Monday, April 21, 2014

A Reply to Dave McPhillips on Bahnsen’s Treatment of the Problem of Evil

A visitor to my blog posting under the name Dave McPhillips recently submitted a comment in response to my blog entry titled Greg Bahnsen on the Problem of Evil.

Here is what Dave wrote:
The problem of evil is not a problem for the believer but rather a problem for the unbeliever. what Bahnsen and Van Til were teaching is that if one wishes to hold a moral complaint against anything in this world one must have a standard of morality with which to evaluate between good and evil.Moreover,one must first define what they mean by "evil" given their espoused worldview and how that definition is meaningful. As a Christian I have a standard of morality by which to distinguish good from evil (i.e. the holy character of God) but as an unbeliever who holds that we live in a random chance universe that is material in nature, there would be no objective immaterial invariant moral standard with which to evaluate right and wrong. in the end all unbelieving systems of thought relegate morality to the realm of subjective relativism. if so, then who's to say whats right or wrong? it would simply be different strokes for different folks.
Those who have read my above-linked blog entry will note that Dave does not interact directly with what I have stated there. Nor does Dave make any attempt to defend Bahnsen's proposed solution to the problem of evil.

Instead, what Dave offers in his comment is a restatement of the standard presuppositionalist clichés on these matters. Essentially, it’s an attempt to deflect attention away from what Christianity affirms and direct the spotlight onto whatever the non-Christian view affirms. Now, as an Objectivist, I’m fully prepared for this. But this does not excuse the apologetic maneuver of attempting to evade the problem of evil.

Consider the following relevant points which Christianity affirms:
1. The god of Christianity is real and it is supposed to be all-good, all-powerful and wholly perfect;
2. The universe (including everything within it) was created by the god of Christianity;
3. Everything that happens in the universe is controlled by the god of Christianity;
4. Evil and imperfection exist in the universe (i.e., in what the god of Christianity is said to have created).
Bahnsen considers a similar set of premises, explicitly affirming that the Christian god is all-good and all-powerful and affirming that evil exists (cf. Always Ready, p. 171). I have added the part about the Christian god being wholly perfect because Christianity in fact affirms this about its god as well. I have also included the fact that Christianity affirms that the universe was created by its god and that its god “controls whatsoever comes to pass” (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 160). As John Frame puts it, “God is the source of all reality” (Apologetics to the Glory of God, p. 70) and “we are never free from divine control” (Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, p. 80). Thus the universe is supposed to have been created by an all-good, all-powerful and wholly perfect god which controls everything, and yet the universe is clearly saturated with evil and imperfection.

So in response to Dave's claim that "the problem of evil is not a problem for the believer but rather a problem for the unbeliever," we can clearly see that the tension here is internal to Christianity. Just as apologists want to say that the Christian god provides the necessary preconditions for intelligibility, they must also concede that, according to their worldview, the Christian god provides the necessary preconditions for evil as well. It has nothing to do with what any non-Christian believes or disbelieves or cannot “account for.” Any non-Christian’s view or lack of ability is irrelevant to the matter.

Bahnsen thinks that the problem of evil can be solved by positing the notion of “a morally sufficient reason for the suffering and evil that He foreordains” (a statement which I have never read in the Christian bible). But notice that he nowhere validates such a notion. What could possibly be “a morally sufficient reason for the suffering and evil that [the Christian god] foreordains”? Bahnsen does not propose any that can be reviewed. He simply affirms the notion and leaves it at that. He provides no argument, nor does he even attempt to explain how such a notion is coherent. I suppose that if Bahnsen had a validation for the notion that he had any confidence in, he would gleefully present it. But instead, he simply affirms it and goes on, as if its validity were somehow self-evident. It’s not. In fact, Bahnsen’s proposed solution to the problem of evil simply means that morality, as Christianity informs it, is complicit with evil.

On the objective understanding of morality, the notion of “a morally sufficient reason” for evil is a contradiction in terms. Generally, morality is a code of values which guides man’s choices and actions. Objective morality is a moral code whose values are based on facts pertaining to man’s nature as a living organism that we discover by looking outward at reality (as opposed to concocting in our imagination, such as the notion of a god and its alleged demands). The good is that which furthers a rational individuals life by meeting his life needs and providing an incentive for continuing the effort living requires of him. The evil is that which threatens and/or destroys his life. As Ayn Rand puts it in her novel Atlas Shrugged:
All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.
On an objective framework of morality, then, the concepts of good and evil derive their meaning in reference to biological nature of man’s life and his life’s needs. Man faces a fundamental alternative – life vs. death – and life itself is conditional in nature: man must meet those requirements his life has in order to continue living. Since these requirements are factual in nature, an objective theory of morality must take them into account since morality as such is about guiding one’s choices and actions. Morality’s reference to the nature of man’s life and his life needs in no way renders morality subjective, for neither the nature of man’s life nor his life needs are things that man can alter by means of wishing, preferring, imagining, etc. They are what they are independent of any conscious activity on man’s part, which means that he must discover them by means of an objective method of acquiring and validating knowledge – i.e., by means of reason. So to condemn this approach as subjective in nature only suggests that those issuing such condemnations have at best only a dismally poor grasp of what subjectivism is.

By contrast, the Christian view of morality makes no reference to the biological nature of man’s life and his life’s requirements, but instead focuses on arbitrary demands placed on man’s shoulders by an alleged supernatural being which we can only imagine. On Christianity’s premises, “good” is whatever the Christian god does (whether it’s sacrificing its own child, wiping out entire civilizations with a worldwide flood, sending the Israelites to slaughter their neighbors, striking your loved ones with cancer, etc.), because it “reflects” its perfectly moral character. Likewise, “evil” is that which goes against the Christian god’s will (which can only really mean that, according to Christianity, there could be no evil since it already “controls whatsoever comes to pass” and since it only acts according to its wholly good character, whatever is in its control must be whatever it sovereignly wills). At no point is either the nature of man’s life or his life’s requirements taken into consideration. Man is merely a bystander in this conception of morality, for the facts that he faces a fundamental alternative between life and death and that his life is conditional have no bearing on the content of such a moral view.

In terms of how anyone could know what Christianity affirms as moral, reason has no place. The Christian god’s will is something that can only be “revealed” to man through some form of verbal disclosure on the part of the Christian god, imparting its will to man in what Christians call an entirely clear revelation (though no two believers seem to agree at every point on what it all means). No objective means of acquiring and validating knowledge will provide man with awareness of such a being, for it is not something that we can discover by looking outward at reality. Quite the contrary in fact, one must look inward at the contents of his imagination, emotions, wishing, etc., to “discover” that such a being exists and determine what it demands of man. This is the task undertaken by the witch doctor: he imagines a supernatural consciousness and appoints himself as its mouthpiece before men, claiming that he has received “revelations” from this imaginary deity which indicate what it demands of men. The witch doctor thus proceeds to tell men what they are commanded to do and what they are commanded not to do, and they are expected to obey without question. Clearly this is not a rational approach to morality, given its source in utter subjectivism and its crass rejection of reason. Thus it is most ironic to find Christians condemning anything for (allegedly) being subjective. Christianity is all about enshrining an imaginary subject in whose command all reality finds its source and to whose whims all reality conforms. And given the fact that the believer has no alternative but to imagine all this, his epistemological methodology is just as subjective as the metaphysical views he affirms about reality. You can’t get more subjective than this!

