And Also Like the Lesbyterians

“Our baptist brothers see the problem, and (in my view) want to uproot the tares before it is time. They wind up damaging the wheat. The sacramentalists, I believe, are too careless about letting everything grow together, until eventually, like the Episcopal Church, they think that morning glory is wheat. And why shouldn’t we ordain this morning glory as a bishop? His relationship with the ragweed is a mutually affirming and caring relationship” (Against the Church, p. 35).

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or semi-Pelagian.

195 thoughts on “And Also Like the Lesbyterians

  1. “Lesbyterians”
    Doug: You have the intellect, wit and spiritual knowledge to be better than this. Please reconsider the words you use here, again and again, and what those words might do to those Jesus died for, too.

  2. Sara, I probably would not have titled my article as such, but I am curious about your reaction to the title.  What do you conceive the title “might do to those Jesus died for”?

  3. “Lesbyterians”!  I can’t stop laughing!!  And Sara, get over yourself and develop  a tiny sense of humour.  One can’t help but picture you wearing a little mennonite bonnet and a slight frown.

  4. Hi Tim: Thanks for the question. I know gays and lesbians whom I care for deeply. They choose these words — gay and lesbian — to help identify what they believe to be fundamental aspects of their nature. It’s a way of saying, “This is true about me.” (I’d rather not get into a discussion on the “nature” or “true” point at the moment, maybe another time?).  When others use those words or epithets for those words (think fag, dyke, homo, etc.) in demeaning ways, it hurts their hearts. It also reinforces stereotypes that Christians — any and all of them — cannot be trusted. It closes doors instead of opening them. Now believe me it is unlikely that I would send any of my friends to this blog because those words are used frequently here.  But I certainly cannot control what my friends — or other gay people — see or read. And I do have a Christian friend who greatly admires Doug. Hence my encouragement to Doug to just consider carefully the effect of these words on those who need Jesus, those who may eventually consider answering that knock on the door of their hearts. I want to be the kind of friend that my gay and lesbian friends can go to with their questions. I want them to know that not only is my door open, the door to Jesus can be opened, too. That’s it. I appreciate your question. Thanks for letting me share this answer.

  5. My hope is that Sara’s instincts are good.  Certainly she knows that Christ is compassionate and tender to those who seek Him, and that God doesn’t break a bruised reed.  This is all true, and we are to emulate this compassion ourselves.  However, we aren’t to be driven by instincts alone.  We are to become mature and discerning.  We are even called to be shrewd.  There are wolves about.  Jesus dealt very differently with them, and Sara needs to come to terms with this also.  Context is very important.  There are clues in the setting that tell us what kind of person is being addressed.  When Jesus lit into the Pharisees with the sword of His mouth, He was dealing with the corrupt religious leadership, in their pride and their theological error which was leading the sheep astray.  Jesus was acting like a Shepherd.  So we need to notice the clues in Doug’s writing too.  Who is Doug addressing?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Even in this short excerpt we can see that the subject relates to ordination of liberals into leadership.  It’s about when tares are allowed to grow up with the wheat, unchallenged, until they begin to go to seed.  So we aren’t dealing with repentant seekers, submitting to God’s instruction.  The “lesbyterian” reference is to a corrupt religious leadership, pushing an unbiblical agenda from within, from a position of pride and power.  Exactly like the Pharisees.  Knowing this makes all the difference.  Sara needs to learn to begin making these distinctions.  She doesn’t want to find herself standing on the wrong side of God’s prophetic judgments.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    On the other hand, if Sara is actually caught up in the modern liberal theology, and wants to condone homosexual agendas within the Church, then I would invite her to stand right next to the lesbyterians so she can get everything they have coming to them through God’s ordained means and appointed justice.

  6. Katecho, great post ! I too have a dear friend who is a lesbian, I think, she doesn’t bring this out in the open, just shop talk, but treat her as any person deserves, with dignity made in the image of God, but if she ever expounded on her lesbian lifestyle, I would gently encourage her to repent.

  7. Thank you for your explanation Sara.  I think I understand where you are coming from now.  I guess I just find it difficult to think of lesbian as a slur.  How else do you describe the group?  I understand thinking of fag, homo, dyke, etc. as slurs.  But, it seems like you are faulting Doug for using the term lesbian, as if the term itself was a slur.  Then again, maybe I haven’t understood you? He seems to be criticizing the increasing presence of lesbian pastors in PCUSA churches.  

  8. I’m perfectly happy, even as a pro-gay unbeliever, to see Doug and others use homophobic slurs, for the purely pragmatic reason that every time you do, my side gains converts.  Nobody loves bullies, and nobody can top certain evangelicals at portraying yourselves as exactly that.

  9. Man, has anyone read Ezekiel lately? The sharpest knives of the prophets were always kept for those within the Church. / / / Baptists don’t uproot the tares – baptism is for the workers, not for the stuff growing in the field. It’s for the produce already in the silo. Read Paul. Why don’t paedobaptists understand the difference between seed and fruit, cultivation and harvest?

  10. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Nobody loves bullies, and nobody can top certain evangelicals at portraying yourselves as exactly that. ”

    This is a good observation, except that the Pharisees were the bullies.  Now the ones trying to force compliance with the current zeitgeist are the lesbyterians and other homosexual imperialists.  They have the newfound positions of power and influence.  Folks like Phil Robertson and mom and pop businesses are the ones being bullied now.  It’s not bullying to call out sin for what it is.  Naming sin is the offense that will not be tolerated today by the bullies.

  11. Katecho writes: “.. then I would invite her to stand right next to the lesbyterians so she can get everything they have coming to them through God’s ordained means and appointed justice”
     
    What do you mean?  What do they have coming to them?  There’s no use threatening people if you’re going to be vague.   Whatever it is, I’m sure something like this would be a walk in the park in comparison: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=176_1364022789
    Don’t run from sadism … embrace it!   Tell us how you’ll dance when Jesus comes and lets the blood fly from our friends, neighbors and family members who didn’t win the Election lottery.

  12. Katecho writes: “they have the newfound positions of power and influence.”
    The lawsuits you’re referring to are exceedingly rare.  Most gay singles and couples simply take their business elsewhere when they discover their business is not wanted.  
    Perhaps if Christian fundamentalists had not spent the last several decades fighting any legal protections for gays in housing, employment, military service and even civil unions,  even these isolated incidents would have been rarer than they are.    Because I don’t sense you’re capable of much empathy or imagination, let me spell it out for you: pretend YOU are on the receiving end of the same sort of initiatives that gays have been on the receiving end of for years.  How would you react?  I can’t imagine it would be anything resembling a sane response given the hysterical reaction over to having to bake a cake for a couple you don’t like.  
    So yeah … some gays are unfortunately going to be sore winners when they feel public opinion is turning.   I think it will pass, though ….

  13. James Bradshaw, and others like Eric the Red, seem to be at war with the concept of man’s accountability, yet they also seem to want to hold me accountable to expectations of some sort, regardless.  So am I accountable or not?  Are there expectations that pertain to me or not?  Go figure.
                                                                                                                                                                    In any case Scripture affirms man’s accountability before God, and that’s what matters at the end of days.  As for the kinds of judgments that lesbyterians can expect, there’s no reason to place them in any unique status, their sin aligns very tightly with that of the Pharisees, so I would look at the passages that describe their judgment.  Jesus said something to the effect that it might go better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for them.  (Which incidentally informs us that homosexual perversion, while grave, isn’t all-consuming among God’s concerns.  Phariseeism is worse.)
                                                                                                                                                                    Notice that Bradshaw seems intent to keep overlooking the distinction between civilian sinners in general (friends, neighbors, family members) and those enemy combatants in positions of power (lesbyterians, pharisees).  Jesus’s sword is primarily for the latter wolves (who present real danger to the sheep), as is Doug’s serrated edge.  Refusing this distinction doesn’t help Bradshaw’s case.  We’ve been quite clear.

  14. Katecho, accountability?  What are you talking about?  I haven’t said anything that even remotely suggests that you owe anyone an accounting for anything.  I’m merely pointing out the cause and effect relationship between publicly being nasty to people and turning people off your message.  You win more flies with honey than with vinegar, and all that.  But if you don’t care about results, then by all means keep pouring on the vinegar.  

  15. Accountability is vinegar in Eric the Red’s eyes.  The zeitgeist is all about corn syrup now, and also who can play the victim the loudest.  I’m reassured to know that I can’t be held accountable for anything in Eric the Red’s system, at least not in any moral sense.  All that Eric can say is that honey is more efficient than vinegar for arbitrary goals such as attracting flies.  I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m trying to attract flies.
                                                                                                                                                                    But since I am morally accountable to God, I want to please Him first of all.  His Gospel speaks honestly about our sin.  It actually addresses sin, whereas honey and vinegar do not.  God calls all men everywhere to repent.  It’s not a popularity contest.  We will be held accountable.

  16. Whether Katecho is right on the merits is a different subject entirely than what is the best PR strategy for winning converts.  I happen to think he’s also wrong on the merits, but if you make every effort to antagonize and demean people, then you really shouldn’t complain if nobody is listening to what you say on the merits.  

