Posts Tagged ‘morality’

Is Bill Maher Right on Religion?

January 23, 2015

What is the source of moral progress? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

Recently, an article showed up in Salon saying Bill Maher is right about religion. Maher is of course the man behind Religulous, which we have reviewed earlier on this blog. Michael Shermer who wrote the article is a well-known skeptic and I have actually seen him in debate. So let’s go through and see what Michael Shermer has to say. Is he right about his claims on moral progress?

Most people believe that moral progress has primarily been due to the guiding light of religious teachings, the activities of spiritual leaders, and the power of faith-based initiatives. In “The Moral Arc” I argue that this is not the case, and that most moral progress is the result of science, reason, and secular values developed during the Enlightenment. Once moral progress in a particular area is underway, most religions eventually get on board—as in the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, women’s rights in the 20th century, and gay rights in the 21st century—but this often happens after a shamefully protracted lag time. Why?

Okay. I’ll go on and say I haven’t got a chance to read the book. My to-read list right now is extensive and I’m saving my money, but let’s see if Shermer can provide evidence here. Right now, I see some problems right at the start. For instance, many of the church fathers were strong opponents of slavery based on Christian teachings and indeed, the church did put an end to slavery. Rodney Stark shows this in The Victory of Reason with telling how Bathilda, the wife of Clovis II, was instrumental in this regard. Did slavery start again later on? It did, and sadly many Christians took part, but many ended it as well. Wilberforce was a strong voice to ending it and the abolitionists over here who were using the Bible were the Bible scholars of their day, in response to the literalists, which would sadly fit the way many atheists read the Bible today.  I suspect Shermer would fall into that camp.

As for women’s rights, once again, the church has been the strong champion of this. Too often we can look at a passage such as “Wives, submit to your husbands.” Instead, consider how husbands were to love their wives. They were to be willing to die for them. This would have been unheard of in Paul’s day. Normally, the commands given were to everyone else to tell how to support the head of the household, the man. Paul has most of his commands on house rules to go to the men instead. For more on this also, listen to my interview with Lynn Cohick on Jesus and women.

The Old Testament starts out with men and women both being in the image of God. In the New Testament, we are told in Galatians 3:28 that in Christ there is neither male nor female among other things. When women have been involved in the sex trade, such as in Thailand, Christians have been there to end it. David Marshall documents this very well in his book How Jesus Passes The Outsider Test. I have reviewed that book here.

Of course, if Shermer wants to say that this is about abortion, then I do not think we should see that as progress. The same applies to what he calls “Gay rights.” This is part of an idea of progress to be just saying that we want something and then when we get it, say that that is progress. What has to be established is that this is good in each case. Color me skeptical that redefining the family and allowing women to kill their children in the womb should be counted as progress.

if Shermer wants to say this came from the Enlightenment, then I would like to know what new truths he thinks we discovered in that time. It is after all since the Enlightenment that we have had two world wars take place and in fact, we could easily say Nietzsche was right about the 20th century being the bloodiest century of all. Much of this also took place under atheistic regimes or at least anti-Christian ones, which would include Hitler. No. He wasn’t an atheist, but he sure wasn’t a friend of Christianity.

The rules that were dreamt up and enshrined by the various religions over the millennia did not have as their goal the expansion of the moral sphere to include other sentient beings. Moses did not come down from the mountain with a detailed list of the ways in which the Israelites could make life better for the Moabites, the Edomites, the Midianites, or for any other tribe of people that happened not to be them. One justification for this constricted sphere can be found in the Old Testament injunction to “Love thy neighbor,” who at that time was one’s immediate kin and kind, which was admittedly an evolutionary stratagem appropriate for the time. It would be suicidal to love thy neighbor as thyself when thy neighbor would like nothing better than to exterminate you, which was often the case for the Bronze Age peoples of the Old Testament. What good would have come of the Israelites loving, for example, the Midianites as themselves? The results would have been catastrophic given that the Midianites were allied with the Moabites in their desire to see the Israelites wiped off the face of the earth.

I wonder how much of the OT Shermer is really familiar with. Most of the battles Israel fought prior to the Promised Land were defensive wars. Let’s consider the Midianites. The Midianites were constantly trying to destroy Israel. Now we don’t have details on individual interactions between Israelites and Midianites, and that is what the law applies to. On a national level, Israel did have to defend themselves.

And yet, anyone was welcomed to be part of Israelite society. We have Ruth who is a Moabitess who ends up being part of the lineage of David and of Christ. We have Rahab of Jericho who has the same thing happen to her despite being a prostitute. We also have instructions on how foreigners were to be treated who sojourned among the Israelites. Anyone who wanted to come to the God of Israel was welcome.

Shermer can also say the command to love your neighbor applies only to one’s immediate kin and kind, but what evidence has been given of this? It has just been asserted. He might have some in his book to be sure, but what evidence has he given here? Could he have not at least referenced some paper or the work of some scholar that would attempt to argue this? Of course, the Israelites could have seen it that way, but we need some evidence.

And certainly, there is the mention of Bronze Age people, but we wonder how much study Shermer has really done on Bronze Age society. Has he really thought about how they lived or has he simply imposed his own culture on to them too often? One of the rules of studying another culture is to realize that that culture is different from yours and the harsh realities of life are different.

Today, of course, most Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that moral principles are universal and apply to everyone, but this is because they have inculcated into their moral thinking the modern Enlightenment goal of broadening and redefining the parameters of moral consideration. But by their nature the world’s religions are tribal and xenophobic, serving to regulate moral rules within the community but not seeking to embrace humanity outside their circle. Religion, by definition, forms an identity of those like us, in sharp distinction from those not us, those heathens, those unbelievers. Most religions were pulled into the modern Enlightenment with their fingernails dug into the past. Change in religious beliefs and practices, when it happens at all, is slow and cumbersome, and it is almost always in response to the church or its leaders facing outside political or cultural forces.

Again, no evidence is given of this. Most believe in universal moral principles because of the Enlightenment? Really? Does that include Saint Paul in Romans 2 telling us about the law written on the heart? Does that include the thinkers from Aristotle to Aquinas and beyond who believed in Natural Law thinking? Has Shermer even seen that a large part of the Summa is devoted to moral questions and the reason for the arguments goes far beyond “God says so.”?

Shermer also talks about religion by definition. Whose definition? Religion is notoriously difficult to define and in fact, we could say that that message of outsiders has been followed by atheistic regimes who didn’t mind killing Christians who were outsiders and did not believe in the progress that would come through the Marxist revolutions. We also have to wonder how this Enlightenment revolution came about. Was it through the bloody French Revolution for instance?

It is as if Shermer has never read anything any theist has to say about Natural Law, which could be the truth. Now of course Natural Law thinking could be wrong, but that is not the same as saying that the theists did not have an explanation for moral principles being universal and applying to everyone. This was believed long before the Enlightenment was around and it was believed largely in part thanks to Christians who brought a theistic belief and a religious belief together.

The history of Mormonism is a case in point. In the 1830s the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, received a revelation from God to enact what he euphemistically called “celestial marriage,” more accurately described as “plural marriage”—the rest of the world calls it polygamy—just about the time he found a new love interest while married to another woman. Once Smith caught the Solomonic fever for multiple wives (King Solomon had 700), he couldn’t stop himself or his brethren from spreading their seed, along with the practice, which in 1852 was codified into Mormon law through its sacred “Doctrines and Covenants.” Until 1890, that is, when the people of Utah—desirous for their territory to become a state in the union—were told by the United States federal government that polygamy would not be tolerated.

Conveniently, God issued a new revelation to the Mormon leaders, instructing them that a plurality of wives was no longer a celestial blessing, and that instead monogamy was now the One True Way. As well, Mormon policy forbade African Americans to be priests in the church. The reason, Joseph Smith had decreed, was that they are not actually from Africa but instead are descendants of the evil Lamanites, whom God cursed by making their skin black after they lost the war against the good Nephites, both clans of which were descendants of two of the lost tribes of Israel. Naturally, since the evil Lamanites were prohibited from having sexual relations with the good Nephites, interracial marriage was also banned. This racist nonsense lasted a century and a half until it collided with the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Finally, in 1978, the Church head Spencer W. Kimball announced that he had received a new revelation from God instructing him to drop the racial restrictions and adopt a more inclusive attitude.

Okay. Not much problem here….

But what are we to draw from this? One religious movement was like this, therefore all of them are? Does Shermer really think he can point to Mormonism and say “Since Mormonism is like this, all religions are like this.”? This is a hasty generalization at its best. It also is not the way Christians, Jews, or Muslims act since most of us do believe in a closed canon. Shermer could find a sect out there with different beliefs, but that would not represent the main three monotheistic faiths as a whole.

There are three reasons for the sclerotic nature of religion: (1) The foundation of the belief in an absolute morality is the belief in an absolute religion grounded in the One True God. This inexorably leads to the conclusion that anyone who believes differently has departed from this truth and thus is unprotected by our moral obligations. (2) Unlike science, religion has no systematic process and no empirical method to employ to determine the verisimilitude of its claims and beliefs, much less right and wrong. (3) The morality of holy books—most notably the Bible—is not the morality any of us would wish to live by, and thus it is not possible for the religious doctrines derived from holy books to be the catalyst for moral evolvement.

