Thursday, April 23, 2009

Matt 24 Watch, 80: Is the God of the Bible (esp. the OT) a barbaric, genocidal "moral monster"?

In recent years a spate of "new atheist" books has popularised the often gleefully or spitefully put accusation that the God we find in the Old Testament is a "moral monster," the "obvious" creation of the barbarous people of that time; one best forgotten.

Of course, all of this is in service to evolutionary materialist atheism, which is severely challenged to ground either mind or morality. (And, as a relativistic, irrational, amoral system of thought, it then "enables' resort to habitually imomral behaviour. Pretty much as we are warned in Rom 1 and Eph 4:17 - 19.)

In the past few days, an exchange has developed on this subject at the blog UD, so it is worth putting up some key excerpts here; to help equip us to handle the accusation when -- not if -- we meet it. Similarly, Glenn Miller of the Christian thinktank has put up some fairly serious and thoughtful studies here and here, on the specific accusation.


EXCERPT 1: The challenge to ground morality on evolutionary materialism, from Hawthorne:
Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.) Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action. Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action. (This is just the standard inferential scheme for formal deontic logic.) We’ve conformed to standard principles and inference rules of logic and we’ve started out with assumptions that atheists have conceded in print. And yet we reach the absurd conclusion: therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’. For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit. Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from ‘is’.

1 –> The key issue here is that while evolutionary materialistic atheists [and their fellow travellers] are often fond of direct or indirect arguments from evil against God [e.g. the moral monster thesis of Dawkins et al], their own worldview is inescapably incoherent at this point: assuming and using the reality of objective morality, even as they hold to a worldview that entails amorality (and often thus enables immorality).

2 –> So, onward, we need to look at the issue of that incoherence as it seems a global consensus that human beings are morally mutually obligated: we all quarrel by in effect claiming “you unfair me.” (That is, we imply that we have rights that must be respected, based in the end on our dignity as persons . . .

3 –> . . . and so, materialists: what inherent dignity accrues to a bit of jumped up pond slime and its perceptions of emotions of outrage or sensations of pain — which are in any case inevitable to one degree or another?

4 –> In short, we have a global consensus that we are morally bound and hold some dignity, a dignity incompatible with our being jumped up pond slime.

5 –> We also have a global consensus that at least some of the time we think, reason and know objectively and even correctly.

6 –> But if we are jumped up pond slime, so-called thought is nothing but electro-chemical activity in neurons, which are in turn partly programmed genetically and partly programmed by whatever accidents of environment we encounter; in the end tracing to mental activity being produced and controlled by chance circumstances and mechanical material forces, however mediated. So, what controls our thought life has nothing whatsoever to do with (especially abstract) logical validity or truth.

7 –> Bn short the objectivity of morality and the credibility of mind both turn out to be facts that are not well accounted for by evolutionary materialist thought [and please notice my specificity, as is so for Mr Hawthorne too].

8 –> But, such thought and its zealous promotion by its true believers depend implicitly on the credibility of what it cannot account for as a theory and worldview of origins. In short, we see self-referential incoherence of an evidently inescapable kind. Reductio ad absurdum, unless a reasonable solution is forthcoming . . . and the burden of rebuttal is on the side of the evidently incoherent position.


EXCERPT 2: The challenge of the problem of evil:

9 –> But, does that not equally point to the need for Judaeo-Christian theists to rebut the problem of evil? Precisely: DONE, ever since Plantinga blew away the deductive dofrom and tamed the inductive form as a the turn of the 1970’s. (The existential/pastoral form is a matter for counselling not debate; go find yourself a good pastor or priest or rabbi, not a circle of Job’s false comforters.) For those who came in late:

a --> The Defense approach is more logically powerful than the theodicy approach, for it relies on mere validity to disestablish a contradiction, not truthfulness of premises. (And those who try to read it as a theodicy show their misunderstanding.)

