Saturday, July 25, 2015

Resetting the clock

I'm reposting some comments I left at Justin Taylor's blog in response to an apostate (on the topic "Just How Sovereign Is God?":

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Your objection is patently anthropomorphic. “If I were a moth, how would that feel?” But a moth doesn’t have your human viewpoint. It lacks human awareness.

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 1:41 pm

i) I’ve read accounts of humans who were mauled by lions and bears, or attacked by sharks. They go into shock. It’s surprising how little they feel.

ii) Are you suggesting antelopes are better off not existing? Does that express their viewpoint or yours?

You presume to speak on their behalf, but where’s the evidence that they share your perspective?

Most animals seem content with their existence most of the time. Do you think the way they die cancels out the way the live?

If a human dies of cancer, does that negate the value of his life?

Are you suggesting a world without predators would be a better world? Better for whom? Not better for the predators.

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm

If you sincerely wish to know how young-earth creationists explain that, why don’t you read them? For instance, Jonathan Sarfati has published a new book on The Genesis Account.

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 2:08 pm

i) So your question was insincere. You don’t know how they specifically answer that specific question.

ii) What makes you think the Fall caused misery throughout the universe? That presumes life on other planets. And even if that’s the case, the fall of mankind doesn’t ipso facto cause misery for unfallen aliens lightyears away.

iii) A sinless world is a world where sinners like you and I don’t exist. Do you think that’s a better world? Better for whom? Do you regret the fact that you exist? Do you wish the nonexistence of all your fellow humans on this timeline?

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 2:29 pm

“I’m suggesting that antelopes would prefer not to be eaten alive.”

You’re imputing a human viewpoint to an antelope. That’s speciesist.

“Do you think that God couldn’t have created a universe in which antelopes aren’t eaten alive?”

What concrete alternative are you proposing?

“Do you think God needed to create smallpox? I don’t.”

The question is not what God needs, but what is needed to maintain the balance of nature.

“Why must a human die of cancer? Will there be cancer in heaven? If not, why is there cancer on earth? Do you think the world is better with cancer or without it?”

It’s better off in some ways, but worse off in others. Caring for cancer patients cultivates moral virtues. Deepens emotional bonds between the cancer patient and their loved ones.

“Why are there predators? The Bible says ther weren’t predators originally.”

I don’t grant your interpretation. I simply responded to you on your own terms.

“Is God not powerful enough to have prevented man’s sin from turning the orb weaver from berry-eater to moth-eather?”

There’s nothing wrong with moth-eaters. That’s not something that ought to be prevented.

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 2:38 pm

i) You conveniently ignore the evidence against macroevolution and universal common descent.

ii) Christian theology doesn’t imply that human sin causes supernovae or gamma ray bursts.

You have no evidence that asteroids crash into planets where life exists.

And even if it did, how would the extinction of microbes be evil?

iii) Aaron Ginn wouldn’t even exist in a world where there was no death and suffering. That’s an alternate history with a whole different cast of characters. Aaron Ginn is the end-result of chain of events in a fallen world.

iv) For God to skip Earth 1.0 and go straight to Earth 2.0 zeros out all the humans who lived in-between. Your objections are superficial and short-sighted.

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 3:10 pm

“Antelopes run from predators. That’s a good clue they don’t want to be eaten alive.”

No, that’s a good cue that they have instinctual behavior, not that they think to themselves, “I don’t want to be eaten alive!”

“How about a universe where animals do not have to eat other animals alive for their energy source. Doesn’t seem that hard to imagine.”

So you’re eliminating the predators. How is that good for the predators?

“Is smallpox needed to maintain balance in heaven?”

i) What do you mean by “heaven”? Do you mean the intermediate state? In Christian theology, the final state is an earthly state. The palingenesis.

ii) There may well be the same mechanisms to maintain the balance of nature in the world to come. The difference is that God will providentially protect the saints from physical harm.

“If not, why is it needed to maintain balance on earth? Why does God need to use a horrible disease like smallpox to maintain balance at all?”

You’re repeating your initial confusion. It’s not a question of what God needs. Even an omnipotent God is limited by the natural medium if he produces an effect by natural means. The medium has finite capacities and constraints.

You beg the question by assuming that predation, parasitism, and disease are “horrible.” But that’s the very question at issue. You’ve done nothing to advance your original claim.

