God’s Love & the Euthyphro Dilemma

By Tim Stratton
Question

Dear Tim,In your article The Omnibenevolence of God you pointed out that on the Islamic view, Allah is quite similar to some Calvinistic views of God. Regarding this view, you said: “God is not all-loving, and whatever Allah does is simply called “good,” even if it is really hateful.”

God Eutyphro Dilemma

I agree with you, but an atheist recently objected to your statement with the following:

This sounds like the Christian view point too. If God is the standard of ‘good’ then whatever God does is by definition good. By that argument then hatefulness would by definition be ‘good’. What makes benevolence inherently ‘good’ if you’re getting the standard of ‘good’ from God? By that argument, if God is benevolent then benevolence is good, but if it turns out God is hateful then one has to call ‘hatefulness’ good rather than benevolence. Unless you’re saying that benevolence is inherently good, apart from God, and therefore benevolence is a necessary trait of an ‘all-good’ God. But that would mean God has these traits because he is good, and their goodness stands apart from his possession of them – they’d be good irrespective even of God’s existence.

He went on to claim that the ‘zombie argument’ dismissing the Euthryphro dilemma (I think referring to the article written by Timothy Fox) fails and thus the Euthyphro dilemma “isn’t actually so dead after all.” How would you respond to this atheist’s argument?

– Melissa


Tim’s Response

This is a good question and one that I have been considering for a while. Thank you for sending it my way, Melissa. I believe the atheist’s objection might be a problem for Calvinists to deal with (Check out Sakr’s “Calvinism and Euthyphro’s Horns”); however, the article I wrote was based on a Molinist perspective. The atheist failed to grasp this distinction and seems to conflate Christianity with Calvinism — a move I adamantly oppose! His response, unfortunately, missed the main point of the entire article, and thus, goes on to attack a straw man. This can be seen when we first understand what God is like.

God’s Nature is LOVE

The main thing to consider is that God’s nature is perfectly loving, just as He is perfectly powerful and perfectly knowledgeable. One is free to assert that these properties are not “good” (call these whatever you would like); however, if God does possess love for all people, then my argument stands.

Not only does the Bible specifically say that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but the fact that God loves all persons is implied in verses such as John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4, and 2 Peter 3:9. Moreover, if Jesus’ commands reflect the nature of God, then it is rational to infer that God loves all people (even those who consider God to be an enemy). It would be quite odd for God to command humans to love all people (from our neighbors to our enemies) if God Himself did not possess this love for all people. In fact, this perfect love is specifically referred to in Matthew 5:48:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus even provides the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to demonstrate the love we ought to have for those who despise us. Jesus makes it clear that we ought to go out of our way — even if it inconveniences us — to make it possible for even our enemies to thrive and flourish. Scripture is replete with data affirming the perfect love of God. In fact, I have argued that we can infer God’s universal love and desire for all to be saved from the first book of the Bible. With this in mind, the main thing to grasp is that God is omni-loving! That is to say, God genuinely loves ALL people!

This raises another question…

What is love?

Besides the title of a catchy 90s pop song the Bible is clear what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. . .

The Bible goes on to clarify what maximal love is willing to do in John 15:

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

The Bible reveals that God loves all people and that all people are called to love all people too. In fact, we can surmise that this is the objective purpose of human existence given Christ’s greatest two commands! Consider Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39:

1- Love God first!
2- Everybody love everybody (from your neighbors to your enemies)!

Moreover, the Bible seems to describe genuine love as desiring the best for another person even if it comes at a cost to the one who loves the other person. Not only is this biblical — it is self-evident and intuitively obvious! With this in mind, we can summarize love as a genuine desire for the best of another person and a willingness to self-sacrifice (even one’s own life if need-be) to ensure this other person can flourish by achieving the best possible life.

It is important to note that my “omnibenevolent article” referenced in the objection was written primarily with certain Calvinistic theologians in mind, like Arthur Pink and Matt Slick, who deny that God loves and desires the best for all people. The objection above, however, is written from an atheistic perspective hoping that the Moral Argument for the existence of God will fall prey to one of the horns of the Euthyphro dilemma. Be that as it may, my point is immune to this objection as it stands strong by merely pointing out that God is essentially loving and is ALL-loving. One is free to argue that loving people is not a “good” thing or not. However, even if it is not good to love (as crazy as that sounds), the point remains: God loves all people — His nature is love!

Now that we have an understanding of God’s loving nature, and we know what love is, now we can contemplate the meaning of life.

The Objective Purpose of the Human Existence

Your life has objective meaning! You might not know this yet, or perhaps you subjectively disagree, but this changes nothing. The fact of the matter remains that God created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to know, love, and enjoy a relationship with Him and all people for eternity. This is why you exist. This is the objective purpose for which we were all created.

God created a world filled with creatures who can enjoy a true love relationship with Him (which is the ultimate eternal flourishing). This is the objective purpose of human life — to love and be loved by God and all people for eternity. It is vital to grasp this truth: God created each and every one of us on purpose and for the specific purpose to be in a full-flourishing/true-love relationship with Him for eternity.

If God desires to create a world in which true love can be attained, He must provide His creatures with genuine freedom (libertarian free will) so that it is possible for humanity to experience genuine love relationships with God and others. With this freedom in mind, humans are free to approximate to the objective purpose of life — LOVE — or not.

