exist.

3). Therefore, God exists.

12/29/08, 9:41 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

1). One ought to pursue and live a moral life as a consequence of enlightened self interest which benefits one with the added effect of benefiting others which, like a feedback loop, in turn, gives one benefit.

KH> How is that objective?


I'm grateful for this discourse because it’s giving me a better idea of the shortcomings I have in trying to convey this idea. And I think I’m starting to understand your confusion, Kevin. What I am describing is a system that operates at three distinct levels; genetic, individual, society (This is true of all social species but for our discussion I will only be referring to that which pertains to the majority of humans, there are exceptions). You seem to be trying to base an understanding on reducing the system to just one level, which doesn’t work and is probably why you’re not catching on. I’ve been unintentionally equivocating on the different levels myself when attempting to explain the system, so I don’t blame you.

Objectivity is defined as being mind-independent —that is, not the result of any judgments made by a conscious entity. On that I guess I need to know whether or not you agree (I assume you do). Our genes are obviously not conscious entities able to make judgments. Our genes are self replicators. Their only job is to make successive copies of themselves. Because our genes are mindless self replicators, by their own nature, we can say it is objectively good, for them, to be able to self replicate. Ultimately, genes benefit from continual self replication.

From the level of self replicating genes emerges multiple self replicating genes functioning in unison, forming the individual. Individuals are made by their genes to have a will to reproduce at the individual level as a means for the genes to self replicate at the genetic level. Because individuals have a will to reproduce, not because of their own conscious, mind dependent will but because of their genetic makeup, we can say it is objectively good for both the genes at the genetic level and the individuals at the individual level for individuals to reproduce. Ultimately, genes benefit from continual self replication through successive generational reproductions of individuals.

From the level of reproducing individuals emerges multiple reproducing individuals interacting with each other, forming society. Within societies, the interactions between individuals have effects on their probability to reproduce and impact the probability of how their following successive generations to reproduce throughout the long term future. When interactions between individuals increase probability they are moral, when they decrease probability they are immoral. A society which continually increases probability is healthy, one that decreases is unhealthy. Because individuals, who are made by their genes to have a will to reproduce that is not conscious or mind dependent, and their genes themselves, benefit from moral interactions between individuals which increase the probability of the individual reproducing successively and the genes are then able to self replicate, we can say these interactions are objectively good.

2). Morals are prescriptive not merely descriptive and are prescribed by society for individuals to follow.

KH> How is that objective?


My response to 1). answers 2).

3). There are moral facts which are discovered through time by a trial and error process (i.e. we had to figure out slavery wasn't a healthy mechanism to maintain a society, Hitler had certain misinformed ideas about how to strengthen society which were obviously wrong, etc)

KH> That morals are discovered and not determined is a good point and shows their objective nature. But you require further an objective standard(s) by which to gauge "healthy", "maintained", and "misinformed". What is it?


My response to 1). defines healthy. Maintained, in this context, can use the same functional definition. By misinformed, I meant Hitler seemed to believe the Holocaust would be a benefit to society. He was obviously wrong as its impact was objectively negative for the many reasons which I previously asked to you name.

4). Moral values and duties are properties of persons and are incumbent upon us by our own genetic nature and by society.

KH> Impersonal genetic chemistry can only describe. And we judge societies for the evil they do. Again, how is #4 objective?


I think my response to 1). answers 4). but if you need clarification, just let me know.

Sorry to keep piling it on, but you disagree with rape. But on your view, rape can be beneficial, utilitarian, and promote survival.

1). One's genetic proclivities urge one to procreate. Rape satisfies that.


One’s genetic proclivities urge one to procreate successfully. In what way does rape help ensure the woman will bring the pregnancy to full term and raise the child in a way that ensures it will survive and be able to reproduce? Is it common for rapists to raise children with the women they rape? Please explain.

2). Rape weeds out weak women and promotes survival of the fittest.

In what way does rape weed out weak women? Please explain. Survival of the fittest doesn’t necessarily refer to physical fitness but rather best fit to reproduce, which includes many types of fitness considerations.

