Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Response to the Open Letter to Christians (by James Chambers)



[This is a response to Luce's challenges to Christianity a few posts ago.]

By James Chambers, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, USA Campus Staff

In an Open Letter to Cru, InterVarsity, etc., the author brings up some points that as Christians we need to address. As a Christian I need to give reasons and evidence for the things I believe. In this post I want to give reasons why God may choose to not stop evil when he is all-powerful and loving, reasons why the Bible is God's Word and reasons that Jesus is God.

The Problem of Evil

The logical problem of evil and the existence of God has been shown by Christians and others to not actually be a problem. Just because we can’t see a positive or good reason for an evil doesn’t mean there isn’t one and that there isn’t a God. The author’s’s point seems to point toward why wouldn’t God stop pointless evil if he has the power to do so. Why does God sit passively by? This is the route I am going to go. Christian theology teaches that evil consists of both moral and natural evil. Natural evils are those things that seem to have no human cause but are a result of natural processes (earthquakes). Moral evils are those things that humans cause (murder).

For Christianity, the problem of evil (both moral and natural) is a result of sin. Christian theology teaches that God created the universe and all that is in it. When that creation was made, God said it was good, not that there was no potential for evil in it. God created humans in his likeness and in that likeness God created humans to have free will to choose between good and evil. I reason that if God created humans to have limited free-will (where they could only choose to do good), then humans were not made in the image of God but instead created to be robots. When humanity fell away from God by sinning it resulted in a fallen humanity and a fallen creation. Natural evils are a result of the curse put on the earth. Moral evils are the result of a fallen humanity continuing to choose evil. Even though God has the power to stop evil, to do so would be to remove humans’ free will and to stop the consequences for the sins of humanity. There is good news and that is that Jesus came to reverse the curse of sin once and for all. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God provided the ultimate solution to both moral and natural evil. Though both continue to exist for a set a time, the church has been called to bring healing to a broken world through its ministries of compassion.

The Bible is God’s Word

The next point I want to address is that the Bible is not God’s Word. I will show that the author’s claims that using the Bible to demonstrate itself as God’s Word is not circular reasoning (strike 4). The first reason that the author’s argument is wrong is that the Bible is not one book, but is actually 66 books, with different authors. When Christians use the verses cited by the author, these verses are stating that other books or collections of books are God’s Word. Therefore, this is not circular reasoning. So, in the end I can use Scripture to claim that it is the Word of God and there is no logical contradiction. Now the term ‘God-breathed’ is a tough Greek word to translate. The author is correct in that the term is rare. Most translators translate the Greek word literally. By that, they give a direct English translation of the word and not try to paraphrase it. Though the definition of the word is vague and we may not completely understand with one hundred percent certainty what it means (yet I reasonable think the context dictates that God is involved in the process of Scripture and uses the term Godbreathed to describe that process), the focus of the passage is what the purpose of Scripture is for.

This does not completely answer the author’s objection. I will now show why the evidence points that the Bible is God’s Word.

First, Jesus was a historical figure and not an imaginary person made up by Christians. He truly existed and the gospels give an accurate account of his life, death and resurrection. There are multiple criteria that the gospels satisfy in showing that the gospels do in fact depict the historical Jesus. The first criteria is that of multiple attestation. The gospels in many places look alike (but are not always word for word) as they depict teachings of Jesus and actions of Jesus. One example is the teaching of Jesus about God as Father (Found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and extrabiblical sources). Second, the criteria of embarrassment shows that the early church would have removed those things that would have been embarrassing for them and it is unlikely they would have created such material. One such embarrassing encounter is when Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples. These help show that the new Testament is a reliable source. Second, since Jesus is a historical person and below I show that he is God, Jesus believes that the Old Testament is God’s Word. Jesus quotes the Old Testament and calls the Old Testament the Word of God (Mark 7:13). Jesus viewed the Scriptures as the written Word of God. Lastly, Jesus knew that his life was a continuation/fulfillment of what was written in the Old Testament and that his oral teachings would be written down so that they could be passed on to future generations. Jesus even promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come to guide them into all truth. This then makes it very likely that Jesus knew that the New Testament would become Scripture just as the Old. Thus Jesus believed in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) as the Word of God, and knew that the recording of his own teachings would rightly be considered the Word of God.

