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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The so-called 'Hiddenness of God': Dispatches from a clueless skeptic

Justin Vacula recently posited yet another, unique nail in the coffin pearl of wisdom to bolster his atheistic worldview, an argument concerning the so-called 'Hiddennes of God". Such arguments are nothing new and basically boil down to, 'if God exists, then why can't He manifest Himself in a manner that I can see him?'. Theists can argue that if one studies the fine-tuning of the universe to allow for life on this planet or if one were to examine the probability of specifically-coded DNA sequences arising by random chance, that the fingerprints of a Creator God are all over His creation. And yet, if I open my window in the morning and look outside, I don't actually see God Himself. In fact, there are no widespread claims that anybody is seeing God.

One big reason put forward by philosophers for God not manifesting Himself (assuming for a moment that He exists) is that God unmistakeably and clearly showing Himself to all would then diminish the overall amount of free choice we have when deciding what we would like to do. That is to say, that such a powerful manifestation would amount to coercion on God's behalf and God would rather that we behave and make our choices absent any sort of psychological pressure on people that such an appearance would entail.

One thing Mr. Vacula cannot deny is that people behave differently when they perceive they are being watched. That's not just me saying that as a general obeservation but, a cursory search would indicate, it's also what Newcastle University, UCLA and sciencemag.org are saying. I doubt that Mr. Vacula can deny that.

While involved in an online discussion recently, a certain clueless skeptic (MS) offered up the following 'questions' on this subject that I will attempt to answer....

1)Does not the bible 'record' such instances of God as visible, audible, etc? eg. Moses, the early Israelites? Were the Israelites coerced into accepting the covenant? Perhaps, and under yo...ur view, definitely.

The Isrealites were freed from captivity by the Egyptians and God made a covenant with them. God did lay down ground rules (laws). However, this is not like the topic of Justin's entry in that Justin is wondering why "-- since it is the case that theists profess God wants everyone to believe he exists – God simply doesn't unequivocally reveal himself so that persons can 'enter into a relationship' with God, no longer doubt, stop fighting one another because of religious differences, and go to Heaven."

However in looking at your question, it seems to me that the only alternatives would be that God's laws are revealed by someone other than God or that they are not revealed at all. That's a case you would have to make to convince me that either is preferable and the reasons you would think that is so.

As to when God actually WAS audible to the Israelites, exactly how did that work out?

2) Does not the threat of eternal hellfire amount to a coercion of worst order?

I find it only fair that we are forewarned of the consequences of our actions. It is explicitly stated that there are consequences for not obeying God's laws. A truly evil god would never reveal that there were consequences for certain actions until we stand in judgement and by then, it's too late. I doubt that you would argue that not knowing would be the better option here. There are two points I would like to bring up at this moment.

1) The temporal eminence of the threat. I think we could both agree that if we were to be held up at gunpoint by a robber and our wallets demanded of us, we would perceive such a threat as quite eminent and thus we would be coerced do something against our will like give our money to a stranger. However, if the robber said something to the effect like, "I have a blowdart in my hand and if you are shot with it, there is no antidote and you will die in 50 years", then we would assess things differently than if the threat were much more immediate as in the first example in which a firearm is used.

But, let's say that I concede that the threat of Hell alone, in and of itself, would still take away any free will in this matter, we would still have to examine another factor concerning the threat.

2) The epistemic eminence of the threat. What I mean by that is people do things everyday that can get them killed, but yet they do them anyway. For this reason, we see advertising campaigns urging people to "Buckle Up!" their seatbelts when getting in to automobiles and to quit smoking. It's not that people who smoke or don't use their seatbelts don't believe that they can die because these things, it's that somehow, if these things are shouted out from the radio/movie screen/computer screen/tv screen loud enough and especially, often enough, they can send a powerful enough message that can potentially alter behavior.

I would assert that if God were to "unequivocally reveal himself", make Himself known and constantly repeat the eminence of a threat, then THAT would be 'coercion of worst order'. Either you are Justin are free to tell me why this would not be the case.

3) Am I coerced into being in a relationship with other persons just because they are visible, audible, and present to my senses?

No. I assume that you are in relationships with people (assuming that you are), because you want to be.

This is ludicrous. If God expects a relationship, it is only natural that he would disclose his existence in an unmistakable way

I think you are either ignorant of, or forgetting the fact that such a revelation as described by Justin is not the only way we receive revelation from God. If either of you are willing to accept that personal revelation is a possible option, it would go a long way towards actually having a meaningful discussion here.

4)What's wrong with some general sense of 'psychological pressure' -- i.e. the pressure brought about by being compelled to acknowledge the existence of something

I think you were quoting me here. What I actually asked Justin was 'So you would argue that if a huge, gigantic, and beautiful sky-god was absolutely visible, audible and communication with people here on earth, that it would in no way cause "psychological pressure" to "do some act against his or her will "[?] which is a textbook definition of the word 'coercion'.

Rather than actually answering this question directly, Justin (I'm sure you were just going to mention MS) simply changed the subject, a point we will examine in our next blog post.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Leftist Intolerance of Freedom of Religion

"If you look at the history from the mid-1960s, we've gone from a request for toleration to an imposition of intolerance. We've gone from a quest to understand others to a determination to close down those who hold traditional values." Newt Gingrich (above)

Timothy P. Carney's article from today highlights how the secularist Left is steadfastly against religious freedom. No matter how much they bandy about such terms as 'tolerance' and 'inclusion', the end result shows that it is quite Orwellian for them to do so....

"Social liberals claim they promote tolerance, preventing oppressive Christian conservatives from "imposing their morality" on everyone. But the state of the culture war in America today is almost exactly the opposite: The secular Left is using the might of government to make it harder for religious people to live their own lives according to their faith.

Nancy Pelosi, who regularly and loudly declares herself a faithful Catholic, last week belittled Catholic hospitals: "They have this conscience thing," she sneered about the hospitals that want to be free not to abort unborn babies. How ironic that Pelosi and like-minded liberals call themselves "pro-choice."...

Obamacare gives us the latest case study. The bill gave the secretary of Health & Human Services unprecedented power to regulate insurance plans, while also forcing individuals and employers to buy health insurance. Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a rule outlawing any new insurance plan that doesn't fully cover the cost of all contraception, including "morning-after" pills that can also cause abortions.

The rule included a conscience exemption for "religious employers," but it defined "religious" so narrowly that it applies to virtually no one. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote that "not even the ministry of Jesus and the early Christian Church would qualify as 'religious'" because they served and preached to non-Christians.

Belmont Abbey College is a Catholic college in North Carolina that was founded by Benedictine monks. In all likelihood, the "religious employer" exemption won't protect Belmont Abbey, and the school will be forced to buy contraceptives for its students, in violation of the Church's teaching.

College President Bill Thierfelder wrote in a memo, "As a college, we find our center in Jesus Christ. Not only in our teaching, but also in our actions. Our policies must mirror our beliefs -- we simply cannot do what we believe is morally wrong."

He added, "We are not imposing our beliefs upon anyone else. We respect the constitutional right of all faiths to freely exercise their religion. We simply want that constitutional right given to us as well."

I wish Belmont Abbey College all the best in their fight against anti-Christian bigotry. I would suggest to them that if they wished the blessings of the Obama administration while in holding on to religious values, then perhaps they should support Sharia as this seems to be the cause celebre when this administration mulls over who the winners and losers are going to be when it comes to support in matters of faith.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Unmitigated Disaster That Would Have Been Henry Agard Wallace

Fresh off of last night's viewing of Captain America (Note: We rated it 'Very Good', but not quite 'Great') I approach today with a renewed interest in 1940's geopolitics. Today's article by David Stokes reminds us of how thankful we should be that Franklin Roosevelt left Henry A. Wallace (above, left) off of the ticket when he ran for his last term of president and instead replaced him with Harry S. Truman. Some facts raised by Stokes in his article to buttress his main point are..

