God vs. Hitler (Updated!)

The reason for this post is to respond to the idea that the NAZIs were in any way Christian or were supported by the Church or that Hitler was friends with the church. OR, for that matter, were anything but socialists. This post should be connected with my updated post, “NAZI OCCULTISM.” As well as a post discussing Luther’s anti-Semitism and the distinction between [conservative] Confessing Lutheran’s in Germany at the time and the more socially liberal socialist [state-run] Lutherans: Defending “Lutheranism” from Martin Luther’s Fall from Grace

Between these three posts one should be equipped to respond to this lack of knowledge in regards to history.


“Every powerful movement has had its philosophy which has gripped the mind, fired the imagination and captured the devotion of its adherents. One has only to think of the Fascist and the Communist manifestos of this century, of Hitler’s Mein Kampf on the one hand and Marx’s Das Kapital and The Thoughts of Chairman Mao on the other.”

~ John Stott


We are the happy Hitler Youth;

We have no need of Christian virtue;

For Adolf Hitler is our intercessor

And our redeemer.

No priest, no evil one

Can keep us

From feeling like Hitler’s children.

Not Christ do we follow, but Horst Wessel!

Away with incense and holy water pots.

Singing we follow Hitler’s banners;

Only then are we worthy of our ancestors.

I am no Christian and no Catholic.

I go with the SA through thick and thin.

The Church can be stolen from me for all I care.

The swastika makes me happy here on earth.

Him will I follow in marching step;

Baldur Von Schirach, take me along.

~ Hitler Youth Song

(The two books in bold I own)

  • Gene Edward Veith, Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1993), 67;
  • See Ernst Christian Helmreich, The German Churches Under Hitler: Back­ground, Struggle, and Epilogue (Detroit, MI: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1979), 267.
  • Horst Wessel was the composer of the party anthem. Baldur von Schirach was the Reich Youth Leader. See Hermann Glaser, The Cultural Roots of National Socialism (Austin, TX: Univ. Texas Press, 1978), 43, 56n.

In Mein Kampf, he presented a social Darwinist view of life, life as a struggle, and presented national socialism as an antidote to both Judaism and communism. His party attempted to develope a new form of religion with elements of de-Judaised Christianity infused with German and Nordic pagan myths, but this was resisted by the Christians. ~ Professor Thies

  • “I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality…. We will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence — imperious, relentless and cruel.” ~ Hitler

On a plaque hung on the wall at Auschwitz; found in, Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God (Nashville, TN: W Publising Group, 1994), 23.

  • “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.” ~ Hitler

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy (New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942), pp. 161-162.

  • “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

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 Above Video Description:

Nuremberg Day 28 Church Suppression

Colonel Leonard Wheeler, Assistant American Trial Counsel, on Jan. 7, 1946, submitted the case regarding the Oppression of the Christian Churches and other Religious Groups in Germany and the Occupied Countries. He stated that the Nazi conspirators found the Christian churches to be an “obstacle to their complete domination of the German people and contrary to their master race dogma”.

The Indictment charged that “the Nazi conspirators, by promoting beliefs and practices incompatible with Christian teaching, sought to subvert the influence of the churches over the people and in particular the youth of Germany”.

For further information, see www.roberthjackson.org


Here as well is a quote from a much lauded biography of Hitler and his time in power. Note that he wanted to ultimately destroy the Christian churches with a materialist faith (Any of the large quotes below come from books I own and have read in full or in-part):Alan Bullock Book Cover 330 - Hitler

  • Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1952/1962), 388-390.

Hitler had been brought up as a Catholic and was impressed by the organization and power of the Church. Its hierarchical structure, its skill in dealing with human nature and the unalterable character of its Creed, were all features from which he claimed to have learned. For the Protestant clergy he felt only contempt: ‘They are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them.

They have neither a religion they can take seriously nor a great position to defend like Rome.’ It was `the great position’ of the Church that he respected, the fact that it had lasted for so many centuries; towards its teaching he showed the sharpest hostility. In Hitler’s eyes Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest. “Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.” From political considerations he restrained his anti-clericalism, seeing clearly the dangers of strengthening the Church by persecu­tion. For this reason he was more circumspect than some of his followers, like Rosenberg and Bormann, in attacking the Church publicly. But, once the war was over, he promised himself, he would root out and destroy the influence of the Christian Churches. “The evil that is gnawing our vitals,” he remarked in February 1942, “is our priests, of both creeds. I can’t at present give them the answer they’ve been asking for but… it’s all written down in my big book. The time will come when I’ll settle my account with them…. They’ll hear from me all right. I shan’t let myself be hampered with judicial samples.”

Earnest efforts to establish self-conscious pagan rites roused Hitler’s scorn: “Nothing would be more foolish”, he declared, “than to reestablish the worship of Wotan. Our old mythology had ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself…. I especially wouldn’t want our movement to acquire a religious character and institute a form of worship. It would be appalling for me, if I were to end up in the skin of a Buddha.”

Nor is there any evidence to substantiate the once popular belief that he resorted to astrology. His secretary says categoric­ally that he had nothing but contempt for such practices, although faith in the stars was certainly common among some of his followers like Himmler.

The truth is that, in matters of religion at least, Hitler was a rationalist and a materialist. “The dogma of Christianity,” he declared in one of his wartime conversations, gets worn away before the advances of science…. Gradually the myths crumble. All that is left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light, but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity…. The man who lives in communion with nature necessarily finds himself in opposition to the Churches, and that’s why they’re heading for ruin ­for science is bound to win.

It was in keeping with this nineteenth-century faith in science replacing the superstitions of religion that Hitler’s plans for the rebuilding of Linz included a great observatory and planetarium as its centrepiece.

Thousands of excursionists will make a pilgrimage there every Sunday. They’ll have access to the greatness of our universe. The pediment will bear this motto: “The heavens proclaim the glory of the everlasting.” It will be our way of giving men a religious spirit, of teaching them humility – but without the priests. For Ptolemy the earth was the centre of the world. That changed with Copernicus. Today we know that our solar system is merely a solar system amongst many others. What could we do better than allow the greatest possible number of people like us to become aware of these marvels?… Put a small telescope in a village and you destroy a world of superstitions.

Here as well is a respected biography on Hitler by Ian Kershaw. He notes that Hitler was trying to get his followers to “lay off” the Church till after the war was won — the main point being that there was nor room for Christianity in this future Utopia:Hitler a Biography Kershaw 330

  • Ian Kershaw, Hitler: A Biography (New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2008), 382, 661, 785, 969.

In February 1937 Hitler made it plain to his inner circle that he did not want a “Church struggle” at this juncture. The time was not ripe for it. He expected “the great world struggle in a few years’ time”. If Germany lost one more war, it would mean the end. The implication was clear: calm should be restored for the time being in relations with the Churches. Instead, the conflict with the Christian Churches intensified. The anti­clericalism and anti-Church sentiments of the grass-roots party activists simply could not be eradicated. The activists could draw on the verbal violence of party leaders towards the Churches for their encouragement. Goebbels’s orchestrated attacks on the clergy through the staged “immor­ality trials” of Franciscans in 1937 — following usually trumped-up or grossly exaggerated allegations of sexual impropriety in the religious orders — provided further ammunition. And, in turn, however much Hitler on some occasions claimed to want a respite in the conflict, his own inflammatory comments gave his immediate underlings all the license they needed to turn up the heat in the “Church struggle”, confident that they were “working towards the Führer.”

Hitler’s impatience with the Churches prompted frequent outbursts of hostility. In early 1937, he was declaring that “Christianity was ripe for destruction”, and that the Churches must yield to the “primacy of the state”, railing against any compromise with “the most horrible institution imaginable”. In April, Goebbels reported with satisfaction that the Führer was becoming more radical in the “Church Question”, and had approved the start of the “immorality trials” against clergy. Goebbels noted Hitler’s verbal attacks on the clergy and his satisfaction with the propaganda campaign on several subsequent occasions over the following few weeks. But Hitler was happy to leave the Propaganda Minister and others to make the running. If Goebbels’s diary entries are a guide, Hitler’s interest and direct involvement in the ‘Church struggle’ declined during the second half of the year. Other matters were by now occupying his attention.

[….]

Hitler put forward once more his vision of the East as Germany’s “future India”, which would become within three or four generations “absolutely German”. There would, he made clear, be no place in this utopia for the Christian Churches. For the time being, he ordered slow progression in the “Church Question”. “But it is clear,” noted Goebbels, himself among the most aggressive anti-Church radicals, “that after the war it has to be generally solved… There is, namely, an insoluble opposition between the Christian and a Germanic-heroic world-view.”

[….]

…and in line with his undiluted social-Darwinistic beliefs, to take his people down in flames with him if it proved incapable of producing the victory he had demanded.

[….]

…in its maelstrom of destruction Hitler’s rule had also conclusively demonstrated the utter bankruptcy of the hyper-nationalistic and racist world-power ambitions (and the social and political structures that upheld them) that had prevailed in Germany over the previous half a century and twice taken Europe and the wider world into calamitous war.

I also wanted to add this comparison of ideals/ethos that drove some of the worst socialists of the day. Here Andy Bannister notes Stalin’s admission that “socialism proper” is at war with Christianity:Andy Bannister Atheist Who Didnt Exist book 330

Stalin once stated: “You know, they are fooling us, there is no God … all this talk about God is sheer nonsense.” But Stalin was not content with mere words; he also acted on them. In 1925, he actively encouraged the founding of the League of Militant Atheists, which for over twenty years acted out its slogan, “The Struggle Against Religion is a Struggle for Socialism.” It began with popular campaigns in the media against religion, aiming to persuade citizens that religion was irrational and toxic. But soon things became considerably more violent:

  • Churches were closed or destroyed, often by dynamiting; priests were imprisoned, exiled or executed. On the eve of the Second World War there were only 6,376 clergy remaining in the Russian Orthodox Church, compared with the pre-revolutionary figure of 66,140. One dreadful day, 17 February 1938, saw the execution of 55 priests. In 1917 there were 39,530 churches in Russia; by 1940, only 950 remained functional.

Andy Banister, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or, The Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments (Oxford, England: Monarch Books, 2015), 23.

Here we see a stark admission of the ideals/ethos driving Hitler:John Toland - Hitler 330

“We are socialists, we are ene­mies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions.” ~ Hitler

John Toland, Adolph Hitler: The Definitive Biography (New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1976), 223-225.

Did Hitler, like Stalin, kill the religious? At least 3-million Polish Catholics were holocaust victims. Note especially the systematic massacre of the clergy and religious orders:

Repression of the Church was at its most severe in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany, where churches were systematically closed and most priests were either killed, imprisoned, or deported. From across Poland, thousands of priests died in prisons and concentration camps; thousands of churches and monasteries were confiscated, closed or destroyed; and priceless works of religious art and sacred objects were lost forever. Church leaders were targeted as part of an overall effort to destroy Polish culture. At least 1811 Polish clergy died in Nazi Concentration Camps. An estimated 3000 clergy were killed in all. Hitler’s plans for the Germanization of the East saw no place for the Christian Churches.

[….]

[In the Diocese of Chełmno] It is stated that a large number of priests have been shot, but neither the number nor the details are as yet known, as the occupation authorities maintain an obstinate silence on the subject… The Churches have almost all been closed and confiscated by the Gestapo… all the crosses and sacred emblems by the roadside have been destroyed… 95% of the priests have been imprisoned, expelled, or humiliated before the eyes of the faithful… and the most eminent Catholics executed.

— Excerpts from Cardinal August Hlond‘s report to the Vatican.
Hlond reported similar outrages and terror in the Dioceses of Katowice, Łódź and Włocławek which had also been incorporated into the Reich. In his final observations for Pope Pius XII, Hllond wrote:

Hitlerism aims at the systematic and total destruction of the Catholic Church in the rich and fertile territories of Poland which have been incorporated into the Reich… It is known for certain that 35 priests have been shot, but the real number of victims… undoubtedly amounts to more than a hundred… In many districts the life of the Church has been completely crushed, the clergy have been almost all expelled; the Catholic churches and cemeteries are in the hands of the invaders… Catholic worship hardly exists any more… Monasteries and convents have been methodically suppressed… [Church properties] all have been pillaged by the invaders.

— Excerpts from Cardinal Hlond’s report to the Vatican

(WIKI)

It would seem that Hitler’s socialism had the same outcome in every way as Stalin’s.

Here is my final update for a while, and it regards how the NAZI Party was taking away church property and replacing church programs with socialist ones:Conway Hitler Persecution Church Churches 330 COVER

  • J.S. Conway, The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933-45 (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1968), 255-259.

From the beginning of 1941 such new and stringent measures were taken against the churches by the Nazi authorities that more damage, it was said, was done ‘physically and morally by the land raids of the Gestapo than by the air raids of the RAF’.

The number of expropriated church properties rose rapidly. In a secret circular addressed to the Gauleiters on 20 March, Bormann wrote:

Many valuable church properties have had to be sequestred lately, especially in Austria; according to reports from the Gauleiters to the Führer, these sequestrations were frequently caused by offences against ordinances relating to the war economy (e.g. hoarding of food-stuffs of various kinds, textiles, leather goods, etc.). In other cases they were caused by offences against the law relating to malicious attacks against the State [Heimtϋckegesetz], and in others because of prohibited posses­sion of firearms. Obviously, no compensation is to be paid to the Churches for sequestrations made because of the above-mentioned reasons. . . .

The reasons given for the seizures were the need for auxiliary hospitals or resettlement centres for refugees and evacuated children, or, alternatively, acts of hostility to the State perpe­trated by members of the religious orders, particularly the Jesuits. If an individual member of a monastic community was adjudged guilty of an offence, it was seized upon as a pretext for the closure of the whole institution. In actual fact, the Churches’ properties were expropriated solely for the Nazis’ own ends, each of the Nazi leaders making a bid for what he considered their most appropriate use. Dr Ley in June 1940 argued in favour of using monasteries as homes for the Aged or for the Kraft durch Freude. In April 1941 Bormann suggested that Church orphanages should be taken over for the housing of evacuees, a move to which Hitler agreed. In a circular issued from Hitler’s headquarters in May 1941, Bormann decreed that

the Nazi State and movement cannot permit children to be brought up in denominational kindergartens according to Church principles, or along the lines of denominational divisions. Today this question can be finally cleaned up by withdrawing permission from the organizers of Church-sponsored institutions for children. In justification, the special role of the Party in this area should be stressed.

