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Did Man Invent God?

I have recently become aware of a video on the internet that is making its way around the campus of the local university. Several college students told me that after viewing the video, it really made them question their faith. Now, this might surprise you, but I am all for questioning one’s faith (I encourage atheists to do the same), but if one is to question what they believe, it should be for good and logical reasons!

Did Men Invented God

In my experience, it is usually Christians who present arguments utilizing the laws of logic with premises that lead to deductive conclusions. Most (not all) of the atheist arguments I find on the Internet are usually based in emotion as opposed to logic, and therefore, they rarely put their thoughts into logical argument form. After watching this video, I decided to put the statements of this atheist into a deductive syllogism. Let’s see if it is a logically valid argument or not.

1- According to the Bible, God has always existed and predates the universe itself.
2- According to the evidence, the idea of God began evolving 14,000 years ago.
3- Therefore, God has not always existed since man invented the idea of God, the Bible is false and atheism is true.

Now the first two premises are direct quotes from the atheist in the video. Let’s quickly examine them. Premise (1) is true. The Bible does teach that God exists necessarily, eternally with no beginning, and that God brought all things into being (including the universe). Here are two verses from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament to consider:

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Hebrew for universe).

Psalm 148: 1-5 “Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created.”

John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”

However, this proposition is not only “according to the Bible.” In fact, a logic-based argument that is supported by scientific data suggests the exact same thing! This is known as The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Moreover, arguments such as the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument and the Ontological Argument also logically conclude the same. The Kalam and Leibnizian arguments both rationally infer that there is ONE timeless, beginningless, eternal, necessary, spaceless, immaterial, volitional and personal mind that the universe (and all of its contents) is contingent upon. What is more, the Ontological Argument demonstrates that a Maximally Great Being exists and therefore, monotheism must be true as it is incoherent to have multiple “maximally great beings.”

So, yes, the Bible does make these monotheistic claims; however, even if the Bible didn’t exist, we would still come to these conclusions by thinking according to the laws of logic and the rules of rationality. Since the Bible makes claims that are in line with the laws of logic, it ought to be considered as a plausible explanation of reality. So far the argument is good, because premise (1) is true and is backed up by the laws of logic and modern science. Let’s look at the second premise:

(2) According to the evidence, the idea of God began evolving 14,000 years ago.

This is a controversial premise that historians can argue; however, I am not interested in attacking the supposed “evidence” this atheist thinks he has; rather, I am interested in arguing logically. So for the sake of argument, I will actually grant this premise (I’m not affirming it at all). Here’s the big question: Since I affirm the first premise and grant the second, does the conclusion follow? No, it does not follow because although the premises may be true, the argument is invalid because the conclusion does not logically follow from the two premises. Let’s look at the conclusion again:

(3)Therefore, God has not always existed since man invented the idea of God, the Bible is false and atheism is true.

Premise (2) seems to assume that if we can show why or how humanity started believing that God exists, then, we can logically conclude that these theistic beliefs are false. However, this line of thinking makes a big mistake in reasoning called the genetic fallacy. This mistake is made when someone argues against a proposition by pointing out why someone believes the proposition is true. While it is correct that people can believe propositions for bad reasons, it does not logically follow that the propositions they affirm are therefore false.

The truth or falsity of a proposition is independent of how or why someone came to believe the proposition.

For example, atheistic naturalists believe that all that exists is nature, and therefore, they hold that everything is determined by the laws of nature and past events receding all the way back to the initial conditions of the big bang (this includes all of our thoughts, beliefs, and actions). So, if I told an atheistic naturalist that the only reason he believes in atheism, naturalism and determinism is because he was determined by physics and chemistry to do so, and therefore, these positions are false, I would be committing the genetic fallacy. My objection does not show that the naturalist’s beliefs are false, they only show that he cannot rationally affirm his beliefs and therefore his beliefs do not count as knowledge (a.k.a. justified true belief). The determinist’s belief that determinism is true could luckily happen to be true, even if he does not have reason, warrant, or justification in affirming his propositions.

Back to the argument in question: the atheist is assuming that human ideas about God evolved from pantheistic ones a relatively short and finite time ago. He argues that these are not good reasons to believe in Christian monotheism, and therefore, Christianity is false. His entire argument is based on the genetic fallacy and therefore the whole thing must be discarded as any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all. He claims we have come to believe Christian monotheism is true for bad reasons; therefore, Christian monotheism is false. However, the objective truth-value of the propositions of Christianity is true or false regardless of how we came to hold these beliefs. Remember the other arguments I listed above are good reasons to think monotheism is true independent of what the Bible does or does not say. These arguments are used without touching the Bible and only rely on the laws of logic with support from scientific data. Therefore, in regards to the Bible’s claims about monotheism, it is exactly right and in line with the rules of reason. Moreover, these arguments also prove the negation of this atheist’s invalid conclusion – atheism is therefore, false!

Premise (2) is not only controversial, but it implies the propositions Christians affirm are false because of how we came to hold these beliefs. Let me reiterate this again for the sake of clarity: This commits the genetic fallacy, and therefore, this entire argument is invalid.

One last thing: this video only attacked the Old Testament’s views of God. It is important for Christians (and non-Christians alike) to realize that the truth of “mere” Christianity requires only two key ingredients: 1- God’s existence, and 2- the resurrection of Jesus. That’s it! We don’t even need the Old Testament to reach the conclusion that Christianity is true (logically speaking). I’m glad we have it and it helps make sense of many things, but we don’t need it to conclude Christianity is true. Therefore, any attacks on it, or its infallibility, are completely impotent if their hope is to demonstrate Christianity is false. To do that, one must either demonstrate one of the two premises in the following argument to be false, or that the conclusion does not logically follow deductively from them:

1- God exists.
2- God raised Jesus from the dead.
3- Therefore, Christianity is true.

Premise (1) is reached by a cumulative case of logical arguments such as:

– The Kalam
– The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
– The Moral Argument
– The Ontological Argument
– The Teleological Argument
– (And many more)

Premise (2) is reached via the historical method and inference to the best explanation. If God raised Jesus from the dead, it seems that God is validating everything that Jesus said, taught, and exemplified. Therefore, Christianity is true!

For more on some of these specific arguments, start here:

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-1

Stay reasonable (Phil 4:5)

Original Blog Resource: http://bit.ly/2mYIUGf


A Logical Christmas Message

By Tim Stratton

John 1:1-14 states “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Logical Christmas

This is the message of Christmas! The Bible refers to Jesus as “The Logos” and implies that not only is Jesus God, but also gives us some insight into the Trinity. From a theological perspective, this passage of scripture carries much weight! Moreover, from a philosophical and logical perspective this passage not only makes sense, but we even have scientific data supporting this scripture.

All of the scientific data supports the theory that all nature had an absolute beginning (big bang cosmology, 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, and the Borde, Guth, Vilenkin Theorem of 2003). Everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the evidence demonstrates that the universe (all nature) began to exist. Therefore, since nature began to exist, nature cannot be the cause of nature. Therefore, the cause of nature must be something other than nature (supernatural). This is exactly what the first chapter of John is stating about Jesus – he is the supernatural cause of the natural universe, and he entered into his creation so that we could know him.

That is to say, the Creator of the universe entered into the universe to save the people within the universe. This is what Christmas is all about. This is why we have good reason to celebrate Christmas!

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Greek word “Logos” is used synonymously with Jesus in the text. It is interesting to note that logos, in Greek, means, “the principle of reason.” This is where we get the term “logic.” The Bible is clear that Jesus is God and seems to suggest that he is the grounding of logic and reason. This would make perfect sense of why the immaterial laws of logic impose themselves on the material world — or any possible world. God created the material world according to the logical laws he had in mind or that are grounded in his essence. This is the best explanation of why logic imposes itself on the material world. Just as God is necessary in all possible worlds, so are the laws of logic which are essential to God’s very nature.