“I’d say it a better way to deepen emotional bonds would be by not allowing people to die of cancer in the first place.”

You haven’t begun to show how God not allowing people to die from cancer deepens emotional bonds. Your response is intellectually frivolous. All you did was to type in a verbal antithetical parallel. But you haven’t offered a real alternative. You haven’t shown how the same emotional bonding occurs absent those conditions.

“Will there be cancer in heaven?”

That’s utterly superficial because it disregards the fact that Christian experience in this life is something we take with us to heaven. The results of cancer exist in heaven. Virtues which are the end-product of sanctified earthly experience.

Once a virtue is cultivated, it may be unnecessary to keep repeating the experience that fostered it. That hardly means the experience was unnecessary to foster the virtue in the first place. These virtues weren’t cultivated in heaven. Rather, they carry over from earthly experience. They are purified in heaven. Heaven isn’t amnesia. The results don’t exist apart from the process.

“You don’t believe Genesis 1:30? What other parts of the Bible do you believe are wrong?”

So now you’re resorting to sophistry by pretending that if I think your interpretation is wrong, that’s equivalent to thinking the Bible is wrong.

“So God needs his creatures killing each other to maintain balance? Why do you consider him good again?”

The onus is on you to demonstrate why a spider eating a moth calls God’s goodness into question. You failed the first time around and switched to a different example. You then reintroduce your initial failed example. Your wheels are spinning.

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 3:25 pm

“What evidence? I’d like to see this evidence. I’ve asked for it in the past but no one seems able to provide it.”

You’re acting coy, cloying, and disingenuous. There’s lots of material at Uncommon Descent, Evolution News, &c. Not to mention books.

“I admit it’s pure speculation on my part, but if intelligent life exists, it is subject to these same threats.”

That overlooks providential intervention.

“If intelligent life exists, is their potential extinction the result of man’s sin too?”

Which builds on your false premise (“potential extinction”).

“I’d say it would be better never to have existed than to be tortured for eternity as your God will supposedly do to me.”

Now you’re equivocating. Although the hellbound would be better off not existing, the heavenbound would be worse off not existing. So there are tradeoffs, which you oversimplify in your lopsided depiction.

“Supposedly our ‘souls’ are eternal.”

But not preexistent.

“Why didn’t God just create us all sinless to enjoy his presence?”

Another equivocation. Who is the “us”?

Humans are the product of historical causation. There wouldn’t be the same individual given a different set of parents. Change history and you erase the family tree and substitute a different family tree.

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 4:08 pm

“You’re interpreting the prey’s response just as I am.”

Not at all.

“An antelope that has had a close encounter with a predator and escaped certainly knows fear, however, and knows it doesn’t want to be caught again.”

i) There’s no reason to assume that’s learned behavior rather than instinctual behavior.

ii) Moreover, instinctual behavior doesn’t require the organism to have concepts.

iii) Furthermore, your explanation backfires. If that’s learned behavior, the antelope has no experience of being eaten alive, hence no fear of being eaten alive.

“Why are there predators in the first place?”

Why is there something rather than nothing? Creatures are contingent beings. They don’t have to exist.

“Why do animals die painful deaths at the hands of each other?”

You assume it’s “painful” for them, which begs the question. And even if it’s painful, pain and pleasure often go together.

“You claim it ‘brings balance’ or something.”

Actually, that’s a scientific explanation.

”Why couldn’t balance be maintained without death and suffering?”

For someone who claims to believe in science, it’s funny how quickly you raise anti-scientific objections. Without predation, there’s overpopulation.

“If you can’t imagine any other way God could have created the universe, then you’re not trying very hard.”

Actually, you’re not trying very hard to think. Yes, there are other ways God could make the universe. I’ve acknowledged that.

And each alternative carries tradeoffs. Better in one respect, worse in another. There’s no greatest possible world.

“If God is limited, then he is not omnipotent.”

You’re not paying attention to the argument. An omnipotent God can bypass the natural order. If, however, he creates a natural order, then that has finite possibilities.

“He’s culpable for all the death and suffering that he brought into the world by creating it the way he did.”

i) He’s responsible, but inculpable.

ii) Culpability is a moral category. You’ve offered no basis for your moral value judgment.

“Paul teaches time and again that death and suffering are bad things and that we can only escape them through faith in Christ.”

In context, Paul is talking about human suffering and human death.

