Saturday, August 05, 2006

An answer for everything

Todd: Getting back to the original post, I love all the verbal tap-dancing these Biblical scholars do on the many contradictions found in Scripture. There must be no such thing as a contradiction, in fact.
No matter what passages are shown, there's always some "explanation" to make them reconcile.

SH: Well, I must confess that Todd has leveled a pretty devastating blow to the Christian faith. By his own admission, we have an answer for everything.

Now if that doesn’t disprove Christianity, I don’t know what would.

You see, if only we were without an explanation, Todd would be a devout Christian.

But the fact that we have an answer for every objection is proof positive that Christianity can’t be true.

Todd: Was Ahaziah 42 or 22 when his rule started? It was both! Why? Because God can do anything, including making a man 42 and 22 simultaneously.

SH: Apparent or actual numerical discrepancies in the text of Scripture can be due to a variety of factors, viz. mistranscription, round numbers, symbolic numbers, different calendrical systems.

In this instance, the original reading for 2 Chron 22:2 is preserved in the Syriac and Septuagintal text traditions.

Todd: "... I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." -- Genesis 32:30
"No man hath seen God at any time..."-- John 1:18

SH: In context, “God” in Jn 1:18, has reference to God the Father, in contrast to the Incarnate Son, who is the visible revelation of the Father.

All Todd does is to pluck an isolated verse from one part of Scripture, then pluck an isolated verse from another part of Scripture, then proclaim a “contradiction.”

This is for people who can’t do exegesis.

Todd: "And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's is a wicked thing...." Leviticus 20:17
But what was god's reaction to Abraham, who married his sister -- his father's daughter? See Genesis 20:11-12

SH: Several problems here:

i) This is not a contradiction within the same law code. Rather, it’s a difference between pre-Mosaic patriarchal customs and the Law of Moses.

Remember that Abraham was originally a pagan idolater before God summoned him to leave Ur of the Chaldees. Abraham was already 75 years old at that time. Clearly a married man.

He was married to his “sister” long before he received his divine vocation.

ii) It’s not as if God commanded in Genesis what he forbad in Leviticus.

iii) There’s also an elementary difference between precept and practice. Even if there were a discrepancy here, it would be a discrepancy between God’s command and Abraham’s behavior.

That does nothing to disprove the inspiration of Scripture.

iv) Finally, not every injunction in Scripture is a moral absolute.

Todd: So, these aren't contradictions. Okay. Name something that you WOULD consider a contradiction.

SH: When I find one, you’ll be the first to know.

Todd: Maybe something like "God tempts people" and then seeing something like "God DOESN'T tempt people".

Oh wait ..
"And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham." (Gen 22:1)

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." (James 1:13)

Now, I know what you're going to say ... "Well, the Genesis passage means that God ALLOWS men to be tempted."

SH: No, that’s not what I’m going to say. Unlike you, I don’t quote Scripture out of context. I pay attention to the actual wording of Scripture as well as the surrounding context.

Jas 1:13 says that God tempts no one to commit evil. The hypothetical (or more properly, counterfactual) sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22) was not an inducement to sin.

To the contrary, it afforded an opportunity for Abraham to demonstrate his faith rather than lapsing into infidelity.

Todd: So, if someone asks me if I went to the store, and I say "Yes, I did go to the store" when really, I had someone else go for me, this wouldn't be a lie?

SH: Sorry, but I didn’t find that in my concordance.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Collateral damage

According to Exbrainer:


Similarly, Steve justifies these actions because he believes that God is not "exacting judgment on the sins of each individual victim," but rather is engaging in an "indiscriminate" holy war.

First, this seems odd given the fact that God specifically orders his soldiers to target these non-combatants, so they are not merely "collateral damage."

Second, this seems not to provide any answer at all because it simply begs the question, "Well, is it okay to order any indiscriminant war?"


Exbrainer has a problem following an argument. I didn’t draw that distinction to justify God’s action. I never said that.

Rather, I simply drew that distinction because Exbrainer failed to draw that distinction himself. He is reading too much into the command. Drawing inferences beyond the content of the command.

It would be entirely just of God to order total war with the intention of exacting judgment on every victim, since every victim is complicit in sin—either original or actual.

Exbrainer is confusing ethics with exegesis. I take an interest in accurate exegesis irrespective of whether it “begs the question” or not.

Of course, I never classified the pagan noncombatants as collateral damage.

And even if I had, I’ve also clarified what is meant by collateral damage.

The death of Judas

DS: One of the easiest demonstrations of this problem is in the field of inerrancy. A skeptic may point out what appears (to them) to be a contradiction, say in Judas’ death. They would point out that the Gospel of Matthew has Judas dying by hanging, the priests buying the field, and it being called a “Field of Blood” because it was purchased with “blood money.” (Matt. 27:3-8) The Book of Acts has Judas dying by evisceration, Judas buying the field, and his blood all over the place resulting in it being named “Field of Blood.” (Acts 1:18-19).

To the skeptic, the two different modes of death, two different purchasers, and two different reasons for the name of the Field, all in a relatively short account, add up to a contradiction.


1.Yes, this is one of the easiest illustrations. That’s why Dagood seized upon this illustration. To make things easy on himself.

2.And it’s “one” of the easiest illustrations because, in fact, there is such a paucity of easy examples in Scripture.

So the more intelligent question to ask is why there are so few easy examples to illustrate his point?

If the Bible were uninspired and erroneous, there ought to be far more easy examples.

3.One methodological difference is that a Christian doesn’t take Dagood’s atomistic approach to Scripture.

We judge the death of Judas in Matthew by the entirety of the Gospel. We judge the death of Judas in Acts by the entirety of Luke-Acts.

We judge any given part by the totality.

4.Why would we expect two accounts of the same event by two different writers to be identical?

I would expect them to differ in detail precisely because they’re independent accounts of the same event. Matthew and Luke have different sources of information.

5.Notice that Dagood singles out the differences while ignoring the commonalities.

But in both accounts we have:

a) The purchase of a field.

b) The purchase of a field from the proceeds of Judas’s betrayal.

c) The same name of the field (“the field of blood”).

d) Judas’ untimely and violent demise.

Since no liberal or conservative scholar is arguing for the literary dependence of Matthew on Luke or vice versa, neither Evangelist was making this up—otherwise you cannot explain the points of correspondence. The only explanation for their commonalities is their dependence on a common historical event.

6.Both accounts are distinguished by their extreme brevity.

What we have, then, are two incomplete reports of the same event. They summarize the event.

7.Given their severe selectivity, I wouldn’t expect us to be in a position to precisely correlate the two accounts, for we would need to know more than either account supplies to interrelate the isolated details.

8.If this is an “easy demonstration” of the problems with inerrancy, then it’s just as easy to come up with a conjectural harmonization:

a) The rope broke, then the body tumbled down the cliff and went kersplat!


b) The corpse putrefied in the hot sun and burst—maybe with a little assistance from scavengers, as in “crowbait.” The meaning of the key verb (prenes) is disputed.


c) The corpse putrefied in the hot sun, fell to the ground, and burst—maybe with a little assistance from scavengers, as in as it stray dogs tugging on the suspended body.

For a detailed analysis, cf. D. Moo, “Tradition & Old Testament in Matthew 27:3-10),” Gospel Perspectives 3:157-75.

9.Any proposed harmonization will look a bit suspicious since the harmonist wasn’t there to witness the event. He can only offer an educated guess.

But, of course, his ignorance cuts both ways. The sceptic is just as ignorant. So the sceptic enjoys no epistemic advantage over the harmonist.

DS: For example, (continuing with inerrancy) if the Christian desires the methodology of any possible explanation eliminating the claim of contradiction, I would willingly agree. The question is whether we can stay wedded to it. I could then point out, using the method that “any possible explanation means no contradiction” how we could align any number of accounts. The Gospel of Peter records that Jesus stated on the cross, “O Power, My Power, why have you forsaken me?” Using the “any possible explanation methodology” this is easily aligned as Jesus having said it in addition to the “My God, My God…” Or we could state that the author of the Gospel of Peter was emphasizing how Jesus obtained his “Power” from God.

SH: Since the Gospel of Peter is apocryphal, there is no need to harmonize a mid-2C forgery with Matthew or Mark.

DS: Using any possible explanation, we could eliminate almost all contradictions in all accounts of history. This renders inerrancy as not singular, but rather “designed” by reducing the requirement of determining a contradiction.

Simply put, the Bible would lose its special status of inerrancy, since by this methodology, many more books would be inerrant. It would no longer be a sign of divinity.

SH: Other issues aside (which I’ll get to momentarily), inerrancy and inspiration are two different things. Even an uninspired writing can be inerrant.

DS: At one time, in discussing Paul, I pointed out how he indicated he went to Jerusalem on two occasions, 14 years apart. (Gal. 1:18 – 2:1). However Acts indicates that it was at the initial meeting that Barnabas introduced Paul. (Acts 9:26-27) At least one apologist proposed a 14-year gap between the sentence in vs. 26 and the sentence in vs. 27.

SH: I and another commenter devoted a lot of time to this issue.

DS: Another example—I may point out I believe the Gospel of Peter is historically accurate.

SH: Except that Dagood doesn’t believe the Gospel of Peter to be historically accurate, now does he?

So why is the burden of proof on a Christian to disprove the historical accuracy of a document which Dagood personally regards as historically inaccurate?

Either there’s a burden on both of us, or else there is no onus on the Christian to disprove something which his opponent equally disbelieves.

So this is a completely disingenuous hypothetical.

DS: An apologist may claim, “No, that was written too late.” Bam! We have our methodology. In order to determine what is historically accurate, apparently we are to use a cut-off date. It is timing that will determine historical accuracy.

SH: That oversimplifies the issue.

