Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dawson's spaghetti western worldview

“It is unclear why Hays decided to title his reaction after a famous spaghetti western movie, for he never explains this.”

Bethrick is one of those slow thinkers who needs to have everything explained to him. My title was simply a take-off on one of his favorite films, listed in his profile.

“Hays responded to these two paragraphs in a most puzzling manner…This is a truly dumb retort, for I make it clear in the very portion of my blog that Hays quotes that my question is for believers to consider. My question is directed to Christians about what Christianity teaches. So of course it is applicable to those who want to see themselves as 'heaven-bound.' It was intended to be!”

Bethrick is now backing away from his original objection and attempting to cover his tracks by rewriting the history of the thread. This was what he originally said:


Many Christians have expressed outrage over the senseless and bloody massacre that took place at the beginning of this week on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. But if they are truly faithful to the worldview they preach, why would they feel any outrage at all?

On the Christian worldview, life is eternal. For the 32 victims and the gunman who “died” on Monday, their lives did not really end. They just passed on to the next stage. Biological demise is simply a doorway to a supernatural eternity thereafter. Rather than great loss, “to die is gain,” wrote St. Paul (Phil. 1:21). It seems believers should be rejoicing, if they truly believed, for the god of the bible is glorified by such things.


So, according to his initial objection, it is inconsistent for a Christian to be outraged by the gunman’s actions since, from the standpoint of his victims, “their lives did not really end. They just passed on to the next stage. Biological demise is simply a doorway to a supernatural eternity thereafter. Rather than great loss, ‘to die is gain,’ wrote St. Paul (Phil. 1:21).”

Hence, according to the way he originally framed the issue, the fate of the victims is directly germane to the consistency, or lack thereof, of the Christian response. Thus, only on the presumption that all the victims were heavenbound would his argument have any traction at all—and even then it would fail on other grounds.

“That’s exactly the point. As I had mentioned, Christians think that there is an afterlife and that they have been ‘chosen’ to go on to a paradise once their biology meets its demise. The question I ask in my opening paragraph is not why non-Christians would feel outrage, by why CHRISTIANS would feel outrage. Whether he realizes it or not, Hays is simply confirming the appropriateness of a statement that he just called ‘truly dumb’."

Bethrick continues to exhibit his intellectual confusion. At best, this would only be germane to Christian victims of the massacre.

Incidentally, not all Christians believe in election.

“Why wouldn’t it be ‘a boon to those he leaves behind’? It’s all part of ‘God’s plan,' isn’t it? Isn’t the glory of ‘God’s plan’ a ‘boon’ to believers? Or does ‘God’s plan’ get them bummed out?”

I already addressed that objection in the material I cited from Helm and Aquinas, which Bethrick passes over in silence.

The true definition of Christian consistency is to be consistent, in thought, word, and deed, with the totality of divine revelation. In Scripture, God condemns evil and also uses evil as a means to a greater good. Hence, the consistent Christian attitude is to identify with each aspect of God’s policy. One the one hand, we condemn the blameworthy motives on the human (or demonic) wrongdoer. On the other hand, we commend the praiseworthy motives of God in bringing good out of evil. As usual, Bethrick strains to create an inconsistency by being simpleminded.

“Hays’ presumption that ‘the survivors will suffer... emotional loss’ begs the question, for it is not established that they are Christians who truly believe.”

That’s irrelevant since believers and unbelievers alike share emotional loss when a loved one is cut down by a murderer. Due to the way in which God made us, everyone has the same basic emotional makeup.

“I’m asking Christians, like Hays, who were not directly affected by the incident. Hays gives us no answer to this question in his response. Hays needs to explain why HE feels outrage – if in fact he does (perhaps he doesn’t) – in response to the Virginia Tech massacre, given his professed beliefs. This is precisely what needs to be explained, given what Christianity teaches, if Christians truly believe.”

A couple of issues:

i) Whether I personally feel outrage is irrelevant to the question of consistency. Other Christians could feel outrage consistent with Christian theology whether or not I feel outrage. My defense of their consistency is not predicated on my having to feel the same way they do.

ii) Why might a Christian feel outrage when he is not directly affected by the incident? Apparently, Bethrick is just as sociopathic as Cho.

The answer, in a word, is compassion. God has given us a capacity to empathize with the plight of strangers. Even though we may not feel just what they feel, we can imaginatively sympathize with their suffering and loss.

“Now, if a parent truly believed in the magic kingdom view of Christianity, and truly believed that his or her son or daughter killed in the rampage were ‘saved,’ why wouldn’t that parent rejoice? The notion of ‘emotional loss of extended separation’ smacks of utter selfishness, and yet the believer is called to “deny himself” (Mt. 16:24).

Several more errors:

i) If valid at all, this argument would only be valid in the case of the Christian victims.

ii) Bethrick is also someone who can only keep one idea in his mind at a time. But it’s quite possible for a normal human being to feel mixed emotions. To be ambivalent. On the one hand, we rejoice for the dearly departed—for those who die in the Lord.

