Monday, January 16, 2006

Where's the Justice?

“God is Just.” We see that phrase often in theistic debates. I used it myself for more years than I care to remember. Yet for all that time, I never thought about the actual implications of such a statement. This is potentially more embarrassing for me, as I work within a system we call “justice” and I should have known better.

“Justice” is not that complicated of a word. It means conforming to or consonant with what is legal or lawful; legally right; lawful. It is equally easy to apply—read the law, review the situation, and determine a yes/no answer—does it conform to the law?

A city may enact an ordinance that states all business signs must be 1.5 meters by 1 meter or smaller, and any person that sets up a sign larger than that is guilty of a misdemeanor. In this simple example, justice is easy to determine. The owner that erects a 1.5 x 1 Meter sign is not guilty. The owner that erects a 1.51 x 1 Meter sign is. Even if it is only 1 millimeter more, in conformance with the law, the owner has violated the ordinance.

Justice is harsh. It does not forgive mistakes or ignorance or consider “extenuating circumstances.” It is always a yes/no proposition. (You may wonder why the legal system can get so complicated then. While we know the law, applying facts to that law can get tricky. What action is “pre-meditated”? What is “reasonable”? Many laws, aware of the stringent requirements of justice, deliberately leave flexibility within the law itself to allow for varying circumstances. Hence high-priced attorneys.)

If Peoria requires $5 for a dog license, and East Peoria, one block over, requires $500 for a dog license, “justice” does not address the issue of disparity. Justice requires that your neighbor, across the street, pay 100 times more for owning a dog. While enacting the laws, we hope the legislatures consider all circumstances, but once enacted, Justice has nothing to do with being fair. It doesn’t care. All it states is, “Here is my law. Conform or pay the consequences.”

If there is no law, there is no need to discuss justice. If our city had never enacted an ordinance regarding signs, the owner could install a 1.5 x 1 Meter sign, or a 12 x 12 Meter sign. There is no such thing as a sign “in conformance” or “not in conformance” with the law as there is no law. We would not even use the word “Justice” in that situation because it has no meaning.

Ahh. The problem. If God is just, that means he is acting in conformance with a law. What law? Where can I look to see that “O.K., this is the law; let’s see how God does”? There is no golden cornerstone in the universe in which we can peer through a telescope and review the base law by which God is bound.

In fact, the word “just” implies, by definition, actions that are unjust. Not in conformance with the law. I ask theists, “What action of God would violate this law to which He is conforming?” Not knowing the law, there is no possible way to answer. You see, we need to have the law FIRST, before we can even start discussing whether an action of God is just or not.

One of the first replies is that God is bound by His nature. So His “nature” is the law by which he is just. Upon inspection, this renders the word “just” as meaningless. God can change His nature at whim and fancy, and, by this defense, be just. In fact, it is impossible for God to EVER be unjust, as whatever He regards to do, at that moment, can conform to His nature, and be, “Just.”

If our town enacts a law that a person can put up a sign of any size, it is impossible for anyone to NOT conform to that law. The law is meaningless. 12 x 12 Meter sign is just. No sign is just. A 1 Kilometer by 1 Kilometer sign is just. Is this what the theist intends to say—that all actions of God, whether murder or resurrection are “just.”? If so—who cares? It is not to God’s credit, as we become merely playthings to His whim.

Again, we cannot inspect His “nature” to even see if God is conforming to that! It is a complete unknown. At this point, I am informed that He is bound by Truth. (Which is fascinating, as there is no external parameter in which to confirm or deny this claim.) And I ask, “Can God lie?”

On occasion, in divorce matters, a husband will tell me, “Ask her if she is having an affair.” I explain to the husband if he has any facts to support this claim. “No.” Then I don’t ask the question, as it doesn’t gain us any facts! (And often hurts our position.) See, I will ask the question, “Are you having an affair?” If she isn’t—she will say, “No.” If she is—she will say “No.” Same question, same answer—two completely different truths. But in either case, I haven’t learned anything new.

“God, can you lie?” If He is bound by a truthful nature, he must answer “No.” If he is NOT bound by truth, then he is free to answer anything. Including, “No.” I asked the same question, got the same answer, and still don’t know whether God is bound by a truthful or not. And if He is not bound by truth, then anything else said about His nature, and being bound to it, and whether it is a law, and whether he is being just, is pure speculation.

This brushes on the Euthyphro dilemma. Is it a law because God does it, or does God do it because it is a law? In other words, is there a higher law or concept or ideal that God is bound by, and cannot violate, or is God free to do what He chooses, and whatever he does becomes a law? In the former we can discuss “justice” in the latter, it is a meaningless word. But in the former, we must admit we have no clue, and no way of ascertaining what that law is.

Another common response is that God’s justice is not like our justice. If we are going to discuss theism, and its implications, we must use common language to understand these concepts, or it becomes absurd babble. I read a great synopsis of this problem:

Theist: God is square.
Skeptic: So God has four sides and four right angles?
Theist: No. God’s squareness is not like our squareness.
Skeptic: Then what meaning is there in calling God “square”?

If it is claimed that God’s justice is different somehow, then we can equally claim that His truthfulness is different, His mercy is different, His concept of moral/immoral is different. Shoot, he is so different; we may as well toss every word in Language, as it does not apply to God. We can’t even say He “exists” because his “existence” doesn’t mean what we think it means—that He is real.

