Where Do Ethics Come From? Atheist Convo (Bonus Material)

A chap in a Facebook group posted a few points in a post, of which I took this point up to respond to.

  • …My moral values have a simple root…if an action causes harm to another person, that act is immoral. If my inaction causes harm to another person, that inaction is immoral…

I first posted this as a response:

  • You would have to define and then implement this definition in a way that non-theistic governments would accept (like the many Eastern-block countries of our past for example). Some countries would view the disabled and farmers as harming society, and thus view the moral rout for said society as a whole to rid themselves of these persons/groups. They would say to NOT do so causes harm.

BUT, I didn’t have to really do any heavy lifting… this person did it for me. After reading through the discussion, the same person said this:

  • …Morality actually derives from human self interest in preserving the group they needed to be part of to survive in a hostile world. It had to be a feature in the lives of the earliest human ancestor species…

To which I replied:

Oh, this comment refutes you OP [original post]. “Morality actually derives from human self interest in preserving the group they needed to be part of to survive in a hostile world.”

So another group’s morality to survive in a hostile world (say, Pol-Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Caesars, etc) are just as “moral” then. Unless you are saying that there is a universal code you are tapping into to compare/contrast, and put on a higher plane? Not only that, but you would need to argue that another person would have to have that same ability…. At least if you are expecting your OP to carry any weight.

Otherwise you are merely here expressing your preference (emoting), like my children telling me they prefer chocolate ice cream over vanilla.

Not only that, but the majority group, whether in a country or in the world, would decide this ethos (what it “means” to survive). And thus, to speak out against this consensus (whether is science or in morality) would be immoral.


BONUS!


A couple examples of this ethos at work:

“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition….  If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity….  From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”

Mussolini, Diuturna (1924) pp. 374-77, quoted in A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (Ignatius Press; 1999), by Peter Kreeft, p. 18.


“The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature.  Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all….  If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.”

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy (New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942), pp. 161-162; found in: Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001), 206.


“What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.” — Richard Dawkins

Stated during an interview with Larry Taunton, “Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist,” by Faith Magazine, Issue Number 18, December 2007.


Atheist Daniel Dennett, for example, asserts that consciousness is an illusion. (One wonders if Dennett was conscious when he said that!) His claim is not only superstitious, it’s logically indefensible. In order to detect an illusion, you’d have to be able to see what’s real. Just like you need to wake up to know that a dream is only a dream, Daniel Dennett would need to wake up with some kind of superconsciousness to know that the ordinary consciousness the rest of us mortals have is just an illusion. In other words, he’d have to be someone like God in order to know that.

Dennett’s assertion that consciousness is an illusion is not the result of an unbiased evaluation of the evidence. Indeed, there is no such thing as “unbiased evaluation” in a materialist world because the laws of physics determine everything anyone thinks, including everything Dennett thinks. Dennett is just assuming the ideology of materialism is true and applying its implications to consciousness. In doing so, he makes the same mistake we’ve seen so many other atheists make. He is exempting himself from his own theory. Dennett says consciousness is an illusion, but he treats his own consciousness as not an illusion. He certainly doesn’t think the ideas in his book are an illusion. He acts like he’s really telling the truth about reality.

When atheists have to call common sense “an illusion” and make self-defeating assertions to defend atheism, then no one should call the atheistic worldview “reasonable.” Superstitious is much more accurate.

Frank Turek, Stealing from God (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014), 46-47.


….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill  their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.

But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.

If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?

Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.

DAWKINS (44-Seconds):

PROVINE (43-Seconds):

BARKER (Almost 5-Minutes):

Wolpert (17+Minutes)


Rolling Rock Ethics


Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan, Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), fn.2, 319 [added linked reference from Evolution News for context]:

Dawkins spells out the contradiction: “As an academic scientist, I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs.” A Devils Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003), 10-11.

In another place, he admits to the logic of his own determinism (that people cannot be held responsible for their actions), but emotionally he cannot accept this. See the Dawkins interview by Logan Gage, Who Wrote Richard Dawkins’s New Book?,” Evolution News (website), October 28, 2006:

Manzari: Dr. Dawkins thank you for your comments. The thing I have appreciated most about your comments is your consistency in the things I’ve seen you’ve written. One of the areas that I wanted to ask you about, and the place where I think there is an inconsistency, and I hoped you would clarify, is that in what I’ve read you seem to take a position of a strong determinist who says that what we see around us is the product of physical laws playing themselves out; but on the other hand it would seem that you would do things like taking credit for writing this book and things like that. But it would seem, and this isn’t to be funny, that the consistent position would be that necessarily the authoring of this book, from the initial conditions of the big bang, it was set that this would be the product of what we see today. I would take it that that would be the consistent position but I wanted to know what you thought about that.

Dawkins: The philosophical question of determinism is a very difficult question. It’s not one I discuss in this book, indeed in any other book that I’ve ever talked about. Now an extreme determinist, as the questioner says, might say that everything we do, everything we think, everything that we write has been determined from the beginning of time in which case the very idea of taking credit for anything doesn’t seem to make any sense. Now I don’t actually know what I actually think about that, I haven’t taken up a position about that, it’s not part of my remit to talk about the philosophical issue of determinism. What I do know is that what it feels like to me, and I think to all of us, we don’t feel determined. We feel like blaming people for what they do or giving people the credit for what they do. We feel like admiring people for what they do. None of us ever actually as a matter of fact says, “Oh well he couldn’t help doing it, he was determined by his molecules.” Maybe we should… I sometimes… Um… You probably remember many of you would have seen Fawlty Towers. The episode where Basil where his car won’t start and he gives it fair warning, counts up to three, and then gets out of the car and picks up a tree branch and thrashes it within an edge of his life. Maybe that’s what we all ought to… Maybe the way we laugh at Basil Fawlty, we ought to laugh in the same way at people who blame humans. I mean when we punish people for doing the most horrible murders, maybe the attitude we should take is “Oh they were just determined by their molecules.” It’s stupid to punish them. What we should do is say “This unit has a faulty motherboard which needs to be replaced.” I can’t bring myself to do that. I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people, I give people credit, or I might be more charitable and say this individual who has committed murders or child abuse of whatever it is was really abused in his own childhood. And so again I might take a…

Manzari: But do you personally see that as an inconsistency in your views?

Dawkins: I sort of do. Yes. But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable. But it has nothing to do with my views on religion it is an entirely separate issue.

Manzari: Thank you.

2 Peter 1:5-8:

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In other words, there is no absolute moral ethic, Dawkins wants to have a consensus of people agreeing what is “right” and “wrong” — he says as much in the audio above. Which means that rape and murder are only taboo… not really wrong.

Secondly, there can be no concept of “ought”

What about human actions? They are of no more value or significance than the actions of any other material thing. Consider rocks rolling down a hill and coming to rest at the bottom. We don’t say that some particular arrangement of the rocks is right and another is wrong. Rocks don’t have a duty to roll in a particular way and land in a particular place. Their movement is just the product of the laws of physics. We don’t say that rocks “ought” to land in a certain pattern and that if they don’t then something needs to be done about it. We don’t strive for a better arrangement or motion of the rocks. In just the same way, there is no standard by which human actions can be judged. We are just another form of matter in motion, like the rocks rolling down the hill.

We tend to think that somewhere “out there” there are standards of behaviour that men ought to follow. But according to Dawkins there is only the “natural, physical world”. Nothing but particles and forces. These things cannot give rise to standards that men have a duty to follow. In fact they cannot even account for the concept of “ought”. There exist only particles of matter obeying the laws of physics. There is no sense in which anything ought to be like this or ought to be like that. There just is whatever there is, and there just happens whatever happens in accordance with the laws of physics.

Men’s actions are therefore merely the result of the laws of physics that govern the behaviour of the particles that make up the chemicals in the cells and fluids of their bodies and thus control how they behave. It is meaningless to say that the result of those physical reactions ought to be this or ought to be that. It is whatever it is. It is meaningless to say that people ought to act in a certain way. It is meaningless to say (to take a contemporary example) that the United States and its allies ought not to have invaded Iraq. The decision to invade was just the outworking of the laws of physics in the bodies of the people who governed those nations. And there is no sense in which the results of that invasion can be judged as good or bad because there are no standards to judge anything by. There are only particles reacting together; no standards, no morals, nothing but matter in motion.

Dawkins finds it very hard to be consistent to this system of belief. He thinks and acts as if there were somewhere, somehow standards that people ought to follow. For example in The God Delusion, referring particularly to the Christian doctrine of atonement, he says that there are “teachings in the New Testament that no good person should support”.(6) And he claims that religion favours an in-group/out-group approach to morality that makes it “a significant force for evil in the world”.(7)

According to Dawkins, then, there are such things as good and evil. We all know what good and evil mean. We know that if no good person should support the doctrine of atonement then we ought not to support that doctrine. We know that if religion is a force for evil then we are better off without religion and that, indeed, we ought to oppose religion. The concepts of good and evil are innate in us. The problem for Dawkins is that good and evil make no sense in his worldview. “There is nothing beyond the natural, physical world.” There are no standards out there that we ought to follow. There is only matter in motion reacting according to the laws of physics. Man is not of a different character to any other material thing. Men’s actions are not of a different type or level to that of rocks rolling down a hill. Rocks are not subject to laws that require them to do good and not evil; nor are men. Every time you hear Dawkins talking about good and evil as if the words actually meant something, it should strike you loud and clear as if he had announced to the world, “I am contradicting myself”.

Please note that I am not saying that Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe in good and evil. On the contrary, my point is that he does believe in them but that his worldview renders such standards meaningless.

(Nothing Beyond the Natural Physical World)

We know Dawkins’ position is not science, so… what is it? Here begins the journey for the truly curious.

Biblical Memes

(Updated! This post is now married — ha — to this post of dietary laws in Leviticus. Also, posted some excerpts from a book at bottom.) After posting the above graphic, Jonathan Lewis [I believe Jonathan closed his FB down since last checked] said this in response to a friends post.

Here is his initial post.

The point of this, for me, is that marriage has been something that changes. I hate when people use the bibles example to deny my friends the right to get married when marriage today is nothing like marriage was in the bible. On top of all this, almost all marriages where arranged. Just as it used to be illegal for a black man to marry a white women. That had to change and it did. And people used the bible to try to stop it from changing. It’s just here to show that marriage has changed. And needs to change again to allow the LGBT community rights.

There are a few things wrong with how Jonathan has come at this issue. The first is how one should approach any historical document, this is called Hermeneutics. This way of approaching any document of antiquity pre-dates Christ [by about 500-years] and can be summed up in the “eight rules.”

Rule of Definition.
Define the term or words being considered and then adhere to the defined meanings.

Rule of Usage.
Don’t add meaning to established words and terms. What was the common usage in the cultural and time period when the passage was written?

Rule of Context.
Avoid using words out of context. Context must define terms and how words are used.

Rule of Historical background.
Don’t separate interpretation and historical investigation.

Rule of Logic.
Be certain that words as interpreted agree with the overall premise.

Rule of Precedent.
Use the known and commonly accepted meanings of words, not obscure meanings for which their is no precedent.

Rule of Unity.
Even though many documents may be used there must be a general unity among them.

Rule of Inference.
Base conclusions on what is already known and proven or can be reasonably implied from all known facts.

Another important term that is often missed in a post like Jonathan’s to engender emotional responses and not critical thinking, is Etymology:

  • “the study of the origins of words or parts of words and how they have arrived at their current form and meaning” (Encarta Dictionary).

So, what does a historical thinker say about the above?

They [the critics] start with some improbable presumption; and having so decreed it themselves, proceed to draw inferences, and censure the poet as though he had actually said whatever they happen to believe, if his statement conflicts with their notion of things…. Whenever a word seems to imply some contradiction, it is necessary to reflect how many ways there may be of understanding it in the passage in question…. So it is probably the mistake of the critics that has given rise to the Problem…. See whether he [the author] means the same thing, in the same relation, and in the same sense, before admitting that he has contradicted something he has said himself or what a man of sound sense assumes as true…. The objections, then, of critics start with faults of five kinds: the alle­gation is always that something is either (1) impossible, (2) improbable, (3) corrupting, (4) contradictory, or (5) against technical correctness. The answers to these objections must be sought under one or other of the above–mentioned heads, which are twelve in number.

(Source)

So taking the above from Aristotle and applying this thinking to one area, say, language, will afford us a great deal of help:

LANGUAGE GAP

…Consider how confused a foreigner must be when he reads in a daily newspaper: “The prospectors made a strike yesterday up in the mountains.” “The union went on strike this morning.” “The batter made his third strike and was called out by the umpire.” “Strike up with the Star Spangled Ban­ner.” “The fisherman got a good strike in the middle of the lake.” Presum­ably each of these completely different uses of the same word go back to the parent and have the same etymology. But complete confusion may re­sult from misunderstanding how the speaker meant the word to be used…. We must engage in careful exegesis in order to find out what he meant in light of contemporary conditions and usage.

(Source)

So these are just some quick, higher educational deep-thinking skills/points, to apply to the graph. There is a history gap not mentioned in the graph or following conversations about the graph. For instance, King David in the Old Testament had many wives. Why would someone take this event (fact) and rip it from its historical context and apply modern day thinking to it? If this is done then there is another purpose behind doing so, an agenda. Sure, the Bible states that God “gave David Saul’s wives” (2 Samuel 12:8),but that is just a figure of speech. In ancient times, it was commonplace for a new king to take possession of everything owned by the former king, including his wives. So let’s take the “cultural gap” here and open it up a bit:

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

8. I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives-The phraseology means nothing more than that God in His providence had given David, as king of Israel, everything that was Saul’s. The history furnishes conclusive evidence that he never actually married any of the wives of Saul. But the harem of the preceding king belongs, according to Oriental notions, as a part of the regalia to his successor.

Knowing now that culturally speaking (using the understanding of idioms and ideas as known in a particular time-period) that it was commonplace for a new king to take possession of everything owned by the former king, including his wives, is not the same as God saying go out and take many wives to fulfill the lust of man. In-other-words, just because a great man in the Bible had more than one wife does not mean we should. The Bible faithfully records — as a true history book would — both the advances and the failures of people. Not only that (e.g., ripping something from its historical, cultural, geographic, etymological, and theological understanding), but context is important as well, context in a book recording evil deeds done along side righteous ones, and how to regulate man’s inhibitions.

The only direct command against polygamy is given to the kings that were to rule Israel, as they are told not to “multiply wives” to themselves (Deuteronomy 17:17). It is also interesting to note that polygamous relationships seem to be regulated in the commands Moses gave to the nation of Israel. Leviticus 18:18 instructs that a man should not marry sisters, and Deuteronomy 21:15 talks of assigning an heir to a man with two wives. Many commentators suggest that the passages do not endorse polygamy but rather prohibit it. Deuteronomy 21:15 may also be translated as “has had two wives” in succession rather than at the same time. The sisters in Leviticus 18:18 are understood by some to be any Israelite women. Regardless of the interpretation of these passages, the taking of multiple wives is not in accord with God’s design from the beginning.

(Source)

An analogous understanding is that the Bible gives commands on how to treat slaves, even having an entire New Testament book written with regards to this understanding. Does this mean the Bible supports slavery? Of course not, however, slavery was an institution around almost as long as man, so the Bible treats the reality of this institution in a way that will create the most fair actions of “owners” of slaves towards the humanity of current affairs. The Bible was the first historical document to say such a radical thing as “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And this radical change in direction led to women and slavery being defeated (see my chapter in my book on Feminism, and, Listen to Thomas Sowell’s chapter from his book on slavery).

Now, in Christian thinking, Christ is understood to be God, bringing something new to man. He taught on many aspects of this “something new,” and even dealt with this topic – marriage.

In Matthew 19:4 (and Mark 10:2) we find the Pharisees challenging Him by asking if it is lawful for a man to put away his wife:

(vv. 3-8) Some Pharisees came to him. In order to test him, they said, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” Jesus answered, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator made them male and female? And God said, ‘Because of this a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.” The Pharisees said to him, “Then why did Moses command us to give a divorce certificate and divorce her?” Jesus replied, “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts are unyielding. But it wasn’t that way from the beginning. I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Christ took it back to Adam and Eve one man one woman as did Paul in 1st Corinthians 7:1-2 ~

(vv 1-2) Now, about what you wrote: “It’s good for a man not to have sex with a woman.” Each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband because of sexual immorality.

Oneness is clear here as is it here Malachi 2:14 ~

But you say, “Why?” Because the LORD testifies about you and the wife of your youth against whom you cheated. She is your partner, the wife of your covenant.

Notice how the practice of many wives just does not fit into the passage? Context. We know that God intended for one man, one woman and that this relationship was to be for the duration (Matthew 19:4) the only allowable cause for divorce is fornication God then sought to regulate the polygamous practice (Exodus 21:10). So, again I reference my thinking on the matter of regulating versus abolishing institutions:

In Scripture, God sometimes allowed what was less than ideal because people’s hard hearts made the ideal unattainable (e.g., Ex 13:17; 1 Sam 12:12-13). To be able to exercise some degree of restraint over human injustice, Moses’ civil laws regulated some institutions rather than seeking to abolish them altogether: divorce, polygyny, the avengers of blood, and slavery (Keener 1992: 192-96). Jewish lawyers in fact recognized that God had allowed some behavior (marrying a Gentile captive in Deut 21:11-13; according to some, slavery) as a concession to human weakness (Daube 1959); some of their own rulings, such as the prosbul, conceded human weakness in hopes of improving the situation of justice (Daube 1959: 10). Nevertheless, Jesus’ opponents here assume that whatever the law addressed it permitted (19:7; cf. ARN 24, §49B); Jesus responds that Moses permitted this merely as a concession to Israel’s hard hearts.14 That his questioners exploit this concession thereby implies their own hardness of hearts, a charge ancients would easily enough apply to those deficient in love toward family members (Epict. Disc. 3.3.5). Thus in Matthew (in contrast to Mark), the Pharisees even exploit Moses’ concession as a command (Gundry 1982: 380). Jesus, by contrast, uses Scripture differently (cf. 12:7), here probably seeking to protect an innocent Jewish wife from her husband wrongfully divorcing her….

Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rpids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2009), 465.

I wish also to posit another idea completely missed by this chart, or the conversation that insued, and that is “is it wrong?” For instance, Christopher Wolfe makes the point that “arguments about whether homosexuality is biological or inherited are secondary to arguments about whether or not it is moral.” He continues,

Dallas declares that “even if it can be proven that genetic or biological influences predispose people toward homosexuality, that will never prove that homosexuality is in and of itself normal.” I have argued elsewhere that “it is an epistemological error to base value decisions on empirical data alone. For example, parents may reject dishonesty or homosexual behavior on moral grounds, regardless of what percentage of the population happily engages in those behaviors.”

Christopher Wolfe, ed., Homosexuality and American Public Life (Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing, 1999), 83-84.

Not only this, but the chart points out another fact, that is, no where in the Bible or in all religious history and cultural history, that homosexuality was never normalized. Therefore, the radical change is coming from those who support this idea. that is, that homosexuality should be normalized via marriage “rights.” In fact, this is one of the main strains of thought in comparing political worldviews. In the book A Conflict of Visions, Thomas Sowell makes this point in comparing the two models for coming to decisions:

While the constrained vision sees human nature as essentially unchanged across the ages and around the world, the particular cultural expressions of human needs peculiar to specific societies are not seen as being readily and beneficially changeable by forcible intervention. By contrast, those with the unconstrained vision tend to view human nature as beneficially changeable and social customs as expendable holdovers from the past. Ideals are weighed against the cost of achieving them, in the unconstrained vision. But in the unconstrained vision, every closer approximation to the ideal should be preferred….

Continuing Dr. Sowell quotes Hayek and then makes his point:

The growth of knowledge and the growth of civilization are the same only if we interpret knowledge to include all the human adaptations to environment in which past experience has been incorporated. Not all knowledge in this sense is part of our intellect, nor is our intellect the whole of our knowledge. Our habits and skills, our emotional attitudes, our tools, and our institutions— all are in this sense adaptations to past experience which have grown up by selective elimination of less suitable conduct. They are as much an indispensable foundation of successful action as is our conscious knowledge.

In this vision, it is not simply that individuals rationally choose what works from what does not work, but also— and more fundamentally— that the competition of institutions and whole societies leads to a general survival of more effective collections of cultural traits, even if neither the winners nor the losers rationally understand what was better or worse about one set or

the other. Values which may be effective at the tribal level will tend to be overwhelmed by values that permit or promote the functioning of larger aggregations of people. From this perspective, “man has certainly more often learnt to do the right thing without comprehending why it was the right thing, and he still is better served by ‘ custom than understanding.” There is thus “more ‘intelligence’ incorporated in the system of rules of conduct than in man’s thoughts about his surroundings.”