The requisite orders were accordingly issued, and by 31 July all Church kindergartens had been seized by the Gestapo and transferred to the sponsorship of the Nazi Welfare organization.

The requisitioning of monastic properties had first been adum­brated by Himmler, in December 1939, when, in his capacity as Reich Commissar for the Strengthening of the German People’s Community (Reichskommissar far die Festigung deutschen Volkstums), he had ordered the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle in Berlin to take over `suitable accommodation which could be used for the housing of returning Volksdeutsche’. When, eleven months later, Cardinal Bertram protested that the decree had been used to requisition entire monasteries and convents and to evacuate their inhabitants, his protest was ignored. In January 1941 Himmler ordered the complete evacuation of all such Church properties without com­pensation. War-time necessity, the Cardinal was informed, was a sufficient justification for the measure, and the question of com­pensation, could be settled after the end of the war. In December 1940 the Gauleiter of Alsace ordered all Church organizations to be dissolved and their property confiscated. In Innsbruck, Gauleiter Hofer coerced the Premonstratensian Order into ‘selling’ their monastery at Wilten to the provincial government of Tyrol. In Silesia no less than 60 monasteries and church institutions were seized. In Luxembourg, 400 priests were expelled on Hitler’s personal orders; all the institutions run by members of Catholic Orders were confiscated and their inhabitants were transported across the border into the diocese of Trier; all hospitals in the territory were declared secular institutions. In Lorraine, the Warthegau, Lower Austria and South Germany where the measures were particularly severe, the Church authorities estimated that by the beginning of May no less than 13o monasteries and Church institutions had been confiscated.

This was only the beginning. A letter from the Party head­quarters for Mainfranken on 24 April 1941 informed the local Party organizers that :

By order of the Gauleiter, I request from you an immediate report on the situation of all monasteries and convents in your area. A short description of each building should include its size, its place in the countryside, and its activities or participation in agricultural work. Very important is an account of the transportation facilties, since the rural setting of many monasteries makes them very suitable for the needs of the Kraft .lurch Freude (Hotels, Rest houses, holiday and sports resorts). Furthermore your report should include the view of the County Party leader on the future use of these buildings. Since the matter is being treated as very urgent on the national level, I am asking for an immediate reply by return of post, in an express and registered letter.

The German bishops and the Roman Curia itself immediately launched a protest. For some time past the Papal Nuncio had almost monthly complained either verbally, by letter, or with a Verbal Note to State Secretary Weizsäcker about similar sequestra­tions, some of them involving considerable properties. In May 1941 he again protested against the abruptness with which the confiscations had been carried out without prior warning either to himself or to the Church authorities. Weizsäcker’s reply was a curt statement to the effect that the war-time need for housing was so great that further requisitions could be expected. Rome could draw only one conclusion. In a letter to the German Embassy dated January 1942, the Curia protested that because of

the increasing difficulties put in the way of the religious Orders and Congregations in the spiritual, cultural and social field, and above all the suppression of abbeys, monasteries, convents, and religious houses in such great numbers, one is led to infer a deliberate intention of render­ing impossible the very existence of the Orders and Congregations in Germany.

In June 1941 Cardinal Bertram again bitterly complained that, ‘at a time when the whole German people were united in a decisive struggle for the future of our country’, the rights of Catholics were disregarded and overridden throughout the land. In the regions of Trier, Kassel, Saxony, Thuringia, Cologne, Aachen, and Silesia, he stated, church kindergartens had been expropriated, such Catholic insignia as crucifixes and religious paintings had been removed, and teachers and nuns had been expelled. Catholic parents, he averred, were alarmed by these events, which contravened the provisions of the Concordat and served to strengthen the impres­sion ‘that a systematic campaign for the destruction of all that was Christian was now in process’.

Despite the Nazis’ oft-repeated desire not to exacerbate tension between Church and State, restrictions on Church work continued to multiply. On I June 1941, the Church press was totally sup­pressed for the duration of the war in contrast to the press of the German Faith Movement and the anti-clerical pamphlets of the Ludendorff Publishing House, which continued to be published though on a reduced scale. In April, new regulations for the pastoral care of patients in hospitals were promulgated, whereby priests were prohibited from entering the hospitals unless specific­ally requested by patients and with the approval of the medical authorities, and Church welfare agencies were replaced by the National Socialist Welfare organization and the Winter Aid Pro­gramme. In the same month religious education in Saxony was abolished altogether; the Ministry of Education in Berlin pro­hibited the use of prayers at school assemblies; and the gradual removal of crucifixes and religious paintings from every school was ordered by the Bavarian Ministry of Education.

On Bormann’s instructions, every pastor who resigned his office and, preferably withdrew from the Church, was to be offered a government job; and Hitler himself ordered that any Jesuits serving in the Army were to be declared unfit for service and released. Anti-clerical propaganda was stepped up in an attempt to alienate the sympathy of the laity from their clerical leaders, and anti-church literature denigrating the sacraments was handed out free of charge. On 12 June the Gauleiter of Baden, Robert Wagner, announced to an enthusiastic audience of Party followers in the Festival Hall in Karlsruhe that

when our foreign foes lie at our feet, then we will tackle the foes at home; there are still some running around the country in purple and ermine.

Muslim Student Honestly Notes Islamic Law and “Compulsion”

MUHAMMAD SAID: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

TEXT of the above:

And some, this, that you’re referring to, killing non-Muslims, that [to be a non-believer] is only considered a crime when the country’s law, the country is based on Koranic law — that means there is no other law than the Koran. In that case, you’re given the liberty to leave the country, you can go in a different country, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. So you can go in a different country, but in a Muslim country, in a country based on the Koranic laws, disbelieving, or being an infidel, is not allowed so you will be given the choice [to leave].

JIHAD WATCH notes correctly about the above:

The Muslim student is right, and unusually honest. The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law. It’s based on the Qur’an: “They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.” (Qur’an 4:89)

A hadith depicts Muhammad saying: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

This is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, both Sunni and Shi’ite. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most renowned and prominent Muslim cleric in the world, has stated: “The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-‘ashriyyah, Al-Ja’fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.”

Qaradawi also once famously said: “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment, Islam wouldn’t exist today.”

After the above response, a Portland State paper reporter Tweeted video of the above… and was fired for this. NATIONAL REVIEW has the story.

Evil, Logic, and Reincarnation (Groothuis and Zacharias)

The below is an extended example of the weakness of the pantheistic religions in describing reality and supporting THEIR OWN claims:


  • Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 620-625.

4. The nonexistence of evil. One way to dispense with the problem of evil is to dispense with evil itself. This route is taken by various forms of pantheism, such as Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, assorted New Age worldviews and mind-science churches such as Christian Sci­ence, Religious Science and Unity. Since all is ultimately divine, evil is unreal; it is only a problem of perception, and not a problem of objective reality. Pantheists hold that God “is beyond good and evil.” The difference between good and evil is apparent and not real.17 The more a person ap­proximates the divine Mind, the more these distinctions drop out of view. A sixth-century Zen poem puts it this way:

If you want to get to the plain truth
Be not concerned with right and wrong.
The conflict between right and wrong
Is the sickness of the mind.18

But consider this poem. It advocates “the plain truth,” which must be taken as objectively good. Otherwise, there is no reason to “get the plain truth.” The poem then offers an imperative: “Be not concerned with right and wrong,” because “the conflict of right and wrong is the sickness of the mind.” The imperative is a moral one, an injunction to “get the plain truth” by being unconcerned with the sick idea of moral conflict. The poem re­duces to this:

  1. There is no right and wrong that are in conflict with each other.
  2. One should not be concerned with right and wrong, since to be con­cerned with right and wrong is a “sickness,” which must be taken as wrong.

But statements 1 and 2 contradict each other and yield:

  1. If statement 2 is true, then statement 1 is false.
  2. If statement 1 is false, then there is a conflict between good and evil.

Despite its insistence that good and evil are illusions, pantheism still issues moral judgments and makes moral commands. As such, it is logi­cally and existentially inconsistent. These considerations should lead us to reject the idea that no objective evil exists.

5. Karma and reincarnation. Many believe that karma and reincarna­tion answer the problem of evil. The evils of this life cannot be justified if we have only one life to live. However, if we have lived before and will live again (reincarnation), the scales will balance out because karma (a law of moral assessment and administration) assigns rewards and punishments from lifetime to lifetime.19 Nevertheless, multiple problems dog this at­tempted response.

First, most forms of Buddhism and Hinduism, the two leading reli­gions that advocate karma and reincarnation, deny the existence of a substantial and personal soul (an individual, spiritual substance that en­dures through time, whether of a human or nonhuman being). Bud­dhism has many different schools, but all claim that the individual self does not exist (see chap. 23). The self is nothing but a name for a collec­tion of separable parts (skandas)—like a chariot that has no essence. There is no substance that binds the parts together in an essence. At death, the parts—which combined to form the illusion of a self—sepa-rate. If so, no personal self is available to be reincarnated, since there was no self to begin with. But if there is no personal being who exists from lifetime to lifetime, then there is no way for that being to experi­ence either good karma or bad karma, since the karma has nothing to work on.20

Hinduism displays a dizzying diversity of schools, but the form most popular in the West (Advaita Vedanta) also denies the existence of an in­dividual self.21 The one reality is Brahman, or the Absolute Self. Finite, individual selves are illusions of the unenlightened mind. Therefore—although its metaphysics of the self differs from that of Buddhism—Hinduism faces the same problem concerning reincarnation. Because it claims that Brahman is the sole reality, there are no individual selves avail­able to endure from lifetime to lifetime on which karma might attach with its various outcomes.

For there to be reincarnated subjects of karma, there must be indi­vidual, personal selves that endure and continue as themselves from life­time to lifetime. But Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta Hinduism do not affirm the existence of individual, personal selves. Therefore, these reli­gions cannot logically support the existence of selves that endure from lifetime to lifetime or which are subjects of karma. Therefore, these Eastern religions cannot logically support reincarnation. If this argu­ment succeeds, it not only demonstrates that they cannot solve the prob­lem of evil, it further shows that both religions propose essential truth claims that contradiction each other: (1) there is no self, and (2) reincar­nation and karma. Thus, both religions fail the test of internal logical consistency and are necessarily false.

Second, Buddhism and Hinduism cannot explain the system of karmic evaluation and administration. Both religions affirm that karma is a uni­versal system that evaluates the moral conduct of human beings and ad­ministers rewards and punishments appropriately. Even those versions of Buddhism and Hinduism that grant a personal deity do not claim that this deity administers the karmic system, which is deemed a brute fact. The system is thoroughly impersonal.

But how can an impersonal (meaning unconscious and nonagentive) system morally evaluate the worth of actions by human persons? Karma is a law akin to a natural law of science. G. R. Malkani, a Hindu, claims that karma “automatically produces the appropriate results like any other law in the natural domain. Nobody can cheat the law. It is as inexorable as any natural law.”22 But this law is nothing like any law of nature described by science. The law of gravity, for example, explains the regular behavior of physical objects. It has nothing to say about objective moral values; rather, it predicts the automatic reactions of material entities. But moral states are very different from material states because they are nonphysical and re­lated to human agents, who are not reducible to the physical realm, as ar­gued in chapter seventeen. When considering the moral value of an act (or attitude), we necessarily think of judgment or evaluation. Moral judgments require an evaluator, as argued in a chapter fifteen. However, the idea of karma does not include a moral evaluator of any kind. Therefore, the no­tion of karma is logically unsupportable. In addition, this problem ration­ally disqualifies the worldviews of Hinduism and Buddhism in toto, since both affirm reincarnation and karma as essential religious doctrines that turn out to be irrational and thus false.

But problems continue to mount because reincarnation and karma also require moral administration. The impersonal karmic system must meet out rewards and punishments universally and for all time to all sentient beings—a fantastically complex process of cosmic government. But it is government without a governor—a vast system of karmic coordination and implementation, but all without the benefit of a mind to plan the ad ministration or a will to implement it. Yet surely a personal and moral agent would be required for such a grand scheme of administration.

The Hindu and Buddhist doctrine of karma and reincarnation cannot solve the problem of evil, nor is their central teaching rationally warranted. Therefore, these religions are disqualified as rational worldviews.

Third, the doctrines of reincarnation and karma do not solve the problem of evil because they cannot explain the reality of evil. One of the engines of the problem of evil is innocent suffering. This is a vexing conundrum for any worldview, but karma does nothing to solve or allevi­ate it. According to karma, there is no unjust suffering. Everyone gets what he or she deserves, even supposedly innocent children. This should strike us as counterintuitive. As Paul Edwards points out, it would hardly be consoling to a mother grieving over a severely deformed child to be told by a reincarnationist minister that this death was morally deserved because of an evil committed in a previous life.23 Edwards suggests that if he were the mother and a baseball bat were available, he would clunk the person over the head and say, “You deserve your pain not because of a sin in a previous life but because you are a monster right now. You see that justice has prevailed.”24

Fourth, karma and reincarnation are not adequate responses to the problem of evil because they cannot insure that good wins out over evil in the end. The goal in Hinduism and Buddhism is to escape the realm of karma and reincarnation (samsara) and to attain enlightenment in an inef­fable realm beyond personality, individuality, morality and history (nir­vana for Buddhism; moksha for Hinduism). There is no final vindication of the cosmos and its beleaguered pilgrims. The cosmos and humanity it­self must be left behind because both are trapped in an endless cycle of futility. Life will not be redeemed; it must be obliterated. The contrast with the new heavens and new earth promised to Christians could not be more striking (see Revelation 21-22).

In conclusion, the Eastern systems of karma and reincarnation do noth­ing to solve the problem of evil. We must look elsewhere.

Thus far, I have eliminated five alternative strategies for explaining the problem of evil: atheism, a finite god, a morally impaired god, a world without evil and karma/reincarnation. We now explore ways to approach the problem from a Christian worldview.


(17) See Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 36.

(18) Quoted in Alan Watts, The Way of Zen (New York: Vintage Books, 1957), p. 115. See also pp. 107, 147 on the Zen’s denial of objective morality. Given my argument for objective morality in chap. 15, this fact alone is enough to disqualify Zen Buddhism as a true and rational world-view. See Harold Netland, Dissonant Voices (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pp. 189-92.

(19) However, the goal of religions that hold to karma is not a world of perfect justice sometime in the future but the escape from the world of space and time and personality entirely.

