« When Evangelism Looks Like a Protest | Main | The Source of Our Fear When It Comes to Evangelism »

June 24, 2013


This is now the fourth recent post on this subject.

First, we had a challenge by someone named Caitlin Moran.

Next, we had a response to that challenge by Brett.

Next, we had a post by JWW.

Now we have this.

I understand that Brett, JWW and Greg may each have a point that they want to make on this (or any) subject. I also understand that these points may overlap in some areas while standing on their own in other areas.

But wouldn't it make more sense to have one post that gets repeatedly updated and then bumped to the top?

WL, Melinda thought it might be interesting to get two different takes on the same question this time, and when she recorded them, she didn't know I had that topic set to post as the challenge. And I didn't know she had recorded that question until it showed up the next week. So it ended up showing up more than either of us expected. Hopefully you found something interesting in them.

They're all interesting. And they each say something a little different. I don't mind seeing many viewpoints from STR's brain trust. So that's all good.

I just would like to see them all in one place with a unified set of comments...as I said, make one post, add content as we go along and then bump the post back to the top after the new content goes in. This is not the first time this sort of question cluster has shown up. A two part cluster is inherent with the weekly challenge, but you see it elsewhere too.

If there was an actual person who said No Eternal Life Equal Greater Accountability Now maybe the thing to do would be to ask What do you mean by that?

It's hard to say what the person - if there was one - meant. But, apparently it's not hard to laugh at them.

Debate between Alan Dershowitz and Alan Keyes:


“There's a wonderful Hasidic story of an old Rabbi in Poland, and man came over to him and said, "You say never to say anything bad about anybody because it's a sin in Jewish law to engage in lashon ha-ra (bad words), but I bet I can come up with somebody you can't say good word about." And the Rabbi said, "Who?" And he said, "Atheists." And the Rabbi said, "No, there's one time in your life when it's very important to be an Atheist." The student was shocked for the Rabbi to say it's important to be an atheist, when? He said, "When a poor person comes to you for charity, act as if there is no God. Act as if you are the only person on the face of the earth who can save that poor human being, and give him charity, not because God wants you to give him charity, but because THAT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. And I am suggesting to you that doing the right thing, because it is the right thing, is even more moral than doing it because someone more powerful than you told you to do it.”

Pretend there is no God. Then Morality is greater than if there is an Ultimate Ethic, an Ultimate Actuality which is Love.

Now then, how does this No-God claim on Morality give itself grounds to stand on?

Shall we speak of re-ward-less love amid in-sufficiency and all-sufficiency………?

There is One Who can only lose.......

I've heard this before from many atheists. I'm not going to spend hours on google finding them. If one wants to believe this is not something atheists posit, well then. Okay. They never do.

But they do...........

There is the obvious here on STR:

Caitlin Moran:

“Believing in an afterlife totally negates your current existence……..you think it [this life] really doesn’t matter if you screw up this time around because you can just sort it out in paradise [next life]….. Only when the majority of people on this planet believe that they are dying [never to see an afterlife implied] will we actually start behaving like fully….compassionate being….”

Back in the 1940's, 50's and 60's the charge of the theist's morality being "mercenary" and thus "less pure" was a common topic. C.S. Lewis had much to say of it. As did others.

This "mercenary morality" is no new idea. It's been around longer than I've been alive.

There are two glaring problems with Gregory Koukl's argument here:

(1) He misrepresents the atheist position by drawing a false equivalence, that because atheists reject "divine accountability", they reject all accountability. With regard to all the atheists I've ever known, that's absurd.

(2) He also draws a false equivalence between the "natural" realm of establishing and enforcing societal laws, and a "divine" realm of "moral law" decreed by the Christian God. These are two very distinct realms.

The two errors are related. Atheists (both old and new) commonly recognize the essential balance that must be maintained between personal freedom and social order. We know that our survival as a species is crucially dependent on social collaboration, and that the most effective forms of collaboration are based on mutual respect and informed consent. We also know that we must curtail a given individual's personal whim when it becomes detrimental to both collaboration and the personal freedoms of others. That is why we support governmental structures for enacting and enforcing laws, and for holding people accountable for bad behavior, under due process. I have never seen any proponent of atheism who doesn't support these things.

