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July 05, 2013

Comments

Mr. Wallace,

Thanks for your concern for the spiritual condition of our young people. I appreciate your sincere attempts to help. As I read your article, a few things came up for me that I believe you may want to pray and process through.

First, all human beings are made in God's image. We are spiritual beings who make spiritual decisions, no matter what is believed, and no one has the power to change this. The word "secular" (whether describing a person or school of them) is incredibly deceptive because it not only communicates what a person believes, but it also implies that the person's beliefs/faith/spirit has been removed from them and their work. This not only encourages their self-deception but demeans their human dignity (Psalm 139) and the dignity of our Maker (Gen. 1:26-27). (For the record, this means that all schools are belief-based, teaching S/someone's worldview...which is why God purposed the Church to equip, parents to train, and the government to protect our ability to do so.)

Secondly, have you ever considered God's purposes for teachers, students, tuition, etc.? Like marriage, husbands, wives, etc.. they have a purpose that transcends time and circumstances. His teachers are purposed to teach/equip with His perspective of all of reality. No subject matter is out of His reach. Your encouragement as a youth leader is important as youths and parents discern W/whose perspective Wisdom tells us to buy (Prov. 23:23). If we don't seek wisdom in teaching as students, why should anyone else seek our teaching, assuming it's wise?

Finally, this world and it's Creator give us plenty of opportunities to reach out to the lost, without causing them and us undue harm. The one who hires the fool is the one responsible for harming everyone, but love does no harm. The Creator of us all tells us how to avoid this, for His glory and our good (Prov. 26:10) Perhaps removing our support and children from their leadership and lovingly explaining why as God leads, is one of the best ways to encourage a teacher who will one day stand before God. James 3:1 is a powerful reminder that none of us will avoid accountability before Him.

Praying for us all as we seek to honor Him alone,

Allison

I'm not sure how that relates to Mr. Wallace's post, Allison. The wonderful image of inoculation, and how youth ministry can prepare kids for the world outside their church community.

Mr. Wallace,

Your four points on "inoculation" use the terms "Christian" and "Secular" as two very broad brushes, and you're painting a picture containing only black and white. To put it another way (yet another metaphor), you're depicting Christianity and secularism as distinct, monolithic structural designs having nothing in common and no internal complexity, with an implication that neither one can stand if the other is standing.

Because you are associating secularism with disease, and are equating "the secular worldview" with "the lies of the culture," you are expressing an open belligerence that verges on hate speech. You are calling for extreme polarization, and fanning the flames in a culture war. I think this is shameful.

Let's elaborate the inoculation metaphor in a more realistic way: vaccines and antibiotics are used to destroy harmful viruses and bacteria. But we have seen, and exploited for the general benefit of public health, viruses and bacteria that are actually helpful to us. Our bodies are host to a vast assortment of bacteria that are in fact essential to our wellbeing. To "inoculate" against all of them would be suicidal. If secularism is bacteria to you, you'll need to learn to take a very careful look at it, because some of it will be important for sustaining the quality of life.

You will need to get past the "small doses of secularism" that you'd like to have for "preventive treatments" in order to really avoid the risk of creating straw men. As for teaching critical thinking to kids in junior high, you have my solid support on that - provided that it involves something more than simply criticizing the views you don't agree with.

I'd like to add two crucial points:

(1) Contrary to the implications you are casting with this "pep talk", there is quite a lot about secularism that is not lies or fallacies. Indeed, there are secularists (like myself) who have no hesitation in recognizing the values we have in common with the worldview of Christians, as well as with that of other religions - even though Christians and other theistic communities may view these values as being exclusively their own, to the extent that each such group considers itself unique on issues where it actually is not, relative to the other groups. Would you like to pursue a real challenge? Forget about secularists, and just try to build a consensus across religious boundaries - see if you can bring about a decrease in the number of denominations, instead of the seemingly inevitable increase. (I wonder what sort of metaphor will help you there?)

(2) Get down to specifics. What in particular is the "diseased" part of secularism that you need a cure for? Let's talk about detailed points of disagreement.

Is there problem involving "biblical inerrancy"? What specific approach would you advise on that? Young Earth Creationism just flat out will not work - there are too many ways in which reality obviously contradicts it. So you'll need to train up some sort of "exegetical flexibility." How much? How and where does one apply greater freedom of interpretation?