(20) ‘See Paul Griffiths, “Apologetics in Action: Buddhists and Christians on Selves,” in An Apolo­getic for Apologetics (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1991).

(21) On the various schools, see R. C. Zaehner, Hinduism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).

(22) G. R. Malkani, Philosophical Quarterly (1965): 43, quoted in Paul Edwards, Reincarnation: An Examination (New York: Prometheus, 1996), p. 39. This reference is to an Indian publication, not the more well-known Scottish journal of the same name.

(23) Edwards, Reincarnation, p. 45. Ibid.

Theologian Wayne Grudem on Pacifism (+Ravi Zacharias)

This is the first of a couple posts/Excerpts that will highlight “Just War Theory,” Pacifism, and the like. By far this is one of the best resources that I will start this series of excerpts [and later some thoughts] with. It should sit on every serious Christians shelf. Enjoy:


Pacifism


  • Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 36-44, 388-394.

[p.36>]

C. ALL GOVERNMENT IS EVIL AND DEMONIC

According to this third view, all use of government power is deeply infected by evil, demonic forces. The realm of government power is the realm of Satan and his forces, and therefore all governmental use of “power over” someone is “worldly” and is not the way of life that Jesus taught.

Those who hold this view also usually favor military pacifism. They argue that since Jesus told us to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39), the best way to resolve disputes—even among nations—is never to use military force, but always to negotiate and build friend­ships and act in a Christlike way, showing love to other nations.

 1. Support from Luke 4:6

This viewpoint has been strongly promoted by Minnesota pastor Greg Boyd in his influ­ential book The Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005). Boyd’s views in this book have had a large impact in the United States, especially on younger evangelical voters.

Boyd says that all civil government is “demonic” (p. 21). Boyd’s primary evidence is Satan’s statement to Jesus in Luke 4:

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:5-7).

Boyd emphasizes Satan’s claim that all the authority of all the kingdoms of the world “has been delivered to me” and then says that Jesus “doesn’t dispute the Devil’s claim [p.37>] to own them. Apparently, the authority of all the kingdoms of the world has been given to Satan.”29

Boyd goes on to say, “Functionally, Satan is the acting CEO of all earthly governments.”30 This is indeed a thoroughgoing claim!

2. The mistake of depending on Luke 4:6

Greg Boyd is clearly wrong at this point. Jesus tells us how to evaluate Satan’s claims, for he says that Satan “has nothing to do with the truth” because

“there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Jesus didn’t need to respond to every false word Satan said, for his purpose was to resist the temptation itself, and this he did with the decisive words, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve ‘” (Luke 4:8).

In evaluating Boyd’s claim that “the authority of all the kingdoms of the world has been given to Satan,” we have a choice: Do we believe Satan’s words that he has the authority of all earthly kingdoms, or do we believe Jesus’ words that Satan is a liar and the father of lies? The answer is easy: Satan wanted Jesus to believe a lie, and he wants us to believe that same lie, that he is the ruler of earthly governments.31

By contrast, there are some very specific verses in the Bible that tell us how we should think of civil governments. These verses do not agree with Satan’s claim in Luke 4:6 or with Boyd’s claim about Satan’s authority over all earthly governments. Rather, these verses where God (not Satan) is speaking portray civil government as a gift from God, something that is subject to God’s rule (not Satan) and used by God for his purposes. Here are some of those passages:

“The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17).

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no author­ity except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are the ministers of God, attending to this very thing (Rom. 13:1-6).

[p.38>] Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good (1 Peter 2:13-14).

At this point it is interesting that both Paul (in Romans) and Peter see civil govern­ment as doing the opposite of what Satan does: civil governments are established by God “to punish those who do evil,” but Satan encourages those who do evil! Civil governments are established by God “to praise those who do good,” but Satan discourages and attacks those who do good. In addition, it would not make sense for Peter to say, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every institution in which Satan is the CEO.” Peter would not want Christian citizens to be subject to Satan’s control and direction.

The point is that Satan wants us to believe that all civil government is under his con­trol, but that is not taught anywhere in the Bible. (Of course, Satan can influence some individuals in government, but he is not in control.) The only verse in the whole Bible that says Satan has authority over all governments is spoken by the father of lies, and we should not believe it. Greg Boyd is simply wrong in his defense of the view that “all government is demonic.”

3. But where did Jesus ever teach us to use force?

In supporting his position, Boyd often appeals to the teachings of Jesus rather than the teachings of the whole Bible. For example, “Jesus didn’t come to give us the Christian answer to the world’s many socio-political quandaries”32 Boyd also says that the “just war” theory is “something that Christ never taught or hinted at”33 (quoting George Zabelka with approval).

But this form of argument fails to recognize that the whole Bible was given to us by God. We have no right to restrict our views to the teachings of Jesus in the four Gospels. If the main teaching on civil government in the Bible is found in Genesis 9:5-6, and in the historical narratives and laws in Exodus to Deuteronomy and Judges to 2 Chron­icles, and in Romans 13, and in 1 Peter 2:13-14, then getting Christians to neglect those passages gets them to misunderstand what the Bible says about civil government. That is exactly what-Boyd is doing when he asks, “Where did Jesus ever act or talk like this?”34 The answer is that the whole Bible comes with the authority of God and the authority of Jesus Christ, and our position on government should be based on the teaching of the whole Bible. (Also, Jesus did seem to authorize the use of a sword for self-defense and protection against robbers in Luke 22:36-38; see discussion below on pp. 201-3.)

4. Support from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey

One other argument used by Boyd depends on the Greek writer Homer in his epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. Boyd says that

[p.39>] in Homer “the gods” are always involved in the affairs of humans…. For Homer, the inevitability of war is not just the result of conflicting passions—it has a supernatural dimension. And all the while, Zeus sits on Mount Olympus, amused by the sport of it all.35

Boyd says that if we understand these Greek “gods” to be demonic forces, then

Homer was also right about the gods…. Our tribal, territorial, and ideological passions have a demonic dimension to them…. From a scriptural perspective, these fallen gods are behind and involved in the conflict that occurs between nations. And all the while, Satan, the ultimate single “power over” god of this age, watches the bloodshed with a demonic sense of amusement.36

5. This view leads to a “moral equivalence” between good and evil governments

There are two problems with Boyd’s analysis here: (1) Homer is not the Bible, nor did he write (in the eighth century BC) from a biblical worldview, and we should be suspicious of any worldview that is derived from ancient Greek mythology rather than from the Bible. (2) In Homer (as interpreted by Boyd) the motivating factors of the governments on the two different sides in a war are both demonic.

This leads Boyd to adopt a “moral equivalence” view of various conflicts between nations: both sides are following Satan. (Although Boyd does not explicitly say it, this view would imply that Adolf Hitler was following Satan, for example, and England and the United States were also following Satan in sending armies to defeat Hitler!) Boyd does apply his “moral equivalence” view to the modern conflict between American forces and terrorists in Iraq, and specifically the terrorists’ beheading of an American civilian, Nicholas Berg. Boyd says this to his American readers:

Your yearning for justice is, of course, natural. But this rage is exactly what led the terrorists to cut off Mr. Berg’s head in the first place. You probably passionately believe that our cause is just, and theirs is evil, but the terrorists passionately believe that their cause is just and ours is evil. Your passion for American justice is mirrored by their passion for Islamic justice.37

How could Boyd come to the point where he sees Islamic beheading of innocent civilians as morally equivalent to America defending itself against terrorist attacks? How could he believe that a nation that never intentionally targets innocent civilians is mor­ally the same as a terrorist movement that makes it a conscious policy to target, torture, and kill innocent civilians?

Boyd reaches this conclusion because he follows this wrongful “all government is demonic” view. Boyd sees committing horrible terrorist acts and defending against [p.40>] terrorists as morally equivalent because he believes Satan’s lie in Luke 4:6 that all the authority in the earth’s kingdoms has been given to him, and he believes Homer’s false Greek mythology that the “gods” (which Boyd sees as demons) motivate both sides in human conflicts. Boyd believes these errors from Satan and Homer rather than fully believing the Bible when it says that the civil government “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4).

Thus Boyd’s “all government is demonic” view makes him unable to see the truth, namely, that terrorists who attack innocent civilians (as at 9/11) are evil, and the Ameri­can military, when it pursues and kills terrorists who are attacking innocent civilians, is working as “God’s servant for your good” and “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). Boyd simply fails to realize that carrying out terrorist murders of innocent civilians is evil and defending a nation against such terrorists is good. But his position is the logical consequence of the “all government is demonic” view.

6. Boyd’s rejection of all governmental “power over” as “worldly”

There is yet a deeper reason behind Boyd’s “all government is demonic” view. The deeper reason is that Boyd rejects what he calls governmental “power over” others as worldly and not part of the kingdom of God. Boyd says,

Wherever a person or group exercises power over others … there is a version of the kingdom of the world. While it comes in many forms, the kingdom of the world is in essence a “power over” kingdom…. There have been democratic, socialist, communist, fascist, and totalitarian versions of the kingdom of the world, but they all share this distinctive characteristic: they exercise “power over” people.38

Boyd explains that this power over people is sometimes called “the power of the sword.” He says, “The power of the sword is the ability to coerce behavior by threats and to make good on those threats when necessary: if a law is broken, you will be pun­ished.”39 While Boyd admits that this exercise of “power over” others is “not altogether bad,”40 because Romans 13 explains that God uses this power of government “to keep law and order in the world,”41 he immediately returns to his main emphasis on Satan’s authority over all the kingdoms of the world42 and concludes that “even the best politi­cal ideology lies under the influence of a ‘power over’ cosmic ruler who is working at cross-purposes to God.”43

By contrast, Boyd thinks people should recognize the contrast “between the ‘power over’ kingdom of the world and the ‘power under’ kingdom of God,” which is the same as “Lion power” versus “Lamb power.44 He says, “The kingdom God advances by people lovingly placing themselves under others, in service to others, at cost to themselves.”45

[p.41>] Boyd says that “coming under others has a power to do what laws and bullets and bombs can never do—namely, bring about transformation in an enemy’s heart.”46 He then says,

Obviously, when hearts and motives are transformed, behavior is eventually transformed as well—but without “power over” threats. Similarly, where the rule of God is established, law and order are established—but without “power over” force…. Do you trust “power over” or “power under”? Do you trust the power of the sword, the power of external force, or do you trust the influential but non-coercive power of Calvary-like love?47

7. Boyd says Christians should not even fight to defend their wives and children or their country

This rejection of governmental “power over” other people leads Boyd to say that a person totally conformed to the image of Jesus Christ should not even use physical violence to defend against an attacker who “threatened to kill you, your wife, or your children?”48 Plus, the rejection of the “power over” kingdom also leads him to say that Christians should never serve in combat situations in the military:

I find it impossible to reconcile Jesus’ teaching (and the teaching of the whole New Testament) concerning our call to love our enemies and never return evil with evil with the choice to serve (or not resist being drafted) in the armed forces in a capacity that might require killing someone.49

He also says, “I honestly see no way to condone a Christian’s decision to kill on behalf of any country—or for any other reason.”50

So at the heart of Boyd’s teaching is a fundamental opposition to the use of superior force to restrain evil, even an evil criminal who attacks one’s wife and children. Boyd’s “all government is demonic” view leads him to advocate an absolute, total pacifism for those who wish to follow Christ.

8. God has established both evangelism and the power of government to restrain evil

The problem with Boyd’s view here is that he fails to distinguish the task of evangelism from the task of civil government. Of course God has not told us to spread the Gospel of Christ by using the “power of the sword” or the power of government. We spread the Gospel by the proclamation of the Word of God (see Rom. 10:17). But God has told us that we should restrain evil by the power of the sword and by the power of civil govern­ment (as in the teaching of Romans 13:1-6, quoted above, p. 37).

[p.42>] If the power of government (such as a policeman) is not present in an emergency, when great harm is being done to another person, then my love for the victim should lead me to use physical force to prevent any further harm from occurring. If I found a criminal attacking my wife or children, I would use all my physical strength and all the physical force at my disposal against him, not to persuade him to trust in Christ as his Savior, but to immediately stop him from harming my wife and children! I would follow the command of Nehemiah, who told the men of Israel, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (Neh. 4:14; see also Genesis 14:14-16, where Abraham rescued his kinsman Lot who had been taken captive by a raiding army).

Boyd has wrongly taken one of the ways that God restrains evil in this world (chang­ing hearts through the Gospel of Christ) and decided that it is the only way that God restrains evil (thus neglecting the valuable role of civil government). Both means are from God, both are good, and both should be used by Christians.

This is why Boyd misunderstands Jesus’ statement, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39). When this verse is rightly understood (see below, p. 82), we see that Jesus is telling individuals not to take revenge fora personal insult or a humiliating slap on the cheek.51 But this command for individual kindness is not the same as the instructions that the Bible gives to governments, who are to “bear the sword” and be a “terror” to bad conduct and are to carry out “God’s wrath on the wrong­doer” (Rom. 13:3-4). The verses must be understood rightly in their own contexts. One is talking about individual conduct and personal revenge. The other is talking about the responsibilities of government. We should not confuse the two passages.

9. Could more pacifism have stopped slavery or stopped Hitler?

Near the end of his book Boyd responds to the objection that war was necessary to end slavery in the United States (in the Civil War) and to stop Hitler’s campaign to take over the entire world (in World War II). Didn’t the use of military force bring about good in those cases?

Boyd’s response is to say that if Christians had been better pacifists, history would have been different: “Had professing Christians been remotely like Jesus in the first place, there would have been no slavery or war for us to wonder about what would have happened had Christians loved their enemies and turned the other cheek.”52 With regard to the US Civil War, Boyd says, “A kingdom person should rather wonder what might have happened had more kingdom people been willing to live out the call of the radical kingdom.”53

But this is just an elegant way of saying, “If history was different, it would prove my case.” And that is another way of saying, “If the facts were different, they would prove my case.” That is not a valid argument. It is appealing to wishful thinking rather than facts.

[p.43>] Boyd is simply saying that if the world were different, the world would be different. But that proves nothing. History is what it is, and history shows that both the evil of American slavery and the evil of Adolf Hitler were only stopped by the power of superior military force. That is the task that God has assigned to governments when they “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4).

