Leibnizian Moral Argument?

I think my moral argument for God’s existence is similar to Leibniz’ cosmological argument (except it has to do with the explanation of the Good, a.k.a. the Golden Rule).

If you’d rather not say “the Golden Rule,” then say what everyone else says: “objective moral values and duties.” If it isn’t obvious, I took my phrasing from William Lane Craig.

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

2. If the Golden Rule has an explanation for its existence, that explanation is the same explanation for God’s existence: the necessity of His own nature.

[That statement is logically equivalent to the atheist’s own statement that if God does not exist, a) the Golden Rule has no explanation for its existence (or does not exist), or b) the Golden Rule exists by the necessity of its own nature (only a personal being can have a necessary nature that is described by the Golden Rule). Now, if the atheist would rather claim that the Golden Rule is a social construct and that different cultures will come up with different values and duties, they must account for premise 3. However, if the atheist accounts for premise 3 by claiming that the Golden Rule is a natural construct common to all humans, and thus all cultures, that is (again) logically equivalent to premise 2, but doesn’t jive with our moral intuitions–it equates to claiming the universe doesn’t really exist.]

3. The Golden Rule exists (is discovered independently) in various forms in every major culture in history.

4. Therefore, the Golden Rule has an explanation for its existence (from 1 and 3).

5. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the Golden Rule is the same explanation for God’s existence: the necessity of His own nature (from 2 and 4).

Related: Resolving Euthyphro’s Dilemma

Posted in Apologetics Toolbox, Divine Essentialism, Euthyphro Dilemma, Golden Rule, Is-Ought Fallacy, Natural Law and Divine Command | Leave a comment

The Problem of Evil (guest post)

This post was put together from the power point slides of a presentation given by my soon-to-be sixteen-year-old, Ethan Spikes. He delivered this presentation in front of 19 fellow students and a teacher.

The Problem of Evil


What is it?

The problem of evil is THE argument used in favor of God not existing. It is the objection that an all powerful and all loving God does not reconcile with the existence of evil. There are two parts to the intellectual version of this problem: the logical problem (if evil exists, then God cannot), and the evidential problem (it is improbable that an all loving and all powerful God would let suffering exist). The emotional problem of evil deals with a non-intellectual rejection of God based in feelings. I will focus on the intellectual first. Continue reading

Posted in Apologetics, Apologetics Toolbox, Euthyphro Dilemma, Evil as Privation of Good, Problem of Evil & Hell | Leave a comment

Stanislaus Quatrain

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 1.32.28 PM

Linger down good ol’ Briggsmore or McHenry;

sun-bathed tulip trees and queen palms line these

rarely wet streets plastered with autumns’ leaves.

Murmurations of starlings eclipse Scenic’s foothills.

***

Submitted to MoSt for inclusion in the Stanislaus Poem.

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The Seven Acts of the Universe, in Reverse

abell426_franke_900Final Act-

Everywhere it is cold and still.
The final frontier is the only thing,
but there is only darkness to explore.

Act 6-
Things could not be moving faster and
further away from eachother, drawn away
by oblivion.

Act 5-
Galaxies brighten the abyss
as their supernovae shrink into stars
that dilute into multicolored nebulae.
The stage is set. Continue reading

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With Dad On A Windy Day

Jay foxtailFox tails move violently
past our feet.
I brace myself against
the hair whipping my face,
wind pushing so hard
against me,
I stumble.

“Woah! That wind’s
going to take you away!”
Dad shouts.
He doesn’t know I take
everything literally.
I grip his hand tighter.

“I got ya!” he booms, stronger
than the wind.

I tame my wild hair
with my free hand.
I am in the moment,
walking in the wind, through
chaotic grass, but at least
still on the ground.

He knows I won’t let go
and I know he won’t
let the wind
take me away.

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Growing Up

stock-footage-boy-is-holding-a-model-aircraft-in-his-hand-one-summer-dayOn my way to my desk
in my office, I open the window
to the spring-autumn scent and birdsong.
Below it, under the drum stool,
sits an old Marvin the Martian toy.
Which of my sons left it there?—probably the oldest.