To help understand why God’s goal in creating humanity grounds objective purpose, consider the following argument:

1. If a truth corresponds to reality, it is objectively true [apart from human opinion].
2. If God created humanity for a purpose, then this purpose is a truth that corresponds to reality.
3. Therefore, if God created humanity for a purpose, then this purpose is objectively true.
4. God created humanity (on purpose and) for a purpose.
5. Therefore, God’s purpose for creating humanity is objectively true (apart from human opinion).

For a more detailed argument click here.

What is “Good”?

Once we grasp the objective purpose of human existence we can understand what it means for humans to be “good.” When we approximate to our objective purpose (which is true apart from human opinion) it is objectively “good.” To a degree that a thing approximates to its objective purpose, to that same degree it is “good.” To a degree that something misses the mark (the goal) of its objective purpose to that same degree it is sinful (“bad”). That is to say, something is objectively good when it helps to achieve or corresponds to the objective purpose of its existence.

Since God by His nature is love (even if love is not a “good”), He created a world where genuine love is possibly attained. God created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to love Him and to be loved by Him (and all people) perfectly into the eternal future. This also leads to ultimate and eternal human flourishing. One is free to call eternal human flourishing “good,” “shmigood,” or whatever they would like.

To do anything other than love all persons (from each person of the Trinity to all humans) is to miss the mark (sin). Since free will is required for love, and if free will is really free (and not some word game), it follows that one can freely choose to approximate to the objective purpose of his or her existence (what we call “good”) — or not.

Conclusion

God is all-loving by nature. It is irrelevant if one wants to argue if love is “good” or “bad.” I am not making a case that loving all people is “good” or “bad” so my case simply avoids Euthyphro’s horns. I am simply pointing out the way things are (the definition of reality). God is love!

God is “good” in the sense that He always freely acts consistently with His perfectly loving plan for humanity. God also sets the standard that we humans strive for as “the goal.” Humans are “good” when we freely choose to approximate to the objective purpose in which we were created. We are “bad” or morally sinful when we freely choose to “miss the mark” or fail to miss the goal we were created to attain.

The choice is up to you!

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2snBRXz


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33 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    I’m glad that ‘Melissa’ brought up my question.

    Tim: “Be that as it may, my point is immune to this objection as it stands strong by merely pointing out that God is essentially loving and is ALL-loving. One is free to argue that loving people is not a “good” thing or not. However, even if it is not good to love (as crazy as that sounds), the point remains: God loves all people — His nature is love!”

    You accuse me of attacking a straw man, but nothing you go on to say addresses my argument at all. You spend much of your answer talking about God’s love, defining that love, and explaining that it’s offered to all. None of that addresses my objection, which didn’t rely on any definition of love and didn’t rely on to whom the love is offered. You could have replaced ‘love’ with ‘property x’ in my argument without affecting my argument in any way.

    “One is free to argue that loving people is not a “good” thing or not. However, even if it is not good to love”
    Aren’t you arguing that it is only good to love if God exists? You’re saying that without God, then it is quite valid to argue that ‘loving people is not a good thing’, right? If you’re now saying that loving people is unquestionably and inherently a good thing regardless of whether God exists then please clarify that that is your position.

    Tim: “Therefore, God’s purpose for creating humanity is objectively true”

    You’ve set up a five-part argument for the notion that ‘If God created man for a purpose’ then it is objectively true that ‘God created man for a purpose’. This is simply A=A. What you need to argue is that God creating man for a purpose has any bearing on how humans should act. For me to question how one extracts obligations and morality from ‘God had a purpose in mind when he created man’ is not to ‘deny reality’. That isn’t denying A=A, but is questioning why A leads to B.

    If we discovered that we were created by aliens (or some hungry God) for the purpose of farming us for food, perhaps you could argue that being eaten by those aliens was our ‘objective purpose’, but you wouldn’t have shown that this obligated us to be eaten by those aliens (or the hungry God).

    Tim: “God is “good” in the sense that He always freely acts consistently with His perfectly loving plan for humanity.”

    If you’re just ‘stating the way things are’ then why apply the label ‘good’ to that in the first place? What makes that plan ‘Good’ unless you’re either using a definition that exists independently of that God and his nature, or simply using a circular argument?

    Reply
  2. Steve says:

    Andy, nice to “meet” you! I am not going to try to defend Tim’s comments or respond to your critique/further questioning. I agree with him, but I think it is too complicated an argument. In your worldview, what gives you the right to assign properties such as “good” and “bad” to an action? This is the fundamental problem. We all KNOW right from wrong, good from evil, etc., but only the Christian is able to make logical sense of this according to his worldview. Every other worldview just reduces to complete absurdity and is entirely incoherent in this matter. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      ” but only the Christian is able to make logical sense of this according to his worldview”

      Hi Steve. How does the Christian make logical sense of it with his worldview?

      ” I agree with him, but I think it is too complicated an argument”

      If you can’t address the rebuttal I gave then it’s hard for us to have a conversation on this!