3). Rape satisfies male sexual release and pleasure, with the added benefit of adrenaline-rush and cardio exercise.

With no ill effects on the society from which the male gets benefit? Please explain.

4). Women will adapt and evolve to tolerate forced sexual intercourse and it will no longer be taboo nor unpleasant/unhealthy to the woman.

By what genetic mechanisms will females evolve this trait in a species that benefits individually from freedom and rule of law and genetically for their offspring by being able to pick their sexual partners? Please explain.

5). Forced sex ensures the survival of the species.

In a species that benefits further from consensual sex and the society that supports it? Please explain.

6). Men will have access to sexual pleasure when their usual mate is sick or otherwise preoccupied. And they won't have to pay for it, nor sneak around, nor fail with pick-up lines at bars.

Men have always been able to successfully reproduce without paying for it or sneaking around and even before bars and pick-up lines existed. This is a non-sequitor. Also, please see my response to 1).

7). Societies could come to embrace rape and celebrate Rape Day, complete with festivals, dances, and sales at Wal-Mart.

Complete non-sequitor.

8). Women will further become second-class citizens but that is best for society.

In what ways is second-class citizenry good of women good for society? Please explain.

Kevin, you seem to be fairly selective in listing the effects of rape in an attempt to create a strawman of my position which I’ve taken the time to dismantle. I don’t know if you were consciously selective here but let’s put an effort into not doing it again in order to not waste each other’s time. Agreed?

The Moral Argument for God is:
1). If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2). Objective moral values and duties exist.
3). Therefore, God exists.


I understand the theistic moral argument and I understand why it fails. I’d be willing to move onto that topic, if you are, after we finish this one out.

12/30/08, 6:50 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Kevin: "2). Objective moral values and duties exist."

Me: How do we know that?

Kevin: "Here is an objective moral fact: it is always wrong to physically torture human babies merely for fun."

Me: Prove that this is an objective moral fact. Or prove that any such sensibility is an objective moral fact. My wanting it to be a moral fact doesn't necessarily make it so. If you can prove that it is an objective moral fact without appealing to the existence of God, then the proof will likely contain an implicit counterexample to the claim that objective morality can only exist if God exists. If your proof relies on an appeal to the existence of God, then the Moral Argument is ultimately circular because axiom 2 of the Moral Argument cannot be taken for granted.

Even if we were to stipulate that God is the source of morality, how does that help us determine what is moral and what isn't? Who speaks for God? If someone claims to speak for God, how do we know whether what he says is moral? Don't we test it against some other standard, e.g. our own conscience? And if we test it against our own conscience, what did God's spokesperson tell us that we didn't already know?

1/1/09, 11:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Hi:

I just wanted to express out how horrified I was with how one panelist tried to justify genocide in the bible. Since humans where more violent in the past (?) and less sensible (?), following a command to commit genocide was ok?

I'm flabbergasted at the ad-hoc reasoning. Was it ok to have all the "pagan" babies put through the sword just because some were going to be burned anyway? How about not burning them and not killing with a sword? A moral all powerful god could not have done something different (as in MORAL)?

To me genocide is not justified no matter who gives the command no matter what point in time. If a god exists and commands me to kill my son or participate in a genocide I would say no. It seems I have a higher moral sense than the god of the bible.

I was even more appalled when the panelist expressed how killing babies was best for them since they would not grow in paganism and would go to god right away. I wonder how such logic is not applicable to the abortion debate today. Or maybe the panelist has no issue with them if I go by the statements.

I cannot understand how can we talk about the origin of morality while at the same time justifying acts that lack any of it.

I would never take a lecture about the supposed lack of morality in an naturalistic framework from individuals who try to justify genocide (murder in mass) with theology.

1/4/09, 10:54 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Kevin: "2). Objective moral values and duties exist."

Me: How do we know that?


KH> How we know it is a different question. That we know it is virtually indisputable.