b --> The classic posed and claimed contradictory theistic set is demonstrably not contradictory, and there are reasonable grounds on which a world in which there is significant suffering experienced by creatures, is morally justifiable, given inter alia that morality itself is premised on the power of choice. In short, a world in which love is possible is one that necessarily has hate — and worse, indifference [in the bad sense] — as possible too.

c --> Thence, the point that the lesser of evils may be a relative moral good; e.g. wars may be just and homicide excusable; in a further context where death of an “innocent” (even that is relative . . . ) is a tragedy but may in context offset far greater losses in both time and eternity.

d --> Such a world is one in which reformation is also possible — and important. So is containment of evil [a la Cold War], and if necessary, removal of otherwise virulently spreading and destructive contagion (of which Nazism is an excellent recent case in point) through just war that inescapably will kill significant numbers of innocents given the means available a the relevant time.

e --> And note the current resort of the Islamist terrorists and their fifth columnist friends in our civilisation, who make much of the inevitable loss of innocents in a war of containment or defense against attack, as if those who resist contagious and aggressive evils are to be equated to those who spread such while intentionally targetting civilians etc to terrorise and paralyse their intended victims, and inter alia binding generations to come into a blood feud to carry out the aggression as long as their culture endures as an entity holding significant power.

f --> If that sounds familiar, it should: this is materially the same dilemma faced by those confronting the Amorites c. 1,300 BC and who drove them out, breaking up the power centres and destroying the hard core who insisted on defending the indefensible to the bitter end. (And indeed, nearly 1,000 years later, a descendant-survivor of the elites of the Amorites sought to destroy all Jews in the Persian empire: Haman.)

g --> It is also the same dilemma that confronted the Spanish monarchs c. 1491 and impelled them to forcibly convert or exile what they viewed with some justification as an utterly irreconcilable and blood feud prone population descended from invaders. (NB: I am not defending Ferdinand and Isabella [much less, the notorious Inquisition . . . ], I am asking us to understand their dilemmas and ask ourselves whether we have reliably better solutions that we can present as at least the credibly lesser of evils. . . )

h --> It is not without relevance to note that after WW I, the German populace in certain key parts, denied the reality of military defeat . . . a defeat bought at ruinous cost by the Allies. 20 years later, we paid an even worse price, but after the utter devastation of Germany, the centuries long feud between germans and franks finally came to an end, after three wars in 70 years.

i --> History has some very sobering lessons for us . . .

Sobering and saddening lessons. but on pain of repeating utterly grim history, we dare not neglect such lessons.

EXCERPT 3: The very existence of evil has implications . . .

10 –> But also, there is the issue that the mere known existence of evil as an objectionable entity has implications, as Koukl pointed out:

Evil is real . . . That’s why people object to it. Therefore, objective moral standards must exist as well [i.e. as that which evil offends and violates] . . . . The first thing we observe about [such] moral rules is that, though they exist, they are not physical because they don’t seem to have physical properties. We won’t bump into them in the dark. They don’t extend into space. They have no weight. They have no chemical characteristics. Instead, they are immaterial things we discover through the process of thought, introspection, and reflection without the aid of our five senses . . . .

We have, with a high degree of certainty, stumbled upon something real. Yet it’s something that can’t be proven empirically or described in terms of natural laws. This teaches us there’s more to the world than just the physical universe. If non-physical things–like moral rules–truly exist, then materialism as a world view is false.

There seem to be many other things that populate the world, things like propositions, numbers, and the laws of logic. Values like happiness, friendship, and faithfulness are there, too, along with meanings and language. There may even be persons–souls, angels, and other divine beings.

Our discovery also tells us some things really exist that science has no access to, even in principle. Some things are not governed by natural laws. Science, therefore, is not the only discipline giving us true information about the world. It follows, then, that naturalism as a world view is also false.

Our discovery of moral rules forces us to expand our understanding of the nature of reality and open our minds to the possibility of a host of new things that populate the world in the invisible realm.

11 –> Thus, evil is now reduced to proper scope: a painful difficulty within the general face-validity of a theistic view. And, as Job’s case shows, it may be painful and hard to understand — perhaps even in part beyond our capacity to understand — but that does not give us leave to pretend to knowledge beyond our capacity, and to dismiss what we can otherwise know of God through personal encounter and/or from the characteristics of creation etc [Cf Job 38!]


