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Friday, May 09, 2008

A Continuing Dialogue with the Opposing Team

The following was WAY too long for a comment, so I thought I'd make post out of it. I recently posted about the apparent rise of atheism. One of the comments came from another truthseeker. I hope he doesn't mind the higher profile response. Here it is in its great bulk:

Hi, Robert

First, welcome to Enter the Door Within. You realize, of course, that posting here may well be the first step on a very “unexpected” adventure. ;-)

But I hope you were using the phrase “Opposing team” in a facetious way, as it seemed. I don't see us as opponents, but rather truth seekers who have, through any number of variables, arrived at different conclusions.

You raise some great points—certainly fair questions—and some of them are foundational issues that we all may face on our faith journeys. I by no means believe that I’ve got it all figured out, but I’ll do my best to address your concerns.

Point 1: The Rise of Atheism
Certainly there could be a myriad of reasons why Atheistic manifestos are becoming bestsellers. I’m not a bit surprised that pollsters have discovered a trend, showing people pulling away from traditional religions. I’m reasonably certain that people are slowly pulling away from many “traditional” ways of doing things. Each generation seems to rebel against the previous, much as teens question the authority, wisdom, and experience of their parents. Of course, in the eventual analysis, leaving traditional ways of doing things does not always turn out to be a very wise thing.

Point 2: Does the Logical Problem of Evil Prove that God Does Not Exist?
This is a bedrock question. On some level, we all probably have questions related to this apparent quandary. I’ll offer my thoughts, but there are several dozen books that answer this question much more comprehensively than I ever could. C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, Phillip Yancey’s Where is God When it Hurts?, Ravi Zacharias’ The End of Reason, and a myriad of others going all the way back to St. Augustine’s writings analyze the issues with amazing clarity.

But here’s my take: The problem, stated another way is: If God exists, and God is All Good and All Powerful, how can He allow evil in the world? It seems like a simple logic problem: A=B and B=C, so A must be equal to C. But actually, it’s not that simple––not by a longshot. I believe there are at least two fundamental flaws in the question itself.

Flaw 1: We are attempting to understand God with human logic.
If God is all powerful and all knowing, as Christians believe Him to be, what in the world makes us think He will subscribe to our logic? Time and time again, God confounds human logic. Man expected the Messiah to come as a conquering warrior. God came as a child. Man expected God to win a military victory. God won the victory by dieing on a cross. Even in my own life, God has defied logic. I wanted to be a rock star. I ended up a teacher. I had no plans to run a Bible study at my friend’s house, but if I hadn’t, I’d have never me my wife. Biblical examples, historic examples, personal examples show a God who does not need to conform to our logic.

Not a perfect word picture here, but somewhat illuminating: Think of a young child living in a third world country. The child has always loved a particular cow in the village flock. But this cow goes sick with a very infectious disease—one that will spread and eventually kill all the other cattle, eliminating the entire village’s food supply. The child’s father takes the cow out back and kills it. The child is horrified. The act appeared to be the very epitome of evil. How could his father do such a thing?

But the child lacks the wisdom to understand the father’s reasoning. The child’s logic is far too simple to string together the reasons that led the father to his action. If a human father’s wisdom and logic is far above that of a human child, then how much wider is the gulf between mankind’s logic and an all-knowing God?

Flaw 2: We are attempting to define “good” with a human definition.
Using the same reasoning as above, what makes human kind think that it understands the concept of “good?” I mean, sure, we all think we know a good act from a bad act. A good sandwich from a bad sandwich. A good player from a bad player. Good breath from bad breath. But what about real, moral good? How do we know that? Where did this innate knowledge of good and bad come from?

Here’s what I’m getting at: some would say that a Good God cannot allow Evil. There is evil, so therefore God cannot exist. But that implies that there is a static, rock solid measure of good. At this point, the atheist must pause. Because to allow that there is an ultimate good requires a source of ultimate good, and it cannot be manmade. If it were, then anyone’s definition of good would have to suffice. So when a skeptic attempts to accuse God of doing evil, he admits that there is an ultimate measure of good. And in so doing, the skeptic implies that God exists, thus defeating the point at the outset.

Think of the child in the previous example. The na├»ve child believes his father has done evil by killing the cow. But has the father done evil? No, in fact, the father saved all the other cattle and the village full of people besides. In fact, the father has done something very noble. It’s just that the child’s concept of good is insufficient to define the situation. And this is where even the brightest most compassionate human finds his own definition of good: insufficient wisdom, experience, and perspective when compared to an all-knowing God.

Again, we are humans. We do not have all knowledge. We do not know the past or the future (sometimes not even the present) in its entirety. Gandalf said, “Not even the very wise can see all ends.” To be able to see all ends would make us, well…God. So without the ability that God must have, how could we possibly think we know what good is?

In Spite of the Flaws, the Question Needs Answering.
You might reasonably argue at this point that all we have is human logic and a human definition of good. All we have is human understanding. So how can a loving, all powerful, good God, allow evil?

I mean, surely we can all agree that many of the ghastly deeds we hear about on the news are evil. Surely soldiers killing children and raping women is evil. Surely the Holocaust where more than six million Jewish people were murdered, snuffed from the earth as if less than human—surely, the Holocaust was evil. I agree. As an aside, it is grievous to think that since 1973 more than 48 million children have been murdered in abortions. The justification—that these fetuses are not humans—is eerily similar to Hitler’s rationale, and yet so many people think abortion is good, a right even. That’s another topic for another day.

But it leads us again to our own definition of good. It’s what we have to go on. So, how can an all good God allow evil?

First, a preface: if you are hurting because you’ve just lost a loved one; or you’re aghast at the horrible nature of recent headlines; or you’ve just seen first hand the devastation of a natural disaster, no answer I can give—no matter how logical it may be—will sound logical to you. You are too close to the pain. We are emotional creatures, and emotions often cloud thinking.