DS: But this presents two problems:

1) How does timing have anything to do with historical accuracy? What date does one use for our cut-off date? 100 CE? “Within the lifetime of eyewitnesses”?

Can we reasonably state that no person could lie prior to that date, and no person could be accurate after it? What if I had heard some tales about Jesus, and thought, “What a great character! I will write a fancy story about him” and completely make it up. Yet I write in 80 CE. Does that mean, under this method, we must determine it to be accurate?

SH: Dagood is conflating two distinct issues. The fact that an early source may also be inaccurate is a separate question from the probability that a later source is less accurate.

DS: Or we have another poor author that obtained his information directly from a Disciple. It is confirmed by Mary’s granddaughter. It is reiterated, in exact form, by another friend of another Disciple. But he has the gall to write in 150 CE. Too late? Can’t be true?

SH: Dagood likes to toy with hypotheticals. This is a diversionary tactic. The point at issue is to sift through the extant evidence.

Since Dagood doesn’t believe that such a document exists, a Christian is under no obligation to disprove the accuracy of a nonexistent counterexample.

Dagood resorts to pseudoproblems in the absence of real problems.

DS: 2) Can one stay consistent in this methodology? What about the Torah? It records events long before it was written. It is (I believe) a universal consensus that some of the stories were passed by oral tradition over at least 400 years. Is that too late? Within our “cut-off” date, why does the Tanakh get a pass, yet the New Testament adheres to such strict time-constraints?

SH: Dagood doesn’t say what, exactly, he’s referring to. Is he alluding to Genesis? But other issues aside (which I’ll get to momentarily), Genesis is clearly exceptional. It is bringing the Exodus generation up to speed, going all the way back to the creation of the world, as well as the flood, which would destroy any prediluvian records—excepting, possibly, for whatever Noah brought on board.

DS: Further, we have books written within this time frame. The Gospel of Peter could have been written prior to 100 CE. 1 Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas beat 2 Peter. Why are they excluded? Even within the timing method some “oops” occur.


i) The Gospel of Peter “could” have been written before 100 AD? Notice the weasel word. The only relevant question is what concrete evidence we have for the dating of this apocryphon. Dagood presents no evidence for a 1C date.

ii) Many things were written in the 1C. The writings of Seneca were written in the 1C. Why were they “excluded”?

Timing was never the only criterion. Genre is another criterion. What does a writing claim to be? What does a writing claim to be about? What does a writing claim about itself?

1 Clement doesn’t claim to be Scripture. Quite the contrary. And the Epistle of Barnabas is pseudonymous.

Does Dagood believe that the Epistle of Barnabas is authentic?

Once again, Dagood likes to throw frivolous roadblocks in front of Christians. Dagood is a like a juvenile delinquent.

DS: Besides, these are alleged to be inspired by an eternal God. He could write history at any time, and be accurate. Why is the New Testament limited to such an exacting time-frame? If God inspired an author to write of Joseph accurately over 400 years later, could he not do the same with Jesus?)

SH: Yes, in principle, you could have an inspired Gospel written 500 years after the fact.

But what you couldn’t have is a Gospel by Peter which was penned 50, or 100, or 500 years after he died.

If a mid-2C gospel claims to be written by a mid-1C figure, then you automatically know it’s spurious.

One of Dagood’s problems is that he’s unable to keep more than one idea in his head at a time.

But the criteria of authenticity often involve a “relation” between two or more data points.

DS: Further, if we are to rely upon the Church fathers, what else do they tell of that within this method, we are to include as historical? Papias wrote that Judas was killed by a chariot. If we accept Church tradition, then Matthew and Acts are incorrect. Unless we hold to the earlier account. (Ah-ha! That “timing” method again. Did you catch it?) In which case Acts must be incorrect.


1.Yet another example of Dagood’s simple-minded line of attack. Different church fathers have different credentials. They were born at different times and places. Some were better connected that others. Some were better educated than others. Some were better traveled than others. Some are closer to the events in time and/or place.

Whether a patristic claim is reliable or not can only be judged on a case-by-case basis. Was that particular church father well-positioned to be a trustworthy historical witness for that particular claim?

2.There is also an obvious difference between what makes an inspired writing reliable and what makes an uninspired writing reliable (or unreliable, as the case may be).

DS: Or does one use doctrine to determine what is historically correct? Can one exclude the historicity of a book, simply because it is Gnostic?

This is a particularly revealing method. If the book makes claims as to Jesus’ statements which are unwelcome to the Christian, is it excluded, NOT on the basis of its accuracy, but on the doctrine contained therein. Doctrine the Christian does not like. This demonstrates a bias.


1.You can’t have two inspired writings, of which one is Gnostic while the other is anti-Gnostic.

2.In any event, there are no 1C Gnostic candidates for inclusion in the canon.

3.Dagood doesn’t believe that any of the Gnostic gospels is authentic. If he did, he’d be a Gnostic.

DS: Reasonable to an inerrantist? Why is this helpful? They have already committed to the position of inerrancy, and do not need an explanation. As long as there is any conceivable way in which the two or three passages could possibly align, even to the point of having events occur over and over (Peter denying Jesus nine times, for example) the inerrantist, presuming non-contradiction, will accept such an explanation as “reasonable.”

If our inerrantist is the “whom” in the “reasonable to whom?” this quickly deteriorates to an “any possible explanation” as being “reasonable.”

SH: Throughout this thread, Dagood constantly assumes, without every bothering to document the claim (as usual), that inerrancy commits a Christian to proposing some harmonization, however unlikely, for an apparently discrepancy.

It does nothing of the kind. Given our distance from the events, along with the summary character of the record, I’d expect us to run across a number of obscurities in the record of Scripture which, by the same token, defy a confident reconstruction of events

I’m quite content to leave the obscurities obscure if I lack the supplementary information to fill in the blanks.

DS: Yet to an inerrantist, committed to inerrancy, because it is possible it becomes “reasonable.”

SH: This disregards the basis of one’s commitment. It’s not an arbitrary commitment.

DS: Or the Mormon of the Book of Mormon?

SH: Yet another simple-minded comparison. Unlike the 1C, we know a great deal about the 19C. We know a great deal about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. About their character and conduct. About their methods and sources.

DS: Or the Christian Scientist on Science and Health with a Key to Scriptures? This will, again, mean many more books are inerrant, and just as Divine as the Bible.

SH: We also know quite a bit about Mary Baker Eddy, such as the fact that—despite the purely “illusory” nature of evil—she had to wear glasses and eventually died of old age.

DS: What (sadly) starts to emerge as we discuss this is that other religions are not given the same courtesy as Christians. The methodology (whether stated or not) is that Christians get to decide what is “reasonable” and what is not. If Muslims say their explanations are reasonable, they are ignored—they aren’t Christians. If Mormons say their explanations are reasonable, they are ignored—they aren’t Christians. If an atheist scratches his head, and says, “What? That is not reasonable” they can be ignored—they aren’t Christian.

SH: This statement is either a bald-faced lie or else a tacit admission of pig-ignorance.

The cults and alternative religions are by no means ignored in Christian apologetics. There is, to the contrary, a vast apologetic literature on comparative religion and countercult missiology.

Likewise, it’s balderdash of the purest distillate to claim that atheistic arguments are simply ignored.

Sentimental atheism

In my observation, an apostate is often more moralistic than someone without any Christian background at all. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1.Leaving the faith leaves a void. The void is often filled by substituting politics for theology.

To take a few examples, Victorian socialism was the offshoot of apostates who lost their faith in God, and then relocated their lost faith in the betterment of man.

In America, this carried over into the social gospel.

Likewise, many mainline denominations substitute political activism for evangelism and traditional theology.

The creed of the political left becomes the creed of the religious left. The agenda of the political left because the agenda of the religious left.

They are still missionaries, but their missionary zeal is politicized and secularized.

Left to their own devices, Christians are generally apolitical. They only mobilize on the political front when they feel that their faith and their traditional lifestyle is under attack.

2.In addition, unless the Christian home in which an apostate was raised resembles something out of Carrie, a Christian upbringing can have the ironic effect of giving him a rose-tinted view of the human condition.

For while the child hears about original sin and total depravity from the pulpit, his actual experience is far more positive.

And that’s because he’s led a sheltered life and a charmed existence within the walled garden of a Christian family or local church.

So, even after he leaves the faith, he is still basking in the afterglow of his formative experience.

Likewise, it takes a long time for a “post-Christian” culture to fully revert to its pre-Christian bestiality.

If, by contrast, he had grown upon in Sodom and Gomorrah, he would be thoroughly corrupt.

3. So the apostate is a mutt: one part Christian to two parts atheism. He doesn’t exemplify the character of purebred infidelity.

Rather, the repercussions of his secular outlook are often diluted by the lingering influence of his early, Christian conditioning.

4. And this inconsistency is an effect of common grace. The people of God benefit from the fact that many unbelievers are better than their creed. Their inconsistency is a blessed inconsistency. God has frozen them in place before their metamorphosis was complete. Before they reach the end-stage of infidelity.

So it can, in a sense, be hazardous for a Christian to point out the inconsistencies in secular ethics. For an unbeliever can resolve the tension in either of two directions—one more benign, but the other more malign.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Too goody-goody to be true

DM: Do we agree that as humans we have many basic needs and desires? This seems self-evident.

SH: Yes, we agree.

DM: I would argue that because we cannot fulfill all of our needs and desires simultaneously, or equally, that we must arrange our needs and desires into priorities, or order them, according to our values. It seems an unavoidable part of being human to have "first-order, second-order, etc., etc.," values.

SH: As long as you define “value” in purely pragmatic rather than moralistic terms.

DM: You do what is good in order to survive.


i) No, you do what is “necessary” in order to survive.

ii) In addition, many people indulge in unhealthy or high-risk behavior. They are prepared to shorten their lives if their lives are more enjoyable in return.

