Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Problem of Evil


Morals arose in our species through evolution as a social species. Many other species, not just closely related primates, but even vampire bats, rats and mice display morality based on reciprocation. . . . There is no absolute morality . . . .

A possible atheistic definition of evil is one person causing unnecessary harm on another. As an atheist, I would abandon the word "evil" and just call it "unnecessary harm" to make the issue clearer.

Does the problem of evil require an atheist to actually believe in evil or to have a coherent definition of evil? No, absolutely not. . . . Atheists have no need of a definition of evil and we don’t even have to believe that evil is real.

There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference . . . We are machines for propagating DNA . . . It is every living objects sole reason for being. ~Richard Dawkins
Cited in William Lane Craig, On Guard (Colorado Springs, CO: David Cook, 2010), p. 34. Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden: a Darwinian View of Life, (New York: Basic books, 1996), p. 133

Only hours before the “movie theater massacre” I was engaged in a discussion concerning God and evil. It has been said that reconciling an all-loving, all-powerful God with a world full of evil is the crux of all theology. Consequently, such discussions are rather commonplace.  

How many non-theists argue in some form or another: “I don’t believe in God because of all the evil in world”? Hence, we have the so-called “problem of evil.” But is evil a problem? Not for the Christian theist. The Christian theist can philosophically account for evil as evil. In the Bible we have the foundation and framework for absolute, objective morality.  

The atheist has no such thing. The atheist views morality as nothing more than social convention or herd instinct, an accident of evolution. The atheist knows no objective, absolute moral standard. Therefore all ethics are arbitrary, relative or subjective, and evolving. In other words, evil as evil—true evil—is a problem for the atheist. 

Because the atheist denies the existence of God he cannot affirm the existence of true evil. Thankfully, the atheist cannot suppress all the truth all the time. He cannot rid himself of moral motions, of judicial sentiment. He cannot disabuse himself of feeling: This is wrong! (As has been observed, atheists can be downright puritanical in their moral outrage…just listen to them attack biblical ethics.)  

And no amount of time spent in the contemplation of Chimpanzee compassion can relieve the atheist of the problem of evil. So the atheist lives in perpetual contradiction. He cannot possibly live what he claims to believe. On the one hand he is a highly evolved great ape with no moral law and no moral law-Giver; and on the other he is but a lowly man with nagging issues of conscience.

He has no foundation for moral absolutes but feels absolutely morally superior for being “good for goodness’ sake.” He denies the moral imperative but authoritatively preaches humanism in seemingly unavoidable terms of “right” and “wrong” and “good” and “progress.” 

The atheist’s dilemma stems from his being a responsible moral agent all the while living in what he deems to be a finite, mindless, cosmic accident. Thus, from within the parameters of his own penurious worldview, it seems the atheist denies the existence of God due to all the non-existent evil in the world.  

Certainly, the atheist will use the term “evil.” But he does so with non-moral connotations.  “Evil” is not a moral term for him. “Evil,” to the atheist, has more to do with pragmatics than ethics. “Evil” for him belongs in the categories of evolution and/or emotion. Moral evil is problematic for the atheist, not the theist.

The existence of true, moral evil does not disprove Christian theism. Rather, Christian theism proves the existence of true, moral evil. The Christian theist has a basis to say that what happened in the Aurora theater is truly, morally evil. The atheist, at best, can say it is “evil” in the sense that he doesn’t think it is helpful for the propagation of the human species and it makes lots folks feel unhappy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Anarchy Malarkey


While discussing socialism and the requisite use of force in such a system, the notion of anarchy was introduced. A self-labeled “Anarcho-socialist” bemoaned the fact that Anarcho-socialism is often conflated with Statist-socialism, when in fact they are disparate theories of governance (or the supposed lack thereof) and economics.

While these systems are indeed dissimilar in their utopian visions, both are unbiblical in their approaches to ethics and economics. Statist- socialists, who take by force the wealth of one group of citizens and give that wealth to another group of citizens, are guilty of breaking the Eighth Command: You shall not steal.

While Anarcho-socialists have no designs for the forced redistribution of wealth (though it is rather difficult to envision folks voluntarily giving their wealth to others), they are nevertheless advocating rebellion against God. That is, they are philosophically opposed to that which God ordains, viz. government (Romans 13:1-7).

