Renewing the Evangelical mind: an interview with Peter Enns

Renewing the Evangelical mind: an interview with Peter Enns

 

In what follows, I had the immense privilege to interview Peter Enns (links), who is undoubtedly the leading progressive Evangelical theologian in the whole world.

Here are the topics we touched upon, albeit not necessarily in a chronological order.

 

1) Where Peter Enns comes from and how his thoughts evolved with time

2) How is evolution currently perceived among American Evangelicals?

a) Young Earth Creationism

b) Old Earth Creationism and Concordism

c) His own approach

3) What were likely the intentions of the original authors as they wrote the text?

4) One of the very foundation of Evangelicalism is the idea that God cursed us with a sinful nature, making misdeeds deserving an eternal punishment inevitable.
Can we find this concept in the very text of Genesis?

5) If Paul thought it was the case but the authors of Genesis 2 and 3 didn’t hold this view, what should we believe as modern Christians?

6) What is inerrancy and why is it viewed as the very foundation of Christianity by so many people?

7) What about God inerrantly gathering errant texts for His own purposes, as Professor Randal Rauser thinks it’s the case?

8) Many people say that if there is only a small mistake in one obscure book of the Old Testament, we can no longer trust the resurrection. What’s Peter’s response to this?

9) Problem of divine hideness:

Why would God not have given us an inerrant text rather than leaving us stabbing in the dark?

Why did He allow so many people to mistakenly assume its inerrancy?

10) What did God REALLY do during the history of Israel? Did He reveal Himself to a real Abraham and a real Mose?

11) Given the results of modern critical scholarship, what makes the Protestant Canon so special?
What does it mean to say that the imprecatory psalms were more inspired than books of C.S. Lewis on pain and love, and writings of Martin Luther King on non-violence?

12) Currently, there is a massive exodus from young people out of Conservative Christianity?
What are the causes of this?

 

https://i0.wp.com/randalrauser.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Peter-Enns.jpg

 

For those interested by our conversation, I recommend the following resources:

 

Peter’s blog containing many insightful posts and Peter’s website full of great academic writings.

The following books are also worth looking:

The Evolution of Adam : What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins.
Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).
Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament.
Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible (Telling God’s Story).
Ecclesiastes (Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary).

UPCOMING: The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It.

 

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Egalitarianism and complementarism, statistics and exceptions

Egalitarianism and complementarism, statistics and exceptions

Following my post about egalitarianism and complementarism, I receive an email from Mary, a young woman from North Dakota who has been living in Lancashire (not far from the city where I now live) for three years.

https://lotharlorraine.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/25df8-two_puzzle_pieces_coming_together_pc_1600_clr.png

I find it extremely interesting and insightful, so I reproduce it here:

“I have some very strong feelings about this topic.
I respect you and your method of communicating, and you also stated that your views were open to evolving if you were given new information, so I feel it would be worthwhile for us to open a little dialogue on this.

Now, it’s difficult for me to get into a dispassionate conversation about this topic, because it has had such blatant and hurtful affects on me.  I can keep my emotions uninvolved when it comes to discussing many, many topics, but this is not one.  So please understand if I liberally insert a bit of my personal feelings and experiences into this, although I will try to present plenty of non-anecdotal evidence for my position as well.

Complimentarianism and Egalitarianism were defined well in the article.  Egalitarians believe that people should be judged on their individual merits alone, without regard to their gender.  Complimentarians believe that judgments should be partly made by gender, because being a certain sex infuses you with certain merits and qualities that the other gender cannot fulfill.  Indeed, complimentarians will generally say that a woman will be most fulfilled if she embraces feminine roles, and a man will be most fulfilled if he embraces masculine roles because that is what their bodies and souls were designed for.  Their gender defines them, at least in part.