10. The more ominous implications of the “all government is demonic” view

I am concerned about the influence of Boyd’s position because his mistake is not simply a harmless failure to distinguish the task of evangelism from the task of government. There is a much more serious problem with his position, namely, that it tends to persuade Christians to oppose all governmental power over evil. Although we cannot discuss the biblical passages in detail until later chapters, at many places in the Bible God approves the use of governmental power over evildoers: see, for example, Genesis 9:5-6; the narratives concerning Moses and other righteous judges and kings in the Old Testament; Romans 13:1-6; and 1 Peter 2:13-14. God establishes civil government and authorizes it to use its power to restrain evil, “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14).

But what would happen if more and more Christians agreed with Greg Boyd that the use of “power over” evildoers by government is serving Satan as “CEO” and Christians should have no part in it?

On the world scene, it would mean less and less support for a strong military and more and more insistence on endless conversations with aggressive nations who would attack us and our allies. It would mean more and more of the kind of appeasement that led Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of England to sign the Munich Agreement of 1938, giving Hitler a large section of Czechoslovakia with no objection from Britain, only in exchange for Hitler’s (empty) promise of peace. This view would today result in increasing objection to the use of military power to oppose evil aggressors anywhere in the world. And that, in turn, would result in increased aggression by Islamic terrorists as well as by countries such as Russia, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and any others who realize that no act of aggression would be answered by American military force anywhere in the world.

At the local level, this rejection of all governmental “power over” evil would mean more and more opposition to the use of superior force by local police, for Boyd’s ideal way of opposing all evildoers is “by people lovingly placing themselves under others, in service to others, at cost to themselves.”54 Because Boyd’s approach neglects God’s appointed way of using governmental power to restrain evil, the result would be the unrestrained growth of violent crime in every community.

At this point, discerning Christians should be able to see a more ominous spiritual component at the heart of Boyd’s position. Who would ultimately profit from persuading Christians that all government power over evil is wrong and demonic? Who would [p.44>] ultimately want to eliminate all use of power over evil by those who are followers of Jesus Christ? It would ultimately be Satan himself, who wants no force for good to restrain his evil deeds in the world.

Therefore, at the heart of Greg Boyd’s position is an exact reversal of the role of God and Satan with regard to civil government. Boyd says that when government exercises power over evil, this itself is demonic and evil. But the Bible tells us that the ruler who exercises power to restrain and punish evil is doing “good” and is “God’s servant” (Rom. 13:4).

The “all government is demonic and evil” view is a third wrong view.

[….]

[p.388>]

A. BIBLICAL TEACHING

1. Governments are responsible to defend their nations from attacks by other nations

As we saw in chapter 3 above (see pp. 77-82), one of the most basic responsibilities of government is to punish those who do evil. When a government does this, it defends the weak and defenseless and deters further wrongdoing. The apostle Peter says the civil government is intended “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14). Paul says that the government is authorized by God to “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4) against evildoers so that it can be “a terror” to bad conduct (v. 3), and it also “carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (v. 4). According to Paul, when the ruler uses superior force—even deadly force—against evil, he is “God’s servant for your good” (v. 4).

Now, if a government is commanded by God to protect its citizens from the robber or thief who comes from within a country, then certainly it also has an obligation to protect its citizens against thousands of murderers or thieves who come as an army from somewhere outside of the nation. Therefore a nation has a moral obligation to defend itself against foreign attackers who would come to kill and conquer and subjugate the people in a nation.

Further evidence for this is seen in Old Testament narratives where the nation of Israel repeatedly had to defend itself against attacks by nations such as the Philistines, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. When God blessed Israel, they defeated their enemies who were attacking them (see Judg. 2:16-18; 1 Sam. 17; 2 Sam. 5:17-25; and numerous other examples in the Old Testament narratives). But when the people disobeyed God and turned from him, he allowed other nations to defeat them as a manifestation of his judgment against them:

They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress (Judg. 2:13-15).

This was a fulfillment of what God had promised through Moses in Deuteronomy 28. If the people were obedient to God, he promised, “The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways” (v. 7). But if they disobeyed, “The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them” (v. 25).

These promises were fulfilled multiple times in the history of Israel. They demon­strate that it is a good thing in God’s sight—a special blessing—when a government has enough military power to defeat the enemies who would bring armies to attack it (that [p.389>] is, it is a good thing as long as a government has not become so corrupt and evil that God would be pleased to see it conquered).

Sometimes people wonder how it can be consistent for the Ten Commandments to say, “You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13), and then also command that soldiers and armies go forth to kill the soldiers in an attacking army. Doesn’t this mean that sol­diers who kill in combat are violating one of the Ten Commandments? No, it does not, because that is not what that verse means.

The Hebrew word translated “murder” in Exodus 20:13 is rātsakh, a word used forty-nine times in the Old Testament. It is never used to refer to killing in war (other Hebrew words are used for this). Rather, the word refers to what we would call “murder” in English today (the unlawful killing of another human being) and also “causing human death through carelessness or negligence” (as the ESV marginal note says at this verse). The command is not speaking about killing in war, and the original Hebrew readers would not have understood it to apply to soldiers who kill in combat.

In fact, at various times in the Old Testament, God himself commanded the people of Israel to go to war (see Deut. 20:1), and it would be contradictory for him to com­mand something and forbid it at the same time. In the New Testament, soldiers are not condemned for being soldiers in the Roman army, but John the Baptist tells them, “Be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14), and Cornelius, a Roman centurion in charge of one hundred soldiers, came to faith and was baptized as a believer in Jesus with no indi­cation that there was anything morally wrong about the occupation of being a soldier (see Acts 10:1, 44-48; see also Luke 14:31). (See also the discussion on taking a life in capital punishment on pp. 186-97 above.)

B. HOW CAN WE KNOW IF A WAR IS A “JUST WAR”?

Of course, there are wrong wars such as wars merely for conquest and plunder. How can we tell if a war is right or wrong? During centuries of ethical discussions regarding the question of war, one common viewpoint that developed, with much input from Chris­tian scholars, is the “just war” tradition. That viewpoint argues that a war is morally right (or “just”) when it meets certain criteria. It also argues that there are certain moral restrictions on the way that war can be conducted.

It seems to me that this “just war” tradition, in general, is consistent with biblical teachings about the need for nations to defend themselves against their enemies. Here is a useful recent summary of the criteria for a just war, together with biblical references that support these criteria. I think that these criteria, in general, are consistent with these biblical teachings:

Over time, the just war ethic has developed a common set of criteria that can be used to decide if going to war in a specific situation is right. These include the following: (1) just cause (is the reason for going to war a morally right cause, such as defense of a nation? cf. Rev. 19:11); (2) competent authority (has the war been declared not simply by a renegade band within a nation but by a [p.390>] recognized, competent authority within the nation? cf. Rom. 13:1); (3) com­parative justice (it should be clear that the actions of the enemy are morally wrong, and the motives and actions of one’s own nation in going to war are, in comparison, morally right; cf. Rom. 13:3); (4) right intention (is the pur­pose of going to war to protect justice and righteousness rather than simply to rob and pillage and destroy another nation? cf. Prov. 21:2); (5) last resort (have all other reasonable means of resolving the conflict been exhausted? cf. Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18); (6) probability of success (is there a reasonable expec­tation that the war can be won? cf. Luke 14:31); (7) proportionality of projected results (will the good results that come from a victory in a war be significantly greater than the harm and loss that will inevitably come with pursuing the war? cf. Rom. 12:21 with 13:4); and (8) right spirit (is the war undertaken with great reluctance and sorrow at the harm that will come rather than simply with a “delight in war,” as in Ps. 68:30?).

In addition to these criteria for deciding whether a specific war is “just,” advocates of just war theory have also developed some moral restrictions on how a just war should be fought. These include the following: (1) proportional­ity in the use of force (no greater destruction should be caused than is needed to win the war; cf. Deut. 20:10-12); (2) discrimination between combatants and noncombatants (insofar as it is feasible in the successful pursuit of a war, is ade­quate care being taken to prevent harm to noncombatants? cf. Deut. 20:13-14, 19-20); (3) avoidance of evil means (will captured or defeated enemies be treated with justice and compassion, and are one’s own soldiers being treated justly in captivity? cf. Ps. 34:14); and (4) good faith (is there a genuine desire for resto­ration of peace and eventually living in harmony with the attacking nation? cf. Matt. 5:43-44; Rom. 12:18).1

C. PACIFISM

Although the just war view has been the one most commonly held throughout the his­tory of the church, a minority view has been that of military pacifism. The pacifist view holds that it is always wrong for Christians to use military force against others and thus it is wrong for Christians to participate in military combat, even to defend their own nation. A similar pacifist view holds that it is wrong for anyone to participate in military combat and that such “violence” is always morally wrong.

I have responded in some detail (in chap. 1 above, pp. 36-44) to several of the argu­ments for pacifism, because they are often related to the “all government is demonic” view advocated by Greg Boyd. Another recent advocate of pacifism is Jim Wallis, in his book God’s Politics.2 Similar arguments are also found in Shane Claiborne and Chris [p.391>] Haw’s Jesus for President, which advocates a pacifist perspective.3 What follows here is a shorter analysis of the key pacifist arguments as they apply to war.

The arguments commonly used to support pacifism are that (1) Jesus commanded us to turn the other cheek (in Matt. 5:39), (2) Jesus commanded us to love our neigh­bors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39), (3) engaging in military combat involves failure to trust God, and (4) the use of violence always begets further violence, and pacifism should be adopted to stop that vicious cycle.

In response, I would argue that (1) the pacifist viewpoint wrongly uses Jesus’ teach­ing about individual conduct in turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39) to apply to civil government (see discussion above, pp. 42, 82 ,201-2), but the explicit teaching on civil governments in Romans is that it should “bear the sword” to oppose evildoers and execute God’s wrath on the wrongdoer (Rom. 13:4). In addition, in Luke 22:36 Jesus actually commanded his followers to carry a sword (which was used for self-defense and protection from robbers; see discussion above, pp. 201-3).

(2) If we truly love our neighbors (as Jesus commanded in Matt. 22:39), then we will be willing even to go to war to protect them from evil aggressors who are attack­ing the nation. While the pacifist might ask, “How can you love your neighbor or even love your enemy and then kill him in war,” the answer has to be that God commanded both love for one’s neighbor and going to war, for the command “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is found in Leviticus 19:18 in the Old Testament, and Jesus quotes it from there. Therefore it must be consistent for God to command both things and the one command should not be used to nullify the other. One example of this is found in the tragic story of David sending out his army to defeat Absalom, his son, in 2 Samuel 18:1-33. David had great love for his son Absalom and yet he was responsible to protect the office of king that God had entrusted to him. Therefore, with sorrow, and while still loving Absalom, David sent the army out against him.

(3) Christians have no right to tell others to “trust in God” for things that are dif­ferent from what the Bible teaches, and Romans 13:1-4 teaches that God authorizes governments to use deadly force if necessary to oppose evil. Therefore, at this point the pacifist argument is telling people to disobey what Romans 13 says about government and then to trust God to protect them anyway. This would be like telling people they should not work to earn a living, but should “trust God” to provide their food anyway! A better approach is to obey what God says in Romans 13:1-4 about the use of govern­ment power to restrain evil and then trust God to work through that government power to restrain evil, which is how he intends governments to function.

This is the problem I have with Jim Wallis when he criticizes the American reliance on military power to protect the nation from terrorists as “a foreign policy based primarily [p.392>] on fear.4 And then he also attributes another wrong motive to Americans when he puts military responses to terrorist attacks in the category of “anger and vengeance” that leads a nation to “indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life.”5 Wallis sees military action against terrorism as based on “fear” and “vengeance.”

By contrast, Romans 13 teaches that military action used to defend a nation is not a wrongful or sinful activity, nor is a desire to depend on military action (under God’s guid­ance) a wrongful attitude to have, because God has authorized nations to use such mili­tary power. What pacifists like Wallis fail to realize is that it is completely possible—as millions of Christians who have served in military forces have demonstrated—to trust in God that he will enable them to use the military power he has put in their hands to successfully defend their country. The solution is not pacifism, but trust in God to give success while obeying him by using the military defense that he has appointed.

This is also why pacifists such as Wallis are actually unbiblical when they say that nations like the United States should not act alone and use “unilateral action” to defend themselves, but should rather depend on a “world court to weigh facts and make judg­ments, with effective multi-national law enforcement.”6 Elsewhere Wallis wants us to depend on a much more powerful “international law” and “global police forces.”7 Wal­lis says that only such a world court with effective power “will be able to protect us.”8

There are several objections to Wallis’s argument:

(a) It is mere wishful thinking. Such an effective worldwide government over the entire earth has never occurred in the entire history of the human race. (Even the Roman Empire at its largest extent did not reach to China or India or sub-Saharan Africa or North and South America.) It is foolishness to depend on something that has never existed to save us from a terrorist threat that we are facing at this very minute.

(b) If such a powerful world government ever did exist, it would likely be dominated by the votes of numerous small nations who are largely anti-American because their governments are communist or totalitarian or devoted to expanding the Muslim reli­gion and therefore opposed to the United States. In this way it would be like the present make-up of the United Nations with its frequent anti-American votes.

(c) Depending on such a world government to keep peace in the world would require nations to give up their individual sovereignty and would require the United States to give up a significant measure of its individual sovereignty. This would open the door to reducing the United States to a condition of servitude and domination by nations or leaders that seek its demise.

Far better than the pacifist position of trusting in a world court and world police force is trusting in the Lord to use the means he has designated, which is the use of each nation’s own military power, as I have argued above from Romans 13 and other passages.

(4) It is simply untrue to say, as pacifists do, that “violence always begets more violence.” The deadly force used by local police in restraining or killing a murderer brings [p.393>] that murderer’s violence to an end. It is the same situation when armies are used to defend nations against aggressors. In fact, the use of military power stopped Adolf Hitler from taking over all of Europe and ultimately all the world in World War II. It stopped the North Koreans from taking over South Korea in the Korean War. In the American Civil War, it stopped the Confederate armies from establishing a separate nation in which slavery would be preserved and protected.

The pacifist slogan “violence always begets more violence” is misleading, because it uses the same word, “violence,” to refer to two very different things—the morally good use of deadly force to stop evildoers and the morally wrong use of force to carry out attacks on innocent people. A better slogan is, “Just governments should use superior force to stop criminal violence against innocent people.” Or even shorter, “Superior force stops criminal violence.”