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles (New York, NY: basic Books, 2007), 28, 37-38.

Which explains the almost elitist “I know better than all of human history” mentality:

The following are excerpts are from the following book, click to enlarge:

[….]

A Hyperbolic Reading of Joshua ~ Copan and Flannagan

  • War texts (as a genre) include hyperbole and exaggeration.

I did not put the footnotes into this excerpt… you will have to purchase the book to follow through. I left out a few pages (104-107) that are titled three implications of this reading. Very interesting and again the book is worth a read. Chapter 9 is titled “Objections from the Biblical Text to the Hyperbolic Interpretation.” So for the skeptical, again, the entire book is worth your attention. This is posted for a pastor and for a professor I know… enjoy. (BTW, here is a quick synopsis of Jericho referencing Copan’s great book, Is God a Moral Monster, at Tough Questions Answered.)Did God Command Genocide Copan Apologetics


  • Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan, Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 84-104, 107-108.

7 ~ The Question of Genocide and the Hyperbolic Interpretation of Joshua

Earlier, we noted philosopher Raymond Bradley’s quoting from Joshua 6-12, in which we read that Joshua “utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old,” that “he utterly destroyed every person who was in it,” “he left no survivor,” and “there was no one left who breathed.” We have cited Bradley’s assessment of Israel’s/God’s “geno­cidal policies.” We’ve also noted that thinkers such as philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and zoologist Richard Dawkins cite Joshua to make the same argument. Bradley, Sinnott-Armstrong, and Dawkins do have a point when they say that if we read such verses in isolation from the rest of the narrative and do so in a straightforward, literal way, it appears that Israel committed genocide at God’s command, slaughtering every last inhabitant of the land of Canaan.

There are, however, good reasons why these passages should not be read in a straightforward, literal way. Nicholas Wolterstorff, who taught philosophi­cal theology at Yale, puts forward two strong arguments for rejecting the kind of literalistic reading that Bradley and his atheistic comrades-in-arms promote. First, it’s quite implausible that those who authorized the final form of the text were affirming that all Canaanites were exterminated at God’s command. Second, the accounts that appear to say otherwise are utilizing extensive hyperbole and are not intended to be taken literally. In this chapter and the next, we’ll develop and defend these arguments. If Wolterstorff’s arguments are correct—and there are a number of biblical scholars who take this view—then the author(s) of the biblical text aren’t affirming that God commanded genocide.

An Argument against Literalism

Wolterstorff’s first argument rejects a literalistic reading of these Joshua texts: “A careful reading of the text in its literary context makes it implausible to interpret it as claiming that Yahweh ordered extermination.” What is this literary context? “Joshua as we have it today was intended as a component in the larger sequence consisting of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings…. I propose that we interpret the book of Joshua as a component within this larger sequence—in particular, that we interpret it as preceded by Deuteronomy and succeeded by Judges.” Jews and Christians accept the final form of Joshua as part of a sequence in a larger canonical arrangement. When reading it this way, certain features of the narrative become apparent. The first feature is that a tension exists between early chapters of Joshua and the opening chapters of Judges, which is the literary sequel to Joshua: Joshua 6-11 summarizes several battles and concludes with, “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war” (11:23). Scholars readily agree that Judges is literately linked to Joshua. Yet the early chapters of Judges, which, incidentally, repeat the death and burial of Joshua, show a different picture:

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites inquired of the LORD, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” The LORD said, “Judah shall go up. I hereby give the land into his hand.” Judah said to his brother Simeon, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; then I too will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him. Then Judah went up and the LORD gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand; and they defeated ten thousand of them at Bezek. (Judg. 1:1-4)

On the surface Joshua appears to affirm that all the land was conquered, yet Judges proceeds on the assumption that it has not been and still needs to be.

Similarly, Joshua 10-11 appears to state that Joshua exterminated all the Canaanites in the land. Repeatedly, the text states that Joshua left “no survivors” and “destroyed everything that breathed” in “the entire land” and “put all the inhabitants to the sword.” Alongside these general claims, the book of Joshua identifies several specific places and cities where Joshua exterminated “everyone” and left no survivors. These include Hebron (10:36), Debir (10:38), the hill country, the Negev, and the western foothills (10:40).

In contrast, the first chapter of Judges affirms eight times that the Israelites had failed to conquer the land or the cities; they could not drive the inhabi­tants out. The narrator states that the Canaanites lived in the Negev, in the hill country (v. 9), in Debir (v. 11), in Hebron (v. 10), and in the western foothills (v. 9). Moreover, they did so in such numbers and strength that they had to be driven out by force with great difficulty. These are the same cities noted in Joshua 10, which claims all inhabitants had been annihilated with no remaining survivors. The opening section of Judges finishes with the angel of the Lord at Bokim rebuking them for failing to drive out the inhabitants of these areas (Judg. 2:1-5).6 And further along in the text, the affirmation that Joshua did not destroy all the Canaanites in the land becomes even more explicit: “I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died”; the text continues: “The LORD had left those nations, not driving them out at once, and had not handed them over to Joshua” (vv. 21,23 NRSV). Contrast this with the sweeping affirmation made in Joshua 11:23: “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war” (NASB).

We see other passages that seem to suggest extermination—only to be told shortly afterward that nothing of the sort happened:

INSERT chpt 7

At the end of the book, Joshua refers to “these nations . . . which remain among you” (23:7 NASB), and he warns against clinging to “the rest of these nations” (v. 12 NASB).

So, on the surface, Joshua appears to affirm that these cities were conquered and their inhabitants completely exterminated. Judges proceeds, however, on the assumption that they are yet to be conquered and the Canaanites still live there in significant numbers, although Joshua gives indications of this as well. Yet Joshua and Judges sit side by side in the biblical canon, the latter being a continuation of the narrative of the former. Old Testament scholar John Goldingay makes this observation: “While Joshua does speak of Israel’s utterly destroying the Canaanites, even these accounts can give a misleading impression. When a city is in danger of falling, people do not simply wait there to be killed; they get out. . . . That may be one reason why peoples that have been annihilated have no trouble reappearing later in the story; after Judah puts Jerusalem to the sword, its occupants are still living there ‘to this day’ (Judg. 1:8, 21).”

Finally, the account of what God commanded differs in the two narratives. Joshua states: “He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded” (Josh. 10:40) and “exter­minating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses” (11:20). However, when this command is retroactively referred to in Judges 2:1, there is no mention of genocide or annihilation. Instead we read of how God had promised to drive them out and of God’s commands not to make treaties with the Canaanites but to destroy their shrines. This silence is significant in the context. If God had commanded genocide, then it is odd that only instruc­tions concerning treaties and shrines were mentioned (a theme we also see in Deut. 7:1-6). So there are obvious tensions between a surface reading of Joshua and Judges (a sequel to Joshua). However, these tensions do not merely occur between Joshua and Judges. The same tension occurs within the book of Joshua itself. Chapter 11 finishes in this manner: “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war” (v. 23). Note that the conquered region is the same land that is later divided among the Israelite tribes.

However, when the text turns to giving an account of these tribal divisions only a chapter (or so) later, God says, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over” (13:1). Then, in the next five chapters, it is stressed repeatedly that the land was not yet conquered, and the Canaanites were, in fact, not literally wiped out. As we have seen, when we examine the allotment given to Judah, we see Caleb asking permission to drive the Anakim from the hill countries (14:12), describing how he has to defeat the Anakim living in Hebron, and, after this, marching against the people “living-in Debir” (15:13-19).

Similarly, it is evident with several of the other allotments that the people still had to drive out Canaanites entrenched in the area and were not al­ways successful in doing so. We read, for example, that the Ephraimites and Manassites “did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim” (16:10). Similarly, chapter 17 states, “Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely” (vv. 12-13). We read that “when the territory of the Danites was lost to them, they went up and attacked Leshem, took it, put it to the sword and occupied it. They settled in Leshem and named it Dan after their ancestor” (19:47). Here we see the same land said to be subdued and conquered by Joshua in battles where he exterminated and left alive nothing that breathed. This land was yet to be occupied by the tribes of Israel and was still occupied by Canaanites, who were often heavily armed and deeply entrenched (17:16-18).

So a surface reading of the passages that Bradley and Sinnott-Armstrong cite not only seems to contradict Judges, but also the preceding chapters of the book of Joshua itself.

Biblical scholar Brevard Childs notes the apparent contradiction:

Critical scholars have long since pointed out the tension—it is usually called a contradiction—in the portrayal of the conquest of the land. On the one hand, the conquest is pictured in the main source of Josh. 1-12 as a unified assault against the inhabitants of the land under the leadership of Joshua which suc­ceeded in conquering the entire land (11.23; 18.1; 22.43). On the other hand, there is a conflicting view of the conquest represented by Judges 1 and its paral­lels in Joshua (15.13-19, 63; 16.10; 17.11-13; 19.47) which appears to picture the conquest as undertaken by individual tribes, extending over a long period beyond the age of Joshua, and unsuccessful in driving out the Canaanites from much of the land.

More recently, Kenneth Kitchen has taken issue with Childs’s picture of Joshua 1-12. He notes that, when one takes into account the rhetorical flour­ishes common to ancient Near Eastern war accounts of this sort, a careful reading of Joshua 1-12 makes it clear that it does not portray Israel as actu­ally occupying or conquering the areas mentioned. Kitchen notes that after crossing the Jordan, the Israelites set up camp in Gilgal “on the east border of Jericho” (Josh. 4:19). He points out that after every battle in the next six chapters, the text explicitly states that they returned to Gilgal:

The conflict with Canaanite city-state rulers in the southern part of Canaan is worth close observation. After the battle for Gibeon, we see the Hebrews advance upon six towns in order, attacking and capturing them, killing their local kings and such of the inhabitants as had not gotten clear, and moving on, not holding on to these places. Twice over (10:15, 43), it is clearly stated that their strike force returned to base camp at Gilgal. So there was no sweeping takeover and occupation of this region at this point. And no total destruction of the towns attacked.

Kitchen continues:

What happened in the south was repeated up north. Hazor was both leader and famed center for the north Canaanite kinglets. Thus, as in the south, the Hebrew force defeated the opposition; captured their towns, killed rulers and less mobile inhabitants, and symbolically burned Hazor, and Hazor only, to emphasize its end to its local supremacy. Again Israel did not attempt to immediately hold on to Galilee; they remained based at Gilgal (cf. 14:6).

Kitchen notes that “the first indication of a real move in occupation outward beyond Gilgal comes in 18:4.” This is “after the first allotment (14-17) of lands-to-be-occupied had been made,” and as we saw above, the Israelites did not find occupying these allotments easy. He concludes, “These campaigns were essentially disabling raids: they were not territorial conquests with instant Hebrew occupation. The text is very clear about this.”

Joshua as we have it today, then, occurs in a literary context in which the language of “killing all who breathed,” “putting all inhabitants to the sword,” and “leaving no survivors” is followed up by a narrative that affirms straight­forwardly that the Canaanites were not literally wiped out or exterminated in this manner. Moreover the text of Joshua itself mixes and juxtaposes these two pictures of the entrance into Canaan. If one reads the whole narrative as a sequence, these are not subtle contrasts; they are, in Wolterstorff’s words, “flamboyant” ones.

It is worth emphasizing how “flamboyant” these tensions are. Joshua 6-11 rhythmically and repeatedly emphasizes that Joshua “put all the inhabitants to the sword” and “left no survivors.” It additionally spells out specific places this occurred. The section finishes in this manner: “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war” (11:23). Yet, at the same time, after every battle it is stressed that Israel returned to base camp at Gilgal. So there was no sweeping takeover and occupation of this region at that point.

Then, in the next five chapters, it is stressed repeatedly that the land was not yet conquered, and the Canaanites were, in fact, not literally wiped out. Furthermore, the very same regions were still occupied by the Canaanites who remained heavily armed and deeply entrenched in the cities. This is then followed by the opening chapters of Judges, which affirm eight times (in a single chapter) that the Israelites had failed to conquer the land or the cities and had failed to drive the inhabitants out. As we noted earlier, the account finishes with the angel of the Lord at Bokim rebuking them for failing to drive the inhabitants out. While one might contend a human author could make an editorial error, it is unlikely that an intelligent editor or arranger would have missed something this blatant. Wolterstorff concludes: “Those whose occupation it is to try to determine the origins of these writings will suggest that the editors had contradictory records, oral traditions, and so forth to work with. No doubt this is correct. But those who edited the final version of these writings into one sequence were not mindless; they could see, as well as you and I can see, the tensions and contradictions—surface or real—that I have pointed to. So what is going on?” Wolterstorff’s point is that regard­less of what sources or strata of tradition are alleged to be behind the final form of Joshua, those who edited the final version of these writings into one sequence would have been well aware of the obvious tensions in the passages mentioned above. Moreover, they were not mindless or stupid. Consequently, it is unlikely, when read in this context, that those who authorized the final form of Joshua were using the text to assert literally that Joshua carried out an extermination of all the inhabitants of Canaan at God’s command. Evidently, something else is going on.

The Use of Sources and Not-So-Intelligent Editors

Some critics have objected that this argument from Wolterstorff relies on the uninformed claim that if an editor put two contradictory sources together, the editor was either truly intellectually challenged or not affirming both in a literal sense. These critics object that Wolterstorff offers an utterly false dichotomy.

Consider, though, what the objector is implying by this “false dichotomy” charge. The critic suggests that the final editors of the text could be affirming both that Israel killed every single person in Canaan and that Israel did not do this, which, of course, makes no sense.

To back up their claim that the final editors are including blatantly contra­dictory materials, critics may appeal to influential positions proposed from within the camp of “source criticism.” The argument states that the ancient editors weren’t bothered by such contradictions in the way we moderns are. The ancient editors’ literary modus operandi—which included political or aesthetic considerations—was to faithfully preserve the source material despite its obviously contradictory nature when taken literally. Consider the political motivation: different groups of people with divergent traditions came together as one group, and so the traditions were woven together not for the sake of consistency but to reflect the unity of the group. The goal was to preserve the distinctiveness of the material and also to unite the people. Ancient editors cared about the material not because they thought it was “inerrant” but because it reflected the different traditions of the various peoples within that group.

Or maybe an editor would take a well-known tradition that was also sub­versive to establishment orthodoxy; he might add elements to it in order to make it conform to the official position. Ecclesiastes could be an example here, where the message of “the Teacher” contradicts long-standing orthodoxy, but a later editor deliberately contradicts its message by adding passages to subvert the original message (Eccles. 12:9-14).

The problem is that even if it is correct that genuine contradictions exist in the text, this charge fails to show that Wolterstorff’s argument relies on a false dichotomy. For one thing, the editor isn’t assuming that both affirmations—say, extermination and nonextermination—are literally true. The editor preserves them to show unity, which doesn’t counter Wolterstorff’s assumption; in fact, Wolterstorff would readily affirm this. The editor clearly has some­thing else in mind in preserving statements that affirm both extermination and nonextermination.

What about the even clearer example of Ecclesiastes, in which we find two “voices”; there is the cynical “Preacher/Teacher” and the godly editor, who in the end exhorts the reader to “fear God and keep His commandments” (12:9-14 NASB). The final editor is not assuming both positions are true. He repudiates the voice of the Preacher, who did say some provocative and even wise things (vv. 9-11). But the second voice stands to affirm a hope-filled stance that is quite distinct from the Preacher’s message of cynicism, empti­ness, and despair.

How indeed could Wolterstorff argue that even a half-intelligent editor would knowingly affirm both that Joshua exterminated every person in Canaan and that after he did so, abundant numbers of Canaanites were still alive? Ancient standards of accuracy or aesthetics are relevant here. Whatever dif­ferences they had from us, it is clear that ancient Near Easterners knew that if an enemy left absolutely no survivor in a city, then the people of that city were dead. It doesn’t make sense to affirm otherwise.

Wolterstorff’s first argument, therefore, appears sound. When the passages Bradley cites are read in context, it seems quite implausible to affirm that the final editor and arranger of Joshua was using this text to assert that absolute (or something approximating) extermination took place at God’s command. Something else is going on.

Summary MAIN chpt 7

8 ~ Genocide and an Argument for “Hagiographic Hyperbole”

If those who edited the final version of these writings into one sequence were not using the text to affirm that genocide occurred at God’s command, what then is going on? This brings us to Wolterstorff’s second line of argu­ment. He uses the term hagiography (“holy writing”)—which refers to certain idealized, sometimes exaggerated accounts of events. In the United States, for example, we have a hagiography of the Pilgrims interacting with noble sav­ages, Washington chopping down a cherry tree, and Washington crossing the Delaware—events that may reflect historical realities but are “sanitized” or “air-brushed” to remove any defect, messiness, or nuance. These might have the benefit of teaching a moral lesson, and the storytelling is not intended to tell us exactly what occurred historically. Some literary liberties are being taken.

Nicholas Wolterstorff suggests that hagiography—though properly clari­fied and qualified—serves as a helpful way of looking at Joshua’s exploits:

The book of Joshua has to be read as a theologically oriented narration, stylized and hyperbolic at important points, of Israel’s early skirmishes in the promised land, with the story of these battles being framed by descriptions of two great ritualized events. The story as a whole celebrates Joshua as the great leader of his people, faithful to Yahweh, worthy successor of Moses. If we strip the word “hagiography” of its negative connotations, we can call it a hagiographic ac­count of Joshua’s exploits. The book is not to be read as claiming that Joshua conquered the entire promised land, nor is it to be read as claiming that Joshua exterminated with the edge of the sword the entire population of all the cities on the command of Yahweh to do so. The candor of the opening chapter of Judges, and of Yahweh’s declaration to Joshua in his old age that “very much of the land still remains to be possessed,” are closer to a literal statement of how things actually went.

Wolterstorff alludes to several features and literary figures of speech in the text to support this view. He notes that the early chapters of Judges, by and large, read like “down-to-earth history.” However, he continues, anyone carefully reading the book of Joshua will recognize in it certain stylistic renderings—”formulaic phrasings” and “formulaic convention[s]” —and stylized language like “utterly destroy,” “put to the edge of the sword,” “leave alive nothing that breathes,” and “man and woman, young and old,” as well as “the highly ritualized character of some of the major events described.” “The book is framed by its opening narration of the ritualized crossing of the Jordan and by its closing narration of the equally ritualized ceremony of blessing and cursing that took place at Shechem; and the conquest narrative begins with the ritualized destruction of Jericho.” A related ritualistic feature is “the mysterious sacral category of being devoted to destruction.” However, the most significant is the use of formulaic language:

Anyone who reads the book of Joshua in one sitting cannot fail to be struck by the prominent employment of formulaic phrasings…. Far more important is the formulaic clause, “struck down all the inhabitants with the edge of the sword.”

The first time one reads that Joshua struck down all the inhabitants of a city with the edge of the sword, namely, in the story of the conquest of Jericho (6:21), one makes nothing of it. But the phrasing—or close variants thereon—gets re­peated, seven times in close succession in chapter 10, two more times in chapter 11, and several times in other chapters. The repetition makes it unmistakable that we are dealing here with a formulaic literary convention.

So while the accounts in Judges appear as “down-to-earth history,” the pas­sages in Joshua referring to “leaving alive none that breathes” and “putting all inhabitants to the sword” appear in contexts full of ritualistic, stylized, formulaic language. It therefore looks like something other than a mere literal description of what occurred. In light of these facts, Wolterstorff argues that Judges should be taken literally whereas Joshua is hagiographic history, a highly stylized, exaggerated account of the events designed to teach theological and moral points rather than to describe in detail what literally happened.

Ancient Near Eastern Conquest Accounts

Wolterstorff’s thesis has been substantially confirmed in a study he cites in a footnote. In a comprehensive comparative study of ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts, Lawson Younger Jr. documents that Joshua employs the same stylistic, rhetorical, and literary conventions of other war reports of the same period.’ Three conclusions of Younger’s research are pertinent.

