Saturday, March 29, 2008

Classic Works Of Apologetics

J.P. Holding recently launched a new web site, Classic Works Of Apologetics. It's an "online library of Christian apologetics literature both past and present".

The Arminian trump card

“We now examine what I consider to be the most significant warning against apostasy in the entire Bible: Hebrews 10:26-30, 35-39.”

http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/03/27/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-6-hebrews-1026-30/#comments

So this is the Arminian high card to trump the doctrine of perseverance. If this is a losing card, then any other card will be a losing card.

“The willful sin described here is generally understood to be the sin of apostasy (the same as in Heb. 2:1; 3:12; 6:6 and 12:25). It is the decisive act of repudiation of the faith. “

True, but irrelevant. That’s not a point of contention between Calvinism and Arminianism.

“It is significant that the Greek word for ‘knowledge’ used in this passage is epignosis.”

Is it really?

“Strong says…“

Strong is not a scholarly reference work on lexical semantics.

“Kittel says…”

i) Kittel is notorious for its word-study fallacies. Apparently, Ben is ignorant of Barr’s classic, devastating, and definitive review.

ii) We can’t assume that one author’s usage (e.g. Pauline usage) is synonymous with another author’s usage.

iii) Even if epignosis were a technical term for conversion, that’s irrelevant since Calvinism doesn’t deny that a convert can fall away.

iv) Apropos (i)-(ii), you can’t infer a theology of conversion from a mere word or phrase. So even if the author of Hebrews were using a word or phrase to denote conversion, that—of itself—doesn’t distinguish between a Reformed or Arminian model of conversion. Conversion is a theological construct. You don’t get that from word-studies.

“Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says.”

Vine’s is a quaint, popular resource. Useful, but it hardly represents the best in contemporary, academic scholarship, viz. BAGD, EDNT, or Louw & Nida.

“Especially consider the salvation language of 1 Tim. 2:3, 4, ‘This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge [epignosis] of the truth’, compared with Heb. 10:26, ‘For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge [epignosis] of the truth…’ While this is strong evidence in favor of viewing the apostate as one who had come to a complete and saving knowledge of the truth, the choice of epignosis by the writer of Hebrews does not, by itself, prove that such is the case. Epignosis and gnosis are sometimes used interchangeably in Scripture but the stronger sense of epignosis should not be ignored. Even if gnosis were used the context would still suggest saving knowledge.”

Here, Ben commits the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy. Even where the prefix intensifies the meaning of the root, that wouldn’t make the word epignosis mean “saving knowledge.” For that meaning doesn’t derive from the sense of the *word*, but from the sense of the *phrase* in which it occurs. It carries that meaning in 1 Tim 2:4 because the context is soteric.

“Paul Ellingworth writes in his commentary on the Greek text that this “knowledge of the truth” is: ‘…the content of Christianity as the absolute truth (Bauer 2b).”

Okay, Ellingworth is a bona fide scholar. But Ben makes very selective use of Ellingworth, as we shall see.

This also gives Ben secondary access to BAGD (though not the latest edition). But let’s stick with this definition. Notice that this definition throws emphasis on the *object* of knowledge rather than the *subject* of knowledge. Not on the psychology of the apostate, but on the objective content of the faith. Not how he knew it, but what he knew. So this doesn’t tell us anything about the mental state of the individual. The word doesn’t distinguish between the regenerate and the unregenerate.

“We need to pause briefly to consider an interpretation offered by some proponents of unconditional eternal security which looks to draw a parallel between this passage and 1 Corinthians 3:14-15.”

We can ignore this section since it’s directed at antinomians like Ryrie, Hodges, and Kendall. It’s irrelevant to the doctrine of perseverance.

“The greatest difficulty for Calvinism in these verses is the fact that the apostate is said to have been sanctified by the blood of the covenant.”

That’s debatable. According to Ellingworth, “Grammatically, the subject [of hagiazo] could be the covenant” (541). Since Ben has quoted Ellingworth once before, why doesn’t he quote him on the alternative rendering?

By the way, the Reformed interpretation of Heb 10 doesn’t depend on that alternative. But it’s striking that Ben keeps this bit of information from his readers.

“If the Holy Spirit has no intentions of saving the reprobate and has deliberately withheld saving grace from them, then how can it possibly be said that these supposed “reprobates” (i.e. apostates) have “insulted” the Spirit of Grace?”

They have insulted the Holy Spirit by disregarding the Scriptures which he inspired. He’s the agent of inspiration. The Spirit of prophecy. To disregard his Word is equivalent to disregarding his person.

The author of Hebrews has a bibliology which is tightly connected to his pneumatology. Ben has failed to observe this connection because he’s too busy superimposing his agenda onto the text to listen to the text.

Finally, Ben also has a series of statements in which he repeats the same idea over and over again. This is the payoff that he’s been working up to:

***QUOTE***

The last part of the verse creates big trouble for Calvinism with regards to the doctrine of limited atonement: “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” By repudiating the faith there is no longer any sacrifice available for the apostate. However, if Calvinism is correct then there never was any sacrifice made for the apostate to begin with. The “apostate”, according to Calvinism, is really just a reprobate who came to the very edge of saving faith and then turned away. The apostate never put faith in Christ and his turning away only revealed his true unregenerate and irrevocably reprobated nature. Calvinism asserts that Christ did not die for reprobates and never made any provision for their sins. How then can it be said that by the act of apostasy that there “no longer remains a sacrifice for sins?” This difficulty only magnifies later in the passage as we shall see.

Some may object that the verse could be understood as simply stating that there is no other sacrifice available for the apostate to turn to and no other sacrifice that can be made since Christ died “once for all [time].” The fact remains, however, that such a statement seems unnecessary in light of the warning itself as there would never have been any sacrifice provided for the apostate (reprobate) to turn to in the first place (according to Calvinism).

The nature and scope of the atonement comes into sharp focus in these passages in view of God’s just judgment of the apostate. We need to remember that in Calvinism no provision has been made for the reprobate. Jesus Christ did not shed His blood for the reprobate. His sacrifice was not intended for those whom God had decreed to destroy even before the world was created. Most Calvinists say that the Holy Spirit “passes over” these reprobates and denies them the necessary grace to believe and be saved.

In what sense could they possibly have trampled under foot the Son of God when the Son of God made no provision for them? They have not truly rejected the blood of His sacrifice, for that blood was neither intended nor provided for them. The reprobates have nothing to reject for God has not made anything available for them. How then is God justified in judging them with regard to that “rejection?”