  • "...if Franklin Roosevelt hadn’t dumped Mr. Wallace from the ticket in favor of Harry S. Truman that year, the post-World War Two world would have been significantly influenced by a pro-Communist lackey for the Soviet Union, who once suggested that “if we could practice eugenics on people. We could turn out a beautiful golden race.”

  • "Henry Wallace was the highest-ranking nut ever to serve the Republic. He was known to think not only out of the box, but also far from reality. Consider some of the strange and embarrassing letters he wrote to a self-styled Russian mystic named Nicholas Constantin Roerich, things like:

    My Dear Guru: The search, whether it be for the lost world of Masonry or the Holy Chalice or the potentialities or the age to come is the one supremely worthwhile in objective. All else is Karmic duty. Here is life.”

    Translation? No clue—but that’s the point, the guy was clueless.

  • "Quite frankly, everything we know about Henry A. Wallace from the 1948 campaign suggests that U.S. foreign policy would have been one surrender after another to Soviet European hegemony. In fact, in 1946 and while serving as Secretary of Commerce under Truman, Wallace advocated cooperation with the Soviets in spite of overwhelming evidence that the Communists had every intention of dominating Eastern Europe. This was in a speech delivered at Madison Square Garden in New York. Truman fired Wallace shortly thereafter."

The article by Stokes is an interesting read for those interested in American history. It focuses on a man scarcely remembered and whose name sits practically undisturbed upon the ashbin of history, and yet he was, quite frighteningly, a mere heartbeat away from being sworn in as leader of the free world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nancy Pelosi is lying

Bob Beauprez informs us....

"Because of ambiguities in the language of the ObamaCare legislation, House Republicans brought forward H.R. 358, The Protect Life Act, in October 2011 to preserve Conscience Clause protections for health care providers and to restate the ban on federal taxpayer funding for abortion. The legislation was consistent “with the original Stupak Amendment” according to Joe Pitts (R-PA), a sponsor of the bill, as well as the co-author of the original Stupak Amendment offered in the House during the ObamaCare and supposedly affirmed by Executive Order signed by Barack Obama to pacify pro-life Democrats prior to the passage of ObamaCare.

The pro-abortion crowd renamed the bill the “Let Women Die Act.” Pelosi characterized the legislation as “savage” and said, “When the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor and health-care providers do not have to intervene, if this bill is passed. It’s just appalling.” Pelosi made the outrageous claim even though H.R. 358 contained exceptions as found in the landmark Hyde Amendment for “abortions performed due to the child’s conception in rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.”

The Protect Life Act passed the House on Oct. 13, 2011 by a 251-172 margin, with just 15 Democrats voting with the Republicans. There are about 90 Democrats in the House that list “Catholic” as their faith, so Pelosi wasn’t the only Catholic Democrat that voted contrary to Church teaching. Thus far, Harry Reid has blocked the Act from a vote in the Senate."

So just remember this when the Left goes on about how the pro-life crowd wants 'women to die'. The most obvious reason that Pelosi seems to object that Catholics have this 'conscience thing' is because apparently she entirely lacks one. One of the hardest, prevailing myths to debunk among the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is the one concerning women dying en masse of back-alley, coathanger abortions but it appears that that one is going the way of the dodo as well. It finally appears that the pro-life movement is starting to turn the corner and this holiday season I am quite thankful that this appears to be the case.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

David Lose gets it completely wrong

I would invite the more discerning readers here to examine the article by Mr. Lose and see if you can spot the 9th grade level, appeals to emotion that he makes while trying to convince others of his point of view. I don't have time to go through them all here, but I would like to address at least one point that he brings up in his article...

"..while it may be true that the verses calling homosexuality an abomination, for instance, should be considered temporary and contextual, one needs to question whether this law (and many others) was just at any time or under any circumstances."

In relation to homosexuality, I am not aware that this sin was somehow rescinded. My mind goes back to about a week ago when I came across this article by pastor and author Trevin Wax (pictured above) which neatly and adeptly goes straight to the heart of the matter. In it, Wax imagines an interview taking place between a talk-show host and an evangelical pastor. I especially like how Wax drew up the dialogue when the imaginary host turned the conversation toward Christianity somehow being "radically intolerant" of homosexuality...

"Host: So how do you reconcile the command to love all people with a position on homosexuality that some would say is radically intolerant?

Pastor: (smiling) If you think my position on homosexuality is radical, just wait until you hear what else I believe! I believe that a teenage guy and girl who have sex in the backseat of a pickup are sinning. The unmarried heterosexual couple living down the street from me is sinning. In fact, any sexual activity that takes place outside of the marriage covenant between a husband and wife is sinful. What's more, Jesus takes this sexual ethic a step further and goes to the heart of the matter. That means that any time I even lust after someone else, I am sinning. Jesus' radical view of sexuality shows all of us up as sexual sinners, and that's why He came to die. Jesus died to save lustful, homo- and heterosexual sinners and transform our hearts and minds and behavior. Because He died for me, I owe Him my all. And as a follower of Jesus, I'm bound to what He says about sex and morality.

Host: But Jesus didn't condemn homosexuality outright, did He?

Pastor: He didn't have to. He went to the heart issue and intensified the commands against immoral behavior in the Old Testament. So Jesus doesn't just condemn adultery, for example, as does one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus condemns even the lust that leads to adultery, all with the purpose of offering us transformed hearts that begin beating in step with His radical demands.

Host: You say he condemned adultery. But he chose not to condemn the woman caught in adultery.

Pastor: That's right, but He did tell her to "go and sin no more."

Host: But who are you to condemn someone who doesn't line up with your personal beliefs about sexuality?

Pastor: Who am I? No one. It's not all that important what I think about these things. This conversation about homosexuality isn't really about my personal beliefs. They're about Jesus and what He says. I have no right to condemn or judge the world. That right belongs to Jesus. My hope is to follow Him faithfully. That means that whatever He says in regard to sexual practices is what I believe to be true, loving and ultimately best for human flourishing -- even when it seems out of step with the whims of contemporary culture."

Check out the entire article when you get a chance as it provides some great examples as to how Christians can respond when they are faced with these types of questions.

No Mr. Lose, the sinfulness of homosexuality was not just a passing fad that somehow became more acceptable when homosexuals became more involved in politics and the media. The same would apply if promiscuous teens or those involved in beastiality had better PR and greater representation among lobbyists and the television/film industry. Sex, that is to say any sex, outside of the covenant of marriage is outside of God's plan for us and it is a sin. The Bible is clear on this.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holder Needs to Resign-Now

Why isn't anyone in the MSM reporting that Michelle Bachmann now makes the 52nd lawmaker to call for Holder's resignation?

"Minnesota congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann told The Daily Caller late Friday that she thinks Attorney General Eric Holder should resign immediately because of Operation Fast and Furious.

Bachmann is the first presidential candidate, and the 52nd member of Congress, to demand Holder’s immediate resignation. “Attorney General Holder should resign because of the mismanagement of ‘Fast and Furious,’” Bachmann told TheDC. “As the nation’s top law enforcement officer, he bears the responsibility for the actions of his department.”

Bachmann went further with this statement than with her previous position on Holder’s job performance. On October 10 in New Hampshire, she told TheDC: “There needs to be a full investigation. And surely he should resign … if the facts prove to be what they appear to be.”"

