Sorry for the long delay…been quite busy. Hope your had a nice Thanksgiving.
Let me simplify if I may even more, and maybe begin to wrap this up.
I believe that we are getting to a point where we will soon be debating in circles.
If I may, it seems to me that your efforts are in attempting to prove a moral set of guidelines based on inherently evolved morals. Moreover, your next attempt at disproving a moral authority seems to hinge largely on proving the bible to be a book full of contradictions, so disjointed that we cannot possibly come up with a set of consistent values and standards.
First off, let me say that as defined by the laws of non-contradiction (something cannot be one thing and another) you will not find such commands in the bible. You will find things, as you have pointed out, that when taken out of context seem to be contradictory.
But you will not find a verse that says explicitly “it is ok to murder”, followed by, “it is not ok to murder”. If you read the bible in it’s entirety, you will find a moral set of guidelines that can be extrapolated throughout life. Do humans still do evil things, claiming to do so in the name of God? Yes. I would say that their actions should be compared to those of Christ to see if they measure up for validity.
Additionally, my contention is that your method of self defining morals, or a system by which you differentiate right from wrong is stealing from my world view! Jesus was asked by the Pharisees, “what is the greatest law?”
These religious leaders had made almost an art form of classifying all the various laws and giving them relative degrees of importance, so in asking Jesus this question, their aim was to test Him. His answer stunned them: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (btw..this is not only those you love, but your enemies as well). Matthew 22:36-40
You have taken your very “q2″ system from the Bible!!! This is my very point, in that a subjective moral system that is unable to be objectively verified, is false and cannot be forced on another. I agree with your system in a sense, but only because it takes from my source of objective moral values…the Bible. Without those, your system would not work.
You said in a previous correspondence that you are apt to search out books and resources which you are not likely to agree with. I am attaching a few sources that articulate my point and view much more than I can and that are also very thought provoking.
I think you will really enjoy them. I highly recommend his website as well, with many thought provoking lectures.
Ravi Zacharias, who I have mentioned previously, states in the below link titled “the mystery of evil”, that all those years ago in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve defied God and essentially called him a liar. They ate from the tree of knowledge and essentially said, “God, we don’t need you to tell us right from wrong…we are going to make our own truth”.
When people act out of evil and do bad, they are believing a lie that says “you can make your own rules, you do not need God”. Similarly, those who are good and kind people, are living and buying into the truth.
http://www.rzim.org/radio/archives.php?p=LMPT&v=detail&id=891 (part One)
http://www.rzim.org/radio/archives.php?p=LMPT&v=detail&id=898 (Part two)
What followed Adam and Eve was the fall of man. It meant the advent of a self definition of morality.
It is what made Hitler think he was right in eliminating all of the Jews. It is what brought into existence the evil and destruction we see today.
When you say that a moral law exists, I do not see one apart from God. Therefore, I see no motivation to stick to any standard of law.
Dr William Lane Craig argues in the below debate I have attached, that if moral values are not anchored in God, nor are found in some transcendent ground, are they purely ephemeral? His argument is that the atheist is committed to the view that if they are not derived from either of the above they are simply human inventions, and atheist Dr. Zindler admits this. What does that lead to? Moral relativism and not objectivism. Zindler says that atheist ethics are founded on the principal of “enlightened self interest”. Live for today, go for the gusto, do all you want. Essentially, rape is not “wrong”, so much as it is not “socially advantageous”. Tell me, do you agree with that? Do you in your heart of hearts not believe rape is wrong and heart-wrenching? Why?
Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland, has noted that the radical nature of the atheist in society is concealed because we simply think that people will choose the “moral right”.
As he points out though, this decision is completely arbitrary. The decisions to become a Mother Theresa vs. a Hitler, is analogous to choosing to go to McDonalds over Burger King. There is no objective foundation for moral values in this view to lead a persons decision.
I recall a story that Ravi tells about when we was lecturing overseas and a man stood up and said “there is no such thing as evil, right or wrong”.
Ravi invited him to stay after. He said to the man “If I took a baby right here on the stage, cut him up with a sword into many tiny pieces, would you not say I was wrong?”
The man thought and somberly said “I would not like it, nor would I agree with it, but I could not say it was wrong”. Ravi replied “even you, who says that there is no right or wrong, cannot deny that feeling in your heart that you would not like it and is disturbed by it. You owe it to yourself to find out why”.
