Are Those Who Have Not Heard the Gospel Damned? RPT Q&A +More

UPDATED WITH WRETCHED… originally posted August 2014

This evangelism encounter is POWERFUL. Watch an intelligent college student PRESS street-preacher Todd Friel on the requirements to enter Heaven, then receive a biblical explanation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Commentary On 1 Peter 3:18-19

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

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

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

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

I marry this understanding to a view via William Lane Craig, a name you may be familiar with is on the opposing side of Christian apologetics. He has a view on Molinism I enjoy a bit. [“Enjoy a bit” – I believe is still in the pale of orthodoxy] Here is what he says, and I will emphasize the important aspect I wish to highlight:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

____________
The Dawkins Proof, chapter one.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve got to wonder.

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


AND THE BELOW is taken from another post of mine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Dawkins

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

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

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

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

I asked an obvious question: “As we speak of this shifting zeitgeist, how are we to determine who’s right? If we do not acknowledge some sort of external [standard], what is to prevent us from saying that the Muslim [extremists] aren’t right?”

“Yes, absolutely fascinating.” His response was immediate. “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. But whatever [defines morality], it’s not the Bible. If it was, we’d be stoning people for breaking the Sabbath.”

I was stupefied. He had readily conceded that his own philosophical position did not offer a rational basis for moral judgments. His intellectual honesty was refreshing, if somewhat disturbing on this point….

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

Lewis Wolpert

From the video description:

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

Dan Barker

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

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

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

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

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

:::shudders:::

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

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

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

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

William Provine

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

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

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


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

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

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

[4] Ibid., 32.

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

(Reasons for God)

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

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

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

Papa Giorgio

A “High-Brow” Defection from Darwinian Naturalism | Thomas Nagel

Originally Posted November of 2012

Here Dr. William Lane Craig demonstrates that atheism cannot give an account for reason, logic, and truth.

EVOLUTION NEWS AND VIEWS has this bitchin post:

About a decade ago I would muse on what it might take for intelligent design to win the day. Clearly, its intellectual and scientific project needed to move forward, and, happily, that has been happening. But I was also thinking in terms of a watershed event, something that could have the effect of a Berlin Wall coming down, so that nothing thereafter was the same. It struck me that an event like this could involve some notable atheists coming to reverse themselves on the evidence for design in the cosmos.

Shortly after these musings, Antony Flew, who had been the most notable intellectual atheist in the English-speaking world until Richard Dawkins supplanted him, announced that he had come to believe in God (a deistic deity and not the full-blooded deity of ethical monotheism) on account of intelligent design arguments. I wondered whether this could be the start of that Berlin Wall coming down, but was quickly disabused as the New York Times and other media outlets quickly dismissed Flew’s conversion as a sign of his dotage (he was in his eighties when he deconverted from atheism). Flew, though sound in mind despite what his critics were saying (I spoke with him on the phone in 2006), was quickly marginalized and his deconversion didn’t have nearly the impact that it might have.

Still, I may have been on to something about defections of high profile intellectuals from Darwinian naturalism and the effect that this might have in creating conceptual space for intelligent design and ultimately winning the day for it. In 2011 we saw University of Chicago molecular biologist James Shapiro deconstruct Darwinian evolution with an incisiveness and vigor that even the ID community has found hard to match (for my review of his Evolution: A View from the 21st Century, go here; for my exchange with Shapiro on this forum, go here).

A Most Disconcerting Deconversion

Thomas Nagel, with his just published Mind & Cosmos, has now become another such defector from Darwinian naturalism. Appearing from Oxford University Press and subtitled Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, this slender volume (it’s only 130 pages) represents the most disconcerting defection (disconcerting to Darwinists) from Darwinian naturalism to date. We’re still not talking the Berlin Wall coming down, but it’s not hard to see it as a realistic possibility, off in the distance, after reading this book.

Because intelligent design is still a minority position that is widely marginalized by the media and mainstream science, it’s easy for defenders of intelligent design to wax apocalyptic. Indeed, it’s a very natural impulse to want to throw off the shackles of an oppressive and powerful majority, especially when one views their authority as unwarranted and unjust. So I have to keep my own impulses in check when I make comments about the Berlin Wall coming down (by the way, I had an uncle, aunt, and cousins who lived in “West Berlin” at the time as well as relatives in Poland, so my interest in the Berlin Wall is not merely hypothetical). But Thomas Nagel is a very major intellectual on the American scene and his no-holds-barred deconstruction of Darwinian naturalism is just the sort of critique, coupled with others to be sure, that will, if anything, unravel Darwin’s legacy.

Nagel is a philosopher at New York University. Now in his 70s, he has been a towering figure in the field, and his essays were mandatory reading, certainly when I was a graduate student in philosophy in the early 1990s. His wildly popular essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” takes on reductionist accounts of mind, and his books Mortal Questions (Cambridge, 1979) and The View from Nowhere (Oxford, 1986) seemed to be in many of my fellow graduate students’ backpacks.

Reading Nagel’s latest, I had the sense of watching Peter Finch in the film Network (1976), where he rants “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” (in that famous monologue, Finch also says “I’m a human being, my life has value” — a remarkable point to make three years after Roe v. Wade; to see the monologue, go here). Now Nagel in Mind & Cosmos, unlike Finch in Network, is measured and calm, but he is no less adamant that the bullying by Darwinists needs to stop. Perhaps with Richard Dawkins in mind, who has remarked that dissenters from Darwin are either ignorant, stupid, wicked, insane, or brainwashed, Nagel writes,

I realize that such doubts [about Darwinian naturalism] will strike many people as outrageous, but that is because almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten into regarding the reductive research program as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science.

Nagel has nailed it here. The threat of being branded unscientific in the name of a patently ill-supported Darwinian evolutionary story is the thing that most keeps Darwinism alive (certainly not the evidence for it). We saw a similar phenomenon in the old communist Eastern bloc. Lots of people doubted Marxism-Leninism. But to express such doubt would get one branded as a reactionary. And so people kept silent. I recall David Berlinski, a well-known Darwin skeptic, telling me about a reading group at MIT among faculty there who studied his work but did so sub rosalest they have to face the wrath of Darwinists.

In Mind & Cosmos, Nagel serves notice on Darwinists that their coercive tactics at ensuring conformity have not worked with him and, if his example inspires others, won’t work with them either. What a wonderful subtitle to his book: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. It’s a dare. Go ahead, make my day, do your worst to bring the wrath of Darwin’s devoted disciples on me. Nagel regards the emperor as without clothes and says so:

For a long time I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms came to exist hard to believe, including the standard version of how the evolutionary process works. The more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes. This is just the opinion of a layman who reads widely in the literature that explains contemporary science to the nonspecialist. Perhaps that literature presents the situation with a simplicity and confidence that does not reflect the most sophisticated scientific thought in these areas. But it seems to me that, as it is usually presented, the current orthodoxy about the cosmic order is the product of governing assumptions that are unsupported, and that it flies in the face of common sense.

…Read More…

William Lane Craig shows how the naturalist cannot trust their own thinking. He mentioned Alvin Plantinga who argues that if evolution is true that spells trouble for the atheist. Indeed, can the atheist (who calls himself a “free thinker”) be free if his brain is no more than matter and motion dictated by the laws of nature?

And this update from The Weekly Standard [DEFUNCT] now at WASHINIGTON EXAMINER:

Last fall, a few days before Halloween and about a month after the publication of Mind and Cosmos, the controversial new book by the philosopher Thomas Nagel, several of the world’s leading philosophers gathered with a group of cutting-edge scientists in the conference room of a charming inn in the Berkshires. They faced one another around a big table set with pitchers of iced water and trays of hard candies wrapped in cellophane and talked and talked, as public intellectuals do. PowerPoint was often brought into play. 

The title of the “interdisciplinary workshop” was “Moving Naturalism Forward.” For those of us who like to kill time sitting around pondering the nature of reality—personhood, God, moral judgment, free will, what have you—this was the Concert for Bangladesh. The biologist Richard Dawkins was there, author of The Blind WatchmakerThe Selfish Gene, and other bestselling books of popular science, and so was Daniel Dennett, a philosopher at Tufts and author of Consciousness Explained and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. So were the authors of Why Evolution is True, The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material WorldEverything Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, and The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions—all of them books that to one degree or another bring to a larger audience the world as scientists have discovered it to be.

[….]

Daniel Dennett took a different view. While it is true that materialism tells us a human being is nothing more than a “moist robot”—a phrase Dennett took from a Dilbert comic—we run a risk when we let this cat, or robot, out of the bag. If we repeatedly tell folks that their sense of free will or belief in objective morality is essentially an illusion, such knowledge has the potential to undermine civilization itself, Dennett believes. Civil order requires the general acceptance of personal responsibility, which is closely linked to the notion of free will. Better, said Dennett, if the public were told that “for general purposes” the self and free will and objective morality do indeed exist—that colors and sounds exist, too—“just not in the way they think.” They “exist in a special way,” which is to say, ultimately, not at all.

[….]

 …How did we lose Tom….

Thomas Nagel may be the most famous philosopher in the United States—a bit like being the best power forward in the Lullaby League, but still. His paper “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” was recognized as a classic when it was published in 1974. Today it is a staple of undergraduate philosophy classes. His books range with a light touch over ethics and politics and the philosophy of mind. His papers are admired not only for their philosophical provocations but also for their rare (among modern philosophers) simplicity and stylistic clarity, bordering sometimes on literary grace. 

Nagel occupies an endowed chair at NYU as a University Professor, a rare and exalted position that frees him to teach whatever course he wants. Before coming to NYU he taught at Princeton for 15 years. He dabbles in the higher journalism, contributing articles frequently to the New York Review of Books and now and then to the New Republic. A confirmed atheist, he lacks what he calls the sensus divinitatis that leads some people to embrace the numinous. But he does possess a finely tuned sensus socialistis; his most notable excursion into politics was a book-length plea for the confiscation of wealth and its radical redistribution—a view that places him safely in the narrow strip of respectable political opinion among successful American academics. 

For all this and more, Thomas Nagel is a prominent and heretofore respected member of the country’s intellectual elite. And such men are not supposed to write books with subtitles like the one he tacked onto Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.

Imagine if your local archbishop climbed into the pulpit and started reading from the Collected Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. “What has gotten into Thomas Nagel?” demanded the evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, on Twitter. (Yes, even Steven Pinker tweets.) Pinker inserted a link to a negative review of Nagel’s book, which he said “exposed the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.” At the point where science, philosophy, and public discussion intersect—a dangerous intersection these days—it is simply taken for granted that by attacking naturalism Thomas Nagel has rendered himself an embarrassment to his colleagues and a traitor to his class. 

The Guardian awarded Mind and Cosmos its prize for the Most Despised Science Book of 2012. The reviews were numerous and overwhelmingly negative; one of the kindest, in the British magazine Prospect, carried the defensive headline “Thomas Nagel is not crazy.” (Really, he’s not!) Most other reviewers weren’t so sure about that. Almost before the ink was dry on Nagel’s book the UC Berkeley economist and prominent blogger Brad DeLong could be found gathering the straw and wood for the ritual burning. DeLong is a great believer in neo-Darwinism. He has coined the popular term “jumped-up monkeys” to describe our species. (Monkeys because we’re descended from primates; jumped-up because evolution has customized us with the ability to reason and the big brains that go with it.) 

DeLong was particularly offended by Nagel’s conviction that reason allows us to “grasp objective reality.” A good materialist doesn’t believe in objective reality, certainly not in the traditional sense. “Thomas Nagel is not smarter than we are,” he wrote, responding to a reviewer who praised Nagel’s intelligence. “In fact, he seems to me to be distinctly dumber than anybody who is running even an eight-bit virtual David Hume on his wetware.” (What he means is, anybody who’s read the work of David Hume, the father of modern materialism.) DeLong’s readers gathered to jeer as the faggots were placed around the stake. 

“Thomas Nagel is of absolutely no importance on this subject,” wrote one. “He’s a self-contradictory idiot,” opined another. Some made simple appeals to authority and left it at that: “Haven’t these guys ever heard of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett?” The hearts of still others were broken at seeing a man of Nagel’s eminence sink so low. “It is sad that Nagel, whom my friends and I thought back in the 1960’s could leap over tall buildings with a single bound, has tripped over the Bible and fallen on his face. Very sad.”

Nagel doesn’t mention the Bible in his new book—or in any of his books, from what I can tell—but among materialists the mere association of a thinking person with the Bible is an insult meant to wound, as Bertie Wooster would say. Directed at Nagel, a self-declared atheist, it is more revealing of the accuser than the accused. The hysterical insults were accompanied by an insistence that the book was so bad it shouldn’t upset anyone. 

