Revising History?

An interesting post over on Evolution Exposé1, asserts that evolutionists have a pattern of retroactively admitting that their previously-claimed, and much touted, transitional fossils, were not all that they claimed before (only after something that they think is better is found). The author uses the recent example of the Tiktaalik and Panderichthys. Evolutionists had claimed Tiktaalik as “proof” of how we evolved digits, only later to admit that the Tiktaalik was a poor example (after finding Panderichthys). This despite the fact that the “evidence” shown for Panderichthys is questionable at best. The author calls this “retroactive confessions of ignorance.” I’m somewhat inclined to call it revising history.

What I think is somewhat interesting, is that the study of homology2 has a great deal in common with Intelligent Design. In other words, it relies on human observational powers and inference to arrive at a conclusion. With homology, the Darwinist looks at a feature and says, “Hey this looks like that, but doesn’t look like that (or functions like this but not like that). Therefore, this evolved from that, but not from that.” Whereas, the IDist looks at features and says, “Hey, this bears the hallmarks of design. It has complex, specified, and functional information. Or, it’s irreducibly complex; therefore, it is designed. Or, that clearly appears to be designed.”

The Young Earth Creationists also weighed in on the subject last year, and I think history has shown them to be correct.3 They somewhat humorously reference the Darwin fish, as I have done in the past.4 AiG of course gives the topic an extensive examination.

This quote seems prescient to me:

However, few reporters, teachers, or laymen have ever read the original scientific reports upon which grandiose evolutionary claims are based. Moreover, these reports are often convoluted, conflicting, and couched in unprovable assumptions that make evolutionary claims difficult to evaluate even for those who do examine the original scientific papers.

I’ve quoted one of their less technical and more philosophical arguments from the article, because I think this goes more to the heart of the matter. And to me, it comes down to matters of faith. Do you put faith in the ideas of man, or in God?

1 Evolution Exposé-The Rise and Fall of Tiktaalik? Darwinists Admit “Quality” of Evolutionary Icon is “Poor” in Retroactive Confession of Ignorance
2 Homology on Wikipedia
3 Tiktaalik and the Fishy Story of Walking Fish, Part 2; Answers in Genesis. (May 23, 2007)
4 A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part XI (September 18, 2008)

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59 Responses

  1. […] Revising History? | Intelligent Design and More. […]

  2. However, few reporters, teachers, or laymen have ever read the original scientific reports upon which grandiose evolutionary claims are based. Moreover, these reports are often convoluted, conflicting, and couched in unprovable assumptions that make evolutionary claims difficult to evaluate even for those who do examine the original scientific papers.

    The lesson I’m inclined to draw from this, if it is true, is that we need better science education in this country so that non-scientists — for example, journalists and teachers — are better able to translate the assertions of scientists into non-technical language.

    In any event, it seems to me that a huge amount of “faith” is necessary in order to even determine with any clarity what the “ideas of God” even are. For example, if one pauses to consider how the Bible is written, the various languages in it and how they are translated, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that the Bible doesn’t clearly assert anything.

  3. For example, if one pauses to consider how the Bible is written, the various languages in it and how they are translated, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that the Bible doesn’t clearly assert anything.

    And how is this different than evolution, where everything is ever changing and contradicting what has been stated as evidence before?

  4. …we need better science education in this country so that non-scientists — for example, journalists and teachers — are better able to translate the assertions of scientists into non-technical language.

    Quite frankly Carl, I would think the non-technical language would actually be a stumbling block because of the sheer absurdity of it:

    “You see kids, what evolution basically is is a way scientists imagine a random blob of elements (don’t forget to study your periodic tables, now!) all by itself turned into Joey there sitting in the back row. But don’t try this experiment at home, students, because it takes billions of years!”.

    That’s like telling someone they can spit in the lake and then one day may return to find humanoid trout living there. And not just any man-fish, but a man-fish that writes books, makes music, builds bombs, but alas doesn’t know how it got there.

    In any event, it seems to me that a huge amount of “faith” is necessary in order to even determine with any clarity what the “ideas of God” even are.

    Not sure what you mean by the “ideas” of God? But if one wants to refer to scripture as “ideas”, that’s fine – but how is “faith” necessary to figure out what such “ideas” are? The bible is certainly not a secret, magical text, that only the highest enlightened initiates (or fools) are able to comprehend.

    For example, if one pauses to consider how the Bible is written, the various languages in it and how they are translated, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that the Bible doesn’t clearly assert anything.

    The texts that comprise the Christian Bible are only written in 2 languages as far as I know – Hebrew (“old testament”) and Greek (“new testament”). It certainly has been translated from those languages into many others but what is your point here?

    And it doesn’t assert anything? On the contrary, everything in the bible is an assertion, Carl. All scripture is declared by its authors to be a true God-inspired revelation. If the bible didn’t assert anything, then why are we here debating such things as evolution?

  5. Carl wrote:

    n any event, it seems to me that a huge amount of “faith” is necessary in order to even determine with any clarity what the “ideas of God” even are. For example, if one pauses to consider how the Bible is written, the various languages in it and how they are translated, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that the Bible doesn’t clearly assert anything.

    I don’t think I said anything about God’s ideas, but I see how you might have inferred that. If you don’t believe in God, then the Bible will be foolishness. But if you are interested, there are a lot of interesting books out there on the history of the Bible and the translation process that I think you would find interesting.

    Good points Mike!

  6. Whether one reads the Bible as asserting anything is itself an interpretative choice. I find so much of scripture to be poetry, allegory, story, and parable that I find it difficult to read large parts of it as “asserting” anything. (This is a different point that the various interpretative traditions — e.g. Jewish, Catholic, Protestant — which take it to be assertive.)

    My other point was that all translation is a loss of meaning. While I can be reasonably confident that I understand Plato better than someone who has never read Plato, I don’t deny that someone who has read Plato in Greek understands Plato better than I do. The same point applies to the scriptural texts. So to read scripture as definitively containing “ideas” — much less those “of God” — is to already make choices about interpretation, about translation, about which traditions of interpretation which one recognizes as authoritative, and about which communities one identifies with.

    For example, as a Jew, the Christian interpretations of the “Old Testament” are not authoritative for me. Even the phrase “Old Testament” is a Christian phrase; for Jews the authority of that revelation has not been superseded by any other revelation. But as a Reform Jew, I don’t regard the authority of rabbinic commentary and interpretation as the only source of ethical prescription, let alone empirical knowledge.

    But that’s not really relevant to the present conversation. What is relevant, though, is that I’d like to question the Country Shrink’s assumption that we must choose between two different forms of authority: those of communities of empirical knowledge (i.e. science) and those of communities of faith. At any rate, I’d like to hear a lot more about why we must choose between them!

  7. I don’t find the Bible foolish — far from it! On the contrary, I find that it contains many ethical insights which have stood the test of time. Where I differ from a person of faith is that I don’t read the Bible differently from how I read, for example, the Illiad — which also contains many ethical insights which have stood the test of time.