First of all, I want to emphasize that there is NOTHING wrong with fulfilling a traditional gender role.  If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom and a man wants to be a breadwinner, I will not judge them… so long as that decision was made by them, and not by their culture.  However, I can tell you without reservation that complimentarianism hurts people.  Enormously, horrendously, gruesomely, it hurts people.  In a slightly more distant sense, it harms people like gays and lesbians and transgender people who seem to transcend conservative ideas of what “man” and “woman” can be.  These people face violence and discrimination as a direct result of defying these little generalizations.  However, it has a much more direct affect too.  I’ve seen many young lives boxed up and stored on separate shelves, labeled “man” and “woman” and, to me, that is a tragedy.  I’ve seen young women quietly discouraged from going to college, or held back a  grade in high school so that their younger brother can attend school with them to protect them from society’s influences.  I’ve seen women who never left home because their family expected them to stay under their father’s authority until marriage… after all, a woman is most fulfilled as a wife and mother, not in a career.  I’ve seen young men ostracized by their friends because of a soft voice and a penchant for wearing jewelry.  I’ve seen women taught to fear their bodies and men taught to fear their sexual urges.  All of this was done in the name of protecting and preparing children for their pre-designed roles… roles that were assigned from birth, before the parent even had a chance to get to know their son or daughter for who they are.

   And herein lies the insidious poison of Complimentarianism: it is disguised as stability and support, when in truth it undermines the individual and tries to replace it with a mold that might not fit.  Plenty of men and women will step forward and explain how they are happy in their roles, and how perfect it is for them.  But for every man and woman that fits that role, there will be others that do not, and still more that will spend untold years in pain, trying to force themselves into those neat boxes in order to please their family and culture.

   For my own experience, I hated being a girl.  From the age of six, I told my mother that I should have been born a boy.  Perhaps part of the problem was my own gender identity, but that was not all; I simply had a deep desire to be respected as strong, fierce, courageous, heroic, smart, and capable.  Even from that young age, I’d absorbed that these were MALE traits.  Females were to be respected for grace, compassion, gentleness, meekness, and modesty.  So great was this distinction, that I believed my own body was the reason that I didn’t fit the box, not the box itself.  And this dissonance dominated huge parts of my young life.

   I strove with all of my might to distinguish myself as a boy.  I started by loudly proclaiming my disdain towards anything that might be seen as girly (birds, bunnies, pink, purple, flowers, bows, and more).  I was filled with shame when I found myself liking Lisa Frank merchandise (I don’t know if you remember those rainbow-colored relics of the 90’s) and I would literally only walk into that aisle of the toy store if no one else was around to see, and I would hide if someone else showed up.  I fiercely argued with my sister when she tried to explain to me that I couldn’t grow up to be a fireman, and I’d be a firewoman instead.  I didn’t want to be a firewoman.  A firewoman would be lesser because she would be meek and gentle instead of strong and brave.  I created alternate identities for myself, all male, and I adored the uncle that I’d never met simply because he referred to me sometimes by the nickname “Al”.  I tried very hard to get other friends to call me by that nickname, but it never stuck.

   Most importantly, my parents never even worked hard to force me into this gender role.  Yes, the implications were there, but I can’t recall many times that I was told to repress my personality or to stop being a tomboy.  My parents encouraged me to pursue my interest in Physics, even if it was a stereotypically male field.  They let me play sports and act tough.  They encouraged me to be independent.  And yet, at 6 years old, I had already recognized that being a woman was less than being a man or at least a woman could not be ME… and that belief never changed until long after I had left home.

   I can think of a few things that my parents did to encourage the gender divide.  My mother did urge me to prepare for motherhood and care of a household, long before I had made any indications that I would ever wish to do these things (I didn’t).  I was thoroughly versed in modesty teachings, and taught to be ashamed and afraid of my developing body because it was an instrument of sin.  I was instructed in “purity” teachings that worked to highlight the difference between the two sexes, and set them up for a lifetime of separation together.  None of these things helped with my gender dissatisfaction.

   But, in large part, it was the culture of Complimentarianism in the Fundamentalist world that taught me to be unhappy with myself as a young woman.  It wasn’t forced and it wasn’t beaten into me; it was so much more insidious than that.  Just because my compliance with gender roles wasn’t outright demanded doesn’t mean that the pressure wasn’t very real.  And very confusing and damaging to a developing young mind that just didn’t fit.

   So when supporters of Complimentarianism try to tell me “I would never force my kids to fit those roles; it would just be strongly encouraged as the best way to achieve happiness,” I have to shake my head.  They clearly have never felt the cognitive dissonance of existing in a world that strongly encourages them to be something they’re not.  That strong encouragement can warp a child’s expectations of themselves, alter their dreams, drive them to self-loathing, or provoke an outright rebellion and fracture of the family.  Why would anyone risk all of that in the name of an outdated presumption of what men and women can or cannot do?  Is a child’s body parts truly more important than their individual identity?