None of this is newsworthy of course, because Obama is a democrat and liberals can only excoriate republican attorney generals. Criticism of their own is verboten apparently.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

D'Souza: 'Why We Need Earthquakes'

During my recent debate with Justin Vacula, he brought up the problem of so-called 'natural evil', asking why natural disasters occur. Insofar as the example of earthquakes occurring that Justin brought up, I linked an article quoting the director of the German Space Research Centre Institute of Planetary Research and chairman of European Space Agency’s scientific advisory committee, Tilman Spohn. Spohn notes ...

"It is an idea growing in popularity among planetary scientists. Says Spohn, “plate tectonics replenishes the nutrition that primitive life could live on. Imagine a top surface that is depleted of the nutrition needed for bacterial life. It needs to be replenished, and plate tectonics is a method of achieving this.”

Spohn found that the further he delved into the issue, the more important plate tectonics seemed to be for life. For example, it is believed that life developed by moving from the ocean to the kind of strong and stable rock formations that are the result of tectonic action. Plate tectonics is also involved in the generation of a magnetic field by convection of Earth’s partially molten core. This magnetic field protects life on Earth by deflecting the solar wind. Not only would an unimpeded solar wind erode our planet’s atmosphere, but it also carries highly energetic particles that could damage DNA.

Another factor is the recycling of carbon, which is needed to stabilize the temperature here on Earth. Spohn explains, “plate tectonics is known to recycle carbon that is washed out of the atmosphere and digested by bacteria in the soil into the interior of the planet from where it can be outcast through volcanic activity. Now, if you have a planet without plate tectonics, you may have parts of this cycle, but it is broken because you do not have the recycling link.”

It has also been speculated that the lack of tectonic action on Venus contributed to its runaway greenhouse effect, which resulted in the immense temperatures it has today."

I personally thought using so-called 'natural evil' as an argument against the existance of God to be absurd, and on a couple of different levels. Last night while surfing the net, I came across this article by Dinesh D'Souza (above) which deals with another objection that skeptics might raise. D'Souza quotes "Rare Earth, a 2003 book by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee that traces the myriad conditions required for life to exist on any planet. In a sense, the authors—an eminent paleontologist and an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle—are discussing the "anthropic principle," which specifies the degree to which our planet appears fine-tuned for complex life." D'Souza goes on to note...

"Why didn't God devise a world that didn't require plate tectonics and consequently one that wouldn't have to put up with earthquakes?" In other words, surely God could have made a universe that operated according to a different set of laws.

Ward and Brownlee's answer to this is as simple as it is devastating. Such a world could have produced life, but it surely could not have produced creatures like us. Science tells us that our world has all the necessary conditions for species like Homo sapiens to survive and endure.

Our planet requires oxygen and a warming sun and water in order for us to live here, and we appreciate this, even though we recognize that people can get sunstroke and drown in the ocean. So, too, it seems that plate tectonics are, as Ward and Brownlee put it, a "central requirement for life" as we know it.

This is not to suggest, as the scientist and philosopher Leibniz once argued, that ours is the best of all possible worlds. But ours may be the best of all feasible worlds, at least as viewed from a human perspective."

So there you have it, earthquakes are necessary for life. It also appears that hurricanes serve a purpose too. Gravity occurs through natural processes and bad things can concievably come about because gravity exists, but nobody is going around arguing that the planet would be better off without gravity.

The important thing to keep in mind, as philosopher Peter Kreeft once mentioned, is to be there for people when bad things occur in their lives. To be Christ for them as God's love shines through us as we comfort them in their time of need and despair.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mark Shea on McQueary's reaction

There have been recent articles concerning how Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary (above, left) reacted to the 2002 incident in which a former Penn State coach was allegedly seen abusing a young boy at the university's athletic facilities. It seems that some say he didn't do enough, and yet McQueary is now stating he did more than was previously reported in the news.

Mark Shea over at Catholic and Enjoying It! has weighed in on McQueary and I thought his analysis was interesting....

"But though lots of combox warriors are quite adept at fantasizing about how bravely they would have behaved and how vile Mike McQueary is in comparison to their brave selves, how they would have taken a baseball bat to Sandusky had they caught him in flagrante, the reality is that, if the Milgram experiments are any indication, a huge percentage of people are pretty well programmed to avoid trouble with authority figures rather than open a can of whupass. Sorry, but that’s the stuff we fallen humans are made of, as our first Pope learned when he confidently declared, “Though everyone else deny you, I will never deny you.” Indeed, despite the flattering and heroic picture so many Laptop Ninjas have of themselves, righteously battling evil with flawless martial arts moves and utter rectitude like Buffy and Angel, the real picture of fallen humanity given to us by revelation is that of the apostles in Gethsemane on Holy Thursday: big talk, sleepiness while Jesus sweats blood, a brief show of bluster and bravado against the wrong person (resulting in a severed ear) and then bolting, ass-saving panic such that one of the disciples peeled out of his clothes and ran off naked rather than defend the innocent from evil authority figures. That story is painful to read because that story is a paradigm, not an isolated incident. It has been replayed again and again down the centuries and we chicken shits in comboxes boasting about our courage over Those People Over There know it damn well. That’s why we talk so big.

So I look at McQueary and think, “There but for the grace of God go I.”"

It's important to keep in mind that at least McQueary did something and I fear if backlash is too harsh against him, then other potential whistleblowers would be reluctant to come forward in the future. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I think we could all agree that we should be fully aware that such evil exists in the world and that we might have to some day react to it in an appropriate manner.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Black Robe Regiment‏

While the historically illiterate and the spiritually blind seem quite content in displaying their willful ignorance for all to see, David Barton reminds us of one of the most important motivating players on the scene that called for the American Revolution and influenced America's founding documents which made her the freest country the world had ever known....

"The Black Robed Regiment was the name that the British placed on the courageous and patriotic American clergy during the Founding Era (a backhanded reference to the black robes they wore). [1] Significantly, the British blamed the Black Regiment for American Independence, [2] and rightfully so, for modern historians have documented that:

"There is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763." [3]

It is strange to today's generation to think that the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence were nothing more than a listing of sermon topics that had been preached from the pulpit in the two decades leading up to the American Revolution, but such was the case.

But it was not just the British who saw the American pulpit as largely responsible for American independence and government, our own leaders agreed. For example, John Adams rejoiced that "the pulpits have thundered" [4] and specifically identified several ministers as being among the "characters the most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential" in the "awakening and a revival of American principles and feelings" that led to American independence. [5]

Across subsequent generations, the great and positive influence of the Revolutionary clergy was faithfully reported. For example:

As a body of men, the clergy were pre-eminent in their attachment to liberty. The pulpits of the land rang with the notes of freedom. [6] The American Quarterly Register [MAGAZINE], 1833

If Christian ministers had not preached and prayed, there might have been no revolution as yet - or had it broken out, it might have been crushed. [7] Bibliotheca Sacra [BRITISH PERIODICAL], 1856

The ministers of the Revolution were, like their Puritan predecessors, bold and fearless in the cause of their country. No class of men contributed more to carry forward the Revolution and to achieve our independence than did the ministers. . . .

