Conversations with Lemmings: Did God “Create” Evil (Isaiah 45:7)

I won’t get into the long back-and-forth that preceded this exchange. As much as I am confident it shows my own close attention to giants of thinkers that p[receded me as well as the clarity of the theistic position and the inherent implausibility and self-refuting nature of atheism… you can go to the discussion yourself and decide (you would have to be on FaceBook and “like” the group this took place in for the link to work).

Here Daniel said the following:

God being all powerful could have just as easily not created evil and permitted us free will. I am not able to imagine that which is impossible yet I still possess free will. Evil could have just as easy been one of the things I can not comprehend. Your argument is incredibly flawed.

[….]

Notice how I put came to be in “”. It’s simply referring to him being perfect from the get go from the beginning to forever. Never changing perfectly complete in every aspect. Never in need of anything.

I’m talking perfection not your flimsy anthropomorphic idea.

To which I respond in part:

He didn’t create evil. And in a previous post elsewhere you mentioned God coming into existence. You really should study the classical view of God (from Grecian times to ours). Maybe something like (I am struggling for something basic for you, because you seem not to be lifting with your legs on what I put down), Philosophy for Dummies, by Tom Morris. And, Christianity For Dummies, by Richard Wagner and Kurt Warner. [I didn’t mention this in the conversation, but the best intro to the topic of basic Christian beliefs is a book by theologian Wayne Grudem tiled “Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith“]

Because you say stuff that paints a giant straw-man and this interferes with your conclusion.

  • 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, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001), 20-21.

Daniel retorted with…

Again you are wrong. Hold on I’ll be back with the verse…. Isaiah 45.7

  • I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

This verse, ISAIAH 45:7 — for context — reads:

  • I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. (ESV)
  • I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster; I, Yahweh, do all these things. (HCSB)
  • The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these. (NASB)
  • I form light and create darkness, I make harmonies and create discords. I, God, do all these things. (The Message)

Here is the Hebrew:

Isaiah 45-7 -- interlinear 690

(Click to enlarge)

Note that Daniel used the KJV, whereas most versions since 1611 translate this word/thought (“and create evil“) better due to communication and modern access to many more manuscripts. Really, the context of the preceding verses should be included… you can read it here. I reference a previous discussion of this person [probably young man] coming at any ancient text with some parameters. He made it clear that his viewpoint is the only one that mattered (implicitly at least).

I responded

I will respond to the verse… it will offer you a great opportunity to be a literary critic… but first, here is a section from Philosophy for Dummies:

ROBOTS AND COSMIC PUPPETRY: THE SCIENTIFIC CHALLENGE TO FREEDOM

Since at least the time of Sir Isaac Newton, scientists and philosophers impressed by the march of science have offered a picture of human behavior that is not promising for a belief in freedom. All nature is viewed by them as one huge mechanism, with human beings serving as just parts of that giant machine. On this view, we live and think in accordance with the same laws and causes that move all other physical components of the universal mechanism.

According to these thinkers, everything that happens in nature has a cause. Suppose then that an event occurs, which, in context, is clearly a human action of the sort that we would normally call free. As an occurrence in this universe, it has a cause. But then that cause, in turn, has a cause. And that cause in turn has a cause, and so on, and so on [remember, reductionism].

➤ “Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player” ~ Albert Einstein.

As a result of this scientific world view, we get the following picture:

✦ Natural conditions outside our control…
✦ cause…
✦ Inner bodily and brain states,
✦ which cause…
✦ mental and physical actions

But if this is true, then you are, ultimately, just a conduit or pipeline for chains of natural causation that reach far back into the past before your birth and continue far forward into the future after your death. You are not an originating cause of anything [this includes brain activity of all degrees, that is, love, pain, etc.). Nothing you ever do is due to your choices or thoughts alone. You are a puppet of nature. You are no more than a robot programmed by an unfeeling cosmos.

Psychologists talk about heredity and environment as responsible for everything you do. But then if they are, you aren’t. Does it follow that you can then do as you please, irresponsibly? Not at all. It only follows that you will do as nature and nurture please. But then, nature on this picture turns out to be just an illusory veil over a heartless, uncaring nature. You have what nature gives you. Nothing more, nothing less.

Where is human freedom in this picture? It doesn’t exist. It is one of our chief illusions. The natural belief in free will is just a monstrous falsehood. But we should not feel bad about holding on to this illusion until science corrects us. We can’t have helped it.

This reasoning is called The Challenge of Scientific Determinism. According to determinists, we are determined in every respect to do everything that we ever do.

