Godbuster: A Debate With Elliot George

This past week I engaged in a radio debate with an atheist on Unbelievable on Premier Christian Radio (which you can listen to here). My interlocutor was a British atheist, a retired biology teacher who goes by the pseudonym Elliot George. In his book, Godbuster, George attempts to dismantle theistic belief. I knew when I saw the front cover that the book was unlikely to be particularly professional or intellectually challenging. After all, who writes “Dare you read this?” on the front cover of an intellectually serious piece of work? This initial impression was further compounded when I noticed that the book contains no citations or references, except for the occasional in-text citation to YouTube or Wikipedia. Apparently Elliot George was even reliant upon Wikipedia as his source for the ten commandments (p. 125).

The intellectual content of the book is also confronted with severe problems. The book showed little, if any, engagement or interaction with high-level Christian argumentation. No serious Christian arguments were addressed by the book. Instead, George throughout the book persists in attacking strawmen, even redefining terminology to comport with his position.

Redefining Terminologygodbuster

George employs throughout the book a definition of “belief” that differs starkly with the manner in which the word is commonly used in everyday communication. On page 52, George lists the qualities of “facts” vs. “beliefs”. According to George, while facts are “supported by evidence”, beliefs are based on “no supporting evidence” and “no repeatable observations.” I would have to disagree with George on this point. While George is correct to distinguish between beliefs and facts (beliefs are subject to change; facts are not subject to change and are true irrespective of whether people believe them to be so), beliefs can certainly correspond to facts. Beliefs can frequently be based on evidence. Indeed, a search of the scientific literature at PubMed.org reveals many scientific papers where scientists will say that they believe this or that in view of the presented data.

George also seeks to redefine the word “faith” (a common tactic among the new atheists) such that it likewise means adherence to a set of propositions without rational justification — or, as he puts it, “unquestioned, unevidenced belief” (p. 49). What makes “faith” different from “belief” in George’s view? He tells us: “Faith is just a set of beliefs held with more determination but no better justification,” (p.51). On page 39, he asserts that faith is “a system of strongly held but unfounded beliefs” and that “confidence is not faith.” There is a small problem with this, however: the word “confidence” is itself is derived from the Latin con (with) and fides (faith) — it thus literally means, “with faith“! The Greek word translated “faith” in our Bibles is pistis, which carries the connotation of “trust”. It has nothing to do with whether one has good evidence to justify one’s faith. Indeed, faith can be both rationally justified or unjustified.

What sort of faith does the Bible instruct believers to have? In Proverbs 14:15, we read, “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” Furthermore, 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Christians, then, are called to a reasonable faith. There were many apologists among the early ante-nicene church fathers (among them, Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, Tertullian, Origen, etc) who clearly believed that Christianity had strong intellectual merit. Furthermore, many of the apostolic fathers including Peter, Paul, Apollos and Stephen engaged in debate, intellectually contending for the faith. Speaking of Apollos, for instance, the book of Acts (18:28) says of him that “he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.” Faith is defined for us by Theophilus of Antioch in the second century, in his Apology to the pagan Autolycus (book 1, chapter 8):

“Do you not know that faith is the leading principle in all matters? For what husbandman can reap, unless he first trust his seed to the earth? Or who can cross the sea, unless he first entrust himself to the boat and the pilot? And what sick person can be healed, unless first he trust himself to the care of the physician? And what art or knowledge can any one learn, unless he first apply and entrust himself to the teacher? If, then, the husbandman trusts the earth, and the sailor the boat, and the sick the physician, will you not place confidence in God, even when you hold so many pledges at His hand?”

There, faith is clearly defined as being synonymous with trust according to Scripture and church history.

What is Evidence?

Chapter 4 of the book concerns the nature of evidence. I also had some disagreements with this chapter. For example, George claims that personal experiences are “valueless as evidence” (p. 56). Really? Then how, may I ask, does Elliot George know the material world exists? Does he have anything to go on besides his own personal experience?

George further claims on page 65 that “There has been no evidence produced to support the claim that there is any god throughout all of history.” Again, this is a claim that is extremely easy to refute, for George has here confused “no evidence” with “insufficient evidence”. I would adopt a Bayesian understanding of what constitutes “evidence” — that is to say, E is evidence for H if and only if probability of H given E is greater than the probability of H in the absence of E. Thus, it is incontrovertible that there is evidence for the existence of God. But is it sufficient to warrant belief? I would argue so. But that is a separate discussion.

Factual Errors

I identified trivial factual mistakes in the book that could have been avoided by some very simple research. Among them was the claim that “The Bible was edited in the 4th century AD under the command of Emperor Constantine and it has been translated, transcribed and re-edited many times since,” (p 62). No source is provided for this assertion, and no ancient historian would seriously entertain such a claim. On the very next page, George makes a blunder concerning the Qur’an, asserting that it “dates back to the 6th century.” The Qur’an is alleged to have been revealed between 610 and 632 A.D., which would mean that it dates back to the seventh century.

On page 65, George makes a further blunder: “Emperor Constantine even sent one of his women to the ‘holy land’ to search for evidence to support Christianity when he decided to adopt it as the Roman Empire’s State religion.” I have never seen any mention of such a woman being sent to the holy land in any of the primary sources. It is possible that I have missed it, but George’s book provides no citation. As for the Emperor Constantine adopting Christianity as the official state religion of the Empire, that isn’t quite true — although it is a popular misconception. The edict of Milan (313 A.D.) granted religious freedom to the Roman Empire, thus making Christianity permissible.  It was thus an edict of tolerance, not of making Christianity the official religion of the state. With that said, Constantine did grant a great many favors to Christians, exempting the churches from certain taxes, granting them lands, and underwriting the building of basilicas. Non-Christians were required to pay for some of these building projects, and so there may be a grain of truth in George’s assertion. But it was in fact the Emperor Theodosius I (379-395 A.D.) who made Nicene Christianity the official state religion of the Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 A.D.

On page 46, George claims that the birth of Mithras out of a rock was “an event that was celebrated on December 25th”. It is true that Mithras was born out of a rock, but it is not true that his birth was celebrated on December 25th. The festival of the sun, natalis Invicti, was not a festival specific to the Mysteries of Mithras.

He also claims that “3000 yrs ago, the Ancient Romans believed in Dionysus who was born of a virgin on December 25th. He was a travelling teacher who turned water into wine and was called ‘Holy Child’!” This is just completely false. His birth was in fact celebrated on January 6th. He was not born of a virgin, but Zeus sexually impregnated his mother Semele. Moreover, there is no version of the story in which he is ever referred to as “Holy Child”. The Adventures of Leucippe and Clitophon by Achilles Tatius is the earliest possible reference to Dionysus turning water into wine. That was written in the 2nd century A.D. Even if one grants that the myth may have pre-Christian origins, it is a real stretch to interpret this as claiming that Dionysus turned water into wine. The myths purports Dionysus to have introduced wine into the world, calling it “the water of summer and saying “This is the water, this is the spring.”

It may seem like nitpicking to point out some of the above errors. But remember that this book is claiming to occupy the intellectual high ground. The book criticizes religious people for promulgating erroneous information concerning, for instance, evolution. Is it too much, then, to expect the author of such a book to research and present information responsibly?

The Origins of the Universe

Chapter 7 concerns the origins of the Universe, and I agree with George’s arguments for the Big Bang and his conclusion that the Universe had a beginning. What George fails to address, however, are the cosmological and teleological arguments. Indeed, these arguments do not even get a mention in the book!

Arguments for Evolution

George writes that “Evolution simply means change. If you accept that you need a new flu vaccine each year because the flu virus has changed, you are accepting evolution,” (p. 97). Does he really think that this is the bone of contention? I don’t know anybody who would reject the proposition that species change over time — not even young earth creationists would assert that. The question is not “Is evolution by natural selection a real process?” but “Is evolution by natural selection causally sufficient to explain the complexity and diversity of life we see on earth today?” He also notes that “evolution has nothing to say yet about the origin of life; that’s another question.” He is right — but that doesn’t get him off the hook. In order to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, natural mechanisms must be adequate to account for the design-like features of living systems and the information required for the origin of the first life. Information, in every other realm of experience, uniformly traces it source back to an intelligent agent. Thus, the best — most causally adequate — explanation of the information necessary for the first life is that it too arose by virtue of an intelligent agent.

On page 100, George claims that “there is no reason to imagine a boundary between ‘little’ bits of natural selection and ‘big’ bits. Where would you put this ‘boundary’?” There are in fact several reasons, that I have discussed quite at length in my writing, for thinking that there is indeed a limit to what neo-Darwinism can accomplish. For a brief discussion of some of that evidence, I refer readers to my Apologetics315 podcast on evolution and intelligent design.