Children in junior high can and should be shown the evidence for common ancestry among different species - and when presented truthfully and impartially, with explanations of the kinds of confirmation that have been done, it will hold up. So I hope you won't waste your time looking for ways to "inoculate" against that. It would make a lot more sense trying to figure out how to present an "exegetically acceptable" interpretation of scripture that'll make the Christian worldview appear consistent with (rather than utterly disjoint from) reality.

If the creationism/evolution "debate" is a non-issue for you, please accept my sincere apologies for digressing that way. (But considering some of the discussion I've seen from some readers here, I think it's important to be clear on that topic.)

Otto - Wow! "verges on hate speech." You'd have to be able to read Mr. Wallace's mind to determine if it is speech based on hate. On the other hand you could rightly call it "offensive speech", because it seems to have offended you.

Can't we simply allow Mr. Wallace, in an effort to be brief, to use broad brush strokes to differentiate between those things that fall within a Biblical worldview and those that don't?

To the two who made objection to Mr. Wallace's post, I am not sure why the term "secular" is such an issue. To a greater and greater extent, Secular Humanism is influencing every aspect of our society - universities, media of every kind, as well as a growing number of individuals. This is not the only non-Christian worldview out there, but, as brianehunt said, I believe he is using broad brush strokes in order to be brief, and this worldview is having greater and greater influence.

There really is this grand chasm between Christianity and every other worldview, because Christ is the narrow gate. Sure people of most faiths (or athiestic beliefs) will agree on things like "Love your neighbor as yourself", but the grounding is completely different. According to www.secularhumanism.org, morals are grounded in this: "Secular humanists hold that ethics is consequential, to be judged by results. This is in contrast to so-called command ethics, in which right and wrong are defined in advance and attributed to divine authority. “No god will save us,” declared Humanist Manifesto II (1973), “we must save ourselves.” Secular humanists seek to develop and improve their ethical principles by examining the results they yield in the lives of real men and women." This great amount of hope in humans and humanity contrasts immeasurably with the Christian who knows that we desparately need a savior. We can't save ourselves. There is no way to do it. I know the quote I just posted isn't talking about spiritual salvation, but we need God for every aspect of our lives - physical, spiritual, and everything else. And "Love thy neighbor" is not just something we do because is has good consequences, but we are created in the image of God, who has demonstrated this love to the ultimate extent in sending his Son Jesus to willingly die on the cross for sinners, and take that sin upon Himself. He didn't have to do that, but He did out of His love for us, and now He is calling us, His image-bearers, to go forth and show love for others.

I choose one example, but the bottom line is, the difference between Christianity and every other worldview is Christ, and who He is. It really is as simple as that, and at the same time there can be no more important difference than this. That doesn't mean we can't get along, and I certainly don't think we've come anywhere close to "hate speech". In fact, if we are properly instructing these youth we are inoculating, we will be instructing them to proclaim the truth "with gentleness and respect". We are teaching them to love their neighbor regardless of their neighbor's worldview.

As an aside, the quote from the humanist website in the above post does not correctly represent the Christian view of morality (probably because it is broadly sweeping against all theistic worlviews). The Christian does not believe God's commands are arbitrary decrees that He could change at His own whims, but that they are rooted in who He is. He is not asking us to do anything that He is not already doing (in fact, He is the only one with perfect morality), but at the same time He is not following some higher standard of moral rules or values. Instead, morality is rooted in who God is, and His Goodness.

Greg has some excellent articles on this. Search for "Euthyphro" in the articles section if you are interested. (I do not work for STR, I just love their site!)

"Instead, morality is rooted in who God is, and His Goodness"

This is nothing more than bare assertion. How can anyone know this?

Please dont tell me it's something to do with the bible, because you'll just end up somewhere circular.

@Steve:

Thanks for your thoughtful replies. Just a few things:

(1) If you really think the assertion that God "is the only one with perfect morality" can be reconciled with God's behavior and instruction as portrayed in the Old Testament, I have to wonder whether this "inoculation" being proposed might have some hallucinogenic side effects. Look for a movie called "God On Trial" (full version available on YouTube), to get a sense of what I'm talking about. It's striking to me how utterly different the NT is; in order for the endorsement of the OT by Christians to make any sense at all, there are major portions that ought to have been expunged from the OT as canonized for Christians.