The first is that comparisons between the book of Joshua and other an­cient Near Eastern conquest accounts demonstrate some important stylistic parallels. According to Ziony Zevit, “when the composition and rhetoric of the Joshua narratives in chapters 9-12 are compared to the conventions of writing about conquests in Egyptian, Hittite, Akkadian, Moabite, and Ara­maic texts, they are revealed to be very similar.” Younger notes similarities in the preface, structure, and even the way the treaty with the Gibeonites is recorded in Joshua and various ancient Near Eastern accounts. Joshua fol­lows this convention in describing numerous battles occurring in a single day or within a single campaign. Like Joshua, ancient Near Eastern accounts also repeatedly make reference to the enemy “melting with fear.” Even the way post-battle pursuits are set out and described shows similarities with comparable pursuits in ancient Near Eastern literature. Commenting on the structure of the campaigns mentioned in Joshua 9-12, Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen reminds us:

This kind of report profile is familiar to readers of ancient Near Eastern military reports, not least in the second millennium. Most striking is the example of the campaign annals of Tuthmosis III of Egypt in his Years 22-42 (ca. 1458­1438)…. The pharaoh there gives a very full account of his initial victory at Megiddo, by contrast with the far more summary and stylized reports of the ensuing sixteen subsequent campaigns. Just like Joshua against up to seven kings in south Canaan and four-plus up north.

He adds, “The Ten Year Annals of the Hittite king Mursil II (later fourteenth century) are also instructive. Exactly like the ‘prefaces’ in the two Joshua war reports (10:1-4; 11:1-5), detailing hostility by a number of foreign rulers against Joshua and Israel as the reason for the wars, so in his annals Mursil II gives us a long “preface” on the hostility of neighboring rulers and people groups that lead to his campaigns.” Kitchen offers other examples. He observes that the same formulaic style found in Joshua is also used in two of the Amarna letters—a correspondence written in Akkadian between Egyptian administra­tors in Canaan and Amurru and two particular pharaohs, Amenhotep III and Akhenaten (fifteenth and fourteenth centuries BC). Similarly, before his major campaigns, “Joshua is commissioned by YHWH not to fear (cf. 5:13-15; 10:8; 11:6). So also by Ptah and Amun were Merenptah in Egypt, and Tuthmosis IV long before him; and likewise Mursil II of the Hittites by his gods (Ten-Year Annals, etc.), all in the second millennium, besides such kings as Assurbanipal of Assyria down to the seventh century.”

Second, Younger also notes that such accounts are “figurative” and utilize what he calls a “transmission code”: a common, frequently stylized, stereo­typed, and frequently hyperbolic way of recording history. The literary motif of divine intervention is an example. Both The 10 Year Annals of Mursil (also known as “Mursili”) and Sargon’s Letter to the God record a divine interven­tion where the god sends hailstones on the enemy Tuthmosis III has a similar story regarding a meteor—or what appears to have been a meteor shower. Younger observes that these accounts are very similar to parallel accounts in Joshua 10 where God rains hailstones on Israel’s enemies. Similarly, Younger points out that in many ancient Near Eastern texts, “one can discern a literary technique in which a deity is implored to maintain daylight long enough for there to be a victory,” which has obvious parallels to Joshua 10:13-14. The numbers of armies and enemy casualties are rhetorically exaggerated. The fact that similar events are narrated in multiple different accounts suggests they are “a notable ingredient of the transmission code for conquest accounts” — that is, they are part of the common hyperbolic rhetoric of warfare rather than descriptions of what actually occurred.

Third and most significantly for this discussion, part of this “transmission code” is that victories are narrated in an exaggerated hyperbolic fashion in terms of total conquest, complete annihilation, and destruction of the enemy, killing everyone, leaving no survivors, etc. Kitchen offers illuminating examples:

The type of rhetoric in question was a regular feature of military reports in the second and first millennia, as others have made very clear…. In the later fifteenth century Tuthmosis III could boast “the numerous army of Mitanni, was over­thrown within the hour, annihilated totally, like those (now) non-existent” —whereas, in fact, the forces of Mitanni lived to fight many another day, in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries. Some centuries later, about 840/830, Mesha king of Moab could boast that “Israel has utterly perished for always”—a rather premature judgment at that date, by over a century! And so on, ad libitum. It is in this frame of reference that the Joshua rhetoric must also be understood.

Younger offers numerous other examples. Merneptah’s Stele (thirteenth cen­tury BC) describes a skirmish with Israel as follows, “Yanoam is nonexistent; Israel is wasted, his seed is not.” Here a skirmish in which Egypt prevailed is described in terms of the total annihilation of Israel. Sennacherib uses similar hyperbole, “The soldiers of Hirimme, dangerous enemies, I cut down with the sword; and not one escaped.” Mursil(i) II records making “Mt. Asharpaya empty (of humanity)” and the “mountains of Tarikarimu empty (of human­ity).” Mesha (whom Kitchen cited as stating “Israel has utterly perished for always”) describes victories in terms of his fighting against a town, taking it, and then killing all the inhabitants of the town. Similarly, The Bulletin of Ramses II, a historical narrative of Egyptian military campaigns into Syria, narrates Egypt’s considerably-less-than-decisive victory at the battle of Kadesh with the following rhetoric: “He took no note of the millions of foreigners; he regarded them as chaff…. His majesty slew the entire force of the wretched Foe from Hatti, together with his great chiefs and all his brothers, as well as all the chiefs of all the countries that had come with him, their infantry and their chariotry falling on their faces one upon the other. His majesty slaughtered and slew them in their places…; and his majesty was alone, none other with him.” Numerous other examples could be provided. The hyperbolic use of language similar to that in Joshua is strikingly evident. Though instances could be multiplied, but the point is that such accounts contain extensive hyperbole and are not intended to be taken as literal descriptions of what occurred.

Rhetorical Function and Ideology

Some critics will disagree with this hyperbolic interpretation of Joshua, but we should consider the point of hyperbole itself in such contexts. One conclu­sion Younger draws from his study is that the transmission code employed in Joshua 9-12 reflects the same imperialistic ideology as other ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts. This ideology means “victory must be described in black and white terms since there is only a ‘them’ vs. ‘us’ relationship.” Such rhetoric was used to inspire fear and obedience in those subjects who heard it. If the reader only heard such rhetoric as exaggeration, then the rhetoric would not have had the effect it was intended to have.

This inference is mistaken, firstly, because it is false that hyperbolic rhetoric must be taken literally in order to inspire fear and obedience. Suppose a boxer before a boxing match states that he is going to murder his opponent and make his children orphans. This sort of rhetoric is designed to inspire fear and intimidate. Does it follow that it is intended to be taken literally? Similarly, school bullies tell potential victims that if they “narc” on them, the bullies will “kill them and smash their heads in.” Do the victims have to believe they will literally be killed and have their heads actually smashed in to get the message?

Secondly, this objection fails to grasp the reasons Younger proffers for Joshua 9-12 reflecting the same imperialistic ideology as other ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts. Younger states: “Can one conclude that since the text of Joshua 9-12 manifests the same transmission code as other texts of ancient Near Eastern history writing, it is the product of the same underly­ing ideology? The indications from this study seem to point to an affirmative answer.” Younger concludes that Joshua 9-12 has the same ideology as other ancient Near Eastern accounts because it uses the same rhetorical transmission code—a code Younger documents as containing “extensive use of hyperbole.” He concludes: “Israelite ideology had certain similarities with the ‘Imperial­istic’ ideologies of the ancient Near East,” which included “a similar view of the enemy, the calculated terror, the high use of hyperbole . . . and the use of stereotyped syntagms [linguistic units in ordered words/phrases like “utterly destroyed”] to transmit the high-redundance message of the ideology.’

Younger is clear on his meaning of hyperbole—namely, using “exagger­ated terms for the purpose of emphasis and/or heightened effect,” adding that “more is said than is literally meant.” In fact, even when Younger talks of how victory must be described “in black and white terms,” he cites an ex­ample of the “figurative aspect” of such accounts and part of the “extensive use of hyperbole.”

Consequently, the critic cannot cite Younger’s conclusions (about Joshua reflecting the same imperialistic ideology as other ancient Near Eastern con­quest accounts) as evidence that the rhetoric in these texts was intended to be taken literally. The whole reason Younger concludes that these texts reflect this ideology is because they follow the same rhetorical conventions common to such accounts, conventions that were not meant to be taken literally.

Younger’s study shows quite conclusively that Joshua is written in accord with the rhetoric and conventions of ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts. Such accounts narrate history in a highly rhetorical, stereotyped, figurative fashion and utilize substantial hyperbole, narrating battles in terms of total annihilation of everyone. To read these accounts as though the author were literally affirming that total extermination had taken place is simply to misread them. Younger states, “It is evident that the syntagms… (they completely destroyed it and everyone in it,’ he left no survivors’), etc. are to be under­stood as hyperbole. Just like other ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts, the biblical narrative utilizes hyperbolic, stereotyped syntagms to build up the account.” Younger suggests this misreading has led scholars like Brevard Childs to mistakenly see contradictions between Joshua and the early chapters of the book of Judges. “Thus when the figurative nature of the account is considered there are really no grounds for concluding that Judges 1 presents a different view of the conquest from that of Joshua or that it must be an older account.” And Kitchen states that Old Testament scholars have read into the book of Joshua “a whole myth of their own making, to the effect that the book of Joshua presents a sweeping, total conquest and occupation of Canaan by Joshua, which can then be falsely pitted against the narratives in Judges.” This myth is “based on the failure to recognize and understand ancient use of rhetorical summations. The ‘ails’ are qualified in the Hebrew narrative itself.”

Biblical Hyperbole

Several other considerations can be added to bolster this point. One is the fact that such hyperbolic language is clearly being used within the book of Joshua itself, which we noted earlier. In Joshua 10:20 (NASB), for example, we are told that Joshua and the sons of Israel had been “slaying them with a very great slaughter, until they were destroyed.” Immediately, however, the text affirms that the “survivors who remained of them had entered the fortified cities.” In this context, the language of total destruction is clearly hyperbolic.

A similar phenomenon seems to occur in the account of the battle of Ai. After Joshua’s troops feign a retreat, the text states that “all the men of Ai” are pressed to chase them (Josh. 8:16). “Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. hey left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel” (v. 17). Joshua lures the pursuers into a trap “so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives” (v. 22). Then, after noting the capture of Ai’s military ruler (v. 23), the text immediately states: “When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword…” (v. 24). Taken literally, this is patently absurd. If there were no survivors or fugitives, whom were the Israelites chasing?

The account of the battle of Ai ends with the summary, “Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai” (v. 25), yet earlier in the same account it says, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there” (7:3). The text also describes Israel being routed when the men of Ai “killed about thirty-six of them” (v. 5). Clearly the casualty figures cannot be literally correct here. However, they are quite consistent with the conclusions drawn by Daniel Fouts that exaggerated numbers are common forms of hyperbole in ancient Near Eastern battle accounts. Archaeology suggests smaller numbers as well. Old Testament scholar Richard Hess notes that as with the “city [‘ir]” of Ai or other “cities” raided by the Israelites, Jericho was not a population center but a small, strategic military settlement or citadel. It was led by a commander or “king [melek],” also housing religious and political personnel. Jericho probably held a hundred or fewer men. This is why all of Israel could circle it seven times and then do battle against it on the same day!

Even if the numbers are not hyperbolic, matters seem complicated by the Hebrew term `eleph, commonly rendered “thousand.” A possible interpreta­tion is that these numbers may not be as high as our translations indicate. This term can also mean “unit,” “troop,” or “squad,” without specifying the exact number. However, the massive numbers in biblical war texts fit quite nicely within the genre of ancient Near Eastern war texts with many examples of extraordinarily high numbers; thus we consider the hyperbolic numbers to be more plausible.

Similar hyperbole occurs in other biblical books, using the same phraseol­ogy we find in Joshua of “utterly destroying [haram]” populations “with the sword.” First Chronicles 4:41 states: “They attacked [nakah] the Hamites in their dwellings and also the Meunites who were there and completely de­stroyed [haram] them.” But only a few verses later, we read that the survivors fled to Amalek where they were later all “destroyed [nakah]” a second time (v. 43 NASB)!

Later in 2 Chronicles 36:16-17, the author narrates the fall of Jerusalem: “But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.” Only a few verses later, however, the narrator states, “He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power” (v. 20).

Similarly, compare verse 19: “They [the Babylonians] set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and de­stroyed everything of value there.” With verse 18, “He [king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon] carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD’S temple and the treasures of the king and his officials.” Taken literally this is absurd. How could they carry off all the treasure from the palaces and temple if everything of value had been destroyed? But this was not intended to be taken literally. This account was written to a post-exilic audience who knew full well that not every one of the Judahites had been killed. They, as the descendants of the survivors, knew that Judah had been exiled and was later restored under Cyrus: a fact pointed out only a few verses later (cf. vv. 21-23).

One finds the same language of killing all inhabitants with the sword also used hyperbolically in Judges. Judges 1:8 states, “The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.” A few verses later, however, the text states: “The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites” (v. 21).

Similar language is used hyperbolically in the prophetic writings. In the context of the Babylonian invasion and Judah’s exile (sixth century BC), God said he would “lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there” (Jer. 9:11). Indeed, God said, “I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin” (25:9). Note that this is the same verb (haram) used for “utterly destroying” the Canaanites. In Jeremiah, God threatened to “stretch out My hand against you and destroy you” (15:6 NASB; cf. Ezek. 5:16)—to bring “disaster” against Judah (Jer. 6:19). However, the biblical text suggests that while Judah’s political and religious structures were ruined or disabled, and that Judahites died in the conflict, the “urban elite” were deported to Babylon while many “poor of the land” remained behind. Similarly, in Isaiah God says, “I consigned Jacob to destruction [herem] and Israel to scorn” (43:28). Then in the very next verse (44:1), God tells “Jacob,” whom he has “chosen,” that God will restore his people and bring them out of exile under a new covenant in which he will pour out his Spirit upon them.

As a final example, consider the “covenant curses” of Deuteronomy 28. Verse 20 warns: “The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin.” But this is followed by the threat that “the LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land” (v. 21). And once again we see the language of still further destruction: “The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed…. All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed” (v. 24, 45).

But the text goes on to state that though Israel has been “destroyed,” they will face further perils in exile: “Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known…. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life” (vv. 64-66). Those who were said to be destroyed are alive in exile.

The same kind of language used to describe the fate of the Canaanites is frequently used hyperbolically throughout the Bible. In all these cases, the language of destroying “all” is seen to be qualified by the fact that a significant number (in fact) fled, escaped, and survived. Kitchen notes that in ancient rhetorical summaries of this sort, “the ‘ails’ are qualified by the Hebrew nar­rative itself. In 10:20 we learn that Joshua and his forces massively slew their foes ‘until they were finished off’…, but in the same breath the text states that ‘the remnant that survived got away into their defended towns.’ Thus the absolute wording is immediately qualified by exceptions — ‘the quick and the dead,’ as one might say of pedestrians trying to cross our busy highways!”

Preliminary Conclusions

When we study the evidence, three things emerge. First, Joshua 1-11 occurs in a context where the so-called genocidal language of exterminating all and leaving no survivors occurs alongside a narrative that affirms matter-of-factly that large numbers of people were not killed and many survived. Second, as Wolterstorff comments, “Those who edited the final version of these writings into one sequence were not mindless,” and so it is unlikely they intended to affirm both these pictures as literally true. The biblical author clearly has something else in mind. Third, while Judges reads more like “down-to-earth history” (though not without mention of both destruction and many survivors [e.g., 1:8, 21]), a careful reading of Joshua reveals it to be full of ritualistic, stylized accounts and formulaic language. This third point is supported by research into ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts. Such studies show the following:

1 Such accounts are highly hyperbolic, hagiographic, and figurative, and follow a common transmission code;

2 Comparisons between these accounts and the early chapters of Joshua suggest Joshua is written according to the same literary conventions and transmission code;

3 Part of this transmission code is to hyperbolically portray a victory in absolute terms of totally destroying the enemy or in terms of miraculous divine intervention: “such statements are rhetoric indicative of military victory,” not literal descriptions of what occurred;

4 The same language and phraseology has a well-attested hyperbolic use in Joshua and elsewhere throughout Scripture.

Taken together, these points give persuasive reasons for thinking that one should interpret the extermination language in Joshua 1-12 as offering a highly figurative and hyperbolic account of what occurred. It seems sensible to con­clude that the language of “leaving alive nothing that breathes,” “leaving no survivors,” and “put[ting] all inhabitants to the sword” is not meant to be taken literally.

After comparing the figures of speech and rhetoric used in numerous Hit­tite, Assyrian, and Egyptian conquest accounts with those of Joshua, Younger concludes, “The syntagms (…‘they completely destroyed everyone in it’) and (. . .’he left no survivors’) are obvious hyperbole. This is also true for these: (…‘Not sparing anyone who breathed’), and (…‘until they exterminated them’). That these are figurative is clear from numerous ancient Near Eastern texts.” (See such hyperbole in Mark 1:5: Is all Judea/Jerusalem emptied?)

[….]

Summary MIAN chpt 8

Is Jesus a Copycat Savior?

In this inaugural Cold-Case Christianity video broadcast / podcast, J. Warner re-examines an atheist objection related to the historicity of Jesus. Is Jesus merely a copycat of prior mythologies like Mithras, Osiris or Horus? How can we, as Christians, respond to such claims? Jim provides a five point response to this common atheist claim. (For more information, please visit www.ColdCaseChristianity.com)

Here are three segments of a pretty thorough refutation of the “copy-cat messiah” myth many in the gen Y and X generation have been influenced by.

Full Video Response HERE

I wish to point something out.

Very rarely do you find someone who is an honest enough skeptic that after watching the above 3 short videos asks questions like: “Okay, since my suggestion was obviously false, what would be the driving presuppositions/biases behind such a production?” “What are my driving biases/presuppositions that caused me to grab onto such false positions?” You see, few people take the time and do the hard work to compare and contrast ideas and facts. A good example of this is taken from years of discussing various topics with persons of opposing views, I often ask if they have taken the time to “compare and contrast.” Here is my example:


I own and have watched (some of the below are shown in high-school classes):

• Bowling for Columbine
• Roger and Me
• Fahrenheit 9/11
• Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
• Sicko
• An Inconvenient Truth
• Loose Change
• Zeitgeist
• Religulouse
• The God Who Wasn’t There
• Super-Size Me

But rarely [really never] do I meet someone of the opposite persuasion from me that have watched any of the following (I own and have watched):

• Celsius41.11: The Temperature at Which the Brain Dies
• FahrenHYPE 9/11
• Michael & Me
• Michael Moore Hates America
• Bullshit! Fifth Season… Read More (where they tear apart the Wal-Mart documentary)
• Indoctrinate U
• Mine Your Own Business
• Screw Loose Change
• 3-part response to Zeitgeist
• Fat-Head
• Privileged Planet
• Unlocking the Mystery of Life

Continuing. Another point often overlooked is the impact the person who suggests the believer watch Zeitgeist thinks it will have.

Now that Zeitgeist has been shown to be very unsound and the history distorted, does the skeptic apply the same intended impact back upon him or herself? In other words, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Remember, the skeptic expects the Christian to watch this and come face-to-face with truth that undermines his or her’s faith, showing that they have a faith founded on something other than what they previously thought, an untruth. However, this intended outcome backfires and crumbles. The skeptic then has a duty [yes a duty] to apply intended impact onto one’s own biases and presuppositions and start to impose their own skepticism inward.

Christian historian and scholar Gary Habermas debates atheist Tim Callahan on the resurrection of Jesus. Callahan claims the resurrection of Jesus was influenced by pagan and Greek mythology, like Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis, etc. Of course, Callahan’s views are typical among so many young gullible atheists influenced by Richard Carrier and Robert Price. Habermas rips his claims to shreds in this debate.

A small excerpt from Mary Jo Sharp’s chapter, “Does the Story of Jesus Mimic Pagan Stories,” via, Paul Copan & William Lane Craig, eds.,  Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics (pp. 154-160, 164). Mary Jo has a website, Confident Christianity.

OSIRIS

1. Osiris
While some critics of Christ’s story utilize the story of Osiris to demonstrate that the earliest followers of Christ copied it, these critics rarely acknowledge how we know the story of Osiris at all. The only full account of Osiris’s story is from the second-century Al) Greek writer, Plutarch: “Concerning Isis and Osiris.”[4] The other information is found piecemeal in Egyptian and Greek sources, but a basic outline can be found in the Pyramid Texts (c. 2686-c. 2160 BC). This seems problematic when claiming that a story recorded in the second century influenced the New Testament accounts, which were written in the first century. Two other important aspects to mention are the evolving nature of the Osirian myth and the sexual nature of the worship of Osiris as noted by Plutarch. Notice how just a couple of details from the full story profoundly strain the comparison of Osiris with the life of Christ.