Logic is grounded in the essence of the immaterial God. Therefore, when we choose to think and behave logically, we are godly (approximating to or being like God).

With that in mind, we at FreeThinking Ministries and CrossExamined.org wish you a very Merry (and logical) Christmas!

 


 

My Favorite Bible Verse

By Tim Stratton

Many times I am asked the question: “Tim, what is your favorite Bible verse?” This is a hard question for me to answer because there are many verses contending for this top spot. Off the top of my head, some of my favorites include (in no particular order): Romans 12:2; Matthew 22:37-39; Romans 1:20; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Colossians 1:16; Deuteronomy 30:11-19; Psalms 1:19; Psalms 97:1-6; Judges 6:12; 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 3:9; James 4:7; Genesis 1:1; John 1:1, Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 4:5-6; Philippians 4:5; John 18:37; John 14:6, and of course, John 3:16.

My Favorite Bible Verse

Although I love dwelling upon each of these passages of Scripture, if push comes to shove and I must choose a “life verse,” I would choose 2 Corinthians 10:5. In this passage, the Apostle Paul writes:

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

I love this Bible verse for two reasons: First, Paul provides the example to Christian apologists to destroy every argument and incorrect opinion about God! To be clear, Paul does not say that we destroy every “arguer” (we are supposed to love them); rather, we are to destroy bad arguments! Based on the logical law of identity, an arguer and an argument are two different things. It stands to reason that Christians can destroy arguments while loving arguers! This is often hard to accomplish, but it is quite possible. When this is done correctly, I have seen miracles occur and lives transformed for eternity!

The second reason I love this verse is because Paul states that “we” — and implies that we ought to — take our thoughts captive to obey Christ. According to Paul’s other writings, Jesus Christ is ultimate reality (Col 1:16). Thus, when we take our thoughts captive to obey Christ, we are thinking true thoughts. This is because truth corresponds to reality.

What I love most about this verse is the fact that Paul implies that we are responsible free thinkers of the libertarian variety. According to the fifth verse of the tenth chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes it clear that all of our thoughts are not causally determined and forced upon us from external sources. That is to say, YOU are responsible for your own thoughts (at least some of them).

Paul is clear that we ought to take our thoughts captive to obey Christ — to obey reality! He also implies that we can be taken captive by incorrect thinking in Colossians 2:8. It follows that humanity is engaged in a battle. This battle is “not against flesh and blood” (Eph 6:12); no, whether we realize it or not, each and every one of us is in a battle for the mind!

We must take our thoughts captive before they take us captive. We are responsible for our thoughts and thus, we ought to be free thinkers!

Which is not even possible on naturalism or any other deterministic view!

So, take your thoughts captive and in Paul’s other words…

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton

Are Miracles Metaphysically Impossible?

By Tim Stratton

Are Miracles Metaphysically Impossible?“It’s impossible for God to interact in the physical world. For example, say we have a material object and God wants to move it. Newton made it clear: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, since God is an immaterial being He could never cause anything to happen or occur in the material/physical universe. Therefore, miracles are impossible!”

Mr. Skeptic


I spend much of my time arguing against naturalism; specifically against the idea that only the physical universe exists. This is accomplished by utilizing logical arguments reaching deductive conclusions that demonstrate the existence of both God and the human soul. Many times the best discoveries in modern science support premises in these deductive arguments reaching supernatural conclusions.

One of the most common objections I receive on the internet is known as the interaction objection. I previously wrote an article regarding this specific kind of objection in regards to the human soul [1]. The objection above is quite similar, but specifically against the idea of God not only being able to create the universe, but especially to act in it (miracles).

One of my lecturing professors at Biola University was the eminent philosopher, JP Moreland. I chose to attend Biola University basically for two reasons: William Lane Craig and JP Moreland. Not long ago my wife and I had the privilege of having dinner with JP Moreland. I learned more that night than from any class lecture. We discussed many things that evening and this topic of God interacting in the world was included. Based on that conversation, I believe that the objection above fails for at least three reasons.

Empirical Observations & Metaphysical Principles

First of all, Newton’s 3rd law is not a metaphysical principle; rather, it is an empirical one. The problem here is that one cannot logically derive metaphysical principles from mere empirical observations. Moreland said, “Any freshman philosophy student should know that you cannot derive deep modal or metaphysical conclusions from empirical laws.”

Empirical laws or observations merely tell us what is true in this world — nothing more. You might grant that empirical laws tell us what is true in all relevantly similar worlds that are physical worlds, but they do not tell you what must be true in this world. That is to say, you cannot derive deep modal conclusions (what is possible or impossible in any world) from empirical laws because empirical laws are too thin of a basis to support this kind of overreaching generalization.

Knowledge & Conceivability

The second problem with this objection is that modal judgments are known a priori (from the earlier) as opposed to a posteriori (from the latter). We know about necessity and possibility a priori. We know about physics from experience via the scientific method. This is a posterioriknowledge. Newton’s 3rd law might be physically necessary, but this is not metaphysically necessary. There is simply no evidence for that because those kinds of statements are known a priori.

The best epistemic test for a priori knowledge is conceivability. Moreland said that one “might not like this, but it’s about all we’ve got!” If something is conceivable, then it is possible; if something is inconceivable, then it is impossible. This is a defeasible criterion of knowledge. This is not with Cartesian certainty by any means, but nevertheless, it is defeasible.

Moreland offered a great example:

The reason I think it is metaphysically possible for little green men to exist on the surface of Mars is not because I’ve been there to check it out, but because I can conceive of little green men on the surface of Mars. With that said, however, I cannot conceive of married bachelors in Montana. Therefore, I don’t even need to make the trip to check it out because I know this is impossible.

The Problem of Proving Too Much

Finally, the third problem with this objection is that if this objection is right, then it proves too much as it also rules out human libertarian free will. If an immaterial substance cannot interact in the material world, then the same problem God supposedly has is also a major problem for human beings. That is to say, if God cannot act on matter, then neither can a human soul.

Every time a human makes a free choice (which include both moral or rational decisions) we are performing (for lack of a better term) “mini miracles.” Because humans are immaterial souls with material bodies, we have the ability to intervene in and override the laws of nature. This ability gives us a respons-ABILITY to not behave as mere animals.

Libertarianism (libertarian free will) is the opposite of compatibilism (compatibilism is a form of determinism). Libertarianism states that when one acts freely, then nothing else causally determined that thought or action. It was “up to you” completely. This is not to say that we have libertarian freedom in all things, or that we cannot be influenced by other things, but influence and causal determinism are two different kinds of things. When humans freely think, then we can make rational choices and decisions. When humans act freely, we generate motion in the universe from the available energy to use, or not to use.

Consider when I choose to raise my arm, nothing causally determined my arm to rise but me; not the prior states of my brain. If my arm is caused to move by the state of the brain, then there is a causal link between the brain state and what determined my brain to exist in the specific state (which is not up to me if naturalism is true). This can go on and on back to the initial conditions of the big bang (which is another example of a physical thing being caused by a non-physical or immaterial substance).

Moreland said,

Behind each chain of events, if there is libertarian freedom, is a first mover — me! I might choose to exercise my power and that might cause a nervous system event to go down and raise my arm — I don’t have any problem with that — but at the back of that sucker is me interacting with matter!

This means that the objector proves too much! If this objection is right, then libertarian free will is impossible, and if there is no libertarian free will, then rationality is not just false, but impossible. That is to say, if there is no free will, then there is no freethinking! However, isn’t the objector claiming to make a rational objection? If so, then his argument is self-defeating!