Now consider what the purpose of morality is. Since the task of objective morality is to teach man how to live and enjoy his life, objective morality consequently teaches man how to avoid that which is evil – specifically by teaching him how to identify that which poses a threat to his values and how to protect his values from such threats. Morality is just as much about preserving values as it is about achieving them in the first place. Thus unlike the Christian conception of morality, objective morality is consistently and absolutely opposed to that which is evil, which means that, on the objective view, there could be no such thing as “a morally sufficient reason” for allowing evil (let alone “foreordaining” evil!). Thus Bahnsen’s proposed solution to the problem of evil directly conflicts with the very purpose of objective morality.

In Christianity, the purpose of morality is essentially to satisfy the whims of an invisible magic being as an end in itself. This is why Christian morality is focused on obedience to commandments. But for the Christian, obedience is not a means to some end beyond it; rather, obedience is to be an end in itself so far as man is concerned. The believer is prohibited from supposing that obedience leads to rewards, since salvation is through faith, not through “works”. According to Christianity, one cannot earn his way to heaven, so the purpose of morality cannot be to achieve of such ends. Rather, its purpose is to place man permanently in a role of subservience to a being which he can only imagine and which he is to fear throughout his entire being.

And how is this obedience to be manifested in the believer? The answer of “Scripture” here is clear: he is to do this by means of sacrifice. The believer is not expected merely to sacrifice “material values” (as if this in itself were somehow already virtuous), but to sacrifice himself spiritually. This means total surrender of one’s entire being, including his conscious activity. Along with attachment to material possessions, the believer is to jettison his own judgment, his rational faculties, his very soul. He is to “deny himself” (Mt. 16:24), to present himself as a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1), to hate his own family members and even himself (Lk. 14:26). One is expected to abandon everything in order to “follow Jesus.”

The Christian understanding of morality is not about living and enjoying life, but about suffering and dying, about sacrificing oneself and surrendering everything he values for the sake of a being which the believer can only imagine and which would have no use for his sacrifices in the first place. The ultimate model for this is the Christian god’s treatment of its own child Jesus. The New Testament portrays the Christian god as sending its own child to die, and while Jesus is being tortured and led to his cross, the Christian god stands by and watches the brutality as the destruction to Jesus proceeds, and does not lift a finger to preserve what it supposedly values. Abandoning values is the very core of Christian “morality.” This is why I refer to it as a code of death(see my blog The Moral Code of Life), for man cannot live without values, and the Christian code is to abandon values.

When Jehovah commands Abraham to prepare his son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice as we read in Genesis 22, Abraham did precisely what was expected of him: he simply obeyed without question or resistance. At no point in the story is Abraham portrayed as expressing concern for his son’s welfare. The purpose of this instruction, according to the story itself, was not to fulfill some need that the Christian god might have (for it “has no needs at all (Acts 17:25)” [John Frame, “Divine Aseity and Apologetics,” Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics, p. 115]), but to test Abraham’s faith. Believers often object to the raising of the example of Abraham and the dutiful, unquestioning willingness to kill his own child that he is portrayed to have when commanded to do so, by pointing out that the story does not in fact have Abraham kill his son. And in fact, this is true – Abraham was stopped right at the last moment. In fact, it wasn’t even Jehovah who stopped Abraham, but “an angel of the Lord” (Gen. 22:11). What this angel says to Abraham answers such objections: “for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou has not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen. 22:12). The issue is not whether or not Abraham killed his son. Rather, the issue is that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son when commanded. This is the mindset desired of the Christian given its “morality” of obedience and sacrifice, for his obedience is held up as a model of faith for believers to emulate in Hebrews 11:17, which states: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac.” Thus the objection that “an angel of the Lord” intervened so that Isaac could be spared misses the very point of the story.

Elsewhere, the Old Testament abounds unapologetically with stories about Jehovah’s cruelty, vindictiveness, and brutality against human beings. If the Christian god is supposed to be a “good” god, I really don’t see how an evil god could be any worse. To call the Christian god, as it is portrayed in both the Old and New Testaments of the Christian bible, a “good” god, is to gut the meaning of moral concepts altogether.

So when Christian evangelist Paul Washer says, “I want my sons to put their life at God's disposal,” what could he mean? What does he envision by this? Does this mean that if the Christian god chooses to make them suffer in this world (for the Christian god is said to have “a morally sufficient reason for the suffering and evil that He foreordains”), he will not intervene in order to lessen or stop their suffering? If it is the Christian god’s will that a person should suffer, then it seems that acting to alleviate that individual’s suffering is an act of defying the Christian god. Should Mr. Washer do as the Christian god is portrayed as having done when its own child was being readied for crucifixion, and simply stand by and refrain from intervening and protecting his children if they are stricken with boils, diseases, and injuries? It seems that, if one truly believes that the Christian god is real and yet actually cares for his children, he would do anything to protect them from its destructive actions. But Christians are to adopt the mindset of Abraham, to stand by and allow their values to be destroyed by their “all-good” god.

Dave wrote:
what Bahnsen and Van Til were teaching is that if one wishes to hold a moral complaint against anything in this world one must have a standard of morality with which to evaluate between good and evil.
Objectivism affirms the only objective standard for this: rationality. Rationality is the adherence to reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only standard of judgment, one’s only guide to action. Thus if rationality is within reach of the human thinker, then the standard on which a rational code of ethics (and therefore of moral judgment) is also within his reach. Since man has possesses a consciousness capable of conceptualizing input from the senses, reason is clearly within reach of the human thinker.

Reason rests on the axioms (namely the axioms of existence, identity and consciousness), the primacy of existence and the objective theory of concepts. Consequently, reason is not fully within reach of an individual whose worldview compromises any of these. That is the predicament in which the Christian finds himself given the anti-rational stance of the worldview he has chosen to adopt for himself. The notion of a god, especially as it is informed by Christianity, represents a wholesale denial of the foundations of reason. The very notion of supernaturalism constitutes an outright denial of the axioms (while needing them in the very act of affirming supernaturalism). The notion of a universe-creating, reality-ruling consciousness constitutes an affirmation of the primacy of consciousness (cf. wishing makes it so), and thus a rejection of the primacy of existence. Christianity’s doctrinal notions, such as “creation,” “sin,” even its understanding of good and evil, constitute an anti-conceptual assault on the human mind. At every point, Christianity stands opposed to the necessary preconditions of reason.

Dave wrote:
Moreover,one must first define what they mean by "evil" given their espoused worldview and how that definition is meaningful.
Good point, and I have addressed this above from the perspective of Objectivism.

But while we’re at it, it may be instructive to ask: How exactly does the bible define ‘evil’? If Dave should provide this, I would like to examine it.

It seems that the Christian must walk a most dubious and unlikely tightrope in all this. For example, when a human being kills another human being simply because he chooses to, it is considered evil. But curiously, when the Christian god kills someone, it does so simply because it chooses to (nothing forces the Christian god to do this), and yet Christians do not consider this evil. This appears to be a clear case of double standards, one that plays fast and loose with the notion of evil as such. However the bible defines 'evil' (supposing it even does), it would need to be compatible with such cognitive self-abuse.

Dave wrote:
As a Christian I have a standard of morality by which to distinguish good from evil (i.e. the holy character of God)
The fine print here is that “morality” as Dave’s worldview informs it, allows for the notion of ““a morally sufficient reason for… suffering and evil.” Dave’s god is on cozy terms with evil.