  8. I’m not sure at all what Carl is implying there… that somehow an assertion can be ‘mis-translated’ away? Makes no sense to me. I don’t think you’ll find one Bible translation that doesn’t assert that God created all that is seen and unseen.

  9. Carl wrote:

    My other point was that all translation is a loss of meaning. While I can be reasonably confident that I understand Plato better than someone who has never read Plato, I don’t deny that someone who has read Plato in Greek understands Plato better than I do. The same point applies to the scriptural texts. So to read scripture as definitively containing “ideas” — much less those “of God” — is to already make choices about interpretation, about translation, about which traditions of interpretation which one recognizes as authoritative, and about which communities one identifies with.

    That’s why Greek and Hebrew scholars have somewhat of an advantage in Biblical interpretation. These scholars have written many resources to convey their knowledge to others who are less linguistically talented. I know you and I disagree, but I have no use for “morals” or “ethics” apart from the existence of God. If the Bible isn’t metaphysically true, then it’s a lie to me. It has no usefulness. I don’t think I could convince you of this (the metaphysical truth of the Bible) as you eschew any metaphysical truths other than atheism.

    But that’s not really relevant to the present conversation. What is relevant, though, is that I’d like to question the Country Shrink’s assumption that we must choose between two different forms of authority: those of communities of empirical knowledge (i.e. science) and those of communities of faith. At any rate, I’d like to hear a lot more about why we must choose between them!

    I think perhaps you are confusing the study of evolution with all of empirical science. I think we always need a healthy dose of skepticism about “empirical science.” Other than some of the basic aspects of the hard sciences (and biology is not one of them in my opinion), “empirical” science is rife with bias, misinterpretation, and all of the personal flaws that human beings posses. So, I stand by the dichotomy that I purported with respect to the ideas of evolutionary scientists and God. I do think there are times when you have to choose. And I think you have done so as well.

  10. Ah, so Carl is really speaking of “interpretation of assertions” being subjective, not assertions per se. Of course interpretations are subjective. But I would disagree that translations have any major affect on the possibilities of subjective interpretation (maybe a very minor influence, as reading interpretation into translation is not uncommon. But this mostly applies to specific phrases or words, not so much meaning in the broad sense).

  11. What I am doing, Mike, is challenging the assertion that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is best understood as an assertion.

    I don’t think I could convince you of this (the metaphysical truth of the Bible) as you eschew any metaphysical truths other than atheism.

    If atheism is a metaphysical assertion, then I’m not an atheist.

    I think we always need a healthy dose of skepticism about “empirical science.” Other than some of the basic aspects of the hard sciences (and biology is not one of them in my opinion), “empirical” science is rife with bias, misinterpretation, and all of the personal flaws that human beings possess

    So we have to chose between . . . what and what? Between healthy skepticism towards received opinions in light of human fallibility and _________? I’m trying, but I’m not seeing the point here.

  12. I understand you Carl, but I’m just not seeing your point at all.

    To use your example:
    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.

    How else can we look at this other than as an assertion, or as a claim to truth? One is certainly free to interpret this in many ways (historically, literally, metaphorically, poetically), as well as completely reject it as truth.

    But if this statement is not a claim to truth, then what is it? Is it a mind game of some sort, a la Rod Serling’s “Submitted for you approval…” ? Do you really think the author of the scripture had that in mind? Or do you really think any translator of the original Hebrew sees it as anything other than a claim to truth? To be accepted or rejected as such?

    (“Oh, that clever Moses! He sure messed with our heads, didn’t he? Now what to you think he was getting at here…”)

  13. Carl wrote:

    If atheism is a metaphysical assertion, then I’m not an atheist.

    How can atheism not be a metaphysical assertion?

  14. Shrink wrote,

    I think we always need a healthy dose of skepticism about “empirical science.” Other than some of the basic aspects of the hard sciences (and biology is not one of them in my opinion), “empirical” science is rife with bias, misinterpretation, and all of the personal flaws that human beings posses.

    Thus, my response to Carl’s statement “…it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that the Bible doesn’t clearly assert anything.” Again, how is this different from material science’s ever-changing and self-contradicted assertions?

    Shrink wrote,

    I know you (Carl) and I disagree, but I have no use for “morals” or “ethics” apart from the existence of God. If the Bible isn’t metaphysically true, then it’s a lie to me. It has no usefulness.

    This is true for me also! If there is no God, then look out, because as far as I’m concerned, “I’m going to get what I want and right now!” This statement, by the Shrink, in my estimation, reveals the reason why Mike, the Shrink and myself cannot agree with Carl’s way of looking at this issue, nor Carl with ours. Here’s where a “multi-verse” may truly exist. Carl, of course, is looking at the bible in a humanistic and relativistic way, as he looks at all other information. Whereas, we are looking at the bible as “absolute truth” and life. Relativism solves nothing in my opinion, because there is never a firm foundation for resolution of any issue or disagreement. But to Carl, absolutes stop the process of man’s capability to reason and work out his own destiny. Carl, sees absolute truths as fictional and destructive, whereas we see relativistic thinking and man’s supposed reasoning skills as destructive and lacking in vision, beyond that which he can experience with his senses (“material”). We can discuss this forever, but in my opinion, unless we are viewing this issue with the same set of prescription lenses, we will never be able to come to an agreement.

  15. Mike, I think that the very idea of “a claim to truth,” in the sense that you mean it, is a conceptual innovation I associate with Thucydides and with Plato, i.e. with literate Greeks in the 4th century BC. So no, I don’t interpret the Hebrew Bible as containing “claims to truth” any more than I interpret the Epic of Gilgamesh or the Illiad as containing “claims to truth.” Now: I freely admit that there is a long and honorable tradition of interpreting the Old Testament as making “claims to truth.” My only point is that this is an interpretative choice — it is not forced on us by the nature of the text itself.

    (I emphasize the Hebrew Bible, i.e. the Old Testament, in this regard; the New Testament is written by people who had a high degree of philosophical education, so I would be willing to say that Paul, for example, is making “claims to truth” in ways that the writers of the Old Testament aren’t.)

    How can atheism not be a metaphysical assertion?

    If the very idea of metaphysical assertion is the attempt to see things from a third-person, absolute point of view, and atheism is understood as the denial of that very perspective, then atheism is not a metaphysical position but the rejection of metaphysics as such, or more precisely, the rejection of that kind of metaphysics.

  16. DB wrote:

    Here’s where a “multi-verse” may truly exist. Carl, of course, is looking at the bible in a humanistic and relativistic way, as he looks at all other information. Whereas, we are looking at the bible as “absolute truth” and life. Relativism solves nothing in my opinion, because there is never a firm foundation for resolution of any issue or disagreement. But to Carl, absolutes stop the process of man’s capability to reason and work out his own destiny. Carl, sees absolute truths as fictional and destructive, whereas we see relativistic thinking and man’s supposed reasoning skills as destructive and lacking in vision, beyond that which he can experience with his senses (”material”).

    You point out something that has been on my mind for a couple of days. How can you ever have anything other than endless discussion when nobody believes that there is such a thing as a true position or true statement?