This again is a serious challenge to human freedom. It is the reason that the early scientist Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) once said that if you could give a super-genius a total description of the universe at any given point in time, that being would be able to predict with certainty everything that would ever happen in the future relative to that moment, and retrodict with certainty anything that had ever happened in any moment before that described state. Nature, he believed, was that perfect machine. And we human beings were just cogs in the machine, deluded in our beliefs that we are free.

(Tom Morris, Philosophy for Dummies, 133-134)

Previously I noted his view of Consciousness was ill-placed:

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

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

At any rate, here is my response to Daniel’s verse he quoted most-probably from an atheist website:

A historian and critic of ancient literature would ask the following questions:

★ Who was the writer?
★ To whom were they writing?
★ Is the choice of words, wording, or word order significant in this particular passage?
★ What is the cultural, historical context?
★ What was the author’s original intended meaning?
★ How did the author’s contemporaries understand him?
★ Why did he say it that way?

By doing this one shows a maturity level past taking a verse out of context. And again, you would want to give the benefit of doubt to the document [Aristotle and our court system] with the following:

1) Rule of Definition: Define the term or words being considered and then adhere to the defined meanings.
2) Rule of Usage: Don’t add meaning to established words and terms. Ask what was the common usage in the culture at that time period.
3) Rule of Context: Avoid using words out of context. Context must define terms and how words are used.
4) Rule of Historical background: Don’t separate interpretation from historical investigation.
5) Rule of Logic: Be certain that words as interpreted agree with the overall premise.
6) Rule of Precedent: Use the known and commonly accepted meanings of words, not obscure meanings for which there is no precedent.
7) Rule of Unity: Even though many documents may be used there must be a general unity among them.
8) Rule of Inference: Base conclusions on what is already known and proven or can be reasonably implied from all known facts.

[I discuss the above more in-depth here.]

So, for example, I will post one thought on the matter by CARM:

  • “We can see that the Bible teaches that God is pure and does not approve of evil and that the word, rah (evil), in Hebrew can mean many things and that contextually the verse is speaking of calamity and distress. Therefore, God does not create evil in the moral sense but in the sense of disaster or calamity.”

And from Come Reason Ministries:

  • “Evil means natural, and not moral evil, or sin. Herderson says ‘affliction, adversity’; Calvin, ‘afflictions, wars, and other adverse occurrences.’ Whichever interpretation may be adopted, none of the above texts, nor any others when properly explained, sanction the revolting proposition that God is the author of sin.”

Take hurricanes as an example. Hurricanes cause havoc, mayhem, and many times death and suffering. Yet, our planet would be dead without them (see my post where similar to you, arguments made against God end up being proof for Him.

So are you being thorough in your studies, knowing that which you refute? or are you being like the masses of uneducated voters/thinkers and just “willy nilly” taking stuff for granted and thinking you have a good argument?

Honorable mentions of resources on this verse:

Did God Create Evil – Does the Bible Say So? (Evidence for God):

Isaiah 45:7 contrasts opposites. Darkness is the opposite of light. However, evil is not the opposite of peace. The Hebrew word translated “peace” is shâlôm,2 which has many meanings, mostly related to the well being of individuals. Râ‛âh,3 the Hebrew word translated “evil” in the KJV often refers to adversity or calamity. There are two forms of the word. Strong’s H7451a most often refers to moral evil, whereas Strong’s H7451b (the form used here) most often refers to calamity or distress. Obviously, “calamity” is a better antonym of “peace” than “evil.”

Why does Isaiah 45:7 say that God created evil? (Got Questions?):

The context of Isaiah 45:7 makes it clear that something other than “bringing moral evil into existence” is in mind.

Here are a few commentaries on the verse[s]:

6. Comfort from Cyrus, God’s Anointed (Chap. 45)

45:1–6 The LORD calls Cyrus His “anointed” (the same word as “messiah” in Hebrew) because the Persian monarch was a prototype of the Messiah who would give final deliverance to His people. Jehovah promises to give him victory over nations, principally Babylon, to remove all hindrances to his conquests, and to hand over to him tremendous amounts of hidden riches in secret places. Still addressing Cyrus, the LORD speaks of Himself as the only true God, who calls Cyrus by name, who surnames him as anointed and shepherd (44:28), and who equips him for his mission. God does all this for the sake of His people, and so that the whole world may know that He alone is the LORD.

45:7 Verse 7 does not mean that God creates moral “evil,” as some have claimed, based on the King James Version and other early translations.