  17. Doug, when a wife beater is told by the courts that he can’t beat his wife, I’m sure he feels bullied too.  How dare the courts tell him that he can’t hit someone weaker than he is.  That doesn’t mean that anyone else will share his opinion about who the victim is.  And what your complaints really boil down to is that the law and the culture have shifted to where you can’t beat up on gay people the way you’d like.  

  18. Notice, again, how Eric the Red appeals to what is, today.  Not to what ought to be.  Eric has no access to that.  He just has his finger in the air right now.  What argument will he use when the culture winds shift back the other direction?  He doesn’t have principle, just bandwagon.

  19. @James Bradshaw
    Why should someone who identifies himself by his deviant sexual proclivities require special protections in the public square? Can’t he just keep his habits private and behave like a regular person during the day? Demanding special treatment for the sake of perversion is not very endearing. It also leads to a backlash against homosexuals. Just look at Non-western countries like Russia, India, and Uganda.
    I didn’t watch your snuff film.

  20. I wish that someone would explain to me that if God, Who includes Jesus as the second person in the trinity, as expressed in the Old Testament, declared that homosexuality was such a heinous sin that it demanded the death penalty, why shouldn’t it be considered just as heinous now and just as deserving as death?  If He was willing to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the evil of homosexuality, why should we consider it to be an “acceptable” sin now?  Or is it the fact that it, along with adultery, fornication and infanticide have become popular and fashionable, even within the church?  The death penalty was instated by God to “remove the evil from the land.”  Why shouldn’t it be removed now?  Why should we allow it to continue and even relish our “tolerant” and “forgiving” attitudes toward behavior, which like murder, God considers to be an abomination?

  21. No, Job, he can’t because people like you insist on defining him by  his “deviant sexual proclivities.”  There would be no gay rights movement if gay people hadn’t organized against vicious and unrelenting persecution.  

  22. Sorry, this is about to show up as a duplicate post because I made a typo in my ‘nym.  No, Job, he can’t because people like you insist on defining him by  his “deviant sexual proclivities.”  There would be no gay rights movement if gay people hadn’t organized against vicious and unrelenting persecution.  

  23. “Why should someone who identifies himself by his deviant sexual proclivities require special protections in the public square”
    For the same reason that people with “idolatrous” and “heretical” beliefs seek legal protections.  Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Catholics, often demonized by many evangelicals, don’t want to be fired from their jobs or otherwise discriminated against because of their beliefs.  I don’t blame them.  How are we any different? 
     
    “I didn’t watch your snuff film.”
    That’s too bad.  If you’re going to embrace eternal torture as a moral good (along with Old Testament punishments), I think you should be willing to witness what it is you support.    Because I’m an optimist about these things, I think many Christians will ultimately reject these beliefs when confronted with just how repugnant some of them are in their full and awful reality.   So perhaps it’s a backwards compliment.  If I was dealing with Muslim fanatics, I wouldn’t even bother.  They’d think nothing of chopping off your head and feeding it to their dog.
     
     

  24. Katecho, let us suppose that I suffered from some incurable and terminal illness.  Suppose you then show up at my door selling snake oil and, when I decline, you say, “But you don’t have anything better.”  My response would be that even if I don’t have anything better, that doesn’t change the fact that what you’re selling is snake oil.  Let us suppose for sake of argument that everything you say about my world view is true (even though it isn’t, as I’ve demonstrated previously.)  All of your comments about my world view, even if true, don’t change the fact that the alternative you’re offering is snake oil, and there’s no real reason I should buy your snake oil whether I have something better or not.  If you’re right, then all you’ve proven is that I don’t have something better, which is not the same thing as proving the merits of yours.  And somehow I think that if you had anything in support of your own world view, you’d be talking about it rather than pitching rocks at me.

  25. James, a hundred years from now, even the most conservative of Christians will be claiming it’s a lie of the devil and a vicious slander that the church was ever anti-gay.

  26. Out of curiosity, why come to this site and argue with all the unicorn worshipers? You know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Are you unstable? Or what is your interest in winning converts to game over when you die? If the wish fulfillment makes us happy what’s your beef?

  27. Eric, baby, no reason to go all battle-axe on me. The “gay people” you reference are more than happy to define themselves by their sexual proclivities. I merely noted that those proclivities are deviant. If the foot fetishists ever organized themselves as an oppressed minority, would you expect me to always be on my tiptoes around them? And don’t think for a minute anyone buys this persecution narrative. Heck, our economic system itself is based on the writings of a man known to have had dozens of homosexual lovers.
    James, are you defining homosexuality as a belief system now? That’s the only way homosexuals would compare to a religious community.
    It seems to me that Mormons have been tolerated since they stopped murdering settlers and made their polygamy de facto only. If homosexuals would only play at sex and marriage behind closed doors, then most so-called discrimination against them would disappear overnight.
    Christians believe sinners are damned if they reject Jesus the Messiah as their God and Savior, i.e. for willful disobedience. God always makes right judgments. Thankfully he has chosen to forbear justice for now. Yet somehow Christians are hateful for warning people to repent of their sins? I mean, I could tell you that gays are, upon death, swept up to be cradled in the arms of Apollo, but that wouldn’t make it so.
    And for crying out loud, Muslims don’t like dogs.

  28. Tim Mullet asks:

    “Out of curiosity, why come to this site and argue with all the unicorn worshipers?”

    Indeed.  Excellent question.  Something has got his goat, but I think we’ve ruled out several motivations by now.  It’s not because Eric the Red thinks there are any expectations or prescriptions for us or for the world.  His universe is purposeless.  So scratch that.  It’s not because Christians are somehow immoral.  It’s all just chemistry in motion.  So scratch that too.  And it’s not because theism is inefficient.  It’s far more efficient than atheism, survival rates being what they are by comparison.  Christianity works quite well on the survival criteria.  It works better than atheism, in fact.  But somehow this hasn’t had a rational impact to inform Eric against his utilitarianism.  Anyway, scratch that motivation off the list too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      An emotional resentment toward God is still on the table though.  Frustration can be its own motive.  He seems to hold conservative Christians in contempt, but without any rational basis for doing so.  It must be purely chemical according to his worldview, but pointing this out seems to frustrate him even more.  He tears his robe at the suggestion that he is attempting to make us accountable, but it’s quite obvious that he is trying to hold us to some unspoken standard.  Though his worldview denies it, his sentences scream out that he thinks we are expected to act and believe differently than we do.  Eric just can’t muster a worldview to rationally sustain any of it.  Quite a pickle.

  29. Job wrote:

    “The “gay people” you reference are more than happy to define themselves by their sexual proclivities. I merely noted that those proclivities are deviant.”

    Well stated comment.  Eric the Red is trying to put the guilt squeeze on Christians for daring to call sin sinful.  It’s vicious.  Unfortunately, Eric’s worldview has nothing to say about such behavior.  Viciousness is quite natural in the animal world, and we are just animals, in Eric’s narrative, so apparently the Christians are supposed to supply their own foundation for being guilty.  Interestingly, this is a strategy that has worked really well against Christians for a long long time now.  We are easily manipulated by guilt promptings from unbelievers.

  30. Eric the Red, I’ve asked you this on a prior thread but didn’t receive a response.  I’m hoping you can reply to this one.  Based on all your posts, I acknowledge your skepticism and frustration with the Christian worldview.  However, your utilitarianism doesn’t offer mankind any ultimate hope or purpose.  We’re born by chance, we live by chance, but we die with a harsh certainty.  What is the purpose of man’s existence if he merely arrives here by purposeless, directionless, blind, random chance forces, where his primary goal is to survive and pass on his genes to his offspring?  What rational ground is there for meaning, purpose, and justice?  Eric, you may not prefer our worldview, but your worldview seems utterly incoherent.  Please explain why you believe your worldview is more coherent, and preferable, to the Christian worldview.  I think many of us who frequent this blog are genuinely interested in your response to this question.  You’re obviously bright, well read, and a very good writer.  But having said that, your blind spot appears to be the incoherence of your worldview.  It truly puzzles me.  

  31. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Doug, when a wife beater is told by the courts that he can’t beat his wife, I’m sure he feels bullied too.  How dare the courts tell him that he can’t hit someone weaker than he is.  That doesn’t mean that anyone else will share his opinion about who the victim is.  And what your complaints really boil down to is that the law and the culture have shifted to where you can’t beat up on gay people the way you’d like.”

