Tract #24: Tough Questions About the Bible

Tract #24, Tough Questions About the Bible, is ready for you to download and review. Download it, see page #3 for printing instructions, and let me know your comments! Thanks!

024_bible-questions.pdf


Tough Questions About the Bible

It’s possible to be both philosophically rigorous and believe that the Bible is God’s word, but far too many Christians have not asked themselves enough tough questions about the Bible to make sure that they are indeed rigorous. Here are a few they might consider:

Posted on June 23, 2009 at 10:27 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Bible, Tract

32 Responses

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  1. Written by Godwin
    on June 25, 2009 at 9:42 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Answers to these easy questions.

    It is clear to any Christian what parts of the Bible are allegories.

    There is nothing dirty or inappropriate in the Bible, but some concepts are difficult for children.

    The Bible never contradicts science.

    The Bible was perfectly clear to its original audience.

    False scriptures are not part of the Bible.

    God may punish children for their parents sins.

    God hardened Pharoah’s heart so that he could continue punishing Egypt and thereby glorify himself.

    God never liked how animal sacrifices smelled. You are misquoting.

    Slavery in the Bible was merciful and benefitted everyone.

    Moses didn’t murder children, but he did order his armies to kill the enemies of God’s chosen people.

    It is okay to kill someone in self defense or when it is just.

    Jesus canceled all the Jewish laws.

    The Jews are no longer the chosen people.

    The OT passages with dual meanings are mentioned in the new Testament.

    There is only one true text of Mark.

    Jesus cursed the tree for rejecting him. It’s a metaphor.

    Jesus’ “rampage” in the temple was justified.

    Jesus wants what is best for his people and poverty is not for the best. Jesus wants his children to be successful.

    Those who rose from the dead when Jesus died eventually died again.

    Jesus’ followers knew that nobody knew when the second coming would be.

    Jesus and God are separate persons with one substance, not one person.

    Jesus said everything all the Gospels said he said on the cross, but they didn’t all record everything. The Gospels talk about different people finding the empty tomb, but they don’t say “and nobody else was there,” so there are no contradictions.

    This was so simple it was almost pathetic. You don’t know crap about religion.

  2. Written by Zach
    on June 27, 2009 at 8:12 am
    Reply · Permalink

    1) If it is clear to any Christian what parts of the Bible are allegories, are you saying that many people who say they are Christian are mistaken? If there is only one correct interpretation, then there are few Christians indeed.

    3) So the people who take Genesis 1 literally are not actually Christians? (Since Genesis 1 must then be allegorical)

    4) Why isn’t the Bible still perfectly clear to today’s audience?

    5) How did the people who compiled the Bible tell which were true and false scriptures?

    6) That wasn’t the question. The question was, is it moral to punish children for their parents’ sins, not can God do it.

    7) So, if God hardened Pharoah’s heart, Pharoah isn’t really to blame for what happened, since it was all God’s doing and he didn’t have a choice?

    8) So, how should I interpret Genesis 8:20-21, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground…’” (NRSV)?

    9) So, should we still have slavery today?

    10) God ordered Moses (and Joshua) to murder the children of their enemies. Would you say it is moral to, if you are at war with another country, to kill every inhabitant of that country?

    11) When is it just to kill someone?

    12) So Christians do not follow the 10 Commandments (or at least, don’t follow them in a religious sense)? Also, when Jesus says in his Sermon on the Mount, “‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:17-18 NRSV), he is not referring to Jewish law or Jewish prophets, even though he is talking to a Jewish audience? Or am I misinterpreting what he said?

    13) Didn’t God promise the Jews that they were always to be his chosen people? Was that promise voided as well with Jesus?

    15) Which is the true text of Mark?

    16) Did the episode when Jesus cursed the tree really happen though? Or, if it’s just a metaphor, then it seems the whole New Testament is opened up to being taken like a metaphor.

    17) So, when Jesus said, “‘But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also’” (Matthew 5:39 NRSV), he should have amended that with “unless of course it is just to attack back”? Seems like an awfully important omission.

    18) So, there is another way to interpret Jesus saying, “‘None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions’” (Luke 14:33 NRSV)?

    19) When Paul writes about how it is better not to marry and talks about the “impending crisis” (1 Corinthians 7), he is not talking about the apocalypse? What is he talking about, then?

  3. Written by theblackbook
    on September 2, 2009 at 8:36 am
    Reply · Permalink

    “The Bible never contradicts science.”
    I wish I could say that this was the most idiotic statement I have ever heard in my life, but I’ve heard worse. This definately makes the top ten list, though. The Bible holds that the world is 6,000 years old. Science provides evidence that the Earth is actually 4.5 billion years old, and the universe is over 11 billion years. How is this not a contradiction?
    “Jesus canceled all the Jewish laws.” “Matt 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Yep. Sounds like cancelling to me. (Saracasm)
    “Slavery in the Bible was merciful and benefitted everyone.” Did God tell you this? I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m mocking- I’m serious. How do you know what the slaves were feeling at that time?
    “That was so easy it was almost pathetic”… it was so easy because you refuse to answer a question. You’re being evasive.
    Jesus also said that some of his disciples would still be alive at the second coming- how’s that working out?

    • Written by Anonymous
      on May 31, 2011 at 2:51 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Science can only go so far, than comes God. God is more powerful than science and can do awesome things. God is God and is capibble of doing anything. The things that happened in the Bible that have controdicted science has a lot to do with God’s work. Things that have happened in the Bible that are bad have a lot to do with sin.

      When God created the earth, He created it in seven day’s. some Christians think that seven day’s could symbolically mean 7000 years or something other than 7 24h day’s. God made it all possible during that time.

      I don’t know if God cancelled the Jewish Law’s. You quote from the Bible Matthew 5:18 “one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled”. That could mean that nothing will that nothing will ovecome the law because God’s law stays on earth till the end.

      I don’t know if slavery was mercyfull and it certainly did not benafit everyone, although it did benafit many. Although God did not abolish slavery, there has been many good things that have happened from slavery and there has been a case where the owner rewards the slave. There was also a time where the Moses freed the Isralites out of slavery in Egypt into the Promis Land that was given by God.

      I’ve never hurd that disciples would still be alive at the second coming, but when Jesus comes back to Earth, the diciples and all others in Heaven will be watching and be alive in Christ to see that happen.

  4. Written by Xjak
    on September 14, 2009 at 8:56 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    *And the “Christians” Rejoices when confronted with logic of Atheism*

  5. Written by Kurt
    on April 23, 2010 at 11:02 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Answer to question one

    Almost all but several books are to be taken literally. The one we can take allegorically are the ones of poems such as psalms but pretty much others are to be taken literally.

    Question 2

    Well books such as Ecclesiastes are hard for children to understand and at the same time children are usually given children bibles (a.k.a picture bibles well to get an idea of the bible for when you are older in my church’s case) that have many bible stories such as the creation, flood, etc. But many which are hard for children to understand such as revelations, psalms, proverbs, etc. they are not added to these picture or children bibles.

    Question 3

    As we have known the bible does not contradict science by any means (exception could be the theory of evolution note it is not yet a law (which is something that cannot be falsified such as gravity, laws of thermodynamics, law of maths, etc.) So there is no real contradiction in the bible until the theory of evolution becomes a law which then becomes unfalsifiable fact. There are many things which the bible says which are scientific before it was know or confirmed to be a fact. for more info here is a link http://www.clarifyingchristianity.com/science.shtml
    and i will never doubt the bible nor the laws of science.

    Question 4

    It was written by God’s direction but then it was also written by different people sure there are some things which are argued but many are usually accepted and understood by all.

    Question 5

    There were reviewed many by jewish scholars and at the same time by many bible writers themselves, many books in the bible are usually very accurately written unlike the Gnostic Gospels which are mostly written not very accurately and not naming places specifically and were omitted from the bible since many considered them not the word of God. At the same time books of the apocrypha were not added in the jewish and protestant bible for reasons that they were not part of the original hebrew texts.

    Question 5

    It was a curse not a punishment per say because Noah cursed his son for seeing his nakedness which was an abominable thing that time.

    Question 6

    God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to show how glorious and powerful he was against the egyptian gods.

    Question 7

    God does not ask for sacrifices anymore because Jesus was his ultimate sacrifice to clean our sins

    Question 8

    God was perfectly clear to destroy the people which were enemies of God. God is just, jealous, loving, faithful.
    God hated the practice of these people thus he commanded the Hebrew to kill them as a punishment.

    Question 9

    You shall not kill means you shall not kill meaning you cannot kill.

    Question 10

    All ten commandments must be followed by christians and jews.Being homosexual is an abomination for us since it destroys the meaning of marriage, Eating lobsters are allowed, read peter’s dream in Acts 10.

    Question 11

    Slavery was never condemned by God because it was a culture of that time and people were sometimes considered as objects or property.

    Question 12

    Jews are still God’s Chosen people mainly because of revelations or the era of tribulation the primary reasons is to reach the jews so that they can become believers/

    Question 13

    Well there are none as i know about.

    Question 14

    Can you please point it out.

    Question 15

    It did not bear fruit so Jesus cursed it.

    Question 16

    Nope it did not, The temple is a holy place which vendors are not allowed in at all and at the same time it is desecrating the house of God (you would be mad if a whole bunch of merchants are suddenly at your house selling stuff even though you did not let them)

    Question 16

    He is willing to use us as we are but then it is better to give away you possessions so that you can concentrate better on the work of God.

    Question 17

    They died again

    Question 18

    Yeah it could be now any second maybe three second or a minute or days or months or years after i write this but remember for God 1 day could be 1000 years and 1000 years could be a days as said in the bible.

    Question 19

    He is God but then i really don’t have an answer to that question.

    Question 20

    Can you please specify thanks.

    • Written by ideclare
      on April 25, 2010 at 9:52 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      I’m just going to reply to the few of these where I think your responses are most incorrect or where you asked for clarification.

      #3: In science, a law is not a theory that has become an unfalsifiable fact. For example, Newton’s law of universal gravitation is demonstrably false. Scientific laws and theories are entirely different things. No amount of evidence can make a theory into a law.

      #5: Noah didn’t punish his son (Ham) for doing something wrong — he punished his grandson (Canaan) for something his grandson’s father (Ham) did. If I remember correctly, Ham was not punished at all.

      #8: You are saying that is is possible for babies to be enemies of God, yes?

      #9: “You shall not kill means you shall not kill meaning you cannot kill.” Your answer to question #8 contradicts this — if “you shall not kill means you shall not kill” then why did God order the killing of people?

      #14: You ask me to point out the different endings for Mark. These are known as the long and short endings. Many annotated Bibles have a footnote about them (several of mine do). There’s also a section in the Wikipedia entry on the Gospel of Mark.

      #20: For example, the number of people named as finding the empty tomb varies among the Gospels. Mark: Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome. Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women. John: Mary Magdalene. They also disagree about whether the stone was seen moving, how many angels were present, whether or not they told anyone, etc.

  6. Written by Tom
    on May 9, 2010 at 4:11 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I find it interesting that people like to pose the problem of the legitimacy of the Bible, and pick it to pieces – taking passages out of context (which can change their meanings). But, these same people fail to think through the whole reason for it existing at all (or, “why is there a mess?” and “what is our part in this mess which exists?”).

    First, you must acknowledge that we (mankind) are not imbued from birth with the compendium of ALL truth catalogued in our brains. Hence, we turn to science to seek understanding and fill the gaps. But, there’s one thing science can’t do – it can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God wouldn’t (or couldn’t exist).

    You can use the following, to visualize the concept… Try thinking of all truth (knowledge) as a flat table-top. You stand on one side (I don’t care which one, just pick a side). Look in a direction. This direction might not be across the table, representing the idea that none of the truth is available. But, if we look across the table, some truth is in our view. Your view is known as perspective. Now, we can scan slightly on either side of this direction, the breadth of which is dependent upon how much testing (verify/validate) or research we do. Some truth is contained within this view (or perception) and we can attempt to use the information to draw conclusions. The difficulty is that not all required information is contained within our perception, so some conclusions cannot be certain – this requires faith (that answers are there to be found). If our conclusion is incorrect, then when exposed to the truth we must reevaluate our thinking process and the related conclusions – the perception angle broadens. It is not likely that anyone (human) will achieve ALL truth knowledge, as they won’t live long enough to test and absorb it all. The truth is quite possibly there to be found.

    Second, we must understand that truth is uncompromising. It has to be, it’s a binary system. The Boolean logic table “AND” is the best example for how to characterize the method God must take. The table condition, under which the constituent conditions yield a “true” result, is when both constituents are “true” (and ONLY then). So, if God is going to hand us truth, He must be consistent to it. He must walk a fine line, where nothing He says or does contradicts (becomes false). The Canon of the Bible is a selection of religious writings (some oral transcribed to writing) which are examined for consistency. If all are true, then the collection is true. The Council of Nicaea debated the candidate literature, with this in mind. Those writings which were unsupported by others were considered informative but not candidate for core doctrine. As example, the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church requires that doctrine can only be confident if the idea is expressed by several of the passages from different authors. And, when translations are cause for concern in either understanding, or apparently contradictory, then the original Greek must be consulted.

    Third, one must not attempt to impose human limitations on God. If one were to examine it from a mathematics viewpoint, the concept can be expressed this way… God exists in an “n”-dimensional realm, where “n” is a number which cannot be definitively quoted by human beings. The reason for this is that WE exist in a 5-dimensional universe. The characteristics or our “5″-space are: (a) three physical location elements, (b) time (a serial event sequence), and (c) the nature of thought. We cannot uniquely map God’s “n”-space into our “5″-space. The result of such an attempt is complication, an inability to “see” some of the dimensional aspects of God. An example to help understand this concept is using the same table-top. The surface of the table is a 2-dimensional universe. The inhabitants of this “2″-space are small circles, which interact and move within the table-top. Nothing outside of the plane of the table is a candidate for sampling, as the tools available cannot breach a third dimension. Now, you, living in your “5″-space, can touch the table with your finger. The impression your fingertip makes with the table resembles an inhabitant. You can move and interact with the inhabitants, and for all intents and purposes you “are” one of them. But, the transition of you “appearing” and “disappearing” at will amongst them causes some consternation. They cannot test for your existence, yet there is some evidence that you may exist.

    • Written by ideclare
      on May 9, 2010 at 7:17 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      I agree that the Bible must be read in context, and that picking at passages out of context is silly (if, to non-theists, sometimes entertaining). I think we can also agree that both Christians and non-Christians can be found in large number who are guilty of using Biblical passages out of context. In fact, I personally would say that the authors of the Gospels do this very thing.