(2) I appreciate your mention of Euthyphro, and I'll look for those articles. I'm familiar with the topic. Now, if "morality is rooted in who God is," how do you, personally, know what the "moral" choice is when facing any given decision? Do you really have complete knowledge of God and the morality He constitutes? Do you assume that, because you "believe in God," the choices you ultimately make will be the right ones?

If you want to equate existence of God with existence of good ("good" defines/is defined by God's nature, is intrinsic to/inseparable from it, etc) and you want to conclude that this resolves the Euthyphro dilemma, you are still left with another dilemma: who speaks for God when it comes down to the nitty-gritty details of expressing which of the choices available to us are the "moral" ones, and how do we determine whether someone who claims such authority is actually advancing a "correct" choice?

Do we each ask God, and make our own choices depending on what we think He tells us personally? Do you really think the bible will suffice to resolve every dispute? What about disputes between Christian denominations when they disagree on particular issues of doctrine and scriptural interpretation?

(3) As for knowing that "we desperately need a savior": how is this "known"? It has the same epistemological basis as the fate of "eternal damnation" that we "desperately need" to be saved from, which is to say, there really isn't any reliable evidence for it. It's a matter of taking other people's word for it (because those people claim to be inspired by / speaking for an immaterial deity who created both humanity and the eternal damnation that humanity is prone to suffer).

It is futile to discuss issues related to anything rooted in Christ with Mr. Tellick, Mike, RonH or their ilk. They are outside of Christ and committed to atheism, and their eyes and ears are blind and deaf to spiritual truths at this time.

Only Christ can convict them of their pitiful state and draw them to Himself. Should their hearts be changed because of Him, fruitful dialog will be welcome. Until then, we all must go through the gyrations of defining the most nominal of words, explaining the huge subjects of the existence of God, Truth in Scripture, etc. in a modicum of words--a feat which cannot
do justice to the subject matter and only brings on further demands for additional qualification of the Christian position. Somehow this must make them feel they are on the winning end of the conversation.

Their isn't a shred of humility shown which would encourage a Believer to carefully address each and every objection shown by these folks. Their determined penchant for simply reiterating their hollow, atheistic position over and over and over again reveals no attempt to learn or profit from the time spent exchanging with them. Indeed, they honestly believe WE will become so much more knowledgeable by simply buying into their empty worldview, thereby eliminating bothersome, "imaginative","fairytale-believing", empty-headed embracers of the "myth" of Christianity. They will camp out on this blog for reasons beyond what anyone can guess, until they skulk away for greener pastures.

Life is short and there are real human beings out there who long for the meat of Christianity and the Hope it offers. Perhaps it's time to give the ball to the above-mentioned and suggest that go play elsewhere.

Carolyn

Right back at you. However, unlike you I dont seek to poison the well, but try to challenge and provoke into some sort of rational debate - and from what I read that applies to Mr Tellick and RonH as well.

So answer the substantive criticisms rather than throw mud. That's the difference between you and me - I welcome intelligent debate but you seem to prefer received dogma.

And I would always try to teach a child (or someone that I am in an authority position over) how to think, not what to think.

You should try looking elsewhere online - you might learn something. Start with www.rationalskepticism.org. I've learned that so called Christians sometimes just prefer vitriol, mild or not.

Mike

@Mike,

Surprise, surprise! Knew that was coming! The only poison in the well here, Mike, comes from the constant barrage of questions which attack the veracity of Scripture, the reality of Christ, the authority of Christ, etc, etc. over and over again. These issues have been addressed at length in previous posts and most of the atheists here have engaged in the same rock-throwing in those dialogs as well! It is tiresome and futile to keep going over the same territory with every new OP put forth.

As far as your effort to "challenge and provoke into some sort of rational debate"...that would be productive only if it was actually the case. But the predictable challenges to every word written have already been done time and time again. If there is any doubt about this, go back to some of your own comments to verify. Furthermore, it would appear that, given the statements proffered by the atheists mentioned, there can never be anything remotely close to a "rational debate" because you completely reject our view of even the word "rational"!

