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June 18, 2007

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yeah I call it the 'burger king' faith. Everybody wants to have it their way.

She's definitely not a Christian!

One question I would have is why was a Muslim even speaking at her "church" in the first place?

"I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I'm both an American of African descent and a woman. I'm 100 percent both."

Wouldn't the proper analogy here be I am a woman and I am not a woman? Woman and American of African descent don't make contradictory claims.

"Why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?

Perhaps because you are the one making the claim that the two can be harmonized.

"At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need."

And how did you come to that conclusion. I must have missed it.

She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God — the meaning of the word "Islam."

How do you know the feeling came from God? Did you test the feeling against what we already know from scripture?

"It wasn't about intellect," she said. "All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.

Same question.

Redding's bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting.

Two-story thinking.

"The theological beliefs are irreconcilable," said Mahmoud Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. Islam holds that God is one, unique, indivisible. "For Muslims to say Jesus is God would be blasphemy."

I must have missed the part where Redding reconciled this contradiction.

I would ask her the following: “Why do you choose those two religions to the exclusion of others?”

What could she say?

Ann Holmes Redding has taken confusion and self-deceit to a new low level. Both amusing and amazing were it not so tragic.

Oh come on here people! She has a right to be confused and because she has that right, we can't apply that nasty old theology stuff here. How insensetive(oh drat!where's the spell check)!
Now you've got me confused Bob. Is she or isn't she? Only her something or other knows for sure; mulla,mufti or maybe bishop. Man this religion stuff makes my head hurt! I think I'll just make up my own god/s.
I wonder if that is theologicaly/politicaly correct?
Hold on, hold on, yes god is telling me something else. I'll tell you what he told me in my next instalment. I'm sure glad I went Rodney King semminary!

Sorry,
It should be;"I'm sure glad I went (to) Rodney King semminary. I wouldn't want to inadvertently be the cause of another neurosis. I'm not even sure if one could actually,'go Rodney King semminary'.

>>“Redding doesn't feel she has to resolve all the contradictions.”

Like Jesus?

I wonder which parts of Christianity she likes?

I need to say I'm sorry to Rodney King. I'm actually serious about that. After reading through the story I think there is a glaring contradiction in Redding's character. Her statement about why should she worry about reconcilling the differences between the two theologies, is capped off with her desire to start an institute to study Judaism, Christianity and Islam! Am I missing something here? I'm scratching a(another)bald spot on my head! This theology stuff still makes my head hurt! At least Rodney King was really serious about a noble cause. I think Redding is just full of herself. It's probably a good thing she didn't go into a law career like her father. I wouldn't want someone with such a shallow understanding of logic defending me.

Wow! I'd laugh if it weren't so sad and quite honestly a little bit frightening..

Doug this mean she is obligated to blow up her own church for ordaining homosexuals?

Come now, if you are going to use reason as your guide on religious belief then lets examine Christianity. There are a number of requirements to believe in contradictory spiritual positions. We claim to be monotheists and yet we have the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Christians worship one God? So who do they pray to? All three, oh, I mean all one of them?

If Christianity was so well reasoned out we wouldn't have the hundreds of variations. You don't find that in Physics. If you are going to place the rational test to Christianity, there is no rational reason to believe in its doctrines.

What's rational about a God needing the torture and death of His Son to satisfy some law He made up Himself, so that He doesn't have to torture us for all eternity? Its that the great family justice model we want to emulate? What high moral ethical principle does that demonstrate?

You might want to apply your own standards of rationality to Christianity before you judge this womens emotional connection to the prayer of a muslim.

Richard, Christianity is very reasonable. I say that after being an atheist for 23 years of my life and being a person that always thinks things out logically. The trinity certainly isn't easy to understand. You have 3 persons but yet once God. This is clear in the Bible. Can we fully comprehend it? No. If we can fully comprehend God then it isn't God your comprehending. You can call this a scape goat but the Bible has shown that it is trustworthy because of specific prophecy, accurate history and wisdom that only could come from God. Also now that I have the understanding that only the Holy Spirit could give. It allows me to see the trinity with an understanding which an atheist isn't going to be able to achieve.

Why are there so many variations of "Christianity"? It is not because Christianity is irrational. It is because we are sinful humans. We also don't take the Bible for all it is worth too often and create our own doctrine. Also some people are into "Christianity" for the wrong reasons so they invent their own ideas to further their goals.

It is sad you don't understand the great love God showed us by sending his Son to die for our sins. It was the only way for God to be just and loving at the same time. God has many attributes and he reflects them all in everything that he does. There has to be a penalty for our sin. Either we pay it with eternity in hell or God, who is sinless, could become fully human and live the perfect life that we are unable too and die for out sins so that we could be made righteous. It is an act greater then anything else ever done on this planet.

John 15:13
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Well said, Matt.

Only sinful man would try to turn the greatest act of mercy in history into a condemnation of God.

John 10: 18

"If Christianity was so well reasoned out we wouldn't have the hundreds of variations. You don't find that in Physics."