      You’re right that science can’t prove that God doesn’t/couldn’t exist. This is true for two reasons: 1) the existence of God is outside the realm of science, and 2) it’s impossible to prove a negative statement of this type. Many subjects are outside the realm of science (morality, for example). I hope you are not of the impression that I think science can answer all questions, because it can’t.

      Beyond this, I think you are wildly over-arguing your case, and by doing so potentially harming it. I see what you mean in your example of looking across a flat table, but your example seems flawed (because it does not draw a distinction between types of knowledge) and your point could be better made in other ways.

      In your second point, you say that truth delivered by God in the form of scripture must be strictly non-contradictory. This is sensible so far as it goes. However, it leaves open to interpretation the word “contradiction.” To some, “no contradictions” means there may be no two statements that cannot logically both be true. To others, it means that if there are two statements that can be reconciled by assuming that they are the truth but not necessarily the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then they do not contradict (for example “there is one cup” does not contradict the statement “there are two cups” because if there are two cups, there is also one cup). Christians seem to use this second definition of “no contradictions,” even though it allows for a significant amount of ambiguity.

      Your third point is, in my opinion, the most flawed. First, I see no value in assigning thought a dimension. I will need to hear an argument for this. Second, by saying that God exists in a higher number of dimensions than humans, you are implying that God exists in a physical space, which potentially causes a number of philosophical problems (such as destroying many versions of the cosmological argument). It also opens the door to the question of why a creator is necessary if a space containing a creator has always existed (this assumes that the creator did not exist before the space containing the creator).

      Returning to your statement that “one must not attempt to impose human limitations on God,” you need to better define this statement. For example, isn’t characterizing God as “good” potentially putting human limitations on Him?

  7. Written by Tom
    on May 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    The Bible is rife with allegoric statements – it isn’t constrained to a few books. One must also understand that in order to read the significance of the verses there are four things upon which this is contingent: (a) a sense of the society and culture to which the lessons were delivered, (b) the concept of numbers (particularly large ones), (c) how selecting particular verses can take them statement out of context (they must be read as a whole), and (d) what the Bible itself says about who may (will) be able to interpret rightly. It says that only those who have committed themselves to God, to learn more, will be imbued with the Holy Spirit – who will guide the writers’ revelations and the readers’ understanding.

  8. Written by Tom
    on May 9, 2010 at 6:00 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Godwin does an admirable job of addressing your list. There are a few points with which I have minor disagreement, though.
    - The statement that the Bible never contradicts science isn’t correctly expressed. The Bible is a collection of truths. It’s science that does or doesn’t contradict the Bible (since science is a volatile quest after truth).
    - Although the passages in the Old Testament state that God hardened Pharoah’s heart, God doesn’t cause evil to occur, quite the opposite. In my view, God permits it to happen by not restraining Satan – and Pharoah’s headlong race to destruction refused to acknowledge the Hebrew God’s existence (even in light of evidence of prophesied and realized before him).
    - One must refer to the original Hebrew for the commandment concerning death which occurs at the hand of another human being. The correct translation is “murder” (which presupposes malice aforethought, and a plan put into action). “Killing” was used by God to end lives of those who were already lost, and had finished their point for living. People were not permitted to render the determination of who, and when, this act should take place. The only instance which might come close to being sanctioned by God is the one of self-defense.

    Other questions you posed, in your list, should be discussed in more detail. And, perhaps a web-forum is too cumbersome, and artificially brief, to do justice to it.

  9. Written by Tom
    on May 10, 2010 at 8:34 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Your comment: “I see what you mean in your example of looking across a flat table, but your example seems flawed (because it does not draw a distinction between types of knowledge) and your point could be better made in other ways.”

    I was unaware that “knowledge” was distinguished by other than the assemblage of truth, and rejection of untruth, to provide understanding. [The example indicated truth contained within the area of the table-top, and all else being false.] Our perceptions (a combination of perspective and current degree of understanding) being the basis upon which we assess the universe – extending the breadth of our view.

    Your comments, on my second major point, contained: “(for example ‘there is one cup’ does not contradict the statement ‘there are two cups’ because if there are two cups, there is also one cup).”

    Not to critique this idea to eclipse the rest, the phrase “there is A cup” would not contradict the two-cup statement. The introduction of the word “one” misleads the listener into the conclusion that a limit was imposed on the number of possible cups. We often use the two words interchangeably in English, permitting the specific number to be synonymous with the general reference. This idiosyncracy of English is also exposed in the passage translation which saw Jesus asking Peter “Do you LOVE me?”. The English single word with multiple definitions is inferior to the Greek, which provided a unique word for each gradation of affection (e.g. Agape vs. Filia). In English, the repeated question sounded like Jesus just didn’t get Peter’s answer. It interfered with the point to the conversation – Jesus was ascertaining the level to which Peter was comfortable in his relationship with Jesus (how far he was prepared to go in working with Jesus).

    That aside, the “contradiction” avoidance is with regard to the Bible’s theme – what it is addressing (cover to cover). The letters are contingent upon each messenger’s (disciple/apostle) audience, focus of letter, and his propensity to describe an aspect of the truth which interests him the most. Also, apparent discrepancies in the description of who was present at Jesus’ tomb points to what details seemed important for emphasis, by the writer. Just look at how hard it is to get people to cover the same details when they witness a crime or accident. Each remembers something different, and to a different degree.

    At the end of your comments, you weren’t receptive to the idea that “thought” might be a dimension. We’ll take that up later…

    The more important question is your reluctance to accept the example of “dimensional” space to characterize in some way the idea that God can choose His interface method with the creation (and the degree to which He does). [All examples, formed by human beings (limited by our finiteness), will always be inadequate to describe an infinite condition.] The nature of God is not constrained, as I alluded to by my comment on the indeterminant nature of the “n” in “n”-dimension. And, the example doesn’t presume contradiction to the cosmological First Cause.

    Lastly, your closing comment… The Bible writer combines his perspective and perceptions, trying to describe what exceeds human ability. The writers understood that “good” is a set of conditions which God Himself defined – the degree to which people are in consonance His plan for the creation, their receptivity to their place in it, and their recognition of His pre-eminence.

    • Written by ideclare
      on May 10, 2010 at 11:38 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      “I was unaware that “knowledge” was distinguished by other than the assemblage of truth, and rejection of untruth, to provide understanding.”

      There are many types of knowledge. For example, knowledge can be divided into subjective and objective truths. Your example seems to imply that all knowledge is objective because it can be, in some sense, “seen.” There is difficulty in definition of terms here, but it is also possible to say that someone has knowledge of something that is false. For example, I may “know” that my father is person A even though that is not the case. I think your larger point, though, was that there is a range of truths and that some of them are not accessible to humans or to science, and if that is your point I agree with it.

      Your discussion of “one cup” verses “two cups” is largely irrelevant because I’m not disagreeing with you. I understand that the Bible is at least subjective in many places and is therefore not, in an objective sense, “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” That’s fine.

      Regarding God and dimensions, you did not originally say that you were discussing God’s chosen interface with creation, you said, “God exists in an ‘n’-dimensional realm”. These are potentially significantly different statements. Saying that God exists in any number of dimensions — one of which you specifically stated is time — does indeed apparently contradict those forms of the cosmological argument that assert that an infinite past is a logical contradiction. So is your intent to say that God can exist in n-dimensional space if he chooses but is not required to exist in such space? If so, then I will again say that you seem to be over-explaining your examples to the point of potentially damaging your own argument.

      Finally, you say that “good” is defined in terms set by God and is a measure of “the degree to which people are in consonance His plan for the creation, their receptivity to their place in it, and their recognition of His pre-eminence.” In that case, isn’t the statement “God is good” worthless? If God’s plan was to see how much pain and suffering his creation could tolerate because seeing things suffer is fun, then by your definition God would still be good because he followed his own plan, saw himself as creator, and recognized his preeminence. I think most people would find such a definition of a good god unsatisfying.

  10. Written by Tom
    on May 11, 2010 at 7:45 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    “There are many types of knowledge.” If you mean the definitions are many, then I agree. Let’s choose one: (1) (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge), (2) (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/knowledge), (3) (www.wordiq.com/definition/Knowledge), (4) (www.thefreedictionary.com/knowledge), or another preferred source? Since communication is essential for exchanging ideas and understanding, then a common basis (lexicon and definition) is required. I’m partial to option (2), combining the definitions 2(a)1 and 2(c)…

    Next statement, “…knowledge can be divided into subjective and objective truths.” According to the definition I suggested, I disagree with the idea of subjective ‘truths’. Truth is absolute, it’s not relative. If a subjective idea is to be true, it must be coupled to an objective truth. “I may ‘know’ that my father is person A even though that is not the case.” The flaw here is that you believe or suspect person A is your father, which is not knowledge. It’s a perception accepted from a perspective pointed in a direction not crossing the table-top truth.

    I’ll state plainly that I think my “n”-dimensional space supposition (where “n” is indeterminate by humans, due to dimensional mapping limitations) includes the common space characteristic of “time”. Many claim that God is independent of time, existing outside it (and if He is indeed all powerful, is true – since He made the rules by which the universe operates). I suggest that the Bible passages which addressed human questions, in direct communication with God, yielded responses which simply stated a disparity in the human and deity scales of measure. They did not eliminate the characteristic. The inference from the answers point to the concept that “time” is unimportant to God. But, it’s a facet of creation’s existence which cannot be “rewound” (no double-jeopardy allowed, and no messing with the divine plan – sorry time-traveler enthusiasts). His infinite existence status makes “time” unimportant to Him, but in place of it He is event-driven. The realization of events, and the order in which they are coupled, is His emphasis and is the vehicle for its unfolding. He is patient, so the compression of events (or rarefaction) is irrelevant – just the order is important.

    “If God’s plan was to see how much pain and suffering his creation could tolerate because seeing things suffer is fun…” This statement pre-supposes a sadistic character to God. Assuming that you’ve read the Bible, what is the theme that God expresses toward people – Old Testament thru New Testament? He takes emotional/rational children (Adam and Eve), and their succeeding generations, teaching them what He expects from them. Do you have children of your own? If you do, then you know that a two-year-old ability to reason is significantly less than a twelve-year-old, and far less than a twenty-five-year-old. Teaching techniques used for each are different. Is disciplining poor behavior a valid teaching tool?

    How were people designed? Were they designed as automatons, programmed to provide specific responses to stimuli invoked by God (like a tape-recorded select set of responses)? Or, were they designed to be thinkers, able to respond by their own will (choice)? I believe this last idea. Why would they be designed this way? Could it be to provide an honest, independent response in kind to God’s expressed love? In many places in the Bible, it speaks of God’s love (a constructive emotion). If God loved His creation, then you’re asking why is there evil in the world? It speaks to that. A rebellion by God’s most powerful creation, Lucifer the archangel, to the plan and the order which was set in place is the center of a conflict between the two. Lucifer succumbed to Pride (an inward focused emotion). Human beings are the pawns Lucifer (now Satan) uses to retaliate against God for his being thrown out from God’s presence (separation from the venue in which he’d hoped to stay to receive accolades from other created beings comparable to those given God). Motivated by love, He controls Satan (restraining him when necessary). According to His definition of “good”, yes, I’d say He is.

    • Written by ideclare
      on May 11, 2010 at 10:53 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Regarding the definition of knowledge: I will say once again that you are over-explaining yourself. I don’t care what definitions are out there, and I am already aware that we have to agree on a definition. Don’t barrage me with links, just tell me what definition you’d like to use. You suggested “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association; the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning.” So by this definition one cannot “know” a false statement. That’s fine.

      You continue, “According to the definition I suggested, I disagree with the idea of subjective ‘truths’. Truth is absolute, it’s not relative.” The definition you chose says nothing about truth being absolute. Two seemingly contradictory statements (“the ball is still” vs. “the ball is moving”) may both be true in different frames of reference. In this case I would say that these two statements are subjective truths, but that the objective truth is that they are both equally true. I may be misunderstanding your definition. Please state it in your own words so we can be on the same page.

      If I understand your statements about time, you are saying that God exists within time but is not constrained by it, yes? That is not unreasonable. Would you agree that this implies an infinite past?

      Continuing our discussion of what “good” is, you say that my example, “pre-supposes a sadistic character to God.” You do not appear to be understanding me. I wasn’t making a statement about God, I was asking whether you would still consider God to be good (by your definition) if He had sadistic characteristics. Please reconsider my question in that light and let me know what you think.

      You ask, “what is the theme that God expresses toward people – Old Testament thru New Testament?” I’d say that “God is vengeful and jealous” is one theme. I agree that “here is what I expect from you” is another. I’m not sure what this has to do with your question, “Is disciplining poor behavior a valid teaching tool?” In answer to that, I would say that although it is true that discipline can be a valid teaching tool, you aren’t going to teach anything to people you’ve killed or ordered to be killed. I would also argue that punishing someone for the mistakes of their parents, grandparents, etc., is not a just form of discipline.

      I can’t answer your question about how people were designed, since I disagree that people were designed.

      You say that Lucifer’s rebellion introduced evil into the world. Can you tell me when this happened? Was it before the creation of Eden? If so, then can we agree that there was evil in creation from the beginning? You also say that God restrains Lucifer when necessary. Under what conditions would you say God is not morally required to restrain Lucifer?

      Your final statement says that God is good by His definition. As we discussed before, His definition seems to boil down to “good = obeying God”. That God obeys himself isn’t at all impressive.

  11. Written by ed42
    on May 12, 2010 at 5:59 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    1) Is god the same today as yesterday?

    2) Do you worship a god that commanded parents to mutilate their 8 day old sons?

    3) Is the bible (or parts thereof) true because of assertion or proof?

  12. Written by Tom
    on May 16, 2010 at 6:56 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    ideclare:

    “In this case I would say that these two statements are subjective truths, but that the objective truth is that they are both equally true. I may be misunderstanding your definition. Please state it in your own words so we can be on the same page.”

    Two contradictory statements cannot exist, as both ‘true’. One, or the other, is correct and the alternative is not. It’s the binary nature of the true/false dichotomy. The frames of reference contain differing levels of simplicity to the observed event (condition). [An example would be observing the behavior of a planet orbiting beyond the earth’s orbit. From the earth’s perspective, the other planet will (at some point) apparently perform a retrograde motion in the sky. This is a complicated behavior, inconsistent with the basic physics with which we’re familiar. From the reference frame of the solar system (viewed from the center, at 90-deg offset to the plane containing the majority of planets), the behavior is the inner planet revolving around the sun at a greater rate than the outer planet. The simpler calculations, from this frame of reference, are a closer step to capturing the ‘truth’ of the condition.]

    “Would you agree that this implies an infinite past?”