    Eric the Red has become predictably transparent.  Note the telltale use of emotionally loaded terms, such as “wife beater”.  Yet at the same time notice that Eric never says that beating ones wife is actually morally wrong.  Animals bite and scratch their mates all over the planet.  According to Eric’s utilitarianism, at worst it’s just inefficient.  But then again, it depends on what arbitrary goal the wife beater has set for himself.  Wife beating may be highly efficient depending on the made up goal.  Eric can’t bring any accountability or expectation to bear.  He has stopped even trying.  He just assumes that all of us will supply the missing pieces, because, after all, everybody knows wife beating must be bad or something.  Eric doesn’t want to get into where the standards come from.  He completely loses rational footing when we go there.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So what does Eric appeal to?  Oddly, Eric appeals to power.  He appeals to those who can beat the husband at his own beating game.  In the end, it’s about arbitrary courts continuing the cycle of hitting someone weaker than them.  Utilitarianism has a nasty habit of devolving into “might makes right” according to whoever just happens to be at the top of the food chain at the moment.  It turns out that it’s very efficient to be the mightiest.  In other words, it’s arbitrary and irrational.  And still, whatever is, is.  There is no expectation in the accidental universe.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (Eric can’t pass the opportunity to smear Doug’s  character by suggesting that Doug wants to personally beat up on gay people.  Eric needs to check for a bitter heart.  This is a personal heart issue at base, not a knowledge issue.  Eric is revealing symptoms of a very unhappy heart.)

  32. Tim, because you’re not content to quietly worship unicorns and leave the rest of us alone.  For katecho’s complaining about my comment that Doug wants to beat up on gays, what would life be like for gay people in a country in which Doug were the absolute dictator?  Probably not very pleasant.  And it’s not just gay stuff.  Doug has previously said that he would make the Bible the central part of the American legal system, maybe not in those words but that’s a fair characterization of his position.  No businesses open on Sunday, no abortion, no teaching evolution in the schools, no government economic programs, Biblically-defined marriage, etc. etc. etc.  I would never tell y’all that you’re not permitted to live your lives as you see fit; I have zero confidence that you would extend the same live-and-let-live courtesy to the rest of us.

  33. Dan, I apologize for missing your question on the earlier thread.  The short-and-sweet answer is that even if I and everyone I care about only exist for a brief moment of time before vanishing forever, why would I not want that brief moment to be as happy and fulfilling as possible?  There’s more to my answer than that but I need to leave for work in a few minutes so I’ll come back later today to elaborate.  If one’s world view begins and ends with:  If we don’t look out for each other, nobody else is going to either, we’re all we’ve got; then that offers a pretty solid motivation for looking out for each other.

  34. Eric the Red wrote:

    Tim, because you’re not content to quietly worship unicorns and leave the rest of us alone.

    And then he wrote: 

     I would never tell y’all that you’re not permitted to live your lives as you see fit

    In the same breath, no less.  Eric, you understand that Christianity is, by divine fiat, an evangelical faith, don’t you?  We simply cannot “quietly worship unicorns” and be obedient in our faith practice.  Sort of puts the lie to your second statement, doesn’t it?

  35. An emotional resentment toward God is still on the table though.  Frustration can be its own motive.  He seems to hold conservative Christians in contempt, but without any rational basis for doing so.  It must be purely chemical according to his worldview, but pointing this out seems to frustrate him even more.  He tears his robe at the suggestion that he is attempting to make us accountable, but it’s quite obvious that he is trying to hold us to some unspoken standard.  Though his worldview denies it, his sentences scream out that he thinks we are expected to act and believe differently than we do.  Eric just can’t muster a worldview to rationally sustain any of it.  Quite a pickle.
     
     

                                                                                                                                                        
    It is almost like there is some spiritual law at work. Something that man is that makes him hate God. An enmity that makes man want to kill God. A force that makes man want to be the judge of right and wrong. A rage that will brook no competition in the moral sphere. A stain that cannot be shaken because it is what he is. There is also the “joy” in this hatred–the moral cause–call it a crusade–that will not rest until God is gone.
     
                                                                                                                                                    
    yea, been there done that.

  36. Eric describes a Doug Wilson world with horror, “No businesses open on Sunday, no abortion, no teaching evolution in the schools, no government economic programs, Biblically-defined marriage…”.  I grew up in that world for the most part.  No need to lock your door at night; knowing your father’s name; schools without shootings or fights or rape, schools with very little bullying(comparatively), taxes low enough that a family of six (mine) could live on Dad’s small income, Sunday dinner at home with guests… Now that I think about it, it was pretty awful.

  37. ….Now that I think about it, it was pretty awful.
     
     

                                                                                                                                                   
     
    LOL! thx

  38. Eric,
    ….No teaching creation in schools, no letting me spend money to help others the way that I see fit, no allowing my business to serve whomever I choose, no letting me not pay for abortions if I think they are murder….yes Eric, right you are, why can’t we all just live and let live the way you all do!!!

  39. “no teaching evolution in the schools”

    Eric the Red, you’re thinking too small! I rather think that this would actually be “no government controlled schools, period.”

  40. katecho,
    We Christians want to believe the best about our opponents, because we are often charitable to a fault. All it takes is for some narrative pusher to say; “Well you really did wrong me here, there, and everywhere;” and Christians start falling over each other, trying to prove their genuineness and win a soul for Christ. Many get suckered into a false narrative, because they take what Mr. Earnest Atheist says at face value. Like this: 
     
    “James, a hundred years from now, even the most conservative of Christians will be claiming it’s a lie of the devil and a vicious slander that the church was ever anti-gay.”
     
    Ridiculous. The leftists have significantly overplayed their hand. They are losing control of the narrative. When they finally do, their pet perversions will no longer be promoted or protected by the chattering classes.

  41. Job, I make no claim that prophecy is one of my spiritual gifts, so I may be wrong that 100 years from now churches will deny ever having been anti-gay.  However, my basis for making that prediction is that that’s essentially what happened with race, and I’m old enough to have watched it happen.  At one time, in the South, evangelical churches were the primary obstacle to racial equality, and they had plenty of Bible verses to quote for why God intended that the races should be separate and the black race should be ruled by the white race.  Today, that’s mostly forgotten, and if you want to infuriate Southern evangelicals, just remind them of their own history.  Once the culture shifts, the church inevitably follows. 

  42. ArwenB, there are non-religious arguments to offer for getting the government out of education.  I don’t find them persuasive but I acknowledge their existence.  And if you want to have a conversation about whether government schools are, as a utilitarian matter, a good idea or a bad idea, we can have that conversation.  It’s when someone says that the government shouldn’t be involved in education because it’s against his religion that my eyes start to roll.  Same with government health care.  Same with social security.  Same with our foreign policy in the Middle East.  You are entitled to your religious views about such things, but unicorn-worship should not form a basis for public policy.
     

  43. Eric, I do understand that one can be ethical and altruistic without a religious worldview.  One can take the view that if we are all in a lifeboat in perilous stormy seas, our best hope for safety is to care for one another.  There are also societies with strong ethical codes that are not theistic.  My problem with utilitarianism is that I think it can conflict with individual human freedoms.  For example, in a society decimated by AIDS, a government might decide to ban homosexual conduct for the greater good.  Or sugary drinks or cigarettes or reading in bed or chocolates for breakfast.  How would you balance the tension between my freedom and the greatest happiness of the greatest number?//I enjoy your presence here, and I enjoy the interaction among some very good intellects.  I could wish that the rigor of debate was more often accompanied by kindness, and I appreciate that you are charitable and patient in your posts. I

  44. Melody, I remember the 50s.  Some stuff about it was nice, but some of it was pretty awful, and it takes a really selective memory to view them as some sort of good old days.  You might ask the blacks who were beaten and lynched for trying to vote, just for starters.  Or the wives and children who endured beatings at the hands of their husbands and parents with no options and no sympathy from the legal system.  Or the people who lived in tar paper shacks in the woods because they didn’t have the money for real housing, or the children who went hungry and suffered from treatable medical problems because there wasn’t a social safety net. 

  45. Eric, do you ever stop and think how coercive your people are?  Women have now been completely convinced that they should not be at home raising their children and taking care of their families.  They are lazy, non-producers if they do so.  They must send their children to the government to be “educated”.  They are incapable of doing so themselves, even if they did stay home.  The government will choose what that “education” consists of (there is no vote or consent) , but the entire population will pay for it, whether they agree with it or not.  If we do not pay for it, we will be fined and or jailed.   Is this what you are afraid of ?  Do you fear this is what we would do to you, given the power that you now have?

  46. Timothy, as I’ve said before, I can’t hate a being who doesn’t exist.  Imagine if there actually were a cult of unicorn-worshippers with the political power to impose unicorn-worship on the rest of us; you don’t think there would be some resentment?  And you don’t understand that that resentment would be directed at the cult rather than the non-existent unicorns?  The axiom “everything isn’t about you” applies to your unicorns too.
     
     

  47. Carole, and Benjamin, there is always going to be tension between individual rights and community needs; that comes with living in society, and the proper balance will probably be unsatisfying to both sides.  But as I said to ArwenB, if you want to make a non-religious argument for why a particular kind of state coercion is bad, go ahead.  The simple fact is, though, that we can’t accommodate everyone’s religious beliefs; the obvious example is the conflict between Doug’s religious beliefs, which hold that gay marriage is a sin, and Episcopalian beliefs that anti-gay prejudice is a sin.  Other than making a bald, naked assertion that you’re right and the Episcopalians are wrong, how do you suggest the government resolve that conflict?  And by the way, Carole, nobody is stopping women from staying home and homeschooling their children. 