Except for the health nut who spends all his time in the gym or the organic grocery store, most of us are prepared to sacrifice a 32-inch waistline for an ice-cream cone.

DM: You don't rape, pillage, and steal because you recognize that you are less likely to be successful, and to pass on your genes, if you live in such a chaotic society, or if you are ostracized from it, or punished within it.


i) That makes sense up to a point, but it’s hardly a moral motive.

ii) Why should I, as an unbeliever, care if I pass on my genes? Indeed, there are many deliberately childless couples these days.

DM: Are you asking me why I should act virtuously?
Because we are in a prisoner's dilemma situation -- we all must work together in a societal structure, or we may as well have a "free-for-all" morally and otherwise. Assuming we will work together (which history has shown works 95% of the time), then exercising virtuous character contributes to the stability of society, and society, just like virtues, becomes a means to an end -- success in health, wealth, and reproduction.

SH: That sounds very logical in the abstract, but you know as well as I do that in real life, people do cheat to get ahead.

They figure that since the next guy is going to cheat, that gives him an unfair advantage, so, in order to level the playing field they had better cheat as well.

They know that since everybody does not play by the rules, it would be foolhardy for them to play by the rules all the time.

May the best cheater win!

DM: We have to start with some primary value around which we frame our ethics.

SH: As an arbitrary postulate?

DM: One of our obligations is to ensure the survival of our collective species.

SH: According to whom? To whom am I (as an unbeliever) thus obligated? Not to the dead. And not to posterity, since they don’t exist.

DM: Another to the survival of our society.

SH: Danny, you’re pontificating instead of arguing.

DM: And that the virtues and values we hold dear don't die with us.

SH: Why should I, as an unbeliever, care what happens after I’m gone? I have no personal stake in a future to which I’m not a party.

DM: Our species is capable of both virtuous and unvirtuous behavior.

SH: You’re begging the question.

DM: I am not sure what the categorical difference here is, or why you think it invalid to use our survival as a primary value, and ethics as a means to further it.

SH: I regard survival as a value. But I do so on my own grounds, not on yours. Your position is groundless.

DM: Do we disagree that ethical behavior in society leads to the most healthy and successful society, which in turn gives rise to the most healthy and successful progeny?

SH: Yes, but that depends entirely on how we define ethical behavior.

You’re defining ethics by success, and then defining success by ethics.

DM: Humans either go it alone or form societies. If they go it alone, they are much less likely to survive, or to live healthy, than if they form societies. Social contracts are one valid way to establish societies in which everyone agrees (a sort of prisoner's dilemma) to hold to ethical precepts to ensure the success of the society, and by proxy, the individual.

SH: Nice on paper. Doesn’t work out that way in practice.

DM: you are more likely to be on the receiving end and receive benefits from living in a society that agrees to put the "many" above the "few" at any given time, by virtue of statistics.

SH: Hypothetically speaking. Harsh reality is often otherwise.

DM: Thus, it certainly is in your self-interest to pledge in to such a society, and pledging to it is necessary to maintain its function, that if you should need to sacrifice yourself for the good of the many, you will.

SH: It’s in my self-interest to commit suicide for the good of the many?

Danny, this is a point blank contradiction.

This is why you are unable to square altruism with self-interest.

Sure, there are many cases in which the two overlap.

But if, as you have done up until now, you are attempting to justify altruism by appealing to the way in which altruism facilitates self-interest, then—in those cases when altruism is at odds with self-preservation—there is no reason for the unbeliever to put his head on the chopping block.

To the contrary, you’ve laid the foundation for the unbeliever, in cases where altruism and self-interest conflict rather than intersect, to opt for self-interest over altruism every single time.

Statistics are great when the stats are in my favor.

DM: We have to look at self-interest from the perspective of every individual in the society.

SH: Why do we need to do that, Danny? My self-fulfillment is not contingent on the self-fulfillment of every other individual in the universe.

Indeed, there are many instances in which my self-interest can be advanced by cheating.

Sure, if everyone cheated all the time, no one would win, and everyone would lose.

But that is why, in the real world—unlike your utilitarian utopia—most people are selective cheaters. It is in their self-interest to gamble some of the time. To take a calculated risk every now and then.

DM: If you are X, and the question is how many X's must die, then you certainly view as "self-interest" what appears to Y as "altruism". Obviously, we consider it "unselfish" to sacrifice our lives for many other lives, should such a dilemma arise, but from the perspective of the utilitarian, it is acting in the interest of our own society/species/kin, which retains selfish motive -- we want to further their survival because they are us: our children, cousins, whatever. Even other animals shown kin altruism (which makes it significantly less altruistic).

SH: This is special-pleading. You’ve qualified self-interest to the point where self-interest is interchangeable with self-destruction. Antonyms turn into synonyms.

DM:I just went through that a bit above with kin altruism, but this could also be formulated within the context of viewing your action's morality by its consequences: consider that if you do NOT do X, you are, effectively, killing many people, while if you DO X, you are killing only one.

SH: True, but the one is not just anyone. The one happens to be me. And I take a personal interest in me. I have a unique investment in my own survival.

DM: Part of our morality is to minimize the loss of life, so the ethical choice here is clear.

SH: It is not at all clear if you justify altruism by appeal to the way in which it promotes self-interest.

DM: Consider a social contract as well -- that while a priori the society cannot take a life (unnecessarily -- considering the trolley problem and other sorts of dilemmas), an inbuilt clause and understanding is that the success and stability of the survival promotes the greater good -- as it promotes the survival of the many -- and thus if one can choose to take their own life in order to contribute to this society's stability, they ought to do so. Obviously, this ethical onus would be followed only by those persons acting responsibly for the greater good. There is no guarantee that our inbuilt survival instinct could be overcome by all persons at all times, but the ethical choice remains clear.

SH: This is way too goody-goody to be true. You act as if you grew up in a broom closet. That’s not how real people reason.

DM: As with Christianity, ethics are a choice you make, whether to be selfish and thus cause harm (or death) to many, which is immoral, or to act unselfishly and thus alleviate harm and promote survival to many, which is moral.

SH. Moral…immoral. You continue to beg the question.

DM: Ah, but you see, this is where the atheist's ethics are so much different than the Christian's -- we choose to do the right thing only because it is the right thing, not expecting a cosmic reward or fearing a cosmic punishment. If you choose not to cause the death of many by allowing your own life to be extinguished, and the atheist knows that this is all they have (no afterlife), how much greater a sacrifice is this than dying for only three measly days (and knowing this beforehand), before being raised to life eternal? Who couldn't take that kind of "fall" for others

SH: If you choose to be cosmic fodder for the universe, play the fall guy for your neighbor’s genetic contribution to the future, or volunteer to be the lamb tethered to the stake, then you’re welcome to your opiate.

We’ll send a bouquet of flowers to your funeral and compose a florid eulogy for our fallen comrade.

DM: It is not a derived function, it is taken as an a priori commitment -- to the survival of our species, irrespective of race, IQ, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, etc. Since we are using human life as a primary value, there is no way to logically or rationally devalue some lives and add value to others.

SH: Once again, you’re making things up. Pretty words that bear no relation to the common good.

The survival of our species—if that’s your primary value—is hardly irrespective of individual aptitude or achievement.

DM: In the outline above, self-interest demands that you agree to utilitarianism, because more often than not, your own life is furthered by the collective good, and thus statistically speaking, you agree to the potential need for self-sacrifice, as in the trolley car dilemma, ironically out of self-interest.

SH: Fine. Play the good German. Follow orders. Live and die for the Vaterland. Go ever dutifully to your destruction as your ears ring with patriotic jingles and jingoism.

What this has to do with secularism escapes me.

DM: Consider that statistically speaking, it is much more likely for you to be a part of the "many" the the "one/few" when it comes to dilemmas in which there is no way to avoid casualties. You sign in to the agreement/contract out of self-interest, and agree that just as you will more likely receive benefit from it the majority of the time, there is a potentiality for altruism.

SH: Yeah, sure.

Any atheist in his right mind would at that point tear his solemn contract into little bitty pieces and flush it down the latrine.

Living in fear of fear

DM: The reason that Osama is still alive is that our very own CIA taught him survivalist training in Afghanistan, when the occupying force of the time were the Soviets. The reason that we are occupying Iraq is because we were stupid enough to arm Saddam years ago against the Iranians, and provide him with the ways and means to produce chemical and biological weapons. We sow our own harvest, when we leave seeds of violence in foreign fields, and we then reap the whirlwind of our foreign policies.

SH: I’m bunching Danny’s original comments together by topic, which simplifies the response.

1.I can think of other reasons why Osama is still alive:

i) We can’t corner him in Afghanistan because he can always escape across the border to Pakistan.

Short of invading Pakistan, which is impractical, we’re left to play a cat-and-mouse game with Osama when he has a backdoor.

ii) When we go after Osama, we’re going into the heart of the Muslims world. He has plenty of fellow Muslims to give him refuge.

2.Cold war policy-makers played the hand they were dealt. The threat varies from one generation to another. Each generation has its own task of risk-management.

Moving on to Danny’s major contention:


Does violence beget violence?

I made a comment about the movie Munich, and how it awakened me to the futility of retribution as a means to peace:

I suppose I see this cycle of violence as cruel in its unending circularity.

How many people think this doesn't just motivate the crazies further, and encourage their efforts to acquire serious weapons, as well as make those with access to such weapons more likely to sympathize with them and give them over?

But as we occupy foreign lands, and as Israel bombs civilians (Qana), the thread only increases. No risk is being "managed" here, fuel is only being added to the fires.

We simply cannot apply such force to terrorists, because in so doing, we invariably destroy a large number of civilians, and we turn every moderate family member of a "martyr" into willing holy war combatants in so doing. For every one we kill, we make 4 more.

What I said is that this violence is circular and unending, not that the current or present supply of willing participants in said violence is unending.