    Yes, the thought is that God is unconstrained by time. I agree that we could infer the possibility of an infinite past, from God’s perspective. Also, I suggest that the universe (of which we’re a part) has a finite life-span – having started at a point short of minus infinity [the universe being analogous to a geometric “ray”, compared to God time “line”].

    THE TOPIC OF “GOOD” –

    I would say, by that definition, yes He would be – even in your stipulated condition.

    I would say that you cite truncated sub-themes, which because they are not looking at the whole work, have the same short-comings as perspectives with complicated explanations (like the planetary motion question). You haven’t stated the thread that ties the two testaments together. The plan that He has in motion I would describe as analogous to an extremely complex grid. The events occurring, which are in consonance with it, call for “actors” to be introduced and removed as the cause-and-effect series plays out. Your reference to ‘punishment’ of succeeding generations, for errors committed by earlier generations, are a consequence of human choices. A generation is given an opportunity to do what is expected of them. Failure to do so results in a contamination of later generations as they see their examples (grandfather, father, etc.) not passing on the necessity of conforming to God’s plan. The result is that the later generations are rebellious to the plan. Each generation is given an opportunity to break their part of the cycle. But, if the cycle continues, then the consequences build up.

    “Under what conditions would you say God is not morally required to restrain Lucifer?”

    Not having reviewed all available apocrypha texts, I cannot be precise. But, the idea that God cannot tolerate direct contact with that which is contrary to His truth would suggest the creation (having direct contact at formation) precedes the rebellion, and the human expulsion from Eden is the other bounding condition. God restrains Lucifer as necessary to permit the events required to occur (where Lucifer’s interference would send the plan off-track or into a tangent direction). Please, explain your insertion of “moral” into this question.

    “God obeys himself isn’t at all impressive.”

    You may conclude that it isn’t impressive, but from what viewpoint? To be ‘true’ (as I explained in the truth-table example) He must be consistent. This points to His consistency – a necessary condition. I find that significant, from a logic standpoint.

    ed42:
    1) Are you asking if God is identical, as if nothing occurred?
    2) “Mutilation” is a contentious term akin to the running joke “Have you stopped beating your wife?”. You’re introducing a precondition which does not support the “Yes-No” response you should be eliciting.
    3) I understand the Bible to be true based upon the historical prophesies which have come to fruition, archeological evidence for the history of the Hebrew nation, the test specified to discern the ‘true’ prophesies from the ‘false’, and the basis of the reasoning concerning consistency that God must demonstrate to remain ‘true’.

    • Written by ideclare
      on May 16, 2010 at 10:25 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      “Two contradictory statements cannot exist, as both ‘true’. One, or the other, is correct and the alternative is not. It’s the binary nature of the true/false dichotomy.” I understand your example of retrograde motion in this context, but I think that the example is weak because it’s pretty easy to show that one point of view is preferential to the other. Let’s look at a different example: A man tosses a grape into the air and catches it in the same hand he threw it from. To him, the grape’s path was a line up from and then down to his hand. A woman is in motion relative to the man. To her, the grape’s path is an arc. Which person’s perception of the grape’s path would you say is wrong? I would say that neither is wrong, and the only true statement you can make about the grape’s path is that it depends on your frame of reference.

      On to our next topic. We agree that there can be an infinite past, and we agree that the universe in which we exist had a finite starting point. Given these things, why couldn’t the cause of our universe be a purely physical (meaning non-intelligent), uncreated process that has been creating universes for an infinite span of time?

      The topic of “good”

      “I would say, by that definition, yes He would be – even in your stipulated condition.” Excellent! This is an important point, because we can now clearly agree that God is the only standard for what is good. It clears up some of what might consider to be contradictory behavior of God in the Old Testament. For example, some people ask how God can be considered good if he kills babies, but by your definition we can actually say that in some circumstances God is good because he kills babies. That’s going to sound nasty to some people, but it does make you philosophically consistent.

      As an aside, you ask from whose viewpoint God’s obeying himself isn’t impressive. I’d say that I’m making that statement from my viewpoint. I don’t consider it a big deal that God does whatever he has planned to do. Saying that God is infinitely good (as some people do) makes even less sense to me in this context. I agree that in order to be “good” God has to be consistent with His plan, but this does not imply that the plan itself is consistent.

      “Your reference to ‘punishment’ of succeeding generations, for errors committed by earlier generations, are a consequence of human choices. A generation is given an opportunity to do what is expected of them. Failure to do so results in a contamination of later generations as they see their examples (grandfather, father, etc.) not passing on the necessity of conforming to God’s plan.” It sounds to me like you are saying that every generation has a chance to follow God’s plan, and if they don’t follow His plan their children will likely also not follow it because they have a bad example. Is that correct? Then in that case are you saying that when God says, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,” what He means is not that he will punish the children of idolaters, but that the children of idolaters will naturally be idolaters themselves and therefore earn punishment?

      I asked under what conditions you would say that God is not morally required to restrain Lucifer. You responded (if I understood you correctly) that God restrains Lucifer if Lucifer is interfering with God’s plan. This potentially gives Lucifer quite a bit of freedom (depending on how much detail is in God’s plan), but it does answer the philosophical problem of evil. When someone asks how a good God can allow evil, the answer is that the only evil is actions that would interfere with God’s plan, and God does indeed prevent evil in this sense. Do you agree?

      You asked me to, “Please, explain your insertion of ‘moral’ into this question.” I didn’t insert “moral” into the question; rather, the question was about God’s morality. Beyond that, I’m not understanding what you are asking me to clarify.

      In closing, I’d like to ask you about a phrase that you used: “God cannot tolerate direct contact with that which is contrary to His truth.” There are three things about this I’d like you to clarify. 1) That God can not be in direct contact with something implies that the substance of God is not everywhere. When people say, “God is everywhere,” does that just mean that God is aware of everything, not that God is literally everywhere? 2) You refer to “His truth” as a specific thing What would be a truth that is not God’s truth? 3) I assume that God is supposed to be perfect. Isn’t the disability to tolerate something an imperfection?

  13. Written by Tom
    on May 18, 2010 at 5:17 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    “Let’s look at a different example: A man tosses a grape…”

    In my example, I also stated that the reference frame which permitted the least complex descriptive calculus was the better choice. And, I’d further suggest that the “best” perspective allows for simplest (optimal) accounting for all dimensions within the “5”-space.

    “Given these things, why couldn’t the cause of our universe be a purely physical (meaning non-intelligent), uncreated process that has been creating universes for an infinite span of time?”

    We agree that the initial conditions of the raw materials used are key as to whether one follows a line of thought supporting an evolution from an accident, or one that assumes no initial material existing and being brought into being by a purposeful creation event. The current universe is apparently an entropy-seeking natural system. The current existence of complex products (from smallest microscopic aspect up through the largest macroscopic, with attendant complex interdependencies) would suggest that a coalescence of matter is unlikely unless there’s an outside influence – a cause which forces the opposite to the system’s observable natural tendency. If the nature of the system is toward disorganization, what would provide the counter-nature impetus?

    “For example, some people ask how God can be considered good if he kills babies, but by your definition we can actually say that in some circumstances God is good because he kills babies.”

    Let’s be careful with the trap of presuming that the converse of a statement is true, and what is cause and effect. We’ve stated that God is infinite, and that the universe is not. Therefore, the universe post-dates God. God is the one who defines the conditions which describe “good”. We can say, “The universe is ‘good’ because it meets God’s behavioral plan”. However, the statement, “God is ‘good’ because the universe meets the behavioral plan” isn’t necessarily true. God is the cause, and the universe is the effect – not the other way around. So, when you speak of infant mortality, in your two back-to-back comments, your second statement is not true.

    “I agree that in order to be “good” God has to be consistent with His plan, but this does not imply that the plan itself is consistent.”

    I suggest that because He’s consistent, He can be relied upon to act a particular way and keep His word. That’s comforting to some people.

    “…what He means is not that he will punish the children of idolaters, but that the children of idolaters will naturally be idolaters themselves and therefore earn punishment?”

    Correct. Copying a poor example raises the likelihood of perpetuated disobedience. It’s my opinion that the stated limit of continued punishment potential addresses the idea that on average four to five generations of a family can coexist in time – the oldest generation having an opportunity to influence that many, directly. Each generation, in its turn, is given opportunity to break the cycle. Some might succeed, and thereby interrupt it. But, bad example is attractive – I think it’s an outgrowth of the fact that all animals (including human beings) on earth share the base instincts of survival. This is manifested, for mankind, as selfishness – an inward looking viewpoint. Such a viewpoint limits cooperative interaction, and can inhibit collective developmental progress. It also spawns a rebellious condition against a God not recognized to have dominion over the conditions surrounding the person, or of the person himself.

    “This potentially gives Lucifer quite a bit of freedom (depending on how much detail is in God’s plan)…”

    I disagree that Lucifer has a wide latitude of freedom. He is given controlled access to the creation, at the proper time and circumstance to influence the plan in the direction God needs – but no further. God knows Lucifer’s behavior pattern, and so can apply his influence surgically. Lucifer may think he’s gaining freedom from God’s restraints, but he’s brought up short each time God does so.

    I quote, “You also say that God restrains Lucifer when necessary. Under what conditions would you say God is not morally required to restrain Lucifer?” Please, clarify the term ‘morally’ – defining your use of it here. Do you mean “obligated”, as if there’s a question of fairness? Or, “compelled”?

    “In closing, I’d like to ask you about a phrase that you used: …”

    Let me begin with what I’ve been told are characteristics of God. He is omniscient – all knowing. He is omnipotent – all powerful. He is omnipresent – pervasively present throughout His creation. When I say ‘cannot tolerate’ I mean that He ‘doesn’t wish to accommodate’. Partly, I try to think of it this way – imagine how we might react to having stepped into a pile of bovine excrement. We could continue without resolving it, wearing the contaminated garments. It isn’t preferable, as we’re constantly assaulted by the mess, smell, and potential corruption (disease which spreads). We might scrape the majority of it off, but residue remains – offending in the same way. We could wash it, but the prospect of cleaning it isn’t pleasant – and to prevent disease would necessarily be ‘purified’ (i.e. disinfected). Or, we could remove and replace them with another set of garments – a complete renewal. His revulsion to the “sin” (evil) present is irritating to Him, because evil is a contradiction to that for which He stands. To be consistent, He must not permit ‘good’ and ‘evil’ to reside together. Such a paradox/contradiction isn’t allowable – not to mention the poor example such tolerance would set for His creations. I wouldn’t say that intolerance is an imperfection.

    • Written by ideclare
      on May 18, 2010 at 7:47 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      “In my example, I also stated that the reference frame which permitted the least complex descriptive calculus was the better choice. And, I’d further suggest that the “best” perspective allows for simplest (optimal) accounting for all dimensions within the “5”-space.”

      I understand that you said this. However, in my example there does not appear to be such a reference frame. Both frames of reference are equally simple to describe mathematically, so there is no objective truth.

      “We agree that the initial conditions of the raw materials used are key as to whether one follows a line of thought supporting an evolution from an accident, or one that assumes no initial material existing and being brought into being by a purposeful creation event.”

      No we don’t. My point is that given an infinite past one can suppose that raw materials exist just as easily as one can suppose that God exists. I didn’t say anything about the condition of materials.

      “The current universe is apparently an entropy-seeking natural system. The current existence of complex products (from smallest microscopic aspect up through the largest macroscopic, with attendant complex interdependencies) would suggest that a coalescence of matter is unlikely unless there’s an outside influence – a cause which forces the opposite to the system’s observable natural tendency. If the nature of the system is toward disorganization, what would provide the counter-nature impetus?”

      Considering that you are talking about conditions within our universe when my question had to do with conditions outside our universe, this seems like a non sequitur. I assume you are leading up to the answer to my question. But to answer your question, in the case of Earth, the sun is necessary for life on the planet and easily creates far more entropy than life removes. Are you looking for something more than that?

      “Let’s be careful with the trap of presuming that the converse of a statement is true, and what is cause and effect. [etc.]” But that’s not what I was doing. My statement was, “For example, some people ask how God can be considered good if he kills babies, but by your definition we can actually say that in some circumstances God is good because he kills babies.” We agreed that God can be described as good because He follows His plan. If killing babies is required for the fulfillment of part of His plan and He kills babies, then He is good because he kills babies. That’s not the converse of anything — it’s a straight-forward statement using the definition we agreed upon.

      “I suggest that because He’s consistent, He can be relied upon to act a particular way and keep His word.” But my point was that even if God’s behavior is consistent, that doesn’t imply that His plan is consistent. It certainly might be, but it isn’t required by anything you’ve proven to this point.

      I understand what you mean about God not actually punishing children for their parents’ actions. How do you feel about God punishing all of humanity for the actions of Adam and Eve? Or killing the people of Egypt for the behavior of Pharaoh?

      “I disagree that Lucifer has a wide latitude of freedom. He is given controlled access to the creation, at the proper time and circumstance to influence the plan in the direction God needs – but no further.” Your response seems to imply that you have a great deal of knowledge about what God’s plan is — at least enough to know that Lucifer’s actions are significantly constrained. Would you agree?

      “Please, clarify the term ‘morally’ – defining your use of it here. Do you mean “obligated”, as if there’s a question of fairness? Or, “compelled”?” I would say that God is morally required to do something if not doing that something would violate His system of values. If we were to agree that God’s only value is to keep His plan on track, then He would only be compelled by His morality to interfere with Lucifer if Lucifer was putting His plan at risk.

      “When I say ‘cannot tolerate’ I mean that He ‘doesn’t wish to accommodate’.” That’s a pretty big difference — the difference between “unable to” and “does not want to.” So when you said, “God cannot tolerate direct contact with that which is contrary to His truth,” I take it you mean that God does not like things that are contrary to His truth. So what would be an example of something contrary to His truth?

      “To be consistent, He must not permit ‘good’ and ‘evil’ to reside together.” What exactly do you mean by “evil” here? We agree that “good” means acting in accordance with God’s plan. That would lead me to believe that “evil” means acting in a way not in accordance with God’s plan. Is that correct? If so, then when you say that Lucifer “is given controlled access to the creation, at the proper time and circumstance to influence the plan in the direction God needs – but no further,” aren’t you saying that Lucifer is (inadvertently) acting to further God’s plan? In that case, does it make any sense to say that Lucifer is evil?

  14. Written by Paris
    on May 18, 2010 at 8:31 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Exodus 20:5 (New International Version) 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

    There’s just no way to interpret this as God punishing the children because they made the same sin their parents made. It means punishing children for their parents’ actions. Tom is fooling himself.