Answer #1: Evil Exists Because We Brought It On Ourselves
This is the Biblical answer. In the beginning there was no evil in the world. Man and woman were in paradise where there was no pain, fear, or sadness. People lived in direct communion with God. But, this all changed the moment man sinned. That sin, like the blackest, most potent ink poured into clear water, colored the rest of human history with the horrors we call evil. The Bible clearly indicates that ALL of creation, including the environment, is sacked by this poison

Answer #2: Evil Exists Because Real Love Requires Free Will
Dozens of historical scholars including Saint Augustine and C.S. Lewis have advanced this concept, and for me, it makes total sense. God created mankind for relationship with Him. God loves mankind and wants mankind to love back. But love cannot be forced and still be love. God could have created robots smitten with God, but their affection would be hollow. I’d even go so far as to say that for God to create people and force them to love Him…is a perversion of love, the kind that most of us would call evil.

No, God wanted real relationship…real love. In order for mankind to love God, God had to give mankind free will. But free will means that God’s creation could potentially choose not to love. And we did. And we still do. Done anything selfish lately? Yep, me too. So, evil was chosen by mankind because we had a choice and made the wrong choice.

Answer #3: Pain Can Be a Good Thing
I’m about to get on your nerves. Nerves—that’s what I’m getting at. They are the pain receptors of our bodies. We get close to fire, and our nerves warn us that harm will come to use if we continue toward the flame. Would anyone argue that the pain one feels when you get close to fire is evil? Would anyone out there like to get rid of your nerves? I doubt it. There’s actually a very rare disorder where nerves don’t function. It makes life nearly impossible for the poor souls that have the disease.

About five years ago, I lost a good friend. The guy was in his early thirties, as kind as can be, and as strong as an ox. Then, WHAM, brain cancer. He was gone. I got to watch his wife and two little boys grieve. And I have to admit, I was mad at God for taking him. The guy who died, I wasn’t worried about him. He was in heaven. And he was denied maybe what 60 years of life on earth? Not much compared to eternity. No, I was hurting for those left behind.

But what if God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that taking this man would lead many others to believe in Him? What if the eternity of many depended on this one man dying? As it turns out, I would be thunderstruck if anything short of hundreds of people came to believe in Jesus as a direct result of this one man’s passing. If you could have attended the funeral and heard his widow speak, you’d know what I mean.

And let’s not forget the ultimate example of pain turning to good. Jesus. The most innocent man to ever live, God’s son in the flesh—mocked, spat upon, scourged, tortured, and murdered. And yet, God used this horrific event to at last defeat sin and death and offer salvation to ALL of mankind.

In summary, God is all good. And He is the only one who can fully define “good.” God makes no evil, but evil exists because mankind has chosen it. Even so, God can use even the most horrifying evils and use it for multiplied good.


Point 3: About the Flood
You made the comment, “I've learned that when Christians quote non-Christians it's best to do a little digging because often the quotes are taken out of context, come from a very dated or obscure source, or refer to something else entirely.”

I reject this claim utterly in that you point it at Christians. If ANYONE quotes anyone, it’s best to do a little digging because all too often people are misquoted. Seriously, before you buy into any written or spoken word, check the sources.

Here are some links concerning the possibility of a worldwide flood:

http://www.pbs.org/saf/1207/features/noah.htm

http://www.earthage.org/EarthOldorYoung/scientific_evidence_for_a_worldwide%20flood.htm

http://www.layevangelism.com/advtxbk/sections/sect-10/sec10-5.htm

http://www.allaboutcreation.org/global-flood-faq.htm

http://www.answersingenesis.org/Home/Area/faq/flood.asp

http://www.ucgstp.org/lit/gn/gn047/worldwideflood.htm



As to whether Carrington referred to the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, I can’t be sure. There are many creation scientists who believe that the worldwide flood of Noah and the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event are one and the same. The huge numbers of years (65 million years ago) may not be accurate at all. Most radiometric dating systems are somewhat questionable. Here’s a good article that explains the basics of dating methods and the potential problems.

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c007.html


Point 4: Appeals to Authority
You wrote: “Appeals to one's authority are not very convincing. There are others, many perhaps with deeper credentials, who take a different view.” There is always someone else with better credentials. That does not necessarily discount what I have to say. In the end, you need to do your own homework. And…in the end, you’ll end up agreeing or disagreeing with a lot of opinions of a lot of people. Much of what we’re arguing here ends up being metaphysical and therefore, unproveable. In other words, no one can categorically prove or disprove the existence of God. No one can categorically prove that creation or evolution happened. To have such knowledge would make us very nearly gods ourselves. That does not mean there is no evidence to consider and draw conclusions. That’s what this discussion is really about: evidence and conclusions.

Point 5: False Dichotomy?
I wrote: “The problem is, either people don't want to do the research because it steals time from their lifestyle --or-- they don't want to believe their findings because it impacts their lifestyle.—referring to the potential rationales employed by people who do not believe in God.”

You wrote: “This is a false dichotomy and is firmly debunked by the many, many individuals who were Christians and became atheists or something else. A number of these former Christians were highly educated apologists who studied the theology for years before deciding it just wasn't true.”

As it reads in my original text, it is a false dichotomy. That is: two choices presented as an either/or when there are actually other possibilities. But actually, what I intended is potential theories as to why some people do not believe. I really don’t think most people to the research. I can tell you personally that many of the people with whom I’ve had theological discussions certainly did not delve into the matter as deeply as I have—by their own admission. My question to all people who do not dig deeper into the existence of God is this: This is potentially the most important decision you will ever make and could impact not just this life but eternity, SO why aren’t you expending every ounce of effort to examine the evidence?

Point 6: Choosing to Believe
Here’s where you lost me, Sir Robert. I was arguing that choosing to believe something must not be based on “how we want it to be.” I might really want my favorite team to win the Super Bowl, and I might really want to celebrate their victory. But if I choose to celebrate the victory when my team DIDN’T win, then I’m guilty of folly.

I wrote: “Choosing not to believe in God in this way is akin to being starving but refusing to eat because you feel sure someone else in the world might also starve.”