  48. Jill, thank you for your kindness.  I think the answer to your question is that individual rights themselves serve a utilitarian good.  People who are being free to live their lives as they see fit will be happier, more productive, and cause fewer social problems, and that’s enough of a utilitarian good to encourage individual rights.  At some point a particular individual may wish to do things that have a bad impact on the rest of society, and then one needs to do a balancing act to determine whether the harm to society is great enough to justify restricting individual rights, but that, too, is a cost-benefit analysis.  So in the example you’ve given of a society decimated by AIDS, you’d have to look at (1) whether the proposed solution of banning homosexual conduct would actually help the problem; (2) whether there are less restrictive ways of accomplishing the same end; and (3) whether the interest that the gays themselves have in personal autonomy is important enough to override society’s interest.  In countries like South Africa that have a high rate of AIDS, it’s mostly transmitted heterosexually, so that solution doesn’t even fix the problem.

  49. As an evolutionist, it’s easy for Eric the Red to imagine a day when even conservative Christians will decry it as a vicious slander that the church was ever anti-gay.  Eric is aware of no genetic boundaries that preclude such an eventuality.  Of course this same principle affirms that, given enough time, the impossible becomes improbable, the improbable becomes probable, and the probable becomes certain.  This means that Eric’s evolutionism itself will some day certainly evolve to into a form of theistic creationism, denying that it was ever anti-intelligent design.  There is no genetic barrier that prevents a step-by-step gradual transformation.  Isn’t evolutionism grand?  So powerful.
                                                                                                                                                                     Since we are sharing narratives about the future, I’ll share mine.  My expectation is that God’s providential judgment continues to strike blows to our nation (and most of the West).  I expect these will continue to build into severe economic earthquakes and destruction of wealth.  Everything will be shaken so that only what cannot be shaken will remain.  The West is/will become a submerging economy.  However, through this rod of iron, cultures will rediscover the basic need for personal responsibility and accountability, they will be refocused on what is more important in life.  I believe the severe consequences of sin (from which we have been shielded through corruption and lies) will be an acknowledged and inescapable reality.  So I expect culture to become more receptive to the Gospel as the only meaningful way to address the sin problem.  Since atheism and evolutionism offer no answer to this issue, and since secularism is already fading as a purely demographic matter, I think the future will see a rise in the contest between the Christian faith and Islam.  Atheism and secularism will be seen as the kind of worldview that assumes and presumes upon features of a culture that was built from theism; the kind of thinking that persists only where affluence can briefly sustain such folly in spite of itself.

  50. Eric,  you really have no clue as to how the triune God informs so many of the assumptions you regard as  “common sense,” do you.  It’s breathtaking to see secularists go on and on about how to “fix the world,” with seemingly no comprehension of the foundations of their thought.                                                                            

  51. What should form the basis for public policy?  Is truth what the people who work for the government decide it is?  How do you think curriculum is selected in public schools?  Do you not think that the people on these committee have a particular world view that informs every decision about what to teach the masses of children? The power that those committees have, is immense.  And why do you think the members were selected? Do you imagine that their world view does not enter into the equation?  Come on, Eric.  Now my eyes are rolling.

  52. The posts are going so fast, I can’t answer fast enough, but Eric, no, right now in most states you are allowed to homeschool, if you ask permission and register with the government, and for many states, if you then take their tests.  However, children raised in the public schools, are raised to believe that women should work.  The other view point is not presented. Not at all. The feminist agenda rules the curriculum. So, most women feel afraid and feel isolated when they choose to homeschool.  They are criticized by family and neighbors.  Many buckle to the pressure. The majority of people in America are raised to believe one worldview.  It happens to be one I think is a lie, a dangerous lie. But I still have to pay for it or face fines and or jail.  You say your worldview is not a religion, but that is where our disagreement begins.

  53. And let that first part sink in Eric.  The safety net of education.  The welfare education which got so large it had to become its own department was created for the poor who could not afford better. Fast forward a few decades and parents must ask and register in order to be “allowed” to educate their children at home.  If they do not, their children can and will be forced to have the training the government sees as fit.  If they still do not comply, the children will be removed from the home. I get if you want free education then you get what they decide is true, but why on earth should anyone have to test or register?  That is akin to making me register when I am not going to feed my child block cheese and Wic approved food, and at the end of the year asking him to weigh in and give blood samples. Is this the neutrality and live and let live approach you hold so dear?

  54. Oh, your predictions are most definitely wrong, Eric. But that doesn’t matter, does it? Seizing the narrative does. One part of your narrative is the notion that black = homosexual. It really is quite racist of you to conflate black people with those who identify themselves by sexual perversion. Blacks are more than a set piece to lend moral legitimacy to the cause de jour. Shock and outrage.
     

  55. “You are entitled to your religious views about such things, but unicorn-worship should not form a basis for public policy.  ”

    ….

    Why, thank you for such a gracious concession to my rights.

    And I don’t see why not, quite frankly. It’s as reasonable a basis for public policy as any. Better certainly than, oh, the impending heat-death of the planet and/or imminent catastrophic deep-freeze of the same, to take a random example.

    You just don’t like it because our belief in God won’t allow us to admit that you are the ultimate arbiter of truth and goodness.

  56. All government schools, everywhere, teach what the government tells them to. In Nazi Germany, which was a democratically elected government, Aryan ideology was a standard part of the curriculum. In the Soviet Union, which was a dictatorship from first to last, Communism/socialism was the curriculum. In the United States where the schools are run by the courts,  any thing Christian is forbidden, yet the Five Pillars of Islam are taught.

  57. Job, no one is suggesting that black equals gay.  But prejudice equals prejudice, and one person’s prejudices should not make it harder for another person to realize his full potential.  We protect blacks, and gays, because those groups have traditionally suffered a history of prejudice and discrimination.  If people who like broccoli or are left handed had suffered a comparable history of discrimination, they’d be protected too.  I was once turned down for a job because the boss said he didn’t get along with people of my astrological sign.  That doesn’t happen often enough to justify legal protections for people based on their astrological signs, but if it did  – if Virgos or Capricorns had trouble getting jobs because most employers refused to hire them — then that would justify protecting them for the same reason.  We protect groups that need protecting, whether the people doing the discriminating think those groups deserve protection or not.

  58. Katecho, governmental neutrality, like being of good moral character, is a worthy goal to aspire to, even while admitting that in practice it’s tough to achieve.  (I only tossed in the good moral character bit as a courtesy to you so you’ll have another opportunity to claim my world view doesn’t recognize the concept.)  I’m fine with not allowing flat earthers to teach middle school science, even if their flat earthism has a religious basis.  I’m fine with not allowing Holocaust deniers to teach 20th century history.  But I don’t think what’s what you were talking about.

  59. Robert, and Carole, you are right that the culture creeps into the curriculum; that’s unavoidable, and that’s actually more of a cultural phenomenon than a governmental one.  Schools prepare women for careers because in this culture, most women have careers.  In an earlier era, in which women were expected to stay home and take care of the kids, they learned home economics instead.  My aunt, in fact, wanted to take shop and was not permitted to do so.  But that’s a cultural phenomenon; there is no law now that forbids schools to offer home ec to women, and there was no law then that forbade shop classes to women.  And unfortunately, people outside the mainstream of the culture often find themselves on the outside looking in.

  60. By the way, education is a special case because it’s not just the rights of the parents that are involved.  That child is going to grow up, and if that child lacks preparation because of an inadequate education, he may suffer for it the rest of his life.  The child has rights too, independent of those of the parents.  And, if the child isn’t going to be able to find work because of an inadequate education, society will inevitably pick up the tab.  So there is a social interest in ensuring that children have an adequate education, though I think how the child gets it should be up to the parents.

  61. ArwenB, because secularism, unlike religion, is objectively testable.  If Katecho turns out to be right and we get hit by an economic tsunami, we will still be left to guess whether God did it, or whether it’s just the economic pendulum swinging back and forth as it always does.  On the other hand, we have seventy years of data to show that elderly poverty has been severely reduced because of social security; there are far fewer elderly going hungry today than there were in 1945.  And that’s why religion isn’t an adequate basis for public policy; unless God makes an actual public appearance, there’s no objective way to test it.

  62. Eric, you did not seriously say that!  An adequate education?!  Like the one the welfare state is offering?  That is the best part of the irony, even more ironic than having to register for refusing to accept welfare is that what is being offered is an utter failure.  It is dismal.   Yes indeed, the government better step in and help, since most parents don’t want their kids to succeed or be prepared for a job, right? That was a mess when they were being raised by their fathers to be carpenters and farmers and plumbers.  It’s much better to import workers from other countries to do those jobs, when we compare them with what a high school diploma can get ya!  LOL. That’s truly hilarious. By the way, it may interest you to know that homeschoolers consistently score much higher than public school kids on  tests, which is pretty easy to do, so no kudos to anyone there.  And yes, actually there is no time for home economics anymore, or shop or woodworking, even if they could find someone with those skills to teach the course, they would have to retrain the culture that they were skills of value after spending years convincing them that they are not.  Mostly schools  are working on getting high school seniors to know 6th grade math in order to pass the high school exit exam.  Busy preparing them for their bright careers.