    Carl wrote:

    Mike, I think that the very idea of “a claim to truth,” in the sense that you mean it, is a conceptual innovation I associate with Thucydides and with Plato, i.e. with literate Greeks in the 4th century BC. So no, I don’t interpret the Hebrew Bible as containing “claims to truth” any more than I interpret the Epic of Gilgamesh or the Illiad as containing “claims to truth.” Now: I freely admit that there is a long and honorable tradition of interpreting the Old Testament as making “claims to truth.” My only point is that this is an interpretative choice — it is not forced on us by the nature of the text itself.

    I think this is filtered through the lens of your worldview Carl. I think that may be when philosophers took up the notion for intellectual discourse, but the truth is talked about in the Bible from the very beginning. The serpent lied. Adam and Eve lied. Cain lied. What is a lie if there is no truth?

    Carl wrote:

    If the very idea of metaphysical assertion is the attempt to see things from a third-person, absolute point of view, and atheism is understood as the denial of that very perspective, then atheism is not a metaphysical position but the rejection of metaphysics as such, or more precisely, the rejection of that kind of metaphysics.

    I really don’t think I’m following you here. I see atheism as the rejection of the truth of the existence of God (or to phrase it another way, accepting the truth of the non-existence of God). When you say, ‘rejection of metaphysics,’ do you mean, “Metaphysics is not true,” or “I don’t like metaphysics.” ?

  17. Carl said,

    …then atheism is not a metaphysical position but the rejection of metaphysics as such, or more precisely, the rejection of that kind of metaphysics.

    I have hardly ever heard atheists spending a great deal of time discussing neutral-type metaphysical positions, not that I’m privy to every discussion. On the other hand, I have heard atheists continually denying the existence of God and mocking those who believe and have faith. Denying the existence of God and His truth is as much a belief and faith system (since atheists can’t empirically back up their unbelief) as believing in God and His truth. And belief and faith are really what we’re discussing at the moment. I’m sure that atheists want to rise above “metaphysical” arguments or positions, but the fact that they deny the existence of God, a belief and faith system, is, in itself, proof that they have a belief system and faith in it.

  18. The key difference between my view and the views advanced by DB and the Country Shrink is this: I don’t identify objectivity with absoluteness, so I don’t see the absence of absolutes (absolute truth, absolute values) as diminishing or undermining the objectivity of truth or of values.

    In science, as is well recognized, the objectivity of scientific knowledge is not undermined by the fallibilism. Sure, every scientific theory could be refuted by some further discovery or experiment — and be replaced by a better theory. And sure, evaluation of theories is always contextual, etc. No news there, at least not to someone trained in contemporary philosophy of science. (And most scientists are not.) But still we find it easy to say that scientific theories are true, and we should say that. I am a pragmatist, in the sense of James and Dewey, insofar as I think that the attitude of “objective fallibilism” that we find in science is also the right attitude to have towards ethical and political values.

    As for the other main point, I think there’s got to be an important distinction between truth and truthfulness. By this I mean a distinction between objective truth — how the world really is, so far as we can tell — and concealing and revealing truths about ourselves and our actions to other people. Adam and Eve failed to be truthful to God out of shame, and that’s very different from asserting or denying assertions about the nature of reality. Or does not seem to be a distinction worth making?

    My attitude towards metaphysics is neither cognitivist (“false”) nor emotivist (“I don’t like it”), though I do appreciate the trap you laid for me. Rather, my attitude towards metaphysics is that it is bad because it is an attempt to close off the conversation, to bring us to a point at which no further questions or challenges can be raised.

    Perhaps I’m not an atheist after all. It doesn’t matter to me what label I assign to my views. If you think that someone who thinks what I think isn’t an atheist, then I’m happy to stop calling myself one.

    On a side note: it has always seemed to me the serpent didn’t lie — it claimed that if Eve ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she would become like God, knowing good from evil. This was, in fact, true. The serpent made no other promises, right?

  19. Carl wrote:

    I don’t identify objectivity with absoluteness, so I don’t see the absence of absolutes (absolute truth, absolute values) as diminishing or undermining the objectivity of truth or of values.

    Is there anything at all that is absolutely wrong? Such as molesting children, spree killing, murdering for fun, genocide? If so, by what standard do you determine it to be absolutely wrong?

    Do you exist absolutely or just objectively? Do you think? Do you feel? Would you absolutely die if you stepped out in front of a semi?

    Are these objective or absolute truths? Does it matter?

    In science, as is well recognized, the objectivity of scientific knowledge is not undermined by the fallibilism. Sure, every scientific theory could be refuted by some further discovery or experiment — and be replaced by a better theory. And sure, evaluation of theories is always contextual, etc.

    I wouldn’t state that as an absolute truth. 🙂 Because I’ve read many experiments where the fallibilism undermined the objectivity of scientific knowledge.

    My attitude towards metaphysics is neither cognitivist (”false”) nor emotivist (”I don’t like it”), though I do appreciate the trap you laid for me. Rather, my attitude towards metaphysics is that it is bad because it is an attempt to close off the conversation, to bring us to a point at which no further questions or challenges can be raised.

    Glad you appreciated it! However, I think it actually furthers the discussion when you say you believe something is the truth. In fact, epistemically, I have trouble understanding how one can have any kind of real debate with one who does not believe in any truths. Any assertions made by one so inclined would never be any more than an assertion. There can be no ultimate argument against something that is not considered “true.” And therefore, those who hold such opinions, will never commit to any perspective explicitly. Although implicitly, they are ultimately committed, though never admitting it.

    To me, it comes across as, “I will not commit to any position. Therefore, I can never be wrong.” “I will not answer a Yes or No question as ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ only ‘Maybe’ or ‘Perhaps.'” Although implicitly, you are yelling, “No.”

    Perhaps I’m not an atheist after all. It doesn’t matter to me what label I assign to my views. If you think that someone who thinks what I think isn’t an atheist, then I’m happy to stop calling myself one.

    I think that is awfully convenient in some ways. You say that there is no absolute truth. Therefore, I’m not interested in absolute truth. So, anything that requires an absolute commitment, I won’t make. Therefore, I’m an atheist. Or perhaps not, if you don’t think I am.

    You don’t believe that that God exists; therefore, you are an atheist.

    On a side note: it has always seemed to me the serpent didn’t lie — it claimed that if Eve ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she would become like God, knowing good from evil. This was, in fact, true. The serpent made no other promises, right?

    Wrong. The serpent said,

    3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'”

    4(C)The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!

    Did they surely die? They surely did.

  20. Carl wrote:

    …it has always seemed to me the serpent didn’t lie…

    Of course the serpent lied:
    “You shall not surely die” !

    Also consider:

    Genesis:
    And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.

    Romans:
    Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

    That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Revelation:
    To him that overcometh will I (Jesus) give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

  21. …molesting children, spree killing, murdering for fun, genocide?