So why do theists say, “God is just”? Because when faced with a difficult question, in which they have no real answer either, it sounds very important, and full of wisdom to nod one’s head and stroke one’s chin and say, “Ahhhh. But God is Just.” This provides all sorts of justification (pun intended) for all sorts of sticky situations.

“Why did God order genocide of the Canaanites?” (Deut. 7:2)
“Because He is just.”

“Why did God order the killing of baby boys?” (Numbers 31)
“Because it was justice to do so.”

“Why did God kill innocent Egyptian Children?” (Exodus 11)
“Because His Justice requires it.”

“Why did God commute David’s sin, but then kill David’s baby?” (2 Sam. 12:13-14)
“Because His Justice allows it.”

“How can God send People to the Lake of Fire who have never heard of Jesus?”
“Because His Justice Demands it.”

See how neat that is? No one can tell me what law God seems to be following, or what he could do to not follow that law, but by creating a “God is Just” box, the theist can toss aside these difficult dilemmas with a dignified statement that doesn’t answer the question, but provides an answer the theist can live with in their own rationalization.

When faced with this statement, ask: “What is this law God is conforming to, where can I find it, how can I independently verify He is conforming, and if God is unjust, how would we know?” Even more importantly, if God was unjust, what could we do about it? There is no higher authority to which we can appeal, saying, “Ah. Ah. Ah. God didn’t follow the law.”

17 comments:

  1. The problem is that god, in the minds of the theists, IS law. The law, "good" in the case, is determined by whatever it is that god does. The concept of a law separate from god is foreign, and therefore lost, to the theist. Great question though.

    Awesome blog, and from a fellow Michigander to boot. Welcome to the Blogosphere!

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  2. Hey, I'm glad to see you started blogging. It's pretty interesting. I hope my comments are welcomed.

    As I read this post it occurred to me that what you were railing against (you called it 'theism') seems to be a great description of what I understand to be the case in Islam's theology of Allah.

    In Islam, Allah does define right and wrong arbitrarily. And that's the root of the problem.

    You seem to be very knowledgeable about Christian theology, but you are either knowledgeable of a poor form of Christianity or purposely using strawmen.

    Now the points you bring up are very important and even valid arguments if they were describing true Christian theology/philosophy.

    I'll only focus on one thing here:

    One of the first replies is that God is bound by His nature. So His “nature” is the law by which he is just. Upon inspection, this renders the word “just” as meaningless. God can change His nature at whim and fancy, and, by this defense, be just. In fact, it is impossible for God to EVER be unjust, as whatever He regards to do, at that moment, can conform to His nature, and be, “Just.”

    The problem here is that according to Christian philosophy, God's law emanates from His nature and therefore cannot change and is not arbitrary.
    You make the mistake of saying that God can change His nature, but the doctrine of immutability makes this impossible for Him. We could make a list of the things impossible for God and talk about how these do not negate omnipotence but I don't know if you struggle with that point.

    Saying this, then, your argument that the word "just" is meaningless, has just been answered. God cannot change the meaning of "just" and to top it all off, to a large extent we can confirm this via our own moral intuitions.

    You used the example of two ordinances on dog ownership. Across the street it becomes 100 times more expensive to own a dog. You said that this is "just" according to the law but there is a problem of disparity.

    What you've done is appealed to a moral intuition. What is 'disparity' if not some form of injustice? So your statement of disparity fails because it appeals to a higher law than the one written in to the statues!

    Let's say that Royal Oak enacts a law that refuses to issue building permits to homosexuals. According to your philosophy, "just" is defined by our arbitrarily written laws such that this law becomes defacto "justice".

    So without this moral intuition (consider Plato's 'shadows') you have a bigger problem than the one you attack theism of having.

    Oh, and on to how we can objectively come to know what God's law is...You won't like the answer, but I agree with you. Aside from a few simple ones we can discern from logic and intuition we cannot know much of God's law short of it being revealed to us by Himself. So yes, we believe what the Bible teaches us about His nature and His law. But this is not irrational if we have good evidence to believe this revelation is actually from Him. That's food for another discussion.

    Regards.

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  3. Jeff, of COURSE your comments are welcome. I thought that is part of blogging. I alternate between “Christianity” and “Theism.” Yes, I know I shouldn’t, but I have found that using the term “Christian” does not give enough affirmative definition to make a determination. Baptists say Catholics are not Christians. Catholics say Mormons are not Christians. Rather than get in a bicker over who is a Christian or “true” Christian, I sometimes interchange “theism.”

    You may have to excuse a strawman or two. See, I have been debating theists for two years. Some tell me one thing. Some tell me another. If you guys could all get together and agree, I would promise to not use a variety of examples. :) Some are literalists, some allegorists, some inerrantists, some trinity, some this Holy writing, some that holy writing. You all can’t even agree on what, exactly “inspiration” entails, let alone what is or is not.

    I do not intentionally create strawmen to burn them down. But I can tell you that I have addressed every one of these objections in this topic on enough occasions to know that numerous people DO hold to these positions. And don’t forget—your “poor form of Christianity” is another person’s lifelong belief!

    Jeff: …, God's law emanates from His nature and therefore cannot change and is not arbitrary. Nicely asserted. Unfortunately, just as the original blog indicated, impossible for you to prove, true? You may assume the doctrine of immutability, but you have NO outside vectors to verify it. However, we do know that OUR natures can change. Can the created be more than the creator? If not, then God’s nature would also have to have the ability to change. On another comment you indicated that it was possible man was patterned after God. If you hold to that position, that would entail that man’s nature to change is also patterned after God.