Moreover, since “good” and “evil” according to Christianity are not based on facts pertaining to man’s nature as a biological organism and his life’s requirements, they can have no relevance to his life insofar as they can serve as a guide to his choices and actions. Thus, “if the Lord wills,” the choice to act irrationally against one’s own interests can be considered “good” while the choice to act rationally on behalf of one’s own interests can be considered “evil.”

Consider the message of the story in Matthew 19 about the “young man” who asks Jesus what he should do that he “may have eternal life” (v. 16). When Jesus instructs him to “keep the commandments” (v. 17), the young man replies that he has done this “from my youth up” and asks “what lack I yet?” (v. 20), even though Jesus had not indicated that he yet lacks anything. At this point Jesus tells him, “if though wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (v. 21), which by all accounts appears to be an instructed premised on the notion that one can earn salvation by “works,” a view which is rejected elsewhere in the bible. But according to the story, “when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (v. 22). The implication is clear that preserving one’s values for oneself is contrary to the Christian ideal. Indeed, the story goes on to vilify the accumulation of values (vv. 23-24):
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Throughout Matthew in particular we find what can only be rightly interpreted as frothing envy and resentment for those who are "rich." This attitude complements the victim mentality encouraged in the opening statements of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus' "rewards" are not only for those who are "poor in spirit" but also for those who spend their lives mourning, languishing in meekness and enduring persecution. The teachings attributed to Jesus foster the view that one should go through life on earth as some kind of victim of injustice, and those who are "rich" are to be forever faulted.

One does not achieve wealth by surrendering his values once he's earned them. On the contrary, the creation of wealth requires intense focus and rational self-interest. But the New Testament urges believers against this: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition” (Phil. 2:3) and asserts that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Tim. 6:10). Of course, no arguments are given to support of these sayings; readers are expected to accept them as true on the bible’s mere say so.

The bible’s attitude towards wealth reflects a very small-minded and petty mentality, one which breeds only envy and resentment towards those who have undertaken the task of creating wealth. Its attitude also indicates that its authors either did not grasp the moral meaning of money, or that they did grasp it and consequently condemned it. It’s as though its authors never considered the alternative to money, or that they preferred some unstated alternative to money. But what is the alternative to money? Since man requires values, and values require effort to achieve and preserve, men are naturally going to need to trade with one another. Money is the means by which men can do this on the widest possible scale. As Rand points out (“Egalitarianism and Inflation,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 127):
Money is the tool of men who have reached a high level of productivity and a long-range control over their lives. Money is not merely a tool of exchange: much more importantly, it is a tool of saving, which permits delayed consumption and buys time for future production. To fulfill this requirement, money has to be some material commodity which is imperishable, rare, homogeneous, easily stored, not subject to wide fluctuations of value, and always in demand among those you trade with
Elsewhere Rand writes (Atlas Shrugged):
So you think that money is the root of all evil? . . . Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?  
When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor—your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this what you consider evil?  
Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions—and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.  
But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made—before it can be looted or mooched—made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.
The alternative to money, then, is either some form of fraud or the use of force. Since the bible displays an antagonistic attitude towards money, the implication is that, on Christianity’s premises, men should deal with each other either through fraud or force, or both. Couple this with Christianity’s imperative that men must be willing to sacrifice their values, its adherents would need those who are prepared to collect on their sacrifices, otherwise they would have no one to sacrifice to. In this way, as Rand point out so rightly, “Faith and force . . . are corollaries: every period of history dominated by mysticism, was a period of statism, of dictatorship, of tyranny” (“Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 66).

So yes, I agree that it is important to be able to distinguish, on solid philosophical grounds, between good and evil. Unfortunately, Christianity fails miserably on this score.

Dave continued:
but as an unbeliever who holds that we live in a random chance universe that is material in nature, there would be no objective immaterial invariant moral standard with which to evaluate right and wrong.
For one, I see no argument for this assertion. Dave just affirms it, and apparently everyone’s supposed to accept it on his say so.

Second, it’s not clear what Dave means by “objective” here. If the universe were random and chance-ridden, this would be a fact about the universe, and it would thus be a fact about the universe independent of anyone’s wishes, preferences, likes or dislikes, imaginings, etc. So this would not be enough to obviate objectivity.

Third, Dave is projecting, which is a presumptuous habit of Christian apologists. I have nowhere affirmed that “we live in a random chance universe.” It appears Dave is apologetically prepared to deal only with those worldviews which conform to the standard presuppositionalist clichés. Objectivism does not affirm that the universe is random and chance-bound. On the contrary, it is Christianity that must make allowance for chance and randomness given its affirmation of miracles. I explain all this in my blog The Concept of “Chance”: Right and Wrong Uses. It puts Dave’s would-be objection to eternal rest.

Dave wrote:
in the end all unbelieving systems of thought relegate morality to the realm of subjective relativism.
Again, Dave provides no argument. All he does provide is a bald assertion. Apparently he expects his claims to be accepted on his own authority. But simply claiming that something is the case does not make it the case. Thus Dave’s feigned concern about “subjective relativism” is quite ironic, for while he mouths words against subjective relativism, he provides an example of subjective relativism in action.

If Dave were truly concerned about achieving and preserving objectivity, he would abandon theism altogether. What could be more subjective than the view that the universe is a product of an act of unfettered will? According to theism, a supernatural consciousness – i.e., a subject - wished the universe into existence. Such a view assumes the primacy of consciousness – i.e., the subject of consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over its objects – i.e., subjectivism.

But I gather that Dave is like most other theistic apologists, using terms like “objective” and “subjective” more for their connotative impact than for their actual meaning. It will not do to condemn subjectivism while at the same time pointing to a supernatural subject to whose will everything in the universe conforms. To do so means that either that one is quite unconcerned about contradicting himself, or he really has not thought through what it is he is trying to say.

We need objectivity because (a) we need a reality-based standard to guide the choices we make in our reasoning, and (b) we can make mistakes in our inferences. Moreover, the fact that it is possible for us to confuse what we imagine for what is real, makes our need for objectivity all the more imperative. But like virtually all other theists, Dave expresses no concern for this possibility. And yet, how exactly do we reliably distinguish what Dave calls “God” from what Dave may merely be imagining? I have posed this question to theistic apologists for years now, and none have been able to present a methodology which addresses this concern while at the same time preserving their theism. Dave and other apologists can argue for their god’s existence until they’re blue in the face. But if I still have no alternative but to imagine the god they have claimed to prove by the time they arrive at their conclusion, then they have made no progress toward their purported goal. A god that I can only imagine is still just a figment of the imagination. As such, it provides no basis for objective moral truths.

Dave concluded:
if so, then who's to say whats right or wrong? it would simply be different strokes for different folks.
Notice that Dave takes for granted the assumption that “whats [sic] right or wrong” hinges on a “who” – i.e., on some form of consciousness presumably to whose dictates all of reality (including what is “right” and what is “wrong”) automatically conforms. To the extent that this is implied in Dave’s question here, it assumes the primacy of consciousness and thus must be rejected as internally fallacious. What is right for man and what is wrong for him do not hinge on anyone’s say so. Rather, they hinge on facts pertaining to man’s nature as a biological organism and his life’s requirements regardless of what anyone thinks, wishes, prefers, likes or dislikes, imagines, dreams, etc. This is the principle of objectivity. It points to the perseverance of facts in spite of any and all conscious activity to the contrary. This makes the very concept of objectivity explicitly anti-Christian.

by Dawson Bethrick

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20 Comments:

Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

In many interactions I've had with Christians, I often hear them attempt to wiggle out of POE with something along the lines of , "God doesn't cause evil; He allows it, though."