“Evolutionists,” one reviewer huffily wrote, “will feel they’ve been ravaged by a sheep.” Many reviewers attacked the book on cultural as well as philosophical or scientific grounds, wondering aloud how a distinguished house like Oxford University Press could allow such a book to be published. The Philosophers’ Magazine described it with the curious word “irresponsible.” How so? In Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, the British philosopher John Dupré explained. Mind and Cosmos, he wrote, “will certainly lend comfort (and sell a lot of copies) to the religious enemies of Darwinism.” Simon Blackburn of Cambridge University made the same point: “I regret the appearance of this book. It will only bring comfort to creationists and fans of ‘intelligent design.’ ”

But what about fans of apostasy? You don’t have to be a biblical fundamentalist or a young-earth creationist or an intelligent design enthusiast—I’m none of the above, for what it’s worth—to find Mind and Cosmos exhilarating. “For a long time I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms came to exist hard to believe,” Nagel writes. “It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.” The prima facie impression, reinforced by common sense, should carry more weight than the clerisy gives it. “I would like to defend the untutored reaction of incredulity to the reductionist neo-Darwinian account of the origin and evolution of life.” 

[….]

Nagel follows the materialist chain of reasoning all the way into the cul de sac where it inevitably winds up. Nagel’s touchier critics have accused him of launching an assault on science, when really it is an assault on the nonscientific uses to which materialism has been put. Though he does praise intelligent design advocates for having the nerve to annoy the secular establishment, he’s no creationist himself. He has no doubt that “we are products of the long history of the universe since the big bang, descended from bacteria through millions of years of natural selection.” And he assumes that the self and the body go together. “So far as we can tell,” he writes, “our mental lives, including our subjective experiences, and those of other creatures are strongly connected with and probably strictly dependent on physical events in our brains and on the physical interaction of our bodies with the rest of the physical world.” To believe otherwise is to believe, as the materialists derisively say, in “spooky stuff.” (Along with jumped-up monkeys and moist robots and countless other much-too-cute phrases, the use of spooky stuff proves that our popular science writers have spent a lot of time watching Scooby-Doo.) Nagel doesn’t believe in spooky stuff.

Materialism, then, is fine as far as it goes. It just doesn’t go as far as materialists want it to. It is a premise of science, not a finding. Scientists do their work by assuming that every phenomenon can be reduced to a material, mechanistic cause and by excluding any possibility of nonmaterial explanations. And the materialist assumption works really, really well—in detecting and quantifying things that have a material or mechanistic explanation. Materialism has allowed us to predict and control what happens in nature with astonishing success. The jaw-dropping edifice of modern science, from space probes to nanosurgery, is the result. 

But the success has gone to the materialists’ heads. From a fruitful method, materialism becomes an axiom: If science can’t quantify something, it doesn’t exist, and so the subjective, unquantifiable, immaterial “manifest image” of our mental life is proved to be an illusion.

Here materialism bumps up against itself. Nagel insists that we know some things to exist even if materialism omits or ignores or is oblivious to them. Reductive materialism doesn’t account for the “brute facts” of existence—it doesn’t explain, for example, why the world exists at all, or how life arose from nonlife. Closer to home, it doesn’t plausibly explain the fundamental beliefs we rely on as we go about our everyday business: the truth of our subjective experience, our ability to reason, our capacity to recognize that some acts are virtuous and others aren’t. These failures, Nagel says, aren’t just temporary gaps in our knowledge, waiting to be filled in by new discoveries in science. On its own terms, materialism cannot account for brute facts. Brute facts are irreducible, and materialism, which operates by breaking things down to their physical components, stands useless before them. “There is little or no possibility,” he writes, “that these facts depend on nothing but the laws of physics.” …

…read it all…

Aren’t atheists supposed to be “free thinkers”? They often call themselves that. But if atheism is true, there is no “free” and there is no “thinking “ going on. We are all just molecular machines. Dr. Tim Stratton of Freethinking Ministries shares the stage with Frank to explain why.

And a recent addition by EVOLUTION NEWS AND VIEWS:

John West’s updated and expanded book, out this week, Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science.

In an all new added chapter, West recounts among other recent developments the sensation that followed the publication of Thomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. The renowned atheist philosopher expressed admiration for advocates of intelligent design including Meyer, Behe, and Berlinski.

What was the nub of his critique of neo-Darwinism?

Nagel ultimately offered a simple but profound objection to Darwinism: “Evolutionary naturalism provides an account of our capacities that undermines their reliability, and in doing so undermines itself.” In other words, if our mind and morals are simply the accidental products of a blind material process like natural selection acting on random genetic mistakes, what confidence can we have in them as routes to truth?

The basic philosophical critique of Darwinian reductionism offered by Nagel had been made before, perhaps most notably by Sir Arthur Balfour, C.S. Lewis, and Alvin Plantinga. But around the same time as the publication of Nagel’s book came new scientific discoveries that undermined Darwinian materialism as well. In the fall of 2012, the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project released results showing that much of so-called junk DNA actually performs biological functions. The ENCODE results overturned long-repeated claims by leading Darwinian biologists that most of the human genome is genetic garbage produced by a blind evolutionary process. At the same time, the results confirmed predictions made during the previous decade by scholars who think nature displays evidence of intelligent design.

New scientific challenges to orthodox Darwinian theory have continued to proliferate. In 2013 Stephen Meyer published Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, which threw down the gauntlet on the question of the origin of biological information required to build animal body plans in the history of life. The intriguing thing about Meyer’s book was not the criticism it unleashed from the usual suspects but the praise it attracted from impartial scientists. Harvard geneticist George Church lauded it as “an opportunity for bridge-building rather than dismissive polarization — bridges across cultural divides in great need of professional, respectful dialogue.” Paleontologist Mark McMenamin, coauthor of a major book from Columbia University Press on animal origins, called it “a game changer for the study of evolution” that “points us in the right direction as we seek a new theory for the origin of animals.”

Even critics of Darwin’s Doubt found themselves at a loss to come up with a convincing answer to Meyer’s query about biological information. University of California at Berkeley biologist Charles Marshall, one of the world’s leading paleontologists, attempted to answer Meyer in the pages of the journal Science and in an extended debate on British radio. But as Meyer and others pointed out, Marshall tried to explain the needed information by simply presupposing the prior existence of even more unaccounted-for genetic information. “That is not solving the problem,” said Meyer. “That’s just begging the question.”

C. S. Lewis perceptively observed in his final book that “nature gives most of her evidence in answer to the questions we ask her.” Lewis’s point was that old paradigms often persist because they blind us from asking certain questions. They begin to disintegrate once we start asking the right questions. Scientific materialism continues to surge, but perhaps the right questions are finally beginning to be asked.

It remains to be seen whether as a society we will be content to let those questions be begged or whether we will embrace the injunction of Socrates to “follow the argument . . . wherever it may lead.” The answer to that question may determine our culture’s future.

Go here and read the rest.

J. Warner Wallace responds to “we don’t have free will”?

Bart Ehrman vs. The Gospel of Mark | McDowell and McGuire

I am going through this debate [below] and as soon as Dr. Ehrman said this, my thoughts raced back to the first time I read “More Than a Carpenter“; and so I grabbed this video to make the point I read — also by Josh McDowell.

In this video, Bart Ehrman & Peter J Williams discuss what Ehrman calls a “developmental view” of the 4 Gospels, that is, the idea that Jesus’ claims of divinity were added to the later gospels but did not exist in the gospel of Mark. His ultimate point is that Jesus did not believe Himself to be, nor ever claim to be, God. This turns out to be a really interesting discussion and a useful example of the philosophical presuppositions of modern scholarship. And yes.. Ehrman’s argument is refutted… Enjoy!

In this clip, Dr. William Lane Craig addresses Dr. Bart Ehrman’s claim that conflicting accounts in the Gospels undermine the credibility of the Resurrection.

Is Jesus a Copycat Savior?

(Originally posted December of 2015, Refreshed June of 2022)

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

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

Full Video Response HERE

I wish to point something out.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OSIRIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HORUS

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

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

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

MITHRA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just three excerpts from Edwin Yamauchi’s book, Persia and the Bible, These three pics are a bit unrelated… but the topic is on Mithras and their dating of the reliefs known to us. If you take the time to read Dr. Yamauchi’s chapter linked, you can see the connection to the above portion by Mary Jo. (The entire chapter on MITHRAISM can be read HERE.)


FOOTNOTES FROM BOXES “A” “B” “C”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[17] Stark, Discovering God, 141.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Another good source is: “Jesus Vs Mithra – Debunking The Alleged Parallels

Dr. William Lane Craig

On Thursday, April 10th, 2014 Dr William Lane Craig spoke on the “Objective Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus” at Yale University. Dr. Craig is one of the leading theologians and defenders of Jesus’ resurrection, demonstrating the veracity of his divinity. This is the biggest claim in history! After the lecture, Dr Craig had a lengthy question and answer time with students from Yale. In this video, Dr Craig answers the question, “What about pre-Christ resurrection myths?”

Dr. William Lane Craig answers the question: Is Jesus’ life parallel to the story of Osiris and Horus?

So You’ve Just Become A Christian | What To Expect and Do

TRANSCRIPT:

So you’ve just become a Christian! Congratulations!

The moment you responded to Christ a number of things happened to you…

First, you were given new life. You began a relationship with God that will last forever.

Second, you gained a new status before God. You went from being under God’s just condemnation … to being fully pardoned of all your sins.

Third, you were adopted into a new family as a child of God. You now belong to a huge and incredibly diverse global family.

Fourth, you were given a new job. You now represent Christ with your words and actions to everyone you meet. God wants to grow his family through you!

Fifth, you also have new enemies, so expect trouble. This world will pressure you to conform … your old nature will betray you … and the forces of darkness will oppose you.

But, you also have a powerful new ally.

The instant you committed your life to Christ, God’s Spirit moved in and took up permanent residence in your heart and mind. Allow him to empower and guide you as your journey unfolds, keeping you on the right path.

If you stumble and do wrong, confess it immediately to God, claim His forgiveness, and yield yourself anew to God’s Spirit.

It’s impossible to follow Christ in our own strength. Only through the power of God’s Spirit can we become the people God wants us to be.

Jesus explained the difference between success and failure in life when he said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. You cannot be fruitful unless you abide in me.”

The productive Christian does not rely on his own efforts; rather, he relies on God’s Spirit. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives through me.” When a branch is connected to the vine, it just produces fruit naturally!

On the other hand, the unproductive Christian is performance oriented. He tries to be “good enough” by his own grinding self-effort … but feels guilty because he can never do enough. Trying to live the Christian life in your own strength just makes you miserable!

So … how do you rely on the Holy Spirit on a daily basis?

First, as soon as you’re aware of any sin in your life, confess it to God. Don’t hide and rationalize your disobedience. God is eager to forgive and draw you near again.

Then, recommit yourself – body and soul – in continual, daily surrender to God. Ask his Spirit to guide you and strengthen you. As this Spirit-filled life within you grows, you will be gradually transformed.

You’ll hunger for the truth of God’s Word, the Bible. Begin reading it today and invite God’s Spirit to teach you as you go. You can start with the Gospel of Mark.

You’ll also learn to live in community with other believers. Following Jesus is not something you do in isolation. Get together with other believers to worship, pray, and study the Bible. Remember, each of us is a work in progress, so be patient with the shortcomings of your brothers and sisters, just as God is patient with you.

Following Christ is the adventure of a lifetime.

Your day-to-day experience may not get easier; In fact, you may face greater hardships. But you will sense the deep satisfaction of knowing God and enjoying him forever.

So don’t worry, because I am with you.
    Don’t be afraid, because I am your God.
I will make you strong and will help you;
    I will support you with my right hand that saves you.

(ISAIAH 41:10 – NCV)

Godly Contradictions: Who Made God | Rocks So Big

(First posted in 2010, edited in 2015, added to in 2018, re-edited 2024)

My FACEBOOK intro to this post:

In this updated post from 2010, the category mistakes of

  • “can God make a Rock so big he can’t lift it?”
  • “if everything needs a beginning [as the Kalam Cosmological Argument says], who began [created] God”
  • “can God make 2+2=5?”

are answered herein

  • These kinds of arguments are clearly illogical and even silly, although they are commonly used by inexperienced atheists. Most intelligent atheists have dropped these kinds of arguments long ago.

This post should be married to my other post:

The Euthyphro Argument Dissected

Well, Who Created God?