      Reply
      • Steve says:

        Thanks for the reply, man! So–the problem is that Tim’s argument and your rebuttal to it are moot points if my argument is true. I can certainly appreciate your point about having a conversation, and if this is grounds enough for you to exit then that is your prerogative, but going back and forth about the nature of what is “good” makes no sense at all if you cannot account for “goodness” on your worldview. I’m going to assume from the person’s first mention of you and your position that you are an atheist (and perhaps a naturalist, more specifically?). If I am wrong here, please correct me. My Christian worldview makes logical sense of “right vs. wrong” because we are made in the image of God. This moves past Euthyphro’s Dilemma though, because without God, I submit to you that there is no way for you to even use logic to decide what right from wrong looks like. In a naturalistic worldview, there would be no reason to trust the conclusions we come to. My question to you is, as an atheist, what ultimate standard of “goodness” do you appeal to by which to judge if God is “good”? Thanks!

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          “makes no sense at all if you cannot account for “goodness” on your worldview”

          How does God account for goodness in your worldview?

          “My Christian worldview makes logical sense of “right vs. wrong” because we are made in the image of God ”

          I don’t follow the logical sense of that, I’m afraid. How does a being creating other beings in its image ‘make logical sense of right vs wrong’? I don’t see the connection between the two.

          “This moves past Euthyphro’s Dilemma though, because without God, I submit to you that there is no way for you to even use logic to decide what right from wrong looks like”

          Sorry Steve, you’ve not shown how God allows you to move past Euthryphro.

          “I submit to you that there is no way for you to even use logic to decide what right from wrong looks like”

          That sounds like an epistemological problem rather than an ontological one. Seems like jumping the gun to worry about the first before you’ve got around the second.

          Reply
          • Steve says:

            Thanks for the reply!

            “How does God account for goodness in your worldview?”

            Simple, the Bible tells us He is good (Psalm 100:5 and others). All that is required of my worldview is to be internally consistent at that point, which it is.

            “I don’t follow the logical sense of that, I’m afraid. How does a being creating other beings in its image ‘make logical sense of right vs wrong’? I don’t see the connection between the two.”

            What I mean here is that since God has made us in His own image, revealed to us that He is good, and has written the moral law on our hearts (Romans 2:15) to know “good” vs. “not good”, you and I can make logical decisions to either “do” right or wrong. The difference is that on my worldview I can coherently explain why we should do “good”, and you can’t.

            “Sorry Steve, you’ve not shown how God allows you to move past Euthyphro.”

            I just did. One has no need to reason through such a Dilemma if “goodness” itself presupposes God. If God is presupposed by the argument, and He himself claims to be the standard of “goodness”, it is a moot point. I understand that this may not make sense to you, but the atheistic worldview does not acknowledge God, so it seems pointless to argue about how God sets the standard for goodness. We could just be missing each other here.

            “That sounds like an epistemological problem rather than an ontological one. Seems like jumping the gun to worry about the first before you’ve got around the second.”

            Your half right here. My point is that when judging morality, we make decisions (judgments). And without God, not only is there no basis for morality, but there is no basis for the DECISION itself to make a moral choice. Therefore, atheism is both ontologically AND epistemologically bankrupt.

            A quick note: PLEASE don’t take any of this to mean that I am accusing you of being immoral. It is likely that you are a more “moral” person than I am. My acceptance of the forgiveness of God is the only thing separating me and you, and I don’t want to come across as if I am claiming to be morally superior. Thanks!!

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Simple, the Bible tells us He is good”

            Circular argument, Steve. Effectively, God is Good because he tells you he’s Good. So what?

            “The difference is that on my worldview I can coherently explain why we should do “good””

            You’ve not done so, Steve. You’ve given me a circular argument and then a question begging one.

            “God has made us in His own image”
            Why does this make him ‘good’?

            “revealed to us that He is good”
            You mean CLAIMED that he is good.

            “One has no need to reason through such a Dilemma if “goodness” itself presupposes God”
            Why does it presuppose God? If you’re saying that to conjecture about ‘good’ means there has to be a God then you’ll need to make that connection, showing how God explains good with a non-circular argument.

            “And without God, not only is there no basis for morality”
            You’ve not shown why God means there is a basis for morality.

            “the atheistic worldview does not acknowledge God, so it seems pointless to argue about how God sets the standard for goodness”
            I’m saying that even if we allow you a whole bunch here for the sake of argument: that a God exists that created us in his image, and gave us a set of instructions – there’s nothing that those instructions ‘good’ rather than just a set of instructions. Meaning your critique of a Godless worldview falls apart.

            Don’t worry, I don’t think you’re calling yourself morally superior. And from my perspective the only thing that separates me from you is you accepting that you’ve got a circular argument that gets you no nearer that me to a establishing or explaining an objective morality.

          • Steve says:

            Andy, I appreciate your candor, but you are fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of my argument. Ultimate goodness, logic, etc. are not evidence with which I am proving the existence of God. They are things that CANNOT be without Him. My argument is no more circular that yours is. I have a REASON (God) for why I can even make sense of the next thought in my brain. You don’t. You’re only defense is, “I am here, therefore I know I am here.” But that begs the question tremendously of why you are here and how you know it. I have an answer to that question, you don’t. Furthermore, I am fully within my rights to claim that God is good because He says He is. If God is not good, it is not the God I am representing. You are arguing as IF you were a neutral party, but you are not. You presuppose God’s inexistence, and I presuppose His existence. Failing to acknowledge that is ludicrous. You make judgments about the world, of course, but your naturalistic worldview has no STANDARD by which to account for logic, uniformity of nature, morality, etc. You are working harder than you need to by trying to refute these points. You will shut me up if you can simply explain to me how you make sense of the world around you within a naturalistic framework, but I submit that you can’t. I really appreciate your time and patience, Andy. 🙂

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “They are things that CANNOT be without Him ”

            Who says? How do you know that? How do you know what can and cannot be without a God? It would make no more or less sense to say that those things are not compatible WITH a God.

