Saturday, October 04, 2008

On Preaching To The Choir

I have very strong opinions on why the Church exists and what its role in society is. Other people, good principled people, have radically different opinions. Sometimes I think it's necessary to explain exactly why I disagree with their philosophies.

The most recent issue (and bear in mind it's only the most recent, not the most pressing or most important) deals with the Social Gospel. The Social Gospel was a movement who's early leaders included Josiah Strong and Walter Rauschenbusch (I have no idea if I spelled that correctly). The idea is if God's Kingdom is to come on Earth as it is in Heaven then we should promote the welfare of society by helping the poor, opposing war, etc...

I certainly agree we should help the poor. However, helping the poor is not the reason the Church exists; it is a natural result of the Church functioning as it should, but it's not why the Church exists. I'm often told I should help the poor, and sometimes condescendingly because for some reason certain individuals believe that, as a Libertarian, want to just let the poor die off and kill baby seals (o.k., no one has ever accused me of wanting to kill baby seals).

I do not want to let the poor die off. In fact I will happily pin my credentials for generosity against any of my Social Gospel-supporting friends. I'm a member of the ONE Campaign to end global poverty. I'm a member of the Save Darfur Coalition, and I orchestrated signing local Boy Scouts up to join the Coalition as well. I have refused to donate to any political campaigns because I think that money is better used going to organizations like the Save Darfur Coalition. I'm an Eagle Scout and have helped organize food drives for local homeless shelters and soup kitchens. I'm so extreme that I don't believe in dressing up for Church because I think God would be more honored by us using that money for missionaries to establish orphanages, wells, etc... Since I haven't managed to get the Church on board with that last one (even my Social Gospel friends, many of whom wear designer clothing and pay $4.00 for coffee at Starbucks) I generally wear used dress clothes; with the exception of a shirt, tie, and three pairs of pants that I got at a going out of business sale for something like 1/3rd to 1/4th of the list price. This last year I missed my city's "March for Jesus" to attend a 5k and raise money for a local deaf boy. I'm not going to mention the percentage of my income given to non-profits this year because I'm afraid I'd shame some people.

I'm not saying all this to brag, but to point out that many of my Social Gospel friends are big on talk but small on action. I believe talk is cheap (literally) and action is what is required. So by my philosophy, that the Church exists to evangelize, worship, disciple, fellowship, and minister I'm driven to much more action then most who believe the Church exists solely to help the poor (I realize the Social Gospel has other aspects, but let's handle these one at a time).

Now on to the issue of war. I don't like war, I don't like the war in Iraq, I would prefer we could avoid war. But sometimes moral principle does not allow us to do that. What? How can I say war might be moral?

Let me explain a few ethics rules:

1. The Utilitarian Rule: This rule states that, in order to be ethical, we should pursue the course of action that results in the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.

2. The Moral Rights Rule: This rule states that we must not violate inalienable rights (the problem with this rule is not everybody agrees on what rights are inalienable).

3. The Justice Rule: This rule states that we must pursue the course of action that distributes benefits and harms equally among all the people affected by the decision.

4. The Practical Rule: This rule states that in making a decision we should be willing to communicate it to people outside those affected by it because the average person would think it is an acceptable decision.

Based on these rules there may be times where it would be more ethical to engage in a war then to avoid one. Opposing a dictator or fighting terrorists, as painful as it is, may produce more good for more people then letting that dictator or terrorist continue. Look at WWII, to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people we had to oppose Hitler, he was not being just or moral; and certainly not practical. Was that a preferable option? Certainly not! But it was necessary.

Would Jesus support war? Well, He did have a Zealot among His disciples and He never condemned the Romans for their wars. I think the problem is we want God to be on our side, when really we should be on His side (you can thank Abraham Lincoln for that line). What's interesting is many of my Social Gospel friends are, like me, staunchly opposed to theocracies and yet they want our national policy to be based on their interpretation of Jesus teachings.

At any rate my Social Gospel friends prefer to preach to me about helping the poor when they are in fact preaching to the choir (sometimes hypocritically). Their message of no theocracy but national policy based on a theologically questionable interpretation of Christ's teachings is inconsistent. And lastly, if there's a problem do something about it, don't complain to me. Complain to your Senators and Representative, I must have a stack 5/6 inches high of letters they've written me about my numerous petitionings to their offices (most of which dealt with Darfur and poverty).

God bless!
Joey

12 Comments:

Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Interesting post… rather moderate.

Great that you do a lot of charity work, the world would probably be a better place if we all did as much as you.

It is clear I am well behind you on the charity giving stakes… sorry about that. :(

However it has always seemed strange to me the churches view on charity – isn’t it God’s will after all?

If this universe is governed by an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God… it really shouldn’t be this way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the church should stop helping – we all should help each other - But I am not a believer in the God I just defined (or any as you know).

So on the consistency front – it does seem odd. Obviously I am not understanding something right.

I like your ‘ethics rules’ – no mention of God and religion anywhere – that should be a hint at something.

As for Jesus supporting war… he did ‘bring the sword’ did he not?

Lee

Sun Oct 05, 08:05:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Well the sword Jesus brought was not a literal one. The Christian life is likened to a battle in various places, but "we wrestle not against flesh and blood" (see Ephesians 6).

I really don't do a whole lot of charity, at least compared to some, but I had to respond to some critics and actions prove more then mere talk. I basically wanted my reputation to speak for itself (though since I'm writing I guess I was speaking for it).

Exactly how much God is in control is debated. Every Christian will agree that God is sovereign, but many will disagree on what sovereignty means.

Calvinists, generally, believe God causes everything. Some go so far as to say God causes sin (they're called hyper-Cavlinists). Obviously God causing people to sin and then sending them to hell for it would be a bit of theological inconsistency.

Arminianists, generally, hold that man has complete and unfettered free will. It's completely on the individual to do or not do anything. If a man falls it's his fault; if he succeeds it's to his credit. One line of reasoning here used by prosperity Gospel preachers is "If you don't tithe God can't bless you". Obviously if God truly is in control He can bless anyone; once again I have problems with Arminianism in it's most extreme forms.

I'm what would be called a Molinist (maybe with a slight Calvinist lean and an Arminianist upbringing; actually I'm really not the person to explain all this). I believe that God knows in advance what will happen but doesn't always directly cause it (though I believe He does directly cause things, just not necessarily everything). It's kind of a middle-road.

For example, if I offer you a tarantula to eat versus a steak I know in advance, under given circumstances, you'll choose the steak. If I offer the same choice to a South American native they may well choose the tarantula.

So I've always thought about it as a question of free-will. If man has choice in certain matters have we made choices to hurt ourselves?

I do have my opinions on why God would allow such choices; mostly it has to do with Him desiring us to love Him because we want to and not because we have to... but again, I'm really not the best person to explain all the sides on this issue (I feel I've already grossly over-simplified things).

As far as my ethics rules hinting at something, I would say they hint at God; what determines what is "good"? What is inalienable?

I've never really discussed this in depth but I do wonder what the foundation for a moral order is in an atheistic worldview.

Though I do appreciate the fact we can at least agree on the rules, even if we do have various methods of arriving at them.

God bless!
Lee

Mon Oct 06, 08:28:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Well the sword Jesus brought was not a literal one.

I never know when to take the bible literally, or metaphorically... I did know however you wouldn’t think this passage really meant a sword, it was just me having a bit of fun.

Exactly how much God is in control is debated.

Indeed... from the deist who says not at all, to the theist who wants some input/interaction from God (or they would not be a theist).

The level of input is rather different depending on the person as you point out.

I believe that God knows in advance what will happen but doesn't always directly cause it (though I believe He does directly cause things, just not necessarily everything). It's kind of a middle-road.

What things doesn’t God cause, and how would you know?

Rather important this based on your belief

For example, if I offer you a tarantula to eat versus a steak I know in advance, under given circumstances, you'll choose the steak. If I offer the same choice to a South American native they may well choose the tarantula.

Assuming the tarantula is edible (I really do not know)... given the choice of death and starvation - the hairy spider wins.

It really depends on the options and how free I am to chose between them.

So I've always thought about it as a question of free-will. If man has choice in certain matters have we made choices to hurt ourselves?

On to freewill then – and this brings me onto unnecessary suffering and Hell...

