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July 03, 2013

Comments

Hi Amy,As a confirmed atheist I have no problem with the "bleak realities" of life. We are born, we live (hopefully well in all it's meanings)and we die. End of. We are no different in that respect from any other living organism. Only our arrogant self-inflated opinion of ourselves says differently.

"If, according to atheists, a distaste for reality (including a non-moral reality) has no bearing on whether or not a person ought to accept it—and it is, in fact, a selling point to accept a “grim” truth one finds distasteful—then they shouldn’t allow their distaste for Christianity to play a part in their arguments."

And who, praytell, are these atheists who argue that the empirical claims of Christianity are false because they are morally reprehensible?

Staircaseghost, I didn’t claim that atheists are arguing Christianity is false because it’s ugly (though it seems they’re making an obviously implicit argument against Christianity when they talk about its ugliness--otherwise, why bother us with their preferences in the first place?). I said it should not play a part in their arguments, which it clearly does, as they will very often bring the subject up when they're arguing against Christianity (whether or not an explicit connection is made).

I said that since, according to this atheist, the ugliness of reality has no bearing on whether or not a person ought to accept it, then discussions about the ugliness of Christianity are irrelevant and an inconsistent waste of time for them because they neither prove Christianity false nor offer reasons why a person ought not be a Christian (if a “grim reality” is a selling point).

I will sometimes talk about the ugliness of atheism. When I clarify where that worldview leads, sometimes I’m just comparing the two worldviews. But, tellingly, even atheists will interpret this as an argument against atheism (even if it’s not explicitly made), because it contradicts what we as human beings know to be true about good, evil, and meaning, and that’s a point against atheism. Atheism contradicts the reality that good is better than evil, that a real standard exists, etc. Because of their moral intuition, they can’t help but see an implicit argument when we describe a thing’s ugliness.

But, if this atheist is correct, an atheist ought not to talk about how he hates Christianity, because the ugliness of reality is irrelevant to him. And more than irrelevant, it’s a selling point to bravely accept an ugly reality. If this is the case, then saying Christianity is ugly should actually be a call to bravely accept it if it turns out to be true, and that undermines their whole enterprise, so why engage in this kind of talk in the first place?

Amy,

Perhaps to clarify….(and perhaps not.)

Atheism is a negative belief—pointing out the non-existence of a claim. In order for atheism to respond, the theist must first make the claim. A theist may claim, for example, there is a god who communicated by golden plates. We atheists would point out the numerous difficulties in the claim, and the evidence fails to persuade a gold-plate-communicating god exits. (Obviously joining other theists in this regard.)

A theist may claim there is a god who created the world 6-10,000 years ago. Again, we look at the evidence, it fails to persuade and we come to the conclusion no young-earth-creation god exists. Over and over, we wait for the theist to make a claim “God is _____” or “God does ____” and we weigh the claim compared to the arguments, facts, evidence, etc. Eventually we come to the conclusion every single claim about God(s) cannot be substantiated enough to persuade and we call ourselves, “atheists.”

There are a coupla ways we weigh the claims. One is against the world we perceive. Thus a young-earth, or flat-earth or geocentric or lightning-bolt-throwing god is rejected as these claims fail to be supported by the evidence we see. Another way…though…is to compare the claims against what else the theist is saying. If there seems to be a discrepancy, we explore it to see how it is resolved, and whether such a resolution is tenable.

For example, many Christians make the claim “God is just.” We then review our understanding of “justice” to other claims about said Christian God and see whether “God is just” continues to be supported. “Justice” simply means to conform to a certain law. If one claims “God is just,” then…to our understanding…this means God is conforming to a certain law. We then probe and explore certain other claims to see how that plays out. Typically it results in one of three (3) conclusions:

1. “God’s Justice is not like our Justice.” Whereby we then disregard the claim because “God is Just” is not really saying anything.

2. “God is Just” means “God follows his nature.” Again, this makes the term meaningless as all things follow their nature. And it boils down to “God does whatever he wants.”

3. We enter the Euthyphro Dilemma.

As to the second conclusion, we then contrast the Christian God’s actions in the Tanakh, or the concept of hell, or some of Jesus’ statements, and indicate if the Christian God is simply following this nature, then the Christian is worshipping a monster, but attempting to sugar-coat the monster’s actions.

Again, we don’t think this God exists—we wonder if the Christian can stay consistent within their claims, providing illumination on the possibility of God’s existence, or if the Christian is simply making up whatever argument can be made to substantiate the belief at that moment, even if the same argument must be abandoned later.

Can the Christian understand the God they believe exists (but we do not) is not a loving, just, merciful god as we understand those terms, but would be a “monster” as we understand that term?

Amy

I think the broader point here - and the one that is CONTINUOUSLY misrepresented on here despite repeated correction - is that Atheism is just a lack of belief that you have in deities. Thats it. Period.

Therefore one has to rethink various things if one is into naval gazing about a grounding of a source of morality.

You quoted the bit where Baggini says "Anyone who thinks it's easy to ground ethics either hasn't done much moral philosophy or wasn't concentrating when they did" and I tend to agree - but I dont see why its a problem. Its Philosophy and that is better at teaching people how to think than actually coming up with useful results. It's interesting but ultimately petty use less.

And the differences between moral issues between societies merely highlights this lack of grounding - it looks very much like it evolved.

Having read the article, Baggini merely points out, quite rightly, that life can be difficult no matter what. Belief or lack of in deity(ies) doesnt change that.

The religious have the bigger challenge because you have to invent some story about why life can be so miserable and only the utterly credulous buy into the tangle of stories that is the result.

I appreciate the calm, informative way you've elucidated your position as an atheist, DagoodS. Thank you for taking the time to be so specific in narrating the thought processes involved. Each step makes it clear that the atheist depends solely upon his own understanding of the world in his decision-making, as would be expected.

More importantly, your words make me so grateful to God for His incomparable gift of faith, and make me ache for those who shun it.

What's a more grim truth: (A) that this life is all we have so we should make the most of it or (B) that most people will be tortured for eternity after this life. B is cleary worse.

Yep, accepting the grim truths is really bearing down on me all right. To make matters worse, it looks like this somehow makes Christianity true. Woe is me. Oh, woe is me!

> 2. “God is Just” means “God follows his nature.”
> Again, this makes the term meaningless as all
> things follow their nature. And it boils down to
> “God does whatever he wants.”

Yes, "God does whatever he wants." Which is what is according to his nature.
So what? Is that bad? Nothing else even has a nature without having been created by God in the first place. If anything exists (including goodness), it is due to the existence of God.


> 3. We enter the Euthyphro Dilemma.

Ah, the ol' Euthyphro False Dilemma.

The point of the Euthyphro Dilemma is to assert that God is either subject to a standard outside himself, or that the standard he commands is arbitrary.