The passage answers this question for us in a way that creates even bigger problems for Calvinism’s cherished “P”. The apostates are condemned because the blood of Christ was not only truly shed for them but had in fact “sanctified” them. God’s gracious gift of salvation had not only been truly provided for the apostate but also applied to the apostate.

***END-QUOTE***

The problem with this objection is that Ben has overlaid an artificial grid on the underlying material. He’s forcing the author to answer the wrong questions, because these questions are important to Ben—not to the author. By contrast, the author is moving within a very different conceptual scheme. In fact, that was already explained to Ben by the two commentators whom he selectively cites.

As Ellingworth says, “Koinon [common] contrasts with hegiasthe [consecrated]…the apostate treats as profane…that which is in fact not only holy in itself, but the source of cleansing holiness for the believer. The language is cultic, not ethical” (540).

And Hagner also says “The word for ‘common’ (koinos)…is a cultic world meaning ‘unclean’ or unholy” (172).

So the author of Hebrews is using categories of ritual purity and impurity to describe the apostate. Sacred v. profane. The apostate was “holy” in the sense of cultic holiness—like the consecration of Israel.

Yet a ritually pure person could be unregenerate. Remember those OT admonitions about circumcising your heart, and so on? You could be a member in good standing of the OT covenant community, and still be a nominal believer. And you could be cut off from the covenant community through sacrilege.

And this carries over into the NT. To “defile” the blood of the covenant is cultic language. And our author’s usage is deliberately allusive of the Mosaic cultus.

Cultic holiness or unholiness is not about an individual’s actual state of holiness or unholiness, but about his standing before God. The high priest was sacrosanct because he was the high priest, and not because he was a good person. It’s an ascribed status.

Finally, Ellingworth prefaces this section (10:26-31) with the following statement:

“This raises the question of what exactly is the sin against which the author warns his readers in such severe terms. The immediate context suggests that it involves separation from the Christian community (v24). Thus offending against Christ as the Son of God (6:6), against his sacrifice, and against the Holy Spirit (v29), and failing to become one with Christ’s obedience to the will of God (v.36; cf. 2:4 and especially 10:5-10). The sin appears to involve a voluntary or willful failure, both in worship (nomos, v28) and in practical acts which express loving solidarity with other members of the believing community” (vv32-34), (530).

So Ellingworth defines NT apostasy in this letter as absenting oneself from the new covenant community. A form of self-excommunication. That’s the sense in which the apostate sins against the Son of God and the Spirit of God. And the converse of this, as he himself explains, would be participation in the life and worship of the new covenant community.

(Keep in mind that this is in the context of Messianic Jews who, under threat of persecution, were tempted to revert to the old covenant community.)

Needless to say, you don’t have to be elect or regenerate or redeemed to participate in the public worship of the new covenant community or express your solidarity through various activities. And you don’t have to be elect or regenerate or redeemed to profane the Lord or be guilty of profanation.

Infractions of ritual purity were culpable under the old covenant, and such infractions are aggravated under the new covenant. If the person of OT high priest was sacrosanct, then how much more in the case of his antitype? And if the apostate was once purified by his intensive contact with Christians, then his apostasy is an act of sacrilege.

In Scripture, it’s possible to “contract” ritual purity through certain associations. 1 Cor 7:14 is a case in point. The heathen spouse was purified by his marriage to a Christian spouse. And the children were purified by belonging to a Christian parent.

Conversely, as Paul also points out, it is possible to contract ritual impurity through certain associations. A member of the new covenant community desecrates his body by uniting his body to a prostitute.

Catholics (and Orthodox) can more easily identify with this outlook than Evangelicals, for categories of ritual purity and impurity are deeply imbedded in Catholic piety. The problem is that Catholicism has multiplied layers upon layers of man-made ceremonies or sacramentals.

The Protestant Reformation rightly rebelled against this suffocating superstition. So we accentuate the discontinuance of the ceremonial law. And that’s correct up to a point. But because this is not a part of our tradition, it can also blindside us to cultic categories in the NT.

And because the NT consists of occasional writings, this issue only crops up in certain situations, such as the relation between Christian and pagan in 1-2 Corinthians, or the defection of Messianic Jews in the book of Hebrews.

Friday, March 28, 2008

(In)determinate Objects of Knowledge - Help for JCT

From time to time, I think it's helpful to help a theological opponent. Honestly, I don't think Thibodeux understands the argument, or at least what we're saying to him, so this post is a genuine attempt to help him do so. So, I'm bringing my last comment to him to the front page as an addendum to Steve's latest reply to him.

I guess Steve didn't realize he'd lost on this point several posts back. Let's see, God's knowledge transcends the boundaries of time, therefore, no matter what choice will be made, God already knows what it will be.”
I'm doing this because it strikes me that sometimes we here at Tblog can be like the students in a Geometry class who do the proof in "short form." Sometimes, however, it's helpful to do the proof in the longest form possible in order for a less able to student to see the inner logic that he might not otherwise understand. Hopefully, this will help JCT and other readers who may not yet "get it."

So with that said, actually, we went over this and JCT never, really, ever answered except to continue saying "Because God is timeless." JCT's answer to this was "God knows because God is timeless." He basically just kept repeating this as if it answers the question - bu it doesn't say anything about how a libertarian choice's outcome can be known by God if it is only knowable in the mind of the acting agent up to and until the time the outcome is made into an effect.

Allow me to explain in an outline that JCT might just understand. Please follow very carefully.

JCT is basically arguing that God knows these choices *before* the agent makes them (from our standpoint). Fine, no problem. How? He says, "Because God is timeless." I might put it differently by pointing to God's omnipresence, via a spatial metaphor, instead of a temporal one, to say "because He is already there." ("Before" and "After" are spatial as well as temporal metaphors). I think this captures the essence of JCT's answer. If I'm wrong, he can correct me.

JCT is committed to LFW (libertarian free will).

So, given these basic premises, let's take a look why we are responding the way we are, in hopes that JCT will understand us:

In LFW, the outcome is CONTRAcausal in nature. This makes it indeterminate in nature, until it is instantiated. This is definitional to LFW. We can call this question, the question of "determinability," eg. the quality that attaches to an object of knowledge that is contracausal in nature. If an object of knowledge may change until it comes to pass, it is, by definition, indeterminate in nature.

So the Acting Agent (Agent A) is the only one who can have any relatively certain idea of the outcome until that time, for it is only in that agent's mind.