God has not given be a choice in those has He?

I do have my opinions on why God would allow such choices; mostly it has to do with Him desiring us to love Him because we want to and not because we have to...

If I don’t love Him – it is the fire and brimstone for me so I am told... not much of a choice – actually it is an impossible choice (God asking me to do the impossible?)

If someone points a gun to your head and says “Love me, or I will kill you”

I have a choice, I have ‘freewill’ not to love – but it is really hard to love such a person don’t you think?

If God has Hell waiting for me if I do not love him, God is being worse than the gunman - don't you think?

As far as my ethics rules hinting at something, I would say they hint at God;

But you didn’t need to mention God anywhere in your definitions... no God required.

An atheist can agree with them :-)

I've never really discussed this in depth but I do wonder what the foundation for a moral order is in an atheistic worldview.

They are not very different to yours – they come from within - coming as a result of my upbringing from my family, culture and genes.

Do you consult your bible to think about whether stoning, rape, killing is wrong? Doubt it... you just know.

If you are asking about ‘absolute morals’ well – I’ve never understood these, you will have to explain further.

Is something wrong because it is wrong, or because God tells me, or is it a debate? It's an interesting discussion.

Though I do appreciate the fact we can at least agree on the rules, even if we do have various methods of arriving at them.

So long as we can agree there is no problem... it is what happens when we disagree.

If I can provide reason and evidence for my stand point, I might be able to change your view on an issue (if required).

If however it is based on faith... not sure what you will use on me or someone of a different faith?

Cheers

Lee

Mon Oct 06, 10:34:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...


What things doesn’t God cause, and how would you know?

Rather important this based on your belief


Well there are entire books on that subject, but keep in mind I said directly cause. I think God at the very least allows everything, but surely in the Bible we see God directly doing things such as miracles, judgments, revelation, etc...

Assuming the tarantula is edible (I really do not know)... given the choice of death and starvation - the hairy spider wins.

It really depends on the options and how free I am to chose between them.


I've known of some people who have visited more primitive areas of South America and they claimed to have eaten tarantulas (I honestly don't know exactly what parts of the world tarantulas even live in). At any rate it does depend, as you said, on the options (we can broaden it to a large hairy spider). Molinism proposes that "Person A, under Circumstance B, will freely choose Option C over D" (that's called a counterfactual).

Now Circumstance B doesn't actually have to take place for us to know what would happen if it were to take place, this is called middle knowledge and is a very long subject that I'm not the least bit qualified to talk about.

At any rate I do believe we have a choice in these matters, but I also uphold God's sovereignty.

On to freewill then – and this brings me onto unnecessary suffering and Hell...

God has not given be a choice in those has He?


Well what constitutes unnecessary suffering? Does unnecessary suffering exist? I would say the option of suffering is necessary for free will. Aside from that challenges are healthy, it wouldn't mean anything to become a general in an army if you didn't have to go through some hardships or battles to get there.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by a choice on hell, hopefully we can address that.

If I don’t love Him – it is the fire and brimstone for me so I am told... not much of a choice – actually it is an impossible choice (God asking me to do the impossible?)

If someone points a gun to your head and says “Love me, or I will kill you”

I have a choice, I have ‘freewill’ not to love – but it is really hard to love such a person don’t you think?

If God has Hell waiting for me if I do not love him, God is being worse than the gunman - don't you think?


I've always thought of it more like we're about to fall off a cliff and God says "Hey, I'll save you if you want me to". After all, we can't very well help someone who's not willing to be helped, can we? I can encourage someone to stop smoking, but I can't make them do it. I can tell them smoking causes cancer, but I can't make them quit. I can say "I love you and I don't want you to let some addiction ruin your life", but I can't make them quit.

The difference here is God could make us, but being Sovereign He chooses not to. We're like a boat, God will allow us to drift, and sometimes we steer ourselves into an iceberg.

An atheist can agree with them :-)

A fact for which I am most grateful.

They are not very different to yours – they come from within - coming as a result of my upbringing from my family, culture and genes.

Do you consult your bible to think about whether stoning, rape, killing is wrong? Doubt it... you just know.

If you are asking about ‘absolute morals’ well – I’ve never understood these, you will have to explain further.

Is something wrong because it is wrong, or because God tells me, or is it a debate? It's an interesting discussion.


I was talking about absolute morals, I should have specified.

You mentioned that culture, family, and genes contribute to our sense of morality. I agree, but in some places in the world cannibalism is OK, now their culture apparently tells them that, so what makes our Western-style ethics the least bit superior to that?

Is cannibalism absolutely wrong, or does it depend on your culture? I would say cannibalism is absolutely wrong, even if your culture teaches otherwise; the sole foundation for this belief is what I believe about God.

God bless!
Joey

Sun Oct 12, 12:39:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

RE: ”What things doesn’t God cause, and how would you know?”

keep in mind I said directly cause. I think God at the very least allows everything, but surely in the Bible we see God directly doing things such as miracles, judgments, revelation, etc...

Directly or indirectly... how would you recognise/distinguish an action from God from just normal everyday normal natural interactions?

The question remains unanswered.

We have touched on this before when discussing prayer – if you cannot tell the difference, or provide a method to distinguish – how would you know?

I say you cannot and that causes a problem

You are right about the bible accounts, but we don’t have anything outside those accounts to back them up. No miracles are observed today - unlikely events yes, but NOT miracles.

My definition of miracles (for the record) are events that break known and well understood natural laws.

Of course, many are reported today such as Big Foot, Loch Ness monster, alien abductions... just I think you will agree the evidence would not stand up in court beyond reasonable doubt :)

Molinism proposes that "Person A, under Circumstance B, will freely choose Option C over D" (that's called a counterfactual).

Molinism??

The key here is ‘Circumstance B’ I guess

At any rate I do believe we have a choice in these matters, but I also uphold God's sovereignty.

I don’t have a choice to love a person who is pointing a gun to my head.

Or, if the person with a gun asks me to choose, with my own freewill, to give him my wallet or not. Free will is out of the window.

I would ‘freely’ choose to give the gunman my wallet (Option C over D) but is it really a free choice? Of course not.

It is not a free choice. This is my point with God, love and Hell... it cannot be ever be a free choice.

Well what constitutes unnecessary suffering?

Suffering beyond what is required to convey the meaning or purpose to that suffering.

I ‘suffer’ the feeling of hunger – I eat food, suffering gone. This is reasonable.

I ‘suffer’ starvation – I’m dead. This is not reasonable – I have learnt nothing from this experience that would be useful in my life.

I could provide a different type of example.

I could, for example, punish my son (who is nearly 3) for disobeying me by shouting at him – or maybe hitting him lightly on the bum. My son would have suffered for his ‘crime’ and hopefully will learn from the experience. (I will after all explain why I shouted at him and why he should not do it again.)

What would be ‘unnecessary suffering’ is if I were to pour boiling water over his hand for the crime.

It just isn’t required – the suffering is unnecessary.

What I have described is a simple (and sick I admit) example a father could do to his child.

Now, what about a God?

Do I need to give you examples for this?

How about a baby born with such severe disabilities that they would die a slow painful death shortly after birth? What’s the point of that?

Maybe you would like to say the parents would have learnt a valuable lesson? Care to share it?

How about an Earthquake that causes a school classroom to collapse trapping the children inside to slowly suffocate and die? A valuable lesson of civil engineering? Did a whole classroom of children need to die for this? It is unnecessary.

Does unnecessary suffering exist?

Yes... even more so if you believe in an all-powerful God.

Do you deny unnecessary suffering exists? (Can you answer this truthfully?)

I suspect you, as a Christian, have to say it doesn’t exist based on what you have been taught – but if you do I will have to ask you to justify some sickening events seen in the world every day.

“God has a purpose” is not a good response to someone like me. I need to know any purpose to evaluate that.

If God cannot provide answers ‘this side of the grave’ then I would not consider Him a good father :-)

I would say the option of suffering is necessary for free will.

You changed the question on me... I said unnecessary suffering.

I might be able to agree with you that ‘some suffering is necessary’ but not, by definition, unnecessary.

How are Earthquakes, for example, required for free will? I do not understand?

Aside from that challenges are healthy

A building falling on top of you as a result of an earthquake trapping you inside for a slow and painful death is not a ‘healthy challenge’.