    Indeed, many complimentarians object to many of the stories I tell.  “I would never hold my daughter back from college” or “a man can like jewelry” might be the quick responses.  But Complimentarianism CANNOT be separated from these sorts of tragedies, because, at it’s core, it is erasure of the individual in favor of a stereotype.  It is telling a child when it is born “I don’t even know you yet, I don’t know your personality or your talents or desires or fears… but I DEMAND you to fulfill my stereotype based on that little bit of biology right there between your legs.  I will demand it through my judgments, my encouragements, my suggestions of what you will do and where you will go.  I will demand it through the school activities I will put you in, I will demand it through the pastor’s sermons about how women need to stop talking and men need to “man up”.  I will demand you to fulfill this role and, if you fail, it is because you must be
 broken,
 damaged, flawed.”

Are there statistical differences between men and women?  Sure.  But, especially in all psychological areas, there is more overlap than difference.  Just look through this article if you are in doubt.  http://www.psych.rochester.edu/people/reis_harry/assets/pdf/CarothersReis_2012.pdf  Most men and women are psychologically NO DIFFERENT.  Science has shown this.  And many of the differences can probably be attributed to cultural conditioning… we expect women to be X and men to be Y from a young age, so they develop to fulfill that.  And then Complimentarianists can pat themselves on the back and say “see?  Men and women are different after all” when half of the differences come from this very social construct of Complimentarianism.

I could probably write for another 3 years on the subject, but I guess I’ll stop for now.  Please, I beg of you, consider what I’m saying, ask questions, and just give it all some thought.  People are suffering still under these ideas and it breaks my heart.  People are people, regardless of gender, and we should not be making blanket judgments about them because of their gender.

Thank you very much for reading.  All the best to you!!!”

I am thankful to Mary for having raised so many important issues. If she decides to react to comments, I would be very grateful if everyone were to treat her with the uttermost respect.

Despite having given up her faith, she remains extremely friendly towards Christians and given the circumstances I view this a miracle.

I think that she did an excellent job exposing the huge suffering that Evangelical complementarianism might be causing in quite a few cases.

This was not, however, what I was saying in my last post.

The differences I pointed out are of a statistical nature and there are certainly quite a few exceptions.

There is absolutely nothing wrong about women having the temperament of breadwinners and men preferring taking care of the home and they should never be ridiculed owing to this.

Likewise, I believe that a minority of humans have a homosexual nature and that it is healthy for them to marry someone of the same sex since this is not harmful.

A woman applying for a position in the army should be judged by her own skills alone and not by those of the average female.

What I do oppose, however, is this willingness to impose an equal demography between the two sexes in every sector.

https://i1.wp.com/www.aviseo.at/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/baustelle-mann-frau.gif

I and many secular folks reject this silly endeavor of the European Union to forcefully introduce equal quotas for it ignores the fact that (statistically speaking) men and women are psychologically and biologically different.

(Analyzing the evidence and counter-evidence is beyond the scope of this post).

Young Earth Presuppositionalism

Young Earth Presuppositionalism

Presuppositionalism is an apologetic method developed by reformed theologians and philosophers which consists of showing that all worldviews except Christianity (and by that they really mean Calvinism) are self-contradictory.

It is contrasted with evidentialism which accepts the reliability of logic and our sense perceptions as a common ground with the unbeliever and tries from there to provide evidence for the truth of the Christian faith.

There was recently a discussion about presuppositionalism involving young-earth creationists.

This discussion makes it clear that there are different degrees of fundamentalism.

Dr. Richard Howe is an evidential philosopher and he took Ken Ham to task for calling creationists taking into account data from the external world “compromisers”.
He rightly pointed out that before Galileo, almost everyone thought that the sun once literally stood still as described in the book of Joshua. Only after heliocentrism had been accepted was the current interpretation considered as valid.

Dr. Jason Lisle does not agree and believe that the text of Genesis is clear and that we are not allowed to depart from the most obvious meaning,. He wrote a book “The ultimate proof of creation” arguing that the Genesis account must be true because there is NO OTHER alternative.

Towards the end of the video there was an interesting discussion about the viability of proving the truth of the Protestant Canon using a presupositional approach.

Dr. Howe asked wittily: “Would the laws of logic still be valid if the third book of John were not included?”