    Makes me wonder if any evolutionists have ever tried to explain why only man has “evolved” the ability to do these things? Boy, we’re sure lucky that the lions, tigers and bears didn’t “evolve” those traits because we’d all be in trouble!

  22. On a side note: it has always seemed to me the serpent didn’t lie — it claimed that if Eve ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she would become like God, knowing good from evil. This was, in fact, true. The serpent made no other promises, right?

    The funny thing about this scripture in Genesis is that it is the sole reason we are having this conversation, in reality (Biblically speaking, of course). Eve, didn’t think, at that moment, that the serpent was lying either! Here we are, all of these thousands of years later, still debating what is good and evil and if man is like God.

  23. …my attitude towards metaphysics is that it is bad because it is an attempt to close off the conversation, to bring us to a point at which no further questions or challenges can be raised.

    Metaphysical thinking opens the possibility for conversation and Socratic dialogue, it’s “pure” physics which denies mental patterns and information as a fundamental form of transphysical reality which we experience which closes down the possibility of conversation. If that’s your reasoning then you should support metaphysics. Also you seem to be borrowing your philosophy from an ideal of scientificality which actually doesn’t exist, physics rested on Christian assumptions historically while notions of Progress/Providence and falsifiability associated with science are similar.

    If you hold the quest for knowledge through questions as an ideal then it’s important to note that conversation itself naturally deals with the metaphysical nature of information:

    …it should be obvious to you that the neuronal activity that accompanies your act of seeing the meaning of “Give me liberty or give me death” is not the same as understanding what the thought implies.
    Let me show you what I’m saying just by pointing out what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to convince me that no independent meaning-processing takes place in our minds. This is what you mean to communicate to me, this the point you want me to see. But is your point, the meaning you wish to communicate, purely a matter of neuronal transactions and brain states? Are you trying to alter certain of my brain events or to get me to see something to be the case? If it’s the latter, then meaning is something different from physiological states of affairs. You could say it’s dependent on a physiological substrate, but you would still have to admit that it’s not the same thing as the physiological transaction itself.
    […]
    You can’t be convinced of something by the action of certain physical causes in your central nervous system. You’re convinced by reasons. You disagree with me because you haven’t seen enough reason to agree. Meaning is all about reasons and not causes. If I say a poem is beautiful, neither my message nor its truth is reducible to neuronal excitement in given regions of the cerebral cortex. It’s all about concepts, reasons and meanings, not causes and effects. I cannot see how you can dispute any of this without blatant self-contradiction.(The Wonder of the World by Roy Abraham Varghese :165,166)

    On a side note: it has always seemed to me the serpent didn’t lie — it claimed that if Eve ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she would become like God, knowing good from evil.

    It’s always seemed to me that they already had a knowledge of good and evil by the Word of God. After all, God told them about it already but they chose to know evil by experience. It’s also interesting that the metaphoric Snake seems to be essentially saying: “Knowledge of me is good and godly so you’ll be like god because I can’t be separated from God!” But symbolically speaking wouldn’t the Word always get the first and last word on such things, logically speaking?

  24. Carl wrote:
    (the New Testament is written by people who had a high degree of philosophical education, so I would be willing to say that Paul, for example, is making “claims to truth” in ways that the writers of the Old Testament aren’t.)

    Sorry, I just can’t let that one go without a comment, lest some young-in-faith Christian come across it and get confused!

    To think that Paul (and the other NT writers, but I’m mainly concerned with Paul here), was spinning some sort of a treatise on philosophical theology in his letters is simply wrong.

    Consider 1st Corinthians:


    And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
    That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

    and…


    For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
    For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

    Basically, if Paul was just another Plato or Socrates; Koholeth, Solomon or David, why should we really care about his message of ‘Christ crucified’ (and of course if Christ was not resurrected, why should we likewise care)?

    Now, it’s perfectly clear to me how a non-believer can read Paul this way. But that’s how one takes the sword out of the scriptures. It must be remembered that the New Testament first and foremost is an historical assertion of Christ crucified and resurrected. Any philosophical conclusions that deny the historicity of that are just fluff.

  25. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

    Yes, this verse points out so succinctly why there is disagreement here. Paul, states here that those who comprehend will embrace this truth and life, while those who don’t comprehend will reject or alter it. “How can two walk the same path unless they be in agreement?”

  26. “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

    Maybe that’s why Paul seemed to use an awful lot of wisdom, disputation, knowledge of the scribes and so on in his argument that God killed his Logos in this world because of Love. After all, there seems to be something a bit irrational about that from the perspective of this world. Many Christians tend to overlook this because they’re so focused on mercy, grace and love that they forget that the only way we have a knowledge of such apparent foolishness is by knowing something of transcendent types of Law first. They can’t really have a knowledge of mercy if they don’t know forms of Law and Logos first.

  27. I certainly don’t want to endanger those who are “young in faith,” but I would like to think that any faith worth having will be strengthened through philosophy, not weakened by it. (Even though faith does go beyond philosophy — including the “faith” of an atheist!)

    Would you be willing to accept that the historical assertion of Christ crucified and resurrected is itself a philosophical stance? So that someone who denies that historicity is playing one philosophical position off of another?

  28. Makes me wonder if any evolutionists have ever tried to explain why only man has “evolved” the ability to do these things? Boy, we’re sure lucky that the lions, tigers and bears didn’t “evolve” those traits because we’d all be in trouble!

    “Spree killings” have been observed among chimpanzees, both towards chimps from other groups and towards other animals. But we don’t know if this is “normal” behavior among chimps or if emerges only when chimpanzee groups are under stress from human encroachment.

  29. (quoted by mynym):

    You can’t be convinced of something by the action of certain physical causes in your central nervous system. You’re convinced by reasons. You disagree with me because you haven’t seen enough reason to agree. Meaning is all about reasons and not causes. If I say a poem is beautiful, neither my message nor its truth is reducible to neuronal excitement in given regions of the cerebral cortex. It’s all about concepts, reasons and meanings, not causes and effects.

    Basically, I suspect those neural transactions in the cerebral cortext are simply the 3-D manifestation of our mind/consciousness that exists outside of the physical, material reality that our bodies exist in. I think even sensory information like sight and sound can be thought of this way (consider near-death or clinical-death testimony of people seeing themselves, hearing conversation in the next room etc…). ESP as well, as that is a function of the mind transcending time and space (and the brain was able to process it, where for most people the brain is too much of an impediment to this sort of thing).

    (I know I’ve written more about this in another post -http://www.intelldesign.com/?p=198#comments)

  30. “Spree killings” have been observed among chimpanzees, both towards chimps from other groups and towards other animals. But we don’t know if this is “normal” behavior among chimps or if emerges only when chimpanzee groups are under stress from human encroachment.

    Carl, that sounds more like a survival instinct in any case. What band of chimps goes on a killing spree for ideological reasons or just for the sake of killing?

  31. Carl, that sounds more like a survival instinct in any case. What band of chimps goes on a killing spree for ideological reasons or just for the sake of killing?

    Let me give the answer, which Carl gave above, “But we don’t know if this is “normal” behavior among chimps or if emerges only when chimpanzee groups are under stress from human encroachment.”