To summarize: If the gospel accounts give us an accurate picture of the historical Jesus, the Son of God; and if Jesus looked back to the Old Testament and forward to the New Testament as the Word of God, then believers in Jesus should do the same.

Jesus is God

The author’s comments that no one worshipped Jesus as God until later as evidence Jesus is not God has no bearing on the divinity of Jesus. It is reasonable for Jesus to hide his divinity from humanity until after his death and resurrection to complete his mission. The author’s second claim that Jesus never calls himself God is also false. In John 8:48-59, Jesus claims to be before Abraham was even born. Now, either Jesus is thousands of years old or he is claiming to be God. The fact that those who heard him wanted to stone him, is evidence that this was considered blasphemous. Therefore, the claim that Jesus never stated he was God does not hold up when one looks into Scripture.

The author also points that the term begat/begotten does not show evidence that Jesus is God because all of humanity can say they are the son/daughter of God because God created us. However, the term begat is only used biblically to speak of things creating things of the same kind. Nowhere does it say that God begat humanity in Genesis. Genesis states that God created humanity. The only place where it says that God begat anyone is in reference to Jesus. Therefore, only Jesus can say that he is begotten of God. Your conclusion is incorrect that anyone can claim that.

It is very logical that Jesus did believe he was God, clearly taught that and the disciples and eventually the Church continued to teach that Jesus is God.

Conclusion

Again, I know I have only touched a few of the author’s points. But these are the major points and I have tried to show, briefly, that the problem of evil does not show that God doesn’t exist and that the reasons for pointless evil put humans on the hook for it, not God. Second, I tried to show that the Bible is God’s Word and lastly that Jesus did in fact claim to be God, and his claim was fully recognized by his contemporaries.

33 comments:

  1. On the problem of evil: You are begging the question when you say "Christian theology teaches that evil consists of both moral and natural evil." Are humans not natural? Is a human sepparate from nature?

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  2. Dear James,

    **My problem of evil response**

    God is ultimately responsible for everything that happens here on earth. Can you deny that? If God is really all-powerful and all-knowing, then God knew exactly what his creation was going to do. He knew that if he made his creation one way, a certain something was going to happen. If he made it a different way, he knew that something different would happen. If I go and sin, God already knew that I was going to do that. Why? Because he made me. He made me to do everything that I do because God has perfect power and knowledge. Since this applies everywhere, God is ultimately responsible for everything that happens here, including every single evil and bad action. If God didn’t want evil, then he should not have created it. You can’t blame humans or nature for whatever evil happens. That is a cop out. Everything should lead back to God if this all-powerful and all-knowing God exists. But God shouldn’t want evil because he supposedly loves us so much, he is morally perfect, and it isn’t even supposed to be possible that evil would come from God since he is totally goodness. Therefore, you’re going to have to come up with a different response than only that there may be a way that God and evil and exist together.

    I basically don’t think you can argue for human freedom and God existing together. But aside from that, what do you think about heaven? Can evil happen there? We would supposedly have free will, so it should be possible right? My guess is that you would want to say that there is absolutely no evil in heaven, and yet we still have free will because if we didn’t, our love for God would be robotic. And if we have free will, then evil would definitely be possible. See the problem?

    **My Bible response**

    You’re still being circular. The Bible is made up of 66 books but you lump them together into a single volume and say that since the Bible says that it is the Word of God, then it must be. If Chapter 12 of a Harry Potter book says that the Harry Potter book is inerrant, it doesn’t matter how many chapters the book has or which chapter is saying it, it is still referring to the whole book, as you are referring to the whole Bible. You even say “I can use Scripture to claim that it is the Word of God and there is no logical contradiction.” But it is a logical contradiction, no matter if you say it isn’t.

    Using that same logic, you cannot say that because Jesus might have meant that both the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, that it is. The chapter of Mark is still a part of the Bible.

    I think, though, that you will still say something to the effect that because Jesus believed it, we should also believe it. That leads to [the next comment since it won't let me post more].