A response by Andrew Wilson to an objection received on Big Objections

  • I also want to stress that this isn’t special pleading for God. This is what the atheist has typically said about the universe; that the universe is uncreated and eternal in its existence. No atheist was asking “Who created the universe”? They thought the universe was “Just there,” that it was a brute fact. Although that conclusion is now invalidated by powerful scientific evidence and philosophical arguments. As Frank Turek put it “Something must be eternal. Either the universe or something outside the universe”. Since science has proven that the universe isn’t eternal, whatever brought it into being must be eternal. (Cross Examined)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes the eternality of the universe in atheistic cosmology.

The Daily Apologist has a good concise response. As well as Apologetic Junkie.

J. P. Moreland shows how the “what caused God” (or “who caused God”) rebuttal to the Kalam Cosmological Argument is making a categorical mistake. Furthermore, Moreland shows that calling God the uncaused cause is not arbitrary nor is it trying to define God into existence.

God and Rock n Roll

Here is a PDF of a Power Point presentation I gave in a Sunday school class. Another good read on this can be found at Christianity.com.

Similarly, a common challenge that includes the same categorical mistake has to do with “Can God make a rock soo big He cannot lift it?”  William Lane Craig mentions a paper written by Thomas P. Flint and Alfred J. Freddoso in the following video, that is here: Maximal Power

Here is an old post by me:

The following will explain why many experienced atheists have given up this argument. Richard Swinburn in his book, The Coherence of Theism, explains why such thinking is illogical (pp. 153-154):

A person is omnipotent if and only if he is able to do any logically possible action, any action, that is, of which the description is coherent. It may be objected that in order to be truly omnipotent, a person should be able to do not merely the logically possible, but the logically impossible as well. This objection is, however, misguided. It arises from regarding a logically impossible action as an action of one of one kind on a par with an action of another kind, the logically possible. But it is not. A logically impossible action is not an action. It is what is described by a form of words which purport to describe an action, but do not describe anything which is coherent to suppose could be done. It is no objection to A’s omnipotence that he cannot make a square circle. This is because “making a square circle” does not describe anything which it is coherent to suppose could be done.

A proper understanding of omnipotence has been known and defined for quite some time; the way it is used by the skeptics here in this thread is the miss-defining of a well-defined concept. For instance, in the Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion, omnipotence is defined as: “The quality of being all-powerful, normally understood as the power to perform any action that is logically possible and consistent with God’s essential nature.”

Even Thomas Aquinas saw this o’ so long ago:

This point was recognized by Aquinas. He wrote that

“it is incompatible with the meaning of the absolutely possible that anything involving the contradiction of simultaneous being and not being should fall under divine omnipotence. Such a contradiction is not subject to it, not from any impotence in God, but simply because it does not have the nature of being feasible or possible. Whatever does not involve a contradiction is in the realm of the possible with respect to which God is called omnipotent.” — Summa Theologiae, vol. v. (Thomas Gilby trans.), Ia.25.3

All confess that God is omnipotent; but it seems difficult to explain in what His omnipotence precisely consists: for there may be doubt as to the precise meaning of the word ‘all’ when we say that God can do all things. If, however, we consider the matter aright, since power is said in reference to possible things, this phrase, “God can do all things,” is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible; and for this reason He is said to be omnipotent. Now according to the Philosopher (Metaph. v, 17), a thing is said to be possible in two ways.

First in relation to some power, thus whatever is subject to human power is said to be possible to man.

Secondly absolutely, on account of the relation in which the very terms stand to each other. Now God cannot be said to be omnipotent through being able to do all things that are possible to created nature; for the divine power extends farther than that. If, however, we were to say that God is omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible to His power, there would be a vicious circle in explaining the nature of His power. For this would be saying nothing else but that God is omnipotent, because He can do all that He is able to do.

It remains therefore, that God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely; which is the second way of saying a thing is possible. For a thing is said to be possible or impossible absolutely, according to the relation in which the very terms stand to one another, possible if the predicate is not incompatible with the subject, as that Socrates sits; and absolutely impossible when the predicate is altogether incompatible with the subject, as, for instance, that a man is a donkey.

Summa Theologica I:25:3  (REDDIT: Can God make 2+2=5 if he so chooses?)

From a previous debate elsewhere on the net The below was taken somewhat from the book, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith, by Geisler & Bocchino.

You are again making a category mistake, this is a real “logical fallacy,” or, mistake! When you ask who made God – or, does God need a beginning, it is akin to asking, “how does the color green taste.” Your other comments about change and the like is akin to the following mock conversation, don’t get me wrong I enjoyed your last few querieswhy? Because you are asking questions while assuming the thing said is true, e.g., God’s unlimited power (you are assuming what you are refuting – in other words). A true skeptic sheds even skepticism at times and puts on the alternative view and seeks answers and criticisms from within:

One day, while I am having lunch with some student friends, tom decides to sit at the table and say, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

You answer, “No prob.”

Tom then asks you, “Didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 19:26, ‘With God all things are possible?”

I answer, “Yes.”

Tom continues, “Do you believe that God is all-powerful and can do all things?”

Again I answer, “Yes.”

Now Tom thinks his moment is about to unfold, so with a sarcastic grin he asks, “Okay, can God create a rock so big that He cannot lift it?”

continued

I ponder the question for a moment, thinking to myself, If I say yes, I’ll be admitting that God is powerful enough to create the rock but not powerful enough to move it! However, if I say no, I’ll be admitting that God is not all-powerful, because He cannot create a rock of that magnitude. It seems that either answer will force you to violate the law-of-noncontradiction and contradict your view of God, defined as an all-powerful Being. It also seems as if Tom is using first principles to discredit you and your view of God. It is true that Tom is speaking correctly about God’s power, but is he using first principles correctly?

Before we examine Tom’s questions, remember that now is not the time to appeal to ignorance and tell Tom that he is trying to use human reason and that there are some things we just cannot understand about God. Nor should you say that somehow God is exempt from such a question. Instead, I must focus in on this question and think of a principle question to ask him (Socratic method) that moves the conversation from unstable emotional ground to firm conceptual territory.

Let’s think about Tom’s question and apply the law-of-noncontradiction. Tom wants God to create a rock so big that He cannot lift it. What is Tom really asking God to do? In order to find out, we need to define and clarify the use of Tom’s words. The first question that comes to mind is, “How big of a rock does Tom want God to create?” Well, Tom wants God to create a rock so big that it would be impossible for Him to move it. Now, how big would a rock have to be in order for God not to be able to move it? What is the biggest physical entity that exists? Of the course, the biggest physical entity is the universe, and no matter how much the universe expands it will remain limited, finite physical reality – a reality that God can “lift.” even if God created a rock the size of an ever-expanding universe, God could still lift or control it. The only logical option is for God to create something that exceeds His power to lift or control. But since God’s power is infinite, He would have to create a rock of infinite proportions! This is the key: Tom wants God to create a rock, and a rock is a physical, finite thing. How can God create an object that is finite by nature – and give it an infinite size? There is something terribly wrong with Tom’s question. So let’s apply the correct use of the law-of-noncontradiction to analyze it.

It is logically and actually impossible to create a physically finite thing and have it be infinitely big! By definition, an infinite, uncreated thing has no limits, and a finite, created thing does. Consequently, Tom has just asked if God can create an infinitely finite rock, that is, a rock that has limits and, at the same time and in the same sense, does not have limits. This question, then, violates the law-of-contradiction and turns out to be utter nonsense. Tom thought he was asking an important question, one that would put the Christian on the horns of a dilemma. Instead, he only managed to show his own inability to think clearly.

Now that we have a clear understanding of Tom’s question, it’s simply a matter of formulating a principle question to ask him in order to reveal his error. How about this one: “Tom, how big do you want God to create that rock? If you tell me how big, I’ll tell you if He can do it.” I can keep asking Tom that question until it reaches the size of the universe and eventually introduce the idea of infinity. Once Tom reaches the point where he begins to see what he is really asking God to do, to create an infinite rock, he needs to be shown that he is asking God to do something that is logically irrelevant and impossible. God could no more create an infinitely finite rock than He could create a square circle: both are examples of intrinsic impossibilities. Commenting on intrinsic impossibility and an all-powerful God, C. S. Lewis said:

“It [the intrinsically impossible] is impossible under all conditions and in all worlds and for all agents. ‘All agents’ here includes God Himself. His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense.” (The Problem of Pain, p. 28)

Not every question being asked is automatically meaningful just because it is a question. The question may sound meaningful, but we (anyone here, but especially the believer) must be sure to test it with first principles to see whether it is valid in the first place. The key is to not respond too quickly to questions; a person may wind up trying to find cogent answers to a question that has no logical relevance. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College (my favorite Catholic philosopher) says on the matter, “There is nothing more pointless than an answer to a question that is not fully understood” (Making Sense Out of Suffering, p. 27)

…. Could God think of a time when He was not omnipotent? If He can’t think of it, He isn’t omnipotent, but if He does think of it then there was a time when He wasn’t omnipotent?

This question is quite similar to the rock question above. The answer, of course, is that God can never think of a time when He wasn’t omnipotent. God has always been omnipotent. His inability to contradict His divine character does not mean that He isn’t omnipotent.

CONCLUSIONS

The atheist distorts the biblical definition of omnipotence in order to “prove” that God cannot exist. Contrary to their claims, omnipotence does not include the ability to do things that are, by definition, impossible. [This is a straw-man argument] Neither does omnipotence include the ability to fail. By defining omnipotence as requiring one to have the ability to fail, atheists have defined omnipotence as being impossible. Of course, an omnipotent God would never fail.

These kinds of arguments are clearly illogical and even silly, although they are commonly used by inexperienced atheists. Most intelligent atheists have dropped these kinds of arguments long ago.

(God and Science)

Here is another look at the same problem:

IF GOD HAS NO LIMITS,
THEN HE MUST BE BOTH GOOD AND EVIL,
EXISTENCE AND NONEXISTENCE,
STRONG AND WEAK

When we say that God is unlimited, we mean that He is unlimited in His perfections. Now evil is not a perfection; it is an imperfection. The same is true of nonexistence, weakness, ignorance, finitude, temporality, and any other characteristic that implies limitation or imperfection. We might say that God is “limited” in that He can’t enter into limitations, like time, space, weakness, evil—at least not as God. He is only “limited” by His unlimited perfection.

Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1990), 31. See also this one page response by Geisler (PDF)

And finally, I think Keith Ward in his recent book, God: A Guide for the Perplexed, adds the finishing understanding to this topic.

The real problem, however, comes from our thinking that God must be able to do anything we can think of or imagine. Because we, ignorant as we are, can imagine lots of things which are really quite impossible. For example, we can imagine going back in time to kill our grandparents before they had any children – you can even see films in which such things happen. Yet we can see that such a thing is obviously impossible, since without our grandparents we would not exist, so we could not kill them. We think we can imagine finding a square equal in area to a given circle – but mathematicians can prove that is logically impossible. We think we can imagine the force of gravity being just a little stronger than it actually is [throughout the universe, that is] – but physicists can tell us that, if it were, then electrons would collapse into the nuclei of atoms, there would be no atoms, and so there would be no organized universe at all…. Our imaginations are a poor guide to what is really possible, because we have absolutely no idea of what sorts of things can really exist, or of what might be necessary or optional for God. So I think we just have to say that God is powerful enough to create the universe…. and that is as much as we have a right to expect from omnipotence.

 

James Lindsay Anchorless At Sea | Based Manifesto

I wanted to share a response to a great, simple question. But first, here is the set up… The Renegade Institute for Liberty at Bakersfield College (whom I will refer to as RENEGADE), a movement of like minded peeps I fully endorse, posted the following on their Facebook:

James Lindsay, a leading critic of the philosophy of the totalitarian left and their politics, penned a manifesto outlying the key moral virtue essential to the preservation of liberty: being based. As used by Lindsay, “based” is a technical term meaning fidelity to truth. He defines it as “the trait of character [is] the willingness to resist lies, be yourself, and tell the truth even when people won’t like you (or will kill you) for it.” Unless most of us become based, totalitarianism is inevitable.

Firstly. The manifesto is well worth it’s weight in salt. I am not saying don’t read it or inculcate some of it’s meaning and ways to approach the issues of our day. Remember the 80/20 rule:

  • “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is an 80 percent friend and not a 20 percent enemy” – Ronald Wilson Reagan

But as a friend noted today in a Bible study, atheist’s must steal from God – even mentioning the wonderful book by Frank Turek, “Stealing from God.” That is the deeper issue here that I pointed to.

James Lindsay invokes Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn no less than 10-times by name. But James being an ardent atheist/naturalist, never explains to his audience the final conclusion of how Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn believed they got to this miserable place in human history.