But, no. It's not arbitrary. It's in accordance with his holy, unchanging perfect nature. There couldn't possibly be anything less arbitrary about God's standard of good.

The problem with the Euthyphro "Dilemma" is that it was formulated by the ancient Greeks, whose understanding of the metaphysical was tainted by their belief in a pantheon of gods. For them, perhaps, it really was a dilemma.

What they didn't consider is what the ancient Hebrews believed in, a monotheistic God who created everything and from whom all things flow, including goodness and virtue. The Hebrews never even conceived of asking whether the source of goodness was something outside of God, or whether it comes from his arbitrary pronouncements. For the believer of the God of the Bible, there simply is no dilemma.

What they didn't consider is what the ancient Hebrews believed in, a monotheistic God who created everything and from whom all things flow, including goodness and virtue.

If all things flow from God, did he also create sin and evil and death and suffering? If not, where did those things come from? If so, why don't you call him evil since death and suffering touch every life while goodness and peace elude some people their whole lives? If he's God, he could stop it if he wanted. All part of his plan, I guess.

People cannot believe in God unless God wants them to. It's that simple. We would all be Atheists except for God regenerating our dead human spirit so that we can believe.

People cannot believe in God unless God wants them to. It's that simple.

Wow that is simple! So why doesn't God want everyone believe in him? Was Jesus just kidding when he spoke to Nicodemus about loving the world? Why did he give life to the reprobate? Is God glorified by casting people into hell for eternity?

God doesn't "send anyone to hell for eternity"; He has given us the ability to opt out! It's a choice WE make when we refuse to accept His gift of saving us from that fate-Jesus Christ. Place the blame where it belongs.

@RonH:

You wrote, "Yep, accepting the grim truths is really bearing down on me all right. To make matters worse, it looks like this somehow makes Christianity true. Woe is me. Oh, woe is me!"

Yet here you are again, skulking around this website, for several years at least! You certainly choose an interesting way to spend what little time on earth that you have, with so little to show for it!

Mike Westfall

This is off topic, but it doesnt look to me like youve solved/dismissed the dilemma, merely reinforced it. Care to explain?

"What they didn't consider is what the ancient Hebrews believed in, a monotheistic God who created everything and from whom all things flow, including goodness and virtue."

So what? What if they made it up based on prior myths and a lack of understanding about the fabric of observational reality?

Mike

Re: AJG,

Yes, it is that simple. Why did Jesus speak in parables? “Jesus said; I Speak in Parables So They WON’T Understand.”

“And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable. And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.

“That seeing they may see, and not perceive: and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted and their sins should be forgiven them. And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable? And how then will you know all parables?” Mark 4:10-13

@Amy, since I don't know much about your history, I'll take you at your word that whenever you discuss the moral or existential failings of atheism, you are never ever ever less than perfectly clear and explicit to your readers that you are not making an argument against its truth. But if you think Christians don't routinely conflate the two, you've got another think coming.

And you're not out of goose/gander sauce territory yet. Everybody agrees that unpleasantness has no bearing truth. But tellingly, you only demand that your opponents be forbidden to discuss the immorality of Christianity, while reserving the right to yourself to make your allegedly logically sealed criticisms of the moral status of atheism.

This is classic conversation-stopping tactics, and I wish apologists would stop doing it. If someone wants to discuss the OT genocides, why should they (your words) "not talk about" them? Why should it (your words again) "not enter the discussion" if that is the topic they wish to discuss? Are you really sure we can't walk and chew gum at the same time?

One can have a conversation about the studio development process behind the filming of the movie Lincoln -- how many drafts the script went through, which executives greenlit it, how the cinematographer chose to shoot it etc.

One can also have a conversation about how historically accurate the finished product was being.

One can also have a conversation about the moral justification various characters in the film had for doing what they did.

One can also have a conversation about the aesthetic merits of the film, whether it deserved more critical recognition, or less.

One can have whatever conversation one feels like having, with the sole justification being that that's what the conversants feel like conversing about.

"No no no!" says Amy. "You are forbidden from making moral or aesthetic criticism of the film until you have established that it is historically accurate, and until you have hammered out all the technical steps the cast and crew went through in production!"

I think you've missed the point of the post. I'm not telling atheists they can't talk about it (though when they do, they betray their knowledge of an objective moral standard--but that's a new subject), I'm saying that atheists who say grim truths are a selling point are being inconsistent when they talk about it. Hope that clears it up for you. Happy Fourth!

betray their knowledge of an objective moral standard

What's confusing you, I think, is that such a 'betrayal' or 'admission' is equivalent to saying your god or any god exists. This confusion, stems from a false dichotomy you accept: either morality is 'objective' and stems from a god or it's a 'matter of taste' or some such.

The answer is that morality has objective aspects quite independently of the existence of any god. It doesn't have all the same aspects you attribute to it, but neither is it 'mere preference'.

I suppose chefs are being "inconsistent" once they've "admitted" that nutritious food and tasty food are often not the same thing, but they still recommend you try their restaurant on the grounds that the food tastes good.

Why, it seems like they're trying to "defend their restaurant at all costs", dishonestly refusing to only discuss calorie counts.

Dagoods additionally raises another context where the two are not logically separate.

Even though normative claims are expressive and hence fail to univocally fix empirical content, descriptive positions can be derived in sufficiently circumscribed contexts.

Suppose Billy is taking your daughter on a date tonight, and I tell you he is very honorable and trustworthy. My normative claim about his character thereby places constraints on what you would expect to observe if, for example, you looked up his arrest record. If your daughter comes back 3 hours after curfew with a torn dress and smelling of liquor, my claim that "Billy is good" will have been falsified.

Likewise, if your scripture tells me that you will be subjected to an eternity of conscious torment if you fail to get a sufficiently high grade on your final exam from some sadistic celestial Theology Professor ("transsubstantiation? trans!?!? it's con, so off to the lake of fire you go!") then at least one of the conjuncts of "Biblegod exists and is good" is false.

until you have met Billy and learned that your daughter ditched Him becaused He was boring, yet Billy pursued her and found her in the corner of a bar surrounded by three thugs and He returned her to your care, you know nothing. I have met "Billy". I know GOOD.

Robert

"The answer is that morality has objective aspects quite independently of the existence of any god. It doesn't have all the same aspects you attribute to it, but neither is it 'mere preference'."

Hi RonH, and the others with you on this...you keep telling us this and keep making up the rules so that you satisfy your preferred standard of whatever it is that compels obedience to your standard. This is no standard at all.

Baggini is at least honest about the epestemic challenge...unlike Staircase who dismisses philosophy cavelierly at the point he doesn't like its constraints then later lectures on the logical problems he sees with Christianity.