And it can only be made certain (eg. made determinate) due to the act of Agent A, eg. Agent A must choose in order for the outcome to be made certain.

Why? Because until and unless Agent A enacts the choice, the outcome can change. At that time, it becomes fixed, therefore, certain.

So - anything God might know about this object of knowledge *before* or *apart from* the action of Agent A act of choosing it is just a really good guess until Agent A makes his/her choice.

Put another way, God can only know the outcome of Agent A's act *as a result of the Agent's act of choosing.*

Why? Because the object of knowledge (Outcome A instantiated by Agent A) is an *indeterminate* object of knowledge until the moment it is instantiated.

So - The question is not "How does God know after Outcome A is instantiated?"

The question is "How does God know before Outcome A is instantiated, since Outcome A would be indeterminate in nature until it was instantiated?"

If something is knowable after or as a result of it's instantiation, it is a determinate object of knowledge, because it has been instantiated/it's instantiation; it is then fixed. In short, certainty corresponds with a determinate, fixed object of knowledge, not an indeterminate, unfixed object of knowledge. Only uncertainty obtains with respect to the knowability of an indeterminate, unfixed object of knowledge. In other words, an unfixed, indeterminate object is a moving target. You can guess, and you might be able to predict with great accuracy, but you can't know with infallible certainty where it will be every time you pull the trigger or shoot your arrow.

So the first thing we know now is that, on JCT's framework, God is *dependent* on Agent A for His own knowledge and this knowledge is infallible and certain. Therefore, this makes the object of knowledge determinate, for it is certain, and fixed, not indeterminate. This is inconsistent with LFW, which deals with indeterminate, not determinate, objects of knowledge.

In short:

Certainty = determinate object of knowledge

Uncertainty = indeterminate object of knowledge

Ergo this is why Steve writes,
Because divine knowledge of the future commits J.C. to epistemic determinism.
The key word is "epistemic." Why are you committed to epistemic determinism? We're talking about the knowability of an object (Outcome A). You are committed to this because of the underlying reasons that the object is knowable/known by God - namely it must pass from an indeterminate object of knowledge (in the mind of Agent A) into being a determinate object of knowledge (instantiated by Agent A) in order for God to know it with certainty.

1.
You affirm that God's foreknowledge of this object is certain and infallibly so.
2. You deny that God foreordained it, and
3. You stipulate to LFW and the instantiation of the object of knowledge by the agent, and
4. You argue "because God is timeless" this means He knows it.

Well, on those premises, JCT, God knows these objects of knowledge:

A. "After" the agent instantiates the choice, or, put another way,

B. "Because" the agent instantiates the choice.

Ergo, the choice (the object of knowledge in question) passes from being an indeterminate object of knowledge (in the mind of Agent A) to a determinate object of knowledge, instantiated by Agent A and thus fixed. Then it is known by God. This is the very definition of epistemic determinism. Why? Once we pass from the "determinability question" (eg. Is the object of knowledge indeterminate or determinate?), we then know it is determined if it is known with certainty by agents (in this case God and man).

Corollary: This, by the way directly attacks the Independence of God and thus ultimately runs counter to classical Christian theism, if consistently followed. God is made to depend on the acts of free agents for His knowledge. Our dispute with Arminians on this has always been that, if they were consistent, they'd be Socinians - and their own history is littered with alliances to Socinianism, so we have good historical reason to recognize this too.

This poses a particular problem for Advocates of Middle Knowledge since God chooses to instantiate this universe and only this universe and He does so in way in which He knows all the libertarian choices in it and decrees that universe so that they all occur with certainty, before He decrees any of it. Remember, God does this from *many* possible universes? So, what grounds His foreknowledge of those choices if these are only *possible* universes? That's what we call the "grounding objection."

A similar objection obtains for the Simple Foreknowledge View of which JCT seems to be an advocate. Why? The outcome is already *determined* if it's *certain.* Which gets us here:

“Steve tried to dance around this, but was never able to explain how if the omniscient God's knowledge was not bound by time, why He would be unable to know a libertarian choice (speaking from our temporal perspective) before it is made.

We actually answered this, and JCT ignored the answer. In my original comment I said "JCT is such a liar." I apologize. On second thought, I just think he doesn't understand the answer (thus this post).

1. How is that object knowable *before* the Agent acts? Saying "because God is timeless" is no answer, *because God depends on the agent's action.* God only knows the act *as a result of the action.*

This means God only knows it *after* the agent acts, not *before.* It's JCT who chose to use these spatial and temporal metaphors (before and after), so now he needs to actually deal with them.

2. He's confusing the ontology of God with an epistemological category related to how things are known by God. The issue isn't the timeless nature of God (ontology - God's nature)) but *epistemological question* related to the knowability of the object (Outcome A, which is an instance of Agent A, a human being, an agent other than God).

It begs the question that the object (Outcome A) is a knowable object of knowledge to argue that it is knowable due to God's timeless nature. That's just an assertion. How many times do we have to repeat ourselves?

By the way, these categories of indetermination and determination are standard, and the arguments employed by Steve and Manata are standard. If JCT wishes to vary with them, that's fine, but he'll need to make the argument.

Now - We know God is timeless, and we agree to that, but we also know that He understands relational sequence, eg. that A comes before B and so on. Why, JCT, or more properly, How is this so? We know He internally intuits everything in "eternal simultaneity" (to borrow a classical term), but what about the logical, orderly, and certain relations with that single intuition?

Is it because He is "timeless?" That has been your answer so far. We'll run with that. Our question to you is, "If so, then how do we get from God's timelessness - an ontological category related to an agent other than Agent A (a human being) to questions of logical, certain, relational sequence with respect to the actions of other agents than God - an epistemological category?" Saying that God is timeless or omnipresent begs the question. You need a supporting argument - that's what we've been waiting for.

In Reformed theology, we answer this easily: God knows them because He knows His decree. He therefore knows these things because He knows Himself. God's (fore)knowledge of our acts is a species of His self-knowledge.

While you're at it, will you please show us where LFW is taught by Scripture. You have yet to successfully do so. Until you do, everything else is just so much bluster. Please demonstrate from Scripture that our choices are contracausal in nature.

Thank You.

When is a warning a warning?