Remember, I am talking about the ‘extremes’ and events that are not in the control of mankind.

This is, of course, the problem of ‘unnecessary suffering’ (or evil as some would call it)

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by a choice on hell, hopefully we can address that.

If God created a Hell for those who do not love Him or following His ‘rules’ – then I have NOT been given a free choice. The gun is at my head.

I think that is what I meant... I cannot remember :-)

I've always thought of it more like we're about to fall off a cliff and God says "Hey, I'll save you if you want me to". After all, we can't very well help someone who's not willing to be helped, can we?

Ah... but your analogy is not complete.

God created the cliff (Hell) for us to fall off (into?) – right?... He also has (for most of the population of Earth throughout history anyway) turned off the ‘lights’ so we cannot actually see the cliff and even left a little trip wire at the edge if we have not read His instructions right.

God also has not actually spoken to most of the world about this cliff which ‘we’ cannot see – and those that He spoken to about it (or so we are told) have not been provided any reasonable evidence (from God) that would stand up in a court of law to help out us ‘sinners’ to my a reasonable judgment for the ‘positive’ that the cliff (Hell) exists before us.

So... remembering the important bit – God created Hell, how can I be expected to love Him? My gun analogy seems closer to the ‘truth’ than yours :-)

I can encourage someone to stop smoking, but I can't make them do it. I can tell them smoking causes cancer, but I can't make them quit. I can say "I love you and I don't want you to let some addiction ruin your life", but I can't make them quit.

If smoking ‘feels so good’, why did God make it cause cancer?

Just a thought... but I’m not a smoker BTW

The difference here is God could make us, but being Sovereign He chooses not to.

IF God created Hell, please tell me how (or indeed why) I am too love Him?

That’s the problem here for me.

Though maybe I have it all wrong, do you believe in Hell? What is Hell?

Back quickly to the unnecessary suffering, if God is all-powerful and chooses evolution as the means to get to ‘us’ – talking monkeys – on this planet then why should I love Him? Evolution is a cruel and sick way to go about it
(I don’t think you believe in evolution, but I have seen the evidence for it and find it trustworthy and so it is a problem)

I was talking about absolute morals, I should have specified.

I thought you were... my questions still stand then.

Where do you get your morals from if not from a similar place as I do?

You mentioned that culture, family, and genes contribute to our sense of morality. I agree

Excellent... that was easy

but

Always a ‘but’... :-)

in some places in the world cannibalism is OK, now their culture apparently tells them that, so what makes our Western-style ethics the least bit superior to that?

I could point out some biological reasons why cannibalism is a bad idea in the long term I think, but that is not the same thing as we are talking about here.

What is interesting though is that you agree that people have different opinions on what is morally right – this causes a few problems for those (like you) who say there are absolute morals I think.

Is cannibalism absolutely wrong, or does it depend on your culture? I would say cannibalism is absolutely wrong

How is it absolutely wrong – who says it is?

God? What if God changes His mind, does this mean the ‘moral law’ is only conditional?

Can God change His mind? Why not?

More importantly...

Can you think of any situation where it could be right to resort to cannibalism?

Ah... yes, this is where you might start to have a problem I think.

A little story...

How about if you are travelling over the Andes in a small plane with a group of your friends.

The plane crashes, you hear on the radio that the search for you has been called off, and so you are months away from any form of rescue or safety.

Water isn’t a problem since you can melt the snow, but food is – it is very cold and so your food requirements are very high.

Of course, you think ‘murder’ is wrong – let’s agree to this rule here.

However, some of your friends died in the crash... what do you do?

Starve to death... or start up the BBQ?

You might have heard the story – can you guess what happened?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Uruguayan_Air_Force_Flight_571

Oh, and they were Christians – what are the chances of that?

So having read this account – what are your views now about cannibalism being ‘absolutely wrong’?
(Especially since you should also think God crashed this plane for a reason to give them a challenge from your earlier responses on suffering – it must mean something right?)

even if your culture teaches otherwise; the sole foundation for this belief is what I believe about God.

It is what you believe, but I do not think you get them from God OR that they are absolute in anyway as I have just shown with your example.

I might agree with your views on morals but this doesn’t mean I think they came from God. There is our difference.

Remember also that you stated some moral values we both could agree that didn’t refer to God one bit.

You have made a claim here though, that ‘absolute morals’ exist – so please justify this claim if you can.

Cheers

Lee

Sun Oct 12, 11:48:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Of course, many are reported today such as Big Foot, Loch Ness monster, alien abductions... just I think you will agree the evidence would not stand up in court beyond reasonable doubt :)

Well I've never considered Big Foot a miracle, but I think we both know about the astounding psuedoscientific evidence that irrefutably establishes his existence! (That is said in complete and total sarcasm).

Directly or indirectly... how would you recognise/distinguish an action from God from just normal everyday normal natural interactions?

The question remains unanswered.

We have touched on this before when discussing prayer – if you cannot tell the difference, or provide a method to distinguish – how would you know?


Well I'm not entirely sure we agree on our definition of miracles so it makes answering this question a little bit difficult. Assuming your definition of miracles we do not need a miracle for divine intervention, for God could just as well arrange a set of incredible coincidences that break absolutely no natural laws.

I'm also wondering what you would consider the miracle to be? For example Israel crossing the Red Sea (and some interpreters think that should be "Reed Sea", but it's a body of water at any rate). Is the miracle the parting of the sea which could be caused by high winds, or is it that the Isrealites arrived there at precisely the right time for them to get through but also to trap the Egyptian army?

I'm not an expert on miracles, I've read about "guidelines" for distinguishing miracles but to cover this topic would require not just another post but probably a book. You interested in becoming an author?

Molinism??

The key here is ‘Circumstance B’ I guess


That is the jist of it.

I don’t have a choice to love a person who is pointing a gun to my head.

Or, if the person with a gun asks me to choose, with my own freewill, to give him my wallet or not. Free will is out of the window.

I would ‘freely’ choose to give the gunman my wallet (Option C over D) but is it really a free choice? Of course not.

It is not a free choice. This is my point with God, love and Hell... it cannot be ever be a free choice.


We're making assertions from radically different foundations, I think we'll talk about this more shortly.

Suffering beyond what is required to convey the meaning or purpose to that suffering.

I ‘suffer’ the feeling of hunger – I eat food, suffering gone. This is reasonable.

I ‘suffer’ starvation – I’m dead. This is not reasonable – I have learnt nothing from this experience that would be useful in my life.


Who's determining what is reasonable? Each invididual person, society? If so what makes one persons "reasonable" the least bit more reasonable then anothers? Also, as a Molinist I believe we as humans have the resources to end starvation we just haven't done so. We have some responsibility in this matter.

I could, for example, punish my son (who is nearly 3) for disobeying me by shouting at him – or maybe hitting him lightly on the bum. My son would have suffered for his ‘crime’ and hopefully will learn from the experience. (I will after all explain why I shouted at him and why he should not do it again.)

What would be ‘unnecessary suffering’ is if I were to pour boiling water over his hand for the crime.

It just isn’t required – the suffering is unnecessary.

What I have described is a simple (and sick I admit) example a father could do to his child.

Now, what about a God?

Do I need to give you examples for this?

How about a baby born with such severe disabilities that they would die a slow painful death shortly after birth? What’s the point of that?

Maybe you would like to say the parents would have learnt a valuable lesson? Care to share it?

How about an Earthquake that causes a school classroom to collapse trapping the children inside to slowly suffocate and die? A valuable lesson of civil engineering? Did a whole classroom of children need to die for this? It is unnecessary.


Well under your assumptions of Gunman A, Wallet B, and Choice C or D I'd say we freely chose Choice C (involving Gunman A). But you've disputed if this would be a free choice. I'll get to this once I address my illustration of the cliff.

Yes... even more so if you believe in an all-powerful God.

Do you deny unnecessary suffering exists? (Can you answer this truthfully?)

I suspect you, as a Christian, have to say it doesn’t exist based on what you have been taught – but if you do I will have to ask you to justify some sickening events seen in the world every day.

“God has a purpose” is not a good response to someone like me. I need to know any purpose to evaluate that.