George proceeds to critique arguments that no intellectually reputable or educated person would make in critique of biological evolution. Such arguments might be entertained by people who have never taken the time to seriously study the subject. But shouldn’t George, since he claims the intellectual high ground, seek to address the best arguments available rather than the worst? Examples of such weak arguments are “Evolution is driven solely by random chance”; “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” and so forth. Furthermore, most of the arguments presented in the chapter attempt to substantiate the proposition of universal common ancestry or that natural selection is a real process. But this falls short of a demonstration of the causal sufficiency of the neo-Darwinian mechanism.

So what about George’s arguments for common ancestry? Do they stand up? His first exhibit is the fossil record. For a critique of this argument, I refer readers to my article here.

His second exhibit is the cellular and molecular evidence. He notes that,

“Early microscopists noticed that all creatures are made of cells and almost every cell contains a nucleus. More recently, electron microscopes have enabled the detection of two other omnipresent cellular organelles, mitochondria and ribosomes and centrifugal fractionation has shown that all cellular organisms have DNA as their genetic material. The ubiquitious nature of these components is an obvious example of common ancestry.

George fails to provide, however, a reason to favor the common ancestry hypothesis over the common design hypothesis. George also mentions that,

“Our recently acquired ability to read the genetic code on the DNA has uncovered facts such as the percentage of genes we humans share with other species: Bacteria share 7% with us, Mustard Cress 15%, Roundworms 21%, Fruit fly 36%, Zebra Fish 85%, Chimpanzee 98%. Notice that the closer you get to human anatomy, the greater the genetic similarity. The best explanation for such progressive commonality is that organisms share a ‘family tree’ with branches coming off an ancestral ‘trunk’; in other words, we have evolved.”

George also deploys the argument from biogeography. For a discussion of that, I refer readers to my article here.

George mentions the argument from suboptimal design, with specific reference to the inverse wiring of the vertebrate retina and the recurrent laryngeal nerve.  For my response to this argument, I refer readers to my article here.

A Poor Case Against Religion

On page 147, George lists ten of what he considers to be the “worst Bible passages, which indicate, in the mind of their readers, approval for sexism, genocide and slavery.” I will provide a brief response to these here.

No. 1. 1 Timothy 2:12

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

Yes, the Apostle Paul does forbid a woman from teaching. But it doesn’t follow that he does not regard men and women as equals. Indeed, in Galatians 3:28 he tells us that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul was a complementarian — and believed that there were different roles that were to be fulfilled by men and women. But this is not to insinuate that men and women are not equal.

No. 2. 1 Samuel 15:3

“This is what the Lord Almighty says… ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

Of course, quite aside from his failure to mention the exceeding wickedness of the Canaanites (such as their ritualistic child sacrifices), George fails to mention the context. In 1 Samuel 27:8, we read,

“Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt.”

Then the Amalekites show up again in 1 Samuel 30. In verse 1, we read:

“Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire.”

It seems quite clear, then, that Soul didn’t wipe out all of the Amalekites. Nor did David complete the job, since 1 Samuel 30:17 tells us that four hundred of them escaped his pursuit. Indeed, they show up again some 250 years later during the time of King Hezekiah (1 Chronicles 4:43)!

Furthermore, the “city of Amalek” spoken of in 1 Samuel 15:5 was most likely a fortified military encampment. The phrae “both man and woman, child and infant…” is probably, as argued by Paul Copan in his book Is God a Moral Monster?, “stereotypical for describing all the inhabitants of a town or region,” and need not imply anything regarding the ages or genders of the people being slain.

No. 3. Exodus 22:18

“Do not allow a sorceress to live.”

Sorcery was a practice that God took very seriously. Under the law of theocratic Israel, the penalty for practicing sorcery was death. This law, however, is no longer applicable today. If Christianity is indeed true, and such genuine sorcery was indeed practiced, then it seems that this is not an unfair punishment.

No. 4. Psalm 137:9

“Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us — he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”

Again, one has to examine the context. The context is the captivity in Babylon. In verses 1-3, the Psalmist speaks of the Babylonians as committing atrocities against God’s people. The Psalmist writes that he wishes that the same be done to Babylon as was done to Israel — that their infants be dashed against the rocks. The psalmist’s request is not necessarily approved of by God, and there is nothing in the context to suggest that it necessarily was.

No. 5. Judges 19:25-28

“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house, where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.”

George comments that “Group rape of servants is permissible according to the Bible! More benefits for men!” The only problem, of course, is that the text nowhere indicates or even suggests that the rape was approved by God. This account is descriptive, not prescriptive.

No. 6. Romans 1:27

“In the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

This may well upset modern western sensibilities but I have no problem with calling homosexuality an immoral practice. In what position is Elliot George to sit as judge and morally critique God?

No. 7. Judges 11:30-31, 34-35

“And Jepthah gave a vow to the Lord, and said, ‘If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord’s, to be offered up by me as a burnt-offering.’ Then Jepthah came into his home at Mizpah; and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her. When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.’”

The vow that Jepthah made here cannot have been pleasing to God, since his vow was made in order to purchase favor, not to express gratitude to God. In any case, it seems to me unlikely that Jepthah really did offer his daughter as a burnt offering. That would have been an abomination to the Lord. Rather, it seems more likely that she was to be offered as a “living sacrifice”. She was to live a life consecrated to the Lord’s service, remaining unmarried and apart from her family.

Number 8: Genesis 22

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

Again, George completely misses the context. Isaac was the promised covenant son that God had given to Abraham. God was testing Abraham’s faith in God’s integrity in keeping His promises. Abraham knew that God would not go back on His word to bless all nations through Isaac and to found a people (namely, Israel) through him.

Number 9: Ephesians 5:22

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord!”

George claims that this constitutes “Biblical authorization of misogyny” but really it is nothing of the kind. Believing that wives ought to submit to their husbands is not misogyny, and George would have done well to read the context. Here are verses 22-25:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,”

The relationship between the husband and his wife is intended to typify the relationship between Christ and the church. Just as the church walks in full submission to Christ and Christ loves the church to the extent that He was willing to lay down His life for her, so the wife ought to submit to her husband and the husband ought to love his wife self-sacrificially. One could even argue that the bar is far higher for a husband than for a wife. There is no greater or honorable love than that which is self-sacrificial even to the point of laying down one’s own life.

Number 10: 1 Peter 2:18

“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.”

What George fails to mention is that slave trading is explicitly condemned in Scripture (1 Timothy 1:20; Exodus 21:16). Peter in the cited text acknowledges that slavery exists and gives instructions to slaves to serve their masters well and so be a good witness to them for Christ — this text does not condone slavery.

Conclusion

This review represents only a brief summary of some of the problems with the book. There are many more problems with George’s position than I have the time or inclination to address. Can Elliot George defend his position under cross examination? Listen to the debate to find out.

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31 replies
    • blindman says:

      That would be a question to pose to the hosts of the debate rather than McLatchie.
      I agree that Elliot George did an absolutely horrible job in this debate. As an Atheist, it was embarrassing to listen to. He showed no understanding of epistemology or the Philosophy of Science, seemed completely taken unawares by simple and common objections to his arguments, and demonstrated little knowledge of the science as well.
      His only defense was that he was writing his book so that 8 year olds could understand it. Yeah, nice job there.
      He can do all of us atheists a favor by never speaking in public about religion or atheism again.

      Reply
    • Terry L says:

      blindman, this Christian agrees with practically everything you said. The greatest service he could do to atheism is to keep silent.

      He kept repeating that once you had established something by evidence, then you didn’t believe it anymore. Instead, he preferred to say, “The evidence shows that X…”

      When asked if he believed his own book, he responded that the evidence shows that his conclusions were correct, leaving the laughable conclusion that he doesn’t “believe” what he wrote.

      I only wish Jonathan or Justin had asked him if he actually believed that “once you had established something by evidence, then you didn’t believe it anymore”, or if he had evidence for that. That in itself is a philosophical statement and a presupposition. His position is generously described as a house of cards… it offers him no shelter and doesn’t stand up under the slightest amount of pressure.

      If I had paid good money for my child to be taught by this man, I would be demanding a refund!

      Reply
  1. Greg says:

    You say, “The vow that Jephthah made here cannot have been pleasing to God, since his vow was made in order to purchase favor, not to express gratitude to God.”

    If Jephthah’s vow was not pleasing to Yahweh, why did he give Jephthah victory in battle? Funny how you omit from your reference above the very verse that indicates that Yahweh actually did accept Jephthah’s vow. Judges 11:32 “So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon (after he made his vow) to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands”. Who delivered them into his hands?

    You also fail to mention that the verses that follow your citation above indicate that Jephthah’s daughter told her father not to go back on his vow because God had kept his end of the bargain and given him victory over Israel’s enemies. Judges 11:36 “And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.” What does “the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee” mean to you?

    And what exactly was Jephthah’s vow? Judges 11:31 “Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” Isn’t “return in peace” another way of saying “return victorious”? Remember, we are talking about a “burnt offering” vow here.