Who was Osiris? He was one of five offspring born of an adulterous affair between two gods—Nut, the sky-goddess, and Geb earth-god.[5] Because of Nut’s transgression, the Sun curses her and will not allow her to give birth on any day in any month. However, the god Thoth[6] also loves Nut. He secures five more days from the Moon to add to the Egyptian calendar specifically for Nut to give birth. While  inside his mother’s womb, Osiris falls in love with his sister, Isis. The two have intercourse inside the womb of Nut, and the resultant child is Horus.[7] Nut gives birth to all five offspring: Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.

Sometime after his birth, Osiris mistakes Nephthys, the wife of hisbrother Set, for his own wife and has intercourse with her. Enraged, Set plots to murder Osiris at a celebration for the gods. During the festivi­ties, Set procures a beautiful, sweet-smelling sarcophagus, promising it as a gift to the attendee whom it might fit. Of course, this is Osiris. Once Osiris lies down in the sarcophagus, Set solders it shut and then heaves it into the Nile. There are at least two versions of Osiris’s fate: (a) he suffocates in the sarcophagus as it floats down the Nile, and (b) he drowns in the sarcophagus after it is thrown into the Nile.

Grief-stricken Isis searches for and eventually recovers Osiris’s corpse. While traveling in a barge down the Nile, Isis conceives a child by cop­ulating with the dead body.[8] Upon returning to Egypt, Isis attempts to conceal the corpse from Set but fails. Still furious, Set dismembers his brother’s carcass into 14 pieces, which he then scatters throughout Egypt. A temple was supposedly erected at each location where a piece of Osiris was found.

Isis retrieves all but one of the pieces, his phallus. The body is mum­mified with a model made of the missing phallus. In Plutarch’s account of this part of the story, he noted that the Egyptians “presently hold a festival” in honor of this sexual organ.[9] Following magical incantations, Osiris is raised in the netherworld to reign as king of the dead in the land of the dead. In The Riddle of Resurrection: Dying and Rising Gods in the Ancient Near East, T. N. D. Mettinger states: “He both died and rose. But, and this is most important, he rose to continued life in the Netherworld, and the general connotations are that he was a god of the dead.”[10] Mettinger quotes Egyptologist Henri Frankfort:

Osiris, in fact, was not a dying god at all but a dead god. He never returned among the living; he was not liberated from the world of the dead,… on the contrary, Osiris altogether belonged to the world of the dead; it was from there that he bestowed his blessings upon Egypt. He was always depicted as a mummy, a dead king.[11]

This presents a very different picture from the resurrection of Jesus, which was reported as a return to physical life.

HORUS

2. Horus
Horus’s story is a bit difficult to decipher for two main reasons. Generally, his story lacks the amount of information for other gods, such as Osiris. Also, there are two stories concerning Horus that develop and then merge throughout Egyptian history: Horus the Sun-god, and Horus the child of Isis and Osiris. The major texts for Horus’s story are the Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead, Plutarch, and Apuleius-all of which reflect the story of Horus as the child of Isis and Osiris.[12] The story is routinely found wherever the story of Osiris is found.

Who was Horus? He was the child of Isis and Osiris. His birth has several explanations as mentioned in Isis and Osiris’s story: (1) the result of the intercourse between Isis and Osiris in Nut’s womb; (2) conceived by Isis’s sexual intercourse with Osiris’s dead body; (3) Isis is impregnated by Osiris after his death and after the loss of his phallus; or (4) Isis is impregnated by a flash of lightning.[13] To protect Horus from his uncle’s rage against his father, Isis hides the child in the Delta swamps. While he is hiding, a scorpion stings him, and Isis returns to find his body lifeless. (In Margaret Murray’s account in The Splendor That Was Egypt, there is no death story here, but simply a poisoned child.) Isis prays to the god Ra to restore her son. Ra sends Thoth, another Egyptian god, to impart magical spells to Isis for the removal of the poison. Thus, Isis restores Horus to life. The lesson for worshippers of Isis is that prayers made to her will protect their children from harm and illness. Notice the outworking of this story is certainly not a hope for resurrection to new life, in which death is vanquished forever as is held by followers of Jesus.[14] Despite this strain on the argument, some still insist that Horus’s scorpion poisoning is akin to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

In a variation of Horus’s story, he matures into adulthood at an accel­erated rate and sets out to avenge his father’s death. In an epic battle with his uncle Set, Horus loses his left eye, and his uncle suffers the loss of one part of his genitalia. The sacrifice of Horus’s eye, when given as an offering before the mummified Osiris, is what brings Osiris new life in the underworld.[15] Horus’s duties included arranging the burial rites of his dead father, avenging Osiris’s death, offering sacrifice as the Royal Sacrificer, and introducing recently deceased persons to Osiris in the netherworld as depicted in the Hunefer Papyrus (1317-1301 BC). One aspect of Horus’s duties as avenger was to strike down the foes of Osiris. This was ritualized through human sacrifice in the first dynasty, and then, eventually, animal sacrifice by the eighteenth dynasty. In the Book of the Dead we read of Osiris, “Behold this god, great of slaughter, great of fear! He washes in your blood, he bathes in your gore!”[16] So Horus, in the role of Royal Sacrificer, bought his own life from this Osiris by sacrificing the life of other. There is no similarity here to the sacrificial death of Jesus.

MITHRA

3. Mithras
There are no substantive accounts of Mithras’s story, but rather a pieced-together story from inscriptions, depictions, and surviving Mithraea (man-made caverns of worship). According to Rodney Stark, professor of social sciences at Baylor University, an immense amount of “nonsense” has been inspired by modern writers seeking to “decode the Mithraic mysteries.”[17] The reality is we know very little about the mystery of Mithras or its doctrines because of the secrecy of the cult initiates. Another problematic aspect is the attempt to trace the Roman military god, Mithras, back to the earlier Persian god, Mithra, and to the even earlier Indo-Iranian god, Mitra. While it is plausible that the latest form of Mithraic worship was based on antecedent Indo-Iranian traditions, the mystery religion that is compared to the story of Christ was a “genuinely new creation?”[18] Currently, some popular authors utilize the Roman god’s story from around the second century along with the Iranian god’s dates of appearance (c. 1500-1400 BC).

This is the sort of poor scholarship employed in popular renditions of Mithras, such as in Zeitgeist: The Movie. For the purpose of summary, we will utilize the basic aspects of the myth as found in Franz Cumont’s writing and note variations, keeping in mind that many Mithraic schol­ars question Cumont, as well as one another, as to interpretations and aspects of the story.[19] Thus, we will begin with Cumont’s outline.

Who was Mithra? He was born of a “generative rock,” next to a river bank, under the shade of a sacred tree. He emerged holding a dagger in one hand and a torch in the other to illumine the depths from which he came. In one variation of his story, after Mithra’s emergence from the rock, he clothed himself in fig leaves and then began to test his strength by subjugating the previously existent creatures of the world. Mithra’s first activity was to battle the Sun, whom he eventually befriended. His next activity was to battle the first living creature, a bull created by Ormazd (Ahura Mazda). Mithra slew the bull, and from its body, spine, and blood came all useful herbs and plants. The seed of the bull, gathered by the Moon, produced all the useful animals. It is through this first sacrifice of the first bull that beneficent life came into being, including human life. According to some traditions, this slaying took place in a cave, which allegedly explains the cave-like Mithraea.[20]

Mit(h)ra’s name meant “contract” or “compact.”[21] He was known in the Avesta—the Zoroastrian sacred texts—as the god with a hundred ears and a hundred eyes who sees, hears, and knows all. Mit(h)ra upheld agreements and defended truth. He was often invoked in solemn oaths that pledged the fulfillment of contracts and which promised his wrath should a person commit perjury. In the Zoroastrian tradition, Mithra was one of many minor deities (yazatas) created by Ahura Mazda, the supreme deity. He was the being who existed between the good Ahura Mazda and the evil Angra Mainyu—the being who exists between light and darkness and mediates between the two. Though he was considered a lesser deity to Ahura Mazda, he was still the “most potent and most glorious of the yazata.”[22]

The Roman version of this deity (Mithras) identified him with the light and sun. However, the god was not depicted as one with the sun, rather as sitting next to the sun in the communal meal. Again, Mithras was seen as a friend of the sun. This is important to note, as a later Roman inscription (c. AD 376) touted him as “Father of Fathers” and “the Invincible Sun God Mithras.”[23] Mithras was proclaimed as invin­cible because he never died and because he was completely victorious in all his battles. These aspects made him an attractive god for soldiers of the Roman army, who were his chief followers. Pockets of archaeologi­cal evidence from the outermost parts of the Roman Empire reinforce this assumption. Obviously, some problems arise in comparing Mithras to Christ, even at this level of simply comparing stories. Mithras lacks a death and therefore also lacks a resurrection.

Now that we have a more comprehensive view of the stories, it is quite easy to discern the vast difference between the story of Jesus and even the basic story lines of the commonly compared pagan mystery gods. One must only use the very limited, general aspects of the stories to make the accusation of borrowing, while ignoring the numerous aspects having nothing in common with Jesus’ story, such as missing body parts, sibling sexual intercourse inside the womb of a goddess-mother, and being born from a rock. This is why it is important to get the whole story. The sup­posed similarities are quite flimsy in the fuller context.

(Click to enlarge – above & below) Just three pages from Edwin Yamauchi’s book, Persia and the Bible, These three pages are a bit unrelated… but the topic is on Mithras, and if read, you can see the connection to the above portion by Mary Jo.


[4] Plutarch, “Concerning Isis and Osiris,” in Hellenistic Religions: The Age of Syncretism, ed. Frederick C. Grant (Indianapolis: Liberal Arts Press, 1953), 80-95.

[5] In some depictions, Nut and Geb are married. Plutarch’s account insinuates that they have committed adultery because of the anger of the Sun at Nut’s transgression.

[6] Plutarch refers to Thoth as Hermes in “Concerning Isis and Osiris.”

[7] Plutarch’s “Concerning Isis and Osiris” appears to be the only account with this story of Horus’s birth.

[8] This aspect of the story, which was a variation of Horus’s conception story, is depicted in a drawing from the Osiris temple in Dendara.

[9] Plutarch, “Concerning Isis and Osiris,” 87.

[10] N. D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection: Dying and Rising Gods in the Ancient Near East (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2001), 175.

[11] Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 190, 289; cf. 185; cited in Mettinger, Riddle of Resurrection, 172.

[12] For the purposes of this chapter, I use the following sources and translations: E. A. Wallis Budge’s translation of the Book of the Dead; Plutarch’s “Concerning Isis and Osiris”; Joseph Campbell’s piecing together of the story in The Mythic Image; as well as other noted interpreta­tions of the story.

[13] The latter two versions of Horus’s birth can be found in Rodney Stark, Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief (New York: Harper Collins, 2007), 204. However, Stark does not reference the source for these birth stories.

[14] The development of Isis’s worship as a protector of children is a result of this instance; Margaret A. Murray, The Splendor That Was Egypt, rev. ed. (Mineola: Dover, 2004), 106.

[15] Joseph Campbell, The Mythic Image (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), 29, 450.

[16] Murray, The Splendor That Was Egypt, 103.

[17] Stark, Discovering God, 141.

[18] Roger Beck, “The Mysteries of Mithras: A New Account of Their Genesis,” Journal of Roman Studies 88 (1998): 123.

[19] Roger Beck, M. J. Vermaseren, David Ulansey, N. M. Swerdlow, Bruce Lincoln, John R Hinnells, and Reinhold Merkelbach, for example.

[20] More corecontemporary Mithraic scholars have pointed to the lack of a bull-slaying story in the Iranian version of Mithra’s story: “there is no evidence the Iranian god ever had anything to do with a bull-slaying.” David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 8; see Bruce Lincoln, “Mitra, Mithra, Mithras: Problems of a Multiform Deity,” review of John R. Hinnells, Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies, in History of Religions 17 (1977): 202-3. For an interpretation of the slaying of the bull as a cosmic event, see Luther H. Martin, “Roman Mithrraism and Christianity,” Numen 36 (1989): 8.

[21] “For the god is clearly and sufficiently defined by his name. `Mitra means ‘con-tract’, as Meillet established long ago and D. [Professor G. Dumezi] knows but keeps forgetting.” Ilya Gershevitch, review of Mitra and Aryaman and The Western Response to Zoroaster, in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 22 (1959): 154. See Paul Thieme, “Remarks on the Avestan Hymn to Mithra,”Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 23 (1960): 273.

[22] Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra: The Origins of Mithraism (1903). Accessed on May 3,2008, http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/mom/index.htm.

[23] Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI. 510; H. Dessau, Inscriptions Latinae Selectae II. 1 (1902), No. 4152, as quoted in Grant, Hellenistic Religions, 147. This inscription was found at Rome, dated August 13, AD 376. Notice the late date of this title for Mithras—well after Christianity was firmly established in Rome.


PLUS, Dr. Mark Foreman

Evolution Cannot Account for: Logic, Reasoning, Love, Truth, or Justice

One of the most deep thinkers of the Founding Fathers, John Adams, noted that even “liberty” ~you know, one of the ideals impregnating our Founding Documents~ would be groundless if naturalism were true [among other things]:

Atheism—pure, unadulterated atheism…. The universe was matter only, and eternal Spirit was a word without a meaning. Liberty was a word without a meaning. There was no liberty in the universe; liberty was a word void of sense. Every thought, word, passion, sentiment, feeling, all motion and action was necessary [determinism]. All beings and attributes were of eternal necessity; conscience, morality, were all nothing but fate. This was their creed, and this was to perfect human nature, and convert the earth into a paradise of pleasure… Why, then, should we abhor the word “God,” and fall in love with the word “fate”? We know there exists energy and intellect enough to produce such a world as this, which is a sublime and beautiful one, and a very benevolent one, notwithstanding all our snarling; and a happy one, if it is not made otherwise by our own fault.

(See more context)

Ever hear an atheist say he’s a freethinker? Well, if atheism is true, an atheist, cannot be free nor would his thinking make any real sense. Frank Turek explains.

  • ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’ (J.B.S. Haldane)”

These are some of my favorite quotes and dealing with “naturalism” and their logical end-result, consequences, or logical conclusions. Merely a combining of MANY quotes and a “not-so-few” videos.

Why Atheism Cannot Account for Logic and Reasoning from shirley rose on Vimeo.

If you read the threads of several of the blog entries on this site, you will see both atheists and Christians charging one another with committing “logical fallacies.”  The assumption both sides are making is that there is this objective realm of reason out there that: 1) we all have access to; 2) tells us the truth about the real world; and 3) is something we ought to use correctly if we want to know the truth. I think those are good assumptions.  My question for the atheists is how do you justify these assumptions if there is no God?

If atheistic materialism is true, it seems to me that reason itself is impossible. For if mental processes are nothing but chemical reactions in the brain, then there is no reason to believe that anything is true (including the theory of materialism). Chemicals can’t evaluate whether or not a theory is true. Chemicals don’t reason, they react.

This is ironic because atheists– who often claim to be champions of truth and reason– have made truth and reason impossible by their theory of materialism. So even when atheists are right about something, their worldview gives us no reason to believe them because reason itself is impossible in a world governed only by chemical and physical forces.

Not only is reason impossible in an atheistic world, but the typical atheist assertion that we should rely on reason alone cannot be justified. Why not? Because reason actually requires faith. As J. Budziszewski points out in his book What We Can’t Not Know, “The motto ‘Reason Alone!’ is nonsense anyway. Reason itself presupposes faith. Why? Because a defense of reason by reason is circular, therefore worthless. Our only guarantee that human reason works is God who made it.“

Let’s unpack Budziszewski‘s point by considering the source of reason. Our ability to reason can come from one of only two sources: either our ability to reason arose from preexisting intelligence or it did not, in which case it arose from mindless matter. The atheists/Darwinists/materialists believe, by faith, that our minds arose from mindless matter without intelligent intervention. I say “by faith” because it contradicts all scientific observation, which demonstrates that an effect cannot be greater than its cause. You can’t give what you haven’t got, yet atheists believe that dead, unintelligent matter has produced itself into intelligent life. This is like believing that the Library of Congress resulted from an explosion in a printing shop.

I think it makes much more sense to believe that the human mind is made in the image of the Great Mind– God. In other words, our minds can apprehend truth and can reason about reality because they were built by the Architect of truth, reality, and reason itself.

So I have two questions for atheists:  1) What is the source of this immaterial reality known as reason that we are all presupposing, utilizing in our discussions, and accusing one other of violating on occasion?; and 2) If there is no God and we are nothing but chemicals, why should we trust anything we think, including the thought that there is no God?

(Cross Examined)

Let’s consider a basic question: Why does the natural world make any sense to begin with? Albert Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. Why should we be able to grasp the beauty, elegance, and complexity of our universe?

Einstein understood a basic truth about science, namely, that it relies upon certain philosophical assumptions about the natural world. These assumptions include the existence of an external world that is orderly and rational, and the trustworthiness of our minds to grasp that world. Science cannot proceed apart from these assumptions, even though they cannot be independently proven. Oxford professor John C. Lennox asks a penetrating question, “At the heart of all science lies the conviction that the universe is orderly. Without this deep conviction science would not be possible. So we are entitled to ask: Where does the conviction come from?”” Why is the world orderly? And why do our minds comprehend this order?

Toward the end of The God Delusion, Dawkins admits that since we are the product of natural selection, our senses cannot be fully trusted. After all, according to Darwinian evolution, our senses have been formed to aid survival, not necessarily to deliver true belief. Since a human being has been cobbled together through the blind process of natural selection acting on random mutation, says Dawkins, it’s unlikely that our views of the world are completely true. Outspoken philosopher of neuro-science Patricia Churchland agrees:

The principle chore of brains is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing [the world] is advantageous so long as it… enhances the organism’s chances for survival. Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost.

Dawkins is on the right track to suggest that naturalism should lead people to be skeptical about trusting their senses. Dawkins just doesn’t take his skepticism far enough. In Miracles, C. S. Lewis points out that knowledge depends upon the reliability of our mental faculties. If human reasoning is not trustworthy, then no scientific conclusions can be considered true or false. In fact, we couldn’t have any knowledge about the world, period. Our senses must be reliable to acquire knowledge of the world, and our reasoning faculties must be reliable to process the acquired knowledge. But this raises a particularly thorny dilemma for atheism. If the mind has developed through the blind, irrational, and material process of Darwinian evolution, then why should we trust it at all? Why should we believe that the human brain—the outcome of an accidental process—actually puts us in touch with reality? Science cannot be used as an answer to this question, because science itself relies upon these very assumptions.

Even Charles Darwin was aware of this problem: “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” If Darwinian evolution is true, we should distrust the cognitive faculties that make science possible.

Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 37-38.

….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If… men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill  their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.

But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.

If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?

Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.

See also my post on logical conclusions in meta-ethics and evil (like rape), HERE:

…if evolution were true, then there would be selection only for survival advantage; and there would be no reason to suppose that this would necessarily include rationality. After a talk on the Christian roots of science in Canada, 2010, one atheopathic* philosophy professor argued that natural selection really would select for logic and rationality. I responded by pointing out that under his worldview, theistic religion is another thing that ‘evolved’, and this is something he regards as irrational. So under his own worldview he believes that natural selection can select powerfully for irrationality, after all. English doctor and insightful social commentator Theodore Dalrymple (who is a non-theist himself) shows up the problem in a refutation of New Atheist Daniel Dennett:

Dennett argues that religion is explicable in evolutionary terms—for example, by our inborn human propensity, at one time valuable for our survival on the African savannahs, to attribute animate agency to threatening events.

For Dennett, to prove the biological origin of belief in God is to show its irrationality, to break its spell. But of course it is a necessary part of the argument that all possible human beliefs, including belief in evolution, must be explicable in precisely the same way; or else why single out religion for this treatment? Either we test ideas according to arguments in their favour, independent of their origins, thus making the argument from evolution irrelevant, or all possible beliefs come under the same suspicion of being only evolutionary adaptations—and thus biologically contingent rather than true or false. We find ourselves facing a version of the paradox of the Cretan liar: all beliefs, including this one, are the products of evolution, and all beliefs that are products of evolution cannot be known to be true.

Jonathan D. Sarfati, The Genesis Account: A Theological, Historical, And Scientific Commentary On Genesis 1-11 (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2015), 259-259.