    So, Carl, if you “don’t know,” then why use it as an example? You seem to want facts from others when they bring up what they believe to be contrary evidence, in your reality, so why would you bring up contrary evidence here that may or may not relate or even be true? Shouldn’t you adhere to your own set of rules?

  32. Several things have come up here that deserve to be addressed:

    1) Reasons and causes. It seems clear, to me at any rate, that reasons must be causally efficacious if they are not to be superfluous. For me to appeal to some reason for my action is to say that the reason caused me to act. (Notice: if reasons aren’t themselves causes, then what do they do? Surely it won’t do to say that reasons “cause” causes!) So the real question isn’t whether there’s a metaphysical divide between reasons and causes, but whether there’s a metaphysical divide between reasons, which are causes, and “mere” (non-rational) causes. I’d like to secure some agreement on this framing of the issue before I present my criticisms of it.

    2) I knew exactly what I was doing when I mentioned my caveat about chimpanzees — because I think the exact same caveat applies to human beings also. That is, we don’t know whether “molesting children, spree killing, murdering for fun, genocide” are intrinsic to human nature or whether they are behaviors that emerge under stressful conditions, or not. The point that applies to chimps applies to us, too — as much about we don’t know as about what we do know.

    Granted, there are people who claim that these behaviors are indicative of human nature — based on a specific theory of human nature. In its theological version, the claim seems to be that human nature in its current form is “fallen” or “sinful,” and that without the acceptance of divine grace, human nature is unable to achieve “salvation.” (I put these terms in quotes not to be mocking or ironic, but to indicate that these concepts are so far removed from my world-view that I am not entirely sure what they even mean.) But I am not interested in endorsing that theory of human nature, whether in its theological or secularized versions, and so the version of “Darwinism” that I defend needn’t respond to it.

  33. Carl,

    I find myself in the position where I must, once again, apologize for my comment above. It was aggressive and out of anger, and although I don’t completely understand your response, I think I understand enough to say I may even agree. Again, sorry!

  34. Carl wrote:

    That is, we don’t know whether “molesting children, spree killing, murdering for fun, genocide” are intrinsic to human nature or whether they are behaviors that emerge under stressful conditions, or not.

    DB may be a bit more kind than I am Carl. I’ve noticed that you seem to not answer direct questions, while claiming that your non-metaphysical position promotes conversation. I think that perhaps it does to a point, but then utterly stops.

    So, I’ll repeat the question. Is there anything at all that you think is absolutely wrong including: “molesting children, spree killing, murdering for fun, genocide?”

    I saw one girl whose father was killed by a spree killer. He (the killer) and a buddy went across multiple states shooting people. Interestingly, I also saw the mother of the spree killer who subsequently was killed by the police. So, perhaps you are more enlightened and think there is no such thing as absolute truth or morality. But, I think those on the receiving end of such evil might beg to disagree. Do you think there is anything at all that is absolutely wrong?

  35. Well, the atheist view might be that those things are wrong only within the context of a society, or culture; deeming them wrong by such a wide majority that they effectively become absolutes. Then they most likely become enforcable law, to put a ‘deterrent’ in place.

    Of course this doesn’t answer the question of why the vast majority thinks these things are wrong. Is that a question evolutionists or geneticists can answer? Have any tried? Will Carl try?

  36. Mike, but that doesn’t explain why some think these things are just fine. It’s not a true absolute if one person thinks it’s okay. And I’m just curious if Carl thinks these things are wrong (absolutely), even though some think these things are fine. I know, I’ve met folks that think these things are fine. I’ve worked to treat them. But, I have no right to try and get them to change if these things are not absolutely wrong. I could care less what society in general thinks, or what the plurality agrees on. If there is no absolute basis, then nobody has any right to judge what these people do. As Christians, we have to be careful here as well. But there is a difference between knowing what we do is wrong and saying there is nothing wrong with what we do or have in our hearts. The evolutionists and atheists may try. They may appeal to certain “objective” systems developed by philosophers, but call me obtuse, because I think those systems are largely irrelevant and inconsequential (there is little weight behind them).

  37. Yes, the moral majority argument is a total cop-out.

    I just think the atheists are depending on science to shield them from answering that question. They want science to tell them man is basically “good”. It’s a natural part of his genetic makeup. He evolved that way. Except through environmental factors, mental disease, or even mutation/heredity, some people do “evil” by choice. Their “moral compass” is off.

    But in the atheist mind, good and evil are relative, so they can decide for themselves what is good and evil (sound familiar?). Moral majority is all they have.

  38. I could care less what society in general thinks, or what the plurality agrees on. If there is no absolute basis, then nobody has any right to judge what these people do. As Christians, we have to be careful here as well.

    Yes, if society, in particular, the one we live in, is the only judge of what is moral, then why would anyone, in their right mind, give any heed to morality or even the “preciousness” or sacredness of life. This is where relativists fall flat on their face, in my opinion. I believe, also, that this is why our society, as was the case with Nazi Germany, is so lacking in decency and concern for others. We do have to be careful, as believers, because, quite often, the most unforgiving and judgmental in our society are Christians. They forget the scriptural statements, “There were none found righteous” and “All have fallen short of the glory of God” and “If you will not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.” You know, Shrink, as a psychologist that many who have molested were molested as children also, and many who have murdered were tortured as children or adults. We don’t exist to judge others, their actions, perhaps, but not others!

    But in the atheist mind, good and evil are relative, so they can decide for themselves what is good and evil (sound familiar?). Moral majority is all they have.

    And an atheist will claim that believers and the bible are ambiguous, go figure!

  39. I find myself approaching with extreme caution the question, “Is there anything at all that you think is absolutely wrong including: molesting children, spree killing, murdering for fun, genocide?”

    I worry that this question is presented as a covert litmus-test for whether one deserves to be taken seriously as a moral agent and fellow reasoner — with the further implication that relativists cannot, or ought not be, taken seriously. (And perhaps that’s right.)

    While the Country Shrink would like a direct “yes” or “no,” I cannot satisfy this desire, because of how I do (and don’t) understand the question.

    In saying of something that it is absolutely wrong — such as molesting children, spree killings, etc. — what is that we are saying? What does that mean — “absolutely wrong”? To say this is, it seems to me, to express a sense that something unjustifiable has happened. That is, that someone has done something so hideous that it is incompatible with our understanding of what it is to be a fully-functioning member of our moral community.

    We might still seek explanations of a psychological or neurological sort — e.g. childhood abuse, trauma, or deprivation; insufficient connectivity in the ventro-medial prefrontal cortex; etc. — for what made this behavior possible. But while explanations might be available, justifications are not. We appeal to such explanations in order to understand how someone could fail to attain a status as a fully-fledged member of our moral community. Which is to say, how someone could do something for which we cannot find a reason, even if there is a cause.