On the other hand, we grieve for our own temporary loss—the loss of separation. Death can be a means to good, but death itself is evil. Death is the result of the Fall. Death is a curse. An “enemy.” A penalty for sin.

Bethrick can only fabricate an inconsistency in the Christian attitude by presenting a highly truncated theology of death.

iii) Christianity isn’t Buddhism. Christianity isn’t a religion of apathetic self-abnegation. Rather, Christianity appeals to enlightened self-interest. To prize heaven over hell.

In Christian theology, there’s godly selfishness and ungodly selfishness. It’s godly selfishness to see that doing God’s will is the source of personal fulfillment. God is the supreme good. By loving God, we love the good. By loving what God loves (and hating what he hates), we love the good. To value whatever God values is both pious and prudent.

iv) Bethrick tries to forge a case by quoting two or three words out of context. If you read the totality of Scripture, it’s clear that Christianity never mandates a monkish piety. What it does establish are certain priorities—especially in a fallen world.

“Consider Hays’ reasoning here. The bible describes many things, such as murder, harlotry, incest, disobedience, idolatry, haughtiness, deceitfulness, stealing, genocide, raping, pillaging, etc. Does the mere fact that the bible describes these things mean that ‘there’s nothing unscriptural about’ them? The New Testament demonstrates crass, uncaring indifference to those whose loved one dies when one of Jesus' disciples asks him to wait while he goes off to bury his dead father, and Jesus replies ‘Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead’ (Mt. 8:22). So much for ‘the grieving process.’ Corpses are to be left to rot in the streets.”

Is he playing dumb, or is he really that clueless?

i) The Bible is full of laments. Inspired laments. There’s nothing unscriptural about mourning. But biblical lamentation is tempered by the knowledge of better things to come, a reversal of fortunes. The present never eclipses the future, just as the future never eclipses the present.

ii) Jesus is not opposed to mourning. Jesus himself commiserated with Mary and Martha over the loss of their brother (Jn 11:35). In context, Mt 8:22 is a question of priorities.

Bethrick uses the same gimmick time and again. Selective quotation. Disregard the well-rounded teaching of Scripture. For a fuller analysis of Mt 8:22, see:

C. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans 1999), 275-77.

“Moreover, even if “the Bible describes the grieving process,” this does nothing to address my question. A description of the grieving process does not explain why someone who believes that the Virginia Tech massacre was all part of the “plan” of a universe-controlling consciousness who “has a morally sufficient reason” to sanction the evil that happens in the universe, would feel outrage over such an incident.”

I already addressed his question. I already explained that. He demands an answer, but ignores the answer when it’s given. Go back and interact with the material by Helm and Aquinas.

“Okay. So? Even if ‘most of the victims were twenty-somethings,’ or that one of those victims was Hays’ older brother, whether or not his older brother was a Christian, Hays professes to be a Christian who believes that everything that happens in the universe (including down here on little ol’ earth) is all part of some unfolding ‘plan’ set in motion by an invisible magic being which “controls whatsoever comes to pass” and ‘has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.’ In comparison to the enormous ‘glory’ that Hays’ worldview ascribes to the unfolding of ‘God's plan,’ is Hays really worried about not seeing his brother ‘for another fifty or sixty years’?”

Bethrick keeps repeating the same question, ad nauseum, even though it was answered. What’s the problem? Did the answer go over his head?

“But this misses the broader ethical context ever-present throughout the New Testament, namely that the believer should be willing to lay down his life at any moment, principally because he is not to think it his own, but a possession owned by an invisible magic being who can take it away any moment.”

Christianity is not a suicide cult. Preparing oneself to die for the faith, if need be, is not the same thing as courting execution. There is no cult of martyrdom in Scripture. No command to actively seek our own demise.

“This of course depends on what one means by ‘life-affirming.’ A this-worldly life-affirming orientation requires reason, not faith. Faith is preferred over reason when the object is imaginary and the goal is irrational.”

These are assertions in lieu of arguments. And keep in mind that evolutionary psychology sabotages reason.

“Contrary to what Hays asserts, Christianity is an afterlife-affirming faith, which is nothing short of death-worship (there's a reason why an instrument of execution is a fitting symbol of Christianity). To begin with, it is a view held on the basis of faith (i.e., on the hope that it is true; Hays does hope Christianity is true, does he not?), and the ‘life’ it ‘affirms’ is not the biological flourishing that is human life, but an eternity in a magic kingdom beyond the grave. This is the promise that is dangled like a carrot before the believer, keeping him as true to the faith as possible. But the question is essentially: How possible is that?”

