Saturday, July 12, 2014

Does Proof for the Existence of God Have to be Complicated?

God, at sundry times and in diverse manners, was in time past defended by apologetical writings of theologians of the Christian religion. These theologians delivered arguments that ranged from the absurd to the complex, but each was aiming at a sophistication that could be appreciated and respected by the philosophically astute. But does the proof for the existence of God have to be sophisticated and complex? Does it have to rise to the level of satisfying the philosophically astute? Alvin Plantinga, no mean philosopher, gives this reply in an interview when he is asked why he believes in God:

In my case it's like asking, why do you believe there are other people? Why do you believe there's a past? I can't give a proof that there's been a past, or a proof that there are other people, just as I don't think the traditional arguments for God's existence. . .I don't think that they are all that powerful, although. . .although they do have some force. But it just seems to me right. It seems to me that there really is such a person. When I contemplate, when I think about, or, say, when I look at the mountains, when I look at tree tops in my backyard, when I go to church, when I read the Bible, on many other occasions I just found myself convinced that there is such a person as God.

Keep in mind that this statement is from one of the leading Christian philosophers in the nation, who has delivered one of the most compelling and complex arguments for the rationality for belief in the existence of God and has successfully shown that there is no logical inconsistency between the existence of an all-powerful, all-loving God and the existence of evil. Yet his rationale for belief in God boils down to this simple statement of faith. It's not surprising, though, that such a brilliant mind can find rationale for belief in God by contemplating the things around him. He is a creature created by God in the midst of the entire universe that was created by God. Belief in God is really as simple as opening your eyes, or, more correctly, having your eyes opened.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

From Here to Eternity


Ryan Reyes asks a very good question on the Facebook page, "Brothers, how can I argue for 'eternity' against a secularist who believe [sic] that there's none?" If I am to give a helpful answer, it is necessary to determine what is meant by "eternity," which is a notoriously difficult concept. I will begin by saying what it is not.

First, "eternity" is not referring to the eternity of the world. Classical Roman and Greek authors generally agreed that the universe existed from all eternity. Aristotle, for example, argued for the eternity of the world based upon the ideas that time had no beginning and that change comes from other change and so on to infinity past. This of course was a cause for disputation throughout the medieval period, as theologians from Boethius to Thomas Aquinas to William of Occam wrestled with whether this idea could be reconciled with Christian teaching that the heavens and the earth had a beginning and were created ex nihilo. Thomas Aquinas's solution was that neither creation ex nihilo nor eternity of the world were demonstrable. Creation is an article of faith. Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides argued along similar lines saying that a proposition that cannot be demonstrated, such as creation ex nihilo, is better accepted on authority. 

Second, "eternity" is not referring to either mathematical eternity or infinity. Mathematical eternity or infinity is most famously represented by Zeno's paradoxes, which have been preserved for us in Aristotle's and Diogenes Laertius's writings. The three most relevant ones are the Achilles and the Tortoise, the Dichotomy, and the Arrow Paradoxes. The first two relate to space showing that in order for one to get from point A to point B one must first get through an infinite amount of points along the way. How can one ever reach his or her destination, or, in the case of Achilles, if he gives the tortoise a head start, how can he ever overrun the tortoise? The third deals with time. An arrow that is shot from a bow to a target is at every point occupying a space. At every instant in time the arrow is neither moving to where it is nor to where it is not. Each instant is a point on a line. And each instant the arrow is at rest because it is occupying a space, and it cannot move because at each instance no time is elapsing. Like those trying to go from point A to point B, an arrow has to travel through an infinite amount of points or instances of time to reach it's target, and at each point it is at rest occupying space. Now, as fascinating as these paradoxes are to think about, they do not establish any irrefutable metaphysical conclusions. 

Now is probably a good place to make the point that infinity and eternity are not synonymous terms. Infinity refers to limitless extension of being, whereas eternity refers to limitless duration of existence. 

 Now to a more positive explanation of eternity. "Eternity" could be referring either to the duration of God's existence throughout endless ages, or the duration of our existence throughout the age to come. The existence of God is without any limitation. He not only exists as Psalm 90:2 says, "from everlasting to everlasting," but, since he is the creator of time, he exists beyond the bounds of time. 