You wrote: “One hears this argument frequently from Christians, but would it convince you if "God" was replaced with "Allah" or "Zeus"?

I stand by my assertion that belief, especially belief on the magnitude of Theology, cannot be based on wishful thinking. We examine the evidence: historical, archeological, scientific, empirical, experiential, and we choose. I certainly wouldn't be convinced by other gods because I don't believe the evidence is nearly as compelling for other gods.

Point 7: Atheism and Agnosticism
I don’t wish to argue semantics, and maybe there’s a gradation you meant to better explain, but your definitions of these two terms are incorrect.

I wrote: "Agnosticism is a little different than atheism in that agnostics do not deny that there could be a god. They just don't know for sure and won't put a name to this god if there is one.”

You wrote: “Actually, this describes atheism. The agnostic position is more akin to "I just don't know."

I’m sure that definitions to these terms vary depending on the person who is using them, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary, an atheist is someone who denies the existence of god. An agnostic claims there may be a god but that it is impossible to know for sure.

Until our next dialogue…

-WtB

18 comments:

Christian_Fantasy_Adict said...

If it's any comfort, you have me convinced. :D That was an amazing post.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Not sure if you knew or not, Wayne, but I had a similar discussion on my blog some months ago. Your posts have been clear and this one is especially logical and full of truth.

Thanks especially for your choice not to answer with a confrontational tone. You are right to eliminate sides, for certainly, atheists are not the enemy.

Becky

author@ptgbook.org said...

For whatever reason, atheism and evolution are becoming more militant. I think deep down inside, they perceive belief in God as a threat to them. I think at some level they know logic is not on their side, but they do not want to give up their beliefs.

As I point out in my website, evolution is a belief system, not just science. Evolution cannot be proved by science for the simple reason that the scientific method rules out consideration of supernatural causes, and you cannot prove evolution without disproving creation.

So evolution is a kind of faith held by those who believe in it, not a religious faith but an anti-religious faith, and atheists can be just as zealous as any religious fanatic in defending their faith.

James Somers said...

Wayne--Great dialogue here...good concise answers. As I read, I thought of answers I would give, only to find you give them later in the discussion.

It is an unfortunate thing, that most of these dialogues rarely seem to change anyone's position...but God is the one who speaks to hearts whereas we cannot. In the end, as fishers of men, God puts them all on our hooks :)

Robert said...

Hi Wayne:

I appreciate the dialogue. No, I don’t mind the higher profile response. In fact, this happens quite a bit, so much so that I often check the blog itself for replies, rather than the original blog post.

Use of the phrase "opposing team" was completely tongue-in-cheek. I like that you recognize we’ve arrived at different conclusions, though I’m not sure Christian theology itself allows for such equivocation in its position toward the "un-saved".

In any case, on to the bulk of your post.

Point 1: Rise of atheism

We both agree that there’s an uptick in the prominence and popularity of atheism. Where we part ways is explaining why. You suggest that it’s part of a regular generational rebellion. Perhaps that’s some of the explanation, but I think other factors are at work. One fairly comprehensive survey of the data on religious belief concluded that "Most nations characterized by high degrees of individual and societal security have the highest rates of organic atheism, and conversely, nations characterized by low degrees of individual and societal security have the lowest rates of organic atheism." For the United States in particular, I think this explains some of the trend, but I also think there’s a reaction to the prominent role evangelical Christians have played in politics over the last couple decades, as well as the ubiquity of information granted by the Internet.

Point 2: Does the Logical Problem of Evil Prove that God Does Not Exist?

Recall what prompted this question. You had stated that "atheist logic" has flaws, and in response I posted a link to the use of such logic and asked you to identify its flaws. You offer two, which I believe are not really flaws at all.

Flaw 1: We are attempting to understand God with human logic.

I think you have a misunderstanding of logic, which results in this faulty objection. What’s more, when you draw out the implications of this objection, you remove any basis for claiming any sort of understanding of God.

First, what is logic? I think we can safely agree that it is “the principals of correct reasoning.” It is a method that relies on premises, propositions, and inferences to arrive at a conclusion which, hopefully, reflects truth. To say that God is not subject to logic is to essentially say that God can possess logically incompatible qualities, which renders any assertions about him completely baseless. You could not say, for example, that God is perfect, because he could also possess the quality of imperfect, if not subject to logic.

The logical problem of evil simply demonstrates how, in accordance with the premises Christians assert or believe about God, his existence is incompatible with the existence of evil. To deny the conclusion, you’d have to deny one or more of your own premises about God. It does no good to say that atheists employ erroneous logic, then turn around and claim that logic doesn’t apply to God. These are contradictory claims.

The examples of "human logic" you’ve provided don’t actually bear any resemblance to logic. They instead are more accurately categorized as beliefs or desires. Your desire to be a rock star has no bearing whatsoever on logic. The fact that the desire was not fulfilled doesn’t mean logic isn’t sound.

But let us assume an understanding of God is outside of logic (even under your own view of logic). I submit we remove any basis for ascribing good or evil to anything. The Holocaust, for example, is generally regarded by us human as the epitome of evil. Assuming you agree, on what basis do you share this regard? Perhaps, as the child in your example, you lack the wisdom to see God’s reasoning behind it. It only appears to you as evil, but for an “all-knowing God,” the Holocaust was necessary to bring about something better.

Flaw 2: We are attempting to define “good” with a human definition.

This objection is easy to demonstrate as unfounded, and it starts with a simple question: What is the divine definition of good? Remember, you’ve ruled out the human definition as a misunderstanding.

In Spite of the Flaws, the Question Needs Answering.

Answer #1: Evil Exists Because We Brought It On Ourselves

This explanation has always struck me as wholly unsatisfactory. Christians often conflate Adam and Eve with "man" and "we". Pardon? These are the two people, not all of humanity, who allegedly introduced sin. So the rest of humanity must suffer for the actions which they were in no way involved with? Huh?

I need not point out that no such persons as Adam and Eve ever existed, and even if they did, geneticists have demonstrated we would not be their offspring.