I see. So If I **allow** a loved one to dart out into the street in front of an oncoming bus so that she gets hit by it, that would be entirely different than if I pushed my loved out in front of the speeding bus?

I don't thinks so, Christians. Nice try, though.

Ydemoc

April 21, 2014 8:54 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

What just floors me is that they really do accept this false dichotomy of its either a imaginary authority divorced and apart from the facts or reality or its no standard at all. How about I don't want to die, hows that for an objective value, or how about I want to live comfortably and wish for those I care about to do likewise. Mmmm, maybe, just maybe and I admit I could be going way way out on a limb here and that what is good is what will secure this gaols. Nah, its just pointless materialism. I am getting sick unto death of hearing this banal arguments.

April 21, 2014 9:24 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Dawson

Sorry to hear about your 3G Internet wows, however you work with what you got, right? The video is long to if and when you can get around to it. Krauss has a lot of interesting points to make. My post on Harriman is now pushed back to Thursday night at the soonest. Someone needs to invent a 48 hour day so I can get some stuff done!

April 21, 2014 9:27 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

You wrote: "What is right for man and what is wrong for him do not hinge on anyone’s say so. Rather, they hinge on facts pertaining to man’s nature as a biological organism and his life’s requirements regardless of what anyone thinks, wishes, prefers, likes or dislikes, imagines, dreams, etc. This is the principle of objectivity."

Yep. As Rand put it in her essay, "Who Is the Final Authority in Ethics?" from The Voice of Reason (p. 18):

The concept of objectivity contains the reason why the question, "Who decides what is right or wrong?" is wrong. Nobody "decides." Nature does not **decide** -- it merely is; man does not **decide** in issues of knowledge, he merely **observes** that' which is. When it comes to applying his knowledge, man decides what he chooses to do, according to what he has learned, remembering that the basic principle of rational action in **all** aspects of human existence, is: "Nature to be commanded, must be obeyed." This means that man does not **create** reality and can achieve his values only by making his decisions consonant with the facts of reality.

Who "decides" what is the right way to make an automobile, cure an illness or to live one's life? Any man who cares to acquire the appropriate knowledge and to judge, at and for his own risk and sake. What is his criterion of judgment? Reason. What is his ultimate frame of reference? Reality. If he errs or evades, who penalizes him? Reality. [asterisks mine, in place of italics]
____________________________

Ydemoc

April 21, 2014 9:39 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Ydemoc,

Yes, I've heard similar retorts to the POE as well. But how can one reconcile the view that "God... allows evil" with the claim that the same god is "all-loving"? I John 4:8 goes so far as to say "God is love." But if the choice to "allow evil" is a choice made by such a god, what exactly is the object of its love? Love needs an object, but the choice to allow evil can only suggest that life is not the object of the Christian god's love, for evil destroys life. One does not willingly allow threats to what one loves to destroy what he loves. If that is what the Christian god does, it is quite irrational and self-destructive. But Christians assure us that their god is wholly rational as well.

Also, the claim that “God doesn’t cause evil” contradicts the claim that “God controls whatsoever comes to pass” and other statements to the effect that the Christian god controls everything, makes everything the way it is, guides all of history according to a “plan,” etc. Moreover, the common response to the POE that evil happens on behalf of some “greater good” would mean that a god which merely “allows” evil but does not cause it would not be responsible for that “greater good.”

Christians simply can’t have it both ways. They want to say that their god created everything distinct from itself, that everything in reality reflects its character (cf. “natural revelation”), that man was created in its image, etc. Then they want to claim that their god is not responsible for sin and evil.

If a car manufacturer sells a model that has a design flaw, that manufacturer acknowledges the responsibility and does a recall to repair the problem. This puts the manufacturer on higher moral ground than the Christian god, which has not done any kind of recall. Even sending Jesus to die on the cross has not stopped evil and sin. Evil and sin continue to plague the world, even according to Christian preachers themselves.

Christians like to blame Adam for sin entering into the human condition. But Adam is supposed to have been created by the Christian god. According to the Genesis myth, Adam sinned, thereby condemning the entire human race. Many believers explain this by the free-will defense: Adam freely chose to sin. But this does not exonerate the designer. It simply means that the product was flawed: Adam was created with imperfect judgment, which means: Adam was not a perfect creation. Thus it would be wrong to call Adam’s creator perfect, for a perfect creator does not create imperfection.

No, Christians cannot outrun the POE I’m afraid.

Regards,
Dawson

April 21, 2014 9:40 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Dawson. Thanks for another good blog.

You commented: "Christians like to blame Adam for sin entering into the human condition. But Adam is supposed to have been created by the Christian god. According to the Genesis myth, Adam sinned, thereby condemning the entire human race. Many believers explain this by the free-will defense: Adam freely chose to sin. But this does not exonerate the designer. It simply means that the product was flawed: Adam was created with imperfect judgment, which means: Adam was not a perfect creation. Thus it would be wrong to call Adam’s creator perfect, for a perfect creator does not create imperfection. "

Taking the role of angle's advocate, I shall play the Christian.

Dawson, God is not responsible for how it's creatures behave despite that it made them and knew by precognition beforehand what the Adam would do, so your accusation has no force. Besides God values freewill and faith above the safety and welfare of its creatures. Since God owns all it can do whatever it wants with any aspect of its creation.

(As a favor to the reader I shall forego the usual accompanying appeal for religious repentance/conversion. :)

Justin, Ydemoc, Dawson. How would you answer such counter points as I speculated?

April 22, 2014 10:49 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Robert,

Thanks for your thought-provoking question.

You wrote (on behalf of the hypothetical Christian apologist): “Dawson, God is not responsible for how it's creatures behave despite that it made them and knew by precognition beforehand what the Adam would do, so your accusation has no force.”

First of all, Robert, you need to polish your skill at playing the Christian. A Christian would never say “it’s” when he means “His.” ;)

Second, you’re right: many Christians would say essentially what you attribute to them here. What’s on display here is not a rational approach to the matter, but a theologically-governed attitude. But given other positions affirmed by Christians, chalking it all up to mere foreknowledge is far too weak and suggests a deep-seated hesitation on the apologist’s part. I have quoted numerous statements from apologists to the effect that the Christian god “controls” everything that happens. For example, Bahnsen writes: “God controls all events and outcomes (even those that come about by human choice and activity)” (Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 489n.43). Such a view, whether those affirming it admit it or not, reduces human beings to mere puppets. It can only exonerate human beings from any moral culpability, which is simply an unjust view in itself. The old excuse “the devil made me do it” should really say “the Christian god made me do it.” It’s another classic Christian cop-out.

Third, the task of morality is to guide one’s choices and actions, and one’s moral character is a summary product of his choices and actions. If the Christian god is such a shining example of moral behavior, if morality as such is a reflection of its character, why are Christians so eager to detach their god from any responsibility over the universe it is said to have created and govern? A man of stand-up moral character is one who takes responsibility for his choices and actions. But this is precisely the opposite of the character Christians attribute to their god. The Christian god is said to have created the universe, and that it freely chose to do this, and that it controls, also by choice, everything that happens within it. So what is and what happens in the universe are all a result of the Christian god’s choices and actions. If there is anything wrong in the universe, then, how is the Christian god not morally responsible it? How then are the creatures it created and controls morally responsible?

