Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


Nature’s God-Talk

posted by Darrel Falk

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The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

For those of us who study the sacred depths of nature, no truer words have ever been spoken than these marvelous words in Psalm 19 that transcend all time and space. Nature speaks of God in a universal language. We are able to celebrate what nature has to tell us about God, just as we are able to celebrate the gift of science, which enables us to learn the language. The more we learn of the language, the more we realize that nature is singing the greatest hymn ever written, the hymn that tells not just of God’s glory, but also of God’s presence through all of creation:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139:7-10

Psalm 19 goes on to tell us that out of the glory of God, flows God’s wisdom. The source of the wisdom we see in nature, the Psalmist tells us, is also the source of the wisdom through which we are able to live our lives in a rich and meaningful manner. Indeed, in speaking of the precepts that emerge from God’s wisdom, the Psalmist tells us:

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:10-11

It is 3,000 years since the Psalmist wrote these marvelous words about what nature has to say of God. In hearing the proclamation of the skies and in seeing the declaration of the heavens, all he had to go by was the awe he sensed at the beauty of a sunrise, the sparkling stars in the night sky, the gentle light of a full moon, and the brilliant color of a magnificent sunset. All, in harmony, the great Hallelujah Chorus of nature sang; all sang of the glory of God.

We now know infinitely more about nature than the Psalmist did as he sat on that ancient Hebrew hillside. Science, a relatively recent invention, is a marvelous way of listening to the universal voice of which the Psalmist spoke. We need not fear science, the process by which we come to understand nature more fully. The more we listen to nature, the more clearly we hear the voice which tells us of the glory of the God who is “before all things and through whom all things are held together.”

And yet, sadly, there are those who choose to pay no attention to the powerful way that nature speaks to us in the twenty-first century. Still enshrouded in the darkness of the ancient Hebrew hillside, they are afraid to learn the vocabulary by which nature now speaks to us of God’s glory. They plug their ears in that darkness and want to hear nothing more. “We’ve heard all there is to hear,” they say, “Go back to sleep, morning will come soon enough.” How I wish they would wake up from their slumber and see that the voice of nature is still speaking of God’s glory and it is doing it with a vocabulary now–one that is rich and full of marvelous nuances about which the Psalmist could only dream.

There are others who are enshrouded by a different form of darkness. They hear the voice, but declare that it is just the whistling wind. “Go back to sleep,” they say, “it is just the sound of the wind blowing randomly in the night”. How I wish that they would wake up from their slumber and see that the blowing wind is really the breath of God.

Paul tells us it need not be like it is for so many:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…

Romans 1:20

We don’t need to fear science–it enriches the vocabulary by which nature speaks to us of God’s glory. We can unplug our ears and listen fully to what nature has to say. With a crisp clarity it speaks to us of God’s eternal power and divine nature. Whether it be through the words of astronomy, earth science, physics, chemistry, or biology, the voice of nature calls out ever more clearly: the glory of God is beyond measure. The glory can be glimpsed by peering down into the structure of an atom, and it is the same glory that can be seen by searching the galaxies. The glory can be seen in the marvelous symmetry of the DNA molecule, which encodes all of the processes of life, just as it can be seen in the majesty of the processes themselves.

Nature’s voice still speaks of God’s glory and it does so in ever-new ways that are more beautiful than we can possibly think or imagine. Thus to study science is to feel a little like Moses: we want to see the glory, but the more we see the more we realize we’re peeking out from behind a cleft in the rock. Sometimes we feel a little like Elijah, the more we hear, the more we realize that we’ve only heard a whisper. We feel a little like Peter and John who for a few brief moments saw the glory of Jesus, Elijah, and Moses on the Mount on Transfiguration, only to have it quickly enshrouded by a cloud. Even now, even today, all we get is glimpses and hints that there is still more–much more.

So nature pours forth speech and displays knowledge. But it hasn’t been enough for only nature to speak. God chose to break through nature to visit this little corner of the universe 2,000 years ago in order to tell us by actions, rather than words, the most poignant message of all:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him…”

Psalm 103:11-17

Looking out at nature allows us to see ourselves more clearly. We are dust. We are blades of grass that come and go. We are flowers that bloom for a while and then are changed. But looking beyond nature, we learn of one thing that lasts for eternity. We learn of a glorious God who has shown us firsthand 2,000 years ago that above all else, he is love. The most glorious message in all of creation is a gentle whisper telling us we are kept in that love. And there we reside forever and ever.

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Knockgoats

posted October 19, 2009 at 8:43 am


Ah, yes, how plainly rabies, the liver fluke, Guinea worm, the bot-fly, bone cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntingdon’s disease, diamond black fan anemia, polio, smallpox, speak to us of a loving God!



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Knockgoats

posted October 19, 2009 at 8:46 am


Tsk. Of course, in our base ingratitude, we eliminated smallpox, which used to bring such blessings!



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Michael Thompson

posted October 19, 2009 at 9:27 am


Hi Darrel
Thanks for your post.
I don’t know if you read the comments here, if so, mabye you can help me.
I have to confess that even though I am trying to stay a Christian, while I was reading your aticle, the same questions popped up in my mind that knockgoats brought up. Some things seem so random, like billions of creatures becoming extinct, disease, natural disasters, etc.
When everyone quotes these psalms, then always talk about the beautiful things they see in nature. When I was a creationist, I had an easy out on this one, sin and satan corrupted gods original creation, but I never could totally accept the creationism story, just my highschool level of understanding of science made it hard.
So how do I see God in nature without a blind leap of faith over a gaping divide of darkness? Why did Paul say God is clearly seen through that which he made? Am I still blind? I have asked God to open my eyes too see with the eyes of faith a thousand times, and I also always pray that I believe, help though my unbelief. I either have something wrong with me, or mabye it is not true after all.
A note a head of time for the Christians that have been bashing on Biologos that might read this, I don’t blame biologos or the commenters on here for my struggles, I have always had this seed of doubt festering in the back of my mind, this site and others like it just helped me be more honest with what is going on in my mind and trying to deal with it. If God is just, that has to be a good thing, right?
MT



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Daniel Mann

posted October 19, 2009 at 10:37 am


MH and Knockgoats,
I can’t explicate all of God’s ways or even answer the simple questions like, “Why is the grass green and the sky blue!” However, I can glimpse how the struggles, the liver flukes, the bot-flies, and the fleas might be a necessary and Divine provision. Baboons need fleas to engender grooming, and they need grooming to foster social cohesion. Perhaps also we require hardships and struggles in order to learn humility, sensitivity, and also wisdom. I’d even venture to say that we also need death in order to value life and relationships.
If this seems strange to us, perhaps it is because we fail to perceive the underlying magma of evil that is always threatening to percolate to the surface of our own lives.



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Mere_Christian

posted October 19, 2009 at 10:40 am


Michael,
Remember the agony you suffered when your first teeth painfully erupted through the soft tissue of your barely formed gums? How your smile of joy at seeing the loving face of your mother turned into sheer agony and pitiless cries of torment when the pain of teething ripped through your senses?
I can’t remember that anymore. Yet I know it was there for me as I watched my beautiful children suffer this over and over again.
Try to cast off looking at life through fear. Fear of pain, suffering and death. Doesn’t life itself teach us that good and bad are just moments in fleeting time?
And time itself is motion. It is coming and going from start to a finish.
Tempus fugit.
Like teething?
Time flies, for a reason?
What is it that we live our lives for? It is to find eternal peace. No matter, whether for ourselves or for others. Even the most ferocious atheistic person claims to desire to make the future better for others. What drives the will in us for others?
Obviously not even non and un believers desire to focus on the horrors of life within the material world. Even they desire a better world “forever.” And yet, the materilaist hopes in vain. The evidence shows this. All of modernity cannot escape the end of existence.
Is good and bad, suffering and joy not just the way it is? For every parasite or virus that causes harm, there is a smile of joy and the striving human will to make it nothing more than a moment in time. And is not the cure of disease, death for the conduit of illness?
Is not the report of the Biblical God the story of good and bad honestly told? Does not the scientific method show all of the material world in this same way? The evidence is just as honest.
There was a moment of eternity before time was even a thing. And yet we are here in it as we can all perceive. Obviously we are still in eternity and always have been and always will be. But, with a perception that is all too often sent scattered by our inability to see eternity as the same fact as the material world.
What is it that even the non believer seeks?
An eternity with no suffering. A joy unending. They claim they never cease in serving those ends.
As Jesus says, those with eyes and ears please hear and see.
We are evolving to this end. One that never will stop. Even man, in his limited capacity of environment seeks to escape its eventual demise. Adaptation in progress.
The Way, the Truth and the Life.
It is in our DNA.
The language of God.
Evidence shows it’s there even in those that deny it.



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Knockgoats

posted October 19, 2009 at 11:01 am


Baboons need fleas to engender grooming Daniel Mann
They don’t, as a matter of fact: they enjoy it whether or not they have ectoparasites.
If this seems strange to us, perhaps it is because we fail to perceive the underlying magma of evil that is always threatening to percolate to the surface of our own lives. – Daniel Mann
Since your god is supposed to be omnipotent, if it existed it would be responsible for this “underlying magma of evil” you believe in.
Mere_Christian,
I see you have no arguments, merely pointless waffle.
What is it that even the non believer seeks? An eternity with no suffering. A joy unending. They claim they never cease in serving those ends.
No, we don’t, because we have the sense to see it is not available, and the honesty not to try to fool ourselves or others.



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Knockgoats

posted October 19, 2009 at 11:09 am


One could of course simply invert all the argument for the compatibility of the existence of evil with a loving God, to put forward a theology of a hating God, who desires to inflict as much suffering as possible. Thus, we need beauty and happiness, and the opportunity to love and be loved, so that we may be plunged that much deeper into despair when we are cast down by misfortune in this life, or if not, when we die and face our eternal tormentor. How could be properly appreciate agony, if we did not have pleasure to compare it with? This is just as valid as the excuses for evil dignified under the name “theodicy”.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 19, 2009 at 11:22 am


Knockgoats,
You responded, “Since your god is supposed to be omnipotent, if it existed it would be responsible for this “underlying magma of evil” you believe in.”
Indeed, God at least allowed us to reap the fruit of our freewill choices. But is this so terrible? Perhaps this is His ideal way to prepare us for something better?
Besides, we must regard our eternal context, in which the suffering of our lives here represents no more than a speck of sand on our never-ending beaches. From our limited perspective, indicting God is little different from a first-grader indicting her math teacher for introducing those “boring” multiplication tables.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 19, 2009 at 11:29 am


Knockgoats,
You responded, “One could of course simply invert all the argument for the compatibility of the existence of evil with a loving God, to put forward a theology of a hating God, who desires to inflict as much suffering as possible.”
I don’t think so! For one thing, we vote with our feet. The vast majority of humankind evidently regard life as something worthwhile, and therefore elect to not kill themselves.
In addition to this, when we survey the overall landscape, we find ourselves confronted with a benign God, One who provides for our needs. We hunger, and viola, there is the provision of food; we thirst and there is water; we tire and there is sleep; we’re lonely and God has provided human society and family (and sex). This is the dominant theme! Not so shabby!!!



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Knockgoats

posted October 19, 2009 at 12:00 pm


Daniel Mann,
1) God at least allowed us to reap the fruit of our freewill choices. If he existed, he’d be responsible for those too: he made us so that we would often choose evil.
2) According to most Christians, most people will end up in eternal torment.
3) According to Christianity, non-human animals do not get an afterlife.
4) From our limited perspective, indicting God is little different from a first-grader indicting her math teacher for introducing those “boring” multiplication tables. Or alternatively, little different from the abused child feeling there must be something wrong with the way it is treated, but assured by the abuser that it’s all for their own good, or that they deserve it.
5) The vast majority of humankind evidently regard life as something worthwhile, and therefore elect to not kill themselves. You miss the point: this evil God could be waiting beyond the grave, hugging himself in glee at the horrid surprise we are all going to get.
6) In addition to this, when we survey the overall landscape, we find ourselves confronted with a benign God Maybe you should discuss that point with someone dying of rabies, or the carer of an Alzheimer’s or Huntingdon’s sufferer whose personality has been destroyed while leaving them alive. In any case, there is no excuse for a supposedly omnipotent deity.
Meta-comment: it really is remarkable just how feeble the arguments of God’s apologists are: I feel like I’m shooting paralysed fish in a barrel. Can’t any of you come up with anything better?