Answer #2: Evil Exists Because Real Love Requires Free Will

The Free Will Defense was crafted when it became clear that the Biblical explanation lacked a historical or even moral basis. One cannot subscribe to both explanations. The first says evil was introduced by the actions of (a couple) humans, but the second explanation says evil was part of God’s plan all along. If so, why the pretense of blaming humans for evil? And since evil is necessary for me to love God, what exactly do I need a savior for again?

In any case, the Free Will Defense is insupportable on a number of grounds. And if you happen to agree with the Psalmist in 139:16, belief even in a free will becomes problematic.

Answer #3: Pain Can Be a Good Thing

My response to this section can best be summed up as "having your cake and eating it too."

On the one hand, you want to say that evil leads to good. Fine, but then you’re subject to the criticism I laid out above. You remove any basis for actually ascribing evil to anything, since, in theory, it could be the work of God, and therefore, good. Was the killing of the cow, as in your previous example, actually a bad thing? No, since it saved many other cows. According to this view, evil is only apparent, since we "lack wisdom" to see how it actually is a good thing used by God. Remember, Christian theology says God is the very embodiment of good, so therefore he cannot work evil. Everything that happens may be caused by God, and is therefore good.

I’ve always wondered why Christians don’t celebrate death—and the earlier the death, the better--if they truly believe as you do that life here is merely a blink compared to an eternity in heaven. It seems they should be strongly in favor of abortions since those children go straight to heaven.

You wrote that "God makes no evil, but evil exists because mankind has chosen it." I believe I can demonstrate this is untrue from your own theology. Consider:

P1: God created everything that exists.
P2: Evil exists.
C: God created evil.

Don’t agree? The conclusion is logically sound based on the premises (P1 and P2). To deny the conclusion (C), you have to deny one of the premises. The conclusion is also consistent with the Bible, where in Isaiah 45:7, it states, "I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I the LORD do all these things".

Point 3: About the Flood

First, I note that you could no more substantiate what Carrington was referring to than I could. Unless some substantiation of Carrington’s credentials can be provided, I believe quoting him to be a fallacious appeal to authority.

We can exchange links to sites, but the fact remains: almost no scientist or geologist believes a worldwide flood occurred 4,000 years ago. The best refutation for a global flood I’ve seen comes from a Christian geologist. His articles are online for you to read. They’re very comprehensive.

But I think the larger issue you hoped to support with the example of the Flood is the reliability and historicity of the Bible. It may not be well-known within evangelical Christian circles, but the field of Biblical archeology is dying a slow death, as its remaining members have long abandoned the notion that the Bible represents accurate history, and have placed much of it in the “myth and legend” category. Listen to what a couple of them have to say:

"Biblical Archeology doesn’t really exist today in the way it once did." -Dr. Ronald Hendel

"With most scholars, I would exclude much of the Pentateuch, specifically the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers…much of what is called in the English Bible 'poetry,' 'wisdom' and 'devotional literature' must also be eliminated from historical consideration…Ruth, Esther, Job and Daniel, historical novellae with contrived 'real-life settings,' the latter dating as late as the second century B.C.' -William G. Dever

Point 4: Appeals to Authority

The point I was making dealt with the attempt to appeal to your own authority as a reason why the individual should consider Christianity. It’s not a very convincing reason.

Point 5: False Dichotomy?
Your clarification is appreciated, but I wonder if your criticism was directed at Christians themselves, whose knowledge of the Bible is at "an all-time low".

In any case, I agree that everyone should study theology, and not just Christianity theology, more thoroughly. Prominent atheists such as Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins have called for more study of religion in schools. They believe not only would such study lead to less religious strife, but also broaden a child’s perspective. This latter prospect, I suspect, is actually feared among the religious, and fuels their desire for home-schooling.

Point 6: Choosing to Believe

You may call me simply "Robert." I haven’t been knighted, as far as I know. :)

I re-read your paragraph and see how I may have misunderstood your point. You were saying that one may have been convinced that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of Christianity, but still didn’t believe in the Christian god because of the doctrine that some will not go to heaven.

Is that correct? I don’t believe there are many people who actually fit this description. Most are probably relieved that they will have eternal life in heaven. Indeed, it’s always been Christianity’s main selling point.

Point 7: Atheism and Agnosticism

According to AskOxford.com, atheism is defined as "the belief that God does not exist."

I have seen some references to the OED definition of atheism as "disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of god."

I think that wraps it up. I look forward to your response, Wayne!

Robert said...

Oops, one of my links didn't take. It was the one which referred the reader to critiques
of the Free Will Defense.

Ian said...

To answer a couple of your questions, Robert: Christians grieve deaths because we are still affected by grief. We are sad when someone we knew or loved dies, because they are no longer among us. We aren’t completely desensitized to death, though if we know that they are Christians, the deaths are made easier to bear, and we aren’t sad for the person who died – we are sad for ourselves and the people around us who knew the person. And why don’t we promote abortion? A couple reasons: First of all, one of the commandments is “Do not murder”, a fairly straightforward commandment if you ask me. Also, it is robbing them of life, life that God gave them and humans took away.

See, everyone is supposed to make their own choice. No one can force anyone else what choice to make. Therefore, yes, God did create evil, or rather the potential for evil, for the very purpose of giving everyone a choice. Even angels have a choice, and Satan made the choice to follow his selfishness, and MADE HIMSELF EVIL. God does not create anyone good, and he does not create anyone evil. Everyone in existence makes a choice. I’m not trying to call anyone who isn’t a Christian evil, but they are definitely vulnerable to evil. Even Christians are vulnerable to evil, which is why our faith in God is so important. He shields us from the evil that assails us. I’m not saying that he defends us from persecution and trials, because He allows us to go through those, so that we can gain wisdom and faith through them.

However, don’t think that just because God allowed evil to exist, or created its potential, that God Himself is therefore evil. After all, which would be more “evil”, allowing everyone to have a choice, or forcing a choice upon them? If there were no evil in the world, or in existence for that matter, everything would be incredibly different. We would have little, if any, free will. That was not the type of world that God intended for.