    So, Jephthah needed an extra “boost” in battle to assure victory. Jephthah believed, as did other early canonical contributors, that human sacrifices to Yahweh could be efficacious. So he vowed to offer as a burnt offering, the first thing that came out of his house on his victorious return from battle. Some apologists inaccurately describe Jephthah’s vow as “rash”. Where they get such an idea is a mystery. The text nowhere says anything about his vow being rash, reckless, evil or inappropriate. He did mourn when he realized who he would have to offer as a sacrifice to fulfill his vow, because his only daughter happened to be the one most anxious to see him upon his return. But the text does not say that he should not have made the vow. With her words his daughter affirms the early Israelite belief, identical to that of the early Canaanites, that the gods accepted human sacrifice for special help from the deity. She tells her father, you owe this to Yahweh, you spoke it with your mouth, Yahweh gave you victory, do with me as you have vowed. Jephthah allows her to go to the mountains for a time to mourn her impending death with her friends. When she returns he fulfills his vow and offers her as a burnt offering, just as the text says. Judges 11:39 “And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man.” Many apologists try to spin the end of verse 39 and claim that Jephthah found an alternative and simply kept her as a perpetual virgin unto Yahweh as a sort of substitute for his vow. However, the most obvious interpretation of “and she knew no man” would be, she knew no man because “dead virgins” are “perpetual virgins”. It’s a poetic way of saying she did not survive to give Jephthah children, she died while a virgin. Even the rabbinical tradition supports the belief that Jephthah actually did sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering unto Yahweh.

    The final apologetic strategy to discredit the notion that Yahweh would have supported or condoned Jephthah’s vow is to refer to the last verse in the book of Judges. Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Do you accept this view that Jephthah would have been one of the unrighteous individuals that Yahweh would not have honored? If you do then you are at odds with the author of Hebrews who praises Jephthah in 11:32-34 making him part of his “Hall of Faith”, people of god that did great things in his name.

    Your interlocutor’s book may not present his arguments in a manner that satisfies your scholarly standards, nor may I, but I’m afraid his interpretation of this passage is more accurate and honest than yours. Only a pre-commitment to biblical inerrancy and the harmony of scripture will result in the interpretation you defend.

    If you desire something more scholarly for your listeners on this subject why not refer them to Paul Copan’s book “Is God A Moral Monster”? His is standard apologetic fair for explaining away the abhorrent texts of the old testament. But don’t stop there. If you want them to be truly educated you should also suggest that they read Thom Stark’s critical review of “Moral Monster”. It can be found in Kindle format for free on the internet. Just google it. Reading them side-by-side is very enlightening.

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert on passages like this (or on much of the Old Testament, for that matter), but a few of your questions make unfounded assumptions.

      You say that, “Yahweh actually did accept Jephthah’s vow”, using Judges 11:32 to defend your claim. However, this verse merely states that God delivered the Ammonites into Jephthah’s hands; it does not state that the vow was the reason he did so.

      When my children were smaller, they often would beg for a toy or something that I fully intended to give them anyway, but before I actually got it for them, they would offer crazy promises to try to “persuade” me. These rash promises had no impact on my decision. I did not ask for them, I did not want them, and I certainly did not intend to hold them to it. I gave them the item because it was my desire to do so, not because of them. This may or may not have been what happened here, but your conclusion doesn’t directly follow from the verse you gave.

      You say, “The text nowhere says anything about his vow being rash, reckless, evil or inappropriate.” This neglects the condemnation of human sacrifice elsewhere in scripture. Even if Jephthah and his daughter both believed that this would help them, their belief doesn’t make what they believe true. The Bible records many things that people believed that were not true, and as we’ll see, many followers of God did things that God did not condone.

      On that note, you say, “If you [accept that Jephthah was unrighteous in this], then you are at odds with the author of Hebrews who praises Jephthah in 11:32-34 making him part of his “Hall of Faith”, people of god that did great things in his name.”

      Also in that list, you will find a drunkard (Noah), a coward (Abraham, who twice failed to trust in God’s protection and demanded that his wife lie and say she was his sister), a cheater (Jacob), a scoffer (Sara), a murderer (Moses), a prostitute (Rahab), a brawler (Samson), an adulterer (David) and others.

      The Bible doesn’t hide the humanness of its heroes… even the greatest heroes of the faith were human and sinful men. They all did great things, but they were greatly fallen as well.

      Christianity is not the story of perfect people; it is the story of a fallen people redeemed by a perfect savior. As the Bible tells of David’s sin with Bathsheba, and then calls him a man after God’s own heart and a hero of the faith, I have no problem taking this story at face value… he vowed rashly, and then kept his vow, and understanding that he was still a man who, though imperfect, loved his God and tried to do what was right.

      And I don’t agree that interpreting “and she knew no man” as “she was killed and offered as a burnt offering” is the “most obvious” explanation. That would be an odd introduction of poetic language into historical narrative. While I don’t contend that he absolutely did NOT kill his daughter, I think your statement overstates the case.

      Reply
      • Greg says:

        Your desire to domesticate this story to help it fit into the cannon is the very reason I said, “only a pre-commitment to biblical inerrancy and the harmony of scripture will result in the interpretation you defend.” If you read this story in any text other than the bible you would say that the deity in the story did in fact deliver the protagonist due to his vow and you would condemn the vow, the warrior, the deity and the sacrifice as evil. If you found a story like this in the Quran you would parade it around in your apologetic arguments as evidence of the the evil of Islamic ideology. I’m sure you don’t hesitate to trumpet the wickedness of the Canaanites because the bible says they sacrificed their children to Molech. But, because the story of Jephthah is in the bible you are willing to totally deny its logic and flow. If your take on the story were correct it would read like this:

        29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.

        No verse 30 or 31

        32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands.
        33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

        No verses 34-40

        The End

        What is the writers purpose for including all the verses I omitted above? If his purpose was to condemn any detail of the vow, he failed. Why include verses 30-31 and 34-40? I can see no reason other than to affirm the value of human sacrifice, the most valuable sacrifice a man could make. As I pointed out, the story absolutely stresses the point that if Yahweh grants the request for which you make a vow you must, no matter how painful it may be, fulfill the vow.

        There are other examples in the bible of Yahweh directing Israelites to sacrifice humans. But Frank Turek and his companions at Cross Examined will never concede this, regardless of the logic they have to deny.

        Oh, and I would argue that this story is a tragedy or historical fiction at best, not historical narrative.

        Reply
        • Terry L says:

          My desire is to correctly understand what the text itself says, not to read into it what it does not say. I don’t argue that the explanations I gave above are what happened, only that they are not incompatbile with the text. (English text that is… I don’t read Hebrew.)

          If you read this story in any text other than the bible you would say that the deity in the story did in fact deliver the protagonist due to his vow and you would condemn the vow, the warrior, the deity and the sacrifice as evil.

          I don’t have to have it in any other book to condemn the vow: (But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. –James 5:2) What Jephthah did was rash, and foolish. He professed to believe that he was in the right (vv 14-27) and even called upon God to judge between Israel and the Ammonites. But he evidently didn’t believe that to be enough; so in a lack of faith, he attempted to bribe the almighty with an offering, as if God were a man whose attention could be bought rather than the Sovereign God of the universe. Where in scripture does God demand or even endorse such a vow? Where does he say he will honor such a vow?

          Therefore, I have no problem condeming the vow, and the foolish warrior who made it. If he carried it out by the letter of his vow, I have no trouble condemning that as well. I see no reason to hold God responsible for the hasty and foolhardy actions of his servant.

          Neither do I condone David’s adultery with Bathsheba. Nor did God, as scripture makes very clear. Regardless, God did bring Solomon from their union. God blesses us even when we screw up. So it’s not evident from scripture that God gave Jephthah the victory because of the vow… as I see it, it was in spite of the vow!

          If you found a story like this in the Quran you would parade it around in your apologetic arguments as evidence of the the evil of Islamic ideology.

          Irrelevant. Calling an ideology evil is not the same as calling a deity evil. But to your claim, I tend to take each word for what it means. I wouldn’t condemn Allah for any apparently-evil thing the Quran might say that Mohammed did, unless he was SPECIFICALLY acting under the orders or the blessings of Allah. And even then, that would beg the question of whose morality to use… the God of the Bible’s or Allah’s? If Allah is truly God, then would it be possible for him to issue an immoral command?

          I’m sure you don’t hesitate to trumpet the wickedness of the Canaanites because the bible says they sacrificed their children to Molech.

          You are correct, sir. Again, I condemn the Canaanites for this… not Molech.

          What is the writers purpose for including all the verses I omitted above?

          Perhaps to accurately relate what happened? To tell the truth? Embarrassing details are considered an evidence for the authenticity of the text. As you have astutely pointed out, no one who was making up such a story would have put this in… unless it actually happened and the integrity of the story was more important to the writer than making it palatable to his readers.

          Oh, and I would argue that this story is a tragedy or historical fiction at best, not historical narrative.

          If it’s a fiction, then it says nothing about the God who lives, or even about any human named Jephthah. It’s just an exercise in creative writing, so what’s the big deal?