Governments are ordained by God. When I speak of governments I have in mind three spheres of rulership: the family, the church, and the state; each of these rules according to divinely delegated authority. Thus, these governments are not autonomous but answer to God’s authority and standard as revealed in scripture.

Hence, Paul writes: “Whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2). Therefore, anarchy cannot be sustained or maintained, and in the final analysis, I don’t think it can even be momentarily truly attained.

My dialogue partners’ words appear bold and italicized.

*******************************

“I really do not feel like debating it. I have had many debates over the last few months with people about Anarcho-socialism. MOST, not all, but most, choose to ignore the fact that Anarcho-socialists are NOT statists and that they wish to abolish the government. They ARE libertarians. I have seen the wildest accusations thrown at both my friends and myself over it and I have had enough.”

Are there any historical/contemporary examples of sustained, voluntary, non-Statist, National Socialism? Also, are there any historical/contemporary examples of sustainable nation-States that have no civil government?

[Please note: No attempt was made to answer these two questions.] 

“What about voluntary communities (Kibbutz's, Christian intentional communities, etc.)? People intentionally coming together to pool resources, without the threat of violence hanging over their heads?”

There may be "communities" but these are quite small. Right? I'm speaking specifically of "national socialism"...voluntary, non-Statist socialism on the national level. Any examples of this?

“What's the difference between an intentional community and a "nation," aside from their size? (and of course, the latter's boundaries being propped up by the state, and the former's boundaries enforced through voluntary/peaceful association and agreement?)”

I'm not particularly interested in getting too involved in what properly/biblically constitutes a "nation."

So...let's keep it simple. When I speak of "nations," within the context of this thread, I am speaking of entities such as Germany, Japan, and the United States.

When you introduce the term "community" I have in mind a group of folks joined in voluntary association. Examples of communities--as I am thinking of the term within the context this discussion--would be groups such as local Boy Scouts, the Hell's Angels (though I don't know how "voluntary" it is once in!), and perhaps a local Lion's Club.

“Anarcho-socialists are anarchists, which means they have no desire to create a ‘national socialism.’"

As I further contemplate the concept, I do not believe that anarchy is sustainable in a community or a nation ("community" or “nation" as discussed above).

Webster's New World College Dictionary defines "anarchy" thus: "the complete absence of government."

In accord with Webster’s dictionary, it was previously said that anarchists desire the abolition of government. But is the complete or total absence of government attainable—much less sustainable? I don't believe it is.

What I mean is this: Anarchists may be rid of official government but they cannot be rid of de facto government. Humans have differing gifts and abilities. Leaders and followers naturally and inevitably emerge—a pecking order, if you will—within all groups; including anarchists. That is, they can strive to be rid of official government but they cannot be rid of human nature (de facto government) while so striving.

Anarchists cannot societally exist without leaders and followers; without organization. The total absence of government cannot attain or sustain human community. The anarchists who advocate that there be no official government do so from within de facto government structures.

(To dispute my thesis of natural, unavoidable de facto government, anarchists will appeal to the writings and sayings of influential anarchists—anarchist leaders, organizers, and thinkers—watch and see!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Zoned Out Christians


Today, Michael Salman sits in jail following a raid on his home because the city doesn't allow people to hold private Bible studies on their own property! Fox News quoted Phoenix City Prosecutor Vicki Hall as saying, "It came down to zoning and proper permitting. Anytime you are holding a gathering of people continuously as he does, we have concerns about people being able to exit the facility properly in case there is a fire."

Well, I for one am much relieved. Don’t we all feel safer just knowing that Michael Salman is off the mean streets of Phoenix, if only for a couple of months? The last thing this country needs is zoned out Christians—rebels like Salman swimming against the stream—terrorizing neighborhoods with their permit-less Bible studies.

And isn’t it about time that city prosecutors like Vicki Hall put the interests of the people first? Finally, somebody stood up for the little guy! Finally, somebody said to the criminal and the lawless, “You will go no farther! You WILL stay in the zone.”

When Salman endangered the public by maliciously exposing them to all sorts of possible fire hazards, Ms. Hall effectively stamped out this phantom inferno by putting this miscreant where he belongs—not with his wife and children, but behind bars. (And NO, being locked in a steel cage poses no danger in case of fire.)