EXCERPT 4: Euthryphro's dilemma:

12 –> Someone has raised that hoary, long past sell-date objection, the Euthryphro dilemma. But, it is fatally flawed: for, it inescapably depends for its rhetorical force on a long since discredited Greek concept of gods, i.e. in a context of the independent reality of the material and ideational worlds. (It is on that implicit base that it becomes persuasive to ask whether the gods command the good because they are good [a reference to the platonic Form of the Good], or because of their power, i.e arbitrarily.)

13 –> The Hebraic- Christian, revelationally anchored view of the Creator- Sustainer- Redeemer God is utterly different and is inherently not subject to such an objection.

14 –> For, we are contingent; it is in the Creator-God that we live, move and have our being, including that we live in a contingent cosmos, dependent for its origin on a necessary being, the Creator. And, that Creator — who is Reason Himself, Truth himself, Love Himself and Holiness Himself — by his necessary nature is both powerful and moral. So, he acts in ways that are both moral and moral in a context that they are also reasonable.

15 –> Thus morality is intelligible to us and we sense its compelling force as OUGHT, not just IS; i.e. we can understand core morality and see that its precepts are self-evident, on pain of hypocritically inconsistent absurdity on rejecting them. (Resemblance to the 2nd para of the 1776 US DOI is NOT coincidental.)

16 –> Indeed, let us see how Locke cites “the judicious [Richard] Hooker,” from that Anglican worthy’s Ecclesiastical Polity, when Locke set out to ground the natural law of liberty and justice for all — i.e Laws of [moral] nature and of nature’s God — in the 2nd chapter of his 2nd essay on civil govt:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature [which of course in both Hooker's and Locke's contexts traces to the equality of our creation in God's image], as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.

17 –> Thus we see articulated precisely the view of core morality that we find in Romans:

2: 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the [written Mosaic] law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .

RO 13:8b . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

18 –> In short, core morality — not the mores of any given place or time, which often fail to be consistent with core morality 9which is why we need repentance and reform, and to listen to the pleading ever so sweetly reasonable voice of both conscience and true prophet [note the modifier!]) — is just as deeply and indelibly imprinted in our inner life as is core intelligence.

19 –> That is how we find it an objective, consensus obligation, and how we find it reasonable as well. That is OUGHT is objective truth, in a world created and sustained by the inherently moral and inherently necessary, inherently truthful and loving Creator God.

20 –> Thus also, why we find the objectivity of such core morality is a compass needle pointing to its Source.


EXCERPT 5: On the implications for our worldviews:

j –> We also — as a matter of fact — find ourselves bound to respect the truth and to seek it, though we often fall short thereof; especially where the truth affects matters of justice. (Just think about what happens when we quarrel.)

k –> So, again per brute experienced and observed fact, we find ourselves morally bound to one another; leading to the issue of equality of nature and moral obligation as an inherent part of that nature.

l –> Such of course leads to the criterion of worldview choice that no view that is amoral or immoral is credible. (Thus, en passant, the force of Hawthorne’s argument, and Koukl’s argument, as well as the impact of the moral argument to God; as well as the significance of Plantinga’s successful blunting of the problem of evil per the Free Will Defense.)

m –> As well, by the very nature of virtue, virtues rest on choice: one loves only because one has made a choice. A programmed robot cannot LOVE, though it may be an instrument of someone’s loving care. (And notice how virtue is a property of persons, indeed of intelligent agents.)

n –> Thus also a world in which virtues based on love are possible, is also a world in which vices based on hate or indifference are possible. And in such a world, especially if the in-group vs out-group trans-generational vengeful blood feud is a cultural prospect, we face sometimes grim choices of the lesser of evils. (NB: I cited some cases earlier this morning. Until the objectors who would paint God as a moral monster engage these issues, they have no right to claim that such putting of God into the dock is a responsible position.)

o –> If you have the lesser problem of being troubles by such grim realities, welcome to the club.

p –> Only, let us be humble enough to understand that we cannot calculate the balance of evils better than God. And then try to imagine a world in which ONLY an eye for an eye and ONLY a tooth for a tooth was an IMPROVEMENT.

q –> Then join me in shuddering as we contemplate what lurks in the depths of our hearts.

r –> Then, understand the love of God who came and bled for us.

s –> Then, join us in the call to mutual repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation leading to discipleship under the Teacher of Love and reform based on love, that are at the heart of the gospel.