    There is more… We have instances of God changing his mind, true? Nineveh? Hezekiah’s death? Leading out the people in Exodus? Appointing Saul? Regret at the time of Noah? Jesus is persuaded by the persistent woman?

    With the inability to prove your assertion, the fact that we can change our nature, and the instances of God changing his mind, I find your premise of “doctrine of immutability” merely a dodge to avoid an arbitrary God. What would happen, Jeff, if God did change his nature? 1) How would you know? And 2) How could you enforce it not happening? Is the “doctrine of immutability” a greater law than God?

    As to “omnipotence” I don’t use that word. I prefer “all-powerful.” I am not going to get into square circles, or married bachelors, or rocks he can’t lift. (yawn.) I think we can both agree that the concept of God is one of an entity that is so powerful that saying “all-powerful” is comprehensive enough.

    Question, Jeff. What could God do that is unjust and why is it unjust?

    No, “disparity” has nothing to do with justice. You are confusing “justice” and fairness. It is common to do. We do it colloquially, but it is not actually correct. There is no “higher law” than the statutes. As humans, we like to think there is, but in dealing with justice, there is not. “That’s not fair” you may hear. True, but it is still just. Royal Oak’s laws regarding homosexuality may not be fair, it may not be moral, it may be repugnant. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with being Just. Justice mandates one follows the law. We may try and set aside the law, or change it through the legislature. But that is our course, not to willfully disobey the law, and complain about the injustice of justice.

    Where did I ever claim that “moral intuition” has anything whatsoever to do with Justice? I, personally, do not like speed limits. But if the officer pulls me over, and issues me a ticket, it is as just at can be.

    What laws of God are determined by intuition, and by what method do we determine who is correct in the event of conflicting intuition?

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  4. Chad, very true. I wish there was some way to have it click that by integrating the law as one with God, there is no such thing as “justice” as “injustice” is thereby eliminated.

    It is the same as having a dictator that makes one law: Whatever he says or did is law. If he kills his wife, it is legal. If he eats eggs, it is legal. If he coughs, it is legal. There is NOTHING the dictator can do that is illegal. There is no possible way for him to perform an unjust act. Equally, therefore, there is no possible way for him to be credited for performing a just act either. While each act is technically “just,” to claim it as any limitation or excuse is ridiculous. One may as well rip the word “just” right out of the dictionary as having any valid meaning.

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  5. This is a great blog! I'm definitely adding it to my links. I myself am a former Christian turned Atheist.

    The big turning point was when I learned Science attributed nothing to God, and I realized God only exists in faith, not reason. At best, we can only reason that God could exist, not that he does exist. And if God might exist, then why does he do things the way he does? And given that, we are always told, you're just not smart enough to figure it out. But if that's true, and if something is more rational for God than it is for us, then one must wonder if we even have the consciousness and presence of mind to even aknowledge his existence to begin with!

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  6. dagoods, remember our opening salvo? You protested that for a Christian to call Islam foolish would be hypocrisy. The point being that both religions contain claims of the supernatural and, to the outside observer, silly observances and commemorations.

    Well, perhaps we've come full circle. Your primary beef with theism in this post is that if justice is rooted in an arbitrary law of God that the concept of justice is null and void.

    Well, if your assertion is correct then justice is rooted in an arbitrary law of society. To compound the matter it's even arbitrary relative to locale since there are different jurisdiction making sometimes conflicting laws. This renders the concept of justice null and void in your own economy.

    Also, I'm all for distinctions. I'm very open to discussing the distinctions between justice and fairness and disparity...but I don't yet see the distinction. When you assert that a law is immoral, how do you justify that view? What makes it immoral?

    Now you claimed I was making an unsupportable assertion. Well, perhaps you are right in a sense. When I assert attributes of God, these doctrines are revealed truths. Since you deny the possibility that God has revealed himself to mankind, then you would naturally disregard these assertions.

    Then you go on trying to use Scriptural examples to attack God's character. Where will that go? If I offer a reasonable explanation to those objections you won't accept them because you won't accept the possibility that the Bible is authoritative (although it's 'authoritative' enough for you to use counter examples from it). I don't know which way you want it...use the Bible or not?

    And as for the different stripes of Christian's you've found out there...that's not my problem and I don't have to answer to them.

    Shall I criticize you based on the ideas held by other atheists I've met?

    As for laws that can be determined by moral intuition; I'll try to leave you with the biggest no-brainer...torturing infants for fun is objectively immoral.

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  7. Jeff, I missed an answer to my question. Can God do an unjust act? And whether he could or could not, what would one look like? And what is the difference between objectively immoral and subjectively immoral? And where is it written that morals must be objective? Or is that another one of God’s laws that everybody asserts, but no one can prove?

    Why are human laws arbitrary? If you desire, you can research the investigation behind the proposed law, the reason the law was initially proposed, the modifications, the reason for the modification the discussion, and the eventual enactment. Further, the laws can be subsequently modified, depending on needs, or advancements, or even recognition that the law did not suit the desired needs of its original purpose.

    Can we do that with God’s law? Does polygamy violate God’s law? If so, when did that get enacted and why. How about eating Bacon? Can you give the legislative history on that? See, its not that arbitrariness that is the problem, it is the lack of ability to verify.