He still plays with toys despite
being in high school.
He flies and flips them through the air
and bombs everything with their
imagined weapons
and his special-effects noises. Kbpshhhh!

That never gets old.
I wish children never got old.

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Who needs answers when nobody’s askin’?

This is written to those of you who consider yourselves Christians but think you don’t need answers to tough questions because you don’t ask them and nobody asks them of you. I am thinking a lot about this and I’d love to hear if you think I am fully understanding where you are at. I want to know why no one is asking you questions, and here are my guesses:
If no one is asking you tough questions about what you believe, maybe it is because you aren’t telling many people that they are loved by God unconditionally*? There are a number of reasons people keep the gospel to themselves. Can you find yourself in the list below?
  • Unaware of your duty. You don’t know that you are unconditionally accepted by God, and you don’t know that the natural result of enjoying that acceptance is wanting to share it with others–and that we are commanded not to keep it to ourselves**. If this is you, find out more about God’s unchanging love for you and, once your cup is running over with it, share it around. There will be questions! [Read the full article at The Christian Apologetics Alliance.]
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Ichthus77 2013 in retrospect

I didn’t get a lot of blogging done after the summer in 2013 because when I wasn’t helping my dad digitize his records or freelancing (those typos in the footers aren’t mine, but who’s looking, right?), I was busy helping The Christian Apologetics Alliance move to a new host, and I went to school full-time in the fall to finish up a couple degrees. Before that, I managed to revisit or hammer out some stuff at my old blog, this blog, Examiner.com, and The Christian Apologetics Alliance (even a bit of poetry at the end).

Over at the other Ichthus77:

Hell or Heaven: What about those who have never heard the gospel?

Blog index for Douglas Groothuis’ “Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith”
Defining the good: The Golden Rule
May 2013 Christian Carnival: #Gosnell & #INHUMAN
#Gosnell tweets you are free to snag
Why do I tweet so much about #Gosnell?
“Objections to Faith” by David Spikes (12 yrs. old)
Undesigned Coincidences in the Bible by Tim McGrew
A “Twelve Facts” resurrection logic puzzle
Biblical faith in the “unseen” does not equal “blind” faith.
Rejecting grace because the evil don’t pay?
The difference between atheism, theism, and agnosticism.
Ichthus77’s first newsletter
The Moral Argument
“Churches for Apologetics” petition
Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Faith for Kids” summary with commentary

Here on *this* Ichthus77:

What I’ve been e-doing about the web… You can see how much of what I set out to do in 2013 actually got done, because many of the projects mentioned in that article are listed in this blog post. :)
Adding A Canonical Link
Bible Study Methods
Twitterpologetics
Bible Narrative Project

Over at Examiner.com:

3 things to consider about the problem of evil, suffering and hell February 28, 2013
4 ways to do apologetics with your family February 28, 2013
Apologetics Daily: Easter Review April 1, 2013
Gosnell “House of Horrors” late-term abortion, overdose death trial April 11, 2013
Abortion industry hides pedophilia while others push for normalization May 29, 2013
I also began the process of migrating articles that aren’t local to Modesto or San Francisco over to my new National Christian Apologetics Examiner title.

Last, but not least, my blogs over at The Christian Apologetics Alliance:

Community Apologetics: Starting with your family
A Different Argument from Morality
If God is good and all-powerful, why does he not prevent evil, suffering and hell?
Did the concept of monotheism socially evolve?
Is #Gosnell #INHUMAN?
Does the evidence matter, or is it mere distraction?
Poem: Does God allow evil and suffering?

My next blog post (beyond four scheduled posts that share poetry) will tell you what’s in store for 2014. :)

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Posted in Apologetics, Bible Narrative Project, Carnival, Freelancing Tips and Tricks, News, Poetry, Poetry and Fiction, Reviews and Interviews | Leave a comment

Hell or Heaven: What about those who have never heard the gospel?

“What about the unevangelized? What happens to those who have never heard the gospel?” 