If God cannot provide answers ‘this side of the grave’ then I would not consider Him a good father :-)


Suffering exists, if not directly for God's purpose then for our free choice. I seem to keep coming back to that.

If God created a Hell for those who do not love Him or following His ‘rules’ – then I have NOT been given a free choice. The gun is at my head.

I think that is what I meant... I cannot remember :-)


God created hell for Satan and his demons, I'm not an expert on hell and even leaders inside of the same fellowships often disagree on this topic. I'll try and address what I can though.

Ah... but your analogy is not complete.

God created the cliff (Hell) for us to fall off (into?) – right?... He also has (for most of the population of Earth throughout history anyway) turned off the ‘lights’ so we cannot actually see the cliff and even left a little trip wire at the edge if we have not read His instructions right.

God also has not actually spoken to most of the world about this cliff which ‘we’ cannot see – and those that He spoken to about it (or so we are told) have not been provided any reasonable evidence (from God) that would stand up in a court of law to help out us ‘sinners’ to my a reasonable judgment for the ‘positive’ that the cliff (Hell) exists before us.

So... remembering the important bit – God created Hell, how can I be expected to love Him? My gun analogy seems closer to the ‘truth’ than yours :-)


Ah, but hell is not the cliff. Life is the cliff, and life is beautiful. The problem is when we decide life would be more exhilirating by jumping off the cliff without considering we'll splat at the bottom. Hell is the bottom. Sin is the fall. It's like we decided to get on a roller coaster that's fun for a while but we failed to remember that this roller coaster has no brakes, an incomplete track, and we die at the end.

Now according to Biblical philosohy we knew in advance, God warned us about the splat, He told us not to go there, but we were so excited by the free fall of the cliff we did it anyway. Now the choice is not a gun held to our head, it's a paradise we lived in and had the option to leave, and we left. I understand you're objection in that it seems like an absurd choice. I agree.

The fact that we would choose to jump off that cliff regardless of all the warnings and motivation we had to stay is completely ridiculous. So ridiculous I think we deserve the splat, but this is where God steps in and tells us that regardless of our rebellion and utter refusal to listen He's still willing to bring us back. We can continue the free fall, and it will be exhilirating until the splat or until we scrap up against the cliff (suffering) but in the end we still lose with the free fall.

This is why I think we're working from very different foundations. I've gotta go to class. I'm enjoying this exchange.

God bless!
Joey

Thu Oct 16, 06:20:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

To reply to your last comment first,

I to am enjoying this exchange as well. It is good to think, talk and discuss. (Just this morning I missed my train because I was talking to a Jehovah Witness... don’t think I changed her views though)

Well I've never considered Big Foot a miracle

It is and it isn’t...

A large single creature like Big Foot or the Loch Ness monster surviving in the environment it has been claimed they have, pretty much unseen apart from a few tourists – would be very close to a miracle (though not my definition of a divine miracle – I’ll come back to this)

but I think we both know about the astounding psuedoscientific evidence that irrefutably establishes his existence! (That is said in complete and total sarcasm).

Indeed – but these people ‘truly’ believe what they saw and felt.

I find the accounts of alien abductions particularly interesting – their personal testimony is very striking... but you and I reject it – can you explain why?

Well I'm not entirely sure we agree on our definition of miracles so it makes answering this question a little bit difficult.

OK – my definition of a ‘true’ miracle (let’s call it a divine miracle) would be an event that breaks the well known and understood laws of nature.

I will have to be clear on the ‘known and understood’ caveat.

For example, if I were to go back in time to Medieval England (the 1460’s would be my choice – War of the Roses, not important) and give a demonstration of a helicopter flying around – this could be thought as a ‘miracle’ to the onlookers. However it would not be a demonstration of a ‘divine miracle’ by my definition since Medieval England did not have an understanding of aerodynamics and internal combustion engines and the like.

It did not break anything that they understood well. It was ‘just amazing’ really.

The same could be said for an ‘unlikely’ event, such as winning the lottery, it is not a miracle – it breaks no natural laws.

Make sense?

If not, throw me a question so you might understand my definition of a ‘divine miracle’ better. It is a working definition so I could fine-tune it

So although it is true that, like our friends in the 1460’s, I could be ‘tricked’ today into thinking I observed a miracle by some advanced race of aliens who had a better understanding of physics and technology than myself – I would be happy to call such an event a ‘miracle’... and this would be enough to start me thinking. (At least that we have some advance aliens mucking around – this would be a great start.)

From here, once a ‘divine miracle’ has been observed – that breaks known laws of nature – we can start to examine whether it is likely to be an advance race of aliens or God.

We have not had any such observation that can be backed up with more than ‘hear-say’ from believers of alien landings for example – which you yourself doubt I think.

There is no evidence for ‘divine miracles’ being observed today is the point (and not enough convincing evidence that any such miracles happened in historical times – I could expand on this if you like).

Now we probably just moved into ‘what is evidence?’... don’t you just hate that?

Let’s get an agreed understanding of miracles before we get too lost in evidence – I judge evidence as being good if it can be used in a court of law to get a conviction... is that simple enough to move forward on?

Assuming your definition of miracles we do not need a miracle for divine intervention, for God could just as well arrange a set of incredible coincidences that break absolutely no natural laws.

Indeed. It is a truly amazing the amount of ‘incredible set of coincidences’ that happened for you to be born and talking to me today :-)

Unless you can prove that it was ‘divine intervention’, isn’t it easier just to assume ‘chance’ or random events that in hindsight just appear to have had a purpose/design?
(And I am not getting into the theory of evolution here... just think of the odds that your mother and father met and decided to have sex at a certain moment so a certain sperm and egg met at the right moment. Then add to the odds of your grandparents, your great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents all meeting and having sex at the right moment for the right sperm and egg to come together... the odds get very silly very fast – but it does not show any divine intervention. Somebody was going to be born, if it wasn’t you – you would never know.)

This is why I am asking how YOU would recognise an interaction from God – or does God need to interact every millisecond of every day since the dawn of time?
(This doesn’t sound right to me... don’t think you believe that.)

I'm also wondering what you would consider the miracle to be?

Answered above I hope :-)

For example Israel crossing the Red Sea (and some interpreters think that should be "Reed Sea", but it's a body of water at any rate). Is the miracle the parting of the sea which could be caused by high winds, or is it that the Isrealites arrived there at precisely the right time for them to get through but also to trap the Egyptian army?

You have a few problems here... you first need to show/prove the event actually happened (or likely to have happened).

Until then, I cannot judge.

As described in the bible it sounds a lot like divine intervention – but it would wouldn’t it?

I could write a similar account, it would also sound miraculous – but it doesn’t mean the event happened.

As I was taught in school, maybe it was just a ford or low-level crossing... and in the later years the story just got ‘larger’ – like the fish I caught that was “THIS BIG” -outstretches arms is maximum extent-

Maybe it never happened... Is there any Egyptian record of such an exodus (or indeed of Jews being held as slaves)? Any archaeological record that 3 million(?) people moved lost across the desert for 40 years?

Not that I am aware of...

I'm not an expert on miracles, I've read about "guidelines" for distinguishing miracles but to cover this topic would require not just another post but probably a book.

I think it is very important for someone, like yourself who claims interactions from God, truly understands how they would recognise such an event.

It is also important that I know what I am looking for as well so I would like to read your post... my comment come for free :-)

Ask yourself also (as I do) what evidence you would expect to see in the historical record if some of the major miracles that are described in the bible actually occurred. What would be reasonable to see, what would be unlikely to be seen...

You interested in becoming an author?

He he... I’ve done it before.

Who's determining what is reasonable?

Well, if I starved to death, it isn’t coming to be me now is it :-)

Each invididual person, society?

Society and history can be the judge... it has worked in the past.

If so what makes one persons "reasonable" the least bit more reasonable then anothers?

We could get into the philosophy of this – but we have enough to talk about for the moment.

Well under your assumptions of Gunman A, Wallet B, and Choice C or D I'd say we freely chose Choice C (involving Gunman A). But you've disputed if this would be a free choice.

Yes I have...

I'll get to this once I address my illustration of the cliff.

OK – I will wait.

Suffering exists, if not directly for God's purpose then for our free choice. I seem to keep coming back to that.

You have not addressed my definition of ‘unnecessary suffering’ can I assume we agree :-)

The problem of ‘unnecessary suffering’ has not gone away.