* Atheopath or Atheopathy: “Leading misotheist [“hatred of God” or “hatred of the gods”] Richard Dawkins [one can insert many names here] often calls theistic religion a ‘virus of the mind’, which would make it a kind of disease or pathology, and parents who teach it to their kids are, in Dawkins’ view, supposedly practising mental child abuse. But the sorts of criteria Dawkins applies makes one wonder whether his own fanatical antitheism itself could be a mental pathology—hence, ‘atheopath’.” (Taken from the Creation.com article, “The biblical roots of modern science,” by Jonathan Sarfati [published: 19 May 2012] ~ comments in the “[ ]” are mine.)

Even Darwin had some misgivings about the reliability of human beliefs. He wrote, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

Given unguided evolution, “Darwin’s Doubt” is a reasonable one. Even given unguided or blind evolution, it’s difficult to say how probable it is that creatures—even creatures like us—would ever develop true beliefs. In other words, given the blindness of evolution, and that its ultimate “goal” is merely the survival of the organism (or simply the propagation of its genetic code), a good case can be made that atheists find themselves in a situation very similar to Hume’s.

The Nobel Laureate and physicist Eugene Wigner echoed this sentiment: “Certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.” That is, atheists have a reason to doubt whether evolution would result in cognitive faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. And if so, then they have reason to withhold judgment on the reliability of their cognitive faculties. Like before, as in the case of Humean agnostics, this ignorance would, if atheists are consistent, spread to all of their other beliefs, including atheism and evolution. That is, because there’s no telling whether unguided evolution would fashion our cognitive faculties to produce mostly true beliefs, atheists who believe the standard evolutionary story must reserve judgment about whether any of their beliefs produced by these faculties are true. This includes the belief in the evolutionary story. Believing in unguided evolution comes built in with its very own reason not to believe it.

This will be an unwelcome surprise for atheists. To make things worse, this news comes after the heady intellectual satisfaction that Dawkins claims evolution provided for thoughtful unbelievers. The very story that promised to save atheists from Hume’s agnostic predicament has the same depressing ending.

It’s obviously difficult for us to imagine what the world would be like in such a case where we have the beliefs that we do and yet very few of them are true. This is, in part, because we strongly believe that our beliefs are true (presumably not all of them are, since to err is human—if we knew which of our beliefs were false, they would no longer be our beliefs).

Suppose you’re not convinced that we could survive without reliable belief-forming capabilities, without mostly true beliefs. Then, according to Plantinga, you have all the fixins for a nice argument in favor of God’s existence For perhaps you also think that—given evolution plus atheism—the probability is pretty low that we’d have faculties that produced mostly true beliefs. In other words, your view isn’t “who knows?” On the contrary, you think it’s unlikely that blind evolution has the skill set for manufacturing reliable cognitive mechanisms. And perhaps, like most of us, you think that we actually have reliable cognitive faculties and so actually have mostly true beliefs. If so, then you would be reasonable to conclude that atheism is pretty unlikely. Your argument, then, would go something like this: if atheism is true, then it’s unlikely that most of our beliefs are true; but most of our beliefs are true, therefore atheism is probably false.

Notice something else. The atheist naturally thinks that our belief in God is false. That’s just what atheists do. Nevertheless, most human beings have believed in a god of some sort, or at least in a supernatural realm. But suppose, for argument’s sake, that this widespread belief really is false, and that it merely provides survival benefits for humans, a coping mechanism of sorts. If so, then we would have additional evidence—on the atheist’s own terms—that evolution is more interested in useful beliefs than in true ones. Or, alternatively, if evolution really is concerned with true beliefs, then maybe the widespread belief in God would be a kind of “evolutionary” evidence for his existence.

You’ve got to wonder.

Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith (to the Head): Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 44-45.

  • “Relativists aren’t interested in finding truth but in preserving their own autonomy. This isn’t a logical argument against relativism, of course. I’m just trying to point out that the true(!) basis for relativism is ultimately rooted in its motivation rather than in any good reasons or persuasive arguments.” — Paul Copan

This childish rejection of God in light of the evidence provided through the Book of Nature comes way of True Free Thinker, and shows the juvenile manner in which evidence is rejected in lieu of the ego:

…Lewis Wolpert simplistic dismissal of any and all intelligent design and creationism discoveries as “There is no evidence for them at all” is no less than an intellectual embarrassment and that he insists that “They must be kept out of science lessons” shows why he is the vice-president of an Atheist activism group.

And his dismissal of God is just as unimpressive, “There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God.”

But what scientific, evidence based, academic, scholarly reasons does Wolpert himself offer for having become an Atheist?:

I stopped believing in God when I was 15 or 16 because he didn’t give me what I asked for. [1]

Keith Ward asked Wolpert, “What sort of evidence would count for you? Would it have to be scientific evidence of some sort?” to which the reply was, “Well, no… I think I read somewhere: If he turned the pond on Hamstead Heath into good champagne, it would be quite impressive”[2]. And yet, the historical record is that Jesus turned water into wine and that is still not good enough, is it?

[My addition: no it isn’t, some people like champaigne and not wine]

Lewis Wolpert also stated, “I used to pray but I gave it up because when I asked God to help me find my cricket bat, he didn’t help.” Thus, Justin Brieley stated, “Right, and that was enough for you to prove that God did not exist” to which Wolpert replied, “Well, yes. I just gave it up completely.”[3]

[1] Lewis Wolpert, “The Hard Cell,” Third Way, March 2007 AD, p. 17

[2] Ibid., p. 16

[3] From an interview on the Unbelievable show titled, What Does Science Tell Us About God?

…read more…

(For the above audio) Well respected [in evolutionary circles] University College London Professor (Emeritus) of Cell and Developmental Biology answers this, and explains that most people want more. And indeed, the Judeo-Christian God is the only answer to this conundrum. You can see how the answer to the problem actually resonates and responds to the truth of human need.

In other words, if naturalistic evolution is true, reductionism is also in play. Then we are determined by the chemical make-up, firing of synapses, and whole of historical events leading up to us controlling our actions. So one could ask in all seriousness, “how much does love weigh?”

It is a cold world, unbelief.

What is love? Here are two possibilities:

1) chemical reactions in your brain perceived as feelings of loyalty toward a single co-parent for the purpose of rearing a child together, at least until it’s weaned
2) the ultimate good, a reflection of the image of God upon humanity

Arguments often arise by using the same words to mean different things. One worldview (Christianity) views love as the ultimate good in the material world and beyond.

Let’s look at how love is viewed by two different worldviews: Christianity and naturalism.

On Christianity, love is ultimately:

a) the state of affairs existing prior to the creation of the universe, flowing between the Father and the Son via the Holy Spirit, the vehicle of love
b) the highest good
c) the ultimate goal, an act of worship.

On naturalism, love is ultimately:

a) the evolutionary mechanism to ensure the survival of children and the propagation of our species
b) a nice concept, something to distract you from the depressing thought of a meaningless existence
c) an amusing illusion

Your worldview will shape how you understand the concept of love…

…read more…

I wish to start out with an excerpt from a chapter in my book where I use two scholarly works that use Darwinian naturalism as a guide to their ethic:

  • Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1997).
  • Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000).

My incorporation of these works into my book (quote):

“Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous; rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success….. The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically. Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival. Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo. The biological, amoral, justification of rape is made often times as a survival mechanism bringing up the net “survival status” of a species, usually fraught with examples of homosexual worms, lesbian seagulls, and the like.”

(pp. 7-9 of  Roman-Epicurean-ism-Natural-Law-and-Homosexuality)

Now, hear from other atheist and evolutionary apologists themselves in regard to the matter:

Richard Dawkins

(h/t: Atheism Analyzed) – A Statement Made by an atheist at the Atheist and Agnostic Society:

Some atheists do believe in ethical absolutes, some don’t. My answer is a bit more complicated — I don’t believe that there are any axiological claims which are absolutely true, except within the context of one person’s opinion.

That is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so are ethics. So, why is Adolf Hitler wrong? Because he murdered millions, and his only justification, even if it were valid, was based on things which he should have known were factually wrong. Why is it wrong to do that? Because I said so. Unless you actually disagree with me — unless you want to say that Adolf Hitler was right — I’m not sure I have more to say.

[side note] You may also be aware that Richard Dawkins stated,

  • “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”

Stated during an interview with Larry Taunton, “Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist,” by Faith Magazine, Issue Number 18, December 2007 (copyright; 2007-2008)

Lewis Wolpert

From the video description:

Atheists Trying to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too on Morality. This video shows that when an atheist denies objective morality they also affirm moral good and evil without the thought of any contradiction or inconsistency on their part.

Dan Barker

This is from the video Description for the Dan Barker video below:

The atheist’s animal-level view of “morality” is completely skewed by dint of its lack of objectivity. In fact, the atheist makes up his own personal version of “morals” as he goes along, and this video provides an eye-opening example of this bizarre phenomenon of the atheist’s crippled psyche:

During this debate, the atheist stated that he believed rape was morally acceptable, then he actually stated that he would rape a little girl and then kill himself — you have just got to hear his psychotic words with your own ears to believe it!

He then stammered and stumbled through a series of ridiculously lame excuses for his shameful lack of any type of moral compass.

To the utter amazement of his opponent and all present in the audience, the gruesomely amoral atheist even goes so far as to actually crack a sick little joke on the subject of SERIAL CHILD-RAPE!

:::shudders:::

Meanwhile, the Christian in the video gracefully and heroically realizes the clearly objective moral values that unquestionably come to humanity by God’s grace, and yet are far beyond the lower animal’s and the atheist’s tenuous mental grasp. Be sure to keep watching until the very end so that you can hear the Christian’s final word — it’s a real knuckle-duster!

Atheist dogma not only fails to provide a stable platform for objective human morality for its adherent — it precludes him even the possibility. It’s this very intellectual inability to apprehend any objective moral values that leads such believers in atheist dogma as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Dahmer to commit their horrific atheistic atrocities.

Any believer in atheist dogma, given sufficient power, would take the exact same course of action that Hitler did, without a moment’s hesitation.

Note as well that evolutionary naturalism has very dogmatic implication, IF — that is — the honest atheist/evolutionist follow the matter to their logical conclusions, via the ineffable Dr. Provine:

William Provine

Atheist and staunch evolutionist Dr. William Provine (who is often quoted by Richard Dawkins) admits what life has in stored if Darwinism is true. The quote comes from his debate here with Dr. Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994.

“We must ask first whether the theory of evolution by natural selection is scientific or pseudoscientific …. Taking the first part of the theory, that evolution has occurred, it says that the history of life is a single process of species-splitting and progression. This process must be unique and unrepeatable, like the history of England. This part of the theory is therefore a historical theory, about unique events, and unique events are, by definition, not part of science, for they are unrepeatable and so not subject to test.”

Colin Patterson [1978] (Dr. Patterson was Senior Principal Scientific Officer of the Paleontology Department of the British Museum of Natural History in London.)

People think evolution is “science proper.” It is not, it is both a historical science and a [philosophical] presupposition in its “neo-Darwinian” form. The presupposition that removes it from “science proper and moves it into “scientism” is explained by an atheist philosopher:

If science really is permanently committed to methodological naturalism – the philosophical position that restricts all explanations in science to naturalistic explanations – it follows that the aim of science is not generating true theories. Instead, the aim of science would be something like: generating the best theories that can be formulated subject to the restriction that the theories are naturalistic. More and more evidence could come in suggesting that a supernatural being exists, but scientific theories wouldn’t be allowed to acknowledge that possibility.

Bradley Monton, author of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design ~ Apologetics315 h/t

In other words, the guy most credited in getting us to the moon used science to get us there, but was a young earth creationist. His view on “origins” (origin science) is separate from his working science. Two categories.

Likewise one of the most celebrated pediatric surgeons in the world, whom a movie was made after, “Gifted Hands,” is a young earth creationist. And the inventor of the MRI, a machine that diagnosed my M.S., is also a young earth creationist.

Evolutionary Darwinism is first and foremost an “historical science” that has many presuppositions that precede it, making it a metaphysical belief, a philosophy, as virulent anti-creationist philosopher of science, Michael Ruse explains:

Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. . . . Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.

Michael Ruse, “Saving Darwinism from the Darwinians,” National Post (May 13, 2000), p. B-3. (Via ICR)

The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature. Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all…. If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy [New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942], pp. 161-162. Found in: Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001], 206.

He thus acknowledged the need for any theory to allow that humans have genuine freedom to recognize the truth. He (again, correctly) saw that if all thought, belief, feeling, and choice are determined (i.e., forced on humans by outside conditions) then so is the determinists’ acceptance of the theory of determinism forced on them by those same conditions. In that case they could never claim to know their theory is true since the theory making that claim would be self-referentially incoherent. In other words, the theory requires that no belief is ever a free judgment made on the basis of experience or reason, but is always a compulsion over which the believer has no control.

Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2005), 174.

If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. They [determinists – I would posit any philosophical naturalist] want to be considered as rational agents arguing with other rational agents; they want their beliefs to be construed as beliefs, and subjected to rational assessment; and they want to secure the rational assent of those they argue with, not a brainwashed repetition of acquiescent pattern. Consistent determinists should regard it as all one whether they induce conformity to their doctrines by auditory stimuli or a suitable injection of hallucinogens: but in practice they show a welcome reluctance to get out their syringes, which does equal credit to their humanity and discredit to their views. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.

J. R. Lucas, The Freedom of the Will (New York: NY: Oxford University Press, 1970), 114, 115.

One of the most intriguing aspects mentioned by Ravi Zacharias of a lecture he attended entitled Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate, given by Stephen Hawking, who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Isaac Newton’s chair, was this admission by Dr. Hawking’s, was Hawking’s admission that if “we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free.”[1] In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms?[2] Michael Polyni mentions that this “reduction of the world to its atomic elements acting blindly in terms of equilibrations of forces,” a belief that has prevailed “since the birth of modern science, has made any sort of teleological view of the cosmos seem unscientific…. [to] the contemporary mind.”[3]

[1] Ravi Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 118, 119.
[2] My own summation.
[3] Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch, Meaning (Chicago, IL: Chicago university Press, 1977), 162.

What merit would attach to moral virtue if the acts that form such habitual tendencies and dispositions were not acts of free choice on the part of the individual who was in the process of acquiring moral virtue? Persons of vicious moral character would have their characters formed in a manner no different from the way in which the character of a morally virtuous person was formed—by acts entirely determined, and that could not have been otherwise by freedom of choice.

Mortimer J. Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1985), 154.

If we were free persons, with faculties which we might carelessly use or wilfully misuse, the fact might be explained; but the pre-established harmony excludes this supposition. And since our faculties lead us into error, when shall we trust them? Which of the many opinions they have produced is really true? By hypothesis, they all ought to be true, but, as they contradict one another, all cannot be true. How, then, distinguish between the true and the false? By taking a vote? That cannot be, for, as determined, we have not the power to take a vote. Shall we reach the truth by reasoning? This we might do, if reasoning were a self-poised, self verifying process; but this it cannot be in a deterministic system. Reasoning implies the power to control one’s thoughts, to resist the processes of association, to suspend judgment until the transparent order of reason has been readied. It implies freedom, therefore. In a mind which is controlled by its states, instead of controlling them, there is no reasoning, but only a succession of one state upon another. There is no deduction from grounds, but only production by causes. No belief has any logical advantage over any other, for logic is no longer possible.

Borden P Bowne, Metaphysics: A Study In First Principles (originally published in 1882; London: Sampson Low, Searle & Rivington, 2005), 105.

“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”

Mussolini, Diuturna (1924) pp. 374-77, quoted in A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (Ignatius Press; 1999), by Peter Kreeft, p. 18

Is God Just a Psychological Crutch for the Weak?

Via Thinking Matters:

1. Freud himself acknowledged that his “psychoanalysis” of religion had no supporting clinical evidence.
2. The argument commits the genetic fallacy, which is the error of attributing truth or falsehood to a belief based on its origin or genesis.
3. We need to distinguish between the rationality of belief and the psychology of belief.
4. It is odd and arbitrary to claim that whatever brings comfort and solace is false.
5. The incurably religious nature of human beings could just as likely indicate a divinely placed void that only God can fill.
6. A comforting father figure, while unique to the biblical faith, is not at the heart of the other world religions.
7. The attempt to psychologize believers applies more readily to the hardened atheist.

Read the whole article and Copan’s explanation of each point here. The following video presentation is by Professor Paul Vitz (I believe he is now retired)… here is a short bio on him via Conservapedia:

Paul Vitz is a Psychology professor at New York University. He graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan in 1957 and with a Ph.D in Psychology from Stanford University in 1962. An atheist until he was in his late 30s, he is now a practicing Roman Catholic. His focus is on the connection between Christianity and Psychology. He is a member of the fellowship of Catholic Scholars, but also has strong contact to Evangelical Protestantorganizations and deeply religious Jews.

Vitz criticizes liberalism and believes there is a link between fatherlessness and atheism, as he demonstrates in his book Faith of the Fatherless, the Psychology of Atheism (1999). The thesis of Faith of the Fatherless holds that famous believers—e.g., Blaise Pascal, Edmund Burke, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer—had strong and loving fathers, whereas their atheistic counterparts—e.g., Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Sigmund Freud, Mao Zedong and Adolf Hitler—all had fathers who were weak, unloving, or absent. Thus, philosophers, professors, and political tyrants who denounce God do so in order to relive traumatic childhood experiences and to subconsciously seek out help rather than to explore any sort of valid or respectable reasoning process.

…read more…

His books are as follows (his Amazon page is here):

  • Psychology As Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship;
  • Modern Art and Modern Science: The Parallel Analysis of Vision, authored with Arnold B. Glimcher;
  • Sigmund Freud’s Christian Unconscious;
  • Censorship: Evidence of Bias in Our Children’s Textbooks;
  • The Course of True Love: Marriage in High School Textbooks, a Report to the Nation from the Council on Families;
  • Defending the Family: A Sourcebook, edited with Stephen M. Krason;
  • Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism;
  • The Self: Beyond the Postmodern Crisis, edited with Susan M. Felch.

Here is another example of a crutch allowing people to feel like they can act-out as they please:

Heaven or Hell? The Sinners Crutch!

From video description

In this “Ultimate Issues Hour,” Dennis Prager discusses “Ultimate Justice” (God’s justice and otherwise) and justice’s involvement/affect in/on behavior. A new study reveals that belief in hell [and heaven] predicted a lower crime rate; belief in heaven predicted more crimes. Dennis tackles this hard to explain — or is it — issue.

This is uploaded because of an article by a detective and Christian apologist that likewise deals head-on with these questions as well (See, “Does Belief In God Encourage Criminal Behavior?“). Detective Wallace says, “Criminals who justify their actions with religious doctrines are typically woefully ignorant of (or purposefully distorting) these doctrines,” I concur. Having been in jail for almost a full year-and-a-half with three felonies, I know first hand the psychological crutch religion can play, rather than the Refiner’s Fire Christianity is meant to be (Zechariah 13:9, 1 Peter 1:7, Job 23:10, Isaiah 48:10).

I will add that “Liberalism,” wherever it is applied (politics, economics, faith, ethics, and the like), harms immeasurably the actions of those involved in it. Theology is no less hurt by this progressive matrix.

Just the latest example of this are those that are opposed to pro-lifers support of a bill that will stop late-term abortions. They can be heard chanting “hail Satan” in response to others singing “Amazing Grace.” As well as “fu*k the church!” The Democrats that once supported and made up John F. Kennedy’s base would not recognize the liberal Democratic party of today. Which is why Dennis says (as well as Reagan) that the Democratic Party left them, not the other way around.

Numbers 31:15 ~ “Have You Allowed All the Women to Live?”

sisera Canaanites Bible Giordano

This is a bit of a convoluted rant from YouTube by a cult member (or at least, a supporter). My response will not be my own, but Matt Flannagan and Paul Copan’s response to the verse mentioned by this cult member.

…the teachings of the Bible? You mean where “God” instructs Moses and them to slaughter entire cities including babies(except the virgin women) and rape women…or where Jesus allows his enemies to capture and crucify him? Who are you trying to fool…thank goodness Fard Muhammad came to kill religion…if you are standing by the Bible as your moral base then you have no moral base to stand on….you would mutilate your son’s penis because your poison bible tells you to….the Father Allah was a greater God than Jesus…at the very least he didn’t go out like a punk like your boy did…the enemy of the planet right now is the global system of white domination…and this system oppresses everyone including so called white folks…you seriously lack understanding…the Father Allah was not anti white or pro black…

…your poison book is in every hotel room and it states in the old testament….. “Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went to meet them outside the camp. But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle. “Why have you let all the women live?” he demanded. “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the LORD at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.” ….om just trying to show you how ridiculous you look promoting such a filthy poisonous book and at the same time judging a cipher that was only founded to fix the mess that european christians started…and now we gotta fix the mess in your video….Allah the chosen one, who left temple 7 in 1963 and borned the first 5 percenters was no racist and if he was a racist he problably would be alive today…its like you damed if you do and u damned if you don’t with yaw people…nothing pleases you except for mucus, pus and white blood cells…

This is with thanks to Moral Apologetics. Here is the text from the wonderful book, Did God Really Command Genocide?