I'm not going to address most of your message -- I just wanted to rebut your main point here. You DO see this in Physics. Have you heard of string theory? Superstrings? Quantum gravity? Modified gravity theory? Brane theory? M-Theory? The Standard Model? Supersymmetry? All of these are branches of Physics that attempt to model reality; none of them are yet provable or disprovable, and they contradict each other.

In fact, two of our accepted models of physics, quantum mechanics and general relativity, contradict each other, and they've both been proven to amazing precision. (QM says that the wavefunctions of paired particles simultaneously collapse; GR says there's no such thing as simultaneity.)

So physics DOES contain disagreements, and very fundamental ones. The reason for this is that physics is an attempt to use the human brain to understand a system that's more complex than a human brain.

The same is true for theology. It should not be surprising to see difficulties.

You're actually right that there is no rational reason to believe in the doctrines of Christianity -- but the same is true for physics. That is, there's no single reason that will show you that a given set of doctrine about God (theology) or nature (physics) is correct; if you want to know, you'll have to explore, gain experience, learn from others, test their teaching against the facts available to you...

Are you interested? Both physics and theology are worthy areas of study. Both have awe-inspiring subjects. Both have lasting importance. Ignoring either one can have deadly results.

Beautifully stated Mr. T. A tip of the hat to you sir !

Let's see. According the The Quran, the only acceptable thing for a Christian is to be enslaved or killed. I wonder which she will do to herself?

"It wasn't about intellect," she said.

That explains it all.

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Christianity and Islam are completely opposite of each other. I'd love to see this woman say such a thing in any country where Islam is the law of the land.

What is even more incredible to me is that she comes from an educated family (father a lawyer, mother a scholar), has degrees herself, and yet somehow has reached the age of 55 and is completely ignorant of BOTH religions!

Has she even read the New Testament? Even the gospels? Has she read even one single chapter of the Koran? Even a couple of pages is enough to show the contrast between Islam and Christianity.

***

'While the popular Christian view is that Jesus is God and that he came to Earth and took on a human body...'

No, it is not 'the popular view' - it is the Biblical view.

As far as religious views of various kinds, I really thought I'd heard it all. This beats all.

This makes about as much sense to me as 'Christian Wicca' does...

I have to guess that some folk find that even though Christianity may not be meeting the deep-seated need of their souls, from a cultural point it is too difficult to step away; hence the attempt at the hybridization of two very incompatible faiths.

I find I have much more respect for people who just make up their minds to convert rather than making a religious mish-mosh.

Yes Physics does have its different theories but there are aspects of observable physics that not too many people debate anymore because it is observable and is reproducable at 100% so far. Unlike theology, where there is very little that is even testable about the nature of God.

Christianity has been on a very inconsistant developmental cycle. We certainly don't argue for a religious war like Augustine did. His reasoning became the basis for the Crusades. In his day and following Augustine provided the theology to make holy war Biblical.

I don't find any direction by Jesus to wage war in his name. I do read that he instructs us to give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's and to turn the other cheek and to carry the load a 2nd mile.

This is a pretty clear contradiction in the practice of Christianity. Augustine is considered a church father, yet we aren't pushing for any holy wars, that I know of, to kill those who won't convert to Christianity.

There is nothing reasonable about the Christian belief system. There is reason in regards to morals or ethics but that is not the same thing as religion.

There is nothing remotely reasonable about killing my son to save the sinful pets that I have in my back yard and yet Christianity argues for a God that needs the death of His son to satisfy some law that He made up. That means that the Law is greater than the God that made it up.

It would be easier to find common ground between Islam and Christianity. There is quite a lot of common ground. We join various Christian demoninations under the Christian umbrella that have far less in common.

She clearly said that this is heart work for her. Of course if you paint her into a literal corner it doesn't make sense. If it is heart work then you are simply debating semantics, which is a waste of time.

If you are going to claim reason as your standard then it condemns you as well.

All interesting critiques I'm sure Richard. You are making a bunch of moral judgements using "reason" as a yardstick. It seems you are aimply recycling a list of pet grudges, all of which have been thoroughly, exhaustively examined and REASONED over by some of the greatest minds in the Western world.

Read Schaeffer's "Escape From Reason" and re-think your presuppositions.

Richard,
You need to study the history and theology of the "religions" your speaking of. I seem to recall that our freedoms are bought with the blood of 'sons'.
As far as the Trinity goes, just because we can't understand it, doesn't negate it. Time, space and matter; a triune physical universe. Wouldn't suprise me if the creator of it had a triune nature. So since we don't understand time, space and matter, are we going to reject it also?
One God/Head, three persons in perfect harmony? I don't know how it works, but I'm glad it does.

Some people seem surprised, even shocked, at Redding's comments.

They are completely understandable when you take into account her view of scripture.

The reason that the Episcopal church is in such a mess is because they cherry pick scriptures that they like and reject the ones that aren't PC. That includes scriptures that form the essentials of Christianity.

It's the same thing the democrats do when they refer to the constitution as a "living/breathing document."