As atheist philospher Michael Ruse says, "the man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as wrong as the man who says 2+2=5".

We universally, anthropologically, and intuitively recognize that there are moral facts. Do you deny this?

Do you deny that it is objectively wrong to torture babies merely for fun?

1/4/09, 4:23 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Kevin,

I don't deny that our intuition informs us that it is wrong to do X. Is that sufficient to conclude that 'it is wrong to do X' is an objective moral fact? I do deny universality; there are people who see nothing wrong with torturing babies for fun. Generally these people are less than 10 years old themselves, but not always.

It seems as though you are relying on intuition to demonstrate the existence of objective morality. How is that objective?

1/5/09, 6:42 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

I don't deny that our intuition informs us that it is wrong to do X. Is that sufficient to conclude that 'it is wrong to do X' is an objective moral fact?

KH> It is evidence that there are objective moral facts.

I do deny universality; there are people who see nothing wrong with torturing babies for fun. Generally these people are less than 10 years old themselves, but not always.

KH> Does that make it right? Do we not hold those who should know better morally culpable? Do we not universally say that even children ought not torture babies for fun? Isn't it universal enough that those who deny there is anything wrong with it are considered morally handicapped?

It seems as though you are relying on intuition to demonstrate the existence of objective morality. How is that objective?

KH> It is just as objective as our intuition of physical objects. Intuition is not a "hunch", it is immediate, direct knowledge of something.

You can no more deny the moral fact I listed than you can deny the existence of some physical object right in front of you.

The same intuitional reflection is required for both.

1/5/09, 9:03 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

I just wanted to express out how horrified I was with how one panelist tried to justify genocide in the bible. Since humans where more violent in the past (?) and less sensible (?), following a command to commit genocide was ok?

KH> I am the panelist in question and I'm glad you wrote. Please allow me to elaborate.

First, there was a sub-question concerning God's commanding the judgement upon and elimination of certain people. That is, what effect would it have on the individuals in God's theocracy who carried out the command? Even if it is agreed that God has the wisdom and knowledge to know how and when to take life, what is the psychological damage on the Israelites?

I offered two possibilities, 1)God extended his grace in this situation, offering internal comfort and perspective, etc., and 2) at such a time and place in history, thicker-skinned sensibilites more readily absorbed such things.

Second, "genocide" denotes murder or unwarranted destruction. None of that applies to God in that his actions, by definition, are never murder (the unwarranted taking of a human life). His infinite wisdom, by definition, entails always doing the right thing.

I'm flabbergasted at the ad-hoc reasoning. Was it ok to have all the "pagan" babies put through the sword just because some were going to be burned anyway? How about not burning them and not killing with a sword? A moral all powerful god could not have done something different (as in MORAL)?

KH> First, it is a matter of internal consistency. God knows how and when to take life.
Second, history shows most of the women and children fled ahead of the battle. Those, in this case, who remained were dispatched quickly, and were also spared the horrors of paganism (this leads to the Problem of Evil, why God allows evil and free will, etc.).


To me genocide is not justified no matter who gives the command no matter what point in time.

KH> Murder is never justified.

If a god exists and commands me to kill my son or participate in a genocide I would say no. It seems I have a higher moral sense than the god of the bible.

KH> Biblical theology indicates neither you nor anyone else will ever face that. We are no longer under the ancient theocracy - that was fulfilled in Christ. The fulfillment is summed up by the Aposle Paul, "our weapons are not carnal but spiritual..." (2 Cor. 10). While there may be just wars, etc., God no longer uses the ancient theocracy to inact judgement.

I was even more appalled when the panelist expressed how killing babies was best for them since they would not grow in paganism and would go to god right away. I wonder how such logic is not applicable to the abortion debate today. Or maybe the panelist has no issue with them if I go by the statements.

KH> By the way, God being referred to as "god" or "a god" is a nit-pick, but certainly not accurate philosophically, theologically, gramatically, nor (internally) bibically. It is a virus spread by reading atheist internet sites I think.