Consequently, what you see as "substantive criticisms" read as a re-hash of the same points thrown out there ad infinitum, ending with the aforementioned goads of "fairytales", "myths", and "wishful thinking". Just how productive and intelligent is that?

As far as your welcoming "intelligent debate" and my preference for "received dogma" goes, you are entitled to your opinion of such. Much has gone into the embrace of my faith in Christ--far too much to address in a blog. For most here, it is a personal journey which requires meeting many hurdles along the way. It would be very disingenuous to assume that each of us just put clear thinking aside and became zombies, blindly accepting "dogma" without careful consideration of the issues. The Author and Source of our faith is the person of Jesus Christ and without knowing HIM, many things we hold to be true will appear to be foolishness.

Pretending that the exchanges that have taken place with atheists here lately have been invigorating and productive is pointless from my perspective. And the "vitriol" you observe does not come from the Believers--to wit, Mr. Telleck's comments on "hate speech". Should you choose to conclude my comments are vitriolic, that's your prerogative. They have been written out of utter exasperation with the "one step forward, ten steps back" format currently occupying this blog.

As an additional comment here, the people who write the opinion pieces at Stand to Reason are, by and large, highly educated, very intelligent people. There is every reason to consider their contributions in that light and not immediately attack their words out of hand. They and their work are entitled to respectful replies regardless of the perspectives of the ones replying.

@Mike, I was stating the Christian's position (although obviously I also believe it's true).

@Otto, at the risk of this discussion blowing up into something well beyond the scope of a comment board, can you give me some of the highlights, or examples of what you mean? I have read both testaments, and the same story of the redemption of mankind is woven throughout the entire tapestry of scripture. Part of that includes the deserved judgment of sinners, which is generally the more difficult part to accept. However, this appears in both testaments (and incidentally NO ONE is excluded from the category "sinner" - except of course Jesus Himself)

That brings me to your next point, and I am curious where it comes from. All I know about God's Goodness has been learned over time through what He has revealed to me (primarily through the Bible, although many of the daily practical applications come through other people's examples and through experience in daily life). I don't have anything close to perfect knowledge of God and His morality. I don't get it right all the time. I don't think I could say I got it right most of the time. That is why I am so desparately in need of a Savior!! As far as how we determine which choices are the moral ones, I don't know any other than the principles revealed in the Bible, the examples of Godly men and women, and life experience. Some decisions are hard, and we will often make the wrong ones. But God also gives wisdom and discernment, and as one advances in their Christian life, there should also be advancement in moral living.

On the topic of Christian denominations, there is a call to unity, but the Bible also makes provision for the fact that some matters will be "disputable" and that honest Christians will disagree on some things (Romans 14). The call at that point is that whatever you do, do it in faith as unto the Lord, and do not go against your conscience.

If you have come to the point where you believe the Bible is the true Word of God, you will accept all of it and its implications, which is where I am. So of course there is no "evidence" of Hell, and one must look to the Bible for it, but I am comfortable with that because God said so. That doesn't mean I am comfortable about the fact that there will be eternal torment for those who reject His salvation through Christ - I struggle with that idea. A lot. But I also believe that God is good and just, and that I can trust Him, even if it means accepting something that is difficult.

As far as needing a savior, I think it is manifest to look around (and if we're honest, look within ourselves) and see that humanity has issues. Even in the quote I gave earlier, the humanist association talks about needing to "save ourselves", making us our own savior. The more one reads the Bible and sees God's holiness, the more one recognizes one's own depravity, and at some point it becomes painfully clear that one needs a savior - not just a little, but desparately. The Bible makes it clear that the heart is deceitful above all things. That is one reason why the law was given, to help us see just how depraved we were (since we have all broken it). And if that wasn't enough, Jesus shows in the Sermon on the Mount that we have to go even further than just the law, because what matters is the heart. When a person really examines their own heart against this backdrop, selfish, impure, prideful etc. motives sprinkle almost every thought and almost every decision.

But, once again, if you do not believe the Bible is God's Word, and you see yourself as basically good, why do we need a savior?

Thanks for your comments.

Carolyn

"The only poison in the well here, Mike, comes from the constant barrage of questions......"