1) Countries should not go to war without significant justification.
2) It’s wrong to murder, steal, lie, abuse animals, or harm children.
3) We are morally compelled to assist those in need.
4) When struck, it’s better to turn the other cheek, but it’s okay to defend yourself if you really need to.
5) Nazis are bad.
I think we largely agree on all of these. In fact, I think that there are probably very few significant moral issues where Christianity and I have a large difference of opinion.
So if I can arrive at a morality very similar to yours without believing in God and without just going by what I feel is right, where is the compelling evidence that God is necessary for morality?
If you recall a previous letter of mine, I said “you do not need to be a Christian to have good morals, or to know what they are”. My very argument is that we can have agreements on right and wrong, as a Christian and an atheist, because there is an absolute moral standard. Your argument that b/c we both arrive at the same conclusion in morals despite your lack of a belief in God does not prove your point. In fact, it begs the question, why? God and God alone as the transcendent being gives us the point of objective existence and moral reality. You take away the transcendent ethic, and it is all up for grabs. You do what you think is right and I’ll do what I think is right.
I like the playground illustration:
If you look at any school playground you will find children playing, laughing, occasionally fighting, but for the most point following the rules. Share the toys, be courteous, no spitting at the girls, etc. Why? Because of the big bad principal that no child wants to be sent to, and is sure that some kids don’t even come back alive from! What happens when you take away that principal or authority figure?
Little Johnny takes the soccer ball over to the corner and keeps it to himself.
Little Susie comes over and says “hey, you have to share that”.
“Says who?” quips Johnny.
“Well…..you just have to” Susie retorts.
Susie has no reference point or law giver to appeal to, so what happens?
Susie then takes the basketball and keeps it to herself. Other boys start pulling girls hair. Fights ensue and chaos is born. Now I ask you, in these situations, who usually rules the playground? That’s right…the big bully.
How does this apply? Think about all the societies where there are dictators or have been cruel and ruthless rulers. Whoever has the most money, the most political power, the most military force ends up being in charge and making the rules. They make the laws and enforce their own set of morals. We go back again and again to Hitler. His is a perfect example. As I quoted him previously, Hitler said “I want to raise a generation of youths devoid of conscience; impervious, relentless and cruel”. Do you see? He was building his own right and wrong. In the atheist world view there is no source outside of ourselves by which to say he was wrong. Why were the allies right in stopping him? You might say b/c as the Q2 system applies, he was contradicting himself. You need to see clearly here, that when you say “q2″ is the measuring stick, you are making yourself the objective moral point by which I am to measure.
But you see, what if I don’t like that? Hitler certainly did not agree with your system.
He was wrong. You and I agree with that.
Why do we both arrive at this same conclusion? I say because there is a moral reference point outside of us to which we knowingly and unknowingly refer.
If, as you say, our morals evolved and are “enlightened self interest” then I have no motivation whatsoever to treat you as “my neighbor” and live instead, as Aldus Huxley stated, “to be freed to my own neurosis”.
Your charge is to present me with a motivation to do right and not wrong. To say “do unto others” simply won’t do. Essentially, that is your truth, not mine.
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this:
“If one were to prove this God of the Christians to us, we should be even less able to believe in him, and it is our preference that decides against Christianity. Not arguments.”
In other words, atheist don’t want there to be a God.
The skeptic may ask, “why would anyone not want Christianity to be true?” (you have even said this).
Because many believe that accepting the truth of Christianity would require them to change their thinking, their friends, their priorities, their lifestyle, and their morals. They are not willing to give these things up. They believe life would be easier and more fun without such changes. Perhaps they realize that while Christianity is all about forgiveness, it is also about denying yourself and carrying your own cross. Indeed Christianity is free, but in can cost you your life.
Some atheists and non-Christians may reject Christianity not because the evidence is inadequate, but because they don’t want to accept it. Some people choose to suppress the truth rather than live by it. We humans have a fatal tendency to adjust the truth to fit our desires, rather than adjust our desires to follow the truth.
On to the debates:
This was, and is still considered one of the “great debates” on the topic of the existence of God. I think you will find it interesting. You refer a lot to the “use of Logic”.
Bahnsen contends that in the Atheistic world view, there is no room for logic and reasoning. He argues that both Christians and atheists alike come into these debates with certain “presuppositions” and therefore need to get into the transcendental; that is the use of logic and reason. He proposes that logic and reason only work as we know them to b/c of God.