Robert, you and Wayne seem to have gotten into a sort of “logic fight”. And though it may sound like I’m paraphrasing Mr. Batson here, logic is never going to prove Christianity, because we believe that there is another universe called heaven, which does not apply to earthly logic. Note, though, that one word: believe. In the end, it will all come down to faith, what each of us truly does believe to be the truth. And trying to make that decision based on logic is not necessarily the best idea, though I nor anyone else can command you on how you make your choice. I advise you, however, to make the decision carefully, based on what you truly, truly believe, in the deepest part of your heart or soul or mind or whatever you want to call it. Something I’ve found with logic, however, is that as I kept on getting confused about Christianity, the more illogical it sounded and the more confused I got, the more it all seemed to make sense to me. And it still works that way for me. I mean, if it defies earthly logic, then it isn’t of the earth. The whole of Christianity works on a world beyond earth, one that we can only know by faith as long as we are in this world.

But you must choose were to place your faith. You have placed it in logic, we have placed it in God. And no matter how much we argue, we can never make each other’s choice for them.

Kat said...

I just want to make a quick point:

I was home-schooled for many years before beginning to attend an excellent public school. We explored the ins and outs of morality, the possibility of a god, and equally, the possibility of there being no supreme Creator of life. In both the sciences and humanities, I was challenged in my faith as it seemed to appear there was no need for a God and very little proof of His existence; but as I did more research and looked further into what we were discussing, I found more than ever the need for God, the necessity of His existence. I cannot count the times I have sat in a literature class, discussing why we even live and how we can attain happiness in this life that evolution has reduced to a mere accident, and noted that particular questions could be answered entirely and, yes, logically, if only God's existence were generally accepted and His Word believed as absolute truth by all. So the idea that Christians are frightened by a public education and therefore driven to home-schooling seems to be unfounded. Having experienced both, I can say that except for the general environment and some teaching methods, home-schooling and public schooling are generally the same. They both present difficult questions that require much discussion, research, and often debate to answer. The two types of education do not necessarily lead to different answers to these questions.

Also, I was wondering what translation of the Bible you used for your quotation of Isaiah 45:7. All translations I have looked at have not said "evil," but something along the lines of "calamity" or "disaster." There is a great difference between these words.

Thank you,

~Kat

dCF said...

Mr. Robert, welcome back

i have to say that i completely agree with you on what i think you might have made on of your biggest "oppositions" with Wayne....Christian's knowledge of the Bible is at an all time low....i completely agree with you on that note, it is indeed a sad, true statement (at least for the Christian faith as a whole....but thats where the agreeing ends ;-)

I will say, I have been home schooled since i entered the 6th grade...i am now a senior....and while i live in the south, there was a small amount a religious reasoning behind me being brought home....but the main reasons were with my parents schedule of speaking engagements i would miss most if not all fridays in the regular school year due to traveling time...and once you reach a certain grade you have to make a certain number of days to graduate....all A's or not....but do i believe that my parents and I made the right decision coming home...yes, most definitely, for more than just the "sunday School" answer of more Christian influence...i have learned 4 instruments since coming home, written portfolios of music during regular "school time" and made bounds in what i love doing (music) so i think homeschooling should be given a fair chance, not just because christians favor it, but because for the child that really knows what they enjoy and wants to be killer at it, it works...

ok...now to the rest of the thing....what Christian theology are you revering to....i think the reason you have come to the conclusions you have, is due to legalistic Christians who, biblically speaking make God want to vomit, first understand that the Christian faith is completely about the un-saved....if we think about it...the Christian faith is from Jesus, so His words should be higher than the rest of the bible...yes?...then the last chapter of Matthew tells us to go and "make disciples of all men"...will i admit to doing it wrong...yes...do i think the "Church at large" is doing it wrong most of the time...yes...but that doesn't take away from the core values of Christianity...so, there is not theology that says we cant view the "un-saved" in a completely respectable light....i completely agree with the fact that i don't think that the church should be involved in politics.....now there will always be Christians in Politics...duh...and i think that some Christians in politics have hurt the view of Christianity....sorry that my Brothers have done that...you definition of logic is close but off...here is the Webster's definition..."the science of the formal principles of reasoning"...you used the word "Correct"...well science is not the "correct" thing at all...science at its core trying things out to see if they work....so it cant be correct UNTIL its been proven....do you agree with wayne on the difference between human and divine logic...cause there has to be otherwise...we wouldnt even be talking about religion...and it (religion) wouldnt exist...now youll probably say something like, "Humans created this 'Divine' logic"...but religion has been here as long as history provides the idea of time....so Divine Logica has been here too.....to continue on....waynes desire to be a rock star is logical...every kid has some kind of desire...therfore it is logical that he had one...and logical that it might happen...using the scientific method...he had the idea "i will be a rock star:...tested said idea...found it wasnt true...thats science...thats logic...

good, is something that IN THE LONG RUN produces something advancing for the people involved... specifically something that "can be relied on"..see www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/good for more info

now, i know you are in politics, so, do you consider nuclear weapons and killing millions of innocents evil?....because it could be said that we (the us) brought that upon ourselves and the rest of the world...and heck ONE man did that...so why couldnt two people cause the whole human race to be introduced to evil? just a thought...the fact whether they existed or not (adam and eve) is a thing of faith...moving on

would you love a spouse if they told you to saty in your house and never leave and never talk to anyone and never eat anything but what they made and never watch tv and never listen to music etc?? love requires free will...it just does...we love people more when they allow us to make our own choices and deal with the actions that we make....we need a savior because evil can NOT be beat by one man alone...we didnt beat Hitler by ourselves...one man did not kill him (technically he killed himself but you get the point)...so we need to have someone to come along side of us and help us win....henceforth the need for a savior...aka Jesus.