And that's the idea here--that if we make them fear, they'll not attack? No. They do not fear DEATH. How can you make someone who does not fear death fear your "overwhelming force"?

I support the right to exist of both Israel and Palestine. I also strongly oppose the policies of both. So long as each side undermines the possibility of peace by responding to violence with violence, the cycle of poverty and martyrdom will continue there.

If their hate will not dissipate even when we all sit down to talk about our basic rights to life, and our mutual commitment to ensure basic human rights and needs are protected, then perhaps at least the hate the breeds violence will. One thing is for certain -- tyranny and fear never produced a cowering populace for long: the USA, the French Revolution, and numerous civil wars are historical testimony to that fact. And the fear breeds a certain desperation which naturally dispenses violence out of survival instinct. If fear were just an emotion in a vacuum, then we would prefer it over hate. But when hate and fear combine into desperation, then violence is inevitable, and it will never end until neither side fears for their own life.

Steve's motto appears to be, "oderint dum metuant": let them hate so long as they fear (originally from Caligula). Unfortunately, fear only fuels desperate violence.

SH: Several problems here.

1.It’s true that when you fight back you may anger your adversary. Is the alternative to give up without a fight? To roll over and play dead?

2.Danny is assuming that there’s a practical alternative to self-defense.

If his alternative could work, it would work. Obviously the political will is lacking on one side or another.

3. Fear is often a very effective deterrent. Why don’t many more Americans commit many more crimes? Fear of the consequences.

Why don’t Muslim countries that hate America attack America? Fear of the consequences.

4. Suicide bombers are not afraid to die, but only a fraction of the Muslim population are suicide bombers. As I said before, most Muslims do not nurse a death-wish.

5. Both Israel and the US are only using a fraction of the force at their disposal. For example, both countries have the nuclear card.

6. In addition, it isn’t necessarily a case of us v. the Muslim world.

The Muslim world is, itself, a seething cauldron of mutual hatreds. It isn’t hard to set Muslims at each other’s throats.

Suppose we were confronted with two hostile Islamic states. Suppose the CIA were to arrange the assassination of one Muslim head-of-state, but made it look like the other Muslim country put out the hit.

We could then sit back and watch the two countries proceed to annihilate each other.

7. In fact, the CIA used to do that sort of thing during the Cold War. The problem is that many Americans have gotten soft.

The very success of past strategies has lulled many Americans into the illusory sense that we don’t need to be so ruthless.

More so with the Eurocrats, who were basking under our protective penumbra for all those years.

Well, maybe we don’t need to be as ruthless. That remains to be seen.

But what many Americans—not to mention the Eurocrats—can’t bring themselves to appreciate is that we may be up against an utterly implacable and mortal enemy for which nothing short of total war will do.

Many Americans who lived through WWII as well as the Cold War understood that.

But many of the younger generation, as the beneficiary of our past victories, are idealistic to a fault.

This also goes back to the draft-age Americans of the Vietnam era.

8.Danny talks about “tyranny” and “desperation.” What does this have reference to?

Sounds like he’s transferring the Palestinian propaganda to Iraq and Lebanon.

9.It may be that our attempt to democratize Iraq will fail. And what will that prove?

It will prove that Bush was too starry-eyed—when he should have been more cynical and calculating, like the Cold Warriors of the past.

View From A Wheelchair

by Joni Eareckson Tada

Every night around 8 p.m., my paralysis forces me out of my wheelchair and into my bed. My body is wearing out after almost 40 years of living as a spinal cord-injured quadriplegic. It’s a good time to reflect on the day as well as watch some TV. Not long ago, I flicked on a PBS special called “Innovation: Miracle Cell.” When I learned it was about new therapies using stem cells, I asked my husband to turn up the volume.

Paralyzed after a car accident, pretty 19-year-old Laura Dominguez looked up from her wheelchair and into my room through the camera and smiled. She had reason to. Recently she traveled to Portugal for an extraordinary operation that changed her life. First, Dr. Carlos Lima drew stem cells – her body’s own “repair cells” – from the lining in her nose, and then gingerly separated them. Those cells are like blank slates, able to turn into tissue that would “fit” into Laura’s spinal cord. Dr. Lima gently packed the cells into the damaged portion of her spine, and after three months of therapy, Laura was able to move her foot and regain a significant amount of feeling in her back and legs. Said Dr. Lima, “I will be able to say to somebody with a spinal cord injury, ‘Yes, you will walk again,’ as opposed to telling them life is good from a wheelchair.”

How ironic; me rejoicing in the success of another’s healing. Other success stories followed: a teenager with a punctured heart that was healed through a stem cell transplant from his blood; a little boy who no longer has cancer because of a transplant using stem cells from the umbilical cord of his little brother.

The same week Dr. Lima published his research in the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine I picked up the July 24 issue of TIME and read “What a Bush Veto Would Mean for Stem Cells.” Rather than read the same line about embryonic stem cells being the Holy Grail of miracle cures, I read how “science has outrun politics. Adult cells, such as those found in bone marrow, were thought to be less valuable than embryonic cells … But adult cells may be more elastic than scientists thought and could offer shortcuts to treatment that embryonic cells can’t match.”

I and others with disabilities have been closely monitoring the debate between adult and embryonic cells, and we know there isn’t an embryonic cell treatment that heals even a rat – there are tumors, tissue rejection, genetic abnormalities and death; there are no miracle cures. Yet right now more than 70 medical conditions are being successfully addressed by adult stem cell therapies either in human clinical trials or human treatments. Laura Dominguez knows firsthand; she can now even walk a bit with crutches!

No wonder people like me are excited. True, many adult stem cell therapies are not yet bona fide cures, but so far, they have proven substantially more successful than embryonic stem cell approaches. That is why I am grateful that President Bush continues to uphold the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Those restrictions are perhaps the only means of encouraging funding in the overlooked and less commercially viable field of research using adult stem cells.

Still, some people say we should wait and see what happens with stem cells gleaned from human embryos. Pardon me, I’d rather not wait. Besides, there’s something deeply unsettling about tearing into a human embryo for its spare parts. Is it really nothing more than a mindless clump of cells? Of no more worth than a potato to be used then discarded? I shiver when I hear politicians and so-called experts talk that way.

People like me are vulnerable in a society that disregards the rights of the weak, the infirmed, the unseen, and the very, very small. I don’t want to live in a world where the bio-tech industry sets the moral agenda. When we tamper with the essence of our human genesis – certain only of the uncertainty of our outcomes – we mock the God whose imprint we each bear, and we provide false hope to those whose hope sustains them.

I stand with countless Americans with disabilities who believe our cause is not advanced when human life is sacrificed in hopes of finding a cure. Our cause is uplifted when we take the common sense and ethical course to hope and healing. And if you don’t believe me, ask Laura Dominguez.

For more information about Joni’s thoughts on stem cell research, check out the new book co-authored by her and Nigel M. De S. Cameron, How to be a Christian in a Brave New World.

HT: Scripture Searcher

You Reppert what you sow

I see that Ed Babinski has responded to something I wrote.

Babinski’s reply is pretty well-written and well-documented.

EB: I have been discussing brain-mind matters with the Christian philosopher Vic Reppert for years, even before his book was published and before he began his blog. See Vic's blog, named after his book, "C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea." I am a fan of Vic's expertise and composure, including his acknowledgment of arguments contrary to his philosophical and theological opinions. There is agnosticism mingled with his Christian faith--a healthy proportion--so far as I can tell. But that comes from his willingness to remain informed by all sides and to remain aware of unanswered questions and uncertain variables.

SH: If Babinski is insinuating that Reppert is a cut above the likes of me, then he is, of course, entirely right. Reppert is a class act. Several notches above a bottom-feeder like me.

EB: One might take note especially of some comments made by Vic concerning intellectual performances by freethinkers Drange (arguing against a proponent of Bahnsen's views) and Parsons in debates with Christian philosophers. Apparently Vic and even the younger Christian philosopher, Jason, have been impressed by some points freethinkers Drange and Parsons have raised.

SH: I agreed with Reppert that Wilson was bested by his opponent.

There is, however, a difference between being unimpressed by Wilson’s performance and being impressed by the performance of his opponent. Wilson was simply in over his head.

As I also noted, a more balanced debate was the exchange between Michael Martin and John Frame.

EB: Vic also admits that there are a variety of views held even by Christian philosophers regarding the brain-mind question, including pro-physicalist views.

SH: This I’ve never denied.

EB: I’d sooner give science at least a couple more centuries of patient investigation of the brain-mind before coming out with premature proofs or disproofs. I also suspect that brain-minds do not come together all at once, but that just as the brain develops, a mind also take time and a wealth of experiences to develop and incorporates more sensory input and data each second than any of us are consciously aware of, and that even at the moments of creation of memories of the untold numbers of things we each experience, we are probably unconscious of all the initial connections between each memory that happen at their creation inside our brain-minds, and all the thoughts we later take for granted and the connections they have with reality are likewise taken for granted as something automatic, but in fact it all took a lifetime to build up.


i) Now we’re getting to the nub of the problem. To give science a few more centuries to solve the problem assumes the question at issue is a strictly scientific question. That automatically begs the question in favor of physicalism.

ii) In addition, it overlooks the fact that science is, itself, a mind-dependent discipline—like every other field of knowledge. Science can never step outside of the mind and go behind the mind to say what extramental reality is “truly” like. So the exercise is circular, for the scientist must forever take the mind as both his point of departure and his point of reference.