            “Furthermore, I am fully within my rights to claim that God is good because He says He is”

            You’ve got the right to say whatever you want, but it remains a circular argument. Saying my argument (which so far has just been questioning yours) is circular too doesn’t help you. Can anyone say they’re good because they say they are, or just God? And what does ‘good’ in this context actually mean?

            “You presuppose God’s inexistence”
            On the contrary, I said your argument fails even if I grant the existence of a God who made us.

            “You are working harder than you need to by trying to refute these points.”
            It’s really not that hard, Steve. You keep making statements and I point out that you haven’t backed them up.

            You seem to be saying that without God, one cannot say ‘A=A’. Would you like to explain what A would equal without God if not A?

            “You will shut me up if you can simply explain to me how you make sense of the world around you within a naturalistic framework”

            You’ve not explained how God makes any difference to how you make sense of the world about you. If you were able to point to a Godless universe where no-one can make sense of anything then it would help. Otherwise you’re just conjecturing.

        • Kyle says:

          “My question to you is, as an atheist, what ultimate standard of “goodness” do you appeal to by which to judge if God is “good”? Thanks!”

          I’ll jump on this one. There isn’t exactly an ultimate standard. Whatever is best for society is what will be considered good. Then we come to the dilemma of when societies differ on what they consider good and bad. No need for any pesky gods.

          Reply
          • Steve says:

            Kyle, thanks for your input! Hate to use such a worn-out argument, but you realize this forces you to admit that the Nazi’s extermination of the Jews (which is somehow leveled against God as being an evil act) was “good”, right? You can say that, but in your heart of hearts, you don’t believe it. Furthermore, atheism cannot explain this. Humanism (i.e., the advancement and flourishing of human life) is not always “good” in your framework (example: abortion). So if you are an atheistic humanist (which your reply seems to suggest), you are living a life of utter contradiction with no way out. Thanks!

          • Kyle says:

            Unfortunately we can easily say the Nazi’s were bad. The society we are in considers the extermination of a people to be bad. It really is that simple. Had the Nazi’s won the war and succeeded in wiping out the Jews as well as anyone with a dissenting opinion, we might have been living in a world where society accepts that. Of course you will argue you never would, but how would you know? Your abortion example is a great illustration of religious short-sightedness. You categorically and willingly sacrifice a woman’s bodily autonomy with no idea the repercussions it can have. Would you oppose an abortion if the life of the woman was in danger?

          • Steve says:

            Also: “Then we come to the dilemma of when societies differ on what they consider good and bad. No need for any pesky gods.” That dilemma IS the “need” for a pesky God. If a radical Islamic terrorist shows up at your workplace today and points a gun at your head because HE believes it to be good, you will quickly recognize the existence of an Ultimate Standard.

          • Steve says:

            Kyle, really? “The society we are in considers the extermination of a people to be bad.” My abortion example disproves that. Also, your question is not a problem for me. It is not religious shortsightedness to argue for the preservation of human life. MOST abortions have nothing to do with a decision of this sort. You never argue for a rule based on its exceptions. In a tragic situation, where lives are in danger, this decision must be made prayerfully and personally by the affected parties. As the husband of a selfless woman, I know the decision she would make. My wife would give her life any day for our babies. But the fact that another’s wife may not has nothing to do with whether or not it is wrong to take a life.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Religion doesn’t really solve the Nazis problem. Hitler cited God to justify genocide. And he had Biblical precedent to do so. You can say that without God you have Godless people fighting over who is right, but with God you have people fighting over whose God is right. If anything it makes them fight even harder – ‘We’ve got God on our side!’.

            The apologist argument seems to me: “For an atheist to say something is wrong, they have to ‘smuggle in morality’ and beg the question that a certain set of values is better than others. If they use axioms like ‘well murder is wrong’ or ‘human flourishing is good’ then they must explain why”.

            The problem here is that whenever a Christian gives THEIR explanation of morality, they ‘smuggle in morality’ themselves, and explain it with reference to their own axioms. “If God creates us, he gets to say what right and wrong is”. That is in itself an axiom that requires explanation or ‘grounding’. Unless you just want to accept that certain axioms are self-evident and unexplainable, in which case you have to allow atheists their own ‘self-evident and unexplainable’ axioms.

          • Kyle says:

            If a radical terrorist did that, it would be no different than if anyone went up to that terrorist and held a gun to their head. who is right and wrong is subjective absent the society. In our society of course the terrorist is wrong. In the society of the terrorist they are absolutely right (in fact they justify it using their god). Still no ultimate standard.

            For abortion you argue about preserving life, but freely admit your wife would sacrifice her own. That is not preservation. That is literally the opposite. You are placing a higher value on the possible life of a fetus. Would you still oppose abortion if the life of the fetus was in question? The life of both the mother and fetus is in question? Trying to argue with this “preservation of life” angle completely misses the exceptions that prove you wrong. Do you consider withholding action to be the same as causing. Consider someone dangling for their life on the edge of a cliff and you can easily reach down to save them. If you don’t are you just as immoral as if you had pushed them?