In a way typical of Calvinist fundamentalists, Dr. Lisle answered that if we reject the slightest verse of the Bible, we would no longer have any grounds for believing anything else in the Bible and consequently would no longer have any way to ground rationality and knowledge because this wholly hangs on the truth of Scripture.

I think that these folks give Christianity a very bad name and are creating insurmountable obstacles for intellectual people. Actually, I am sure that Ken Ham and his minions have brought much more people away from God than Dawkins and his minions could ever hope for.

Finally, we would happen if presuppositional young earth creationist were to have full power in a state? I consider it very likely that they would not content themselves with “teaching the controversy” but would also banish all other views.

On Syria and Western imperialism / Iwer Syrien un de westliche Imperialismus

On Syria and Western imperialism

democracycomestoyou

Barack Obama and French president Francois Hollande have been constantly flirting with the idea of waging a war on Syria in order to set the people free.

An alarming report which caught my attention showed me that quite the contrary would happen if they were to intervene. Nearly half of the rebels are Islamists who are certainly not striving for democracy and freedom.

SyriaIslamist

All Christians of the region (and of Irak) I talked with told me that a Western intervention would most likely replace the “light” dictatorship of president Assad by a Muslim theocracy where the rights of non-Muslims and women will be considerably worse than they currently are.

Apparently, many Western leaders have not learned any lesson from the debacle in Irak.

IrakChristiansSlaugfe

On the one hand I can understand their willingness to save the life of countless people in less developed countries where people are being slaughtered.

On the other hand I feel irritated by the fact they imagine they are morally and intellectually so superior to the third world that they have the right and the might to wage any war they wish.

I think this still reflects rather well the feelings of the father of French secularism, Jules Ferry, as he stated: “it is a right for the superior races, because they have a duty. They have the duty to civilize the inferior races.”

JulesFerry

 

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Now comes the Lorraine-Franconian version / Nun kommt die lothringische fränkische Version

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Iwer Syrien un de westliche Imperialismus

democracycomestoyou

Barack Obama un de fronzeesische Präsident François Hollande hon immer wieder mit de Idee geflirtet, Syrien ze attackiere, um de Litt ze befräie.
E alarmierenda Bericht hat mienie Ufmerksamkät ongezieht un mir gezaijt, dass genau das Gäjedeel passiere wod, wenn sie ingriffe wode.
Fast de Hälft der Rebelle sinn Islamisten, die gònz bestimmt niet nach Demokratie un Fräihätt strewe. 
SyriaIslamist
Alle Christen der Region (un von Irak), mit denen ich gesproche hon, hon mir gesat, dass e westlicha Ingriff höchst wahrschinnlich die “lichtie Diktatur” von Präsident Assad durch e moslemlischie Theokratie ersetze wod, wu de Rechte von niet-Moslemen un Frauen viel schlimmer als jetzt sin wodde
Es sieht so us, als ob viele westliche Leader käni Lektion vom Scheitern in Irak gelernt hon.
IrakChristiansSlaugfe

Uf änersit kinn ich ihre Bereitschaft verstehn, de Läwe von zahllose Litt in wenig entwickelta Länner wu Mensche geschlachtet wäre, ze rette.
Uf e onnersit  fïhle ich mich von der Tatsache irritiert, dass sie sich inbille, moralisch und intellektuell de dritte Welt so iwerlege ze sin, dass sie das Recht un die Macht hòn, beliebig Kriege ze verursache. 

Ich denk, dass es immer noch eher gut die Gefiehle vom Vater vom fronzeesche Sekularismus Jules Ferry reflektiert, als er gesat hat:

“S’isch e Rächt der hähere Rasse, weil sie hon e Pflicht. Sie hon e Pflicht, de unnere Rasse ze zivilisiere”.

JulesFerry

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On the nice and ugly sides of the Biblical God

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On the nice and ugly sides of the Biblical God

Bill Prat, a staunch defender of conservative Evangelicalism has written a series of posts with the aim of defending the holiness and goodness of God against the attack of the New Atheists:
http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2013/10/23/why-is-the-god-of-the-old-testament-worthy-of-worship-his-holiness/
http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2013/10/18/why-is-the-god-of-the-old-testament-worthy-of-worship-his-wisdom/

http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2013/10/21/why-is-the-god-of-the-old-testament-worthy-of-worship-his-majesty-and-beauty/

Instead of trying to show that Biblical atrocities are compatible with God’s love (a route taken by William Lane Craig and Paul Copan), he has chosen a different strategy:

“Skeptics of Christianity love to point out all the difficult passages in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. By noting these difficult passages, skeptics explicitly or implicitly imply that Christians are foolish (or even deranged) for worshiping the God described in the Old Testament.