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Knockgoats

posted October 19, 2009 at 12:06 pm


Further to my 5) above: of course, I don’t believe in this hating god, any more than in a loving one: I am simply noting that someone who did would have arguments just as good as those of the Christian god’s apologists – i.e., obviously ludicrous. Ever hear of reductio ad absurdum?



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Mere_Christian

posted October 19, 2009 at 1:16 pm


Knockgoats,
Your position comes from the “fool says in his heart” realm.
It’s why I see the position of the common anti as the pinhead’s worldview.



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Knockgoats

posted October 19, 2009 at 1:25 pm


Mere_Christian,
Still no arguments, so you resort to abuse. What a surprise.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 19, 2009 at 1:43 pm


Knockgoats,
Let me respond to you by your numbers:
1) God at least allowed us to reap the fruit of our freewill choices. If he existed, he’d be responsible for those too: he made us so that we would often choose evil.
If you are blaming God for our freewill choices, then you are not taking freewill seriously!!!
2) According to most Christians, most people will end up in eternal torment.
It is far more nuanced than that. People will be punished according to what they deserve.
3) According to Christianity, non-human animals do not get an afterlife.
This is not true. Isaiah 11!
4) From our limited perspective, indicting God is little different from a first-grader indicting her math teacher for introducing those “boring” multiplication tables. Or alternatively, little different from the abused child feeling there must be something wrong with the way it is treated, but assured by the abuser that it’s all for their own good, or that they deserve it.
I didn’t preclude the possibility that little children can also be right!
5) The vast majority of humankind evidently regard life as something worthwhile, and therefore elect to not kill themselves. You miss the point: this evil God could be waiting beyond the grave, hugging himself in glee at the horrid surprise we are all going to get.
I don’t think I’m missing the point. You offered evidence against a good God. I countered by offering evidence for a good and merciful God. Where is your evidence that “this evil God could be waiting beyond the grave, hugging himself in glee at the horrid surprise we are all going to get?” I will match you evidence for evidence!
6) In addition to this, when we survey the overall landscape, we find ourselves confronted with a benign God Maybe you should discuss that point with someone dying of rabies, or the carer of an Alzheimer’s or Huntingdon’s sufferer whose personality has been destroyed while leaving them alive. In any case, there is no excuse for a supposedly omnipotent deity.
Interestingly, even these people rarely want to terminate their lives pre-maturely! “No excuse”? How do you know?



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Mere_Christian

posted October 19, 2009 at 1:52 pm


No arguments?
Knockgoats . . .
If you can’t understand God via science, pal, there’s no way to reach you. Since the substance of the heart in that condition is well known.
Also, there’s a reason why Jesus advised His followers to keep from entering the pig pen with their jewelry cast around.
Arguing with a 21st century Anti is laughable at best. I’ll watch the show from here.



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Knockgoats

posted October 19, 2009 at 3:04 pm


Daniel Mann,
1) An omnipotent being is, by logical necessity, responsible for everything.
2) Matthew 25:41. Even one person condemned to eternal torment would establish that God is infinitely evil.
3) Isiah 11 says absolutely nothing about non-human animals having an afterlife, and your opinion is that of a tiny minority of Christians.
4) You admit my point.
5) Yes, you have missed the point. As I have already said: “of course, I don’t believe in this hating god, any more than in a loving one: I am simply noting that someone who did would have arguments just as good as those of the Christian god’s apologists – i.e., obviously ludicrous. Ever hear of reductio ad absurdum?”
6) Actually, it is not uncommon for people to wish to end their own suffering; Christians have generally done their best to make this difficult. As for “no excuse”: an omnipotent god could end all suffering now, and a benevolent god would wish to: either God does not exist, or is not omnipotent, or is not benevolent.
Mere_Christian,
You confirm that you have no arguments, and so resort to insult. Perhaps you should remember Matthew 5:22: “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” [My emphasis]



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Darrel Falk

posted October 19, 2009 at 3:51 pm


Dear Michael,
Your question (in one of the first two or three comments of the thread) is one many of us have struggled with in our journey towards faith. I remember calling out to God as a teenager… “show me that you’re real, God, show me that you’re real.” Nothing happened.
Knockgoats, whose honesty I respect, would have to be very naïve if he thinks we haven’t thought about the issues he raises. The book of Job—all 42 chapters—is one long attempt to get an answer to Knockgoats questions. The book of Psalms is almost filled with as many Knockgoats-type comments as it is worshipful praise. And what about Ecclesiastes, what is it doing in the cannon? It sounds like it was written by Knockgoats.
God visited Job and spoke to him. Following that visit Job knew peace. Why? Job finally came to understand that he did not have to try to explain everything. God, after all is infinitely bigger than our puny minds can comprehend. Job finally came to realize that he didn’t have the mind of God—and he spent the rest of his life just trusting God’s wisdom.
I realize this would never help Knockgoats, and I am even doubtful it will help you. So let me say a little more. I am convinced that the answer to Knockgoats initial comment is that God wills freedom for this creation. Bad things are a by-product of freedom. I think both you and Knockgoats must have missed my blog of four weeks ago, in which I dealt with this very question. Also Karl and Kathryn Applegate did follow up blogs on the topic the next week. You might check out our discussion.
Again, I don’t pretend that this will satisfy Knockgoats. There comes a point where you have to choose to believe. Knockgoats has chosen not to believe. I have chosen to believe. Once I have made that choice, I live my life by faith in the God of the Bible increasingly certain that what we have to go by (although seen through a glass darkly) allows us to *approach* reality. Knockgoats lives life as a sort of faith journey also—he has faith that there is nothing rather than Something.
So what about that mysterious passage in Romans 1:20 that I cite in my essay? Why in the world would Paul say that God’s invisible qualities can be clearly seen through what has been made. If they can be clearly seen, why can’t Knockgoats see them? And why is it hard for you to see them? Karl Barth says that with our own eyes and minds we are simply led up the edge of this world’s existence, and at that edge there are strong hints that there is something more. To proceed beyond this we need revelation. It is extremely important to stress this. It is not our minds that lead us to God; we come to know God because God chooses to reveal himself and his nature to us. I Corinthinans 1 and 2 explain this further. Knockgoats gets up to the edge and chooses to turn back. I get up to edge and choose by faith to listen. You, Michael, are choosing the same….but don’t expect to get all your questions answered. Let yourself be like Job—the Job of the 42nd chapter. But, on occasion, it will also be appropriate to let a little of the Psalmist’s agony pour out from your heart too. God bless you, Michael. And God bless you, too Knockgoats—you are especially loved.



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amy

posted October 19, 2009 at 7:23 pm


Michael, I think I’m in the same place as you. The internet is a helpful forum to discuss matters not easily brought up in church.
Does anyone have good recommendations on books that specifically address this issue of natural evil that Michael and Knockgoats raise? I wrestle with this issue a great deal.



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Michael Thompson

posted October 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm


Hi darrel
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my questions!
i understand that I will probably not find answers to lots of my questions, Theists have wrestled with these issues for a long time without getting answers, so why would they all of a sudden be answerable now. Atheism seems to be the easiest way to deal with these seeming contradictions, but who says easiest is always the best way?
When knockgoats started posting, I was very uncomfortable with what he had to say, but I relize it is because his questioning was so much like what goes on in my mind quite a bit, so I have come to appreciate reading his point of view on these comments.
Thanks for providing a open forum here where people can share whats on their minds!
Thanks to all who posted on this article trying to help me too!
MT



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Beaglelady

posted October 19, 2009 at 9:42 pm


Does anyone have good recommendations on books that specifically address this issue of natural evil that Michael and Knockgoats raise? I wrestle with this issue a great deal.

Yes, certainly. Try Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion by Francisco Ayala.
You might also be interested in what the Rev. John Polkinghorne wrote after the terrible Asian Tsunami of 2004, which killed so many people:

Great natural disasters, like that which we have seen in the Indian Ocean, trouble all of us and perplex religious believers as they wrestle with the question of God’s role in these matters. It would be foolish to suppose that there is some simple formula that could, in a few sentences, remove all our difficulties, but there are two thoughts that may be of some help as we think and pray and give in response to what has happened:

One reason why the tsunami occurred is that we do not live in a magic world, but in a creation that has been given the gift of reliable and regular laws of nature by its Creator. The great fertility of life in all its forms depends on that gift. But it also has its inescapable shadow side. A world of evolving fruitfulness canno help also being a world with malformations and ragged edges as part of it. The fact that there are tectonic plates has enabled mineral resources to well up from within the Earth, replenishing over many millions of years the chemical richness of its surface. The raw material for endless generations of life became available in this way. Yet if there are tectonic plates, they will also occasionally slip, producing earthquakes and the huge ocean swells that accompany them. You cannot have one without the other. We all tend to think that if we had been in charge of creation we would have kept all the nice things and discarded all the bad ones. The more we learn scientifically how the world works, the more clearly we see that this is just not possible, for fruitfulness and destructiveness, order and chaos, are inextricably intertwined.

The second thought is a specifically Christian insight into God’s relationship to suffering. Our God is not just as compassionate spectator of events, looking down in pity from the safety of heaven, but we believe that, in the cross of Christ, God himself – living a human life in Jesus – has truly been a fellow-sharer of the anguish of the world. Where is God in the suffering of creation? The Christian answer is that God is a participant alongside us in the strangeness and bitterness of events. I believe that this insight meets the problem of suffering at the most profound level possible.
I hope that these thoughts may be of some use as we prayerfully wrestle with our perplexities about the devastation left by the tsunami.



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Dan

posted October 19, 2009 at 11:05 pm


Amy wrote, “Does anyone have good recommendations on books that specifically address this issue of natural evil that Michael and Knockgoats raise?”
I enjoyed CS Lewis’ book “The Problem of Pain” on this subject. It’s a bit more deep than some of his other writings, and as such is a little harder to follow, but I think it is one of his best books. It at least will give you ample opportunity to think about the problem of pain in different, deeper ways than us Christians usually do.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 20, 2009 at 12:14 am


Freewill keeps on rearing its head in these discussions.
What makes anyone think that freewill is not an emergent epiphenomena which occurs within a universe where physical independence does not exist?
If an omnipresent God is, freewill is likewise impossible, (Q.E.D.). Hence, all that happens is necessarily bound to the is-ness of God which permeates all places and times. Since such a God is the ground of all forms, to label God as omni-benevolent is fallacious. All that we know as good or evil rises out of the same common source. Try as we might to escape the implications, such a God is the author of the whole and not merely those parts we identify with as good.
Now, I do get that the universe is an immense, complex, and beautiful place, and it is a place where tsunami’s kill hundred’s of thousands, genocides kill millions, and the planetary ecosystem is being dangerously compromised by the potential mono-culture which is homosapiens. The theist who sees God as omnipresent, should not shy away from the implications to assert that such a being is omni-benevolent. Clearly omnipresence and omni-benevolence are incompatible.



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amy

posted October 20, 2009 at 1:50 am


Thanks to everyone for the book suggestions and quotes
Darrel,
I just read coming to Peace with Science and I commend you for it and highly recommend it. If I could actually persuade a YEC to read one book, that would be it. Unfortunately, the one conversation I’ve had with a YEC where I brought up your book, they merely countered with examples “disproving” evolution, such a dino/human tracks being found together, polystrate fossils, etc.