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  3. **My response to Jesus is God**

    I’ll give you Jesus’ claim in the gospel of John. He does seem to say something unearthly, whether he was necessarily calling himself God or not. I know that “I am” is a designation for God, but it is not clear that Jesus was necessarily saying that “HE” was God. But he was certainly saying something bigger than only something earthly so I’ll give you that.

    The question, though, is why should we believe that Jesus is God at all, or even the Son of God? Many people back then claimed to be the messiah and claimed to be God. It was not an abnormal phenomenon. It was more prevalent then than in today’s time. So you can’t say that someone is God just because someone claims it. That again would be circular reasoning.

    And that is the kind of circular reasoning that most Christians fall into. They believe that Jesus is God because the Bible says so. Because Jesus says that he is God, he must be. No no no. For such an outlandish claim, there had better be some rock hard, unturnable proof that Jesus is God. That is why I mention the “Jesus rising from the dead” bit. The evidence saying that he really did come back from the dead is really really weak. No one today would buy a story like that for any current event. Even some conspiracy theories have better evidence than that. So why should anyone believe in the divinity of Jesus in light of the fact that one cannot simply take the Bible’s word for it?

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  4. I don't get it. So, God gave us free will, so that we would be able to choose for ourselves whether or not to accept Jesus as our savior (and go to heaven) or not (and go to hell). Well.. it just doesn't seem like that's really giving us a lot of options. It's kind of like when my friend's girlfriend says to my friend, "I want you to do whatever you want. I'm letting you do whatever you want. But, if you don't do what I want you to, I'm breaking up with you." IF God really wanted us to do what we wanted by giving us free will, he would accept whatever it is we wanted to do, and not judge us for it. But he gives an ultimatum. I don't feel very free under that kind of rule. And how exactly is sending his own son down to be killed and then resurrecting him a way of saving humanity? Why couldn't God just save humanity without doing that? Why couldn't God just forgive us? I really don't understand Christianity, and your post here doesn't make it any clearer as to why any of it makes sense or why it should be followed. I just don't understand why it has to be so complicated. And why would good people who don't believe in Jesus as the savior go to hell? Maybe I have to read the Bible more, but how can I be sure the Bible is a true story? I mean, just because one part of the Bible says that another part is the word of God, doesn't really make me confident that it actually is. And I don't think anyone ever answered the question why God would put a condition on his love... I mean, if he really loved us unconditionally, he wouldn't send any of us to hell, if hell really existed.

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  5. I don't get it either. I'd like to hear a response to
    **The Concept of Jesus as Savior is Ridiculous if God Exists** posted in The Challenge. If God is unconditionally loving, why put conditions on his love? Doesn't make sense.

    I don't find the response above by Chambers satisfying. It makes Christianity look like an exclusive country club where only the people inside the club that have already paid their dues get what's going on. I just don't see why they are paying their dues. It seems so fickle and based way too much on faith for the sake of faith.

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  6. Alright. What the hell? There's supposed to be millions of Christians in this country and thousands on our campus. Do you mean to tell me that really only two Christians have made any decent attempt to refute these challenges? From what I've heard about this blog, I know that plenty of people are reading it. Ok so where are all the Christians? Cat got your tongues? Challenges too hard? This alone would make me lose faith in Christianity. I would expect more. If Christians are all about speaking their faith, well the door is wide open to prove you are worth your weight.

    ~juicyjuice

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  7. As an individual I don't feel a need to justify my faith to random anonymous strangers on the internet. If you don't like this answer, you should know that I don't care. And if we were in person I still wouldn't discuss religion because I don't expect a christain, jew, muslim, buddist, or any religious belief, or an athiest to justify their faith or lack there of to me or anyone but themself for themself. Before someone makes some smart ass remark like "your being a bad christain" you should not be so foolish as to think you know what exactly I believe as there are many forms of all religious beliefs. In a nutshell I'm telling all the athiest demanding proof for the unprovable to fuck off.

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  8. -- Part 1 of 2 from Nack --
    More good questions! Perhaps we can start to address some of these with some questions in return, to establish a starting point:
    Luce: How do you explain evil? What is your definition? Within what framework or system do you judge good and evil? Where did that framework or system or standard come from? And if you are going to revert to the irrational (which does not mean wrong) argument from the comments of the original post that evil is inherently obvious, then explain how that inherent understanding of evil was placed in humans and on what inherent moral standard we judge good and evil. Saying that the recognition of evil is inherent does not mean we do not have to define it.