  15. Written by Tom
    on May 23, 2010 at 3:57 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Paris:

    Your quotation is interesting. Are you a parent? If so, do your children learn from you? If you teach them to commit selfish and anti-social acts, will they grow up to be civil little darlings? The inherited actions will cause the children to misbehave as the partents+ did.

    Can the cycle be broken if someone intervenes, and corrects the actions of the child taught badly? Will there be a chance for them to avoid punishment?

    Read the last part of the quotation you cited, “…of those who hate me”. Each person on this earth will be held accountable for their own actions. If the children follow the same corrupt behavior as the parents, then the bad is perpetuated. Remove the source of the ill, and the succeeding generations have a chance to resolve it. If that weren’t the case, then all mankind is destined for punishment and none would be saved.

  16. Written by Tom
    on June 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    My late response is directly attributable to a scheduled vacation to visit my son. I hope you didn’t think I was ‘jumping ship’ in the middle of our dialogue.

    “Both frames of reference are equally simple to describe mathematically, so there is no objective truth.”

    The two reference frame mathematical characterizations of the motion may be limited to a maximum of two dimensions of motion, in your example. The observer is viewing a compound motion, which is not present in the original motion of the grape. This compounding adds a dimension to the calculus which is an “apparent” motion. But, as I stated, the simplest (optimal) accounting for all dimensions would eliminate the introduction of inter-action between reference frames.

    “My point is that given an infinite past one can suppose that raw materials exist just as easily as one can suppose that God exists. I didn’t say anything about the condition of materials.” … “Considering that you are talking about conditions within our universe when my question had to do with conditions outside our universe, this seems like a non sequitur. I assume you are leading up to the answer to my question.”

    The physical raw materials of the universe would necessarily exist within the universe context – they would not be extra-universal. Otherwise, they would have free communication between this universe and the material from which it sprang – which is outside. That would suggest a common boundary through which more raw materials are added, or a condition where some included materials might escape from the universe. With the declaration of this permeable communication boundary, you expand the scope of the existing universe to include that which is on the other side of the boundary. You have either be a contradiction, or are speaking of a single inclusive universe. On another tack, being observers within the universe – what tools would we use to determine what’s on the other side of the universe boundary, since we haven’t yet ascertained such a boundary even exists?

    “But to answer your question, in the case of Earth, the sun is necessary for life on the planet and easily creates far more entropy than life removes. Are you looking for something more than that?”

    If, as you say, entropy is being generated to a greater degree than its counter-state, would you agree that there would come a point at which all of the universe’s organized behavior will come to a halt (i.e. a finite life-span to the universe)? If that’s true, then how would it regenerate?

    “But my point was that even if God’s behavior is consistent, that doesn’t imply that His plan is consistent. It certainly might be, but it isn’t required by anything you’ve proven to this point.”

    Why not? If He’s dedicated to being consistent, then his thoughts, words, and actions will reflect this dedication. All that He attempts would reflect the consistency, otherwise He’d be contradictory (inconsistent). He cannot be both consistent and inconsistent simultaneously.

    “How do you feel about God punishing all of humanity for the actions of Adam and Eve? Or killing the people of Egypt for the behavior of Pharaoh?”

    I haven’t ruled out the influence that the parents’ mistakes affect the children’s standing with God. Think of it this way… (not the best example, but sufficient to introduce the idea)… Let’s pour a glass of pure water – nothing in it but water. This would be analogous to Adam in his initial state (between his creation and his sampling the ‘fruit of the tree of truth and knowledge’). Now, pour an amount of soil into the glass and stir vigorously (representing his having sampled, and contrary to God’s instruction). He is now contaminated – no longer pure. Let’s pour some of this glass of contaminated water into another, empty glass (i.e. a child). Does the second glass contain pure water? No. The source of the water/soil mixture has contaminated this water and this glass, as in the original. Now, the second glass can be expunged of sediment that settles out of solution, but the contamination is only diluted not removed. It will not be capable of being completely pure unless it’s cleaned or the water is boiled off and condensed into a new clean glass. The second glass of mixture cannot self-clean, as all the available water is contaminated. It can only be cleaned from without – the source of the original pure water and the transformation of water. To answer the first question, mankind’s taint forces a need for some cleansing method. And, God’s judgment of mortality is the consequence He stated to Adam when He first warned him about sampling that ‘tree’. God is consistent – His word and actions don’t deviate from His standard. Addressing your second question… The people of Egypt acknowledged allegiance to a leader, who represented them to other nations. Pharaoh’s position placed him in a responsible position. When Pharaoh was in conflict with God, he placed the nation at risk. Pharaoh was not likely to be impressed by a demonstration of God’s relative stature if some small irritation was applied. But, the scale of the demonstration was meant to get his attention. Apparently, Pharaoh was a slow learner – or arrogant and unwilling to admit his position in relation to God.

    “Your response seems to imply that you have a great deal of knowledge about what God’s plan is — at least enough to know that Lucifer’s actions are significantly constrained. Would you agree?”

    I would not claim to be certain of more than what is provided in the Bible. But, as it describes these limitations of Lucifer, I agree.

    “If we were to agree that God’s only value is to keep His plan on track, then He would only be compelled by His morality to interfere with Lucifer if Lucifer was putting His plan at risk.”

    So, I understand your explanation of “morality” as an application of reason – where no emotional or preferential ideas are injected – remaining consistent to a set of defined values. Does this set of defined values (and morality of application) find themselves in direct opposition to anyone else’s (who has likewise applied this value set for themselves)? Is there merit to a set of values which doesn’t place the two in conflict? Is there merit to a value set which requires the adherent to apply the values through an emotion which is constructive vice destructive?

    “I take it you mean that God does not like things that are contrary to His truth. So what would be an example of something contrary to His truth?”

    I’d say that denial of His existence would be contrary, judging from what’s laid out in the Bible. A specific instance of this would be when human beings and/or angels believe themselves to be capable of independence from the very structure into which they were created. The consequences of this frame of thought are enumerated therein, which (from the descriptions presented) are not very pleasant.

    “What exactly do you mean by “evil” here? We agree that “good” means acting in accordance with God’s plan. That would lead me to believe that “evil” means acting in a way not in accordance with God’s plan. Is that correct? If so, then when you say that Lucifer “is given controlled access to the creation, at the proper time and circumstance to influence the plan in the direction God needs – but no further,” aren’t you saying that Lucifer is (inadvertently) acting to further God’s plan? In that case, does it make any sense to say that Lucifer is evil?”

    To your first question, I’d say correct. The second question needs a clarification. The intent and action of Lucifer places him contrary to God’s plan – that is what makes him ‘evil’. He’s denying God’s pre-eminence and God’s ability to ensure the plan will progress to completion. The application of the term ‘evil’ is applied to the uncooperative thought and action on Lucifer’s part – not to the ultimate outcome of the plan. I think it does still make sense to call Lucifer ‘evil’.

    • Written by ideclare
      on June 3, 2010 at 2:51 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      “The two reference frame mathematical characterizations of the motion may be limited to a maximum of two dimensions of motion, in your example. The observer is viewing a compound motion, which is not present in the original motion of the grape. This compounding adds a dimension to the calculus which is an “apparent” motion. But, as I stated, the simplest (optimal) accounting for all dimensions would eliminate the introduction of inter-action between reference frames.”

      If both people are tossing grapes, then your solution no longer works. Both people will see their own grape traveling in a straight line and the other person’s grape traveling in an arc. Again, no preferred frame of reference. Any candidate for an optimal frame of reference would fail because it would not necessarily be optimal for all possible people viewing this action.

      “The physical raw materials of the universe would necessarily exist within the universe context – they would not be extra-universal.”

      I am drawing a distinction between our universe (the universe we have access to) and everything physical that exists. It is possible that these are the same thing. It is also possible that our universe is contained within some larger universe. When you talk about a universal context, I assume you are referring to this larger universe.

      “Otherwise, they would have free communication between this universe and the material from which it sprang – which is outside.”

      I don’t think we can assume free communication between our universe and a universe that possibly contains it.

      “On another tack, being observers within the universe – what tools would we use to determine what’s on the other side of the universe boundary, since we haven’t yet ascertained such a boundary even exists?”

      Regardless of whether or not there is a boundary as you describe, there definitely is a boundary (based on the speed of light) outside of which we cannot receive information. To my knowledge, it would not be possible to determine what is on the other side of the boundary, if such a thing exists. (I have read speculation on ways that this might be accomplished, but nothing that sounded particularly promising to me.)

      “If, as you say, entropy is being generated to a greater degree than its counter-state, would you agree that there would come a point at which all of the universe’s organized behavior will come to a halt (i.e. a finite life-span to the universe)? If that’s true, then how would it regenerate?”

      If we’re talking about our universe, then yes it will eventually have no energy left to spend. I don’t think it would regenerate.

      “Why not? If He’s dedicated to being consistent, then his thoughts, words, and actions will reflect this dedication. All that He attempts would reflect the consistency, otherwise He’d be contradictory (inconsistent). He cannot be both consistent and inconsistent simultaneously.”

      God can consistently follow an inconsistent plan. For example, let’s imagine that God plans to visibly work miracles for two thousand years, then not work miracles for two thousand years, then start working miracles again. In a sense, that plan is not consistent, but God could consistently follow it.

      “The second glass of mixture cannot self-clean, as all the available water is contaminated. It can only be cleaned from without – the source of the original pure water and the transformation of water.”

      So, addressing my question directly, you agree that children can receive punishment for the crimes of their parents because they carry some of the contamination for their parents’ crimes, yes? To keep this Biblically sound, I assume that a child can inherit some of this contamination even if the crime is committed after the child is born, is that correct?

      “The people of Egypt acknowledged allegiance to a leader, who represented them to other nations. Pharaoh’s position placed him in a responsible position. When Pharaoh was in conflict with God, he placed the nation at risk. Pharaoh was not likely to be impressed by a demonstration of God’s relative stature if some small irritation was applied. But, the scale of the demonstration was meant to get his attention. Apparently, Pharaoh was a slow learner – or arrogant and unwilling to admit his position in relation to God.”

      Breaking this down into pieces, it sounds like you agree with the following statements (please correct me where necessary):

      –The subjects of a dictator can be held accountable (in some sense) by God for the behavior of the dictator.

      –The non-Hebrew slaves who died during the plagues were not killed unjustly.

      –Pharaoh was not sufficiently impressed with the plagues of Egypt before the final one.

      –When God hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh won’t listen (e.g., Exodus 9:12), Pharaoh is still responsible for his actions.

      –When God apparently says that he’s the one causing Pharaoh to remain unconvinced (Exodus 10:1-2), it doesn’t mean that Pharaoh isn’t also responsible for his actions.

      –Killing babies (among others) is a just way to demonstrate that God is more powerful than Pharaoh.

      –Since the killing of children was part of God’s plan, in this instance killing children was good.

      “I would not claim to be certain of more than what is provided in the Bible. But, as it describes these limitations of Lucifer, I agree.”

      Just to clarify for me, the Bible implies that Satan had the power to give all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus (if Satan didn’t have that power, then Jesus wouldn’t have been tempted). Do you agree that Satan has that kind of power, or is there another way to interpret that story?

      “So, I understand your explanation of “morality” as an application of reason – where no emotional or preferential ideas are injected – remaining consistent to a set of defined values. Does this set of defined values (and morality of application) find themselves in direct opposition to anyone else’s (who has likewise applied this value set for themselves)?”

      If we’re talking about God and we’ve agreed that God is by definition good, then God’s morality is independent of anyone else’s beliefs or desires and does not have any objective definition of good to live up to.

      “Is there merit to a set of values which doesn’t place the two in conflict? Is there merit to a value set which requires the adherent to apply the values through an emotion which is constructive vice destructive?”

      We have agreed that there is no standard by which God’s values can be judged other than God’s own desires, so I don’t see how either of these questions apply to our current conversation.

      If we are talking about human morality in the context of your definition of good, then there definitely can arise a conflict between personal morality and God’s plan. Is there merit to a set of values that avoid conflict and emphasize constructive emotion? I suppose so, but I think that other factors (such as right and wrong) would be far more significant.

      “The intent and action of Lucifer places him contrary to God’s plan – that is what makes him ‘evil’. He’s denying God’s pre-eminence and God’s ability to ensure the plan will progress to completion. The application of the term ‘evil’ is applied to the uncooperative thought and action on Lucifer’s part – not to the ultimate outcome of the plan. I think it does still make sense to call Lucifer ‘evil’.”

      So you would say that Lucifer is capable of evil intent; that makes sense. I assume that Lucifer is also capable of evil actions, and that an evil action would be any action intended to thwart God’s plan, even if it is ultimately in keeping with God’s plan, correct?

      This gets me thinking — Lucifer has personal, first-hand knowledge of God but still thinks he is capable of thwarting God’s plan. If it’s the case that even a supernatural being who has personally interacted with God does not find the evidence that God is omnipotent compelling, how can I be expected to find it compelling?

      Finally, as an aside and in the context of our conversation, what do you think of the Satanic quote, “Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years.”? Just curious.

      • Written by Tom
        on August 15, 2010 at 7:22 pm
        Reply · Permalink

        “If both people are tossing grapes, then your solution no longer works. Both people will see their own grape traveling in a straight line and the other person’s grape traveling in an arc. Again, no preferred frame of reference. Any candidate for an optimal frame of reference would fail because it would not necessarily be optimal for all possible people viewing this action.”

        Now you’re trying to change the context of the problem. Your first problem as stated had one actor in a still frame of reference, the observer in a moving frame of reference. The math is simpler if described from the view of the still frame of reference… So, if you next intend to state that the original actor is in a moving frame of reference (because he has to breathe – he’s on Earth), then I’m going to tell you that the simpler math is described from a frame of reference which is not moving [neither co-located with the actor, nor with the observer (now another actor)], motionless in space. Yes, there IS a preferred frame of reference, mathematically, and that is independent of relative motion frames.

        “I am drawing a distinction between our universe (the universe we have access to) and everything physical that exists. It is possible that these are the same thing. It is also possible that our universe is contained within some larger universe. When you talk about a universal context, I assume you are referring to this larger universe… I don’t think we can assume free communication between our universe and a universe that possibly contains it… Regardless of whether or not there is a boundary as you describe, there definitely is a boundary (based on the speed of light) outside of which we cannot receive information. To my knowledge, it would not be possible to determine what is on the other side of the boundary, if such a thing exists. (I have read speculation on ways that this might be accomplished, but nothing that sounded particularly promising to me.)… If we’re talking about our universe, then yes it will eventually have no energy left to spend. I don’t think it would regenerate.”