[B]y their prayers, patriotic sermons, and services [they] rendered the highest assistance to the civil government, the army, and the country. [8] B. F. Morris, HISTORIAN, 1864

The Constitutional Convention and the written Constitution were the children of the pulpit. [9] Alice Baldwin, HISTORIAN, 1918

Had ministers been the only spokesman of the rebellion - had Jefferson, the Adamses, and [James] Otis never appeared in print - the political thought of the Revolution would have followed almost exactly the same line. . . . In the sermons of the patriot ministers . . . we find expressed every possibly refinement of the reigning political faith. [10] Clinton Rossiter, HISTORIAN, 1953

The American clergy were faithful exponents of the fullness of God's Word, applying its principles to every aspect of life, thus shaping America's institutes and culture. They were also at the forefront of proclaiming liberty, resisting tyranny, and opposing any encroachments on God-given rights and freedoms. In 1898, Methodist bishop and church historian Charles Galloway rightly observed of these ministers:

"Mighty men they were, of iron nerve and strong hand and unblanched cheek and heart of flame. God needed not reeds shaken by the wind, not men clothed in soft raiment [Matthew 11:7-8], but heroes of hardihood and lofty courage. . . . And such were the sons of the mighty who responded to the Divine call." [11]

And on and on it goes. Click on the above link for the complete story, it's quite extensive and thoroughly footnoted. While some are arguing for an complete removal of religion and religious views from the public square, I would wager that they are completely unaware as to the important role that the Christian religion provided to make such a discussion even possible.

EDIT: In case anyone wishes to debunk that which Barton has put forward, I would suggest by starting with the sources he cited while compiling his essay...

"[1] Boston Gazette, December 7, 1772, article by "Israelite," and Boston Weekly Newsletter, January 11, 1776, article by Peter Oliver, British official. See also Peter Oliver, Peter Oliver's Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion, Douglas Adair and John A. Schutz, editors (San Marino California: The Huntington Library, 1961), pp. 29, 41-45; Carl Bridenbaugh, Mitre and Sceptre (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962), p. 334; and Alice M. Baldwin, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1958), pp. 98, 155.

[2] Alpheus Packard, "Nationality," Bibliotheca Sacra and American Biblical Repository (London: Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1856), Vol. XIII p.193, Article VI. See also Benjamin Franklin Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), pp. 334-335.

[3] Alice M. Baldwin, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1958), p. 170.

[4] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. III, p. 476, "The Earl of Clarendon to William Pym," January 20, 1766.

[5] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1850), Vol. X, p. 284, to Hezekiah Niles, February 13, 1818. See also John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1856), Vol. X, pp. 271-272, letter to William Wirt, January 5, 1818.

[6] "History of Revivals of Religion, From the Settlement of the Country to the Present Time," The American Quarterly Register, (Boston: Perkins and Marvin, 1833) Vol. 5, p. 217. See also Benjamin Franklin Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), pp. 334-335.

[7] Alpheus Packard, "Nationality," Bibliotheca Sacra and American Biblical Repository (London: Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1856), Vol. XIII p.193, Article VI. See also Benjamin Franklin Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), pp. 334-335.

[8] Benjamin Franklin Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), pp. 334-335.

[9] Alice M. Baldwin, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1958), p. 134.

[10] Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1953), pp. 328-329.

[11] Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth (Nashville, TN: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, 1898), p. 77."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher re: Design

William Dembski (Ph.D) has put together an interesting list of ten questions one could ask their biology teacher re: design. You can click on the link and peruse it at your leisure, but I thought I would cite a few of what I thought were some of the more interesting ones...

  1. "In trying to understand biological systems, molecular biologists often need to “reverse engineer” them. Is this evidence that the systems were engineered to begin with?

  2. What evidence would convince you that intelligent design is true and neo-Darwinism is
    false? If no such evidence exists or indeed can exist, how can neo-Darwinism be a
    testable scientific theory?

  3. How do we account for the complex information-rich patterns in biological systems?
    Where did they originate?"

    And on and on they go. The official high priests of the psuedo-science known as evolutionary biology never asks itself these highly pertinent questions.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Curtis/Vacula Debate, Does the Christian God Exist?: Final Statements

As we wrap up or first of what I hope would be would lead to other debates, I would like to respond to some of the points raised by Mr. Vacula in in his 2nd rebuttal.

JD mentions a “fallen world” as an explanation/justification for malaria, AIDS, Indian Ocean tsunamis,and the like and says that “these things came about after the fall.”

More specifically, JD offered this up as a basic tenant of Christianity to show why Christians believe these things are the way they are. Whether or not they are 'justified' to be around would be another discussion. But suffice it to say that's it's all part-and-parcel of basic Christian theology. If Justin is unsure of the circumstances surrounding the fall, then I would suggest that he explore the faith that he left for answers to some of the hard questions that are sometimes raised in reference to particular elements of Christian faith.

JD notes that these events such as earthquakes never occurred because the alleged fall. Are we supposed tohonestly believe that earthquakes, for example, are some sort of 'recent (?)' phenomena that only started happening when humans 'came on the scene?'

Off-hand, I don't have a detailed answer for this. I don't mind looking into this further to see what the experts say. That being said, I really don't think this topic is a major point of contention among Christian theologians.

Consider earthquakes – theresult of moving of tectonic plates. Were tectonic plates in such a manner that they only started shiftingas they do today because of 'the fall?' One would assume that it is more reasonable to believe thatearthquakes always happen and have nothing whatsoever to do with human action

If you like, go to the link I embedded in my first rebuttal in the words 'plate tectonics'. It explores a new theory being bandied about that stating that plate tectonics are necessary for the formation of life.

Further, even if it is the case that egregious suffering exists because of the actions of humans, how is compatible with an omni-good god?

Three questions here. What constitutes 'egregious' suffering? Is it univerally understood to be 'egregious' across different cultures? Also, 'is all suffering bad'? I read something recently that physical trainers, dentists, etc. would disagree with the last question and I'm sure if we put our heads together, we could think of other examples.

JD believes, of course, that God set the natural laws of the universe...and this is one of the biggest problems regarding theists and the problem of natural evil. A supposed omni-good god created such laws that guarantee human suffering. As I said, we should not expect such things from an omni-good god

But you see, over the course of these exchanges, we haven't even defined what a 'good' God would be like. We live in a world in which gravity exists. Let's say, for example, a large coconut fell out of a tree as I was passing under it, striking me in the head and causing an injury. Is this evidence that God is not good? Which one should be eliminated in this scenario, gravity or the possibility of being of being hit by a falling object in which God would interject himself into the equation in every instance in which the possibility exists?

These questions are a bit more profound than slapping the tag of 'evil' on something without first defining what we mean by it. It's my understanding that the question of pain and suffering hasn't been debated in the finer philosophy departments for years. It seems that these things don't constitute a valid argument against the existance of God and at best, it could be said that 'the existance of pain and suffering is poorly understood by many people' and that's about it.

JD wonders what I mean when I use the term evil and seemingly objects to my use of the term

My specific statement was 'I notice that Mr. Vacula made the huge leap of terming these things 'evil' without ever explaining how he arrived at that conclusion. At no point does he explain the criteria that must be met in order for any of these things to be defined as 'evil''. I don't 'object to his use of the term, rather I asked for some clarification.

I don't understand what this has to do with my argument and this seems quite silly. Persons 'on the street' know very well what persons mean when there is talk about the problem of evil and the term 'problem of evil' has widely been understood throughout history

Actually, I don't understand why you term things as 'evil' without explaining why they are evil. If we are to use 'person[s] on the street' to gauge these things, what do we do when the 10 people I randomly polled out on the street if something qualified as truly evil were disproportionately lunatics with the ability to function in society? Or staunch moral relativists who aren't prepared to refer to anything as 'evil'? Or heavily influenced by pagan, pre-Christian culture that (incredibly) is held up as some sort of oasis of culture and reason but the facts bear out were shockingly brutal, murderous and callous?

Are not the Sermon on the Mount, the Decalogue and the Book of Titus more helpful in determining good and evil than random imbeciles on the street who might not know anything?

JD says that I believe evil counts toward evidence against an objective good

JD did nothing of the sort. JD said the exact opposite when he wrote 'I would posit the fact that Mr. Vacula views these things as 'evil' counts towards evidence that an objective good exists by which we can gauge these things. And if that objective good exists, then what is it?'