Speaking of danger, frankly, I don’t know how folks fled fires before permits and zoning laws. And we all know how strongly the government feels about conflagrations and careless Bible teachers with their homicidal flames—remember Waco? Thankfully, there’ll be no smoking Christians due to the likes of this reckless Salman—not in Phoenix!

I had a rather lengthy discussion with some Facebook friends regarding this Salman fiasco. You see, I think the zoning law in question is unconstitutional and selectively enforced. In fact, I believe the zoning law was used as a pretext to shut down the Bible study. Apparently, we not only have a separation of church and state; we now must ensure the separation of church and home.

Accordingly, the nanny-police state raids this peaceful man’s abode, puts him in jail, and demands over 12,000 dollars from him. Why? How is this just? How are such acts moral?

The following is an excerpt from my discussion. My interlocutors’ words appear bold and italicized.

***************

"I understand what you are saying Steve, and the City does stipulate what it considers something that should be regulated. Not to oppress religious activities, but to protect the persons gathering. Can you imagine the tragedy if there was a fire, and people were hurt or died as a result, and the City was aware of what was going on. You have to look at both sides and deal with it accordingly."
 
I am not at all compelled to give up personal liberty for perceived security. I do not want the government telling me who, when, and how many I can have in my private home, on my private property--under the guise of what's in my best interest.

I do not require the nanny-police state to direct or regulate my life.

"You can't put a 2000 sq. ft. church in your backyard in addition to your own home and say it's just an "additional space for us to worship" and then expect there to not be any consequences. And oh, it's just family and friends. It's not open to the public. Isn't that what the church is about? Reaching out to the community? This guy is not all he's cracked up to be."

This isn't simply about "this guy." This is about the government ignoring the constitution and assuming the authority to tell folks who and how many they can have on their own PRIVATE property. This is about government shutting down a Bible study under the pretext of an unconstitutional and selectively applied zoning law. (And why can’t a person put a 2000 sq. ft. church in his own backyard? Is such an action immoral?)

Zoning laws, eminent domain, and property taxes: private ownership of property is becoming a myth. The government now tells us what we can and cannot do on "our" property, decides if we can remain on "our" property, and charges us large sums of money for having "our" property.

Does anyone see a problem here? Anyone, anyone?

"We have to live by their rules until we are freed from our own little Babylon . . . ."

I think such a general statement must always be understood in light of the following caveat: We must obey government unless or until it commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands.

In other words, we must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19). And, presently, when Christians disobey man, so that they may obey God, they sometimes suffer greatly. (This has been true for those who would live godly from Genesis until now.)

“Mr. Salman could have taken the money he used to build that "recreation hall" and leased a place in an impoverished area of Phoenix to have Bible study and help the inner community. Sorry, but I truly don’t see as what he did was right, and he is having to deal with the fruit of it.”

Yes, one would think that Mr. Salman "could have" used his money any way he saw fit. In fact, he did use his money and his property as he saw fit. And now he's in jail.

But is it the government's proper function to regulate how we use our own money and private property? Do we really need such a nanny-police state?

I have a wonderful neighbor (couldn't ask for better) who has a HUGE shed in his back yard. From time-to-time he enjoys entertaining guests with music, food, and drinks. I've seen--on rare occasions--over 50 folks there.

He's not hurting anyone. Should the government inspect his building? Should the government place a limit on how many of his friends he can host? Should my friend be required to get a "permit" for his watering hole?

How in the world did our forebears construct various places of habitation--sans permits--and live to tell about it? It's a wonder we're even here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Christ-less Conservatism


What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader…It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. (R.L. Dabney, Robert Lewis Dabney: The Prophet Speaks, edited by Douglas Phillips p. 18, emphasis mine)

We must remember that although there are tremendous discrepancies between conservatives and liberals in the political arena, if they are both operating on a humanistic base there will really be no final difference between them. As Christians we must stand absolutely and totally opposed to the whole humanist system, whether it is controlled by conservative or liberal elements. Thus Christians must not become officially aligned with either group just on the basis of the name it uses. (Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, p. 77-78)

The above quotes reveal the hypocrisy and futility of Christ-less conservatism. The answers to our cultural quandaries cannot be found in bare conservatism. To take the path of social or economic conservatism, without regard to God and His word, is but to take a fool’s errand. Rather, the hope of our nation, or any nation, rests upon the Person of Christ and the principles He provides in His word.