        My term “universe” referred to the universe to which we have access. My term “extra-universal” referred to the larger universe which would subsume our own. One is compelled to conclude a free communication, Otherwise, the physical raw materials (apparently of their own accord) would have to assemble themselves into a physical universe. According to what science has been able to establish, energy and matter are conserved – a closed system. If you have materials entering from outside (or exiting from inside), then the system is not closed – hence, an open system, and evidence would be available. If, as you agree, our universe will deteriorate to a non-energy state (and this is the consistent behavior of the universe to which we have access), then something or someone must have started it in motion. If there is no free communication between this universe and a super-universe (extra-universe) subsuming our own, then there is no method for the super-universe to regenerate (or at one point generate) what is attributable to our universe. So we’re left with the question what, or who, started it off? There is contradiction in the notion of a super-universe not contributing to it if there is a start to our (subsumed) universe – unless one alternatively considers an intelligent being who can initiate this, and have it play out according to a plan. With a universe as complicated as our own, and given the myriad of its necessary inter-relationships, the odds of accidental assembly occurring are astronomically small.

        “God can consistently follow an inconsistent plan. For example, let’s imagine that God plans to visibly work miracles for two thousand years, then not work miracles for two thousand years, then start working miracles again. In a sense, that plan is not consistent, but God could consistently follow it.”

        No, in that sense there is irregularity to the period between events – not inconsistency. Inconsistency is occasion where contradictions occur to the rules. Since we have incomplete knowledge of the plan, we may misconstrue timing. Everything is moving according to a plan, and will inevitably conclude as it should. There will be casualties along the way, and these come from the ranks of those who resist or reject God. Since God knows each person’s heart (true feelings and inclinations), there is no hiding or faking what one truly thinks.

        “So, addressing my question directly, you agree that children can receive punishment for the crimes of their parents because they carry some of the contamination for their parents’ crimes, yes? To keep this Biblically sound, I assume that a child can inherit some of this contamination even if the crime is committed after the child is born, is that correct?”

        Firstly, they carry the original sin which was passed on by Adam and Eve throughout the succeeding generations. In that context, I agree – this is the prenatal carryover of sin. Secondly, if the parents lead their children astray and fail to provide access to God’s Word (during their formative years), then they will also be set-up for punishment. In this context, I agree. But, we should also note that the Bible speaks to the punishment of those who teach these children and mislead them. Thirdly, the children will garner their own sins, as they go through life independent of their parents’ influence. But here they have a chance to rectify their relationship with God. God provided a pair of steps through which this may occur – Baptism and periodic prayer/communion.

        “Breaking this down into pieces, it sounds like you agree with the following statements (please correct me where necessary):
        –The subjects of a dictator can be held accountable (in some sense) by God for the behavior of the dictator.
        –The non-Hebrew slaves who died during the plagues were not killed unjustly.
        –Pharaoh was not sufficiently impressed with the plagues of Egypt before the final one.
        –When God hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh won’t listen (e.g., Exodus 9:12), Pharaoh is still responsible for his actions.
        –When God apparently says that he’s the one causing Pharaoh to remain unconvinced (Exodus 10:1-2), it doesn’t mean that Pharaoh isn’t also responsible for his actions.
        –Killing babies (among others) is a just way to demonstrate that God is more powerful than Pharaoh.
        –Since the killing of children was part of God’s plan, in this instance killing children was good.”

        As they are listed: 1) Yes, because everyone has a chance to support or oppose what is ‘evil’. 2) Yes, because they had an opportunity to learn from the Hebrew slaves and chose so not to do, and thereby were condemned by their refusal to acknowledge God. 3) Yes, the final one affected him personally. His own family was what got his attention. He thought little for his subjects. 4) Incorrectly stated question: God permits Satan to have affect on Pharaoh. Pharaoh is not inclined to recognize God. 5) Yes, as he fails to recognize God, he sows the seed of his own destruction. 6) I think the label “babies” may be just a bit provocative, since the Bible said “first born” of each house, from the lowest house of Egypt to the Pharaoh’s own. One must also remember that the Egyptians made it a habit to permit the eldest child to sleep in the parents’ bed chamber (sleeping on the floor-bed next to their bed, while others were in their own rooms in elevated beds). The plague sent hugged the lowest parts of the houses, collecting there – affecting the eldest. I surmise that the eldest were of an age where they have an ability to distinguish ‘good’ from ‘bad’ (“right” from “wrong”) and were therefore accountable. 7) Yes. If they were lost, because their parents were leading them astray, they were ripe for judgment and would benefit the release of God’s chosen people.

        “Just to clarify for me, the Bible implies that Satan had the power to give all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus (if Satan didn’t have that power, then Jesus wouldn’t have been tempted). Do you agree that Satan has that kind of power, or is there another way to interpret that story?”

        Since only the writer can state unequivocally any intended implication, you infer that the Bible indicates Satan as having the power to do what he said. Actions within the context of heaven and this universe depend solely upon God permitting something to happen. If He doesn’t restrain something, then it may (has the possibility to) occur.

        “If we’re talking about God and we’ve agreed that God is by definition good, then God’s morality is independent of anyone else’s beliefs or desires and does not have any objective definition of good to live up to.”

        I don’t think your conclusion follows from your premise. His creation of each of us was with the intent that we each do our part in the plan. Since we’re dependent upon Him (right from the start), what makes you think we’re free to be independent? That’s a perception which mirrors Satan’s error.

        “We have agreed that there is no standard by which God’s values can be judged other than God’s own desires, so I don’t see how either of these questions apply to our current conversation.

        If we are talking about human morality in the context of your definition of good, then there definitely can arise a conflict between personal morality and God’s plan. Is there merit to a set of values that avoid conflict and emphasize constructive emotion? I suppose so, but I think that other factors (such as right and wrong) would be far more significant.”

        Is conflict better than cooperation? I believe that cooperation not only provides each party satisfaction of their needs, but that the collection of parties will also realize a benefit. Human morality is concerned with the self, operating in relation to others. God has our benefit in mind, as part of His plan. Human beings have flawed morality, when self is more important than others (who are, actually, just as deserving as ourselves). Doesn’t it make more sense to align one’s own morality with what God has in mind for us (since He has the only view of every outcome and works to the benefit of all)? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then the morality to which I referred is indeed pertinent to the discussion.

        “So you would say that Lucifer is capable of evil intent; that makes sense. I assume that Lucifer is also capable of evil actions, and that an evil action would be any action intended to thwart God’s plan, even if it is ultimately in keeping with God’s plan, correct?”

        Satan will behave to attempt to enhance his position and has no intent to cooperate with God, he wants to bring the plan to failure. Satan (although the most powerful angel in creation) is not endowed with God’s four omni-‘s. So, he refuses to admit that he’s actually aiding in bringing God’s plan to fruition. Although the outcome is in keeping with God’s plan, the detours Satan (and mankind, as well) makes from the plan forces the plan to take longer to conclude. But, delay does not mean halt.

        “This gets me thinking — Lucifer has personal, first-hand knowledge of God but still thinks he is capable of thwarting God’s plan. If it’s the case that even a supernatural being who has personally interacted with God does not find the evidence that God is omnipotent compelling, how can I be expected to find it compelling?”

        Satan is unwilling to admit ultimate defeat. He thinks that numbers will provide the tip of the balance. I suspect he thinks that power is additive. Remember that 1/3 of the angels in heaven were expelled with him. He knows that “man” was created just a little lower than the angels – so he believes there’s power there to tap. He expects that numbers will overwhelm. Perhaps he feels that such an overwhelming show of force will somehow intimidate God (or make Him acquiesce) to Satan setting up and independent realm. God’s Omnipotence will keep that from happening.

        “Finally, as an aside and in the context of our conversation, what do you think of the Satanic quote, “Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years.”? Just curious.”

        To answer the aside – I’d say that the quoted statement is inane. The issue is NOT about Satan keeping the Church in business. If Satan had behaved himself and been in line with God’s plan, then the fall from grace he experienced would have never happened (leaving him lead angel) – and human beings would never have had to suffer the consequences of listening (and acting)upon his suggestion that somehow we (mankind) could be like God (the four omni-‘s). The characters Adam and Eve didn’t realize that there were limitations to their abilities.

        • Written by ideclare
          on August 17, 2010 at 11:36 am
          Reply · Permalink

          Now you’re trying to change the context of the problem.

          Your statement about my trying to change the context gave me an “aha!” moment. The reason we’re having so much trouble on the subject of preferred frames of reference seems to be that we are talking about two different things. You are pointing out that there may be frames of reference that make the mathematics of a given situation easier, and I agree with this, but it has nothing to do with my point.

          My point isn’t about mathematics, it’s about truth. There is no single frame of reference that takes priority over all other frames of reference and therefore can be considered objectively true. For example, if there are perfectly precise clocks at the top of a mountain and the bottom of a valley, they run at different speeds, but there is no objective way to say that one or the other of them is correct, or that neither is. I think that’s a pretty well established fact of physics, so can we agree on it?

          My term “universe” referred to the universe to which we have access. My term “extra-universal” referred to the larger universe which would subsume our own. One is compelled to conclude a free communication, Otherwise, the physical raw materials (apparently of their own accord) would have to assemble themselves into a physical universe.

          I don’t agree that we are compelled to conclude there would be free communication. It’s an imperfect analogy, but if a bubble rises from the ocean foam, we can’t assume that there remains communication between the bubble and the sea. Because of this, I don’t think that the rest of your argument follows.

          With a universe as complicated as our own, and given the myriad of its necessary inter-relationships, the odds of accidental assembly occurring are astronomically small.

          There are so many unknowns in this equation that I don’t think we can meaningfully discuss its solution.

          [Speaking of whether God might have an inconsistent plan] No, in that sense there is irregularity to the period between events – not inconsistency. Inconsistency is occasion where contradictions occur to the rules. Since we have incomplete knowledge of the plan, we may misconstrue timing.

          I can go with that, so long as we agree that we have incomplete knowledge of God’s rules.

          I asked if you agreed that non-Hebrew slaves who died during the plagues of Egypt were killed justly. You answered:

          Yes, because they had an opportunity to learn from the Hebrew slaves and chose so not to do, and thereby were condemned by their refusal to acknowledge God.

          Can you site Biblical support for this? At that point in the Bible, I thought that God was only protecting the Hebrews (as a race, not as a belief system). Are you saying that God also protected those who agreed with the religion of the Hebrews?

          I asked if you agreed with the statement, “When God hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh won’t listen (e.g., Exodus 9:12), Pharaoh is still responsible for his actions.”

          You answered:

          Incorrectly stated question: God permits Satan to have affect on Pharaoh. Pharaoh is not inclined to recognize God.

          Exodus 9:12 reads, “And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.” How are you reading this so that Satan is involved? It seems that God says He is specifically responsible in Exodus 10:1-2: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord.”

          I think the label “babies” may be just a bit provocative, since the Bible said “first born” of each house, from the lowest house of Egypt to the Pharaoh’s own. One must also remember that the Egyptians made it a habit to permit the eldest child to sleep in the parents’ bed chamber (sleeping on the floor-bed next to their bed, while others were in their own rooms in elevated beds). The plague sent hugged the lowest parts of the houses, collecting there – affecting the eldest. I surmise that the eldest were of an age where they have an ability to distinguish ‘good’ from ‘bad’ (“right” from “wrong”) and were therefore accountable.

          I agree that it is more provocative to talk about babies, but I also agree that older people are more likely to be morally responsible for their actions so I was not considering them. I don’t understand why you (apparently) surmise that none of the first born were babies. I also don’t understand how you know that the plague was some kind of substance that “hugged the lowest part of the house.” It sounds to me like you are trying to explain naturalistically how the plague only killed the firstborn, but this explanation seems insufficient for a few reasons: 1) it doesn’t explain how only the firstborn of cattle was killed, 2) it may not explain how firstborn who were not with their parents were killed (the firstborn of people in prison are specifically mentioned), 3) it doesn’t explain how smearing blood on a doorway would stop the plague, and 4) God (repeatedly) seems to say that he’ll be doing the killing personally. E.g., Exodus 12:12, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.”

          I said, “If we’re talking about God and we’ve agreed that God is by definition good, then God’s morality is independent of anyone else’s beliefs or desires and does not have any objective definition of good to live up to.”

          You replied:

          I don’t think your conclusion follows from your premise. His creation of each of us was with the intent that we each do our part in the plan. Since we’re dependent upon Him (right from the start), what makes you think we’re free to be independent? That’s a perception which mirrors Satan’s error.

          You are misunderstanding my question. I am not asking whether humans are independent of God; I am asking you to verify that you think there is no definition of “good” without reference to God. Sorry if I was unclear.

          Human morality is concerned with the self, operating in relation to others. God has our benefit in mind, as part of His plan. Human beings have flawed morality, when self is more important than others (who are, actually, just as deserving as ourselves).

          I’d say that one can have a consistent morality in which the self is of prime importance so long as it is recognized that others also consider themselves of prime importance. One can also have a morality not based on God in which no individual is of prime importance.

          Doesn’t it make more sense to align one’s own morality with what God has in mind for us (since He has the only view of every outcome and works to the benefit of all)? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then the morality to which I referred is indeed pertinent to the discussion.

          You are right that if there is an all-powerful being working for our benefit then we would be better off doing what that being wants. The problem is that in a large number of significant situations, we have no idea what God wants (or, from my perspective, whether or not He even exists). This makes God’s will a terrible basis for morality.

          Satan will behave to attempt to enhance his position and has no intent to cooperate with God, he wants to bring the plan to failure. Satan (although the most powerful angel in creation) is not endowed with God’s four omni-’s. So, he refuses to admit that he’s actually aiding in bringing God’s plan to fruition. … He expects that numbers will overwhelm. Perhaps he feels that such an overwhelming show of force will somehow intimidate God (or make Him acquiesce) to Satan setting up and independent realm. God’s Omnipotence will keep that from happening.

          Okay — I think that’s consistent. Satan is evil because his intent is to interfere with God. Because he’s not omnipotent, he thinks he has a chance to succeed. Right?

          Now, looking at human evil, under what conditions would you call someone evil even though their intent is to cooperate with God’s plan?

  17. Written by nadia
    on June 23, 2010 at 9:12 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    You guys are forgetting that in order to understnad bible clearly you need holy spirit, because throught Him it iwas writter by God. God’s word can be cleared only by God.
    You couldnt be perfect at aboying 10 comandments how can you follow them being stricktened by Jesus? You can only do it with Jesus.
    “‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:17-18 NRSV),–> Jeus was the one who accomplished the law perfectly, (therefor had the right to change it–> He strickten it)

    giving up possetions means not having them as idols and priorities, Jesus is your proirity. A child of God is happy even if he is missing something he needs or wants.

