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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


GentleSkeptic said...

Just one nit.

More specifically, JD offered this up as a basic tenant of Christianity to show why Christians believe these things are the way they are.

The word you want here is "tenet," not "tenant."

Common mistake, huge peeve of mine.

The elimination of such things as poverty and wars would serve to negate the existence of God

Looking forward to poverty and war in heaven, apparently.

GentleSkeptic said...

Christians do not typically seek supernatural explanations for events that occur in the physical world.

Less than a week ago you asked the following regarding a failed arson attempt:

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?

If that isn't seeking "supernatural explanations for events that occur in the physical world" then I really don't know what is.

JD Curtis said...

In six different areas though, C'mon.

I'm sure you are goading JV to answer a couple of the questions he ran and hid from, aren't you?