    Luce and Anon 2:34: Should we not be responsible for our choices? At what number of choices should we become responsible if not two - is any finite number really enough if we use the same logic that we use for two not being enough? God is self-sufficient, why should he create humans at all? Having given humanity the gift of life from nothing, is God not just to put what controls, limits, commands, he wants on humanity?

    As for some answers to some of the more straightforward questions, because these questions are of a theological rather than philosophical nature, perhaps some clearing up of Christian theology would bring some clarity.

    1. Sin/evil is defined as disobedience to God. It is NOT based in a system of morality, of rules/law/etc, outside of God. God is not subject to morality; morality is subject to God. Does that mean God is immoral? No. It means God defines morality. Good and evil in Christianity find their definitions in relation to God. Good is what glorifies, worships, loves God; Evil is what disobeys, rebels, hates God. When we say that God made humans in his images, and thus with a will to choose, we mean not that humans were made with the knowledge of morality and the ability to choose to be moral or immoral; we mean that humans were made with the ability to choose to obey God or disobey God. That is the first and only understanding of good/evil, and it explains why God would create beings with free will even if he knew they would use it to disobey him. God does all things for his glory. Now that point essentially ends discussion, because if a)God is perfect, and b)has perfect knowledge beyond our understanding, and c)does all things for his glory, then we can conclude that d)regardless of our comprehension of humanity's state of affairs, our history glorifies God because if not he wouldn't have made humans in the first place. For the Christian, that is a sufficient logical argument. But we can go further.

    God does not want servants to a law, he ultimately wants sons and daughters; God desires relationship with man based in love. Love cannot be forced, it must be chosen. God cannot be loved and worshiped by Man unless Man has free will to choose to love God and obey and worship Him. Thus, given God's purpose for creating humanity, he could not but give us free will, even though giving us a choice means that some would choose to refuse him. What grace that he considered it worth it still to make us!

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  9. -- Part 2 of 2 from Nack --


    The point being, humans used their will to disobey God (and we still do), and thus arise the questions about God's plan for forgiveness. Why could he not simply let it all go, sweep it under the rug, forget about it? Because God is Holy, and he is Just. You may laugh about the judge who lets you off for your speeding ticket but you'll call for his removal if he lets go a murderer. We desire justice because it is our answer to evil, it keeps it in check. Luce references the horror of the Holocaust, well is it not a desire for a justice that makes us feel good about Hitler killing himself and Germany being devastated as a country in WWII? God would cease to be God if he did not enforce justice. We demand adherence to justice from our government officials, how much more do we from our God? If we beg for our evil to simply be forgotten it is because we recognize just how evil we are and wish it would just go away easy. Innocent men don't care two cents how God forgives people - they don't need it. It is us guilty men that wish there were some easier way to forgiveness.

    The miracle and the mercy is that forgiveness is available at all. A just God would be fully in His right to simply destroy any who broke his law, for "the wages of sin is death." But in grace and mercy, undeserved, by no merit of our own, God sent Jesus, as not only necessary, but the only possibility for forgiveness. Jesus is a man so that he can pay for sin as a man; he is God so that he can live a perfect life and thus be qualified to pay for the sins of all humanity, and as God he can cover those sins in eternity. The cross is where the justice of God descends on Jesus Christ so that the mercy of God can descend on humanity. Someone has to pay for the disobedience of humanity. The price is death. Jesus lives in perfect obedience to God so that, being free from guilt, he is able to take on our guilt (all of it, he's the infinite God), and remove it. Removal of that guilt, and forgiveness then, come from believing that Christ was that sacrifice on our behalf and that he paid for our sins so that we may counted as obedient before God. Jesus pays for our disobedience and in return offers us the rewards for his obedience.