Maybe we have an ‘all-evil’ God rather than an all-loving... how would I know?

And what ‘free choice’ does an Earthquake causing a building collapse give me precisely?

God created hell for Satan and his demons, I'm not an expert on hell

Don’t think you need to be an expert – just be consistent within your understanding of God. What do you understand ‘all-loving’ to mean? Or isn’t this your God?

Ah, but hell is not the cliff. Life is the cliff, and life is beautiful.

I misunderstood the analogy then...

So is life the ‘dancing with the flowers’ at the top of the cliff?

The problem is when we decide life would be more exhilirating by jumping off the cliff without considering we'll splat at the bottom.

So I do get to choose whether to jump off the cliff or not? I am made clearly aware that the cliff exists and what I should, and should not do?

Still begs the question why God made this ‘safety hazard’ though... If it was just for Satan and the demons – why not create a wall so mankind cannot fall? If hell was not for us...

Nope, it still seems like an accident waiting to happen to me. A careless God at best...

It's like we decided to get on a roller coaster that's fun for a while but we failed to remember that this roller coaster has no brakes, an incomplete track, and we die at the end.

This assumes that I know that the roller coaster is incomplete AND it would still leave the question why God made it... seems like a trap/test.

A bit like the ‘tree of knowledge’ in the garden Eden... God leaves it there for mankind to ‘fall into to’

Now according to Biblical philosohy we knew in advance, God warned us about the splat, He told us not to go there, but we were so excited by the free fall of the cliff we did it anyway.

Not so... I have not yet been convinced of the authority of the bible or the existence of God.

You cannot just assert it without reason.

I am using the reason (that you assume God gave me) to come to my conclusions... God is not doing enough to ‘save me’ from the ‘fall’ He created.
(Which still doesn’t sound very nice to me the game that has been setup by God.)

The fact that we would choose to jump off that cliff regardless of all the warnings and motivation we had to stay is completely ridiculous. So ridiculous I think we deserve the splat

For an obvious cliff with sharp pointy rocks at the bottom, I could agree – jump off at your own risk.

However, as I said... it isn’t clear to me that this cliff exists or the risks involved.

but this is where God steps in and tells us that regardless of our rebellion and utter refusal to listen

A pause for thought....

What rebellion? What have I rebelled against?

Have you rebelled against the ‘abducting race of aliens’? Have you rebelled against the invisible blue unicorn?

I’m a bit confused here.

Have you refused to listen to the evidence of that the world is about to be taken over by little green men – there in the government right now? There is a lot of this about... why do you refuse to listen?

No... I am not sure I can agree with you here.

This is why I think we're working from very different foundations.

Indeed – at the moment we are failing to understand the others ideas and arguments.

I’m happy to keep trying to re-explain my views though – if you are interested.

Lee

Thu Oct 16, 07:01:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

I created a new post on my blog and I would be grateful for any brief input from you.

It is a thought experiment...

http://strawmen-cometh.blogspot.com/
2008/10/just-thought-better-than-life.html

All the 'evil atheist’s' are answering the same way – I am wondering on the theist view (I’ve had one such comment – agreeing with the atheists!!!)

It isn’t about God or the such like (but it might sound a little like heaven which was my point)

Please take a read if you can, and see what you think.

It is only for a bit of fun.

Thanks

Lee

Thu Oct 16, 07:07:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

I find the accounts of alien abductions particularly interesting – their personal testimony is very striking... but you and I reject it – can you explain why?

Well some psychologists would attribute it to a pre-sleep stage where one may feel like they're floating, seeing bright lights, etc...

I guess in some ways you'd have to look at it on a case by case basis. The typical view of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster pictures them as individual creatures; which is hard to understand, because given their nature they would need to replicate somehow. Also given they're proposed size they should be relatively easy to find.

I suppose any idea can be scrutinized, the question is how does the idea hold under scrutiny? In the case of Bigfoot and other cryptos we both agree not very well.

Now we probably just moved into ‘what is evidence?’... don’t you just hate that?

Let’s get an agreed understanding of miracles before we get too lost in evidence – I judge evidence as being good if it can be used in a court of law to get a conviction... is that simple enough to move forward on?


I'll agree with that definition of divine miracle, but make a distinction for divine interventions; because I think God could intervene without breaking a single law of nature.

As far as evidence holding up in court eye-witness evidence can hold up in court. Even hear-say evidence may be useful. For example in high school I know someone who was charged w/ a DUI, under-age drinking, and leaving the scene of an accident. Now the person who had driven the car and caused the accident admitted to a mutual acquaintance that he had indeed been driving, and my friend had not. When I heard this I brought it up, and this person was subpoenaed and the actual driver was forced to admit. What I heard was only hear-say, but it was very useful hear-say... so hear-say and eyewitness testimony can go either way (though eyewitness testimony is generally more reliable).

Unless you can prove that it was ‘divine intervention’, isn’t it easier just to assume ‘chance’ or random events that in hindsight just appear to have had a purpose/design?
(And I am not getting into the theory of evolution here... just think of the odds that your mother and father met and decided to have sex at a certain moment so a certain sperm and egg met at the right moment. Then add to the odds of your grandparents, your great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents all meeting and having sex at the right moment for the right sperm and egg to come together... the odds get very silly very fast – but it does not show any divine intervention. Somebody was going to be born, if it wasn’t you – you would never know.)


Well I understand what you're saying, especially given the extensive genealogical research I've done with my family (generally when you move backward you get more narrow, genealogy is just the opposite, you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents, etc..., and that doesn't even take into account aunts, uncles, cousins, and all that).

However I don't know as if I'd agree it's easier just to assume chance. But we can come back to this if you'd like, there's a few more issues I'd like to get to.

As far as God needing to interact every millisecond of everyday I'll first say God doesn't need anything. But I believe you were asking if I believe He does interact, and not intending to raise a question about Divine attributes.

Do I believe God is interacting every millisecond of everyday? Yes, but not in the way most would think. I find it perfectly acceptable to believe God established the eco-system and is letting it work for itself. In that sense I don't believe God is necessarily constantly causing the earth to rotate, He made it so it would rotate itself (not really itself, we need the solar system and natural laws and all that).

I do believe God is actively engaged in our lives in a personal relationship, but I don't believe that's what you were referring to. Much less that discussion wouldn't get very far given your stance He doesn't exist.

But I do believe, with instances such as the crossing of the Red Sea, which I'm about to address, that would be a divine intervention.

You have a few problems here... you first need to show/prove the event actually happened (or likely to have happened).

Until then, I cannot judge.

As described in the bible it sounds a lot like divine intervention – but it would wouldn’t it?

I could write a similar account, it would also sound miraculous – but it doesn’t mean the event happened.

As I was taught in school, maybe it was just a ford or low-level crossing... and in the later years the story just got ‘larger’ – like the fish I caught that was “THIS BIG” -outstretches arms is maximum extent-

Maybe it never happened... Is there any Egyptian record of such an exodus (or indeed of Jews being held as slaves)? Any archaeological record that 3 million(?) people moved lost across the desert for 40 years?

Not that I am aware of...


I believe there is evidence for the Exodus, http://www.biblicalchronologist.org
/answers/exodus_egypt.php discusses the issue briefly.

Some evidence is also discussed here:
http://www.bibleandscience.com/
archaeology/exodus.htm

I just found those sites through a quick google search, so I haven't reviewed them extensively yet, but they can perhaps serve as a foundation for dialog. I also have a poorly-made documentary that discusses this, I believe it's called "History's Mysteries", that may actually be a series. At any rate I wouldn't call some of the scholarship in it first-class, though the evidence they discussed regarding the Exodus seemed consistent with everything else I've read on the issue. If you do watch it just know there's some stuff on there even a fairly conservative apologist such as myself has problems with.

I think it is very important for someone, like yourself who claims interactions from God, truly understands how they would recognise such an event.

It is also important that I know what I am looking for as well so I would like to read your post... my comment come for free :-)

Ask yourself also (as I do) what evidence you would expect to see in the historical record if some of the major miracles that are described in the bible actually occurred. What would be reasonable to see, what would be unlikely to be seen...