Delitzsch points out that the early “Christian” heretic Marcion, and the heretical Valentinians and other Gnostic sects, abused this text to teach that the God of the OT was “a different being from the God of the New.”

Addressing the problem of evil (including calamity, no doubt), Delitzsch continues, “Undoubtedly, evil as an act is not the direct working of God, but the spontaneous work of a creature endowed with freedom.”

  • William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 972.

45:5–7 The Lord’s Witness to Cyrus

In the first stanza (45:5–6a) and from this center-stage position, the Lord continues to address Cyrus with the word I am the LORD. Though Cyrus does not know the Lord (cf. 45:4), the Lord knows Cyrus and equips him. I am using the word equips to refer to all of the ways in which the Lord has strengthened Cyrus (45:1–4). The goal of that equipping was to set the Judean exiles free (45:13). The equipping of Cyrus takes place so that they may know … that there is no one besides me (45:6). It is not clear who they might be. The NIV substitutes the word men, meaning people in general. But this is conjecture. The more likely antecedent for they would be Jacob-Israel (45:4). But why would the Lord’s equipping of Cyrus make it possible for Jacob-Israel to know that there is no one besides the Lord? The answer lies at the end of 45:1–13. Cyrus will permit Jerusalem to be rebuilt; Cyrus will set the Judean exiles free (45:13). Jacob-Israel will know that the Lord has delegated power to Cyrus but that it is the LORD’s power that needs to be reckoned with.

The phrase I am the LORD opened the first stanza and now it opens the second (45:6b–7). This is followed by parallel lines describing the Lord as

forming light and creating darkness,
making peace and creating distress. (45:7 AT)

These lines employ language from Genesis 1 and 2 (forming, creating, making). In the second line the Lord lays claim to making peace as well as creating distress (ra‘). The Hebrew noun ra‘ has a range of meanings (cf. evil, KJV; disaster, NIV; woe, NRSV; calamity, JB). It is a mistake to elaborate a theology of God as the creator of evil from this text (see “Creating Evil” in TLC below).

The main point in the witness to Cyrus in 45:5–7 is the Lord’s singularity (no one else) and his activity (doing all these things). God’s power may be seen in creation and in history. God’s sovereignty is over Cyrus; Cyrus does not control God.

  • Ivan D. Friesen, Isaiah, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA; Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 2009), 277.

45:5–7. Again the uniqueness of God is stressed. The fact that there is no other is stated in verses 5–6, 14, 18, 21–22 (also see 43:11; 44:6; 46:9). In Cyrus’ day the Lord was not universally acknowledged, but eventually He will be (cf. Phil. 2:10–11). People will realize that all that happens-light (life), darkness (death), prosperity, and disaster (not “evil” as in the KJV; cf. Amos 3:6)—comes from God. As the sovereign LORD of the universe He can do everything.

  • John A. Martin, “Isaiah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1100.

CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE

Here is a remarkable statement relative to the creation of the universe before all time. God says:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil, I the LORD do all these things [Isa. 45:7].

Zoroastrianism began in Persia. It teaches that Mazda is the god of light. God says He creates light, and that it is no god. The Persians were getting very close to the truth. Many have wondered why they worshiped one god in the midst of idolatry. Well, you must remember that they came in contact with the nation Israel, and Israel was a witness to the world. In Zoroastrianism darkness was Ahriman, the god of evil. God takes responsibility for creating the darkness also.

“And create evil”—the word evil does not mean wickedness in this instance, but rather “sorrow, difficulties, or tragedies”—those things which are the fruit of evil, the fruit of sin. This is the Old Testament way of saying, “The wages of sin is death …” (Rom. 6:23). If you indulge in sin, there will be a payday for it!

By the way, let me introduce something else at this point, since we are living in a day when it is said that good and evil are relative terms, that whatever you think is good, is good. The argument is put forth: The Bible says “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal” (Exod. 20:13, 15). But what is the Bible? Who should obey it? Or why should we listen to the God of the Bible?

The Lord has another very cogent argument. God says that if you indulge in sin, you will find that sin has its payday. It pays a full wage, by the way. This is what God is saying through Isaiah. God has so created the universe that when you break over the bounds that He has set, you don’t need a judge, a hangman’s noose, or an electric chair; God will take care of it.

He says, therefore, that He is the One who creates light and darkness. He is answering Zoroastrianism which worshiped the god of light. God says, “I want you to know that light is no god; I created it.