“Hays seems to be adopting the errant assumption that the warning of God must have 'failed' if it does not have a deterrant effect on the redeemed. Not so, warnings are not strictly deterrants, if the warning is not heeded, it is still quite effective in that the consequence it warns against will surely be carried out…Hays' displays some terrible all-or-nothing thinking of the same variety as Greg Elmquist. The old 'if a ever fails to cause b, then a can have nothing to do with b' canard. For a warning to deter someone, it must be both received and heeded, so whether it deters the agent or not is contingent upon both the warning being given and being obeyed. If the person warned does not obey it, it's not due to the warning 'failing,' but to the person disregarding it, which I address further below.”

http://www.junkyard.indeathorlife.org/

This interpretation poses quite a problem for Arminian theology. If God knows the future, then God knows who will be deterred by his warnings, and who will not be deterred by his warnings. In that event, he never intended to deter those who would disregard his warnings. And in that event, J.C. will have to admit that a divine warning can be meaningful even though it was never meant to deter a particular set of people.

Of course, if a Calvinist were to say that, he’d be accused of turning the warnings into a charade. They are *apparently* intended to discourage people from doing x, but in reality, their ulterior purpose is…what, exactly? What is J.C’s alternative?

He says the offender will suffer the consequences. So is that the purpose of the warning? To make the offender suffer the consequences?

So, on that interpretation, God warns some people, not to deter them, but to make them suffer the consequences. That’s the intent of the warning. And that’s the effect of the warning. That’s what makes the warning effective—in those cases.

So, for that subset of humanity, God’s intention is that those individuals suffer dire consequences, and the deliberate function of the warning is to facilitate that dire outcome. The warning instrumental in effecting their sorry fate.

So, on this interpretation, God has benign intentions for one subset of humanity, and malign intentions for the other subset of humanity. He eternally intended to save one subset of humanity from the consequences while he eternally intended to make the other subset of humanity suffer the eschatological consequences.

J.C. has a remarkably supralapsarian version of Arminian theology.

“A warning can be a very effective deterrant (i.e. suitable to, and capable of performing its task) but still be presented to people who choose to disregard it.”

If they choose to disregard it, then it proved to be a very ineffective deterrent.

“If a fully capable driver ignores it and speeds on ahead to his death anyway, would we conclude that it was the sign's fault for not being an effective enough deterrent because it didn't end up saving the driver's life? Of course not.”

If the “task” of the sign is to “be a very effective deterent [sic],” and the driver ignores it, then, by J.C’s own definition, it didn’t “perform its task”—in which case it failed. If its task is to deter the driver, and it doesn’t deter the driver, then it didn’t effect the outcome which it was tasked to perform. How can a warning be a very effective deterrent if the driver is undeterred by the warning?

The only way that J.C. can salvage any semblance of consistency is to redefine the purpose of a warning so that he either (i) eliminates the deterrent intent, or he (ii) restricts the deterrent intent.

The problem with (i) is that this would be at odds with the standard definition of the word: “Advice to beware of a person or thing as being dangerous,” “Deterrent counsel: cautionary advice against imprudent action,” “An experience, sight, etc. that serves as a caution: a deterrent example” (OED).

And if he opts for (i), then he forfeits the right to accuse the Calvinist of tampering with the “plain sense” or “obvious meaning” of what a “real” or “genuine” warning amounts to.

The problem with (ii) is that this would involve him in a denial of divine omnibenevolence. God would now have a benevolent intent for one subset of humanity, but a malevolent intent for the other subset of humanity. How is that consistent with Arminian commitments to the universal love of God, including his universal salvific intent?

“The warnings need not be irresistible to be fully capable deterrants, and as stated above, they do not fail as warnings if they are ignored, for their consequences will be fulfilled.”

i) If a deterrent is resistible, then it’s incapable of fully deterring the offender.

ii) If he defines the efficacy of the warning, not in terms of its deterrent value, but in terms of the divinely foreseen consequences, then the purpose of the warning would be inculpate or aggravate the guilt of the offender.

Sounds remarkably like the Reformed doctrine of reprobation.

“Which of course explains why it talks about their part in New Jerusalem and the tree of life being taken away. There's no doubt from the context as to whom this warning and its consequence are specifically directed.”

To the contrary, it doesn’t say that anyone is in danger of losing his salvation. Rather, it threatens damnation for anyone who tampers with the prophecy.

That would include nominal believers. Indeed, the letters to the seven churches are concerned with nominal believers.

“I guess Steve didn't realize he'd lost on this point several posts back. Let's see, God's knowledge transcends the boundaries of time, therefore, no matter what choice will be made, God already knows what it will be.”

That’s an assertion, not an argument.

“Steve tried to dance around this, but was never able to explain how if the omniscient God's knowledge was not bound by time, why He would be unable to know a libertarian choice (speaking from our temporal perspective) before it is made.”

Because divine knowledge of the future commits J.C. to epistemic determinism.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vallicella on the argument from evil

Three posts from Bill Vallicella on the argument from evil:
  1. "Gratuitous Evil and Begging the Question: Does LAFE Beg the Question?"
  2. "Peter Lupu, Higher-Goods Theodicy, and the Is/Ought Distinction"
  3. "Suffering Without Evil?"

Why I'm Not An Arminian (Another Reason)

Truth Unites... and Divides said:

John Loftus,

You studied under William Lane Craig? And you don't believe in the resurrection of Jesus?

Aw man. You've gotta be one of the heaviest disappointments in WLC's life.

Since you're an atheist apostate, I guess it's senseless to ask whether you think you were once a true believer who fell away and lost salvation (Arminian view) or a never-was-believer false convert (Calvinist view).

3/27/2008 12:38 PM
Blogger John W. Loftus said:
Well, truth since this interests you we've written on this question several times to be found here, (questions 3-7).
How utterly incoherent:

1. If you were a *true* believer, you actually fell away.

2. If so, then Arminian theology would be true, at least theoretically.

3. That, in turn, commits you to LFW.

4. Yet, as a believer in determinism (of the naturalistic sort), you deny LFW; or at least you would if you were consistent.

5. If LFW is not true, Arminian theology cannot be true. Why? Because the premise that believers can fall away is predicated on the exercise of LFW.

6. So, if you were consistent, you'd just admit that you weren't truly a believer. You were simply self-deceived. In the end your biological or sociological imperative won the day. Determinism won out over LFW.

7. That would commit you, at least in theory, to Calvinistic theology, that is to at least admit that, if Christianity is true, Calvinistic soteriology is true. Yet you go out of your way to deny this, both as an Atheist and as an Arminian.

And look at the way you argue for the "reality" of your faith. In essence you say, "I was really a believer, I really, truly was, because I felt I was and I did these things. My faith was "sincere."