With that in mind, it's easy to understand her claim along with other non-Biblical positions that the Episcopalian church has taken.

Peasant,

That's my point, religion is based on presuppositions. You presuppose that there is a Trinity with no proof what-so-ever other than "proof" texts. You presuppose that the Bible is literally true. These presuppositions are not rational or based on proof. They are based on some deep feeling of rightness for the individual. So to be critical, of someone who has an emotional connection with Islam and Christianity and is trying to work that out, because it is unreasonable, to me, is unreasonable. Because, we are not talking about rational processes but religious ones.

And blood of sons lost fighting against an equal foe is quite different than an all powerful God needing the blood of his own son to satisfy some rule He made up. Does love require violence to sustain it?

"It seems you are amply recycling a list of pet grudges, all of which have been thoroughly, exhaustively examined and REASONED over by some of the greatest minds in the Western world."

Read Schaeffer's "Escape From Reason" and re-think your presuppositions.

>>Christianity argues for a God that needs the death of His son to satisfy some law that He made up. That means that the Law is greater than the God that made it up.

I think you misunderstand. God didn't "make up" ideas of perfect goodness and righteousness. He IS those things. He is the standard. Part of His perfection is perfect justice. Therefore, since He is just, wrong things (i.e., things that go against the eternal standard of His own character) are punished. Since He is also merciful, He provided a way to fulfill the perfection of His just character so that His mercy would also be expressed (becoming "the just and the justifier").

He's simply acting within His character, not following some law above Himself.

Greg wrote about this issue here:

http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5236

I have read Schaeffer's "Escape From Reason" and I disagree with his presuppositions. Reason is not powerful enough to reach the deep mysteries of living and awareness. They are far too complex even for the most brilliant minds.

I believe its important to learn to think for oneself. You are using reductions and assumptions about what you believe I am doing rather than addressing the points directly.

Amy,

To say that God is something is to create an image of God. Who we are and who God is are far beyond anything that anyone understands on a rational level. To reduce these great mysteries to something we call Justice is to say that Justice is God. Justice is a human rational process. Language is human. We use them so much that we aren't even aware of their limitations.

While I am technically an athiest, I don't deny that there is deep wonder and mystery in the world. I believe that there are spiritual experiences, but to say that it is rational to believe in a God who requires the death of His own son to satisfy some human concept of Justice is not true. That is not a rational statement. It is a superstitious one that is based on a series of unprovable assumptions.

You can believe that if you want, but it is not rational. My point all along is that being critical of this woman who finds meaning in being a Muslim and a Christian because it is unreasonable is being hypocritical.

>>To reduce these great mysteries to something we call Justice is to say that Justice is God.

No, it's merely to say God is just. If we're made in His image, it's not surprising we would have an awareness of the concept of justice (and every society does know what justice means, even if they work out the rules and punishments differently). Nor is it surprising we would have an understanding that justice is a good thing.

We may not be perfectly just, but that doesn't mean we can't conceive of what perfect justice would mean, and there's no reason to think a perfect God would be completely different from all of our moral concepts (particularly if He created us). Why should we think it's impossible to understand His moral qualities in any way when the concepts themselves (love, justice, mercy, etc.) aren't particularly difficult to grasp, even if their application is difficult because of our imperfection? So to say God has nothing to do with these concepts is to base your opinion on a series of irrational, unprovable assumptions.

To say that we are made in God's image is an appeal to poetry. It is not based on reason. Reason requires a place to start that is not based on reason. This is the presupposition.

I said nothing about morals and justice being difficult to understand. You don't need a God to be moral. Morality has many selfish advantages. Advanced morality and ethics simply has the ability to figure in longer term effects. And even more advanced morality is based on who a person is and their awareness of the community of people around them.

To me the lowest form of morality is doing it because God said so or threatens punishment. The same with Justice. What is perfect justice? Its perfectly equal punishment for every crime. That is simply not possible, nor is it disirable. Punishment is kindergarten ethics and morality. I think Jesus demonstrated this in his teachings quite well. And to say that God, in having his Son killed to cover all the punishments that needed to be handed out is still in kindergarten.

I did not say anything about justice being difficult to grasp. That's a red herring. I said justice is based on human reasoning. It is a human idea.

Perfection is a human idea based on some arbitrary scale. When applied to God it has no rational meaning since there is no way to define it in reality.

Love is not a rational process. I think irrational aspects of life are very useful. My point, again, is if you are going to appeal to reason then you need to be consistant. If you are going to allow yourself irrational aspects to your own beliefs then there is no reason to be critical of this woman in her own exploration of irrational aspects of her beliefs.

>

Question: In your framework of thinking what would be the highest form of morality?

I disagree with your line of reasoning as to why Christians “act moral” as a means to appease God. Christians “act moral” because it is a natural out flowing of the goodness of God in their lives. One does not “do good because God wants them to do good”, as though God is Santa Claus or something, rewarding those who are on the “good list”. Doing good is a result from seeing how putrid doing evil looks and seeing how glorious good looks through the eyes of one who has been redeemed through absolute form of Good. I am not suggesting a form of perfectionism or even that Christians everywhere act more moral than non-Christians I am saying that if we look at Jesus as our example (which is who we should look at as our standard) that is what we see in His life and as His disciples that is what we should be hungering for in our lives.