However, I do think it softens the blow to consider that God takes children immediately into his presence (several OT and NT passages indicate this). In addition, we are not to murder. God does not give us the right as individuals nor states to kill the innocent. The theocracy was temporary and was used by God to take life in these instances. So the abortion point is moot. We don't have the right. Quite the opposite.

I cannot understand how can we talk about the origin of morality while at the same time justifying acts that lack any of it.

KH> I hope I've offered perspective.

I would never take a lecture about the supposed lack of morality in an naturalistic framework from individuals who try to justify genocide (murder in mass) with theology.

KH> Neither would I.

1/5/09, 11:45 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Kevin,

It doesn't follow that because intuition is reliable under one set of circumstances that it is equally reliable under another set of circumstances. There are numerous examples of intuition failure. But let's not lose sight if my original argument, which is, that if you can generate an argument to demonstrate the objective existence of moral facts without appealing to the existence of God, it will likely contain a counterexample to axiom 1 of the Moral Argument. If we accept your argument, then intuition can furnish us with objective morality, so axiom 1 seems unnecessary.

1/5/09, 12:23 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

"I offered two possibilities, 1)God extended his grace in this situation, offering internal comfort and perspective, etc.,

special pleading argument

and

2) at such a time and place in history, thicker-skinned sensibilites more readily absorbed such things.

special pleading argument

Any chance you're going to get back to our conversation, Kevin? If not, I'm not going to worry about checking this thread too often so it just would be nice to know. If you'd like to continue via email you can reach me at aallison@my.stlcc.edu. Thanks.

1/5/09, 6:48 PM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

special pleading argument

KH> No, it is not. It is an internal question - internal to biblical theology.

Are there internally consistent answers to the dilemma? According to the text and larger theological considerations, yes.

1/6/09, 6:54 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

KH> No, it is not. It is an internal question - internal to biblical theology.

Are there internally consistent answers to the dilemma? According to the text and larger theological considerations, yes.


Hi, Kevin. The problem I see with your argument is anyone can create a narrative in which omnipotence plays a part with which anything would be consistent. For example:

Dragons cause blindness in men with their breath. How? Their breath is magic. Why don't we see them? They also have the power of invisible. How can we know they truly exist When it is time for them to die they burrow into the ground, lose their invisibility, and we later find their bones, which most people think are from dinosaurs. Every attribute I've given dragons are based on special pleading. Of course I made up every bit of my story. I'm interested in reading on what arguments yours is based.

This is an interesting turn in conversation. I'd love to continue the one we were having as well. I hope you understand our challenges to have as much respect as we mean to.

1/6/09, 10:50 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Hi, Kevin. The problem I see with your argument is anyone can create a narrative in which omnipotence plays a part with which anything would be consistent.

Internal Question: according to the Dragon Lore Manual, Dragons can become undetectable due to invisibility until they die. Is this why we often can only detect their fossils?

External Questions: Do Dragons exist and is the Dragon Lore Manual authoritative and true?

I'll get back to the original conversation unless we need to nail down Special Pleading some more.

K

1/6/09, 12:02 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Internal Question: according to the Dragon Lore Manual, Dragons can become undetectable due to invisibility until they die. Is this why we often can only detect their fossils?

Yes, only their fossils can be directly detected after they die when they lose their magic power of invisibility. Dragons can be indirectly detected through their ability to cause blindness. Additionally, they can hear thoughts and grant wishes through magical powers.

External Questions: Do Dragons exist and is the Dragon Lore Manual authoritative and true?

Some believe dragons exist. Those believers consider the Dragon Lore Manual to be authoritative and true. Of course, skeptics consider the Dragon Lore Manual and the evidence of blindness and granted wishes explained by the null hypothesis.

1/6/09, 1:39 PM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Good. And what I'm pointing out is, the question of how God used the theocracy of ancient Israel in judgement against nations and how he may have provided for the trauma to the soldiers is an internal question. To be internally consistent one must stay within the available data. Going beyond the data, or genuine options, can lead to Special Pleading.