This is the shortcoming of the pacifist position of Wallis, who says that the solution to international terrorism is “the mobilization of the most extensive international and diplomatic pressure the world has ever seen against the Bin Ladens of the world and their networks of terror.”9 Consistent with that position, Wallis argues that rather than going to war against Iraq,

The international community could have united in an effective strategy to isolate, contain, disarm and ultimately undermine and remove the brutal and dangerous regime of Saddam Hussein.

Wallis adds, “The Iraqi people themselves could have been supported internationally to create civil resistance within their own country to achieve [regime change].”10

But Wallis’s pacifist solution here is very much like the wishful thinking of Greg Boyd that I discussed in chapter 1 (see pp. 42-43). He is simply saying that we “could have” overthrown Saddam and protected ourselves from international terrorists without military action against them by the United States. The phrase “could have” in pacifist arguments can justify almost any wishful thinking. We “could have” waited for some future day when a supposed international police force would come on the scene. And we “could have” waited for the day when the Iraqi people would rise up and overthrow a brutal dictator who controlled one of the most powerful armies in the world. But in fact, these things did not happen, although alternative solutions had been tried for many years. In actual fact, it was only the superior force of the United States military that over­threw Saddam. It was only the superior power of the United States military that defeated terrorists in Afghanistan. It was only the superior power of the United States military that protected us for many years following 9/11.

This kind of “history could have been different” argument is common in pacifist literature. Instead of acknowledging that military power is necessary to achieve a triumph over evil forces, it claims, “If the events of history had turned out differently, they would support my case.” But that is simply saying, “If the facts were different, they would support my case.” That is not a persuasive argument. It is merely wishful thinking.

[p.394>] The logic of pacifism leads ultimately to a total surrender to the most evil of governments, who will stop at nothing to use their power to oppress others. (See further discussion above, in chap. 1, pp. 41-44.) For all of these reasons, the pacifism of Jim Wallis and others is not a persuasive position for Christians to adopt.


Footnotes


29. Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 21.
30. Ibid., 22.
31. Boyd also quotes some other verses in Myth of a Christian Nation, 21-22, but none of them refer specifically to civil governments, so they do not prove his point.
32. Ibid., 59.
33. Ibid., 168.
34. Ibid., 91.
35. Ibid., 23.
36. Ibid., 24.
37. Ibid., 25.
38. Ibid., 18, italics added.
39. Ibid.
40. Ibid., 19.
41. Ibid.
42. Ibid., 21.
43. Ibid., 22.
44. Ibid., 31.
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid., 32-33.
48. Ibid., 162,166.
49. Ibid., 166-67.
50. Ibid., 173.
51. See explanation of this verse in ESV Study Bible, p.1830; see also pp. 2554-55. [I added this recommendation]

5:39 Do not resist the one who is evil. Jesus is not prohibiting the use of force by governments, police, or soldiers when combating evil (see notes on Luke 3:12-14; Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:13-14 Rather, Jesus’ focus here is on individual conduct, as indicated by the contrast with Matt 5:38, which shows that he is prohibiting the universal human tendency to seek personal revenge (see note on Rom. 12:19) If anyone slaps you on the right cheek pictures a backhanded slap given as an insult (a right-handed per­son would use the back of the hand to slap someone on the right cheek; cf. Mishnah, Baba Kamma 8.6). The word “slaps” translates Gk. rhapizō, “to slap, to strike with the open hand.” turn to him the other also One should not return an insulting slap, which would lead to escalating violence In the case of a more serious assault, Jesus’ words should not be taken to prohibit self-defense (see Luke 12:11; 22:36-38; Acts 22:1; 24:10) or fleeing from evil (see 1 Sam 19:10; Luke 4:29-30; John 8:59; 10:39; 2 Cor. 11:32-33), for often a failure to resist a violent attack leads to even more serious abuse Acting in love toward an attacker (Matt. 5:44; 22:39) will often include taking steps to prevent him from attempting further attacks. Jesus’ teaching must be applied with wisdom in the light of related Scriptures that address similar situations (cf. note on 5:42).

[….]

Just War

The just war ethic argues that warfare is sometimes nec­essary in order to resist or reverse specific unjust actions taken by one government or nation against another, but it also insists that war is always regrettable, is always something to avoid if possible, and is never to be used to establish some new vision of a social order.

The just war ethical tradition arises from both bibli­cal and classical sources. In the Bible, just war principles can be found in rules revealed for engaging enemies out­side the territory of the Promised Land (Deut. 20:1-20), in God’s judgment of war actions taken by the Gentile nations around Israel (Amos 1), and in the regard Jesus had for moral wisdom relating to the way kings go to war (Luke 14:31).

The NT church included many soldiers serving on active duty and saw nothing morally inconsistent with Christians serving as military professionals. The conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, was confirmed by the Holy Spirit with no question of his profession com­promising his faith (Acts 10). John the Baptist responded to soldiers in a way that implied they were serving in a morally legitimate profession (Luke 3:14). And when Paul was imprisoned in Rome, many in the Praetorian guard became Christians (cf. Phil. 1:13). As a result, Chris­tians soon came to fill the Roman “fortresses,” military “camps,” and army “companies” (see evidence provided by Tertullian in Apology 37; c. A.D. 200), and the first persecu­tions of the church arose because of the high number of Christians serving in the Roman army. While some early Christians opposed military service (cf. Tertullian and Origen), the majority tradition of the church has never considered military service to be inconsistent with biblical standards.

Over time, the just war ethic has developed a common set of criteria that can be used to decide if going to war in a specific situation is right. These include the following: (1) just cause (is the reason for going to war a morally right cause, such as defense of a nation? cf. Rev. 19:11); (2) com­petent authority (has the war been declared not simply by a renegade band within a nation but by a recognized, competent authority within the nation? cf. Rom. 13:1); (3) comparative justice (it should be clear that the actions of the enemy are morally wrong, and the motives and actions of one’s own nation in going to war are, in comparison, morally right; cf. Rom. 13:3); (4) right intention (is the pur­pose of going to war to protect justice and righteousness rather than simply to rob and pillage and destroy another nation? cf. Prov. 21:2); (5) last resort (have all other reason­able means of resolving the conflict been exhausted? cf. Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18); (6) probability of success (is there a reasonable expectation that the war can be won? cf. Luke 14:31); (7) proportionality of projected results (will the good results that come from a victory in a war be significantly greater than the harm and loss that will inevitably come with pursuing the war? cf. Rom. 12:21 with 13:4); and (8) right spirit (is the war undertaken with great reluctance and sorrow at the harm that will come rather than simply with a “delight in war,” as in Ps. 68:30?).

In addition to these criteria for deciding whether a specific war is “just,” advocates of just war theory have also developed some moral restrictions on how a just war should be fought. These include the following: (1) propor­tionality in the use of force (no greater destruction should be caused than is needed to win the war; cf. Deut. 20:10-12); (2) discrimination between combatants and noncombatants (insofar as it is feasible in the successful pursuit of a war, is adequate care being taken to prevent harm to noncom­batants? cf. Deut. 20:13-14, 19-20); (3) avoidance of evil means (will captured or defeated enemies be treated with justice and compassion, and are one’s own soldiers being treated justly in captivity? Cf. Ps. 34:14); and (4) good faith (is there a genuine desire for restoration of peace and event­ally living in harmony with the attacking nation? cf. Matt. 5:43-44; Rom. 12:18).

If a war is just, it should not be viewed as morally wrong but still necessary, nor as morally neutral, but as something that is morally right, carried out (with sorrow and regret) in obedience to responsibilities given by God (Rom. 13:4). Those who serve in a just war should understand that such service is not sinful in God’s sight but that they do this as “God’s servant for your good Rom. 13:4; cf. Luke 3:14; John 15:13; also Num. 32:6. 20-23: Ps. 144:1).

Most nations throughout history, and most Christians in every age, have held that fighting in combat is a responsibility that should fall only to men, and that it is contrary to the very idea of womanhood, and shameful fora radon. to have women risk their lives as combatants in a war The assumption that only men and not women will fight in battle is also a frequent pattern in the historical narratives and is affirmed by leaders and prophets in the OT (see Num. 1:2-3; Deut. 3:18-19; 20:7-8; 24:5; Josh 1.14: 23:10; Judg. 4:8-10; 9:54; 1 Sam. 4:9; Neh. 4:13-14: Jer. 50:37; Nah. 3:13).

Pacifism

Since the time of Tertullian and Origen (2nd-3rd cen­turies A.D.), some Christians have advocated pacifism, the idea that participating in war is always wrong, or is always wrong at least for Christians. Arguments used to support pacifism are: (1) Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39); (2) Jesus taught us that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39); (3) Jesus refused to use the power of the sword to advance his kingdom (Matt. 26:52-53); (4) the use of military force shows lack of trust in God; and (5) violence always begets more violence and does not really solve the underlying problems.

Those who differ with pacifism respond to each of those arguments as follows: (1) Jesus’ teaching on turn­ing the other cheek was intended as a guide for individual conduct, not for the conduct of governments or soldiers or police in the service of governments (see note on Matt. 5:39). (2) The command to love one’s neighbor is consistent with going to war to protect one’s neighbor from an aggressor, as is evident from the fact that the OT commanded love for one’s neighbor (Lev. 19:18) as well as directions for the conduct of war (Deuteronomy 20). It is also evident from the example of David, who loved his son Absalom but sent the army against him when Absalom sought to usurp the throne (2 Sam. 18:1-33). (3) It is never right to use military force to advance the gospel message, or compel adherence to Christianity, but that is differ­ent from the responsibility of government to protect its citizens. (4) The believer’s trust in God must be defined by what Scripture says, including its teachings on God’s appointment of civil government to use force to protect its citizens. Therefore, one should trust God to work through the power of the sword exercised by government. (5) It is simply not true that wars never solve problems: war was necessary to defeat slavery in the nineteenth century in the United States and to defeat Hitler in World War II. as well as to defeat other tyrants throughout history. In addi­tion, non-pacifist Christians also note (6) that although Jesus stopped Peter from using a sword to resist arrest on his way to the cross (Matt. 26:52), he did not consider it inconsistent with directions given hours earlier that same evening when he instructed his disciples to carry weap­ons for self-defense (Luke 22:35-36. see note); and if using deadly force is justified as required under individual circumstances, there can be no objection to using deadly force as required under civil community circumstances.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001), 1830, 2554-2555.

52. Boyd, Myth of a Christian Nation, 174.
53. Ibid., 177.
54. Ibid., 31.

[….]

1. “War,” in ESV Study Bible, p. 2555. [See footnote #55, above]
2.
Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), especially 87-205.

3. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), especially 199-224 and 338-47 but also at various other places in the book, most of which is structured as a loosely connected set of narratives rather than an organized, sequential, logical argument. Claiborne and Haw also list at least two widely used pacifist books in their recommended bibliography: Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), and John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994).
4. Wallis, God’s Politic, 88, emphasis added.
5. Ibid., 92; see also 94.
6. Ibid., 106.
7. Ibid., 164.
8. Ibid., 106.
9. Ibid., 163.
10. Ibid.

God’s Gender ~ Theology

Just to temper the first point of the three via the above video, I wanted to add these explanations of Biblical patriarchy and the male/female relationship by Nora Hale:

  • God does not have a gender. He is neither male nor female. Gender is a biological characteristic, and God is not a biological being. God is Spirit (John 4:24), and spirit does not have flesh and blood (Luke 24:39). However, in the Bible God is always referred to in the masculine. This is most probably because of how God “the Father” relates to Jesus, who is the Son of God. He was born a male, and in the Biblical culture the male is the one who represents his descendants (1 Cor. 15:22) and has the authority in the family (Gen. 27:1-29, 48:13-14). When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, Eve sinned first, but sin entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12). This means it was the man Adam who possessed representative authority, not Eve. This phenomena is called Federal Headship…. (CARM)

Christianity Today explains well the main idea with this topic. While they have an excellent article as a whole, this doctrine of offices withing the Trinity and how we should revere these distinctions in the Godhead are what made the Jewish survival possible. Most ancient Near-East views of creation and of their sustenance were through fertility goddesses:

Not an Invention

Feminine images are used throughout Scripture to describe God’s compassionate and loving nature. Examples include the frequent images of God protecting and comforting his children (Isa. 66:12–13; Hos. 11:1–4). But it’s important to note that God is never addressed as Mother. This phenomenon is unique compared with the cultures surrounding the original biblical writers. Most ancient Near Eastern societies had a goddess as the main cult figure or at least to complement a male god—Asherah in Canaan, Isis in Egypt, Tiamat in Babylon. If patriarchy is responsible for cultures portraying God as male, then we would expect goddess worship to reflect a matriarchal society—one in which women are given superior status or at least are equal to men. But this is not the case. Even today, many societies devoted to goddess worship remain oppressive toward women. Devotion to the goddess Kali in Hinduism, for instance, has never resulted in better treatment of women, even among Kali devotees.

We could even say that Israel succumbed to an idea of God that was rather against her natural disposition. Left to themselves, the Israelites would have ended up worshiping the Baals and Asherahs—Canaanite fertility gods and goddesses. Israel’s prophets singled out idolatry for fierce denunciation because its people were constantly tempted to do just that. But Israel’s idea of God’s fatherhood bucked a common trend in the ancient world. Hence, it could not have been an Israelite invention, but rather the result of a long history of living under the revelation of God. It is the church’s continuity with this narrative of Israel that would lead eventually to the uniquely Christian doctrine of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In the New Testament, God’s fatherhood conveys two distinct ideas. First, it refers primarily to the internal relationship within the Trinity. This is how the first article of the Apostles’ Creed puts it: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.” Even as early as Paul’s writings, the phrase “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” had become commonplace. God is first and foremost the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not an invention of later church leaders, but comes directly from Christ, who refers to God as “Father.” In doing so, Jesus reveals a unique relationship between the Father and Son that constitutes the beginning of the Trinitarian doctrine.

Jesus taught his disciples to call God “our heavenly Father.” Therefore, the loving relationship he has with the Father from eternity now extends to those adopted into God’s family (Rom. 8:15). The father-son relationship is the most intimate personal relationship, one marked by reciprocal love and respect, and it is God’s supremely personal and loving nature that the term father is meant to underscore.

To claim, as many feminist theologians do, that the very presence of masculine metaphors for God excludes women simply does not square with the way Scripture uses them. Masculine images of God do not always convey exclusively “masculine” qualities. For example, Isaiah 54:5–7 refers to God as the Husband who with “deep compassion” (a stereotypically “feminine” quality) called estranged Israel back to himself (see also Isa. 49:13). The term father, then, excludes not feminine qualities, but rather the idea of a distant and impersonal deity, which is precisely the picture of the supreme being still seen in many primal religions.