Theresa, whose work I'm presuming of course you endorse, since you pointed "Truth" to it as an answer to his question writes:
I used to have a devotional time every morning where I prayed for my friends and family and myself, I read the Bible from cover to cover numerous times during my devotions. I witnessed to my family and they were saved (except my dad, no matter how hard I prayed), I brought up my kids as Christians and led them in the sinners prayer, I spoke in tongues and gave prophecies, I went to prayer meetings and Bible studies, I studied the Bible and prayed with my Christian friends. I believed God had a plan for my life, I believed he would help me through any situation, I believed I had a personal relationship with him. I lived my life for him.

1. Having morning devotions is not proof a person is a believer.

2. Reading the Bible is not proof.

3. Witnessing to others is not proof.

4. Rearing your children as Christians is not proof.

5. Praying the sinner's prayer is not proof - neither is it an instrument of conversion to justification. It's a tool, not a magic formula, and never, ever does it appear in the Bible. Faith, which may be expressed as a prayer, is the instrument - and that is evidence of regeneration, not its cause.

6. Speaking in tongues is not proof.

7. Prophesying is not proof. (More could be said about that too...).

8. Praying and studying with Christians is not proof.

9. Believing God has a plan for your life is not proof (of what the plan actually is, it seems).

10. You believing you had a personal relationship with God is not proof you have one.

11."Living your life for Him," is so vague it could mean anything.

These are all "proof" of a credible profession of faith. But a credible profession of faith and a saving profession of faith aren't the same. They intersect, but they aren't the same thing. You would think that a man who had been to seminary would know that. The fact that you measure the "reality" of your past faith by these things is a testimony to why you fell away. Your faith was shallow and largely content free, likely drawn from the well of Evanjellyism and Easy Believism.

But the Bible never says our feelings of sincerity are a measure of assurance. The Bible never says that we should accept an apostate's testimony that he was "sincere" about his faith.

But this is precisely the way that Arminians (and other Libertarians like "Orthodox") have argued their position on the perseverance of the saints. In order to maintain that true Christians can (and do) "lose their salvation," they wind up ignoring what the Bible actually says about assurance and the distinctions it actually draws regarding true and false faith, all due to their "will worship."

Once again, then, we have Arminianism / Soteriological Libertarianism proving itself to be convertible with Atheism. Arminians, this should give you great pause. Why is it that when Arminians argue their soteriologicy, they agree with the Orthodox (whom they should, as consistent Protestants, say cannot give a credible profession of faith), and Atheists.

Yet Arminians are not Atheists....Another reason I'm not an Arminian.

More On The James Ossuary

Chris Price recently posted another update on the James Ossuary.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why I'm Not An Arminian (Well, One Reason)

There are several reasons I'm a Calvinist. The main one is simply exegetical - period. You see, I've been around the block with enough historical theology and enough discussions with Arminians to have long ago concluded that their theology consists of nothing but philosophical and ethical objections to Calvinism. Indeed, if one reads the interactions that Arminius had with his own contemporaries, we see this at work even then. He objected to Supralapsarianism, on largely ethical grounds.

In other words, "Calvinism (in his case Supralapsarian Calvinism) can't be true because of...." (insert outcome here). Succinctly put, it seems to me that Arminians (and some Neo-Amyraldians) are awfully concerned about defending God's reputation. To take just one example, if God decrees evil, then, so they object, He is the "author" of evil. That's not acceptable to them, so, they reason, it can't be true. Indeed, we've seen this phenomenon at work on this very blog in recent history, in our dealings with Arminians like Ben and Thibodeux. We've also seen this in dealing with "RobertHenRonymous," when he objects to "exhaustive determinism" because if true then - insert outcome here (either "x is not a 'real' choice or "God is the author of evil").

The problem should be obvious. As Christians, we should never begin with this sort of aprioristic sort of thinking - and this applies equally to Calvinists as it does to anybody else. As Calvinists, we're told that we start with certain ideas about God's sovereignty and philosophical determinism and then deductively arrive at our theology from there. As Steve has pointed out, this objection is schizophrenic.
i) On the one hand, they claim that Calvinism is an axiomatic system. We begin, so we’re told, with the axiom of predestination, and then we deduced everything from our axiom. So our method is aprioristic. And we filter the Bible through our Calvinistic grid.

ii) On the other hand, they attack Calvinism because of the unacceptable consequences of our theology. How can we believe in a God who blames us for Adam’s sin? How can we believe in a God who predestines some people to hell? How can we believe in a God who decrees natural disasters?

The answer is: we believe these things because they are taught in Scripture, and we believe the Bible. We begin with the Bible and take it from there.

By contrast, it’s the critics of Calvinism who begin with certain consequences, which they deem to be unacceptable, and then construct a theological system to avoid those consequences.
Aprioristic methodology is the heart of rationalism. We see it at work all the time. Arminians do this with respect to LFW and "the love of God." They begin with these ideas and then work from that posture. We've even documented this through their own admissions - for example, Miley's theology, and in our own interactions with them in the past 2 or 3 weeks, they've admitted that "free will" is a presupposition that they bring to Scripture - not an action theory that is actually taught by Scripture (indeed, I've demonstrated repeatedly that Scripture explicitly and unequivocally contradicts LFW). The Orthodox, as in the case of Perry Robinson, use Christology in this fashion. Calvinism can't be true because (insert some Christological heresy here, no matter how tendentious) results. Roman Catholics often work from ecclesiology. Even Baptists and Presbyterians do this. Baptists do this with "Baptist tradition" more and more (just take a look at some of the SBC blogs these days), and we've been locked in debate with Presbyterians over ecclesiology now for centuries, with both sides accusing the other of rationalism - for example, Baptists will accuse Presbyterians of using their version of covenant theology to draw inferences about baptism and thus ecclesiology.

Now, why mention this? Because with respect to atheism, I've noticed a trend lately. Namely, the arguments that are often presented by the Debunkers generally seem to beg the question in favor of Arminianism. Let's take this article.

Note the question about God's love.
"Christian, how do you reconcile the God of reason, the God of perfect love, with the ways he dealt with people who worship other gods? This is some very nasty stuff here. He will make them eat the flesh of their children and neighbors! "
Now, I ask, why would any Calvinist find this question the least bothersome? God's love is not His only attribute. That objection might work against a doctrinally inept Southern Baptist Arminian, but it won't work against us Calvinists, particularly Supralapsarians, but, really, an Infra shouldn't find this at all a problem either.