Whether God exists and the Bible is authoritative is an external question. The same would apply here. I think if the objector can show that the proposition is internally or externally inconsistent, Special Pleading can be identified.

1/7/09, 6:46 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

And my point is by not placing limits on what is possible (ie god is omnipotent, dragons are magic) to define yourself out of a special pleading argument, you create another special pleading argument by presupposing a trait for something (god, dragons) that exists in nothing else.

1/7/09, 12:04 PM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

And my point is by not placing limits on what is possible (ie god is omnipotent, dragons are magic) to define yourself out of a special pleading argument, you create another special pleading argument by presupposing a trait for something (god, dragons) that exists in nothing else.

KH> It's possible that God exists. It's possible that he has good reasons for his actions, etc.

No one has ever shown the concept of God to be incoherent. In fact, a conceptual analysis of what brought the universe into existence recovers many of the attributes of God. And they are found in nothing else. If the cause were some strange impersonal force (making atheism true), it would still have traits nothing else had. So I fail to see the special pleading.

I think special pleading would entail something like, say, God eased the soldier's minds by giving them injections with modern drugs and hypodermic needles, which he transported from future times back to their day.

That is possible, but absurd for various reasons, and not in keeping with the rest of the biblical data. It's inconsistent and special pleading.(For more on this see C.S. Lewis on supernatural vs. anti-natural in his book Miracles).

Also, I do place limits on what is possible. For example, God's omnipotence does not mean he can do the impossible. All the omnipotence in the world cannot create a square circle.

Omnipotence only extends to what is actually possible or feasible.

1/8/09, 11:05 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

So what determines whether something is possible or feasible? Logic? Is God bound by the rules of logic? Didn't He create the rules of logic?

1/8/09, 12:34 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Kevin,

I don't want to try to drive the conversation but I just saw "I Am Legend" again last night. I hope we might get to talk about that analogy I made as you said you'd also like to do.

1/11/09, 9:25 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

So what determines whether something is possible or feasible? Logic? Is God bound by the rules of logic? Didn't He create the rules of logic?

KH> The laws of logic derive from God's nature, and as such, he is in keeping with his own nature and self-consistency.

I think it can be said that God is prior to logic ontologically. His very being entails that laws of logic obtain.

1/16/09, 4:32 PM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Will Smith’s character was the only human on the otherwise deserted island of Manhattan.

KH> Actually, no. The infected were human beings too(but I know what you mean).

He was surrounded by the belongings of others and used them to aid him in his survival without any permission granted and without knowing if the people would be returning or not. He stole cars, food, hunting supplies, movie rentals, etc. Could one say he acted immorally?

KH> No.


When Will Smith’s character came upon a woman and her son, if he would have stole from them, could one say he would have acted immorally?

KH> In those circumstances, yes.

I think that moral absolutes like lying and stealing can come into conflict in certain situations.

In such cases, the lower good is suspended in favor of the higher good. I would steal if it were the only way to get an antidote for my dying child, etc. Ethicists sometimes call this Graded Absolutism. The better course of action emerges upon reflection.

Jesus said that anyone would be justified in breaking the Sabbath Law if one's cow fell in the ditch, pointing out it is better to save a life. It is better to heal, etc.

I used this analogy to break down the subject to its most basic components in order to demonstrate that morality is only required in a system of interaction between people. If for morality to work an interaction between one person and God was also required we would see a difference that is simply not there.

KH> I pointed out, however, that morality is a property of persons, not merely people, which implies human beings.

The non-theist may well see his interaction only between him and another human being, and not acknowledge God in the equation, yet still do the right thing.

The question is a meta-ethical question, i.e. what grounds objective moral values and duties and why do they so impress themselves on us? Why are they "written on our hearts"?

The theist can do the right thing and also seek to please God in the equation as an act of devotion, i.e. in response to his moral commands and expressions to us.

I believe this is why genuine love of God and man produces the most moral good.