Can it be shown that anarchists and extreme libertarians (i.e. people who deny or dismiss the value of government) are more likely to be atheists than Christians? I don't know, but there may be some who call themselves anarchists or libertarians only because they object to secular government, and would prefer some form of theocracy.

As for the idea that societal law stems entirely from religious law (and specifically, uniquely from the Christian religion), history and sociology are replete with evidence to the contrary. You can form an imaginary scenario whereby the Trinity has been in existence since before mankind existed, and created the laws that we must obey, but that really is just an imaginary scenario, not even generally accepted among all people who consider themselves believers in the divinity of Jesus. Considering what the NT said about "render unto Caesar...", it's not at all clear whether the NT authors themselves would have accepted such a scenario.

As for the correct understanding of "the Christian worldview" with respect to forgiveness, and whether the Bible's promise of forgiveness might be taken by some "believers" as a license for rationalizing bad behavior because God will forgive them... I have to admit to some confusion here: does Roman Catholic doctrine qualify as a "Christian worldview"? If so, then I think there may be a problem with the Catholic practice of regular "confessions" to priests, in which day-to-day transgressions (of whatever magnitude) seem to be routinely forgiven, with no more consequence than some extra time praying.

If you don't consider Roman Catholicism to be a valid practice of the "true" Christian faith, there's still the apparent difficulty of "last-minute conversion"; someone who has lived a life of debauchery and/or abusiveness, and has managed to escape social accountability (i.e. never got caught), might, near the end of life, "find Christ", be "born again", and feel that elation at death of being "saved", with the assurance of eternal bliss in heaven.

Is this "fair" to all the people he victimized before his conversion? Consider that he cruelly raped and murdered a non-Christian woman (upstanding citizen and scholar, mother of 2, etc), and because this woman died without "knowing Christ", she is supposedly suffering an eternity in Hell while the rapist is with God. Isn't that a scenario directly in line with the "Christian worldview"? Isn't that "divine justice" as defined by Christianity?

"I am suggesting to you that doing the right thing, because it is the right thing, is even more moral than doing it because someone more powerful than you told you to do it.” Now, Love Himself, of course, completely agrees with this statement and told us of this in Genesis and Word’s Corporeal fully manifests such. Two Trees. Yet the premise is that this is a sort of grand discovery made by the atheist on the topography of Law and Love. Well, this news has been with Man from the beginning. Mere obedience amidst the Knowledge of Good and Evil brings but death. There is another Way. It is called Life. Law, and Obedience to it, brings its frustration, its death, as it must, and gives way to something called Love’s Grace. In this Other Tree we find another set of Motions there amid Love’s Volitions. We find a perpetual dying amid Self-Other. Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self. And such before In-Sufficiency claims a place on the stage. And such always.

Shall In-Sufficiency reach into its mutable gods of fantasy and neuronal psychic phosphorescence and think to claim such things as its own?

Now, should atheism achieve volition and show us its physical system free of all the other physical systems (which it never will) we find that it is still hollow where “is” is concerned in “…..because it is the right thing to do…..”, and, we find that it is perpetually hollow where Reward-Less Love is concerned.

We speak here of Athe-ism, not of Athe-ists, for man is made to become Love’s Image and though we are Fallen, such does echo, though distant, though marred,. Not only does Athe-ism fail to show us immutability, much less even simple logical coherency, where “is” is concerned, but, too, it fails to show us love’s perfect ethic, love’s corporeal amid the Eternally Sacrificed Self wherein Word and Body are thus One there inside Logic and Love’s Regress. Yet it appeals to, and claims for itself, both of these. Well, it must appeal to both of these, it must claim both of these, for it very well knows that these are just the fact of the matter as such was Actuality, is Actuality, always will be Actuality. It is a peculiar occurrence that the Athe-ist seems to be intellectually comfortable with the alarming fact that his Athe-ism has no claim at all to either of them for both are far, far beyond its reach. And always have been. And always will be.

As The Ruin Falls, by C.S. Lewis:

“All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through: I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn ----

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek, I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin: I talk of love --a scholar's parrot may talk Greek-- But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin ----

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack. I see the chasm. And everything you are was making My heart into a bridge by which I might get back From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking ----

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.”

"He misrepresents the atheist position by drawing a false equivalence, that because atheists reject "divine accountability", they reject all accountability. With regard to all the atheists I've ever known, that's absurd."