  63. Eric, government forces school curriculum not the popular culture.   Apparently you aren’t seen the Common Core initiative that is supposedly developed in each state and is modified by school districts to meet their special needs.  In fact, if you take the time to view the Common Core national web site and compare it to several states the values are the same.  Granted they might be worded differently or might be labeled in a different order but they are the same.  Common Core handed down to us peons from on high.    If you remember, homosexuality was taught as a psychological disorder — that is until the government forced Americans to change their thinking on that activity.    ////    American history shows that before our current Great Society welfare state was forced upon the working middle class, poorly educated or minimally educated individuals were not a drag on society of the government.  They were taken care of by family, church groups and such.  It is only because we have sold out to the welfare state that supposedly inadequate education is a problem.     

  64. Eric, thanks for your reply.  While I agree that your idea of “looking out for each other since we’re all we’ve got” is a noble one, it still doesn’t address the incoherence of your premise — the foundation of your worldview.  Another problem with the philosophy of utilitarianism is that it is purely subjective, thus it can be helpful or harmful depending on who’s in power.  It was to our nation’s shame that at one time, those in power believed that the “greatest good” for the “greatest number” meant the acceptance of slavery.  Oftentimes what people in positions of power believe can have an effect on the rest of the populace, as they may come to believe it too, since it’s being condoned by their leaders.  This is why I think the legalization of pot in a few states is a troubling development in our country.  It sends the wrong message to young people from the leaders in those states.  What our leaders tolerate and condone definitely has a ripple effect throughout the culture, since our leaders are in positions of power and influence (for good or bad).  Thus, the basis for law and morality needs to come from an objective source, an objective standard, which of course utilitarianism is devoid of.  Moreover, one either believes that our dignity, liberty, and rights come from God, or they come from somewhere else.  What are the options?  The State?  Common sense?  If so, whose common sense?  And that’s the problem.  Ethics must be objective, not subjective, for the well-being of society.  Moral judgments are only meaningful, and rational, if they transcend the subjective self.  Unless there is a basis upon which they are firmly rooted and grounded, any moral judgments or claims are, in reality, unjustifiable and therefore insufficient.  If moral judgments are based solely on one’s own standard (the subjective self), then one cannot lay just claim against another regarding the propriety of that person’s standard, which is his own.  Ethics and morals, then, are thus relegated to one’s personal whims and feelings, however fickle and unreasonable those may be.  This of course is absurd (and potentially dangerous) because some actions are inherently right and some actions are inherently wrong.  The well-being of a civilized society depends on that basic premise.  But if we deny the objective moral reference point from which the justification of that premise derives (the transcendent God), then ethics and morals are ultimately meaningless and arbitrary.  In your philosophy of utilitarianism, there are no inherent fundamental rights from God, so what do you have?  On what basis do you call slavery evil?  Or the porn industry evil?  In your atheistic, Darwinian worldview, all you have is survival of the fittest, where might makes right.  But “right” is mere semantics, since there is no right or wrong, there just “is”.  So it “is” justified if people take advantage of other people, whether in the slave industry or the porn industry, just as it “is” justified if the stronger bear kills the weaker bear, since everything is based on impulses, urges, and survival.  I realize that you build a moral framework into your utilitarianism, but philosophically you have no justification for doing so. 

  65. Eric, it appears you are borrowing the notions of morality and justice from the Judeo-Christian heritage that you were brought up in.  But then you remove God, and what do you replace Him with?  Well, Darwinism.  Unfortunately, the Darwinian evolutionary framework not only precludes any notions of morality and justice, but it actually compels the opposite.  What notions of morality and justice can there be in a world determined by survival of the fittest?  There would be no moral sense or moral intuition within us, but only amoral instincts protecting and promoting our own survival.  Thus, any deeds of altruism would be mere accidents with no justification for being a good and noble thing.  For there would be no such thing as a good and noble thing, since whatever happens just happens, without any spiritual reality imposing itself on us and compelling us to act in a way that we ought to act.  This sense of “ought-ness” is precisely what’s woven into the fabric of the universe that God created, and which we are all held accountable to.  This is the heart of what Paul is describing in Romans 1:18-32.  Because God exists, we not only can know something about nature, but we can know something about the God who created nature.  And we have no excuse for denying it.  Paul here is appealing to “general revelation” which all of mankind is endowed with, but which many suppress the truth due to their sinful nature.  Thus, even those who do not accept, nor read, the Bible, they are still accountable to God their Creator, since He has made His existence known to them.  Moreover, since we are created in His image, we therefore bear His likeness and we have His law written on our hearts, to which our consciences also bear witness (Romans 2:14-15).  I cannot explain it any better than that.  Therefore, Eric, while the worldview you are describing has some noble aspects to it, what’s truly lacking is the premise, the foundation.  Philosophically it is untenable.  Utilitarianism assumes at the outset there is no ultimate truth and no ultimate absolutes; there is only “what works”.  But this pragmatism is based solely on perception (i.e. knowledge derived by the senses).  Thus, I think there are at least five reasons why it should be rejected.  One, your Darwinian evolutionary worldview absolutely precludes any notions of morality and justice.  Two, you’re not able to call something good or bad until “experiencing” it first.  Three, even when it’s demonstrated that certain behaviors can lead to bad (even deadly) outcomes, you still can’t call the behavior itself bad or undesirable, only the outcome.  Four, you’re imposing a sense of altruism onto your worldview that simply isn’t there.  And five, you’re clearly borrowing from some aspects of the Judeo-Christian heritage, but you’re unwilling to acknowledge it.  Philosophically speaking, there must be an objective standard by which we can know and judge something to be true, right, good, and just — or false, wrong, bad, and unjust.  Eric, your utilitarian worldview simply does not offer that, unless you build your own moral framework into it (even though philosophically you have no rational ground for doing so).  In conclusion, mere utilitarianism doesn’t offer mankind any ultimate hope or purpose.  We’re born by chance, we live by chance, but we die with a harsh certainty.  What is the purpose of man’s existence if he merely arrives here by purposeless, directionless, blind, random chance forces, where his primary goal is to survive and pass on his genes to his offspring?  What rational ground is there for meaning, purpose, truth, and justice? 

  66. It’s entertaining to watch Eric put forward all these answers to society and culture without any hint of bias, even though his worldview has no rational basis for prescription or expectation at any level.  One would think that Eric was merely flexing the accidental ascendance of secularism while he can.  Eric the Red wrote:

    “The child has rights too, independent of those of the parents.  And, if the child isn’t going to be able to find work because of an inadequate education, society will inevitably pick up the tab.”

    And if the grown child can’t find work after purchasing an education with government debt, society will inevitably pick up the tab for that as well.  The grown child has a right to indenture himself.  Eric also wrote:

    “On the other hand, we have seventy years of data to show that elderly poverty has been severely reduced because of social security; there are far fewer elderly going hungry today than there were in 1945.”

    What does the data show in terms of child poverty over the same period?  Could it be that the socialist left hand has simply taken from the right hand?  Eric the Red also wrote:

    “ArwenB, because secularism, unlike religion, is objectively testable.”

    Secularism is a recognized religion in the U.S., but we can indeed measure the results of secularism in terms of the debt that it has produced.  That’s a fairly objective criteria.

  67. Katecho, I agree that graduating from college with a 100k debt is no way to begin one’s professional life.  The solution, however, is free public education through university for gifted and hard working students.  You call it socialism; I call it making an investment in the future that, based on the experience of other countries with free public education through university, can be expected to pay off handsomely.
     

  68. Dan, I read through both of your posts, twice, to make sure I understood what you had written.  The first problem is:  What if there __isn’t__ an objective source, as you define objective?  What if it turns out that I’m right and there’s nothing out there?  Are you really suggesting that humans are powerless to do anything except revert to lord of the flies; that we can’t determine what conduct enhances our own well being and promote it?  Because if that is your position, then not only do you offer a far more pessimistic view of humanity than even the most depressed existentialist, but your position also flies in the face of millenia of human experience.  Human societies without the Judeo-Christian God have put together moral codes that have benefitted themselves and their societies, from Plato and Aristotle to Buddha to the Renaissance philosophers.  The answer to your “it can’t be done” is “watch us do it.”  And there is an objective standard:  Look at the results.  

  69. I seriously doubt that the advocates of slavery thought in terms of the greatest good for the greatest number; I think they mostly thought about how to enhance their own profits and didn’t care about anyone else.  But at any rate, in my earlier response to Jill, I set forth three things to look at before deciding that social good trumps individual rights:  (1) Will the invasion of individual rights fix the problem (if there actually is a problem); (2) is there an alternative method to fix the problem without interfering with individual rights; and (3) is the harm to the individuals involved greater than the benefit to society.  Slavery fails on all three counts.  And I call slavery evil, not just because it inflicts human misery, but because it inflicts human misery without any compensating social good.  Plus the social costs of slavery — having an underclass of chattel slaves who hate their masters, with violent revolution always festering just below the surface as a result, with the masters necessarily becoming brutal people in order to maintain slavery — isn’t peanuts; slavery was costly to everyone.  