I'm willing to give Justin a pass here in that maybe he read something a little too fast, but the facts are, A) I asked if an objective good exists, by which B) Justin can base his terming certain occurances as 'evil' and he provides nothing of the sort and basically punts on the question like so many good atheists have done before him.

JD says that “a strict materialist would simply look at these things and shrug.” JD poses, here, a false dichotomy and a 'loaded' version of 'strict materialism. 'Why should it be the case that 'strict materialists' ought to simply shrug?

OK, I'll clarify. A strict materialist would not blame God for a natural disaster. But then again, how would Justin convince a strict materialist if such an occurance came to pass that it is 'evil'? It can be 'unfortunate', a bit 'sad' and a number of other number of adjectives, but why 'evil'?

Regardless of how we codify morality or talk about what is undesirable, the evidential problem of natural evil still exists for the theist. It is not 'up to me' to give an accounting for morality or explain why I wouldn't 'just shrug' at natural disasters.

Actually it is. You termed a natural occurance as 'evil' and yet you have not explained why this is so.

JD seems to 'blame the victim' here when referring to natural disasters (seemingly taking theresponsibility away from god). He says, “Should […] they carry at least part of the blame if it affectedthem or their loved ones? […] Did anyone put a gun to their respective heads and force them to live in a flood plain? Is it God's fault if they didn't do their homework?”

Actually, let me give you a much more pointed example to see if you actually understand. If I notice that a building is smoldering and I decide I'm going to sleep there tonight and during the night it becomes completely engulfed in flames and I wind up either seriously hurt or dead as a result, is that my fault or God's and why?

The main problem, though, is that seemingly no matter what people do or no matter where people move, natural disasters will occur...and there's not enough room, finances, etc for everyone to move to safer areas

I would phrase it like this, 'a natural disaster can occur most anywhere'. Now, if we have a mere quarter-inch of light falling rain (which we need for life on this planet) and no wind at all, yet I skid on the pavement, hydroplaning into another car causing injury to another, is it God's fault for inventing rain or my fault for not driving with caution? What do we give up here? Cars? Physics? Personal responsibility? Water being wet? Which one Justin?

This next one is my favorite though, on 2 different levels.

It is not the fault of omni-evil god that so many people have to experience goodness so much, but rather it is the fault of humankind. No one puts a gun up to the head of those living in the prosperous secular democracies of Sweeden and Denmark! These people instead should just move to third world countries and suffer!

1) I never claimed that all natural disasters are preventable by humans. I merely asked 'Do humans bear any responsibility at all in these equations whatsoever?'. Justin, can I enter into a building that's on fire, get burned, and then blame God? Or am I at least somewhat subject to the decision I just made and if so, to what degree?

2) Justin brings up 2 shining examples of "prosperous, secular democracies' (Norway and Sweden) without ever noticing that both of those nations are well within the area of the world formally referred to as 'Christiandom' for many centuries in which the factors that led to these countries enjoying such a high standard of living were put into place, completely ignoring that secularization is the relatively recent exception throughout their history.

JD objects to my mention of animal suffering and asks why I settled simply on animals. He suggests that it might be the case that plants experience pain (!). JD suggests that I might be moresympathetic toward animals than plants because animals have faces or brains (and some other considerations). I don't see why this is being brought up. Let me, for sake of argument, admit that plants do indeed feel pain. This further demonstrates my point! The omni-good god that JD believes inhas even more of a problem because he created plants that feel pain! How can we got about livingwithout 'killing' and consuming plants, one would wonder. Why wouldn't omni-good god simply'design' the universe in a different way?

Actually, JD pointed out your appeal-to-emotion fallacy by invoking poor widdle animals and asked why not object to vegetables being eaten also, a question you still haven't answered. I guess a better question would be "Why do we have to eat living things at all?' but you never framed your inquiry as such because it would then lose it's fallacious appeal to emotion. Such reasoning to me is as quite ridiculous. I mean, it basically boils down to 'Why aren't more bunny rabbits dying of old age' and 'Y kan't wee awl jus' eeet roks?', which are questions that hardly seem theological in nature and and are occurring at a whole level of intellect apart from me .

JD says that Satan is the god of the world to address my second and third arguments, but I don't seehow this is relevant.. if JD wants to appeal to the Bible and Satan, he needs to show that Satan exists

JD was merely showing how such matters fit into the framework of a Christian worldview to account for the way the world is and to demonstrate that it is at least consistent.

Finally, JD says “Christians generally do not seek supernatural explanations except perhaps on originof life discussions...” I don't 'buy' this for a moment. Consider the Nicene Creed which alone containsmany supernatural claims: God made everything, God incarnate was on earth, Jesus raised from the dead, Jesus ascended into Heaven, [Heaven exists], there will be a judging of the living and dead, the Holy Spirit exists, the sacrament of baptism can 'forgive sins,' etc. While this claim is obvious anecdotal, although it can easily be verified, individual Christians use God in part of explanations for receiving promotions at work, finding car keys, answering prayers, performing well in sports events,receiving Grammy awards, and so much more

Christians do not typically seek supernatural explanations for events that occur in the physical world. Christians do not believe that God[s] give them promotions their employer does, that demons lost their car keys, that they did, that God didn't personally write the Grammy winning song, that they did.

JD attempted to shift the blame away from God to humans (or to somewhere else) in order to respondto my evidential argument of natural evil. Such explanations fail because God ultimately allegedly designed the laws of the universe and could have made the universe in such a manner than egregioussuffering via natural disasters didn't exist. Additionally, God is supposed to be all-loving, so why wouldthis be the case to begin with?

Two things come to mind here..

1) I never attempted to entirely 'shift the blame' to humans but merely inquired to what extent ( if any) are humans liable for the decisions they make. It seems you refuse to answer this question.

2) If there were to be another installment of this debate, my question to Mr. Vacula would be, 'How would you design the world any differently if you had the ability to do so?'. I would be interested in his answer and then we could take it from there.

Justin also seems to be ignorant of one of the more basic tenents of Christianity insofar as our purpose and meaning here in this plane of existance. It certainly isn't for us to expect pain and suffering to go away any time soon because we know we will always have these things on this planet till Christ's return. The purpose of our meaning here is to "to glorify God", so that we may "enjoy him for ever". I feel that I am on fairly certain ground in stating this being that it is contained in both the Westminster Confession (read: Calvinist) and the Methodist church (read: Arminian). The elimination of such things as poverty and wars would serve to negate the existance of God and no amount of secularism interspresed with humanism and evangelical atheism is ever going to change that.

In order to read Mr. Vacula's closing statements, just visit his blog at JustinVacula.com

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Penn State-Joe Paterno abuse scandal

My thoughts concerning the recent contraversy over the firing of Penn State University head coach Joe Paterno are as follows.

Before I begin I just want to state up front that I am a huge fan of the university's football program. I have lost count as to how many times I made the trek to Happy Valley to watch the Nittany Lions play and cheer them on to victory. The number of players I got to see in action at the collegiate level before turning professional reads like a laundry list of the best athletes in the business and I still have the Penn state logo on a refrigerator magnet in my home despite not having lived in that area for many years. If we are indeed tribal creatures by instinct, then my blood runs Blue and White.

For those of you unfamiliar with recent events as they unfolded at the university, I would ask you to take a look at the image of the person above. He is a monster by the name of Jerry Sandusky who stands accused of at least 40 criminal charges involving the sexual abuse of minors. I realize that he hasn't been convicted of anything as of yet and I am all for due process, but the sheer amount of accusations trickling in against him is quite damning and I expect he will either be found guilty or attempt to plea bargain during the legal process. Sandusky however, has not worked as an assistant coach/defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions since 1999 when he retired after 30 with a program that experienced two national championships ('82 and '86) during that time.