Number 31:15: “Have You Allowed All the Women to Live?”

The third example Morriston cites to make his point is the defeat of Midian as recorded in Numbers 31. The Israelites fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man (v. 7). After the battle, however, Moses commanded Israel to kill all the boys and every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. Morriston says Yahweh was angered by the fact that some young Israelite men had worshiped Baal alongside their new Midianite brides, writing, “Not only must the Israelites be punished, but the Midianites must be punished for causing the Israelites to be punished.” God’s stated reasons, according to Morriston’s thinking, are inadequate.

But Morriston appears to have misread the text. First, consider his claim that the text explicitly states that God’s reason for commanding the killing of the Midianite women and boys was “spiritual infection” because “some young Israelite men had worshiped Baal alongside their new Midianite brides.” There are several problems with this.

First is the fact that, in the text Morriston cites (Num. 31:17-18), God himself does not explicitly command Israel to kill all the Midianite women and boys. God’s command to Moses regarding the Midianites is actually recorded in Numbers 25:17-18 and 31:1-2. God explicitly commands Israel to respond to the Midianites’ spiritual subterfuge by fighting against the Midianites and defeating them. The reasons why Israel is to obey isn’t the spiritual infection of women as Morriston says, but rather the fact that Midian has been hostile toward and deceived Israel.

The Numbers 31 text does not explicitly attribute the command to kill the women and boys to God, but to Moses. Morriston acknowledges this, but suggests three reasons why this observation doesn’t come to much. (1) Moses is regularly characterized as being very close to Yahweh, faithfully obeying his instructions most of the time; (2) Yahweh expresses no disapproval of anything Moses does in this story; and (3) Yahweh himself is the principal instigator of the attack on Midian.

These responses, however, are inadequate. Consider the last point first. The fact that someone is the “principal instigator” of an attack doesn’t entail that he approves of every single action that takes place within the battle in question. Similarly with 2: the lack of explicit disapproval in the text does not entail approval. Morriston’s argument is an appeal to ignorance; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is not uncommon in biblical narratives for authors to describe sinful behavior without expressing explicit disapproval. In most cases, no doubt, the author expects the reader to know certain actions are right and wrong.

Finally, regarding 1, the fact that someone is portrayed in the text as close to God or faithful to him does not mean that every action he is recorded as doing is commanded or endorsed by God. Consider David, or Abraham.

A second instance of Morriston misreading the text is that not only does he attribute Moses’s reasons to God; he also misstates the reasons Moses does give in the context. The real issue is that the Midianite women had been following the devious advice of the pagan seer, Balaam, who had been explicitly commanded by God not to curse Israel. Balaam had led the Israelites into acting treacherously at Baal-Peor. This is the clearly stated issue (31:16). What occurs, when the background is taken into account, is not that some Israelites marry Midianite women, but rather these women use sex to seduce Israel into violating the terms of their covenant with God—an event that threatened Israel’s very national identity, calling, and destiny. This act was in fact deliberate.

So Morriston’s comments are far off the mark when he insists that the Midianites could not have been trying to harm the Israelites by inviting them to participate in the worship of a god in whom they obviously believed. The whole point of the exercise was to get God to curse Israel so that a military attack could be launched by Moab and Midian. The picture isn’t one of innocent Midianite brides, but acts tantamount to treason and treacherous double agents carrying on wicked subterfuge.

Note that the problem wasn’t God’s opposition to Israelites marrying Midianites per se. Indeed, Moses married Zipporah, a Midianite, and he received wise counsel from his father-in-law, Jethro, a Midianite priest.

Old Testament Scholar Joe Sprinkle Examines Deuteronomy 20:10-18

Was the Command to “Utterly Destroy” an Occasional Command?

Not only is the command given to Israel, but it occurs in the narrative as an occasional command. This is perhaps clearest in Deuteronomy 20:10-18, which is worth quoting at length:

“When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. “If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. “If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. “When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it [‘et kol zekurah lepiy hareb]. “As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies. ‘This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. “However [raq], in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. ‘Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you. “Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.

The New International Version (NIV) translates “put to the sword [zekurah, from the Hebrew verb nakah]” (v. 13) as a command (the imperative of the imperfect verb). However, Old Testament scholar Joe Sprinkle [book] argues that identical or similar parallels to this verse should be understood as a permissive use of this (imperfect) verb. That is, the verse permits the killing of the men. Thus verses 12-13 would be rendered this way: “Now if it [the city] is unwilling to make peace with you, but instead makes war with you, then you are permitted to besiege it. Now when YHWH your God gives it into your hand, then you may kill any of its men with the edge of the sword.”

Immediately following these verses, a particle (raq)—which the NIV translates “As for”—comes at the beginning of verse 14: “As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city . . .” This particle, Sprinkle notes, typically qualifies or restricts a previous statement. The previ­ous clause in verse 13 indicates what can be done to the “men/males,” and the following raq clause qualifies and clarifies that such a rule does not apply to women, children, and spoil. Verses 13-14 therefore express the principle of noncombatant immunity. If a city refuses terms of peace, one can permissibly kill the men. For those who will be engaging in the combat, however, this permission does not extend to women, children, and spoil; one is prohibited from killing them.

Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan, Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 58-59.

Are Those Who Have Not Heard the Gospel Damned? Q&A (UPDATED)

This post is a response to a question posed to me via my email by an atheist.

I see that you do some apologetics. Here are a few sincere questions that I’ve tried to get answered from Christians like Greg Koukl, but I never seem to get a response. I’m not baiting you by sending you these questions. If you have any thoughts on these issues, I’d appreciate getting to read your opinion.

1. The New Testament makes it clear that its only through faith in Jesus and his sacrifice that humans can enter heaven. Anyone who lived before Jesus started his ministry had no way of having faith in Jesus. Maybe the people of ancient Israel could piece together what they needed to believe to achieve salvation, but for the gentiles or even humans who lived in North America before the birth of Jesus, they would have no knowledge of the nation of Israel. And most certainly they would have no knowledge of a coming messiah or a future person named Jesus and his sacrifice. What I can conclude is that God allowed humans to be born that would have absolutely no chance of avoiding eternal torment in the fires of hell. I’ve been told that human morality proves that God must be a moral being. However, we have an enormous contradiction here. The God in this scenario is not worthy of respect or love because he is not moral. Hitler and Stalin would have to be quite envious of the amount of torment this God would have allowed.

I brought up the idea of Native-Americas (N-A) not hearing the Gospel with my dad. It seemed, to me, unfair that they should not be afforded at least some clarity in an opportunity to be judged before their maker. My dad shared his thoughts on the matter, and it started with a reading from Romans:

  • 18 For God’s wrath  is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,  19 since what can be known  about God is evident among them,  because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world,  being understood through what He has made.  As a result, people are without excuse. (The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. [Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009], Ro 1:18–20.)
  • But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. (Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language [Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005], Ro 1:18–20.)

He explained that the tribes that were very “war-like,” like the Comanches, acted in rejection of what they knew to be God’s creation and how they should treat their fellow man and nature via the attributes they could clearly interpret via nature. The Sioux were at other times feared as well.

Peaceful tribes – not perfect mind you, but they had a deep understanding of their Creator and how to care for their own and other Native-American tribes they encountered — would interpret nature’s revelatory aspect of Whom they were to worship, and how. The Hopi tribe is one example.

To be clear, when theologians say that God is ultimately sovereign in his decisions over his creation, I am down with this. God — in classical understanding — IS the “Good” and would have a larger view of the panoply of history (since God would be outside of it and viewing it as a whole… the Eternal Now type stuff). So His judgement would necessarily be a Just one. I am not questioning this. I am saying that there are views within orthodoxy that struggle with the boundaries of those who have lived by law seeing that redemption of nature and themselves was somehow woven into nature and never hearing the Gospel (Hebrews 11:9-11). …continuing….

So using the Romans understanding of “The Book of Nature,” and the basis for “unsaved” people seeing – yes, even God’s attributes – something metaphysical and not just material, and looked forward to this hope. Also, these stories of creation and serving a God were handed down from the beginning of mankind. Some people across the earth held close these ancient stories although changed with time.

Combine this with the story of Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:19-31) and what Peter tells us about Jesus preaching to these lost souls (I Peter 3:18-20). I would posit — staying within the lane-lines of orthodoxy — that those in the world [pre and post Calvary] who have not been afforded a good explanation of the Gospel message may be afforded an opportunity to respond. This is not me arguing for universalism, but for justice being metered out in some form that was communicated to the Hebraic peoples that is hinted to in the New Testament.

Some Commentary On 1 Peter 3:18-19

This verse raises the two most difficult questions in the letter. When did Jesus preach to the spirits in prison, and who were they? Some take the verse to refer to the chronological sequel to Jesus’ death, when his spirit passed into the realms of the departed. Then, with Acts 2:31 and Eph. 4:9, this verse establishes the clause in the Creeds about Jesus’ descent to the dead. In that case he must have preached to all the dead in one of three ways: to offer them a second chance of salvation; to proclaim his victory over death and triumph over the power of evil and so confirm the sentence on unbelievers and announce deliverance for believers; to proclaim release from purgatory to those who had repented just before they perished in the flood (a popular interpretation among Roman Catholic writers).

Neither the first nor the last of these can be supported from Scripture, but the second has been held by many commentators as fitting in with the NT evidence above. E.G. Selwyn (The First Epistle of Peter [Macmillan, 1949]), and others see the spirits in prison as the fallen angels of Gn. 6:1–8 referred to in 2 Pet. 2:4–10 and Jude 6 as well as in the apocryphal 1 Enoch. Peter’s aim in this context is to demonstrate that God’s purpose is being worked out even in times of suffering. So it would seem best to understand the preaching as a declaration of Christ’s triumph, in order to assert (22) that all angels, authorities and powers [are] in submission to him. Grudem (TNTC) in an appendix summarizes the views and claims that the spirits were Noah’s contemporaries who rejected the preaching of the Spirit of Christ through Noah (see 2 Pet. 2:5) and are now in the prison of the abode of the dead. The interpretation of made alive by the Spirit (18) as a reference to the resurrection, and the spirits in prison as a reference to the fallen angels is cogently argued by R. T. France in New Testament Interpretation, ed. I. H. Marshall (Paternoster Press, 1979), pp. 264–281. He claims that NT and contemporary usage favour this understanding of the word spirits when used by itself, rather than applying it to men and women who had died before Jesus came to bring the gospel.

No view is free of problems, but the use of a verb implying steady and purposeful progression (went [19] and has gone [22] are both the same Gk. word poreutheis) suggests that Peter is recounting what Jesus accomplished between his death and exaltation.

D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1380–1381.

I marry this understanding to a view I have sympathy for via William Lane Craig, a name you may be familiar with is on the opposing side of Christian apologetics. He has a view on Molinism I enjoy a bit. Here is what he says, and I will emphasize the important aspect I wish to highlight:

The doctrine of Molinism seeks to reconcile God’s sovereign predestination with man’s free will. Through His divine middle knowledge, God can know all possible outcomes of any world that is feasible for Him to create, including all the circumstances required for an individual to come to a saving knowledge of Him. But what if the saving of one individual means the loss of another? Does Molinism provide answers to such a dilemma? In this article, Dr. Craig answers questions on the how God would act if his choices were bound by damning either person A or person B arbitrarily.

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism

I see the solution to your query in your first question in the above. [And the few videos immediately below.]

And it is the same question[s] I struggled with and struggle with. This does away with the contradiction you see. I do wish to note however, that you are taking a moral position in your premise, Saby. And without God, this cannot be the case. Jesus would HAVE to be intimately involved in all of the above scenarios… intimately. None of the above take away from this fact.

I do not know your worldview you operate from, but I can assume atheistic in its presuppositions. But truth (absolute ethical statements are included in this understanding of truth) is something of a fiction to the atheistic evolutionist. Here are some quotes and audio/videos to make my point:


Let’s consider a basic question: Why does the natural world make any sense to begin with? Albert Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. Why should we be able to grasp the beauty, elegance, and complexity of our universe?

Einstein understood a basic truth about science, namely, that it relies upon certain philosophical assumptions about the natural world. These assumptions include the existence of an external world that is orderly and rational, and the trustworthiness of our minds to grasp that world. Science cannot proceed apart from these assumptions, even though they cannot be independently proven. Oxford professor John C. Lennox asks a penetrating question, “At the heart of all science lies the conviction that the universe is orderly. Without this deep conviction science would not be possible. So we are entitled to ask: Where does the conviction come from?”” Why is the world orderly? And why do our minds comprehend this order?

Toward the end of The God Delusion, Dawkins admits that since we are the product of natural selection, our senses cannot be fully trusted. After all, according to Darwinian evolution, our senses have been formed to aid survival, not necessarily to deliver true belief. Since a human being has been cobbled together through the blind process of natural selection acting on random mutation, says Dawkins, it’s unlikely that our views of the world are completely true. Outspoken philosopher of neuro-science Patricia Churchland agrees:

The principle chore of brains is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing [the world] is advantageous so long as it… enhances the organism’s chances for survival. Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost.

Dawkins is on the right track to suggest that naturalism should lead people to be skeptical about trusting their senses. Dawkins just doesn’t take his skepticism far enough. In Miracles, C. S. Lewis points out that knowledge depends upon the reliability of our mental faculties. If human reasoning is not trustworthy, then no scientific conclusions can be considered true or false. In fact, we couldn’t have any knowledge about the world, period. Our senses must be reliable to acquire knowledge of the world, and our reasoning faculties must be reliable to process the acquired knowledge. But this raises a particularly thorny dilemma for atheism. If the mind has developed through the blind, irrational, and material process of Darwinian evolution, then why should we trust it at all? Why should we believe that the human brain—the outcome of an accidental process—actually puts us in touch with reality? Science cannot be used as an answer to this question, because science itself relies upon these very assumptions.

Even Charles Darwin was aware of this problem: “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” If Darwinian evolution is true, we should distrust the cognitive faculties that make science possible.

Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 37-38.


….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill  their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.

But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.

If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?

Paul Copan and William Lane Craig [Mark D. Linville], eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.


Even Darwin had some misgivings about the reliability of human beliefs. He wrote, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

Given unguided evolution, “Darwin’s Doubt” is a reasonable one. Even given unguided or blind evolution, it’s difficult to say how probable it is that creatures—even creatures like us—would ever develop true beliefs. In other words, given the blindness of evolution, and that its ultimate “goal” is merely the survival of the organism (or simply the propagation of its genetic code), a good case can be made that atheists find themselves in a situation very similar to Hume’s.

The Nobel Laureate and physicist Eugene Wigner echoed this sentiment: “Certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.” That is, atheists have a reason to doubt whether evolution would result in cognitive faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. And if so, then they have reason to withhold judgment on the reliability of their cognitive faculties. Like before, as in the case of Humean agnostics, this ignorance would, if atheists are consistent, spread to all of their other beliefs, including atheism and evolution. That is, because there’s no telling whether unguided evolution would fashion our cognitive faculties to produce mostly true beliefs, atheists who believe the standard evolutionary story must reserve judgment about whether any of their beliefs produced by these faculties are true. This includes the belief in the evolutionary story. Believing in unguided evolution comes built in with its very own reason not to believe it.

This will be an unwelcome surprise for atheists. To make things worse, this news comes after the heady intellectual satisfaction that Dawkins claims evolution provided for thoughtful unbelievers. The very story that promised to save atheists from Hume’s agnostic predicament has the same depressing ending.

It’s obviously difficult for us to imagine what the world would be like in such a case where we have the beliefs that we do and yet very few of them are true. This is, in part, because we strongly believe that our beliefs are true (presumably not all of them are, since to err is human—if we knew which of our beliefs were false, they would no longer be our beliefs).

Suppose you’re not convinced that we could survive without reliable belief-forming capabilities, without mostly true beliefs. Then, according to Plantinga, you have all the fixins for a nice argument in favor of God’s existence For perhaps you also think that—given evolution plus atheism—the probability is pretty low that we’d have faculties that produced mostly true beliefs. In other words, your view isn’t “who knows?” On the contrary, you think it’s unlikely that blind evolution has the skill set for manufacturing reliable cognitive mechanisms. And perhaps, like most of us, you think that we actually have reliable cognitive faculties and so actually have mostly true beliefs. If so, then you would be reasonable to conclude that atheism is pretty unlikely. Your argument, then, would go something like this: if atheism is true, then it’s unlikely that most of our beliefs are true; but most of our beliefs are true, therefore atheism is probably false.

Notice something else. The atheist naturally thinks that our belief in God is false. That’s just what atheists do. Nevertheless, most human beings have believed in a god of some sort, or at least in a supernatural realm. But suppose, for argument’s sake, that this widespread belief really is false, and that it merely provides survival benefits for humans, a coping mechanism of sorts. If so, then we would have additional evidence—on the atheist’s own terms—that evolution is more interested in useful beliefs than in true ones. Or, alternatively, if evolution really is concerned with true beliefs, then maybe the widespread belief in God would be a kind of “evolutionary” evidence for his existence.

You’ve got to wonder.

Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith: To the Head (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 44-45.


AND THE BELOW is taken from another post of mine:

I wish to start out with an excerpt from a chapter in my book where I use two scholarly works that use Darwinian naturalism as a guide to their ethic:

  • Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1997).
  • Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000).

My incorporation of these works into my book (quote):

“Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous; rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success….. The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically. Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival. Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo. The biological, amoral, justification of rape is made often times as a survival mechanism bringing up the net “survival status” of a species, usually fraught with examples of homosexual worms, lesbian seagulls, and the like.”

(pp. 7-9 of  Roman-Epicurean-ism-Natural-Law-and-Homosexuality)

Now, hear from other atheist and evolutionary apologists themselves in regard to the matter:

Richard Dawkins

(h/t: TrueFreeThinker) – A Statement Made by an atheist at the Atheist and Agnostic Society:

“Some atheists do believe in ethical absolutes, some don’t. My answer is a bit more complicated — I don’t believe that there are any axiological claims which are absolutely true, except within the context of one person’s opinion.

That is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so are ethics. So, why is Hitler wrong? Because he murdered millions, and his only justification, even if it were valid, was based on things which he should have known were factually wrong. Why is it wrong to do that? Because I said so. Unless you actually disagree with me — unless you want to say that Hitler was right — I’m not sure I have more to say.”

[side note] You may also be aware that Richard Dawkins stated, “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”

Lewis Wolpert

From the video description: Atheists Trying to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too on Morality. This video shows that when an atheist denies objective morality they also affirm moral good and evil without the thought of any contradiction or inconsistency on their part.

Dan Barker

This is from the video Description for the Dan Barker video below:

The atheist’s animal-level view of “morality” is completely skewed by dint of its lack of objectivity. In fact, the atheist makes up his own personal version of “morals” as he goes along, and this video provides an eye-opening example of this bizarre phenomenon of the atheist’s crippled psyche:

During this debate, the atheist stated that he believed rape was morally acceptable, then he actually stated that he would rape a little girl and then kill himself — you have just got to hear his psychotic words with your own ears to believe it!

He then stammered and stumbled through a series of ridiculously lame excuses for his shameful lack of any type of moral compass.

To the utter amazement of his opponent and all present in the audience, the gruesomely amoral atheist even goes so far as to actually crack a sick little joke on the subject of SERIAL CHILD-RAPE!

:::shudders:::

Meanwhile, the Christian in the video gracefully and heroically realizes the clearly objective moral values that unquestionably come to humanity by God’s grace, and yet are far beyond the lower animal’s and the atheist’s tenuous mental grasp. Be sure to keep watching until the very end so that you can hear the Christian’s final word — it’s a real knuckle-duster!

Atheist dogma™ not only fails to provide a stable platform for objective human morality for its adherent — it precludes him even the possibility. It’s this very intellectual inability to apprehend any objective moral values that leads such believers in atheist dogma™ as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Dahmer to commit their horrific atheistic atrocities.