    If I want to know what the speed limit is on First Street in Baton Rouge, given enough time or material, I can ascertain that information. If I want God’s law regarding the length of a man’s hair, no matter how much time and material given, I cannot verify that. There is no way to verify if God is following a law, His nature or nothing at all. THAT is what makes it arbitrary.

    You don’t see the distinction between “justice” and “fair.”? Would you, then, agree that God is Fair? And “fair” by whose standards? I often see children complain “that’s not FAIR” but each child has a far different idea of what “fair” is. So if God kills you for my sin, you would agree that is fair? More on this in a minute.

    When did I assert a law is “immoral”? I don’t recall doing that.

    Jeff: Then you go on trying to use Scriptural examples to attack God's character. … I don't know which way you want it...use the Bible or not? Wait a minute. Aren’t you the one that said: So yes, we believe what the Bible teaches us about His nature and His law. in the very first comment on this post? After you tell me to look at the Bible to find His nature and His law, aren’t I supposed to?

    It is not that I hold it as authoritative, it is that you do. And if you do, I am entitled to look at your authority and see if it holds water. If you want to claim someone is an expert, I may not agree with that assessment, but I can sure look at their credentials and see. You want me to look at the Bible so I did. (I secretly think Christians don’t want me to look at the Bible because I often know it almost as well as they do. I know both the good and the bad, and they prefer not to talk about the bad.)

    I am sure you can offer a “reasonable explanation.” Peter Kirby once said, very eloquently: Any idiot can give an answer. An explanation is not much better. Even my 8 year-old son figured out how to give an explanation for the broken lamp that did not involve his throwing a ball in the house. But giving out an argument with proofs—that takes hard work, study and careful examination. Most people choose to do an explanation as easier.

    I found your law by “moral intuition” very fascinating. “Torturing infants for fun is objectively immoral.” For me, personally, I would shorten it to “Torturing infants is immoral.” Did you make it longer to absolve your God of duty for when He tortured an infant?

    This is a good experiment—perhaps you can explain how God is Just in the following example. What law (arbitrary or otherwise) is He following?

    David kills Uriah the Hittite and commits adultery. 2 Sam. 12:9. Now killing a Hittite was not a crime (Deut 7:1 but compare 1 Kings 15:5) but adultery certainly was. (Lev 20:10) And a capital offense. So under God’s law (via Moses) adultery is punishable by death. David must die. So God (being Just) kills David, right? Nope, he commutes (reduces) his sentence from death to adversity! 2 Sam. 12:11. Jeff, what other sentences can God commute (presumably out of mercy) and to what degree. Can God commute a sentence to the Lake of Fire to just a purgatory? Why or why not? Oh, that’s right. We can’t verify God’s law!

    But wait. There’s more. David whines. 2 Sam 12:13. What does God do next? He “puts away David’s sin.” He pardons David! What law gives Him the ability to pardon? If he could pardon for a capital offense, why not for all sin, and do away with atonement altogether?

    Now. David sinned. God pardoned him. Odd, questionable, but we are done, right? Oh, no, YOU know where this heads, don’t you. God then decides to kill a baby. Did the baby sin? Nope. Did daddy sin? Nope. (God just pardoned David, remember?) At this point, we have no sin, yet God decides a baby must die. 2 Sam. 12:14

    As horrid as that is, we can at least hope that God would be merciful enough with a baby (he was with David) to administer the punishment and do it quickly. Right? RIGHT? Oh no, not this “Just” God. He (being God) “strikes” the baby and it becomes ill. It takes seven days for that baby to die! 2 Sam. 12: 15-18.

    Can you explain “God is Just” in light of David committing a capital crime, God pardoning it, but then deciding to kill a baby by letting it be ill for seven days?

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  8. Dagoods, I can attempt to study the issues you bring up and offer up a viable theological answer that should resolve the issues but it would be a waste of my time I think...this because you will not accept any revealed doctrines from Scripture since they are not objectively verifiable (from an outside source).

    If that's your epistemology then fine. But if so, why waste everyone's time by asking us to make an argument you know you won't accept? Because our epistemology is different, that argument does satisfy us so in the end you don't have hope of changing our minds by the exercise either.

    There is no logical contradiction in positing that God revealed Himself through Scripture and that these revealed truths may not be verifiable via other avenues of investigation. All we can hope to do is rule out there being any logical contradictions inherent.

    And the fact is that philosophers have been haggling over this for years and pretty much agree that there are no logical contradictions in supernaturalism, theism, or Christianity.

    Take atheistic philosopher Antony Flew. I've heard him publically state that Christianity is the one possibly true religion; that there is nothing irrational about it.

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  9. Hey, Jeff. You aren’t avoiding my question(s) again, are you? Can God do an unjust act? And whether he could or could not, what would one look like? And what is the difference between objectively immoral and subjectively immoral? And where is it written that morals must be objective? Or is that another one of God’s laws that everybody asserts, but no one can prove? In case you forgot.

    What’s this? “I have a great argument against your position, but you won’t buy it, so I won’t bother.” This is a fairly tired response from Christians. If I accused Jesus of killing a baby, would you say, “I have a great argument against this, but you won’t buy it, so I won’t bother.” I would think most certainly not. You would be all over me, demanding I provide proof of this claim, reviewing what I had, questioning my conclusions. Presenting proof of your own.