Grace be with us all . . . that we may unstintingly look into our own hearts, and find a way to turn from evil and vengefulness to the good. END


Ilíon said...

I seems to me that you don't get around to explicitly answering the question you've posed -- note, I said "explicitly." Here's my attempt to draw out, and to a degree expand upon, the implicit argument you're presenting:

1) There exists that which is properly called 'morally evil' -- and the atheist cannot, upon pain of incoherence (and willful incoherence is itself a moral evil), simultaneously deny this reality while asserting that the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster.

1a) The fact that there is moral evil is proof that moral good exists; for, to say that "thus-and-such is a moral evil" is a meaningless assertion if there exists-not that against which the "thus-and-such" is a violation.

1b) BUT, neither good nor evil are compossible with any atheistic/materialistic/naturalistic worldview.

For, IF the world itself *just is* (i.e. the world was not intended-and-created, but rather exists in its own right) -- and, after all, this belief/assertion is a primary and non-negotiable commitment of atheism -- THEN there can exist only that which is grounded in, and reducible to, matter-energy moving in time-space.

AND, since 'good' and 'evil' are *not* grounded in, nor reducible to, matter-energy moving in time-space, then no such things can possibly exist were it indeed the case that the world is not created, but rather exists simply and without need of further explanation.

1b.1) THUS, in the very act of making the accusation that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster," the atheist has asserted that atheism -- the assertion that there exists no Creator-God whatsoever -- is an assertion from a false worldview. That is, the particular atheist admits that there is, and that he knows that there is, some being who may properly be called 'God.'

1b.2) THUS, if he will be logically consistent (which is itself, after all, a moral obligation), the atheist must give over his atheism and admit that the world was intended-and-created; which is to say, that there exists a Creator-God.

1b.2a) AND, if he will not be thus logically consistent, then we Christians have no logical (nor moral) obligation to take him -- or his "objections" to the God-of-the-Bible -- seriously. For, he proves himself to be intellectually dishonest (which is to say, to be worse than a mere liar); he proves by his very act of willfully embracing logical inconsistency that it is logically impossible for us to argue with him, for there are no rules to which any "argument" he presents will adhere. I, myself, would go further and argue that not only is it logically impossible to argue with such a person, but also that it is immoral to (pretend to) attempt to do so; that one has the moral obligation either: to ignore him; or, to attempt to help him admit and correct his underlying problem, which is hatred of the truth and the good.

So, on the assumption that we are now dealing with an erstwhile atheist, perhaps we can procede:

2) The assertion that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" is seen to contain the unstated (and doubtless unrecognized) assumption that, while there is indeed a God, the God-of-the-Bible is not the *real/ultimate* God.

2a) For, after all, the "ultimate" God is that being in whom all things ultimately are rooted and have their being -- else, one ends up with the infinite regress problem of positing an infinite series of "Gods," each of whom it becomes epistemologically necessary to assert, in never-ending sequence, is ontologically prior to the one currently under consideration.

3) Positing that "the Good" -- that by which one is justified even in asserting that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" -- exists in its own right (as per the false paradox of the Euthryphro dilemma) turns out to be as incoherent as asserting that the physical world exists in its own right. That is, "the Good" must also be rooted in, have its existence in, the "ultimate" God.