Any believer in atheist dogma™, given sufficient power, would take the exact same course of action that Hitler did, without a moment’s hesitation.

Note as well that evolutionary naturalism has very dogmatic implication, IF — that is — the honest atheist/evolutionist follow the matter to their logical conclusions, via the ineffable Dr. Provine:

William Provine

Atheist and staunch evolutionist Dr. William Provine (who is often quoted by Richard Dawkins) admits what life has in stored if Darwinism is true. The quote comes from his debate here with Dr. Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994.

Sam Harris denies completely free will: “In fact, the concept of free will is a non-starter, both philosophically and scientifically.” This is important — as Stephen Hawking points out in his lecture entitled Determinism: Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate — who admitted that if “we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free.”[1] In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms? Michael Polyni mentions that this “reduction of the world to its atomic elements acting blindly in terms of equilibrations of forces,” a belief that has prevailed “since the birth of modern science, has made any sort of teleological view of the cosmos seem unscientific…. [to] the contemporary mind.”[2]

Which is why in Hawkings most recent book he says “This book is rooted in the concept of scientific determinism, which implies that the answer to [the question of miracles] is that there are no miracles, or exceptions to the laws of nature.”[3] And hence the spiral from scientism, to determinism, to reductionism: “…so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.”[4] 


[1] Ravi Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 118, 119.

[2] Michael Polanti and Harry Prosch, Meaning (Chicago, IL: Chicago university Press, 1977), 162.

[3] Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (London, England: Bantam Press, 2010), 34.

[4] Ibid., 32.

Ethics and propositions that include ethical choice is one that rejects naturalistic origins. Some more quotes to make the point:


What merit would attach to moral virtue if the acts that form such habitual tendencies and dispositions were not acts of free choice on the part of the individual who was in the process of acquiring moral virtue? Persons of vicious moral character would have their characters formed in a manner no different from the way in which the character of a morally virtuous person was formed—by acts entirely determined, and that could not have been otherwise by freedom of choice.

Mortimer J. Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1985), 154.


If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. They [determinists – I would posit any philosophical naturalist] want to be considered as rational agents arguing with other rational agents; they want their beliefs to be construed as beliefs, and subjected to rational assessment; and they want to secure the rational assent of those they argue with, not a brainwashed repetition of acquiescent pattern. Consistent determinists should regard it as all one whether they induce conformity to their doctrines by auditory stimuli or a suitable injection of hallucinogens: but in practice they show a welcome reluctance to get out their syringes, which does equal credit to their humanity and discredit to their views. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.

J. R. Lucas, The Freedom of the Will (New York: NY: Oxford University Press, 1970), 114, 115.


He thus acknowledged the need for any theory to allow that humans have genuine freedom to recognize the truth. He (again, correctly) saw that if all thought, belief, feeling, and choice are determined (i.e., forced on humans by outside conditions) then so is the determinists’ acceptance of the theory of determinism forced on them by those same conditions. In that case they could never claim to know their theory is true since the theory making that claim would be self-referentially incoherent. In other words, the theory requires that no belief is ever a free judgment made on the basis of experience or reason, but is always a compulsion over which the believer has no control.

Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2005), 174.


Determinism is self-stultifying.  If my mental processes are totally determined, I am totally determined either to accept or to reject determinism.  But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing X is that I am causally determined to believe it I have no ground for holding that my judgment is true or false.

J. P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), 241; Quoting: H.P. Owen, Christian Theism (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1984), 118.


Frank Zindler (Editor of American Atheist Magazine and Director of American Atheists Press), denies the existence of free will. In an article he wrote for the American Atheist magazine, he writes this:

Although I risk inciting to disaffection many of the people who have expressed admiration for some of my previous articles, I must now focus my ‘Probing Mind’ upon the question, “Can will be free?” Let me answer the question straightaway with a firm “no,” and then attempt to support my conclusion.

The Center for Naturalism is strongly advocating for widespread rejection of free will:

We should doubt the little god of free will on the very same grounds that atheists doubt the big god of traditional religions: there’s no evidence for it.

(Reasons for God)

I hope this helped and challenged you to know the variability within faith (while remaining orthodox) as well as bringing you face-to-face with your own premises in your worldview. Remember, if you disagree with the above ethics portion, you are not arguing against me but arguing against fellow atheists (if you are an atheist… I would hope you are a soft-agnostic). I also hope you asked your questions in a manner that is in line with you truly seeking a solution to these sticky issues. I will respond to your other challenges (honest questions) at a later date,

Finally, it is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat. What you call defeat, I call miracle: for to make things which are not Itself, and thus to become, in a sense, capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man “wishes” to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, 1996), 113-114.

Papa Giorgio

Atheists Challenge to Biblical Ethics (2 Kings 2:23-25)

~ See near the bottom, Joshua and the Canaanites.

“Cursed them – Nor was this punishment too great for the offence, if it be considered, that their mocking proceeded from a great malignity of mind against God; that they mocked not only a man, and an ancient man, whose very age commanded reverence; and a prophet; but even God himself, and that glorious work of God, the assumption of Elijah into heaven; that they might be guilty of many other heinous crimes, which God and the prophet knew; and were guilty of idolatry, which by God’s law deserved death; that the idolatrous parents were punished in their children; and that, if any of these children were more innocent, God might have mercy upon their souls, and then this death was not a misery, but a real blessing to them, that they were taken away from that education which was most likely to expose them not only to temporal, but eternal destruction. In the name – Not from any revengeful passion, but by the motion of God’s Spirit, and by God’s command and commission. God did this, partly, for the terror and caution of all other idolaters and prophane persons who abounded in that place; partly, to vindicate the honour, and maintain the authority of his prophets; and particularly, of Elisha, now especially, in the beginning of his sacred ministry. Children – This Hebrew word signifies not only young children, but also those who are grown up to maturity, as Genesis 32:22, 34:4, 37:30, Ruth 1:5.”

~ Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible by John Wesley [1754-65] (Source)

I was in a recent [now not so recent] debate about Biblical cruelty/ethics and the person brought up a verse that has not been brought up in conversation with me yet. It provided a fun learning curve on a specific verse and topic that opened up culture and manners of the early Biblical leaders and prophets of Israel. Mind you the person — involved in the debate — could not ground his presumed premise that this act would be morally wrong. In other words, without a Divine Law that both he and I can access to know an act was truly wrong, so I pointed to the idea that rape is really [if this skeptics position was correct] a natural outgrowth of a species surviving. I speak to this a bit in a chapter from my book:

How does the “carnal” person deal with the unnatural order of the homosexual lifestyle? Since it is a reality it is incorporated into their epistemological system of thought or worldview.[1] Henry Morris points out that the materialist worldview looks at homosexuality as nature’s way of controlling population numbers as well as a tension lowering device.[2] Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous;[3] rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success.[4]

[….]

Ethical Evil?

The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically.[5] Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival.[6] Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo.[7]


[1] Worldview: “People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By ‘presuppositions’ we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic worldview, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions. ‘As a man thinketh, so he is,’ is really profound. An individual is not just the product of the forces around him. He has a mind, an inner world. Then, having thought, a person can bring forth actions into the external world and thus influence it. People are apt to look at the outer theater of action, forgetting the actor who ‘lives in the mind’ and who therefore is the true actor in the external world. The inner thought world determines the outward action. Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration of what worldview is true. When all is done, when all the alternatives have been explored, ‘not many men are in the room’ — that is, although worldviews have many variations, there are not many basic worldviews or presuppositions.” Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1976), 19-20.

[2] Henry M. Morris, The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 136.

[3] Remember, the created order has been rejected in the Roman society as it is today. This leaves us with an Epicurean view of nature, which today is philosophical naturalism expressed in the modern evolutionary theories such as neo-Darwinism and Punctuated Equilibrium.

[4] Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000), 71, 163. See also: Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1997).

[5] Nancy Pearcy, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 208-209.

[6] Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin, 2002), 162-163.

[7] Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 176-180.

Scientism, materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you want to call it… it is still a metaphysical position as it assumes or presumes certain things about the entire universe. D’Souza points this a priori commitment out:

Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions; rather, they are scientific premises. They are not discovered in nature but imposed upon nature. In short, they are articles of faith. Here is Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment — a commitment to materialism [matter is all that exists, nothing beyond nature exists]. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Dinesh D’Souza points to this in his recent book, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007), 161 (emphasis added).

The debater never engaged his a priori assumptions. This being said, I want to deal with the verse at hand we discussed. The important presumptive idea behind dealing with any literary work is to understand how one is to approach a text of antiquity. I deal with this quite well in a paper on the matter, and any apologist should become familiar with this idea (click the latte). Using the principles involved in the Aristotelian dictum, let us try and figure this seemingly horrid verse.

2Kings 2:23-25

He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

Here the skeptic posits God’s wrath on 42 children, presumably innocent in that their greatest offense was calling someone a “bald-head.” It would be similar to a guy being called “four-eyes” by a bunch of kids and then whipping out an AK-47 and mowing them down… and then expecting you to view him as a moral agent. In accessing the following books,

✦ The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times;
✦ Manners and Customs in the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to Daily Life in Bible Times;
✦ An Introduction to the Old Testament;
✦ The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament;
✦ Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament;
✦ A Popular Survey of the Old Testament;
✦ New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties;
✦ Hard Sayings of the Bible;
✦ When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties.

I noticed something was missing. That is, a bit more of what is not said in the text, but we can assume using and accessing what any historical literary critic would with the principles that predate Christ — mentioned in the above “latte” link. Mind you, many of the responses in my home library that I came across were great, and, in fact they made me dig a bit further. (I do not want the reader to think that I place myself on a higher academic level that these fine theologians and professors.)

The word Hebrew translated here as “children” (na’ar) often means official or servant and doesn’t necessarily even refer to age at all. Mephibosheth’s servant Ziba is referred to as na’ar (2 Samuel 16:1), yet he has fifteen sons. The man that Boaz has positioned as boss over his fieldworkers is na’ar—not a position one grants to children (Ruth 2:5-6). The word na’ar is translated as “servant” over fifty times (roughly a fifth of the times it appears in Scripture).

(Source)

Three big points stuck out from texts I reviewed:


1) “LITTLE KIDS”

“Little children” is an unfortunate translation. The Hebrew expression neurim qetannim is best rendered “young lads” or “young men.” From numerous examples where ages are specified in the Old Testament, we know that these were boys from twelve to thirty years old. One of these words described Isaac at his sacrifice in Genesis 22:12, when he was easily in his early twenties. It described Joseph in Genesis 37:2 when he was seventeen years old. In fact, the same word described army men in 1 Kings 20:14-15…these are young men ages between twelve and thirty.” (Hard Sayings of the Bible)

2) HARMLESS TEASING/PUBLIC SAFETY

A careful study of this incident in context shows that it was far more serious than a “mild personal offense.” It was a situation of serious public danger, quite as grave as the large youth gangs that roam the ghetto sections of our modern American cities. If these young hoodlums were ranging about in packs of fifty or more, derisive toward respectable adults and ready to mock even a well-known man of God, there is no telling what violence they might have inflicted on the citizenry of the religious center of the kingdom of Israel (as Bethel was), had they been allowed to continue their riotous course. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)

The harmless “teasing” was hardly that–they were direct confrontation between the forces of Baal and the prophet of YHWH that had just healed the water supply (casting doubt on the power and beneficence of Baal!). This was a mass demonstration (if 42 were mauled, how many people were in the crowd to begin with? 50? 100? 400?):

“As Elisha was traveling from Jericho to Bethel several dozen youths (young men, not children) confronted him. Perhaps they were young false prophets of Baal. Their jeering, recorded in the slang of their day, implied that if Elisha were a great prophet of the Lord, as Elijah was, he should go on up into heaven as Elijah reportedly had done. The epithet baldhead may allude to lepers who had to shave their heads and were considered detestable outcasts. Or it may simply have been a form of scorn, for baldness was undesirable (cf. Isa. 3:17, 24). Since it was customary for men to cover their heads, the young men probably could not tell if Elisha was bald or not. They regarded God’s prophet with contempt….Elisha then called down a curse on the villains. This cursing stemmed not from Elisha pride but from their disrespect for the Lord as reflected in their treatment of His spokesman (cf. 1:9-14). Again God used wild animals to execute His judgment (cf., e.g., 1 Kings 13:24). That 42 men were mauled by the two bears suggests that a mass demonstration had been organized against God and Elisha.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

3) ELISHA’S MISSION-HELPING NEEDY

The chapter closes with two miracles of Elisha. These immediately established the character of his ministry–his would be a helping ministry to those in need, but one that would brook no disrespect for God and his earthly representatives. In the case of Jericho, though the city had been rebuilt (with difficulty) in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 16:34, q.v.), it had remained unproductive. Apparently the water still lay under Joshua’s curse (cf. Josh 6:26), so that both citizenry and land suffered greatly (v. 19). Elisha’s miracle fully removed the age-old judgment, thus allowing a new era to dawn on this area (vv. 20-22). Interestingly Elisha wrought the cure through means supplied by the people of Jericho so that their faith might be strengthened through submission and active participation in God’s cleansing work. (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)

MORE CAN BE FOUND HERE:

Elisha and the Lads of Bethel
Question…wasn’t Elisha very cruel when he sent those bears against those little kids who were teasing him about being bald?
Positive Atheism – Cliff Walker: Weak Bible Week Poster, part 4 of 7.


All good stuff, but something is missing. During the course of the debate I pieced together some truths, using culture and history as keys to a “crime scene.” Again, I want to stress what some of the habits were in this small town where this group of people came from:

Molech was a Canaanite underworld deity represented as an upright, bull-headed idol with human body in whose belly a fire was stoked and in whose arms a child was placed that would be burnt to death. It was not just unwanted children who were sacrificed. Plutarch reports that during the Phoenician (Canaanite) sacrifices, “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries and wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”

Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 177.

This crowd of persons was older than what is typically posited by skeptics. Secondly, this group was a very bad lot. But didn’t explain why bald-head was egregious enough for God to call 42 scurvy bastards to judgement. To be fair, I sympathize with the skeptic here. That being said, there is more to the story.

I want us to view some artistic drawings of historical figures from Israels history: priests, prophets, spiritual leaders, and even Flavius Josephus.

What did you notice above in the cover to an A&E documentary? Yup, a turban as well as a cloak which covers the heads of the priests and prophets. Take note of the below as well.

I posted multiple images to drive a point home in our mind. The prophet Elisha would have had a couple cultural accoutrements that changes this story from simple name calling to an assault. He wouldn’t have been alone either, in other words, he would have had some people attached to him that would lay down their lives to protect him. And secondly, he would have had a head covering on, especially since he was returning from a “priestly” intervention. So we know from cultural history the following:

  1. He would have had a head dressing on — some sort of turbin;
  2. and he would have had an entourage of men to dissuade any attack or mistreatment of a priest of Israel on a journey.

One last point before we bullet point the complete idea behind the Holy and Rightful judgement from the Judge of all mankind. There were 42 persons killed by two bears. Obviously this would require many more than 42 people. Why? What happens when you have a group of ten people and a bear comes crashing out of the bushes in preparation to attack? Every one will immediately scatter! In the debate I pointed out that freezing 42 people and allowing the bears time to go down the line to kill each one would be even more of a miracle than this skeptic would want to allow. So the common sense position would require a large crowd and some sort of terrain to cut off escape. So the crowd would probably have been at least a few hundred.

Also, this holy man of God was coming back from a “mission,” he would have had an entourage with him ~ as already mentioned, as well as having some sort of head-covering on as pictured above ~ as already mentioned.

QUESTION:
So, what do these cultural and historical points cause us to rightly assume?

ANSWER:
That the crowd could not see that the prophet was bald.

Which means they would have had to of gotten physical — forcefully removing the head covering. Which means also that the men with the prophet Elisha would have also been overpowered. So lets bullet point the points that undermine the skeptics viewpoint.

✔ The crowd was in their late teens to early twenties;
✔ they were antisemitic (this is known from most of the previous passages and books);
✔ they were from a violently cultic city;
✔ the crowd was large;
✔ the crowd had already turned violent.

These points caused God in his foreknowledge to protect the prophet and send in nature to disperse the crowd. Nature is not kind, and the death of these men were done by a just Judge. This explains the actions of a just God better than many of the references I read.

Your welcome.

I do want to end this post by inviting you to read an excellent treatment of this topic over at TrueFreeThinker: “Positive Atheism – Cliff Walker : Weak Bible Week Poster, part 4 of 7.


Joshua and the Canaanites


This is an update of sorts, and it deals with the idea that God ordered ALL persons to be destroyed (men, women, and children) in the book of Joshua. But is this the directive from God? Scripture does not support this idea as a whole, and we shall take this journey together to find a solution to a seemingly tough subject.

There is a very important principle involved with reading the Bible… it is one of the first things taught to seminarians as well as layman. And it is this:

  • “The Bible interprets the Bible.”

It is that simple. Now of course there are some other basics one must account for as they mature as a Christian, see my post on hermeneutics for instance. But let’s start with that simple sentence above. We will take a short quote from the larger portions that will end this small caveat. The book is by Paul Copan, and is entitled: Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God.

(May I also recommend this article, a summary of Copan’s three chapters from his book: “How Could God Command Killing the Canaanites?“)

Here is the excerpt with the portion highlighted:

The books of Joshua and Judges suggest that taking the land included less-than-dramatic processes of infiltration and internal struggle. Israel’s entrance into Canaan included more than the military motif. Old Testament scholar Gordon McConville comments on Joshua: we don’t have “a simple conquest model, but rather a mixed picture of success and failure, sudden victory and slow, compromised progress.”

Likewise, Old Testament scholar David Howard firmly states that the conquest model needs modification. Why? Because “the stereotypical model of an all-consuming Israelite army descending upon Canaan and destroying everything in its wake cannot be accepted. The biblical data will not allow for this.” He adds that the Israelites entered Canaan and did engage militarily “but without causing extensive material destruction.”

I will repeat that: “The Biblical data will not allow for this.” Another short excerpt taken from pages 170-171 reads thus:

Notice first the sweeping language in Joshua 10:40: “Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.” Joshua used the rhetorical bravado language of his day, asserting that all the land was captured, all the kings defeated, and all the Canaanites destroyed (cf. 10:40-42; 11:16-23: “Joshua took the whole land . . . and gave . . . it for an inheritance to Israel”). Yet, as we will see, Joshua himself acknowledged that this wasn’t literally so.

Scholars readily agree that Judges is literarily linked to Joshua. Yet the early chapters of Judges (which, incidentally, repeat the death of Joshua) show that the task of taking over the land was far from complete. In Judges 2:3, God says, “I will not drive them out before you.” Earlier, Judges 1:21, 27-28 asserted that “[they] did not drive out the Jebusites”; “[they] did not take possession”; “they did not drive them out completely.” These nations remained “to this day” (Judg. 1:21). The peoples who had apparently been wiped out reappear in the story. Many Canaanite inhabitants simply stuck around.

Some might accuse Joshua of being misleading or of getting it wrong. Not at all. He was speaking the language that everyone in his day would have understood.

As you read on you will notice that God seems to contradict Himself, so does Joshua. UNLESS there is a cultural explanation that 21st century geeks do not notice. Again, I write more in-depth on this here.

That all being said, here are a few pages from the selected chapter. And may I say that the three chapters on the Canaanites were so enlightening. Why? Because they opened up the Scriptures more by dealing with what seem to be inconsistencies in Scripture but are explained well by Scripture. the following few pages show this to be the case, that is, exegesis (click each page to enlarge… if you right click your mouse and choose, “Open Lin In New Tab,” you will be able to enlarge the text dramatically — for older eyes):

(AGAIN, click to enlarge)

A Cordial `Clambake` on Biblical Dietary Laws and Homosexuality (round 2) ~ Conversation Series

It is funny. In this conversation (which is part two, part one can be found here) I have noticed a theme… which is, the detractors in question will bring up topics of a religious bent, even going as far as quoting Scripture; then, when corrected on the theological or historical/cultural aspects they themselves brought up — they mention why talk religion? They continue that faith is a personal thing that no one will ever agree on.

You see, they expect others to see their viewpoint on the Bible, but then when simple in text explanations (exegesis) are explained — clearly —  all of a sudden you are accused of “nitpicking and going through contortions” (that is a quote). So, this second part unlike the first that dealt more with Natural Law and biology deals more with Biblical texts and proofs brought up in conversation. These skeptical positions enumerated herein are held typically by liberal progressive skeptics… which many in the conversation reject politically (that is, liberalism and progressivism). I was disappointing that many of my fellow brethren could make cogent, stat/fact filled arguments incorporating history and reason to refute liberal/progressive positions. But as soon as religion is mentioned, the previously held conservative linear thought is jettisoned for a more emotion-based, feelings styled approach that uses unfounded and unreasonable positions.