Here is my post to the article being linked by RENEGADE, with a longer Solzhenitsyn quote:

RPT NOTE TO POST:

I will read this later today, however, Lindsay could never bring himself to say the following [as a committed atheist, ant-theist]:

“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’ Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; [and] if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.'”

Quoted in Ericson, Edward E. Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney, The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings 1947-2005. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2006, page 577.
____
In other words, the American manifesto acknowledge and remembered God. Any manifesto which does not ends like the Jacobins.

The longer quote is for more context to the video, which I found while doing this post:

….More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire 20th century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: “Men have forgotten God.”

(NATIONAL REVIEW)

You see, in the end, James Lindsay thinks “God” is part of the problem, not the solution. Which is why I posted that. The totalitarianism Lindsay writes against thrives in godless attire. However, this paragraph I really loved. For one it references “Truth,” something I respond to. And another is this is the reason many comedians are sounding the alarm… the freedom to do even stand up comedy is under attack by the Left.

  • There are, in the end, only two things that can tear such a regime down, and they are, as it happens, interrelated. They are the two most powerful weapons against tyranny in the human arsenal: telling the truth, including by refusing the lie, and laughter. Both are based, and to win both are necessary. While Solzhenitsyn tells us that the whole of a tyrannical regime can be brought down in the end by a single person repeatedly telling the truth, the fact is that the USSR that tyrannized him actually fell when its subjects—for citizens they were not—began to laugh at it. So, where being based begins in a certain stoicism, it’s the most based when it’s stoicism with a sense of humor. (THE BASE MANIFESTO)

Renegade’s Question:

RENEGADE, for reasons of keeping thought alive, being thorough, a fan of conversation and deeper thinking, asked this simple question:

  • Sean G, do you think that being based implies believing in God? Or is it consistent with disbelief, as well as belief, in God?

THE REST IS ME, as well as some additions, which I will note.

Great question. Lindsay has a lot of moral pronouncements in the manifesto. A lot. All he has to enforce such things is the power of government. So, in a healthy society, government protects Natural Rights… government does not bestow them. Free speech and thought is a Natural Right, or law, if you will.

  • the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature (LN) and of Nature’s God (NG) entitle them…. ‘oh, you know, the thing’.” (Declaration + Joe Biden)

The first (LN) cannot subsist separated from the later (NG) for long.

Having read all three Secular Manifestos, I see similar attributions to “how humans ‘should’ act,” with no reasoning behind it. Utilitarianism? Yes, many aspects therein could be helpful to society as a whole. But if that is it, someone will eventually come along to point out another “utility” as being better.

Take for instance rape. Something you would think everyone would understand as an egregious, absolute, evil.

  • theism: evil, wrong at all times and places in the universe — absolutely;
  • atheism: taboo, it was used in our species in the past for the survival of the fittest, and is thus a vestige of evolutionary progress… and so may once again become a tool for survival — it is in every corner of nature;
  • pantheism: illusion, all morals and ethical actions and positions are actually an illusion (Hinduism – maya; Buddhism – sunyata). In order to reach some state of Nirvana one must retract from this world in their thinking on moral matters, such as love and hate, good and bad. Not only that, but often times the person being raped has built up bad karma and thus is the main driver for his or her state of affairs (thus, in one sense it is “right” that rape happens).

In a bit of an addition here, I will note that some of the four horseman of the New Atheists note that our feeling of being conscience, is illusory. Much like pantheists… which is why many atheists embrace a form of pantheism.

Consciousness an Illusion (Addition)

Below are examples of atheists and theists agreeing that if atheism is true, truth is no longer a category to be trusted (find many more or fuller quotes and videos HERE):

  • 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. (H.P. Owen)
  • If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. (J.B.S. Haldane)
  • The principle chore of brains is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing [the world] is advantageous so long as it enhances the organism’s chances for survival. Truth, whatever that is, takes the hindmost. (Patricia Churchland)
  • He thus acknowledged the need for any theory to allow that humans have genuine freedom to recognize the truth. He (again, correctly) saw that if all thought, belief, feeling, and choice are determined (i.e., forced on humans by outside conditions) then so is the determinists’ acceptance of the theory of determinism forced on them by those same conditions. In that case they could never claim to know their theory is true since the theory making that claim would be self-referentially incoherent. In other words, the theory requires that no belief is ever a free judgment made on the basis of experience or reason, but is always a compulsion over which the believer has no control. (Roy A. Clouser)
  • If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. They [determinists – I would posit any philosophical naturalist] want to be considered as rational agents arguing with other rational agents; they want their beliefs to be construed as beliefs, and subjected to rational assessment; and they want to secure the rational assent of those they argue with, not a brainwashed repetition of acquiescent pattern. Consistent determinists should regard it as all one whether they induce conformity to their doctrines by auditory stimuli or a suitable injection of hallucinogens: but in practice they show a welcome reluctance to get out their syringes, which does equal credit to their humanity and discredit to their views. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them. (J. R. Lucas)
  • 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.” 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 Polanyi 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.”
  • If we were free persons, with faculties which we might carelessly use or willfully misuse, the fact might be explained; but the pre-established harmony excludes this supposition. And since our faculties lead us into error, when shall we trust them? Which of the many opinions they have produced is really true? By hypothesis, they all ought to be true, but, as they contradict one another, all cannot be true. How, then, distinguish between the true and the false? By taking a vote? That cannot be, for, as determined, we have not the power to take a vote. Shall we reach the truth by reasoning? This we might do, if reasoning were a self-poised, self verifying process; but this it cannot be in a deterministic system. Reasoning implies the power to control one’s thoughts, to resist the processes of association, to suspend judgment until the transparent order of reason has been readied. It implies freedom, therefore. In a mind which is controlled by its states, instead of controlling them, there is no reasoning, but only a succession of one state upon another. There is no deduction from grounds, but only production by causes. No belief has any logical advantage over any other, for logic is no longer possible. (Borden P Bowne)
  • 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)

Frank Turek notes Daniel Dennett’s dilemma when he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the Facebook Exchange

Let us take the secularist’s [atheist] view of rape. Here is a conversation between Richard Dawkins and Justin Brierley. Brierley asks this question, “When you make a value judgement don’t you immediately step yourself outside of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it’s good. And you don’t have any way to stand on that statement.” Here is the rest of the conversation:

RICHARD DAWKINS: My value judgement itself could come from my evolutionary past.
JUSTIN BRIERLEY: So therefore it’s just as random in a sense as any product of evolution.
RICHARD DAWKINS: You could say that, it doesn’t in any case, nothing about it makes it more probable that there is anything supernatural.
JUSTIN BRIERLEY: Ultimately, your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six.
RICHARD DAWKINS: You could say that, yeah.

Again, at first Lindsay’s manifesto sounds great, but not lasting in the world he would like to see in reality. He is riding on the fumes of the Judeo-Christian West to expect people to read it and say, “Yeah!”

ADDITION

I asked an obvious question: “As we speak of this shifting zeitgeist, how are we to determine who’s right? If we do not acknowledge some sort of external [standard], what is to prevent us from saying that the Muslim [extremists] aren’t right?”

“Yes, absolutely fascinating.” His response was immediate. “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. But whatever [defines morality], it’s not the Bible. If it was, we’d be stoning people for breaking the Sabbath.”

I was stupefied. He had readily conceded that his own philosophical position did not offer a rational basis for moral judgments. His intellectual honesty was refreshing, if somewhat disturbing on this point….

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

Again, at first Lindsay’s manifesto sounds great, but not lasting in the world he would like to see in reality. He is riding on the fumes of the Judeo-Christian West to expect people to read it and say, “Yeah!”

What thinking in the end — without Nature’s God — could bring us to a lasting consensus?

Here is a favored quote of mine regarding “Beehive Ethics”

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

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

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

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

Using these ideas, one can understand how atheism/atheists cannot justify any “ought” in their ethical construct. And I point out as well that if rape and murder were adventitious for our species and its divisions in the past — for survival means — then logically it can be again for the future. (I use examples like these books: A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion | Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence.)

I also note that for our species to survive, well, the atheist/evolutionist has no way to determine [evaluate] if the best way for our species to live on is through Western mores and values or if nature prefers the more barbaric aspect of radical Islam.

In another long excerpt, atheistic “ethics” is something temporal, not permanent….

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

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

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

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

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

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

(THE DAWKINS PROOF – CHAPTER ONE

In the end, it will take a hyper-intrusively large government to make people see this as the right way to think, if divorced from an “ontological ‘ought’.”

  • “Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!’ But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company – I mean hell.”

Charles Francis Adams [ed.], The Works of John Adams, 10 vols. [Boston, 1856], X, p. 254. | Taken from They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions, by Paul F. Boller, Jr. & John George, p. 3.

  • we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

John Adams, first (1789–1797) Vice President of the United States, and the second (1797–1801) President of the United States. Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798, in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull (New York, 1848), pp 265-6.

I gave this last parting quote from Mitch Stokes to drive the point home:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve got to wonder.

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

God’s Holiness, the LDS, and the Ontological Argument

Just thought of this today. I have dealt with in the past the “sinfulness” of “god,” in Mormon theology. See my main post on the issue just updated with PDF inks to resources and video to help explain this fact of LDS theology — as well as GOD NEVER SINNED website.

And in conversation as to whether Jehovah’s Witnesses AND Mormons are Christian “denomination’s.” (Not an official denomination like Lutheran or Baptist, rather, should they be considered as part of the Christian faith in their essence.) Here is some of my responses — if they make sense:

Mark is closer in thinking J-Dubs are a “christian” theological cult…. they AT LEAST posit Jehovah as the Creator of the space-time continuum. Creation ex nihilo. Mormons believe Heavenly Father was born [through sexual congress] into this cosmos…. and thus, natural laws impose laws of nature on these gods. In fact, there was no time material did not exist apart from these spirits, and then men, and then exalted men. After my routine with Mormons, I always end with, your “god” is too small.

[….]

Jeff, I guess the easiest way to categorize this in a quip like fashion is to say Jehovah’s Witnesses could incorporate the Ontological Argument into their understanding/apologetic. However, the LDS cannot use that philosophical apologetic. The Mormons cannot be included or acclimated into the theistic understanding of the Judeo-Christian God. YHWH. The I AM. And is not Holy, Holy, Holy. In Mormon theology there is nothing “maximal” about their “god”

The Ontological Argument

BONUS via …

Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments

2. The Old Testament Background

2.1. The Fundamental Character of God. The starting point for an understanding of these words in the NT and other early Christian writings is the OT. The OT writers reiterate that the Lord God is holy (Lev 19:2; 21:8; Josh 24:19; Ps 22:3; Is 57:15, passim)—“holy” being the fundamental characteristic of God under which all other characteristics are subsumed—and that humans are sinful (Gen 18:20; 1 Kings 8:46; Ps 51:3; Eccles 7:20, passim).

As holy, God is transcendent above, different from, opposite to, Wholly Other (Otto, 6, 25), separate from sin and sinful people (Is 6:1–9; 55:8, 9; cf. Ex 19:20–24; Num 18:3; Heb 7:26). Sinful people, who have become so by their own choice against God (Gen 2:16, 17; 3:1–7; cf. Rom 5:12), are thereby alienated from God and powerless in that they are incapable of closing the chasm that exists between themselves and God, between the holy and the unholy (Is 50:1; 59:1, 2). God, the Holy, is also the “I am, the One who is” (Ex 3:14): God is Life. For people to be separated from God because of their sin is for them to be separated from Life. Those who were made for the purpose of living (cf. Gen 1:26) are faced with its opposite—death (Ezek 18:4).

2.2. The Actions of God. God, however, did what humans could not do. The holiness of God cannot be described merely as a state of being indicative of what God is, but also as purposeful, salvific action indicative of what God plans and carries out. The OT viewed God as transcendent in that he was distinct from sinful humans but not remote or indifferent to them (Snaith, 47). God took the initiative to make the unholy holy, to make the alien a friend, to reconcile sinners to himself (see Salvation).

An example of this is when God the holy One took the initiative to reveal himself to Israel at Sinai and to call this people out from among other nations into a special personal relationship with himself through covenant, law and sacrifice (Ex 20, 24:1–8; Lev 16). Thus, it was God who made Israel a priestly kingdom and a holy nation (Ex 19:6; Deut 7:6), a people that must preserve its distinctiveness by pursuing a way of life different from that practiced by other peoples (Deut 7:5–6; see Levine, 256), a people fit for the service of God and dedicated to do his will, a light to the nations around them (Is 49:6).