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Knockgoats

posted October 20, 2009 at 5:30 am


Knockgoats has chosen not to believe. I have chosen to believe. Once I have made that choice, I live my life by faith in the God of the Bible increasingly certain that what we have to go by (although seen through a glass darkly) allows us to *approach* reality. Knockgoats lives life as a sort of faith journey also—he has faith that there is nothing rather than Something. – Darrell Falk
I’ve chosen to follow the evidence, you have chosen to bury your head in the sand. I do not “have faith there is nothing” (parenthetically, isn’t it odd that theists prattle on about how wonderful faith is, why don’t you try it – and then in the next breath turn round and claim that atheists have it too?); so far as gods in general are concerned, I am an atheist in exactly the same sense that I am an aleprachaunist: such beings might exist, there is no proof that they do not, but there is absolutely no reason to believe that they do. So far as a good and omnipotent god is concerned, the existence of evil is immensely strong evidence against its existence – just as the existence of good is immensely strong evidence against an omnipotent and evil god. Your post is fundamentally intellectually dishonest: if the good in nature is evidence for the existence of a good god, the evil in nature must, logically, be evidence against. As far as the God of doctrinally orthodox Christianity is concerned, it is logically impossible that it should exist, because nothing could be both omnipotent and human, as the doctrine of the hypostatic union claims God became.
Knockgoats gets up to the edge and chooses to turn back.
No I don’t. Everything we know about minds indicates that they are the emergent result of complex physical structures and processes; in the light of modern science, the idea of a “spirit” without a body is ridiculous. So if anything is beyond “the edge of the world’s existence”, it will not be that.
And God bless you, too Knockgoats—you are especially loved.
Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
That’s a kind of “love” I can do without, thanks: I prefer the real thing, from real people. God’s “love” is startlingly reminiscent, in fact, of the “love” of an abusive parent, on a far larger scale: “obey me and love me, or I’ll torture you forever”.



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Knockgoats

posted October 20, 2009 at 6:57 am


One reason why the tsunami occurred is that we do not live in a magic world, but in a creation that has been given the gift of reliable and regular laws of nature by its Creator. – John Polkinghorne, quoted by Beaglelady
But according to Christianity, it does not have such laws, because miracles occur. I mean not only miracles such as resurrections or turning water into wine, but God supposedly interacts with human minds on a regular basis, answers prayers, inspires the writing of the Bible, etc. The only kind of god compatible with “reliable and regular laws of nature” is the completely non-interventionist god of deism. But the god of Christianity is willing to intervene when it suits him, but sits by twiddling the celestial thumbs as tsunamis kill hundreds of thousands, and children are raped and tortured.



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Michael Thompson

posted October 20, 2009 at 8:49 am


Hi Albert
I really wonder about the big Os usually assumed of God.
Are they really nessecary, or have they come down to us through traditions based on greek philosophyor something.
Even in the bible we have stories that seem to indicate God doesn’t know some things, grievs, is angry, etc.. Its seems clear that God’s will is not always done.
Perhaps even God is evolving in some way? I know many will think that is heresy, but do matter what one believes they will be a heretic in someones eyes.



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Michael Thompson

posted October 20, 2009 at 9:02 am


“so far as gods in general are concerned, I am an atheist in exactly the same sense that I am an aleprachaunist: such beings might exist, there is no proof that they do not, but there is absolutely no reason to believe that they do.”–knockgoats
Thats a very good point! I have no problem being and “atheist” when it comes to santa clause, pink unicorns, Allah, Krishna, I am even atheist about some traditional concepts like a god whos will is always done because he can go around doing miracles where ever he wants. Looks like I exposed my self as a heretic, oh well.
Subjectively, I just have to believe in God, I need a big eternal picture to comfort me mabye. It would be intilectually easier for me to be a complete atheist, but i feel I can never go there. mabye my free will is an illusion and I am infected with religious memes or something! ;)



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Michael Thompson

posted October 20, 2009 at 9:04 am


Ugggh I need to resist coming on this blog in the morning, it makes me late for work! LOL can’t pull myself away!



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Daniel Mann

posted October 20, 2009 at 11:17 am


Knockgoats, Albert, Amy, and MT,
A postmodern stated, “The only truth is change itself.” However, if this is true, then this statement can’t be true, because it too is subject to change. Even more fundamentally, there can’t be any concept of truth at all!
This is precisely the problem you encounter when you try to deny God by pointing to the EVIL in the world. If there is no God, then there is no absolute moral truth upon which to base such an indictment. “Evil” then is just an arbitrary construct of our own ever-changing minds in an ever-changing universe—certainly no solid ground upon which to base any judgment! Everything is continually in flux.
Consequently, when you deny the existence of God, you do so without any rational basis. It’s like the atheist who asserts, “I can be good without God!” If there is no ontological “good,” then all talk about “goodness” is arbitrary, subjective and therefore meaningless. Hence, their denial of God is also meaningless.
This state of affairs not only precludes the existence of moral truth which you use to deny God’s existence, but it also precludes the existence of any unchanging laws.
But more personally, your indictment – “suffering proves there’s no God — is also overwhelmed by many other considerations:
1. The good in the world overwhelms the evil or painful. Therefore, the vast majority of people value life. (If life is so evil, why are you still here?) Therefore also, it is illegitimate to discount God’s existence by the presence of suffering.
2. Our needs are met so perfectly: we hunger and there is food; we thirst and God provides water; we tire and there is sleep…. I’m amazed by the concordance between my needs and the way God fulfills my needs.
3. Even more fundamentally, the universe is fine-tuned for my existence and comfort.
4. As Christians, even though there remain questions that trouble us, we find assurance in our Lord that we will be with Him blissfully for eternity and that He will right every wrong. We also find comfort and assurance in the fact that He judges justly and mercifully, giving everyone what they deserve and even better. Although we might not know how it will all pay out, we have come to trust in our God and therefore can be at peace regarding the outcome.



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Knockgoats

posted October 20, 2009 at 12:03 pm


This is precisely the problem you encounter when you try to deny God by pointing to the EVIL in the world. If there is no God, then there is no absolute moral truth upon which to base such an indictment. “Evil” then is just an arbitrary construct of our own ever-changing minds in an ever-changing universe – Daniel Mann
Fallacy of the excluded middle. The fact that there is no “absolute moral truth” does not mean that morality is arbitrary: the moral precepts we adopt can be rationally criticised on the grounds of (a) inconsistency (b) incompleteness and (c) their consequences, in particular their effect on others. Hence they are not arbitrary: arbitrary means it does not matter what standards you adopt. Moreover, the existence of a god would not change the fact that there is no absolute moral truth: we can simply ask “Why should we obey God?” If God commands genocide and permits enslavement – as the God of the OT does – does that mean genocide and enslavement are right?
In exactly the same way, the fact that there is no “absolute aesthetic truth” does not mean we cannot make and rationally criticise or defend aesthetic judgements – for example, that George Eliot is a better novelist than Harold Robbins, or Goya a better painter than the average kindergarten child.
Once more: “absolute or arbitrary” is a false dichotomy: these two do not exhaust the possibilities.
This state of affairs not only precludes the existence of moral truth which you use to deny God’s existence, but it also precludes the existence of any unchanging laws.
No it doesn’t. This “presuppositionalist” rubbish really can’t be taken seriously, because it involves assuming what you are supposed to be arguing for. It is, in the original meaning of the term, begging the question.
The good in the world overwhelms the evil or painful.
Even if there is more good – which is highly questionable – that does not explain or excuse the existence of any evil in a world supposedly created by a good and omnipotent creator.
Our needs are met so perfectly: we hunger and there is food; we thirst and God provides water; we tire and there is sleep…. I’m amazed by the concordance between my needs and the way God fulfills my needs.
Just so might a puddle express its amazement at the fact that the depression it lies in fits it so perfectly. As evolved beings, of course we are adapted to eat and drink what is available. If we were not, we wouldn’t be here.
Even more fundamentally, the universe is fine-tuned for my existence and comfort.
Wow! I thought I had a sizeable ego! More seriously, I’ve dealt with this on another thread.



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Ray Ingles

posted October 20, 2009 at 12:26 pm


Mann – Consider chess. There are certain fundamental ‘rules of the game’ that define it. An 8×8 board, 8 pawns per side that move in certain ways, two rooks per side that move in other ways, castling, the initial configuration of the pieces, etc. Now, there is no rule that you can’t sacrifice your queen in the first few moves of the game. It’s illegal to move your king to a threatened square, but it’s perfectly acceptable by the rules to stick your queen in front of a pawn at the start of the game.
However, if you want to win the game, you shouldn’t do that. There are almost no situations (at least, assuming evenly-matched opponents) where giving up your queen at the start will lead to your victory. Similarly, it’s rarely a good idea to move your king out to the center of the board. It’s usually a bad move.
Note words like “shouldn’t” and “bad”. They are value judgements. They prescribe ‘oughts’. They are not part of the ‘rules’ of chess. From where do they come? From the combinations of two things – first, the rules and structure of chess, and second, from the player’s desire to win the game. They are strategic rules.
We have physical laws, and we have human desires. “Oughts” – strategic rules – morals – arise from those two things. Some basic game theory, and voila – cooperation, etc. I contend that I am ethical and moral, that people in general are ethical and moral, because the alternative is running naked in the woods fighting over scraps of food. That’s not an ‘illusion’ at all, nor is it “arbitrary”, any more than chess strategy is “arbitrary, subjective and therefore meaningless”.
And on that basis, we can judge the behavior of putative Gods. Is what they do and how they behave in accord with what’s best for humans?



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Ray Ingles

posted October 20, 2009 at 12:32 pm


Falk – The “Job answer” doesn’t work. If you give up and assume that God is forever beyond your comprehension, then you can’t say anything about it. Consider: What if God’s exactly like a shepherd – down to the shearing and slaughter, too?
If you decide you can’t ever understand God, then you give up any basis at all to be able to make any claims about God at all. You can’t claim that God has a good purpose in mind – by your own admission, God’s perfectly capable of fooling you completely.
The most you could say is, “I sure hope God’s not malicious, but darn if I know.”



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Daniel Mann

posted October 20, 2009 at 12:37 pm


Knockgoats,
You’ve failed to demonstrate how your morality rises to an objective standard which you can use as a measure to make an objective judgment against the existence of God.
Likewise, although I might agree with you that Elliot is a better novelist than Harold Robbins, you have utterly failed to demonstrate how this judgment represents anything more than subjective taste.
As far as your other claims are concerned, you must demonstrate that they represent something more than simply dogmatic statements.
Similarly, you have failed to undermine my case for a benign, felicitous world. Simply saying that this resulted from evolution indirectly constitutes an acknowledgment that this ain’t such a bad place. However, you have consistently charged that this world is an evil place.



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Knockgoats

posted October 20, 2009 at 1:00 pm


You’ve failed to demonstrate how your morality rises to an objective standard – Danial Mann
That’s because I’m not claiming it does: I’m denying that such a standard is logically possible, whether or not there is a God. Try reading and responding to what I actually wrote. Moreover, you have not attempted to answer the points I raised. Do you consider that if God orders genocide, that makes genocide good? If you are an honest man, you will answer this question.
Simply saying that this resulted from evolution indirectly constitutes an acknowledgment that this ain’t such a bad place.
No it doesn’t. You need to argue this, not just assert it



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Daniel Mann

posted October 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm


Knockgoats,
Because I believe that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, I must acknowledge that whatever happens, happens because, at the least, God allows it to happen.
However, this doesn’t disprove that there’s such a good and loving God. Now it seems that you admit that you lack any objective moral standard by which you can charge God for not living up to such a standard or simply not existing: “I’m denying that such a standard is logically possible, whether or not there is a God.”
Consequently, when you relinquish having any objective standard, you also relinquish any claims of making objective judgments. You relegate yourself to the place where you can only say: “I don’t like this idea of God,” something you’ve already made abundantly clear.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 20, 2009 at 1:44 pm


Ray Ingles,
I think you’re still left with a very personal, human centered and subjective standard by which you judge God. You wrote: “And on that basis, we can judge the behavior of putative Gods. Is what they do and how they behave in accord with what’s best for humans?”
How is it that what is “best for humans” becomes a moral truth? If cows could speak, they might say, “What is best for humans is worst for us.” Why should our collective human feelings arise to the level of absolute moral truth and become an objective measure by which we judge God?
And are they indeed collective? Perhaps we should be building a master race, ala Hitler? Or perhaps we should take our lessons from nature—survival-of-the-fittest? How’s to decide? The majority? And how would 51% of the vote enshrine something as “truth.” And by what higher standard can you mediate between these competing and subjective claims? From where does such a standard come?