3a) For, not only is "the Good" semantically contained within the "all things" which are and must be ultimately rooted in the "ultimate" God, but also "the Good" is inter-personal and relational -- one cannot coherently speak of "the Good" and of the moral obligation to accord with it (nor of its violation, that is, of moral evil) without implying a plurality of persons: if there exist-not persons (emphasis on the plural), or should there exist a plurality of persons but with no relationship one to the other, then there exists nothing, nor can exist anything, properly called "good."

3a.1) Moral evil just is the violation of the interpersonal relationship amongst a plurality of persons. Even to use the word 'violation' assumes there is something which is proper and of which violation is possible.

3b) To reiterate: "the Good" -- that by which one is justified even in asserting that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" -- does not exist in its own right. Rather, its existence, as with that of all other existing things, is grounded in the reality and existence of "ultimate" God.

4) So, our erstwhile atheist, if wishing to maintain his assertion that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster," logically must adopt a position of gnosticism; that is, that there is, indeed, an *ultimate* God-who-is-Good, but that the God-of-the-Bible cannot this *real* God.

4a) BUT, this throws us right back into an infinite regress of an ever-receding, ontologically-prior, "real" God, by the Goodness of whom we are judging the so-called God currently under consideration to be morally deficient.

4a.1) For, after all, our erstwhile atheist's argument against the God-of-the-Bible rests upon the appeal to one's emotional response to the moral evil (and/or natural evil) which exists in the world and the existence of which the God-of-the-Bible, whom we Christians say *is* the real God, allows. Going further, our erstwhile atheist's argument is not only that God-of-the-Bible allows moral evil (and/or natural evil), but that he both commits and commands moral evil.

4a.2) BUT, if this argument is valid against the God-of-the-Bible, then it is equally valid against the God-Before-The-God-of-the-Bible. And, if it is valid against *that* God, then it is valid against the one before him, world without end (amen, amen).

4b) So, our erstwhile atheist logically must abandon gnosticism as fruitless and self-defeating, for it devours itself; the very percieved problem (real or imagined) on the basis of which one adapts gnosticism in the first place cannot be answered by it, and, in fact, if the percieved problem is real, then it apples as fully to gnosticism as to non-gnosticism.

4c) Or, our erstwhile atheist, if wishing to maintain his rejection of the God-of-the-Bible, must maintain that there exists some morally valid, even if unknown-to-us, reason that the "real" God allows the "evil" of the God-of-the-Bible.

4c.1) Which is to say that there exists some morally valid, even if unknown-to-us, reason that the God-of-the-Bible allows evil to exist in his Creation.

4c.2) Which is to say that there exists some morally valid, even if unknown-to-us, reason that the God-of-the-Bible does and/or commands that which we emotionally reject as being evil, or that which would indeed be evil when commanded by a mere human being.

5) To reiterate, the existence of "the Good," as with all things which exist, is and must rooted in the God-Who-Exists (and whom, as we Christians know, just happens to be the God-of-the-Bible).

5a) To assert that the God-Who-Exists is morally evil is to assert that Goodness is a self-contradiction, which seems to be absurd; or it is to assert that existence is a self-contradiction, is blatantly is absurd.

6) So, our erstwhile atheist is backed into the corner of realizing that the "problem" is vastly misstated and misunderstood.

PTET said...

You two are as bad as each other.

By the terms of "moral good" and "moral evil" which *Christians* propound, the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster.

Further, it is entirely possible to accept "Good" and "Evil" as rational, identifiable, reasonable, agreed-upon precepts without them having to be absolute and immutable.

If willful incoherence is itself a moral evil, the you two - and the God-of-the-Bible, are prime examples.

Best regards

Gordon said...


First, Blogger seems to now have a comment feature/bug that may kill a comment under composition if you move away from the page, evidently linked to "collapse comments." [Two earlier versions of this comment have "vanished" . . .]


Now, the just above is passed on moderation, as an example of how NOT to comment in this blog. (PTET, if you want further comments to be passed, you will have to seriously clean up your act. Otherwise only some notes on why your comment was rejected will appear here. Nor will the usual cynical complaints on "censorship" etc [on what grounds do you see such as WRONG?] be entertained -- you have your own blog and I am not blocking you from making your own comments there. But, I will not tolerate ad hominems, turnabout rhetorical tactics, or blasphemy. If you have a serious case to make, argue it seriously, as Ilion has done.)