We who are creatures were born in time, and are bound by time. When we, by the grace of Christ, enter the age to come after the glorious return of Christ and the resurrection of the body, we have an endless existence to look forward to, but we will still be limited creatures. We had a beginning, and we will still occupy space and time. God is both infinite and eternal. That is, his being has no limits and his existence has no beginning and no end. 

Getting to your question, Ryan, how can we prove eternity to one who doesn't believe in eternity? You call this person a "secularist." I assume you mean by that a person who affirms the material universe and nothing more. If he is such a one, then even he has to acknowledge the possibility of eternity based upon the notions of the eternity of the universe or of mathematical eternity or infinity. As a materialist he may affirm with modern cosmology the origin of the universe in the big bang and the end of the universe in the big crunch. He may also affirm with some scientists that the big bang and the big crunch are part of an endless cycle of beginnings and endings. Whether one big bang and one big crunch or an endless cycle of big bangs and crunches, he will have to come to the conclusion that matter always existed, and if he affirms this, you need to press him to irrefutably prove the logical possibility of the endless existence of matter, which he will not be able to. In fact, he will not be able to irrefutably demonstrate that the big bang is, in fact, the origin of the universe or that the big crunch is its end. It is a theorem based upon mathematical observations. Sure, the theorem makes sense, but it is based upon limited observations. To say that the big bang or the big crunch is irrefutable is saying too much. We're back to what both Thomas Aquinas and Moses Maimonides argued, vis., that creation by God is not demonstrable--neither is the big bang or the big crunch! 

"But," he might say, "the mathematical proofs!!!!" Yes, they make sense as far as they go, but can they be said to have irrefutably proven how the universe began, or that they even make sense outside of the system of our universe? The dirty little secret of the big bang theory is that it is based upon certain assumptions. Assumptions, which I'm sure your materialist friend takes for granted. Assumptions such as that this universe is a closed system, that the universe is expanding at a uniform rate, and that the universe doesn't need a divine being to uphold it. Don't forget, too, that I haven't even dealt with the question of where the notion of logic and mathematics comes from, let alone the very idea that the universe operates by laws. How do laws exist apart from a lawgiver? It's a sticky question for the materialists. The fact that the universe is orderly not chaotic remains a problem for the strict materialists. No one has yet given any conclusive proof that laws, mathematical or otherwise, can exist apart from a lawgiver. 

Never forget that eternity, whether you are talking about the eternality of God or our endless existence in the age to come, is a matter of faith. True, it cannot be demonstrated that God is eternal or that we will live forever in the age to come, but the assumptions of the materialists cannot be demonstrated either. What's more logical, to believe in God or to believe in a materialistic universe? We accept the authority of Scripture, and we confess what Scripture teaches: the eternity of God and the saecula saeculorum.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Bill Maher slanders God because He wants to be God

Bill Maher has now joined the 'slandering-God-and-publicly-exhibiting-your-Biblical-ignorance', club. Not that any of us thought he had high thoughts of Yahweh, or that he had anything particularly profound to say about Holy Writ. He probably still thinks that the Gospel narratives were borrowed from Osiris, Mithras, and Beowulf. But 'Dr. Maher' has yet outdone himself again, by making more "religulous" claims about the God of Scripture.

"But the thing that’s really disturbing about Noah isn’t the silly, it’s that it’s immoral. It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God,” Mr. Maher said, adding, “What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at? I mean, besides Chris Christie."(1)

The problem is, that if you open up Scripture, you find that the Old Testament narratives take great care to argue against such an interpretation. According to Scripture, why did God drown everyone in the flood? Did God really punish everyone, for the crimes of just a few?

"Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" Gen. 6:5

"The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth." Gen. 6:11-12

If that wasn't enough, the next example of fire and brimstone in the Bible, argues precisely against Maher's caricature (literally). In the narrative of Sodom and Gomorrah, we find that God goes at lengths to demonstrate that He will not judge the righteous with the wicked. (Note: the claim is not that "bad things" won't happen to the righteous, but that they will not face his wrath). Moses writes:

"Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: 28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.” And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.” Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.” Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place." Gen. 18:22-32

There are countless other examples in Scripture that testify to the fact that God never punishes "innocent" people. Furthermore, severe manifestations of his judgment, in history, are always the result of high-handed, unrepentant sin. And when he does punish those we perceive to be innocent, the problem is with our perceptions, not with God's internal consistency or with His Holy character. In fact, the person who lacks internal consistency in this case is Bill Maher. Bill Maher knows that there is a moral law and he knows right from wrong. That is, because like all people, deep down, he knows God (Rom. 1:18ff). Indeed, he is made in God's image. The problem is, that Bill suppresses this revelation in unrighteousness, as St. Paul says. He knows that the God of Scripture is the same God that has impressed His law upon his heart. So the only thing left to do is to lie about God, and slander God's word, claiming that it contradicts some moral law that he cannot account for as an atheist.