Because of God’s special relation to parts of his creation it was possible even for things to be called holy—holy only in the strict sense that they were different from the profane—wholly given over to divine purposes: the ground around a burning bush (Ex 3:5), Jerusalem (Is 48:2), the temple (Is 64:10), the Sabbath (Ex 16:23), priestly garments (Ex 31:10), and so on.

2.3. The Ethical Response to God. The OT meaning of “holy/holiness,” however, is not exhausted with such ideas as “separate from,” “dedicated to,” “sacred” and the like, although these may have been the primary meanings of the words. There are also ethical and moral meanings attached to them. Again such meanings find their origin in the nature of God, for the nature of God is the determining factor that gives meaning to everything (2.1 above). Leviticus 19:1–18 clearly illustrates the moral side of God’s holiness. Here it becomes clear that to be holy as God is holy is not simply to be pure and righteous, but to act toward others with purity and goodness, with truthfulness and honesty, with generosity, justice and love, particularly toward the poor and those who are in no position to help themselves (see esp. Lev 19:9–10, 14). Religion and ethics, the sacred and moral, belong together in the OT; relationship to the Lord God of the OT demands an ethical/moral response. God’s people must not only be like God but also act like God.

3. The Idea of the Holy in the New Testament and Apostolic Fathers

The meaning of the words holy and holiness, although expanded in the literature under study, is squarely based on the writings of the OT. The primary meaning of holy as “separate from” is to be found in the actions of Paul and others who engaged in purification/sanctification rites (hagnizō, hagnismos) by which they ceremoniously separated themselves from the profane so as to be considered fit to enter the sacred precincts of the house of a holy God (Acts 21:24, 26; 24:18; cf. Num 6:5, 13–18; see Douglas, passim; also Barn. 8.1; 15.1, 3, 6–7). That narrow but fundamental meaning of “holy” is nevertheless inadequate to interpret all the texts that treat this concept.

3.1. The Holiness of God. In our early Christian writings “the holiness of God the Father is everywhere presumedthough seldom stated” (Procksch, 101). Nevertheless it is stated: God’s name, the very essence of his person, is holy (Did. 10.2; 1 Clem. 64). Making use of the vocabulary of Leviticus, especially the Holiness Code in Leviticus 19–26, Peter tells those to whom he writes that it is incumbent upon them to be holy as God is holy (hagios, 1 Pet 1:15–16; cf. Lev 19:2; see Selwyn).

The writer of Hebrews explains the disciplinary action of God as his creative work in human lives so that they may share in his holiness (hagiotēs, Heb 12:10). Once again the trisagion (see Liturgical Elements) is sung to God (cf. Is 6:3), this time by the four living creatures of the Seer’s vision—hagios, hagios, hagios (holy, holy, holy). They acclaim that God is holy to the ultimate degree and as such is the Almighty, the Pantokratōr, the one who is, who was and who is to come, eternal and omnipotent, transcendent, Wholly Other (Rev 4:8; see also 1 Clem. 34.6; 59.3). Those who were victorious over the beast sang, “Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty!For you alone are holy” (hosios [hagios] Rev 15:3–4; 1 Clem. 59.3), and the angel of the waters, “You are just, O Holy One” (ho hosios, Rev 16:5). The martyrs, asking for vengeance upon those who slaughtered them for serving God, address God as “Sovereign Lord, holy and true (ho hagios kai alēthinos),” because they know that God, as holy, stands apart from and opposed to sin and evil and that he alone is able to administer justice and judge rightly (Rev 6:10).

God as holy is to be feared (cf. Ps 89:7; 99:3; 111:9); he is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). He owns the right to judge and to take vengeance (cf. Deut 32:35). But in the NT and other early Christian writings God takes no delight in banishing sinners from him. He delights instead in making them holy, in creating a people fit for his presence, in bringing them close to himself and in giving them sacred work to do (cf. Is 6:1–8). As a consequence God sends his good news (see Gospel) out into the world so that sinful people may “turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified [hēgiasmenoi],” i.e., among those who have been made holy and have been set apart to God (Acts 26:18; cf. 20:32). It is important to note here that the expression “those who are sanctified” is a passive participle (from hagiazō, make holy, consecrate, sanctify) that has been termed a “divine passive.” That is, God is the agent of the action. He has taken the initiative not to destroy sinners but to make them holy (cf. Herm. Vis. 3.9.1).

It is God’s will that sinful people be made holy (Heb 10:10). But it was costly for God to realize this wish. Under the old covenant sinners were made holy on the basis of animals being properly sacrificed year after year in their behalf (Lev 16)—tentatively made holy (cf. Rom 3:25; Heb 10:4). Under the new covenant sinners are made holy or sanctified (hēgiasmenoi/hagiazomenous) by a much more profound act—the conscious, deliberate choice of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, radically to obey his Father and offer his body in death as a single sacrifice for sins forever (Heb 10:5–10, 12, 14, 29; cf. Phil 2:8; Diogn. 9.2; see Death of Christ). The blood of Jesus (an expression that refers to the self-determined action of Jesus to die on behalf of sinful human beings) is that by which sinful persons are made holy. The explicit purpose of his suffering and death was that the unclean might become clean, that he might make unholy people holy (hagiasē, Heb 13:12; see also 9:13; 1 Clem. 32.4; 59.3; Barn. 5.1).

In the writings under consideration, as in the OT, places and things as well as persons can be considered holy. Thus the temple is called “the holy place” (Acts 6:13; 21:28). The two tents of the tabernacle are referred to as “the holy place” (hagia, Heb 9:1) and “the Holy of Holies” (hagia hagiōn, Heb 9:3; see also 9:1, 12, 24, 25; 10:19; 13:11). The mountain on which Jesus was transfigured is designated as “the holy [hagios] mountain” (2 Pet 1:18; cf. Barn. 11.3). The Christian faith is termed “the most holy [hagiōtatē faith” (Jude 20). Jerusalem is called “the holy [hagian] city” (Rev 11:2; 21:2, 10; 22:11, 19). Presbyters are holy (Ign. Magn. 3.1), the Eucharist is holy (Did. 9.5), the church is holy (Herm. Vis. 1.1.6; Mart. Pol. presc.), prophets are holy (Acts 3:21; 2 Pet 3:2), angels are holy (Acts 10:22; cf. Jude 14; Rev 14:10; 1 Clem. 39:7; Herm. Sim. 5.4.4; Herm. Vis. 5.5.3).

3.2. The Holiness of Jesus Christ. The NT describes Jesus as holy, a person set apart to God, anointed by him (Acts 4:27; see Anointing), dedicated to God and designated as his unique instrument to carry out his predestined plan in the world (Acts 4:28). But holy is also used of Jesus as it is used of God the Father.

The early church understood Psalm 16:10, said to be written by David and about David, to have had its fulfillment in the resurrected Jesus—“You will not let your Holy [hosion] One experience corruption” (Acts 2:27; 13:35). Peter referred to Jesus as “the Holy [ton hagion] and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14), seemingly in the moral sense of innocent since he linked the word so closely with the anarthrous dikaion (“righteous”—ton hagion kai dikaion; cf. Lk 23:47 and see Conzelmann, 28). In a later sermon Peter speaks of Jesus as God’s “holy [hagion] servant/son” (pais, Acts 4:27; 30).

But the NT and early Fathers say more than this about Jesus. He is the one who makes others holy (ho hagiazōn, Heb 2:11; 13:12), who consecrates them to God and his service that they might be admitted into his presence (cf. Procksch, 89–97). “Jesus is here [in Heb 2:11] exercising a divine function since, according to the OT, it is God who consecrates” (Montefiore, 62; cf. Ex 31:13; Lev 20:8; 21:15; 22:9, 16, 32; Ezek 20:12; 37:28; but see Attridge, 88 n. 107).

Borrowing the language of Isaiah 8:12–13 Peter calls upon Christians to “sanctify [hagiasate] Christ as Lord” (1 Pet 3:15). They are to acknowledge that he is holy (cf. Is 29:23; Ezek 20:41; Ecclus 36:4, Mt 6:9)—holy in the sense that God is holy—for as J. N. D. Kelly has remarked, this verse “has a bearing on 1 Peter’s Christology.… [As] in ii,3 the title ‘the Lord’, which in the Hebrew original denotes God, is unhesitatingly attributed to Christ” (Kelly, 142; see Christology; 1 Peter).

“The Holy One,” a frequent name of God in the OT (2 Kings 19:22; Ps 71:22; 78:41; Is 1:4, passim), appears also in 1 John 2:20 (“you have been anointed by the Holy One [tou hagiou]).” Although there is debate over whether this expression refers to God the Father or to Jesus Christ, in light of the context and especially in light of 2:27–28 it seems more likely that it is a title given to Jesus (see also Diogn. 9.2).

In his vision the Seer reads a letter addressed to the church at Philadelphia. It begins, “These are the words of the Holy One” (ho hagios, Rev 4:7). From the context of this letter (see Rev 2:18; 3:1) this Holy One is none other than the crucified, dead and risen Christ, the one who was and is and will forever be (Rev 1:17–18; cf. Rev 4:8; Diogn. 9.2). These writers want everyone to understand that Jesus is holy in the sense that God is holy—“holy [hosios, a word chosen to emphasize the moral dimension of holiness], blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Heb 7:26). In naming him “the Holy One” they claim for him the title of deity.

Gerald F. Hawthorne, “Holy, Holiness,” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, ed. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 485–488.

 

What is a Worldview?

(Originally posted in June of 2016. Spruced up a tad today)


Worldview Defined


What is a worldview? I have some more defining aspects in pages 10 to the end of the opening chapter of my book. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “worldview” this way:

1) The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world;

2) A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group. 

James Sire has a more in-depth definition.

A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our well being.

James W. Sire, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004), 122.

(Mind you, the Websters and American Heritage dictionaries encapsulate the same idea… just in layman terms… other philosophy dictionaries and books expand on the idea.)

Dr. Norman Geisler notes that a “Worldview is how one views or interprets reality,” he continues:

The German word is Weltanschauung, meaning a ‘world and life view,’ or ‘a paradigm.’ It is a framework through which or by which one makes sense of the data of life. A worldview makes a world of difference in one’s view of God, origins, evil, human nature, values, and destiny”

Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999], 785-786.

Encycolpedia.com notes this of “worldview:

Weltanschauung is a German word that often is translated as “worldview” or “world outlook” but just as frequently is treated as a calque or left untranslated. A Weltanschauung is a comprehensive conception or theory of the world and the place of humanity within it. It is an intellectual construct that provides both a unified method of analysis for and a set of solutions to the problems of existence. The concept of a Weltanschauung has played an important role in the development of psychoanalysis, critical theory, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century hermeneutics.

And the Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion:  Eastern and Western Thought has this snippet as well:

WELTANSCHAUUNG

From the German, meaning “world view.”

(1) Dilthey (v. 5), finding world-views (Weltanschauungen) to be a composite of actual beliefs, value-judgments, and ulti­mate goals, established a Weltanschauungs-lehre (teaching or doctrine about world-views). Each world-view makes thought, feeling, or will basic to its system and develops the appropriate categories to express its interpretation of life.

(2) Mannheim (q.v.) distinguished between partial and total ideology, equating the latter with the Weltan­schauung of an age or of a concrete historico-social group.

William L. Reese (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books [Prometheus Books], 1999), cf. Weltanschauung, 827.

Even Biblical Archaeology gets into the mix with this definition:

A worldview consists of a series of assumptions/presuppositions that a person holds about reality. A worldview, consciously or subconsciously, affects the way a person evaluates every aspect of reality. Every person adheres to some sort of worldview, although one person may not be as consciously aware of it as another person. These presuppositions affect the thinking of every person in the world. It logically follows that the way a person thinks affects what a person does.

The above definitions of a worldview should suffice this presentation… remember some persons think that a “coherent worldview must be able to satisfactorily answer four questions: that of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.” Others, include more (pictured to the right, click it to enlarge).

What is a Worldview? Does God Exist? How Did Everything Begin? Who Am I? Why Am I Here? What Happens After I Die? Cabbages and puppies don’t think about this stuff…but people do. Reflecting on the big questions in life is part of what makes us human. Everyone Has A Worldview…What’s Yours?

(Take the Quiz at www.impact360.org/worldviewquiz)

And here is one of my all time favorites:

Lens Repair 101: A Worldview Analysis from Sarah Clifton

AGAIN, a worldview is…

that basic set of assumptions that gives meaning to one’s thoughts. A worldview is the set of assumptions that someone has about the way things are, about what things are, about why things are.

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

If you want a “210 introduction” (i.e., a bit more advanced), see my introductory chapter to my book. The above video can also be found on my MRCTV account.