Maybe you guys can come together and deliver a formula for a moral standard that is universal and unchangeable--one that compels all men to obey--using your beloved atheistic worldview. I'll try to be honest and not impose the Christian worldview as I evaluate your system, unlike you characters who dismiss our worldview by first rejecting our foundational principle out of hand-ala hand waving it away because you simply cannot bear the thought that God Is.

Brad B,

you keep telling us this and keep making up the rules

What did I did I tell you?
What rules did I make up?
What are you talking about?

come together and deliver a formula for a moral standard that is universal and unchangeable--one that compels all men to obey

In morality, we are compelled by our nature which is a real thing that explains why the idea of a 'standard' is so popular.


"What did I did I tell you? What rules did I make up? What are you talking about?"

Hi RonH, on many occasions you've basically stated that morality needs no grounding...if you now dispute that you have, you will never be taken seriously. It is and has been similar to what you've said to Amy just now--"morality has objective aspects quite independently of any god"

In the past and now, you attribute it to our nature...in there somewhere due to evolutionary change in the Darwinian scheme--ie survival as the prime directive.

What I'm talking about is your worldview cannot give you the support to compel anyone to obey a moral standard--you cannot even rightly judge good or bad [nor can Staricase and Dagood, even though, like you do, they make use of the terms with wreckless abandon [bare naked assumptions, without justification] above. All I'm asking for is something more than popular opinion, RonH opinion, or some other garden variety atheist opinion as to why I should think a certain moral law is binding on me.

I'll make it easy [as easy as is possible I think], why is is morally wrong to murder another human being?

Amy & Brad B,

Another attempt at clarification:

All meta-ethic proposed solutions have the same three (3) concerns. ALL of them:

1) What standard to use to determine morality? I.e. Utilitarianism, Social Contract, Reasonable Person, Theism, etc.

2) How does the standard resolve various situations? I.e. what is the “least harm”? What would the most reasonable person do? How do we determine what a god says about this?

3) How do we impose this moral standard on others--especially those who do not hold to the same standard? I.e., how do we convince others one action would cause more harm than another? Or how do we convince a theist to utilize a non-theistic standard? Or how does a theist convince a non-theist there is a theistic standard?

Again, let me emphasize…ALL meta-ethics struggle with these issues. Pointing out another meta-ethic has a certain problem—like saying “why should your moral law be binding on me?”—while technically correct, is simply pointing out a problem with ALL meta-ethics. Analogous to pointing out Goodyear tires eventually wear down, while extolling Michelin tires. Michelin tires wear down too—it is inherent in all tires.

I cannot impose my meta-ethic on you—you will always be free to reject it for another meta-ethic, or for making a different determination even within one’s own meta-ethic. Think about it—even theists who agree in an absolute theistic meta-ethic, disagree as to what is moral or not. Everything from eating pork to eating beef to praying to alcohol to mixed bathing to smoking to slavery to divorce to marriage to…well….you name it. (And in the same way, those holding to utilitarianism may disagree what causes the least harm, etc.)

I am sorry, theistic morality has no greater support (and no lesser) simply because it is theistic. Failure to recognize one’s one inherent issues-- shared by all meta-ethics--does mean the other meta-ethic proposals fail.

@RonH, you stated:

"In morality, we are compelled by our nature which is a real thing that explains why the idea of a 'standard' is so popular."

This might be part of the disagreement we face--the nature which man possesses, (especially if one holds to the thought that his nature is bent on self-preservation) has never shown itself to be anything praiseworthy. Christians hold to the notion of man's nature being fallen, in need of a major overhaul, clearly observable in reality! When the bottom line is "self-preservation", he claws his way to survive to benefit himself and the results are not pretty. This view doesn't do much for the survival of the species.

Hi DagoodS, I dont really think you have made any case at all. "We" is who, in your scheme? Mankind in general, cultures in general, local governments, nation states? Is there a heirarchy in this scheme?

You err by including the Christian theism in your list, mostly because you appraise the Christian worldview with your own inadequate presuppositions. Until you deal with the Christian scheme on it's own presuppositions, you haven't really judged whether a theistic morality sufferes from the 3 concerns you list.

When I talk about a moral law binding on me, I'm not only referring to it binding my conscience internally, but also recognizing or acknowledging my duty to obey as a subordinate being. A manmade/man grounded law cannot do that, it hasn't the authority. If you think it can, or that it does have authority please show me why murder is morally wrong, starting from an atheistic worldview.

Brad B,

Simply claiming that your version of Christianity can meet metaethical challenges is cheap. Until you actually SHOW how your version of Christianity meets those challenges, you haven't done very much.

As to your question, it's not clear how you want us to interpret it. For example, consider the following answer: It is NOT always morally wrong to commit murder. For instance, consider the antebellum south. A slave who defends himself against the violence of his master by killing him may have committed murder according to the law of the period. Yet if he really was only defending himself, it need not be morally wrong.

You might complain that this is not the sort of murder you have in mind---i.e. murder according to the law. But what is the alternative? Perhaps you want to appeal to the concept of murder defined as the morally wrong killing of another human being. But of course then the answer to your question is uninteresting: That sort of murder is morally wrong for the simple reason that it is defined as such.

So I think you had better explain what you mean by "murder." And for similar reasons, you probably should also explain what you mean by "morally wrong."

Neither of the above tasks is easy though. If you find them too difficult to do, perhaps instead you can illustrate what you mean by answering your own question as a Christian. In other words, you may wish to attempt to answer the following: Given your Christian view of things, why do you think murder is morally wrong?

Hi Ben, although we've had prior engagements that touched on this subject and I see your relavistic morality view continuing with consistency in this response, I will start fresh with your post here. I would hope to keep this discussion reined in to a central issue but I dont know if it's possible-due to the subject itself.

I think you are asking for two different things, and the burden that you'll have in my answering them, will be to evaluate them on the Christian worldview system of thought In other words, you'll have to assume our starting point that God Is--this shouldn't be too hard, afterall atheists cannot disprove God exists under the constraints of their own system of thought--they/you have to either claim omniscient knowledge or agnosticism about the existence of a non physical being. If you cant do this, you'll question beg by assuming God isn't as you evaluate my answers/the Christian worldview as a system of thought. Feel free to inquire where incoherency is shown to be--only assuming that "God Is"

My intention is to show that the Christian worldview is systematically coherent on this topic and it is the most comprehensive worldview to understand the living experience that all cultures of men have--believers and unbelievers alike including atheists.

"So I think you had better explain what you mean by "murder." And for similar reasons, you probably should also explain what you mean by "morally wrong." Neither of the above tasks is easy though."

Since time constraints prohibit it,I'm not going to start with a bunch of references, but wait til it's a necessary step, so I will use my own thoughts as I understand the terms to be defined/supported by the Christian worldview.