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Knockgoats

posted October 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm


Consequently, when you relinquish having any objective standard, you also relinquish any claims of making objective judgments. You relegate yourself to the place where you can only say: “I don’t like this idea of God,” something you’ve already made abundantly clear. – Daniel Mann
The first sentence is correct, the second is not. I can justify – and have justified – my dislike, in terms of the effects of the actions and inactions of the omnipotent creator (if one existed). Being omnipotent, it could have made a world without suffering, but has chosen not to. It could intervene to prevent or minimise suffering, and has chosen not to. You are still claiming, falsely and without any attempt whatever to argue the point, that an objective standard and completely arbitrary subjectivity are the only alternatives.
Two further points:
1) I have not, as you claimed, maintained that the world is evil; I have maintained that there is evil in it, and that this is clear evidence against the existence of a benevolent and omnipotent God.
2) It is theism, not atheism, that denies the possibility of “unchanging laws”: if God intervenes in the world to produce miracles, as theism and in particular Christianity maintain, there are no such laws.
Finally, I see you still have not answered my question: if God orders genocide (as the God of the OT does), does that make genocide right? I am going to continue asking you this question, as long as our exchange continues, until you have the honesty to answer it straightforwardly.



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Ray Ingles

posted October 20, 2009 at 3:54 pm


I think you’re still left with a very personal, human centered and subjective standard by which you judge God.
As to human-centered, I’ll happily cop to that. I happen to be human, and I strongly suspect you are, too. :->
As to subjective… I’m not so sure. Given what humans are, and what kind of universe they inhabit, certain things are simply inevitably good ideas (like, say, not initiating violence) or bad ideas (e.g. rape, genocide). How some of these inevitable good ideas are implemented can vary a lot (as even C.S. Lewis noted, a Polynesian island girl in a loincloth, an American girl in a waist-length skirt and short-sleeved blouse, and an Arabian girl in a burqua are all dressed ‘modestly’ by local standards) but the basic ideas (like ‘modesty’, inevitably necessary given human sexuality) remain the same.
I don’t see how a morality could be defined any other way. An “absolute moral truth” given by a God runs smack into the Euthyphro dilemma.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 20, 2009 at 4:00 pm


Knockgoats,
I would be glad to answer your question about genocide, but please spell it out a little clearer.
You responded, “I can justify – and have justified – my dislike, in terms of the effects of the actions and inactions of the omnipotent creator (if one existed). Being omnipotent, it could have made a world without suffering, but has chosen not to. It could intervene to prevent or minimise suffering, and has chosen not to.”
If you are simply stating your subjective dislike of God, I have no argument with you. However, you seem to have, once again, returned to making an indictment of God with your non-existent objective standard. You suggest that “since God didn’t create a world without suffering, there’s something the matter with God.”
Once again, this argument depends upon your proving that suffering is objectively wrong and therefore an indictable offense. However, you deny that there are such objective standards by which to make such an indictment!
Instead, let me try to make a Christian pitch for the needfulness of suffering. I can now thank God for the debilitating depression that I had to endure for many years. In retrospect, I can see how my Savior used this to free me from the internal bonds that had held me captive. God has given me a freedom and a joy I could never have had without enduring these fires.
I think that we are prone to bring indictments against God when we fail to perceive the depths of human hatred, jealousy, bitterness, and even sadism and the radical surgery of suffering required to neutralize them.
You also wrote, “It is theism, not atheism, that denies the possibility of “unchanging laws”: if God intervenes in the world to produce miracles, as theism and in particular Christianity maintain, there are no such laws.”
I’m afraid that you are a bit too reductionistic. Miracles are in no way antithetical to laws. When I “intervene” and pull out my light plug, I do not invalidate the laws of physics, but merely their flow. Likewise, when God performs a miracle, He need only pull the plug. This would not undo the laws.



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Knockgoats

posted October 20, 2009 at 4:56 pm


Consequently, when you relinquish having any objective standard, you also relinquish any claims of making objective judgments. You relegate yourself to the place where you can only say: “I don’t like this idea of God,” something you’ve already made abundantly clear. – Daniel Mann
The first sentence is correct, the second is not. I can justify – and have justified – my dislike, in terms of the effects of the actions and inactions of the omnipotent creator (if one existed). Being omnipotent, it could have made a world without suffering, but has chosen not to. It could intervene to prevent or minimise suffering, and has chosen not to. You are still claiming, falsely and without any attempt whatever to argue the point, that an objective standard and completely arbitrary subjectivity are the only alternatives.
Two further points:
1) I have not, as you claimed, maintained that the world is evil; I have maintained that there is evil in it, and that this is clear evidence against the existence of a benevolent and omnipotent God.
2) It is theism, not atheism, that denies the possibility of “unchanging laws”: if God intervenes in the world to produce miracles, as theism and in particular Christianity maintain, there are no such laws.
Finally, I see you still have not answered my question: if God orders genocide (as the God of the OT does), does that make genocide right? I am going to continue asking you this question, as long as our exchange continues, until you have the honesty to answer it straightforwardly.



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Knockgoats

posted October 20, 2009 at 4:58 pm


Sorry – accidental repeat post.
Daniel Mann,
I would be glad to answer your question about genocide, but please spell it out a little clearer.
It was absolutely clear. Let me repeat it again: “if God orders genocide (as the God of the OT does), does that make genocide right?” However, since you are unwilling to answer the general question, let us take a specific instance:
Joshua 10:28 And that day Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain : and he did to the king of Makkedah as he did unto the king of Jericho.
10:29 Then Joshua passed from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, unto Libnah, and fought against Libnah:
10:30 And the LORD delivered it also, and the king thereof, into the hand of Israel; and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain in it ; but did unto the king thereof as he did unto the king of Jericho.
10:31 And Joshua passed from Libnah, and all Israel with him, unto Lachish, and encamped against it, and fought against it:
10:32 And the LORD delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, which took it on the second day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein , according to all that he had done to Libnah.
10:33 Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua smote him and his people, until he had left him none remaining.
10:34 And from Lachish Joshua passed unto Eglon, and all Israel with him; and they encamped against it, and fought against it:
10:35 And they took it on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein he utterly destroyed that day , according to all that he had done to Lachish.
10:36 And Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, unto Hebron; and they fought against it:
10:37 And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining , according to all that he had done to Eglon; but destroyed it utterly, and all the souls that were therein.
10:38 And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and fought against it:
10:39 And he took it, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining : as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir, and to the king thereof; as he had done also to Libnah, and to her king.
10:40 So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. [my emphasis]
Now, was it morally right for the LORD God of Israel to command Joshua to “destroy all that breathed” in these cities, or was it morally wrong?
You suggest that “since God didn’t create a world without suffering, there’s something the matter with God.”
Once again, this argument depends upon your proving that suffering is objectively wrong – Daniel Mann
No, it does not. It depends only on the fact that people do not like suffering. If you need some further justification for not imposing it on them when you could do otherwise, you are a psychopath.
Likewise, when God performs a miracle, He need only pull the plug. This would not undo the laws.
Rubbish. You pull the plug from inside the physical world, as part of it. God supposedly intervenes from outside. Moreover, many of the Biblical miracles clearly do violate the laws of physics. Causing the sun to stand still in the sky, for example, would require halting the rotation of the Earth. The heat generated would melt the surface and everything on it.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 20, 2009 at 9:39 pm


Daniel Mann said:
A postmodern stated, “The only truth is change itself.” However, if this is true, then this statement can’t be true, because it too is subject to change. Even more fundamentally, there can’t be any concept of truth at all!
Truth is bound to thinking. To think implies change, as thought is not static. (Try to hold a single thought and see how successful you are.) Truth, since it is contingent upon thinking, is always in flux. That said, there are strong inertial components which inhibit the rate at which important-core-structural (ICS) truths change. My own experience suggests that a weakening of ICS truths, whether via honest criticism, exposure to ICS truths of others, or a crisis which cannot be answered through appeal to ICS truths are key.
Actually, we have concepts of truth, and all are to differing degrees plastic at different times and circumstances.
This is precisely the problem you encounter when you try to deny God by pointing to the EVIL in the world. If there is no God, then there is no absolute moral truth upon which to base such an indictment. “Evil” then is just an arbitrary construct of our own ever-changing minds in an ever-changing universe—certainly no solid ground upon which to base any judgment! Everything is continually in flux.
Definitions of good and evil are in flux, since they arise and are held by people. God, if God, as omnipresent entity is the ground of those things we categorize as good and evil. God, if God, is not bound within this duality. If God is, why call such a limited being God? No, an omnipresent God cannot be omni-benevolent. The reality of arbitrary extreme suffering in life means the term omni-benevolent must be dropped to avoid the risk of making limited idols.
Consequently, when you deny the existence of God, you do so without any rational basis. It’s like the atheist who asserts, “I can be good without God!” If there is no ontological “good,” then all talk about “goodness” is arbitrary, subjective and therefore meaningless. Hence, their denial of God is also meaningless.
Actually I abhor the idols of the ego, taken as God, and how they are used to displace the mystery and appease existential fears. I detest these prisons of the mind, which can be manipulated by the unscrupulous, and which are often fanned into flames at times of crisis, resulting in scapegoating and atrocity against individuals and groups. Far from being meaningless, not confining God within duality frees the mind from attachment to an idol.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 20, 2009 at 10:10 pm


Knockgoats,
You responded, “It [indicting God] depends only on the fact that people do not like suffering. If you need some further justification for not imposing it on them when you could do otherwise, you are a psychopath.” (When you resort to name-calling, you give the impression that you are not confident of your position.)
If our feelings determine moral truth, how about our feelings of revenge, jealousy, hatred, and bitterness? Do these feelings also translate into moral truths? How about Hitler’s feelings? Do they trump God’s feelings?
You raise the issue of God imposing a capital sentence on people. Well, what’s wrong with that? Your feelings? What gives your feelings moral authority if there are no moral absolutes? And how about the cow’s feelings regarding our carnivorous tastes? Why do our feelings rise to the level of moral absolutes that can indict God and not the cow’s or the worm’s?
Would you execute a Hitler? A Stalin? What if these people were just as evil? Is it wrong for God to execute anyone? Has not He the right to do with His creation as He chooses? Has He not the right to execute judgment?
In fact, I’d argue that it is because we can be assured of the ultimate judgment, that we need not judge. The Bible tells us to be loving and forgiving because judgment belongs to God. I don’t think that we Westerners have a proper understanding of the psychological need to see justice done because we’ve lived such sheltered lives.
If evolution is your truth, how can you argue against genocide? Nature has eliminated 99% of the species. Actually, it is the mechanism of death that has propelled natural selection. I guess death isn’t such a bad thing after all??