The first one does not follow. I can fully believe someone has departed from the Christian faith and does not follow the one true God, but they are still my neighbor and I am still obligated to love them as myself. For #2, while we do not have the same methodology of science, this does not mean the claims are just faith claims entirely. They are established through different methods. Want to know who Jesus was, what He said and did, and if He rose again? Then study history. Want to know if God exists? Study philosophy and metaphysics. Want to know if the New Testament documents have been handed down accurately? Study textual criticism. Of course, in each area there are many more areas that can be studied. Shermer should know this having debated some Christian apologists, yet he chooses to not mention this.

In fact, we could ask for #2 if there was a systematic process or empirical method to determine that a claim must have a systematic process or empirical method to determine its truth. Shermer has made a claim that is not scientific all the while making a claim that puts science on the highest branch of knowledge. Those who take a position always take such a position on grounds that are not scientific. For #3, we will look at this later.

Many Jews and Christians say that they get their morality from the Bible, but this cannot be true because as holy books go the Bible is possibly the most unhelpful guide ever written for determining right from wrong. It’s chockfull of bizarre stories about dysfunctional families, advice about how to beat your slaves, how to kill your headstrong kids, how to sell your virgin daughters, and other clearly outdated practices that most cultures gave up centuries ago.

There is a lot of misinformation in here, and a lot of misunderstanding. For instance, are there stories of dysfunctional families. Yes. These stories also show up on the evening news and in the newspaper. Does that mean these are prescriptive, telling us how we should live, or does that mean that they are descriptive, telling us simply what it was that happened and letting them be object lessons for us?

How to beat your slaves? I don’t think so. There’s no passage that says “Now take your rod and aim straight for the back first. That’s the place that you want to start!” Now it does say that some would, but this was also the kind of discipline that was around back then and would also apply to children. Yet how much could someone be disciplined? If they even lose a tooth, they go free and guess who has to give them ample resources when they go free. That’s right. The master. Guess also who will lose honor in the community and not have people come to him willing to work? Same answer.

What is forgotten is that slavery was not Civil War slavery and was closer to our employer-employee system. An employer cannot beat you today, true, but they can just as easily lay you off and have you out of work. Your livelihood is gone in that moment. In the ancient world, you couldn’t just go down the street to Wal-Mart and get a job. You had to work for someone else and this was the language used to describe it. It was also something that was done willingly among the Hebrews. For more on this, I recommend Scripture and Slavery.

How to kill your headstrong kids? Really? The passage in question is Deuteronomy 21:18-21. I have dealt with it earlier, but let’s put it up here:

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

This is not a case of little Johnny won’t clean up his room so let’s kill him. This is a drunkard and a glutton, which means someone of mature age who knows better and refuses to listen to discipline. Is the penalty harsh? Yes. It’s also known in advance and the one living this way is one who cares nothing for the good of the community. This might be hard for an individualist like Shermer to understand, but the Majority World would consider his views to be the ones that are out of sync. After all, why should you sacrifice the good of the whole for the good of the one?

For selling virgin daughters, in the ancient world, marriages were arranged and a dowry was expected to be given. That’s because families were being united. Since this would involve financial loss, there would be a dowry to be expected to be paid.

Shermer can say these are outdated, but at the same time, for a period of time in parts of the world, this was necessary, and some could be necessary still in some parts of the world. This was done to maintain the social order and have a functioning society. Again, one wonders just how much Shermer has actually studied the Ancient Near East, or if he’s just reading it like a modern individualist.

In order to make the Bible relevant, believers must pick and choose biblical passages that suit their needs; thus the game of cherry picking from the Bible generally works to the advantage of the pickers. In the Old Testament, the believer might find guidance in Deuteronomy 5:17, which says, explicitly, “Thou shalt not kill”; or in Exodus 22:21, a verse that delivers a straightforward and indisputable prohibition: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

These verses seem to set a high moral bar, but the handful of positive moral commands in the Old Testament are desultory and scattered among a sea of violent stories of murder, rape, torture, slavery, and all manner of violence, including capital punishment for a variety of acts:

Maher acts like cherry-picking is going on, but is this the view of Christian scholarship? Is it not the case that we realize some laws were civil and ceremonial and applied to a theocratic system whereas they don’t today? Even in the case of a universal moral law, we do not live in that kind of theocracy and so even if the moral principle is still upheld, the way it is dealt with is different. If we are cherry-picking, then what about Shermer talking about parts of the Bible that he thinks uphold a high moral standard? Is he not cherry-picking as well?

Let’s see what he says about a variety of acts that have capital punishment as their sentence.

Blaspheming or cursing of the Lord: “And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:13-16)

• Worshiping another God: “He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” (Exodus 22:20)

Both of these are because Israel was in a covenant relationship with God. Going against God would lead to the destruction of the covenant and the penalties that followed. If Bill Maher or Michael Shermer think this is ridiculous, then I suggest they go on live television and try to make a joke about killing the president and see how long it takes before the Secret Service shows up at their door. Treason is still a serious crime, in fact, one of two crimes specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

• Witchcraft and wizardry: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” (Exodus 22:18)

This is the same kind of thing. It’s an act of treason calling on another deity and if these kinds of beings are real, then it is putting everyone else around the person in danger.

• Female loss of virginity before marriage: “If any man take a wife [and find] her not a maid … Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.” (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

The OT law is didactic in nature. Stoning was a possibility, but it was not the only one. This would be left for the judges to decide or for the disgraced husband to request. A woman was prized for her virginity and the man had essentially entered into an agreement with the father-in-law about the bride. While under the father’s supervision, he was to protect her virginity. If he didn’t, then it was as if he deceived the son-in-law. He could ask for any money back that had been exchanged and he could have the woman live with her father, a burden on him as no one would want to marry her then. There were numerous other methods that could be used. The husband is not seeking to kill the bride but just end the marriage. If he was wrong of course, he would be shamed greatly by a flogging. If not, then the shame came on the bride and her family.

• Homosexuality: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

I am sure Shermer wants to see homosexuality as either morally neutral or maybe even positive but we need more of a reason than “Modern people think so.” If that is the case, it is no more of a reason to accept it than for Shermer to hear something like “God says so” from our side. We need to look at the data. In a theocracy like ancient Israel, this was an immoral practice tied also to immoral practices of the pagans, that would have led to treason against God. The same penalty applies. Sexual matters were taken seriously I suspect because humanity normally has a hard time controlling their sex drive.

• Working on the Sabbath: “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.” (Exodus 35:2)

Again, this was also part of the covenant agreement. Note also that anyone who did work could use it as a way to get ahead of their neighbors financially. In essence, doing something like this was a way of cheating your neighbors. This is also not a universal law as other nations were allowed to work on the Sabbath, but this was to be a special sign of the covenant with Israel.

Most modern Christians, however, respond to arguments like this by saying that the Old Testament’s cruel and fortunately outdated laws have nothing to do with how they live their lives or the moral precepts that guide them today. The angry, vengeful God Yahweh of the Old Testament, they claim, was displaced by the kinder, gentler New Testament God in the form of Jesus, who two millennia ago introduced a new and improved moral code. Turning the other cheek, loving one’s enemies, forgiving sinners, and giving to the poor is a great leap forward from the capricious commands and copious capital punishment found in the Old Testament.

Unfortunately, this could be the case that too many Christians have a Marcionite attitude towards God. I would prefer instead to say we answer it by actually studying the Old Testament culture. Shermer seems to look through the Bible and says “I find something I deem offensive, therefore it is wrong” without bothering to really understand the culture that he is speaking about.

That may be, but nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus revoke God’s death sentences or ludicrous laws. In fact, quite the opposite (Matthew 5:17-30 passim): “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” He doesn’t even try to edit the commandments or soften them up: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” In fact, if anything, Jesus’ morality is even more draconian than that of the Old Testament: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”

This is true in part. Jesus does come to fulfill the Law, but what does that mean? This is one of the extremely debated passages in the NT to decide what is meant by it and Shermer posts it like it’s just patently obvious. Let’s see what else he says about this.

In other words, even thinking about killing someone is a capital offense. In fact, Jesus elevated thought crimes to an Orwellian level (Matthew 9:28-29): “Ye have heard it was said by them of old time, Though shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” And if you don’t think you can control your sexual impulses Jesus has a practical solution: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

Shermer’s problem here is that Jesus is not saying the judges of Israel have the right to judge a fault crime. Jesus is saying that before God, who does know one’s thoughts, one is guilty. Note also the problem is not having a desire. A desire cannot necessarily be helped. Note Jesus says that if you look at a woman to lust, you have already committed adultery in your heart. Looking and lusting is something that could be difficult to help, but looking to lust is something specific. If you look at a woman just to desire her and treat her like an object, you’ve already defiled her in your mind.