And guess what.

In making this claim Mr. Maher is a big, fat hypocrite.

As this video demonstrates, Bill Maher has confessed that he is pro-death and wants to play God. He confesses that he wants to kill as many people as possible, basically because he hates being stuck in traffic. (for real)

(1) Bill Maher: God 'a Psychotic Mass Murderer' who 'Drowns Babies'

Thursday, November 7, 2013

In The Same Boat or Rocking the Boat?: A snippet from a post-radio debate

After going on Backpack Radio last week I have been involved, on and off, with a debate that occurred on an atheist's Facebook post. The individual who posted, posted a link to the interview, and then tagged me with the phrase "In the Same Boat." He has been laboring, unsuccessfully, to prove that even based on Christian presuppositions, one cannot have certainty or a foundation for knowledge. A lot of the ensuing discussion revolved around the nature of presuppositional debates. As I said in the interview, a presupp debate is effective when one states their worldview, and then critiques the opposing worldview by its internal merits. Most of the debate was me pointing out that their critique of the Christian worldview was not an internal critique, but an insertion of their own faulty categories into the Christian worldview in order to damage it. They kept claiming I was also evaluating their worldview by inserting my own categories into it, yet without being specific as to how I was doing that. At the end of the debate they finally gave me specifics, and it was quite revealing. Apparently, the very categories of coherence and correspondence with an objective reality, they reject as a purely Christian concept, as they openly embrace an ultimate irrationalism. That is a stunning admission to the fact that atheism produces no coherence, correspondence, and has no foundation for knowledge. Below is the last bit of exchange. I decided to post it, while hiding their names, in order to illustrate the effectiveness of the presuppositional argument.

Atheist 1: Colin S, Is having an internally consistent, justified and coherent worldview of value to you? Is it a standard by which you evaluate the worth of your worldview? Yes?

Further, are you obligated to justify your worldview by my worldview's standards? No?

Cool, ya see what I did there? I just exposed your blindspot.

Because, ya see, for the same reasons you're worldview isn't susceptible to evaluation from standards in my wv, mine is impervious to evaluation from standards in yours.

What if, using your internal critique method, I don't care that my worldview is not absolutely consistent, justifies or coherent?

What if i accept philosophical dilemmas and scientific mysteries as items that actually strengthen my worldview, such that it's incompleteness allows for room for growth and awe?

I don't engage in your spitting contest. Atheists haven't dropped the ball, they firmly place it down.

CSmall: Ah. I see what your saying. Thanks for your honestly.

Atheist 2: Colin, I agree, you are operating under a number of double-standards. As Christopher has just pointed out, you are applying your own standards within your worldview to other worldviews, while claiming this is not allowed for other people. I find it rather ironic that you will go to great lengths to argue that atheists are not "incapable of comparing and contrasting comparative worldviews" - well look no further.

We have done just that. And to the point where we have exposed your own double-standards, inconsistencies and absurdities within your own worldview.

//Well, Colin, the SAME THING could be said about your assertions. You assume correspondence between your thoughts and God. You have not demonstrated that such is the case, but merely asserted it... such a claim is not axiomatic.//

"Yes, according to YOUR worldview God is something that just exists in my head."

Another dodge, and another appeal to a definition with NO justification. And I wasn't even talking about your lack of justification in terms of my worldview, I was talking about your own standards - that "assumption of correspondence" which you fail to demonstrate but merely assert (and which you don't "know" according to your own definition of knowledge). Why is it you can say this to other people while being guilty of THE VERY SAME THING?

There are a few simple facts we both share regarding our 'abilities' and the 'conditions' of our epistemologies within our worldviews:

1. we are both 'stuck' on the receiving end of a stream of information, whether that be sensory data from the external world, or a "revelation" directly from a deity.

2. we are both fallible, yet we both rely heavily on our senses and experiences to form our worldviews.

3. we both must assume certain axioms in order to experience and make sense of the external world (the world at the other end of the stream of information), and we both cannot "get behind", or "justify" those axioms.