    As for going to hell for not believing in God - is that really so much a punishment as simply God allowing us to have our way? If we live our whole lives on earth in disobedience to God - hating him, rejecting him, wanting to have nothing to do with him - would we really want to spend eternity with him? Have we not already chosen to be separate from him? And to be separate from him past death is to be in hell. However, if we choose God now and believe in Jesus Christ, and desire relationship with God here on earth, he is merciful to keep us with him for all of eternity. But really, there is no honesty in demanding that a God we are radically opposed to accept us to live with him for ever and ever. Hell is the danger of using the will that God has given us; Heaven is the blessing of using that will as it was intended - obeying God.

    - Nack

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    1. Obeying God? You mean, obeying a book that was written by people...
      And really? How does one obey a God that we can't see or hear? Why is it that "the wages of sin is death" ? And why do we let some super old book tell us what sin is??? Why should I feel guilty for not obeying and worshiping some god that will supposedly send me to hell if I don't worship and obey him? And why do you feel good about Hitler killing himself and Germany being a devastated country after WWII? What do you or anyone know about Justice?? You've let your lifelong Christian teachings crush every ounce of judgment you could possibly have for yourself here. Why do you want to worship God and refrain from as much "sin" as possible (as it is defined in the Bible)? Because you'll go to hell if you don't. How is that God giving you a choice? It's not. It's some people thousands of years ago making up a story so that you'll never choose for yourself what you think is right or wrong, just and unjust. And so what if some people a long time ago disobeyed god in some garden by eating an apple? Why do we have to pay for what they did? And why is god so mad about someone eating an apple? He's really going to damn us all because of that? Sheesh. There's just too much wrong with this picture that I'm afraid no one can really explain. I guarantee my questions won't be answered.

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  10. Here's my challenge to Luce. Give me proof that reason and logic exists without using reason or logic. You know what I'll save you the trouble, you can't. But wait reason and logic can't be evidence for itself that would be circular logic. Well fuck me I guess one shouldn't have faith in logic or reason because it is nonsense. It's odd that the very things often used as proof have no proof. Well I guess we all have to become skepticist.

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  11. Anonymous 11:55, if that's the tack you are going to take, then why are you criticizing me? If nothing can be ultimately justified using our reason and logic because they are not ultimately justified, you would lose any power of critiquing me as you say I have of critiquing others. You're gonna have to go fuck yourself.

    But you give a silly conclusion. As long as we all generally adhere to our standards of reason and logic, then we can critique to our hearts content within those standards. If someone is going to use circular reasoning within those standards, that sure is fair game to criticize. If you don't think so, then I could easily say that Santa Claus is real because that is what I say, and you couldn't say anything against me. But that would be dumb. You don't sound dumb, so maybe you don't actually believe all that.

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  12. Anonymous 10:13, you sound very Christian when you say "fuck off."

    I guess you would also say that if you were a KKK member and believed firmly in racism, that you wouldn't have to justify yourself either. Or if you were a neo-nazi, that one's faith is one's faith, and no one has the right to question it because that is just what you believe.

    Let me tell you a little secret. Your beliefs have social consequences. If you have bad beliefs, we have every right to demand a justification from you. If your belief hurt others, we have a right to be outraged. Look at all the damage good ole Ricky Santorum's beliefs have on people who embrace homosexuality. He basically says they are not people and that they are the cause for all of our country's problems. Damn right he better have some good justifications for such harmful statements, but he doesn't.

    I bet if my atheism began harming you in some real way, you would reconsider your position. You would confront me, like you should. Like I said before, based on my experience with Christians and Christianity, their beliefs breed guilt and shame upon themselves and others. I feel moved to say something.

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  13. Nack, a pig is slapped. It hurts it. Pig runs away. A monkey is stung by a bee. It hurts it. Monkey avoids bees. Neanderthal 1 punches neanderthal 2. Neanderthal 2 is hurt. It moves away from Neanderthal 1 and begins to have a thought that the punch didn't feel good. Neanderthal 2 thinks that getting hurt is bad. And there you have it. Morality is born. It's not complicated. I don't need some big God in the heavens for it to be possible for me to think that something is bad. Many other creatures find things hurtful, but they don't *think* they are bad because they don't have the thinking powers that humanoids do. Morality is all based on these distinctions between good and bad, and all those distinctions are rooted in the alleviation of suffering. We even say that lying is bad because deceiving others can have bad effects which leads to various forms of suffering. Remember that suffering doesn't always have to be thumb screws and being drawn and quartered.