Christians are clearly not consistently proud of their god. They claim that the mess in which we find the universe was made by their god, and yet they say it’s not responsible for the mess. It’s as though they’re apologizing for a stepmother suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.

[continued…]

April 23, 2014 8:01 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Besides God values freewill and faith above the safety and welfare of its creatures.”

We can all imagine this. But when we examine the use of the concepts here, we find that the apologist is just serving up another batch of stolen concepts. As it is described by Christians themselves, the Christian god would lack the metaphysical preconditions necessary for valuing anything. It does not face a fundamental alternative, it cannot be harmed or destroyed, it needs nothing, it has no requirements which it must meet in order to exist, etc. It would have no objective basis to value one thing over another. Utter indifference would be the only possibility open to it.

Moreover, if the Christian god has freewill and yet can never sin, how would it be logically impossible for its creations to have freewill and yet never sin? I’ve pointed out before that according to the story, the Christian god clearly created Adam without perfect judgment. For if Adam had perfect judgment, he would not have sinned. And yet the story makes it clear that Adam sinned. So Adam was not created perfect.

Sometimes Christians say that creating Adam with the guarantee that he would never sin would have made Adam into a robot – i.e., without freewill. But do Christians then hold that their god is a robot? No, they don’t. So they are engaging in more special pleading again. No surprise here.

You wrote: “Since God owns all it can do whatever it wants with any aspect of its creation.”

Yes, we can all imagine this as well. But if this is the view which the Christian endorses, then he’s just tacitly admitting that his god is a ruthless, unbounded tyrant, and thus should drop the pretense that his god-belief has anything positive to contribute to the field of morality once and for all.

How’s that?

Regards,
Dawson

April 23, 2014 8:01 AM  
Blogger Daniel GodIsTime said...

Another great blog. Sorry to have been so silent. I've been here; just lurking. Been very busy with a new location/job.

Posted some new material over at my blog. I know I missed some salient points of argumentation, so if there is anyone who would gain from coming over and showing me what I missed I would appreciate the input.

Daniel

Thanks for the space for the shameless plug. Hope all is well with Ydemoc, Robert, Dawson, et all (you regulars).

April 25, 2014 6:39 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

Dear Bahnsen Burner,
I noticed in your reply to my comment you accuse me of using an “apologetical maneuver,” attempting to deflect attention away from what Christianity affirms and direct the spotlight on the non-believers worldview. You say that this is done in order to evade the problem of evil. Such a conclusion could only be reached if one has completely failed to understand the nature of the presuppositional argument. Allow me to clarify. The presuppositional argument for the existence of God is a "transcendental" argument; it seeks to determine what the preconditions to reality are given the espoused worldviews of opposing systems. It is an argument which attempts to evaluate opposing worldviews in order to distinguish which one is rationally coherent, that is, which worldview can adequately account for reality and make human experience intelligible. This is the nature of the argument it is not an "appologetical maneuver." Instead of dealing with my statement that “one must first define what they mean by “evil” given their espoused worldview and how that definition is meaningful” (i.e. have an epistemic basis for your assertion) before raising any moral complaint, you simply lay out the common form of the argument for the problem of evil. You do not interact at all with my challenge. Now who’s making “apologetical manuvers?”
The form of the argument which you offer I have no quarrel with except of course, when you refer to the God of Christianity as an “It.” This is a blatant misrepresentation, Christian’s do not believe that God is an impersonal being but rather a “personal” and “living” God and although He does not possess reproductive organs, the Bible clearly defines God as male. Moving on however, your statement, “Thus the universe is supposed to have been created by an all-good, all-powerful [G]od which controls everything, and yet the universe is clearly saturated with evil and imperfection,” Shows no attempt to deal with Bahnsen’s answer, namely, that “God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil He foreordains”. In fact, at this point it has not even been mentioned. You then reply to my statement that “the problem of evil is not a problem for the believer but rather a problem for the unbeliever” by saying that there is clearly an internal tension within Christianity on the problem of evil. But I would like to know where the “internal tension” is so conspicuous? Given the added premise offered by Bahnsen in reply to the problem of evil I don’t see why the problem of evil is a problem. Consider the argument (1.) God is all-good. (2.) God is all-powerful . (3.) Evil exists. On these premises alone I can see how this seems inconsistent. However, if we add, as Bahnsen did, another premise (4.) God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil He foreordains or allows, the tension immediately melts away. In no way is there any logical violation or “tension” if all four points are taken into account. You may not be persuaded by this argument but whether you are psychologically persuaded or not is intellectually irrelevant and does nothing to “invalidate” the argument. Granted, Bahnsen does not explicate his statement but I don’t believe he has to. The challenge from the problem of evil is that it attempts to show that there is logical inconsistency within the nature of God and since Bahnsen solves this “problem” by adding a fourth premise there is no need for further discussion since the “tension” has been quashed. As Basen writes:
“The problem of evil amounts to the charge that there is logical incoherence within the Christian outlook – regardless of how much evil there is in the universe, compared to how much goodness can be found. If Christianity is logically incoherent, no amount of positive, factual evidence can save its truth. The internal inconsistency would itself render Christian faith intellectually unacceptable, even granting there might be a great deal of indicators or

May 16, 2014 6:15 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

Dear Bahnsen Burner,
I noticed in your reply to my comment you accuse me of using an “apologetical maneuver,” attempting to deflect attention away from what Christianity affirms and direct the spotlight on the non-believers worldview. You say that this is done in order to evade the problem of evil. Such a conclusion could only be reached if one has completely failed to understand the nature of the presuppositional argument. Allow me to clarify. The presuppositional argument for the existence of God is a "transcendental" argument; it seeks to determine what the preconditions to reality are given the espoused worldviews of opposing systems. It is an argument which attempts to evaluate opposing worldviews in order to distinguish which one is rationally coherent, that is, which worldview can adequately account for reality and make human experience intelligible. This is the nature of the argument it is not an "appologetical maneuver." Instead of dealing with my statement that “one must first define what they mean by “evil” given their espoused worldview and how that definition is meaningful” (i.e. have an epistemic basis for your assertion) before raising any moral complaint, you simply lay out the common form of the argument for the problem of evil. You do not interact at all with my challenge. Now who’s making “apologetical manuvers?”
The form of the argument which you offer I have no quarrel with except of course, when you refer to the God of Christianity as an “It.” This is a blatant misrepresentation, Christian’s do not believe that God is an impersonal being but rather a “personal” and “living” God and although He does not possess reproductive organs, the Bible clearly defines God as male. Moving on however, your statement, “Thus the universe is supposed to have been created by an all-good, all-powerful [G]od which controls everything, and yet the universe is clearly saturated with evil and imperfection,” Shows no attempt to deal with Bahnsen’s answer, namely, that “God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil He foreordains”. In fact, at this point it has not even been mentioned. You then reply to my statement that “the problem of evil is not a problem for the believer but rather a problem for the unbeliever” by saying that there is clearly an internal tension within Christianity on the problem of evil. But I would like to know where the “internal tension” is so conspicuous? Given the added premise offered by Bahnsen in reply to the problem of evil I don’t see why the problem of evil is a problem. Consider the argument (1.) God is all-good. (2.) God is all-powerful . (3.) Evil exists. On these premises alone I can see how this seems inconsistent. However, if we add, as Bahnsen did, another premise (4.) God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil He foreordains or allows, the tension immediately melts away. In no way is there any logical violation or “tension” if all four points are taken into account. You may not be persuaded by this argument but whether you are psychologically persuaded or not is intellectually irrelevant and does nothing to “invalidate” the argument. Granted, Bahnsen does not explicate his statement but I don’t believe he has to. The challenge from the problem of evil is that it attempts to show that there is logical inconsistency within the nature of God and since Bahnsen solves this “problem” by adding a fourth premise there is no need for further discussion since the “tension” has been quashed. As Basen writes:
“The problem of evil amounts to the charge that there is logical incoherence within the Christian outlook – regardless of how much evil there is in the universe, compared to how much goodness can be found. If Christianity is logically incoherent, no amount of positive, factual evidence can save its truth. The internal inconsistency would itself render Christian faith intellectually unacceptable, even granting there might be a great deal of indicators or