Some answer that such people are “without excuse” and reference Romans 1:18-32 and 2:14-15, Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 10:18. However…

Being without excuse only means that Gentiles, like Jews (see Romans 2:1), know right from wrong and are “under sin” (Romans 3:9-18). In Romans 1:20, Paul is not answering the question, “What about those who have never heard the gospel?” He is answering the question, “What about those who have never received the Law–can they, too, receive what was promised to Abraham?” He’s saying–hey, they know the Law without having to be told (and knowing the law is knowing God, whom the law describes and to whom the law is true), and you who ask this question are no different from them, in that you do not yourselves follow the law (God). He is pointing out that faith is not passed on by your parents–you have to choose it–he was going all Kierkegaard on them. He was saying, if you exclude the Gentiles for being in conflict with the law, then you also exclude yourselves, despite being descendants of Abraham.

In other words, the gospel (the promises given to Abraham, that the whole world would be blessed through his seed: Romans 4:13, Galatians 3:8, Genesis 12:3, 18:18, et cetera) is for everyone who has sinned, and is the complete fulfillment of the law common to both Jew and Gentile: the Golden Rule (Matthew 5:17-20; Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus fulfilled the law when he took our sin (the sin of Jew and Gentile alike) on the cross and gave us his perfection, demonstrating to everyone (Jew and Gentile alike) that God loves us as himself. Here’s my paraphrasing of Romans 11:17-23: Though this opens the door for Gentiles (actually it’s the original plan Jews failed to realize), this does not close it to Jews. The Jews had to be cut off for a time because their failure to believe the gospel (that it was for all people and not based on being legal descendants of Abraham or receivers of the Law), was preventing the Gentiles from being part of the tree (the original plan). Similarly, if Gentiles get haughty at the Jews for missing the point (the tree, the gospel is for all people), the Gentiles, too, are missing the point (entering the kingdom requires getting the point). Once the Gentiles get it, the Jews will get it (though, not every individual in each of these groups will get it). So, these verses have nothing to do with losing salvation (being broken off has been misinterpreted that way), regaining salvation (being grafted back in has been misinterpreted that way), or universal salvation (“all Israel will be saved” in 11:26 and “He may show mercy to all” in 11:32 have been misinterpreted that way). Even if many soldiers of a nation die, that does not negate the fact that they saved the whole nation, and even if many Jews or many Gentiles do not believe, that does not negate God’s faithfulness (Romans 3:3) and the fact that Jesus showed mercy to all–Jew and Gentile–and all Israel will be saved.

Why do we accept that we are saved by grace through faith, but turn around and turn faith into a work when it comes to those who have not heard the gospel? Romans 10:14-21 says that faith comes by hearing, and Paul is saying the Jews ought to know better (having heard), but they don’t believe. See Romans 3:3. “If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?” That means that every lost sheep is equally eligible to be saved by grace, not just Gentiles, but also Jews who received the promises (of the gospel yet to be fulfilled), but did not believe it. Despite their unbelief, Jesus was born as a Jew, grew up among them, was crucified by them, and while he was dying said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34). What applies to Jews in their unbelief, applies equally to Gentiles in their unbelief. Jesus leaves the 99 to bring back the one that is lost (Matthew 18:12-14).Remember that before you were of the 99, you were one of the lost, and he did not leave you there. In Romans 11:30-31, Paul says, “For just as you (Gentiles) once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their (Jews’) disobedience, so these also (Jews) now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you (Gentiles) they (Jews) also may now be shown mercy.” So, just as Jews are not to look down their noses at Gentiles who have not received their Law, Gentiles are not to look down their noses at Jews who have not believed the gospel…even those Jews who have heard and yet rejected. They are still in the heart of God, they are still part of the plan, and as a nation will eventually return to him (not every individual–but as a group).

So, the Gentiles (as a group) will be saved despite not being given the Law, and the Jews (as a group) will be saved despite not believing the gospel (the fulfillment of the Law).