i will say that mathematically speaking, it would seem that God created evil...ohh and thank you for honoring God by giving the capital G, im very pleased that this discussion can be respectable....anyway, you used the King James version of the bible for your Isaiah Passage...i understand...now lets look at the underlying possible meanings of the verse....I will say that Isiah was trying to show the power of God...now in essence is can be said that God created evil...because God created man who creat evil things therefore it can be traced back to God...but can we say that, a parents child is really his grandparents child because, hey the grandparent made the parent...no theres just no sense in that...that takes away the bond between parent and child...so then God creates Man, Man makes a Decision to do something that goes against the definition of good, therefore making it "evil" (which has no scientific meaning...like the idea of good...they are both mere ideas...but we must treat these ideas with respect and well rounded thinking)...can we say that God created the "evil" thing the man did?? no because in that moment God did not create anything, He created the man, gave the mean free will, and the man made a bad choice...end of the story, God came into it once, and never re-entered

umm..pain is a very good thing...because..ill use an example close to me...when i started playing the guitar...there was much pain...actually blood at one point...but now, i have acquired calluses on the tips of my fingers, numbing the pain...so the pain was gelpful for me, because i can now play the guitar with no pain and not have to think on anything except the chords i am playing

i think i might have jumped around a little bit...im not really good with this invention we call the "touch-pad"...i prefer the good ole mouse myslef ;-)

Till next time,
C

Robert said...

Hi Ian, thanks for your comments.

You wrote, "...we are sad for ourselves and the people around us who knew the person."

This is quite understandable from a human perspective, but I don't see how it jibes with Christian theology. Is it a solemn occasion when a loved one goes off to college or gets married? Quite the opposite. They may no longer be constantly around, but you know they're off to bigger and better things. Isn't that true as well for departed Christians? Won't you see them again in a figurative blink?

You wrote, "...And why don’t we promote abortion? A couple reasons: First of all, one of the commandments is 'Do not murder, a fairly straightforward commandment if you ask me."

Indeed, but it is a commandment to which Christians have historically provided a laundry list of exceptions, even up to today. That is, it has never been taken as an absolute commandment. The Christian moral authority on abortion would be far stronger if it was part of a consistent position against murder, but no such position has ever been practiced.

Regarding evil, if God created it, then is it really "evil"? How can an all-good being create evil?

As for the free will argument, I believe it's refuted in the link I provided. Consider just one of the objections. Will you have free will in heaven? If not, then how, according to your argument, would you actually love God? If you do have free will in heaven, it shows that a state of affairs is possible in which everyone freely chooses the good.

I don't believe Wayne and I have gotten into a "logic fight". My view is that he doesn't properly understand what logic is. I further submit that if one claims that our logic doesn't apply to the other universe called heaven, then one effectively removes oneself from speaking coherently about this place. Such a place could be perfectly good and perfectly evil, if our logical principals don't apply.

You've acknowledged that faith forms the bedrock of your belief. This is the unassailable position which Christians often retreat to in a discussion. But consider, if faith determines what's true, then the question becomes, "Which faith?" Why can't the beliefs of other religious traditions be just as true as yours, since they're based equally on faith? Why is faith in Allah displaced, while faith in God is justified? Since these are incompatible deities (i.e., the existence of one entails the non-existence of the other), faith doesn't seem to be a very good method for determining truth. Historically, it never has been, in contrast to science, logic, and reasoning--tools created by we humans--which have been reliable guides to truth.

You may stick with faith. But I'll stick with what works.

Elliot Reed said...

Hi Robert!

Wow! I have to say that you bring up some great points! I completely agree that the position against murderer should be held stronger by Christians.

I did want to say that you're using the Bible to promote arguments of your own, and that shows that you find some evidence in the Bible helpful, right?

Anyways, you told Ian that Christians shouldn't mourn, because isn't just a moment before we would join them? Romans 12:15 says: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Didn't Jesus weep at the prospect of his own death? Why wouldn't Jesus rejoice at death, and take it with a bright smile on his face? Because pain is real. Death is real. Does the Bible say that God rejoiced since he would have his son back after 33 years? No, the Bible says that God 'turned his back', because he saw the pain his own son was taking. So although for those who are Christians they will be in Heaven, that doesn't mean that no mourning is allowed.

Now regarding evil. You showed:

"P1: God created everything that exists.
P2: Evil exists.
C: God created evil."

And then you said that the only way this could not be true is if one of the premises are wrong. Indeed, this argument is valid, but I don't think it's sound.

I would change that argument just a bit to say:

P1: God created everything that exists AND allowed free will to Man for evil.
P2: Evil exists.
C: Man brought evil upon himself with God allowing it.

You make a common point when you say, "Why would an all good God even allow evil?"

Freewill. That is what this Country of America was based off of, and yet we have drifted so far from our starting point. Freewill requires love, and vice versa, otherwise you get slavery, something else our Country didn't get for quite some time.

You then said about Heaven:

"Will you have free will in heaven? If not, then how, according to your argument, would you actually love God?"

Of course! John 14:21-- "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me."

When I get to Heaven, what else will I want to do? I know that when I get to heaven, God is going to be so unbelievably amazing that all I will want to do with free will is stand in his glory.

Lastly is the question of "Which Faith?"

I want to make a point in saying: Christianity is by far the most attacked religion in the world. Why don't people attack Buddhists? Because according to Buddhism, it doesn't matter whether or not something makes sense, it just is. Why don't people attack Islam? Because they don't want Al Qaida coming after them.

Christianity deals (or should deal) in love. What's the point of Christianity? Free will. What's the point in Islam? Just the opposite, choose Allah or die. If there was an Allah, he would most definatly not bring free will. Islam says that Allah forces his people to love him, which is no love at all.

~Elliot

Anonymous said...

I'm certainly no logic master, but as I'm reading the comments being posted, I do have one thing I'd like to say.

Mr. Robert here asks, “Will you have free will in heaven? If not, then how, according to your argument, would you actually love God?”