All Religions/Non-Religions

Fall Into a Worldview


Here are the worldviews that every religion falls into (I will post the harder worldviews to understand in short videos):

Theism (e.g. Christianity; Islam[1]; Judaism): An infinite Personal God Exists Both Beyond and in the Universe. The belief in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism).

Polytheism: There are Many God Beyond the World and in It. (It can fit at times under theism or pantheism, and should be considered a sub-set of these two larger worldviews.) It comes from the two Greek words “poly” for many, and from “theism” for god. Obviously, this is the view that says there are many finite limited gods controlling and influencing reality together. Modern day examples of polytheism include Mormonism, Hinduism, the New Age movement, and the surviving remnants of the ancient cults of worshipping the many Roman, Greek, and Norse gods.

Finite-Godism: A Finite God Exists Beyond and in the Universe (Is a sub-set of theism). This is a rare view and we may not be very familiar with the worldview of finite godism. As the name suggests, this view of reality believes that God exists, is beyond the world, but is limited in power and imperfection. a god who is limited in his goodness is a god who is incapable of putting an end to evil in the world. If such a god cannot put an end to evil, such a god either: 1. Doesn’t exist. 2. Is a finite being. This view happens to be very similar in some ways to the worldview of polytheism, however, finite godism believes that there is only one single god in the universe.

Naturalism (e.g. Atheism, Hard-Agnosticism, Existentialism): No God Exists Beyond or in the Universe. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Older dictionaries define atheism as “a belief that there is no God.” Simply, the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

Pantheism (e.g. Hinduism; Taoism; Buddhism; much New Age Consciousness): God is the Universe (the All). Pantheism is the belief that the Universe (or nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent god. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god.

The word “pantheism” comes from two greek words, “pan” and “theos”, meaning “all” and “God”.  So, in a nutshell, we see that pantheism is the worldview that believes that “all is God, and God is All.”  Pantheism includes the world religions of Hinduism, some forms of Buddhism, and the New Age Movement as well.

Pantheism is also the popular religion of “Star Wars” and “Master Yoda”, it forms the central beliefs of “Neo and Morpheus” in the box-office hit trilogy “Matrix”, and has also been made populer in the animated TV series “Avatar” for teens, where “Aang” is seeking spiritual enlightenment in his quest to save the world.

Panentheism: God is in the Universe  (e.g., as a mind is in a body). Panetheism is halfway between theism and pantheism. If we picture Atheism as an empty physical universe without any god, and Pantheism as a universe that is itself God, then Panentheism is a universe in which God would be inside of it all.  The actual word “panentheism” is made up of three Greek words that mean “all”, “in”, and “god” respectively.

Panentheism is the view that God is in all, and that God is developing and changing along with the world.  It is also called “process theology”, or “bipolar theism”, “organicism” since it views the universe as a gigantic organism, or even “neoclassical theism” since its idea of God is very different than the classical Christian concept. Typically, the average person that believes in the “God” of panentheism would probably call him “mother nature”, possibly “the cosmos”, or maybe even the “world spirit.”

  • Panentheism: God is in the tree, the rock, and the river.
  • Pantheism: the tree, the rock, and the river are in God.

Deism: God is Beyond the Universe, But Not in It. The “hands off God.” The term comes from the Latin deus, meaning “god.” This concept compares God to a clockmaker who creates a clock, starts it running, but has nothing to do with it after that. Deists drew this conclusion from watching natural disasters or human tragedies in which God did not intervene.

See also Dr. Geisler’s excerpt from his encyclopedia (PDF of “World Religions”)

“MORAL PLATONISM” is a form of this (roughly):

  • In 2011 Dr William Lane Craig spoke at the Forum of Christian Leaders (FOCL) in Hungary. While they he spoke on the topic, “Five Arguments for Theism” and took questions from the audience to accompany his lecture. In this clip, Dr Craig answers the question, “Is atheistic moral platonism more plausible than theism?”


[1] I ~ and others ~ would posit that Allah is not all-good (as well as other issues that would make this “god” fall a bit into “finite-godism”). Listen to this extended debate over the issue, here is the description for the linked video:

A controversy at Wheaton College has spurred a national debate on whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Certainly Muslims deny the Trinity and deity of Christ. Yet, is there enough overlap between the two religion’s concept of God to sufficiently claim that adherents of both worship the same God?

Justin is joined by two Christian guests to debate the question, Joseph Cumming a scholar of Islamic and Christian thought at Yale and former Ahmadi (Qadiani) Nabeel Qureshi of RZIM.

Joseph Cumming is a scholar of Islamic and Christian thought who serves as Pastor of the International Church at Yale University and works internationally as a consultant on Muslim-Christian and Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations. He was one of the architects of the “Yale Response” to the Common Word initiative of 138 prominent Muslim leaders and scholars. He is also International Director of Doulos Community, a humanitarian organization working in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, and is past President of the Federation of NGOs in Mauritania. Cumming has published numerous articles on issues affecting relations among the Abrahamic faith communities. He has lectured in Arabic at Al-Azhar University and other Islamic institutions and has taught courses at Yale Divinity School, as well as at Fuller Theological Seminary and other Evangelical institutions. He has been interviewed in Arabic on Al-Jazeera and other Arab television networks, and in English on American and Canadian television and radio, and in French and German by European and African news media.

Dr. Nabeel Qureshi is a former Ahmadi (Qadiani) who was convinced of the truth of the Gospel through historical reasoning and a spiritual search for God. Since his conversion, he has dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel through teaching, preaching, writing, and debating.

Nabeel focuses on the foundations of the Christian faith, ancient Judaism, early Islam, and the interface of science and religion. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA in Religion from Duke University. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in New Testament studies at Oxford University where he lives with his wife, Michelle

MOVING FROM THEISM TO CHRISTIANITY:

Napoleon said this about Jesus:

  • I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.

H.G. Wells, the famous novelist and historian in his own right agreed:

  • I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

Albert Einstein adds his intellect:

  • As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene…. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.

Church historian Philip Schaff concludes:

  • Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.

Robert Hume brings us home:

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 strong-minded 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.

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

William Lane Craig discusses God’s attributes:

What properties must such a cause of the universe possess? By the very nature of the case, the cause of space and time must transcend space and time and therefore exist timelessly and nonspatially (at least without the universe). This transcendent cause must therefore be changeless and immaterial, since anything that is timeless must also be unchanging, and anything that is changeless must be nonphysical and immaterial (since material things are constantly changing at the molecular and atomic levels). Such an entity must be beginningless and uncaused, at least in the sense of lacking any prior causal conditions, since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Ockham’s razor—the principle which states that we should not multiply causes beyond necessity—will shave away any other causes, since only one cause is required to explain the effect. This entity must be unimaginably powerful, if not omnipotent, since it created the universe without any material cause.

Finally, and most remarkably, such a transcendent first cause is plausibly personal. Two reasons can be given for this conclusion. First, the personhood of the first cause of the universe is implied by its timelessness and immateriality. The only entities which can possess such properties are either minds or abstract objects, like numbers. But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations. The number 7, for example, can’t cause anything. Therefore, the transcendent cause of the origin of the universe must be an unembodied mind.

Second, this same conclusion is implied by the origin of an effect with a beginning from a beginningless cause. We’ve concluded that the beginning of the universe was the effect of a first cause. By the nature of the case, that cause cannot have either a beginning of its existence or any prior cause. It just exists changelessly without beginning, and a finite time ago it brought the universe into existence. Now this is exceedingly odd. The cause is in some sense eternal and yet the effect which it produced is not eternal but began to exist a finite time ago. How can this be? If the necessary and sufficient conditions for the effect are eternal, then why isn’t the effect also eternal? How can the cause exist without the effect?

There seems to be only one way out of this dilemma, and that is to say that the cause of the universe’s beginning is a personal agent who freely chooses to create a universe in time. Philosophers call this type of causation “agent causation,” and because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions which were not previously present. Thus, a finite time ago a Creator endowed with free will could have freely brought the world into being at that moment. In this way, the Creator could exist changelessly and eternally but freely create the world in time. By exercising his causal power, he brings it about that a world with a beginning comes to exist? So the cause is eternal, but the effect is not. In this way, then, it is possible for the temporal universe to have come to exist from an eternal cause: through the free will of a personal Creator.

We may therefore conclude that a personal Creator of the universe exists, who is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and unimaginably powerful.

William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009), 16-17.

In conversation it is often good to focus on three “Worldviews”

Major World Religious worldviews Explained In 10-Minutes

Who Wrote Gospel of Mark (Martyr for the Cause?)

(Jump to “Atheist Morals“)

Two Quotes I Love About Jesus:

Even if we did not have the New Testament or Christian writings, we would be able to conclude from such non-Christian writings as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger that: 1) Jesus was a Jewish teacher; 2) many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms; 3) he was rejected by the Jewish leaders; 4) he was crucified under Pontius Pilot in the reign of Tiberius; 5) despite this shameful death, his followers, who believed that he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by A.D. 64; 6) all kinds of people from the cities and countryside – men and women, slave and free – worshipped him as God by the beginning of the second century (100 A.D.)

Michael J. Wilkins, ed., Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 221-222.

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 strong-minded 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.

I want to first deal with the “authorship of Mark” challenge. I may deal with the video authors challenge about the Old Testament God — but really this is old news by the “new atheists.” This has been thoroughly dealt with by many, many fine apologists over the years. If I do it will be in a “PART 2” But for now, this will suffice:

Missing The Moral Mark

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

C.S. Lewis, God In the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 52–53.

If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling “whatever you say and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?” But then that threw me back into another difficulty.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten 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 private 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 without meaning.

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

— Atheist Morals Noted Below —

Calling All Martyrs

In the VIDEO, the author tries to make a connection between the zealots who died following Jim Jones, and what Jesus has called people to in Mark 8:34-35:

34 Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? 37 What can anyone give in exchange for his life? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

— Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Mk 8:34–38.

What are the KEY THEMES via the ESV Study Bible?

But to sum up the people willing to die after Jesus’ ascension, you have a myriad of martyrs being burned alive, fed to lions, and the like. They did not poison themselves or die fighting to convert others. For instance, in 2016 about 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith worldwide. Christians are the most martyred group in the world. Maybe Jesus was foreshadowing this reality’s in His omniscience? (I will post a commentary at the end to show the slightly more complex idea than the simpleton one in the video.)

AUTHORSHIP!

This first – short – video is by J. Warner Wallace, followed by a quick blurb I assume many do not know well… followed still by some more of the same. I wanted to post on this topic because of a video by , the part that got me thinking was the section from the 10:32 mark to the 12:05 time stamps.

LEARN RELIGIONS has this interesting blurb for the uninitiated:

John Mark in the Bible

John Mark was not one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. He is first mentioned by name in the book of Acts in connection with his mother. Peter had been thrown in prison by Herod Antipas, who was persecuting the early church. In answer to the church’s prayers, an angel came to Peter and helped him escape. Peter hurried to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where she was holding a prayer gathering of many of the church members (Acts 12:12).

Both the home and household of John Mark’s mother Mary were important in the early Christian community of Jerusalem. Peter seemed to know that fellow believers would be gathered there for prayer. The family was presumably wealthy enough to have a maidservant (Rhoda) and host large worship meetings.

The earliest manuscripts tell us Mark wrote the Gospel: “according to Mark.” But who was Mark?

Mark, or John Mark, as he was known, lived in Jerusalem, and his mother owned a home where the earliest followers of Jesus gathered. He worked with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Later, he joined Peter in Rome. It was in Rome, according to church tradition, where Mark wrote Peter’s version of the Gospel.

ZONDERVAN has an excellent article titled,Who Wrote the Gospel of Mark?. Here is part of that article:

The earliest tradition on Mark’s authorship

Despite this anonymity, there is strong and early tradition identifying the author of the Third Gospel as John Mark, part-time associate of both Paul and Peter. The earliest tradition is reported by the church historian Eusebius (c. AD 263 – 339), who quotes Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, in the latter’s five-volume work known as Interpretation of the Sayings of the Lord (Λογίων κυριακῶν ἑξήγησις). Papias, likely writing around AD 95 – 110,37 quotes John “the Elder” concerning the authorship of the Second Gospel:

The Presbyter used to say this also: “Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote down accurately, but not in order, all that he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of his followers, but later, as I said, a follower of Peter. Peter used to teach as the occasion demanded, without giving systematic arrangement to the Lord’s sayings, so that Mark did not err in writing down some things just as he recalled them. For he had one overriding purpose: to omit nothing that he had heard and to make no false statements in his account.”2

Eusebius points out that though Papias did not himself know the apostles, he was in direct contact with those who had heard them, including John the Elder, Aristion, Polycarp, and the daughters of Philip the Evangelist (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.1 – 9; cf. Acts 21:8 – 9).3 We thus have a first-century tradition claiming that Mark accurately interpreted (or translated) Peter’s eyewitness accounts, turning Peter’s anecdotal stories into a connected narrative, though not necessarily in chronological order.4

Mark’s authorship in the second century 

Second-century sources make similar claims. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark (c. 160 – 180) identifies Mark as the author and links him to Peter: “Mark . . . who was called ‘stump-fingered’ because for the size of the rest of his body he had fingers that were too short. He was Peter’s interpreter. After the departure [or ‘death’] of Peter himself, the same man wrote his Gospel in the regions of Italy.”5 The odd statement about Mark’s disfigured fingers may point to a reliable tradition, since the church is unlikely to have invented such a disparaging remark.6 We find here two additional pieces of information: that Mark wrote after Peter’s death and that he wrote in Italy.