Yet nowhere does it say that Israel gives capital punishment. It says one is in danger before God. Jesus is telling us all to shape up and say not to look at a woman to lust after her. (And here I thought Christianity was supposed to be against women and yet here is Jesus telling us not to look at women as sex objects and apparently Shermer is complaining about that as well.)

As for Jesus’s own family values, he never married, never had children, and he turned away his own mother time and again. For example, at a wedding feast Jesus says to her (John 2:4): “Woman, what have I to do with you?” One biblical anecdote recounts the time that Mary waited patiently off to the side for Jesus to finish speaking so that she could have a moment with him, but Jesus told his disciples, “Send her away, you are my family now,” adding (Luke 14:26): “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

It is curious to know how never marrying and never having children means that one does not have good family values. Of course, one cannot demonstrate how to be a good spouse or a good parent without having a spouse or without having children, but it does not one mean one cannot have good views on the matter. But for now, let’s look at the Scriptures that Shermer cites.

What Jesus said to his woman first off in calling her woman, was a typical way of addressing women in the ancient culture. It was not a disrespectful way. The latter part of the phrase could be, but it could also just be a case of saying “This is really none of my business.” Still, it’s important to note that Jesus does do what His mother asks of Him at this point, which is hardly an example of turning her away.

Shermer also claims Jesus tells his disciples to send his mother away as the disciples are his family now. Really? Let’s look first at Matthew 12:

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

And Luke 8:

19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

And Mark 3:

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

We are not told how the story ends, but nowhere do we have Jesus telling the disciples to send his mother away. Jesus is instead making a point about loyalty. It is no longer among family lines, but is in relation to God.

This is especially so with Luke 14:26. Too many skeptics of Christianity jump up and down like they’ve found buried treasure when they come across this verse. Meanwhile, most of us who are not fully sold out on literalism and know how to recognize a hyperbole when we see one do just that. We know that Jesus is making a comparative statement between different things. He is saying that if you love anything more than you love Him, you are not worthy to be His disciple. He is not encouraging you to go out and actively hate your family.

Even sincere Christians cannot agree on Jesus’ morality and the moral codes in the New Testament, holding legitimate differences of opinion on a number of moral issues that remain unresolved based on biblical scripture alone. These include dietary restrictions and the use of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine; masturbation, pre-marital sex, contraception, and abortion; marriage, divorce, and sexuality; the role of women; capital punishment and voluntary euthanasia; gambling and other vices; international and civil wars; and many other matters of contention that were nowhere in sight when the Bible was written, such as stem-cell research, gay marriage, and the like. Indeed, the fact that Christians, as a community, keep arguing over their own contemporary question “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do?) is evidence that the New Testament is silent on the answer.

Are some things not clear and simple? Obviously. Some things are. Some are not. That’s the nature of the beast. It also gives the impression that the purpose of the NT is to tell us all moral precepts. It’s not. Most of these are to be known anyway. Still, I find this paragraph amusing. Here Christians are so often accused of not knowing how to think for themselves, and then the other accusation we get is one like this one that we don’t agree among ourselves. I can’t help but wonder which is it to be.

All this means is that there is work to be involved. That involves Scriptural study, as well as study in ethics and philosophy. Christian academics for the most part have not been opposed to such.

If God really believes in equal rights for all of his people, one would think that He would have said something about them in his holy book. But such sentiments are nowhere to be found in the Bible. The closest thing to a modern moral value is in Galatians 3:28, when the apostle Paul says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” That sounds ecumenical, but the surrounding verses demonstrate clearly what Paul is up to: (Galatians 3:1) “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” And what is this truth, according to Paul? The truth is that “[T]he Jew in becoming a Christian did not need to become a Greek, nor the Greek a Jew. The slave might continue to serve his master, and “male” and “female” retained each its function in the ongoing stream of life.”

The notion of equal rights for all people is one that makes sense in an individualistic society, but not in the ancient society where people would not stand up and say “I have rights! I am an individual!” Yet Shermer’s look at Galatians is just confusing. What is the truth being argued for in Galatians 3? It’s that circumcision is not required to show you are part of the covenant of God. What makes you righteous before God? It’s not being a Jew or a Greek. It’s not being a male or a female. It’s not being a slave or a freeman. Jews were still Jews. Greeks were still Greeks. Men and women were still men and women. Slaves and masters were still slaves and masters, but their new identity was to be in Christ. Being in Christ does not depend on either of those.

That is about as ecumenical as you can get. Want to be a Christian? Anyone can. It does not matter your station in life, your nationality, or your gender. You can be part of the family of God. God welcomes all. Shermer’s reading of the text quite frankly is just confusing and it is one that I do not think any Biblical scholar would uphold.

In other words, Paul is saying that you can carry on as you are. If you’re Greek, there’s no need to become a Jew—a significant dispensation, given that a man converting to Judaism often had to submit to adult circumcision, and this is just the kind of thing that puts a guy off the whole idea. Paul was not a revolutionary advocating violence, and he most assuredly wasn’t ghostwriting the U.S. Constitution. He was saying that if you’re a slave, you must keep on being a slave; if you’re a wife, must continue being regarded as property; no matter who you are, you can still worship Jesus Christ and be abused by your culture in whatever manner is customary for someone of your breeding and station.  And in any case, slaves remained slaves for eighteen more centuries, and women remained little more than property for nineteen more centuries in Christian countries around the world. Clearly, even if Paul’s message were interpreted to mean that we’re all equal, no one took it seriously. But what Paul’s passage really meant was that anyone can go to heaven by accepting Jesus as the Christ (as instructed in John 3:16), and that’s the message of universalism—not equal treatment in this world, but in the next world.

Shermer again assumes his mindset of Paul as if Paul was happy with women being seen as property. In 1 Cor. 7, Paul tells slaves that if they can get their freedom, go for it. Paul nowhere says a woman must put up with abuse and be treated as property. But let’s look and use slavery as an example. No one saw any problem with slavery until the time of the Civil War? (And it would be recommended that Shermer read Noll’s The Civil War As A Theological Crisis which I have also reviewed.

How about the epistle of Clement of Rome?

1Clem 55:2
We know that many among ourselves have delivered themselves to
bondage, that they might ransom others. Many have sold themselves to
slavery, and receiving the price paid for themselves have fed others.

Ignatius to Polycarp:

4:3 Despise not slaves, whether men or women. Yet
let not these again be puffed up, but let them serve
the more faithfully to the glory of God, that they may
obtain a better freedom from God. Let them not desire
to be set free at the public cost, lest they be found
slaves of lust.

We later find clearer evidence of this in the Apostolic Constitutions that Christians were in the business of gathering funds to set free slaves. Ignatius is saying that slaves should not expect they are owed such, but the slaves are not to be despised.

In fact, on page 298 of Pagans and Christians, Robin Lane Fox says

“Christian masters were not specially encouraged to set a slave free, although Christians were most numerous in the setting of urban households where freeing was most frequent: our pagan evidence for the practice is overwhelmingly evidence for the freeing of slaves in urban and domestic service…Among Christians, we know that the freeing of slaves was performed in church in the presence of the bishop: early laws from Constantine, after his conversion, permit this as an existing practice.”

We can simply wonder if Shermer has been looking at history or not. Perhaps if he does, he will realize that his so-called Enlightement morality is simply stealing what the Christians had all along and proclaiming it as his own.

I suppose Enlightenment morality does justify stealing then.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Defend The Faith Day Three

January 8, 2015

What happened at the third day at Defend The Faith? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today was the last day of the conference for us. Not because it’s a bad conference or we just want to go home. Not at all. Allie just has a women’s retreat that she had booked months ago before we ever heard about the conference and she has to be home so we can take her to that. Still, I will make tomorrow’s post and Friday’s about the conference. Unfortunately, my guest for Saturday on the show had to cancel and I figure it’s both my Mom’s birthday and I have to pick up Allie from the retreat, so why not just have some time of rest?

The day started with David Calhoun giving a version of Lewis’s argument from reason. This one has some points that are not exactly found in Plantinga. It also doesn’t depend on your stance on if evolution is true or not. The only one it says is not likely true is purely naturalistic evolution. If you have a theistic evolution of sorts, then your position is still safe.

The next session was one of Tom Gilson speaking on a new twist on the quadrilemma he has come up with, according to Dan Wallace. His approach is to look at Jesus as the person of impeccable moral character and also all-powerful and asks how hard it would be to imagine the typical illiterate fishermen created such a character. My description cannot do the argument justice so I recommend you click the link and check it out for yourself.

After a lunch, Allie and I went to a breakout session of Tom’s again. Let me mention at this point to please be praying for Tom with a foot injury he has. In this talk, he talked about missions and apologetics. This was one of the best sessions I attended as we talked so much about what the average college student believes today. They have misconceptions about love, sex, they’re relativists, they’re naturalists, they are experiencing freedom for the first time, they lack a sense often of obligation or responsibility, and usually they rely on Google scholarship.

Of course, this is a generality, but much of it applies in various degrees to American college students. This is our mission field. We are no longer living in the 1950’s. It was the discussion in the classroom that made this one so great. Tim McGrew and Tom were usually together and Tim was sitting in the audience for this one and he had a lot of good things to say.