    Moreover, the act in question is something that we cannot see as being ever justifiable. We would say that there are no conditions under which there could be a reason for the act. But what this means, I would say, is that any community which did allow for justifications of such acts is not a community which we could recognize as a future projection of our moral community. It would a community of what we could only think of as monsters, as not really human at all in any sense that we can recognize. (Think of a community of Nazis; think of 1984.)

    The point of this is that in saying that something is absolutely wrong, we are saying that it is unjustifiable by our lights — that no one could do such a thing and still count as a member of the moral community. But issues of justification, and identity in moral community, are vulnerable to historical contingencies — and it is this vulnerability that the appeal to ‘absolutes’ seeks to avoid.

    I consider it likely that some of you, and perhaps all of you, will be disappointed in my ‘evasion’ of the question. But this is a serious matter, and serious matters deserve careful thought and not a simple “yes” or “no,” like a lawyer might demand of witness in a trial.

    (A friend of mine to whom I showed this post remarked that I’m as evasive as a politician. That’s obviously an insult, and perhaps one that I deserve. But whereas politicians are evasive due to a fear of offending anyone and a desire to maximize their appeal, I’m evasive because I want to turn away from the question “are there moral absolutes?” to the question, “what the demand for absolutes do, and how does that demand function within our conversations?”)

  40. Carl, I think your friend has a little bit of a point. That was as masterful as any politician. Have you considered running for office? (don’t bother answering with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’).

    I worry that this question is presented as a covert litmus-test for whether one deserves to be taken seriously as a moral agent and fellow reasoner — with the further implication that relativists cannot, or ought not be, taken seriously. (And perhaps that’s right.)

    Not really. It’s more of a ‘Where do you stand?’ type of question. I think everyone here takes you seriously as a reasoner. I take nobody seriously as a moral agent, including myself. That’s based on a position of theology and on what I have observed as a psychologist and a human being.

    The point of this is that in saying that something is absolutely wrong, we are saying that it is unjustifiable by our lights — that no one could do such a thing and still count as a member of the moral community. But issues of justification, and identity in moral community, are vulnerable to historical contingencies — and it is this vulnerability that the appeal to ‘absolutes’ seeks to avoid.

    I read “justification” as rationalization. I’m not saying something is justified or unjustified and don’t find that to be a part of moral absolutes. You meander into abstraction a bit here. Can you provide an example?

    I consider it likely that some of you, and perhaps all of you, will be disappointed in my ‘evasion’ of the question. But this is a serious matter, and serious matters deserve careful thought and not a simple “yes” or “no,” like a lawyer might demand of witness in a trial.

    How can one be disappointed when the response is expected?

    I think perhaps you are making this too abstract. I’m talking about you as a person, not you as a “reasoner.” Perhaps that’s a false division, but I think you know what I mean. What do you really believe? What does your ‘gut’ so to speak tell you? Not, what is your reasoning for this? I don’t think I really want to trap you into anything here (you don’t much fall for traps). I do hope you will consider this in a slightly different way (on a personal level).

    On the other hand, I do appreciate your appeal to the nuanced nature of life and situations.

  41. Ah, I see. You want something in a confessional mode rather than an argumentative one, right?

    On a personal level, I share with the rest of us here the conviction that some actions — such as child molestation, spree killings, rape, murder, genocide, torture — are absolutely wrong. That’s at the level of “gut reaction,” where my gut reactions cohere with the others here.

    On the other hand, I have “gut reactions” which might clash with others here. I don’t have a “gut reaction” that abortion is morally equivalent to murder — which is not to say that I consider it morally permissible under all conditions! — whereas I do have a “gut reaction” that there is something fundamentally immoral about our treatment of animals and ecosystems, and to be entirely honest, I also think that there is something fundamentally immoral about contemporary capitalism.

    So, I’ve now ‘outed’ myself as an environmentalist and a socialist as well as an evolutionist. Satisfied now? 😉

    On the other hand, I do appreciate your appeal to the nuanced nature of life and situations.

    Thank you!

  42. Yes, I’m satisfied. 😉 Thank you. I don’t have a problem with you viewing capitalism as immoral. Theologically, I view it as a compromise because of fallen human nature. Socialism, or even communism, might be more theologically consistent (except for the fact that they ignore basic aspects of human nature; communism more than socialism). I don’t have a problem with your notions on the treatment of animals and the ecosystem.

    Where I disagree with communism and socialism is that different people have different skill levels. I think people should be compensated commensurate with their level of skill. In other words, I don’t think the best surgeon in the country, should be compensated at the same level as the worse surgeon in the country (just because they have worked the same number of years; see the Veterans Administration in this country as an example). I think the same goes for teachers. Not all teachers are equal in their ability. I’ve never sat in one of your classes, but I think it would probably be pretty good. I think you would deserve more compensation than a less superlative teacher. This is not really a theological issue, but my own opinion about human nature. I think folks should be compensated commensurate with their abilities.

    I think atheistic communism has demonstrated its ignorance of human nature time and again. I’m not saying our government is the best possible way to govern, because it sucks in many ways, but so far, it seems to have a better grasp on human nature (we don’t expect utopia, and at least have some checks and balances against human nature). On the other hand, the Japanese model of capitalism seems more humane and sensible to me (although they don’t share the Christian culture in large part).

    While I disagree with you on abortion, I appreciate the difficulty and complexity of the issue. I’ve not met a woman who had an abortion who did not experience psychological difficulties as a result–despite the protestations of the American Psychological Association. But apart from that, I disagree with abortion on theological grounds, and personal grounds. That said, I do not judge women who choose to have an abortion (even though I consider it to be absolutely wrong; deep in my heart I am capable of this and worse). There are a number of other things that I consider on a theological and personal basis to be absolutely wrong. Again, I do my best not to judge, but at the same time recognizing the damage and theological inconsistency of the actions of people. Most of the time, I encounter excessive guilt for past actions from people (when they are thinking about God). And, from time to time, I encounter poorly formed consciences, with too little consideration of God and other people. I realize that perhaps you might consider this from a different perspective.

    The average folk out there in the world differ from you and me (only in some ways). You and I, and the others here, discuss things on a detached intellectual level. But other folks live, and experience things, in a different way than the intellectual. The way we consider philosophy, psychology, politics, and so forth, do not occur to them. For the most part, they have not built up all of the intellectual defenses that you and I have. The better the intellect, the better the psychological defenses (I apply this to myself as well, I’m not just talking about you).

    Theologically, I consider myself no better than Hitler, a modern eugenicist, an abortion doctor, a child molester, a rapist, or a murderer. I don’t think any of these things are beyond any human being. At the same time, I recognize that these things are absolutely wrong.

    I do appreciate your candid answer to my questions, and I hope you see that I have been candid as well. Thank you.

  43. I share your sense that it’s important to recognize that one has the capacity to be a monster, under specific conditions, or that one might lack the necessary moral courage to stand up to the monsters among us. On the other hand, that by itself does not level the distinctions between those of who are act on our darker impulses and those of us who do not. I can accept that and yet also recognize that this distinction depends on luck. I’m lucky that I can live a life in which I don’t have to fight for survival every day, that I can choose between acting towards others with deliberate compassion and respect vs. not, and that there’s a high degree of social stability and security which makes this possible. If society were to deteriorate severely, then yes, I can certainly see how that could bring out a viciousness in me that I can afford to keep under wraps.