The problem with saying, “you don’t have to believe in God to be moral” is the fact that you have no logical basis for the concept of being moral without God. No one is debating the fact that you can burrow ideas from a theist worldview and “do moral things”, but unless you have a theistic framework you have no reasonable basis for doing them. You can argue that society defines the morals based on the “majority vote” but then you end up with the Nazi’s, Vietnamese Killing Fields, etc and have no right to say that what they did was wrong because surely it seemed “moral” to them at the time. Yet I find it unlikely that you think their actions were “good”.

>

I could not have said it better myself, “What is perfect justice? Its perfectly equal punishment for every crime”. You seem to have a good understanding of law and justice, so the only other conclusion I can come to as to why you find the crucifixion so puzzling is because of your lack of understanding about sin. It has much farther implications than merely the 10 commandments, but for the sake of space we can ask the following two questions: Have you ever not told the truth? Have you ever taken something that doesn’t belong to you? If you have, then you have broken God’s law and these are the logical steps that follow: To disobey God is to say we do not trust Him, to say that we do not trust Him is to say that we do not think He is trustworthy, to say that He is not trustworthy is to say that we do not think He is worthy of our trust, and to say that He is not worthy of our trust is to say that He is not worthy which is an open and direct attack at the throne of God in order that we may place ourselves upon His throne. Sin is not merely, “a little white lie” it is nothing short than cosmic treason. (I believe an above poster clarified that Gods Law is an expression of His very Character, so it is not above Him, therefore I won’t go into clarifying this as it has already been done.)

As you stated early, “perfect justice is a punishment perfectly equal to the crime” therefore if we have committed either of these (or a plethora of others) we should be punished for our breaking of the law. The problem is the One who we offended is not finite, so our punishment cannot be merely paid in the finite sense; the price must be paid at an infinite cost other wise it will not be a perfectly just punishment. And God in the fullness of His Being is perfect, and therefore is perfectly just. Therefore, Jesus, the God-man, fully human (our representative) fully God (able to absorb our infinite punishment) chose to bear our penalty and endure our breaking of God’s law.


>

I think you miss understand the Biblical position, God didn’t “need” to use Jesus to atone for the sins of the world. As stated earlier God is completely just if He allows the world to perish because of its cosmic treason against Him. Jesus chose to lay down his life (John 10:18) it was not “handed out” as though to say God used Jesus as a “get out of jail free card”. God freely chose to lay down His life because He loves us and desires to have a relationship with us. So Jesus did so in order to bridge the gap between God and man that we dug for ourselves through our rebellious sin against Him.

A better question you should ask yourself is why do we need punishment in our societies and why do we have to tell our children to “be good”, if we are (as is the commonly accepted philosophy) “mainly good people”?

There are many things that can't be studied empirically, but they are more than subjective emotion, and they aren't irrational. The laws of logic would be one example of this. These things can be discussed rationally, though they aren't physical and they weren't proven empirically. (Perhaps you're using the word "irrational" when you really mean "non-physical.")

Here's the mistake I think you're making. Religious concepts can be discussed rationally. That is, I can use reasoning to talk to you about why Christ died or what God's character is like. I can even give you philosophical and historical reasons as to why I believe Christianity is true. Just because you don't like who God is or what He's done (or what someone is claiming He's done), that doesn't mean you can label discussion about the subject irrational. "Distasteful" would probably be more appropriate.

On the other hand, *because* of rationality, we can say that to claim one is both Muslim and Christian (two worldviews that are inherently contradictory in their ideas about salvation and God) is to claim something irrational because one can't speak rationally about believing in two contradictory ideas at the same time and in the same way.

>>I did not say anything about justice being difficult to grasp. That's a red herring.

No, you made the claim that God was beyond our understanding: "To say that God is something is to create an image of God. Who we are and who God is are far beyond anything that anyone understands on a rational level." And I was merely responding with rational reasons why, if God exists, we should be able to apply our understanding of the concept of justice to Him.

When you state that without God, there is no morality you are basically admitting that your morality is based on the idea of because God said so. Like I said before, this is kindergarten morality.

There are a number of rational reasons for being moral. The upper most being is that you can base morality on an ideal that reduces the suffering of all. There are several non theistic philosophies that discovered that being moral is in our best self interest as well as in the interest of others. It is natural for most organisms to avoid pain. This is a powerful reason to be moral. Most suffering is due to short sightedness and ignorance. The cure is not punishment, its training and education.

One can base morality on beauty. The highest ideal being that which is beautiful. Beautiful ideas, beautiful societies, beautiful families, etc. And please don't retort based on some superficial idea of beauty. This is beauty that takes one's breath away or provides a sense of wonder.

There is no basis in the idea that when we remove Christianity that we get the Nazis. The crusades and the inquisition should have taught us that.