Next we went to a talk by Sarah Ankemann on morality and making a case for absolute morality. Might I say at this point also that it’s great to see more women getting involved in apologetics? It’s usually a man’s field, but we need both sexes to be involved. A lot of interesting discussion came about in this one as well and we do plan on having Sarah come on the show in April to discuss autism since she has a son on the spectrum.

Then came my time to speak. I spoke on Gentlemen, We Are At War. I had a full classroom so much so that some people came in and left. The audience was entirely receptive and I pointed out the dangers that are usually faced on the internet. More people need to learn how to deal with popular internet skeptics and various theories like Christ mythicism and the pagan copycat idea. Many people in the audience thanked me for the talk which was incredibly warming to hear and humbling at the same time.

After a dinner, Tim McGrew and I again spent some more time working on Bayes’ Theorem together. I’ve said before what a great figure Tim is and I mean it. In fact, when I saw him last tonight, I had to give him a hug again, and I think it was a sad moment for both of us. I think we’ve both enjoyed getting to connect with each other and it will always be a special memory. We’re both hoping we can do it again next year.

But you need to know the final talk was Gary Habermas. He spoke on emotional doubt and while it’s a talk I’ve heard several times before, I always hear something new in it. If you struggle with doubt, I really urge you to go to this web site and listen to his talks on the topic and also download two books he has for free on the web site. They will be a great help if you apply them.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow Allie and I head back, but it’s been a great time here in New Orleans. We really hope we can come back again next year!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Did God Really Command Genocide?

December 15, 2014

What do I think of Copan and Flannagan’s newest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

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First off, I wish to thank Dr. Copan for sending me a copy of this Baker book for review purposes. I will state up front that I see Flannagan and Copan both as good friends, but I earnestly desire to avoid allowing any bias to cover my review. It will be up to the reader of this review to determine if I have done so.

The book starts with a question of what atheist Raymond Bradley calls the Crucial Moral Principle. This principle goes as follows:

It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing.

Most of us would in principle have no problem with that statement. In fact, in principle, neither would Copan and Flannagan. Yet that is the statement that must be dealt with as it looks like the text does have commands from God to do just that. Now of course it could be that some might say those events are just a made-up history, but in the book, Copan and Flannagan do take the task of assuming for the sake of argument that this is a real historical narrative. In fact, so do the atheists they interact with in the book. It is a way of saying “Let’s assume that there was a conquest of the Promised Land as the Bible declares. How do we reconcile that with the idea that God is a God of love?”

Some people reading the start will be wondering about the beginning. Why are we having a discussion on inerrancy? Why a discussion on what it means for the Bible to be the Word of God? All of this is important, because it is about how we are to process the information in a text and too many people have an idea that if the Bible is the “Word of God” then somehow the ordinary rules of language don’t apply and everything must be applied in a “literalistic” reading.

From there, we get into the conquest itself. Is the text using hyperbolic language? Copan and Flannagan argue that it is simply because if you take in a literalistic sense, the accounts immediately contradict. For the sake of argument, one could say there are contradictions in the text, but let us not say the writers were fools who would notice a blatant contradiction right in their midst. Many of the commands also involve not destroying, but rather driving out. The commands were also limited to war within the holy land itself.

Naturally, the authors argue against those who want to use the Bible to argue against the hyperbolic interpretation. They conclude this section by looking at legal and theological questions concerning genocide and show that by legal definitions used of genocide today, the events that took place in the Conquest really don’t work.

The third part of the book starts with Divine Command Theory. I will state that while I believe everything God commands is necessarily good and we are obligated to do it, I do not hold to DCT. I think this section does deal with several bad arguments against it and that makes it worthwhile in itself. It’s also important that you can be someone who does not hold to DCT and it will not detract from the overall position of the book.

For instance, let’s suppose you take my position and yet think that if God commands something, it is good. Then the rest of the part will still work for you. It asks if God could command events like the deaths of innocent human beings. The authors use some excellent examples about how in even our time we could picture a president commanding such an order and not condemn them. For instance, suppose on 9/11 three of the planes have hit and we know the fourth is on its way to the target. This plane no doubt commands innocent human beings, but would we understand a command from the president to have it shot down knowing innocents will die? Note that is not saying it is necessarily the right decision, but that it is an understandable decision.

The authors also deal with what if someone claimed this today. For the authors, the principle known earlier as the crucial moral principle holds if all things are equal, but if you think God is telling you otherwise, you’d better have some excellent evidence. Most Christians today would say you do not because even if you hold to God guiding people personally today and even personal communication today, most would not hold to prophecy on the level of Scripture being given today and if God commanded you to kill someone, that is not a position to hold to.

So what makes Moses and the conquest different? One is the preponderance of what are called G2 miracles. These are miracles that you could not just explain away as sleight of hand if true. For instance, when the water of the Nile turns to blood, the magicians can repeat that so yeah, no big deal. When the Red Sea parts and the whole of the Israelites pass through on dry land and the waters drown the following Egyptians, yeah. That’s not so easily explainable. The same for manna falling from the sky every day for forty years and the wonders that took place around Mount Sinai. The average Joe Israelite soldier had good reason to think Moses had some divine communication going on.

I personally found the last section to be the most fascinating and this is about violence in history and its link to Christianity. The authors cover the Crusades particularly and show some contrasts between Islam and Christianity and also point out that the Crusades have not been hanging over our heads for centuries. If anything, the usage of them is a more recent argument.

They also deal with the idea of religious violence and show that much of the violence we have seen is in fact political though often hidden under a religious veneer. Included also in this section is a piece on the question of pacifism and if there can be such a thing as a just war.

Copan and Flannagan have provided an excellent gift to the church in this book. Anyone interested in studying the conquest of the holy land and wanting to deal with the question of religious violence in general will be greatly benefited by reading this book and keeping it in their library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Stolen Photos Say About Us Today

September 5, 2014

Is the greater concern in America that photos are stolen or what we do about it? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Okay. I really don’t pay much attention to celebrity news. I don’t really care about who is dating who and what number marriage X is on with Y and how many guys a certain female has had children with or anything like that. I have zero interest whatsoever in the tabloid section of the supermarket. I’m too busy living my own life to care about the love lives of people I’ll never meet and have no real impact whatsoever on me.

I do care about moral issues.

I don’t care for celebrities as celebrities, but they are still people, and I do care about moral issues so why not write about something like that today?

It was on Facebook that I first heard the news about Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos being put on the internet. The term used often is leaked. They weren’t leaked. They were stolen. Her account was hacked into by some sleaze who really needs to get a life and then distributed to other sleazes who repeated his crime.

Yep. No intention of holding back on this one.

And honestly, I couldn’t even tell you who Jennifer Lawrence is. When I first saw a headline of an internet article about how the writer didn’t want to see Jennifer Lawrence naked I thought “Who’s that?” Yeah. I really do pay that little attention. It wasn’t until I read the article that I realized that she was an actress who’d had nude photos of her stolen without permission and then plastered all over the internet.

Too many people are blaming Jennifer for this. Jennifer did not do anything immoral in the affair. Perhaps when she took the pictures of herself she might have done something immoral with them, but there is nothing immoral about taking a naked picture of one’s self. Now you might say storing it on your computer could be foolish. That’s one thing. Foolish does not equal immoral. If you lock your keys in your car, that is foolish. It is not a sin you need to repent of.

Let’s suppose I was away from my own wife on a long trip and she knew I was lonely and missing her and to give me a sudden burst of cheer, she sent me some “pictures” that she took of herself. Now my wife wouldn’t do this due to that fear, but we cannot say that that was something immoral. She’s my wife and I am allowed to see her as she is. She has done nothing immoral in doing that.

You want to know someone who did something immoral?

It was the boy who hacked Jennifer Lawrence’s photos.

Yes. I know some could say it was a man, but someone who treats a woman like this is quite simply a boy. You know who else did something immoral?

Anyone else who went to look at them.

I don’t care if you distributed them or not. If you looked at photos that were got through illegal means, you are guilty of a sin against that person. Right now, there is someone who has had one of the most intimate aspects of her being displayed all over the world and she will never experience the world in the same way, especially since she will never know when she’s walking down the street which guys she comes across might have seen those photos.

And to those guys, Jennifer Lawrence is just a very attractive piece of meat.

I don’t care about celebrities as celebrities, but even then they are people, and they are not just objects. Someone doesn’t cease to be a person just because they become a celebrity.

Now on the one hand, I do understand our obsession in our country.

Most of us have come to a conclusion across all times and cultures that has stood the test of time and been practically a universal. That conclusion is that sex is just awesome.

What’s another conclusion we have come to? The female body is a beautiful work of art.

You’re not going to get any disagreement from me on any of these. 

I am a married man. I love to see my Mrs. I cannot think of a more beautiful sight to me in all the world than when I get to see my Mrs. I love sex also. There is not an experience I can think of that can compare to it. I often think of my single friends and want to say “Oh I just can’t wait until you get married and get to experience this.” (Note. Some don’t want to marry and if they don’t, that’s fine, but if they want to, I look forward to them getting to have this experience.)