Bottom line: We have scientific, philosophical, and historical justification to believe in miracles. Moreover, the interaction objection fails as a defeater for this justified belief for the three reasons listed above. Therefore, given the three reasons to believe in miracles and the three reasons to reject the objection to miracles, it is perfectly rational to state, “I believe in miracles!”

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton (Visit Tim’s Website @ FreeThinkingMinistries.com)


NOTES

[1] In a previous article I demonstrated that it is impossible to doubt the existence of your mind, but there is some scientific reason to doubt the existence of your brain. It follows that if one really thinks that it is impossible for an immaterial mind (God or the human soul) to interact with the physical universe, then they ought to become a theistic idealist and reject matter before rejecting mind. One way or the other, naturalism/physicalism is false. Mind is fundamental and ultimate reality.


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TEN Problems with the Canaanite Objection

By Tim Stratton

“Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21).

Why would God command the execution of all the Canaanites (along with the children) in the Old Testament? Many think this is one of the biggest objections to Christianity; however, when thinking logically, we can see that this is not an objection to Christian theism at all. We must recognize the real objection; at most, this is only an objection to Biblical inerrancy, as the “Canaanite objection” does absolutely nothing to disprove the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus. These two things must be invalidated before “Mere Christianity” (as C.S. Lewis put it) is discredited.

With that said, however, is this even a good objection against Biblical inerrancy? I think not. Why? Perhaps God had perfectly good reasons for issuing these “divine commands” (if He really issued them at all).

A quick study of the Canaanite tribes reveals a totally wicked culture, that if existed today, the world would decry. The Canaanites would brutally torture and sacrifice their babies to idols by slowly burning them alive (this sounds worse than ISIS Muslims today)! Eric Lyons noted the following:

 Their “cultic practice was barbarous and thoroughly licentious” (Unger, 1954, p. 175). Their “deities…had no moral character whatever,” which “must have brought out the worst traits in their devotees and entailed many of the most demoralizing practices of the time,” including sensuous nudity, orgiastic nature-worship, snake worship, and even child sacrifice (Unger, p. 175; cf. Albright, 1940, p. 214). As Moses wrote, the inhabitants of Canaan would “burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30). The Canaanite nations were anything but “innocent.” In truth, “[t]hese Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, dangerously contaminating and thoroughly justifying the divine command to destroy their devotees” (Unger, 1988). They were so nefarious that God said they defiled the land and the land could stomach them no longer—“the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25).

These tribes inhabited the land that God gave to the Israelites. Therefore, not only were the Canaanites suffering God’s judgment for their wicked ways, the land was also restored to Israel. These tribes were to be utterly demolished as nation states! The Canaanites were ripe for God’s judgment, and justice would be served via the Israelites.

Here is what many skeptics miss: The Canaanites, seeing the advancing armies of Israel could have chosen to “get the heck out of Dodge,” and no one would have been killed! To underscore this point, we see no Bible verse in which God commands pursuing the Canaanites, or “hunting them down to the ends of the earth.”

Utterly Destroy?

Moreover, the Israelites did not literally “utterly destroy” all the Canaanites! Only the Canaanites who chose to stay and fight the Israelites were to be killed. In fact, it is quite possible that there were no Canaanite women or children killed at all. The Bible makes zero references to the actualkilling of Canaanite non-combatants, which supports the notion that it was only the Canaanite soldiers, who stayed to fight the Israelite armies, who were exterminated.

Speaking of Biblical affirmation, the Bible reports that Canaanite people were still alive after the conquest of the land in question:

“Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded… Thus Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negev, all that land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland” (Joshua 10:40; 11:16).

Joshua reports that God commanded “utter destruction,” and that he had followed that command “to the T” (Joshua 11:12, 15, 20); however, if we read the text further, we find that Joshua did not take all of the land (Joshua 13:1-5), and that many of the people who were supposedly either annihilated or removed from the land were, in fact, still living there (Joshua 13:13). The author is clear that the people of Anakim had been “utterly destroyed,” (Joshua 11:21-22); however, if we continue reading, we find Caleb asking for permission to drive out the people of Anakim (Joshua 14:12-15; 15:13-19).

Moreover, the book of Judges records that “the Canaanites persisted in living in that land” (Judg. 1:21) and “they did not drive [the Canaanites] out completely” (Judg. 1:28). This gives us good reason to conclude that modern readers might be making a hermeneutical error in trying to read ancient text through modern lenses. This is corroborated by the words of Moses regarding a future generation of Israelites, He says Israel “will be utterly destroyed” (Deut. 4:26). Now, the nation of Israel has experienced some great defeats in the past; however, the nation of Israel has not been “utterly destroyed” at all. In fact, the nation of Israel thrives today.

After considering all of the text and seeing that the Canaanites continued to survive, this either proves the Israelites disobeyed this supposed “command of genocide,” or this was likely figurative language not to be taken literally (i.e., I hope the Huskers KILL and wipe out the badgers and wolverines next year on the field), or, it proves my point – this battle was not about people; it was about taking control of the land.

What Does Evil Prove? 

Another problem the skeptic has when referencing the Canaanite Objection as evidence against God, is that it actually proves the existence of God! That is to say, if an atheist thinks the “Canaanite problem” is a good refutation of theism, they are actually refuting atheism. If they claim that the Israelites actions were really wrong (objectively), they are inadvertently providing evidence that God exists! Examine the Moral Argument:

1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2- Objective moral values and duties do exist

3- Therefore, God exists.

If atheists object to the “Canaanite problem” and proclaim it was objectively wrong to drive the Canaanites from the land, they are offering evidence supporting premise (2) of the Moral Argument. Therefore, God exists! If they do not think it was really wrong, then they have no grounds to complain.

To Whom is God Accountable?

On the other hand, and for the sake of argument, what if the Bible is supposed to be taken literally in this passage in question and God did actually command the Israelites to kill all Canaanites? Would God be guilty of sin? This raises several questions. For instance: is it objectively wrong for God to issue commands to us, that we are obligated to follow, but that He is not?[1] Moreover, is it objectively wrong for God to issue a law that we ought to follow, and then, tell us to do something different in a specific situation?

When we stop to intellectually consider this (as opposed to emotionally) things become clear. For example, I live in the great state of Nebraska (Go Big Red!), and the lawmakers that govern this state have issued the command: “Thou shall not drive over 75 mph on the interstate!” Now, I have to be honest, I do not like this command (I wish the speed limit were at least 90 mph); however, I am obligated to drive according to the laws of the State of Nebraska, independent of whether I agree with them or not. If I do not drive according to these laws (which are issued to help Nebraskans flourish), I will suffer consequences that the lawmaking minds of Nebraska have issued as well.

The same lawmakers have the ability to issue commands to certain individuals in extreme circumstances. For instance, the Nebraska State Patrol is allowed to drive much faster than the speed limit, when they are in pursuit of those who have broken the law. Moreover, thankfully, those who drive ambulances and fire engines can drive much faster than the speed limit if they need to. Are Nebraska’s lawmakers morally wrong or evil for issuing different commands to different people in extreme situations? Not at all! In fact, I think they would be wrong to tell State Troopers that if they were chasing bad guys who were driving 100 mph, that they still had to drive 75 mph while in pursuit. It would be wrong and just plain silly.

When thinking this through, did God really do something wrong if He issued such commands to the Israelites to annihilate the Canaanites? God has the right (as the Ultimate Lawgiver) to give commands to certain individuals in extreme situations. We see this all the time in our government today.