    I give a fairly detailed analysis of God and a baby. (I have other instances, but let’s stick with one, shall we?) I read it right from the Bible. I gave the verses. Ever single person that reads this comment can go look them up themselves. If my reading is incorrect, I am sure you would be the first to point out any errors on my part. Instead I hear, “I have a great argument, but I’m not sharing it with you.” You do know this looks like a cop-out?

    Paul told me that he was surprised the pastors at my church were not equipped to handle me. I would think that you can start to see I am quite a bit to handle! :) I don’t mean to be, I just ask difficult questions.

    If you have no argument against this reading, I understand. I found it to be a difficult situation myself. (‘Course if you review the archeological evidence for a King David, you may find an allegorical explanation is the most prudent route.)

    … why waste everyone's time by asking us to make an argument you know you won't accept? Maybe it is an argument I (or others) haven’t heard? You don’t HAVE to provide any argument, you know. Last I saw, the ‘net was on open environment. No body is forcing you to respond. Your input is very welcome, of course, but wouldn’t the time be better spent actually presenting the argument, than worrying about its effectiveness?

    … so in the end you don't have hope of changing our minds by the exercise either. I know quite a few minds who have been changed “by the exercise.” Past experience gives me hope for future repetitions. Others were kind enough to address me with these questions, and provide me an opportunity to stretch my mental legs. It would be a disservice to not do likewise.

    Granted, I personally, have deconverted exactly 0 people. But I have made a few think. ;)

    … There is no logical contradiction in positing that God revealed Himself through Scripture and that these revealed truths may not be verifiable via other avenues of investigation. True enough. But first you have to develop a methodology to demonstrate what words are “God revealed” and what ones are not. A difficult proposition, at best. Secondly, if your particular scripture provides truths that are verified as false through other avenues of investigation, then you have a contradiction (logical or otherwise) as to the veracity of those Scriptures. The whole statement, though, as you phrased it could still be true. It is just that God would be lying to us.

    When you use the word “Scripture” in that sentence, can I substitute “Tanakh,” “Catholic Bible,” “Protestant Bible,” “Jefferson Bible,” “Marcion Bible,” “Book of Mormon,” “Qur’an,” “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” and it still hold true? So how do we pick which one is “God-revealed” or are all of them?

    … philosophers have been haggling over this for years and pretty much agree that there are no logical contradictions in supernaturalism, theism, or Christianity. Not what I’ve seen, but I will pay this game. Scientists have haggled for years and universally agree (with a extreme minority position that possibly dissents) that evolution is a valid, factual theory. Do you hold to the theory of evolution? See how non-compelling this argument is? And that is philosophy, not factual data, a more observable medium.

    Take atheistic philosopher Antony Flew… Ha Ha Ha. You can have him. Fellow goes deistic (vehemently against a personal god, specifically the God of Christianity) based upon the arguments of intelligent design. Now recognizes that those arguments are false, and he was misinformed, but dogmatically holds to the position of deism.

    If you want to use a person that dogmatically holds to a position that he admits is contrary to the facts of universe, go right ahead.

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  10. You are right that I've taken my prerogative to not answer your challenges. Since you admitted that I have the right to, how can you justify the term 'cop out'?

    There are a few simple reasons:

    1) In many cases the burden of proof lies with you. You are claiming that doctrine X, or observation Y prove that God isn't real. This without valid logical argumentation. So responding isn't necessary. I point this out (in the post above this), and you call it hyperbole on my part.

    2) Earlier and repeatedly, you assert that the Bible is not a reasonable authority on Christian doctrine. So when asked to give an accounting for a certain Biblical account, I find it fruitless. This problem could be resolved easily by you first committing to the rules of the exchange. Since you are claiming a point of internal contradiction in the teachings of the Bible, consider your challenge answered when I demonstrate a viable interpretation that resolves the apparent contradiction. This means that just offering a viable solution is success.
    The only standard that I must be held to in doing this is to avoid violating the rules of Biblical hermeneutics...no fair launching in to a counter attack that finds some sect or cult that sees it differently.

    3) You take the shotgun approach. Throw out 2000 words and 17 separate attacks and consider yourself victorious if I don't answer each one. Do you have the discipline to confine each exchange to one particular issue? Perhaps saving all tangential ones for later?

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  11. Jeff, it is a cop-out because you can’t answer the questions. I know. I was faced with some of the same difficult questions myself. You are correct, you have the choice (ain’t life grand?) to not answer my questions. I, though, also have the choice to point out I have asked the same question three times, and you have veered away from it three times. Remember our impartial jury.

    1) In many cases the burden of proof lies with you. Let you in on a secret. Often in internet debating, on theism, I see, “You have the burden of proof.” “No, YOU have the burden of proof.” Me? I absolutely, positively LOVE the burden of proof. Give it to me. Give it to me every time. I revel in it.

    I have laid out the definition of “just.” No one disagrees with it. I have indicated that we cannot know any law that God is or is not abiding. I have laid out the proofs. No one seems to disagree with it. I have put forth, based on those facts, that we cannot say, “God is Just.” They may disagree but no one can show why.

    It is the reason you have not been able to answer my questions. Give me the burden of proof. I will lay it out, and ask you to respond. An inability to respond is very indicative.

    Earlier and repeatedly, you assert that the Bible is not a reasonable authority on Christian doctrine. Where in the blue blazes have I ever, EVER said that? If I have (and I defy you to find it) I immediately recant that. I have always stated that the Bible is a reasonable authority on Christian Doctrine. In fact, if I am looking for Christian doctrine, it is the first place I would look. I would look to other sources as well, of course, but must always start with the Bible.