My problem with this implication is that the number of difficult passages are dwarfed by the number of passages that clearly describe the greatness of God. These passages come in a wide variety and they are found all over the Old Testament. The skeptic’s approach is, therefore, totally unbalanced – it does not take into consideration the totality of Scripture.
– See more at: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2013/10/21/why-is-the-god-of-the-old-testament-worthy-of-worship-his-majesty-and-beauty/#sthash.UUfO0bHp.dpuf”

His argument seems to be as follows:

1) the Bible gives us a fully coherent picture of God
2) therefore if some authors describe God as a beautiful and benevolent being, this must be what ALL Biblical writers thought
3) thus there is no particular need to deal with the Biblical terror texts. If one can show that some verses describe God as being loving; He is necessarily loving in the entire Scripture
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Of course, all outsiders won’t fail to see this as a terribly circular argument.

Here I can do nothing better than (quite modestly) quoting myself:

“Bill I agree that the authors of these passages expressed beautiful, admirable thoughts about God.

There are three possible positions:

a) the Bible is a book which consistently portrays us a perfect God (conservative Evangelicalism).

b)  the Bible is a book which consistently portrays us a horrible genocidal God (view of the New Atheists).

c) the Bible contains human thoughts about God in the same way the books of C.S. Lewis contain human thoughts about God. Some are great, other should be rejected:
https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/on-the-inspiration-of-the-bible-and-other-books-von-der-interpretation-der-bibel-und-anderen-buchern/

By quoting all these verses, you refute view b) but you fall infinitely short of proving view a).

So yes, there are many verses in the OT which emphasize God’s greatness but they are contradicted by countless other texts.

Moreover, I also wrote:

“I have read these authors and here I give my last response to William Lane Craig’s attempt to whitewash these atrocities:

https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/?s=william+craig

Did you read Thom Stark’s response to Copan?

thomstark.net/copan/stark_copan-review.pdf‎

Moreover, did you take a look at the blog of progressive EVANGELICAL theologian Randal Rauser?

http://randalrauser.com/tag/genocide/

I have never seen any kind of response to these two authors. Apparently, they are best ignored, aren’t they?”

Given my view of inspiration, finding descriptions of God as an immoral being within the Biblical Canon is like finding such pictures in the writings of the Church Fathers, Aquinas, Wesley, Luther, C.S. Lewis and so on and so forth.
It remains a problem, but it is clearly NOT the same as for people singling out the Bible as THE revelation of God.

It is my hope that Bill will examine every Biblical book as an ancient religious texts before deciding if it can reasonably be harmonized with other books. And I hope he won’t feel the need to give up Christianity altogether in the process.

 

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The Problem of Evil revisited by Lotharson

The Problem of Evil revisited by Lotharson 

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The question of why God or god(s) would allow evil to exist has been a very perplexing and troubling one for every believer attaching to them qualities such as goodness and benevolence ever since the time the Old Testament and parallel near-eastern myths were written.

Recently, British philosopher Jonathan Pierce, Counter-Apologist John and Justin Schieber from Reasonable Doubt, a podcast aiming at challenging the Reasonable Faith ministry of William Lane Craig and promoting “Godlessness”, have had a very interesting conversation about the problem posed by evil for theism before a virtual (white Belgian?) beer.   

Unlike many people deeply involved in the culture war raging between secularism and fundamentalism, the three intellectuals have a very respectful tone towards their opponents and develop pretty challenging arguments worthy of the consideration and attention of every thoroughly thinking religious person.

They should be really applauded for that approach and not resorting to the favorite techniques of village antitheists such as the heavy use of emotional bullying and ridiculing everyone not agreeing with their materialist worldview.

My agnostic Christianity

Before going into objections to the different arguments they presented I feel obliged to indicate where I’m coming from.  

I am an agnostic Christian, in the way Thom Stark uses this term, that is in the absence of good reasons to believe that theism or atheism is true I choose to hope there is a God.