May 16, 2014 6:15 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

evidence in our experience for the existence of goodness or for God, otherwise considered. (Always Ready. p.166.)
Bahnsen here clearly recognizes the nature of the “logical problem” posed to the Christian by the unbeliever, however Bahnsen goes on to explain:
“It should be obvious upon reflection that there can be no “problem of evil” to press upon the Christian believers unless one can legitimately assert the existence of evil in this world. There is not even apparently a logical problem as long as we have only these two premises to deal with:
1. GOD IS COMPLETELY GOOD
2. GOD IS COMPLETELY POWERFUL.
These two premises do not in themselves create any contradiction. The problem arises only when we add the premise:
3. EVIL EXISTS (HAPPENS).
Accordingly, it is crucial to the unbeliever’s case against Christianity to be in a position to assert that there is evil in the world – to point to something and have the right to evaluate it as an instance of evil. If it should be the case that nothing evil exists or ever happens – that is, what people initially believe to be evil cannot reasonably be deemed “evil” – then there is nothing inconsistent with Christian theology which requires an answer. (Ibid. p.167-168).
Therefore in order for the Problem of evil to be a workable argument against Christianity, the onus is on the unbeliever to validate his belief in the existence of evil, that is he must show that his conception of evil is rationally coherent given his espoused worldview. what he considers to be “evil” must be universally recognisable as evil and to do so requires a rationally coherent standard for morality.
However, you might say that whether the unbeliever can validate the existence of evil or not, the Christian certainly has a conception of evil and believes in the reality of evil in this world. Therefore the Christian still faces an inconsistency. As we have noted already this inconsistency is immediately vanquished once we add the fourth premise: “God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil and suffering He ordains.” Now as Bahnsen did not explain as to what possible “reason” God would have for evil that is morally sufficient, I will offer a brief explination. The claim of Christianity is that God is a "personal" God, a God who determines to enter into fellowship with His creation in order that we may gain a greater knowledge of our Creator (Jn.17:3). To do this God must reveal Himself to us, that is, His divine nature and holy character must be made manifest to man if he is to achieve this knowledge. All of God’s divine attributes are therefore revealed. Man would know nothing of mercy if all men were innocent creatures. He wouldn’t know God’s wrath if God didn’t exercise it upon sinful and rebellious creatures, he would have knowledge of justice if there were no injustice. The apostle Paul gives a more in depth presentation of this fact in his epistle to the Romans (Rom.9:19-23).
Allow me to offer the following hypothesis. If for argument sake, the God of Christianity exists and all men are rebels against Him and spurn His every gracious will and desire and are therefore liable

May 16, 2014 6:16 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

to divine justice. Would the substitutionary sacrifice of His only begotten Son on the cross be an evil act that had no morally sufficient purpose on God’s part? No doubt that the act of crucifying a man who had committed no crime would be evil (2.Cor.5:21, Lk.23:4, 14) but what was God’s reason for ordaining this event? The Christian claim is that through this act God would save those who deserve His eternal wrath and instead give them eternal life by offering Christ to pay the penalty due unto them. Now given your Objectivist theory on morality salvation and the means thereof, must be the ultimate expression moral good because it is conducive to a person’s life not just temporally but eternally!
You continue your argument against Christians saying:
“They must also concede that, according to their worldview, the Christian [G]od provides the necessary preconditions for evil as well.”
I agree, God must be the precondition for evil inasmuch as without the God of the bible evil could not be defined. God is absolutely holy and righteous, “in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn.1:5). This is His fundamental character and evil is the very contradiction of that character. If there was no absolute moral standard evil could not be defined or known, so in this sense God is the precondition for evil but not its creator. But how does the unbeliever understand evil? What standard does he use to distinguish between right and wrong? When posing an ethical judgment against another person what authority is the unbeliever appealing to which could justly validate his complaint? Surely the unbeliever believes that evil exists based upon his challenge to Christianity, but according to his worldview how can he account for the reality of evil?
You then say that with regards to the problem of evil, “Any non-Christian’s view or lack of ability is irrelevant to the matter.”
Wow, this is possibly the greatest example of an “apologetical maneuver” to date. By saying that the unbeliever’s views or lack of ability is irrelevant to the matter is purely an absurd statement. If you are raising a moral complaint against someone it is implicitly relevant for you to define your terms, what do you mean by the term “evil” and how do you define “existence?” If these terms cannot be made meaningful or intelligible then there is no more rational force to the argument. Given the same liberty the Christian could just as easily say “Any Christian’s view or lack of ability is irrelevant to the matter of the problem of evil.” So what if the Christian cannot account for God being both all-good and all-powerful and yet evil existing, if the atheist doesn’t need to account for his worldview why should the Christian? This is clearly prejudicial.
You Finally begin to engage with Bahnsen’s answer to the problem of evil (i.e. “God has a morally sufficient reason for the suffering and evil that He foreordains”). You then comment that such a statement is not one which you have read in the bible. I’m not surprised there are possibly a lot of statements in the bible which you have not read. Nevertheless, Bahnsen in no way shape or form contends that he is quoting from the bible when he says “God has a morally sufficient reason for the suffering and evil He foreordains.” This is rather an inference draw from the bible’s pervasive testimony of God’s righteous will. To take one example we have (Rom.8:28) “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good.”

May 16, 2014 6:16 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

You then define your perspective or rather that of Ayn Rand, namely the “Objectivist” view of morality. You assert that “morality is a code of values which guides man’s choices and actions.” That “Objective morality is a moral code whose values are based on facts pertaining to man’s nature as a living organism that we discover by looking outward at reality.” So according to your view morality is a code of values which guides man’s choices and actions, as to why man is in need of such a code and to where he is being guided we are not told, it’s just asserted arbitrarily. Moreover, how do we know that the codes of values are in themselves moral ones? That is to say, upon what authority or by what standard to we distinguish between “good” codes and values and “evil” codes and values? Just asserting things with no validation is the same complaint you raised against Bahnsen and yet you hypocritically do the same thing. You say that moral codes and values are based on “facts” pertaining to man’s nature as a living organism that we discover looking outwardly at reality. I believe you are suggesting that moral values are a part of man’s nature which we deduce by looking outwardly at reality. Does everyone have the same codes and values? If so, how do you know this? Or are they relative to each individual’s interpretation of reality? And what exactly is reality? What method (i.e. epistemology) “ought” one adopt to know what is real and why? Should we use empiricism, rationalism, existantionalism or pragmatism? These questions haven’t been honestly considered. People do not interpret the world in the same way; their interpretation of reality is determined by their underlying pressuppositions. Everybody has presuppositions; in fact in order to study the “outward reality” one must rely solely upon the fundamental assumption that there is uniformity and regularity in nature. Without order in the universe one would have no basis or grounds for projecting past experiences into future experiences. But how exactly can you account for the uniformity in nature? Is it just that way, in which case will it be just that way tomorrow? And if so, on what basis do you believe that? Since no one has experienced the future empirically and since empirical observation is said to be the ultimate standard for truth as proposed by Ayn Rand, you have no way of verifying or even having confidence that order in the universe will be present in the future, in which case you have no rational grounds to engage in scientific investigation given your view of reality..
You use the term “objective morality” and of course I agree morality is objective, it does not depend on man for its existence but how do you validate an objective standard of morality in an atheist world? Do you mean that morality is a product of the natural world? If so, shouldn’t we then based of the evolutionary model, expect morality to change over time just like nature? How could anything be considered absolutely immoral based on this proposition? What’s evil today may be good tomorrow right?
You then give your standard for morality as follows:
“The good is that which furthers a rational individuals life by meeting his life needs and providing an incentive for continuing the effort living requires of him.”
What you are advocating is that “good” is that which achieves a certain end, in this case the end achieved if the furtherance of a rational individuals life. However when you say “good” is that which is conducive to the furtherance of life you are already assuming that the furtherance of life is itself good. How do you know that the furtherance of life is an end worth achieving? How do you validate the end which you have proposed? This is a completely arbitrary assertion; it would be just as