    I am not sure how this point is not clear. I will try it a different way. If you tell me that your mathematics are based on Euclidean geometry, I will look at the basis of that geometry and see if it is consistent. If you say to find God, I should look at (as one source) the Bible, I will look. If what I see in the Bible contradicts your premise I will point it out. If you say parallel lines intersect, I will look at your Euclidean geometry, and see if it aligns.

    You have spent more words and time avoiding answering this David’s child dilemma, than just answering it. when I demonstrate a viable interpretation that resolves the apparent contradiction. This means that just offering a viable solution is success. I have never understood this. I am told in one breath that the Bible is the most unique book in the world, and the sole written creation of the highest intellect, and then in the next breath I am told to hold it to the lowest possible standard imaginable—“any explanation.” Using “any” explanation, you realize that this resolves every contradiction in the Qur’an. In the Book of Mormon. In the Yellow pages. In “Back to the Future” and the “Terminator” series.

    In fact, this standard makes every book just as unique as the Bible, in that every book can equally be non-contradictory by “any” explanation. In other words, not unique at all.

    If you are willing to accept the standard of resolving contractions by “any” explanation for every other book, then I will be as well. But we just lost the ability to differentiate the Bible in any reasonable way.

    You take the shotgun approach. Throw out 2000 words and 17 separate attacks and consider yourself victorious if I don't answer each one. Do you have the discipline to confine each exchange to one particular issue? Perhaps saving all tangential ones for later? Nope. No discipline at all. I know how apologetics works. Take each issue, break it down to itty-bitty pieces. Show how each itty-bitty piece is possible (maybe not plausible) but avoid the fact that in looking at the big picture, the whole thing falls apart.

    “Tab A could fit in Slot B in these bizarre circumstances. And Slot B might be on part C in this unique situation. And Part C, perhaps was made by Company D if these things all feel into place.” But if we look at the whole thing it never makes sense.

    “Shotgun”? Roflol! My dear Jeff, you have no idea. You haven’t even remotely seen a shotgun. You have been brushed by a few bullets. We haven’t begun to discuss inspiration, authenticity, literary criticism, canon, historicity of Jesus, evolution, various problems of deism/theism, etc. I have handfuls of shells I haven’t loaded yet!

    This is exactly why you don’t give me the Burden of Proof. That is what I will do, throw out 17 “attacks” and if they can’t respond, then it is demonstrative of the problem. And I have 17 more, just waiting.

    On a side note, I was a Christian for 32 years. Think about that. Do you honestly think I threw that away on a question of God’s Justice or Love? These were just a few of the plethora of problems that Christianity presents.

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  12. I'm not trying to deny you the right to build a case based on the body of evidence. That's fine. We don't really have room in a blog, or any internet forum (or perhaps just in my personal schedule) to hold a totally holistic debate like that.

    I won't dodge a single question if you keep the issue focused. Bring on just one. Please do me the courtesy of repeating yourself so that I don't have to pour exhaustively over previous text. :)

    A little clarification here:

    When you claim there is a logical contradiction it is sufficient to show that assertion to be false. It's not, at that point, an argument of plausibility.

    However when debating an alleged logical contradiction of Christian theology, there IS the added burden of showing that the answer to that charge is also consistent with Biblical theology. Hence you are right that we cannot just stop at answering the contradiction in a philosophical sense.

    But I prefer to take such issues as 2 separate topics. This because I expect there to be more resistence from you on the Biblical arguments. I sense (from previous comments) that you want to use the fact of theological disagreement as a defeater for Biblical authority.

    I'm not sure what you meant in your paragraph about holding Scripture to the lowest standard. I suspect you misunderstand my position.

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  13. Jeff, thank you for your response. Unfortunately, I never have just one issue. These areas spill over into other areas, and create other questions. I understand why theists desire only one issue. One issue at a time they can answer. The next issue, they can state the exact opposite, but as long as we are at one issue at a time, I can’t point out the contradiction of the last issue.

    Sorry, I don’t play that game. You want just one question? Why? Can’t your God give you more information than just for one question? These are common questions, Jeff. If you have any debates with atheists, these should have been addressed by you long ago.

    One question? You pick. Rather than exhaust your scrolling technique, I’ll give you the list:
    , if God did change his nature? 1) How would you know? And 2) How could you enforce it not happening? Is the “doctrine of immutability” a greater law than God?

    Question, Jeff. What could God do that is unjust and why is it unjust?

    What laws of God are determined by intuition, and by what method do we determine who is correct in the event of conflicting intuition?

    Can God do an unjust act? And whether he could or could not, what would one look like? And what is the difference between objectively immoral and subjectively immoral? And where is it written that morals must be objective? Or is that another one of God’s laws that everybody asserts, but no one can prove?

    Why are human laws arbitrary? If you desire, you can research the investigation behind the proposed law, the reason the law was initially proposed, the modifications, the reason for the modification the discussion, and the eventual enactment. Further, the laws can be subsequently modified, depending on needs, or advancements, or even recognition that the law did not suit the desired needs of its original purpose.

    Can we do that with God’s law? Does polygamy violate God’s law? If so, when did that get enacted and why. How about eating Bacon? Can you give the legislative history on that?

    You don’t see the distinction between “justice” and “fair.”? Would you, then, agree that God is Fair? And “fair” by whose standards? I often see children complain “that’s not FAIR” but each child has a far different idea of what “fair” is. So if God kills you for my sin, you would agree that is fair? More on this in a minute.