Irenaeus (c. 180), referring to Peter and Paul, similarly asserts, “Now Matthew published a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own tongue, while Peter and Paul were evangelizing and founding the church in Rome. But after their departure [ἔξοδος; death?], Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed over to us, in writing, the things preached by Peter.”7 The implication is that Mark is writing from Rome after the deaths of Peter and Paul.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 180) specifically refers to Rome: “When, by the Spirit, Peter had publicly proclaimed the Gospel in Rome, his many hearers urged Mark, as one who had followed him for years and remembered what was said, to put it all in writing. This he did and gave copies to all who asked. When Peter learned of it, he neither objected nor promoted it.”8 Peter’s apparent indifference to Mark’s work suggests that this statement was not created as an apologetic defense of the Petrine tradition, since, if that were the case, one would expect a much more positive affirmation by Peter. Other early church writers, including Tertullian (Marc. 4.5), Origen (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.25.5), and Jerome (Comm. Matt., prologue 6), affirm Mark’s role as author and that he was dependent on the eyewitness accounts of Peter.

How many of these early witnesses are dependent on one another is not known. Yet their unanimity is impressive. No competing claims to authorship are found in the early church. Since John Mark was a relatively obscure figure, it seems unlikely that a gospel would have been attributed to him if he had not in fact written it. We could add to this the evidence of the titles to the Gospels, which, as noted above, appear in nearly all of our extant manuscripts.

Internal evidence for Markan authorship

Although internal evidence does not provide direct evidence for authorship, it can be used to help corroborate the external claims. (1) The author’s many Aramaisms (Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 10:45; 14:36) are compatible with a Palestinian Jew like John Mark (cf. Acts 12:12). (2) The large number of Latinisms would also fit a Roman provenance (place of origin). (3) The identification of Rufus and Alexander as sons of Simon of Cyrene (15:21) is also significant, since it confirms that the author was known to his readers. It seems unlikely that the title “according to Mark” (κατὰ Μάρκον) could have been attached to the gospel so early if the original readers knew it came from someone else. Furthermore, if this Rufus is the same one mentioned in Rom 16:13, we have incidental confirmation of a Roman provenance.

(More at ZONDERVAN)

FOOTNOTES

2) Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.15 (translation from P. Maier,  Eusebius: The Church History (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 129 – 30.
3) “Papias thus admits that he learned the words of the apostles from their followers but says that he personally heard Aristion and John the presbyter. He often quotes them by name and includes their traditions in his writings” (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.7; trans. Maier, Eusebius, 127).
4) The connection to Peter is also indirectly made by Justin Martyr (c. AD 150), who refers to Mark 3:16 – 17 ( Jesus’ naming of Simon as “Peter,” and James and John as “Sons of Thunder”) as coming from the memoirs of Peter (Dial. 106). For strong defenses of the authenticity of the Papias tradition, see Hengel, Studies, 47 – 53; Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 1026 – 45.
5) Cited by C. Black, Mark: Images of an Apostolic Interpreter (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994), 119. The date of the Anti-Marcionite prologues is disputed, with some scholars placing them in the third century.
6) The same description is found in Hippolytus, Haer. 7.30.1 (see Black, Mark, 115 – 18).
7) Ireneaus, Haer. 3.1.1; translation from Black, Mark, 99 – 100.
8) Cited by Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.14.6 – 7 (trans. Maier, Eusebius, 218).

GOT QUESTIONS also notes much of the same:

Author: Although the Gospel of Mark does not name its author, it is the unanimous testimony of early church fathers that Mark was the author. He was an associate of the Apostle Peter, and evidently his spiritual son (1 Peter 5:13). From Peter he received first-hand information of the events and teachings of the Lord, and preserved the information in written form.

It is generally agreed that Mark is the John Mark of the New Testament (Acts 12:12). His mother was a wealthy and prominent Christian in the Jerusalem church, and probably the church met in her home. Mark joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but not on the second because of a strong disagreement between the two men (Acts 15:37-38). However, near the end of Paul’s life he called for Mark to be with him (2 Timothy 4:11).

Date of Writing: The Gospel of Mark was likely one of the first books written in the New Testament, probably in A.D. 55-59.


Commentary 1


  • T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 339–341.

34 Mark uses προσκαλέομαι to alert the reader to expect something new or emphatic to be revealed, or some new instruction to be delivered to the disciples (cf. 3:13, 23; 6:7; 7:14; 10:42; 12:43). What is surprising here is that the object of the verb is not just the disciples, whom one would expect, but τὸν ὄχλον σὺν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ. We have gained from vv. 27–33 the impression that the setting is a private retreat in the countryside in the far north of Palestine, where Jesus was presumably little known and the population probably largely non-Jewish. A crowd of people in this area who were at least potentially followers of Jesus seems incongruous, and they will play no further part in the narrative. From the narrator’s point of view, however, the introduction of the ὄχλος serves here, rather like οἱ περὶ αὐτὸν σὺν τοῖς δώδεκα in 4:10, to widen the audience for a key pronouncement; their inclusion in the audience asserts that the harsh demands of the following verses apply not only to the Twelve but to anyone else who may wish to join the movement. The introductory phrases εἴ τις θέλει and ὃς γὰρ ἐάν (vv. 35, 38) further generalise the scope of the paragraph; this is not a special formula for the elite, but an essential element in discipleship.

ὀπίσω μου is used here not as in v. 33 but in its more normal NT sense (see 1:17, 20 etc.), and the double use alongside it of ἀκολουθέω (cf. 1:18; 2:14) confirms that we have here a basic condition of discipleship. It is to join Jesus on the way to execution. This is the first use of σταυρός by Mark, and neither noun nor verb will occur again before chapter 15. Jesus’ predictions of his death in 8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34 do not spell out the means of death, and this specifically Roman form of execution would not be the first to come to a Jewish mind when hearing of death at the behest of the Jewish authorities. By the time Mark wrote his gospel, of course, Jesus’ crucifixion was well known, and his readers would need no explanation for the σταυρός here. But at the beginning of the journey to Jerusalem such language is calculated to shock, and evokes a vivid and horrifying image of the death march with all its shameful publicity. The preservation of so specific an image at more than one point in the gospel tradition (see also the Q saying Mt. 10:38; Lk. 14:27) may suggest that it originates from Jesus’ own awareness of how he would die rather than from Mark’s reading back the later event.

The metaphor of taking up one’s own cross is not to be domesticated into an exhortation merely to endure hardship patiently. In this context, following 8:31, it is an extension of Jesus’ readiness for death to those who follow him, and the following verses will fill it out still in terms of the loss of life, not merely the acceptance of discomfort. While it may no doubt be legitimately applied to other and lesser aspects of the suffering involved in following Jesus, the primary reference in context must be to the possibility of literal death.

The call to take up the cross is preceded by ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτόν, a phrase not paralleled in the gospel tradition. The verb ἀπαρνέομαι is particularly associated with Peter’s eventual denial not of himself but of his master; in that context it means to dissociate oneself completely from someone, to sever the relationship. So the reflexive use implies perhaps to refuse to be guided by one’s own interests, to surrender control of one’s own destiny. In 2 Tim. 2:13 ἀρνήσασθαι ἑαυτόν (of God as subject) means to act contrary to his own nature, to cease to be God. What Jesus calls for here is thus a radical abandonment of one’s own identity and self-determination, and a call to join the march to the place of execution follows appropriately from this. Such ‘self-denial’ is on a different level altogether from giving up chocolates for Lent. ‘It is not the denial of something to the self, but the denial of the self itself.’

35–37 The talk of losing and gaining the ψυχή in these verses depends on the range of meaning of ψυχή, and poses problems for the translator. The same noun denotes both the ‘being alive’ (as opposed to dead; cf. 3:4; 10:45) which one might seek to preserve by escaping persecution and martyrdom, and the ‘real life’ which may be the outcome of such martyrdom, and therefore is to be found beyond earthly life. It is in this latter sense that the English word ‘soul’ is traditionally used here, but the wordplay is better preserved by retaining ‘life’ but where necessary qualifying it with ‘true/eternal’ or ‘earthly’.

The immediate subject of these verses, following as they do the imagery of taking up one’s cross in v. 34, is surely the literal loss of (earthly) life which the disciple is called to accept as a potential result of following Jesus. Only that sense fully does justice to the wordplay. To extend this sense to the loss of privilege, advantage, reputation, comfort, and the like may be legitimate in principle, but only so long as this primary and more radical sense is not set aside. To cling to the things of this life, the things which humanity naturally values most, is the way to forfeit true life; clinging to life itself is the ultimate example of this concern, and is set in contrast with the acceptance of death (for the right reason) as the way to real life. Jesus himself, in his death and resurrection, will be the supreme example of this new perspective.

The promise of true life is not attached to death in itself, but to the loss of life ἕνεκεν [ἐμοῦ καὶ] τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (see Textual Note). The possibility of literal martyrdom as the outcome of Christian discipleship is clearly envisaged here; cf. 13:9 (ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ). Jesus’ expectation of his own death must have raised this possibility, and the experiences of the early church from Acts 7 onwards would add weight to it. The specific mention of the εὐαγγέλιον as the cause of loss of life indicates that the disciples are to play an active role in mission rather than merely privately following the teaching of Jesus, and that it is in this missionary work that they are likely to meet with persecution and death. Best rightly emphasises that the addition of this phrase indicates the inadequacy of a view of discipleship as merely the imitation of Jesus.

In the Synoptic Gospels κόσμος does not carry the negative connotation it has elsewhere in the NT, and especially in John; it denotes the created world in a neutral sense. κερδῆσαι τὸν κόσμον ὅλον therefore simply expresses the height of human ambition and achievement, measured in terms of earthly life. While ζημιόω sometimes carries a juridical sense of penalty or punishment, the context here does not require that nuance. Its more normal sense is simply loss or disadvantage. ζημιωθῆναι in v. 36 therefore denotes the opposite of κερδῆσαι; this is a profit and loss account, and it is clearly understood that the loss of the ψυχή (here ‘true life’) far outweighs any gain in terms of earthly advantage.

The same idea is differently expressed in the rhetorical question of v. 37, where again the assumption is made that the ψυχή is all that ultimately matters, and that nothing else can compensate for its loss. The ἀντάλλαγμα (cf. LXX Job 28:15) is the ‘exchange rate’ at which the ψυχή is valued; it is beyond price. The language of exchange echoes Ps. 49:7–9 (though LXX there uses λυτρόω/λύτρωσις, not ἀνταλλάσσομαι/ἀντάλλαγμα), but whereas the psalm speaks of a payment to avoid physical death, here the focus has moved to ‘true life’, which is even more beyond the reach of human valuation. There is no reason in this context to read into the question any developed theology of redemption; it is simply a statement of comparative value.


Commentary 2


  • David Smith, Mark: A Commentary for Bible Students (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007), 157–169

Insight into the Messiah’s Task

Mark 8:[31]–33

…….3. Jesus’ First Passion Prediction 8:31–33

Coupled with the immediately preceding command to silence, the core of Jesus’ self-revelation began with a redirection of the disciples’ choice of titles. They chose Messiah; Jesus offered another, more enigmatic title: the Son of Man (8:31). What Jesus was about to say regarding suffering and death might have been incomprehensible if He had retained the disciples’ more victorious-sounding title: “Christ.” Jesus would not allow himself to be categorized. For Jesus, the title “Christ” carried too much militaristic and nationalistic baggage; it had to be tempered with the less familiar “Son of Man” designation. He went on to teach His disciples the essential issues with reference to His identity.