I would ask those who think the supposed “Canaanite objection” is a problem for Christians, to please explain to me exactly who God sinned against if He did indeed issue these commands to the Israelites? If things are objectively wrong, they are wrong in reference to a higher standard. So, if God really did issue commands to kill people, what higher standard did God sin against? Is God accountable to someone? If this question is not answered, the objection has no teeth in its bite and does not make logical sense.

God’s Middle Knowledge

God, by definition, is omniscient. This means He knows the truth-value to any and all propositions. This includes counter-factual truths in the subjunctive mood and this means God possesses what theologians and philosophers refer to as “middle knowledge.” God is the standard of logic and rationality, and he is perfectly intelligent. Given this property, God makes the most intelligent decision in every scenario and situation. This means that God would know what would happen, if he did not issue the commands to destroy the Canaanites. Perhaps God knew that if they were not driven from the land and destroyed, Israel would not have become a nation, and Jesus would not have been born to save the world.

Moreover, God would have known how wicked the Canaanites were, and known with absolute certainty that none of them would have worshipped him, if given the opportunity. We could conduct thought experiment after thought experiment regarding an omniscient being (who would know the truth-value to counter-factual propositions) that would lead to Him knowing that issuing the commands to the Israelites to drive the wicked Canaanites from their land, and even kill them, would be the best thing to do in that specific situation.

Finite humans, who are not perfectly intelligent, are simply not in a position to know if the omniscient, divine command from God is the best decision or not because we have no idea what counter factual would have happened, if God did not issue these commands. An omniscient God, however, would be in such an epistemic position to know these things with perfect certainty and issue commands accordingly.

How We Know

According to Divine Command Morality, if God commands us to take the life of another, it would not be wrong. In the absence of this command, it is objectively wrong to murder other humans. How do we know this? God has revealed this to us through His commands and the Law of Christ — to love everyone from our neighbors (Mark 12:31) to our enemies (Matthew 5:44). This law and these commands have been historically validated via the resurrection of Jesus, as it is God’s seal of approval of everything Jesus said, taught, and exemplified.

God does not order Himself to do things. He acts in accords with his omniscient nature. He is what the laws of logic are grounded in (“The Logos”)and He is perfectly intelligent. A statement is true when it corresponds to reality. God is the ultimate standard of reality, as He exists necessarily and eternally with no beginning, and all other things are contingent upon God and depend upon Him for their existence (Colossians 1:15-20). Therefore, God is the ground of logic, the standard of truth, and we depend on Him for our existence. As William Lane Craig points out, “We ought to depend on the one who depends on no one.” That gives Him the right to tell us how to live, and to tell us what to do, even if we do not subjectively appreciate the commands (just like I don’t like the speed limit)!

It is important to remember that God is not obligated by his nature to extend human life. God is the author, giver, inventor, and creator of life. It is His to decide how we ought to live, and He has the right to issue commands that He knows are best (even if they don’t always make sense to us). God gives us life and He has the right to take it when He chooses and by whatever means He chooses. Be that as it may, some continue to object and claim that if God did command the Israelites to kill the Canaanite children, that it would have been objectively wrong for God to issue such commands no matter what. Is this really the case? My former professor, Dr. Clay Jones (who does not think these passages are hyperbole), made the following comments on the issue:

“One of the key issues that we need to point out regarding the killing of Canaanite children is that it isn’t always wrong to kill the innocent. Copan makes this point in his book (“Is God a Moral Monster?“) and uses the potential shooting down of Flight 93 as an example. . . . Also, God is every bit as just for allowing a child to be taken quickly by the sword as He is for allowing them to be taken slowly by cancer. Further, if God knew that these children, when they grew up, would commit similar sins, then He does no wrong by taking their lives early.”[2]

After contemplating these comments from Clay Jones, consider the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan to win WWII. We killed many innocent Japanese civilians, although millions of lives were saved in the process! With historical examples like these in mind, it is clear that sometimes — in extremely rare circumstances — it is actually good, and the right thing to do, for leaders to issue commands that will have collateral damage and take innocent life.

Conclusion

This essay provides several logical arguments against the “Canaanite objection.” I have answered this objection based on logic and critical thinking. One may have an emotional revulsion against these answers, but an emotional revulsion is not an intellectual objection and it does not logically lead to the conclusion that atheism is true, or that Christianity is false. The supposed “problems” of God committing genocide in the Old Testament are not insurmountable problems by any means, and ultimately, not a good reason to reject Christianity. In summary, remember theseTEN key points:

1- Objections like these do not refute Christian theism; this objection is simply an argument against Biblical inerrancy (a non-essential doctrine) nothing more.[3]

2- The Canaanites were wicked (on par with ISIS) and ripe for judgment.

3- The battle was primarily about the land as there was no command to “hunt the Canaanites down to the ends of the earth.”

4- The Bible is clear that all of the Canaanites were not executed.

5- These commands could well have been figurative speech (i.e., “our football team is going to kill your team!”)[4]

6- Objections like these support premise (2) of the moral argument for God’s existence (Therefore, God exists).

7- Lawmakers have the ability to issue different commands to certain individuals in extreme circumstances.

8- If God really did issue these commands to kill people, whom did God sin against? Who is He accountable to?

9- Given God’s property of omniscience and perfect intelligence, God makes the best decision in every scenario and situation. God would know what would happen if He did not issue the commands to destroy the Canaanites.

10- Flight 93 and WWII atomic bomb examples demonstrate that it is not always wrong to issue commands where innocent lives are taken.

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton


NOTES

*Please read this related article from my colleague, Shannon Eugene Byrd, shining additional light on the subject of the Canaanite Objection.

[1] I call this the “Bedtime Fallacy,” as this is equivalent to saying parents are wrong to command their children to go to bed at 9 PM, but they retain the right to stay up past midnight.

[2] Clay Jones was my professor in my “God & Evil class” and I wrote a paper on the Canaanite Objection. Dr. Jones wrote this to me in response to my paper.

[3] Read more regarding this topic in my article, “An Ignorant Objection to the Moral Argument.”

[4] Trevor Ray Slone personally informed me that God’s curse on Canaan (Noah’s grandson) in Genesis 9:25-27 gives further credence to the view that God did not intend to “utterly destroy” all of Canaan’s decedents (the Canaanites). God, in that curse, repeatedly indicates that Canaan’s decedents would be servants of God’s people. It is therefore logically impossible for God to decree that all of the Canaanites be destroyed, for how could they be servants if they were “utterly destroyed?”

 

The Law of Identity & the Human Soul

By Tim Stratton

Do humans survive the death of their bodies? As a pastor, I have officiated several funerals over the past few years and I have attended many recently. This topic is always sure to come up while talking to the surviving relatives. Questions such as these are regularly asked: Will we see our loved one again? Although the body of our loved one has died, does their soul continue to exist?

The vast majority of humanity has believed in the soul throughout the centuries; however, many advocates of scientism (the presupposition that science is the only way to know reality) have caused much doubt regarding the existence of the soul today. It is important to remember that if the human soul does exist, it is something that, like God, cannot be discovered by science. The scientific method is only applicable to things in the natural universe, and science is impotent to test, discover, or explain things such as the laws of logic, mathematics, self-introspection, objective morality, the order of science itself, and anything outside of or transcending the natural universe. [1] These kinds of things would be other than nature and this is what philosophers refer to as “supernatural.”

I have come to the conclusion that after examining all of the data, we can confidently proclaim the human soul does exist. In fact, The Freethinking Argument deductively proves that not only do humans possess libertarian free will and that naturalism is false, but it also proves that the human soul does exist! This counts as evidence demonstrating the existence of the soul; however, I am often asked for more, and independent, evidence.