    When did I assert a law is “immoral”? I don’t recall doing that.

    This is a good experiment—perhaps you can explain how God is Just in the following example. What law (arbitrary or otherwise) is He following?

    David kills Uriah the Hittite and commits adultery. 2 Sam. 12:9. Now killing a Hittite was not a crime (Deut 7:1 but compare 1 Kings 15:5) but adultery certainly was. (Lev 20:10) And a capital offense. So under God’s law (via Moses) adultery is punishable by death. David must die. So God (being Just) kills David, right? Nope, he commutes (reduces) his sentence from death to adversity! 2 Sam. 12:11. Jeff, what other sentences can God commute (presumably out of mercy) and to what degree. Can God commute a sentence to the Lake of Fire to just a purgatory? Why or why not? Oh, that’s right. We can’t verify God’s law!

    But wait. There’s more. David whines. 2 Sam 12:13. What does God do next? He “puts away David’s sin.” He pardons David! What law gives Him the ability to pardon? If he could pardon for a capital offense, why not for all sin, and do away with atonement altogether?

    Now. David sinned. God pardoned him. Odd, questionable, but we are done, right? Oh, no, YOU know where this heads, don’t you. God then decides to kill a baby. Did the baby sin? Nope. Did daddy sin? Nope. (God just pardoned David, remember?) At this point, we have no sin, yet God decides a baby must die. 2 Sam. 12:14

    As horrid as that is, we can at least hope that God would be merciful enough with a baby (he was with David) to administer the punishment and do it quickly. Right? RIGHT? Oh no, not this “Just” God. He (being God) “strikes” the baby and it becomes ill. It takes seven days for that baby to die! 2 Sam. 12: 15-18.

    Can you explain “God is Just” in light of David committing a capital crime, God pardoning it, but then deciding to kill a baby by letting it be ill for seven days?

    When you use the word “Scripture” in that sentence, can I substitute “Tanakh,” “Catholic Bible,” “Protestant Bible,” “Jefferson Bible,” “Marcion Bible,” “Book of Mormon,” “Qur’an,” “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” and it still hold true? So how do we pick which one is “God-revealed” or are all of them?

    Scientists have haggled for years and universally agree (with a extreme minority position that possibly dissents) that evolution is a valid, factual theory. Do you hold to the theory of evolution? See how non-compelling this argument is? And that is philosophy, not factual data, a more observable medium.


    Oh, my. Quite a few questions to choose from, eh? :)

    Jeff: However when debating an alleged logical contradiction of Christian theology, there IS the added burden of showing that the answer to that charge is also consistent with Biblical theology. I didn’t understand this statement. If I demonstrate that a premise in Christian theology is logically inconsistent with reality, logic, reason, thought, observations, I would have the added duty of showing that it is somehow consistent with the Bible? Why?

    Are you saying that Christian theology can be inconsistent with reality, but consistent with the Bible, and that the Bible somehow trumps reality?

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  16. Interesting exchange guys. I'd like to take a shot at one of your questions, Dagoods.

    if God did change his nature? 1) How would you know? And 2) How could you enforce it not happening? Is the
    “doctrine of immutability” a greater law than God?


    I'll admit, I don't know the Bible backwards and forwards like you probably do. I actually am scarcely familiar with it (I was a lazy Christian), but I think we can agree that some points can be argued on the basis of reason alone.

    God's nature does not change, as the Bible states. This is why. Given that the terms 'changeable' and 'unchangeable' are pretty much unequivocal, I don't believe that God, when bestowing upon mankind his 'word', could say he was one or the other unless it were true and would remain true through the course of time, unless it were made known to humans once his nature did change. Of course, the necessary assumption is that the God of the Bible is an undeceiving entity. A believer's faith in the authenticity of the Bible requires you agree to this stipulation, or else a counterargument would not be relevant. Another argument I could imagine you might bring up is the idea that the term 'unchangeable' or 'immutable', as we understand them to be, is not the same as God's 'unchangeable', therefore making our idea of 'unchangeable' meaningless, allowing him to 'change' in a way that we would percieve as change, but he would still be holding to his end of the bargain by adhering to his definition of 'change', not ours. However, God presented himself to us in our language, and therefore, under the assumption that the Bible IS the word given by God, he would be wise enough to communicate in a way that is actually useful to us. What's the point of telling us something that does not communicate to us accurately of what he wants us to know? Therefore, we must assume that the Bible/God's version of immutability and unchangeability is the same as ours, in a context that is within our comprehension. An all-powerful God would be able to do that, at the very least, I would think.

    You give examples of God changing his mind. I don't know the stories behind your examples in particular, but I will use the one about Jesus changing his mind after a girl pleads to him. This can still occur, even in the case of an immutable God. Note, that changing one's mind does not equate to changing one's essence/nature. The Bible says God is always loving, always truthful, and all that jazz. This does not necessarily mean that his actions will mirror those of a robot. I believe God changes his actions/mind in numerous parts of the Bible due to the fact that he is dealing with changing humans, whose natures are not absolute like God's, due to the fall of man or however Christians want to term it. In the case of the pleading girl, perhaps under her circumstances, God felt it was somehow beneficial for the girl to go through those few moments of begging in order to build her character, or her willingless to surrender her burdens to Christ, or a reminder of how it is sometimes necessary to be completely transparent to others -- I could think of a bunch of other psychobabble, but you get the point right? All the while, Jesus was still loving, still caring, still wanting the best for this girl, however, reacting differently depending on the changing natures of people in order to accomodate and aid their shortcomings, not because he has flip-flopping issues like John Kerry. Again, though I'm not sure about the particulars of the other examples you cite, I believe God's mysterious mind changing in those scenarious would have something to do with what I've been talking about, in one way or another.