Some elaboration is necessary:

1 --> Seemingly ex cathedra, both the original poster and another commenter -- persons whom PTET does not know from Adam -- are in the very first sentence dismissed as "just as bad." So, sadly, the whole comes across as an exercise in supercilious, atmosphere-poisoning dismissal in service to a dubious New Atheist, amoral- cum - relativist agenda, not serious reasoned discourse in light of comparative difficulties across live option worldviews.

2 --> Next, and per a check on PTET's blogger profile, the context of the comment clearly seems to be the New Atheist rhetorical attack on Biblical Morality by trying to caricature the God of the Bible [esp. the OT] as a "moral monster."

3 --> In that context, to be sound, the resort to morally and judgementally loaded words that are targetted on fellow humans and even God -- terms like "good," "evil," "willful" etc -- has to be grounded at worldviews level before use. And it is precisely the problem that evolutionary materialism does not and cannot ground morality or mind, as outlined and linked on above. (Thus, there is a begged question of worldview grounding of morality per comparative difficulties.)

4 --> As to the notion of appealing to "agreement" on matters of good and evil substituting for worldview level grounding, this is of course a begging of and distraction from the question. For, as say C S Lewis was fond of pointing out, the indisputable fact is we quarrel -- i.e. disagree on morally loaded issues, sometimes to the level of fighting: as individuals, families, communities and even nations.

5 --> In that context, a relativistic, rhetoric and power games approach to the current "consensus" -- or a faction's agenda -- simply means that power games are deciding morality and imposing it on a cultural level, through power tactics. (Down that sad road lies the defence argument at Nuremberg, where it was asserted that since the duly appointed government reflecting the will of the people of Germany had decided and ruled, those who simply obeyed had no case to answer to. Relativism is what leads to REAL moral monstrosity.)

6 --> By contrast, as C S Lewis went on to point out, HOW we quarrel reveals the underlying objectivity of morality as a fact of experience and observation that we must reckon with if our worldviews are to have any factual warrant: for, we appeal to binding principles of fairness etc, and there is a general consensus that such principles are indeed real, generally accepted across the span of civilisations across history, and binding.

7 --> Indeed, the assumption of that consensus underlies the rhetorical tactics used in the above post! But instead of an above board comparative difficulty analysis [which would rapidly reveal that evolutionary materialism is an amoral system and an incoherent one], the resort is to try to intimidate by seizing rhetorical high ground while skirting the fatal underlying flaw of evolutionary materialism that once seen clearly would warn us off such a view.

8 --> In that context, the slanderous, willfully disrespectful and even blasphemous caricature that the God of the Bible is a "moral monster" is then used to dismiss the time-tested moral framework that has time and again served as a prophetic moral compass that has reformed our civilisation, over thousands of years.

9 --> What a contrast do we see in the true God of the Bible, the God of the Sermon on the Mount and the Decalogue, who calls us, his creatures [and note that the moral standing, powers of decision and action of a creature holding a stewardship of tenancy and a Creator and Judge are different, as we even know from those who have to sit on the judge's bench here below and sentence wrong doers in defence of the community . . . ], to those principles and practices of right that would utterly bless and transform our civilisation for the good. (In short, observe how an unbalanced focus on God's acts of long withheld judgement of nations that through generations-long willful defiance of the right and warnings to turn from the wrong had become utterly corrupt and virulently destructive so had forfeited their tenancy of their land -- as happened twice to Israel by the way -- ever so easily misleads us on the issue of the moral framework we need to pilot out own civilisation through stormy waters ahead.)

10 --> The very God who in love came "according to the [OT] scriptures," living in humble estate, loving, serving, healing, instructing, liberating, suffering oppressive and unjust judgement, dying in our place for our sins [cf the following post in this blog on Is 52 - 53], taking the penalty that was our just due into his own self, then rising [with 500+ witnesses] ascending to glory and pouring out his Holy Spirit to lead us to the right and the good and the truth . . .