EB: There is also the question of "commonsense" responses to the brain-mind question, and of "commsense" itself, as elucidated in an article in The Philosopher's Magazine by David Papineau, Professor of Philosophy of Science at King's College, London and author of The Roots of Reason and Thinking about Consciousness (Oxford University Press). Papineau's article is titled, "The Tyranny of Commonsense," and in it he says, "Everyday thinking embodies a rich structure of assumptions about the mind, and it is by no means clear that all these assumptions are sound. In particular, there are many recent scientific findings that cast substantial doubt on our intuitive view of the mind. For a start, take Benjamin Libet's work on the genesis of actions. Libet's experiments indicate that, at least when it comes to basic bodily movements, our conscious choices occur a full third of a second after neural activity in the brain begins to prompt the behaviour. This certainly casts doubt on our intuitive conviction that our actions are instigated by our conscious choices. Again, the work of David Milner and Melvyn Goodale on the separation of the dorsal and ventral streams in visual processing (the “where” and “what” streams) suggests that our basic bodily movements aren't guided by our conscious visual awareness but by some more basic mechanism. And then there are the many experiments on “change blindness.” These show that we often fail to see large visible changes occurring right in front of us, and so question the intuitive compelling idea that we are aware of pretty much everything within our field of vision. However, when philosophers come across this kind of work, they don't view it as an exciting challenge to the everyday view of the mind. Rather, their first reaction is to distrust the interpretation of the scientific experiments. In their view, there is no way that our everyday view of the mind can be threatened by scientific findings. Our intuitive conception of the mind is sacrosanct, so there must be something wrong with scientific arguments that cast doubt on it."

See also the book, The Illusion of Conscious Will, which has generated plenty of controversy. (Perform an exact match in google)


i) I am not appealing to “common sense” or sensory perception. Rather, I’m appealing to our self-presenting mental states. Since these are immediately given in consciousness, they allow for no discrepancy between appearance and reality.

ii) What exactly is Libet saying? Is he saying that I didn’t choose to type this sentence? That the urge to type this sentence was an involuntary urge over which I had no conscious control? Have I been hijacked by my body to say and do things without my initiative or consent?

EB: Andrew M. Bailey, a young philosopher at the Christian college of BIOLA lists some reasons he too is attracted to physicalism (of an emergent yet non-reductive sort), adding in his blog that “substance dualism remains a (miniscule) minority position among philosophers of mind, despite the traction that more modest forms of dualism have recently found. Substance dualists like J.P. Moreland (and the rest of the Biola crew) [not to forget Platinga] do not yet have reason for triumphal celebrations.”

SH: The argument from consensus is philosophically worthless. A non-argument.

The Clock Is Still Ticking For Charles N' Bob

Will the hosts of the Charles N' Bob sideshow known as "The Calvinist Flyswatter" call or not. Come on, I thought you two he-men said that Dr. White was afraid to face you out in the open.

You know the number. The time for the DL today is Thursday Afternoons at 4:00 MST. See you there!

Out to lunch

On his way out of the Debunkers’ bunker, Exbrainer wrote a critique of Tom Wanchick.

I was otherwise occupied at the time, so now I’m going to settle some unfinished business.

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

EB: Wanchick's first premise is "Every substance has an explanation of its existence either in an external cause or in the necessity of its own nature."

How does one know this to be true? Wanchick attempts to substantiate his claim when he writes, ". . . for if confronted with a new substance, everyone would assume it has an explanation before they assumed it didn't."

In other words, this claim is true because of induction. Everything that we have observed that exists has an explanation for its existence. I certainly agree with this claim, but I wonder how it can be extrapolated and used to describe the existence of the universe.

Let me explain. Every existing thing that we have observed has been observed in a physical universe acted upon by physical laws. These physical laws certainly affected the "substances" observed.


i) The Leibnizian argument is not an inductive argument. Rather, it’s predicated on the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

ii) Moreover, Leibniz hardly limited the category of “substance” to sensible objects.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

EB: This cosmological argument fails in exactly the same place that the previous one did. The first premise states, "Every substance that begins to exist has a cause." Even if we grant that the universe is a "substance" and not "the set of all substances," this is still an inductive claim made within conditions in which the universe itself does not exist.

Wanchick explicitly states that his is an inductive argument. He writes, "Inductively, of course, no one in all of history has witnessed an object leap into reality this way. If this is possible, it's strikingly curious that it's never occurred."

Again, however, everyone "in all of history" has only witnessed objects coming into existence within the physical universe. The universe itself does not exist within the physical universe, so it is impossible to extract an argument that relies on the conditions within the universe and apply it to the universe itself which does not exist within the universe.

SH: Once again, the Kalam argument is not an inductive argument. It is an a priori argument, not an a posteriori argument. It is predicated on the distinction between a potential and actual infinite—along with the impossibility of a concrete (as opposed to abstract) actual infinite.

It is possible that Wanchick has mischaracterized the arguments. But since Exbrainer is a philosophy major currently enrolled in a doctoral program, he is not dependent on Wanchick for the definition or classification of these arguments.

The (fine-tuning) Teleological Argument

EB: The addition of God to this "problem" does nothing to solve it. If a god existed, he would have available to him an infinite number of options in creating the universe. There were as many possible universes without conscious life available to a god as there are available to chance. Why should we believe that a god would be compelled to create one with life? Could he not have just as easily created a universe that did not sustain life?

It does not matter, then, that ". . . the possible universes that disallow life incomprehensibly outnumber those that allow it." This is true whether if chance is responsible for the universe or if a god freely chose to create. Both chance and a god would have the same number of possible universes. That this universe exists the way it does is no less statistically "miraculous" whether by chance or by a god with infinite possibilities.

SH: Actually, the “addition” of God would do quite a lot to solve the problem.

i) In what (or whom) do possible worlds inhere? Possibility is indexed to agency—to an agent. To what the agent can possibly do. The actual is the source of the possible. An existent.

ii) Likewise, what actualizes a possible world? What (or whom) is selecting which possible world to realize?

A theist has answers to all these questions. An atheist does not.

EB: Same problem. If a god existed, he would be able to create any number of universes in which laws and phenomena are not knowable or discoverable. Chance is no different. There are the same number of options available to both chance or a god.


i) The fact that some possible worlds are opaque to human reason does nothing to explain why the actual is accessible to human reason.

ii) And the actual world is our window into possible worlds.

The Problem of Evil

EB: Wanchick asserts that "Evil obviously exists. . ." Actions certainly exist, and people certainly call some actions "evil" sometimes, but does something called "evil" obviously exist? I can't taste, hear, touch, see, or smell it. How is this obvious?

SH: Exbrainer has a point here. Evil is not an empirical property. And that points up one of the severe limitations of materialism. So where do we go from here?

Do we stick with materialism and deny morality?

Or do we stick with morality and deny materialism?

EB: Also, how is it that objects can be improperly used? It is true that a bicycle has a design function, but what if I don't want a bicycle for the function for which it was designed? Is that an "improper" use of it?

SH: I assume that Wanchick is alluding to Plantinga’s extensive analysis of proper function. That’s where one would look for such distinctions.

The Moral Argument

EB: I've dealt with the issue of morality at length before. I believe that moral judgments are relative to moral frameworks.

Now, what if the same could be said of moral judgments? What if I could say objectively that it is morally wrong of P to D (I'm stealing all of this from Princeton's Gilbert Harman if you are wondering), but had to qualify my statement that it was morally wrong according to a specific moral framework? My judgment would be objective, but not universal.

If morality is not universal, though, must I accept everyone's moral judgments as equally valid? Of course not. For one thing, it is certainly possible that someone makes a moral judgment that does not fit the moral framework they use to justify it [Just like it would be possible for someone to say that something is stationary from a framework in which that judgment is inconsistent].

Secondly, acknowledging that a belief may be justified by reference to another moral framework does not mean that I have to abandon my own moral framework. For example, I believe that it is morally wrong to rape someone. If I were to happen upon a man trying to rape a woman, my moral framework demands that I do whatever action is permissible according to that framework to prevent that action from taking place. I may acknowledge that the action is permissible according to the rapist's moral framework, but that does not mean that I must ignore what is demanded by my own moral framework.

Moral relativism, then, does not necessarily lead to moral nihilism.

Anyone familiar with Foucault's work on power structures will know that, if he is correct, social ideas and morality are shaped by power. There is nothing called "madness" out in the world. One cannot catch "madness" in a bucket and paint it pink. It is an idea that must be defined. Originally, the church and the family were the primary power structures that made this definition. The church needed a way to distinguish between God's directions to his people through the Holy Spirit and the babblings of a madman. People that had certain heretical "visions" and "promptings" from God were considered "mad." Now, it is the physicians who define these kind of terms. Whatever the age, though, power is the driver behind these definitions.

In the case of morality, then, power will be the stabilizing (or destabilizing) force behind societal morality. Obviously, that does not mean that one must accept society's morality (both the Christians here and myself reject our current society's morality, but for drastically different reasons). For example, though most of current, American society opposes same-sex marriage, I adamantly support it. I do not have to accept the majority opinion even if I acknowledge that that opinion is justified by reference to a certain moral framework. I can exert my power (however limited it is) to try to change societal opinion. I can also point out that denying homosexual couples marriage is inconsistent with other, primary societal values like equal treatment under the law.

SH: Other issues aside, this presents Exbrainer with a dilemma. He can undercut the moral argument for God’s existence by adopting moral relativism.

But if he makes that move, then it will cost in another department—for he thereby forfeits the right to deploy the problem of evil as an atheological argument.

The Ontological Argument

EB: Ontological arguments suck. Fight fire with fire, though, I guess. Here is my ontological argument:

P1: It is possible that a possible world in which a god does not exist exists.

P2: If it is possible that a possible world in which a god does not exist exists, then a possible world in which a god does not exist exists.

P3: If a possible world in which a god does not exist exists, then a god would not exist in every possible world.

P4: If a god does not exist in every possible world, then it is possible that a god does not exist in the actual world.

P5: A god does not exist in a possible world in which a god does not exist.

C: Therefore, it is possible that a god does not exist in the actual world.

Theists assert that a god does exist in the actual world. It is their responsibility, then, to demonstrate this.