I'm going to start with my statement to DagoodS, "When I talk about a moral law binding on me, I'm not only referring to it binding my conscience internally, but also recognizing or acknowledging my duty to obey as a subordinate being" So, a moral law binds the conscience and also carries with it a sense of obligation to obey the authority behind it. "Murder", is the unjustified killing of a human being by another human being.

"Given your Christian view of things, why do you think murder is morally wrong?"

Murder is morally wrong because all men are created in the image of God, all men are His creation and an assault on another is an assault on God. Its prohibition is clearly demonstrated in scripture starting with Cain/Abel in Genesis, to the 10 commandments, and into the NT.

Hello, Brad B.

Entire library shelves bulge with books on meta-ethics—it is far too broad a topic to cover in a blog comment. For those interested in a (relatively) brief introduction, I recommend: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/metaethics/

But to answer your questions…”we” as in humanity. I don’t interact with presuppositional apologists as long history reveals it to be ineffectual conversation. Typically the presuppositionalist demands their own presuppositions be recognized while refusing to recognize the presuppositions in other’s viewpoints. Sure…if we presuppose theism…the resulting meta-ethic is theistic. Presuppose creedal Christianity—the resulting meta-ethic is creedal Christianity. The same way, presuppose atheism—the resulting meta-ethic is non-theistic. This was kinda the point of my entering this particular conversation. Under non-theism, meta-ethics still develop allowing one to make moral determinations regarding other’s actions.

Yes, I understood your meta-ethic to mean “duty to obey as a subordinate being.” Again, this in inherent in ALL meta-ethics. A duty to obey subordinate to an ideal or proposition. Theism utilizes a god as the determinate for the ideal; non-theism utilizes other concepts. Again (and again and again) you are describing the basic precepts of ALL meta-ethics; you are simply describing it in terms of one (1) meta-ethic—that being Christianity.

Brad B: “…please show me why murder is morally wrong…”

The answer to your question would depend on the meta-ethic. A utilitarian would indicate because it causes more suffering than benefit. A social contract theorist because it violates one’s contract to remain in society. A reasonable person theorist because it is not what the most reasonable person would do. A Christian would say it is because God has declared it. (And these are in the most simple terms…anyone interested should read far more on the subject.)

But clearly if you insist all morals must be grounded in a god, you will never understand why murder is wrong under a non-theistic meta-ethic. I can only point, whether you choose to comprehend is up to you.

By the way, ALL meta-ethics recognize others will not subscribe to the ideal and implement a justice system and punishment administered by human authority vested within a governing body. Even the theocratic Mosaic law utilized a human justice system with human rules and human implementation to dispense human punishment on other humans. If you don’t think a “Human made” law can impose authority on you, I recommend speeding past the next police car and seeing how long it takes before you find out how wrong this would be! *grin*

I'll try this again....

"I don’t interact with presuppositional apologists as long history reveals it to be ineffectual conversation. Typically the presuppositionalist demands their own presuppositions be recognized while refusing to recognize the presuppositions in other’s viewpoints."

Yeh, I find this to be true also....this is because "other's" presuppositions are unjustified while the Christian worldview is coherent down to a single self attesting proposition--namely God Is. The fact that you are unwilling to go there is a dissapointment, even if it is just for the excercise of testing the coherency of the system of thought.

"Even the theocratic Mosaic law utilized a human justice system with human rules and human implementation to dispense human punishment on other humans."

I dont dispute this, in fact, here's Francis Schaeffer on this topic.

"Those who hold the material-energy, chance concept of reality, whether they are Marxist or non-Marxist, not only do not know the truth of the final reality, God, they do not know who Man is. Their concept of Man is what Man is not, just as their concept of the final reality is what final reality is not. Since their concept of Man is mistaken, their concept of society and of law is mistaken, and they have no sufficient base for either society or law. They have reduced Man to even less than his natural finiteness by seeing him only as a complex arrangement of molecules, made complex by blind chance. Instead of seeing him as something great who is significant even in his sinning, they see Man in his essence only as an intrinsically competitive animal, that has no other basic operating principle than natural selection brought about by the strongest, the fittest, ending on top. And they see Man as acting in this way both individually and collectively as society. Even on the basis of Man’s finiteness having people swear in court in the name of humanity, as some have advocated, saying something like, “We pledge our honor before all mankind”4 would be insufficient enough. But reduced to the materialistic view of Man, it is even less. Although many nice words may be used, in reality law constituted on this basis can only mean brute force. In this setting Jeremy Bentham’s (1748-1842) Utilitarianism can be and must be all that law means. And this must inevitably lead to the conclusion of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935): “The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.”5 That is, there is no basis for law except Man’s limited, finite experience. And especially with the Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest concept of Man (which Holmes held) that must, and will, lead to Holmes’ final conclusion: law is “the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.”6 The problem always was, and is, What is an adequate base for law? What is adequate so that the human aspiration for freedom can exist without anarchy, and yet provides a form that will not become arbitrary tyranny? In contrast to the materialistic concept, Man in reality is made in the image of God and has real humanness. This humanness has produced varying degrees of success in government, bringing forth governments that were more than only the dominance of brute force."
The whole article can be found here.

Can someone please find out why my attempts to post response to DagoodS is not going through. Tried two times, both with the same essential content, but the second attempt would be my preferred posting. I "savedd" my last attempt in case I need to repost it. Thanks, Brad B

Brad B,

You wrote:

"Murder is morally wrong because all men are created in the image of God, all men are His creation and an assault on another is an assault on God. Its prohibition is clearly demonstrated in scripture starting with Cain/Abel in Genesis, to the 10 commandments, and into the NT."

I don't see how you're connecting this to morality though. If you think that murder is prohibited by the Bible, okay. But what is it about a Biblical prohibition that makes murder morally wrong?

If you simply define morality in terms of God's laws, then you resort to speaking a different language than the rest of us. You won't actually be talking about the same thing that the rest of us are talking about when we use moral language. But if you don't define morality in terms of God's laws, then where do you make the connection?

"If you simply define morality in terms of God's laws, then you resort to speaking a different language than the rest of us."

Well, you asked for the Christian worldview which so happens to reflect reality as men experience it. The image of God on men was damaged in the fall, not completel obliterated. The denial of all morality stemming soley from God's standard is irrational and unjustified. Did you see Francis Schaeffers observation above...did he fairly represent the atheist position? Then, did he fairly conclude:

"That is, there is no basis for law except Man’s limited, finite experience. And especially with the Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest concept of Man (which Holmes held) that must, and will, lead to Holmes’ final conclusion: law is “the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others"
I recommend his whole article, it's only about a 30 minute read...longer if one ponders what he's saying-much longer if one really grapples with the concepts. Schaeffer was brilliant.

The discussion shifts if you dont want to evaluate the Christian worldview on it's own terms. If God Is, we can account coherently for life as it is experienced, if God isn't, the way men experience life is irrational. This is why there is a transcendental argument for the existence of God.