11 --> The very God before whom we shall account for our deeds by the standard of him who was risen from the dead; who therefore calls us all to repentance and reformation.


So, the decision for our civilisation is starkly before us: will we run further down the road of Rom 1:18 - 32, to our own ruin [cf Deut 8:17 - 19], or will we wake up and turn back even at this late hour?

For, even at the brink, God now calls out through the mouth of his prophet Jeremiah [in those same despised OT scriptures] that if we repent, he will relent of that strange work, judgement.

And, as the case of Jonah and Nineveh shows, even just one month from doom, he will pull back, out of concern for the many who are caught up in the tidal wave of the sick culture; once its leadership stops its mad path. Moreover, even in the all too aptly parallel case of Sodom and Gomorrah, if he had found just a few truly righteous, he would have stayed the hand of judgment. (A little salt and light goes a long way in a culture; but when that culture seeks to drive out the salt and the light there remains no option but destruction in defence of the rest of the world community. Western Civilisation, we have been warned.)

So, will we repent and seek true reformation as a civilisation [and that STARTS at the church's doorstep . . . ], before it is forever too late?


PS: Another new feature/bug wans on loss of info on trying to preview or post. Blogger has some work to do . . .

Gordon said...

PPS: I invite onlookers and would be commenters to examine the notes here on Government under God.

PPPS: It seems that on Firefox at least, moving away from the page to another tab then returning is enough to trigger loss of comment. I suggest composition elsewhere and then pasting in and posting.

P^4S: Ilion, I have been busy these past days. Thanks for your thoughts.

Ilíon said...

Gordon: "Blogger seems to now have a comment feature/bug that may kill a comment under composition if you move away from the page, ..."

That is why you ought never *compose* a response, or an original post, in any browser window; use a text editor program (I usually simply use WordPad, which comes free with every copy of MS Windows).

Ilíon said...

Fellow temporarily ambulatory bags of chemicals,

The temporarily ambulatory bag of chemicals presently calling itself "PTET" has leveled a charge of argument-in-bad-faith (or, at best, of unwitting self-contradiction) .. and also, a charge of outright hypocrisy ... against Gordon and me (and, really, against all Christians and Jews).

Is this charge something one ought to lose a moment's sleep over? Ought one even entertain the possiblility that that particular temporarily ambulatory bags of chemicals is onto something?

Not at all, and here is why:

It was shown above (and before the charges were made) that charges of such a sort are based on a misunderstanding of what morality is and of its content. That's the best characterization that one might put on this present leveling of charges. Mountains of charges such as PTET has leveled don't change, or even touch, what we've already seen, which is that charges of that sort are erroneous in their very basis.

But, let us pretend that we don't *already* know that PTET's charges are pointless (or, even, beneath contempt, as it was shown previous to their leveling that they are pointless). Let us pretend that all this argumentation is novel to us, that we are all temporarily ambulatory bags of chemicals fresh off the cabbage truck.

PTET charges: "You're a hypocrite! And, you're willfully incoherent!" (i.e. you're a hypocrite about morals and you're a hypocrite about argumentation and reason)

Ilíon: replies: "And? So?"

Ilíon's point in answering PTET from a basis of the worldview he himelf espouses is, of course, to illustrate that PTET is *still* trying to live in the world which he denies-with-his-mouth is the real world. It is ever thus: the pretend atheists can't, and don't even try, to live in the world they assert.

Or, the put the above in a more academic manner:
"7 --> Indeed, the assumption of that consensus underlies the rhetorical tactics used in the above post! But instead of an above board comparative difficulty analysis [which would rapidly reveal that evolutionary materialism is an amoral system and an incoherent one], the resort is to try to intimidate by seizing rhetorical high ground while skirting the fatal underlying flaw of evolutionary materialism that once seen clearly would warn us off such a view."

Gordon said...

Ah Ilion:

You have a point. (Currently I incline to using KompoZer.)