          • Steve says:

            Andy, your example of Hitler is a half-truth. He cited God, but he was a believer in Darwinian Evolution. The reason for the Holocaust was because Hitler believed he was part of a superior race–an idea fundamentally grounded in Evolution and Natural Selection and fundamentally against God. You cannot claim to do something in the name of God, that is against the nature of that God and have a coherent argument.
            To your second point, it sounds like you are starting to see where I am coming from. We all have axioms. The difference is, my axioms are grounded in a worldview that gives an accurate understanding of the way the world is. Atheistic axioms simply do not. I hate to be facetious, but if humans are just advanced animals, you cannot even justify why we wear clothes without consulting the Bible (Genesis 3) let alone why we have consciousness, can make logical decisions, do science, and make moral choices. Look, I fully understand you have axioms, but they just don’t correspond to our human experience.

          • Steve says:

            Thanks, Kyle. So:

            “If a radical terrorist did that, it would be no different than if anyone went up to that terrorist and held a gun to their head. who is right and wrong is subjective absent the society. In our society of course the terrorist is wrong. In the society of the terrorist they are absolutely right (in fact they justify it using their god). Still no ultimate standard.”

            Kyle, again you claim this, but truly believing this would mean you could simply move to that society and become a psychopathic killer, and justify it because of the society? Guess what–that society still believes it is wrong for someone ELSE to MURDER them. Murder (the intentional killing of an innocent party) is wrong Kyle, there is no way around it. Societies might arbitrarily determine WHO it is wrong or right to kill, but that has no bearing on whether or not it is objectively wrong.

            “For abortion you argue about preserving life, but freely admit your wife would sacrifice her own. That is not preservation. That is literally the opposite. You are placing a higher value on the possible life of a fetus. Would you still oppose abortion if the life of the fetus was in question? The life of both the mother and fetus is in question? Trying to argue with this “preservation of life” angle completely misses the exceptions that prove you wrong. Do you consider withholding action to be the same as causing. Consider someone dangling for their life on the edge of a cliff and you can easily reach down to save them. If you don’t are you just as immoral as if you had pushed them?”

            Perhaps a better word for “preservation” would be sanctity. I hold that all human life is special and sacred. The nuances of that and little questions about what I would do in a situation are irrelevant. For the sake of argument, of course I would reach down and save them. My wife’s free will choice to sacrifice her own life has nothing to do with that. If the life of the fetus is in question, who am I to play God? Either I kill it, or I let God be God. If He wants to take the baby, He is within His rights. If He chooses to heal the baby, He is still within His rights. What you have asked of me is a false dichotomy in my worldview. Your problem is that YOU want to be God over the situation.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “He cited God, but he was a believer in Darwinian Evolution”

            Not only is that a non sequitur, it’s not even true. Hitler denied that species could turn into other species – “A fox remains a fox, a goose remains always a goose”, he said. He banned books on evolution.

            “Hitler believed he was part of a superior race–an idea fundamentally grounded in Evolution”

            Evolution doesn’t talk about ‘superior’ races. Just says that some organisms will be better suited to the environments they are in.

            “The difference is, my axioms are grounded in a worldview that gives an accurate understanding of the way the world is”

            You’ve not shown that at all. Worse for you, you’re part of a worldview that actively disputes what the science shows, meaning it’s less accurate.

            “you cannot even justify why we wear clothes without consulting the Bible”
            It’s pretty chilly outside where I am right now, Steve. I find that’s a better way of persuading my kids to put on clothes than consulting the Bible! In fact science explains very well why we need to wear clothes.

          • Steve says:

            Andy, it doesn’t matter to me what Hitler claimed to believe. His actions CLEARLY display a belief that he commanded the superior race. He definitely DISTORTED evolutionary views and did not publicly claim to subscribe to them, but his actions, again, are bathed in the fundamental premises of naturalism.
            Also, to argue that Biblicists actively try to disprove science is ludicrous, and frankly makes me want to exit the conversation. Science doesn’t show anything. Scientists, with their biases and presuppositions, examine the same evidence we do and come to a different conclusion. Once again I argue that without God to uphold the laws of nature, science would be impossible to start with.
            By the way, I don’t check the Bible either when I put clothes on my kids. 🙂 That said, I have seen the Bible be way more accurate than the local meteorologist on numerous occasions! 😉

          • Kyle says:

            Except in all cases, the morality is what helps that society best. So for terrorists to kill us, it helps their society. They think we are wrong just as much as we think they are wrong. It is an absolutely worthless argument to try to push it further with something as simple as, “but we are obviously right and they are wrong”.

            “Societies might arbitrarily determine WHO it is wrong or right to kill, but that has no bearing on whether or not it is objectively wrong.”

            That is entirely the point. Societies determine who can and cannot be killed. The death sentence shows this. Military actions show this. In the end what determines the correct people that can or cannot be killed is dependent on which society survives.