1/16/09, 4:59 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

The laws of logic derive from God's nature, and as such, he is in keeping with his own nature and self-consistency.

This explanation merely postpones an answer to the question. Does God willfully determine his own nature?

1/16/09, 7:36 PM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

This explanation merely postpones an answer to the question. Does God willfully determine his own nature?

KH> No. A "self-created being" is impossible. One cannot exist prior to one's existence.

God is ontologically ultimate. There is nothing "more ultimate" than the ultimate. Therefore, the laws of logic flow from who/what God is.

Philosophers have contemplated that, in a sense, logic is epistemologically prior to God, but God is ontologically prior to logic.

1/17/09, 8:32 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

A "self-created being" is impossible.

Then how do you explain Michael Jackson? :)

I have a few questions regarding your response:

1. 'God's nature is X and cannot be other than X.' Does this constitute the formulation of a law that God didn't institute, i.e. a self existent law?

2. Would most Christian thinkers agree with your answer?

3. In Mark 14:36, Christ says that "all things are possible" to God. Given your interpretation of omnipotence, could the scripture be rewritten to say, "all things which are not impossible are possible" to God? If so, this seems like a rather uninformative tautology. Christ goes on to say, "nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt." This seems to suggest that God's action is determined by his will rather than his ability. We lose that contrast if we say that his action is determined by both his will and his ability.

Parenthetically, although logic approximates the behavior of the material world, I doubt that it accurately describes the material world. For example, there are no euclidean objects in the material world despite the fact that many objects are approximated by euclidean geometry. So I think that logic is only a human device used to get along in the material world, but for the sake of argument, I'll stipulate that there are 'laws of logic.'

1/17/09, 9:17 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

(LOL at MJ!)


1. 'God's nature is X and cannot be other than X.' Does this constitute the formulation of a law that God didn't institute, i.e. a self existent law?

KH> A necessary being cannot not exist. In considering God as a necessary being, God's existence is ontologically prior to any principle or law. Yet, the epistemological considerations emerge from the ontological status.

That is, if something were not ontologically ultimate, there would be no consideration of it - no law or principle from which it follows accidentally.

Abstract objects or Platonic forms seem inexplicable unless they are somehow grounded in God.

2. Would most Christian thinkers agree with your answer?

KH> It's safe to say that it represents the bulk of Christian thought - it's certainly grounded in Augustine and Aquinas.

3. In Mark 14:36, Christ says that "all things are possible" to God. Given your interpretation of omnipotence, could the scripture be rewritten to say, "all things which are not impossible are possible" to God? If so, this seems like a rather uninformative tautology.

KH> Neither the context of the passage nor Christ's teachings require him to be philosophically rigorous in his response here. In fact, we could never communicate at all were we to qualify every single thing we say philosophically.

Obviously, Christ is talking about God's power (omnipotence). But all the power in the universe cannot make a square circle or a married bachelor. They are absurdities or contradictions.


Christ goes on to say, "nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt." This seems to suggest that God's action is determined by his will rather than his ability. We lose that contrast if we say that his action is determined by both his will and his ability.

KH> I see no problem. God has the ability to accomplish his will and submitting to his will is a relational aspect which Christ taught.

Parenthetically, although logic approximates the behavior of the material world, I doubt that it accurately describes the material world. For example, there are no euclidean objects in the material world despite the fact that many objects are approximated by euclidean geometry. So I think that logic is only a human device used to get along in the material world, but for the sake of argument, I'll stipulate that there are 'laws of logic.'

KH> I would say that logic also applies to the immaterial world.

1/18/09, 8:34 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

A necessary being cannot not exist. In considering God as a necessary being, God's existence is ontologically prior to any principle or law.

The statement "God's nature is X" formulates a principle that God himself didn't institute and cannot change (because he doesn't determine his own nature). If God didn't institute this principle, where did it come from? The principle itself must be at least as necessary as God is. If there is one necessary principle, then why can't there be others? Even if God is necessary, does that mean that nothing else is necessary? And how do we know that God is a necessary being anyway? Anything besides Anselm's argument?