          Reply
          • Greg says:

            You say, “My desire is to correctly understand what the text itself says, not to read into it what it does not say.” I would argue that your desire is to read “out of it” what it does say.

          • Greg says:

            One other thing that I can’t get out of my head. If Yahweh was strong enough and involved enough to deliver Ammon into Jephthah’s hand why would he not also tell Jehpthah, “Hey dude, don’t sacrifice your daughter to me. I’m not into that. I didn’t deliver Ammon into your hands because of your vow. I did it because that was what I planned to do anyway.” If Yahweh would have just taken a few seconds to let Jehpthah know his sacrifice was unnecessary he would have spared his daughter. Poor girl.

          • Terry L says:

            OK, easy to hard!

            If Yahweh would have just taken a few seconds to let Jehpthah know his sacrifice was unnecessary he would have spared his daughter.

            The point is, Jephthah should have known this already. He should have known this when he made such a foolish vow. Why would Yahweh be bound to tell him what he already knows? God had never demanded a human sacrifice; why would Jephthah take it upon himself to offer one?

            You say, “My desire is to correctly understand what the text itself says, not to read into it what it does not say.” I would argue that your desire is to read “out of it” what it does say.

            I’m not the one who has brought the assumption that God approved of Jephthah’s vow to the text. I simply read the text for exactly what it said… no more, no less.

            That said, it’s still a difficult passage. I don’t deny that.

            Would you condemn the actions of the deity if he commanded honor killings?

            This a bit of a front-loaded question… on the order of “have you stopped beating your children?”

            First of all, let’s unpack the unspoken assumptions in your question (not commenting on the validity of each assumption yet):

            1. By “the deity”, you mean the God of the Bible.
            2. Good and evil actually exist as objective categories.
            3. Honor killings are evil.
            4. God is good.
            5. God’s character is the source and standard of good and goodness.(a)
            6. It is possible for “the deity” to command honor killings.

            (a) If you disagree, please let me know what source you had in mind.

            We have several options here:

            A. All of the above assumptions are true.

            This leads to a contradiction, as the being whose behavior is the standard for goodness cannot issue an immoral command. This is like saying that a perfect object has a flaw, or that a circle is square. It makes no logical sense.

            B. Assumption 1 is false.
            Then the rest can be true, as this “deity” and God are not the same being. This is a false god, and his commands may be condemned by the standard of God’s character.

            C. Assumptions 2 and 3 are false.

            If 2 is false, then 3 is necessarily false. If there is no objective morality, then it is impossible for honor kilings to be evil. No action or command is worthy of condemnation, because evil does not exist.

            D. Assumption 3 is false.

            If we have incorrectly classified an action as evil when it truly isn’t, then yes, a perfectly-good God can issue that command. While we might condemn the command, we have no basis in fact by which to do so, as our condemnation is based on a faulty assumption.

            E. Assumptions 4 and/or 5 are false.

            This would assume a standard of Goodness external to God and to which God is obligated. You will have to introduce such a standard and explain why all men, and God Himself, are bound by this standard before we can evaluate the command.

            F. Assumption 6 is false.

            This clarifies that it is impossible for a perfectly-good God to commit or command a truly evil action. This does not speak to our perception of an action’s morality, only to its true nature.

            In this case, the command could never be issued, so there is nothing to condemn.

            TL;DR (Yeah, I know they usually go at the front…)

            In other words, if any entity issues a truly immoral command, then I wholeheartedly condemn that command based on the holiness and perfection of God’s goodness. It is illogical to think that any command issued by God could be less than holy, because he is the standard and definition of Goodness and Holiness.

          • Greg says:

            Let me be brief. Do you condemn the honor killings that are widespread in the Muslim world? If so, how can you affirm that a loving, holy god inspired Deuteronomy 22:13:21? Although their are many others, this one portion of scripture is to me more than enough information to conclude that the bible as self-refuting.

            You have to ignore or spin a lot of scripture to conclude that in early Israelite religion Yahweh did not expect the sacrifice of the first born son. And that Israel, just like their ANE neighbors, the very people groups out of which they arose, didn’t believe in it’s efficacy. The stories of Abraham and Isaac, King Mesha and his son, Jephthah and his daughter, the herem sacrifice of the Canaanites, Micah 6:6-8, Ezekiel 20:18-26, David’s handing over of seven of Saul’s descendants to the Gibeonites to appease Yahweh’s wrath and end the drought, even the atonement theology related to Jesus crucifixion is an affirmation of the efficacy of human sacrifice. Some scripture affirms it, some condemns it. But I know these are just “supposed” contradictions to you.

            By your logic then, if God commanded us to torture babies for pleasure that would be a righteous command because he cannot issue an unrighteous command? Whatever he does is righteous because he does it? No matter what? He is not obligated, as our example, to demonstrate a coherent ethic for us to follow? I think you have gone too far in your desire to make excuses for him. I’m not saying there is no god I just think Yahweh fails the test. I was totally blinded to this reality for 48 years of my life. Grew up in the church, son of a baptist minster, Christian university, worship leader, rockin along, then I read some scholarship that exposed the bible and Yahweh for what I now believe they are; just another creation of man.

            You say, “(a) If you disagree, please let me know what source you had in mind.” I do disagree because I think the source you affirm is inconsistent and capricious.

            The bible is so self-refuting I think it is a waste of time for those that argue against it to cite data from outside of it’s pages. They are filled with disqualifying information. The honest application of logic makes this obvious.

          • Terry L says:

            Whatever he does is righteous because he does it?

            No.

            That’s backward. A dog isn’t dog-like because he acts like a dog; he acts like a dog because he IS a dog. Actions flow from the nature of the being. The standard of morality (which must be a personal being, because only persons care about behavior) cannot possibly commit, command, or condone an immoral action. This being’s actions do not define morality; their character… their nature… does, and their actions flow from their nature. If they are the standard, then there IS no standard external to them by which one can say they are immoral!

            You obviously believe that torturing babies for pleasure is wrong. I agree with you. But what you haven’t defended is *why* it’s wrong. You gave a non-answer to my question of what standard you have in mind. You simply say you disagree with me that the God of the Bible is the standard of morality, but you fail to say what standard you hold to be the source of moral definition.

            However, to make this assertion, you are saying that you know that the God of the Bible is immoral… which means that you must know the true standard of morality.

            So if the Biblical God is not the standard, who is?

            He is not obligated, as our example, to demonstrate a coherent ethic for us to follow?

            Of course.

            Is it possible for a perfectly moral being to do an action that seems to be immoral to an immoral being? Wouldn’t the nature of an immoral being, by definition, often approve immorality.

            Further, is it possible for beings with limited knowledge to miss the bigger picture? That’s what often happens with the Canaanites. People overlook that God gave them 400 years to repent and turn from their immorality before sending the promised judgement. They also overlook that as the giver of life, God has the right to take life whenever and however he chooses.

            And you also have to be careful to discriminate between what the scripture records and what it condones. If you remove all of the things from the Bible that happened that God does not approve of, there wouldn’t be much left!

            If so, how can you affirm that a loving, holy god inspired Deuteronomy 22:13-21?

            The key word in your question is “holy”. Can a holy God ignore sin?

            Again, the standard of morality cannot possibly commit, command, or condone an immoral action. To answer “no” to your question requires that one of the following be true:

            1. God is being immoral.

            If you think this, then by what standard do you judge him?

            2. God is being unloving.

            But God is more than just loving… he’s also holy (as you pointed out). Is it loving to permit sin to go unpunished? If your oldest child continually beats on your youngest, is it loving to allow him to continue without consequence, or is it more loving to discipline the offender?

            3. We are mistaken about what the consequences of harlotry should have been in that time, place, and culture.

            In other words, beings with limited knowledge don’t understand the big picture.

            4. We are mistaken about how bad the offence of harlotry is.

            In other words, immoral beings by nature affirm immoral actions.

            [T]he atonement theology related to Jesus crucifixion is an affirmation of the efficacy of human sacrifice.

            This might be true IF Jesus was a mere human. This is clearly not what the Bible teaches. Jesus was the God-Man… fully human, but fully God also. Who offered the sacrifice? God did. As God, Jesus was not an unwilling participant in the Crucifixion. He gave his life freely.

            Why could he do this? Because, as he affirmed to Pilate, he was a King! As King, he was the representative of all of his subjects. If we submit to his Lordship, we become a part of his kingdom, and his sacrifice on Calvary becomes efficacious to us. If we reject his Lordship and remain in rebellion to him, then we renounce his kindom; and his sacrifice cannot represent us.

            I was totally blinded to this reality for 48 years of my life…

            (Oddly enough, everything you wrote, up until “then I read…” is my biography.)

            So what do you believe now about moral and immoral people? What happens at death to the wicked and the righteous?

            Thanks for your responses! I’m enjoying this exchange!