When it comes to head coach Joe Paterno, this is basically what we know happened 12 years ago at the football team's complex at the university.

"...a graduate assistant saw Sandusky sexually assault a naked boy, estimated to be about 10 years old, in the locker room of the Lasch Football Building on campus. The grad student and his father reported what he saw to Paterno, who immediately told [Athletic director, Tim] Curley, prosecutors said.

Curley and [Penn State vice president for finance and business' Gary] Schultz met with the graduate assistant about a week and a half later... Nothing happened.

"Despite a powerful eyewitness statement about the sexual assault of a child, this incident was not reported to any law enforcement or child protective agency, as required by Pennsylvania law," [Attorney General, Linda] Kelly said.

There's no indication that anyone at school attempted to find the boy, or follow up with the witness, she said.

Curley denied that the assistant had reported anything of a sexual nature, calling it "merely 'horsing around,'" the 23-page grand jury report said."

On the face of it anyway, it would seem that Paterno and Curley were aware that what took place constituted more than 'horsing around'. After all, who bothers to reports mere horseplay to a high-ranking univesity official? Yet Paterno was faced with one of four possible outcomes when presented with the information that he received.

  1. He could have engaged in lying and deceit to prevent the discovery of evidence and ultimately the truth. Nobody is alleging this of Paterno though.

  2. Instead of engaging in an active campaign to cover up the scandal, he could have received the information from the student assistant, nodded thoughtfully and then have done absolutely nothing about it and kept the informnation to himself. We know that this wasn't the case

  3. We know that Paterno decided to at least do something, in this case he 'immediately' informed the atheletic director. This constitutes 'passing the buck' and is a far cry from option #4

  4. All concerned should have directly notified prosecutors/the police. This would have been the best of all possible outcomes available to the victims and Paterno, but we know that Paterno, Curley, the graduate assistant, named Mike McQuery, and McQuery's father did not notify them.

Upon going with the third option, Paterno threw away the opportunity to be remembered as a coach who helped raise millions of dollars over the years for education and charitable groups. I also doubt that he will be remembered for having an admirable rate of student-atheletes graduating.

I don't want to hang this all on Paterno though. It now appears that there was a police investigation concerning Sandusky in 1998, however charges were never filed and the District Attorney involved with the case mysteriously fell off the face of the earth in 2005.

Furthermore, McQuery was 28 years old at the time he witnessed the abuse he reported. I doubt a man that age really needs to go to his dad first rather than campus police. After Paterno reported the incident to Curley and the interview took place between AD Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz with McQuery, (Schultz is the head of the university department that is charge of oversight of the campus police) apparently the decision was made to handle things internally and there is no record that Paterno was involved in making this decision.

Additionally, if Paterno is fired for not doing enough, why is McQuery allowed to remain in his current position as an assistant coach for not doing enough as well? It seems that the shoddy logic of this type of reasoning is becoming apparent and McQuery will not be on the sidelines this weeked in the game against Nebraska.

One thing we cannot discuss on this blog is that nasty scandal the shook the football program at Penn State five years ago.

Or one that occurred ten years ago.

Or twenty, twenty-five or even forty-five years ago.

That is because these incidents do not exist, a rare feat in today's age in top level college sports programs.

But all of that is swept aside now and the only thing that Joe Paterno will likely be remembered for is not doing enough to report the matter. I'll give Vox Day the last say on this. My heart goes out to the victims and I'm so devastated that I'm sickened to my stomach over this and I thought his analysis was spot on....

"I think it is totally irrelevant that Paterno didn't go to the campus police because I see no reason to believe they would have investigated the manner any more seriously, or been less inclined to cover up the matter, than the Penn State administration. They report to the administration after all, and more importantly, they already knew about Sandusky...

Moreover, consider the way police forces around the country cover up most of the crime, including rape, that occurs on college campuses. Still, if Paterno shouldn't have gone to the Penn State police, he absolutely should have gone public and spoken to the media after it became clear that the university administration intended to sweep Sandusky under the carpet as they and the police had done previously. Paterno should have threatened to resign then, but failing that, he should have resigned immediately once the media storm began. In fact, I have some serious questions about this story erupting so soon after Paterno broke the all-time coaching wins record, as it appears someone with links to Penn State was waiting until that happened before going public about Sandusky. There will be more nasty revelations coming, that is almost guaranteed."

(Above image: the cover of Jerry Sandusky's book Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story published in 2001)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Curtis/Vacula Debate, Does the Christian God Exist?: 2nd Rebuttals

Upon reading Mr. Vacula's first rebuttal, my thoughts on it are as follows... (His rebuttal can be seen at his website JustinVacula.com

he (JD) states “However, all I've done so far is raise two arguments in favor of a generic god.” I disagree. All that JD has done is mention some statistics about the supposed 'finetuning' of the universe and the 'improbability' of abiogenesis...and it simply doesn't follow from 'the universe is fine-tuned' that 'a creator god exists.' This argument appears to boil down to what is called 'an argument from ignorance' : I can't explain phenomena x, therefore god. Why should we be justified in positing a creator god as an explanation just because we can't explain a phenomena?

I would state that it's reasonable to believe in God's existance and the arguments in favor of it are better than the arguments against.

That's it. Reasonable to believe. William Lane Craig has credentials from "Wheaton College (B.A. 1971), graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984)" and yet with all of his training and education, Dr. Craig's arguments basically boil down to that there are better arguments in support of God's existance than against it, and audiences tend to overwhelmingly agree if exit polls from debates are to be believed. I'm not a theologian with my little Bachelors degree in Political Science and I cannot have Mr. Vacula prove the non-existance of God any more than I can snap my fingers and summon Him up for analysis and observation. I contend that the arguments favor the existance of God. A skeptic can always find something to be skeptical about. Justin then goes on to criticize my argument by positing....

Regardless, the fine-tuning argument fundamentally rests on a misunderstanding of probability. Instead of looking at the 'fine tuning' situation as 'the chances of this particular variable are so low,' consider auniverse that we can't even quantify the size/vastness of. Shall we say, that out of an entire universe, that life arising somewhere is improbable? I think not. Somewhere, someplace, life seems to be inevitable – consider all of the stars that 'die' that can 'create' situations conducive to life and all of the moons, suns, planets, etc. When we think of life, we think of carbon, but imagine all of the other possibilities that are not based on carbon!

And yet Justin offers up exactly zero evidence that any of these things are true and actually exist and thus he relies on mere hypotheses and theoretical scenarios. Is Justin, through the lack of any solid scientific evidences here, accepting the alleged existences/possibilities of these things by (dare I say it?) Faith?

This, again, is an argument from ignorance: 'I can't explain a phenomena, therefore God.' While abiogenesis is a difficult topic to think about, it simply does not follow that abiogenesis never occurred

I simply stated that there is no evidence that abiogenesis ever occurred. Justin says that it "simply does not follow that abiogenesis never occurred" and offers up no support of this statement.

This is similar to the universe in a way. The big bang model is an adequate model to explain the origin of the universe, but other questions remain surrounding the big bang and 'what [if anything] caused the big bang.' Although, perhaps, there is not a particular consensus about these questions (if there even is an answer), we don't doubt that the big bang happened (or that the universe exists)

I do not doubt that the Big Bang model is adequate to explain the origin of the universe and I find it can be completely compatible with a Biblical worldview.