If God is understandable then God becomes god.

And which specific version of Islam and Christianity is contradictory. There is such a wide spectrum of ideas of what these are that comparisoms are rediculous. To me, if we are to retain religious belief, we need to treat them as art, not as physics.

What most Christians do is assume that they represent the True Christian position as if they speak for God. You have to reduce God to god to claim that.

It is still hypocritical to treat your own ideas with different standards than you treat others. These distractions are simply ways to avoid addressing this issue.

"One can base morality on beauty. The highest ideal being that which is beautiful. Beautiful ideas, beautiful societies, beautiful families, etc. And please don't retort based on some superficial idea of beauty. This is beauty that takes one's breath away or provides a sense of wonder."

Mr. Harty - who decides and arbitrates what is beautiful ? What if the ideas and opinions of beauty collide ? Is beauty objective, or subjective ? Whose opinion shall prevail if some of the opinions are mutually contradictory ?

"It is still hypocritical to treat your own ideas with different standards than you treat others."

That is precisely what you are doing unless you allow other opinions of beauty (or truth) to hold the same weight as yours.

I wonder who she believes Abraham took to to offer as a sacrifice Isaac or Ishmael? When she is with the Episcopal Church Isaac and when with the Muslims Ishmael?

Alan,

What I notice is that you choose one example to refute and ignore the stronger arguement. This is intellectual dishonesty. I was giving a brief spectrum of ideas for other types of concepts other than God said so, for morality.

Using the Bible for the basis of morality is just as subjective as beauty. Who's interpretation to we use. And what do we do when there are conflicts with opinions about what the Bible says is moral. This happens all the time. So if we hold the Bible to the same questions we do beauty we have the same problem.

I never said that I was defending beauty as a standard of morality. I believe the reduction of suffering is a much better basis. Beauty does provide a deeper appreciation of life, but I don't believe that one can define it, only experience it.

Richard
#1. God exists.
#2. He is Good.
#3. You are not Him.

You claim to be acting with "reason" yet your whole aim here is to assert an autonomous moral system apart from God. If one starts with the above axioms, what you are doing can only have one ultimate outcome: Evil.

I for one do not esteem my "reason" or "morality" so highly that the wisdom of the sages can be so callously dismissed as primitive superstition

Hi Richard,

You make so many unjustified assertions it is difficult to know where to begin, and of course not every one of them can be addressed because of space and time limitations, but I wanted to respond to a few of your points:

"To me the lowest form of morality is doing it because God said so or threatens punishment."

By "lowest" here, should I assume you mean something undeveloped, unevolved, unsophisticated? If so, how is this relevant? Doing the right thing in a given situation is based on who a person is and that would happen whether God threaten's punishment or not.

"The same with Justice. What is perfect justice? Its perfectly equal punishment for every crime."

Not necessarily. Perfect justice is that which satisfies the subject to whom the justice is owed.

"Punishment is kindergarten ethics and morality. I think Jesus demonstrated this in his teachings quite well."

Jesus demonstrated that "punishment is kindergarten ethics and morality" in His teachings? How so? Will you clarify with specific references?

If instead you mean to say that Jesus' teachings demonstrated a "higher" morality than that, then why would He have gone to the cross willingly? Why would he spend His life teaching eminently rational propositions and then suddenly forsake rationality to adopt an irrational death on the cross. Wouldn't that completely invalidate His lofty teachings in your mind? It would be very odd to teach a transcendent morality and then sacrifice your life for a "kindergarten ethics and morality." The rationality that brought forth His great moral teachings implies by its force that the cross was completely rational also.

You are guilty of mischaracterizing the teachings of Jesus and confusing them with His life and mission. So, I can see why you think that "God killing His own Son" is completely irrational, but this is merely an appearance based on a misunderstood framing of Jesus' life and teachings. And this brings me to your next gross mischaracterization.

"And to say that God, in having his Son killed to cover all the punishments that needed to be handed out is still in kindergarten"

God did not kill His son as you say. Jesus explicitly says that he offers His life and that no one takes it from Him. If He did not will it to be so, it would not have been so. This was a decision that the man Jesus made.

"Love is not a rational process."

Right, but that does not mean that it precludes rational processes like intellect and volition. God's love involves total concern for other which necessitates rational thought and decision making.

"I think irrational aspects of life are very useful. My point, again, is if you are going to appeal to reason then you need to be consistant. If you are going to allow yourself irrational aspects to your own beliefs then there is no reason to be critical of this woman in her own exploration of irrational aspects of her beliefs."

I agree with your point but my point is that your objections are based on misunderstandings of Christian doctrine. Rational step by step presentations of why the cross was necessary are easily accessible in systematic theology books so I do not need to present the case here. But since a rational case exists, Christians are completely justified in objecting to someone trying to juxtapose contradictory truth claims of different religions.