That isnt what poisoning the the well means. You should deal with the substantive argument, not attacking the poster.

"It is tiresome and futile to keep going over the same territory with every new OP put forth"

Why? Have you thought that maybe the attempts at rebuttals are unsatisfactory?

Let's put it bluntly. Not one argument has ever been put forth on this site supporting the existence of diety(ies) that cannot/ has not been thoroughly debunked. Not to mention the quite astonishing science abusing bashing that goes on. The latter, particularly wrt evolution, is shameful. If I'm wrong, point one out to me and I'll concede. Cant say fairer than that?

However, lets pick some examples of thoroughly debunked arguments:

1. Kalam Cosmological
2. Paley's watchmaker / argument from design/ fine tuning argument
3. The existence of objective morals.
4. The inerrancy of the bible [insert name of other holy book here] (not even the Church of England states the bible is the inerrant word of God!)
5. The existence of miracles
6. The "there must be a purpose to all this because I can assert it" argument
7. The "you cant explain it, therefore God exists" argument (i.e. the god of gaps argument)

Have I missed any?

You post just says intimates that you are a committed Christian who doesn't like her opinions being challenged because you hold them so close and dear. Fine, then don't engage in the debate.

But at the same time, don't be passing on your opinions as true (= accordance with fact or reality), because they aint. Demonstrably.

And I don't care how highly educated people claim they are or how intelligent they claim they are - we progress by challenging. Look up galen and versalius for the reasons why blind acceptance of opinion dogmatically is so wrong. I am respectful, I dont mock. But disagreeing isn't mocking whatever you may think.

However, if I have offended I apologise unreservedly and it was not intended.

@Mike

The resurrection of Jesus and fulfilled prophecy are two more arguments.

Steve

Good arguments for the existence of God?

If so - what fulfilled prophecies?
And how do we know Jesus was resurrected? As far as this one goes, I think it's too much to talk about here but suffice to say, I don't think a miraculous change from dead to alive is the best explanation for the 'facts' as presented in the bible.

Mike:

It would be very refreshing to have the atheists here respond to an OP by asking questions such as: "How do you overcome the hurdle of....?" Or, "What is someone to do with the concept of ....?" instead of the attacks inflicted and mockery accompanying the atheistic position.

My last posts have been the result of feeling quite fed up! The rigor of true debate is one thing; the put-downs and couched sarcasm of some posting here are quite different. Disagreement can take many forms but when respect is lacking, no matter how silky smooth the words are arranged, the result falls far short.

Blind acceptance of dogma is not my own position nor that of most posters here. An unwillingness to reinvent the wheel IS at work here. That you have found nothing compelling you to accept anything here to your satisfaction makes complete sense! No studies, no historicity, no robust argumentation by some of the most qualified scholars (of which I am not one) ever satisfies when there is a presupposition of naturalism. These lie outside the range of that worldview and cannot be resolved unless something essential changes.

Your reality is not our reality in some instances. That's a given. But until God draws you to Himself, it's simply going to be a verbal volley.

I am not so much offended as exasperated. I take it that you are exasperated with me, as well! Your apology is accepted, of course, and I also apologize if my exasperation has brought out the worst instead of the best--in myself and in others.

You may certainly have the last word, Mike.

I agree that it's beyond the scope of a comment board, but I would be interested to see what you believe the best explanation is for the resurrection stories(maybe there is a book that more or less aligns with your thinking?)

Jesus fulfilled a multitude of prophecies from the Old Testament, but what strikes me even more than that is how not just the prophecies point to Jesus, but there are so many types that point to Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire sacrificial system. Jesus is THE great High Priest. Stories like Joseph point remarkably to Jesus (Each of these apply to both: His father loved him dearly, a shepherd of his father’s sheep, sent by his father to his brothers, hated by his brothers, others plotted to harm them, both were tempted, both were sold for the price of a slave, both were falsely accused, both suffered, both were placed with 2 other prisoners, one who was saved and the other lost, both were exalted to the right hand of the king, both were 30 years old at the beginning of their public ministry, both forgave those who wronged them, etc.). Jesus is the passover lamb (anyone covered by the blood of the lamb escaped death). Isaiah 53. Psalm 22. I could go on. Jesus rightly shows in Luke "beginning from Moses and from all the prophets...in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."