Brad B,

You suggest that I'm not willing to evaluate your version of Christianity "on its own terms." But that is not so. You are free to define moral language any way you like, but then the moral questions you ask aren't going to mean very much. So for example, if you define moral wrongness as that which God prohibits, then on atheism nothing is morally wrong according to your definition since on atheism God does not exist to prohibit anything!

As for your question, I cannot yet say whether I agree with Schaeffer. It depends on what kind of law he has in mind. If he is speaking of moral law, then I'm not sure such a thing exists. If he is speaking of the rule of law as instituted by nations (as seems to be the case) then it does turn out sometimes that law comes from a majority vote. However often it is merely the rule of a minority, or even a single autocrat.

Hi Ben, in your first paragraph, [at "for example"] you reason correctly....I'm not sure you are just repeating what I've said, and concluding logically-in atheism, there is no prohibition-no rational one anyway.

As to the second, you again understand Schaeffer, repeating atheist Oliver Wendall Holmes that whoever has the biggest stick gets to make the rules--and yes sometimes this is a minority and even a single autocrat.

Point remains, where does the authority to tell another what is legal/permitted/moral come from? You say "I'm not sure such a thing exists", I call b/s. I doubt that you live that way, I'm sure you'd agree that for all time and in all places, a law that says someting like: all persons named Ben cannot possess any property, nor can they change their name/person to avoid the restriction, furthermore if Ben[s] are found to have property, it can be summarily taken from him-if he resists, ultimate force may be employed with no threat of punishment to those who act to enforce this law is immoral.

If a law like this cannot ever be moral, there is an eternal/unchangeable moral standard.[in the above example, "Ben" = a person with genetic traits like you have, not mere nomenclature. Thus all Ben s= humans with some similar traits that you all were born with.]

Brad B,

I'll make it easy [as easy as is possible I think], why is [it] morally wrong to murder another human being?

This just begs the question. Is it 'wrong' in common speech? In everyday life? Yes. Will I act is if it were? Yes.

But the question at hand is: Is wrongness a real property of the murder. You say it is so demonstrate it.

Hint: You can't do this it by strapping me to a chair and threatening me with instruments of torture. Nor can you prove that stealing is wrong by taking my stuff and waiting for me to react. Etc.

These behaviors tell you something about me, but not necessarily about murder.

Brad B,

Just to be clear, on atheism there is no immorality as you evidently want to define it, i.e. there are no prohibitions of nor crimes against God. And this is for the very simple reason that, on atheism, there is no God in the first place!

But if we define morality differently, e.g. if we adopt Harris's theory or the veil of ignorance or whatever else you pick, then it remains an open question in my mind as to whether such morality exists and corresponds closely to the way we use moral language in our everyday discourse.

Incidentally, this problem also arises for theistic morality; for it is not clear that we can define moral language even by appealing to a cosmic autocrat. And even if we do, it almost certainly would make a poor fit for the way we use moral language in everyday discourse.

Now, you suggest that I cannot live out that skepticism, and you give an example of an absurdly unfair and cruel law. How would I respond to such a law? Would I not call it "immoral"?

And perhaps I would, if I thought it would help get the law repealed. I would lie through my teeth if I thought it would save me from such terrible persecution. But so what? I would not actually believe that it is immoral. Instead I would regard it, as I mentioned above, as cruel and unfair. I would also expect others to sympathize with my plight and to feel badly enough to help me get it repealed. But where does morality enter into any of that?

In the interest of brevity I will omit a response to the bit about authority and the idea of an unchanging standard. If you wish I can cover that later.

“absurdly unfair and cruel law”
“cruel and unfair”


Elsewhere Ben regresses to the non-cruel non-un-fair status of Slavery grounded in a culture which approves thus.


I don’t believe him. On the slavery bit, that is.


And so where arrive at two places. First, that Atheism gives to us irrationality where the words “cruel” and “fair” are employed for violence and not reason defines all things despite the fact that our Moral Experience teaches us otherwise. The Genetic Fallacy hints, but cannot reach. Second, those of us who have tasted of such violence know very well that Ben is insincere when he tells us of his neutrality therein. Moral Skepticism overplayed is moral skepticism dismissed. The brutally repeatable way in which we perceive the Physical Experience and the Moral Experience and the Mental Experience lead to similar epistemological ends. But moral epistemology has nothing to do with moral ontology and thus Ben fails to address such. Perhaps later.


But it matters not, for we sense a bit of insincerity in his attempt to win at all costs, as truth is dispensable, and on this Ben is more honest than our OP which claims an inexplicable ought in “clinging to the naked truth”. How do we know this of Ben’s honesty? Ben has told us this in the past, that truth has no innate goodness in itself but should it serve our very fun experience. He uses “good” experiences, but this on the heels of telling us “good” can be slavery so long as culture so defines it. But we know he is there not telling us the truth of his belief.


He believes as we believe. On the slavery bit that is. And on the cruel and unfair bit I suspect as well.


Now, again, Ben is here more honest in his assessment than is the commentator of the OP who claims to value “clinging to naked truth” at all costs, as if such an inexplicable axiom has legs to stand on: first he states there are no oughts and then he claims we ought value truth even if it offends, or “praises” it, as if a Necessary Something worthy of praise (necessarily) can be defined in its own system of thought. At least Ben is honest in his philosophy, though insincere in his feigned motion toward a felt neutrality in the face of the morally absurd.


He believes as we believe where Moral Epistemology is concerned. His Ontology will (soon) land all his beliefs within the irrational.


Whatever roads lead to similar epistemological grounds matters not as we unearth truth.


But we await his Moral Ontology, for we already know that he and we have the same Moral Epistemology as we all are coming to know the necessary value of Joy, of Love, of Logic, and of the Singular-We, though Ben seems a bit slanted towards Joy. Very well. “I have come that you may have joy………” But what is joy to irrationality? Well, Joy too won’t save him.

He will find that in our Matrix, and we are in a Matrix, the In/Self of this particular In/Self which we call Universe leads to the irrational in not only the Moral Experience, but also the Physical Experience and especially the Mental Experience if found to be in isolation, void of the Out/Other. It is Love’s Necessary Being where upon all his Logic will find its only hope of a Rational End.


All the fluff and filler surrounding the Is To Ought Fallacy and the Genetic Fallacy need not allow us to avoid the Necessary Being we well know lies at the end of all regresses whither we are ultimately taken, be it by Logic's necessary bedrock or be it by Love's necessary bedrock. As for Knowing, Ben must take care here not to pull back from his claimed Immaterialism and commit the logical contradiction of Nature free of Nature by implication, lest all his own Knowing and Logic fate to nihilistic ends as well.