Stein never really answered his proposition and I think puts up a pretty weak debate which is surprising in that he was considered one of the great atheist minds at the time (this is from 1986). I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. The student newspaper at the school (I believe is was UC Irvine) stated the next day “Atheism takes a step back”.
The 6th debate down, highly recommend. This touches on much of what we have discussed up to date. Craig is considered to be one of the great living philosophers by both Christians and seculars alike. Zindler seems to put up a much better fight than Stein.
Don’t worry about how long it takes you to respond — I’m not the speediest correspondent myself.
Getting right down to business, you say, “If I may, it seems to me that your efforts are in attempting to prove a moral set of guidelines based on inherently evolved morals. Moreover, your next attempt at disproving a moral authority seems to hinge largely on proving the bible to be a book full of contradictions, so disjointed that we cannot possibly come up with a set of consistent values and standards.”
This somewhat misstates my position. I argue that a moral system can be derived from logic without reference to a moral sense or delivered morality. I do not intend to argue that the Bible is a bad moral authority because it contradicts itself (since a student of the Bible can find a coherent morality within), but rather argue that the Bible is not a sufficient source of morality in that it is not always clear and does not address some moral issues. As we demonstrated with our discussion of killing, in some cases reason must be applied to Biblical text before morality can be derived from it. I contend that this same reasoning can be used without the Biblical text to reach many of the same moral conclusions.
You say that I will not find a Bible verse that says “it is okay to murder” followed by “it is not okay to murder,” and that I will find a moral set of guidelines that can be extrapolated throughout life. I have read the entire Bible several times, and you are right that there are no blatant contradictions such as this — so long as we define our terms carefully. The problem is in those definitions. As you have shown, the Bible defines murder differently than many people today would define it (e.g., in the Old Testament killing babies is not murder under certain conditions). You can explain how a modern definition of murder could be derived from Biblical text, but again this necessitates appeal to reason, and once we’re using reason, the Biblical text is not necessary.
Regarding stealing from your world view: you are right that both parts of 2Q can be found referred to in the New Testament. This is not because I am somehow “stealing” from the Bible, but because 2Q is logically required of all rational people. I continue to contend that anyone who is attempting to build a consistent morality will agree with the principles I’ve set out. In fact, you will find the second part of 2Q explicitly stated in most major religious moral philosophies. For example, Confucius said, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself” hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
You say, “This is my very point, in that a subjective moral system that is unable to be objectively verified, is false and cannot be forced on another.” I disagree that such a system is necessarily false, but I agree that a moral system that cannot be objectively verified cannot be forced on another. This is precisely why I don’t think that Biblical morality is compelling to those who do not believe the Bible. It is also precisely why I rely on 2Q — it is a method for objectively searching for flaws in a moral system.
You say, “I agree with your system in a sense, but only because it takes from my source of objective moral values…the Bible. Without those, your system would not work.” My system says only that your beliefs should not contradict themselves, and that you should not condemn others for reasoning as you do. Wouldn’t you agree with those statements whether or not they were in the Bible? They are not even statements of morality — they are statements of logical truth.
I will certainly look at the documents you pointed me at. In the meantime, let me address your statement, “When you say that a moral law exists, I do not see one apart from God. Therefore, I see no motivation to stick to any standard of law.” This is a point where we apparently differ. I am motivated to do what is right whether or not God exists. I agree that not all people are so motivated. I would argue that those who are not so motivated are objectively demonstrably wrong. In other words, I would say it’s wrong to steal, whether or not you think you might be caught.
I would agree with Dr. William Lane Carig’s statement that without God morals are human inventions. I would disagree that this necessarily leads to moral relativism. I believe that the essential points of morality are objective, in that they can be derived without appeal to authority. And although I think one could derive a perfectly acceptable morality from self interest, I disagree with the implication that acceptable atheistic moral ethics could be characterized by, “Live for today, go for the gusto, do all you want.”
You ask, “Essentially, rape is not ‘wrong’, so much as it is not ‘socially advantageous’. Tell me, do you agree with that? Do you in your heart of hearts not believe rape is wrong and heart-wrenching? Why?’ Obviously I don’t agree with the statement that rape is not wrong. No morality that allowed rape would pass 2Q, therefore no morality that allows rape is valid. As an aside, by the second part of 2Q marital rape would be wrong, but so far as I can recall that is not addressed in the Bible (I’m hoping you can show that I’m wrong on this point).