  44. And so is lying, stealing, adultery etc… there is no ‘extent’ involved, really. There is no place where an imaginary line can be drawn. All are absolutely wrong.

    To me, the Jewish bible is the most accurate description of human nature, which is one reason why I believe it to be true.

    Man, now a sinner and subject to death, unable to exist in paradise, goes out into the now-harsh world and builds cities and nations. He makes himself god, deciding good and evil for himself. Founds his own governments, aspires to Worldly Power, etc… God is always present in a remnant people only, those who bear the promise of redemption and reconciliation.

    But what do we get when the promise is fulfilled? Not a return to the Garden, but a city! The Heavenly Jerusalem. God has accepted man’s free choice to build his own creation, but God purifies it and makes it perfect (something man could never do by himself), and dwells there Himself in fellowship with man.

  45. I agree Mike. Well said.

    Carl wrote:

    I can accept that and yet also recognize that this distinction depends on luck. I’m lucky that I can live a life in which I don’t have to fight for survival every day, that I can choose between acting towards others with deliberate compassion and respect vs. not, and that there’s a high degree of social stability and security which makes this possible. If society were to deteriorate severely, then yes, I can certainly see how that could bring out a viciousness in me that I can afford to keep under wraps.

    I wish this were true Carl. That folks only do evil under survival conditions. But that’s not what I see. Folks do evil all the time, under all different conditions. And as I’ve said, I consider you, and myself, no different from Adolf Hitler. There’s nothing you can do or say to change this. As Jesus said, the thought is as bad as the deed. I’m certain you’ve had all manner of thought other than the intellectual. Respond as you will, I know the facts (metaphysical) of human nature. I know the thoughts I’ve had as a human being, and I know the thoughts you’ve had (thought not in specific detail). Go ahead and deny it, but I won’t be convinced. Sorry, but I won’t budge on this one. But, honestly, I doubt you will deny it.

  46. I don’t deny that I’ve had all manner of wicked thoughts. What I deny is that “the thought is as bad as the deed.”

  47. You can make an argument from a humanistic perspective that “the thought is not as bad as the deed.” From a theological perspective this doesn’t fly. Interestingly, Freud also seemed to agree with this to some extent with respect to asserting that a person is morally responsible for what happens in their dreams. I think many Christians miss this point, and that is why there are the “holier-than-thou folks.” By not taking responsibility for our thoughts, we put ourselves into an “us vs them” type of mentality. We see the acts of others as “monsters,” but don’t recognize the monster within ourselves.

    As an example, folks who are “obsessive-compulsive,” often have what are described as “ego-dystonic” symptoms…thoughts that just pop in their heads, that they would never actually act on. An obsessive-compulsive person might have a thought about killing their own child or that they have killed someone with their car (and never actually acknowledge that they have this level of hostility that all people are capable of). In other words, it is experienced as anxiety (although it is clearly an expression of hostility in thought).

    Regardless, on a human level, I think we have to defend ourselves against those who “do what other men only think about.” At the same time, even from a purely naturalistic humanistic perspective, I think society is served by a recognition of the fundamental aspects of the nature of all human beings. Unfortunately, governmental systems have to take this into account. I actually advocate for a different kind of government than our own and that does not seem to exist anywhere. I advocate for government based on empirical principles. A government program should produce empirical data that it solves the problem that it set out to solve. If it does not, it should be discontinued or replaced. Again, this is out of recognition of human nature (the nature of politicians and the general public). Government programs are currently continued indefinitely despite evidence of their ineffectiveness. I propose basically trials for government programs similar to what is required with the FDA (although this is obviously flawed–and I think we need to recognize that everything we do will be flawed and potentially biased).

    From my theological perspective, I, and all others, have violated every one of the 10 commandments (if not physically then in our hearts). That’s the reason that the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins is so important on a theological level (he paid the price for our sins). Of course this is of little interest to an atheist other than being an intellectual interest, but I’m just explaining my perspective. I think that this can perhaps be informative to an atheistic humanist despite disagreement about the existence of God.

  48. I think we can agree to disagree on this point, Country Shrink. I do understand the basics of the theological perspective, and if I shared it, I’d agree fully. As it is, I’m too much the humanist.

    I interpreted Freud’s remark to mean, don’t pretend that what you dream isn’t you, especially if the dreams are things that you consciously think of as embarrassing or horrifying. We are more than we think we are. I’m not sure what sorts of obligations, to oneself or to others, follow from that.

    But surely there is something to be said for the insight that it’s an exercise in self-deception to think of ‘the monsters’ (rapists, murderers, torturers, etc.) as fundamentally different from ‘the rest of us’.

  49. I don’t think there is anything entailed from a atheistic/humanistic perspective with this ‘exercise.’ Actually, I also don’t think there is anything at all entailed from that perspective with respect to morality.

    From an atheistic/naturalistic perspective, nothing follows from Freud’s ideas. I think you are essentially correct in your interpretation of his assertions.

  50. I don’t deny that I’ve had all manner of wicked thoughts. What I deny is that “the thought is as bad as the deed.”

    Although I fully agree with the Shrink’s response to your statement above, I have struggled with this issue, because of my belief and thoughts, over the years. As we all know, most people can have “wicked” thoughts and not act on them, or carry them out, but many other people do act on their thoughts, but this is not at the crux of the theological perspective on this issue.

    What I have come to realize is that my thoughts, whether I act on them or not, good or bad, have an affect on me in a spiritual way. It may appear, at first, that this affect is due to legalistic and superstitious believing, but, in fact, it is not. A man (believer) who spends his day thinking about women, other than his wife, sexually, is going to be affected by this mindset when he is intimate with his wife, because he senses that he has not been faithful, in his mind and heart, when he’s with his wife. He, as a believer, is also aware that God knows of his thoughts, and that he has taken part in a thought process that is contrary to what he professes to believe. I have had this experience, and it has set up a dissonance in me that made it difficult for me to be intimate with my wife. Was my salvation still in tact? Yes! Was my relationship with my wife unaffected? No!

    It’s not about appeasing religious rules or God, because He knows we will be tempted in these ways, but what it is about is how it affects our life alone and with others. Paul, referred to it as, “The double-minded man.” If I can’t respect my own religious integrity, even in my thought processes, then I am not, in the long run, going to act on my beliefs in a truthful way. In other words, I become a hypocrite in my own eyes, and this, in my own mind, will separate me from the grace of God, which I fall on quite frequently.

  51. DB,

    Your observations bring up some interesting theological considerations:

    First, it’s been said that the definition of sin is simply ‘separation from God’. Your example clearly illustrates this. That ‘separation’ manifests itself in all manner of ways physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That’s why acknowlegment of God’s forgivness for sin is so important. Otherwise, it becomes impossible living in the flesh with a convicted conscience (as the Law is ‘written on our hearts’).