Remember that Greg is not dealing with all atheists here. He is dealing with those who argue that god and eternal life counts against moral accountability.

Most atheists probably do not believe that. Most atheists probably would say something more like this: "Well, of course, if your uber-Father figure fantasy were actually real, He would hold you accountable for what you do. Big Time. It's just that all that God nonsense is just that: nonsense."

Not one word of Greg's remarks applies to such atheists.

On the other hand, atheists like Caitlin Moran do reject the idea that divine accountability would lead to moral accountability, and in fact would undercut it. For her, Greg's remarks are perfectly germane. to wit, if even divine accountability won't serve, then it's absurd to suppose that anything else will.

"I have never seen any proponent of atheism who doesn't support these things."

Yes we have.

Shall we start the list beginning at around 1925-ish........

It is not about the athe-ist. It is about his athe-ism.

No ought.

Ron has made a rather deliberate effort to say that there are no atheists who hold the view Greg is attacking. This strikes me as a bad faith comment, since the Caitlin Moran challenge is so recent.

Not to harp on the blog organization complaint I brought up at the top of this thread, but I note that Ron's effort would be very difficult to carry off had the post we are commenting on now been a continuation of the 'original' challenge post rather than an entirely separate post.

Similar remarks go for Otto's contribution, (Though, there seems to be less bad faith in his comments here than Ron's. I'm not sure why.)


There is nothing fair about Grace. If you want to know how Love judges, look at Love's Words as He hangs high atop His Bench. From there the Judge with Whom we are concerned gives His verdict.

I know this topic has been pretty much addressed. I’ve made many comments on the various posts on the subject. I just want to add one more parting thought. Basically, everyone knows how silly this claim is.

Let’s say it were the case that believing in no afterlife made one more compassionate now. Let’s say it led someone to do good things that they might not do believing in an afterlife (I’m talking generally about an afterlife, not Christianity per se).

Continuing, let’s say a person is diagnosed with a terminal disease and given 2 years to live (or maybe 2 weeks). Let’s further say that that person starts to do many compassionate things that they might not have normally done if not given this dire prognosis. Now, let’s say that the whole thing is just one big mistake. That the oncologist made an error and there is no terminal disease.

So, all we know is that the patient is doing compassionate things they wouldn’t have done otherwise, but their view of the situation is totally mistaken. They are wrong. Does it follow, that it’s a good thing to be deceived in this way?

We could extrapolate this to an entire population. Let’s say an entire clinic was deceived and they lived on a desert island. Another group lives on a different island with a clinic that doesn’t make mistakes. Which group of people is better off? After all, many many people treat our longish lives as proxy afterlives. They just do.

Goat Head will express an opinion from the "Cheap Seats", as Brad B. would say:

I have to agree with Wisdomlover on his blog organization observation. We part ways, however, in ascribing "bad faith" to anyone's comments.

Goat Head 5


I have to call it as I see it. I'm not making a general characterization about Ron. I don't think he always or even usually posts in bad faith.

What we have in this case is this.

In rapid succession, we had a series of blog entries, beginning with one based on a quote from an atheist named Caitlin Moran in which she argued that God and the after-life make one less morally accountable.

Ron made comments in the latest two repeating the same objection: that no atheists hold this view.

But the whole sequence started precisely because of a comment made by an atheist in which she makes the very claim just noted.

And the first remark on this particular thread is one that makes note of this cluster of entries and even provides links to them.

In fairness to Ron, he did not make any comment in the original post, so maybe he did not read that one. On the other hand, he did have plenty of opportunity to see at least one atheist make and defend the very claim he's wondering whether any hold.

Goat Head will badly paraphrase someone:

"Never ascribe to bad faith what can be easily explained by stupidity or ignorance."