SH: two problems:

i) Exbrainer has done nothing to establish P1, without which the rest of his syllogism is otiose.

ii) Christians like Plantinga have elaborated a modal version of the ontological argument, which Exbrainer does nothing to rebut.

The Resurrection

EB: In answer to a - d above:

(a) I agree that a man named Jesus was crucified around 30 CE.

(b) I do not know whether or not Jesus' tomb was empty days after his burial. All I have to go on are works written by biased followers years after the event. (i) There is no indication that the Jewish authorities felt threatened enough by the Christian sect as to desire to disprove their claims. Plus, if the first record we have of an empty tomb was written 3 years after the burial of a body, there would be nothing left of that body to disprove the Christian claim. The Jewish authorities would be helpless to defeat Christianity because the body would have been unrecognizably decomposed (maybe completely so). (ii) Who knows why the biblical writers wrote what they wrote. As a team member recently pointed out, there are many inconsistencies with the gospel stories. Maybe the gospel writers were idiots. (iii) Legends can appear much faster than 3 years. (iv) By the time the Jews "denied the empty tomb" the body would have decomposed. They would have been denying that it was empty because of the resurrection. (v) How a story about a person miraculously raising from the dead can be considered "benignly straightforward" is beyond me. If this is straightforward, what is a "legend" to this man?

(c) Why should anyone believe the writers of the Bible and church creeds are attempting to give an honest historical account?

(d) This assumes that the conversion stories of James and Paul are not also made up. How do I know they are not?

Wanchick writes, "If the Resurrection occurred, this series of facts can be explained plausibly and coherently. But what coherent natural explanation can be offered?"

Jesus was buried in a tomb and his body decomposed before people started claiming he was resurrected. The gospel writers were people of faith who believed what they wanted to believe much like the Heaven's Gate cult. They were so convinced that they were willing to die, just like Marshall Applewhite, the founder of the Heaven's Gate cult. The conversion stories of Paul and James were embellished to make it sound better.


i) Yes, you can say the NT writers make it all up. You can also say the lunar landings were staged in a movie studio. While you’re at it, you can say that Roswell was a governmental cover-up.

Exbrainer resorts to the tactics of a conspiracy theorist.

ii) Exbrainer recycles stock objections that have been repeatedly addressed in the apologetic literature.

iii) Exbrainer’s conspiratorial criteria are on an epistemic par with ufology.

iv) There’s an obvious difference between a delusive belief in a falsehood, and dying for something you know to be false.

The gospel writers were in a position to know whether Jesus really rose from the dead.

Loftus on Anderson on Exbeliever

Evan has posted James' critique of exbeliever's rather poor argument against AFR below.

I thought I should employ John Loftus' little quip on Reppert's blog since it appears now that Loftus is batting for the other team. Loftus writes,

"I am finding that logic doesn't help us in the quest for metaphysical truths, anyway."

As always, thanks for the help John. This little claim will make for great blog fodder for years.

Just to bring it home, let me argue for the metaphysical truth of God's existence:

1. Bluebirds are pretty.

2. Ice cream is yummy.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Thanks John for making our lives easier.

Anderson on Reppert on Exbeliever

James has some excellent commentary on the Reppert / Exbeliever exchange:

Reppert: "EXB is just begging the question here."

This is exactly right. EXB's claim that AFR fails on account of the prior implausibility of theism is just an attempt to bypass the substantial philosophical issues on which AFR trades. Moreover, even if EXB were correct regarding the plausibility of theism, isn't it evident that even an implausible worldview that can account for the preconditions of human reasoning is rationally preferable to any worldview that undermines those preconditions?

As for EXB's materialist narrative, he is essentially claiming that the laws of logic supervene on biological facts, specifically, facts about the origin and structure of our brains ("logic supervenes on this linguistic biology"). But then it follows that the laws of logic are merely contingent rather than necessary (since all biological facts are contingent facts), and merely descriptive of human thought rather than normative for human thought (since biology is a purely descriptive discipline). Indeed, EXB states as much: "I would say that logical laws are how we think..." (emphasis added). That is, EXB holds that the laws of logic are concerned with how we do think rather than how we should think; and what we humans take to be 'logical' or otherwise is effectively an accident of our evolutionary history.

Such conclusions place EXB squarely in the camp of Rorty and other epistemological anti-realists. If this is the philosophical fruit of materialism, EXB is welcome to it. But I'd venture that it does little to enhance the plausibility of materialism vis-a-vis theism.


Anonymous said:

“Anyone who can rationalize killing children is a hopeless case. I'm unsubscribing.”

This comment is duplicitous at several levels.

1.Unbelievers like to attack the Bible. And they bring a certain tactical sense to their assault on Scripture.

They don’t generally attack just anything and everything in the Bible. Rather, they concentrate their fire on what they deem to be the most vulnerable areas of Scripture.

They pick on the most “offensive” or “unbelievable” parts of Scripture.

They pick on the “unscientific” parts of Scripture. They pick on Gen 3 because many people find the idea of a talking snake ridiculous. They pick on OT holy war because many people find the idea of holy war reprehensible.

The strategy is to box the Christian into a dilemma. If he picks and chooses what he’s prepared to believe, then the unbeliever wins.

If, on the other hand, the Christian defends the “indefensible,” then the Christian is just as bad as the thing he defends.

This is how some people win the debate without winning the argument. They play to prejudice.

2.Speaking for myself, I’m prepared to look bad. If defending Gen 1 or Gen 3, or the flood, or Joshua’s long day, or OT holy war makes me look bad, then so be it.

All I have to lose is my worldly reputation, which has all the value of Confederate currency.

If defending some parts of the Bible is a major turn-off to some readers, so be it.

3.Needless to say, it is unscrupulous as well as duplicitous to attack the Bible, and then attack the Christian for defending the Bible.

The unbeliever tries to confer upon himself the right to mount a unilateral assault on Scripture. He should be free to attack the Bible with impunity, but if a Christian dares to mount a counterattack, then the Christian is in the wrong.

Very cute. But cute doesn’t cut it.

Either the unbeliever’s objection is a serious objection or else a disingenuous objection.

If it’s a serious objection, then the Christian has a right to rise to the challenge put before us and subject the objection to rational scrutiny.

If, on the other hand, the unbeliever is going to deny us the right to scrutinize his objection, then he’s just admitted that his objection was disingenuous from the start.

It is to be taken seriously or not? If so, then we have the right to respond in kind. Then we have the right to examine the intellectual force of the objection.

If not, then the unbeliever is frivolous.

4.Now let’s get to the question at hand. In a fallen world, there will always be war. And noncombatants will always be killed in the course of war.

Whenever there’s a war, women and children are numbered among the casualties.

What’s the alternative? Pacifism. But at least as many noncombatants will be slaughtered if you lay down your arms.

If ancient Israel had never taken any preemptive steps to eliminate the threat, then the enemy would have annihilated ancient Israel, including all the women and children.

If you do something, women and children will die. If you do nothing, women and children will die.

That’s tragic, but inevitable.

5.People like Anonymous feel morally exempt if they opt out of the debate. But they are just as complicit as the rest of us.

All they’ve done is to delegate the hard choices to a second party. They contract out the dirty work to mercenaries, and then retire into their tower of moral smugness.

They duly deplore the actions of a policeman or a soldier as they profit from his actions. They pay others to do what they are too prim and pristine to do for themselves, then express distaste at the process.

6.So, yes, we’re all in the business of “rationalizing” violence.

But if we really care about the welfare of women and children, then we need to honestly confront the exigencies of the situation rather than evade the challenge, run away, and leave the hard choices to others—while jeering from the cheap seats.

If we really care, then we need to draw what moral and practical distinctions we can.

Here is one official definition:

“Broadly defined, collateral damage is unintentional damage or incidental damage affecting facilities, equipment or personnel occurring as a result of military actions directed against targeted enemy forces or facilities. Such damage can occur to friendly, neutral, and even enemy forces. During Linebacker operations over North Vietnam, for example, some incidental damage occurred from bombs falling outside target areas. Consequently, there was an effort to minimize such collateral damage to civilian facilities in populated regions. Determining collateral damage constraints is a command responsibility. If national command or theater authorities do not predetermine constraint levels for collateral damage, a corps or higher commander will normally be responsible for doing so.”

Note the key words: “unintentional,” “incidental,” “target areas,” friendly/neutral, enemy,” “damage constraints,” &c.

But these well-meaning distinctions fail to capture a workable or principled distinction. If, for example, the enemy uses the civilian population as a human shield, so that a commander has to attack the noncombatants in order to reach the combatants, then there’s a sense in which the commander is targeting noncombatants and intentionally killing them.

The real distinction is that a commander should not engage in wanton killing or gratuitous carnage.

Rather, he should only kill to secure the strategic objective. But if killing noncombatants is a necessary means of achieving the objective, then it’s justified—assuming that the objective itself is justified.

The killing of noncombatants is an incidental consequence of securing the objective. Given a choice, the commander would avoid killing noncombatants. But the enemy has given him no choice.

The commander is duty-bound to minimize collateral damage consistent with the strategic objective. But he has limited control over the options at his disposal. He can only play the hand the enemy has dealt him. He can only be as humane as the enemy allows him to be.

All other things being equal, the commander will avoid killing women and children. But we cannot desegregate the combatants from the noncombatants if the combatants choose to integrate into the civilian population, and if the civilians give them safe haven.

Moreover, where do combatants come from in the first place? From noncombatants. The younger generation resupplies the older generation. The younger generation is the recruiting pool.

Traditionally, most cultures are warrior cultures. Every able-bodied male was a conscript.

And that’s exactly the threat which ancient Israel was facing from first to last.

In more affluent and populous civilizations, it’s possible to create a division of labor, in which the military is a subculture, hidden away.