God punishes the sins of His people by permitting them to fall into greater sin and with atrocities befitting reprobated pagans to fall upon them. So,what's the problem, exactly? Oh, I see, the idea that God "decrees" evil.

Unlike the Arminian, I don't feel a need to defend God's honor where He has chosen not to defend it Himself. Indeed, I have a bigger problem with Arminians who don't bother to follow their own theology on this very point. They too have an order of decrees, and that includes the permission of evil.

The difference between Calvinists and Arminians is not over the fact of permission, but it's nature. For the Calvinist, the Fall, to take an example, was planned all along. The Arminian view most often expressed is that the Fall was permitted - ineffaciously, so Redemptive History is ultimately, if we take it to the logical end, "Plan B." Of course, I should quickly note that Molinist Arminians are in a real pickle here, since they affirm that God instantiated only this world of all possible worlds, which leads to a whole set of objections from us with respect to how they can object to Calvinism if that's true - but I digress.

Let's see how this plays out in practice...


Loftus wrote,

Gene said...What's wrong with God decreeing the existence of evil?

What's wrong with this? Your God is a despicable thug, a degenerative dictator, who can never be trusted, and who is unworthy of any kind of worship. Why you cannot see this is because you are blind. Why you’re so willing to bite this bullet in order to solve the problem of evil baffles me to no end. You believe the weight of evidence of historically conditioned documents as idiosyncratically interpreted by you, over the weight of the empirical evidence of horrible evils themselves. You must be very sure you are right about these historical documents in order to dismiss so easily the presence of the evil that surrounds you. It makes me think of pantheists with maya, who also deny what they experience on a daily basis.
What's wrong with this? It's a load of emotionalism without any substance. You cannot see this because you're blind - no, stupid - no, incompetent. Hmmm, it's difficult to find the right description here; there are just soooo many.

Let's connect the dots here:

You asked a question in your "article" to us about an "all loving God." The problem is, of course, that, as Calvinists, we deny that God is "all loving." So, you're complaint would only work against some Arminians. You're like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target.

To even raise this objection, you need to establish that God is "all loving" if God exists. To do that, you'll need to do something like prove Arminianism over and against Calvinism. So, along with the rest of the poor argumentation and inept exegetical material in the article, all you've done is beg the question with respect to Arminianism - and, in a crushing blow for us Tblogers, posted it in a combox on this blog. The default mode of this blog is not Arminianism. It's Calvinism. All of us are Calvinists here, with the possible exception of Jason Engwer who has not, to my knowledge, taken a public stand on that and our resident, inactive, Lutheran, the Pedantic Protestant.

It's only "biting the bullet" with respect to theodicy, John, if it would thereby mean that there is such a thing as *gratuitous* evil - but as Calvinists, we deny this, and our theology does so quite consistently.

It's only those who embrace the Free Will Defense as you did when you were an Arminian, that would be led into having to admit that such evils existed if God decrees evil. Why? Because their theology is calculated as an objection to ours. We've been over this with them before. If God did not "decree" evil, then its unplanned, and unplanned evil could well be construed as, in fact, gratuitous.

So, I'm willing to "bite this bullet" because "biting this bullet" doesn't lead to where you think it does, unless you're an Arminian. That's what I keep trying to tell you, John. You write this sophomoric objections to Christianity that don't begin to touch our theology. I guess that's what you get for studying with Craig, good Arminian that he is. It makes the job much easier for us though.

So, here's just one more good reason I'm not an Arminian: I don't have to concede the "problem of evil" in order to offer a cogent theodicy. I think Arminians who object to Calvinism on an ethical basis need to step back and ask themselves why their theodicy concedes the problem of evil.

1. If LFW is not taught by Scripture, and is, indeed, contradicted by Scripture, it is false.

2. Therefore the FWD is not a sound defense and should be jettisoned.

3. If LFW is false, then so goes Arminianism, since LFW is a key pillar for it.

4. Moreover, the objection that Calvinism makes God the "author of evil" if God effaciously decrees it naturally leads to the concession of the so called Problem of Evil. Namely, if God didn't decree it; then there is such a thing as unplanned evil, whether moral or natural. If it's unplanned, it's gratuitous. That's a major concession, and it makes it look like Arminianism is convertible with Atheism, yet Arminians are not atheists by any stretch.

5. Finally, we should not seek to defend God's honor where He has not so sought to do so Himself. It is impertinent to speak in ways He has not licensed. He has not invoked the Free Will Defense, and His Word does not seek to deny that He foreordains all things. We should not do either.

"Go with your evolved sense of right and wrong"

JOHN W. LOFTUS SAID:

"Why not just trust your own instincts on this...Go with your evolved sense of right and wrong on this.”

Here’s some of what Michael Ruse has to say about our “evolved sense of right and wrong”:

***QUOTE***

I think I would still say—part of my position on morality is very much that we regard morality in some sense as being objective, even if it isn’t. So the claim that we intuit morality as objective reality—I would still say that. Of course, what I would want to add is that from the fact that we do this, it doesn’t follow that morality really is objective.

I’m saying that if in fact you’re Christian then you believe you were made in the image of God. And that means—and this is traditional Christian theology—that means that you have intelligence and self-awareness and moral ability… it’s a very important part of Christianity that our intelligence is not just a contingent thing, but is in fact that which makes us in the image of God.

What I would argue is that the connection between Darwinism and ethics is not what the traditional social Darwinian argues. He or she argues that evolution is progressive, humans came out on top and therefore are a good thing, hence we should promote evolution to keep humans up there and to prevent decline. I think that is a straight violation of the is/ought dichotomy…I take Hume’s Law to be the claim that you cannot go from statements of fact—“Duke University is the school attended by Eddy Nahmias”—to statements of value—“Duke University is an excellent school.”

Ed [Edward O. Wilson] does violate Hume’s Law, and no matter what I say he cannot see that there is anything wrong in doing this. It comes from his commitment to the progressive nature of evolution. No doubt he would normally say that one should not go from “is” to “ought”—for example from “I like that student” to “It is OK to have sex with her, even though I am married.” But in this case of *evolution* he allows it. If you say to him, “But ‘ought’ statements are not like ‘is’ statements,” he replies that in science, when we have reduction, we do this all the time, going from one kind of statement to another kind of statement. We start talking about little balls buzzing in a container and end talking about temperature and pressure. No less a jump than going from “is” to “ought.”