The Logical Law of Identity

There are other reasons to think we are more than just bodies and brains. JP Moreland provides a powerful philosophical case regarding the logical law of identity. He says, “If I have the property of being possibly disembodied, but my body does not have the property of being possibly disembodied, it logically follows that I am not my body.”[2]  That is to say, if it is not logically incoherent to conceive of the idea that I could exist apart from my body, then it logically follows that I am something other than my body.

According to the laws of logic, there is a property that I have that my body does not, and therefore, my body and I are not identical. My body and I are not the same thing. That is to say, I am not my body.[3]   This thing that I call, “I,” is something other than my body (or brain) and it is what I refer to as the soul.

To illustrate, think about this: suppose water is H2O and they are identical. Is there anything that could possibly happen to water that could not happen to H2O? No. Whatever temperature forces water to boil, will necessarily force H2O to boil, because they are identical.[4]

Here is the point: even if life after death is false, I am at least possibly the kind of thing that logically could exist after my body dies. It is not a logically incoherent concept. Therefore, if I am the kind of thing that could (at least possibly) exist disembodied, then, logically, I cannot be my brain or body.

Moreover, I am possibly disembrainable (after all, near-death experiences could possibly be true), but my brain is not possibly disembrainable. This proves I am not my brain because there is something true of me which is not true of my brain. Namely, I am the sort of thing that could survive death (even if I do not), but the brain cannot logically survive its destruction. Moreland provides a deductive syllogism to summarize his case:[5]   

  1. The law of identity is true: If x is identical to y, then whatever is true of x is true of y and vice versa.
  2. I can strongly conceive of myself as existing disembodied.
  3. If I can strongly conceive of some state of affairs S that S possibly obtains, then I have good grounds for believing that S is possible.
  4. Therefore, I have good grounds for believing of myself that it is possible for me to exist and be disembodied.
  5. If some entity x is such that it is possible for x to exist without y, then (i) x is not identical to y, and (ii) y is not essential to x.
  6. My body (or brain) is not such that it is possible to exist disembodied, i.e., my body (or brain) is essentially physical.
  7. Therefore, I have good grounds for believing of myself that I am not identical to my body (or brain) and that my physical body is not essential to me.

Conclusion

It makes sense to conclude, along with the Nobel Prize winning neurologist, Sir John Eccles, that I am a soul who uses a body and brain. This argument for the existence of the soul, along with the Freethinking Argument (and others), provides good reason to conclude that the Apostle Paul knew what he was talking about: “…  we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). 

Do we survive the death of our bodies? You better believe it!

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton


For more articles like The Law of Identity & the Human Soul visit Tim’s website Freethinkingministries.com


NOTES

[1] William Lane Craig in debate vs. Peter Atkins, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U_NS9WsJ08 (Accessed 9-11-12)

[2] JP Moreland “In Defense of the Soul,” Biola University lecture on CD

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] J.P. Moreland’s syllogism is found in, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 125-26

Randy Everist provides a detailed defense of this argument here and here. Be sure to check it out!

Evolution and the “Convictions of a Monkey’s Mind”

By Tim Stratton

In my last article I made the case that evolution cannot account for human rationality unless it could explain genuine free will. In the Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism, I argued that free will cannot be explained if naturalism is true. It follows that naturalistic evolution cannot account for the ability humans possess to rationally affirm knowledge claims.

My Freethinking Argument stands strong on its own, but Alvin Plantinga has made a separate case supporting my argument. He argues that if evolution is true, then naturalism is probably false. To be clear, Plantinga is not making a case against evolution; rather, he argues that naturalism and evolution are most likely incompatible. This argument is called the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism(EAAN).[1]

I will not offer the EAAN in its entirely (Plantinga summarizes it here), but one of the key ideas behind this argument is that evolution is not guaranteed to select for truth. Natural selection is a cause of evolution. Organisms that are best able to survive and reproduce are selected for, however true beliefs do not necessarily increase the likelihood of survival. If it could be demonstrated that (at least sometimes) false beliefs can enhance survivability, then we have good reason to believe that naturalistic evolution cannot guarantee that our thoughts correspond with reality. Darwin himself seemed to have lost sleep over this idea:

With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has always been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy… Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?[2]

Darwin may have realized the problem of combining naturalism with evolutionary theory; that is to say, if evolution is a non-teleological and a non-rational process, it challenges our confidence that we can form true beliefs that lead to rational conclusions. Naturalistic evolution (as opposed to some form of theistic evolution) presupposes that our cognitive faculties developed as they did because it had some survival value or reproductive advantage. The theory of evolution affirms that natural selection does not select for beliefs unless they benefit the chances of survival and/or reproduction. Beliefs only have to lead to a survival advantage even if they are completely false.

The biologist and atheist, Lewis Wolpert, confirmed Plantinga’s case, albeit inadvertently, in a debate with William Lane Craig. In his first speech, he affirmed that although he believes theism is false, he acknowledges there are evolutionary advantages and survival benefits to those holding theistic beliefs.[3] It follows from this admission that evolution selects for survival, not for true beliefs (since he assumes theism is false). Consequently, why should Wolpert trust his evolved belief that theism is false? He is reasoning in circles.

Mormonism is a good example of false beliefs contributing to survival and reproductive benefits. After all, Mormonism teaches morality and human flourishing as well as having as many children as possible to populate future planets that they will rule.[4] Those holding the belief that Mormonism is true also believe they have a moral responsibility to reproduce.

Consider the other side of the coin: a belief in atheism could actually hinder human survival (even if atheism were true — which it is not). If one believes atheistic naturalism is true, then one ought to logically reach the conclusion that life is objectively meaningless.[5] There would be no foundation for objective meaning, value, or purpose in life if God and soul do not exist. What’s the point of surviving? Moreover, there would be no objective grounding for moral values and duties.[6] If nothing really matters, then human flourishing and survival do not really matter either. Therefore, atheistic beliefs do not logically lead to survival benefits.

Many atheists want to reject the idea that evolution does not select for true beliefs but then they turn around and affirm Plantinga’s key premise when objecting to the Moral Argument for God’s existence. They will exclaim that objective moral values and duties do not really exist, but humans have evolved to hold this false belief to survive and flourish.

There are two major problems here. First, if the atheist agrees with Plantinga — that evolution is aimed at survival and not truth — then how does he knowhis beliefs about anything are true, including his evolved belief that God does not exist? Second, it does not logically follow from this that God does not exist or that objective moral values and duties do not exist. After all, God could have intelligently designed the initial conditions of the big bang to guarantee that our comprehension of objective moral values and duties would be realized via evolution. I am not arguing that this is how God “wrote the law on our hearts” (Romans 2:15), but simply stating that this would not be a problem for an omniscient and omnipotent God.

In conclusion, let me be clear: my Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism stands on its own two feet, even if Plantinga’s argument fails. With that said, if the EAAN passes (and I think it does), it adds strength to the Freethinking Argument as it reaches similar conclusions for different reasons. As Plantinga has noted, “[Evolution] doesn’t give a hoot about whether your beliefs are true or false!”[7] If this is true, then we cannot know our beliefs are true. All we are left with is question-begging assumptions that our evolved and causally determined beliefs correspond with reality. Therefore, naturalistic evolution fails to explain free will, rationality, and knowledge.

The FreeThinking Theist,

Tim Stratton

 

For more articles like: Evolution and the “Convictions of a Monkey’s Mind” visit Tim’s site at FreeThinkingMinistries.com


NOTES

[1] Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2011

[2] Charles Darwin to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (1897; repr., Boston: Elibron, 2005)

[3] Wolpert, Lewis, in debate with William Lane Craig, http://youtu.be/kzhczra3o4o

[4] “We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:48, quoted in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, 1976, p.132)

[5] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, Page 72

[6] William Lane Craig, “On Guard,” (David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, CO 2008) Pg. 127

[7] Alvin Plantinga discussing the EAAN on “Closer to the Truth” http://youtu.be/xpw9UsdbvW8

 

Can Evolution Account for Rationality?