Word’s Corporeal, that is to say, Love Made Flesh, that is to say, God, tells us we are in fact inside of a Matrix, encased inside of a Matrix, and we are a strange sort of Being for we find all our faculties are also incased here in this Matrix and we are unable to ascend, and yet we peer outward and Timelessness Himself shatters the skies above our heads and we who are incased in Time know, not by experience, but by the Timeless Itself, Logic and Love, that the Everlasting just is, for whether we are Atheists or Theists we all come to know epistemologically the Ontology that alone is theism’s Necessary Being: Everlasting, Uncreated, Immutable, and Timeless whereof all “things” flow out of and this by Mind/Word and not Matter/Corporeal lest the irrational end all regresses once again. He gives to us, this God Who is Love, somehow, the tools to peer out of this Matrix that is our Actuality of Good and Evil here within our perceptions fueled by our brutal Moral Experience, our undeniable Physical Experience, our Volition free of Nature there within our Mental Experience, and oddly, though a touch of eternity is found nuanced within us, Time encases us as we look past it.


Clearly we are in a Matrix. Clearly we know it. Cleary the Amalgamation that is Word-Corporeal is found Manifest here, there, whichever, both, in Love and in Logic. No single set of perceptions here in the Matrix provides rational explanatory power for itself or for any other set of perceptions for all are in themselves irrational as they feign and fail in the regress of a hoped for Ontological End despite the fact that they share in the same Epistemological Ends. And therein lies the rub. We all know the same experiences and there is but One End which can hope to make sense of them. In/Self. Out/Other. And the singularity of the In-Out/Self-Other. The triune bedrock is the Joy of God there within Love and thus such is Man’s, His Beloved. The Atheist must, as Harris does, resort to mere Inexplicable Axiom to explain all of his brutally repeatable experiences here in the Matrix from the very existence of Everything to the Moral Experience to the Physical Experience and to the Mental Experience for while his epistemology slowly grows to agree with Love Himself he finds no explanation which can play the role of a Table upon which he may finally rest his Ontological End. He has no such End. All his Logic and all his Love betray him as they pierce the heavens and slice open all the contextual skies up over his head as the All-Context pours Himself Out and In and we His Beloved are found, like Him, poured Out, poured In. Nothing in the Matrix makes sense in the Matrix. Thus mere inexplicable axiom is all that is left for the atheist who prefers the Isolated-In/Self rather than that embrace of Love’s Self-Other, In-Out, within the Community of the Singular-We, E Pluribus Unum, which is the Beloved’s Joy and Immutably so. Logic is herein shown to be dispensable: lest God. We do cling after all it seems.


We need not fear overlapping beliefs for Mind, Epistemology itself is laced all through with its own Triune Topography as the In/Self knows within that very In/Self and within Relation and by Relation amid the Out/Other and these too both again within Relation and by Relation amid the singularity of the In-Self/Out-Other that is the Singular-We and these Three are found necessarily in the Known and in the Keeps-On-Knowing as the All-Context of Uncreated Mind swallows up whole all contexts. Ontology reveals its Triune Topography through Being's singular and pleural amid the Self and the Other and the singular I-You for Being itself regresses to Love's embrace among the I/Self and the You/Other wherein the Singular-We streams uncreated, worlds without end.


An Uncaused-Cause of the Just-Is type testifying by Self-Evidence that it just is emerges as Necessary regardless of which vectors break through as No-Thing ever escapes Necessity's uncaused IS which forever shouts through all known vectors I-AM. Logic feigns a regress to Self-Evidence and is found sustained quite easily within Epistemology's Triune Topography. Good is known for Immutable Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self forever pours into us and herein we find what is Lovely and immutably so, what is Good and immutably so, what is Beautiful and immutably so, what is Joy and immutably so. Joy is the serious business of Heaven, but what is joy to irrationality?


Lest Ben forgo the logical fallacy of the Is To Ought and the Genetic Fallacy and instead (I doubt very much he will) appeal to Euthyphro's Dilemma in a subtle attempt to evade the Necessary which lies at the end of all Regresses whether Theistic or Atheistic, well, it won't do. There is, regardless of which way we run, the Necessary, the Eternal, the Uncreated, the Immutable. In Atheism all such Necessary's give to us but Mutable and Violent Moral Ontology at best and sheer illusion at worst and volition exactly nowhere. In Atheism the very existence of everything must rest in the blind faith of inexplicable axiom as must “love person” or “love truth” (though Ben is at least honest on these moral terms and readily concedes they have no immutable goodness in themselves on atheistic grounds). I don’t believe his stated, feigned, neutrality and skepticism. His felt reality is as ours. We believe the same sorts of things there inside our brutal moral experience. We must not confuse Moral Epistemology with Moral Ontology.


In Theism, and nowhere else, we find one Peculiar Necessary in which all of Logic's regresses to In/Self, Out/Other, and the singularity of the In-Out/Self-Other house our necessary and immutably Triune Epistemological bedrock on all fronts just as Love's regresses to In/Self, Out/Other, and the singularity of the In-Out/Self-Other house our necessary and immutably Triune Topography of Everlasting Love. In Idealism or Immaterialism we find our regress to Mind, and in Mind Word, and in Word Know, and in Know we have regressed again to our triune epistemological bedrock which is Everlasting, which is Immutable, which Knows, which is Triune, which is Mind, which is Love Himself manifest quite easily in Word-Corporeal. If not these, then the Idealist must attempt the cheat of timidity's move to pull back to some ill defined precursor to Mind, and whether such be Dark Matter or some other some-thing, we are again fated to logic's death in the contradiction of Nature free of Nature. But the Idealist knows how we know, and we know how we know for we know in the way that God knows, which is necessarily triune in topography.


Insincerity on epistemological grounds will never serve to salvage a pending attempt to dismiss the plausibility of theism on its superior ontological grounds for the brutality of this our Actuality of the knowledge of good and evil is quite congruent therein.

Ben, RonH, I was unable to spend any time on the blogosphere yesterday, but since I see your replies, I want to extend the discussion if you's two are willing.

RonH, it isn't question begging, Ben pointed out and rightly so, definitionally "murder" is unjustified killing of another human being-I am not assuming anything that isn't already a given. This point though, doesn't provide any foundation as to why unjustified killing is wrong, there is some reason why civil authorities far and wide have universally enacted prohibition to this act. I'm asking for justification as to why if so many cultures have outlawed unjustified killing of another human, what grounds do they have for this law. Schaeffer above answered this.

Ben, you start out:

"Just to be clear, on atheism there is no immorality as you evidently want to define it, i.e. there are no prohibitions of nor crimes against God. And this is for the very simple reason that, on atheism, there is no God in the first place!"
Well, that is the Christian worldview, if you are going to evaluate the Christian worldview, do it with our ultimate principle-that God Is. This is sufficient justification for men to obey-if not by internal law, externally by force ala Gods ministers for good-the civil magistrate. If God created men, If God established prohibition to it, If God created man in His image.....and He did, we dont get to make up our own set of rules of rights and wrongs.