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Knockgoats

posted October 21, 2009 at 5:21 am


Daniel Mann,
If our feelings determine moral truth
They do not, and I never said they did: there is no such thing as “moral truth” because moral precepts are statements of values, not facts. My moral judgements are determined by the likely effect of actions, and of adopting particular moral precepts, on the interests and preferences of others. They are open to criticism and amendment, because I recognise that my judgement is not and cannot be final or definitive.
My comment about psychopathy was not name calling, but a purely empirical observation: those who are without empathy, and so need a justification for taking the interests and preferences of others into account, are, precisely, psychopaths. I do not believe you to be one (although I cannot know this), because I do not believe that you do in fact need such a justification to care about others.
You raise the issue of God imposing a capital sentence on people.
I raise the issue of genocide – you are too much of a moral coward to admit that this is what you are justifying. The passage in Joshua is quite clear: Joshua and his troops killed all that breathed. No distinction between the guilty and the innocent, adults and children. So we see that your Christian “absolute moral truth” leads you to justify genocide and child-murder. Also, of course, enslavement, land-theft, handing over your daughters to be gang-raped, and murdering your daughter in order to keep a vow. Some “absolute moral truth”!
And how about the cow’s feelings regarding our carnivorous tastes?
I don’t eat meat.
Would you execute a Hitler? A Stalin? What if these people were just as evil? Is it wrong for God to execute anyone?
I oppose the death penalty in all circumstances. They were all evil people Joshua murdered, were they, including the children? And before you claim that maybe there were no children there, consider Numbers 31, where, after the Israelites have killed all the adult male Midianites and taken the women and children captive, Moses is angry on behalf of the LORD:
Numbers 31:14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.
31:15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
So all the male children are slaughtered. All evil, were they? Mind you, the female children are not much better off, being clearly destined for sexual slavery.
Has not He the right to do with His creation as He chooses?
No. If scientists were to create a human clone, would this give them the right to torture and murder him or her?
If evolution is your truth, how can you argue against genocide? Nature has eliminated 99% of the species. Actually, it is the mechanism of death that has propelled natural selection. I guess death isn’t such a bad thing after all??
You really are completely unable to separate fact and value, aren’t you? The theory of evolution tells us how the biological world came to be the way it is. It does not say this process or the outcome is good, or bad; it does not in any circumstances tell us how we should behave, although it does explain why, as intelligent social animals, we have morality at all.
You have claimed that God was right to order genocide, and Joshua right to obey the order to commit it. So, if God were, for instance, to order a man to hijack an airliner and fly it into a skyscraper full of people, according to your “absolute moral truth” that would be right, too; and those in receipt of such orders would be right to do it. I think the world can well do without your “absolute moral truth”.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 21, 2009 at 6:55 am


Knockgoats, I am sympathetic to the points you raise, but with one criticism: To refer to the person to whom you are in discussion as a “moral coward” is an ad hominem. It will cause some to dismiss your otherwise excellent points about what the Bible says. Continuing to direct the conversation to those points, maintaining that focus and asking a believer to consider their full implications is the correct approach.
Also, as a former fundamentalist, I can tell you that your points weigh heavily upon someone who thinks about them. If a believer starts reading the Bible seriously, they must confront what it says, and what it says in many places paints a deeply disturbing view of the Hebrew and Christian God. Further, the proximity of our age, makes isolation from competing views very challenging for the believer. Some will become defensive, some will stick their fingers in their ears going “la-la-la”, but many if not most will at least somewhat honestly try to grapple with the implications, even if only in the privacy of their own thoughts.
To dethrone a wizard, one must part the curtain, to see that behind all the bluster is a little man, a weaver of illusion. Dethroned, the wizard is amusing, whereas once he inspired fear and awe.



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Knockgoats

posted October 21, 2009 at 7:07 am


To refer to the person to whom you are in discussion as a “moral coward” is an ad hominem. – Albert the Abstainer
No, it is not: an ad hominem is a dismissal of an argument on the grounds that the person putting it forward has some specific characteristic. This I have not done. Daniel Mann is attempting to deny, by using euphemisms, that Joshua and his troops committed genocide, as they quite clearly did if the biblical account is true. This, I admit, angered me; but I see no reason whatever to withdraw the charge of moral cowardice.



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Ray Ingles

posted October 21, 2009 at 8:46 am


Mann – You don’t appear to have looked up the “Euthyphro dilemma”. For example, you state, about God, “Has not He the right to do with His creation as He chooses?”
On what does the principle, ‘the creator of something owns it’, rest? What’s the justification for that?



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Daniel Mann

posted October 21, 2009 at 9:51 am


Albert the Abstainer,
I’ve reread your comment several times so that I wouldn’t miss the gist of it, and I hope I haven’t. While I respect your struggle to formulate a worldview in this life of complexity and uncertainty, there are several questions I’d like to address to you:
1. What do you mean by an “omni-benevolent” God, especially in light of the fact that the Biblical God has an active concern about addressing injustice? And how is it that, “an omnipresent God cannot be omni-benevolent?”
2. You also wrote, “I detest these prisons of the mind, which can be manipulated by the unscrupulous, and which are often fanned into flames at times of crisis, resulting in scapegoating and atrocity against individuals and groups. Far from being meaningless, not confining God within duality frees the mind from attachment to an idol.” It seems like you are pleading for a form of monism (one consciousness, one reality; all the rest is illusion)? However, if you are, then the “scapegoating and atrocity” about which you are justifiably concerned is mere illusion. It would seem that in order to address injustice, we require a well-grounded concept of justice, and without this, all we can do is to rail incoherently?



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Daniel Mann

posted October 21, 2009 at 10:11 am


Albert, Knockgoats, and Ray,
As much as genocide troubles me and as much as I might be left to humanly grope for understanding, I am left with the conclusion that if God created this world, He has all the right in the world to punish us for our evil. If we have the right to imprison and to punish in various ways, and this isn’t our world — we are just residents here – then God has even more of a right!
If you want me to admit that I am troubled by some of God’s way, then I admit it! But I also must add that my problem isn’t because God isn’t consistent or that He is immoral or illogical, but rather that it doesn’t sit right with me.
However, there are many things that don’t sit right with me that I accept anyway. It doesn’t seem reasonable that the material world is vacuous, comprised of atoms separated and moving as do the planets. It doesn’t make sense to me that sub-atomic particles move in indeterminate ways. However, I accept these things based upon expert testimony.
I have come to deeply trust in God’s testimony, that He is truly a loving, merciful, but just God. In fact, I think that our human experience would prove to be far worse if God wasn’t a God of justice and judgment.
While you value the concept of karma, which can be very merciless, you disdain our God of justice. Do you see any inconsistency there?



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Ray Ingles

posted October 21, 2009 at 11:03 am


Mann – I am left with the conclusion that if God created this world, He has all the right in the world to punish us for our evil.
Why? On what does that conclusion rest? What gives creators greater rights over something than others? (Leaving aside the notion that sentient beings can be owned in the same way unthinking ‘things’ can be…)



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Knockgoats

posted October 21, 2009 at 11:30 am


Daniel Mann,
I echo Ray’s question. Why does it follow that “that if God created this world, He has all the right in the world to punish us for our evil.”?
I have come to deeply trust in God’s testimony
On what grounds do you consider the Bible to be “God’s testimony”? It is full of absurdities and contradictions. Even if it is, why would you trust an inconsistent, genocidal, pathologically jealous praise-junkie?
While you value the concept of karma
If this was directed at me: no, I don’t.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm


Ray and Knockgoats,
God has the same right over His creation as I do over the clay pot that I make. If it has a crack and doesn’t hold water, I have every right to destroy it or to melt it down into something else.
However, God is not merciless with His creation as I would be with my pot. We all know – even with the thick clouds of denial that blur our self-vision – that we are sinners. We experience the life-controling effects of guilt and shame but fail to respond appropriately to these feelings by turning to Christ. Instead, we try to compensate by convincing ourselves that we are good people – better than others. We self-condemn ourselves to the torment of trying to look good and prove ourselves with our rationalizations and accomplishments. When this fails, we try to put others down.
Meanwhile, the love and forgiveness of God are the perfect remedy. If He loves and accepts me just as I am, I can begin to accept myself and then even others.
And He made it so easy for us. If we seek we will find; if we knock the door will open for us. Sadly, this is the very thing we refuse to do.
Knockgoats,
There are many compelling reasons to regard the Bible as a divine book. I’ll just briefly cite a few, and if you are interested in any, I’d be glad to elaborate:
1. The miracles
2. Fulfilled prophecy
3. Changed Lives
4. Christ’s general impact upon the world.
5. Extra-Biblical testimony
6. Internal Consistency
7. Consistency with other things we know to be true.



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Knockgoats

posted October 21, 2009 at 4:07 pm


Daniel Mann,
God has the same right over His creation as I do over the clay pot that I make.
A clay pot is not a sentient being. No-one can do wrong to a clay pot. As I asked before, if scientists created a cloned person, would that give them the right to torture and murder him or her?
1. The miracles
No good evidence any of them ever happened.
2. Fulfilled prophecy
There aren’t any that are both specific, and known to have been written before the events they prophesied. On the contrary, Jesus and the early Christians quite clearly expected the world to end very soon. Prophecy FAIL.
3. Changed Lives
Not evidence of the truth of the Bible. Other people’s lives have been changed by Islam, Buddhism, Scientology, learning to read…
4. Christ’s general impact upon the world.
Not evidence of the truth of the Bible, unless Muhammed’s general impact on the world is evidence of the truth of the Koran, L. Ron Hubbard’s is evidence of the truth of Scientology, etc.
5. Extra-Biblical testimony
What testimony?
6. Internal Consistency
Bwah-ha-ha-hawww. You cannot be serious! The whole thing is a tissue of inconsistencies, starting with the different versions of the creation in Genesis 1, and including the accounts of the crucifixion.
7. Consistency with other things we know to be true.
Again, you cannot be serious! It is blatantly inconsistent with many things we know to be true, from science and history.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 21, 2009 at 4:51 pm


Knockgoats,
You wrote, “A clay pot is not a sentient being. No-one can do wrong to a clay pot. As I asked before, if scientists created a cloned person, would that give them the right to torture and murder him or her?”
Evidently, you respect my right to destroy my clay pot. Would you still respect my right if my clay pot would continually spill its contents out upon my lap? Would this not give me even more reason to destroy it? Do you think that I would be charmed by such a clay pot? Would I have a greater responsibility toward it because it treats me so poorly? Should God tolerate our disdainful rejection of Him?
Regarding cloning humans: I would hate to see this happen. This would open for us a Pandora’s box of moral confusion.
Evidently, you are not very impressed by my list of proofs. However, you did respond with a “?” regarding extra-biblical testimony. Do I perceive a glimmer of interest?



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 21, 2009 at 11:15 pm


Daniel Mann said:
1. What do you mean by an “omni-benevolent” God, especially in light of the fact that the Biblical God has an active concern about addressing injustice? And how is it that, “an omnipresent God cannot be omni-benevolent?”
Omni-benevolent: all good, perfectly good; (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnibenevolence )
Omnipresent: all present, concurrently present across all dimensions.
If God is omnipresent, God cannot be absent, (i.e. God is inescapably present.) This implies that what we see as past, present, and future are from a divine perspective an encompassing present. This becomes pretty mind-bending when we throw relativity into the mix, but let’s leave that alone for the moment. Injustice cannot exist from an omnipresent perspective, as the manifesting universe is merely the necessary consequence of God’s presence. (i.e. Since God is universally present, the universe is as it must be, and perfectly expresses the Divine as there is in fact only God. Hence injustice is a meaningless term in this context.) An omnipresent God cannot be omni-benevolent, because good and evil events occur and God is inescapably bound and necessary for those events to occur via omnipresence.
2. You also wrote, “I detest these prisons of the mind, which can be manipulated by the unscrupulous, and which are often fanned into flames at times of crisis, resulting in scapegoating and atrocity against individuals and groups. Far from being meaningless, not confining God within duality frees the mind from attachment to an idol.” It seems like you are pleading for a form of monism (one consciousness, one reality; all the rest is illusion)? However, if you are, then the “scapegoating and atrocity” about which you are justifiably concerned is mere illusion. It would seem that in order to address injustice, we require a well-grounded concept of justice, and without this, all we can do is to rail incoherently?
The implication of omnipresence is that God alone is in itself, and that is-ness permeates all of existence. My plea is that if God is, and is omnipresent, then monism necessarily follows. Hence, it is a false distinction to hold that there is separability in fact; which leads to duality being illusory. If something happens it follows that it is the Divine will, as only God is non-contingent. All else must of necessity be an extension of the Divine, including our little discussion. Now it may be that scapegoating and the atrocities which occur in the world are inescapable, but that is from a Divine perspective. (We experience time as linear-sequential, not concurrent-simultaneous.) Even so, from a practical perspective as a person, my disgust with atrocities and scapegoating reflect my role playing itself out.
Where there is an omnipresent God, only God is in fact.