----) There are a number of rational reasons for being moral. The upper most being is that you can base morality on an ideal that reduces the suffering of all. There are several non theistic philosophies that discovered that being moral is in our best self interest as well as in the interest of others. (----

You have tremendous historical problems if you use this model to determine your set of values. Historically because this is EXACTLY the idea that Hitler had when he decided the Germans were the “superior race”. In his mind it WAS moral to exterminate the Jews for the greater good of society. The Crusades were done in this manner as was the Inquisition and the Salem witch trials. The people who orchestrated those events falsely thought it would be moral to remove those “kind of people” from the face of the earth regardless of the gross injustice. This is a human nature problem, but I think it is impossible to argue that in Jesus teachings we would find any grounds for justifying either three of those horrific instances in history. Again you have to look to Jesus as the standard.

----) It is natural for most organisms to avoid pain. This is a powerful reason to be moral. Most suffering is due to short sightedness and ignorance. The cure is not punishment, its training and education (----

You have just contradicted yourself and made the avoidance of pain the reason for being moral. Observe your above statement, and watch how we can interchange God with “avoidance of pain”:

“When you state that without pain, there is no morality you are basically admitting that your morality is based on the idea of -->avoiding pain . Like I said before, this is kindergarten morality.”
So the avoidance of pain becomes the god? I’m confused.

----) The cure is not punishment, its training and education.(----

I’m confused by your thinking punishment is the cure, cure to what being immoral or to avoid suffering? But you must clearly see history refutes your idea that training and education is the answer, as the last 100 years has been bloodiest in the history of the world. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “education without morals just makes man a clever devil”. And from a non-theist worldview it isn’t logical to be moral (morals in fact don’t even exist if you believe in a world that is purely materialistic), yet you affirm that morals are a good thing but only for the sake that we avoid pain? This is perplexing but I would enjoy you flushing out that idea a little more because I am still not understanding where you are going with it especially considering many things that we consider the “moral or right thing” often cause us much pain to do.

----)One can base morality on beauty. The highest ideal being that which is beautiful. Beautiful ideas, beautiful societies, beautiful families, etc. And please don't retort based on some superficial idea of beauty. This is beauty that takes one's breath away or provides a sense of wonder.(----

You do more damage to your case by saying this. If one bases their morality on beauty you have just justified the crusades, inquisition, and the Salem witch trials. The idea of having an all “Christian” world was a “beautiful idea” of a “beautiful society” to them regardless of the cost. Their confused and distorted idea of a “Christian world” was so beautiful to them that it took their breath away that is why they were able to produce horrific and violent evils against man kind in the name of God. With this view of morality, the ends justify the means and it’s a distorted and false view of what true morality is. Again you have to look to Jesus as the standard no fallible man.

----) If God is understandable then God becomes god.(----

Peculiar line of reasoning, so if I am using every part of my body but my hands and arms to play basketball and Michael Jordan comes and teaches me how to play basketball the correct way, has he become any less of the hall of famer player than he was because he has taught me how he plays the game? Certainly not, I have just gained insight on the correct way to play the game, I haven’t “taken” (as if to steal something) from him I have merely received insight into the game from him. It is similar to God, God has chosen to make Himself know (not exhaustively) through the world that we live in and through His Word. We are able to live and function the correct way we were designed to before being scarred by sin. God revealing Himself to us does not make Him any less God because by His very nature He is infinitely perfect in His fullness.

----) Using the Bible for the basis of morality is just as subjective as beauty. Who's interpretation to we use. And what do we do when there are conflicts with opinions about what the Bible says is moral. This happens all the time. So if we hold the Bible to the same questions we do beauty we have the same problem.(----

Now I assume you mean to ask, (correct me of I am wrong) “what authority does the Bible have that beauty cannot have that I should submit to its “standard” of morals” as oppose to beauty.” I would argue that the difference is that the Bible is a historically verifiable and accurate ancient document that has been the undeniable source of ethics and morals within the western hemisphere. I think you make big assumptions about eastern philosophies that they are able to find steady and foundational moral “codes” to stand on, given fact that areas in which those religions are most prominent i.e. China, Korea, etc have had the most expansive and explosive spread of Christianity that they will soon surpass the West in disciples of Jesus Christ.

Staying in the realm of theory is nice, but history and reality often refute you.

That being said I do enjoy that you post on this blog and I thank you that you are civil in your posts and conversations.

Nice well reasoned post Josh. I will echo your thoughts, I appreciate the civil dialogue with Mr. Harty. Although I fundamentally disagree with his conclusions and often his rationale the interaction sharpens comprehension of my own viewpoints.

This whole dialog demonstrates the inability of reason to determine the answer. Each of us comes for a different set of unproofs or presuppositions. These are based on how we feel when we contemplate the various issues we face. I would say that all of us would be horrified by what Hitler did or the inquisition. Thinking and theology in both cases was not powerful enough, In fact it was their thinking that was the problem.

I believe Jesus referred to our natural ability to empathize as the basis for moral action. Do unto others as you would have them do to you is one example.

When I contemplate my own pain at the expense of others actions I then can choose to not inflict this on someone else. This is a basis of ethics that doesn't need God's authority. It is built into the reality of living. One can follow this having never even read the bible.