The problem is, while you are raging war with non-Christians for not being able to justify certain axioms, you yourself are hiding behind a baseless claim of "absolute certain knowledge".... with no ultimate justification of your own, other than a viciously circular argument. Instead of admitting this, you tap dance around the questions and continue to beg the question with every response.

CSmall: "We have done just that. And to the point where we have exposed your own double-standards, inconsistencies and absurdities within your own worldview."

Actually you haven't done that at all. You have failed to critique my worldview from the inside out, and I have taken care to break down how that is so. Never once have you brought a charge against me that I was misrepresenting your worldview in its metaphysic or epistemology. I called you a logical positivist once and you denounced that charge. I wasn't satisfied with your explanation on how you aren't LP, but I dropped the label. However, when you speak like an empiricist, I critique you as one. Most of my answers have been on the defensive of you inserting your own assumptions in my worldview. I have seen a few accusations, but no specifics, of what exactly I was inserting from my worldview into my critique of yours... Until Christopher posted above....

Christopher just stated that he basically doesn't care if his worldview is incoherent and not correspondent with reality. If that is what you are saying as well, and if you are claiming that the general category of correspondence and coherence is something that only exists in my worldview, and thus cannot be applied to yours; then the conversation is over. You have conceded that intelligibility and rationality are only possible if my worldview is true, and that the under currents of such things (ie coherence and correspondence) have no place in your worldview.

"Another dodge, and another appeal to a definition with NO justification. And I wasn't even talking about your lack of justification in terms of my worldview, I was talking about your own standards - that "assumption of correspondence" which you fail to demonstrate but merely assert (and which you don't "know" according to your own definition of knowledge). Why is it you can say this to other people while being guilty of THE VERY SAME THING?"

We've gone over this before. I explained the difference between my axiom, and yours. My axiom (God) is self-sustaining and under girds the axioms and preconditions necessary for human predication, ontologically and not arbitrarily. Your axioms aren't axioms and need outside entities and realities in order to justify themselves, so they aren't a proper starting point for knowledge. Furthermore, you are an inherently mental creature who knows through verbal constructs. Yet you believe that reality is made up of non-mental realities (matter) which cannot engage in verbal communication. The problem there is that one needs to know something about the basic nature of reality, before they can investigate particulars or more specific information about it. We need to know what reality is, before we can know how we can know it. In other words, we need revelation about reality, from an outside source, before we can begin predicating. Your problem is that what you believe reality to be outside of yourself is fundamentally incommunicable and disjointed from what you are as a thinking, human subject. What follows from that is that reality cannot come to you and verbally express it's nature to you so that you can know, or even define it (matter is defined as "stuff"), and thus truly know it or begin predicating about it. So you're two problems are, your axioms aren't axiomatic, they implicate outside realities to justify themselves; and also what you say reality is, is fundamentally different from what you are, causing a fundamental epistemological problem that further estranges you from correspondence.

In contradistinction, the Christian will say that knowledge and reality begins with, and comes from the self-contained Trinity, who is self-existent and not referential to any other reality than Himself, and whose very ontological properties provides a foundation for human reason and sense experience to be justified sources of knowledge in their appropriate spheres. Furthermore we are made in God's image and likeness, and are thus "like him" at a finite level, particularly when it comes to our mental life. So therefore, there can be revelation or communication from His mind to ours pertaining to his own nature, the nature reality which he made, and the nature of ourselves.

Atheist 1: Colin, thanks for your understanding. Would love to chat sometime. PM me if interested.

Atheist 1: //Christopher just stated that he basically doesn't care if his worldview is incoherent and not correspondent with reality.// Mostly yes

//If that is what you are saying as well, and if you are claiming that the general category of correspondence and coherence is something that only exists in my worldview, and thus cannot be applied to yours; then the conversation is over. You have conceded that intelligibility and rationality are only possible if my worldview is true, and that the under currents of such things (ie coherence and correspondence) have no place in your worldview.// No

That is where you are crossing over from internal critique to external critique. Correspondence and coherence exist in atheist worldviews, but a fetishized obsession with absolute correspondence and coherence is not valued. That absolute value may exist in your worldview, whereas it's relative cousin exists in ours.

CSmall: So what does that mean? How does that play out?