That, in turn, allows a commenter like Anonymous to foster the illusion of moral insulation, as if he’s not party to the killing machine. But, of course, he’s the beneficiary.

Like Anonymous, we can affect a moral repugnance at the harsh, utilitarian calculations of war. But someone else is making those calculations on our behalf, without which a moral freeloader like Anonymous would lack the life or liberty to feign indignation.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lazy atheism

EB: Even though this has been pointed out to him by Christians and non-Christians alike, Steve feels there is nothing wrong in heaping insults on top of his arguments.


1.There’s nothing quite like the moral outrage of a moral relativist. Exbrainer exudes the moral conviction of a Victorian nudist or a vegetarian hunter.

2.Give me an argument, not someone’s opinion.

3.I’ve discussed the Biblical view of apostates.

EB: 1) [See Steve's #1 above] My moral philosophy is irrelevant to the argument. The premises stand or fall on their own no matter what my personal belief is. The question is, "Is it morally wrong to order an army to kill non-combatant women, children, and infants?" One either believes it is or that it isn't.

SH: Observe what an illogical disclaimer this is. On the one hand, Exbrainer says his moral philosophy is irrelevant to the argument.

On the other hand, he says the question is, "Is it morally wrong to order an army to kill non-combatant women, children, and infants?" One either believes it is or that it isn't.

Well, then, one’s moral philosophy is directly germane to the problem of evil as an atheological argument.

There are two possible ways to deploy the problem of evil against Christian theism:

The disputant can either mount:

i) An internal critique, or else

ii) An external critique.

An internal critique could take either of two forms:

a) The disputant could show that the actions ascribed to God are incompatible with his opponent’s own value system.

b) The disputant could show that the actions ascribed to God are incompatible with the Biblical value-system.

Likewise, an external critique could take either of two forms:

a) The disputant could show that the actions ascribed to God are incompatible with moral norms shared in common by disputant and opponent alike.

b) The disputant could show that the actions ascribed to God are incompatible with the disputant’s value-system. If so, he’d also need to establish his value-system.

Exbrainer has made no effort to mount either an internal critique or an external critique.

Exbrainer is a lazy atheist.

EB: 2) Steve cites two passages of Scripture that he believes justifies his god's actions.

SH: Actually, I never said they justify God. I never got that far in my argument.

I simply pointed out that Exbrainer was attacking the morality of Scripture without ever bothering to engage the reasons given in Scripture.

In principle, this requires no commitment on my part to the authority Scripture. I could be a fellow atheist and still point out that Exbrainer had failed to do his homework.

EB: Steve claims that his god's actions are justified because of the wickedness of the people there. I wonder what wickedness the children and infants were guilty of. Yes, total depravity, according to Steve's Calvinism, but the infants and children of Israel were equally depraved according to his theology.


This oversimplifies the issue in several respects:

1.It’s true that, in Reformed theology, children are complicit in Adam’s sin. And that would supply a sufficient condition for divine judgment.

2.At the same time, the fact that God visits judgment on entire nations or people-groups does not, of itself, imply that God is exacting retribution on every individual victim. It is not necessarily a reflection on the moral status of every individual swept up in the catastrophe.

For example, both the Assyrian deportation and the Babylonian exile were instances of corporate divine judgment. Yet there were pious Jews who suffered as a consequence of national apostasy.

Exbrainer is making Deut 9:4 say more than it actually says.

One of the things that makes evil to be evil is how often the innocent will suffer on account of the wicked. Indeed, they frequently suffer instead of the wicked. This is a recurrent theme in Scripture.

This is not to say that the children were innocent. Merely to say that it’s fallacious to assume from God’s action that his intentions were punitive with respect to the children.

3.The fact that Jewish children and pagan children are equally depraved is irrelevant.

Discrimination is unfair if it defrauds the subject of his just claims. But the very fact that Jewish children are equally depraved is what justifies divine discrimination, since neither group has any inherent claims upon the mercy of God.

EB: 1 Samuel 15:2-3, though, is interesting in that it seems more far-reaching than just the wickedness of the people. In that passage, not only are non-combatant women, infants, and children killed, but also camels and donkeys. If the army was just killing because of wicked actions (past, present, or future), what sins did the animals commit?


1.Jason, Gene, and I recently spent a fair amount of time on 1 Sam 15:2-3.

2.Beyond that, one purpose of holy war was to distinguish between ritual purity and impurity, which—in term—symbolized the distinction between moral purity and impurity. Being symbolic, the relation is not conterminous.

The Israelites were not to profit from the spoils of holy war in 1 Sam 15:2-3 for the booty was ritually impure.

Remember that Exbrainer, like Loftus, flaunts his seminary credentials. But he’s just as ignorant of Biblical theology as Loftus.

Exbrainer is a lazy atheist.

EB: Here, it explains that these children and infants were killed because they would lead God's people to worship other gods. But why take wrath out on those who "tempt to sin" instead of those who would "fall to sin." Why couldn't god just say, "Yo, those infants and children that you leave alive will grow up one day and try to tempt you to worship their gods. Don't do it. Keep following me."? This seems a little more humane.

SH: Because such advice would be ineffectual, as the subsequent history of Israel abundantly illustrates.

EB: 3) It seems ad hoc to "deny a uniform code of conduct to God and man alike," because Steve claims that moral standards are universal. We have an action that, presumably, Steve would agree is "evil"--viz. ordering an army to kill non-combatant women, children, and infants. All of a sudden, the same act is not evil if committed by the Christian God. Wanting to save god from evil, the Christian simply says, "This doesn't apply to God."


This is simplistic in several respects:

1.To say that moral norms are universal in time and place does not imply that everyone is bound by the same code of conduct.

Rather, every social class is subject to the same corresponding norms.

Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters are all bound by a uniform code of conduct. But they are not bound by the same code of conduct.

Rather, there is a uniform code of conduct appropriate to each essential social role. Husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters do not have interchangeable social roles.

Some moral norms are generally applicable to all social roles, while others are specific to a given social assignment.

So, for example, adults have certain rights and responsibilities which children do not.

2.Morality is also keyed to the nature of the moral agent.

For example, parents are responsible for their underage children because their children are dependent on their parents for their well-being.

But if, ex hypothesi, God had constituted the human race in such a way that children were not dependent on their parents, then the same obligations would not obtain.

3.Apropos (2), the Creator is not the same kind of agent as is the creature. Divine and human attributes are not interchangeable.

By the same token, the relation between God and man is asymmetrical.

4.Whether it’s right or wrong to act on orders to execute noncombatants is, indeed, contingent on who is giving the orders.

A human commander is morally and noetically fallible. By contrast, God is morally and noetically infallible.

In principle, the same order might be intrinsically licit regardless of who issues the order, but we are not necessarily justified in following the same order by someone who lacks the moral or intellectual authority to issue that command.

What is morally licit may be epistemically illicit. It is not enough that such an action enjoys moral warrant. We must be in a position to know that such an action enjoys moral warrant.

As a philosophy major in a doctoral program, Exbrainer ought to be able to draw these internalistic distinctions.

Exbrainer is a lazy atheist.

Again, as a former seminarian, Exbrainer ought to be capable of drawing these theological distinctions.

Exbrainer is a lazy atheist.

EB: Whether god is dealing with sinners or saints is irrelevant. It is either morally wrong to kill non-combatant women, children, and infants or it is not.


1.Actually, it’s quite relevant. The moral status of an individual is intrinsically pertinent to the treatment they deserve. If they’re innocent or guilty makes all the difference.

2.And even if their immediate suffering is not punitive in character, their sin leaves them liable to suffering.

EB: Steve admits that this is an indiscriminant war. This is exactly the point of the argument.

SH: Except that Exbrainer misses the point. Since holy war is indiscriminate, one cannot assume that the death of every victim is punitive, and more than one can assume that the collective judgment visited upon Israel in the Assyrian deportation or Babylonian exile was predicated on the guilt of every single Israelite. For some Jews were observant Jews.

EB: Is it immoral to order an indiscriminant war? Yes.

SH: Immoral by whose standard? Exbrainer is a moral relativist.

EB: Does any reader find it unusual that Steve avoided discussing the premises one by one? He never says whether or not he disagrees with my first assertion that "An omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent being would not commit an evil act."

I think he would agree with this, but he never said so explicitly.

SH: I skipped over it because it’s a waste of time to comment on what I agree with.

EB: Steve clearly believes that this is not true for the Christian God. The Christian God can call for an "indiscriminant" holy war, and is justified in killing non-combatant women, children, and infants.

SH: Correct.

EB: If this is true, however, it poses a problem for his meta-ethical position that morality is "universal" based on his god's nature and not on divine fiat or an external morality. If it is immoral to order the deaths of non-combatants because of god's nature, god's nature would also prevent god from doing so.

SH: As I’ve explained in my analysis of the Euthyphro dilemma, this is simplistic.

God’s nature is not the only salient condition. There’s also the nature with which God has invested human beings. In addition, there’s the moral status of human beings.

EB: Steve's only argument against me is his insistence that it is not immoral for his god to order an army to kill non-combatant women, children, and infants. This, however, produces a serious meta-ethical problem because he must find a way to explain that it is universally immoral to order an army to kill non-combatant women, children, and infants because of god's nature, but god's nature would not prevent him from doing the same act that his nature commands others not to do.

SH: Exbrainer is attempting to impose on me a framework I reject. Since I’ve never accepted the way he chooses to frame the issue, it generates no metaethical conundrum for my own position.

EB: That aside, it is really hard for me to believe that any Christian really believes this kind of act is good. I think they must think about this only in abstractions. If they pictured a spear being rammed through an infant's heart, a child holding on to her mother whom she just saw killed before her eyes and then being killed herself, etc. These are horrific images, and I feel for those who have so calloused themselves by their dogma that they can call these actions "good" because they were ordered by their god.