  • J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary: The Prophets (Isaiah 36-66), electronic ed., vol. 23 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 71–72.

ISAIAH 45:7—Is God the author of evil?

PROBLEM: According to this verse, God “creates good and evil” (KJV, cf. Jer. 18:11 and Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6). But many other Scriptures inform us that God is not evil (1 John 1:5), cannot even look approvingly on evil (Hab. 1:13), and cannot even be tempted by evil (James 1:13).

SOLUTION: The Bible is clear that God is morally perfect (cf. Deut. 32:4; Matt. 5:48), and it is impossible for Him to sin (Heb. 6:18). At the same time, His absolute justice demands that He punish sin. This judgment takes both temporal and eternal forms (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11–15). In its temporal form, the execution of God’s justice is sometimes called “evil” because it seems to be evil to those undergoing it (cf. Heb. 12:11). However, the Hebrew word for evil (rā) used here does not always mean moral evil. Indeed, the context indicates that it should be translated, as the NKJV and other modern translations do, as “calamity.” Thus, God is properly said to be the author of “evil” in this sense, but not in the moral sense—at least not directly.

Further, there is an indirect sense in which God is the author of moral evil. God created moral beings with free choice, and free choice is the origin of moral evil in the universe. So, ultimately God is responsible for making moral creatures who are responsible for moral evil. God made evil possible by creating free creatures, but the free creatures made evil actual. Of course, the possibility of evil (i.e., free choice) is itself a good thing. So, God created only good things, one of which was the power of free choice, and moral creatures produced the evil. However, God is the author of a moral universe and in this indirect and ultimate sense is the author of the possibility of evil. Of course, God only permitted evil, but does not promote it, and He will ultimately produce a greater good through it (cf. Gen. 50:20; Rev. 21–22).

The relation of God and evil can be summarized this way:

GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF EVIL
In the sense of sin
Moral evil
Perversity
Directly
Actuality of evil
GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF EVIL
In the sense of calamity
Non-moral evil
Plagues
Indirectly
Possibility of evil
  • Norman L. Geisler and Thomas A. Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992), 271–272.

The New Normal… Censorship (Plus: Family Guy) [UPDATED]

Censorship is the new norm, and this is with thanks to the left. See for instance Jerry Seinfeld talking about censorship in comedy.

To even write that Bruce Jenner is a man and not a woman is hate speech.

Pittsburgh ‘News’ Room, Lobbyists Demand Columnist Firing for ‘Jenner Still a Mister’ Piece

Stating an anti-transgender opinion is close to forbidden in today’s “news” pages and “news” rooms, especially after the Bruce Jenner fawning frenzy. Exhibit A? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist and associate editor Jennifer Graham (no relation to me) wrote a column truthfully titled “Caitlyn Jenner is still a mister.” 

JimRomenesko.com notes Jay Brown of the so-called Human Rights Campaign demanded in a letter that she be fired for “hate speech, plain and simple”: 

I am writing to you regarding a despicably offensive and inaccurate column by your employee, Jennifer Graham. Simply put, after submitting a piece so utterly lacking truth or decency, she should be relieved of her role as a columnist….

There is still time to make this right, but the solution involves taking action now. Ms. Graham has no business serving as a columnist at a publication with a reputation as sterling like yours. Instead, lift up a  Pittsburgh voice that has something meaningful to say on the issues of the day.”   

…read more…

I posted the above on my FaceBook and got the following response from a gal I adore… but who is just mimicking pop-culture:

How is it anyone’s business other than Caitlin Jenner’s to decide what/who to be called?

Here is my response to the above… and it is in the hopes to create sound thinking/reflection on how she, we, encapsulate thoughts… and thus meaning. (I AM HERE including slightly more information than in the original response):

You are making my point. So let’s change this around: “How is it anyone’s business other than ‘the Pittsburgh columnist to comment on Jenner’.”

You see, when a baker decides to not make a cake for a specific event, the power of the state gets involved. Likewise, we will soon see the state get involved in issues like these… like pastors being fined and even threatened with jail for preaching from Romans.

Also, there is a growing movement of people who had operations to become a woman speaking out against fellow “prospective” transgenders from getting the operation and deluding oneself into thinking they are the opposite sex (See my “Transgender Page” for some examples)

Again, using your premise said another way:

Self Refuting (Alvin Plantinga’s “Tar Baby”)

Again, relativism claims that all so-called truth is relative, that there really is no absolute truth, but that different things (whatever they may be) may be true for me but not for you.  This is at times called perspectivalism.