    I give a very simple, natural explanation for morality. You give this highly speculative theory about God (and I bet you'd say that no one could really even understand God's morality). The simpler explanation is better. It is more rational.

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  14. Nack, you still didn't answer my question. I don't believe in God at all. If I died right now, am I going to hell? I just need a yes or no from you.

    And don't give the whole, "I'm not God, so I cannot know" bit. That's just avoidance.

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  15. Luce, Anon 10:13 expressly said not to call him a bad Christian because you cannot know what he actually believes. Atheism is against ALL religions, not just Christianity, therefore it is open to criticism from any one who places faith in anything supernatural.

    Anon 11:55 makes a great point. The reality we need to realize is that, Luce, just as you criticize Christians of doing, we all hold certain irrational beliefs, and we can only function because we do so. We believe, without ability to prove it, that logic and reason are valid forms of thinking, deducting, concluding. We allow our thinking to fall under the framework and method of logic. You must put faith in Reason before you can use it. If your idea of general agreement being the basis for Reason is true, then what are the cross-over points? What percent of the world's population must adhere to logic before we believe it? What happens if we fall below that number? Is logic not metaphysical and absolute?

    Saying that belief in Reason is irrational and is based in faith rather than logic (because logically concluding that logic is logical is circular reasoning, which is itself defined by logic), does not negate the use of Reason or the power of it; it simply means we must accept that some things must be taken on faith from the outset and that we function better as humans because of it. By believing in the rules of Logic and the methods of Reason we are given a framework for all thinking and communication. In the same way, believing in God by faith gives us a framework for Reason, morality, society, government, etc, etc.

    - Nack

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    1. You can't put faith in reason when it is by reason that one can do that. We never put faith in reason. We just use it all the time.

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    2. So is faith separate from reason, or is it a function of reason? Because if the former, you must put faith in reason before you can use it; if the latter, you have just argued that faith is reasonable.

      - Nack

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    3. It is the latter. Faith is a function of reason just like everything we think is a function of reason. If I ask myself, "Should I believe in God?" that question is a question made within reason since I need to know the operations of language, how questions work, what are the consequences of believing such a thing, and so on. If I didn't have the power of reason, I couldn't even come to ask myself any question. It would be beyond all comprehension.

      So faith is reasonable in the sense that it is in the space of intelligibility. But that does not mean that it is a good belief to have or whether it adheres to specific logic rules. I can say that 1+2=4, and say that such a statement is rational since it is made within the space of rationality, but it is irrational when considering the specific rules of mathematics we have. So faith can be rational and irrational depending on the sense of rationality you are using.

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    4. 1+2=3 actually.. but I think that must have been a typo. Anyway... all this whole faith/reason mumbo jumbo is besides the point.

      Christians give God the quality of being supremely perfect - meaning God is rational, moral, loving, etc., etc., to the highest degree possible (which is obviously out of the human realm of possibility and might as well be completely foreign to what our current conceptions of such traits are). The problem is that all of those qualities (rationality, morality, etc.) are qualities that humans define in the first place. So when we question things like, "how can God be perfectly moral and still allow evil?", it's useless to talk about the answer because we lack the ability to understand God's morality. And when we question why God would put a condition on our love, we can't talk about it, because we must not have the capability to understand God's way of Love. And when we question why it seems unreasonable for God to do such and such, or for the Bible to tell us such and such, well I guess that's just because we aren't capable of understanding his reasoning power either. You see, it is really easy to defend something that is made up by us, and given the quality of having every perfection to such a degree that we can't even understand what or why or how they are considered perfections at all. We just say they are. It's so pointless to argue with Christians unless they are actually willing to crawl out of their caves. Seriously.

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  16. Nack, I'll respond to your other points in a little bit, but you are avoiding the issues of God's unconditional love and how anyone can have freewill when God is all-powerful and all-knowing. Why would God put any conditions on his love if it truly is unconditional? How can there really be any freewill if God knows *everything* that will ever happen such that what God sees must happen? Since God made everything, then it must be that God made everything happen just the way everything happened.