And you know what? To be a man and to desire to see a woman naked and to have sex with her is no sin. It is natural. Now if you turn her into an object, that is the problem. That is lust, but I know when I was dating my Allie, I was definitely having those desires. Naturally, I contained them until we got to our wedding night.

Sex really is a transcendent experience and dare I say it, a great evidence that God exists. If there was one aspect of Intelligent Design I could go with, it’d be sex. It didn’t just happen. It wasn’t a random accident. Everything about it and the way the two systems work together fits so well and to add in, as Chesterton points out, it’s fun. We have to eat to live. It doesn’t mean food had to taste good. We could live in a world of black and white. We live in one of color. We also could have reproduced without it being fun, but the blessedness is that it is fun.

Someone I know once said the problem in our society is that we think about sex too much. Many of you might look at this scandal and think that that is true. The reality is, it isn’t. It’s a total mistake. The problem in our society is we don’t think about sex enough.

Oh we have plenty of sex! We do that constantly! We fantasize about sex all the time! We dream about it! We watch it! We talk about it! We do just about everything that can be done with sex!

Except think about it.

Do we really think about what we’re getting ourselves into with this experience, or do we just see ourselves as animals getting together in wild passion? Sex is an ultimate and complete surrender to another person. It is not just a woman making herself vulnerable to a man. A man is just as much making himself vulnerable to a woman. 

It is truly a transcendent experience. Why do we seek it so much? Because next to God, it is quite likely the greatest joy we could ever experience on this Earth. It’s why Chesterton said that the man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.

Unfortunately, when someone engages in the behavior of looking at someone naked without their okay, then they are in fact lowering that person and in fact, reducing any future joy for that person without some good counseling. 

So a man violates a woman for a moment of pleasure and leaves her with a lifetime of pain.

Is it worth it?

When sex is put at the top of the list as the highest good, they could very well think that that is the case. When people see each other as just animals, then that will also more likely be the case. Say there is no Heaven to gain or Hell to shun and there is no ultimate judge and if you can get away with the pleasure, well why not?

Note in all of this I am not telling us to love sex less. May it never be. I’m just telling us to love God more and to love our fellow man more. Our fellow human being is not just an object for our sexual pleasure. Our fellow human being is someone created in the image of God. They are not just an object of pleasure, and true sexual expression between a man and a woman does not focus on the pleasure of the man or the pleasure of the woman.

It focuses on both.

It has the man being focused largely on the pleasure of the woman and the woman on the pleasure of the men. (And yes women, those of us who are married can assure you of this from our perspective. The greatest pleasure that we get out of sex is in fact knowing that we have brought great pleasure to our women.) Now of course, each person has to know enough to know what they like, but then they count on the other person to fulfill that. 

The acts done at the expense of Jennifer Lawrence or anyone else like her are entirely self-serving acts and each time, the person who is the true victim will be suffering something that could take years for her to heal while the victimizer takes a moment of pleasure. That is a very very costly moment.

The sad thing is people like Jennifer Lawrence suffer the abuse of her victimizers and then they suffer the abuse from everyone else who says “You shouldn’t have done such a thing!” Okay. Maybe she shouldn’t have and maybe it was foolish, but she does not deserve the suffering that she gets from it. Had she distributed the pictures herself, she would be guilty of victimizing herself. She did not. Someone might as well have been hiding outside her house taking pictures of her changing clothes.

Sex is a great good. It is a good we can seek if we do so choose. Let’s not do so at the expense of our fellow human beings. If you treat a fellow human being as an object, you not only wrong them, but you also wrong yourself. If they are just an object, so are you.

While I’m at it, let’s point out this is a mistake the church often makes. We are way too negative about sex. That is why so many people identify us as prudes. I hope it’s noteworthy i have said nothing negative about sex in this post. That would be foolish. We too often in teaching our youth give them only a negative message about sex and when they discover all the positives, they think not only were we wrong about the negatives, but geez, what else could we be wrong about?

This is a mistake. In our teaching about sex, we must teach that it is something good, but like all good things, it must be treated in a sacred way. Sex is sacred indeed. I consider sex like nuclear energy. If you use it right and channel it properly, the results are wonderful. If you use it wrongly and treat it haphazardly, the results are disastrous. 

Please remember sex is sacred and don’t take it lightly. Treasure the spouse you have in your life and if you are not married, then note that you are to willfully give up sexual pleasures with a member of the opposite sex. If that is something you can live with, more power to you. If not, then go out and pay the price to get to see and treasure a member of the opposite sex. Marry them in a lifelong commitment.

People are people. They are not just objects for your pleasure. 

In Christ,

Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/30/2014: R. Scott Smith

August 28, 2014

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Morality. Most of us do agree that there is such a thing, although a growing number are increasingly saying that they don’t, which is quite frightening. We know that there is a good and there is an evil and we have a good idea about what it is we are to do. This is a phenomenon of reality that needs to be explained. How do we do it? To find out about this, I’m having R. Scott Smith come on the Deeper Waters Podcast. 

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Who is he?

Professor of Ethics & Christian Apologetics in the MA Christian Apologetics program, Biola University (starting my 15th year)

MA, Philosophy of Religion & Ethics, Talbot; PhD, Religion & Social Ethics, USC

Author of 4 books: In Search of Moral Knowledge (IVP, 2014), Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality (Ashgate, 2012), Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church (Crossway, 2005), and Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge (Ashgate, 2003).

Contributor to several books, journals, and other magazines/websites

What we will be talking about is the latest book of his, In Search of Moral Knowledge. 

Smith’s book is a fascinating one that takes you through a tour of ancient philosophy, biblical theology and ethics, the medieval period, and then modern theories, including naturalistic theories, that attempt to give a grounding for the morality that we all seem to share. What theory best accounts for it? In the end, he decides that the Christian worldview is the best worldview for explaining morality.

We will be asking a lot of questions along the way of course. Since the book starts off with looking at the early Greek philosophers, one question that can come to mind is “Why should we care?” After all, if we are Christians, don’t we have the Bible to tell us right from wrong? Why should Christians bother studying the ideas of Plato and Aristotle since this isn’t part of inspired literature? Can it really help us to understand morality?

When it comes to biblical ethics, at this point, it is the atheist who will have a rejoinder. “Yes. Let’s talk about biblical ethics. Let’s talk about slavery and genocide and all of that stuff. Remember, all of this is what shows up in the ‘Good Book.’ Why should I take the Bible as a relevant source on morality when it contains so much that is immoral?”

As we go through the medieval period, we can ask what we have really gained from all of this. Most of us today do still have a good idea of right and wrong. Did the medieval period really contribute in any significant way to what we know about reality? Does it really help us to understand what people like Aquinas thought about morality?

Finally, we will be looking at modern ideas from Christians and non-Christians and seeing how they add up and asking if morality can really be explained in an atheistic worldview? If it can’t be, then why is it that we should think that the Christian worldview is the best explanation for morality?

If you’re interested in the moral argument for God’s existence, then I urge you to please subscribe to the Deeper Waters Podcast on ITunes and be watching your feed for this latest episode! You won’t want to miss it!

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Gentlemen. We Are At War.

July 8, 2014

Is there a battle to win and a cost if we don’t fight? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Readers of this blog probably know by now that I quite like the church that Allie and I have found. I get a sermon that is intellectually satisfying while touching the heart as well. I wish I could say that this was the norm when it came to churches, but alas, I cannot. Too many churches have the congregations just getting some pablum so they can go home and at the end of the day feel good about themselves.

Christians. Take a look at the culture around you. Does it look like we’re really making an impact? Does it look like the church is being salt and light in this world?

If not, then why should we go to church and feel good about ourselves? If we are not obeying the Great Commmission, then we should be looking at ourselves with shame.

I have in fact reached the point where I want to go up to pastors and say to them “Please tell me why I should believe that Jesus rose from the dead.” There are two answers that are unacceptable for this one. Now there could be variants on how these answers are said but the answers are still the same.

“The Holy Spirit tells me that Jesus rose from the dead.”

“The Inerrant Word of God says Jesus rose from the dead.”

What’s the problem with both of these? In the long run, they both beg the question. You say the Holy Spirit tells you this? Fine. The Holy Spirit also apparently tells Mormons that the Book of Mormon is from God and that Joseph Smith is a true prophet. Do you believe that? Why should I think what you’re experiencing is the Holy Spirit and not something else? You could say “Well if you experience it, you know who it is.” Don’t you think the Mormons would say the exact same thing?

What about the latter? Now I do hold to inerrancy, but I hold to inerrancy as a conclusion and not a presupposition. You want to claim your holy book is the final authority. Fine. Muslims do the exact same thing. Why is it that I should believe what you say about your holy book but I should not believe what the Muslims say about theirs?

If all you have is your own subjective viewpoint for defending the resurrection, you will not last when opposition comes your way. When I meet pastors like this now I have a simple wish to make of them. “Get out of the pulpit. We’re in a war and we don’t need people like you dragging us down. Give your office to someone who deserves it.”