    • Written by Tom
      on August 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Nadia,

      You misunderstand our discussion…

      “ideclare” has postulated that there is no legitimate reason for anyone to think that the Bible has significance other than an interesting story. The logic and intellect used, are an attempt to reject what those who believe are legitimate claims.

      What eludes “ideclare” is that the complexity of this universe, which we uncover more and more every day, points to a source of its beginning. The nature of the universe to tend towards entropy (a state of low energy and disorganization) is in contradiction to the high state of energy and complexity from which it began. The complexity points to a design – a creative force which has placed a set of actions in motion. Those people contributing to the Bible’s contents have had contact with someone/something that has consistently shown a path for human destiny.

      If you look further into the Bible, you would also have run across another quotation. It stated that God is constant and unchanging. What He places in motion will conclude on His terms, not ours.

  18. Written by Tom
    on August 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    “There is no single frame of reference that takes priority over all other frames of reference and therefore can be considered objectively true. For example, if there are perfectly precise clocks at the top of a mountain and the bottom of a valley, they run at different speeds, but there is no objective way to say that one or the other of them is correct, or that neither is. I think that’s a pretty well established fact of physics, so can we agree on it?”

    I beg to differ. I think that there’s a parallel extant for Truth in the physics example you postulated, and how one attempts to view it. There is an optimum viewpoint. The ideal viewpoint would be from God’s position, since His encompasses all Truth. If you wanted to be privy to all of it, it’d be necessary to see it from His perspective (in its entirety)… Your example regarding the clocks follows along with this, though it suffers from a mechanism deficiency. The difference between the clocks stems from Earth environmental effects applied to identical clocks which have identical power systems. Their disparate timekeeping is caused by the disparity on the power available. However, a timepiece based upon a mechanism which isn’t susceptible would be a better timekeeper – so we go to atomic-based mechanisms, which have consistent decay rates based upon the amount of material present. If we could identify Earth environment effects on even this mechanism, then an atomic-based system suspended in space would be better than the Earth-bound version. There is a better way to keep time, and I argue an optimum exists.

    “It’s an imperfect analogy, but if a bubble rises from the ocean foam, we can’t assume that there remains communication between the bubble and the sea. Because of this, I don’t think that the rest of your argument follows.”

    But we must look for continued interaction… The Earth system is a closed environment. The constituent parts of the bubble will be recycled within the Earth-system. We’ve agreed that this universe we occupy is in a state of increasing entropy. There must be a mechanism which was responsible for the high-energy state at its start (a conservation, which would point to a way to “re-energize”). If the re-energizing cannot come from within, then there must be a method to feed it – the extra-universal concept you stated. That would indicate a chance for another universe (replacing our energy-depleted version) as the expended energy is subsumed in the extra-universe and fed back into this one, to be expensed again.

    “I can go with that, so long as we agree that we have incomplete knowledge of God’s rules.”

    I can agree *we* have incomplete knowledge.

    “Can you site Biblical support for this? At that point in the Bible, I thought that God was only protecting the Hebrews (as a race, not as a belief system). Are you saying that God also protected those who agreed with the religion of the Hebrews?”

    Yes. In the Old Testament (Gen. 12) the statement is made (God speaking to Abram) that those who bless Israel (Hebrews) will also be blessed (as the Hebrews are God’s chosen examples – through their demonstrated faith), and those who curse them would be dealt with severely.

    “Exodus 9:12 reads, ‘And … how that I am the Lord.’ ”

    When you use your TV remote control device to turn it off, and your significant other asks, “Did you turn it off, before we went to bed?” Your answer is “Yes, I turned it off”. Did you really walk over to the TV and yank the plug out of the wall (which would indeed ensure it was turned off)? No, but the remote did the job – same effect but less directly. We’re not told exactly how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but since Pharaoh was not a believer in God I think the other major player (Satan) may have been working. Remember, Satan is doing everything he can to be opposite – playing on the selfish tendencies with which human beings have to deal. Pharaoh’s reluctance to respond to Moses’ (read as God’s) messages is because he refuses to recognize God or His supremacy. Sounds like Satan’s thought process, doesn’t it?

    “I agree that it is more provocative to talk … I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.’ ”

    “Naturalistically”? Hmm… I think that God can use the tools available in this universe to accomplish what He wants. Does the mechanism for the destruction have to be supernatural? (Refer to my previous response paragraph.) 1) Have you watched larger domesticated farm animals sleep? The adults rarely lie down if at all, while juveniles do lie down. Other than that, I cannot offer intelligent observation for this. ; 2) Where were prisoners kept? Most references with which I’m acquainted state that they are located within a fortress or palace, usually on the lower levels in subterranean rooms. If the plague was a ground-hugging entity, I’d think they would be most at risk. ; 3) The “smearing blood” was a symbol of where the Hebrew was living, by-product of sacrifice by the faithful. It would be self-evident to the Egyptians, who would then force Pharaoh’s hand by their multitude of complaints (while he was trying to grieve for his own son). Rounding up all the Hebrews for expulsion wouldn’t be too hard then, would it? All could be found. If you read the other passages (speaking to the Hebrew activities during this timeframe) they had no point at which they were to sleep (Exodus 12:11), being ready to leave at a moment’s notice. By not sleeping, no Hebrew first born was susceptible to such a plague. 4) Those who are not “pure” (righteous) cannot stand in the presence of God. The very presence of God would be death to the unbeliever, being consumed as with fire.

    “I am not asking whether humans are independent of God; I am asking you to verify that you think there is no definition of “good” without reference to God.”

    The request God makes of human beings is two-fold: 1) believe in Him and His supremacy in everything; and 2) treat one another as we want to be treated. From the standpoint of these two commands, I think that it’s possible for someone to pursue the second – and approach but not achieve it fully. Someone who treats others with due regard *might* be considered “good” (i.e. moral) as long as the values apply equally to all and have their best interests at heart. But, even the best efforts a person puts forward will fall short. The reason for this would be the intervention of Satan, and no supporting assistance from God (because the person refuses to acknowledge the part God plays). So, from this perspective, I’d say there will be no good without God in the picture. This will become more evident in the next twenty-years, I think.

    “One can also have a morality not based on God in which no individual is of prime importance.”

    I don’t think a morality where each person considers self as prime importance will survive first contact with a situation like this: A collision occurs between two cars near a bridge. The force of impact tosses both vehicles into the river. In the first car are a parent and child. In the second is an adult advanced in age. The parent is killed instantly, but the child survives impact. As both cars sink deeper into the abyss, a witness jumps into the water. He can only save one. Which one does he save? I believe that both lives are of equal value – the child with so much potential to play an important part in the future, and the aged driver whose experience is important to course of many lives. But, how would I choose, if I were the witness? Personally, I’d choose to save the child – not just because of the reason stated, but because the child is someone to be sheltered from the vile reality of this world until he/she has a chance to learn more about it in a manner not catastrophic… Let’s complicate the question a bit further. Now, let us say that in so attempting the rescue, the witness has a great possibility of not surviving the attempt. Is the attempt still worth making? I say “yes”. I think the child’s life is worth more than either the aged driver, or the witness’ life. (But that’s me.) As for your last statement (of no prime importance for anyone), I believe the world would be very sad place in which to live were the witness just to stand there and watch both people drown.

    “The problem is that in a large number of significant situations, we have no idea what God wants (or, from my perspective, whether or not He even exists). This makes God’s will a terrible basis for morality.”

    I think that both the Hebrew Torah and the Christian Bible have given an indication of a preferred behavior pattern that would benefit everyone. Imagine a world where everyone was concerned about other people, over themselves. What would it be like to have everyone you meet trying to help you out – when you were lost and needed directions and a dozen people stepped right up to ask if they could help; when you lost your wallet, and everything was in it, and the five motorists passing by said they’d take you where you needed to go – paying for your hotel stay and meals, and seeing to it you got home? He’s given the blueprint, and he gave us the ability to reason – isn’t this enough?

    “Satan is evil because his intent is to interfere with God. Because he’s not omnipotent, he thinks he has a chance to succeed. Right?”

    Right. The irony is almost too much to stand. Satan, in his attempts to run away from God, actually plays into His hands (even thought it wasn’t the part God preferred for him to play – but, that’s the risk of having independent will).

    “Now, looking at human evil, under what conditions would you call someone evil even though their intent is to cooperate with God’s plan?”

    The human being, in and of himself, is not “evil”. He’s weaker than Satan and misled by distractions which interfere with following God’s requests. The world, because we’re immersed in it day-to-day, appears more real than an ethereal existence before and after the physical death. Human behavior, wrongfully led, is responsible for atrocities between people and for the imbalance in perception of individual worth. The person who behaves badly, does so under influence. God stated that humans, being weaker, can never achieve reunion with God in and of their own efforts (the filthy glass problem). So, God offered a surrogate who took on the punishment for mankind. Having vented this accumulated hostility for the sins of mankind, God offers a way to repair the burned bridge. Belief in His son, and the sacrifice which he made, opens the door to permit people to approach God – a free will offering of Grace. All it takes is that a person reach out and believe without reservation – in God’s love for His creation, that He prefers it not having to be destroyed.

    • Written by ideclare
      on August 21, 2010 at 10:42 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      You posit that God’s viewpoint is an optimum viewpoint. Even if God exists, since we have no access to His viewpoint, it is of no use to us.

      You then talk about the deficiencies of types of clocks (how atomic clocks are more accurate, etc.) when my question posited that we were using perfectly precise clocks. Perfectly precise clocks would not have any deficiencies — they would measure the actual passage of time, and they would run at different speeds at different places in the universe. You seem to be arguing that a clock in space that was somehow isolated from all external effects would measure “real” time, but in order for this to be true we would also somehow have to find a way for all observers to agree that the clock was unmoving. I don’t see how this is possible.

      I think we have a fundamental disagreement here about the way that the laws of physics work. We may need to just agree that we disagree at this point. If you have further arguments, I’m happy to hear them, of course.

      Regarding my bubble-from-the-sea analogy for a universe with no communication with its source:

      But we must look for continued interaction… … We’ve agreed that this universe we occupy is in a state of increasing entropy. There must be a mechanism which was responsible for the high-energy state at its start (a conservation, which would point to a way to “re-energize”). If the re-energizing cannot come from within, then there must be a method to feed it – the extra-universal concept you stated. That would indicate a chance for another universe (replacing our energy-depleted version) as the expended energy is subsumed in the extra-universe and fed back into this one, to be expensed again.

      I disagree with several points here. I see no requirement for continued interaction. That a mechanism exists to create the universe’s high-energy state does not imply the potential for re-energizing — our universe could just die and be left a corpse with maximum entropy. A chance for another universe does not imply our universe being replaced because the new universe could occupy different (or new) space.

      Regarding your citation of Genesis 12 as evidence that those who agreed with the Hebrews were protected just as the Hebrews were — I find that very uncompelling. “I will bless those that bless you” is very different from “I will treat all those who believe as you do as if they were part of the chosen people.” I do not recall any part of the story of the plagues of Egypt that even hinted that those who agreed with the Israelites would be spared. However, it has been a while since I read it, so there could be something I’m not remembering.

      I understand your example of the TV remote so far as hardening Pharoah’s heart is concerned. However, when we have an on-the-face-of-it reading that makes perfect sense (God personally hardened Pharoah’s heart), I can’t see any reason for adding complexity to it — particularly since God takes credit for the results of this action.

      You say that God may use the tools available to accomplish His goals and that the mechanism for destruction does not have to be supernatural. True. However, it would take no more or less effort for God to kill the first born directly rather than use a natural process, and God does not always use natural processes so He obviously has no rule against the miraculous. You speculate about prisoners being kept in lower areas, and indeed this agrees with the account in Exodus. However, Exodus speaks of the first born of prisoners being killed, not of the prisoners themselves. You may be correct about the Hebrews not sleeping, but we’d also have to assume that none of them (even the sick or elderly) lied down close to the floor. It seems we also have to assume that all first born lied down during the night (even if they were employed as guards, for example) and that Egypt is perfectly flat, no first born slept in an upper story, etc. I also did some casual research into your statement that in Egypt the first born slept on the floor, but could not find support for this anywhere but on Christian Web sites attempting to explain the final plague of Egypt (I welcome other references). Your response to my pointing out that God said He carried out these killings himself — that the impure cannot stand in the presence of God — seems irrelevant to me. If by “striking down” God means he will appear to those slated for death and they will die when they see him, fine — that is still incompatible with your argument that we are talking about a ground-hugging plague.

      It may seem silly for me to be going on about this, but I do have a reason for doing so. I frankly am finding your interpretation of the Bible more and more suspect. Many of your arguments are not at all compelling to me, and at times seem to contradict an in-context reading of the text. I almost feel that no matter what your point of view, you would be able to make the Bible appear to agree with it by insisting on alternate interpretations. The more you try and prove some of these things, the more you end up pushing me away from understanding that you have a reasonable, coherent world view that is accessible to others. (For what it’s worth, I think there are many Christians who have such a world view.)

      With that in mind, I don’t want to say that we are getting nowhere with parts of this discussion, but it’s sure starting to feel that way.

      On to morality.

      The request God makes of human beings is two-fold: 1) believe in Him and His supremacy in everything; and 2) treat one another as we want to be treated. From the standpoint of these two commands, I think that it’s possible for someone to pursue the second – and approach but not achieve it fully. Someone who treats others with due regard *might* be considered “good” (i.e. moral) as long as the values apply equally to all and have their best interests at heart.

      I agree with item #2, but item #2 doesn’t seem to agree with some parts of the Old Testament. For example, I wouldn’t want someone to kill me because they thought I believed in the wrong deity.

      Might someone who obeys the golden rule be considered good (in some sense) by your philosophy? If good is measured as the degree to which people are in consonance with God’s plan for creation, their receptivity to their place in it, and their recognition of God’s pre-eminence, then it seems to me that someone following item #2 might in a sense only accidentally be being good (if they were not following the rule because God commanded them to), and might actively not be good if they are acting against God’s plan.

      But, even the best efforts a person puts forward will fall short. The reason for this would be the intervention of Satan, and no supporting assistance from God (because the person refuses to acknowledge the part God plays). So, from this perspective, I’d say there will be no good without God in the picture.

      Again, you seem to be missing the point of my question. You are saying that people can only be good with God’s help. I am asking whether or not the concept of “good” is even meaningful without the existence of God. It seems to me that you have repeatedly argued that nothing could be called good (even following the golden rule) if God didn’t exist, and all I’m doing is asking you to confirm this.