The idea that I have to decode morality by reading the bible, to me, is not sound. I find living life and applying different solutions and observing history more reliable.

If we are to believe that God did a better job of ruling we only have to read the history of the Isrealites as recorded by the Bible. There are instances where God directly orders them to wipe out their enemies in an act of genocide, much like Hitler did. There are direct orders to institute slavery and to take concubines for themselves. There is one instance where God orders a man stoned for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. If this is God's morality, I question the validity of using a Biblical approach as a basis. On an emotional basis this horrifies me and, to me, its incredible that people still refer to the Bible, as a whole, as a "good" book. And if this is an accurate representation of God we are in big trouble. This is a crazy God.

When I read about this women, I would feel safe for her to be my next door neighbor. She is passionate and interesting. She is willing to explore some new places. She is intelligent enough to know that her stand is going to bring about some controversy. What I read between the lines is that she is trying to do some bridge building. If all Christians would reach across to their Islamic brothers in some way we might never have had terrorism in this world. The orginal terrorists were the crusaders. I can understand why the Islamic world has such a poor opinion of Christians. They are judging us by our actions.

And if you read our Old Testament Bible there are passages that clearly teach that all those who are not within the proper group should be killed. These passages are still used today by those who call themselves Christians to kill or to celebrate the death of the "enemies" of God. These passages have been used to justify slavery in this country and to murder those of African origin.

So the Bible is no guarantee of morality. It still has to be interpreted and that interpretation is subjective, not objective. In other words irrational.

Even the new testament is full of a "mightier than thou" God, which demands belief -or else (a long array of torture, burning, falling buildings and bone breaking "or else"). To me, all this means Jesus and God are really not leaving their pages well written, so other priests come in and filled the spaces with the sadistic lines. Sadly humanity is running desperately in circles trying to obey so it can get a bit of heaven in the afterlife. If God was capable, Im sure he would have left an enduring document written clearly by himself with many answers for many urgent questions... we are still waiting.

>>”When I contemplate my own pain at the expense of others actions I then can choose to not inflict this on someone else. This is a basis of ethics that doesn't need God's authority.”

Why do you refer to a “basis of ethics” like it is the authority? You are in fact referring to an authority as well. What about survival of the fittest?

To my friend Richard,


---) I believe Jesus referred to our natural ability to empathize as the basis for moral action. Do unto others as you would have them do to you is one example. (----

You’re throwing out a concept here with out much clarification so I am going to try to rephrase what you are saying and you tell me if it’s the idea you are trying to get across:

Are you saying that Jesus said that we have a natural ability to determine what is moral within ourselves? You quote the “famous golden rule”, but you forget the first and foremost command that is inseparable with the second, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. See Matthew 22:35-39 and notice how the lawyer asks for the MOST (singular) and Jesus gives him “two”, clearly indicating that Jesus views these two as inseparable commands. Why does He view them inseparable because He knows that without drawing from the ultimate source of Love, it is impossible to truly love another person. If you have to “try” to love someone it isn’t love because it’s forced, love is freely given. You even submit to this in your next statement by saying “when I contemplate my own pain at the expense of others actions I then can choose to not inflict this on someone else.” You aren’t being moral and loving people” for the sake of love or being moral or even for them, you are “loving them” as a direct reflection of your own pain and desire not to see them go through the pain that you went through. This is not love because it is being forced by something, in your case, your pain.

---) If we are to believe that God did a better job of ruling we only have to read the history of the Israelites as recorded by the Bible. There are instances where God directly orders them to wipe out their enemies in an act of genocide, much like Hitler did. (---

I have to call you out on a straw man here. You are appealing to emotional rather than intellect and I assumed this was to be a purely “reason” based discussion. Again I think you are placing yourself in the judge seat and putting God in the guilty chair. I would recommend referring to my above post regarding sin and reading the book the “Mortification of Sin” by John Owen. We are already bound and imprisoned to our sin because we enjoy and in fact love our disobedient rebellion against God. We are receiving a constant flow of common grace from God by the very fact that we are still breathing despite our constant desire to commit cosmic treason and pull Him off His throne. For some peculiar reason you think that God must fit into your view of morality other wise He is unjust, or “a crazy God”. This is odd and I think you have this view because you do not understand the concept of Gods Holiness. R.C. Sprouls book, “The Holiness of God” is very helpful and I believe He addresses some of those “crazy God” issues you were talking about.