  • Statement: There is no such thing as absolute truth; [or alternatively, there are many truths.]

Is this philosophy of relativism making the statement that this is the ultimate, absolute truth about truth?  In that case, it actually asserts what it denies, and so is self-deleting, simply logically incoherent as a philosophical position[1] and in violation of the Law of non-contradiction (LNC), one of the most important laws of logical thought.[2]  I will show some common – everyday – rebukes that show how people contradict themselves, thus undermining what in fact they are trying to assert.

Some Examples ~ You Shouldn’t Force Your Morality On Me![3]

  • First Person: “You shouldn’t force your morality on me.”
  • Second Person: “Why not?”
  • First Person: “Because I don’t believe in forcing morality.”
  • Second Person: “If you don’t believe in it, then by all means, don’t do it. Especially don’t force that moral view of yours on me.”

  • First Person: “You shouldn’t push your morality on me.”
  • Second Person: “I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that statement. Do you mean I have no right to an opinion?”
  • First Person: “You have a right to you’re opinion, but you have no right to force it on anyone.”
  • Second Person: “Is that your opinion?”
  • First Person: “Yes.”
  • Second Person: “Then why are you forcing it on me?”
  • First Person: “But your saying your view is right.”
  • Second Person: “Am I wrong?”
  • First Person: “Yes.”
  • Second Person: “Then your saying only your view is right, which is the very thing you objected to me saying.”

  • First Person: “You shouldn’t push your morality on me.”
  • Second Person: “Correct me if I’m misunderstanding you here, but it sounds to me like your telling me I’m wrong.”
  • First Person: “You are.”
  • Second Person: “Well, you seem to be saying my personal moral view shouldn’t apply to other people, but that sounds suspiciously like you are applying your moral view to me.  Why are you forcing your morality on me?”

Self-Defeating

  • “Most of the problems with our culture can be summed up in one phrase: ‘Who are you to say?’” ~ Dennis Prager

So lets unpack this phrase and see how it is self-refuting, or as Tom Morris[4] put it, self-deleting. When someone says, “Who are you to say?” answer with, “Who are you to say ‘Who are you to say’?”[5]

This person is challenging your right to correct another, yet she is correcting you.  Your response to her amounts to “Who are you to correct my correction, if correcting in itself is wrong?” or “If I don’t have the right to challenge your view, then why do you have the right to challenge mine?”  Her objection is self-refuting; you’re just pointing it out.

The “Who are you to say?” challenge fails on another account.  Taken at face value, the question challenges one’s authority to judge another’s conduct.  It says, in effect, “What authorizes you to make a rule for others?  Are you in charge?”  This challenge miscasts my position.  I don’t expect others to obey me simply because I say so.  I’m appealing to reason, not asserting my authority.  It’s one thing to force beliefs; it’s quite another to state those beliefs and make an appeal for them.

The “Who are you to say?” complaint is a cheap shot.  At best it’s self-defeating.  It’s an attempt to challenge the legitimacy of your moral judgments, but the statement itself implies a moral judgment.  At worst, it legitimizes anarchy!

[1] Tom Morris, Philosophy for Dummies (IDG Books; 1999), p. 46
[2] “…is considered the foundation of logical reasoning,” Manuel Velasquez, Philosophy: A Text with Readings (Wadsworth; 2001), p. 51.  “A theory in which this law fails…is an inconsistent theory”, edited by Ted Honderich, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, (Oxford Univ; 1995), p. 625.
[3] Francis Beckwith & Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Planted in Mid-Air (Baker Books; 1998), p. 144-146.
[4] Tom Morris, Philosophy for Dummies (IDG Books; 1999), p. 46
[5] Francis Beckwith & Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Planted in Mid-Air (Baker Books; 1998), p. 144-146.

(See more at my SCRIBD)

I then mentioned that the first part of this “two-part import” from my old blog to my new one may fit the applications as well:

Agree or Not?

This is a combination of two posts, the first was a question I posed to someone in a forum. Below you see what that question was and where I led that person. The second is a bit of political science. Both repeat some of the same idea, but both are different.

So let’s highlight the first question by a court case that has, well, institutionalized the “post-modern” society. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1996), the 9th District Appeals Court wrote:

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”

In other words, whatever you believe is your origin, and thus your designating meaning on both your life and body is your business, no one else’s. If you believe that the child growing in you – no matter at what stage (Doe v. Bolton) – isn’t a child unless you designate it so. You alone can choose to or not choose to designate life to that “fetus”. It isn’t a “potential person” until you say it is first a person. Understand? That being clarified, do you agree with this general statement:

“If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… 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 reality…”

Sounds really close to the 9th Courts majority view doesn’t it. The above is basically saying that your opinion is just as valid as another persons opinion because both are your’s and the other persons perspective on something is formed from influences from your culture and experiences. So someone from New Guiney may have a differing view or opinion on eating dogs than an American.