    But consider this (and I’m just speaking **hypothetically** here) :

    It is this very separation that forces one to cast oneself in hell after physical death. Without the acceptance of forgivness, it becomes impossible to enter into heaven with that ‘spirit of separation’ – which is the mind’s refusal to acknowledge God’s forgivness. When we accept Jesus Christ and his redemptive sacrifice, that effectively opens our mind/spirit to allow ourselves to be forgiven.

    So, perhaps all those bitter, vindictive people who have no desire for a “tryannical and condemning” God have it all wrong. Perhaps God opens the gates of heaven to everyone – but many will choose willingly not to enter. For those, heaven may be a terrifying place to approach because there is no covering for their sin; but in hell no covering is necessary. There is no light to expose their wicked words and actions (or good words and actions, for that matter). That’s the reality where they feel comfortable, and what their spirit ‘resonates’ with.

    ***end hypothetical scenario***

  52. But consider this (and I’m just speaking **hypothetically** here) :

    It is this very separation that forces one to cast oneself in hell after physical death. Without the acceptance of forgivness, it becomes impossible to enter into heaven with that ’spirit of separation’ – which is the mind’s refusal to acknowledge God’s forgivness. When we accept Jesus Christ and his redemptive sacrifice, that effectively opens our mind/spirit to allow ourselves to be forgiven.

    CS Lewis, in The Great Divorce, hypothesized just such a scenario, only those “without the acceptance of forgiveness” became so small that they existed in the cracks of the earth and pavement in heaven. Yes, you’re hypothesis rings true! That was my point about legalism. Jesus, set us free from the bondage and condemnation of our sinful nature, as well as our own forced separation from God. Yes, it does seem that many will reject, as scripture states, God’s forgiveness through His Son’s sacrifice, and as this age passes this will even become more pronounced.

    So, what, as believers, is our response to all of this, when it comes to those who are comfortable in their worldly ways and sin? And, secondly, what is our response to those denominations who, in ignorance and stubbornness, deny Christ’s sacrifice through a “works” mentality, or legalism?

  53. DB, interestingly, I think a lot of the time one of the barriers to belief for men is of a sexual nature. I know that sounds odd. What does one’s sex drive have to do with belief in God? If I’m completely honest, part of my descent to agnosticism and near atheism was because I had a high sex drive and wanted to let it loose. I developed a number of “intellectual” problems that I had with God, in order to defend the real issue. Unfortunately for my sex drive, all of my “intellectual arguments” were adequately answered forthwith. Perhaps this is too much personal information, but I do think honesty is the best policy and I admit to lacking in this area at times as well as all other areas.

    And so, I have also noticed that my sins of thought also impact my relationship with God, my wife, and others. So, I think Mike makes some good points too.

  54. Shrink,

    Perhaps, this was part of my problem also? I guess I never thought of my sexual appetite, which was way out of line, as part of my reason for rejecting God.

  55. That could be DB. I think I knew at the time that on one level my conflict was between my sexual desires and the changes I might have to make if I believed in God. And if I’m honest with myself even now, that probably relates to any conflicts that I continue to have.

    I think we like to attribute our beliefs to the intellectual and higher aspects of our existence. But, I think this is just rationalization much of the time for our emotions and more base desires. So, for me, the easier path would definitely be atheism. Although some of my atheist friends view my Christianity as a crutch. It definitely is not a crutch but more of a yoke. And although it “is light,” I continue to try and bear it the best I can. I don’t really see there as being a yoke with atheism. Although the yoke is light with Christianity, the yoke is non-existent with atheism. And as human beings, we like the path of least resistance.

  56. I think we like to attribute our beliefs to the intellectual and higher aspects of our existence. But, I think this is just rationalization much of the time for our emotions and more base desires.

    Yes, I can see this as true, but I came to the Lord in great fear and turmoil, which had little to do, at the outset, with my intellect. I was filled with much self-hatred, fear and guilt, and, quite honestly, God was my last chance for survival. I don’t believe I would be talking with you today if God hadn’t saved me from my self!

  57. There is a yolk with atheism, but it’s hard to see — you have to get past the shell and the whites first.

    Kidding aside, I don’t regard atheism as any easier or harder than Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. These are neither crutches nor yokes — they are world-views, that’s all, without which there would be no world (a coherent and orderly structure) in view (intelligible to human efforts at comprehension).

    I have been trying to work my way through the question, “how should we evaluate differences between world-views?” At times I’m tempted by sheer relativism, and at other times I find relativism enervating. On the other hand I don’t think that we can compare competing world-views in the same ways that we compare competing scientific theories. World-views and theories seem too different, somehow. But I don’t yet know how to articulate this “somehow,” and I’m frustrated.

    The difficulty is somewhat compounded by the fact that every world-view is also a meta-world-view, because the perspective of each world view makes it possible to understand, from within the limitations of that perspective, all the other world-views.

  58. Though I’m a fairly well dyed-in-the-wool naturalist, there is this to be said: other animals don’t have world-views, so far as we can tell, and humans do. It’s a signal virtue of the Christian world-view that it can explain this discontinuity between humans and the other animals.

    I wouldn’t say that the absence of an explanation of this discontinuity is the foremost obstacle that naturalism faces, but it’s the one that fascinates me the most.

  59. Carl wrote:

    Kidding aside, I don’t regard atheism as any easier or harder than Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. These are neither crutches nor yokes — they are world-views, that’s all, without which there would be no world (a coherent and orderly structure) in view (intelligible to human efforts at comprehension).

    I wish I could agree with you here. I think all of things things can be a crutch or a yoke. At its best, Christianity is a yoke, at its worst, it is a crutch. Sounds strange? That is the most theologically consistent position. For me, it seems like atheism would be the easier approach. I wouldn’t have to commit. I wouldn’t have to strive. I could pursue money and sex in any way I wish. I’m not sure how I could prove it to you, but I could be rich many times over had I not taken the path that I believed God wanted me to take. It doesn’t really matter, you’ll believe it or not. That’s an irrelevancy as far as what’s true goes.

    All of these things would be seen as “just” a worldview from an atheistic perspective and nothing more. I hope you are really enjoying your atheism, I think I would. 😉 I’m not trying to be offensive here, I mean it.

    I have been trying to work my way through the question, “how should we evaluate differences between world-views?” At times I’m tempted by sheer relativism, and at other times I find relativism enervating. On the other hand I don’t think that we can compare competing world-views in the same ways that we compare competing scientific theories. World-views and theories seem too different, somehow. But I don’t yet know how to articulate this “somehow,” and I’m frustrated.

    Yes, it is a very difficult issue. I share your frustration at times. I think most of the time I just try to realize that I am limited intellectually, and that there are some things I will never understand. This is quite irritating at times!

    I wouldn’t say that the absence of an explanation of this discontinuity is the foremost obstacle that naturalism faces, but it’s the one that fascinates me the most.

    It certainly is fascinating, but not all by itself. If that’s all it accomplished, I don’t think I’d be interested.

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