“It’s quite simple. Emotional bonds are deepened when people spend time together. When one dies, they can no longer spend time together.”

It’s quite simple. You’re failing to distinguish between quality time and quantity time.

“Besides, for every person that experiences a ‘deep emotional bond’ from dying from cancer, I could show you at least one who dies alone and afraid in miserable pain. Better that none die of cancer in the first place.”

This is one of your intellectual impediments. There is no single better. Some goods are second-order goods, contingent on evil. If you remove the evil, you remove the resultant good.

That isn’t better. That’s different. It may be better in some respects, but you lose other goods in the process.

“You seem to know a lot about heaven.”

You’re the one who brought up heaven. When I respond to you on your own grounds, you shift grounds, dissemble, and play agnostic about it.

“The Bible doesn’t really say any of those things about heaven.”

The Bible says a lot about the cultivation of various virtues in the face of adversity.

“That’s a pretty black and white statement, IMO.”

I’ve given my exegesis elsewhere.

steve hays says:
July 24, 2015 at 1:23 pm

One of Aaron’s confusions is his failure to understand that even an omnipotent agent can voluntarily assume a self-imposed restriction on his field of action–where a finite medium limits what can be done via the chosen medium. But to reject that principle is to reject the principle that God should interact with creatures on their own level.

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 4:17 pm

“I guess Stalin was right.”

As an apostate, why not? You have no foundation for objective moral norms.

“You do have to break some eggs if you want to make a tasty omelette. Although I would think an omnipotent god could make an omelette without harming the eggs.”

i) I’ve discussed the flaws in your simplistic appeal to omnipotence. You simply repeat your original mistakes.

ii) Stalin harmed the innocent. And Stalin’s motives were malevolent. So that’s not analogous.

“Prove it. Prove there exists a soul and then prove it is preexistent. Otherwise it’s just speculation on your part.”

i) Actually, I don’t need to prove it since the question at issue is consistency. Internal consistency as well as empirical consistency.

ii) And I’ve provided abundant evidence at my own blog.

“Why couldn’t God have created me as myself without going through thousands of generations to do so? Seems like you’re limiting your god.”

To be a creature is to be historically situated. And you keep illustrating that you have no grasp of what omnipotence means. What philosophical theology have you studied?

steve hays says:
July 24, 2015 at 11:56 am

“I’d prefer to live in a world where there was no death or suffering.”
“Why couldn’t God have created me as myself without going through thousands of generations to do so?”

In the nature of the case, a world without death and suffering involves an alternate history scenario. You can’t just rearrange the same people.

I’m not saying anything unusual here. Counterfactual identity isn’t protean. It has severe limits. Take the grandfather paradox. Does Aaron think a man can travel back in time and kill his grandfather, before his grandfather begat his father?

In alternate historical scenarios, you don’t even have the same number of people. The size of any particular family will depend on historical circumstances.

Is Aaron proposing a scenario in which God creates everyone ex nihilo, then implants false memories? They have recollections of a nonexistent childhood? Recollections of nonexistent parents, siblings?

Even if that’s metaphysically possible, what makes that better than a world in which we are truly related to each other, as parents, children, siblings? In which real events, personal experience, shape our outlook and character?

Consider how much the Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are indebted to Mark Twain’s childhood, viz. the Mississippi river, his uncle’s farm, the caves near Hannibal, &c. It’s nonsensical to ask what Mark Twin would be like had he been born in Harlem in the 1920s. He’d be unrecognizable.

steve hays says:
July 23, 2015 at 10:37 pm

“Sorry Steve. I appreciate your zealousness to defend your god (I did it myself for over 25 years).”

Spoken by somebody who doesn’t seem to know the difference between Christianity and Hinduism. You talk about “eternal souls” as if Christian anthropology is equivalent to reincarnation.

“but no neutral observer would think that you’ve done anything in this thread to help advance the notion that your god is a good and perfect god.”

Using “neutral” as a synonym for “atheist”?

You’re a stereotypical apostate who left the faith behind, except that you can’t let it go. You have nothing better to leave it for. Nothing as good.

So you spend your time trawling Christian blogs to pick fights with believers. Having nothing worthwhile to live for, you kill time by attacking your former faith.

Yet if atheism is true, nothing is worth fighting for. If atheism is true, you’re as insignificant as the dirt you will be buried in.

Your evangelistic atheism is a relict of your lost faith. But it has no value in a godless universe.

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