CSmall: And to help you clarify your thoughts here, from my perspective that sounds like: "Okay, okay, no we are not totally irrational and we don't reject correspondence and coherence totally. Rather, we believe there is correspondishness and coherenceness out there somewhere along with truthiness." It seems you don't want to loose those category now, but are leaving them open ended and vague so that if someone wants to interact with you about it, it will be like hammering jello to a wall. Not to be derogatory, but that is how it sounds. So what do you mean?

Atheist 1: Oh no, I think we're all irrational. Seriously.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Are Atheists Just Guessing? A follow up on a broken thought.

This past Thursday, I had the privilege of joining Vocab Malone and Pastor Vermon on Backpack Radio. The topic revolved around Facebook debates, epistemology and apologetics. To make a long story short, after having debated a few local atheists on their facebook page, I was asked if I would like to come on the show and speak to above subjects. The show is known for having both well-known scholars on, as well as the "average Joe" (fyi, I fall into the latter category ;). While the show is prerecorded, it is recorded as if it is live. I was not given a list of specific questions to answer, just general themes which we would be dealing with in each segment. Being my first time on the radio, and also being a seminary student who loves to preach right out of his manuscript, one can imagine that there were a few times when I got ahead of myself and felt a little "jumbled" in my answesr. One answer stuck out to me almost immediately after having given it, which I would like to clarify/address with this post.

In the second segment, I believe it was Vermon who asked me what exactly epistemology was. After defining epistemology ("a theory of knowledge"), and opening up the components of having "justified true belief," I made a statement that was somewhat unclear and may sound unfair or inaccurate without some clarification. In describing what it means for true belief to be "justified," I used the analogy of me and someone else taking a quiz. In the scenario the correct answer was (b), which both me and my neighbor got correct. However, in my case I simply guessed, whereas my neighbor studied and "knew" the answer was (b). I simply had a "hunch" or a "guess," juxtaposed to my neighbor who had a reason for his selection. In the analogy, we both got the answer right, but only my neighbor;s answer was justifiably right, in epistemological terms. I then made the claim that atheists who justify their belief in unchanging, universal laws of logic and science, based off of the fact that they "work;" are like the person who guesses on quiz, gets the right answer, and assumes that they were justified in being right. I had indeed jotted down this point in my notes, as I had planned on making it. However, in the context in which I said it, it felt premature and requiring more explanation. Not wanting to go on a deeper rabbit trail from the original question (what is epistemology?), I sort of panicked and gave a broken explanation of the point and tried to move on. So with the background aside, I think I need to clarify my point.

At the very best my thought seemed broken, at the very worst, it seemed as if I was accusing atheists of being purely arbitrary or erratic in their formulations. I know that most atheists value the scientific method, and believe they have reasons for their unbelief, so I want to make it clear that that is not what I was trying to convey. My intended point was this. The atheist claims that reality is fundamentally unguided, unconscious, and irrational (or at least non-rational). Furthermore, they believe that the human mind has arisen through non-rational processes, by means of a mechanism for survival, not a mechanism for arriving at "truth" (namely, natural selection). And yet the entire scientific enterprise rests upon the presumption that the functioning of the human mind corresponds to reality, and that reality operates according to regularities. They are saying that reality is one way (based upon their worldview), but they are talking and acting in it, as if it is another way. When questioned as to what grounds they have for believing in unchanging, universal laws given their worldview; atheists often say something to the effect that it "works to act as if reality is that way" (ie ordered and rational).

However, there are two main problems with this answer. First, that answer does not resolve the tension in their worldview. After all, how can the way reality behaves, or "works" (as if it is rational reflecting order around universals) be reconciled with what they presuppose about it (that it is non-rational and composed of chaotically interacting particulars)? But secondly, and most importantly, it also doesn't answer the question. Do laws of logic, and rational regularities in nature, have some sort of ontological grounding or existence? Or, are these merely human concepts that find some correspondence 'here and there?' If it is the former, then the atheist needs to explain how such structures can exist in their metaphysical worldview. However, if it is the latter, which is the answer I normally get from atheists, then they have a problem of justification. A handful of human observations, in comparison to the vast age of the universe (according to the atheist), does not "justify" belief in universal laws of thought or science. One could only justify such a claim if they had observed every square inch of the universe, for every second, in the life of the universe. But in the big picture, all we have are a few observations, which appear as if they correspond to the concept of rational "laws" and regularities. So if the atheist is right, we are like the person who picked a few answer on a test that happened to be right. But there is no justification there. And if you do not have justification for universal laws of thought or science, then you have no knowledge. Greg Bahnsen elaborates:

"It should be noted here that by "justified" we mean that the person actually has sound reasons (good evidence), not simply that he thinks his evidence is good or sufficient in light of the pool of information available to him [...] Accordingly, having a warrant for one's belief(s) is essential to knowledge. This explains why the issue of justification has always been a critical one throughout the history of epistemology. E.g., when and how are claims that we make well founded? Or, how do we acquire, or what is the source of, reliable beliefs? On what basis is intellectual authority conferred upon our ideas? By what standard are our judgments to be evaluated? How do we know what we know?" (Bahnsen,"Van Til's Apologetics," 178)

In answer to those questions, Dr. Bahnsen, and all sounds Christians, will say that the answer to all of those questions is God's revelation. The infinite, personal God of Christianity has revealed some things pertaining to Himself, ourselves, and reality; such that we can be certain. Furthermore, he sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts, to "internalize" the Word of God, so that it becomes not just a distant object, or a hypothetical, but immanently apparent to us as subjects made in His image. When God's revelation is presupposed, and the content of it believed, one has a justification for true belief in laws of logic, and laws of science (as well as a whole host of other things). Anything else is just guess work, commonly known as speculation. Furthermore, history itself attests to the fact that science arose out of the worldview of Christendom, not atheism. No one took an unbiased "leap in the dark" about reality and discovered that science "works." No, we have a much more certain ground to stand on than that. And thankfully, so does the atheist, which is exactly how he knows what he knows, because in his heart of hearts, he truly knows God.

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Rom. 1:18-21)
(P.S. More follow up posts pertaining to my interview may be forthcoming :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Penn Jillete and Rape

I recently came across this "meme" while perusing through Facebook. I've seen this kind of argument made by several of the "new atheists." Not only does it completely miss the point, but it simply is not honest. I've never seen this meme before, but I found it a little ironic in light of recent revelations about skeptic Michael Shermer's behavior towards women, which I covered here. As I said, I do not think these kind of arguments are honest about human nature. For example, multiple times a week I have the unfortunate privilege of hearing men check out women and talk out loud about all the things they would like to do to them. In their external dialogue about their internal desires, there is not one care for the woman's soul, or "romance" or whatever. All one finds is an aggressive considerations of how their bodies could gratify them. Indeed, with most men in the "dating" culture, most of the time, all outward demonstrations of care for a woman's personality, or romantic appreciations of them, is simply a means to get the gratification they think they deserve. THAT is the heart of a rapist. In my experience, most women in the dating culture are keenly aware of this. However, the reason why most of those men will not engage in rape, and will even condemn it consciously/publicly, is because they have been conditioned by a civilization with broadly Christian roots to find rape aesthetically displeasing. The desire's of their hearts say otherwise. So what happens when the worldview that framed rape as bad disintegrates? When we are pictured as mere biological robots, who evolved from pond scum, that then progressed up the evolutionary chain in many species through rape; how can one still call rape "wrong" in the true sense of the word? Can anything be considered "wrong" in such a world? On top of that, Mr. Jillette is a supporter of the prostitution industry in Nevada, which feeds into the very instincts that he apparently denies the majority of men even have. So I do not find that Penn is honest with himself in how he frames this objection.

On top of that, even if he was "sinless" in this regard, never having had a desire to exploit women; in his universe that is absolutely meaningless. Rape and consensual sex are nothing but atoms banging into one another. Nothing is "wrong" or "right," for that matter, in such a world. Saying rape is wrong is just an opinion, like saying that blue is a better color than red. Even if one wants to go the existentialist route and say that it is up to the individual to create morality, one cannot argue that their self-generated moral system extends beyond their 3 pound brain. Much less can they claim that it corroborates with abstract concepts like "truth," "goodness," or "beauty." They certainly cannot congratulate themselves for their tastes above others who go a different route, as Mr. Jillette seemingly does here. "I don't need God, because I know how to live a 'good life' without Him," isn't an argument in the atheist's own world. It is just brain fizz. These kind of arguments only appeal to people in a post-Christian society where they still enjoy some of the fruit left over from the Biblical worldview. You don't have to look very far to see what happens when that foundation is officially abolished.