When scientists operate, they operate under the banner of methodological naturalism: they assume that all that exists is the natural world and make claims about the natural world in order to do research and advance our understanding of the natural world. Instead of accepting supernatural explanations, as I outlined in my opening statement, we should look for naturalistic explanations instead because such explanations have great explanatory power in addition to naturalism being inductively justified

But Justin does not offer up any reasons as to why methodological naturalism is a far superior arbiter of truth by comparing it to other types of evidence that seem to be excluded here. Science is a wonderful tool for determining some truths and not nearly as effective for others and is fraught with all of the pitfalls conceivable when it is utilized by frail, politicized, agenda-driven human beings. For example..

Can scientific evidence be planted somewhere?

Can scientific evidence be manipulated to achieve a desired end?

Why are court systems always ready to admit eyewitness testimony but scientific evidence only if the judge allows? Probably because of the ever changing nature of science and models that are accepted today are frequently discarded tomorrow.

I recall one recent debate in which one party brought up the existance of opakis. They are notoriously wary of humans and science doubted their existance for many years until finally their existance was confirmed, despite multiple, reported sightings over thise years. Wouldn't science have been better served by accepting testimonial evidence from eyewitnesses in this case?

Now on to Justin's objection's concerning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A lack of explanation for, say, the experience of the apostles, the rise of the early church(which seems to be an argument here although it doesn't have a heading), the empty tomb, the womenr eporting, and lack of explanation (!) of the body of Jesus does not lead us to the conclusion that the Christian god exists

Is Justin fully aware that Christ Himself repeatedly stated he was divine? If it could be shown that he did rise from the dead, wouldn't that be an argument in favor of the Christian God who, by definition, is Jesus Christ actually existing?

Can we honestly and reasonably say that because a miracle happened, we can know the source of it or even distinguish what we think is a miracle from advanced technology we are unaware of?

If the gospels are taken as a whole, Jesus predicted in advance, at least on five separate occaisions, that he would rise from the dead. Wouldn't that help narrow down what the 'source' was?

Further, why even assume a source or say a miracle happened instead of saying “I don't know how to explain this.” How can we ever be justified in bridging the epistemic gap from “I don't know” or “A specific [or any] supernatural source is responsible for this phenomena?

I am perfectly willing to consider any naturalistic explanations for Christ instananeously healing the sick, raising the dead and Himself rising from the dead. With 2000 years of hindsight, I hope Mr. Vacula can offer up at least one, possible naturalistic theory.

a major problem here with the resurrection arguments, is that JD is using historical information to arrive at a theological conclusion

Why can't JD use historical evidence to reinforce his faith and discuss it with others?

Is a miracle a probable event? I think not...and I am sure JD and my audience would agree; we simply don't see other examples of resurrections throughout history and are very, very, very, very inductively justified in assuming that persons don't come back from the dead

Thus a miracle would help explain such an event if it actually took place, right?

..how can we say a miracle is the best explanation for any given phenomena when miracles raise more questions than they answer (what was the source, how can the laws of nature be violated/suspended, how can something non-physical interact with something physical, why would this happen here and not elsewhere, etc) and go against what we know about the world (we understand that people don't come back from the dead and have no other examples of resurrection). An explanation of “god did it” doesn't add to our understanding – and thus should be rejected as an explanation

I disagree. The Septuagint Old Testament was written three centuries before Christ was born and we can chronicle that Jesus of Nazereth fulfilled the prophecies contained therein. In reference to the coming Messiah we're talking on the order of, at minimum, 300+ of them. This belief need not be dogmatic and all are invited to search if it is true and to vigorously compare such predictions and fulfillments to other religions.

If JD accepts this information for proof of Jesus' resurrection, I wonder why he does not accept similar claims made by Muslims

Because the prophet Mohammed received any 'revelation' that he had alone, in a cave, and with no other eyewitnesses.


Because a couple of alleged 'eyewitnesses' changed their faith later in life and also changed their testimonies. Check the link I provided on this in my opening statement for more.

Heaven's Gate members

Because I view suicide as being stupid and counterproductive and scripture is against it. Do not be a fool--why die before your time?" (Ecclesiastes 7:17b)

Unless you would like to try and convince me otherwise, of course.


Because their methods have been debunked by science numerous times.

Sathya Sai Baba followers

I had to look that one up. Apparently he claims to be reincarnated and I personally don't accept the concept. There might be other points of disagreement as well but I haven't looked into their practices really.

The fact is, Justin is making the common atheist error here of lumping all religions in together as if the were of equal weight when nothing could be further from the truth.

If atheists who gather at the 2012 Reason Rally arrive at a consensus that they believe so strongly that the natural world is all that exists that they all commit suicide at the National Mall following a speech from, say, James Randi, would this be evidence that naturalism is true? Of course not

I am unaware of any of the apostles or early church fathers calling for mass suicide to demonstrate that Christianity is true. So I do not agree that the comparison is accurate. Again, we are talking about eyewitnesses or people personally aquainted with them.

Willingness to die for a belief, or actually dying for a belief, doesn't show that the belief is true

The apostles that I mentioned actaully knew whether Christ rose from the dead or not. In this way it was more than a belief. They didn't read it from a book or come to this knowledge second hand and had to be brainwashed by it.

the women being at the empty tomb fit well into Gospel themes. For example, the marginalization of Jesus, Jesus' life being a mystery, Jesus identifying with the marginalized, and more temes seem to fit well with the women, so perhaps this is why the Gospel writers used the women in a nrrative

And I would contend that it would have been flying in the face of reason to do so being that their testimony was unacceptable at the time and would have counted agaisnt the credibility of the veracity of the event.

Also interesting is the fact that several of the Gospels have different messages regarding theempty tomb: was Mary Magdeline a witness (John 20:1)?, was it a group of women (Mark 16:1 andMatthew 28:1 have different women)?

If all four gospels lined up on every single fact, there would undoubtedly be accusations of copying from one another. In reference to the alleged discrepencies, historian Michael Grant concluded that the narratives do have differences, however.."if we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient literary sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty."

I believe that and if you would like to examine this topic from a reliability standpoint, I think it would be interesting.

JD also mentions the growth of the early church and seemingly argues that the growth of the church points to the fact that Jesus' resurrection is true. It simply does not follow. As I previously mentioned,there are all sorts of 'believers' around the world especially in the light of claims that we don't believeare true. Consider Islam and Hinduism, for example. JD and I don't believe Allah or several Hindu godsexist...and we also realize that many followers of these religions exist. Why, then, should the case bedifferent with Christianity?

The reason I mentioned this is because in the very early church, people in Jerusalem would have known if there was an obvious competeing claim as to what happened to the body of Jesus and they chose to join the church.

Anyway, let's assume that the empty tomb is a historical fact for sake of argument. “Jesus raised fromthe dead” simply does not follow from “Jesus' body was put in a tomb and then later the body was no longer there”

This doesn't mention multiple post-mortem appearances. It's not like they 'lost' the body or something.

Just because persons were saying things does not mean that such things were true (even if many persons believed such a claim). Once again, simply look to Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, etc. Persons believe the story of Joseph Smith and there are somany followers! Mormons will tell you that there's no explanation for the golden plates and that persons have verified the accuracy of Smith's claims just like Christians will say

And Christians overwhelmingly reject Mormonism and Islam as competeing claims. We've already gone over this. Their evidence sucks. I would like to compare the evidence for the Resurrection against the evidences for any of these other religions. We would need a whole new debate to do that though.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

AP: 'Miracle' at Castle Rock, church defies arson

The members of Castle Rock United Methodist Church and the Associated Press are calling it a miracle, and they aren't even Catholic...

"The pastor of the United Methodist Church in Castle Rock (pictured above) says it's a miracle her church survived an attempted arson in which fires were set in six places in the building.

Fires were started early Sunday on artificial flowers, a table cloth, cardboard boxes and the pastor's desk. All burned out without spreading.