You see, too many pastors are acting like there isn’t a battle going on. They still have this idea that all Christianity is supposed to teach us is how to be good people. Christ did not need to come just to teach us ethics. The people of the day could have got that from the philosophers of their time. Christ came to bring about the Kingdom of God. Note that. Kingdom. How many people out there think that you could belong in a Kingdom and not care about what you were to do for the King but only think about what the King was to do for you?

There is a culture war that is going on here in America. If you want to deny this, then you are quite simply a fool. There is an active homosexual agenda that’s wanting to silence your voice on the public square. Abortion has been around for 40+ years and we have seen the lives of millions of innocent babies claimed. The new atheist agenda is spreading like wildfire through the colleges and your students are going to encounter it. Muslims would be delighted to bring Sharia Law here to America.

There is not a question any more of if we and our children will face opposition. We will. There is only the question of how we would face it.

Picture if you had a son or daughter who had to take a job somewhere where you had concerns about them walking to their car in the parking lot. What are you going to do? You might ask the police to keep a watch on the area, but the police can’t be there 24/7. What else could you do? You might want to say “I’ll give my children mace” or “I’ll enroll them in a class so they can carry a concealed weapon” or “I’ll have them learn karate.” Why? You want your children to have a fighting chance if they come against enemy opposition.

Picture your having a son who goes into the military. You receive word from his officers that they are about to fly overseas and go and fight the enemy. You ask if your son has taken any courses in combat to prepare for this mission and you hear “Nah. We don’t think that’s really necessary. We figure if we just give them a gun that they’ll know enough to be able to protect themselves.” I suspect you’ll be calling your Congressman or Senator before too long if that’s the case.

Yet we want to send our children into the lions’ den regularly and do so without giving them basic protection in apologetics?

There’s a word for that.

That word is “Stupid.”

Some of you might say “Well my children aren’t going to college.” Okay. College isn’t for every person, but this is happening in high school! Opposition will be there and not just intellectual opposition, but moral opposition. You want your children to practice a Biblical sexual ethic. What reason will you give them? If you just have them say “The Bible says so”, their friends in high school who are not Christians and are sexually active will be more than happy to clear them of their delusions on the Bible. If that takes place, do you really think your assurances will be enough to overpower hormones? How many of you would have had that work with your parents?

Some of you might say you will home school your children. Fine. Do that. Keep in mind this reality however. Sooner or later your children are going to leave home and go off into the world. Are they going to be prepared or not? If not, you are one who will be held accountable, especially the fathers. The fathers are the main ones in Ephesians 5 who are to raise up their family and the only ones said to give an account for how the whole family turns out. I’m not at all saying mothers are unimportant in this. Mothers are vastly important. Fathers in the Biblical teaching however are called to be leaders of their family and to raise up their children well. If you’re reading this and a father, imagine how you will stand before God and give an account of how you raised your children. If they’re not equipped and they fall away, what account will you give?

The reality is that we can win this battle. I think of a certain person in apologetics who recently said about my position to reclaim academia “How do you plan on doing that in a nation under the judgment of God?” How? Simple. One battle at a time. How dare we abandon our intellectual heritage and give it right over to the enemy! This is especially the case with NT scholarship where Christians should be at their strongest. We have too often let the enemy dictate how the battle will be fought. No more.

In other battles, when Christians do something, results happen. When Chick-Fil-A Day came, Christians went in droves to their Chick-Fil-A stores and set records in fast food sales for that day. When Duck Dynasty was pulled from A&E, Christians started on their own a boycott page and called their cable companies and canceled. Cracker Barrel had decided to not carry Duck Commander material. They changed their mind on that quickly when Christians spoke up! When Suntrust decided to pull away from some men who were in support of traditional marriage, Christians immediately began going to their Facebook page and letting them know their discontent and began pulling their accounts. Before a day had passed, Suntrust changed their mind.

Christians WON all of these battles.

The problem is not that the church cannot win battles. The problem is that the church rarely shows up.

I have too often seen churches deny the need for apologetics training. I will go to churches regularly and offer them to come and work with them. It will be of no charge to them whatsoever! I would be delighted just to teach. 99% of the time the answer is that they don’t really need something like that. I always leave a church like that realizing the pastor is just deluding himself. As one of my mentors once told me “The pastor will call you back when his son comes home from college and announces he’s abandoned his faith.”

When we encounter those who abandon their faith, it is normally for foolish reasons. Also, it can be because too much emphasis was placed on a secondary doctrine instead of a primary, the resurrection of Jesus. The two biggest offenders in this category are young-earth creationism and inerrancy. In both cases, when someone finds a reason why these are called into question and they no longer believe them, everything else crumbles like a house of cards. If inerrancy or young-earth creationism are made the foundation for the Christian faith, we are setting ourselves up to fail.

Make no mistake. We are at war. We cannot be just playing games and getting pablum at church and expect to be able to fulfill the Great Commission in this day and age. Here in America, we have the best means to equip our people. There is no excuse for our being unprepared for the battle that awaits us. IF we who have been given so much ability to learn and spread the truth fail with it, we will all give an account before God of how we did.

I can only end with saying what Joshua said for how he would decide. Choose this day who you will serve but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 15

February 19, 2014

Does naturalism have a good basis for a moral theory? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re continuing with our look at Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier. Right now, we’re discussing moral theory. Again, I only wish to bring out a few highlights from the chapter of points that I find problematic.

On page 317, Carrier claims that homosexual sex on J.P. Moreland’s view is immoral when supposedly in reality, it harms no one and if you repress your desires, well that does lead to harm. (This would be news to several Christians I know who live happy lives despite having homosexual attractions they don’t act on. It would also be the same for those with heterosexual attractions they don’t act on.) Amusingly, on the same page he describes unsafe sex as risky behavior stating that immoral behavior is risky.

For the first part, I want to note immediately that Gatean Dugas is unavailable for comment. It is hard to have read a book like “And The Band Played On” about the spread of the AIDS epidemic in America (Note originaly it was called GRID, Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) and not see that the behavior is risky. In fact, it is inherently risky. Homosexuals like Larry Kramer wrote about the problems in the homosexual community and others realized that the bathhouse culture opened itself up for numerous risks as most people did not follow “safe” procedures. If you go to the CDC web site today and look up STD’s, you’ll even find specific statements about homosexual sex.

By the way, if anyone wants to think my source for “And The Band Played On” is a homophobic bigot, keep in mind that Randy Stilts who wrote the book was himself a homosexual who died of AIDS.

Yet I also can’t wonder if it’s possible for sex to be risky even if all the “safe” procedures were followed. Could it be that cheap casual sex is also just as risky? Could there not be several psychological reasons for thinking that? For those who are interested in hearing such reasons, I recommend listening to my interview with Freda Bush on the hook-up culture available here.

Now I do agree with Carrier of course that immorality is bad for you, yet it is interesting to hear him say about people who are bad will live with some debilitating factor such as chronic anger or depression. He writes of how they will try to replace the hole in their lives with luxuries, distractions, etc. It will never be enough. The pleasures will be fleeting and they will never know the genuine happiness Carrier speaks of.

At this point, I’m surprised there isn’t an altar call in the book.

Now I do think of course that God has made us for Him, but I would say do not come to God because He will make you happy, though He will in the long-run to be sure. Come to Him because He is true. If you want a religion to bring you comfort and joy, well Christianity offers that, but it definitely promises suffering as well. What Christianity will also say is it is rooted in a historical reality.

So how does a naturalist account for value? (A term I would prefer not to use.) Carrier says “We merely place the highest authority, not the sole authority, in the findings of science.”

This is like the problem I expressed earlier about having a metal detector on the beach and not being able to find paper. What if these questions are not answered by science? If they are not, then science might be able to supplant another field, but it cannot do the work of that other field.

We are told that one could demonstrate that something is a good value for humans and therefore all ought to seek it since all human beings desire happiness. Why yes they do, but I find Carrier seems to have great faith in humanity and after the 20th century, I don’t share that great faith.

It would be great to say that if we all knew the facts, then we would know that these are good and we would all seek one another’s happiness, but does anyone really think that we would? Why should we? We in fact each know that most of the time, if it comes to choosing happiness, we choose our own over everyone else’s.

One of the great lessons learned in marriage is how you have to consistently sacrifice your happiness for someone else. Both persons in a marriage are expected to put the other one first. A husband might want to save up to buy himself something really nice, but he knows he needs to take his wife out to dinner. He might want to stay home and watch the game on TV, but she wants an evening on the town, so off he goes. A wife meanwhile might want to just stay home and watch TV, but she knows she needs to do the housework for her husband. She might not be exactly “in the mood” that evening, but she knows her husband desires sexual intimacy with her and so gives it. Both learn to sacrifice their good for that of the other, but it takes work.

I would furthermore love to see how Carrier would plan on sharing this insight with people in the Muslim community for instance. What happens if he meets any people who do not accept the findings of science supposedly? What does he do then?