            -tl

          • Greg says:

            I’ve conceded this point before for the sake of discussion. I will concede that the god of the bible is the objective standard for good and evil. There is no other standard outside of his righteousness by which we can define morality. If we refuse to accept the standard given to us in the pages of the bible we are left with no standard by which to judge. If we reject the god of the bible as the standard we are destined for moral relativism. Have I gone far enough? If not, I will agree to any other precision you require. If you demand however, because of the preceding statements, that we can therefore never call into question anything the biblical writers say about god then there is no sense in proceeding. If the possibility that the biblical writers may have gotten god wrong is a conclusion that we will not consider then I’m not interested.

            I will not agree to refrain from scrutinizing what the writers say about god’s actions and expecting there claims to be consistent. I cannot submit to Paul’s threat that warns “who are you oh man who answers back to god?”. I’m not answering back to god. I’m answering back to men. I’m calling into question the writers of the bible. If we are going to demand that the bible be the standard it is only fair that we be very precise and unyielding in our expectation that it be consistent. I think it is also fair to assume, for the sake of our discussion, that all of god’s commands and laws should be followed and fairly applied in all situations. No individual gets a free pass. What’s righteous and fair punishment for one person is equally righteous and fair for another. There can also be no distinction or variance in how god’s laws or commands impact various groups of people. Slave and free, king and peasant, male and female, rich and poor, Jew and Greek, handicapped and non-handicapped, religious leader and follower should all be treated equally.

            If we cannot entertain the possibility that the bible is perhaps nothing more than a book written by men then I refuse to play the game. If we are going to agree that our brains came from god I am going to use mine and refuse to make excuses for the god described in the pages of the bible. I will not accept “Junior Varsity” answers, harmonizations or apologetics for “Varsity” issues. After all possible explanations or interpretations of a story or text are considered I will accept the most logical no matter the ramifications of that acceptance.

            I think I’ve asked you this before but, do you believe the honor killings in the Muslim world are evil? If so, by what standard would you call them evil? If your answer is the bible, which I think it would have to be, why was it ok for the ancient Israelites to practice honor killings just like modern day Muslims do? Why is this considered a heinous act today but three thousand years ago it was necessary to keep Israel pure? By the way, I imagine you would argue that Jesus and the new covenant did away with such barbaric practices. I would argue that the only reason they stopped these practices was the fact that they lost their theocratic rule and were to a large degree secularized by the diaspora. Back to Deut. 22. If you lived in ancient Israel or even modern Israel and Moses or someone with his authority told you “your daughter has to be stoned because she has fornicated and hidden it from her husband” would you conform? Would you stand by as the men of your community killed her on your front porch? Especially if you knew that your new son-in-law would only be beaten and fined if he had lied about her lack of purity. And would you accept his fine money and let this scum bag that has falsely accused her and put her life at risk take her as his bride and never divorce her? I hope you would rebel against such a command as barbaric and misogynistic. I have a daughter and that is a system I would be willing to give my life to oppose and I would take Moses and as many of my neighbors as possible with me. This is the kind of thing Hussein or Gaddafi would endorse. ISIS might say Moses had the wrong god and execution technique but they wouldn’t have any trouble saying the amen to this command. And why is the man not stoned? If he had accused your daughter of being a whore and you couldn’t come up with the evidence to prove him wrong she is dead. And I think everyone will agree that science has proven that not every virgin has an internal tearing that results in bleeding during her first intercourse. Surely Yahweh would have known this and realized the potential for a misreading of the evidence and the unjust execution that might follow, but apparently he didn’t. Do you see why this passage seems to me so likely to have just been the writings of ancient near eastern men who were the product of a misogynistic, patriarchal society and not the inspired commands of a loving and impartial god? Again, I would argue that god does have to be impartial (fair) because the bible says he is impartial. The punishment for both should be the same in this and all situations. Can’t you see it? And please stop with the “is” does not mean “ought” defense. These are commands, supposedly, straight from god’s profit Moses to his people. They must be credited to Yahweh’s doing. The bible says these laws are perfect.

            In Matthew 7:9-12 the bible says that god is better than us. The writer describes a standard of goodness that we, evil men that we are, abide by in our dealings with other humans. If you would not stand by and watch as your daughter was stoned to death for an indiscretion or act of passion and god is better than you, I don’t think he would inspire such a text.

            It’s really frustrating debating with someone knowing that they will never concede any meaningful point. And, the sad truth is that you can’t make even one concession or your whole belief system is in jeopardy.

            I also enjoy our discourse. I’d love for someone to convince me I’ve erred. Life would be much easier. I’m a closet skeptic. You know, bible belt and all? Still go to church, still pay my tithe, still love my wife, faithful and devoted to her for almost 30 years, not an atheist, maybe hopeful agnostic or Universalist.

          • Terry L says:

            Greg:

            Apologies for being away so long.

            You said, “ I will concede that the god of the bible is the objective standard for good and evil. … Have I gone far enough?

            I’ll accept that, with the sole clarification that the standard is God’s character and nature, not his commands. Can we agree on that?

            (In fact, I think you may have actually overstated the case, but I don’t think it will harm the dialog, so unless it does, we’ll let that rabbit get away.)

            You continue, “If you demand however, because of the preceding statements, that we can therefore never call into question anything the biblical writers say about god then there is no sense in proceeding.“”

            I make no such demands; however, I do insist on considering all logical possibilities. This is a logical possibility that must be considered. Others include translation errors, misunderstandings by the reader, et al. We have the right to consider all of these.

            If we are going to demand that the bible be the standard it is only fair that we be very precise and unyielding in our expectation that it be consistent.

            Just for clarity, what standard are we demanding the bible to be? Good and Evil? I deny this, and so have you; for the purpose of our conversation at least, the standard of Good and Evil is the character of God.

            The Bible contains many tales of evil, even evil done by what we would call good men, that God does not endorse. But as it reveals God to us, it reveals the standard to us.

            I think it is also fair to assume, for the sake of our discussion, that all of god’s commands and laws should be followed and fairly applied in all situations. No individual gets a free pass.

            And here we have our first problem. That’s why Jesus came… to offer us all a “free” pass!

            While I will gladly agree that all men should always obey God’s laws at all times, places, and circumstances, only God is able to fairly apply that law in all situations, and even he chooses not to do so. He offers grace, which is a way to avoid the harsher penalties of the law by allowing the bulk of the wrath earned by the law’s transgression to fall on Jesus at Calvary. Because of this, Christians are not under the law, but under grace.

            The goal of the Christian is now to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ. As we are, we obey more and more of the law. Not to avoid it’s penalties, but as a loving response to God who loved us enough to offer us such grace.

            So our understanding of what is fair, and how mercy and grace impacts the execution of justice is very limited.

            If you’re reading the Bible as a list of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots”, then you’ve missed the entire point. The point is, no man can keep the moral law… therefore we’re all condemned already before God. Jesus offers Himself and his death on Calvary to us, if you want him, as fulfillment of the penalty of the law, so that we can stand before God as if we had never sinned at all.

            do you believe the honor killings in the Muslim world are evil?

            The unwarranted taking of an innocent life by one without the right to take it is always evil.

            If so, by what standard would you call them evil? If your answer is the bible, which I think it would have to be,

            My standard is the character of God. What did Christ do with the woman taken in adultery?

            Did he condone her sin? No. He forgave her, and then said, “Go… and sin no more.” Then he paid for her sins on Calvary.

            why was it ok for the ancient Israelites to practice honor killings just like modern day Muslims do?

            Chapter and verse please? To what incident or law do you refer? (Oh, Deut. 22…. you included it later.)

            By the way, I imagine you would argue that Jesus and the new covenant did away with such barbaric practices….

            I agree more with you. Those laws were for Israel under direct rule by God. I’m sure that the priests would even directly consult with him before such a punishment was handed out–there were severe consequences to taking the life of an innocent, so I’m sure they wouldn’t want to execute someone without just cause.

            When Saul became King over Israel, God told Samuel, “They have not rejected you… they have rejected me.” That was the beginning of the end of the theocracy.

            …. I hope you would rebel against such a command as barbaric and misogynistic. I have a daughter and that is a system I would be willing to give my life to oppose and I would take Moses and as many of my neighbors as possible with me.

            Do you fully understand what you would be doing in that culture and context? I don’t claim that this was a perfect solution, even though it was put in place by a perfect God. But would you consider that it might have been far better than many (if not all) alternatives at that time?

            No system of justice is perfect, because it is implemented (at least in part) by imperfect men. If God had chosen, he could have acted directly, but he chose not to do so. If God himself brought your daughter to your door and said, “Your child has sinned and she is worthy of death”, would you agree with him?

            If so, and if God told them that a woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night is worthy of death. How many times does he have to say it before it is true?

            And regarding the treament of a woman falsely accused, rightly or wrongly, women were treated differently in that culture, and a woman who was unmarried was usually looking at begging or prostitution for survival. The provisions God put in place that you find abhorrent may have been for her protection.

            And why is the man not stoned? If he had accused your daughter of being a whore and you couldn’t come up with the evidence to prove him wrong she is dead.