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  17. The Writer, thank you for your comment. You raise some points I will address elsewhere. But first, let’s look at God’s communication skills.

    You say: However, God presented himself to us in our language, and therefore, under the assumption that the Bible IS the word given by God, he would be wise enough to communicate in a way that is actually useful to us. This is the point of my blog. If God says He is “Just,” I should be able to utilize that word in the way in which we communicate. And that way is following a prescribed set of laws which we can verify whether a person is following them (just) or not (unjust.) Yet we can’t do that with God, can we? Because, as you indicate, he is mysterious. More on this in a minute.

    Of course, the necessary assumption is that the God of the Bible is an undeceiving entity. A believer's faith in the authenticity of the Bible requires you agree to this stipulation, or else a counterargument would not be relevant. Why? Is deceit a sin? (If yes, the snake introduced sin into the world, not humans. If no, then God punished an innocent snake.) I really must address this again. But for the moment, we can follow this proposition.

    We don’t have God communicating directly with humans. We have humans writing various thoughts on God, and other humans selecting certain writings of all the writings on God, and setting some apart, as being of higher value. Humans disagree as to which writings qualify. Even then what writings we have are confusing, contradictory, and create communication nightmares. Take the “authenticity of the Bible.” If I asked the average Christians the top three reasons that the Bible is authentic, I guarantee Number One or Two would be “inspiration.” But where does that come from?

    We have one verse. That’s it, just one, 2 Tim. 3:16 which states, literally: “writings, god-breathed, and profitable…” Numerous problems arise. Should it be translated, “All scriptures are god-breathed and profitable…” or “Every Scripture that is god-breathed and profitable…” Do you see the difference? The first equates Scriptures with god-breathed. The second indicates that there is a sub-set of Scriptures, so that some, but not all are god-breathed. The Greek allows equally for both translations. Here is a perspective of the problem of just the Greek grammar.

    Therefore, we are forced to start interpreting what the author meant. By looking at other writings, by looking at the audience, the author, etc. To Timothy, a Jew: scripture and god-breathed would be synonymous. It would be saying, “the female mother” or “the red stop sign.” So is it descriptive or distinguishing?

    Further, what is “Scripture”? At the time 2 Timothy is allegedly written, there were no gospels, no other epistles. To a Jew, “scripture” would be the Tanakh. But Paul (who the author was copying) often used the Septuagint, which may have included the Jewish apocrypha. Does “scripture” mean the Tanakh, the Tanakh and the Jewish Apocrypha, or the Tanakh, and subsequent writings?

    It gets even more problematic. What does “god-breathed” mean? The concept of inspiration has been argued for centuries, over this one word. “theopneustos” is a combination of two words, (Like our “chalkboard”) being “god” and “blown.” (It has also been used as filled or breathed.) Nowhere else in the Bible does the word appear. Nowhere else in early Christian writings does the word appear. It doesn’t appear in Greek literature to make a comparison. We have no idea what this word means. To make any claim is a biased interpretation.

    We have a one-time appearing word, with no definition, in a language that is dead. And the authenticity of the Bible is based upon this unknown word. Think about that. If God wanted to communicate with humans, why this obscurity in one of the most important arguments for the authenticity of the Bible?

    And that is just one example. Taking our question of Justice, God is equally unclear as to what law (if any) he is following. Even presuming the authenticity of the Bible, we are left wandering aimlessly, attempting to determine what is “just” and “unjust.” Is genocide acceptable? Slavery? Polygamy? Divorce and remarriage? Killing babies? Birth control? Releasing demons? Healing Samaritans? Riots? Revelry? The list goes on and on.

    With our complete inability to confirm or deny the “justness” of God’s actions, to say He is “just” is meaningless. Here is a great example. Imagine about 10,000 years into Heaven, God says, “You know. I gave you the Old Testament. Then I gave you the New Testament. Now I am giving you the Newer Testament. Turns out Jesus’ death was only good for 10,000 years or 100,000 miles, whichever came first. I am emptying Heaven, you are all going to Hell. However, in my mercy, I am releasing those in Hell—they’ve done their time. They get Heaven.” A Christian would have to gladly march to Hell, singing the praises of God in His Justice. Somehow I see more whining than praising.

    Finally, looking at God’s nature and “changing.” All you have done is moved the goalposts back so far into the mysterious God, that He can do whatever He wants, yet be “unchanging.” For instance, I can say my nature is unchanging. Today I love, tomorrow I hate. One minute a murderer, the next a benefactor. Happy now, angry earlier. I fluctuate between a variety of emotions and actions up and down the scale. When questioned as to my changing nature, I can confidently state my nature has never changed—I was and still am Male.

    God can kill babies one day, and kiss them the next, and say, “My nature is not changing,” and I have to accept it because He says so? I do not accept it in lesser creatures, why accept it in greater? If, as you say, we assume God’s version of unchangeability is the same as ours that means you cannot say any person’s nature “changes” if they say it doesn’t, regardless of your observations. Is that what we do?

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