Steve/Carolyn

It's reasonably clear you both think that miracles have occurred and do occur - am I correct?

@Carolyn - just a point about naturalism because I'm not sure why you brought it up but its a well trodden path for me; therefore I'll pro-actively tell you what I think.

I'm of the opinion that methodological naturalism is an axiom of science. In doing so I therefore make ontological commitment. As such science has nothing to say, indeed cannot say, anything about God or the supernatural. Not that I'm not dismissing the supernatural - I'm just saying that it's inaccessible to us.

Because think about it. An event X happens. How would you determine whether the cause was supernatural or not? Is there a test you could perform?

The sieve that determines science theory from science garbage is observational reality. Does the predictions that theory makes conform to that which is observed? If it doesnt, then the theory is wrong and it doesnt matter who thought it up or how beautiful the theory is (Gaeln v Vesalius, Newton v Galileo etc etc). This is why science theories - particularly quantum physics - are just descriptions of what we see. There is no claim that this is really the way things ARE - they are just our descriptions. But they seem to work.

Philosophy on the other hand, has no such sieve. All theories of philosophy are equally useful, to which end they are equally useless. But I think Philosophy is more about how to think than what to think - which keeps me on topic ( ;-) ) and I read the History and Philosophy of Science as part of my degree so I'm entitled to an opinion!

Interested in your thoughts and to hear why you inserted naturalism into the mix

Mike

Typo - "I'm of the opinion that methodological naturalism is an axiom of science. In doing so I therefore make NO ontological commitment

Mike,

First question, yes.

Second part, I agree about what you say about what science is, and its limits as it pertains to the supernatural. I think Carolyn is speaking of the worldview that says axiomatically that the observable world is all there is, because it is imperically all we can see (is that what ontological commitment means?)(correct me if I'm wrong, Carolyn). This worldview uses a circular argument, because the conclusion and the presupposition are the same. And if I could reproduce the supernatural by experiments that are repeatable, verifiable, etc., it would cease to be supernatural.

Basically, if you axiomatically say that what science can find is all there is, you are needlessly placing limits on reality. However, if you acknowledge the possibility of the supernatural, you are not. I think all of us are in agreement on that.

So as you said, the supernatural is inaccessible to us. This is true - unless God makes it accessible through His revelation, and He tells us about the things that are beyond our observational reality.

Steve

Thanks for the reply.

Just for the record, ontology is about existence - science makes no claims in this regard. Ontology is part of metaphysics - science makes no metaphysical claims.

I make no claims about what science can discover. Equally I make no claims about "the possibility of the supernatural"! If I were to do so, I would be doing philosophy. But you are doing so, but you have no means of knowing whether there really is the possibility of the supernatural or not.

So we have an impasse; so my question is - when a miracle occurs, what actually happens? Miracles seems to have an effect in the world we can observe?

Mike

Hmmm, ontology is about the nature of existence I should have said.

Mike,

I have appreciated the discussion. I would feel bad to digress from the OP much further, so maybe we'll pick up again on another comment board :)

Back to the OP, my wife and I were talking about this same topic recently, and I think there is a lot of wisdom in what Dr. Wallace is putting forth here. There is a tension raising children in Christ in a world that is so opposed to Christ, and with so many potentially negative influences. However, we agreed the answer is not to isolate them from bad influences and hope they are ready for the world when they leave the nest. They will be totally unprepared.

Instead, we want to talk to them. Engage on some of the difficult things they are going to run into - and hopefully BEFORE they run into them. This includes things like worldviews, but it also includes things like sex, drugs, and rock and roll:) We hope this will go a long way with them, rather than to just pretend these things don't exist.

Sorry I guess it's Mr. Wallace. That doesn't take away my respect for him though!

Thank you for bringing us back to the OP, Steve. Should the opportunity to discuss the issues which Mike has mentioned come up again, we can address them at that time.

Sounds like you and your wife take parenting seriously and have a plan in mind--I LOVE that! Be so grateful that the two of you are on board with this!!! Your children will benefit from the wisdom you take the time to instill in them.

Blessings,
Carolyn

Carolyn,

Thank you for the kind words. Blessings to you as well!

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