It is a very good question. And I think the answer is, we would have free will in heaven. If we wanted to sin, we could. If we didn't want to love God, we could. But the thing is, heaven won't be anything like earth where evil is sometimes masked to look like something enjoyable or inviting. It will all be plain obvious. We'll KNOW sin is not inviting, and we'll KNOW that we certainly don't want to go there! We just won't want to sin. Why would we? We'll have everything we need, more than that even, so why do something ungodly? What good would it do us, except harm? And as for loving God, we'd be stupid to not love Him once we're in heaven! On Earth, sometimes we doubt if God's really at that great, if He really does love us, because we don't see Him in all His splendor. In heaven, we'll see Him for real; in all His majesty, all His glory, and we'll experience His own love for us like never before. To use more common American language, we'll think He's just downright cool! : ) It'd be impossible to see God with all His awesomeness and not think highly of Him.

That's my input.

~a fellow writer, and Jesus freak : D

Robert said...

Hello elliot, thank you for your kind words. I like to think I make good points against Christian theology, but, to be honest, dialogues of this type are more for me as a way to test my beliefs and explore theological issues. You may not believe it, but atheists like me are fully open to the idea of a god's existence, but find the evidence presently insufficient. I don't believe I'll ever know the entire truth, but the fun is in searching for it.

You asked, I did want to say that you're using the Bible to promote arguments of your own, and that shows that you find some evidence in the Bible helpful, right?

I use the Bible primarily to demonstrate the incoherency of Christian beliefs. It does contain some interesting evidence of the travails, practices, and beliefs of a specific people, but as the divinely-authored document it purports to be, it falls very short. I see it as a thorougly human document whose influence far exceeds what is warranted.

You wrote, Anyways, you told Ian that Christians shouldn't mourn, because isn't just a moment before we would join them? Romans 12:15 says: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Yes, but my point has been that the death of a Christian (or even a child) should be an occasion for rejoicing, not mourning, since they're going to paradise.

You wrote, I would change that argument just a bit to say:

P1: God created everything that exists AND allowed free will to Man for evil.
P2: Evil exists.
C: Man brought evil upon himself with God allowing it.


The way you've formulate this argument is actually a fallacy known as begging the question. That is, the conclusion you wish to make is stated in one of the premises.

Your conclusion is objectionable on a couple of other grounds as well. Even if free will depends on the existence of evil, it still doesn't get around the issue of who created evil. You claim that
"man" (by which you actually mean "Adam and Eve") brought it on himself. But again, it had to be created first, for how can someone bring a thing onto themselves which had not yet been created? What's more, since God knew in advance that Adam and Eve would chose evil (which He created as a precondition for the existence of free will), it makes Him morally culpable for their evil actions, and by extension, all of human evil actions.

Finally, you agreed that people in heaven possess free will, but failed to note how this shows that evil is not necesssary for free will (unless you wish to argue that evil exists in heaven).

I don't think you fully addressed the point I made about faith's failure as a guide to truth. My claim to truth based on faith is no better than someone else's claim to (an incompatible) truth based on faith.

You wrote, What's the point of Christianity? Free will.

Are you sure? I thought the point of Christianity was to provide a means to be with God. Free will is supposed to be a necessary condition, but it's not enough. That is, free will gives me the option of loving God, but it's an option I can choose not to exercise.

Ian said...

Hello again, Robert. I am finding this entire discussion, including everyone involved, quite interesting. It’s almost as if you searched in my head, pulled out all of my doubts that I ever had, and presented them before everyone.

Now let me ask you something: if you stood next to someone in a room, someone you didn’t know, who you had never even seen, and you were both completely silent and stood totally still, would that other person have any thoughts in their mind? Obviously their brain would be working, or they would die, but what proof would you have that they were imagining something? You can’t hear their thoughts, see their thoughts, or find any logical proof of their thoughts unless the person was to somehow let you know about them. So, therefore, wouldn’t logic dictate that the person, therefore, was not thinking? Of course not. You know that they are thinking, yet you don’t have absolute proof of it. That’s how I view my own faith in God, faithful knowledge, yet not knowledge as we would commonly understand it. I know it may seem like I am once again retreating to that “I just have faith” position, and that is truly the base of Christianity – the Bible says that they are blessed who have faith without seeing – but I don’t want it to seem like that is all Christians can say, so let me offer another example.

“In your heart.” I’m sure you’ve heard that before – reference to someone’s heart? That does not mean their beating heart, the one that we know is in their chest, but rather the unseen thing that can apparently generate and receive love and other emotions and can tell you what you really believe. Now, do you believe that anyone, or everyone, has such a heart? You might say that it is simply a deep part of our minds, but can mere chemicals and molecules and cells form such amazing feelings? And if you think they can, do you really believe that they are a complete accident? If so, then you have a lot more faith in unproven things than most, if not all, Christians. I openly and utterly reject the Big Bang theory and all such theories (the theories themselves, that is, not the people who made them or believe them – though I do disagree with those people), because I cannot believe that this complex universe, which works in perfect harmony to maintain itself, was a total accident.

Back to the issue of God and evil, which is getting worn out a bit, but seems to be a major point here, let me add something that has, surprisingly, not yet been mentioned (unless I missed it): God is COMPLETELY against evil. So, you might say, how could God be AGAINST something that He (indirectly) created? Well, let me put it this way: I don’t know if you like to write, or if you’ve ever written a story or anything like that, but in writing, the writer can absolutely despise one of his characters or creatures or places that he has created. But does creating it equate the writer to the characteristics of the thing that they are against? Not at all. The writer has a plan, overseeing the story, and knows what will happen to that character or creature. The writer, somehow, will complete his/her plan for the story, and create the ending that he/she wants. But without this “bad” thing that the author wants to be taken down at the end, the story would fall apart. It would have no basis, no purpose, no real point at all. The evil thing is crucial to the existence and success of the story.