Neither the context of the passage nor Christ's teachings require him to be philosophically rigorous in his response here.

One man's philosophical rigor is another man's plain factuality. It would help your case if there were at least one scriptural statement indicating that God's power is in some way limited. Maybe there is; can you point me to it?

1/18/09, 8:09 PM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

The statement "God's nature is X" formulates a principle that God himself didn't institute and cannot change (because he doesn't determine his own nature). If God didn't institute this principle, where did it come from? The principle itself must be at least as necessary as God is. If there is one necessary principle, then why can't there be others?

KH> If something is ontologically ultimate then whatever principles that apply to it would emerge accidentally and are recovered a posteriori.


Even if God is necessary, does that mean that nothing else is necessary?

KH> There may be some abstract things that are necessary. Even so, abstract objects do not stand in causal relationships (e.g. the number "7" doesn't cause anything).

And how do we know that God is a necessary being anyway? Anything besides Anselm's argument?

KH> Necessity just results from a conceptual analysis of what is eternal, immutable, non-contingent, etc. It really isn't very controversial among classical theologians.

1/19/09, 8:02 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

One man's philosophical rigor is another man's plain factuality. It would help your case if there were at least one scriptural statement indicating that God's power is in some way limited. Maybe there is; can you point me to it?

KH> The Scriptures say God does not change (Malachi 3:6), cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), etc.

God is revealed in at least two ways: philosophical introspection (including Natural Theology), and special revelation.

Both combined can give us the rigor we're discussing.

Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

1 Samuel 15:29: “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”

Psalm 92:15: “To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

Malachi 3:6: “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”

Romans 3:4: “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.”

Titus 1:2: “[I]n hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.”

Hebrews 6:18: “[I]t is impossible for God to lie.”

James 1:17-18: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

However, I don't think these scriptures are even necessary to show that the omni-attributes would be limited to the actually possible.

Surely you're not suggesting that Jesus should have said "Abba, all things are possible for you, even square circles, married bachelors, absurdities, and contradictions".

1/19/09, 8:33 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

If something is ontologically ultimate then whatever principles that apply to it would emerge accidentally and are recovered a posteriori.

This is a good argument, but it doesn't refute my argument. Both arguments are compatible because something can be both necessary and recoverable a posteriori; this doesn't lead to a contradiction. Additionally, it's by no means clear that God needs to be ontologically ultimate.

The Scriptures say God does not change (Malachi 3:6), cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), etc.

Wow! I asked for one reference:) Upon reconsideration, I should have asked for scriptures which are not contradicted by other scriptures. The following scriptures contradict the assertion that God cannot lie:

1 Kings 22:23; 2Chron. 18:21-22;
Ezekiel 14:9; Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 20:7; 2Thessalonians 2:11.

The following scriptures contradict the assertion that God doesn't change (or repent):

Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14; Deuteronomy 32:36; 1 Samuel 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:35; 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Isaiah 38:1-5; Jeremiah 15:6; Jeremaih 18:8; Jeremiah 26:13; Jeremiah 26:19; Jeremaih 42:10; Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:10.

Surely you're not suggesting that Jesus should have said "Abba, all things are possible for you, even square circles, married bachelors, absurdities, and contradictions".

Correct. I'm suggesting that Christ in Mark 14:36 could have said as Christ in Matthew 26:39 "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Interesting distinction. The latter agrees with you better than the former.

1/19/09, 8:01 PM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

This is a good argument, but it doesn't refute my argument. Both arguments are compatible because something can be both necessary and recoverable a posteriori; this doesn't lead to a contradiction. Additionally, it's by no means clear that God needs to be ontologically ultimate.

KH> Yeah, the controversy seems to be whether principles or laws or propositions, etc. would still exist even if there were absolutely no being (personal or otherwise) of any kind. But laws and rules, etc. seem predicated on there being something in existence, especially something concrete.