Please note also that in all of this, there has not yet been a definition given of “good.”

When it comes to human nature, on page 328 we are told “it is obvious that in order to be called a ‘human’ one must possess certain qualities, therefore a ‘human nature’ exists. Q.E.D.”

Well sure, if you want to be included in group X, you must possess all the qualities of group X. Lions, tigers, and our little pet Shiro are all quite different, but somehow, all belong in the category of cat.

And humans are quite different. We have different races to us. We have different sizes. We have different personalities. We have different shapes. We have different sexes. Yet all of us possess this human nature.

The problem with Carrier’s position is that he states that we all have to possess these qualities. What qualities are they?

Your guess is as good as mine. They’re never listed. I suppose we have to take their existence by faith.

Now as a Christian, I would point out that we all have the image of God. We are endowed with rationality and the ability to choose the good and reject the evil. We could try to point to physical characteristics to establish our common bond, but they’re vastly different. We can’t even point to the 46 chromosomes in DNA since some people actually have a minutely different number. Those who have the 46 all have them quite differently.

Yet here’s a problem then. If we have no clear idea in naturalism of what these traits are, how can we say that we are all human? Could some not say others are not human? (This was done in Nazi Germany and is done today in the abortion industry.) Could that not in fact give us an excuse to exterminate those that do not fit the bill?

And if we value equality so much, then how is it that we can have a basis for equality in our society if in fact there is nothing that is truly equal about us?

Oh. Speaking of abortions, perhaps some readers would like this quote on page 329.

“And a newborn baby, deserving even greater compassion and respect, has more value than any animal on Earth, with the possible exception of adult apes or dolphins (or, perhaps, elephants.)”

So this newborn baby would possess this human nature, but apparently their human nature is not as special as elephant or dolphin nature. What exactly makes it less special? Who knows! If you think I’m not representing this fairly, just look at what is on the next page when Carrier speaks about Koko, the gorilla who supposedly understands much sign language.

“If in a dire circumstance I had to choose between saving Koko and saving a newborn human baby, it would be hard to justify saving the baby–only the baby’s value to someone else, and it’s potential to develop into a fully-effective human being, would weigh against Koko.”

Here we see where the problem will come from. How will Carrier determine what a fully-effective human being is? Recently, Boghossian has written about faith being seen as a contagion and how it needs to be listed as a mental condition. What would stop Carrier from seeing people of faith the same way as people carrying a disease and thus not being “fully-effective human beings.”?

We have a position similar to that of Animal Farm. All humans are equal, but some are more equal than others!

Carrier goes on to say that “The loss of a human being is a truly profound loss to the entire universe, and the development of a human mind is the greatest, most marvelous thing the universe may ever realize. But more importantly, each human shares our awareness of being, our understanding, our capacity for perceiving happiness and agreeing to help each other achieve it.”

Keep in mind that on page 259, Carrier said

“it is theism that often encourages arrogance, making man the center of the universe, exaggerating his importance in the grand scheme of things.”

Looks to me like atheism is doing a good job of it as well.

So which is it? Is it that theism is wrong when it does this but atheism is not when it does the exact same thing?

Carrier’s great faith however in humanity comes out even more on page 336.

“We tell the Nazis that his beliefs, like that Jews are not human beings and that they are plotting to take over the world, are factually false, and therefore his morals regarding Jews are in error. We also tell the Nazi that even if his belief that Jews are not human beings were true, it does not logically follow that their lives have no value, since nonhumans (even nonliving things) can have value and the special value assigned to human beings is not based on their species but on qualities they can in principle share with other species and that, as a matter of fact, Nazis clearly share with Jews, even if Jews really were a distinct species.”

Geez. I wonder why we didn’t try that! It’s all so simple! Just sit down and explain to Hitler the error of his ways and before too long, the Nazis will be out there turning their guns and tanks into plowshares and attending Bar Mitzvahs with their new friends!

Next we come to the topic of defining good and evil! It’s about time! So I got to this section eagerly looking forward to what was to be said.

I was disappointed. I was told that evil is a word used to refer to anything causing injury or harm. The good is the opposite.

This kind of definition would require much qualification.

The police officer no doubt harms the criminal when he puts a bullet through his skull, but many of us would recognize situations where this is justifiable, save for the most staunch pacifist out there.

The refrigeration industry in American history brought great harm to the ice industry. Several people in that business lost their jobs. We could say the same about what the automobile industry did to the horse industry. This caused harm. A surgeon will cause harm to his patient. (As one who went through Scoliosis surgery, I can assure you it does not feel pleasant!)

Further, some things we can think are beneficial are not. The example that springs readily to mind is the boy who decides to help a butterfly escape from its container by poking a hole in it with a pencil. The boy doesn’t know that the butterfly needing to break out assures it gets the strength this way to survive. By helping it, the boy has killed it. We can also picture giving a lollipop to a small child, an otherwise benign act (Except perhaps to a dentist), not realizing that the child is a diabetic.

And we could ask about helping people, helping them to what and to what end? What is the ultimate one good at the end? Is it happiness? If so, does this not imply a teleology, the very thing that Carrier’s system goes against since that is a principle of intelligent design from the outside? (Note by intelligent design, I do not mean in the mechanistic sense as in the modern ID movement).

Carrier also says that something would be good or evil regardless of what a society says, but that good and evil are defined by human convention. How could this work? What happens if two societies disagree? Who decides which one is right? How is this decided? We can say “We use science to determine this!” Let’s suppose the other society does not think science is the way to determine this. Why should the society that thinks otherwise automatically have to give in to the position that most Westerners hold to?

Finally, I wish to comment on the views of Jesus that Carrier presents. Carrier says that Jesus would have people rob and beat us. (Matthew 5:38-42). This is a common view of the turning of the other cheek, but it is false. The position described is a slap of the face which would not be a brutal attack, but would be an insult. It would also take place privately. Jesus is telling us then that in the private sphere, don’t try to outdo someone on insults and one-up them. Instead, leave the vengeance to God. Trying to outdo them only increases the cycle of evil. Of course, this does not apply in the public sphere where one’s honor would be at stake and it does not apply in the case of an actual attack.

He also says that we should forgive a criminal 539 times. (I have never read that number in the Gospels in the parable of the unforgiving servant.) To this we ask, why shouldn’t we? If someone comes and asks forgiveness, release them from the debt. This does not mean there are never any consequences, but it means you do not hold a grudge.

Finally, he points to Jesus telling the rich young man to sell all he has and give to the poor. Indeed, he did, because this rich young man placed all his joy in his riches. It was what was separating him from eternal life. For several of us, it could be something else entirely.

Carrier says Jesus holds these to be moral positions and says “But we hold that these are at best supermoral, and that it is immoral to expect such behavior from anyone.” Earlier he says “Evangelical Christians like Moreland would have us believe that early-term abortion or homosexual sex are immoral. But we hold they are not.”

So again we have the problem. Carrier’s view will say “We hold this and we are the enlightened ones.” Again, why should I agree with him? I already see that he can determine degrees of value for human beings so why think that more and more he will not choose to value those who are more like him than anyone else?

In fact, it’s human nature for us to tend to do that as I dare say we all to some extent do that. Carrier seems to have great faith in the goodness of humanity. I don’t see that on the evening news. I instead have great evidence that humanity has great potential to do evil and we willingly use that potential every day. I do not see our problem as simple ignorance of facts. Our problem is as Scripture says, our hearts. They are wicked.

Perhaps the prophets are right. What we need is not just new knowledge, which is good, but new hearts.

And somehow, I think you need God for that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 14

February 18, 2014

How does Secular Humanism compare to Christian theism on morality? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re continuing our look at Richard Carrier’s book “Sense and Goodness Without God.” Any book wanting to give a full view of atheism will have to cover morality, especially one that claims to have goodness without God. So today we’re going to be looking at those sections.

Much of this section has Carrier critiquing J.P. Moreland, to which I doubt Moreland is paying attention. Why should he? There are several ins and outs that I have no desire to get into, but I do want to get into some broader overlapping concerns.

Let’s start also with dealing with a common misunderstanding. No one is saying atheists cannot be good people. No one is saying you have to believe in God to be a good person. No one is saying you have to know that God exists to know the difference between right and wrong. These are common objections brought forward against the moral arguments that I have never heard any defender of such arguments use.

The moral argument instead argues that if there is no God, there is no foundation for moral truth claims. Now this argument is either right or wrong, but let us please be clear on what the argument is. This is not about any one person’s morality.

To begin with, on the Biblical front, it is amazing that the writer who spoke about using the principle of charity wants so much to speak about ideas in the Bible that he thinks are abhorrent, which is the usual argument from outrage. “God does something I don’t like, therefore He’s not real.” There is never an attempt to look at the culture and social context and see what is going on. “Well I don’t need to do that! It’s just obvious it’s wrong!” If you’re sure your case is right, you should have no hesitancy to look at further arguments. After all, suppose you met someone who said “I don’t need to look at evolutionary theory! It’s just obviously wrong!” Such a person would be seen as close-minded.