Now I’m not saying that evil was mandatory for anything aside from God to exist, because it wasn’t. But it was necessary for God’s intentions for existence. And I know that stories are far different from reality. But for God’s intention of Creation to come true, He had to – or decided to – make evil possible. But He remained against it. He had a plan for it before it was ever created, a plan to defeat it, a plan to use it to bring good. So how can evil really be evil if it is used for good? Well, evil is, in fact, the act of rejecting God. Choosing not to follow God or even believe in God is not evil, but it may. and will eventually, be a path to evil. Allowing free will is exactly what “created” evil. By allowing His creation to completely reject Him, God allowed evil. My argument against your logic here is this: God is completely good. Evil is the opposite of perfect goodness, right? Evil is, as I somewhat stated before, the act of rejecting that goodness. So imagine, there is only perfect goodness in all of existence. Now, God decides to create some beings. Those beings are given minds and choices of their own of what they would like to do. One of these beings chooses to completely rebel against God. In that moment, evil is created – not by God, but by this rebel being. Because, no one had rebelled against God before, so the rebellion was created then, see. Your argument, “How could evil be evil if a perfectly good God allows it”, could therefore be restated as: “How could rebelling against God really be rebelling against God if God allows Himself to be rebelled against?” Well, first of all, God does fight against such rebellion. You might take a quote from one of Mr. Batson’s Door Within books, when Paragor (Satan figure) is talking/fighting with King Eliam:

Paragor: “You’ve always kept the power for yourself!”

King Eliam: “That is because I alone know how to use it.”

Rebellion against God is not something that He need to create. It is something that Satan chose to initiate. So it could be said that Satan is the one who really created, or started, the concept of evil. The possibility came into existence as soon as God created a being with a will of its own.

Again with the issue of logic. You said, “I further submit that if one claims that our logic doesn't apply to the other universe called heaven, then one effectively removes oneself from speaking coherently about this place. Such a place could be perfectly good and perfectly evil, if our logical principals don't apply.” But the problem now is you’ve gotten to thinking in absolutes: there is earthly logic, or there is no logic at all. But, what if the other universe, heaven, had logic, only a logic that was entirely different from earthly logic?

Also, I will agree with Elliot on the point of mourning over death: we mourn because we are saddened, which is not something that can just be explained and done away with just like that. Christians do still have emotions. There is a verse in the Bible that says, “There is a time to laugh, and a time to mourn.” See, Christians don’t miraculously gain this dominant control over emotions; we are still human, and sometimes we feel things that we don’t completely understand why.

And a quick note on the murdering issue: Just because people who call themselves Christians decide to make an exception, does not mean that these “exceptions’ are valid. The definition of murdering is killing an innocent person. Killing in wars is not murdering, because if someone is trying to kill you and others, is that person really innocent anymore? (I’m not defending wars, I’m just explaining a point here.) I’m not sure what kind of “exceptions” you’re referring to, so could you please specify on that a bit?

Lastly, there is one more thing I want to point out. This has been a hugely long comment, so I’ll try to make it as quick as possible. You have several times referred to “Christian theology”, and what it allows and disallows. Well, theology is basically the discussion or study of God, or supernatural beings and things. I don’t see how this Christian theology would prohibit us from having an equivocal position towards non-Christians. We still believe that we’re humans, just the same as everyone else, just with God in our lives, which doesn’t change the fact that we are still humans. In fact, Christian theology itself doesn’t prohibit anything – God is the one who gives us His law, not the belief of His existence. That belief only causes us to follow Him. I don’t know, perhaps I’ve misunderstood the context of your terminology, but as far as I know, it isn’t the theology itself that tells us anything. And yes, we can have an equal position towards non-Christians. We are called simply to take the message and word of God to them, and allow them to make their own choice. And we don’t have to hate them or dislike them if they make a different choice than we would like them to.

Whew! That was a really, really long comment. I hope I’ve made you think as much as you have made me think. You say you are still searching for truth; I wonder if one day you will accept the Bible….

Ian said...

There’s one other thing I’d like to add: the creation of the universe. If you are searching for truth, I’m sure that you must have some sort of belief on this subject. Personally, whenever I began to completely doubt believing in God (which has happened in the past), I looked around and started to think, well, if I don’t believe that all this is an accident, and I don’t believe in God, what do I believe? I cannot bring myself to believe that we were just incredibly lucky that anything even exists, much less works together in perfect harmony to sustain life. And such incredible life, too: I mean, look! We’ve created these computers, and I can discuss all this with you even though your hundreds of miles away from me! And all these other people are hundreds of miles apart, too! It has always baffled me how people argue so hard to make people think that we are complete accidents, alone in the universe, hopeless, doomed, and with absolutely no real purpose. They also don’t really have any sort of basis for these claims, no more basis than Christians for believing in God. They believe that all these one-in-a-trillion chances just happened to come true, forming a universe and life absolutely perfectly. Yet, science does not even know what causes life – I took your entire body apart, you would die, correct? But then, if I were somehow able to put your body perfectly back together again, flawlessly, would you be alive again? And if so, would you still be you? Or would you still be dead? How can mere particles blow up and then miraculously create life?

While I’m here, I may as well say something else that I forgot before. You said that faith is not a reliable factor for proving truth. I completely agree with you on that. But, I never said that my faith proved itself true. I believe in something, believe it is the truth, and therefore have faith in it. I do not believe something because I have faith in it.

:)Ian(:

The_Steve said...

Wow! Very interesting. Havn't really thought of it like that before. Truely inspiring to a individual like me.

Elliot Reed said...

Thanks for the correction Robert! Yes, sometimes it takes someone else to show you your own mistakes, and I thank you for showing me mine. Simply put straight forward, I believe point of Christianity is worshiping God while we're here, and getting as many tickets to Heaven distributed to others as possible. Again, thanks for the correction!

~Elliot

Those are some great illistrations Ian!

OnTheStraightAndNarrow said...

Robert,
I just thought I'd suggest that you read The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. I believe that it will answer all your questions. Also, in claiming that there is no God, you make your self God. If humans can decide what is right and wrong, then we are purdy much God. Also on AIG you can probably find an article explaining how we did descend from Adam. And here's a thought, when New Testament documents were first sent out by the authors, readers could simply have compared the genealogy with different records, and see if they agreed.