I view the books contained within the Bible as being inspired in the same way books outside the Canon such as those of the Church fathers, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Wesley and C.S. Lewis are inspired: they depict us, to use Thom Stark’s wonderful expression, “human faces of God” that is man’s thoughts about and experiences with the divine. I don’t base my theology on allegedly inerrant Holy Scriptures but on the very idea that God has to be perfect in order for Him to be God.

 

During this discussion of approximately 90 minutes, the three godless apologists do cover a lot of ground and raise many interesting questions which cannot be addressed within a single blog post.

I don’t agree with their objective Bayesian approach but also think that the evidential arguments for theism fall short of showing there is a God, tough I do believe they pose serious challenges for many popular forms of atheism out there, but these will be the topics of future discussions.

 Moral intuitions and God’s goodness as a heavenly father

They seem to rely on the belief that

1) Our moral intuitions are largely correct and

2) They can be applied to God who is supposed to be a heavenly Father far better any earthly father could ever be.

 

While I strongly doubt that step 1) can be taken by naturalists, this is certainly a key-element of the theology of Jesus and Paul and many writers of the Old Testament. But I think then that all our moral intuitions should be taken into consideration and not only those related to pleasure and pain as evolutionary psychologist Jonathan Haidt discovered liberals typically do.

Step 2) is extremely important to prevent us from developing abhorrent theologies, like God issuing arbitrary commands about homosexuality even if it is neither harmful for the individual nor for society.

I utterly reject theistic voluntarism, the idea that whatever God wills is good, for this can lead and indeed leads to many absurd and atrocious beliefs such as God predetermining the largest part of mankind to eternally burn in Hell.

Interestingly at one point the three atheists seem to recognize that the problem of evil could be greatly diminished if the doctrine of hell is given up and they jokingly told each other that it would be already a victory in and of itself if they could push Christians to let go of „abhorrent“ teachings. Actually, it is clearly one of the main purposes of my blog to make other Christians deeply think about the implications of noxious doctrines, so we seem to have at least one goal in common.

 

That said, I do believe it is crucial to take into account the particularities of God’s position and the perspective of eternity before drawing any analogy with an earthly father.

 Free will, soul making, Skeptical theism

I believe that the problem of evil is extremely diverse and that the various theistic responses (such as the soul-making defense, the free-will defense and Skeptical theism) are all valid in their own rights and complement each other.

Generally I consider it extremely likely that God does have good reasons to limit Himself and not only allow free will in His creation but also randomness as philosophers Peter Van Inwagen described, in the same way I find computer simulations with random numbers far more interesting than deterministic ones. Such a position is compatible with Open Theism and some forms of divine omniscience.

And if this is true, the question is no longer “why did God allow such and such specific evils?” but “why did God choose to create a universe with such properties and features in spite of all the bad consequences?”

 Justin Schieber and the divine lies argument

 This is certainly no easy question and it would be completely foolish for me to come up with more than modest indications about possible solutions. This leads us to the question of Skeptical Theism (ST), according to which there are at least some evils humans are in no position to explain or reconcile with the infinite goodness of God.

Unlike Jon Pierce, Justin Schieber does believe that if theism is true ST is very likely and complained about the horrible ordeal inflicted on him to have to defend a position apparently friendly to theism against the objections of Pierce.

But he then mentioned his interesting Divine Lie Argument (DLA) according to which ST entails the clear possibility that God might be lying to us within Scripture for unknown reasons.

I certainly believe this undermines the Evangelical belief we need an inerrant Bible from God to know how He is and how we should behave.

I reject those assumptions and take the view we can objectively recognize goodness (albeit in an imperfect way) and know that God has to be good by His very nature as a perfect being. I don’t believe God speaks to us through the books of the Biblical canon more than he speaks to us through the books of C.S. Lewis or Ellen White and believe, like the apostle Paul expressed it in Athens, that even pagan authors can get quite a few things right about God.

Eternal happiness in heaven

I think that the perspective of eternity certainly changes the extent of the problem of evil in a radical way. For example let us consider the following scenarios:

Image

A. there is no afterlife. Leon is a small Tutsi boy living in Rwanda in 1994. In May his village gets attacked, his family is captured and he dies under an atrocious pain after having seen his parents being tortured and passing away in a very gruesome way. He ceases to exist.
God could have created the universe in a different manner to avoid this but He didn’t.