      I don’t think a morality where each person considers self as prime importance will survive first contact with a situation like this [example of a witness choosing between a drowning baby and drowning adult]

      I disagree. A completely selfish but philosophically rigorous witness might feel morally compelled to save the person (probably the child) who appears to be the most helpless because if he was helpless he would want someone to be morally required to save him. This isn’t obeying “treat others as you’d have them treat you,” it’s just being logically consistent.

      You continue by adding the wrinkle that the witness knows there’s a good chance he might not survive the attempt and ask whether the attempt is worth making. This is a rather different question. Normally, we say that someone who goes to great risk to save another is a hero. If the witness is morally required to save a child that is at great risk, then he is not a hero, he’s just doing what is required by morality. I’d say that if the witness is moral and considers himself of prime importance, he would not go to great risk to save another, but he would also not blame another person who did not go to great risks to save him.

      “I believe the world would be very sad place in which to live were the witness just to stand there and watch both people drown.”

      There was a recent incident in which a boy fell into a rushing river. Three of his friends jumped in to try and save him. All of them drowned. The boy who originally fell in managed to get out of the river and lived. I agree that it would be a sad world where the three boys watched their friend drown. However, it might be a much less sad world if instead of three boys dying trying to face danger they were not prepared to handle, they went for help and increased the odds of everyone coming out alive.

      I think that both the Hebrew Torah and the Christian Bible have given an indication of a preferred behavior pattern that would benefit everyone.

      You’re responding to my statement that in many significant situations we have no idea what God wants, but you haven’t cleared anything up. Even people who all agree that the Bible is the word of God often have significantly different understandings of what God wants them to do about many things (divorce, abortion, capital punishment, censorship, homosexuality, slavery, etc.) There’s not even universal agreement on what the 10 Commandments mean.

      What would it be like to have everyone you meet trying to help you out … He’s given the blueprint, and he gave us the ability to reason – isn’t this enough?

      Actually, it may be too much.

      I agree that if people applied reason to morality we would all be better off. However, the blueprint, as you call it, seems (to me) to get in the way more than it helps. People turn off reason and look to the Bible for moral solutions, even to situations that the Bible doesn’t address, addresses vaguely, or addresses in a way that does not apply to modern society.

      I asked about when you would consider someone who thought they were cooperating with God’s plan to be evil. You responded that humans are not evil but are weak and mislead by Satan. Specifically, you say that “The person who behaves badly, does so under influence.” Then why are people responsible to God for their actions?

      Finally, let me ask what I consider to be a “softball” question, but that should help me understand your position better: Considering the 9/11 terrorists, do you think they were morally wrong? Why?

  19. Written by Tom
    on September 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    “You posit that God’s viewpoint is an optimum viewpoint. Even if God exists, since we have no access to His viewpoint, it is of no use to us.”

    Your second sentence is where you’re incorrect – we’ve been given insight. We have a collection of references, provided by those with whom He communicated – both Old and New Testament. The prophets of the OT counseled the rulers of ancient Israel and spoke to the people when they deviated from the rules laid out for them to become a favored nation. The OT prophets were 100% correct in their predictions of tragedies to befall Israel (this is key, as it distinguishes true from false prophets), using information not available to the populace… The disciples of Jesus recorded the teachings He provided, emphasizing the lessons which pointed toward how this physical life should be lived (with an eye to transitioning at its end). Jesus’ summarization can be touched upon later. Whether or not one chooses to acknowledge is completely up to the skeptic, but the events recorded were witnessed by people who were there… the differing witness accounts attributable to the personalities recounting the events, and to the emphases tailored by them according to the audiences addressed.

    An analogy: There are three of us sitting around a table, you know the third individual (not necessarily a friend). I show the third person a US gold 1873 Liberty Dollar (a coin of some significant value) and place it under a cup on the table, in such a way that you did not observe the object. The third person tells you that there’s a gold coin of value under the cup. You have several options at this point: (1) believe the witness, (2) disbelieve the witness (but seek to ascertain the nature of the object elsewhere), or (3) disbelieve the witness and ignore the object. Choosing alternative 3 would not negate the third person’s statement. Choosing alternative 2 would be agnostic. The coin (the Truth) remains, though unacknowledged.

    “You seem to be arguing that a clock in space that was somehow isolated from all external effects would measure “real” time, but in order for this to be true we would also somehow have to find a way for all observers to agree that the clock was unmoving. I don’t see how this is possible.”

    It is possible, but to provide an exhaustive list of steps to accomplish this exceeds the bounds of this forum’s venue. Suffice it to say that measurements of the blue and red shifts apparent in the galaxies surrounding us give a measure of the relative motion between them and our galaxy. With this set of measurements, we launch the platform at right angles to the plane of our galaxy (perhaps aligning it with the axis around which our galaxy rotates, so that effects are minimized), and look for zero closure motion between this galaxy and the clock. This is a simplistic version of what it could entail.

    “I think we have a fundamental disagreement here about the way that the laws of physics work. We may need to just agree that we disagree at this point.”

    Yes, I think we each have a different grasp of the physics surrounding the clocks. [BTW - The implied assumption of your clock-descriptive wording choice was the word “identical”. Just for clarification purposes, the term “precise” (in the mathematical sense), refers to the number of correct decimal digits which the instrument is capable of measuring. It does not mean “lock-step” or “identical” (with "no difference whatsoever").]

    “I disagree with several points here. I see no requirement for continued interaction. That a mechanism exists to create the universe’s high-energy state does not imply the potential for re-energizing — our universe could just die and be left a corpse with maximum entropy.”

    The continued interaction comes from the incestuous relationship of kinetic and potential energy, one converting to the other and back again. This universe (as far as scientists have been able to determine) conserves energy. Scientists contend that it is neither created nor destroyed – therefore, using their reasoning, it *must* be conserved. A conservation which does not lose energy, retains it. If there is an apparent loss of energy, then something must account for it – like suffusion into another universe, which then returns it. Or, it hints at something not constrained by this universe itself.

    ” ‘I will bless those that bless you” is very different from “I will treat all those who believe as you do as if they were part of the chosen people.’ ”

    If you read other portions of the Old Testament, the “blessing” which God provided to a faithful Hebrew nation included such things as: a choice piece of real estate (on the crossroads of trade); prosperity; protection from enemies in surrounding nations; success in battle over forces outnumbering them by many times; success in family endeavors (and continued family lines). In the New Testament, Jesus was approached by a non-Hebrew woman, who touched the hem of His cloak believing that by so doing her excessive bleeding would heal (according to the account, it was). See Matt. 9 for her response and His comments. Jesus had come to the Hebrews because they’d missed hearing part of the tasking God gave them about teaching others (being a nation of priests)… As for Egypt, we addressed this idea of leadership responsibility previously. Pharaoh, by virtue of his position, is the Egyptian spokesman. If he isn’t doing the proper job, then the people (who owe him allegiance, and are not rebelling against his errors) will receive the consequences of his wrong choices just as he will. Egypt, at that time, was a polytheistic society where the Pharaoh claimed the quality of deity. Due to polytheism and his claim, he contradicted God – who is singular. Pharaoh had an egotistical personality which was incompatible with the Truth, and the plagues were sequential and increasingly severe demonstrations that Pharaoh was not a god and that God was “it”.

    “However, when we have an on-the-face-of-it reading that makes perfect sense (God personally hardened Pharoah’s heart), I can’t see any reason for adding complexity to it — particularly since God takes credit for the results of this action.”

    The Bible is not a strictly literal book – it says so itself. There’s a tremendous amount of symbology and analogy, to capture the lessons to be conveyed. The meanings, for many of these, are revealed to those readers who profess belief (see 1st Cor. 2). Logic and reason does not take a person to complete understanding – (1) the human is finite (the Truth is not), and (2) in our current physical state we do not easily appreciate that which we cannot experience directly.

    “You say that God may use the tools available to accomplish His goals and that the mechanism for destruction does not have to be supernatural… If by “striking down” God means he will appear to those slated for death and they will die when they see him, fine — that is still incompatible with your argument that we are talking about a ground-hugging plague.”

    The notion that the plague was a ground-hugging mist-like manifestation was taken from a postulation by someone which took into account the Egyptian custom, and presumably the idea that a mist would be expected to enter any house under the locked door and progress inside… I, personally, ascribe to the miraculous/ supernatural because in the Genesis text, references “the Destroyer” as the agent of the plague. If you look into Isaiah 33:1, you’ll note a reference to this term, which sounds suspiciously like the prophet is referring to Satan. It appears Satan is being given a short, constrained opportunity to do what he does. And, God is permitting it to occur, because the Egyptians are polytheistic unbelievers and the loyal Hebrews need to be released from Egyptian bondage. Satan was constrained to affect only those not protected/identified by the sacrificial blood on the doorposts.

    Would you agree that the Pharaohs were very meticulous about enshrining their own actions, and minimizing those of others ( to include Pharaohs who preceded them)? If so, would you expect the results of the plagues to be recorded by the Pharaoh facing them as a failing of his own abilities as a deity? You have to remember that Pharaoh (some think it Ramses II) was a very proud individual, and contested Moses’ claims. Who else, besides the Hebrews, would record these events in such a case? (The results to which you point, about Christians being the nearly sole references in making comments on it, draw their information from the Hebrew Torah. I find that as expected, since the OT is part of Christian ideology and Bible.)

    “It may seem silly for me to be going on about this, but I do have a reason for doing so. I frankly am finding your interpretation of the Bible more and more suspect… The more you try and prove some of these things, the more you end up pushing me away from understanding that you have a reasonable, coherent world view that is accessible to others. (For what it’s worth, I think there are many Christians who have such a world view.)”

    I appreciate the candor. I am seeking a better understanding of the Bible, as should be so for all those professing belief. I look at the Bible using the assumption that it is in aggregate Truth. In order for it to be Truth, it must be consistent. The Boolean AND logic table is the preferred measuring stick. Using the table, the individual ideas must be true for the pair-wise result to be considered true. Continuing this along throughout the Bible, the pair-wise comparisons should end with a final true result for the entire Bible… In reading different passages, if there seems to be no clear single interpretation, four things can be happening: (1) information is incomplete (possible, but not according to the source), (2) the reader hasn’t connected all the dots, (3) the version/interpretation being read has incorporated incorrect language or previous copies have been modified from the original Greek by incorporation of marginal notes made by translators (and were mistakenly included), or (4) concepts recorded made no sense to those receiving and recording them at that time but rather was meant for later generations…

    I’m not trying to “prove” anything. What I’m doing is looking at your questions/statements, and trying to find passages which touch on the topic. I know that books within the Bible have historical context, the prophets sent for particular reasons unique to that timeframe. But, the passages also have more general application to a person’s behavior and his relationship to God – call it an overall theme, which underlies every individual message you read. One such theme is the child-development approach God uses with mankind as they progress from infancy (Adam & Eve), through toddlerhood (Israel established and grows through discipline applied in laws), until today’s adult child (where Jesus’ teaching appeals to reasoning). The Bible is not a simple history book (OT). There are myriads of messages imbedded, and are found only when certain personal conditions exist (like a problem which seems to defy personal resolution)… I am trying to look for inconsistencies in your reasoning (such as the tendency to prefer relative standards to absolute). Relative standards might work, if one didn’t have to deal with other people. Since, the world has 6+ billion (and still growing) that condition is unrealistic. A common set of values/ rules/ morals ensures that everyone can be treated equally – that points to absolutes. I cannot believe that relative standards will work, because they’d have to be revised and renegotiated with each new person with whom contact is established – the permutations (suggested by the world’s population) to home in on a common understanding would inundate anyone’s personal time to the exclusion of any other activity.

    “I agree with item #2, but item #2 doesn’t seem to agree with some parts of the Old Testament. For example, I wouldn’t want someone to kill me because they thought I believed in the wrong deity.”

    Why doesn’t #2 agree with the OT? When Jesus made His new declaration of two commandments, He was summarizing the Ten Commandments (given the Hebrews via Moses) into two categories. The first three original commandments (or four depending on if you’re Catholic or Protestant) cover the relationship between God and man. The remainder are concerned with people’s treatment of each other. If you’re talking about the 613 – 10 = 603 other rules God set out for the dietary habits and worship venue accoutrements, those were directed at the Hebrews. Many of those which dealt with dietary restrictions make sense from a health standpoint, for people without access to modern medical understanding of disease sources and their proliferation… The Hebrew lives under the Law. Jesus came to extend Grace to the world (the failure of the Hebrews to act as “priests” to the rest of the world meant that the Gentiles were still lost, being outside the “chosen people”). Jesus came to make it possible for the Gentiles to choose to believe, and thereby be saved.

    If people are generating their own moral criteria, the likelihood of the problem you cite is pretty good – isn’t it (with that 6+ billion people capable of contributing to it)? Shouldn’t this be an impetus to seek out a set of morals which permit everyone to live without fear of molestation, and encourage a neighbor to be helpful? Do we have to generate an entirely new unique set? Or, is there a set which can do the job, right now?

    “Might someone who obeys the golden rule be considered good (in some sense) by your philosophy? … (if they were not following the rule because God commanded them to), and might actively not be good if they are acting against God’s plan.”

    I point you to the following scripture readings: Isaiah 64, Rom 3. God, through His adherence to Truth, has constructed a narrow tolerance to behaviors which He says don’t measure up. These two readings point to the idea that the best efforts of mankind will be unable to satisfy His expectations, because His expectation is perfection. If He were to tolerate something less, then He’d be inconsistent because there’s no clear way for people to say where the line would be placed that delineates those acceptable from the unacceptable. He removed the idea of criteria for “works” in defining the level of adherence. His requirement is our unreserved acceptance of Him, expecting that such unreservedness in love and reciprocation of His love would compel the believer to seek opportunities to display the behavior He desires and execute the tasks given them.

    “Again, you seem to be missing the point of my question. You are saying that people can only be good with God’s help. I am asking whether or not the concept of “good” is even meaningful without the existence of God. It seems to me that you have repeatedly argued that nothing could be called good (even following the golden rule) if God didn’t exist, and all I’m doing is asking you to confirm this.”

    If we assume God isn’t part of the picture, can we then dispense with Satan also? If there is no Plan (but only randomness) and no expectation for something beyond this mortal life, then individual relative mores would be all that governed behavior… By our definition to this point – no, the notion of “good” or “evil” ceases to exist. With no “bad” or “good”, as characterized by Satan and God, would people behave well amongst themselves? I don’t know – I doubt it. The mismatches of purpose between two individuals would need to be resolved to the satisfaction of both. The problem exists that two opposite sets of mores would result in a deadlock. If we redefine “good”, then all we’ve accomplished is to change the rules. We haven’t solved the problem. And, the resolution to the problem is to manufacture a set of common mores – an absolute set – by which all disagreements would be resolved equitably. Doesn’t this point back to what the Bible was suggesting anyway?