So to be clear, are you agreeing that in atheism, there are no justified, necessary prohibitions? When you later opine:

"and you give an example of an absurdly unfair and cruel law."
What judgements are you using to call this example law absurdly unfair and cruel?

The point still remains, where does the authority to judge come from--you seem pretty confident to evaluate the law, is it whoever has the power to lick the rest who gets to decide? Is that all it is, or everyman for himself?

I still have not been answered, why is murder morally wrong in an atheistic worldview?

Brad B,

You wrote:

"...definitionally "murder" is unjustified killing of another human being... I still have not been answered, why is murder morally wrong in an atheistic worldview?"

You're talking about moral justification, right? But you evidently define morality in terms of God's prohibitions. So on atheism, there is no such thing as a morally-unjustified anything, because (again) God does not exist on atheism to prohibit killing.

And if you define murder differently (i.e., without appealing to God) then (by your account of morality) murder still won't be morally wrong on atheism because (again) God does not exist on atheism to prohibit anything.

I've said most of that before. So I'm not sure why you think your question has not been answered.

I skipped over the following point last time for brevity's sake, but let me deal with it now:

"The point still remains, where does the authority to judge come from--you seem pretty confident to evaluate the law, is it whoever has the power to lick the rest who gets to decide? Is that all it is, or everyman for himself?"

First of all, let's be clear that if the law is enforced at all, then it is enforced by the guys with the biggest sticks regardless of whether your version of Christianity is true. It's just that in Christianity, you happen to root for the guy (Yahweh) with the biggest stick. (I should quickly mention that your personal approval and loyalty to Yahweh don't change the fact that he is still a hideous monster, but that's a topic for another day.) Just remember, on Christianity, Yahweh has the most power and in his position of dominance he enforces his favorite law codes as he pleases, with us human beings utterly helpless to resist his divine autocracy. At least on atheism we have hope for resistance and/or escape from capricious despots, who unlike the Christian deity are invariably limited in power.

But this is a minor point which probably doesn't deserve the textspace I've given it. Moving on.

Instead, the most important point is to remind you that we don't need authority to make judgments about laws. We only need authority in other cases, say if I wanted to impose my judgment on others against their will. But thankfully we can agree on a great deal without resorting to force and without the need for authoritative backing.

Indeed, judgments about laws are no different in this regard than more mundane judgments. For instance, I don't need any authority to decide that Michael Jordan is a better basketball player than B.J. Armstrong. I can make that judgment all on my own, without appealing to any external agency.

Similarly, I am free to make the judgment that Rosenthal's ell_1 proof is very clever. I don't need an external authority to set up an objective standard for cleverness. My own subjective judgment is just fine, thank you very much.

Now, maybe you disagree that Rosenthal was so clever. Or maybe you're a B.J. Armstrong fan. Or maybe you think that a blatantly and singularly oppressive law is no wise unkind nor cruel. You are free to make your own judgments, which may run afoul of mine. And if that happens, we can discuss our differences in the hope of resolution, and cope as best we can with the situation in case one fails to be forthcoming.

Ben seems to be hedging. Again.

“murder still won't be morally wrong on atheism because (again) God does not exist on atheism to prohibit anything…”

Yes, but this still does not say why murder is wrong in atheism’s construct.

“I've said most of that before. So I'm not sure why you think your question has not been answered..”

Because saying that Ontology A is different than Ontology B, though both agree epistemologically, does not answer the question of, “Why, on B’s ontological terms, is murder wrong?” (B being Atheism)

The question seems to go unanswered.


“if the law is enforced at all, then it is enforced by the guys with the biggest sticks…”


This is not the why of Theism, obviously, as such lies in the Immutable Grain of Love, as every heart ultimately finds what it claims as its own joy: the Self in isolation (Love-Less), or, the Self-Other within the embrace of the Singular-We (Love’s Triune of I-You-We, E Pluribus Unum). Clearly Omnipotence cannot create a Being who can stand inside of Self-Sufficiency (Life, Joy) should it thirst to stand Alone. Only the Uncreated Self can do thus. That is “why” Love Himself cannot sin. Any Created Self (Necessary Being, etc….Christianity’s definitions) must stand thusly to know All-Sufficiency, Life, Joy: Self-Other (that Other being Love Himself). As Brad-B warned us, Ben is re-defining Christianity and not carrying on this conversation on its own terms. Question begging…. as Brad-B predicted.


But worse, we are not yet clear if this (big sticks) is the “why” of Atheism, since that statement of Ben, again, evades and hedges rather than offers a “why”.

“capricious despots….”

And the why of ought-not nuanced therein on atheistic grounds? Missing yet again.

Evade. Hedge. Misrepresent Love’s Ontology.

Here comes the inexplicable axiom the atheist must resort to:

“….we don't need authority to make judgments about laws. We only need authority…. if I wanted to impose my judgment on others against their will….”

And, again, why? exactly? Ben just asserts (supposedly in an atheistic framework) this inexplicable axiom of some other person having “value”.

But no “why” is offered.

Evade. Hedge. Misrepresent Love’s Ontology.

“My own subjective judgment is just fine, thank you very much…”

I think we may be getting to something here. Rather than the Immutable Grain of Love we have some sort of appeal to competing mutable whims (and sticks).

But Ben does not seem to offer a commitment here as “this” being the bedrock of the “why”.


Wisdomlover asked this of Ben over a year ago and received no answer:


“I don't think you've escaped the circle on morality/moral obligations. To say that I'm under a moral obligation is just to say that a moral rule or moral law applies to me and I must follow it. To say society 'values' moral rules is simply to say that they expect me to follow the moral rules that apply to me. But the issue of how the rule came to be, and how it came to apply to me is left unanswered.”


It is not clear but Ben seems to be offering the combination of big sticks and subjective mutable whims as the sole basis of why [insert absurdly unfair and cruel something here] is wrong.


Now, this is fine, for it is (if this is in fact what Ben is offering as a “why”) an honest (Ben is one of the few writers here who are at least philosophically honest) stance on atheism’s offer as there are no oughts which transcend the human brainstem at all, only ever-changing itches which some scratch harder than others with various sized sticks. That’s Atheim’s bedrock. Irrational itches and sticks. What is not clear is why Ben seems so hesitant to just say so.

A bit uncomfortable perhaps?

Well, that is because he is too decent of a fellow. He just does not believe in his own stated philosophy. Who wants to hear themselves say that about [insert absurdly unfair and cruel something here]? His brutal moral experience is telling him something else. It is telling him such moral absurdities are wrong and are so regardless of how far the sticks and itches of individual contexts or collective contexts happen to carry them over time. The Objective trumps the Subjective. That is why our epistemological dances are the same while our ontological dances are worlds apart.