My position is that the ethical sense can be explained by Darwinian evolution—the ethical sense is an adaptation to keep us social. More than this, I argue that sometimes (and this is one of those times), when you give an account of the way something occurs and is as it is, this is also to give an explanation of its status. I think that once you see that ethics is simply an adaptation, you see that it has no justification. It just is. So in metaethics[4] I am a nonrealist. I think ethics is an illusion put into place by our genes to keep us social.

I distinguish normative ethics from metaethics. In normative ethics I think evolution can go a long way to explain our feelings of obligation: be just, be fair, treat others like yourself. We humans are social animals and we need these sentiments to get on. I like John Rawls’s[5] thinking on this. On about page 500 of his Theory of Justice book, Rawls says he thinks the social contract was put in place by evolution rather than by a group of old men many years ago. Then in metaethics, I think we see that morality is an adaptation merely and hence has no justification. Having said this, I agree with the philosopher J.L Mackie[6] (who influenced me a lot) that we feel the need to “objectify” ethics. If we did not think ethics was objective, it would collapse under cheating.

If we knew that it was all just subjective, and we felt that, then of course we’d start to cheat. If I thought there was no real reason not to sleep with someone else’s wife and that it was just a belief system put in place to keep me from doing it, then I think the system would start to break down. And if I didn’t share these beliefs, I’d say to hell with it, I’m going to do it. So I think at some level, morality has to have some sort of, what should I say, some sort of force. Put it this way, I shouldn’t cheat, not because I can’t get away with it, or maybe I *can* get away with it, but because it is fundamentally wrong.

We’re like dogs, social animals, and so we have morality and this part of the phenomenology of morality, how it appears to us, that it is not subjective, that we think it *is* objective…So I think ethics is essentially subjective but it appears to us as objective and this appearance, too, is an adaptation.

Within the system, of course, rape is objectively wrong—just like three strikes and you are out in baseball. But I’m a nonrealist, so ultimately there is no objective right and wrong for me. Having said that, I *am* part of the system and cannot escape. The truth does not necessarily make you free.

There is no ultimate truth about morality. It is an invention—an invention of the genes rather than of humans, and we cannot change games at will, as one might baseball if one went to England and played cricket. Within the system, the human moral system, it is objectively true that rape is wrong. That follows from the principles of morality and from human nature. If our females came into heat, it would not necessarily be objectively wrong to rape—in fact, I doubt we would have the concept of rape at all. So, within the system, I can justify. But I deny that human morality at the highest level—love your neighbor as yourself, etc.—is justifiable. That is why I am not deriving “is” from “ought,” in the illicit sense of justification. I am deriving it in the sense of explaining *why we have* moral sentiments, but that is a different matter.

I think ultimately there is nothing—moral nihilism, if you wish.

http://www.believermag.com/issues/200307/?read=interview_ruse

***END-QUOTE***

Bad is rad

john w. loftus said...

“All human beings want to be happy. It motivates us all.”

Have you ever noticed that those who live for pleasure are often miserable? The ennui of the idle rich?

“To ask why we should want happiness is like asking why we want to stay alive...we just do.”

To ask the sadist why he likes to torture kittens is like asking why he wants to stay alive...he just does, dude.

“This is our purpose, our ‘ends,’ to be happy, holistically. It’s the reason we do everything we do, and as such it’s normative.”

You’re confusing normality with normativity. Normality is a descriptive characterization whereas normativity is an evaluative characterization. In Aztec culture, human sacrifice is normal, but that doesn’t make it normative. That doesn’t make it right. What is normal is not a moral norm.

“We should all strive to be happy, for it is what makes life worth living.”

According to eliminative materialism, happiness is an illusion. Feelings are illusory. That’s folk psychology.

Notice that Loftus can’t bring himself to abide by the grim implications of his atheism. He’s a soft atheist, not a soft atheist. A radical chic, day-tripper. Decaffeinated theism for the frappuccino generation.

ii) Loftus is also confounding “worth” as a motive with worth as

“A virtuous person is a holistically happy person. Such a person has character.”

Jeffery Dahmer was a virtuous person. A holistic hedonist. His whole life was devoted to the pursuit of happiness. He dedicated his life to self-gratification. Why, Dahmer was a secular saint.

“Such a person promotes human flourishing.”

There’s nothing humanitarian about hedonism. Any humanitarian side-effects would be purely incidental.

The acid test of virtue is doing the right thing even if it makes you sad.

“Your God is a despicable thug, a degenerative dictator, who can never be trusted, and who is unworthy of any kind of worship.”

Emotive adjectives don’t amount to a reasoned argument.

But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that God is a “degenerative dictator who can never be trusted.” So what?

What if God is a hedonist, like Loftus? What if it gives God pleasure to be a “degenerative dictator”? A cosmic hedonist can also be a cosmic sadist.

A sadist is a utilitarian hedonist. For him, the common good is the greatest pain for the greatest number. For him, that’s what makes life worth living. Bad is rad.

“You believe the weight of evidence of historically conditioned documents as idiosyncratically interpreted by you, over the weight of the empirical evidence of horrible evils themselves.”

There is no empirical evidence for evil. There’s empirical evidence for pain and suffering. But evil is not an empirical property. Rather, evil is an evaluation of certain sensible events, as well as certain supersensible events (i.e. evil thoughts).

“Yes, there is debate about what these norms should be, but that debate has always taken place and the main reason why our norms have progressed up until now, and keep getting better and better.”

Like Dahmner’s menu. First the appetizers. Then the main course. Then desert!

It just gets better and better. "I can't believe it's not butter!"

Jeffrey Dahmer was a hedonistic humanitarian. He loved human beans.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Moral regress

john w. loftus said...

“One last illustration. Karl Popper argues that scientific knowledge progresses by conjectures (or guesses) which are in turn refuted for better conjectures (or guesses). He claims science progresses because we learn from our mistakes. In fact he claims all knowledge progresses in the same way, and I agree. We have learned from our mistakes. That's why our morals have developed into that which makes for a safer, more productive, and less barbaric people than in ancient times, which is reflected in the Bible.”

I’ve already pointed out several problems with this appeal. But let’s consider it from one more angle.

As I’ve said on several occasions, there’s more to human rights than moral absolutes. Even if, for the sake of argument, the unbeliever could ground moral absolutes, that, of itself, does nothing to show that human beings are entitled to certain rights or immunities. For a human being might not be the sort of entity which it is possible to wrong.

It would be an easy matter to turn Loftus’ argument on its head. For a philosophically stringent atheist could argue thusly:

Traditionally, we used to believe that human beings had certain inalienable rights because they were made in God’s image. But enlightened unbelievers now know that that conclusion is predicated on a false premise.