Let’s compare a portion from both statements:

  1. “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life…”
  2. “…the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own reality…”

Whether you’re an atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian or Muslim, it doesn’t matter. Your reality is just that… your reality, or opinion, or personal dogma. I want to now complete one of the quotes that I left somewhat edited, not only that, but I want to ask you if you still agree with it after you find out who wrote it.

Ready?

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

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

Is God All Powerful? Can He Make A Rock He Can’t Lift?

Video Description:

The above video is a presentation I have done at church as well as in front of high school’ers at a Christian school. 


For a less than 2-minute treatment of my above 23-minute presentation [e.g., save time], watch this DR. CRAIG VIDEO:

Dr. William Lane Craig answers a question about God’s attribute. In this case, His omnipotence.

BOOK:

★ One of the best books to introduce people to “first principles” and how to apply them to worldviews: “Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith“.

BOOK:

★ Much of what I spoke of was from chapter four, “The Nature of God.” it is the book, “Handbook of Christian Apologetics“.

CARM RESPONDS (article):

Can God make a rock so big He can’t pick it up?

GOD & SCIENCE RESPONDS (article):

Can God Create a Rock So Heavy He Can’t Lift It? – Can God Truly Be Omnipotent?

CRI in EQUIP RESPONDS (article):

Can God create a rock so heavy He can’t move it?

[ME]-DOCUMENT:

Can God Make A Rock So Big He Cannot Lift It?

[ME]-POWER POINT:

Can God Make a Rock So Big That.

Concepts: “Free Will or Not” – That is the Question

This is a topic I know a bit about, as, it is a common feature required to make distinctions in philosophy and science (and the philosophy of science) regarding naturalism and its influence on epistemology and if we can know truth, moral truth or otherwise. As we read the article we come to a small paragraph that shows me John is traipsing into territory he knows nothing about but makes sweeping statements as if he does. We read:

  • Acceptance of an assumption that there is no free will would remove everyone’s responsibility for his or her behavior, and nobody could be condemned to jail or death. Such a thesis also would deny the influence of DNA and of experience in life.

Firstly, popular culture weighs in on this idea that somehow DNA influences free-will?

  1. “Infidelity – It May Be In Our Genes” ~ Time, August 15, 1994;
  2. “20th Century Blues” – Stress, anxiety, depression: the new science of evolutionary psychology finds the roots of modern maladies in our genes ~ Time, August 28, 1995;
  3. “Born Happy (Or Not)” – Happiness is more than just a state of mind… It is in the genes too;
  4. “Born To Be Gay?” ~ New Zealand Herald, August 8, 1996;
  5. “What Makes Them Do It?” – People who crave thrills, new evidence indicates, may be prompted at least partly by their genes ~ New Scientist, September 28, 1996, p. 32;
  6. “Your Genes May Be Forcing You To Eat Too Much” ~ Time, January 15, 1996;
  7. “Infanticide/neonaticide is caused by an evolutionary imperative” ~ New York Times, November 2, 1997.

In a lecture from Stephen Hawkings (who holds the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Einstein’s chair) at a lecture given to a university crowd in England entitled “Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate.” He discussed whether we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free. 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?

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s maxim rings just as true today as it did in his day,“If there is no God, all things are permissible.” Without an absolute ethical norm, morality is reduced to mere preference and the world is a jungle where might makes right. This same strain of thought caused Mussolini to comment,

“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.”

Which brings me to the finishing statement from John, “I cannot see how any society could function without assuming we do have free will.” On this we agree, even an atheistic society must borrow from the theistic worldview. In a previous response to My Huizum, I noted Sam Harris’ thinking on ultimate ethics:

evolutionary psychology (for instance, atheist defender Sam Harris makes the Darwinian psychological statement that “…there’s nothing more natural than rape. Human beings rape, chimpanzees rape, orangutans rape, rape clearly is part of an evolutionary strategy to get your genes into the next generation if you’re a male.”)