 

B. there is a blissful afterlife offered to everyone. Leon is a small Tutsi boy living in Rwanda in 1994. In May his village gets attacked, his family is captured and he dies under an atrocious pain after having seen his parents being tortured and passing away in a very gruesome way. He ushers into the presence of God. He quickly recovers from his pain and live happily with his parents in the presence of God during 100, 1000, 1000000, 100000000000, 10000000000000000000000000… years.
God could have created the universe in a different manner to avoid this but He didn’t.

  

Clearly, both scenarios should be troubling for every theist. But the assertion that they are almost equally problematic for the goodness of God is an extraordinary claim.

 

Utilitarianism is a moral theory very popular among atheists according to which the good is ultimately reducible to what increases the pleasure and reduce the pain of the greatest number of persons.

Every moral value which cannot be deduced from this basic principle is rejected as being illusory.

The extent of the evil of a free agent is identical to the extent of his failure to respect this rule. But if God is going to offer eternal life to everyone having suffered between one and hundred years, his moral culpability equals zero since this is the clear result of dividing a finite number by infinity.

So our three atheist apologists need to argue against utilitarianism and show why we ought to reject this theory before saying that the problem of evil is a death blow for every form of theism.

Given all the facts I’ve mentionned, I think we’ve good grounds for thinking there really are not-implausible ways for God to be morally perfect why allowing evils we cannot comprehend.

Of course, I do struggle emotionally a lot with some horrible and apparently absurd things our world contains and it would be a lie to say I don’t seriously call into question either the existence or the goodness of God, like countless characters of the Bible have done.

   Materialism, qualia, moral naturalism

Finally I cannot help but notice that the most popular (and perhaps the only plausible) form of naturalism, namely Reductive Materialism (RM) provides us with a terrible foundation for real objective moral values.

Jonathan Pierce mentioned the possibility that God would create philosophical zombies, that is beings acting exactly like humans but lacking any subjective experience, to be bad people and fill out the entire hell. Fair enough, especially if one believes in divine determinism. But this thought experience shows us a huge (and probably insurmountable) difficulty for Reductive Materialism: making sense of the moral evilness of pain.

According to RM, pain is identical to chemical and physical reactions and processes taking place in a brain-like structure. But why should thoseparticular processes have a greater moral significance than the movements of electrons within my computer?

Since in a materialist framework, pain is defined as being these particular processes, saying they are morally significant because they are painful is akin to saying that these particular processes are a moral concern because they are these particular processes.

But I believe that moral naturalism faces a much greater challenge, namely the identification of moral values with material objects.

Saying that the moral truth “A man should never rape a woman“ is identical to a bunch of elementary particles sounds utterly absurd to me.

To conclude I cannot let unmentioned the hugest and most scandalous mistake they did at the very beginning of the video. They dared tell us that God smoking weed could be an explanation for all the mess we see around us.

That’s bullshit.
I and many fellow French citizens have smoked Cannabis as we were teenagers and most of us were quite capable of performing well in many respects while being really high. 

If this post were to attain one thing, this should be leading them to give up their prejudices concerning pot. I do hope that in their next shows and videos they will cease smearing the goddess Marihuana and say instead “God is probably an abuser of LSD“, “God drinks one bottle of Vodka a day“ or „God cannot think clearly, because due to His omniscience He has no other choice than hearing every day George W. Bush, Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, Dick Cheney, William Demski (and me for that matter) speaking and thinking during hours.“

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On the definition of Socialism

Deutsche Version: Von der Definition des Sozialismus

 

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In the German-speaking and English-speaking worlds, Socialism has largely a bad press. It is all too often associated with the totalitarian countries of the former Soviet Union and the omnipresence of the state in every area of life.

But in France, Socialism has historically mainly meant the belief that the state ought to intervene as soon as the well-being of workers and employees is threatened by the unlimited free-market competition going on. It has nothing against free-market competition in and of itself, so long as the quality of life of people is not menaced.

There is of course also a striving towards social justice, in that taxes should take into account the personal wealth.

A similar feeling seems to have been present in the Early Church among the first followers of Jesus of Nazareth after his resurrection:

All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
(Acts 2:44-45)

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of , Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
(Acts 4:34-37)

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