For one thing, the notion of the imago Dei is a relic of Bronze Age superstition. And if there is no God, then no one is made in God’s image.

Moreover, modern science has shown us that a human being is just a robotic survival machine, blindly programmed to preserve its selfish genes. Not only that, but Dawkins has also said that a human being is just a bacterial colony.

Furthermore, as Paul and Patricia Churchland have pointed out, pain and suffering are illusory. That’s a relic of folk psychology.

Hence, moral regress is the logical corollary of scientific progress. For the stately progress of scientific knowledge has taught us that the whole notion of human rights is founded on an antiquated and superstitious view of human nature. How can you wrong a robot? How can you abuse a bacterium? How can you mistreat a biochemical organism which is incapable of pain and suffering?

True, we have moral intuitions. But as Michael Ruse and Edward Wilson have explained to us, natural selection has conditioned us to entertain these delusive scruples because altruism confers a survival advantage.

All things considered, it’s high time for us to set aside these adolescent and obsolescent notions of human dignity so that we may embrace the logical conclusion that man has no more rights than a broomstick.

Loftus on the skids

john w. loftus said...

“Steve, about objective morals, I've written about this many times but you bring it up every single time I say something here as if it refutes everything I say no matter what the topic is.”

I bring it up whenever you make a moralistic claim. In this case, you said that you were entitled to respect. Your worldview fails to warrant that moralistic claim.

“Can you please just once stick to the issue we're dealing with?”

I commented on your other points. You’re the one who’s ducking my counterarguments.

“Here's my most recent attempt at answering you. __But of course, you've refuted me already, right? Okay, I guess. But you cannot say I don't address the issue. Be sure to read the comments, okay?”

There were 75 comments. Since it’s your post and your argument, I only took the time to read your comments. With one exception, your comments did nothing to advance your argument in the post proper, so I’ll confine myself to that (plus one comment):

“Now here’s the rub. With the GENERAL claim you indict all non-Christians everywhere in all eras of human history, Muslims, Jews, Taoists, Shintoists, and Buddhists. You’re claiming that none of these potentially 50 billion people have had an objective moral basis prohibiting them from murdering, and raping, and cheating, and stealing at will without regard for any consequences, and that this applies to them as well as to us skeptics. You’re saying that none of us non-believers have had an ultimate moral basis for being good, period, and so there is no logical reason why we should refrain from committing horrendous evils.”

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/01/nonbelievers-have-no-objective-basis.html

There are some inaccuracies and ambiguities in this statement:

i) The unbeliever qua unbeliever has no objective basis for morality. His belief-system undercuts rather than underwrites moral absolutes.

ii) Conversely, the unbeliever qua human being does have an objective basis for morality. Due to natural revelation and common grace, the unbeliever has some genuine moral intuitions.

iii) However, (ii) is grounded in the existence of the true God, which the unbeliever denies. Unbelievers often act on their tacit knowledge of right and wrong. But their belief-system is at war with their moral intuitions.

iv) If a (non-Messianic) Jew is getting his morality from OT ethics, then he does have an objective basis for morality.

v) To some extent, Christian heresies like Islam are parasitic on Biblical morality. And, to that extent, they have an objective basis for morality.

vi) Even in the case of (iv)-(v), this is still in tension with their denial of the true God.

vii) It is quite possible for someone who is either immoral or amoral to refrain from committing evil due to the consequences. The evil action may conflict with his self-interest. It isn’t worth the risk.

So he can have a purely pragmatic reason to refrain from rape or robbery or murder. But his reason is not a moral reason.

“There are many people who act morally who are non-believers and they have been doing so since the dawn of time.”

That begs the question of whether these people are acting morally. How does Loftus identify a moral action? How does he distinguish a moral action from an immoral action? He has yet to establish his source and standard of morality. So he’s in no position to invoke instances of virtuous behavior among unbelievers—past and present.

“All someone needs to learn who makes such a claim as yours is a basic history lesson.”

Three problems:

i) This commits the naturalistic fallacy. History is a descriptive discipline. It records the way in which human beings behave. What they did.

But that doesn’t begin to tell us whether they did what they ought to have done. Or did what they ought not to have done.

ii) History records men murdering and refraining from murder, raping and refraining from rape, thieving and refraining from theft.

So Loftus can’t very well derive ethics from history. For all these contrary actions are equally historical.

He is tacitly superimposing a moralistic grid on the historical process, and then cherry-picking the examples which he deems to be virtuous. So he didn’t infer this from history itself. And it continues to beg the question of where he gets his moralistic grid in the first place.

iii) Finally, his appeal to historical knowledge is at odds with his historical scepticism.

When arguing for morality, he appeals to history. When arguing against the Bible, he appeals to “ancient superstition.”

“There have been great Chinese dynasties, the great rule of Mohammed, along with the Greek Golden Age, the Roman Empire, and nearly all Japanese dynasties, NONE OF WHICH HAD ANY DOMINATING INFLUENCE FROM THE CHRISTIAN FAITH to gain their ultimate objective morals from.”

These civilizations were rife with horrendous evils. They are hardly moral exemplars.

“And if you think Christianity is waning in America, then consider the evidence that even in this secular dominated culture our government works well with diversified religious and non-religious groups of people in it, as do all European countries.”

Actually, I think that Sweden, to take an oft-cited case, is a good example of moral freefall once Christian values are withdrawn.

“There should be great mayhem in this world, the likes of which should send the rest of us into the asylum.”

Not at all. God preserves a remnant of common decency among the reprobate for the sake of the elect.

“But if we do just fine without this supposed ultimate objective moral standard then why do we need one at all?”

i) I don’t credit the claim that unbelievers do “just fine” without objective moral norms.

ii) But even if I did, we need that standard if we’re going to say that you *shouldn’t* commit rape, robbery, or murder because it’s *wrong*.

“One last illustration. Karl Popper argues that scientific knowledge progresses by conjectures (or guesses) which are in turn refuted for better conjectures (or guesses). He claims science progresses because we learn from our mistakes. In fact he claims all knowledge progresses in the same way, and I agree. We have learned from our mistakes. That's why our morals have developed into that which makes for a safer, more productive, and less barbaric people than in ancient times, which is reflected in the Bible.”

Several problems:

i) His appeal to moral progress entails a corollary appeal to historical progress. But Loftus is a sceptic about historical knowledge, right?

ii) He’s assuming rather than proving moral progress.

iii) He’s committing the naturalistic fallacy.