Goat Head 5


The Courtroom which you roar against is in fact your greatest ally. The Judge with Whom we are concerned has but Hope poured out atop His Bench and only inside the Created Self’s Volition shall such be lost. This Judge starts His offenses spewing forth across His Courtroom for He tells us to whom little is given, little is required. To whom all, all. To whom much, much. To whom nothing, nothing. And His Gavel offends our love of Law far more than these mere edicts, for Grace is not done yet. No, Grace will offend yet further. The One into Whose Hand all Judgment is given speaks an outrage and shouts from high atop His Bench this decree: They do not know, therefore, forgive them. And here all the hate of Angry Atheism is refuted utterly for Love’s Grace forever out-reaches all of our own. Will the Clay tell the Potter how to work? Will Man’s love of the knowledge of Good and Evil trump God’s love of the beloved? No. Word’s Corporeal manifests all these things on all fronts and Ransoms the world and yet Ransom will not it seems destroy those fences which He Himself has Willed, which is His Image, and thus I and You and We stand intact in our possession of those motions within volition both in-to and out-of the Self and in-to and out-of the Other as this Image is found uncreated in Love’s Triune. Grace stands wide open though it is said that such shall not always be the case. Delight, it seems, will lead us in-to or out-of and then a Door, an Age, a Cosmos will close and the natal labor will there end as confinement finally shatters its mutable skin.

There is nothing fair in Love’s Motions streaming down which we call Grace. There is no “fairness” in any issue at all where God-In-Man, Man-In-God comes into play. There is only sheer impossibility but by the Power of the All-Sufficient Who Alone can fashion such amalgamations. The Created-Self cannot ever in actuality pull the Uncreated into itself, regardless of what it, in itself, ever does. There is no series of actions “bad enough” to shun the offensive Grace of this Judge with Whom we are concerned. There is no series of actions “good enough” by which In-Sufficiency can force the hand of All-Sufficiency. We are but Need. Man’s love towards Love Himself only stands to gain, to receive into, to be filled-up, to be glorified. Love’s love towards Man only stands to lose, to pour out, to empty, to be debased. We his beloved are glorified. He our Groom is debased. We can only Rise. He can only Fall. The Uncreated, it seems, must spread His arms wide, and pour Himself out, there in Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self, and offer the All Sufficient Cup, and the Insufficient, having thus swallowed up, and having thus been swallowed up by, All-Sufficiency, then finds in itself a Sufficiency of which it had not formally known. We may in good faith perhaps note the action of two wills there within Man’s Volition via “swallowed up” and within Power’s Will via “swallowed up by”. But, we must note, that without the action of the later, the former has no hope. It seems both are very present, the former and the later, and we simply cannot deny these two motions of these two wills, for we find both Volitions’ Motions and Power’s Will fully intact from A to Z, nor can we deny that the later act of Power’s Will gets all the credit, for, but for it, the former is hopeless, for it is just not sufficient in its own Self, no matter what it does. It can seek, but it cannot save. Though Love Himself can, and does, save. It can cry for help, but it cannot rescue. Though Love Himself can, and does, rescue.


I don't think ascribing Ron's question to stupidity or ignorance is very easy here.

Ron is not stupid or ignorant as a general matter. He's actually pretty smart and knowledgeable.

And in this case, it's not like the example of the atheist espousing the view in question requires any great skill or perception, even with the blog posts spread out all over heck's half-acre.

So what are we to do with Ron's suggestion that no such atheist actually exists?

It seems more likely than not that Ron was trying to toy with us in some way.

The Goat Head Addresses RonH:

Ron! What do you think of Wisdomlover's thoughts about your postings?

From the "cheap seats",

Goat Head 5


I wouldn't expect an answer from Ron on that one.

I'm afraid that you and I have maneuvered ourselves into the position that you're essentially asking Ron whether he's stupid, ignorant or acts in bad faith.

Were I him, I think my response would be "No thanks"

Let me reiterate now that, while I hold to my view, I don't intend to say that Ron is typically toying with us in his answers. Usually he's got his own viewpoint and he's simply trying to argue for it.

I don't often agree with Ron's viewpoint of course. And, as you might expect, I usually find fault with his arguments. I don't think he minds that any more than I mind that he presents and argues for his views.

The Goat Head responds to Wisdomlover,

I appreciate your comments and the spirit in which I think they were given.

This is especially true for me after being called dishonest, lazy, unable to reason logically, a "waste of time", guilty of ad hominem, question begging and "hand waving" arguments and unable to even understand my own comments by the indefatigable Brad B! (Laughing heartily!)

Oh, forgot to mention that I reside in the "cheap seats" as well. (Not sure I understand this insult, but I'm working on it.)

From the cheap seats,

Goat Head 5

The comments to this entry are closed.