            “The nuances of that and little questions about what I would do in a situation are irrelevant. For the sake of argument, of course I would reach down and save them.” – The important part of the question was, if you didn’t save them would that be immoral? Not whether or not you would save them. The point being if you think all life is sacred and you were to hold the notion that inaction resulting in death would be immoral, would you support forced blood, organ, and tissue donation? Consent be damned if it means lives could be saved. Apparently sacrificing yourself is acceptable. Would you condone someone willingly offering to donate vital organs for others, effectively committing suicide to save people? If not why would you be ok with a woman effectively committing suicide to give birth? This is not about someone trying to play god. This is about not interfering with an individuals right to bodily autonomy.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “His actions CLEARLY display a belief that he commanded the superior race”

            Seems to me his actions clearly showed a lack of faith that Jews were inferior – if he truly believed that he wouldn’t have need to wipe them out. He’d have believed nature would naturally do the job for him. He was trying to practice ARTIFICIAL selection, which man practiced for thousands of years before Darwin was even born.

            Either way, you’re playing no true Scotsman with Hitler. I could equally say ‘I don’t care what Hitler professed to believe, he ACTED like a guy who thought he had God on his side, and was committing genocide to please God just like those other guys in the Bible did when God wanted whole communities wiped out.

          • Steve says:

            But Kyle, how does one adjudicate between these differing societies? Societies are not the issue here–worldviews are. In all matters of life, your worldview determines your belief. I will answer your question and give a quick defense, but then I am going to exit this part of the conversation and I will tell you why: to quote one of my favorite apologists, “Jesus did not come into this world to make bad people good. He did it to make dead people live.” You and I arguing back and forth about the way societies PERCEIVE moral authority has no bearing on what Christ did on the cross for you and me. Everything you have said about the way societies act morally may be true, but each of them is appealing to a worldview standard. The whole basis of my argument is that the Christian is the only person with a coherent and consistent standard.
            Now to your question: I think you are incorrectly assuming that action must be taken in a situation. For example, it is neither moral nor immoral for me to decide not to provide a kidney for my neighbor if they needed one or were going to die. By that logic, everybody in the world who did not stand up and say “I’ll donate!” (or even, for the sake of argument, everyone that knew her condition) would be guilty of making an immoral decision IN THAT CASE. I suppose in a broad sense, the Christian answer would be in terms of comparison to God, ALL beings are ALWAYS immoral–which is why we need a Savior. In regards to abortion, there is a clear case for personhood the MOMENT of conception..are we to believe that if we simply waited until the child was removed it would then be more “immoral” to take its life? Kyle, I appreciate your position on this, and please know I am not dismissing you. These are hard questions that we ALL must answer and consider, but Jesus Christ, on the cross, has fixed for eternity what we in this world have broken and He has settled, for eternity, all of these questions. I have plenty I will ask Him, to be sure. But eliminating God does not eliminate evil–it only eliminates the solution to it. Again I will let you have the last word and I appreciate your comments and position. I hope you have a blessed day.

          • Kyle says:

            This is a common tactic among Christians. When questions get too difficult they bow out under the guise of taking the high road. Almost always they end with “allowing” the last word as if it is so noble they won’t continue. So let’s get to it.

            “Everything you have said about the way societies act morally may be true, but each of them is appealing to a worldview standard.” – No they are appealing to the actions and standards that best benefit that society. You will not be able to prove this wrong.

            “The whole basis of my argument is that the Christian is the only person with a coherent and consistent standard.” – Nothing says that standard is good. How do you know this god you’ve been worshiping isn’t the absolute zero of morality and we base what is good off of how evil your god is?

            “Now to your question: I think you are incorrectly assuming that action must be taken in a situation.” – A decision is made. Failure to act is just deciding not to.

            “For example, it is neither moral nor immoral for me to decide not to provide a kidney for my neighbor if they needed one or were going to die. ” – I agree. Which is exactly why I will not tell a woman what she must do with her body when you think a life is on the line. Same consequences. Someone could die, but you want your bodily autonomy respected when it comes to your body. This is your hypocrisy.

            ” In regards to abortion, there is a clear case for personhood the MOMENT of conception.” – The case falters when you understand the process. Some 50% of fertilized eggs fail to implant. If all things happen by the will of your god, then he is responsible for more abortions than any entity that has existed.

            “are we to believe that if we simply waited until the child was removed it would then be more “immoral” to take its life?” – Do you think a woman who has an abortion should be tried for murder? Put to death? What charge/punishment is adequate for this? If these differ at all from after the child is born, then you also admit there is a difference.

            “Kyle, I appreciate your position on this, and please know I am not dismissing you.” – And yet you are.

      • Steve says:

        “If you were able to point to a Godless universe where no-one can make sense of anything then it would help. Otherwise you’re just conjecturing.”

        Okay, fair enough. Let’s follow naturalism to its logical conclusion. For your worldview to be true, NOTHING would have, at some point in the past, become SOMETHING. That “something” would have to have moved in evolutionary stages from a single-celled organism (something incredibly complex on its own) into you and me today. This has never been observed scientifically, and even so, there is no way to account for us being logical, rational, and moral beings. A universe without a Creator to transcend time, space, and matter is laughingly implausible. How does the law of non-contradiction, for example, make sense without a law-maker? What gives you grounds for expecting that things tomorrow will be the same as today, allowing for science? How do you account for these things on your worldview? If God-less, the world we live in, indeed, would be the world in which we could not make sense of anything. Responding to me with more questions will not help here until you answer this. I have no reason to trust you if your brain is nothing more than cosmic soup, nor do you have a reason to trust yourself.