By Tim Stratton

The topic of my master’s thesis while at Biola University focused on what it means to genuinely be a “freethinker.” This argument — called the Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism — deductively proves that not only does libertarian free will exist, but so does the human soul. If the human soul exists, then the worldview of naturalism goes down the drain.

This has led many who hold a blind faith in naturalism to bend over backwards attempting to refute my argument that concludes their faith is faulty. Some attempt to counter my case by stating evolutionary theory can account for rationality. Can evolution refute the Freethinking Argument? No. The only way evolution could account for rationality is if it could account for libertarian free will (as I explained here). But, the reason most naturalistic scientists reject the notion of libertarian free will is because if all that exists is nature, then everything is determined by the laws of nature.

The well-known atheist, Daniel Dennett, on the other hand, has tried to make a case that “freedom evolves.”[1] However, we must recognize that this “freedom” Dennett argues for is not the same kind of freedom I discuss in my Freethinking Argument. It is not genuine libertarian free will; rather, he argues for compatibilism, which is simply faux determinism “covered with frosting!” The famous atheist and evolutionary biologist, Jerry Coyne, has realized Dennett’s mistakes and has forcefully disagreed with him:

Where does Dennett find freedom in a determined world? As his title implies, in evolution. . . .  Even though evolution tells us why we make certain “choices,” they still are not choices in the classical free-will sense: situations in which we could have decided otherwise. . . . In the end, I saw (Dennett’s) argument as a type of philosophical prestidigitation, in which our intuitive notion of free will had suddenly been replaced by something that, at first, sounded good, but ultimately didn’t comport with how we see “free” choice.  I felt as though I’d been presented with a cake, only to find that it was hollow in the middle, like a hatbox covered with frosting. . . . I see free will as the way most of us conceive of it: a situation in which one could have made more than one choice. If that’s how you see it, and you’re a determinist—which I think you pretty much have to be if you accept science—then you’re doomed.  You’re left with the task of defining free will in some other way that comports with determinism. . . . we aren’t really responsible for anything we do.[2]

 

Coyne appears correct: if naturalism is true, we are simply not responsible for anything we do. It logically follows that we would not even be responsible for any of our thoughts and beliefs. However, this also means that Coyne was not responsible for his beliefs that he was forced to state in response to Dennett. Similarly, Coyne should not be aggravated at Dennett’s argument, because he could not help thinking about or writing it in a determined world. It simply was not his fault.[3]

The FreeThinking Theist,

Tim Stratton

 

For more articles like: Can Evolution Account for Rationality? visit Tim’s site at FreeThinkingMinistries.com


 

NOTES

[1] Daniel C. Dennett, “Freedom Evolves” Penguin Books, London England, 2003

[2] Jerry Coyne, “Did Freedom Evolve?” http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/did-freedom-evolve/ (Accessed 8-30-14)

[3] Peter van Inwagen logically demonstrates that there is nothing “free” about compatibilism via his “Consequence Argument.”  An Essay on Free Will(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 16.

Rule Alpha: There is nothing anyone can do to change what must be the case (or what is necessarily so).

Rule Beta: If there is nothing anyone can do to change X, and nothing anyone can do to change the fact that Y is a necessary consequence of X, then there is nothing anyone can do to change Y either.

Is the Cross Cosmic Child Abuse?

By Tim Stratton

Nothing is more exciting than examining the historical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. Most people are shocked to realize that by employing the historical method, one can conclude that Jesus not only died on a Roman cross but was raised from the dead as well. This is compelling evidence not only that God exists, but also that Christianity is true!

However, with that said, we cannot discuss the resurrection without first discussing the crucifixion. After all, Jesus cannot rise from the dead, if he was not killed in the first place. This raises questions not based on history, but rather, philosophy: Why did Jesus have to die? Why is the wages of sin death? Why can’t the wages of sin be five bucks or seven years of hard labor?

Why did Jesus have to die?

Before addressing that all-important question, first understand two things: 1- who we are, and 2- who God is. According to Westminster Confession, the objective purpose of mankind is to know and enjoy God. I like to “tweak” it ever so slightly, and state: The objective purpose of mankind is to grow in our knowledge of God, to grow in love with God, and to enjoy a personal relationship with our Creator for all eternity (Hosea 6:6; Luke 10:27; Col 1:9; 1 Tim 2:4).

Scores of humanity have considered the meaning and purpose of life. The fact remains, if God does not exist, then there is no objective purpose in life (Atheism Catch-22). Christians, however, do not suffer from this sort of conundrum. In fact, we have a ready answer. We know the objective meaning and purpose to life: God created every human to know, love, and enjoy God. This is why God created the universe and all of its contents. This is why you exist, so that you could know him! We were created on purpose and for that exact and specific purpose!

Like Oil & Water

By definition, God is necessarily perfect in every way. Moreover, God created you to enjoy a perfect, holy, and pure love relationship with him. However, we have a problem — a big problem! As a result of sin, now we as humans are anything but holy and pure. Now we are guilty, alienated, and corrupt in nature. Since we are corrupt and imperfect, we are unequally yoked with a perfect God. Like oil and water, now, we are “unmixable” with God. He is necessary perfection and we are infection. The two simply do not mix and that is a major problem for humanity.

Therefore, humanity needs a savior. With a savior we can be justified instead of guilty, adopted instead of alienated, and have a purified and regenerated nature instead of a corrupt nature.

We were created for one objective purpose – to be the Bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-27) in a perfect and true love marriage. We were created to love and to be loved by our Creator. However, now, because of sin, we are infected and do not mix with necessary perfection any longer (i.e., oil and water). As a result, we are necessarily separated from God.

Our hearts were created to be “pointed” to God, but now they are dysfunctional, sick, and twisted because of this separation. Our hearts are now “curved in” on themselves, they are self-centered, selfish, and sinful. We have completely “missed the mark.” This is literally what the word “sin” means in the original Greek. The “mark” is God, but we are separated from him; we do not even know God exists apart from his revelation. Due to this separation, we cannot even “aim” at God and of course we will “miss the mark” and sin.

We are infected, self-centered creatures – but we are not supposed to be. God created you and gave you a job description: BE HOLY! Being holy means to be God focused instead of self-focused. The problem is, all of us have “missed the mark,” and have become “infection.” Therefore, we have a damaged relationship with perfection – God!

Is Restoration Possible?

The question remains: how is a broken relationship restored? Two things must occur if a damaged relationship is to be restored: 1) The offended party must choose to bear the harm. 2) The offending party must choose to confess and repent. In our relationship with God, he is the offended party as we sinned against him. We are the offending party, and are thus powerless to restore this relationship on our own. Our works are meaningless unless God, as the offended party, chooses to bear the harm. Left to our own devices, our work does not work (Isaiah 64:6).

God is life! He is the author and giver of life. He invented it and life comes from him! In the well-known Bible verse, John 14:6, Jesus claims he is “the life.” If God is life, then separation from life is death. Since sin separates us from God (like oil and water), then, consequently, sin equals death. Therefore, in every aspect that you have life, you will die if you are separated from the source of life. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

If our relationship with God is to be restored, then God must bear the harm as the offended party. If the harm is death, then, God must die. One small problem though: it is logically impossible for a necessary being to die! God cannot die physically because he is immaterial and spirit. God cannot die spiritually because he cannot be separated from himself.