It seems -- provisionally -- that there is a problem with FF 3.0.10, so I have resorted toteh 3.5 Beta. [Ouch . . . ]


Gordon said...


We are at least in part all temporarily ambulatory bags of chemicals.

The question is, are we more than that, and to that question a key hint is that we bags of chemicals expect to be treated fairly; i.e. that we are morally bound.

Why is that?

The only stable answer is, because that is what we were made to be, and that there is more "there" than the visible world of walking bags of chemicals in aqueous medium.

[Chemicals that BTW seem to implement tiny little computers in the cells of our bodies, complete with data storage, instruction storage, in duly digital [4-state] form, and algorithmic, step by step instruction execution. (And the fact that a natural virus ever so frightfully anticipates the computer variety is there to tell us something.) Ever seen a computer that designed, programmed and built itself by chance and blind mechanical forces? And, once we have at least 1,000 bits worth of information capacity in such a system, we are looking at a configuration space of 10^301 states; or ten times the SQUARE of the number of quantum states the observed universe [10^80 atoms or so] could go through across its reasonable lifespan. In short, the idea that islands of such functionality could be achieved by random walks getting to shores of function then allowing relative function amidst further random variation to drive hill-climbing optimisation is begging the question of first credibly getting to first function by Monod's chance and necessity. And, the minimally complex independently viable cell-based life form starts with a genome of ~ 600,000 - 1,000,000 bits capacity. But, observed designers routinely produce such functional systems with at least that level of used information capacity. So, on inference to best, empirically anchored explanation, we have good reason to infer that we are the results of a designer at work.]

All of that said, we are still deeply troubled by the prospect of God's sweeping destructive judgements of nations as the OT so notoriously reports (and BTW, as the NT hints at and in esp. Rev. describes prophetically).

As, well we should. (It is a sign of moral health to be concerned that justice be done, though the heavens fall. [Playing cynical or willful finger-pointing rhetorical oneupmanship games with issues on evils is a very different matter.])

But, in so doing we are ever so often in the position of one who comes by just in time to see a group of men seize another man, bind him, lead him out to a post in front of a wall then level rifles at him and shoot. An awful and on the face of it extremely unfair thing to do.

(Learning that the man in question willfully betrayed secrets that have already cost dozens of thousands of his fellow soldiers their lives and now threatens his nation with irretrievable defeat, as proved in open court martial, makes a big difference.)

So, too, we need to attend seriously to the issue that we just may be accountable as individuals and nations before the Judge of the Earth.

Also, to the further issue that we face not just the judgement of the consequences of folly in a morally ordered world, but that when we reject the voices of correction starting with conscience and going on to those sent to us as prophets in our communities and civilisations, we may put ourselves in a position where our nations may well be weighed in the balances of Divine Justice and found irretrievably wanting.

A status that our own civilisation seems to be rapidly approaching.

Certainly, we need to hear again the words of the Apostle Paul:

>> Ac 17:24"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

29"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." >>

>>Rom 1: 18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.>>


>>Eph 4: 17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. >>

Grace, open our eyes!


Gordon said...

PS: So, let us ask ourselves: have we brought our civilisation to the sad point where it is such a plague upon the earth that our no 1 "security problem" is now the Lord of the heavens?

Ilíon said...

GEM: "We are at least in part all temporarily ambulatory bags of chemicals."

To paraphrase CS Lewis (somewhere in Narnia): to say what a thing is made of is not necessarily to say what it is.But atheism is unable to coherently say that we are other (and more) than 'temporarily ambulatory bags of chemicals.' And that is why I use the term from time to time, especially when dealing with pretend atheists.

GEM: "[Chemicals that BTW seem to implement tiny little computers in the cells of our bodies ... Ever seen a computer that designed, programmed and built itself by chance and blind mechanical forces?...]"

Indeed. Mere chemicals don't do this. Mere computers don't do this.

GEM: "All of that said, ... So, too, we need to attend seriously to the issue that we just may be accountable as individuals and nations before the Judge of the Earth."

God is not mocked; justice will be done.