Second, the father metaphor points to God as the Creator (e.g., Isa. 64:8; Mal. 2:10) “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Eph. 3:15). Father captures in one word two seemingly contrasting characteristics: God’s love for his creatures and his lordship over all creation. Here again, we see the difference between Israel and ancient Near Eastern cultures. In the Judeo-Christian faith, God the Father created the world as something separate from himself, whereas in Near Eastern societies, the mother metaphor pictures the mother-goddess giving birth to the world (which makes it an extension of the deity’s body). Calling God Mother undermines the Christian doctrine of creation by implying that God and the world are made of the same stuff and virtually indistinguishable. So, we need Father in order to get to the right doctrine of creation….

(read it all)

Apologetic Press (AP) goes on to quote CS Lewis’ excellent understanding of the larger idea at stake here. AP then quotes Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli book…. which I will include the entire section of after this quote:

But must we refer to God via masculine terms? The question has nothing to do with what we would like to do, but rather with what God tells us to do. C.S. Lewis addressed this point in his book, God in the Dock:

Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity…. Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He orShe, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter?

Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable (1970, p. 237, emp. in orig.).

Scripture makes it clear: “O Jehovah, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand…. Shall the potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that made it, ‘He made me not’; or the thing formed say of him that formed it, ‘He hath no understanding’?” (Isaiah 64:8; 29:16). Since when does the clay have the right to dictate to the potter or override his decisions? As a believer in God and His inspired Word, and yet as one speaking from an inherently masculine viewpoint, Lewis went on to say:

We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures…. It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege which Christianity lays upon my own sex. I am crushingly aware how inadequate most of us are, in our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the army that you salute the uniform not the wearer…. A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot mend matters by trying to reverse the roles… (1970, pp. 237-238, emp. added).

It is not man’s (or woman’s!) place to question God’s sovereign authority or divine will; neither falls under mankind’s jurisdiction.

Here is the fuller quote via Kreeft & Tacelli:

Is God a “He”?

The hottest controversy today about God concerns the traditional exclusive use of the pronoun he. Nearly all Christians admit that (1) God is not literally male, since he has no biological body, and (2) women are not essentially inferior to men. Those are red herrings.

There are, however, two reasons for defending the exclusive use of mas­culine pronouns and imagery for God. One issue is whether we have the authority to change the names of God used by Christ, the Bible and the church. The traditional defense of masculine imagery for God rests on the premise that the Bible is divine revelation, not culturally relative, negotiable and changeable. As C. S. Lewis put it, “Christians believe God himself has told us how to speak of him.”

The other reason for calling God “he” is historical. Except for Judaism, all other known ancient religions had goddesses as well as gods. The Jewish revelation was distinctive in its exclusively masculine pronoun because it was distinctive in its theology of the divine transcendence. That seems to be the main point of the masculine imagery. As a man comes into a woman from without to make her pregnant, so God creates the universe from without rather than birthing it from within and impregnates our souls with grace or supernatural life from without. As a woman cannot impregnate herself, so the universe cannot create itself, nor can the soul redeem itself.

Surely there is an inherent connection between these two radically dis­tinctive features of the three biblical or Abramic religions (Judaism, Chris­tianity and Islam): their unique view of a transcendent God creating nature out of nothing and their refusal to call God “she” despite the fact that Scripture ascribes to him feminine attributes like compassionate nursing (Is 49:15), motherly comfort (Is 66:13) and carrying an infant (Is 46:3). The masculine pronoun safeguards (1) the transcendence of God against the illusion that nature is born from God as a mother rather than created and (2) the grace of God against the illusion that we can somehow save our-selves—two illusions ubiquitous and inevitable in the history of religion.

Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1994), 97-98.

Below will be a couple theological expansions of this thinking on a level of the seminarian. Enjoy the input as I have:

  • Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 137-138.

2.3.2 DOES GOD HAVE A GENDER?

Does the fact that God is depicted as male in the Scriptures create an androcentric conception of God that is oppressive to women? Is God really male in his essence? Are men more in the image of God than women because they are male? Does describing God as male provide religious sanction to patriarchal oppression and cul­tural imperialism? These are the questions about God and gender raised by feminist theologians. A few thoughts to consider here.

We can readily admit the sociolinguistic link between language and power. We can also recognize the injustices and inequalities in society perpetuated by gender discrimination. Yet retaining the maleness of God language as given in Scripture is not an automatic validation of an oppressive and abusive patriarchalism. The God who reveals himself as Father is the loving Father of all men and women. Those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior become “sons of God” (Rom 8:14, 19; Gal 3:26; 4:6 NIV [1984]) but also more generally “children of God” (John 1:12; Rom 8:16-17, 21; Phil 2:15; 1 John 3:10; 5:2). God will always remain a “he,” since God is a personal being, and the substitution of the noun “God” for the personal pronoun inevitably makes him impersonal in his speech and actions. The fact that God is described as “he” does not mean that God is intrinsically male, but he relates to us primarily in the masculine mode, as Father, Son, and Lord.”

It is notable that it is maleness and femaleness that constitutes the image of God according to Genesis 1:26-27. It is humanity created as male and female that marks the image and likeness of God. That means that God’s being cannot be confined to masculine qualities. Our humanity has a divine character expressed in the union of male and female. God is the sum of both genders because humanity as male and female are equally rooted in God’s divine being.

What is more, God is also described with maternal language and feminine imag­ery at several points in Scripture. Moses indicts the Hebrews for their rebellion in the wilderness: “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth” (Deut 32:18). God is depicted like a nurse or mother in his care for his people (Ps 131:2). The love of God is compared to the love of a mother for her child (Isa 49:15; 66:13). God’s wisdom is considered one of the primary per­sonifications of his work in the world (e.g., Prov 8:1-12; Jer 10:12; 51:15), and it is expressed in words that are grammatically feminine in both Hebrew (hokmâ) and Greek (sophia). Jesus could even depict himself like a mother hen protecting her chicks from a barnyard fire (Matt 23:37).

In the biblical witness, God’s fatherhood is not an oppressive or authoritarian per­sona that he adopts to force his will on others. Instead, we are to see the imagery of a father’s deep love for his children. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to the Father with the intimate term of abba (Matt 6:9; Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). Jesus declared that God’s fatherhood is why he is so eager to answer prayer (Matt 7:9-11), for God’s love is like a father’s love for his children. And this is why the image of being “children of God” is so powerful. The God from whom we were formerly estranged on account of our sin has adopted us into his own family (John 1:12-13; Rom 8:13-17; Gal 3:26). If there is something good about a human father’s love for his children, then there is something infinitely good about the heavenly Father’s love for his children too.

I think it worth pointing out as well that all theological language is analogical since the finiteness of human language cannot contain the entirety of God in all his infinite being. Human language for God brings us only partial and incomplete analogies, parables, similes, and images of what God is like. All God language, including that freighted with connotations of human gender, male or female, and sonship, is only analogous to God’s being and not an absolute description of his person. Shirley Guthrie writes:

With respect to the doctrine of the Trinity … when we speak about God as “Father,” when we speak about the eternal “Son” who comes to us in the man Jesus (who taught us to call his Father “our Father”), and when he speaks about the “Spirit” who is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, we are not talking about the gender of God (for God is neither male nor female). We are using analogical language from human experience to talk about the kind of relationship that exists between the members of the Trinity and between the triune God and us human beings—a relationship that is like the intimate relationship between parents and their children.

  • William G. T. Shedd, edited by Alan W. Gomes, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd Edition (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2003), 253-257.

Deity of God the Father

The deity of God the Father is undisputed, and hence there is less need of presenting the proof of it. Divine names, attributes, works, and adorableness are ascribed to him.

The term father denotes an immanent and eternal relation of the first trinitarian person. God in himself and irrespective of any reference to the created universe is a father: the Father of the Son. Were God pri­marily the Father because of his relation to men and angels and not because of his relation to the second person in the Godhead, his father­hood would begin in time and might consequently end in time. If there was once a time when God was not the Father of the Son, there may be a time when he will cease to be so. “It is the greatest impiety,” says Cyril of Jerusalem (Catecheses 11.8), “to say that after deliberation held in time God became a Father. For God was not at first without a Son and afterward in time became a Father.”

The hypostatic or trinitarian paternity of God the Father as related to the Son must not be confounded with the providential paternity of God the Trinity as related to the creation. Only one of the divine per­sons is the trinitarian Father; but the three persons in one essence con­stitute the providential and universal Father. The triune God is gener­ally the Father of men and angels by creation and specially of the elect by redemption. Hence, the term father applied to God has two significations. It may denote divine essence in all three modes or in only one mode. The first clause in the Lord’s prayer is an example of the former. When men say, “Our Father who is in heaven,” they do not address the first person of the Godhead to the exclusion of the second and third. They address, not the untriune God of deism and natural religion, but the God of revelation, who is triune and as such the providential Father of all men and the redemptive Father of believers. If a man deliberately and consciously intends in his supplication to exclude from his worship the Son and the Holy Spirit, his petition is not acceptable: “He that hon­ors not the Son honors not the Father” (John 5:23). A man may not have the three persons distinctly and formally in his mind when he utters this petition, and in this case he does not intentionally exclude any trinitar-ian person or persons; but the petition, nevertheless, ascends to the divine three, not to a single person exclusively; and the answer returns to him from the triune God, not from any solitary person exclusively. Says Witsius (Lord’s Prayer, diss. 7):

It is a doctrine firmly maintained by all orthodox divines, that the Father cannot be invoked in a proper manner, without at the same time invok­ing the Son and Holy Spirit, because they are one in nature and in honor. Nor can it, I think, be denied that, laying out of view the distinction of per­sons and looking only at what is common to all three persons in the God­head, God may be denominated our Father. Yet I cheerfully concur with those interpreters who maintain that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is particularly addressed in the first petition.

Says Augustine (On the Trinity 5.2), “That which is written, ‘Hear, 0 Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord,’ ought not to be understood as if the Son were excepted or the Holy Spirit were excepted. This one Lord our God, we rightly call, also, our Father.” (See supplement 3.4.10.)

The term father denotes the Trinity in John 4:21, 23-24: “The hour comes when you shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. The true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Here the term father is synonymous with “God” who “is a Spirit,” the true object of worship. But Christ, in mentioning the object of worship, had in his mind the God of revelation, not of deism—trinal as he is in Scripture, not single as he is in natural religion—the very same God in whose trinal name and being he commanded all men to believe and be baptized. Christ’s idea of God as the universal Father was trinitarian, not deistic. In intuition and theology, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God and the heavenly Father of angels and men:

The appellation father, descriptive of the connection between God and his creatures, is true of every one of the divine persons and of the three divine persons, one God. The [paternal] relation to the creatures is as true of the Son and Holy Spirit as of the Father in respect to divine nature; for all these persons are respectively, and in union, the Father of the universe; the Father in creation, in government, and in protection. The Son as Mes­siah is foretold in his protecting kindness and mercy as “a Father to the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5-6; Isa. 9:6). (Kidd, Eternal Sonship, chap. 13)

A believer in the Trinity, in using the first petition of the Lord’s prayer, may have the first person particularly in his mind and may address him; but this does not make his prayer antitrinitarian. He addresses that per­son as the representative of the Trinity. And the same is true whenever he particularly addresses the Son or the Spirit. If he addresses God the Son, God the Son implies God the Father. Each divine person supposes and suggests the others. Each represents the others. Consequently, to pray to any one of the divine three is by implication and virtually to pray to all three. No man can honor the Son without honoring the Father also. Says Christ, “He that has seen me has seen the Father also” (John 14:9). In like manner, he that prays to the Son prays to the Father also. Says Turretin (3.25.27):

The mind of the worshiper will not be distracted by the consideration that there are three divine persons, if he remembers that the whole divine essence is in each of the persons, so that if he worships one he worships all. With Gregory of Nazianzus, he may say: “I cannot think of the one Supreme Being without being encompassed with the glory of the three persons; and I cannot discern the three persons without recurring to the unity of the essence.”

The hypostatic or trinitarian paternity of God, in distinction from the providential, is mentioned in John 17:5: “Now, 0 Father, glorify me with your own self.” Here, Christ addresses the Father alone, the first person of the Godhead exclusively. He did not address the Trinity, for he died not address himself or the Holy Spirit. Respecting this trinitarian father­hood, the Son says “my Father,” not “our Father” (14:27; 15:1, 8; and other passages).

The baptismal formula and the doxologies indisputably prove that paternity is an immanent and eternal relation of God. The rite that ini­tiates into the kingdom of God would not be administered in three names denoting only certain temporal and assumed attitudes of the Supreme Being. Neither would a divine blessing be invoked through three titles signifying only these. Baptism and invocation are acts of worship, and worship relates to the essential and eternal being of God.

The hypostatic or trinitarian character of the first person is that he possesses the essence “originally,” in the sense that it is not communi­cated to him by one of the other persons. Augustine (On the Trinity 2.1) thus speaks of the “original” or unbegotten possession of the essence by the Father: “We call the Son, God of God; but the Father, God only, not of God. Whence it is plain that the Son has another of whom he is and to whom he is Son; but the Father has not a Son of whom he is, but only to whom he is Father. For every son is what he is, of his father, and is son to his father; but no father is what he is, of his son, but is father to his son.” A common term applied to God in the patristic age to denote this peculiarity was “unbegotten”: “Next to God, we worship and love the Word, who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God”; “we have the unbegotten and ineffable God”; “we have dedicated ourselves to the unbegotten and impassible God”; “he is the firstborn of the unbegotten God” (Justin Martyr, Apology 1.25, 53; 2.12-13); “there are also some dissertations concerning the unbegotten God” (Rufinus, Preface to the Clementine Recognitions). In the writings of Athanasius, the Father is denominated agennētos”‘ (ingenerate or unbegotten) and the Son gennētos (generate or begotten). (See supplement 3.4.11.)

The phrase unbegotten God implies and suggests the phrase begotten God. This denotes no more than the phrase God the Son, the latter containing the substantive, the former the adjective. Clement of Alexandria (Miscellaneous Writings 5.12) remarks that “John the apostle says no man has seen God at any time. The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.” Irenaeus (Against Heresies 4.20.11) quotes this text in the same form: “The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.” This patristic employment of the phrase begotten God strongly supports the reading monogenēs theos in John 1:18, which has the support of א, B, C, L, Peshitta, Coptic, and Ethiopic and respecting which Tischendorf (8th ed.) says, “Without a doubt [this reading] carries the weight of the testimonies.” Westcott and Hort adopt this reading.