            And if he is stoned, she is a widow, and once again, begging or prostituting herself. The law in essence made him her lifetime provider. Not a very romantic marriage, I’m sure… but marriage in the Old Testament was rarely about romance. We can’t look at it through 21st century eyes.

            And I think everyone will agree that science has proven that not every virgin has an internal tearing that results in bleeding during her first intercourse.

            I agree. And I’ve wondered about that.

            However, I also think that the writings contain several example situations that do not necessarily cover the entire range of possibilities. For instance, the passage about a rape in a field indicates the general case where a woman was raped, but could not be heard calling for help. I think that this could also be applied, even if the rape happened in a part of town where no one was at. The point was, she was given the benefit of a doubt when she might have called for help, but no one could hear.

            Perhaps this is the case here as well… there may have been other evidence (including the priest’s consultation with God himself) that might be presented to clear her.

            The bible says these laws are perfect.

            The law of God is perfect. Transgression of the law is sin. The wages of sin is death. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Therefore, we all stand with a capitol sentence of death over our heads. If you want to enforce the letter of the law, then no innocent has ever died (other than Christ). We’re ALL worthy of death.

            If you would not stand by and watch as your daughter was stoned to death for an indiscretion or act of passion and god is better than you

            (Of course, we don’t do that anymore, but I digress.)

            Your statement assumes that by not standing by and watching, I am in a morally-higher position. Does our inability to agree that what God says is worthy of death actually IS worthy of death indicate a moral defect in God, or in us?

            However, the highest law is love! That’s the law enshrined in the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord with all that you are, and your neighbor as yourself. God demonstrated this law by taking on himself the penalty… our penalty… for all of our sin. That is truly an injustice… Jesus never deserved to die, but he gave his life willingly so that all of the sin we’ve discussed could be forgiven.

            It’s really frustrating debating with someone knowing that they will never concede any meaningful point. And, the sad truth is that you can’t make even one concession or your whole belief system is in jeopardy.

            I will not concede (except for the sake of argument) any point I believe to be true, and I don’t expect you or anyone else to do the same.

            There are certainly difficulties in the text. I’ll never deny that. There are parts that I don’t understand, and parts where, yes, God does seem to be inconsistent. But all of my experience tells me that it’s more likely me, or my knowledge that is inconsistent. Therefore, I take those parts by faith… not blindly, but based on the other evidence I have.

            I’d love for someone to convince me I’ve erred. Life would be much easier.

            God is closer than you think. He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him with all their hearts. Keep seeking for truth… raw, unvarnished, truth with no preconceptions and as far as is possible, no filters. I’m convinced that when you find it, you’ll find God there waiting for you.

            -tl

          • Greg says:

            You say, “I’ll accept that, with the sole clarification that the standard is God’s character and nature, not his commands. Can we agree on that?”

            What does this even mean? How can god’s commands not be considered a part of, an extension of, a reflection of his character? Can a command come forth out of the mouth of god without being a perfect reflection of his character and nature? If it can you can’t say god is perfect.

            You say, “Just for clarity, what standard are we demanding the bible to be? Good and Evil? I deny this, and so have you; for the purpose of our conversation at least, the standard of Good and Evil is the character of God. The Bible contains many tales of evil, even evil done by what we would call good men, that God does not endorse. But as it reveals God to us, it reveals the standard to us.”

            I know the bible tells of evil things done by men that god does not endorse. You’re obfuscating. In referencing Deut. 22:13 I am very, very clearly not asking you about an evil thing done by men that god does not endorse. I can read and I can distinguish between things that god does and does not endorse. I am asking you about an evil thing done by men that god supposedly instructed, endorsed, commanded and told Moses to write in the Pentateuch. And you can’t lay the blame for the inconsistency in the punishment for the man at the feet of the Israelites by saying “this was a very patriarchal society, women were treated like property”. Indeed it was, and Yahweh, according to Moses, endorsed that too. This is god talking here and he supposedly told Moses to inscribe the instruction to simply give the man a beating and fine him for potentially endangering the woman’s life. Yahweh said kill the woman but only punish and fine the man. Yahweh said it. Good orthodox doctrine says that Moses, under the inspiration of the holy spirit, wrote this infallible, immutable command for Israel to follow. There’s no wiggle room here.

            Are you trying to say that the perfect character and nature of god is not reflected in the bible? I assume you are an inerrantist. If you are I would think you would have no choice but to affirm that god’s character is perfectly reflected in the bible. So why is it imprecise to use the terms god and the bible interchangeably when talking about his nature, character and the objective standard for good and evil?

            I said, “do you believe the honor killings in the Muslim world are evil?

            You said, “The unwarranted taking of an innocent life by one without the right to take it is always evil.”

            Again, you are obfuscating. Why do you refuse to answer this question? I assume because you think it is loaded. If the family next door to you is Persian and the dad and brothers murder one of the daughters because she had sex before she was married (married to a Muslim, Iranian man of her father’s choosing no less) would what they did be evil? If your answer it yes, I ask you again, by what standard? Do you not see why I think Deut. 22:13 could not have been inspired by a loving god? It is a reflection of an ancient barbaric culture that had barbaric, misogynistic practices. Sadly, many middle eastern tribes and sects are still driven to murder by these antiquated religious ideas. Are you not even open to the possibility that no god ever told Israel to kill their daughters? Are you open to the interpretation of the evidence that says that Israel evolved out of a cultural milieu that held these barbaric beliefs and thus inscribed them in their own ancient laws, just like their ancient neighbors did? Could you ever foresee a time when you were just so exhausted with trying to defend all the brutal things that Yahweh supposedly commanded that you just said, “that’s it, I can’t do it anymore, I give up”?

            Would a straight answer from you on this question go something like this? “During the dispensation under the law god did in fact, via Moses, command ancient Israelites to execute their daughters if they were found to be unchaste prior to their wedding nights. But now, being in the dispensation of grace such barbaric edicts are not necessary.” But if you claim dispensational immunity you are left with the problem that god changed. You can’t have it both ways, either Moses was wrong or your hypothetical, murderous next door neighbor is right. Or you have to say that Yahweh 1.0 underwent a change in his evolution to Yahweh 2.0 (Jesus). I think we would all agree that if our daughter had been caught in adultery we would much rather have had her dragged before Jesus than Moses. And the reason is that Israel’s perception of Yahweh evolved over the millennia.

            You say, “When Saul became King over Israel, God told Samuel, “They have not rejected you… they have rejected me.” That was the beginning of the end of the theocracy.”

            Wrong!!! The beginning of the end of the theocracy was when the Assyrians and Babylonians hauled the Jews off into captivity. Are you seriously going to say that David’s reign would not be considered a theocracy? What was it a democracy? A benevolent dictatorship? HIs brutal reign and the special treatment he got from Yahweh, by the way, is a whole other discussion.

            I have thoughts about many of your replies but to shorten things a bit I will close with this.
            You say, “God is closer than you think. He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him with all their hearts. Keep seeking for truth… raw, unvarnished, truth with no preconceptions and as far as is possible, no filters. I’m convinced that when you find it, you’ll find God there waiting for you.”

            I feel like I did exactly what your statement admonishes for about 45 years of my life. Then with the simple reading of a few chapters in a book that recommended a more informed, honest and critical look at the bible it all came tumbling down. I sat there stunned, in disbelief. I thought surely there had to be an answer to these assaults on the inerrancy of the scriptures so I went looking. What I found in Christian apologetics only made things worse for me. It is precisely this search for “raw, unvarnished, truth with no preconceptions” that has lead me to let go of my previous belief.

            If you are open to the same “raw, unvarnished, truth with no preconceptions” challenge, read Thom Stark’s The Human Faces of God, Paul Copan’s Is God A Moral Monster, Stark’s critical review of Moral Monster, Lee Strobel’s The Case For Christ and Robert Price’s The Case Against The Case For Christ. These five just about sealed it for me. Additional reading of apologists and skeptics only made things worse. Are there any particular authors that have impressed you in your quest?

            I never in a million years thought that in my quest for truth I would encounter Christian apologists that impressed me as more intellectually dishonest than your average atheist but sadly, I have. I’m not talking about you.

            Blessings

  2. Greg says:

    You say, “What George fails to mention is that slave trading is explicitly condemned in Scripture (1 Timothy 1:20; Exodus 21:16). Peter in the cited text acknowledges that slavery exists and gives instructions to slaves to serve their masters well and so be a good witness to them for Christ — this text does not condone slavery.”

    If George desired to discredit Christianity by sighting texts supporting slavery he missed the boat. The old testament is clear that Yahweh instituted chattel slavery among the Israelites. Leviticus 25:35-46. You may give your foreign slaves to your sons as property. They were even allowed to beat a slave to death. There are many more.

    George needs to read up on his slavery passages. He dropped the ball.

    Reply
  3. Luke says:

    Greg said: Whatever he does is righteous because he does it?

    Terry replied:
    That’s backward. A dog isn’t dog-like because he acts like a dog; he acts like a dog because he IS a dog.