This is a serious discussion which merits our contemplation, and sometimes humor can facilitate such dialogue. A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted this status: “Signs you’re a conservative but not a Christian.” Below is my contribution to that conversation.

May the Lord bless our thoughtful laughter and may our worldview be biblical, not merely conservative.

Signs You’re a Conservative But Not a Christian

You like "In God We Trust" on money but think more of money than God.

You scream bloody murder for removing the 10 Commandments from the public eye but can't name more than 3.

You want your kids to recite the Pledge every morning at school but never considered teaching them the Lord's Prayer.

The Constitution is your “Bible.”

You haven't been to church in years but the separation of church and state makes your blood boil.

You speak of bearing arms more than carrying crosses.

You’re constantly offended by the sex and violence coming over your DVD.

You tell liberals to “go to hell” because you don’t wanna be with them in heaven.

You’re more excited about Ron Paul than Apostle Paul.

You support troops on foreign soil but not missionaries.

You’ve never heard “Be Thou My Vision” but “O say can you see” always brings a tear to your eye.

You think the Battle Hymn of the Republic is a catchy, Christian tune.

You think “retaking” the Whitehouse is America’s only hope.

You always “stand with Israel” but never sit in church.

You believe the spread of democracy—not the Gospel—is the key to world peace.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sweet Tyranny

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1970 , p. 292)

Some weeks ago I watched the History Channel’s miniseries entitled, “Hatfields & McCoys.” As I viewed the program I often thought of how different the world was in which these people lived. True, human nature is unchanged—depravity then is as it is now—but American culture and American people are quite dissimilar. (That human nature is constant while human society fluctuates may strike the reader as odd or paradoxical, but such is clearly the case.)

One of the most startling differences has to do with the notion of liberty or freedom. I was struck by the fact that these Hatfields and McCoys exercised personal freedoms which few, if any, modern Americans enjoy. (I am not at all suggesting that these liberties were consistently exercised in morally acceptable ways—far from it. But it is undeniable that these were relatively free men.)

And it’s important to note that their liberties dwarfed ours despite the fact that they lived in the post-Civil War era. (I say this because the Civil War was more concerned with States’ rights than civil rights, as the Federal government imposed its will on states which had previously viewed themselves as sovereign. The war effectively disabused the states of their illusions of grandeur. Even so, after the war’s atrocities, on the individual level, the Federal government seemed to leave these Kentuckians and Virginians unmolested.)

Certainly, there was local law enforcement and the like. (And Americans have always been litigious!) Still, yesterday’s Americans, for the most part, lived without governmental interference. They farmed, built, bought, sold, worked, and played without regulations or “licenses.” In other words, from cradle to grave they lived their lives never requiring or desiring governmental oversight.

There was no nanny state, no police state. (And let us be clear, the nanny-state is of necessity a police state.) To be sure, it was a different America then. Consequently, our people then barely resemble our people now. Americans of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as a whole, were religiously, philosophically, demographically, and technologically closer to the Americans of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than to us.

Consider: How would today’s citizens survive without the government feeding, clothing, sheltering, educating, healing, and policing them? Could Americans handle such liberty, such self-determination? If current economic trends continue, we’ll soon find out.

Indeed, the nanny-police state is financially and morally bankrupting itself. How shall a people live in a nanny-police state that is ethically and economically penurious? I fear not too well.

Over the last eighty years or so the nanny-police state has grown in power and influence, this to the detriment of our individual liberty and our sense of personal responsibility. (It is of utmost importance to understand liberty to be married to responsibility. We may distinguish but not separate the two.)

By and large the welfare state has eroded personal responsibility and encouraged personal entitlement. Thus, our country is nearly evenly divided between those who work for a living and those who vote for a living; between tax payers and tax consumers. This is unsustainable.

Lewis is correct: the “benevolent” welfare state—the ultimate moral busybody—is tyrannous. Think of it. The deified State that feeds, clothes, shelters, educates, heals, and polices its citizens, by definition, controls its citizens.

Personal liberty has been sacrificed for perceived security. As I contemplate the depiction of American life in the mid to late 1800’s, I realize that “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is more nostalgia than reality.