I hate to keep recommending books and articles, but Signs and Wonders in Ministry Today deals with much of the theology on this topic. It's written by seminary professors, so they all already agree God exists, but you might still find some of it useful. If you like, to save you the expense, I could post a book-review and discuss this specific topic (though that might have to wait until Thanksgiving when I don't have class).

Society and history can be the judge... it has worked in the past.

But not all societies agree. Historically not everyone has agreed. What Attila the Hun found reasonable and what Charlemagne (who, if my afore-mentioned genealogy is correct I descend from) found reasonable might be very different from each other, and probably more so different then what we today might determine as reasonable.

Don’t think you need to be an expert – just be consistent within your understanding of God. What do you understand ‘all-loving’ to mean? Or isn’t this your God?

Love is something true of the nature of God. But let us not forget so is justice, holiness, immutability, etc... And we must not think of these as separate parts. A.W. Tozer wrote a book called "The Knowledge of the Holy", you can read it in it's entirety here: http://www.heavendwellers.com/
hdt_knowledge_of_the_holy.htm

Chapter 20 discusses the Love of God. But the book will make much more sense if you start at the beginning. A.W. Tozer was not very sympathetic towards my type (apologists), but at least for the most part in agreement with the theological concepts he proposes regarding the Divine attributes.

Not so... I have not yet been convinced of the authority of the bible or the existence of God.

You cannot just assert it without reason.

I am using the reason (that you assume God gave me) to come to my conclusions... God is not doing enough to ‘save me’ from the ‘fall’ He created.
(Which still doesn’t sound very nice to me the game that has been setup by God.)


I realize you've not been convinced of the authority of the Bible or the existence of God. But I said according to Biblical philosophy, you don't have to agree it's right to recognize that this is indeed what the Bible is proposing.

Aside from that you were willing to "assume" God's existence when you originally discussed the cliff and asserted that it was more like a cliff during the night with a trip wire. Likewise you "assume" His existence when you say this game is not very nice. Now I know you don't believe God exists, but in that illustration you said "If God were to exist, I believe this is the situation we would find ourselves in". I'm simply doing the same thing here to explain my understanding of theology.

So I'm not really asserting without reason. I'm saying according to the Bible, which I know you don't agree with, this is the situation we are in.

I don't think this situation is unfair at all, keep in mind this "game" as you call it has but one rule. It might be unfair if there were numerous rules that we did not know and if the only way to win was cheating, but that is not the Biblical case.

For an obvious cliff with sharp pointy rocks at the bottom, I could agree – jump off at your own risk.

However, as I said... it isn’t clear to me that this cliff exists or the risks involved.


Well now you seem to be willing to say this cliff and the risk exists when we talk about the problem of evil and other such topics.

What rebellion? What have I rebelled against?

The Garden of Eden and the fall of man. It's kind of essential to Biblical theology.

Indeed – at the moment we are failing to understand the others ideas and arguments.

I’m happy to keep trying to re-explain my views though – if you are interested.


I'm happy to continue the discussion. I think a lot of the confusion centers around we're discussing what would be the case if the Bible is true. For example Christopher Hitchens asserts if the Biblical idea of God is true then God is not great. Obviously I work from an opposite perspective.

It seems that conversation might be futile if we don't agree in the first place about whether God exists or not. We've both discussed "If God exists then X" scenarios, but we do need to work on the fundamental question there.

God bless!
Joey

Sun Oct 26, 07:10:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Sorry if I have seemed a little ‘inconsistent’ in my arguments - this was because I was trying to see the argument from your perspective when we were talking about Hell.

When I read the bible, I can read it with the assumption that “God exists and the account in the bible is true” or I can read the bible as “Man-made, no God exists” (and levels in-between)

I am free to think and test the bible however I need to find the ‘truth’. I am not tied into any one position. Nothing has been invested in any view.

I assume you are pretty clear where I am coming from by now, but just to be clear – my stance is as follows.

There is almost certainly no god/s and the bible has the appearance and all the hallmarks of a man-made book expressing the views of a tribe/group of people many thousands of years ago.

Although there could be some truth in the writings, historically or philosophical, it shows no signs of being inspired by any god.

In fact, much of the ‘larger’ claims that are written in the bible have not been backed up with the expected evidence and observations made in the universe go against the claims of the bible (i.e. evolution and the age of the universe)

Of course, I am happy to be proven wrong... well, I know how my mind can be changed (as you may remember on a post I did on my blog)

So, when I have been talking about Hell – I have been making the assumption that God existed, and thought about what it would mean.

I do not come to a conclusion of an all-loving God and Hell. I cannot see how that is possible unless you already hold the assumption that God is all-loving.

Hope that has cleared up some of the mess. :)

RE: I find the accounts of alien abductions particularly interesting – their personal testimony is very striking... but you and I reject it – can you explain why?

We might be able to agree 100% on this – though you used the phrase “some psychologists” rather than it was your own belief – so maybe we don’t.

So I take it you accept that the alien abduction, Big Foot, and Loch Ness monsters promoters have a lot of evidence for their claim – just you feel it isn’t very good evidence?

If this is the guess, we agree.

I mention it is interesting because the level of scrutiny you are prepared to challenge the evidence (or lack thereof) does not seem consistently applied to the claims in the bible... I hope to explore this at a later date.

I'll agree with that definition of divine miracle

Good – we have a starting point, and I hope you understand now when I say it would take a miracle for me to believe in God :-)

but make a distinction for divine interventions; because I think God could intervene without breaking a single law of nature.

Ah – but then you have the problem I pointed out before regarding how you would tell the difference between when God does not interact or when He is?

As far as evidence holding up in court eye-witness evidence can hold up in court. Even hear-say evidence may be useful. For example in high school I know someone who was charged w/ a DUI, under-age drinking, and leaving the scene of an accident. Now the person who had driven the car and caused the accident admitted to a mutual acquaintance that he had indeed been driving, and my friend had not. When I heard this I brought it up, and this person was subpoenaed and the actual driver was forced to admit. What I heard was only hear-say, but it was very useful hear-say... so hear-say and eyewitness testimony can go either way (though eyewitness testimony is generally more reliable).

I will accept eyewitness testimony (and indeed hear-say) as you have just described – i.e. it is used along side other evidence.

The testimony you described was only used as a means to start an investigation, it was not used to convict. That is the difference.

Also, ‘kids’ driving cars after drinking and having an accident is not that ‘unlikely’ I am sorry to say. It does not surprise me and I have my own personal experience of observing each of these events myself first-hand in others.

I have not however ever observed first-hand the Sun and moon remaining still in the sky for 24 hours, or a man coming back from the dead after 3 days.

I can accept hear-say for some events – but not all. (As you agreed with aliens, Big Foot and Loch Ness)

Well I understand what you're saying, especially given the extensive genealogical research I've done with my family (generally when you move backward you get more narrow, genealogy is just the opposite, you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents, etc..., and that doesn't even take into account aunts, uncles, cousins, and all that).

The odds of you being here writing to me is so amazingly small – isn’t that great?

However I don't know as if I'd agree it's easier just to assume chance. But we can come back to this if you'd like, there's a few more issues I'd like to get to.

We will come back to it – in case I was too loose with the word ‘chance’

As far as God needing to interact every millisecond of everyday I'll first say God doesn't need anything.

Off on a tangent – if God doesn’t ‘need anything’, why create the universe for mankind to suffer in? If God can create a heaven, why create an Earth with suffering, why not just jump straight to heaven (and forget all about that Hell business)

But I believe you were asking if I believe He does interact

It sounds like a question that has a simple yes or no answer?

Do I believe God is interacting every millisecond of everyday? Yes, but not in the way most would think.

That would be rather wasteful, every millisecond? but let’s go on.

I find it perfectly acceptable to believe God established the eco-system and is letting it work for itself. In that sense I don't believe God is necessarily constantly causing the earth to rotate, He made it so it would rotate itself (not really itself, we need the solar system and natural laws and all that).

All you need is a large molecular gas cloud, conservation of angular momentum and gravity – from there I can provide you a rather good model how the solar system formed. No intervention needed – we might agree on something :-)

I do believe God is actively engaged in our lives in a personal relationship, but I don't believe that's what you were referring to.

And I will repeat – how do you know this? How do you test this?

If you can accept the formation of the solar system just from the ‘established laws’ and it then ‘working for itself’ – at what point do you need a god? Can you be specific?