Regarding Moreland’s implication that atheists think people will chose the moral right, I disagree. People — whether theist or atheist — very often act as they desire and then look to justify their actions, instead of obeying a consistent morality. This, from my perspective, is part of the problem with basing morality on something that is not always clear (like the Bible) but acting as if it is clear. Doing so encourages people to obey rules instead of engaging in moral thinking, and as you have demonstrated moral thinking is necessary even when the Bible is the rule of morality. This is why I think that people who use the Bible for morality should also use 2Q.
You say, “Your argument that b/c we both arrive at the same conclusion in morals despite your lack of a belief in God does not prove your point. In fact, it begs the question, why?” If my morals were based entirely on my moral feelings, then an implication that morality comes from God whether I believe in God or not might be worth entertaining. But my morality isn’t based on my feelings. It is based on objective reasoning. So the answer to “why?” is that any reasonable person will agree that these are moral truths. God doesn’t need to enter into the equation as the existence of God is irrelevant to the moral truths in question. Murder is immoral whether or not God exists.
But even if God is not necessary for moral truth, God is necessary if there is to be absolute justice. This is where I think you are going with your playground illustration. In that illustration, the existence of the principal doesn’t imply that the principal’s rules are correct or that they are only valid because the principal exists. But the principal is a threat of punishment if those rules are not obeyed — he is the righter of wrongs, the bringer of justice.
For example, let’s say that there is a class of 5th graders that have agreed to clean the principal’s office every week. In exchange, the principal favors these 5th graders. He declares the playground swing set to be the 5th graders’ property, and tells the 5th graders to beat up any other kids they finds playing there. Is the principal acting morally? Perhaps the 5th graders would say yes, but the other kids who want to use the swings would probably say no. However, what everyone thinks doesn’t matter — the principal’s laws reign in the schoolyard because he has power, not because he is right. The 5th graders aren’t morally right just because they are obeying the principal’s rules, and perhaps if they thought about what they were doing they would see that they are not being morally consistent and try to change their ways instead of just acting as officially sanction bullies. The principal brings justice, but his moral laws can still be examined objectively and, perhaps, found wanting. (Sorry if I’ve belabored a Biblical parallel here.)
Let’s go back to Hitler. Regarding my calling Hitler immoral, you say, “You need to see clearly here, that when you say ‘q2′ is the measuring stick, you are making yourself the objective moral point by which I am to measure.” Not at all! Q2 is an objective standard. Any rational person would agree that Hitler violates Q2, whether or not they agree with my personal philosophy. I’m sure that you agree that Hitler violates Q2. (Also, to clarify, Q2 is not a measuring stick of morality — it’s just a test to weed out bad morality.)
You continue, “But you see, what if I don’t like that? Hitler certainly did not agree with your system.” How do you know that Hitler did not agree with my system? In any case, saying that is just as irrelevant as saying that Hitler did agree with your system (as he said he did). The fact is, Hitler was not a moral person. Even if he completely agreed with the principles of Q2, it wouldn’t have mattered because he did not feel bound by rational morality. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t objectively say that he was wrong to do so.
This brings us to your statement that, “Your charge is to present me with a motivation to do right and not wrong.” This statement, much like the example of the principal, is a drift from our main topic. You are talking about why someone should obey a moral system, as opposed to whether or not a moral system is correct. These are two very different topics, and it is here that I agree that religion has a big advantage.
You are right that, other than self interest and the desire to be moral or intellectually honest, there is nothing in atheistic philosophy that compels you to be moral. Without God there is no ultimate justice. So would you agree with Plato that whether or not God exists it’s better to tell people that God exists so that they will obey moral laws? I wouldn’t. I would rather try and get people to be moral, whether or not they think God exists.
I continue to disagree with the statement, “atheist don’t want there to be a God.” This may be true of some atheists, but not of all atheists, and certainly not of me. I don’t have the option of choosing to believe in God. And even if I did, I don’t see how my morality would change in any significant way (you might be able to enlighten me on this).
I haven’t yet read the Bahnsen vs. Stein debate you gave me a link to. I have, however, heard arguments before that logic and reason are attributable to God, and generally found them circular. I’ll be interested to see if this is any different.