In the controversy between the English trinitarians and Arians, con­ducted by Waterland and Samuel Clarke in the beginning of the eigh­teenth century, a distinction made by the former between “necessary existence” and “self-existence” is liable to misconception and requires notice. The Father, says Waterland, is both necessarily existent and self-existent; the Son is necessarily existent, but not self-existent. In this use of terms, which is uncommon, the term self-existent was employed not with reference to the essence, as is usually the case, but to the person only. In this sense, self-existence denotes what the Nicene trinitarians meant by “unbegotten” or “ingenerate.” The Father is self-existent in Waterland’s sense because divine essence is not communicated to or with him; he has it of himself. The Son is not self-existent in Waterland’s sense because divine essence is communicated; he has it not from him­self but from the Father. But the Son is necessarily existent, says Water-land, because he possesses an essence that is necessarily existent. The fact that the essence is communicated by eternal generation does not make it any the less an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable essence. In brief, according to Waterland, the Son is necessarily existent because the divine essence is his essence; but he is not self-existent, because his personal characteristic of filiation, his peculiar “self,” is not from him­self but from another person.

If no distinction be made between necessary existence and self-exis­tence, as is the case in the Nicene statements, Waterland would attrib­ute both necessary existence and self-existence to the Son. He would concede self-existence in the sense in which it is attributed to the Son in John 5:26: “As the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself.” Here, “life in himself” denotes the self-existence of divine essence, which is also necessary existence. The Father has this uncommunicated. The Son has it communicated or “given” from the Father, by eternal generation.

The Father was sometimes denominated pēgētēs theotētos or rhiza pases theotētos. This phraseology is used with qualification by accu­rate trinitarians. Some orthodox writers employ the phrase fons trinitatis’ to denote the hypostatic character of the Father, which is better than fons deitatis. Says Howe (Trinity, lect. 14):

If we do suppose the Son and the Holy Spirit to be from the Father by a necessity of nature, an eternal necessity of nature, and not by a depend­ence upon his will, they will not be creatures, because nothing is creature but what depends upon the will and pleasure of the Creator. And if they be not creatures, what are they then? Then, they must be God, and yet both of them from the Father, too; for all that do assert the Trinity do acknowledge the Father to be fonts trinitatis, the fountain of the Trinity: and if from this fountain the Son be in one way, and the Holy Spirit be in another way, both from the Father; that is, the Son from the Father imme­diately, and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, and this not by choice, but by an eternal necessity of nature, here is this doctrine as easily conceivable as any that I know of whatsoever, the lies not within the compass of our manifest demonstration.

Turretin (3.30.1) says that the Father is fons deitatis “if the mode of subsisting is in view.”‘ Owen (Saints’ Communion, 3) remarks that “the Father is the fountain of the deity.” Hooker (Polity 5.54) quotes Augus­tine as saying that “the Father is the source [fountain] of the Godhead.”” In these cases, deitas is loosely put for trinitas. Strictly speaking, how­ever, deity denotes the divine essence; and the first person is not the Father of the essence. But Trinity denotes the essence personalized by trinalizing. In this reference, the first person is the father and fountain. “We teach,” says Calvin (1.13.23, 25), “according to the Scriptures, that there is essentially but one God; and therefore that the essence of both the Son and the Spirit is unbegotten. But since the Father is first in order and has himself begotten his Wisdom, therefore… he is justly esteemed the original and fountain of the whole divinity [Trinity].”

Buddhism “Hashed Out” To Its Logical Conclusions

Originally Posted May 24th, 2010

A partial portion from my proposed book and an old post elsewhere:

Aren’t All Religions the Same? from Papa Giorgio on Vimeo.

I wish to illustrate with a conversation (unfinished by the way) between myself and a Zen Buddhist.  This conversation can almost happen with any religious Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or the like. The conversation takes place after an interesting post by the person on his blog about self-defense, the Dalai Lama, WWII, and the Buddha. I will post my reply to his original thought, and then he responds, followed again by me.  (Keep in mind I am using our “blog” names, they are almost like “handles” like in the movie Top Gun):[1]

My initial engagement:

Does the idea of “violence” as a moral good or a moral evil truly exist in the Buddhist mindset? What I mean is that according to a major school of Buddhism, isn’t there a denial that distinctions exist in reality… that separate “selves” is really a false perception? Language is considered something the Buddhist must get beyond because it serves as a tool that creates and makes these apparently illusory distinctions more grounded, or rooted in “our” psyche. For instance, the statement that “all statements are empty of meaning,” would almost be self refuting, because, that statement — then — would be meaningless. So how can one go from that teaching inherent to Buddhistic thought and say that self-defense (and using WWII as an example) is really meaningful. Isn’t the [Dalai] Lama drawing distinction by assuming the reality of Aristotelian logic in his responses to questions? (He used at least three Laws of Logic [thus, drawing distinctions using Western principles]: The Law of Contradiction; the Law of Excluded Middle; and the Law of Identity.) Curious.

They Call Him James Ure, responds:

You’re right that language is just a tool and in the end a useless one at that but It’s important to be able run a blog. That or teach people the particulars of the religion. It’s like a lamp needed to make your way through the dark until you reach the lighthouse (Enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.) Then of course the lamp is no longer useful unless you have taken the vow to teach others. Which in my analogy is returning into the dark to bring your brothers and sisters along (via the lamp-i.e. language) to the lighthouse (enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.)

I respond:

Then… if reality is ultimately characterless and distinctionless, then the distinction between being enlightened and unenlightened is ultimately an illusion and reality is ultimately unreal. Whom is doing the leading? Leading to what? These still are distinctions being made, that is: “between knowing you are enlightened and not knowing you are enlightened.” In the Diamond Sutra, ultimately, the Bodhisattva loves no one, since no one exists and the Bodhisattva knows this:

“All beings must I lead to Nirvana, into the Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind; and yet, after beings have been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana. And why? If in a Bodhisattva[2] the notion of a “being” should take place, he could not be called a ‘Bodhi-being.’ And likewise if the notion of a soul, or a person should take place in him.” (Comparative Religions – Buddhism)

So even the act of loving others, therefore, is inconsistent with what is taught in the Buddhistic worldview, because there is “no one to love.” This is shown quite well (this self-refuting aspect of Buddhism) in the book, The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha. A book I recommend with love, from a worldview that can use the word love well. One writer puts it thusly: “When human existence is blown out, nothing real disappears because life itself is an illusion. Nirvana is neither a re-absorption into an eternal Ultimate Reality, nor the annihilation of a self, because there is no self to annihilate. It is rather an annihilation of the illusion of an existing self. Nirvana is a state of supreme bliss and freedom without any subject left to experience it.”

My Final Response

I haven’t seen a response yet. Which is fitting… because whom would be responding to whom? Put another way, would there be one mind trying to actively convince the other mind that no minds exist at all?

Here’s another way to see the same thing, Dan Story weighs in again:

It may be possible that nothing exists. However, it is impossible to demonstrate that nothing exists because to do so would be to deny our own existence. We must exist in order to affirm that reality doesn’t exist. To claim that reality is an illusion is logically impossible because it also requires claiming that the claim itself is unreal—a self-defeating statement. If reality is an illusion, how do we know that pantheism isn’t an illusion too?[3]

Another author put it thusly, “if pantheism is true (and my individuality an illusion), it is false, since there is no basis by which to explain the illusion.”[4] The challenge then becomes this: “if reality is an illusion, how do we know then that pantheism isn’t an illusion as well?”[5] You see…

…most people assume that something exists. There may be someone, perhaps, who believes that nothing exists, but who would that person be? …. no one ever consciously tries to defend the position that nothing exists. It would be a useless endeavor since there would be no one to convince. Even more significantly, it would be impossible to defend that position since, if it were true, there would be no one to make the defense. So to defend the position that nothing exists seems immediately to be absurd and self-contradictory.[6]

Another problem in pantheism is God’s inability to deal with or solve the problem of evil.[7] Dan Story points out what should be becoming obvious, “He is the cause of it (remember, all is God).” Mr. Story continues:

Pantheism and the New Age may try to ignore this problem by claiming that sin and suffering is merely illusion.  But let’s bring this philosophy down to the real world.  Try to convince a man dying of cancer or a parent who has just lost a child that evil and suffering are illusion.  Even if evil is an illusion, the illusion itself is real.  In either case, evil exists.  As Geisler noted, “If evil is not real, what is the origin of the illusion?  Why has it been so persistent and why does it seem so real?…  How can evil arise from a ‘God’ who is absolutely and necessarily good?”[8] The answer must be that if pantheism is true, God cannot be good, and He must be the source of evil.[9]

Between karmic destiny and the god[s] of pantheism and its dealing with pain and suffering (and consequently the promotion of it) by claiming everything is an illusion is not an answer at all.  Must we not live as if this illusion is reality?   In other words, “look both ways:”

As the professor waxed eloquent and expounded on the law of non-contradiction, he eventually drew his conclusion: “This [either/or logic] is a Western way of looking at reality. The real problem is that you are seeing contradictions as a Westerner when you should be approaching it as an Easterner. The both/and is the Eastern way of viewing reality.”

After he belabored these two ideas on either/or and both/and for some time, I finally asked if I could interrupt his unpunctuated train of thought and raise one question.

I said, “Sir, are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and system of logic or nothing else?”

There was pin-drop silence for what seemed an eternity. I repeated my question: “Are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and logic or nothing else? Have I got that right?”

He threw his head back and said, “The either/or does seem to emerge, doesn’t it?”

“Indeed, it does emerge,” I said.  “And as a matter of fact, even in India we look both ways before we cross the street – it is either the bus or me, not both of us.[10]

Pantheists may pawn this inane philosophy on people, but no one can live it out consistently as Ravi pointed out.  Moreover, when a large population tries to live it – like in India – one can see the fruits it produces, the destruction of the family a case in point.[11] The promulgation of suffering and the inability of the religious Hindu to stop and help a suffering child or the rampant infestation of disease ridden — crop eating — pests, is all a loud refutation of trying to live an unlivable religious proposition.  A lie.


[1] I use quite liberally in this exchange two resources, they are follows: Michael J. Murray, ed., Reason for the Hope Within, 212-214; Ernest Valea, “Possible difficulties in Buddhism,” Many Paths To One Goal? Found at: http://www.comparativereligion.com/Buddhism.html (last accessed 8-11-09), the main site is: http://www.comparativereligion.com/index.html

[2] “One who has taken a vow to become a Buddha.” David Burnett, The Spirit of Buddhism: A Christian Perspective on Buddhist Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2003), 329.  “Celestial” Buddha’s and bodhisattvas are said to be able to assist in guiding believers towards salvation as supernatural beings.  These bodhisattvas vary in their rolls and offices as the many gods of Hinduism, from which Buddhism comes.  See: Michael D. Coogan, Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Toaism, Confucianism, Shinto (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005), 133-139.

[3] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.

[4] Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish, See the Gods Fall: Four Rivals to Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), 210.

[5] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.

[6] L. Russ Bush, A Handbook for Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 70.

[7] Michael J. Murray critiques quickly the Ramanuja and Madhya philosophies:

Stated in terms of Christian terminology, Ramanuja’s view implies that every soul that has ever existed endured an eternity in “hell” (i.e., the cycle of rebirths) before it could enter “heaven” (i.e., union with God). Now unlike Madhya, Ramanuja claims that God freely, and beginninglessly, created the world, and all existing souls, out of his own being. This latter claim, however, presents Ramanuja with a very severe problem of evil: that of reconciling his belief that God is perfectly good and all-loving with God’s ultimate responsibility for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of sin and suffering. The problem of evil faced by Ramanuja here is much more severe than that faced by Western theists. First, unlike Western theists, Ramanuja cannot say that this evil is a necessary consequence of God’s creating creatures with free will. Although the suffering of a soul in any individual life could be blamed on the bad karma resulting from its free choices in previous lives, the fact that the suffering is beginningless — and hence infinite — cannot be blamed on free choice. The reason for this is that, no matter what free choices souls make in this life, or have made in any previous life, they cannot change the fact that they have beginninglessly endured an infinite amount of suffering; but one cannot be responsible for what one was powerless to change. Followers of Ramanuja, therefore, do not seem to have recourse to the traditional free will theodicy invoked in the West to explain evil. Second, the amount of evil that needs to be explained is infinitely larger than that faced by West­ern versions of theism, since, according to Ramanuja each soul has committed an infinite number of evil acts and endured an infinite period of suffering. Unfortunately, as Julius Lipner points out, neither Ramanuja, nor any other orthodox Hindu theologian, ever attempted to address this particular problem of evil since they took the eternality of the world and souls as an “unquestioned datum for life and thought.” Unlike Ramanuja (and Western theism), however, Madhva’s theol­ogy largely avoids the problem of evil. The reason for this is that in his theology God is neither responsible for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of bondage, nor for the fact that they continue to remain in bondage, this being ultimately the result of their inherent, uncreated na­ture. Nonetheless, his system suffers from two drawbacks when com­pared to Ramanuja’s view. First, Madhva’s system leaves one with a plurality of ultimates — souls, matter, and God — without accounting for their existence. Although this is not a devastating criticism of Madhya, everything else being equal, views that hypothesize a single, unified source of everything (such as God), are in virtue of their simplicity, philosophically more satisfactory. Second, even though Madhya claimed to base his view on scripture, from the perspective of many orthodox Hindus his theology seems to contradict both those passages of Hindu scripture that appear to imply a deep sort of identity between God and souls and those that appear to imply that the world emerges out of God.

Reason for the Hope Within, 200-202.

[8] Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 189 (emphasis added).

[9] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 113.

[10] Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 128-129 (emphasis added).