Here he displays his theological ignorance:

i) The earth is the Lord’s. This is his handiwork. It is good. Even a fallen world retains much good. Asceticism is contrary to Christian values. We are to rejoice in all of God’s natural blessings (1 Tim 4:3-4)—as well as his supernatural blessings.

ii) Bethrick confounds the intermediate state with the final state. In Christian eschatology, the afterlife (for believers) is a two-stage process. The intermediate state is a discarnate state. But the final state is an earthly, reembodied state, on a renewed, earthly paradise.

“But this is what the Christian needs to explain on behalf of Christianity. What does the believer love more – his god and its alleged ‘plan’ (which could include any fate for the believer at any time, no matter where he is in his life), or his life here on earth? Where does he put his treasure? In the magic kingdom, or in this life? He cannot have two masters, can he?”

A false dichotomy. Bethrick is talking like a Gnostic or Manichaean. Life on earth is part of God’s handiwork. This is God’s world. He is master of heaven and earth alike.

“Values here on earth can be corrupted by moths and rust, so don't bother going after them. A promise awaits you in death.”

An overstatement. That’s not what the passage says. This isn’t a question of living for the future (“laying up treasures on earth”), but living for the present. We enjoy one day at a time. Every day God brings us ought to be a source of gratitude. Each day is a gift from his providential hand. A Christian is thankful for the past, present, and future. For heaven and earth alike.

“But if one truly believes that the unfolding of events in the world are all part of ‘God’s plan’ and that the believer’s moral duty is to “deny himself,” this readiness to kill in self-defense needs to be explained. A man’s resolve needed to act in self-defense requires a code of rational values, such as my worldview teaches.”

Where is Dawson’s case for secular ethics?

“The bible teaches a morality of duties, and holds up as a virtue the unquestioning obedience of adherents to divine whims, not a morality of values.”

A tendentious characterization without a supporting argument.

“It should be pointed out that, when Abraham was preparing to kill his own son, he was not acting in self-defense. His son did not pose any threat to Abraham’s life and well-being. To interpolate a motive of self-defense to the Genesis story of Abraham misses that story’s point completely.”

Poor little Bethrick can’t follow his own argument. He’s simply confusing himself. He originally cited two different “lessons”:

“The lesson of Abraham (cf. Genesis chapter 22) is clear: Be willing to kill. The lesson of Jesus (cf. the four gospels) is also clear: Be willing to die.”

Bethrick is the one who is mixed up on which is which.

“This can all be rationalized in the believer’s mind as an intended part of ‘God’s plan,’ which means he is not morally opposed to whatever happens, because whatever happens is part of ‘God’s plan’ anyway. To oppose what happens is really to oppose ‘God’s plan’.”

Same broken record even though I addressed that objection. But he’s too obtuse to register the answer.

“How is my point that Jesus was willing to die a ‘case of acontextual prooftexting’? Jesus’ sacrifice is commonly held up to Christian believers as a model sacrifice. The Christian atonement for sins by sacrifice has its roots in the Old Testament tradition of animal sacrifice.”

No, the death of Jesus is sui generis. Unique and unrepeatable.

“Also, to lay down one’s arms, he first had to have taken them up. Where does the bible mandate that one take up arms in the first place?”

You could start with Deut 20, which describes the laws of warfare, for conventional war and holy war alike. Then there’s the Biblical authorization to kill a house-burglar (Exod 22:2).

“Also, the instruction that the believer present his body as ‘a living sacrifice’ is also not from the Sermon on the Mount. It is an instruction from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.”

Bethrick seems to think this has reference to literal self-immolation.

“So again, I ask: Why would a Christian believer, who truly believes that ‘God controls whatsoever comes to pass,’ think it necessary to resist evil regardless of whose well-being it threatens when the explicit instruction in the bible is: ‘resist not evil’? If he truly thinks that ‘God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil’ it sanctions in the world, why resist this evil?”

i) Because I already answered this question.

ii) Because you’re citing this verse out of context (as I already explained).

iii) Because the same God who controls whatever comes to pass also inspired a criminal law code to restrain and punish evildoers.

“Whether or not Cho's victims did anything to him to deserve his massacre is irrelevant since, in a Christian universe, the primary concern on this point is that one is guilty before the Christian god. Since ‘God controls whatsoever comes to pass,’ whether Cho’s victims ‘deserved’ to die at his hands or not is completely beside the point, from the Christian perspective. The primary concern in the Christian perspective is that the Christian god is calling all the shots, and according to the storybook we've all been judged guilty of sin (cf. Rom. 5:12), even before we've had our day in court. Being ‘innocent in relation’ to Cho is utterly nugatory. Cho is just a vehicle for ‘God’s plan,’ a character in the Immaculate Animation.”

Once again, Bethrick ignores the civil and criminal sanctions Scripture. Biblical jurisprudence does, indeed, distinguish between manward offenses and Godward offenses. It does, indeed, distinguish between our guilt before God and our guilt or innocence in relation to our fellow man.


  1. *SIGH*

    Dawson Breathless is at it again, huh?

  2. *SIGH*

    that was the most boring post I've ever read.