If we say ‘God’s laws’ have been fine-tunned for planets and life, why does God need to keep intervening? What ever happened to ‘freewill’?

I am probably missing your point here and confusing things further – sorry.

Much less that discussion wouldn't get very far given your stance He doesn't exist.

You are coming from a stance that God exists and then start looking for the evidence.

I am coming from “God is unlikely, but not impossible” and looking for the evidence one way or the other.

Can you explain why your method is likely to get better results (the truth) than mind?

If seems to me if you start with the assumption ‘God exists’ everything else can follow... it is a dangerous starting position.

Or am I wrong?

But I do believe, with instances such as the crossing of the Red Sea, which I'm about to address, that would be a divine intervention.

As I said last time - Before we can test the ‘miracle at the Red Sea’ – what evidence do you have that it actually happened? That Moses led his people out of Egypt? Does the Egyptian historical record back up your claim?

Outside of the bible account – what do you have?

I believe there is evidence for the Exodus, http://www.biblicalchronologist.org
/answers/exodus_egypt.php discusses the issue briefly.

Some evidence is also discussed here:
http://www.bibleandscience.com/
archaeology/exodus.htm

I just found those sites through a quick google search, so I haven't reviewed them extensively yet, but they can perhaps serve as a foundation for dialog.


Thanks, tell me if you think they are any good, and I will try and give them a read.

I will throw one back to you as well for our review

http://www.bidstrup.com/bible.htm

I think this page is very good :-)

I hate to keep recommending books and articles, but Signs and Wonders in Ministry Today deals with much of the theology on this topic.

I’m happy for books to be recommended – the problem I have is the libraries here are rubbish and the spare cash to buy books is low as you will understand.

If you like, to save you the expense, I could post a book-review and discuss this specific topic (though that might have to wait until Thanksgiving when I don't have class).

Excellent :-)

When is Thanksgiving again?

RE: Society and history can be the judge... it has worked in the past.

But not all societies agree. Historically not everyone has agreed.

Yes – but this is more a problem for you, someone who believes in absolute morals, not my problem.

Today our morals in a Western society are what they are... in a 200 years they will be something else (maybe eating meat will be against the law, I hope I do not live to see the day)

This is not a problem for me, it is how it have been for thousands of years. Our morals change, they are not absolute – you have observed this to be true, yet deny it and hold onto ‘absolute morals’. Rather odd that.

You say that the bible has not changed since it was written, yet morals have changed – you agree to that. This means we cannot be getting our morals from the bible, this much is clear.

You want to say they come from God? Then please explain why our ‘moral compass’ is different over history.

what Charlemagne (who, if my afore-mentioned genealogy is correct I descend from) found reasonable might be very different from each other

Off on another tangent – I’ve ‘modelled’ for Charlemagne for a history channel documentary a few years back.

The wife was doing the graphics and they needed a ‘model’ – someone about 6ft 4 with a beard and long hair... she didn’t take long to ask me. She took a few photos on a digital camera in our flat and touched up the pictures on photoshop to give me armour, a full beard etc etc.

So no glamour or money... but still funny when I saw the show.

A.W. Tozer wrote a book called "The Knowledge of the Holy", you can read it in it's entirety here: http://www.heavendwellers.com/
hdt_knowledge_of_the_holy.htm


Excellent – something free. It will take me sometime though – I’ve got about 6 books I want/need to read at the moment.

I realize you've not been convinced of the authority of the Bible or the existence of God.

Nope... sorry.

The evidence is better for alien abductions – and you reject that :-)

I don't think this situation is unfair at all, keep in mind this "game" as you call it has but one rule.

The “game of life” – a board game I use to play as a child.

Erm... what is this ‘one rule’ and why don’t I know it?

Well now you seem to be willing to say this cliff and the risk exists when we talk about the problem of evil and other such topics.

I hope I explained this at the beginning. I am exploring your beliefs here and what conclusions I could make if I had them.

IF Hell exists, was created by God and mankind can go there – what does this say about God?

The Garden of Eden and the fall of man. It's kind of essential to Biblical theology.

Indeed – and this is where the bibles starts to fail for me. (Right after “In the beginning”)

It does not fit in with the fact of evolution (we can discuss the theory another time)

Then you have the problem of a 13.5 billion year old universe, and a 4.5 billion year old Earth.

Oh, and even IF I were to believe in God, Adam and Eve, the tree of knowledge and the fall etc etc – the bible still doesn’t make sense.

Why did God need a blood sacrifice 2,000 years ago for a ‘crime’ Adam and Eve didn’t even know was a crime until they ate from the tree of knowledge and learnt Good and Evil?

It would be like punishing my great-grandchildren for a ‘crime’ my 3 year old son committed – the crime being told not to eat the chocolate cake I left on the table before him.

How would that be a loving act for any party?

I'm happy to continue the discussion. I think a lot of the confusion centers around we're discussing what would be the case if the Bible is true. For example Christopher Hitchens asserts if the Biblical idea of God is true then God is not great. Obviously I work from an opposite perspective.

Hope to continue the discussion and sorry for the confusion.

I can jump from position to position to test an idea – see the problem/issues from different angles.

Also, I jump from discussion to discussion – and so cannot always remember what I wrote before on this thread, sorry again.

It seems that conversation might be futile if we don't agree in the first place about whether God exists or not.

That is what is being tested here though isn’t it? As I said, if you make the assumption “God exists” – everything else follows.

However, if you like – I will take the position that God exists and see where it takes me in our discussions on your understanding what God is...

I will see what we can learn about the character of God in the bible.

Can you take the view the “if God does not exist” and start to question the bible? Just to see what it is like?

It is one major assumption less than ‘God exists’

Thanks

Lee

Mon Oct 27, 07:11:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Sorry if I have seemed a little ‘inconsistent’ in my arguments - this was because I was trying to see the argument from your perspective when we were talking about Hell.

When I read the bible, I can read it with the assumption that “God exists and the account in the bible is true” or I can read the bible as “Man-made, no God exists” (and levels in-between)

I am free to think and test the bible however I need to find the ‘truth’. I am not tied into any one position. Nothing has been invested in any view.


I understand that, but you said I can not assume God exists, and here you're stating we must analyze these issues from some assumption. Not very fair to give yourself that kind of freedom in the lens from which you analyze these issues but deny that same freedom to me. That's all I was getting at.

We might be able to agree 100% on this – though you used the phrase “some psychologists” rather than it was your own belief – so maybe we don’t.

So I take it you accept that the alien abduction, Big Foot, and Loch Ness monsters promoters have a lot of evidence for their claim – just you feel it isn’t very good evidence?

If this is the guess, we agree.

I mention it is interesting because the level of scrutiny you are prepared to challenge the evidence (or lack thereof) does not seem consistently applied to the claims in the bible... I hope to explore this at a later date.


Stating "some pyschologists" wasn't meant to mean anything. I just get used to writing formally for research papers and what not so I often have a mixed tone on the blogosphere where I have freedom to use phrases like "I".

That is an interesting point, I'd like to explore it later as well.

Ah – but then you have the problem I pointed out before regarding how you would tell the difference between when God does not interact or when He is?

It may be a problem, but it's not a significant problem. Just because I don't necessarily know how my body digests things doesn't mean I should assume it does not. Certainly there are people who do know how the body digests things (and I mean specifically, I'm sure most of us have the general idea); likewise there are people who do have propositions about how God interacts and to what extent He interacts.

I will accept eyewitness testimony (and indeed hear-say) as you have just described – i.e. it is used along side other evidence.

The testimony you described was only used as a means to start an investigation, it was not used to convict. That is the difference.

Also, ‘kids’ driving cars after drinking and having an accident is not that ‘unlikely’ I am sorry to say. It does not surprise me and I have my own personal experience of observing each of these events myself first-hand in others.

I have not however ever observed first-hand the Sun and moon remaining still in the sky for 24 hours, or a man coming back from the dead after 3 days.


Well than we agree there are different types of evidences and their usefulness may vary depending on the circumstance and the nature of what is being discussed.

This is where naturalism amuses me, because it would be very hard to use the scientific method to determine if God is love or if God is just.

So I think we've agreed we should examine what the manifestation of justice or of love would be.