You are a soul with one set of cognitive faculties. God is one soul with three sets of cognitive faculties. Just as your cognitive faculties cannot be separated from you as a spiritual substance (soul), God’s cognitive faculties (all three of them) cannot be separated from his “spiritual substance.”

If God is going to bear the harm, he has to die because the wages of sin is death. God cannot die as God. Therefore, if humans are to be saved, God had to become human so he could bear the harm and experience death. We need Christmas, we need Good Friday, and we need Easter to have a restored relationship with our creator (Happy Holy Days)!

Why do we need Easter (the Resurrection)? Well, it took more than just executing Jesus, because if death was punishment, if Christ is still dead, then he is still being punished. The Resurrection is proof that God is satisfied with Jesus’ atoning work. Therefore, Christianity is true!

Remember, we were created for the objective purpose to love God with our entire being. We see this demonstrated in multiple Bible verse such as, Luke 10:27, and Matthew 22:37, we are to love God with all of our mind/soul, and body/strength. If we ever choose not to love God in any way that we have life, then our lives ought to be terminated because we are objectively broken. This is an appropriate outcome. If something breaks, we either throw it away, or we fix it. Now, as far as our broken relationship with God goes, we have the choice to either be “thrown away,” or to be “fixed.” Because of the work of Jesus (The Atonement) all people can be “fixed” if we choose to be.

Justice is Good

Consider the nature of God to gain understanding of these issues. Psalm 97 states, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.” This is not referring to God’s chair; rather, this is stating the essential attributes and the essence of God. This is who God is! In other words, if God did not exist, there would be no such thing as objective righteousness, goodness, wickedness, or justice. God is perfectly good. Thus, perfect justice must be part of his essential nature as well. After all, justice is good.

When someone escapes justice, we intuitively know that it is a bad thing. God created the universe, and part of the fabric of His creation is a moral universe. There are also natural laws, mathematical laws, and logical laws that govern the universe. Similarly, there are moral laws that we are obligated to obey (Paul says they are “written on our hearts” in Romans 2:15).

Perfect justice demands punishment, or it is not really justice. God cannot turn a blind-eye to our sin and say, “Oh well, boys will be boys, girls will be girls, humans will be humans.” That is not justice; it is injustice and ignoring crime and ignoring sin is bad. Therefore, God cannot ignore our sin and remain worthy of worship.

If a criminal commits a crime, we know that he deserves to be punished. We also know that the punishment should be fair and that it ought to fit the crime. If a seventeen year old shoplifts a pack of bubblegum from the gas station, there should be an appropriate punishment – we don’t give him the death penalty! However, moral monsters like Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, and Osama Bin Laden deserve a much greater punishment than the bubblegum burglar.

Now think about our crimes; we might not be a Ted Bundy, or a Hitler; however, we have all committed crimes against the very essence of morality, goodness, and justice – God! Because of this fact, we do not “mix” or relate with God. One may object and state that they are generally a “good person.” This may be true; however, they are not perfectly good, and cannot “mix” with a necessarily perfect God. Our lives are broken and infected, and therefore, we need a savior so that we can have a relationship with our creator. This brings us to Jesus; this brings us to the cross.

Conclusion

Some have falsely accused God the Father of some form of “cosmic child abuse” because he took out his wrath on his innocent son, because we sinful humans made him so angry. This is bad theology (remember the Trinity). We worship one God (not three); Christians are monotheists. Jesus is God. It logically follows that Jesus *is* the offended party. Therefore, Jesus, at the cross, satisfied his own righteous wrath – his own justice (which is good), for us! This is amazing love! This is amazing grace!

Do you see the beauty? The offended party (a sinless, holy, pure, and morally perfect God) became human to pay our gruesome debt, to bear the harm, to satisfy his morally perfect justice. Wow! Because God has chosen to bear the harm, now, we have a choice to make. We can either choose to accept God’s act of love on the cross, or we can choose to deal with his justice (separation from God and all that is good). Do you want perfect justice or perfect love? Perfect love is Heaven and perfect justice is separation from the Creator of the universe (Hell)!

Because of what Jesus has done, we can have a restored relationship with our Creator. All you have to do, as the offending party, is freely choose to confess, repent, and follow Jesus. This is the essence of the message of the Gospel. Have you put your trust in Jesus?

In Christ alone,

Tim Stratton

 

To read more articles like: Is the Cross Cosmic Child Abuse? visit Tim’s site at FreeThinkingMinistries.com 


NOTES

1- A special thanks to Dr. Kevin Lewis from Biola University. Most of the content in this article was gleaned from his Essential Christian Doctrine classes.

2- Click here to listen to a sermon I gave on this topic.

Why Are You a Christian?

By Tim Stratton

Why are you a Christian? As a full-time church youth pastor and a part-time adjunct professor at a Christian college, I like to ask this question to all of my students. In fact, I ask this question quite often to many active churchgoers these days. The answer I typically receive in response to my simple question is nothing but a blank stare. After a little coaxing, sometimes I get answers like, “because my parents were Christians,” or, “’cause I was born in ‘Merica!” With that I respond, “Oh, so if you were born in Afghanistan, then you would be a Muslim?” The blank stare typically returns.

What frightens me about the state of the church (including many pastors) today is that by and large, we do not know WHY we are Christians. I think that if pressed, many churchgoers today simply like the story of the gospel, but they don’t really think it’s true! Perhaps they like the “country club atmosphere” the church provides and the community they can find there, but they sure don’t think Christianity is really true!

This is evidenced by so many unchanged lives. We see this play out every week when we see churchgoers in the pews on Sunday mornings, singing praise songs, opening their Bibles, and whispering “amen” to the pastor’s message, but during the week you couldn’t tell a difference between the churchgoer and the atheist. In fact, it doesn’t surprise me to see the atheist living a more moral life than the churchgoer on Friday and Saturday nights. But as soon as Sunday morning comes around, they will put on their Sunday best and come back to the good ol’ country club (I mean church).

Speaking of atheists, it is these hypocritical churchgoers who are the greatest cause of atheism in the world today. Why do we find this dilemma in the modern church? Because people don’t think Christianity is really true! Sure, if you ask them they will tell you that they think it’s true, but deep down, they have been influenced by atheistic naturalism if they realize it or not. They really don’t think any of this supernatural stuff is true at all.

As a pastor, I believe the problem starts at the pulpit. When pastors themselves don’t really know why they believe what they say they believe, the people in the pews hear it loud and clear. The congregation will at  least have caught what was not intentionally meant to be taught. Many times pastors will say things like, “According to the Bible, Jesus was raised in Nazareth,” or “The Biblical truth is that Jesus was raised in Nazareth.” While these statements are true (and the intention is good), statements worded in this manner can often lead to postmodern views. People will have caught what was not meant to be taught. They will think, “Oh, there is Biblical truth, and there is also Islamic truth, there is Buddhist truth, and there is Star Wars truth. So you can have your Biblical truth, and I’ll have my Star Wars truth!”

Here’s the problem: Is it true that Luke Skywalker was raised on the planet Tatooine? Yes, that is a true statement. Within the Star Wars narrative, Luke Skywalker was raised on the planet Tatooine. Next question: Is it true that Jesus was raised in Nazareth? Yes, that is a true statement. Within the Biblical narrative, Jesus was raised in Nazareth. Both of these propositions are true within their narratives, but only one of these statements corresponds to reality. That is to say, only one of these statements is really true!

By definition, statements that are true correspond to reality. Reality is the way things are. If churchgoers simply attend on Sunday mornings because the Gospel story makes them feel good, or merely because they like the people in their small group, you will never see a radical transformation in their lives. This kind of transformation only occurs when one comes to understand Ultimate Reality (God)! Moreover, even if one kept all of the church’s/country club’s “rules,” and acted like Mother Theresa, but didn’t really think Christian theism was true, then, these individuals are not Christians.