The “Son of Man must suffer many things” (8:31). The disciples had seen nothing but power and victory in the acts of Jesus thus far. So these words had no place to take root. Moreover, the suffering and death of the Messiah raised huge theological problems. If Jesus was indeed the Messiah, why would God allow Him to be rejected and be killed (8:31)? Though the answer is not fully elucidated in the gospel of Mark, it is part of a plan found in the Old Testament. Mark reported that the Son of Man must suffer many things. The word must is often used of divine necessity as spelled out later in 9:12 and 14:21, 49. Thus, Jesus’ rejection and death are to find their source in Scripture and the heart of the Father’s will and not in the violence of Palestinian politics. Mark would not allow Jesus’ death to be read as a sociological mistake but rather as an act of divine redemption.

The wording of each of the three passion predictions is just a bit different. It is only in this passage that the reader of Mark sees the word suffer. But with rejected, Mark draws attention to Psalm 118:22, where Christians identify in Jesus’ fate that the “stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” and His following vindication. Each of the three passion predictions ends with the same climax: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The disciples were no more attentive to this aspect of Jesus’ teaching than any other.

No matter how much explanation He provided, the disciples never achieved complete clarity. This unveiling of the messianic mission demanded a response from the disciples. And it came from Peter as he took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him (8:32). Peter displayed that he was at cross-purposes with Jesus’ agenda. The word “rebuke” connotes a command by one taking authority over another. Jesus, without hesitation, turned and looked at his disciples (8:33), implicating them as coconspirators, as he rebuked Peter. The repetition of the same verb (8:31, command of Jesus to disciples; 8:32, Peter’s rebuke of Jesus; 8:33, Jesus’ rebuke to Peter) demonstrates irreconcilable perspectives. Jesus settled the issue when He ordered Peter to get behind Him. Note how this short statement is spatially as well as relationally oriented. First, Jesus said, “Get behind me.” This is the same language used by Jesus in His initial call of His disciples in 1:17 and could be translated, “Come, behind Me.” This might be understood as Jesus calling Peter to get back in step with Him. Further, there is another occurrence of the word in the next verse, where the phrase is translated, “If anyone would come after me” (8:34), cementing Peter’s call to follower-ship based not on his notion of power or might, but on Jesus’ revelation of rejection, shame, and death.

Relationally, Jesus called Peter “Satan.” In short order, Jesus completed His own counter-rebuke of Peter. Peter’s plan, which avoided the cross, placed him in league with Jesus’ archenemy. This is partially why Jesus commanded (rebukes) the disciples to silence, for the proclamation of a Messiah without the cross is satanic in its message. This exchange was brought to a culmination with Jesus’ closing reproof: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (8:33). The NIV makes this a separate sentence, while in actuality it is a dependent clause, specifically a result clause: “for you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of people.” The plain teaching of Jesus (8:31) cannot be grasped on a merely human level.

The vision for ministry that Jesus is teaching is irreconcilable with the vision Peter and the other disciples have for Him as the Messiah. The misguided vision of the disciples and their determined refusal to adopt Jesus’ revelation precludes them from full comprehension. Teaching, even from such a skilled educator as Jesus, would not adequately overcome humanity’s blindness. Thus, Mark conveys a truth that became Christian doctrine: Men and women must not merely become educated (or catechized) in the Church; they must initially be transformed.

The Demands of Discipleship

Mark 8:34–9:1

  1. The Cost of Following Jesus 8:34–35

The call to discipleship is comprehensive in its reach (disciples and crowds), but it immediately takes on a conditional nature: “If anyone would come after me” (8:34). The phrase literally translated reads, “If someone wishes/wants after me to follow.…” Jesus demands a heartfelt choice, which eliminates other, possibly more appealing, choices.

Jesus set the agenda according to His spiritual compass; a follower must “deny himself.” Powerfully, the insertion of the reflexive pronoun himself implies the first aspect of discipleship is to refuse to be guided by one’s own interests. Moreover, self-denial is not to be confused with asceticism (the denial of things one desires) or even with self-discipline. Self-denial is the denial of the self itself (see Phil. 2:3–4). The second requirement of a follower is to “take up his cross.” This is the first use of the word in the Gospel, certainly creating a link back to Jesus’ earlier prediction of His own death. In the first century, a cross indicated punishment of a shamed criminal at the hands of the Romans. Moreover, this Roman form of execution might be heard by the listeners as a call to rebel against Rome and to risk their lives. Yet, the word will not reoccur until chapter 15. This provided Jesus with ample time to define the impact and meaning of His own death and the cross-bearing imagery associated with His followers. For in summary, the self-denial to which Jesus calls one is abandonment of one’s autonomy and adoption of Jesus’ leadership and lordship.

Finally, Jesus beckoned His disciples to “follow me” (8:34). Jesus’ initial thrust into discipleship-making seems more directional than doctrinal. His call is bracketed with terms of motion. “Mark is rich in verbs of motion. Jesus is on the move; he summons disciples to come after him” Each time Jesus called His disciples, He was in motion (1:16, 19; 2:14; 10:17). Further, His call was to get in step directly behind Him. Thus, for one to be a disciple, one must follow. The mark of a faithful disciple is to be seen not in fully comprehending all the theological nuances of the person of Jesus, but in setting one’s sight unwaveringly on the path laid out by Jesus. The path to the cross is costly and counterintuitive, yet Jesus clearly laid out the directional markers for all who are willing to follow.

The demands of discipleship are further refined. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (8:35). Jesus offered this paradoxical principle for savings one’s life, using two meanings of “life.” The word implies physical life in its first use (as opposed to death; see 3:4; 10:45). In this sense, people might think they can preserve their lives by avoiding conflict and persecution. However, Jesus’ other meaning was that by losing one’s physical life, one receives (saves) eternal life. More precisely, this call to a loss of life is not a morbid acceptance of death. Rather, it is an adoption of Jesus (for me) and His mission agenda (for the gospel) around which one reorients one’s focus and through which one discovers true life. A disciple is to follow Jesus by publicly adhering to the gospel, proclaiming it to the world, and dying if necessary.

  1. Keeping an Eternal Perspective 8:36–9:1

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (8:36). Here the contrast between this world and the next (soul) is made more explicit. In this Gospel, “world” represents the created order in a neutral sense. Gain implies human ambition and drive for worldly success. Thus, one should not connote an evil intent on the part of the pursuer, but the explicit contrast as the loss of one’s life or soul far exceeds any profit in terms of earthly gain. This contrast is continued in the rhetorical question “Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (8:37). This passage continues with the theme that we cannot grasp the priceless value of one life or soul, and that there is another way to categorize value apart from what we can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

Verse 38 repeats the conditional emphasis begun in 8:34: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” The contrast of honor and shame was a primary value of the first century. So, if anyone was ashamed of Jesus (of me) and His authoritative demands (and my words), she or he might have received worldly honor, but forfeited honor in the future, coming Kingdom. David Garland summarizes it this way:

Jesus uses the threat of judgment to induce his followers to be faithful. To be put to shame is the opposite of vindication (Ps. 25:3; 119:6; Isa. 41:10–11; Jer. 17:18). Those who may be frightened by the edicts of earthly courts (represented in the Gospel by Herod Antipas, the high priest’s Sanhedrin, and the Roman governor, Pilate) should fear even more the decision of the heavenly tribunal, which determines their eternal destiny.

The use of the adjective adulterous reminds the reader of the frequent Old Testament charges against the nation of Israel as she constantly committed spiritual adultery and went out after other gods (Isa. 1:4, 21; Ezek. 16:32; Hos. 2:4).

The traditional early church understanding of the Son of Man “coming” was that of the parousia or the second coming. Yet the imagery and background in this material comes from the visions of Daniel 7: “… one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” He is presented before the throne of the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13–14), and “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” The scene is clearly set in heaven, and His “coming” is better described as an entrance into the throne room of God, not the “second coming” to earth. One must keep in mind that Jesus’ teaching in 8:31 is an intricate series of contrasts between this world and the next, with the Son of Man prophecy as its climax. Thus, the shaming of the Son of Man on earth by people will result in their judgment in the heavenly realm.

There is an interesting combination of Son of Man language and the Father’s glory. The voice at Jesus’ baptism directly referred to Jesus as His Son (1:11). Jesus only referred to God as His Father again in 13:23 and in His prayer in Gethsemane (14:36). Yet the importance is not simply familial but theological. For here the Son of Man and Son of God concepts are closely linked with each other and with the messianic overtones of the entire passage. This would not happen again until Jesus’ confession before the high priest in 14:62.

And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (9:1). Seemingly, 9:1 assures the first-century disciples (and subsequent readers) that for all they abandon in this lifetime, they will indeed see the kingdom of God come and share in His exaltation. The implication is that the event being referred to is near enough that a privileged few will catch a glimpse of this unveiling. Numerous suggestions have been offered regarding the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction. The most prominent suggestions include (1) the death of Jesus and the resultant tearing of the Temple curtain, (2) victory over death in His resurrection, (3) His ascension and enthronement in heaven, (4) the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and (5) the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. All of these would certainly be viable options within the lifetime of the original hearers. Yet nearly all except the first option fall outside the narrative of the gospel of Mark. Possibly the most text-centered line of interpretation would be to look forward to the Transfiguration (9:2–13). The events are linked temporally and precisely—after six days—a highly unusual practice for Mark outside of the passion narrative. Additionally, the Transfiguration narrative reports what the disciples saw, and the cloud appearing and enveloping the disciples is suggestive of the Mount Sinai theophany (Exod. 19), leaving the reader with the impression of Jesus coming in power. One could feel less than satisfied with seeing Jesus transfigured on a mountain being equated with seeing the kingdom of God come with power. Yet throughout the Gospel of Mark, the kingdom of God and the person of Jesus are inseparably linked. The Kingdom was brought near with the coming of Jesus and the proclaiming of the good news of God (1:14–15). Later, the secret of the Kingdom was revealed in Jesus’ parabolic instruction (4:10–12). Thus, it seems appropriate for Mark to make known the joining of the Kingdom of God and the person of Jesus as a signal of the real, though not yet fully revealed, presence.

Do All Roads Lead To God? (Exclusivity in Metaphysical Claims)

(Originally Posted Sept 2012)

The story of the six blind men and the elephant is one you hear then and again. In this short response you will see how this story collapses under its own weight. (See also Geisler’s dealing with Postmodernism)

(September 3, 2012) Ravi Zacharias responds with “precise language” to a written question. With his patented charm and clarity, Ravi responds to the challenge of “exclusivity in Christianity” that skeptics seem to think is exclusive to our faith. This is one of Ravi’s best. (While I am still devastated Ravi did what he did… I will forever share his truths expressed so well)

This is an adaptation from the opening portion of Ravi:

Many people like to criticize Christianity’s arrogant exclusivity, they will say that if the end result is to be good, how could I embrace a faith that claims to be the only true way?

This is the perceived problem with exclusivity. How can there be only one way to God?

The answer with the post-modernist when they raise this question of the Christian faith is that the post-modernist has not again examined his or her own question. It is not only the Christian faith that claims exclusive.

  • Islam claims exclusivity.
  • Buddhism claims exclusivity.
  • Sikhism claims exclusivity.
  • Hinduism claims exclusivity.
  • All religions do at some point in their philosophy.

Gautama Buddha was born a Hindu. He rejected Hinduism on two major accounts.

  1. Hinduism assumes, for example, that the Vedas are the ultimate revelation, and in that sense their inerrant scriptures. Buddha rejected the Veda.
  2.  Hinduism claims the caste system on the hierarchy of human birth. Gautama Buddha rejected the caste system.

Two principal beliefs of Hinduism, the Vedas and the caste system, Gautama Buddha completely rejected. That’s why even in recent times you will hear Hindu leaders sometimes getting disgruntled with Hinduism because of the caste system and the hierarchical system of human birth that is attributed to it.

Now, what did Gautama Buddha do in its place? He changed the notion of self from Hinduism into no essential self. In Buddhism he changed even the idea of reincarnation, what reincarnation actually means.

All this to say it is not true that Christianity is the only exclusive claim every major religion claim exclusivity. The Bahais are the only so-called all inclusivist, but even they exclude the exclusivists.

How Can Christianity Be The One True Religion?

One of my favored quotes regarding Jesus:

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 strong-minded 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.

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

(Originally posted Sept 2017)

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

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

I first posted this as a response:

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

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

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

To which I replied:

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

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

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

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


BONUS!


A couple examples of this ethos at work:

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

DAWKINS (44-Seconds):

PROVINE (43-Seconds):

BARKER (Almost 5-Minutes):

Wolpert (About 5-mins)


Rolling Rock Ethics


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manzari: Thank you.

2 Peter 1:5-8:

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

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

Secondly, there can be no concept of “ought”

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Nothing Beyond the Natural Physical World)

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