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Knockgoats

posted October 22, 2009 at 6:58 am


Evidently, you respect my right to destroy my clay pot. – Daniel Mann
Actually, that would depend on circumstances, but I let the point pass because of your astonishing failure to take note of the difference between a lifeless thing, and a thinking, feeling human being. There are certainly cases in which either you would not have that legal right (if you had sold or given it to someone else), or in which it would be morally wrong (say if your child had become fond of it).
Should God tolerate our disdainful rejection of Him?
Yes. According to your beliefs, God is omnipotent. He needs nothing from us. His tantrums and threats as recorded in the Bible show that if he existed, he would be loathsome and contemptible.
However, you did respond with a “?” regarding extra-biblical testimony. Do I perceive a glimmer of interest?
Since there is none of any substance, I just wondered what you were talking about.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 22, 2009 at 10:41 am


Albert,
Can’t we think of omnipresence as God being omni-conscious of all things, rather than infusing all things?
It seems like you are relativizing injustice to a matter of your own subjective experience? Am I wrong about that? I’m still very unclear about your own beliefs.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 22, 2009 at 11:04 am


Knockgoats,
You wrote of my, “astonishing failure to take note of the difference between a lifeless thing, and a thinking, feeling human being.”
However, I did grant that there is a difference – We are more accountable and guilty than an unintelligent object, because of our knowledge, moral sense, and intelligence. We usually and understandably attach some consideration of mitigating circumstances when someone has less understanding. However, our cognitive faculties do not argue in favor of mitigation.
This leads me to your next assertion: “According to your beliefs, God is omnipotent. He needs nothing from us. as recorded in the Bible show that if he existed, he would be loathsome and contemptible.”
God’s omnipotence leaves moral room for man’s freewill choices and thus our culpability. This is the Biblical position. (Please do not set up a straw-man so that you can easily dispose of it!)
You refer to “His tantrums and threats.” However, I am so grateful for a God who is morally engaged in this world, promising to take vengeance on injustice. This assurance gives me the freedom to love and forgive, knowing that God will take care of the punishment part. Furthermore, if I believed that God wasn’t concerned about injustice, I would have no basis for my concern. A justice-less god is the master of a fruit-less society.
You have a criminal justice system that also incorporates “tantrums and threats” (which administers justice in a very uneven way). Do you not see this institution as a righteous and necessary institution? If so, how can you take issue with the ultimate Judge who will judge everyone fairly?
I would be glad to share with you the various proofs, but I still can’t discern whether you might be interested??



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Ray Ingles

posted October 22, 2009 at 2:12 pm


Mann – Leaving aside the distinction between unthinking pots and conscious, feeling humans… there’s a more fundamental issue you’ve missed. It seems I’ll have to explain the Euthyphro dilemma to you.
Put simply, we ask the question: “Is something good/moral because God says so, or does God say something’s good because it just is good?”
Careful how you answer. If you say that it’s a moral precept that “the creator of something has the right to destroy it”… well, is that a moral rule simply because God says so, or does it rest on something more fundamental?
If it’s just because God said so, then it’s simply the ultimate case of “Might Makes Right”. It follows that the people who collaborated with the Nazis had the right idea, they just picked the wrong bully to submit to.
On the other hand, if morals rest on something more fundamental than God’s say-so, then that’s something God couldn’t change. Something that would apply even to God. At which point you have problems with God forbidding murder and ordering the slaughter of children… and our moral intuitions that something’s fishy about a God having the right to destroy any and all creations on a whim suddenly have a lot more force.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 22, 2009 at 4:09 pm


Ray,
You wrote regarding Euthyphro’s dilemma, “If it’s just because God said so, then it’s simply the ultimate case of “Might Makes Right”. It follows that the people who collaborated with the Nazis had the right idea, they just picked the wrong bully to submit to. On the other hand, if morals rest on something more fundamental than God’s say-so, then that’s something God couldn’t change. Something that would apply even to God. At which point you have problems with God forbidding murder and ordering the slaughter of children… and our moral intuitions that something’s fishy about a God having the right to destroy any and all creations on a whim suddenly have a lot more force.”
I thought you stated the dilemma very well. However, there seems to be a third recourse: God BOTH wills the good and is what He wills. The Bible teaches that He is both good and just and He wills these things for His creation. Thus, both possible problems are avoided.
In a sense, He gladly shares Himself with us, planting His moral truths upon our heart so that we are without excuse (Romans 1:18-21). He has made us like Him to have fellowship with Him (Gen. 1:26-27), but we continue to reject His offer, even though we know Him in the depths of our being. How many people pray, “God, teach me the truth about Yourself so that I might know and follow you!” Instead, we are too invested in ourselves, to our own detriment.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 22, 2009 at 11:09 pm


Daniel Mann said:
Can’t we think of omnipresence as God being omni-conscious of all things, rather than infusing all things?
No, it doesn’t work that way. Omnipresence is necessary if God is the first cause, the One that is in itself, non-contingent, sufficient and complete. All else is contingent.
It seems like you are relativizing injustice to a matter of your own subjective experience? Am I wrong about that? I’m still very unclear about your own beliefs.
Duality (e.g. good and evil) is the product of rationality. For duality to be, the rational faculty is a necessary condition. This principle is embodied in the legal defense of diminished responsibility. Without the capacity to frame an act as good or evil, in short without the rational faculty, there is no moral quality to an act or omission. If nobody had that faculty, there is nothing good nor evil.
“There’s nothing either good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.”
~ Shakespeare, Hamlet, II, ii, 259.
Remove the thinker and all we have are events which have no intrinsic moral quality. Part of the Genesis creation allegory deals with this very subject. Having tasted of the knowledge of good and evil, (i.e. having awakened the rational faculty), morality comes into being.
To get back to God and duality: An omnipresent God is non-contingent and non-dualistic. If God is, then God is of necessity eternal and sufficient, and therefore unchanging. If God is unchanging, then thought does not occur. (Remember, to think is a process of continuously changing mental states, much like a strip of film moving through a projector.) Without thought, events have no moral quality, which leads to omnipresent God being “beyond good and evil”. God is not good, nor can God be good. God is not evil, nor can God be evil. God is God. To attempt to fit God within a dualistic frame, breaks the frame.
If my writing is too deficient to convey the



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Ray Ingles

posted October 23, 2009 at 9:25 am


God BOTH wills the good and is what He wills
This seems to me to be a patent case of special pleading, and sounds a lot like, “Shut up, you’re wrong, even if I don’t know quite why!”
It’s conceivable that there’s actually something to that, which I’m unable to grasp. But until and unless someone can actually explain how that could be, I don’t see the need to take it seriously.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 23, 2009 at 10:31 am


Albert,
I have some questions because I’m trying to get my mind around what you are saying:
1. You wrote: “Duality (e.g. good and evil) is the product of rationality. For duality to be, the rational faculty is a necessary condition…. Remove the thinker and all we have are events which have no intrinsic moral quality.” Couldn’t God suffice as that thinker?
2. When I asked if God could be omni-conscious instead of infusing all material things, you responded, “No, it doesn’t work that way. Omnipresence is necessary if God is the first cause, the One that is in itself, non-contingent, sufficient and complete. All else is contingent.” However, how could God be omnipresent in your sense of infusing everything before there was anything to infuse, including even space? It seems that the understanding of God as omni-conscious might work better?
3. It also sounds like you are relativizing injustice and, in your monistic outlook, you are compelled to regard this physical world as merely an illusion? Isn’t this life-denying? Doesn’t it negate everything that gives our lives meaning and purpose?



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 23, 2009 at 5:07 pm


Daniel Mann said:
1. You wrote: “Duality (e.g. good and evil) is the product of rationality. For duality to be, the rational faculty is a necessary condition…. Remove the thinker and all we have are events which have no intrinsic moral quality.” Couldn’t God suffice as that thinker?
Actually no, and the reason is the qualification of God as eternal/unchanging/omnipresent. To think is a process which involves changes of state of the thinker. An omnipresent God cannot be bound within time. Hence, God does not change state. Implication: God does not think.
From Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternity ):
Eternity as a timeless existence
Augustine of Hippo wrote that time exists only within the created universe, so that God exists outside of time; for God there is no past or future, but only an eternal present. One need not believe in God in order to hold this concept of eternity: for example, an atheist mathematician can maintain the philosophical tenet that numbers and the relationships among them exist outside of time, and so are in that sense eternal.
With respect to your second point, to be omni-conscious is merely mapping the physical 1:1 onto the virtual (conscious). The distinction does not seem necessary given the non-contingent nature of God, and the contingent nature of all else.
Lastly, you said:
t also sounds like you are relativizing injustice and, in your monistic outlook, you are compelled to regard this physical world as merely an illusion? Isn’t this life-denying? Doesn’t it negate everything that gives our lives meaning and purpose?
I assure you that my life is filled with meaning and purpose. I appreciate each moment, the people who are part of my life, and the various unexpected intersections of events, people, animals, flowers, and many other forms. A monistic view affords me with the ability to feel spontaneous gratitude, to direct it anywhere and nowhere. I am inspired by what is revealed through the universe, even though I dare not name it, contain it, or reduce it. I do not regard the physical as an illusion. I regard projections by the mind upon the physical as prone to illusion, with the proviso that empiricism is a powerful tool which helps us parse away much of the illusion, to provide tentative models which are shown to have external physical validity within limits.



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Knockgoats

posted October 24, 2009 at 5:34 am


However, I did grant that there is a difference – We are more accountable and guilty than an unintelligent object, because of our knowledge, moral sense, and intelligence. Daniel Mann
But you ignored the difference that a creator’s responsibility to the created is quite different if what is created is a thinking, feeling being. You evaded my question about the creators of a human clone. As Ray says, your assertion that God has the right to do as he likes with his creation is mere unjustified assertion. So is your assertion that God is good – the God of the Bible clearly is nothing of the kind. You have admitted you are disturbed by his commands to commit genocide, to rob and enslave neighbouring peoples, etc. You are left bleating “God is good because the Bible says so”. So Hitler was good because Mein Kampf says so?
You have a criminal justice system that also incorporates “tantrums and threats” (which administers justice in a very uneven way). Do you not see this institution as a righteous and necessary institution?
Necessary, certainly – because unlike your alleged god, we are not omnipotent and omniscient. God could put a stop to evil now, if he existed and chose to do so. That he does not is overwhelming evidence that he either does not exist, or is not good. As you say, the administration of justice is very uneven: hence we can rationally criticise and seek to reform it.
I would be glad to share with you the various proofs, but I still can’t discern whether you might be interested??
I think I disposed of your “proofs” quite adequately. If you wish to respond, do so, and I’ll read what you have to say.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 26, 2009 at 11:32 am


Knockgoats,
You argue that God doesn’t have the right to punish His creation by making a comparison with human cloning. Your argument goes something like this: “If we clone a human being, we certainly don’t have the right to do with him whatever we might want. Likewise, even if we are creations of God, this doesn’t mean that God can treat us in any manner.”
There are several problems with this analogy:
1. Even if we do succeed in human cloning, we are essentially no different from the humans we are cloning. Meanwhile, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe is infinitely greater than us. Remember, it was you who justifiably made the distinction between the pot and a sentient being. We therefore make distinctions between ourselves and the viruses we seek to exterminate and even the cows we seek to eat. Why? You might reason because we are of greater value or intelligence. However, if you resort to this reasoning, you must also acknowledge that God is of infinitely greater value and intelligence. By this reasoning, if we can butcher a cow, God can butcher us.
2. But there is a great distinction here. Although I’ve maintained that our Creator has this right to extinguish us if He so desires, He DOESN’T exercise it. He reserves punishment for those who deserve it – the very thing that we do through our criminal justice system. How then can we fault God for this?
3. Cloning has little to do with creating life, let alone creating a human being. While cloning is merely a matter of playing with a few variables, creating a human being represents a quantum leap. Likewise, we wouldn’t dream that a surgeon who removes a deadly cancer now has a right over your life. Such doesn’t elevate the cloner or the surgeon to the position of a God.
4. God not only provide life, but also provides the context and the programming that defines us and our thinking. When we point our finger at God, it is with the finger that He gave us. When we make an indictment against Him, it is with the mind, reason, and moral sense that He has imparted to us. In fact, in the same way that the program of the computer programmer can never exalt itself above the programmer, our moral judgment can never be greater than the One who has given it to us. This is why I argue that it is logically incoherent to bring an indictment against God. To do this, we use the absolute standard of morality, which is only possible through Him and His benevolence, to claim that He has failed to measure up to this God-dependent standard. It is like the person who claims that “there’s no absolute truth,” but in denying the existence of absolute truth, he is making an absolute truth claim!
5. It is almost inevitable that if we succeed in setting up cloning factories, where we can clone a thousand look-alike human clones in a day, that these products will be regarded as degraded “humans,” fit only for servitude or the sex-trade. We must all take stock of humanity and our inglorious history. We must also not become mindless of how Christ has transformed this world. Here’s one example:
In WILL TO POWER, the atheist Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Another Christian concert, no less crazy: the concept of equality of souls before God. This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights.”
Nietzsche was right. History powerfully confirms this. Historian Rodney Stark wrote, “Classical philosophy regarded mercy and pity as pathological emotions – defects of character to be avoided by all rational men. Since mercy involves providing unearned help or relief, it was contrary to justice.”
Knockgoats, you rightly argue for a more merciful world, but I think you should give credit to the Proponent of this idea.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 26, 2009 at 11:36 am