    I'll probably say something more later. But if you are going to argue against me, you can't assume that I'm going to swallow your theology. You need to justify your theology.

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  17. Another response to Nack. You say, "God is not subject to morality; morality is subject to God." That's REALLY REALLY REALLY weird. Here's why.

    a. Would you say that it is right to believe in God? Of course you would. But what you then imply is that God is the one who made the rules that it is *right* to believe in him. That makes him the ultimate ego-maniac. If I said that what is right is that all my friends worship me, I would lose all my friends for being so egocentric. If we think that being prideful is wrong and humility is right, then we surely cannot look to God for that lesson.

    b. If God is the author of morality, then the moral law is pretty arbitrary. God could have made it such that believing in him was wrong and rejecting him was right. God could change his mind about that tomorrow, right? After all, God is God and can do whatever he likes.

    c. God is certainly not above morality. You don't even think so. If God came down and skinned alive your family, I bet you wouldn't think that it is okay because God did it. You would think that some terrible tragedy just happened, no matter who did it. You would make that moral decision regardless of God.

    d. Likewise, if God really is in control of everything and he let the Holocaust happen, you would have to say that it is good because God allowed it to happen.

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    1. A. Ask people to worship you would be egocentric because you do not deserve it. God requiring the beings he made to worship him because he made them to function best when they are in relationship with him and worship him, and because he is completely worthy of worship, is perfectly right and moral.

      B. Sure, it is arbitrary. But if God did not create morality, who did? Also, your bit about morality being the avoidance of pain is misunderstanding morality. If I run into a branch on a tree it hurts, but that does not make it bad morally. If a man hits me with a branch it hurts, and is also assault, and is wrong morally. Morality is not a description of outcome it is a description of intent. We consider actions morally wrong when they are intended for pain. A good intention with a bad outcome is an accident; a bad intention with a bad outcome is cruelty.

      c. Then you claim morality as the ultimate Fact, the foundational reality of the universe. How? Who made it? Who defined it? How was it created? How did morality create matter? How did it communicate its rules to humans?

      d. Another misunderstanding. Permissible will is different than direct will. Again, this is a argument of the nature of free will and the sin of humanity. The Holocaust is a result of immoral humans having will. Ironically, you constantly point to the Holocaust as an argument against God, and yet it was dictated and carried out by a man who wholly held to atheism. Perhaps an explanation is in order?

      - Nack

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  18. a. Why do you say God is worthy? Because God says so? If God is the foundation of morality, then you would have to say God is worthy because God says so. Sounds like you didn't have much of a choice in that matter. Come to think of it, that doesn't sound much like free will. Wouldn't free will mean that we can decide what we value and what we don't value?

    b. Boy, you're really stuck on this absolute stuff. What is so wrong in saying that morality came from people interacting with each other? It is a much simpler explanation that the God explanation.

    Morality in a broad sense certainly entails what you call description of outcome. Any valuation (good or bad) can be thought of as a moral category. You can also take a more narrow sense in terms of intentions. We're not really disagreeing here.

    c. Who made morality? We did. The people before us. The people presently. Most likely, the people after us too.

    "How did morality make matter?" I don't understand your question. I think you are thinking of morality as this absolute something floating everywhere and that it needs some kind of grandiose explanation. It doesn't. It never did.

    d. I could refer to the Crusades or to the Inquisition, cruel acts committed by Christians. Don't get hung up on Hitler's atheism (which his "atheism" is debatable anyway, but that is besides the point). His atheism is not the issue. [But I'm curious, do you think atheists are worse people or at least more immoral than Christians? You seem to be implying something.]

    You know, God could have created a paradise right now for us if he wanted to. He could have made everything perfect from the start. Have you ever asked yourself the question: why didn't God just put everyone in heaven in the beginning? I presume you would say that we would still have freewill, right? Then we would have bypassed all this pain and suffering and evil. Life would have been great. If God did that in the beginning, he wouldn't have the need to judge anyone (as you are probably dying to say). Things would be just, well, perfect.