May 16, 2014 6:16 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

plausible to say that good is that which destroys a rational individual’s life. Unless you can make your asserted end meaningful all you do is you posit an irrational basis for morality.
You say “man faces a fundamental alternative- life vs. death, if so, “how ought man make his decision? On what basis does he choose life over death or is it merely assumed that man should choose life? But if man is nothing more than a bag of chemical biological stuff subject to the laws of nature, then what “right” does he have to live? Where does man get his sense of dignity from if he is no different than any other chemical which we might find in the chemistry lab for example? Based on this arbitrary assertion you begin to say that man’s “life needs” are “independent of any conscious activity on man’s part, which means that he must discover them by means of an objective method of acquiring and validating knowledge – i.e., by means of reason.” But if man has to first choose between life and death, life being arbitrarily essential on your view, then is his decision a conscious one? And What exactly is a “life need?” does every one have the same life needs? If so, how do you know this? how do you know that life needs are independent of any conscious activity? Is reason a life need? And if so, is reason devoid of conscious activity? These statements are just asserted without any rational basis. You say that man “must” discover his life needs, but this is only the case if again, man first chooses to live instead of die but on what rational grounds should man make his choice without being arbitrary? You then claim that an objective method for discovering truth is by means of reason. “objectivism affirms the only objective standard for this: rationality.” I take it then that you believe in logical absolutes. But what is the nature of logic? Is it material or immaterial? Are logical absolutes universal and law like or simply conventions? If they are absolute truths then they are transcendent if they are conventions they are relative and non-law like. To say that they are objective truths compels one to account for their objectivity, how does one know that they will be objective truths tomorrow? You simply assume their objectiveness in order to argue for their objectiveness, a clear case of begging the question. What “rational” argument could you have to validate “reason” without first assuming the reality of reason as your staring point?
In the end, you have not demonstrated a rational ground for your philosophy, you have only demonstrated classic cases of arbitrariness, subjectivism, and logically fallacious argumentation. The problem of evil for the unbeliever is not seriously considered in your reply; you seem to throw out a lot of challenges but are unprepared to evaluate the conspicuous inconsistencies in your own world view. You borrow presuppositions from the Christian worldview e.g. logical absolutes and objective morality, which can only make rational sense in a Christian worldview and apply them to your own demonstrating that your worldview cannot account for such presuppositions rendering your world view as logically inconsistent.

May 16, 2014 6:17 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

Dear Bahnsen Burner,
I noticed in your reply to my comment you accuse me of using an “apologetical maneuver,” attempting to deflect attention away from what Christianity affirms and direct the spotlight on the non-believers worldview. You say that this is done in order to evade the problem of evil. Such a conclusion could only be reached if one has completely failed to understand the nature of the presuppositional argument. Allow me to clarify. The presuppositional argument for the existence of God is a "transcendental" argument; it seeks to determine what the preconditions to reality are given the espoused worldviews of opposing systems. It is an argument which attempts to evaluate opposing worldviews in order to distinguish which one is rationally coherent, that is, which worldview can adequately account for reality and make human experience intelligible. This is the nature of the argument it is not an "appologetical maneuver." Instead of dealing with my statement that “one must first define what they mean by “evil” given their espoused worldview and how that definition is meaningful” (i.e. have an epistemic basis for your assertion) before raising any moral complaint, you simply lay out the common form of the argument for the problem of evil. You do not interact at all with my challenge. Now who’s making “apologetical manuvers?”
The form of the argument which you offer I have no quarrel with except of course, when you refer to the God of Christianity as an “It.” This is a blatant misrepresentation, Christian’s do not believe that God is an impersonal being but rather a “personal” and “living” God and although He does not possess reproductive organs, the Bible clearly defines God as male. Moving on however, your statement, “Thus the universe is supposed to have been created by an all-good, all-powerful [G]od which controls everything, and yet the universe is clearly saturated with evil and imperfection,” Shows no attempt to deal with Bahnsen’s answer, namely, that “God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil He foreordains”. In fact, at this point it has not even been mentioned. You then reply to my statement that “the problem of evil is not a problem for the believer but rather a problem for the unbeliever” by saying that there is clearly an internal tension within Christianity on the problem of evil. But I would like to know where the “internal tension” is so conspicuous? Given the added premise offered by Bahnsen in reply to the problem of evil I don’t see why the problem of evil is a problem. Consider the argument (1.) God is all-good. (2.) God is all-powerful . (3.) Evil exists. On these premises alone I can see how this seems inconsistent. However, if we add, as Bahnsen did, another premise (4.) God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil He foreordains or allows, the tension immediately melts away. In no way is there any logical violation or “tension” if all four points are taken into account. You may not be persuaded by this argument but whether you are psychologically persuaded or not is intellectually irrelevant and does nothing to “invalidate” the argument. Granted, Bahnsen does not explicate his statement but I don’t believe he has to. The challenge from the problem of evil is that it attempts to show that there is logical inconsistency within the nature of God and since Bahnsen solves this “problem” by adding a fourth premise there is no need for further discussion since the “tension” has been quashed. As Basen writes:
“The problem of evil amounts to the charge that there is logical incoherence within the Christian outlook – regardless of how much evil there is in the universe, compared to how much goodness can be found. If Christianity is logically incoherent, no amount of positive, factual evidence can save its truth. The internal inconsistency would itself render Christian faith intellectually unacceptable, even granting there might be a great deal of indicators or