Saving belief requires three essential components that can be remembered via the acronym, “K.A.T.” Let’s apply this to John 14:6 (one of my favorite Bible verses). In this verse, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The “K” stands for knowledge. This means, understanding the proposition that Jesus is the only way to the Father. The “A” stands for assent. This means, believing this proposition is really true. If you don’t really think it’s probably true, then you do not have saving belief.

It’s important to note that merely having the “K” and the “A” of K.A.T. is not enough for salvation as James 2:19 states that even “the demons believe and shudder.” One must possess knowledge and assent, but then they need the “T” to complete saving belief: trust! Have you put your trust (a.k.a. “faith”) in what you believe is probably true? If not, you have the same kind of belief the demons have. Let that sink in a bit!

There are many churchgoers today that only have the first two aspects of saving belief as they understand the Gospel and think it’s probably true; however, they have never put their trust/faith in Christ. With that said, I am starting to see that many today (including some pastors) at least struggle with the “A.” They do not really think Christianity is true. They might really like the story, and they can tell you what the Bible says, but they don’t really think it corresponds to reality.

Now, I’ve devoted my life to truth. In fact, I would say that I am more committed to truth that I am to Christianity. However, since I am devoted to truth, and I am fully convinced that Christianity is really true, I am willing to die for my faith! If I’m willing to die for my faith, you better believe I’m willing to live it out 24/7!

When churchgoers know what they believe, and why they believe it, radical transformation occurs (Romans 12:2)! When the churchgoer is transformed into someone who understands reality and knows that Christianity is true, the “compartmentalized” problems of the modern church come to an abrupt end. That is to say, churchgoers will do so much more than only act like a Christian on Sunday mornings and maybe Wednesday nights; rather, they will live for Jesus Christ all the time, even when no one else is watching!

I am committed to truth, and since I sincerely believe the Bible is true in all that it teaches, I think we should read it to see what Jesus thought about “truth.”

John 4:24

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 8:31-32

“… If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 14:6
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 18:37

“… For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Wow! The very reason the creator of the universe entered into the universe was to testify to the TRUTH! If Jesus has this attitude towards truth, I see nothing wrong with being devoted to truth our selves. In fact, if we are truly Christ followers, we ought to be committed to the same thing. If there is any confusion regarding Jesus’ attitude towards truth, Paul makes it clear:

Ephesians 4:15

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Ephesians 4:25

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Philippians 4:8

“Whatever is true…. think about these things.”

1 Timothy 2:4

(God) “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Let’s get back to the original question. I hope if someone inquires and asks, “Why are you a Christian?,” you can respond with more than just a blank stare. When someone asks me that simple question I respond with a simple answer:

I’m a Christian because I believe it’s TRUE!”

Christianity is so much more than simply being true according to the narrative found in a book. The gospel message found in the Bible also corresponds to reality. That is to say, Christianity is really true!

Stay reasonable my friends (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton

 

Visit Tim’s Site: Free Thinking Ministries

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An OUGHT From An IS

By Tim Stratton

Does objective truth apply to morality? This question has major ramifications depending on how you answer it, because it ultimately asks, “DOES GOD EXIST?” We can see this demonstrated through the use of logic in a deductive syllogism known as “The Moral Argument.”[1] Here it is:

1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2- Objective moral values and duties exist.

3- Therefore, God exists.

To avoid this theistic conclusion, those committed to their atheistic presuppositions desperately seek to find a way to refute at least one of these premises. Many wind up stating that objective moral values and duties do not exist. By making this move, however, they affirm that there is nothing reallywrong with Hitler’s Holocaust, the molestation of young boys in the Penn State locker room by Jerry Sandusky, or the murderous actions of ISIS. Since rejecting premise (2) tacitly affirms the atrocities of these evil men, they feel the pressure to either find another way to ground objective morality, or become theists. Some atheists, such as Sam Harris, have attempted to find a logical way to ground objective morality in the “science of human flourishing,”[2] stating: “Whatever advances the flourishing of humanity is objectively good and whatever hinders human flourishing is objectively bad.”

Harris has failed on several accounts. For instance, even if (and that’s a very big “IF”) moral values could be grounded via this “science of human flourishing,” it would be powerless to explain why the flourishing of humans is objectively good. After all, in the movie, “The Matrix,” Agent Smith referred to the flourishing of humanity as a “virus,” and a “cancer of the planet.”[3] Is Agent Smith objectively wrong, or do we simply have differing subjective opinions? It would be circular reasoning to argue that the flourishing of humanity is objectively good because one assumes it is objectively good when humanity flourishes.

I’ve also heard it said that human flourishing is objectively bad for the earth and all other forms of life. A fellow human actually argued, “If all insects on earth disappeared, within fifty years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within fifty years all (other) forms of life would flourish.”[4] So perhaps it is objectively bad for humans to flourish, at least from the perspective of “all other forms of life.” The question then becomes, why is it good for humanity to flourish, even if human flourishing hinders other forms of life?

Atheism cannot answer why the flourishing of humanity is objectively good. All the atheist can do is simply presuppose and assume it is. On the other hand, if God exists and created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to know, love, and enjoy a relationship with God for eternity, then it is objectively true (independent from human opinion) that it is objectively good (and right) for humanity to flourish.

Moreover, atheism is impotent to explain why we are obligated to fulfill or align our lives with any of these moral values that lead to human flourishing. If one were not to carry out any of these moral codes leading to human flourishing, and instead devoted their lives to kidnapping, rape, murder, etc., the worst they could be accused of is merely acting unfashionably, nothing more![5] The last time I checked, no one has made a case that it is objectively wrong to be considered “uncool,” or a “nerd” by the subjective opinion of the majority. Although it seems implausible that objective moral values can exist apart from God, it is logically impossible to ground objective moral duties if atheism is true.

On top of all of this, to make matters worse, this atheistic philosophy is ultimately self-refuting! Harris, as a naturalist (the view that only nature exists), holds to “scientific determinism,” which means he believes our thoughts and actions are causally determined by natural forces like physics, chemistry, and the initial conditions of the big bang. All of these things are outside of human control. Harris makes his view clear:

Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have. Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.[6]

Therefore, humans could never freely choose any action, including actions with supposed moral properties. Given these objections to the idea of a scientific foundation for an epistemology of objective morality, we must come to the conclusion that science cannot derive an ought from an is, and therefore, cannot tell us anything about how we must conduct our lives in any ethical or moral sense. If naturalistic atheism is true, we have no logical grounds of objective moral values, no logical grounds of objective duty to align our lives with any set of subjective code of ethics, and no ability to do otherwise since all would be determined by outside causal forces. Since ought implies can, and there is no ability to do otherwise in a cause and effect/determined universe (on atheistic naturalism), it follows that it is completely nonsensical for the naturalist to talk about how we ought to think, act, or behave.

Bottom line: If moral values and duties are objective, God must exist!

Stay reasonable my friends (Phil 4:5 ESV),

Tim Stratton

Visit Tim’s Website: Free Thinking Ministries

Click here to see the source site of this article


 

Notes:
[1] The Moral Argument: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/moral

[2] Sam Harris vs. William Lane Craig debate: https://youtu.be/yqaHXKLRKzg

[3] The Matrix, https://youtu.be/L5foZIKuEWQ

[4] This quote was attributed to Jonas Salk; however, I cannot find the source. Be that as it may, some people actually believe it is better for insects to flourish than it is for humans to flourish.

[5] William Lane Craig, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/navigating-sam-harris-the-moral-landscape

[6] Sam Harris, Free Will, (Free Press, New York, 2012), Page 5