        To answer another question of yours, the reason I CAN make sense of these things is that God, in the Bible has told us and explained all of this. Again, you may claim it is circular if you want, but the fact remains that I have a standard to appeal to that is beyond me, and you do not.

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          Regarding your opinion on biodiversity, you’re offering me an argument from incredulity that disagrees with the vast majority of biologists. ‘This has never been observed’ is a giveaway of you’re simply not understanding the science or how it works. If that’s what your faith rests on then fine.

          With regards to cosmology, a God solves no more questions than it answers on ultimate origins – a universe that has always existed in some form vs an even more complicated all-powerful being that has always existed. Occam’s Razor favours the former in my eyes – at least we KNOW a universe exists.

          The law of non-contradiction is self affirming – you’d need to reference it even to deny it. If you want to explain why that needs a God to apply then be my guest. To my eyes it would apply necessarily in all possible universes, but go ahead and explain how it could possibly not apply. If it didn’t apply then it even the law of non contradiction itself would exist and not exist at the same time.

          Finally, a wacky universe where the laws of physics keep changing in ways we cannot expect, predict or understand would be evidence FOR an all powerful being, not evidence against it, as it would suggest a force outside of the universe was interfering. If you don’t believe me, look back at history for the times when the universe DID seem completely strange and unknowable.

          Indeed, human history is filled with phenomena we couldn’t explain being put down to God’s intervening hand. Gradually, science provided alternative explanations. Newton couldn’t fully explain the movements of the planets, so his fellow physicists said it was God controlling the orbits. Then Einstein filled in the gaps and the previous explanation was dropped.

          Now that so many of these gaps have been filled, you claim that the efficacy of science to explain so many phenomena without reference to God is ITSELF evidence for God. This is trying to have your cake and eating it, Steve.

          Reply
          • Steve says:

            Andy, no biologist has EVER witnessed a dog become a non-dog. If you want to believe that this has happened, fine. But that is a religious belief–not science. This is just simply contrary to our experience. You believe what “scientists say” happened 14.5 billion years ago, but not what eyewitnesses say about events 2,000 years ago? You have more faith than me.
            Secondly, have you ever heard of “transversing the infinite?” The case for an eternal universe is not compelling, at least not to me. And the law of contradiction, along with all other laws of logic, is something we would expect if we are made in the image of God who cannot lie and cannot contradict Himself. Why would humans be logical at all if not created by an all-knowing, intelligent being? There just does not seem to be a compelling naturalistic case for this.
            And finally, if you believe that a generic all-powerful being would act in that way, I cannot disagree. But the Christian God is not like that. The Christian God has claimed that He not only created but also upholds the world. This is definitely consistent with our experience. Plus, I believe the Bible (and also the science) shows a young universe (although this disagrees with the organization’s website whom we are on), and therefore there has not been a time when the world has experienced anything reckless other than when God has mandated (the Flood, for example).
            I agree with you, but I am not making a “god of the gaps argument.” Based on the evidence we have, a creator makes perfect sense from which to make a positive argument. The difference is that you and I have fundamental presuppositional differences, so I don’t argue “evidence for God.” There is plenty for Him, but as long as you don’t acknowledge His existence, you will have a hard time seeing it.
            I love science. I just don’t think it is possible without God.
            Andy, as I did with Kyle a few moments ago, I am going to have to bow out at this point. I will let you have the last word. I have appreciated our discussion, and while I’m sure I have not convinced you of anything, I pray that one day you will come to know Jesus. I’m telling you man, life with Him is incredible. EVERYTHING in the world makes sense, purpose comes to life, and you have never known a closer friend. As a Christian person, I love you, and I wish the best for you.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Andy, no biologist has EVER witnessed a dog become a non-dog”

            This is a non sequitur that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works. That aside, I think we’re going around in circles now – you point to something, ask me to explain it without God, then offer a question-begging explanation involving God.

            Thanks for the conversation Steve / Melissa / Tim.

  3. Andy Ryan says:

    Kyle: “Almost always they end with “allowing” the last word as if it is so noble they won’t continue”

    Yes, it’s a passive aggressive way of saying “Hey, you keep talking if you want, but you won’t get a response out of me”. Genuinely taking the high road would be to say they needed to bow out so are there any last questions we have before they go.

    To sum up:
    * ‘Steve’ never addressed the points I made in my first reply to the blog
    * He kept asking me to account for a problem that theism doesn’t solve anyway
    * He asks how we can account for logic, which is no more than our own set of tools for describing the nature of reality itself
    * He ended with an argument from incredulity no more advanced than ‘I don’t accept science’s explanation for lightning, therefore Thor exists’

    Reply
  4. Mark Guetersloh says:

    Well, though it is perhaps rude to enter a discussion that seems to have already ended, couldn’t resist a few quick comments – I hope both combatants will forgive me.

    First, observation is the initial and most basic part of the scientific method That’s how science works…at least good science. Bad science conjures up a desired outcome and then tortures data until it supports that outcome. And theories reign where observation is tough to come by. Observable, testable facts speak so loudly that theories have trouble being heard. Factual data is the best place to start if we’re looking for Truth in any field of study. And like it or not, there’s plenty of factual data (historical and scientific), to support the Truths of the Christianity. Certainly enough to bring any reasonable person to an intellectual assent of the Truth claims made by Christianity. But the kind of faith characteristic of all authentic Christians requires a fiduciary belief in Jesus Christ – and this faith is something unattainable for us. It must be given by God. Before you protest too loudly about this remember, intellectual assent is still available to everyone. Even the staunchest Calvinist won’t deny General Revelation so I doubt there is any refuge for the antitheist here.

    Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the value of a good theory as much as the next scientist, but no amount of God-hating is going to get me to ignore either evidence (induction) or logic (deduction)…especially if the offending theory was offered and is popular only because it proffers an explanation for things we see in the natural world that doesn’t require God. Science built upon a dislike for the alternative explanation is more than a little suspect, and altogether unscientific. Anti-theists like to accuse Christians of relying on blind faith, but there is nothing “blind” about it. The evidence for God is compelling – in my opinion overwhelming. But evidence will not win a single soul to Christ. Occam’s Razor…that is, I think, why Steve has chosen to exit the debate. He understands we (Christians) aren’t trying to win an argument, we’re trying to save souls, and he has done his part.

    To reject a poorly defended theory (ies) in favor of a reasonable explanation supported by evidence isn’t capitulation to either incredulity or credulity, it’s the hallmark wisdom.

    “Which came first,” dilemmas really only plague anti-theists, atheists and agnostics. Whether asked by Neil deGrasse Tyson (chicken/egg) or Plato (God/morality), both are false dichotomies solved by introducing other explanations and choosing the one that best fits the data.

    Reply
    • Kyle says:

      One thing became depressingly clear throughout your response. You do not understand what a scientific theory is. A scientific theory by definition cannot be poorly defended. It isn’t popular only because it proffers an explanation for things we see in the natural world that doesn’t require your god. It is a fact not only supported by overwhelming evidence, but is used to predict things in the natural world. Name me a single falsifiable prediction your god, your bible, or your faith have predicted that is not better explained by science.

      Reply
  5. Mark Guetersloh says:

    I have an advanced degree in Zoology and have been employed as a biologist for over 30 years. I hope this at least allows that I have some understanding of what a scientific theory is. And what a theory is, is “plausible.” Plausibility implies that a conclusion is reasonable, not unquestionable nor overwhelming. After all, spontaneous generation was once a plausible theory offered by science. I’ve lost count of how many different “big bang” theories and alternatives to the big bang have been offered. All (at least most) are equally plausible. They can’t all be right. So even if I grant that a theory “cannot be poorly defended,” it can be based on bad information or an improper interpretation of good information. No mature, authentic Christian demands that you accept Christian Deism uncritically, but we would really hope that you would respect it as a formidable explanation for the reality we find ourselves in.

    I appreciate your insistence that scientific theories aren’t offered simply as an alternative to Deism. I agree. But many are. If you or anyone else holds fast to a scientific theory that negates the existence of God (macroevolution), and do so because you truly believe it has better explanatory power, I applaud you. But if you refuse to give an unbiased look at all explanations…well, that’s not just bad science, its willful ignorance. Overwhelming theories are those substantiated by observation and tested by experimentation. Many (most) of the theories offered to remove the possibility of God from the equation come from fields of science where observation is limited and untestable. And many are built upon past theories, and theories built upon theories. If a person embarks on a journey and takes a wrong turn, going faster only gets them more lost.

    I’d call your attention to fulfilled prophecy (Old Testament – the book of Daniel still confounds honest critics) as predictions that defy scientific explanation. I’d ask you to consider the origin of the universe as well – it’s beginning defies a naturalistic explanation and by my estimation ALL scientific theories for getting something from nothing are childish absurdities offered to avoid bowing the knee to a Creator. But “better” is in the eye of the beholder if no objective standard exists. I have decided God is the better choice – He at least is unchangeable. Science changes its mind all the time.

    Reply
    • Kyle says:

      Calling a theory merely “plausible” is horribly incorrect. To be considered a theory today a body of descriptions of knowledge must fulfill the following criteria: it makes falsifiable predictions with consistent accuracy across a broad area of scientific inquiry (such as mechanics), it is well-supported by many independent strands of evidence, rather than a single foundation, and it is consistent with preexisting experimental results and at least as accurate in its predictions as are any preexisting theories.

      “I appreciate your insistence that scientific theories aren’t offered simply as an alternative to Deism. I agree. But many are.” – Such as?

      “If you or anyone else holds fast to a scientific theory that negates the existence of God (macroevolution), and do so because you truly believe it has better explanatory power, I applaud you. But if you refuse to give an unbiased look at all explanations…well, that’s not just bad science, its willful ignorance” – You seem to not agree with macro evolution. Here is your platform to refute it. What do you find wrong?

      “I’d call your attention to fulfilled prophecy (Old Testament – the book of Daniel still confounds honest critics) as predictions that defy scientific explanation.” – Such as?

      “I’d ask you to consider the origin of the universe as well – it’s beginning defies a naturalistic explanation and by my estimation ALL scientific theories for getting something from nothing are childish absurdities offered to avoid bowing the knee to a Creator” – To what scientific theories are you referring? How deeply have you delved into this subject? What is wrong with them?

      “I have decided God is the better choice – He at least is unchangeable” – How can something that is unchanging instigate change?

      “Science changes its mind all the time.” – Always brought up as a negative, yet this is one of the best things about science. It can grow as our knowledge grows. It is not stuck in its infancy with its fingers in its ears.

      Reply

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