To paraphrase: “Unhappy with this defeat of their dilemma, some [atheists] have demanded: is something good because of the way Love is or is Love that way because something is good? The critic isn't listening. We've already said that something is good because of the way Love is. "But why is Love good?" the critic persists. It's hard to make sense of this question. The moral theory just is that Love is the Paradigm of Goodness, and it makes no sense to ask why the paradigm of goodness is good. The critic must be asking, "Why believe your theory?" The answer is, "because it makes the best sense of objective moral values and duties." It is the most plausible ethical theory out there….” (WLC)


“Why disbelieve atheism?”


Because Atheism must resort to mere Inexplicable Axiom to explain all of its brutally repeatable experiences here in the Matrix, from the very existence of everything to the Moral Experience to the Physical Experience to the Mental Experience and to all the notions of Volition’s Logic, Thought, and Reason. While atheism’s epistemology and mutable semantics have slowly grown over time to catch up with the Immutable Semantics of Love’s Ontology it (atheism) finds, despite its search, no plausible explanations inside of this Matrix, inside of its Isolated Self. All his (the atheist’s) Logic and all his Love betray him as they pierce the heavens and slice open the contextual skies over his head as the All-Context spreads His arms wide and pours Himself Out for His beloved and In-to this beloved, and immutably so within Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self. Nothing in the Matrix is plausible in the Matrix. Thus mere inexplicable axiom is all that is left for the atheist who prefers the Isolated-In/Self rather than that embrace of Love’s Self-Other, In-Out, within the Community of the Singular-We, E Pluribus Unum, which is the Beloved’s Joy and Immutably so.

Hi Ben, besides the problems plaguing your view that scbrownlhrm has well elucidated above, I want to focus on this:

"Instead, the most important point is to remind you that we don't need authority to make judgments about laws. We only need authority in other cases, say if I wanted to impose my judgment on others against their will. But thankfully we can agree on a great deal without resorting to force and without the need for authoritative backing."

Can an equal ever have authority over another(?), subjective opinion isn't a possibility. In the face of you pitiful biblical characterization, in the Christian worldview, civil authority is accounted for in God's word. The civil magistrate is "Gods minister for good" ala Romans chapter 13...there it says:

"for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."

Civil authority can compel obedience to those who disregard their innate conscience, only because the institution is from God in the first place. Civil authority is legitimate only insofar as it upholds good as defined by God[it is God's minister for good, not evil].

Brad B,

I never read scbrownlhrm's posts because they are invariably rambling and incoherent. So if you think he made a good point, then you are welcome to put it in your own words and then I'll be happy to respond. But as a rule I do not respond to anything he himself has written.

Anyway, you write:

"Civil authority can compel obedience to those who disregard their innate conscience, only because the institution is from God in the first place."

But this is incorrect. Armies, police and other sorts of security organizations can punish and subdue those people who fail to obey a given law code. In this sense they have power to compel obedience, because most folks want to avoid punishment. You don't need God to threaten citizens into obedience.

Ben,

Aside from an indirect, or hesitant, appeal to various irrationally conditioned itches some of which are scratched harder than others with various sized sticks, you really have not given your "WHY" on atheistic grounds.

Brad has given his.

I'm disappointed in your indirect, or hesitant, hedging.

“I don't think you've escaped the circle on morality/moral obligations. To say that I'm under a moral obligation is just to say that a moral rule or moral law applies to me and I must follow it. To say society 'values' moral rules is simply to say that they expect me to follow the moral rules that apply to me. But the issue of how the rule came to be, and how it came to apply to me is left unanswered.” (Wisdom lover)


Brad,

You did refer Ben to the notion that power's ought, or punishment, regresses yet further to Love's Goodness as He is the Ultimate Actuality.


"Civil authority is legitimate only insofar as it upholds good as defined by God...."


But Ben seems to be stopping his regress not at a final Actuality of Love (as you eluded to) but instead simply in fear of punishment. Now, such a fear is of course but an irrationally conditioned itch. One among many itches. Some itches are scratched harder than others, and with variously sized sticks. But I think Ben missed your point about authority based, not in fear, punishment, or power, but in the ontological truth that Ultimate Actuality is Love. That is say, that God is Love, and, from thence, comes "authority" for such just is the Immutable Grain of Actuality.

Ought Love.

Why?

For Ultimate Acutality, God, is Love.

And there inside of Love The-Self finds a kind of Death unto, into, The-Other. And, in Dying, Living.

@BradB, you wrote:

"Civil authority is legitimate only insofar as it upholds good as defined by God(it is God's minister for good, not evil)."

I'm pondering that right now and wondering how it applies when the civil authority upholds evil (as determined by God--e.g. abortion on demand)--because, while it is the current way of the law, that law is an evil one. Is civil authority, therefore, illegitimate in this case?

If I'm on a rabbit trail here, feel free to decline a conversation! (Moderator, I will certainly understand if you feel the same way.)

Also, I do not know the answer to this, but why is it presumed that scbrownlhrm is male? If I missed something somewhere, I apologize. I was never aware this was common knowledge.

Thanks!

P.S. Not that it matters, but I'm curious how it came to be the prevailing thought.

Hi Carolyn, I dont think your question is too far afield to be considered hijacking, it is tangental to this conversation and an opportunity to expound on the notion that I've been trying to convey that the Christian worldview is coherent, and comprehensive to the experiences that man have as they live [and move and have their being :~)]. The bible speaks to your question, in several places and careful inspection of the whole council of the biblical revelation on this pretty clear--we are to obey when the law is good, and disobey when law is evil--"men ought to obey God". It is similarly clear that the institution of the civil magistrate is facilitated by ordinance from God...a form of His common grace in action to preserve man from degenerating completely. This is the kind of lawkeeping Ben is describing...the kind described in Romans 13 where it says:"But if you do evil, be afraid;" for men who dont fear God, they must fear His minister for good.

The institution of the civil magistrate is God's minister for good, the office holders do not always faithfully fulfill the office and become illegitimate when they uphold evil.

During the founding of the U.S. there was disobedience to the civil magistrate, a phrase from that time "disobedience to tyrants is obedience to God" reveals the mindset there. There were steps along the way that lead to this kind of thinking, the Magna Carta caused the common thinking of Rex Lex[King is Law] to change to Lex Rex[Law is King]. John Knox using biblical authority in his discussions with Queen Mary, stated that even kings and queens should obey the Law. The dominant players in this move were Christian thinkers/ministers.

I'm rambling a little, so I wont say more than to refer you to Rom. 13:1-4, and 1 Peter 2:13-14, and ponder these scriptures. They'll need to be seasoned with other scriptures to get the full council of God on this, but for the Christian, civil disobedience to unjust or evil law is a faithful biblical principle.

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