Wow! I asked for one reference:) Upon reconsideration, I should have asked for scriptures which are not contradicted by other scriptures. The following scriptures contradict the assertion that God cannot lie:

1 Kings 22:23; 2Chron. 18:21-22;
Ezekiel 14:9; Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 20:7; 2Thessalonians 2:11.


KH> It shouldn't surprise you that I don't think those passages contradict the others. God uses lies and deception in judgement. Not one's he has uttered, but what fallen creatures have believed or uttered. If persons pursue a path of deception unrepentingly, God will strengthen the deception in judgement. God "hardened", (Heb. "strengthened") Pharoah's heart. But Pharoah hardened it first!

Jeremiah complains and laments that he has been deceived when God actually warned him about his enemies.

The following scriptures contradict the assertion that God doesn't change (or repent):

Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14; Deuteronomy 32:36; 1 Samuel 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:35; 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Isaiah 38:1-5; Jeremiah 15:6; Jeremaih 18:8; Jeremiah 26:13; Jeremiah 26:19; Jeremaih 42:10; Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:10.


KH> None of those indicate God's nature or essence changes. They are mostly story-telling and literary devices or instances of God's condescension to various if/then propositions toward humans.

I'm suggesting that Christ in Mark 14:36 could have said as Christ in Matthew 26:39 "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Interesting distinction. The latter agrees with you better than the former.

The latter is complimentary to the former - it fills in data not found in the other passage.

It is appropriate to petition God as to our needs and desires, at the same time bowing to his will - what he knows is best, and our perspective as humans is limited.

1/20/09, 12:32 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Yeah, the controversy seems to be whether principles or laws or propositions, etc. would still exist even if there were absolutely no being (personal or otherwise) of any kind. But laws and rules, etc. seem predicated on there being something in existence, especially something concrete.

I'm not sure that I agree with the last statement, but what about bilateral causation? Chicken-and-egg kind of thing? In the present universe, there is distance, and so there is always a time lag, sometimes small, between cause and effect. But when the universe was a point and contained no distance, there would be no time lag between cause and effect.

The latter is complimentary to the former - it fills in data not found in the other passage.

So it does. Matthew was probably being true to what he considered the meaning of the words and changed them to clarify the meaning. I doubt, however, that Mark interpreted the words the same as Matthew.

None of those indicate God's nature or essence changes. They are mostly story-telling and literary devices or instances of God's condescension to various if/then propositions toward humans.
...
It shouldn't surprise you that I don't think those passages contradict the others.


No, it doesn't. I don't think that theists can be stumped:)

On some level, I endorse your effort to resolve scriptural difficulties. I think that we approach truth asymptotically by reconciling one contradiction after another. However, my interpretation of intellectual honesty compels me to acknowledge them as contradictions in the first place. That's not to accuse you or anyone else of being intellectually dishonest, but I can't embrace your approach.

In Who Wrote the Bible, Richard Elliot Friedman says that by combining disparate accounts of God (from the J and E authors for example) into a single account, the redactionist produced a richer, more meaningful account of God. One reason that I value myth is that it contains unintentional truth.

1/21/09, 5:53 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

No, it doesn't. I don't think that theists can be stumped:)

On some level, I endorse your effort to resolve scriptural difficulties.


KH> I have never strained to reconcile biblical discrepancies, but have always been impressed with how well the Bible stands up to various scrutiny.

But if the doctrine of Inerrancy were an outright failure, that would not disprove Christianity.

I also think that Christianity and Theism are subject to falsification.

K

1/26/09, 6:00 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

But if the doctrine of Inerrancy were an outright failure, that would not disprove Christianity.

Agreed. I never understood why some Christians seem to think otherwise.

I also think that Christianity and Theism are subject to falsification.

Maybe. It's easy to move the goal post once the doctrine of inerrancy is jettisoned. Science is almost entirely inductive, so requiring that Chrisitanity be falsified deductively seems unfair.

1/26/09, 9:19 AM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Aaron, still want to continue the discussion?

K

2/4/09, 9:52 AM  

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