Some answer, “What about Jews before everyone knew what Jesus did?” with this: Believers in the Hebrew Bible who died before they heard the gospel were saved if they had anticipated the Messiah in Scriptures and sacrifices (Romans 3:25, Galatians 3:8, Luke 2:29-32). Never mind that most Jews who knew what Jesus was up to flat-out rejected him to the point of crucifixion… If Jesus-ignorant Hebrews were saved by the anticipation of the fulfillment of the Hebrew law (Matthew 5:17), then why not Jesus-ignorant Gentiles who recognize that their intuitions about moral truth point to some personal being in reality who makes those intuitions true? Why not those who realize they will never measure up to that personal being, and want to discover it? Isn’t some variation of that what happens to everyone right before they believe the gospel? Is someone to be blamed for not being able to grasp the gospel due to cultural, intellectual, or emotional obstacles (lack of access)? What if the story you’re reading gets interrupted and the drowning man is left in the river, though in the very next chapter he would have been saved–is it the drowning man’s fault…should the author have let him drown?

One might ask, “How do we know which pre-Jesus, promises-anticipating Jew would have believed in Jesus?” One might answer, “God would know.” Wouldn’t God also know which of the unevangelized would have believed in Jesus (if they’d heard the gospel)?

Some people answer the original question, with, “Well, it’s not like any of us is special and deserves redemption. The elect are just the lucky ones. It is no mystery that people go to hell–that is the default destination for a fallen race, unless God intervenes. We don’t need to explain why those who do not hear the gospel go to hell. The real mystery is why some people do get to go to heaven–and that’s because they believe the gospel.”

But these same people say that God, in his mercy, makes an exception for the very young. Why, if they are born fallen and hell is the default destination? What about being saved by grace “through faith”–is faith not an essential factor to our salvation? Here are some verses that indicate we are only held accountable for the revelation (light) we have been given, and these don’t just apply to infants: Acts 17:30 (barring Piper’s interpretation, which is false, though I love him), Luke 23:34/Acts 3:17, 1 Timothy 1:13, Matthew 10:15 & 11:21-24, Luke 12:46-48, John 9:41 & 15:22. Why would God not make an exception for other examples of ignorance besides just being very young? Before we accepted the gospel, were we not ignorant?–did God not make an exception for us when he brought us into relationship with himself? Update 3/18/14: The Luke 12 passage just referenced would not have us say of the unevangelized that “They are without excuse.” Rather, it would have us share with them what we have been given–or else WE are without excuse.

Some answer that God does not attempt to “bring” people he knows never would have believed the gospel. Those same people say God whammies the elect (while spiritually dead) with irresistible grace. (See Norm Geisler’s discussion on the methods God uses to bring people to him in Chosen But Free.) But God’s patience (lack of whammying) is not a sign of his weakness or failure (Romans 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:23, 30-32; 33:11), but of his all-powerful love. He doesn’t want anyone to perish, and wants everyone to come to repentance (see just-listed verses, and Acts 14:17; 17:25; Hosea 11:1-5, 8-9; John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). A just God would never bring judgment on those who never had equal opportunity to accept or reject him (like babies, and other ignorant people). “The doors to hell are locked from the inside.” — C.S. Lewis

Some people answer the original question with, “There is no other name under which we may be saved.” Granted: Whatever your fate, Jesus is the only one who redeems (Matt. 11:27, John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Tim. 2:5), but his name is not a magic word. His name is just what he stands for, like when people say, “I want to make a name for myself.” The pre-gospel Hebrews were not saved by believing in the magic word, “Jesus,” but in what that name stood for. Jesus is God’s grace. It is God’s grace that saves. Jesus came to demonstrate it — it already existed (God is unchanging), and his coming was planned before the world was made. So whether or not anyone hears the gospel, it is grace that saves. God wants us to know and experience the reward of a relationship with our Creator and Savior–as soon as possible. Hence, the Great Commission. If we fail in our Commission, does God fail? Is God’s success contingent on ours? Isn’t it only after people do their hearing, their accepting/rejecting, that they are held responsible, and only according to the light they have received (Matthew 10:15, and see above)?