Albert,
Although you reject dualism, you seem to be a dualist. You affirm the material world as a reality along with some form of extra-material reality. You therefore can’t be a monist.
Nevertheless, you seem to deny the existence of a thinking, intelligent being who created this world. You wrote, “An omnipresent God cannot be bound within time. Hence, God does not change state. Implication: God does not think.”
Although I can to some extent endorse your two premises, I have problems with you conclusion that “God does not think” [and therefore can’t be the source of the rational, dualist order of things.]
Here are the problems as I see them:
You conclude that God doesn’t think because He is omnipresent and is unchanging. However, thinking involves far more than just a matter of changing or changing one’s mind. Even I can think or marvel about things without it changing who I am. Why then can’t God?
There is so much philosophical mileage to gain by positing an omnipotent, omnipresent God. God is the one unifying principle who can explain the many disparate, extra-natural phenomena like freewill, life, DNA, consciousness, the laws of nature, and the fine-tuning of the universe. God is the only One who can impart meaning and fullness to our confused lives. Without Him, I had previously condemned myself to a lonely, desperate, flattened, and self-absorbed existence.
With Him, every flower not only has its own aroma, but it has it for a purpose; every protein and particle of pollen reflects both His goodness and the deep well of His wisdom. I trod the paths of this wisdom not only because I might be drawn to it, but also because it is intellectually satisfying – everything manifesting a glorious mosaic of His artistry.
Rejecting Him is like starting to button you shirt with the wrong bottom. Subsequently, everything else will be out of place.



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Knockgoats

posted October 26, 2009 at 12:51 pm


Daniel Mann,
We therefore make distinctions between ourselves and the viruses we seek to exterminate and even the cows we seek to eat. Why? You might reason because we are of greater value or intelligence. However, if you resort to this reasoning, you must also acknowledge that God is of infinitely greater value and intelligence. By this reasoning, if we can butcher a cow, God can butcher us.
No, because if he existed, God would clearly have absolutely no need to butcher us. Our only valid excuse for killing sentient beings (viruses are non-sentient) is necessity.
He reserves punishment for those who deserve it
First, this is simply false: the OT shows him slaughtering the guilty and innocent alike, the NT threatening eternal torment (which nothing could ever justify) for merely failing to believe the right things. This is monstrously evil. Second, again, we punish out of necessity; God, being omnipotent, could simply prevent evil.
our moral judgment can never be greater than the One who has given it to us. This is why I argue that it is logically incoherent to bring an indictment against God. To do this, we use the absolute standard of morality
On the contrary, if we cannot make a moral judgement of God, it is logically incoherent to maintain that he is good! That is a moral judgement. I’ve already explained numerous times that the idea of an absolute morality is itself logically incoherent: one can always ask “Why should we accept that standard?”.
in the same way that the program of the computer programmer can never exalt itself above the programmer
This is false. A program may well have powers the programmer does not.
Nietzsche was right.
No he wasn’t. In fact, ideas of human equality arose precisely as the hold of Christianity weakened.
Knockgoats, you rightly argue for a more merciful world, but I think you should give credit to the Proponent of this idea.
Such ideas did not begin with Christianity: they go back at least to the 24th century BCE and the reform programme of Urakagina of Lagash. Christianity, with its evil idea of eternal torment, is about as unmerciful as any belief system ever propagated.



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Albert

posted October 26, 2009 at 10:28 pm


Daniel said:
You conclude that God doesn’t think because He is omnipresent and is unchanging. However, thinking involves far more than just a matter of changing or changing one’s mind. Even I can think or marvel about things without it changing who I am. Why then can’t God?
God is omnipresent, hence immutable and unchanging. Thinking is a process that is transitional, from moment to moment. As thoughts change, the state of the thinker changes: It requires an experience of time which is linear-sequential. Omnipresence is not linear-sequential, but boundless present.
As for duality, I accept that the human brain manifests a persistent illusion of a separate self. This in no way implies that duality exists in fact, and when we examine the physical world, there is no such thing as an event with out effect. Given that the “self” is contingent, changing state continuously, there is strong support for “self” being epiphenomenal. Should you wish to see just how much the “self” is bound to the physical, might I suggest a mere 500 micrograms of LSD. To give you an idea of just how small that is, 1 cubic centimeter of water (or 1 milliliter) = 1 gram. You would need a magnifying glass to see how small that is, and I guarantee you that it will radically alter your state and “self”.
For an even simpler and less extreme experiment: Try not to think of a pink elephant for the next two minutes. Given that we cannot control something as intimate as our own “pink elephant” thoughts; how can it be asserted that the “self” is not changed moment to moment.
Why not play with a simple question: Who am I? I’ve been asking that question for years.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 27, 2009 at 9:10 am


Knockgoats,
You claim, “On the contrary, if we cannot make a moral judgement of God, it is logically incoherent to maintain that he is good! That is a moral judgement. I’ve already explained numerous times that the idea of an absolute morality is itself logically incoherent: one can always ask “Why should we accept that standard?”.
On the one hand, you are claiming that you can bring a MORAL judgment against God, but then, on the other hand, you also claim that “the idea of an absolute morality is itself logically incoherent.” By taking this position, you are admitting that your judgment is subjective, but you’re using this subjective standard to bring an OBJECTIVE indictment against God! Hm?*&^?
In contrast to your position, I do believe that we can theoretically bring an indictment against God, because He has imparted to us an absolute moral standard like “Injustice is wrong, and love is right!” However, in actuality, I believe and perceive that God’s ways are perfect, even if I struggle to understand them. This is because He has proven Himself in so many ways that I’m willing to forego judgment until the consummation of all things.
Indeed you are free to question the existence of moral absolutes and ask as you do, “Why should we accept that standard?” However, this doesn’t argue against moral absolutes any more than my questioning if 2 + 2 = 4 invalidates the truth of this equation.
Nevertheless, I can sympathize with the fact that the idea of eternal judgment is a very disturbing idea for you. It would also be for me if I wasn’t assured of Christ’s love. However, more important than its offensiveness to you is the question of whether or not it is true! You can cut through all of this verbiage by simply humbling yourself to ask the Lord to show you the truth. Jesus made it very simple. He stated:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
As easy as this might sound, I must confess that it is terribly difficult for us. Our own commitments and agendas always tend to trump a sincere questioning and openness to what we might hear.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 27, 2009 at 10:03 am


Albert,
Once again, thank you for your thoughtful challenges! You wrote, “God is omnipresent, hence immutable and unchanging. Thinking is a process that is transitional, from moment to moment. As thoughts change, the state of the thinker changes: It requires an experience of time which is linear-sequential. Omnipresence is not linear-sequential, but boundless present.”
I must confess that I cannot get my mind around the fact that anything or anyone can live in a timeless, spaceless, non-sequential existence, let alone to account for God’s thinking. But I don’t want to discount something or Someone simply because it/He transcends my own experience. So too the activity of sub-atomic particles that also transcends my reason! (I would also think that this would also represent an equal philosophical problem for monistic consciousness which necessarily also must transcend the “illusions” of space-matter-time!)
Nevertheless, revelation, science and logic compel me to believe that Someone does necessarily transcend space and time. Consequently, if an omnipotent, transcendent, and infinite God does exist, who am I to impose my finite distinctions upon Him? Albert, I’m sure that you are willing to believe various “absurdities” – like light is both wave and particle — based upon expert scientific testimony. How much more then should we be willing to accept imponderables regarding an infinite God!
Meanwhile, I continue to marvel at how a monist, who believes that the only reality is the oneness – the universal consciousness – can believe in justice and science which are necessarily part of the illusion, according to monistic thinking.
It seems that you hold to a compromised form of monism – there is only one reality, while the other “reality” is in a state of constant flux, and therefore indefinable and unreal. Therefore, you claim that the self is in constant flux and, consequently, unreal. There are many serious problems with this position.
1. Monism is still life, justice, self and science negating.
2. It also negates all the statements you have made, since they too are in flux and consequently unreal. Its logical conclusion is solipsism.
3. Even if everything you see about yourself is in flux (and consequently unreal), it fails to prove that there aren’t aspects of yourself that aren’t changing, parts that will endure. Science also, amidst all the change and expansion, acknowledges certain unchanging laws.
I don’t think that the monistic paradigm lines up with reality, a reality that you are understandably not ready to deny. Meanwhile, I’m convinced that there is another paradigm that does a far better job in describing reality – a Person who has given me the freedom (John 8:31-32) to endorse and thrive in this world without loosing perspective of a greater world to come.



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Knockgoats

posted October 27, 2009 at 11:13 am


By taking this position, you are admitting that your judgment is subjective, but you’re using this subjective standard to bring an OBJECTIVE indictment against God! – Daniel Mann
Why do you keep lying about my position? Since an objective moral standard is not possible, of course I do not claim to bring an “objective indictment” against a (non-existent) god. What I do say is that for anyone who cares about the interests and preferences of other people, the God of both OT and NT is obviously and monstrously evil.
Indeed you are free to question the existence of moral absolutes and ask as you do, “Why should we accept that standard?” However, this doesn’t argue against moral absolutes any more than my questioning if 2 + 2 = 4 invalidates the truth of this equation.
Yes it does. You, and everyone else of anything approaching normal intelligence, use the fact that 2+2=4 in your everyday life, all the time. If you deny that you accept it, you are simply lying, or delusional. This is not true of any moral standard, and specifically, not true of the moral standards of the God of OT or NT – for example, I do not consider genocide or eternally torturing people to be morally acceptable, and nor does any person with a spark of decency.
Nevertheless, I can sympathize with the fact that the idea of eternal judgment is a very disturbing idea for you. It would also be for me if I wasn’t assured of Christ’s love.
Shorter Daniel Mann: “I’m alright, Jack!”. So, you’ll be happy in heaven, knowing that other people are suffering eternal torment? That is truly despicable. If I have to share heaven with the likes of you and your psychopathic sadist slavemaster, I’ll take hell every time.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 27, 2009 at 11:44 am


Knockgoats,
Why do you think that I endure this dialogue with you, especially after you label me “liar” and “despicable?” It is because I DON’T relish the idea that even you might suffer eternal separation from God. I might think that cancer is “despicable,” but it would be foolish to ignore its threat. We might think that eternal judgment is “despicable,” but this shouldn’t be any reason to ignore this possible reality.
Interestingly, in many times and places, this was a doctrine that had been favorably received. However, we are products of our culture. We believe in a benign humanity and even excuse those who do horrific things simply because we regard them as a mere product of their environment.
Hollywood has almost uniformly come out in favor of Roman Polanski, although he had done a horrible act in forcibly raping a 13 year old. What is it that has made his crime acceptable in the eyes of Hollywood? Perhaps they saw him as “one of us,” and they regard themselves as the “beautiful people.”
I don’t mean to pick on Hollywood, since we all are in denial about our own culpability, as many studies have shown. We’re convinced that we are superior people, and the jails are filled with inmates who regard themselves as superior and as innocent victims.
If we are all so incurably self-righteous, then eternal punishment will look “despicable.” However, if we regard ourselves as sinners who deserve nothing from a just God, then this punishment, not only makes sense, but is also serves as a helpful warning to shake us from our rationalizations.