  70. And no, I am not borrowing notions of justice and morality from the Judeo-Christian tradition; that claim is historically laughable.  During the Renaissance, it was Christian Rome that was mostly leading the opposition to abolishing evil institutions like the inquisition and the divine right of kings and serfdom.  Things we take for granted, like free speech and free thought and religious freedom , most came about over the intense opposition of the Christians at the time.  Whose side were the bishops on during the French Revolution?  How did Cromwell come down on the issue of religious liberty?  How many Spanish peasants starved to death to fund the Inquisition’s wars, and how many peasants throughout the rest of Europe starved to death to build the cathedrals?  Don’t even try to make the case that Christianity, at least historically, has anything to do with liberty and justice and human rights.  It’s as if Klansmen came back from the dead and claimed that they were the true champions of racial equality all along.
     

  71. Gifted and hardworking students, like all the A and B students flooding the state colleges?  All the A and B students that make it impossible to earn a degree in 4 years because they are so poorly educated in the public high schools, they cannot pass a basic college course; so, college professors spend most of their time teaching pre-college courses. How did they get As and Bs?  Teachers were trained to believe it would hurt the child’s self esteem if they got Cs…that means average you know, how shaming.  Now they are in college where they do not belong and they never learned any usable skills in high school and of course not from their parents who have been removed from the equation.  Once again, good thing the government stepped in to solve that problem.  What was the problem again?  Oh yes, it was about all the poor folks who had to be skilled labor workers and farmers when they really deserved more, like a college education. Too bad about the farming crisis and the need for skilled laborers; still, I’m sure the government will know what to do.

  72. Eric, you said: “What if it turns out that I’m right and there’s nothing out there?”  My short answer is the same one that Pascal postulated in his famous wager: that I pledged my faith in a God who wasn’t really there.  On the other hand, what if God really is there?  Then what excuse would you have?  Not only for denying God, but for mocking the very idea of God?  From reading your posts, it seems you’re quite comfortable remaining in this mindset.  You also said: “And no, I am not borrowing notions of justice and morality from the Judeo-Christian tradition; that claim is historically laughable.”  Eric, I will not argue that there have been myriad abuses in the history of Christianity and the Church.  But it desperately needs to be pointed out that these abuses were in spite of, not because of, the person of Christ and the gospel of Christ.  Flawed men and women: sinful, corrupt, prideful, finite, fallible men and women are the ones to blame for history’s misdeeds.  And scores of more flawed men and women will dishonor Christ in the present and the future.  Conversely though, what has atheism wrought?  What has modern man (sophisticated, enlightened, technologically advanced modern man) brought us?  The 20th century was supposed to be a century marked by great progress and optimism, due to many breakthroughs in science and technology.  Yet much of the 20th century was marked by War, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Totalitarianism, and Death Camps.  We can thank the many godless, atheist leaders for much of the carnage: starting with Lenin in the Russian Revolution and culminating with Chairman Mao in the Cultural Revolution.  Tens of millions of deaths resulted from these godless, atheist, Communist revolutions.  And then there’s the social carnage.  Tens of millions of aborted babies, not to mention increasing divorce rates, increasing out-of-wedlock births, increasing promiscuity in the culture, increasing perversity in the culture, increasing addictions to drugs, gambling, and pornography, increasing dependence on government through welfare and other entitlements, increasing violence in our schools and society in general, and yet a decreasing in our public education.  Yes, modern man doesn’t need God.  Man has his science and his technology, and man can solve all his problems.  Our government is out of control, our national debt is out of control, and the world is out of control.  Islamic extremism is on the rise, and the United Nations, as usual, is asleep at the wheel.  And if the end of the 20th century finally brought some measure of hope and optimism as we ushered in the 21st century, along came 9/11 which changed the modern world forever.  Here we are, some 2000 years after Christ, and mankind is doing the same things and playing the same games that he has always played.  Yet now, man is more sophisticated and more technologically advanced.  Thus, there are myriad more opportunities for man to engage and enflame his baser instincts and lusts, all in the name of libertarian freedom.  Eric, your utilitarian atheism has nothing to say about any of this.  Where is the justice for all this human carnage?  Where is the justice for all the aborted babies and all the slaughtered Jews?  In the end, why does it matter if one lived a life like Mother Teresa or one like Stalin?  Or one like Billy Graham or one like Hugh Hefner?  In my worldview, the answer is for man to repent of his sins and beg for Christ’s forgiveness and receive Christ’s grace.  In your worldview, you’re hoping that there’s really nothing in the afterlife for you to be concerned about.  But as I’ve asked you before: if you believe there is no ultimate justice in the afterlife, then what is the basis for justice in this life?  Your worldview has no answer for this, Eric.  It really doesn’t.

  73. I’m bored with all this talk about where we can and can not stick our penises. Can we do something useful like stop world hunger or violence or something?

  74. Dan, I’ve already offered two alternative theories under which my world view has a basis for justice:  Justice provides better utilitarian results, and at any rate, seeking justice is inherent in human nature.  I think your statement that my world view has no basis for justice (after I’ve already offered two) has more to do with your worldview requiring that my worldview not have it.

  75. And with respect to nasty stuff like communism that atheists have perpetrated (though Hitler was Catholic and actively persecuted atheists, so he actually fits in your column on the ledger), there’s a fairly critical distinction you’re overlooking.  Atheism tells you what I don’t believe — deities — but it doesn’t tell you anything about what I positively do believe in, and once you get past the existence of deities as an issue, atheists are otherwise all over the map philosophically.  Atheists range from libertarian to communist and are probably found at every point in between.  Sure, Stalin didn’t believe in God, but he didn’t believe in unicorns or palm reading either.  And a Soviet Union run by libertarian atheists would have looked very different.

  76. Eric the Red,
    It is quite clear to everyone that your white privilege keeps you from seeing blacks as your equals. Frankly it is pathetic that you would compare slavery and apartheid to discrimination against broccoli eaters and homosexuals. And who is this “we?” Clearly blacks are not included in that group. No, they are forever relegated to the status of bludgeon to attack your opponents. Racist. But I am sure you have a perfectly good excuse. Slip away, little salamander.

  77. Eric, just so we’re clear about Hitler’s “Catholicism”… He was raised Catholic, but his worldview during his rise to prominence and power was grounded in the logical conclusions of Darwinism. In Mein Kampf, he argues that natural selection is nature’s primary means of bringing about the good of the creature. Humanity under Christianity was fighting against Nature’s God by exhorting compassion and care for the sick, disabled, mentally retarded, etc.  Thus, mankind itself was being genetically polluted, weakened, and corrupted by “bad stock”, so to speak.    ——–    Question: if there is no God, Omni Darwinism has got to be true because no other mechanism in nature could possibly bring about the complexities in biology. If this is true (apart from the incorrect theories of race) how could Hitler not be right? If humans
    (like all the other animals) several generations down the line could be made stronger, smarter, healthier, etc. through means of selective breeding and the elimination of inferior stock – and if a majority people could be persuaded that omni-darwinism is true and this is indeed ultimately the best course of action for human survival and happiness – how could you morally argue against this?

  78. Eric writes, “The solution is free public education through the University…”  The solution is not for parents to sacrifice and save for college education?  Is that too old fashion?  Much better that we all sacrifice our money to pay more taxes to the government for free education because others won’t sacrifice and save for it themselves.  Let’s have all the citizens model themselves after the government: everyone should have everything, whenever they want it, regardless of whether or not they earned it.  Perhaps this is the live and let live motto you cherish.  We are taught if you don’t work, you don’t eat, but I’m sure that just sounds mean to you.

  79. Hi  Carole, Eric did say free university education for the gifted as an investment on behalf of the society.  I can see where it might sometimes be useful to offer contracts under which you get free tuition for an undergraduate degree plus teacher training, but then you owe a certain number of years teaching in an under-served area.  Or you get a deal on medical school but you owe three years service in Appalachia.  In a sense, the current situation is much as you describe.  The child of the parents who saved for college gets way less grant money than the child whose parents didn’t.  I know someone with several rental properties worth a couple of million who got way more money than my child–because the system looks at bank accounts, not real estate holdings. 

  80. Hi Jill,   The first problem I see is how do we decide who is gifted?  We certainly cannot go by grades.  In California, we are doing that now and it is an absolute disaster for the state colleges as I am sure you know.  Secondly, gifted in what?  How is it neutral to provide free training for doctors but no training in trades?  And Jill, more importantly then government grants, your daughter, as God willing my son will learn, that as Christians we save and work hard for what we want.  Our family (and church family) sacrifices for one another and helps one another in times of need.  We do not rely on the government to do for us what is our responsibility and duty to do for ourselves.
     
    If we were able to get through the first two problems, I am not opposed to the schemes you described, but I wouldn’t call that “free.”