One may at this point object: If they are left in the dark, in ignorance, if God has mercy on their ignorance as if they are infants, isn’t it better to keep them in the dark, so that they will never have the possibility of rejecting God? The answer is that you don’t know if they are ignorant, and you do know that if they live much longer in this world, they won’t remain ignorant, and like the rest of us, they will need to know God died to prove his forgiving love for them. I have heard people use this as an argument for abortion, believe it or not–kill them before hell becomes a possibility, ensuring their eternal bliss. Such a thought could only be conceived in a mind crowded with slime and torture, with no room for beauty and peace. If you have ever cradled a sleeping, cooing, or even an adorably crying baby, it has made room in your mind for beauty and peace. You forget the slime and torture. Hope is restored for innocence and life. Kill it? Kill it?! Kill it, and you will never know beauty, peace or innocence again, unless you receive forgiveness. Whomever he forgives more, loves more.

Paul said, “And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; but as it is written, ‘They who had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.'” (Romans 15:20-21) That does not sound like “they are without excuse” to me.

We have more access to answers and evidence than at any other time in history, but we are trained to block it out, we are numb to it. If you have heard all the evidence of God’s demonstration of grace on the cross in Jesus, and you reject it–then you reject the light you have received, and you have made your choice. If you choose to remain in a state of “I don’t know”–that is the same as rejecting it.

Blessed is s/he who is satisfied with answers and evidence, rather than needing to be personally knocked upside the head before s/he’ll believe that God keeps his promises. I was such a person. There was a time when I rejected the evidence as far as I was aware of it. I thought it was a lot, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. He did not leave me in my ignorance.

So, I have hope for you, if you are currently in a state of rejection, or “I don’t know.” I know that God will do everything possible to get you to see the Point before he lets you choose the alternative.

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Groothuis’ "Christian Apologetics" ch.25: The Problem of Evil

This chapter of Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics tackles the problem of evil.

Related are the appendices dealing with hell and Old Testament issues.


Groothuis tackles this issue last because one problem should not defeat the entire cumulative case for Christianity and against atheism–it doesn’t exist in a philosophical vacuum.


The Problem of Evil: 

Either: 

a) God is able to prevent evil, but is unwilling (and thus not omnibenevolent), or 

b) God is willing to prevent evil, but unable (thus not omnipotent),  

Therefore: 

The existence of evil is evidence against God’s existence.

Groothuis dispenses with 5 false answers to this problem: atheism, a finite god, a god who is not good, nonexistent evil, and karma/reincarnation.

In order for evil to be a problem, it can’t just be an illusion, as various pantheistic religions believe it is. There must be objective evil–which requires that there must be objective goodness…for evil cannot exist without something to pervert. Various pantheistic religions make the moral judgment that “Being concerned with right and wrong is a ‘sickness of the mind'” — it refutes itself in saying that such a moral judgment is itself sick. Atheism can point to nothing in reality that is always as it should be. Neither a finite god, nor a god who is not good, is as god should be (omnipotent, omnibenevolent). Religions that believe in karma and reincarnation deny the reality of the self–but then, if that’s true, there are no enduring individual selves to reincarnate, no selves for karma to act on…and an impersonal system like karma cannot evaluate or govern.

By contrast, the Christian view grounds goodness in God’s unchanging love-despite-adversity, accounts for evil with human free will to depart from God’s image in us (whether or not we evolved), and redeems the wreck we are in with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the promise of a new heavens and new earth.

The section on free will: I disagree that libertarian freedom contradicts God’s sovereignty–and counter that a compatibilist view of “freedom” (genuine agency is compatible with the determination of the agents actions by factors outside of the agent) contradicts the possibility of human responsibility. See Geisler’s moderate-Calvinist resolution in “Chosen But Free.”

The Christian view defends God’s allowance of evil– “A good God will eliminate evil as far as he can without either losing a greater good or bringing about a greater evil.” (Plantinga, p. 631 of Groothuis) One biblical example is that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). There are no gratuitous (pointless) evils. The ultimate example of good triumphing over/through evil, is Jesus’ death and resurrection. The idea of “redemption” will set everything right in the end.

I want to end with a quote from C.S. Lewis, mentioned in Keller’s “The Reason for God” — “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” (34) Also see the Dostoevsky quote that precedes it in that chapter by Keller.

Book Discussion Index 
Posted in Apologetics, Evil as Privation of Good, Groothuis' 'Christian Apologetics', Predestination, Problem of Evil & Hell, Reviews and Interviews | Leave a comment