Which is why this was written with the idea that it should not be taken as a personal attack as much as a mild correction and clarion call to conservative thought even in looking at religious positions. It is a funny thing that they understand this in conversation between liberals and conservatives, but not between liberal believers and conservative believers.

I will explain with an example recently posted on this same FaceBook group regarding Ronald Reagan’s birthday. In it Chris corrects another for his egregious take on history.

Now, anyone in an emotional conversation knows that typically when people write lists of reasons why they do not believe in a particular ideology — in this case, conservative/Republican fiscal ideals and philosophy — these people will merely produce a new list when the previous one is dealt with point-by-point incorporating history, facts, and reason. You see, said-person being responded to really doesn’t want to change, or listen to reason. They JUST WANT to feel like they have reasons to reject a position. And even thought this rejection is psychologically based, a feeling that one has to have reasons in their rejection runs deep. I give an analogy in my first chapter from my book:

…I say “honestly asked” because often times people just ask questions to purposefully deflect their own understanding of the topic.  Once you give a reasonably well thought out answer, the dishonest interviewer typically will not inculcate this response and consider changing his or her mind based on the new evidence you just gave them, they typically respond with another question.  The problem is not with the topic or evidence that is being discussed, the problem might well be that the person in question just doesn’t want to re-think their position, no matter how much evidence he or she finds or is presented with.  Let me explain with an example from the book, Classical Apologetics:

Psychological Prejudice

But even a sound epistemic system,[1] flawless deductive reasoning, and impeccable inductive procedure does not guarantee a proper conclusion.  Emotional bias or antipathy might block the way to the necessary conclusion of the research.  That thinkers may obstinately resist a logical verdict is humorously illustrated by John Warwick Montgomery’s modern parable:

Once upon a time (note the mystical cast) there was a man who thought he was dead.  His concerned wife and friends sent him to the friendly neighborhood psychiatrist determined to cure him by convincing him of one fact that contradicted his beliefs that he was dead.  The fact that the psychiatrist decided to use was the simple truth that dead men do not bleed.  He put his patient to work reading medical texts, observing autopsies, etc.  After weeks of effort the patient finally said, “All right, all right!  You’ve convinced me.  Dead men do not bleed.”  Whereupon the psychiatrist stuck him in the arm with a needle, and the blood flowed.  The man looked down with a contorted, ashen face and cried, “Good Lord!  Dead men bleed after all!”

Emotional prejudice is not limited to dull-witted, the illiterate, and poorly educated.  Philosophers and theologians are not exempt from the vested interests and psychological prejudice that distort logical thinking.  The question of the existence of God evokes deep emotional and psychological prejudice.  People understand that the question of the existence of God is not one that is of neutral consequence.  We understand intuitively, if not in terms of its full rational implication, that the existence of an eternal Creator before whom we are ultimately accountable and responsible is a matter that touches the very core of life.[2]

You see, the Christian-theistic worldview does not just offer answers in religious areas and is silent in the political arena, rather, it forces one to confront popular culture, which often times demands political or cultural change.  This can cause religious and non-religious persons alike to become very intolerant, especially when the topic combines a person’s religious views and that of currant affairs…


[1] Epistemology – “the branch of philosophy concerned with questions about knowledge and belief and related issues such as justification and truth.” C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2002), 39.

[2] R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 69-70.

One comment on the above post by ChrisH was this one by CF:

C.F.’s comment needs to be kept in mind as we look at the skeptical responses to the idea that homosexual behavior is of equal cultural levels as keeping kosher. A “good understanding” of the culture, text, language, and the like, is lacking. These detractors take SUCH STRONG, ABSOLUTE positions on the Biblical texts based on no cultural understanding… and then in the same breath accuse me (or whomever) that we are being waaayyy too legalistic and literal. Their uninformed, prejudicial position strays far away from proper hermeneutics that any ancient text (not just the Bible) deserves. To be clear, this rejection is more in line with liberalism and progressive thinking rather than the deep thinking of conservative ideals that many in this group profess. I would counsel these believers to be CONSISTENT in how they deal with tough subjects. Religious or political.

I will start the conversation with Dennis Prager correcting Obama on his (really, the liberal position) Biblical knowledge. He deals with the same topic that was presented to me by two people, fortuitously AFTER my conversation about the same topic: ShellFish! Now to the conversation.

G.C. starts out the second round of conversation by saying:

I do not get offended by Sean’s words – neither do I take them as Gospel. He is no closer to knowing God’s heart than Satan himself. And I don’t mean that as an insult, but as a simple fact applicable to ALL of us. I will tell you that the Archbishop of Miami, several Monsignors, dozens of priests, including my pastor, are very loving of my partner and I. The Church’s ‘official’ teachings are known by all, but as long as I don’t attempt to ‘marry’ my partner, my sin is no worse than the divorcee who lives with the new lover and doesn’t remarry. In my heart, I KNOW God blesses my union – damn official teachings and damn Sean Giordano (not really, but his argument here – lol). But I do accept that marriage is one man/one woman, NO divorce – what God has joined together let no man tear apart. But I’ll let God judge – I won’t. My own sister is divorced, although she’s never remarried. Again, I don’t get upset because Sean Giordano has a theological viewpoint and verbalizes it without hatred. A lib will insist that HAVING that opinion is in itself hateful and homophobic. And I’m starting to see a lot of conservative gayswithnthesame attitude on sites like GOProud. Pisses me off.

I respond:

No offense taken. Your point on how a liberal versus how conservatives react is well stated. And I am proud to be in the same camp as you my friend.

There are sins that are worse than others. We will be rewarded for the varying good works we do, and be judged for our sins. God sets up ideals very clearly in His Scripture, not SeanG’s book. And God spoke through His prophets, through the apostles, and through Himself (YHWH, Jesus). Obviously the only sin that counts is denying Christ’s nature and confessing with our mouths our need for salvation through Him.

Again, you mentioned me and the church. Neither of these “institutions” dictate what Scripture has clearly stated. ANd God wants an ideal, and the Christian especially should say:

Divorce is not normative or God’s will;

AND, homosexual relations are not normative or God’s will.

In other words, God hates divorce, and God hates the homosexual act. In other words, the Church (via the Bible) should discourage and not encourage divorce. Likewise, the Church (via the Bible) should discourage and not encourage homosexual behavior.

This does not mean he has withheld grace and forgiveness to the repentant believer. But the repentant believer would not continuously marry, and divorce, and piously say God blesses or condones that action. This has nothing to do with your salvation, nor, does it say that God blesses divorce or same-sex relationships. Take note as well that the original languages help you dissect the truth of Scripture (Matthew 5:32):

The Greek words for “commit” and “commits” come from the root words MOICHEUO and MOIXAO. The first word is in the aorist passive tense meaning that the act of committing adultery is completed and done against the woman. This would suggest that he subsequently has sexual relations with some other woman. This is the message of Matt 19:9; Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18. The second word is in the present middle tense meaning that the woman commits adultery herself by marrying another man. Such divorces are unbiblical divorces.

[….]

Conclusion: Divorce was not in God’s original plan. God only allows it because of the hardness of hearts. The effect of this sin is just like any other sin; there are always consequences that are unavoidable. But do not forget that God forgives this sin. He forgave King David who killed and committed adultery. There is no sin God does not forgive. (Source)

Here are the very next words/list out of G.C.’s mouth [keyboard]:

Again, I respond:

Lets stick with your example of shellfish G.C., as E.M. also brought it up. I want to deal with this in a couple of ways. Firstly, the entirety of Leviticus was not written for everyone. There are parts that speak to the Jewish nation of the day (the Hebraic peoples), and other commands that included more than just the Jewish nation. We know this because God says, “Speak to the sons of Israel saying…” He gives instructions to the Israelites, not to the rest of the nations.

✂ *SNIP* ✂

Here is a list of instances when the occurrence of the phrase “Speak to the Sons of Israel saying…” is found in Leviticus, the book under consideration.

Lev. 4:2, atonement for unintentional sins
Lev. 7:23, don’t eat fat from ox, sheep, or goat
Lev. 7:29, procedures for peace offering to the Lord
Lev. 11:2, list of animals the Israelites may eat
Lev. 12:2, uncleanness after giving birth
Lev. 23:24, rest on 1st day of 7th month
Lev. 23:34, Feast of Booths on 15th day of 7th month
Lev. 24:15, the one cursing God will bear his sin

So, we can see a host of things that dealt only with Israel.

However, there are abominations that did not apply only to Israel, but to everyone else also. Again, let’s look at Leviticus.

Lev. 18:22-30, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. 23 Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion. 24 Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; FOR BY ALL THESE THE NATIONS WHICH I AM CASTING OUT BEFORE YOU HAVE BECOME DEFILED 25 ‘For the land has become defiled, therefore I have visited its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 26 But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments, and SHALL NOT DO ANY OF THESE ABOMINATIONS, NEITHER THE NATIVE, NOR THE ALIEN WHO SOJOURNS AMONG YOU 27 (FOR THE MEN OF THE LAND WHO HAVE BEEN BEFORE YOU HAVE DONE ALL THESE ABOMINATIONS, and the land has become defiled); 28 so that the land may not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has SPEWED OUT THE NATION WHICH HAS BEEN BEFORE YOU. 29 ‘For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. 30 ‘Thus YOU ARE TO KEEP MY CHARGE, THAT YOU DO NOT PRACTICE ANY OF THE ABOMINABLE CUSTOMS WHICH HAVE BEEN PRACTICED BEFORE YOU, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the Lord your God.’”

What abominations is Lev. 18:22-30 speaking of? Contextually, chapter 17 is about blood atonement procedures, so that is for Israel, not for everyone. In Chapter 18 God says to Israel, “You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you,” (Lev. 18:3). So, now instead of it applying only to Israel, God mentions things that are done by Egypt and the land of Canaan. What were the things those nations did? The chapter contains the following.

Lev. 18:6-18, don’t uncover the nakedness of various relatives.
Lev. 18:19, don’t have sexual relations with woman on her period
Lev. 18:20, don’t have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife
Lev. 18:21, don’t offer children to Molech
Lev. 18:22, don’t lie with a male as with a female
Lev. 18:23 don’t have intercourse with animals.

(Source)

✂ *UNSNIP* ✂

…MORE, my second point… patience please:

Acts 10:9-23

Peter’s Vision

The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the housetop about noon. Then he became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he went into a visionary state. He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!” “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common and ritually unclean!” Again, a second time, a voice said to him, “What God has made clean, you must not call common.” This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into heaven.

Peter Visits Cornelius

While Peter was deeply perplexed about what the vision he had seen might mean, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions to Simon’s house, stood at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon, who was also named Peter, was lodging there. While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit told him, “Three men are here looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and accompany them with no doubts at all, because I have sent them.” Then Peter went down to the men and said, “Here I am, the one you’re looking for. What is the reason you’re here?” They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you to his house and to hear a message from you.” Peter then invited them in and gave them lodging. The next day he got up and set out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him.

The edict against the ethnic/religious Jew (“the sons of Israel”) was lifted in this verse. So contrary to the horrible arguments often made by Skeptics of the Christian faith, You, G.C., should not use the same horrible exegesis that non-believers use. The same can be said regarding arguments for same-sex marriage needing to be made well. (Per Mr. Blatt, whom I agree with on this point — that is, a coherent reasonable case needs to be made for same-sex marriage. A case that isn’t arbitrary, like liberals tend towards.)  So to do hermeneutics need to be used well in the Christians life. No matter where it leads you (often times it leads ALL OF US to face our sins and sinful nature, right?).

Here are the very next words/list out of G.C.’s mouth [keyboard]:

You see, G.C. (as well as E.M.) do not want to accept what the Bible says at face value.

They have no need for ways to approach ancient texts to allow personal opinion and deconstructionism (progressive values) to be set aside and create a model for all people to equally and fairly come to these texts to get the most truth from them.

I explain this well in another post where the Bible is attacked and the people doing so are the literalists/legalists, similar to G.C. and Others.

They are the absolutists.

Conservative Christian and Jews are not the Biblical literalists as these skeptics define it (wrongly, creating a straw-man)… even though we are painted as such.

  • In other words, they incorporate what they deny, while applying straw-man positions to our side, its very convoluted on their part and why progressives typically think these attacks are acceptable.

A final word from Dr. Copan, that also touches a bit on the salvonic history involved in this discussion, that is often overlooked by the skeptics. He makes a point also about the wooden interpretation of the pharisees and has to point out that these topics (divorce, slavery, and the like) are not ideals from God but Him dealing with man’s “hardness of heart.”

Jesus’s approach reminds us that there’s a multilevel ethic that cautions against a monolithic, single-level ethic that simply “parks” at Deuteronomy 24 and doesn’t consider the redemptive component of this legislation. The certificate of divorce was to protect the wife, who would, by necessity, have to remarry to come under the shelter of a husband to escape poverty and shame. This law took into consideration the well-being of the wife. So when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, their wooden interpretation made it difficult to see that Moses’s words didn’t represent an absolute ethic. (Keep in mind that God’s commands involving divorce—and even slavery—are given not as ideals, but because of the hardness of human hearts [Matt. 19:81.) These Pharisees approached Scripture in a way that made it virtually impossible for them to see any further, as Jesus pointed out—to see that there was an even greater good of sacrificially serving in the kingdom by forgoing the joys and benefits of marriage (Matt. 19:10-12).

[….]

So as we look at many of these Levitical laws, we must appreciate them in their historical context, as God’s temporary provision, but also look at the underlying spirit and movement across the sweep of salvation history. As we do so, we see that the movement of Scripture consistently prohibits homosexual activity (for example), on the one hand. However, the movement of Scripture consistently affirms the full humanity of slaves (e.g., Job 31:13-15), eventually encouraging slaves to pursue their freedom (1 Cor. 7:21). As we noted earlier, slavery wasn’t commanded but permitted (as was divorce) because of the hardness of human hearts. Homosexuality is a different matter. New Testament scholar R. T. France writes that direct references to homosexual activity in Scripture are “uniformly hostile”; homosexual behavior—so common in surrounding cultures (ancient Near Eastern/Greco-Roman)—was “simply alien to the Jewish and Christian ethos.” Note too that acts—rather than mere inclinations/tendencies (whether homosexual or heterosexual)—are judged to be immoral and worthy of censure in Scripture.

So it’s wrongheaded to claim that homosexual acts were “just cul­tural” or simply “on the same level” as the kosher or clothing laws that God gave to help set Israel apart from its pagan neighbors. Levitical law also prohibits adultery, bestiality, murder, and theft, and surely these go far beyond the temporary prohibitions of eating shrimp or pork!

Paul Copan, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong?: Responding to Objections That Leave Christians Speechless (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker books, 2005), 174-175.

One last small dialogue from the larger strain. E.M. mentioned the following:

“Jesus never mentions homosexuality in the bible.”

To which I quoted Scripture (not to mention Jesus was heavily involved in writing Leviticus! Just Sayin’). I respond:

You are wrong E.M., Jesus specifically mentions the ideal (Matthew 19:4-6) I have continuously spoken to above.

He answered, “Haven’t you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh—no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.” (The Message Bible ~ Red is Jesus)

This organic union is what I speak to in part one.

You can read more about how to approach text in ways any deep-thinking literary critic is trained to as well as the person seeking truth. Obviously G.C. rejects portions of Scripture to embolden his view how he views man’s nature and his own standing before God. He fashions God and His Holy Spirit to fit his conception. Not based on deep study, but of psychological wants and needs. You can click through to my other post. I caution you however, this is a step those interested in truth should take. Those not interested in literary criticism, history, hermeneutics, and the like, shouldn’t take.

These are three books I recommend to the serious student:


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If Philosophical Naturalism (atheistic Darwinian theory) is Truly True, Is It In-Fact True? (Serious Saturday)

Quote:

Even Darwin had some misgivings about the reliability of human beliefs. He wrote, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

Given unguided evolution, “Darwin’s Doubt” is a reasonable one. Even given unguided or blind evolution, it’s difficult to say how probable it is that creatures—even creatures like us—would ever develop true beliefs. In other words, given the blindness of evolution, and that its ultimate “goal” is merely the survival of the organism (or simply the propagation of its genetic code), a good case can be made that atheists find themselves in a situation very similar to Hume’s.

The Nobel Laureate and physicist Eugene Wigner echoed this sentiment: “Certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.” That is, atheists have a reason to doubt whether evolution would result in cognitive faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. And if so, then they have reason to withhold judgment on the reliability of their cognitive faculties. Like before, as in the case of Humean agnostics, this ignorance would, if atheists are consistent, spread to all of their other beliefs, including atheism and evolution. That is, because there’s no telling whether unguided evolution would fashion our cognitive faculties to produce mostly true beliefs, atheists who believe the standard evolutionary story must reserve judgment about whether any of their beliefs produced by these faculties are true. This includes the belief in the evolutionary story. Believing in unguided evolution comes built in with its very own reason not to believe it.

This will be an unwelcome surprise for atheists. To make things worse, this news comes after the heady intellectual satisfaction that Dawkins claims evolution provided for thoughtful unbelievers. The very story that promised to save atheists from Hume’s agnostic predicament has the same depressing ending.

It’s obviously difficult for us to imagine what the world would be like in such a case where we have the beliefs that we do and yet very few of them are true. This is, in part, because we strongly believe that our beliefs are true (presumably not all of them are, since to err is human—if we knew which of our beliefs were false, they would no longer be our beliefs).

Suppose you’re not convinced that we could survive without reliable belief-forming capabilities, without mostly true beliefs. Then, according to Plantinga, you have all the fixins for a nice argument in favor of God’s existence For perhaps you also think that—given evolution plus atheism—the probability is pretty low that we’d have faculties that produced mostly true beliefs. In other words, your view isn’t “who knows?” On the contrary, you think it’s unlikely that blind evolution has the skill set for manufacturing reliable cognitive mechanisms. And perhaps, like most of us, you think that we actually have reliable cognitive faculties and so actually have mostly true beliefs. If so, then you would be reasonable to conclude that atheism is pretty unlikely. Your argument, then, would go something like this: if atheism is true, then it’s unlikely that most of our beliefs are true; but most of our beliefs are true, therefore atheism is probably false.

Notice something else. The atheist naturally thinks that our belief in God is false. That’s just what atheists do. Nevertheless, most human beings have believed in a god of some sort, or at least in a supernatural realm. But suppose, for argument’s sake, that this widespread belief really is false, and that it merely provides survival benefits for humans, a coping mechanism of sorts. If so, then we would have additional evidence—on the atheist’s own terms—that evolution is more interested in useful beliefs than in true ones. Or, alternatively, if evolution really is concerned with true beliefs, then maybe the widespread belief in God would be a kind of “evolutionary” evidence for his existence.

You’ve got to wonder.

Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith: To the Head (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 44-45.

Another quote:

….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.

But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.

If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?

Paul Copan and William Lane Craig [quote from chapter written by, Mark D. Linville], eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.

From an old post… continuing some of the ideas above:

C.S. Lewis pointed out that even our ability to reason and think rationally would be called into question if atheistic evolution were true:

“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e. of Materialism and — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give a correct account of all the other accidents.”

Phillip Johnson, law professor at Berkley for thirty years, explains this dilemma as well:

“Are our thoughts ‘nothing but’ the products of chemical reactions in the brain, and did our thinking abilities originate for no reason other than their utility in allowing our DNA to reproduce itself? Even scientific materialists have a hard time believing that. For one thing, materialism applied to the mind undermines the validity of all reasoning, including one’s own. If our theories are products of chemical reactions [rather than from our soul or spirit, as evolutionists would say], how can we know whether our theories are true? Perhaps [evolutionist] Richard Dawkins believes in Darwinism only because he has a certain chemical in his brain, and if his belief be changed by somehow inserting a different chemical.”

To get this into layman’s terms, I will let the philosopher J. P. Moreland, from his debate with renowned atheist Kai Nielson, explain it:

“Suppose you were driving on a train and you saw a sign on the hillside that said, ‘Wales in ten miles.’  Suppose you knew that the wind had blown that sign together.  If the sign had been put together by a purely non-intelligent random process… there would be no reason to trust the information conveyed by the sign.”

C. S. Lewis finishes his thought from above:

“It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”