May 16, 2014 6:23 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

evidence in our experience for the existence of goodness or for God, otherwise considered. (Always Ready. p.166.)
Bahnsen here clearly recognizes the nature of the “logical problem” posed to the Christian by the unbeliever, however Bahnsen goes on to explain:
“It should be obvious upon reflection that there can be no “problem of evil” to press upon the Christian believers unless one can legitimately assert the existence of evil in this world. There is not even apparently a logical problem as long as we have only these two premises to deal with:
1. GOD IS COMPLETELY GOOD
2. GOD IS COMPLETELY POWERFUL.
These two premises do not in themselves create any contradiction. The problem arises only when we add the premise:
3. EVIL EXISTS (HAPPENS).
Accordingly, it is crucial to the unbeliever’s case against Christianity to be in a position to assert that there is evil in the world – to point to something and have the right to evaluate it as an instance of evil. If it should be the case that nothing evil exists or ever happens – that is, what people initially believe to be evil cannot reasonably be deemed “evil” – then there is nothing inconsistent with Christian theology which requires an answer. (Ibid. p.167-168).
Therefore in order for the Problem of evil to be a workable argument against Christianity, the onus is on the unbeliever to validate his belief in the existence of evil, that is he must show that his conception of evil is rationally coherent given his espoused worldview. what he considers to be “evil” must be universally recognisable as evil and to do so requires a rationally coherent standard for morality.
However, you might say that whether the unbeliever can validate the existence of evil or not, the Christian certainly has a conception of evil and believes in the reality of evil in this world. Therefore the Christian still faces an inconsistency. As we have noted already this inconsistency is immediately vanquished once we add the fourth premise: “God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil and suffering He ordains.” Now as Bahnsen did not explain as to what possible “reason” God would have for evil that is morally sufficient, I will offer a brief explination. The claim of Christianity is that God is a "personal" God, a God who determines to enter into fellowship with His creation in order that we may gain a greater knowledge of our Creator (Jn.17:3). To do this God must reveal Himself to us, that is, His divine nature and holy character must be made manifest to man if he is to achieve this knowledge. All of God’s divine attributes are therefore revealed. Man would know nothing of mercy if all men were innocent creatures. He wouldn’t know God’s wrath if God didn’t exercise it upon sinful and rebellious creatures, he would have knowledge of justice if there were no injustice. The apostle Paul gives a more in depth presentation of this fact in his epistle to the Romans (Rom.9:19-23).
Allow me to offer the following hypothesis. If for argument sake, the God of Christianity exists and all men are rebels against Him and spurn His every gracious will and desire and are therefore liable

May 16, 2014 6:24 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

to divine justice. Would the substitutionary sacrifice of His only begotten Son on the cross be an evil act that had no morally sufficient purpose on God’s part? No doubt that the act of crucifying a man who had committed no crime would be evil (2.Cor.5:21, Lk.23:4, 14) but what was God’s reason for ordaining this event? The Christian claim is that through this act God would save those who deserve His eternal wrath and instead give them eternal life by offering Christ to pay the penalty due unto them. Now given your Objectivist theory on morality salvation and the means thereof, must be the ultimate expression moral good because it is conducive to a person’s life not just temporally but eternally!
You continue your argument against Christians saying:
“They must also concede that, according to their worldview, the Christian [G]od provides the necessary preconditions for evil as well.”
I agree, God must be the precondition for evil inasmuch as without the God of the bible evil could not be defined. God is absolutely holy and righteous, “in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn.1:5). This is His fundamental character and evil is the very contradiction of that character. If there was no absolute moral standard evil could not be defined or known, so in this sense God is the precondition for evil but not its creator. But how does the unbeliever understand evil? What standard does he use to distinguish between right and wrong? When posing an ethical judgment against another person what authority is the unbeliever appealing to which could justly validate his complaint? Surely the unbeliever believes that evil exists based upon his challenge to Christianity, but according to his worldview how can he account for the reality of evil?
You then say that with regards to the problem of evil, “Any non-Christian’s view or lack of ability is irrelevant to the matter.”
Wow, this is possibly the greatest example of an “apologetical maneuver” to date. By saying that the unbeliever’s views or lack of ability is irrelevant to the matter is purely an absurd statement. If you are raising a moral complaint against someone it is implicitly relevant for you to define your terms, what do you mean by the term “evil” and how do you define “existence?” If these terms cannot be made meaningful or intelligible then there is no more rational force to the argument. Given the same liberty the Christian could just as easily say “Any Christian’s view or lack of ability is irrelevant to the matter of the problem of evil.” So what if the Christian cannot account for God being both all-good and all-powerful and yet evil existing, if the atheist doesn’t need to account for his worldview why should the Christian? This is clearly prejudicial.
You Finally begin to engage with Bahnsen’s answer to the problem of evil (i.e. “God has a morally sufficient reason for the suffering and evil that He foreordains”). You then comment that such a statement is not one which you have read in the bible. I’m not surprised there are possibly a lot of statements in the bible which you have not read. Nevertheless, Bahnsen in no way shape or form contends that he is quoting from the bible when he says “God has a morally sufficient reason for the suffering and evil He foreordains.” This is rather an inference draw from the bible’s pervasive testimony of God’s righteous will. To take one example we have (Rom.8:28) “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good.”

May 16, 2014 6:24 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

You then define your perspective or rather that of Ayn Rand, namely the “Objectivist” view of morality. You assert that “morality is a code of values which guides man’s choices and actions.” That “Objective morality is a moral code whose values are based on facts pertaining to man’s nature as a living organism that we discover by looking outward at reality.” So according to your view morality is a code of values which guides man’s choices and actions, as to why man is in need of such a code and to where he is being guided we are not told, it’s just asserted arbitrarily. Moreover, how do we know that the codes of values are in themselves moral ones? That is to say, upon what authority or by what standard to we distinguish between “good” codes and values and “evil” codes and values? Just asserting things with no validation is the same complaint you raised against Bahnsen and yet you hypocritically do the same thing. You say that moral codes and values are based on “facts” pertaining to man’s nature as a living organism that we discover looking outwardly at reality. I believe you are suggesting that moral values are a part of man’s nature which we deduce by looking outwardly at reality. Does everyone have the same codes and values? If so, how do you know this? Or are they relative to each individual’s interpretation of reality? And what exactly is reality? What method (i.e. epistemology) “ought” one adopt to know what is real and why? Should we use empiricism, rationalism, existantionalism or pragmatism? These questions haven’t been honestly considered. People do not interpret the world in the same way; their interpretation of reality is determined by their underlying pressuppositions. Everybody has presuppositions; in fact in order to study the “outward reality” one must rely solely upon the fundamental assumption that there is uniformity and regularity in nature. Without order in the universe one would have no basis or grounds for projecting past experiences into future experiences. But how exactly can you account for the uniformity in nature? Is it just that way, in which case will it be just that way tomorrow? And if so, on what basis do you believe that? Since no one has experienced the future empirically and since empirical observation is said to be the ultimate standard for truth as proposed by Ayn Rand, you have no way of verifying or even having confidence that order in the universe will be present in the future, in which case you have no rational grounds to engage in scientific investigation given your view of reality..
You use the term “objective morality” and of course I agree morality is objective, it does not depend on man for its existence but how do you validate an objective standard of morality in an atheist world? Do you mean that morality is a product of the natural world? If so, shouldn’t we then based of the evolutionary model, expect morality to change over time just like nature? How could anything be considered absolutely immoral based on this proposition? What’s evil today may be good tomorrow right?
You then give your standard for morality as follows:
“The good is that which furthers a rational individuals life by meeting his life needs and providing an incentive for continuing the effort living requires of him.”
What you are advocating is that “good” is that which achieves a certain end, in this case the end achieved if the furtherance of a rational individuals life. However when you say “good” is that which is conducive to the furtherance of life you are already assuming that the furtherance of life is itself good. How do you know that the furtherance of life is an end worth achieving? How do you validate the end which you have proposed? This is a completely arbitrary assertion; it would be just as

May 16, 2014 6:25 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave,

You have been answered:

Shining a Bright Light into Dave's Dark Cave

Regards,
Dawson

May 17, 2014 8:57 PM  

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