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Knockgoats

posted October 27, 2009 at 2:31 pm


Daniel Mann,
Since you persistently misrepresent my position, “liar” seems fair enough, although I did not in fact label you as such – I only labelled a false statement of yours a lie. Since you worship a sadistic, genocidal psychopath, “despicable” seems fair enough, although again I so labelled a specific attitude of yours, not you as a person. Now, since you are not enjoying the argument, and I’m not either, I shall break it off, leaving you the last – and undoubtedly self-righteous – word.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 27, 2009 at 11:35 pm


Daniel said:
I don’t think that the monistic paradigm lines up with reality, a reality that you are understandably not ready to deny. Meanwhile, I’m convinced that there is another paradigm that does a far better job in describing reality – a Person who has given me the freedom (John 8:31-32) to endorse and thrive in this world without loosing perspective of a greater world to come.
You are of course entitled to your view. I am not out to convince you that your path is wrong for you. I am sure you realize as well as I, that this form of discourse has limitations, and that people have strong attachments which are not easily set aside. You no doubt see me in that light, and I see you similarly. The difference is that the forms to which we have attachment differ, as do the strengths of our attachments. To go back to the idea of “self” as continuously changing: While state changes certainly occur from moment to moment, there are inertial mechanisms or attachments that lead to a “self” which is meta-stable for most people, most of the time. Our normal wakened state feels continuous, even though the brain consists of many interrelated parts performing very different functions. That there is a cohesive identity in our normal waking state is remarkable. As I have shown though, the self is subject to varying degrees of change over time. I am sure if you reflect back on the person you were in your teenage years, you would find that person very different from whom you are today. Many events have shaped your current identity, and you cannot say with certainty what changes will occur in the future. Perhaps like me, you will change your religious views, or perhaps not. What is certain though is that events will change who you are, and sometimes it is something as small as a 500 microgram speck. If you underwent a conversion experience, there will likely have been a time in your past when the idea that you would believe as you do would have seemed quite alien. The point is, none of us know, what events will unfold and how they will shape who I am to become. Oddly, even something as seemingly private as dreams can have a profound affect. Certainly, knowing via experience that the dreaming mind is anything but continuous, should give some pause for reflection. Asleep, the waking “self” is absent, but returns normally only slightly different upon emerging from sleep. This is just something to think about, to reflect upon, to play with.
I once was a fundamentalist Christian, but in my second year of university I set it aside. The funny thing is, the tipping point was something which on the surface was quite mundane. I returned from university to visit my old believing community over Christmas, (and this would have been around 1982), and in the course of conversation I started discussing the film Sophie’s Choice. I had recently seen it, and was affected by it, and so I started sharing about the film. No sooner had I started than one person said, “Oh, that is not a Christian film, I would not see it”, or some words to that effect. It was not said in a condemning way, but as a matter of fact for this person. I could see by the reaction of others that they felt similarly. In that moment I realized I was no longer one of them. It was clear as day, that our paths had diverged and that was that. Over time, as I read more of other philosophies and religions, and many other disciplines, including the sciences, I was absolutely certain that the Christian tradition was no longer one I could adhere to. I am not a Christian, and I doubt very much that I could fit back into such a narrow box. The following poem by the Islamic mystic Mevlana (or Rumi) really expresses my thoughts and feelings with great clarity, and perhaps will aid you in appreciating my state:
Admit it and Change Everything
Define and narrow me, you starve yourself of yourself.
Nail me down in a box of cold words, that box is your coffin.

I do not know who I am.
I am in astounded lucid confusion.
I am not a Christian, I am not a Jew, I am not a Zoroastrian,
And I am not even a Muslim.
I do not belong to the land, or to any known or unknown sea.

Nature cannot own or claim me, nor can heaven,
Nor can India, China, Bulgaria,
My birthplace is placelessness,
My sign to have and give no sign.
You say you see my mouth, ears, eyes, nose–they are not mine.

I am the life of life.
I am that cat, this stone, no one.
I have thrown duality away like an old dishrag,
I see and know all times and worlds,
As one, one, always one.
So what do I have to do to get you to admit who is speaking?

Admit it and change everything!
This is your own voice echoing off the walls of God

The poem acts upon me, changing my state, much as Mahler’s music, or the sound of a loon on a mist shrouded lake in early morning light, or the gaze of my Beloved. I do not need an idol: In the intimacy of the present, silence allows a voiceless voice to thunder. To quote Shakespeare: Silence is the perfectest herald of joy, I were but little happy if I could say how much. The lover who stops to gaze only upon the veil, is no lover. Only when the veil is pushed aside, and “i” dissolve into that perfect presence is fidelity proven.
I require no belief about God. I do not need a box of words, (though I certainly am using enough of them tonight.) In ecstatic silence there is no disagreement, only Presence.
We normally have an experience continuity, Yes, extreme change, (like the LSD experiment or a religious (de)-conversion), can bring about a very different



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 27, 2009 at 11:43 pm


Sometimes I hate that we cannot go back and edit a message. The last partial paragraph and sentence should be struck. I started to write them far earlier in the message (say 30 minutes earlier), and I did not notice them hanging around the bottom of the message until I submitted it.
Kindly act as if you had not read it, (which is of course impossible.) ;)



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Daniel Mann

posted October 28, 2009 at 10:11 am


Albert,
As I respond to you, I am listening to the Adagietto of Mahler’s 5th as I allow him to transport me into his refuge of exquisite beauty.
Much changes but much remains the same. It is the sameness that allows me to experience the alienation and marginalization you had experienced in your Christian fellowship group, because I have experienced the same thing – at times forcing me to flee. It’s the sameness that enables me to hear and experience the comfort, consolation, and affirmation inherent in Rumi’s poem and Shakespeare’s prose.
It’s also the sameness in the midst of our differences that now causes me to cry out to my God for you. (Sorry, the Mahler is getting to me!)



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 28, 2009 at 11:52 pm


I adore Mahler. The adagietto of the 5th, the 2nd, 3rd, 9th, and realized 10th by Cooke: Mahler is amazing.
Ok, we have a meeting ground, and it is the states evoked by certain forms of poetry and music. Let’s work with that for a bit.
When I listen to Mahler, it is a transformative and ecstatic experience. Yes, the risk is that it can become like a drug, where the state is the aim, rather than something which is experienced and passed through. In the midst of such music, I am played. The noise of internal dialogue diminishes into silence, as though carried upon a wave of emotion, until a pervasive Presence is experienced. This is what I know of Primary Religious Experience (PRE). In my 50 odd years I have known that through many frames, but always it entails stripping away all lesser forms. It involves ineffability; no matter what antechamber I enter through. As a poet and a photographer I always look for those things which evoke, which take the breath away and leave the reader / viewer speechless. This is the point of art, (at least as I see it.)
I know that you are committed to a Christian path, and that is all well and good for you, and for many others. This is, however, not true for a very large number of people, who either follow another tradition or none. As in Rumi’s poem, I have no want or need to be bound to a religious label, (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, et cetera.) I cannot believe, nor do I desire it. For me belief is inhibiting. It has been 27 years since I left the Christian religion, and I am profoundly happy that I moved on. (Mileage varies from person to person.)
Until later.



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Daniel Mann

posted October 29, 2009 at 1:08 pm


Albert,
Although you’ve left Christianity behind, you seem to reluctantly acknowledge a higher and transcendent intelligence, a “pervasive Presence.” You place a capital letter upon it, perhaps inadvertently, but nevertheless indicating that this Presence is higher and more glorious than are we.
With your art, you strive after what will “take the breath away and leave the reader / viewer speechless.” I am sure that you want to provoke more than just feelings, but instead a renewed vision or awareness of something beyond, something “ineffable” to which your art points, something we might already sense is there, but are unable to perceive it. (Simply provoking feelings is cheap and manipulative. It’s something that cheap movies do through sex, violence, and other gimmicks.)
I think that we tiptoe around God, afraid of coming face to face with Him, while necessarily borrowing from the glory and ecstasy that is only real in view of a more glorious Being to which art points.
We can’t avoid Him, although we might deny Him: “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Even in our creative endeavors, He is there. Euclid, from five basic observations (axioms), created geometry, which then mysteriously took on a life of its own. From basic observations like “there can only be one straight line between two points,” many incredible counter-intuitive discoveries were made, like the Pythagorean Theorem.
I would imagine that you regard your own art as more than just an imaginative, creative exercise, but rather that you believe that you are tapping into something having its own independent reality and significance, as Mahler had done. The question then becomes, “What did Euclid and the artist tap into and what force is responsible for this transcendent reality they uncovered?” Where do the facts lead us?
You wrote, “I have no want or need to be bound to a religious label, (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, et cetera.) I cannot believe, nor do I desire it. For me belief is inhibiting.” However, the evidence is all around us; it is inescapable.
“Belief is inhibiting,” but so too are the rules by which we play chess. Complete freedom is bondage and meaninglessness. Chess without rules collapses into nothinglessness!
However, I must admit that becoming a Christian is like listening to a novice pianist pounding out chords. Maturity requires time. Your own experience is not reflective of what many others have found it Christ. Seeing the beauty and joy in the Christian life and its Divinely set limits (teachings) requires patience.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 31, 2009 at 12:10 pm


The impression of Presence is powerful, and I will not attempt to reduce ineffability for the sake of creating a convenient anthropomorphic talisman. I can pass through any gate or pass over the wall to sit in the sanctuary, and I don’t need belief to do that. It is like Plato’s analogy of the cave, where I can turn and experience the light directly, but in turning back towards the wall I find others still playing with shadows that are taken as real. Since I can experience direct apprehension, I have no desire to walk back to venerate old exclusive forms. It is like the groom who has thrown away the veil to be caught in the gaze of his Beloved: Why turn from that gaze to pick up and venerate a veil?
Without belief, I am free of many of the old egoic attachments, the distinctions which create religiously based fragmentation within and without. I can walk into any place which has the potential to evoke awareness of Presence and not be restricted to approach through only one gateway. I also am not troubled by the cognitative dissonance of attempting to hold beliefs which are at odds with what I know of life and science. I am free of those problems precisely because I am not bound to an exclusive religious beliefset. I am not disturbed by scientific discovery, and I have no fears of hell or hopes of heaven. I am perfectly comfortable that you are on a Christian path: Who am I to say that this is not appropriate for you? After all I was there myself, and it is part of the path that took me to who I am today. Meister Eckhart was and stayed a Christian. His writing continues to move me, even though I am not a Christian. But then I am similarly inspired by Hubble photos, Mahler symphonies, and the writing of many, (see a selection of examples below.)
In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti.
He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity’s sun rise.
— William Blake
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
— William Blake
Mind is consciousness which has put on limitations. You are originally unlimited and perfect. Later you take on limitations and become the mind.
— Ramana Maharishi
All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.
— Buddha
He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye.
— Buddha
Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
— Albert Einstein
I am a deeply religious nonbeliever – this is a somewhat new kind of religion.
— Albert Einstein
After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
— Aldous Huxley
All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours.
— Aldous Huxley
He who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment.
— Meister Eckhart
The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.
— Meister Eckhart
As a body everyone is single, as a soul never.
— Herman Hesse
Love alone can unite living beings so as to complete and fulfill them… for it alone joins them by what is deepest in themselves. All we need is to imagine our ability to love developing until it embraces the totality of men and the earth.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
All great truths begin as blasphemies.
— George Bernard Shaw
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
— Dalai Llama
Everywhere I look I see your face, a reflection upon each surface, casting light of every colour and shade: Illuminating.
— Anonymous
God is not external to anyone, but is present with all things, though they are ignorant that he is so.
— Plotinus



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