So, let us see some popular positions taken by “evangelical” atheists:

Richard Dawkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lewis Wolpert

Dan Barker

Take note also that leaders in atheistic thinking and philosophers of good standing deal with the determinism found in neo-Darwinian/naturalistic philosophies and evolutionary thinking. For instance, from a debate I was in many years ago, Stan said the following:

  • “The brain works by firing electric charges that then release chemicals that make others fire electric charges.”
Robots and Cosmic Puppetry: The Scientific Challenge to Freedom

Since at least the time of Sir Isaac Newton, scientists and philosophers impressed by the march of science have offered a picture of human behavior that is not promising for a belief in freedom. All nature is viewed by them as one huge mechanism, with human beings serving as just parts of that giant machine. On this view, we live and think in accordance with the same laws and causes that move all other physical components of the universal mechanism.

According to these thinkers, everything that happens in nature has a cause. Suppose then that an event occurs, which, in context, is clearly a human action of the sort that we would normally call free. As an occurrence in this universe, it has a cause. But then that cause, in turn, has a cause. And that cause in turn has a cause, and so on, and so on [remember, reductionism].

“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player” ~ Albert Einstein.

As a result of this scientific world view, we get the following picture:

Natural conditions outside our control…
cause
Inner bodily and brain states,
which cause
mental and physical actions

But if this is true, then you are, ultimately, just a conduit or pipeline for chains of natural causation that reach far back into the past before your birth and continue far forward into the future after your death. You are not an originating cause of anything [this includes brain activity of all degrees, that is, love, pain, etc.). Nothing you ever do is due to your choices or thoughts alone. You are a puppet of nature. You are no more than a robot programmed by an unfeeling cosmos.

Psychologists talk about heredity and environment as responsible for everything you do. But then if they are, you aren’t. Does it follow that you can then do as you please, irresponsibly? Not at all. It only follows that you will do as nature and nurture please. But then, nature on this picture turns out to be just an illusory veil over a heartless, uncaring nature. You have what nature gives you. Nothing more, nothing less.

Where is human freedom in this picture? It doesn’t exist. It is one of our chief illusions. The natural belief in free will is just a monstrous falsehood. But we should not feel bad about holding on to this illusion until science corrects us. We can’t have helped it.

This reasoning is called The Challenge of Scientific Determinism. According to determinists, we are determined in every respect to do everything that we ever do.

This again is a serious challenge to human freedom. It is the reason that the early scientist Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) once said that if you could give a super-genius a total description of the universe at any given point in time, that being would be able to predict with certainty everything that would ever happen in the future relative to that moment, and retrodict with certainty anything that had ever happened in any moment before that described state. Nature, he believed, was that perfect machine. And we human beings were just cogs in the machine, deluded in our beliefs that we are free.

 (Tom Morris, Philosophy for Dummies, 133-134)

[….]

Evil, say, infanticide is reduced to determinism.  (Brain function [choice, action] reduces to chemical reactions, which are caused by a physical process, which in turn are caused by a physical [reduced] cause… etc ad infinitum.)  And when a person says, “I reject the thought of an ultimate being. So how do I determine ‘right’ from ‘wrong’? I don’t. I simply base things on choices. It is my belief that that the only moral system is a system that let’s everyone make their own choices, and live their life as they wish” [Giddion is another person involved in this old debate] they do not realize what they are thus accepting as the rule of life, as I will now refute.  And one would have to admit if he or she rejects God, physicalism is all that is left.

Mind/Body Physicalism Refuted (the following is from Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity, by J. P. Moreland, pp. 90-92)

A number of philosophers have argued that physicalism must be false because it implies determinism and determinism is self-refuting.  Speaking of the determinist, J. R. Lucas says:

If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else.  He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result….  Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments [say, whether or not homosexuality is a right or not] as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes.  Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them.  (Freedom of the Will, by John Lucas)

H. P. Owen states that:

Determinism is self-stultifying.  If my mental processes are totally determined, I am totally determined either to accept or to reject determinism.  But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing X is that I am causally determined to believe it I have no ground for holding that my judgment is true or false.  (Christian Theism, p. 118)

… if one claims to know that physicalism is true, or to embrace it for good reasons, if one claims that it is a rational position which should be chosen on the basis of evidence [as one does when they reject theism], then this claim is self-refuting.  This is so because physicallism seems to deny the possibility of rationality.  To see this, let us examine the necessary preconditions which must hold if there is to be such a thing as rationality and show how physicalism denies these preconditions.

At least five factors must obtain if there are to be genuine rational agents who can accurately reflect on the world.  First, minds must have internationality; they must be capable of having thoughts about or of the world.  Acts of inference are “insights into” or “knowings of” something other than themselves.