SH: Yes, these are horrific images. Life in a fallen world sometimes calls for horrific measures. I’m glad that I done have to execute these orders. But dislike and disapproval are two very different things.

Soldiers are often called upon to perform emotionally repellent deeds. But what is emotionally repellent may not be morally repugnant.

Severing the gangrenous leg of a wounded solder is revolting. Thank God that battlefield physicians are prepared to swallow their personal revulsion and do what’s necessary.

EB: 1) Steve assumes the position that I predicted and described in my support of this argument. He says that there are second-order goods that cannot be achieved without some evil. He forgets, though, that his god sets these rules. His god pulls the strings. His god could have chosen any goal for the earth. He could have chosen goals that did not involve evil in any way. One goal is not "better than" another if "better than" is measured only by the accomplishment of god's goal.


1.Exbrainer continues to confound ends and means. God is free to set the goal. But every goal has attendant means of attaining the goal.

Ends and means are internally related. God is free to choose one package or another, or no package at all.

2.To say that “one goal is not ‘better than’ another if ‘better than’ is measured only by the accomplishment of god's goal,” continues to confound the means with the ends.

Success is a property of the means, not the ends. Means that successfully achieve the goal.

And some means may be more efficient than others.

But that’s distinct from the goal.

3.God is not setting a goal for himself, as if he were the beneficiary. Rather, what makes one goal better than another is the betterment of the elect through the knowledge of God’s wisdom, justice, and mercy.

In that respect, some ends are better than others because some ends are more illuminating than others respecting the revelation of the divine nature. Since God is the summum bonum, knowing God is the summum bonum.

EB: Yes, I especially like Paul's answer in Romans 9, ". . . who are you, O man, who answers back to God?" Scold the questioner; that's the answer.

SH: Notice that Exbrainer dodges the verses I did cite, and substitutes a verse I didn’t cite.

Exbrainer is a lazy atheist.

The verse cited by Exbrainer is an argument from authority. This is a valid move when Paul is disputing with a fellow Jew who acknowledges the moral authority of God as well as the inspired authority of the Torah.

But that is not the only reason given by Paul in Rom 9.

EB: Or, maybe, it's that the Bible's "answers" are just pure crap, Steve. Maybe they really don't solve anything. So I guess that "Once again, we're treated to mindless, dogmatic followers of an ancient myth justifying horrific acts by quoting from a book of horrific myths."

SH: Notice that Exbrainer is substituting adjectives for arguments.

Let’s take a few steps back and remember how Exbrainer chose to frame the issue. He is attempting to deploy the problem of evil against Christian theism.

As I said before there are only two ways in which he can pull that off: Either by an external critique or by an internal critique. He does neither.

Exbrainer is a lazy atheist.

EB: So the pain and suffering of Samantha Runnion's rape was just a means to an end? What end?


1.The job of a theodicy is to account for evil in general, not evil in particular.

2.Since Exbrainer is a moral relativist, why is he so judgmental about child rape?

EB: I disagree that retributive justice is intrinsically good. I think retribution is animalistic and unnecessary.


1.Which begins and ends with Exbrainer’s shifting boundaries. As he’s said elsewhere:

“For example, I believe that it is morally wrong to rape someone. If I were to happen upon a man trying to rape a woman, my moral framework demands that I do whatever action is permissible according to that framework to prevent that action from taking place. I may acknowledge that the action is permissible according to the rapist's moral framework, but that does not mean that I must ignore what is demanded by my own moral framework.”

2.For Exbrainer, to exact retributive justice on the child rapist would be “animalistic and unnecessary.”

3.Perhaps his alternative would be to offer the rapist a lifetime membership in NAMBLA.

After all, morality is relative to one’s moral framework. So why favor Exbrainer’s framework over NAMBLA’s?

4.You see, for Exbrainer, moral norms only exist within one each respective framework, and not between one opposing framework and another.

EB: 1) Steve still doesn't seem to understand that his god was not limited in the goals he could have chosen for his creation. He could have chosen a world in which he only dealt in first-order goods (e.g. Heaven).

SH: This is such an obtuse illustration. “Heaven” is a second-order good. Heaven presupposes the Fall. Heaven presupposes sin, redemption, and death.

A seminary grad ought to know that.

Exbrainer is a lazy atheist.

EB: It may be argued that this world would not be "as good as" our own. A Christian, however, defines "goodness" (as it pertains to the state of the world) by how it achieves god's goals.

In other words, this world is "good" (according to Christians) because it accomplishes god's goal for it. To say that another world in which pain and suffering were not a part would not have been "as good" makes no sense if a world's goodness is defined by god's goals.

SH: This is utterly illogical. Yes, God’s goals are good by definition. That doesn’t mean one cannot distinguish between lesser and greater goods, indexed to differing ends.

EB: Let me try this another way. Did god choose the goal he did for this world because it was good per se or is this world good because it accomplishes god's goals? If the former, on what basis is this possible world "good"? What makes a possible world good, bad, or indifferent? Christians normally only say something is good if it works according to god's plan. If this is the case, then any other world would be just as good as this one because it fulfilled god's plan. There would be no reason for god to pick a possible world that had pain and suffering in it because it would be just as good as a world that did not have pain and suffering in it.

SH: “Good” is frequently a comparative term. Good for what? Good for whom? An unfallen world is a lesser good for a greater number, whereas a fallen world, which is redeemed, is a greater good for a lesser number (the redeemed).

EB: I agree that different scenarios would entail different "trade-offs," but there is no reason that god would have chosen a scenario in which pain and suffering was involved. To him, goodness means accomplishing his goals. He could have chosen any goal.

SH: The reasons are given in the verses I cited from Romans and Galatians (to name a few), which Exbrainer chose to disregard.

Instead of dealing with Biblical Christianity, Exbrainer concocts an ersatz version of Christianity to disprove.

Exbrainer is a lazy atheist.

EB: A free god could have chosen to make this world without pain and suffering.

SH: Not according to the Bible.

EB: If this god is omnibenevolent, then it follows that he would not inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on creatures.

SH: True, but deceptively simplistic.

EB: The pain and suffering is necessarily "unnecessary" because god could have chosen a different end for his creation.

SH: “Unnecessary” relative to what? Necessity is often a comparative term, as in “by any means necessary.”

It wasn’t necessary for God to choose any world at all. But different possible worlds are different packages containing incommensurable goods.

EB: I think this was demonstrated in Steve's response. He has claimed that his god is morally justified in killing infants and children. He has implied that his god is not free to choose goals for his creation that do not entail pain and suffering.

SH: I have implied nothing of the kind. That is Exbrainer’s muddleheaded inference.

God is free to choose the ends. And there may be more than one particular method of achieving a given goal.

However, the nature of the means is still adapted to the nature of the end. If, say, the end in view is the revelation of God’s wisdom, mercy, and justice to the elect, then that will entail sin, redemption, and judgment as the necessary means.

EB: He has implied that his god is not able to teach humanity without subjecting them to unnecessary pain and suffering.

SH: False again.

1.God is able to teach mankind without recourse to pain and suffering.

2.But an existential knowledge of God as our Redeemer is impossible apart from the Fall.

Therefore, pain and suffering, as instrumental to that end, while generally evil in themselves, are not gratuitous evils.

3.I say “generally” since punitive pain and suffering, as an instance of retributive justice, is good in its own right.

EB: What Steve has clearly demonstrated is that he is willing to make whatever twists and turns he can to maintain that his god is "good."

SH: What I’ve done is to demonstrate that Scripture has the internal resources to consistently field each of Exbrainer’s objections.

EB: If that means justifying the killing of women, children, and infants, he is willing to do that.


1.Remember that Exbrainer is a moral relativist. When he repeatedly makes these incendiary comments, he does so with fingers firmly crossed behind his back.

2.The end doesn’t justify any means whatsoever. But certain ends justify certain means.

3.Even sending the innocent to their death is not always wrong. Soldiers will go on a suicide mission. They did nothing to deserve their untimely demise. They are doing this for the common good.

But it isn’t wrong for a soldier to go on a suicide mission if that’s the only way to achieve the strategic objective—assuming the objective is vital to the cause.

A husband and father may lay down his life to spare his wife and kids. He did nothing to deserve his premature fate.

But it isn’t wrong for him to sacrifice his own life to save the life of his family. To the contrary, it is his duty.

So there are occasions when the suffering or fatality of the innocent is justifiable or even obligatory.

4.And let’s not forget, from the Christian standpoint, that death is not the final word.

Everyone dies sooner or later, whether by illness, age, accident, or violence.

Death is not, of itself, a sign of divine retribution on the decedent. In Scripture, the godly are often martyred for their faith.

JL: You just cannot get it, can you? Criminals, eh? You mean people who go through their whole lives doing nothing but what God decrees that they do such that they cannot do any differently, and then punishing them in barbaric ways for doing what God wants them to do?”

SH: Loftus has a habit of reiterating tired objections that we’ve already rebuttted. Gene, I, and others (including Manata, I believe), have often gone to the trouble of distinguishing between fatalism and foreordination.

JL Many of these so-called crimes are nothing more than a few lies, a little selfish pleasures, and a little greed, but are committed by people who are otherwise known by friend and foe, by family, neighbors, and the community in which they live to be loving people.

SH: Most folks will do whatever they can get away with. Place them in a setting where they can succumb to temptation with impunity, and just watch what happens.

JL Yeah, tear their eyes out, kill their children, and then burn them alive. Such crimes deserve such punishments, right? Says who? A barbaric people who says so, that's who. A superstitious ancient people who said so, that who. You're choice is to believe what they said or what is plainly obvious to anyone not blinded by the Biblical barbaric and superstitious authors.

SH: Not to mention modern-day unbelievers who advocate eugenic abortion, infanticide, and involuntary euthanasia in the furtherance of organ procurement—to name a few, fashionable barbarities of the secular elite.