[11] Rabi R. Maharaj, Death of a Guru, 13 and 14:

No matter how fulfilling life becomes, there are always cer­tain regrets when one looks back. My deepest sense of loss involves my father, Chandrabhan Ragbir Sharma Mahabir Maharaj. How I wish he were still alive! Nor does the fact that this extraordinary man died so young and under such mysterious circumstances entirely explain my regret. So much that is even more remarkable has happened since then. I often wonder what it would be like to share it all with him, and what his reaction would be. To share it with him! We never shared anything in our lives. Because of the vows he had taken before I was born, not once did he ever speak to me or pay me the slightest heed. Just two words from him would have made me un­speakably happy. More than anything else in the whole world I wanted to hear him say, “Rabi! Son!” Just once. But he never did.  For eight long years he uttered not a word, not even a whispered confidence to my mother…. “Why is Father that way?” I would ask my mother when I was still too young to understand. “He is someone very special—the greatest man you could have for a father,” she would reply, always patient with my persistent questions and puzzled expression. “He is seeking the true Self that lies within us all, the One Being, of which there is no other. And that’s what you are too, Rabi.”


I want to leave the reader with this thought by Robert Hume. In his book, The World’s Living Religions, he comments that there are three features of Christian faith that “cannot be paralleled anywhere among the religions of the world”  [I can add here, the cults either].  These include the character of God as a loving Heavenly Father, the character of the founder of Christianity as the Son of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Further, he says:

The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great re­ligious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strongminded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been wor­shipped, even with multitudinous idols.

All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their prac­tical policies under change of circumstances.

Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a con­sistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the com­prehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.

Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 285-286.

Is Evil Proof Against God? Where Does It Come From?

Description of the above video:

  • If there is a God, why is there so much evil? How could any God that cares about right and wrong allow so much bad to happen? And if there is no God, who then determines what is right and what is wrong? The answers to these questions, as Boston College philosopher Peter Kreeft explains, go to the heart of ethics, morality and how we know what it means to be a decent person.

The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either.

[….]

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 13, 38.

Description of the above video:

  • Isn’t human suffering proof that a just, all-powerful God must not exist? On the contrary, says Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft. How can “suffering” exist without an objective standard against which to judge it? Absent a standard, there is no justice. If there is no justice, there is no injustice. And if there is no injustice, there is no suffering. On the other hand, if justice exists, God exists. In five minutes, learn more.

Description of the above video:

  • A student asks a question of Ravi Zacharias about God condemning people [atheists] to hell. This Q&A occurred after a presentation Ravi gave at Harvard University, and is now one of his most well-known responses in the apologetic sub-culture. This is an updated version to my original post (http://youtu.be/4EeOvWdHGaM). I truncated the beginning as well as editing the volume of the initial question. I also added graphics and text quotes into the audio presentation. Enjoy this short response by Mr. Zacharias, it is him at his best.

Description of the above video:

  • Is evil rational? If it is, then how can we depend on reason alone to make a better world? Best-selling author Dennis Prager has a challenging answer.

Description of the above video:

  • 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.

EVERY ONE HAS HEARD people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kinds of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”–‘That’s my seat, I was there first”–“Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm”–“Why should you shove in first?”–“Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine”–“Come on, you promised.” People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that some thing has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.

(accuser) “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”

(responder) “Your right, I apologize.”

(accuser) “That’s my seat, I was there first!”

(responder) “Your right, you were. Here you go.”

(accuser) “Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine.”

(responder) “Oh gosh, I forgot, here you go.”

(accuser) “Come on, you promised.”

(responder) “Your right, lets go to the movies.”

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the “laws of nature” we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong “the Law of Nature,” they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law–with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who are color-blind or have no ear for a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behavior was obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If they were not, then all the things we said about the war were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practiced! If they had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the color of their hair.

I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Creeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to–whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put Yourself first. selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.

But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter; but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong–in other words, if there is no Law of Nature–what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?

It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my next point, which is this. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature. If there are any exceptions among you, 1 apologize to them. They had much better read some other work, for nothing I am going to say concerns them. And now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left:

I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for us. That time you were so unfair to the children was when you were very tired. That slightly shady business about the money–the one you have almost forgotten-came when you were very hard up. And what you promised to do for old So-and-so and have never done–well, you never would have promised if you had known how frightfully busy you were going to be. And as for your behavior to your wife (or husband) or sister (or brother) if I knew how irritating they could be, I would not wonder at it–and who the dickens am I, anyway? I am just the same. That is to say, I do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature very well, and the moment anyone tells me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much–we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so–that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behavior that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.

These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 17-21.

After reading that portion of CLASSIC Lewis, here is some thoughts from a philosopher that I disagree with on many points (he is an atheist after all), but he argues well for the following, even if later rejecting it:

If the reader is not familiar with Mere Christianity, I would urge him or her to buy it. The first chapter alone is worth the cost of the book. It is a brilliant piece of psychology. In it, Lewis sums up two crucial aspects of the human condition. We can see the first aspect in the passage quoted. Human beings do quarrel in the way Lewis describes. We are moral agents who cannot help feeling that there are some things we ought to do, and that there are other things we ought not to do. We believe, sometimes despite ourselves, that there is such a thing as right and wrong, and that there are certain principles of conduct to which we and all other human beings ought to adhere. In our dealings with other people we constantly appeal to those principles. We are quick to notice when others violate them. We get defensive and make excuses when it appears that we have violated them ourselves. We get defensive even when no one else is around. We accuse ourselves when no else does, and we rationalize our behavior in front of our consciences just as we would in front of another person. We cannot help applying to ourselves the principles we firmly believe apply to all. To use Alvin Plantinga’s term, the belief in morality is basic. Even when we reject that belief in our theoretical reasoning, it comes back to haunt us at every turn. We can never really get away from it. There is a reason why our legal system defines insanity as the inability to tell right from wrong: people who lack that ability have lost an important part of their humanity. They have taken a step down towards the level of beasts.

Even if, in our heart of hearts, we all believe in morality, we do not necessarily share the exact same moral values. Differences regarding values are at least a part of what we quarrel about. Yet Lewis correctly recognizes that our differences in this area never amount to a total difference. The moral beliefs human beings entertain display broad cross-cultural similarities. Ancient Egyptians did not appreciate having their property stolen any more than we do. A brother’s murder, a wife’s infidelity, or a friend’s betrayal would have angered them, just as it angers us. Human nature has not changed much for tens of thousands of years. It does not change at all when one travels to the other side of the globe.

I did not believe Lewis the first time I read him, or even the second time. This idea, that there is a fundamental underlying unity to the moral fabric of humanity, is a hard one to accept. Think about those suicidal fanatics who crashed planes into the World Trade Center. They “knew” they were doing the right thing, that Allah would reward them in heaven with virgins galore. How radically different from our own values the values of some Muslims must seem! Yet there is common ground. Even the most militant Muslims despise thieves, cheats, and liars, just as Christians. Jews, and atheists do. They value loyalty and friendship. just as we do. They love their children and their parents. just as we do. They even condemn murder, at least within their own societies. It is only when they deal with outsiders like us that some of them may seem like (and in fact, be) monsters. To distinguish between insiders and outsiders, and to treat the latter horribly, is actually not so unusual in human history. Expanding one’s “inside group” until it encompasses all of humanity is something of an innovation. When we consider all this, the moral gulf between us and them does not seem so unbridgeable. Our admittedly great differences occur against a background of fundamental similarities. Similarities guaranteed by the fact that we are all stuck being human. So it seems Lewis was right, despite my earlier skepticism. Universal moral themes can and do underpin the diversity of our moral opinions.

[….]

Moral statements, then, cannot be mere matters of taste and opinion. They essentially involve an appeal to principles that transcend both the wishes of any one individual, and the customs of any one culture or society. That there are such principles, and that we cannot really escape from them, are points Lewis successfully illuminates. It thus seems very plausible to suppose that when our moral statements appeal to these principles in an appropriate and rational manner, they deserve to be called truths.

Andrew Marker, The Ladder: Escaping from Plato’s Cave (iUniverse.com, 2010), 108-110, 111-112.

Ravi Zacharias Challenges the Challenger

Mortimer J. Adler rightly points out that while many Christians are quick in responding to the conclusions in an argument often times the Christian is unaware that the point of departure is not in the conclusion, but in the starting premise, the foundational assumptions.

Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001), 20-21.

(One may wish as well to peruse the posts with Greg Bahnsen’s audio included.) Below are two short audio examples of Ravi Zacharias “questioning the questioner,” the first is a recounting of conversation, whereas the second is a challenge proferred by a student and is Ravi at his best!

This second audio is of a student asking Ravi Zacharias about God condemning people [atheists] to hell and the moral implications of this. This Q&A occurred after a presentation Ravi gave at Harvard University (the entire presentation is worth the purchase), and is now one of his most well-known responses in the apologetic sub-culture.

Enjoy this short response by Mr. Zacharias, it is him at his best.

I am including some remarks from an earlier version of the above audio from my YouTube. Someone makes the following statement:

  • Polish parlor trick showman. Why do people still fall for his nonsense. BTW. There is no evidence for gods, none. Ravi is merely lying and creating logical fallacy.

To which another commentator responds:

Actually he is very articulately (yet indirectly) pointing to the presence of “argumentum ad ignorantium” in the debate over atheism/theism. Faith is a logical fallacy on the terms of atheism, as atheism is a logical fallacy on the terms of the physical universe being unable to explain its origin. All leading atheists and Religious believers/scholars accept these boundaries. His answer begins with his explanation of the self-destructive nature of the question as given from its source (being an atheist)… it self-destructs because the question giver already doesn’t subscribe to the moral law as bound to the moral law giver who is the subject of the question. The question giver rejects the evidence that the believer accepts. And the believer can only point to evidence that the atheist rejects.

Divine Feet ~ Philosophical Demarcations

Atheists reject evidence as illusory…

Why?

Because they “have to.”

I put these two ideas from separate fields of study together. Why I didn’t before is a mystery… but like with any field of study, you can go over the same topic again-and-again — you continue to learn. The first example come from biology and the natural sciences. Here are three examples of the beginning of my thinking:

  • “The illusion of design is so successful that to this day most Americans (including, significantly, many influential and rich Americans) stubbornly refuse to believe it is an illusion. To such people, if a heart (or an eye or a bacterial flagellum) looks designed, that’s proof enough that it is designed.” ~ Richard Dawkins in the Natural History Magazine;
  • “So powerful is the illusion of design, it took humanity until the mid-19th century to realize that it is an illusion.” ~ New Scientist Magazine (h/t, Uncommon Dissent)
  • “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Richard Dawkins enlarges on this thought: “We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose… any engineer can recognize an object that has been designed, even poorly designed, for a purpose, and he can usually work out what that purpose is just by looking at the structure of the object.” ~ Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, pp. 1, and 21.
  • “We can’t make sense of an organ like the eye without considering it to have a function, or a purpose – not in a mystical, teleological sense, but in the sense of an illusion of engineering. That illusion, we now know, is a consequence of Darwin’s process of natural selection. Everyone agrees that the eye is a remarkable bit of natural “engineering,” and that may now be explained as a product of natural selection rather than as the handiwork of a cosmic eye-designer or as a massive coincidence in tissue formation.” ~ Steven Pinker, via Edge’s “Is Science Killing the Soul.”

The important point here is that the Judeo-Christian [theistic] view would posit that we (and nature) is designed, and would notice it in ourselves and in nature. The atheist MUST reject design as an illusion because their worldview demands that chance cobbled together what we see… so dumb luck needs to be seen as opposed to design.

Steven Pinker summation:

Pinker’s newer book, The Blank Slate, revised his views on free will, in that he no longer thinks it’s a necessary fiction. The chapter on “The Fear of Determinism” takes an explicitly deterministic stance, and usefully demonstrates the absurdity of contra-causal free will and why we shouldn’t worry about being fully caused creatures. However, Pinker remains conservative in not drawing any conclusions about how not having free will might affect our attitudes towards punishment, credit, and blame,; that is, he doesn’t explore the implications of determinism for ethical theory. This, despite the fact that in How the Mind Works he claimed that “ethical theory requires idealizations like free, sentient, rational, equivalent agents whose behavior is uncaused” … We await further progress by Pinker. (Via Naturlism)

Daniel Dennett:

Dennett worries that there is good evidence that promulgating the idea that free will is an illusion undermines just that sense of responsibility many scientists and philosophers are worried about losing. Critics maintain that Dennett’s kind of free will, with its modest idea of “enough” responsibility, autonomy and control, is not really enough after all.

[….]

“It’s important because of the longstanding tradition that free will is a prerequisite for moral responsibility,” he says. “Our system of law and order, of punishment, and praise and blame, promise keeping, promise making, the law of contracts, criminal law – all of this depends on one notion or another of free will. And then you have neuroscientists, physicists and philosophers saying that ‘science has shown us that free will is an illusion’ and then not shrinking from the implication that our systems of law are built on foundations of sand.” (Via The Guardian)

Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Kruass, Christopher Hitchens:

Sam Harris:

Stephen Hawkings:

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? 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]

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

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

The bottom line is that free-will, self, freedom to be above and distinguish between actions, is all an illusion.

Why?

BECUASE if free-will existed… then this would be an argument f-o-r theism. F-o-r God’s existence. Like the founding director of NASA’s Goddard Institutes, Robert Jastrow’s description in his book of a disturbing reaction among his colleagues to the big-bang theory—irritation and anger.

Why, he asked, would scientists, who are supposed to pursue truth and not have an emotional investment in any evidence, be angered by the big-bang theory?

They had an aversion to the Big-Bang.

Because it argued F-O-R theism. F-O-R God’s existence.

Jastrow noted that many scientists do not want to acknowledge anything that may even suggest the existence of God. The big-bang theory, by positing a beginning of the universe, suggests a creator and therefore annoys many astronomers.

This anti-religious bias is hardly confined to astronomers.

As we see, the above persons in rejecting evidence of design in nature and consciousness, are doing so based on an aversion to “God evidence.” Another well-known philosopher John Searle notes this illusion as well:

All these people are misusing science and remaking it into “scientism.” AND, they are “not allowing a divine foot in the door,” as Dinesh D’Souza notes:

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 [an] a priori commitment… a commitment to materialism. 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, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007), 161 (emphasis added).

“Minds fit into an theistic world, not an atheistic one”

What are intentional states of consciousness? Are states of consciousness plausible on either a theistic or atheistic worldview? This clip shows the exchange between Dr William Lane Craig and Dr Alex Rosenberg on intentional states of consciousness in the world. On February 1st, 2013 at Purdue University, Dr Craig participated in a debate with Dr Rosenberg on the topic, “Is Faith In God Reasonable?” Over 5,000 people watched the event on the Purdue University campus along with tens of thousands streaming it live online from around the world.

For more on this, see my “quotefest” here: Evolution Cannot Account for: Logic, Reasoning, Love, Truth, or Justice