Second, reasons, propositions, thoughts, laws of logic and evidence, and truth must exist and be capable of being instanced in people’s minds and influencing their thought processes.  This fact is hard to reconcile with physicallism.  To see this, consider the field of ethics.  Morality prescribes what we ought to do (prescriptive); it does not merely describe what is in fact done (descriptive).  Objective morality makes sense if real moral laws or oughts exist and if normative, moral properties like rightness, goodness, worth, and dignity exist in acts (the act of honoring one’s parents) and things (persons and animals have worth) [this all applies to the debate over homosexuality].  If physicalism is true as a worldview, there are no moral properties or full-blooded oughts.  Physical states just are, and one physical state causes or fails to cause another physical state.  A physical state does not morally prescribe that another physical ought to be.  If physicalism is true, oughts are not real moral obligations telling us what one should do to be in conformity with the moral universe.  Rather, “ought” serves as a mere guide for reaching a socially acceptable or psychologically desired goal (e.g., “if one wants to have pleasure and avoid pain, then one ‘ought’ to tell the truth”).  Moral imperatives become grounded in subjective preferences on the same level as a preference for Burger King over McDonald’s….

[….]

ReductionismThe theory that every complex phenomenon, esp. in biology or psychology, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon. (Random-House Webster)

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

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

Which brings C.S. Lewis to mention how he was not able to connect the idea of “evil” to the world as an atheist:

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? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.

William Lane Craig, who debated Sam Harris, works through this in his post, “Navigating Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape.” One can see from Sam Harris that ethics is not something that “ought” to be adhered to. In an article and from a debate between theist William Lane Craig and Same Harris, we can zero in on what naturalism says

First, objective moral values:

So how does Sam Harris propose to solve the “value problem”? The trick he proposes is simply to redefine what he means by “good” and “evil” in non-moral terms. He says we should “define ‘good’ as that which supports [the] well-being” of conscious creatures.” He states, “Good and evil need only consist in this: misery versus well-being.” Or again: “In speaking of ‘moral truth,’ I am saying that there must be facts regarding human and animal well-being.”

So, he says, “Questions about values … are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures.” Therefore, he concludes, “It makes no sense … to ask whether maximizing well-being is ‘good’.” Why not? Because he’s redefined the word “good” to mean the well-being of conscious creatures. So to ask, “Why is maximizing creatures’ well-being good?” is on his definition the same as asking, “Why does maximizing creatures’ well-being maximize creatures’ well-being?” It is simply a tautology — talking in a circle. Thus, Harris has “solved” his problem simply by redefining his terms. It is mere word play.

Second, objective moral duties:

Does atheism provide a sound foundation for objective moral duties? Duty has to do with moral obligation and prohibition, what I ought or ought not to do. Here reviewers of The Moral Landscape have been merciless in pounding Harris’ attempt to provide a naturalistic account of moral obligation. Two problems stand out.

Natural science tells us only what is, not what ought to be, the case. As philosopher Jerry Fodor has written, “Science is about facts, not norms; it might tell us how we are, but it wouldn’t tell us what is wrong with how we are.” In particular it cannot tell us that we have a moral obligation to take actions that are conducive to human flourishing.

[…]Second, ”ought” implies “can.” A person is not morally responsible for an action he is unable to avoid. For example, if somebody shoves you into another person, you are not to blame for bumping into this person. You had no choice. But Harris believes that all of our actions are causally determined and that there is no free will. Harris rejects not only libertarian accounts of freedom but also compatibilistic accounts of freedom. But if there is no free will, no one is morally responsible for anything. In the end, Harris admits this, though it’s tucked away in his endnotes. Moral responsibility, he says, “is a social construct,” not an objective reality: “in neuroscientific terms no person is more or less responsible than any other” for the actions they perform. His thoroughgoing determinism spells the end of any hope or possibility of objective moral duties on his worldview because we have no control over what we do.

William Lane Craig Discusses Sam Harris’ book, “The Moral Landscape”

So we can see that even the person mentioned in John Van Huizum’s article, Sam Harris, in reality rejects his premise that free will exists. John does say though, that we must (we meaning any society, secular or not) must assume it to be true. Thus, John is borrowing from the Judeo-Christian worldview and really arguing for the coherence of it (and the incoherence of the opposite), and not of atheism… unbeknownst to him! John neglects to tell us “the rest of the story” (Paul Harvey), or more likely doesn’t know the story to begin with.