  81. Carole, I really struggle with the don’t work-don’t eat teaching.  I can see that an able-bodied but lazy young person might be motivated to work if he got hungry enough.  And I believe that any mentally/morally healthy person should be willing to work in order to feed his/her hungry children.  But there are people who are not morally healthy.  My problem arises when cutting the welfare payment to the adult will impose hunger on the children.  Do we remove the children in that event, or do we sadly conclude that the children are collateral damage?  I am sure that for many people the flaws in the current system are glaringly apparent, but concern for the children hampers reform.

  82. ETR, a child when they grow up can take classes to bone up on whatever subject they are deficient in. People do it all of the time.
     

  83. I totally understand where you are coming from because we have seen how some kids suffer from their parents drug use, sexual immorality and negligence.  For those children I am glad there are safety nets.  I believe that is how free education began.  Though I do not want to offend you personally, because I consider you my friend, I don’t understand why capable adults who can provide and afford education for their children rely on the government to do it.  We have come to an expectation that everyone should receive these government hand-outs, not just the very poor.  No one even thinks of education as the welfare program that it is.  I believe the more the government takes child rearing out of the parents hands, the more the parents no longer feel compelled or capable of doing it for themselves.  Who really loses out in the end are kids.  They are raising themselves in the school atmosphere.  They are not taught Christian values, they are encouraged to go to Planned Parenthood with the promise their parents will never know, etc, etc, etc. If you saw how homeschool kids behave and believe, I think you would be stunned.  That’s why I was hoping we could attend a conference together.

  84. Job, I don’t think that Eric said or intended anything racist.  You mentioned in your first post that he is conflating race with choosing a sexually perverted self-identification.  From Eric’s point of view, however, homosexual orientation is neither perverted nor self-chosen.  If a person believes that homosexuality is innate, largely immutable, and morally neutral, it is not offensive to see people with that orientation in the same light as other members of  minority groups that have been marginalized in the past.  I am not entirely comfortable with Christians telling nonbelievers to go away, especially when they have been polite although provocative.  But I don’t think the accusation of racism is quite fair.

  85. Jill, the accusation of racism wasn’t intended to be fair, but in any event, it misses the mark because it fails to respond to my central point, which is this:  Groups get protected because they have a history of systemic discrimination that requires protecting.  If there were no racism, there would be no need for laws protecting people from race-based discrimination.  Whether one or another group “deserves” protecting is largely beside the point; it’s the need for protection that triggers the protection.
     

  86. Robert, there’s a difference between taking a class or two, versus finding that you are 20 and have nothing in the way of an education that prepares you to do well in life. 

  87. Jay, first two quibbles:  God and Darwin are not the only two options.  It’s possible there is another, as yet undiscovered, theory for how life came to be.  At the moment, the best evidence supports evolution, but science is always subject to new and better evidence coming in.  Second quibble, evolution does not hold that some races are inferior to others; the fact that there are multiple races in fact suggests that there is an evolutionary advantage to having multiple races.  That doesn’t mean racists won’t abuse the theory.

  88. I actually have no complaint that the education people receive from the welfare department is so minimal.  It should be the safety net, the last resort, the bottom of the barrel when no other options are left.  But Eric, I am curious, why do you think so many Americans make it their first choice?  Why do so many American families hand their five year olds over to the state to educate?

  89. Jay, all that said, the answer to the question you actually asked — is there a moral argument against humans using on ourselves the same kind of selective breeding mechanisms that we have used on other species for centuries — I would say it depends on the specifics of what you’re talking about.  At the purely voluntary level, humans have been doing selective breeding for a long time; that’s the reason I wouldn’t be able to marry into the British royal family, and the reason Kennedys and Rockefellers and Astors don’t go looking for spouses in South Central Los Angeles.  And so long as it’s voluntary, I don’t see much to object to.  If, however, you’re talking about making it compulsory — the government will choose your breeding partner whether you like it or not, and may even forbid you from breeding altogether if it deems you unfit — then it runs up against the same three-part test I already articulated when there’s a clash between individual rights and society’s interest:  Does it actually fix a problem that actually exists, is there an alternate way to fix the problem that doesn’t interfere with individual rights to the same extent, and is the harm done to individuals greater than the good done to society.  I doubt a compulsory breeding program would pass any of those tests.

  90. Jay, you also have to remember that biology and ethics are separate disciplines, and one may not necessarily have anything to do with the other.
     

  91. Carole, my boss needs something, so for the purely utilitarian reason that I like having a paycheck, I have to go take care of him.  I’ll respond to your question later today.
     

  92. Eric the Red said “Groups get protected because they have a history of systemic discrimination that requires protecting.”

    I read a very interesting analysis of this concept on a completely different website.

    ….

    It was something to the effect that in any given conflict, people don’t apologise for coming out on top if they think their opponent was their equal or their better. The only time they would apologise or feel bad for winning is when they think their opponent is so inferior that it wasn’t fair to the opponent to get into the fight in the first place.

    The analysis further suggested that this means that people who abase themselves before member of an “oppressed” group do so because they have a deep-seated sense that the members of the oppressed group are, in fact, completely inferior to the “oppressor” group (to which the self-abaser belongs).

  93. Hi Carole.  I think that ideally parents and students should bear the cost of post-secondary education (and I don’t mind in the least your asking me).  But Caroline’s first year at college cost $60,000 for tuition, room, and board.  They gave her around $40,000 in scholarships, which meant we had to cover $20K in tuition and probably another $10K in expenses, health insurance, transportation, and the million costs that go with high level dance and voice training.  Even the most sacrificial saving could not have covered that amount with a stay at home mom and a high school teacher dad.  Because we did have savings, we were not eligible for any “free” money and had to cover the rest in loans.  I realize that we could have told her this college was beyond our means; it would have been if it were not for the merit-based scholarships.  The college financing system is fraught with difficulties and built-in unfairness.  A child whose parents refuse to pay for college is not eligible for aid.  A child with a deadbeat dad who makes good money is ineligible for aid even though he refuses to pay for college.  Yet the family who fritters away their money on luxuries and sends in a FAFSA application claiming dire poverty will get a lot of financial aid for their child.  It always reminded me of the children on free lunch whose parents drove cars ten years newer than ours!  I do think the system needs overhauling, but I don’t know how this should be done. //I know you asked this question of Eric, but my own experience was relevant.  We chose public school for our daughter because she was the only child of older, academic parents.  She did not have much access to other children, and to pay for parochial school would have meant my getting a job.  Even the church we attended had very few young children; our local Y and community center were predominantly Spanish speaking.  I was delighted with her pre-kindergarten and kindergarten experiences.  I volunteered in the classroom four days a week, and although she did n0t really need to learn academics, she did need to learn h0w to share, to take turns, to control her emotions, and to interact with people who were not her Mum.  Although there was–of course–no religious teaching, there was substantial emphasis on ethics and character: being kind, being truthful, being responsible.  I truly never saw any teacher conduct that could have been regarded as having a harmful influence.  My daughter asked at lunch why we were not saying grace, and the teacher replied very gently that we say grace out loud with our families but that any student could whisper grace to themselves.  My daughter’s experience in elementary school was unsatisfactory, but by middle school, she received consistently excellent instruction and her school was noted for sending kids to the ivy leagues.  So I think it all depends.  It is possible to find excellent schools within the public system but it requires research, persistence, and constant vigilance.  I think that the horror stories we read about are not always typical.  I attended my daughter’s sex education classes and there was truly nothing I found objectionable.  This was five years ago, but at that point, there was no instruction on alternative lifestyles, the advantages of sexual experimentation, or even contraception.  I understand that this has changed in California, but a parent does have opt-out rights.  Certainly my daughter received explicit instruction from her dance and drama teachers that if you are serious about a career as a performer, then avoid premarital sex. //Another poster pointed out that students are taught about the five pillars of Islam but nothing about Christianity.  This was not true in my experience as a mom and a history tutor.  AP Euro kids get a solid month on the Catholic church, the Protestant reformation, and the wars of religion, and it is not possible to teach these subjects without giving explicit instruction about the Christian faith.  In my experience this was done respectfully, but it is a difficult problem.  Would I want a militant Protestant who thinks Catholics are hell-bound pagans teaching my daughter inaccurate information about her faith?  Would you want an atheist making both sides of the religion wars sound ridiculous?  I think a sensitive and ethical teacher can handle this properly, but it isn’t easy!