Pastor Vonda McFadden told The Daily News it seems the century-old church was divinely spared. One fire burned up to an old Bible but left the book untouched. Another fire was stopped by a framed picture of Jesus.

The Sunday service for about 70 worshippers was held amid the strong smell of smoke. McFadden preached forgiveness."

Of course, the strict materialists that stop by here would never accept such a thing as a 'miracle' to explain such an event. At what point of lighting fires would the term 'miracle' apply in a case like this? If he had set seven fires? eight? Twenty?

Let's just all rejoice, believer and non-believer alike, that this didn't go horribly bad and have a much worse outcome. Can I get a 'highly improbable' people? How about a 'statistically unlikely'? How about an A-men?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Curtis/Vacula Debate, Does the Christian God Exist?: 1st Rebuttals

This post will constitute my first of two rebuttals that will take place in the debate between me and Justin Vacula. In order to see Justin's rebuttal to my opening statement (which appears below this thread), just visit his website at JustinVacula.com

While perusing Mr. Vacula's opening statement there were a few items that caught my attention and I will list them for his consideration and comment.

Can one honestly believe that malaria, AIDS, Indian Ocean Tsunamis, Chilean earthquakes, andthe like are the work of an omni-good god?

While we are discussing the concept of whether the Christian concept of a god exists, it is important to bear in mind that these things occur, according to orthodox Christian doctrine, because we all live in a fallen world. These things came about after the fall, this world/plane of existance isn't paradise, and the existance of these aforementioned items only serve to reinforce and help prove that contention. If the narrative was such that these things did not exist, then it would seem contradictory that they do, however, that is not the case.

I contend that 'natural evil' – earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, animal suffering, and the like – is incompatible with belief in an omni-good god and serves as a defeater to Christian belief

I notice that Mr. Vacula made the huge leap of terming these things 'evil' without ever explaining how he arrived at that conclusion. At no point does he explain the criteria that must be met in order for any of these things to be defined as 'evil'. I would posit the fact that Mr. Vacula views these things as 'evil' counts towards evidence that an objective good exists by which we can gauge these things. And if that objective good exists, then what is it?

A strict materialist would simply look at these things and shrug. An earthquake causing destruction? A seismic event that is the result of plate tectonics, and why did they make the decision to live near a fault line anyway? Should they be shaking their fist at God or do they carry at least part of the blame if it affected them or their loved ones? Same goes for a flood wiping out a bunch of houses and displacing hundreds, the materialist would think that it's the result of a meteorological event such as heavy rain. Did anyone put a gun to their respective heads and force them to live in a flood plain? Is it God's fault if the didn't do their homework? Do humans bear any responsibility at all in these equations whatsoever?

Again, by what standard are these things termed 'evil'? If a tsunami occurs out at sea and hardly anyone notices, is it 'evil'? If a tornado doesn't actually kill anyone, but does delay my flight out of Tulsa for an hour and a half, is it 'evil' or merely a 'nuisance'? If a hurricane causes some property damage and minor abrasions, is it 'evil' or just 'not very nice'?

I do hope that some measurement for clarification is offered up by Mr. Vacula to help us understand how he determined this. And furthermore that any clarification put forward isn't based on anything so highly subjective as personal feelings, experience or opinion. Because after all, we know that these things indeed vary greatly from person to person. We'll see.

In addition to human suffering, an egregious amount of animal suffering exists – ecosystems thrive because animals kill other animals, often in a slow and painful fashion. Does this seem to be the work of an all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing being?

You know what? That's quite interesting. I don't recall that I have ever heard of the so-called suffering of animals objection that Mr. Vacula raises as being a valid argument against the existence of God.

But I wonder if we actually know how much these animals are truly 'suffering'. For instance, some animals inject a numbing venom so their prey doesn't feel the pain of being bitten. But setting aside the uncertain level of pain that some animals feel when being eaten by others, I would like to know why Justin simply settled on animals. I mean, who is going to stand up for the vegetables? What was the criteria considered when the animal kingdom got the big 'thumbs up' for approval that their experiences were valid and those of plants are not? Recent research would suggest that plants are suffering too.

"When a plant is wounded, its body immediately kicks into protection mode. It releases a bouquet of volatile chemicals, which in some cases have been shown to induce neighboring plants to pre-emptively step up their own chemical defenses and in other cases to lure in predators of the beasts that may be causing the damage to the plants. Inside the plant, repair systems are engaged and defenses are mounted, the molecular details of which scientists are still working out, but which involve signaling molecules coursing through the body to rally the cellular troops, even the enlisting of the genome itself, which begins churning out defense-related proteins.

Plants don’t just react to attacks, though. They stand forever at the ready. Witness the endless thorns, stinging hairs and deadly poisons with which they are armed. If all this effort doesn’t look like an organism trying to survive, then I’m not sure what would. Plants are not the inert pantries of sustenance we might wish them to be.

If a plant’s myriad efforts to keep from being eaten aren’t enough to stop you from heedlessly laying into that quinoa salad, then maybe knowing that plants can do any number of things that we typically think of as animal-like would. They move, for one thing, carrying out activities that could only be called behaving, if at a pace visible only via time-lapse photography. Not too long ago, scientists even reported evidence that plants could detect and grow differently depending on whether they were in the presence of close relatives, a level of behavioral sophistication most animals have not yet been found to show."

So why do plants get the short end of the stick here? They seem to have an awareness of whats going on. And lest you think that a diet of mushrooms would solve the problem and let you off the hook, the above article contains a link explaining how fungi are even more closely related to us than plants are. (provided evolution is correct) So I guess they are 'off the table' so to speak, also.

I don't wish to make my opponent's arguments for him, but are animals used in this argument against God because they have faces and perhaps we are more sympathetic towards them for mere sentimental reasons? Or perhaps because they have brains? The above quoted author brings up the example of Jellyfish which "can be really tasty when cut into julienne and pickled, [and] have no brains, only a simple net of nerves, arguably a less sophisticated setup than the signaling systems coordinating the lives of many plants" and asks "How do we decide how much sensitivity and what sort matters?"

Since Justin brought up this line of argument, I will assume that he has carefully thought through his position on the matter and will await for him to tell us just where the terminator line is as to whose suffering is uplifted and who the ultimate losers are to be in these scenarios.

If the amount of good in the world renders belief in an omni-evil god unreasonable, why doesn't theamount of suffering and death in the world render belief in an omni-good god unreasonable?...we are equally justified in believing that of evil in the world demonstrates that there is not a good creator god.

I don't believe that my opponent has a rudimentary understanding of one of the more basic concepts of Christianity, namely, that according to widely accepted, orthodox belief, the God of this world is not the Creator God. This is made quite clear in 2nd Corinthians 4:4 "Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God". There are various other passages that confirm this and I admit that I'm a bit puzzled that my opponent was (seemingly) unaware of this doctrine.

Premise One: Naturalism, the philosophical belief that all that exists is the natural world, is very inductively justified.

Premise Two: If naturalism is very inductively justified, we are justified in rejecting any supernatural explanations.

Premise Three: The Christian god is a supernatural explanation.

Conclusion: We are justified in rejecting belief in the Christian god.

I would like to turn this discussion back towards Christianity (or the 'Christian God'). Exactly where did Natural Law come from and was it in fact a necessary prerequisite that lead to methodological naturalism and ultimately sytematic science? Christians typically do not seek supernatural explanations except perhaps on origin of life discussions and numerous scientists seem to hold their faith concerning where the first living, reproducing organism came from with equal ardor. As one man put it, "Supernatural intervention plays no role in Natural Law, except to have set the ground rules".

EDIT: 2nd rebuttals are to be posted on our respective blogs on Thursday night.