I suspect the major difference is that one area is science and one area isn’t. This could be a shock to some readers, but you can actually know things apart from the sciences. Yeah. Simply amazing thought isn’t it?

So what are some objections?

The first is picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Now why was this punishable? The reason is that the Law had already been stipulated. If you work on the Sabbath, you are to die. Israel had already agreed to this Law. This man doing this was in fact acting in defiance of the covenant and acting in such a way in a society built around the covenant was in fact an act of treason and if left unchecked, would lead to disaster for the whole community as the patron, YHWH in this case, would withdraw His blessings.

Also included is profanity as a cause of execution, yet the passage cited is not about profanity but about blasphemy. Carrier might think it odd to execute someone for words, but even in our society today, if you even made a joke that hinted at killing the president, the Secret Service would be knocking on your door before too long.

Blasphemy in this case again involves a severe treasonous offense against the good of the community.

Carrier also says Jesus is never said to have laughed. Apparently, this is a good argument against Jesus laughing. In other news, Jesus is never said to have used the bathroom, so obviously, Jesus never had to go to the bathroom. There is a reason arguments from silence are weak.

Finally, Jesus was apparently not a peace-loving man due to Matthew 10:33-36 and not restraining Himself from violence in the marketplace.

“33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”

Carrier ignores that the passage is about what it means to be a follower of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is to be your first priority and if you accept the message of Jesus and your family doesn’t, you will be on the outs with your family. This is not saying Jesus supports this. It is not saying He endorses it. It is not saying He desires family division. It is a simple reality of the statement.

As for Jesus’s cleansing of the temple, this is an action that would have been understood by His contemporaries as a judgment on the temple. It also would have involved the wrongful use of the temple which was the sacred space of YHWH.

On page 303 Carrier also speaks about how moral our society is.

“In fact, when we look objectively at history, Americans are more moral as a society today than any society at any time ever in human history, apart from our free democratic cousins around the world, who tend to be far less religious than we, yet somehow enjoy far lower rates of crime, and sometime even greater economic equity and social justice, contrary to the very thesis Moreland is defending. But focusing solely on America, what do we really see? We see an amazingly progressive culture that has crawled out of an age of violent expansion and bigotry, and is starting to show incredible promise as an enlightened society.”

Try to watch the evening news tonight and keep this in mind.

Yes. Our society is so much moral. So how many school shootings did we have fifty years ago? How many cases of single mothers did we have? How high was the divorce rate? How many STDs were going around? How many people were living in poverty? How many murders were taking place?

As for these other places, David Marshall has done some excellent looking into the topic especially since he has debated Phil Zuckerman on this. I was thinking of linking to one article, but since there are several, I will include a link to the search I did for Zuckerman that you can peruse here.

One aspect to be considered is one should compare the societies not with others, but with themselves. How do they look by that comparison? How do Sweden and Denmark look compared to where they were, say, thirty years ago. How will they look thirty years from now?

Too often, we make long-term conclusions on short-term data. We take a little bit and look at how things work in the short-term and say “See! It will be fine in the long-term.” It doesn’t follow. Many ideas we need at least a generation to test their effects.

So for now, that will be it and keep in mind, we are coming into the final stretch of this book and already, I have another project in the works that I shared with my pastor as well who is quite excited about it. Be prepared!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Temple of the Future on Morality

May 17, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’d like today to write on something that Justin Brierley presented on the Unbelievable Facebook page. It’s an article on a site called “Temple of the Future” concerning morality and biblical truth. It can be found here.

Temple starts off with discussing recent programs of Unbelievable. To be fair, I have not got to listen to the most recent one yet on women in ministry. However, does the first one mentioned of a look at Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” really have much to do with morality? It’s quite likely that most evangelicals would agree with Bell on several moral issues. My opinion on “Love Wins” is coming sometime soon, but regardless of whether Bell is right or wrong, the question is not about whether an action is right or wrong. Bell could be a universalist or not be a universalist and still believe murder is wrong.

What of the program on the true face of Islam? It’s a wonder that this is being seen as something on the Bible when this is really something on the Koran if anything. An atheist could have been a guest on the show and could have stated that Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam. If he knew what the teachings were in the Koran or Hadith, then he could have presented what he believed to be an accurate argument for whatever position he held. Again, whether Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam doesn’t matter to me at this point.

The last one is the closest one we have to a moral issue, but is it really so much a moral issue? Does anyone really believe someone would go to Hell, for instance, for having a female minister? Augustine dealt with a question similar to this back with the Donatist teaching. What if someone was baptized by someone who was a heretic? Does that mean their salvation is null and void? Augustine said no.

Temple says it is foolish to let the questions of morality become exercises in literary criticism.

However, what is actually meant by literary criticism? Here are the main issues that we can raise.

Is the text that we have what we had then? This would be textual criticism. Whether what the text says is true or not does not really matter. Even if all that say, Paul wrote in Romans, is wrong, does that mean we don’t have what he originally wrote? All we want to know is if we have what he wrote.

What style is the writing in? Are we going to take Revelation in a literal sense? When Jesus says “Pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin” is he to be taken literally? At the same time, when he says “Love your neighbor as yourself” is that to be taken literally, and how do we know when to take the text literally and when not? This is part of hermeneutics, that is, the art of interpretation of a text.

Finally, we come to the questions of “What does the text mean?” and then for our personal application “What does it mean to us personally today?” The first question is the most important one although we usually skip to the second. What does the text mean? This can also be a difficult one, but it’s not just with the biblical text. It’s with any text. We wonder what the text means in Plato, the Upanishads, the Koran, Nietzsche, government laws, or just ordinary conversation. ALL texts must be interpreted and some interpretations are right and some are wrong.

Turning to the program on church leaders, Temple simply says this is a dumb question to be asking. Why? Because it’s not the way most people in the 21st century think. So what? If someone wants to remain faithful to a text, it’s an important question to ask if there’s debate on what the text means. Granted, it’s not the most fascinating topic to the secular man, but again, so what? Are Christians forced to have debates and define debates in the way that the secular person prefers?

Temple sees this as discrimination when we don’t allow women to be in ministry. To begin with, it is discrimination, but that assumes all discrimination is wrong. My work place is discriminatory. They only allow men to go into the men’s room and they only allow women to go into the women’s room.

The Boy scouts are discriminatory. You have to be a boy to participate. Places that give senior citizen discounts are discriminatory as you have to be at least 65 to get one. Restaurants that say kids eat free are discriminatory since you have to be a kid in order to eat for free.

The question is “What is the basis for the discrimination.” Does the Bible say women should not be in ministry because they are inferior? It would be good to see such a text. The closest Temple points to is Ephesians 2:22-24. Nowhere mentioned however is that the man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church which is hardly a dominating theme. As a married man, it calls me to constant self-sacrifice for my wife. Now do some people misuse this text? Of course. People can misuse any text, but does Temple want us to think the text has no meaning and is open to any interpretation. If so, then can he really say that the text teaches the inferiority of women? Can I not say “That’s just your interpretation.”?

Temple writes about two scholars of Shakespeare’s works and how they disagree over the meaning of what Shakespeare said and asks if we could ever come to a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant. Temple tells us that of course we couldn’t. Temple tells us that like any complete text, it’s open to interpretation.

Okay. Agreed. It is open to interpretation.

Then he says multiple valid interpretations.

Is this really the case? He would have to demonstrate this. Is he saying that supposing Paul wrote Ephesians that Paul believed in the inferiority of women and didn’t believe in the inferiority of women both? How could this be? If Paul puts the meaning into the text, then the text can only mean one thing. It could be difficult or even impossible for us to find out what he meant, but that does not mean that there is no meaning.

Furthermore, why should I believe that we could never reach a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant? Who knows what the future will hold. I’m certainly open to the possibility that we could someday. Temple just takes it as a foregone conclusion that we won’t. Where does this knowledge of the future come from?

Temple says to build our morality on the Bible is to be build it on sinking sand.

We’ve seen this song and dance before. One would think that Temple would have some familiarity with Natural Law thinking. Does he not read any Christian ethicists who argue not from Scripture but from the basis of Natural Law? Does he read someone like Budziszewski in a work such as “The Line Through The Heart”?

Of course, in the comments, he does present the Euthyphro dilemma as if this is something embarrassing to Christians. Granted, most don’t know how to answer it, but the answer is to ask what goodness is and if it can be defined apart from God. I believe it can just like Aristotle did and when we define goodness, which is that at which all things aim according to Aristotle, we eventually realize that God is that which is goodness in being being itself. Temple could read Aquinas in the Summa Theologica for information on goodness and the goodness of God.

The point is that this is the same idea we’ve seen over and over. So many today arguing against morality believe that Christians use the Bible and only the Bible, not realizing the Bible itself argues against such a claim in passages like Romans 2. Are we to think when the Israelites got the Ten Commandments that they had no idea murder was wrong before that? Of course not. Moses himself made sure, though not doing a good job of it apparently, to make sure no one was watching when he killed an Egyptian.

Hopefully atheists and others will soon stop making this argument and start actually interacting with Christian positions.