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  19. Why to believe (or not believe) any supernatural being exists: I have lived. In my development as a part of a human society I have observed my surroundings. I see what other people do. I speculate based on these observations in order to guess at knowledge outside of my immediate grasp. I see people manipulate eachother. I see people trying to convince eachother that what they each think is correct. I see people becoming driven to be seen as correct rather than driven to actually BEING correct. When I think about how history has progressed (at least the parts that people have bothered to record) I come to the conclusion that there are no gods, no God, furthermore no provable truths. We are always at the mercy of our assumptions. One side of this argument believes that supernatural beings can exist. I ask that side: do you say that Odin the god of the Norse exists? Do you say that any being besides the Christian God exists? If not, why?
    To the Naturalists (I think Athiest is a negative title, it's like calling Christians A-Satanists): Do you venture outside of what is right in front of you? Do other people have individual conciousness. Is there actually a concious being anywhere outside of you? If so why do you believe this?

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  20. Professor : You are a Christian, aren’t you, son ?
    Student : Yes, sir.
    Professor: So, you believe in GOD ?
    Student : Absolutely, sir.
    Professor : Is GOD good ?
    Student : Sure.
    Professor: Is GOD all powerful ?
    Student : Yes.
    Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to GOD to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?

    Professor: You can’t answer, can you ? Let’s start again, young fella. Is GOD good?

    Student : Yes.

    Professor: Is satan good ?

    Student : No.

    Professor: Where does satan come from ?

    Student : From … GOD …

    Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?

    Student : Yes.

    Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it ? And GOD did make everything. Correct?

    Student : Yes.

    Professor: So who created evil ?

    (Student did not answer.)

    Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?

    Student : Yes, sir.

    Professor: So, who created them ?

    (Student had no answer.)

    Professor: Science says you have 5 Senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen GOD?

    Student : No, sir.

    Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your GOD?

    Student : No , sir.

    Professor: Have you ever felt your GOD, tasted your GOD, smelt your GOD? Have you ever had any sensory perception of GOD for that matter?

    Student : No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.

    Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?

    Student : Yes.

    Professor : According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?

    Student : Nothing. I only have my faith.

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  21. Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem Science has.

    Student : Professor, is there such a thing as heat?

    Professor: Yes.

    Student : And is there such a thing as cold?

    Professor: Yes.

    Student : No, sir. There isn’t.


    Student : Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.

    (There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theater.)

    Student : What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?

    Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?

    Student : You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and its called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, well you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?

    Professor: So what is the point you are making, young man ?

    Student : Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.

    Professor: Flawed ? Can you explain how?

    Student : Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good GOD and a bad GOD. You are viewing the concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.

    Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

    Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

    Student : Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?

    (The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going.)

    Student : Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?


    Student : Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?


    Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

    Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.

    Student : That is it sir … Exactly ! The link between man & GOD is FAITH. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.

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  22. Professor: This all sounds like a wonderful way to show how faith trumps science and how presumptuous atheists who believe in science can be shot down. Did this classroom conversation really happen?

    Student: I wish! Unfortunately, this is just one of the many fabricated stories to try and defeat atheism. Some say that I am Einstein, but I am really no one. I am a fiction.

    (The Student then unzips his skin, from head to toe, and out steps Satan.)

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  23. Language games!

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    1. Is there anything else?

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  24. Many versions of the above debate circulate the web. The debate is reproduced in versions with Einstein, a Christian student, and a muslim student. Nonetheless, that doesn't take away from the content of the debate.

    As for the content, I see two main tracks: the duality and the faith tracks. I'll admit that I do not understand what point the duality track is trying to make. I suppose the student is trying to dismantle the professor's remarks about evil, but even the student admits that there is evil in the world.

    However, the faith track doesn't work the way it is used here. The problem is that evolution and the existence of the professor's brain are testable hypotheses. Science can, in principle, "verify" those hypotheses, whereas science could never verify God's existence (assuming usual conceptions of God). So it is disingenuous of the story to make the professor admit to faith that easily, as if the professor's faith is of the same kind as religious faith. That would be like comparing apples to oranges. Thus, I find that particular argument for faith lacking, though that doesn't mean there aren't better arguments out there. William James, for instance, has a better argument for the rationality of religious belief.

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  25. What gives? We have this long conversation here about James' post and other points and James decides to be silent on it all?

    James, where the hell are ya?

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  26. Still waiting James...

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