    I’m trying to understand this clearly. Let me break it down and tell me what I’m missing.

    Greg said: ‘whatever x does is x-like because x does it.”
    Terry said this is backwards, “x isn’t x-like because he does x-like things, but does x-like things because he is x.”

    (Looking at it like this. I’m not sure Terry has interpreted Greg correctly. It seems that Greg’s original statement is much more like Terry’s “right” statement than Terry’s example “backward” statement.)

    (Also, who calls a dog, doglike? He’s not doglike, he’s just a dog. A frog can be doglike — you know, like a dog — if it does things in the way a dog would do them… barking, standing up on it’s hind legs to beg for table-scraps.)

    I guess the dog analogy is unclear because I don’t know if Terry believes that dogs can do un-doglike things.

    For example, dogs wag their tails when they are happy. If a dog doesn’t do this, does that make him un-doglike? Or is it still doglike, because he’s a dog so everything he does is doglike?

    I could see the analogy both ways, so it’s really unhelpful.

    (The more I think on it, Terry seems to believe that a dog could not be un-doglike. But I’d think in regular conversation a dog that has no interest in treats, or has no interest in fetch is un-doglike. I mean, he hates fetch, he’s so doglike would be an absurd thing to say. In fact, Terry’s view seems to render any phrase of the genre “that’s so not like him” nonsensical, since everything “he” does is like him.)

    By the way, he still hasn’t called me, that’s so not like him. But he hasn’t called me, so that’s totally like him. I’m glad I can keep turning this phrase over back and forth until he calls. He will call. Calling is just so like him…

    Thanks,

    Luke

    ps I have no idea why I decided to write these rambling thoughts is a box instead of just thinking them, but now that I’ve done it. They’re here.

    pps Terry, I left a comment for you ages ago during our last discussion. It seems to be gone. I wonder how long ago that happened. Oh well…

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      I recall waiting for a response from you on one of our threads until I finally assumed you had lost interest (although that would be very unlike you 😉 ). I wonder if that’s the one.

      Had I seen it, I would have done my best to respond to you. I’m sorry I missed it!

      Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Ok, Luke, I have a little more time to address your questions now…

      Your interpretation of Greg’s original statement (“Whatever he does is righteous because he does it?”) is not analogous to your paraphrase (“whatever x does is x-like because x does it”).

      Greg’s questions whether righteousness is defined by the actions of God. This is not correct. Actions do not determine the nature of the actor; the nature of the actor determines the actions of the actor. Proverbs 23:7 — As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

      Certainly, “God-like” is defined in terms of what God does. But your paraphrase doesn’t speak to the nature of x (which is internal to x), but of our impressions of their actions (which are external to x).

      Yes, it is possible for a cat to behave in a manner we might call “dog-like”. You might find a cat that wags its tail, for instance, but the very fact that we would call such behavior “dog-like” is because we usually find that trait in dogs.

      Now is the cat actually a dog because it happens to wag its tail? Of course not! It’s still a cat. And I’ll wager that you won’t find many (if any) tail-wagging cats that chase cars, eagerly run barking to greet their master when they arrive home, hang their head out the windows of moving cars, and bury bones. It’s still a cat, and the nature of the cat will drive the majority of its behavior.

      Similarly with us… we have a fallen nature, according to Christianity. We also have within us the moral law that we know deep-down that we should follow. However, regardless of how much we try, our fallen nature will come out. We can’t help but sin, because sin is in our nature. We aren’t fallen because we sin… we sin because we’re fallen.

      God, on the other hand is a perfectly consistent being. He never acts in a manner that is out of alignment with his own nature. His nature is Holiness, and his actions cannot help but to be holy. He isn’t Good because he does Good things… he does Good things because he himself IS Good.

      It’s the heart of men that need changing, not their actions. Change the heart, and the actions will follow.

      Reply
      • Greg says:

        Terry, you say: “God, on the other hand is a perfectly consistent being. He never acts in a manner that is out of alignment with his own nature. His nature is Holiness, and his actions cannot help but to be holy.”

        How do you know that god is perfectly consistent and that he never acts in a manner that is out of alignment with his nature?

        Reply
        • Toby says:

          The reply you might get is that god is “by definition” perfect which really isn’t an answer when you think about it, it’s a statement about a definition of what people THINK a god should be.

          Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “We can’t help but sin”
        By that logic we can’t blame someone for sinning then. They’re just acting within their nature, which they didn’t ask for or create. You might as well get angry with a dog for not having ten legs.

        Reply
  4. Terry L says:

    Andy,

    You are, in one sense, correct. It is natural for an unregenerate heart to do sinful things, although there is also still that moral law within us that shows us that we should not. Do you blame a pig for acting like a pig? Of course not! However, you don’t invite a pig to a formal state dinner. The pig’s nature is wholly unsuitable for such a place.

    That’s how man is without Jesus. It’s not our actions that keep us from God, but the nature that drives our actions. Jesus told Nicodemus that man must be born again, spiritually. We must be made a new creation. Our sinful nature is not suitable for Heaven, and even if God would admit us as we are, we would be miserable there.

    Jesus offers to change our nature, to make us suitable for Heaven. But he will only do so if you want him to. The choice is yours. If you don’t want him to change you, then he will acquiese to your will. But… you don’t get to choose the consequences of your choice!

    I don’t allow smoking in my house. If you’re here and you desire to smoke, I have no problem with you doing so… outside. However, this is my house that I built and paid (well, am paying) for, and my house… my rules. If you want to smoke inside elsewhere, you can do so… but not inside my house.

    Similarly, if you want to retain your old, sinful nature, you can do so… but don’t expect to do it and then live in God’s house. He built it and paid for it with his son’s blood. You can’t just walk in without meeting the conditions of the master of the house!

    Greg,

    In the interest of time, can I ask whether it your contention that a) God does not exist, b) God exists, but Yahweh/Jesus is not the true God, c) God is NOT the source of morality, or d) the Bible is not inerrant, or e) something else? I’m not certain what position you’re advocating. I don’t want to spend a lot of time covering ground that we agree on.

    Obfuscating? On the contrary, I’m trying to clarify the point by making certain that we’re using the same definitions. You should know that I try to be very precise with my definitions, because they are extremely important. I simply want to make a distinction between what God is, and what God commands. If morality comes from God’s commands irrespective of his character, then as many have pointed out, morality is something arbitrary that God created. If however, morality is defined by God’s character, then his commands will of course reflect that, and morality is not arbitrary or created, but is co-eternal with God.

    Reply
    • Greg says:

      Terry, a) God does not exist – it appears most likely to me that some sort of god exists, but that might not be correct. b) God exists, but Yahweh/Jesus and their “inspired word” do not live up to what I feel would be a fair standard by which to judge that we have in fact encountered the true god in the pages of the bible . c) God is NOT the source of morality – if Yahweh, Jesus and the bible were consistent in their teaching then I could entertain the possibility that the god of the bible could be the source of morality, but it’s not like the moral directives found in the bible are particularly new or earth shattering. d) the Bible is not inerrant – I feel that a belief in the inerrancy of scripture would be similar to someone in our current era believing in a geocentric, flat earth cosmology, I just think it’s that ridiculous.

      Can you give me an example of what you are talking about in regards to your second paragraph? Your demand for precision on this point seems like an apologetic trick to me. I feel like you want me to agree with you that morality is defined by god’s character not his actions so you can then claim that “anything” that god does or commands is righteous simply because he does or commands it because it is simply a manifestation of his character. I’m sorry but I feel if we are made in god’s image then the logic, morality and reason that applies in our world, the only means by which we might intellectually evaluate whether or not we have indeed encountered the true god in the pages of scripture, must apply to him. He cannot be above and separate from the morality that he commands of us. For example, if Yahweh punishes Miriam with leprosy for questioning Moses’ taking of a second wife yet imposes no punishment on Aaron for doing the exact same thing I think we have a problem. If Yahweh directs the slaughter of thousands of Israelites for the golden calf incident then the maker of the golden calf, Aaron, should die too. If the law of Moses says the punishment for adultery and/or murder is death then Nathan should have ordered the execution of the “man after god’s own heart” rather than telling him his son would get to die for his sins. If the bible says that children should not die for the sins of their fathers I don’t think children should die for the sins of their fathers, but they do on innumerable occasions. If allowing even one of the men, women or children to live in a given Canaanite conquest episode would have polluted Israel and caused them to chase after other gods then it makes sense to me that the taking as wives of 32,000 virgins from a subsequent battle would have caused the exact same pollution. But, apparently Yahweh decided to pick and choose the battles in which “all” Canaanites actually had to die. Sometimes it was ok to keep the spoils of war as concubines/sex slaves. I could go on and on and on and on but do you see why I am skeptical? The bible says, among other things, that god does not show partiality, but I think it is obvious from the few examples above that this is simply not true. Unless, in talking about god, we are free to defining impartiality as often treating some people with partiality. So when David lies, fornicates, murders, moves the ark inappropriately, takes a census when he knows he shouldn’t, etc, etc, etc everyone but him gets to suffer for it. Why didn’t Yahweh execute David? It’s a fair question. One for which I feel there is no acceptable answer except, men favorable to David wrote the parts of the bible that were about him.

      Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Greg,

      So it sounds like you have agnostic leanings, but suspect that God might actually exist. You’re not yet convinced of the truth of Christianity because of moral difficulties you find in the bible, particularly in the Old Testament. Does that sum things up accurately? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, I’m just trying to understand where you are right now.

      You have two major questions in your post: I’ll address them in order.

      Regarding the example you ask for, let’s take a very general case. Is there anything ever wrong with anything? Is there anything that is always evil, say (to use the common example), torturing babies for fun? Could it ever be good to do such a thing, or is that action, given that motivation, always evil?

      I believe you would agree that this is indeed something evil, so I will procede on that assumption and beg forgiveness if I’m wrong.

      The question then becomes, why is it evil? The Euthyphro dilemma argues (quite successfully, I might add) that if God commands something because it is good, then God must be beholden to this external standard of goodness, and therefore cannot truly be God because this external standard is greater than him. However, if the action is good simply because God commands it, then goodness is arbitrary; God could just as easily said that murder and rape were virtues and charity was a vice. In this case, goodness really has little meaning.

      But this is actually a false dilemma. It assumes that something must be good EITHER because God commands it, OR God commands it because it is good by reason of a standard external to God. However, it ignores any other possibilities. I submit that the second position makes the most sense, but that the questioner is wrong to suggest that the standard of goodness is external to God. The standard of goodness is in fact the nature of God, and God does command things because they are good… according to his own nature and purposes. God’s commands are designed to maximize good over eternity. As the standard is an integral part of God Himself, it is not greater than God, and is necessarily co-eternal with God.

      Notice that I have not yet argued for which God is the standard of morality. The moral argument is a strong indicator for the existence of God, but only a pointer to which claimant to the throne of the universe actually sits there.

      You say, “He cannot be above and separate from the morality that he commands of us”, and I completely agree. I think where you and I differ is that I’m not so certain of my ability to perceive what the best action is at a given time to maximize goodness over eternity. God may very well do something that I don’t understand which appears to be counter to his nature… but for me to say that with certainty, I would have to completely understand the nature of an infinite God! As that endeavor will take an eternity to complete, I don’t feel comfortable setting myself up as the judge of God’s morality with my limited knowledge and experience.

      This will most likely come across sounding like a cop-out. It does happen to be true, but let me also address your second question.

      You asked, “when David lies, fornicates, murders, moves the ark inappropriately, takes a census when he knows he shouldn’t, etc, etc, etc everyone but him gets to suffer for it. Why didn’t Yahweh execute David? It’s a fair question.”

      I do disagree with your premise that “everyone but David” suffered for it. David had more trouble in his life than I would wish on anyone! But, I digress.

      Let’s go back a few years to the Garden of Eden. He told Adam and Eve in the garden that on the day they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that they would die. Also consider:

      Ezekiel 18:20 — The soul that sinneth, it shall die. (A verse you also quoted from… more on that in a minute.)
      Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death…
      James 2:10-11 — For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

      In other words, sin (a transgression of God’s law) is to be punished by death. That is the original edict of God, given to Adam and Eve at the dawn of history.

      So why were Adam and Eve banished from the garden? Why were they not executed?

      Why are we not executed when we sin?

      In one sense, Adam and Eve did die. They immediately died spiritually, but they also began to die physically.

      Let’s read a little farther in Ezekiel 18:

      The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? (20-23)

      If God took your life the first time you committed a sin, is he just to do so? Yes! For the wages of sin is death.

      If God spared your life for years while you continued in sin, is he just? Not in one sense… he’s not granting justice, but mercy! He’s granting time for the sinner to come to God for forgiveness. This is the greater context to which Ezekiel 18:20 alludes; not so much to a particular sin such as theft or even murder, but to a lifestyle of sin brought on by a sinful nature. If I die in my sinful nature, my children will not have to suffer hell because of that. Neither will I suffer hell if they do not repent. This is what Ezekiel is teaching.

      The same questions you raise were being raised in that day:

      Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

      Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

      Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
      –Ezekiel 20:27-32

      NONE of us deserve the mercy of life one second past our first sin. For God to allow anyone to live is simply because he is merciful. You can’t invoke the justice of God without also invoking his mercy. Neither can you invoke his mercy without considering his justice. God is not divisible; he is just, but he is also loving.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “The standard of goodness is in fact the nature of God, and God does command things because they are good… according to his own nature and purposes.”

        This doesn’t solve the dilemma. If anything it makes it worse, just knocking it back a step. So is rape against God’s nature because it’s wrong, or is it wrong because it’s against God’s nature? You’re back where you started.

        Reply
      • Greg says:

        Does god have to tell us that torturing babies, or anyone for that matter, is evil (wrong, bad, unacceptable, not to be done, etc)? Can’t we pretty much come up with the morality we have using logic, trial and error and reason?

        You said, “I’m not so certain of my ability to perceive what the best action is at a given time to maximize goodness over eternity. God may very well do something that I don’t understand which appears to be counter to his nature… but for me to say that with certainty, I would have to completely understand the nature of an infinite God! As that endeavor will take an eternity to complete, I don’t feel comfortable setting myself up as the judge of God’s morality with my limited knowledge and experience.” This is the common fall back position in apologetic defenses of the bible. When the Christian finds himself agreeing logically, morally, emotionally with a valid criticism of the bible or the god described therein he rapidly retreats to “god’s ways are higher than our ways, as a fallen creature I don’t think I can put myself in the position of setting myself up as god’s judge.” Ok, don’t set yourself up as god’s judge. Rather, try this approach, “wow, I think my long held beliefs about the bible might have been wrong”. “Maybe the bible is not what I have always been told that it is”. “I know well meaning, loving people told me the bible was infallible, inerrant, etc, etc but I think they might have been mistaken”. “I’m going to think for a change and see what I discover”. “Heaven forbid, I’m going to read the arguments of agnostics, universalist, skeptics, even atheists and see if there is anything to learn from them”. “And if what I discover forever changes the previous beliefs I held about the bible so be it”.

        You referenced the fall. First of all I don’t think Adam and Eve were real people but in the story god puts them in the garden, puts the tree of the knowledge of good and evil where they can access it then even allows the serpent access to them to temp them. Sounds to me like he wanted them to fall. Doesn’t look to me like he took any precautions to help protect them from falling. Couldn’t he have maximized goodness by simply keeping them away from the tree and the serpent away from them? Done, eternal bliss and harmony with god forever. No fall, no death, no sin, no tragedy, no suffering, no murder, no pain…… Just walking around naked all day communing with god. I like it. And I almost forgot, then he wouldn’t have to expend so much time and energy torturing billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of poor souls forever. But I guess he puts such a high value on free will that he had to do it this way.

        I understand everything you are saying about justice and mercy. The point I’m trying to make is that the bible, because of its inconsistencies, could not have been written under the inspiration of a perfect being. One can only arrive at the conclusion that it was if one begins with a pre-commitment to inspiration and inerrancy. I realize the bible says that David’s sins caused long term suffering for him but if the things he did were committed by a commoner in his time they would have been executed. David escaped punishment for his crimes, not because god willed it to be so, but because he was in a position of political power. Do you understand the point of my argument? I’m not saying god actually showed him favoritism, I’m saying god wasn’t in it, David did what he wanted with impunity because he could. Just like any person in a position of power might be able to do.

        I know I throw out of lot to respond to with each post. If you want to restrict our discussions to a certain topic that is fine. I’ll try to stay focused on whatever you choose.

        Blessings and have a merry Christmas if I don’t hear from you before then.

        Reply
  5. Fie Tighter says:

    Wow, Jonathan McLatchie absolutely won this debate. Elliot George seems incapable of conceding a reasonable point, and just kept trying to change the subject every time McLatchie refuted one of his weak objections.

    This debate epitomizes the dysfunctional rhetorical strategy of atheism: Atheism presents a litany of lame arguments, and as soon as you refute one, the atheist won’t concede defeat but will just try to quickly change the subject so he can throw out another lame argument. The goal seems to be to desiring to take kind of a sick, demented pleasure in keeping the theist off-balance, not to actually present a coherent or logically accurate or truthful position.

    Bottom line: Atheism has no intellectually coherent fact-and-logic based position to offer this world. It just wants to harm religion, by whatever rhetorical means possible, no matter how dubious.

    Religion, on the other hand, presents a fully mature form of truth that incorporates facts and evidence from diverse fields (science, history, philosophy, theology) and then ties them together into a logically satisfying paradigm.

    Great job to McLatchie for NOT being thrown off-balance but for refuting Elliot George’s diverse suite of uninformed, bad arguments, one after another, with grace, knowledge, truth, compelling logic, and intellectual credibility.

    Reply

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