    “I disagree. A completely selfish but philosophically rigorous witness might feel morally compelled to save the person (probably the child) who appears to be the most helpless because if he was helpless he would want someone to be morally required to save him. This isn’t obeying “treat others as you’d have them treat you,” it’s just being logically consistent.”

    Behaving daringly on behalf of another, with the expectation that someone *might* reciprocate in future, sounds like a weak basis for a life-and-death decision. The witness has no guarantee that someone will do similarly for them. I don’t think that people would voluntarily run the risk, unless there was a sense of reward to be gained.

    “You continue by adding the wrinkle that the witness knows there’s a good chance he might not survive the attempt and ask whether the attempt is worth making… I’d say that if the witness is moral and considers himself of prime importance, he would not go to great risk to save another, but he would also not blame another person who did not go to great risks to save him.”

    The “wrinkle” is a substantive issue. It would be the rare individual indeed who’d take such a risk. Emotions play a significant role in actions. Fear is an exceptionally strong emotion, and would dissuade many – the likelihood of the witness dying factors into this (and more so, if the witness expected nothing beyond his physical life here).

    “However, it might be a much less sad world if instead of three boys dying trying to face danger they were not prepared to handle, they went for help and increased the odds of everyone coming out alive.”

    …provided the time spent trying to locate satisfactory help came in time to save the friend. Not knowing the outcome of taking immediate action (weighed against a greater likelihood their friend would die before the help arrived) spurs many to believe the success is enhanced by not waiting – especially if the friend’s safety margin was measurably deteriorating with time. Since we cannot predict the future, we’re faced with acting based upon the information we now have. Sad is sad. The degree of it (by the loss of three lives) is no more lamentable than the loss of the one. They were motivated by love for their friend. I find that encouraging, when (by not displaying this trait) they point to a pointless life in a world without hope.

    “I asked about when you would consider someone who thought they were cooperating with God’s plan to be evil. You responded that humans are not evil but are weak and mislead by Satan. Specifically, you say that “The person who behaves badly, does so under influence.” Then why are people responsible to God for their actions?”

    A person who believes they’re cooperating with God’s plan must be actively involved in the study of His word. God is able to tell when a person is approaching Him with reservations, it cannot be hidden from Him (1 Sam 16). A person open to His teaching will have the Truth revealed to them. Those who require demonstration of His existence and abilities are testing Him, and that is viewed unfavorably (see Acts 15; Deut 6/Luke 4; Psalm 78)… Everyone with the ability to reason, and able to distinguish between right and wrong, has the option to choose in favor of one or the other. Allowing oneself to be influenced, and pursuing the inclination in question, leads one down a path to consequences. Rejecting the Satanic inclination will prevent a sin, and thereby demonstrate to God one’s voracity for believing in (and following) Him. The path is narrow which follows Him – many will be shocked at the results of their industry when they stand before judgment. You observe that there are many “Christians” with varying ideas of what God wants. I respond by saying that a label does not mean that all so identified have proper understanding. Seeking the Truth must be done without reservation – if it disagrees with one’s own notion, there is no debate. The Truth is what it is, and contradiction by one’s own biases don’t change it.

    “Finally, let me ask what I consider to be a “softball” question, but that should help me understand your position better: Considering the 9/11 terrorists, do you think they were morally wrong? Why?”

    Not having read the Koran, I cannot intelligently compare it to what the Imams are feeding their Moslem followers. Judging from what went on in Iraq, there’re quite a few Imams who hold vehement revulsion (if not outright hatred) for non-Moslems. If I had to rely on the comments from “moderate” Moslems, I’d say that the extremists were indeed militants looking for an excuse to wreak havoc on perceived enemies. However, the reluctance of the “moderate” Moslems to condemn their actions outright leads me to believe that the Koran is indeed leading many to use violence to achieve the end-state for which Islam looks – an all-Moslem world. A problem I have with Islam is that there is only one contributing author to the Koran’s contents. Another problem I have with Islam is that it views Allah as “master” and not a compassionate creator… Because I believe in a loving and compassionate God (who wants all to have the opportunity to join Him, when their earthly sojourn is finished), I have a different definition of “morals” than would the Moslem. My moral standard looks to treating everyone as if they’re fighting a tendency to act where the focus is “on the world” and not “on the goal”. Murder is against my standards. To me, they’re immoral – because they murder not only others, but themselves. To their own espoused values, they’re moral (only if the Koran fits the extremist viewpoint). Where we differ is who gets to pass judgment and inflict punishment – man or God.

    • Written by ideclare
      on September 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      “You posit that God’s viewpoint is an optimum viewpoint. Even if God exists, since we have no access to His viewpoint, it is of no use to us.”

      Your second sentence is where you’re incorrect – we’ve been given insight. We have a collection of references, provided by those with whom He communicated – both Old and New Testament.

      I can’t think of any scripture that discusses God’s viewpoint for the purposes of solving problems of physics. Since that is the topic I was discussing, I don’t see how your response is a counter to my point.

      [finding a way for all observers to agree that the clock was unmoving] is possible, but to provide an exhaustive list of steps to accomplish this exceeds the bounds of this forum’s venue. Suffice it to say that measurements of the blue and red shifts apparent in the galaxies surrounding us give a measure of the relative motion between them and our galaxy. With this set of measurements, we launch the platform at right angles to the plane of our galaxy (perhaps aligning it with the axis around which our galaxy rotates, so that effects are minimized), and look for zero closure motion between this galaxy and the clock. This is a simplistic version of what it could entail.

      It seems to me that you would just be defining such a clock as unmoving. Observers in other galaxies, for example, would not agree that it is motionless.

      If you read other portions of the Old Testament, the “blessing” which God provided to a faithful Hebrew nation included such things as: [list] … In the New Testament, Jesus was approached by a non-Hebrew woman, who touched the hem of His cloak believing that by so doing her excessive bleeding would heal (according to the account, it was). … Jesus had come to the Hebrews because they’d missed hearing part of the tasking God gave them about teaching others (being a nation of priests)

      That the new covenant (Jesus’) is open to all people does not imply that the covenant with the Hebrews was also open to all people. It seems that the first covenant was with Abraham’s descendents, people born in Abraham’s house, and people Abraham had purchased. Can you give me some Biblical support for your statement? We may be reading the same text differently.

      As for Egypt, we addressed this idea of leadership responsibility previously. Pharaoh, by virtue of his position, is the Egyptian spokesman. If he isn’t doing the proper job, then the people (who owe him allegiance, and are not rebelling against his errors) will receive the consequences of his wrong choices just as he will.

      I believe we were specifically discussing non-Hebrew slaves. If you are saying that slaves owe their owners allegiance, then I disagree.

      The Bible is not a strictly literal book – it says so itself. There’s a tremendous amount of symbology and analogy, to capture the lessons to be conveyed. The meanings, for many of these, are revealed to those readers who profess belief (see 1st Cor. 2). Logic and reason does not take a person to complete understanding – (1) the human is finite (the Truth is not), and (2) in our current physical state we do not easily appreciate that which we cannot experience directly.

      Would you agree that this potentially opens scripture to massive abuse from people who would misstate God’s intention but claim that they know the true meaning because they are believers? Would you also agree that this means that there is no way to convince non-believers that some of what you say about scripture is true?

      If you are arguing that some meaning is only revealed to readers who profess belief, would you agree that I can argue that some meaning may only be revealed to readers who do not profess belief? For example, I might argue that only someone who is emotionally invested in certain beliefs would find them in the Bible because those beliefs are objectively nowhere in the text.

      I, personally, ascribe to the miraculous/ supernatural because in the Genesis text, references “the Destroyer” as the agent of the plague. If you look into Isaiah 33:1, you’ll note a reference to this term, which sounds suspiciously like the prophet is referring to Satan.

      So far as I could find, the word in Exodus translated as “destroyer” appears in Isaiah only as a verb (forms of “to destroy”) and never referring to an individual. (It’s also not used to refer to an individual in Genesis, but I think you meant to say Exodus.)

      Would you agree that the Pharaohs were very meticulous about enshrining their own actions, and minimizing those of others ( to include Pharaohs who preceded them)? If so, would you expect the results of the plagues to be recorded by the Pharaoh facing them as a failing of his own abilities as a deity? You have to remember that Pharaoh (some think it Ramses II) was a very proud individual, and contested Moses’ claims. Who else, besides the Hebrews, would record these events in such a case?

      The Egyptians did record their failures, but often tried to “spin” them for reasons similar to those you mention. For example, online I found an Egyptian account of the Battle of Kadesh in which Ramses II is described as gloriously going into battle but then being captured by the enemy when his cowardly soldiers desert him. I recall also reading about Egyptian records in which retreats are described in “we meant to do that” fashion.

      I am not convinced that as big an event as multiple miraculous plagues culminating in copious simultaneous deaths and the leaving of hundreds of thousands of slaves would be ignored by Egyptian historians. In contrast, it seems to me that if Ramses wanted to maintain power, he’d have to make a big effort to make the people think this wasn’t his fault.

      Even so, I agree that this is just speculation.

      In reading different passages, if there seems to be no clear single interpretation, four things can be happening: (1) information is incomplete (possible, but not according to the source), (2) the reader hasn’t connected all the dots, (3) the version/interpretation being read has incorporated incorrect language or previous copies have been modified from the original Greek by incorporation of marginal notes made by translators (and were mistakenly included), or (4) concepts recorded made no sense to those receiving and recording them at that time but rather was meant for later generations…

      Can you explain #1 a little further? It seems to me that some parts of the Bible can only be true if they are incomplete. For example, I believe we have to assume that one of the lists of Jesus ancestors is missing some generations if we want to make it match the Hebrew Bible.

      I assume that your list of possibilities is from a theistic perspective. Obviously, an atheist or other non-believer might say there are other options.

      I am trying to look for inconsistencies in your reasoning (such as the tendency to prefer relative standards to absolute). Relative standards might work, if one didn’t have to deal with other people. Since, the world has 6+ billion (and still growing) that condition is unrealistic. A common set of values/ rules/ morals ensures that everyone can be treated equally – that points to absolutes. I cannot believe that relative standards will work, because they’d have to be revised and renegotiated with each new person with whom contact is established – the permutations (suggested by the world’s population) to home in on a common understanding would inundate anyone’s personal time to the exclusion of any other activity.

      I agree that we should find as many absolute standards as possible, but people are so varied that I don’t think there are many. I argue that what we need are standards of moral thinking, not moral rules. This helps everyone be treated fairly while accounting for personal/cultural differences.

      It is my experience that even Christians who say that they have a broad set of absolute moral rules quickly become relativist when asked about specific situations. (Note that I’m not saying you do this.)

      Why doesn’t #2 agree with the OT?

      For exactly the reason I stated: The OT appears to say that it is moral for Hebrews to kill someone because of that person’s religious beliefs, but it is immoral for a Hebrew to be killed because of the Hebrew’s religious beliefs. This is a violation of Q2.

      If people are generating their own moral criteria, the likelihood of the problem you cite is pretty good – isn’t it (with that 6+ billion people capable of contributing to it)? Shouldn’t this be an impetus to seek out a set of morals which permit everyone to live without fear of molestation, and encourage a neighbor to be helpful? Do we have to generate an entirely new unique set? Or, is there a set which can do the job, right now?

      I’d say that what we need is to convince people that they should behave in a rational, moral manner. If we did that, then we wouldn’t have significant moral problems (and, I argue, would live free of molestation with neighbors encouraged to be helpful). On the other hand, if we try to get everyone to obey one set of rules, we have to change any culture that does not fit well with those rules. That’s a lot of extra work, and, in my mind, may doom the whole process to failure.

      Imagine how much work it would take just to convince everyone in the world to agree what animals it is moral to eat (chimps, dogs, etc.) or how much of a woman’s chest can be revealed in public. My system handles such situations fairly painlessly.

      Behaving daringly on behalf of another, with the expectation that someone *might* reciprocate in future, sounds like a weak basis for a life-and-death decision. The witness has no guarantee that someone will do similarly for them. I don’t think that people would voluntarily run the risk, unless there was a sense of reward to be gained.

      The expectation isn’t that others might reciprocate in the future; the expectation is that others must reciprocate in the future (because they are morally compelled to do so). And there is a reward to be gained — a world in which someone will come to your aid if you are in need.

      This is one place where I find I often disagree with Christians. I say that a moral person is compelled to either help others or never expect help from others. Christians generally say that they would only help others because they expected to be rewarded or because if they don’t they expect to be punished (by God in both cases).

      The “wrinkle” is a substantive issue. It would be the rare individual indeed who’d take such a risk. Emotions play a significant role in actions. Fear is an exceptionally strong emotion, and would dissuade many – the likelihood of the witness dying factors into this (and more so, if the witness expected nothing beyond his physical life here).

      I agree. That’s why someone who goes to a great risk to help another is a hero. I don’t think that heroics are morally required.

      A person open to His teaching will have the Truth revealed to them. … Everyone with the ability to reason, and able to distinguish between right and wrong, has the option to choose in favor of one or the other.

      Do people who have not studied scripture have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong? From what you are saying, it sounds like they do not (because the truth has not been revealed to them).

      I asked, “Considering the 9/11 terrorists, do you think they were morally wrong? Why?”

      You answered (in part):

      Because I believe in a loving and compassionate God (who wants all to have the opportunity to join Him, when their earthly sojourn is finished), I have a different definition of “morals” than would the Moslem. My moral standard looks to treating everyone as if they’re fighting a tendency to act where the focus is “on the world” and not “on the goal”. Murder is against my standards. To me, they’re immoral – because they murder not only others, but themselves. To their own espoused values, they’re moral (only if the Koran fits the extremist viewpoint). Where we differ is who gets to pass judgment and inflict punishment – man or God.

      Although I understand what you say here, I’m having a hard fitting it in with our earlier conversation. To this point, I thought you tied moral/immoral with good/evil, meaning that only good people were moral. You also said that the only standard of good was following God’s plan. Now you seem to be saying that one can be moral in the sense of following a moral system, even if that moral system is bad (I agree with this).

      I also do not understand what you mean when you say they’re immoral because they murdered others as well as themselves. I assume you do not believe that killing yourself in order to kill God’s enemies is immoral, since in Judges Samson does not seem to be condemned for doing just that. While I agree that the 9/11 terrorists were murderers, I’d say they were murderers no matter what they thought God wanted. How can you say they were murderers if they thought they were following God’s plan? Shouldn’t you just be saying that they were mistaken about what God’s plan is?

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