Perhaps this is where apologists such as myself (and I'll state I'm certainly not a top-notch apologist) lose people. Would not a radical lifestyle change be a manifestation of love? I think this is where we start to examine personal testimony and where skeptics like yourself start to say "I'm not buying it".

The odds of you being here writing to me is so amazingly small – isn’t that great?

Absolutely it is magnificent. Rather astounding that people from different corners of the earth (I realize the earth doesn't really have corners) and living on opposite sides of the equator can commmunicate regardless of never having actually met in person.

A spider-web is also a very unlikely thing. I mean look at it, it's just not normal to have this amazingly made string-like substance weaved into such an amazing design that the Pentagon, in spite of it's massiveness, can hardly comparte to with such an amazing purpose as providing a home and a means of food. Surely a web by itself is an impossibility, until we remember there is a spider that weaved it all together.

Off on a tangent – if God doesn’t ‘need anything’, why create the universe for mankind to suffer in? If God can create a heaven, why create an Earth with suffering, why not just jump straight to heaven (and forget all about that Hell business)

That was the ideal, but than we'd have had absolutely no option but to be in relationship with God. And that would mean we are moreso robots than free moral agents. By virtue of the fact we could be in relationship with God we also had the option of exiting that relationship. We were not made to suffer, but we did have that option.

All you need is a large molecular gas cloud, conservation of angular momentum and gravity – from there I can provide you a rather good model how the solar system formed. No intervention needed – we might agree on something :-)

Where are we getting the molecular gas cloud, conservation of angular momentum and gravity?

You are coming from a stance that God exists and then start looking for the evidence.

I am coming from “God is unlikely, but not impossible” and looking for the evidence one way or the other.

Can you explain why your method is likely to get better results (the truth) than mind?

If seems to me if you start with the assumption ‘God exists’ everything else can follow... it is a dangerous starting position.

Or am I wrong?


Well I try to look at the evidence and determine what that means in relation to what I presently believe.

I think we've already discussed we work from different assumptions, and I believe you mention something about it below so I'll address it there.

Thanks, tell me if you think they are any good, and I will try and give them a read.

I will throw one back to you as well for our review

http://www.bidstrup.com/bible.htm

I think this page is very good :-)


I think I've been there before.

Time is not permitting me to answer the rest, so I'm going to skip here for a moment:

That is what is being tested here though isn’t it? As I said, if you make the assumption “God exists” – everything else follows.

However, if you like – I will take the position that God exists and see where it takes me in our discussions on your understanding what God is...

I will see what we can learn about the character of God in the bible.

Can you take the view the “if God does not exist” and start to question the bible? Just to see what it is like?

It is one major assumption less than ‘God exists’


Well we must understand the character and nature of God before we can address what type of evidence we'd expect of His existance, this may be another point from which we work from different assumptions.

However your point is well-taken. I think I'm going to post a blog in which I work from your assumption. That is, try to take what you believe and see where that leads me. One of the rules of critical thinking I've been taught is until you can explain your opponent's position in a way they agree with, you don't know your own position very well. So I'm willing to experiment with this.

God bless!
Joey

Fri Nov 07, 07:40:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey

Not very fair to give yourself that kind of freedom in the lens from which you analyze these issues but deny that same freedom to me. That's all I was getting at.

If you first assume God – then everything else follows, that is the problem. (As I repeated in my last post)

This is why I don’t first assume God, I try and look for the ‘pointers’ first and see where it leads. There are so many religions and gods to choose – it seems silly to jump onto one as correct first.

So not sure how or where I am being unfair – I must be blind to it, sorry.

I can assume God and the Bible is true as a ‘thought experiment’ – to see what conclusions can be made about such a God.

Once I do this, of course, God exists as the original assumption so what I don’t add anything else, just see where it takes me and see if it fits in with the observations.

I find I have to do a lot of ‘bending of the facts’ and ‘special pleading’ – this leads me to feel it is a bad assumption.

Evolution of life, the age of the Earth and Universe goes right against what is said in the bible in my view.

That is an interesting point, I'd like to explore it later as well.

Cool... erm, what was it again?

RE: ”how you would tell the difference between when God does not interact or when He is?”

It may be a problem, but it's not a significant problem.

I disagree strongly – it is the whole point about your claims.

Just because I don't necessarily know how my body digests things doesn't mean I should assume it does not.

Food goes in... Energy comes out.

You can test this... you can make falsifiable hypothesises about many things about it – hey, you can even make it a science :-)

You then can improve on your hypothesises... getting closer to the ‘truth’

You cannot do this for God and any supposed interactions. Every outcome to you would be evidence FOR God. It is meaningless.

Your analogy seems to fail for me on this fact.

The problem and question still stands I think.

Well than we agree there are different types of evidences and their usefulness may vary depending on the circumstance and the nature of what is being discussed.

Yes... and we can agree to judge the value of any evidence for ‘neutral’ topics (aliens etc) but why, when it comes to ‘their God’, does the theist judge the quality of evidence differently?

Consistency is all I ever ask... when someone isn’t consistent in their logic and the judging of evidence – there is something wrong.

If I am inconsistent, please challenge me – I would like to be corrected.

So I think we've agreed we should examine what the manifestation of justice or of love would be.

Did I? I thought I just asked for evidence that the Sun and Moon remained still in the sky for 24 hours, as written in the bible :-)

Would not a radical lifestyle change be a manifestation of love? I think this is where we start to examine personal testimony and where skeptics like yourself start to say "I'm not buying it".

Let’s just assume you could convince me of this ‘manifestation of love’ – someone changes their lifestyle for love.

Actually, I don’t think I have any problem with this. However my question would be, “what is it evidence for?”

Me running out in front of a car to save my son’s life, but killing myself as a result, could be evidence for the love I have for my son. But what actually does that prove?

A homeless drunk giving up the booze to join a church to be ‘reborn’ would be evidence for what precisely?

I’m missing something in your argument – maybe if you could expand a little.

Surely a web by itself is an impossibility, until we remember there is a spider that weaved it all together.

Just off on a tangent – have you seen the pictures of the webs spiders make when some mad scientist has given them drugs? They make a right mess... even with just caffeine.

That was the ideal, but than we'd have had absolutely no option but to be in relationship with God.

Erm... if I was to believe the Bible – I have just this lack of choice. The ‘gun to my head’ love me or die. Hell awaits me, the non-believer. This is why the bible makes no sense to me.

So, no. An all-knowing God would know, before I was born what was my outcome... so why didn’t He save us all the trouble? Not all-loving? Maybe once the universe started God didn’t have the power?

This is also why heaven for me would be hell... knowing that people are suffering in hell because of the lack of evidence. It just does not make sense – but it does to you?

Sorry – it is getting late here, I’m getting tired and feel like I am jumping around a bit

Where are we getting the molecular gas cloud, conservation of angular momentum and gravity?

Where are you getting a god that is able to decide to create a universe with a certain set of laws?

Didn’t we cover this on out ‘first cause’ discussion?

“I don’t know, and you don’t either” :-)

Well I try to look at the evidence and determine what that means in relation to what I presently believe.

On Friday I was speaking to a Jehovah Witness (I seem to do this most Friday morning’s now – I’m sure she is trying to convert me)

Anyway, a response she gave me was rather telling I think.

“I believe it because the bible says so”

This to me means that even if (and when) I showed her some evidence that would challenge the bible – she would accept the bible first, and reject the evidence.

You cannot argue with that ‘logic’ with reason...

Well we must understand the character and nature of God before we can address what type of evidence we'd expect of His existance, this may be another point from which we work from different assumptions.

There could have been loads of evidence for God – but, if He exists, He has chosen to give people reason to filter out good evidence from bad, but provided no good conclusive evidence for His existence.

What does that say?

However your point is well-taken. I think I'm going to post a blog in which I work from your assumption.

Excellent – just be careful on the straw men building, but don’t worry. Take a guess what you think I believe, if I disagree I will point it out.

Maybe in doing such a post, I can see where I am going wrong. Either way it should be fun.

One of the rules of critical thinking I've been taught is until you can explain your opponent's position in a way they agree with, you don't know your own position very well.

I’m still trying to understand the theist’s position – but I am working on it :-)

Thanks

Lee

Sat Nov 08, 05:30:00 AM 2008  

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