The thing is, the Christian worldview can account for why even an atheist knows that rape is wrong. The Christian will claim that even the rapist knows that rape is wrong. That is because the law is written on everyone's heart, as they are made in the image of God (See Romans 2:1-16). Even apart from the influence of the Christian church, one sees a recognition of deity, accountability, and the law of God in all cultures. However, time and time again, when a culture consciously rejects the light of biblical religion, they condescend to depths worse than pre-Christian pagans. So not only can the Christian worldview give a better account of Mr. Jilette's claims here, it can also give a better account of why man is prone to such evil. Scripture informs us that simple lust of the heart is directly related to sins such as adultery, rape, and much worse things as well. Apart from God's restraining grace we would all descend into such debauchery. But even further, Scripture ends up giving us not just a better picture of the moral law, and man's sin, but it also gives us the solution as well. Christ crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Law is Just (Pt. 6): Exodus 22:1-15 - The Restoration of Property

As we begin chapter 22, we find that God provides more laws as it pertains to property. This is where the "general equity" of the Law truly stands out as a strong example and basis for common law. I can't think of any statement in the following passage that one could object to, once it is correctly understood. In fact, I think one can argue that our current justice system would be greatly improved if we stood under the wisdom of this passage. How so? Moses writes:

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep. If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double.

“If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed, and lets loose his animal, and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.

“If fire breaks out and catches in thorns, so that stacked grain, standing grain, or the field is consumed, he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

“If a man delivers to his neighbor money or articles to keep, and it is stolen out of the man’s house, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, then the master of the house shall be brought to the judges to see whether he has put his hand into his neighbor’s goods.

“For any kind of trespass, whether it concerns an ox, a donkey, a sheep, or clothing, or for any kind of lost thing which another claims to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whomever the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor. If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, no one seeing it, then an oath of the Lord shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and he shall not make it good. But if, in fact, it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to the owner of it. If it is torn to pieces by a beast, then he shall bring it as evidence, and he shall not make good what was torn.

“And if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good. If its owner was with it, he shall not make it good; if it was hired, it came for its hire.

The general "gist" of this passage is that thieves are to punished by being forced to make restitution, paying back at least a double portion. As verse 1 says, if he steals in order to make a profit, the thief is to pay four or five times the amount that the animal was worth. If the guilty party is unable to pay, then he was to be sold into slavery, where an arrangement would be made, such that the injured party was repaid through his labors. There is NOTHING in this text about locking the thief up, or mutilating his body, such as is common place in Middle Eastern nations. Even slavery is a last resort, to be enforced only when the individual is unable to pay. Because property was stolen, it is property that must be restored. That is the principle of justice when it comes to property. To deter criminals, the punishment is not only to make restitution, but at least a double restitution (which also grants peace of mind to the affected party). However, in this case the criminal's life is not to be "dissolved" with either death, mutilation, or the purgatory of being "locked up." He is still respected as an image bearer of God with certain rights. In fact, verse 3 limits the term in which a "self-defense" killing can be argued for taking the life of a thief. If the thief is still alive the next day (most theft would happen at night, like today), and presumably off one's property, then one had no right to take his life. How much of the current disdain for our "justice" system could be eliminated if we would listen to the wisdom here? Many libertarians, liberals, and even some conservatives, have expressed disgust at the amount of people who are currently locked up for non-violent offenses, to the detriment of the tax-payer. Indeed, Scripture tells us that murderers and sex-criminals are to be punished with death, but all others are to charged with repayment and/or slavery. In fact, even our 13th amendment still says that slavery is appropriate for criminals. But nowhere does Scripture recommend locking someone up for years on end, where they essentially sit around with other criminals all day, while not engaging in the cultural mandate. Nor does the Bible have a concept of one owing a "debt" to society. That concept, in-and-of-itself is almost socialistic, as it views one's responsibility as being to "the collective" and not to God and one's neighbor. Thieves owe a debt to the one whom they have stolen from, and the God who created both of them. In our day of cheap labor and the ability to electronically "dock pay," this is completely reasonable, and courts could order it. It would save the tax payers a lot of money too...

The rest of the text deals with hypotheticals where property is lost, but not due to theft. In the case of an animal that is torn apart by a beast, the accused party is given the option to bring evidence to plead his case. It appears that restitution as it applies to accidental damage is on a 1 to 1 basis, and not the double restitution commanded with theft. In the case of someone who buys stolen goods, verses 7 and 8 order a judge to be brought in to deliberate whether or not it was out of ignorance or intentional.

Again, the Law is perfectly Just.