---) When I read about this women, I would feel safe for her to be my next door neighbor. She is passionate and interesting. She is willing to explore some new places (---

I am not saying that this women in her beliefs or actions or personality has anything remotely to do with Hitler. I am merely saying that with your line of reasoning I can say the exact same thing about Hitler. When I read about this ->manhim He is passionate and interesting. He <- is willing to explore some new places. (Yes, he completely disregards any codes of ethics we have ever used in warfare and the treatment of prisoners, and comes up with disturbingly twisted tortures, how pleasant)

---) So the Bible is no guarantee of morality. It still has to be interpreted and that interpretation is subjective, not objective. In other words irrational. (---

This is such a sweeping statement that the backswing of it knocks over your straw man. In other words, “I don’t agree with the Bible says, therefore it is irrational.” If you are going to maintain that that is your opinion that’s fine, but I think such a statement has no scholarly or philosophical value what so ever. I think you have consistently sought to justify your position by the fact that you think, “God isn’t fair”, and therefore His Word cannot be authorative in your life until He becomes “fair” (in regard to your moral standards). You thus affirm that it is your moral standards that should be the objective standards because if you maintained that yours were subjective and irrational, and were consistent in your thinking, you would have no need to post your view on morals because they are only for you and should only apply to you.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but this is what I’ve read to be the thrust of your argument.

Dear Bernard,

The God of the Bible is not obligated to prove Himself to anyone. He left evidence in nature and in revelation which points to Him. If men seek Him, they will find Him. He does not have to meet your standard of communication.

Usually these type of objections come from people who do not know the art and science of interpretation and have no basis for understanding the standards by which ALL ancient documents are judged as valid. God left more corroborating evidence that the Bible is His work and communication to humanity than any other documents of antiquity. If you do not accept it as valid, then you may not accept other writings such as Plato, Thucydides’ History, or even Shakespeare.

Hi Kevin,

"Why do you refer to a “basis of ethics” like it is the authority? You are in fact referring to an authority as well. What about survival of the fittest?"

It is possible to live together without starting with laws and authority. Generally this basis is a on how a group of people prefer to live. Laws are simply an expression of this preference. And this preference is an agreement to intend the best good toward everyone. This seems reasonable to me. Authority is about forcing people to do things. If people are not harming each other then you don't need authority.

To me, life is better when we don't harm each other. I don't need God to point that out to me.

Im sure scientists would love to be refuted by christian logic and reasoning once scientists can find the documents where these appear (sadly the old and new testament have too many contradictions and sadism to comply, so maybe one of this years another non canonical document will appear this time with enough reason and logic) If the test is not already found, then why not try writing it? I know it will be difficult to say "God said this and this to me!" But write it on your own christian accord, after all scientists dont care much about inspiration anyway, so if it comes with enough logic and reasons Im sure the book will have open minds and ears in the scientific community.

Josh,

You have a long winded arguement that is difficult to address in a blog setting.

Let me narrow it down.

I find it very hard to make a rational defense for stoning someone for gathering sticks.

Dear Richard:

I’ll just work on your first paragraph.

“This whole dialog demonstrates the inability of reason to determine the answer. Each of us comes for a different set of unproofs or presuppositions.”

Agreed, but THAT we do so is not the question. The question is whether it is reasonable to hold the presuppositions that we do. I could presuppose that the whole universe does not really exist and build my philosophy or theology from that, and I am certainly free to hold that. BUT, the burden is on me to justify such an unreasonable presupposition.

Furthermore, you can’t use an illogical (i.e. – irrational) argument to show that rationality doesn’t exist. Your argument is:

P1. We all hold differing presuppositions.
P2. We cannot reach agreement through rational dialog because of our different presuppositions.
C. Therefore, the process of reasoning cannot determine the truth of the matter.

How does your conclusion follow from your premises?????

“These are based on how we feel when we contemplate the various issues we face.”

Again, presuppositions should be based upon reason. Even if feelings are involved, that does not invalidate the objective rationality of the presupposition if it is truly rational.

“I would say that all of us would be horrified by what Hitler did or the inquisition. Thinking and theology in both cases was not powerful enough, In fact it was their thinking that was the problem.”

Before I address your faulty reasoning with regard to Hitler, consider the fact that Jesus’ theology could not stop the will of evil men. Jesus’ will could have stopped them, but not his thinking or theology. Here is your argument:

P1. Hitler did evil.
P2. Rational arguments did not stop Hitler from doing evil.
C. Therefore, rational arguments can stop no one from doing evil.

Again, the conclusion does not follow from the premises and you try to use irrational means to convince us that rationality should not be followed.

You are right, thinking CAN be a problem, but it does not follow that we should not think! It is the content of the thoughts that must be examined.

To my friend Richard,

See now that is very clear and concise statement, I like it.

A unit of soldiers has been fighting in war for over 2 years together. They have been become very close, both in losing of their fellow soldiers and the bonding they have had to do to stay from going insane from the constant feelings of anxiety that comes from war. They see each other as brothers, in the truest sense of the word. They find out that one of their “brothers” has actually been a spy and has been giving information to the enemy as to what the Commander has strategically planned to. This spy has cost the army victory multiple times and at the price of many soldiers’ lives and is a threat to the entire countries security. He is eventually caught and convicted of treason and the murder of his fellow soldiers.

My question to you is, if you fought beside this man and then found him out to be a spy, someone who cost you many of your friends lives, who caused you to stay in the hell of war for longer, away from your family and loved ones, what should be done with him?

I am not saying what kind of punishment, I am saying according to your moral reasoning, what should be done in this situation?

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