  94. Eric, Jay is accurate in his post regarding Hitler’s supposed Catholicism.  Hitler’s ideology was grounded in the logical conclusions of Darwinism, and Hitler only used the Church as a pawn in his grand chess game; the same way the Arab autocrats use the Palestinian refugees as pawns in their grand chess game (to keep the focus off their own human rights abuses and their own racist, anti-Semitic beliefs).  Moreover, it’s not a coincidence that Darwin’s new theory at the time gave Marx the philosophical justification for Marx’s own atheism.  Marx was already an atheist, but Darwin provided the intellectual justification for it, since God was explained away as being unnecessary for creation.  Thus, the history of the 20th century has very little to be thankful for whenever Marx’s communist philosophy was wedded to Darwin’s theory of evolution.  I don’t blame either one of them for the blatant misuse of their theories by others long after they were gone, but just making the point that ideas have consequences, and bad ideas can have bad consequences.  Such is the pride and foolishness of man, when he turns away from God and seeks his own path and his own truth.  Lastly, the eugenics movement was significantly influenced by Darwinism, with the grand idea that some races are indeed superior to other races.  So we all owe Darwin a large debt of gratitude for providing the intellectual inspiration that spawned Marxism, Leninism, Communism, Hitlerism, and the eugenics movement.  Plus we’ve seen social Darwinism in action regarding Planned Parenthood and the perverted abortion industry, which also has roots in the eugenics movement.  You know, I often hear how much the Left cares about poor Blacks and minorities.  Does it ever make you wonder why there are so many abortion clinics, liquor stores, and failing schools in poor Black communities?  Could it be because the Left wants to maintain the status quo?  And if so, how much do they really care about the poor?  Clearly, the Arab autocrats want to maintain the status quo regarding the Palestinian refugees.  Thus, how much do they really care about them?  As long as the refugees can be used as pawns in the grand chess game of Muslim grievance and victimization, then why change anything for the poor refugees?  The sad thing is, many influential people in the world actually give credence to this charade. 

  95. Thanks Jill for being so open.  My interest is that you did not homeschool.  You said that you don’t know any homeschool families, and I believe that partially played into your decision.  You were probably not aware of the huge groups and opportunities available to LA homeschoolers.  Despite being a teacher yourself, and I am sure you are an excellent one, you still believed the wiser choice was to send your child to the secular government run school.  I find that fascinating, and it concerns me that as a culture it is considered the norm.  Public school is not seen as a safety net.  Free lunches are a great example. They began as reduced lunch, went to free lunch and now we have free breakfast as well.  The cut off for free lunch I believe is currently 45,000 per year, well above a starting teacher’s salary.  Many schools want to start free evening meals.  Steadily, the government takes control of raising children for families and seemingly without a struggle.  I don’t want a government employee teaching my child sex education period.  That is his father’s and my job.  I don’t want a government employee teaching my child how to share: that is his father’s and my job. I don’t want a government employee in charge of instructing my child how to say grace at a meal….  How does it happen that we not only accept that as a last resort for those from broken homes, but again, as the norm?  The more the government does, the more families expect and relinquish…it is fascinating, and I also think tragic.  I believe children are a gift from God.  They are given to parents to love and raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  That duty and responsibility is part of the gift.  With diligence and persistence, I am sure a decent education can be had from public schools but why would we want it, when we have the amazing blessing of being able to provide that and more ourselves?

  96. I had always thought I wanted to homeschool.  Probably if there had been other children, or if I had been aware of options other than mother-child-at-kitchen-table, I would have been more willing to try.  But I think another factor that ruled out private school is that both my husband and I were public school teachers.  We both felt there was a certain hypocrisy in thinking public schools were good enough for other people’s children but not our own.  We also both came from a position of left wing social idealism (which has certainly cooled over the decades!)  And a further factor is that I was educated for the most part in Canadian public schools which were–and still are, according to the international rankings–remarkably good.  Caroline’s father was a product of California public schools, UCLA, and Berkeley when they were considered the gold standard for public education.  So we did have a predisposition towards public schools. //Parochial education was not really okay with my daughter’s father.  He was not Catholic and not on board with it.  However, I have watched my godsons’ progress through parochial school, and although they may do a better job of teaching basic skills, they do not really teach religion as they used to.  When a child emerges from 12 years of Catholic school and can’t list the 7 sacraments, the beatitudes, and the 10 commandments, I can’t consider that a rigorous education in the faith!//Although there are some Catholic homeschoolers, I don’t think it is as common.  The online curricula seem to be very old-fashioned–more like Catholic school courses prior to Vatican 2.  I think Catholics would tend not to have a difficulty in delegating the responsibility for teaching one’s children.  I know you believe otherwise, but  presumably you don’t on every subject.  For example, the Talmud says every parent has  duty to ensure his child knows how to swim, but surely no one would think it wrong to assign that duty to a trained swimming instructor.  I could not have taught my child calculus or how to drive; you might not be able to teach your child how to play the cello.  So if we are willing to delegate some tasks, why is there an objection to delegating most of the academics–so long as we are involved, vigilant, and supporting the learning when the child is at home?  Do you still live in California?

  97. Arwen, that is a really interesting idea and I thought about it for a while.  I think, however, that you can feel guilty about your group’s ascendancy without believing in the innate inferiority of the oppressed group.  This guilt would come from a violation of the sense of fair play:  that equal outcomes were expected from groups to whom the necessary resources had been unevenly distributed.  If college admissions are color blind yet every measure of educational quality shows that a school in a Connecticut suburb is miles above a school in South Central LA, we can feel a little guilt over our pretense that the playing field is even.  This is not the same thing as believing for a moment that the child from Connecticut is intellectually superior to the child from LA.   We can feel guilty that the schemes we dreamed up to help minority groups have actually hurt them through the generations.  However, I have a different perspective.  I think we tend to hate people whom we know we have treated badly.  Guilt we are unwilling to examine is easily transformed into resentment, hostility, and a sense that the people we wronged are exaggerating their sufferings to try to make us feel bad.  Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between these points.

  98. So if my priority is to bring up my child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  If we agree that we are commanded to do this, then I don’t see sending him to a public school (which again is a welfare, last resort, program) as helpful.  I agree with Pastor Wilson that there is no neutrality.  God willing, one day my son will be strong enough and educated enough to go out and defend his faith against adults who actively seek to tear it from him. He will know logic and  how to debate. He will have read, examined and practiced arguing against beliefs opposed to Truth.  However,  I do not think children are ready to do that at 5 years of age. I think it is fine for those who don’t feel confident to homeschool to send a child to a Christian school.  When we lived in NC there was a Veritas near us, that was an option.  What I am not interested in, like you, is a nominally Christian Prep school.  So yes, for subjects that I cannot provide (higher math) I use online, tutors etc, that teach within the Christian and classical framework  I am using.  As reformed types are very much interested in this framework, then that works well with my beliefs too.  My priority is to follow the commands of the Bible. Sending my child to a public school would discourage and be completely counterproductive to that end. 

  99. Jill, I think that I have mentioned  I am physically disabled.  If I needed it, I qualify for disability benefits from the government.  I thank God every day for being a wife, a daughter, a sister and a member of a church that make it so I do not need that kind of public assistance.  So, I don’t take it.  Just because there is a program available for those who do need it (and I am glad there is; many don’t agree) does not mean it is the best choice or that I should take it.  That is also how I  feel about public school. 

  100. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Dan, I’ve already offered two alternative theories under which my world view has a basis for justice:  Justice provides better utilitarian results, and at any rate, seeking justice is inherent in human nature.  I think your statement that my world view has no basis for justice (after I’ve already offered two) has more to do with your worldview requiring that my worldview not have it.”

    Eric seems prepared to just repeat his rhetoric and hope everyone eventually just gives him a pass.  But in any case, I think it’s worthwhile to keep popping his bubble of hot air.
                                                                                                                                                                 First, Eric again casts the issue in terms of whether one should be for justice or opposed to justice.  Eric supposes that if we question the rational underpinnings of his worldview ethics, then we must somehow be questioning ethics itself.  This is intellectually dishonest.  It’s desperate misdirection.  The question is not whether man prefers justice or no justice, ethics or no ethics.  Nor is there a question of whether Eric has moral awareness or not.  Nor is there a question of whether injustice makes lots of people suffer.  So when Eric defends justice and morality by saying that “it works”, or that it is “inherent in human nature”, or that it reduces suffering, he is simply ignoring the question.  The question is what rational basis does Eric’s worldview provide to account for this apparent need for justice (let alone any other expectations of any kind)?
                                                                                                                                                                  When Eric has dared to approach the actual question in the past, we saw that his reasoning fell far short of rational.  Eric has tried to say that nature has just made us this way through an accidental process of evolution.  This is an example of the genetic fallacy.  Explaining how a certain disposition arose tells us nothing about whether it should have come about, or whether it should persist.  We can explain the rise of theistic belief using the same naturalistic arguments Eric uses, but this doesn’t tell us whether theistic belief should have arisen, does it?  When someone uses an argument that works just as well for their opposition, it should be a big clue that they aren’t being rational.
                                                                                                                                                                 Eric has also argued that people generally prefer to avoid pain and suffering, and that this is all the justification needed to structure a society around certain restrictions and prohibitions.  I have pointed out that nature alone gives no indication that reduced suffering and reduced pain are of any value collectively.  Kill or be killed, seems to be the naturalistic mechanism of survival.  We may have certain sensory preferences against pain, but this simply describes our disposition, it doesn’t tell us what ought to be the case in any rational sense.  Eric seems to grasp this inherent dilemma, and has rejected all such prescription.  Instead he simply argues that the mere fact that we want such societies needs no further justification.  In other words, value is bestowed on something by the mere act of valuing it.  This is not a stroke of cleverness or brilliance, as someone suggested, but is another example of irrational belief.  There are far more theists who value belief in God than there are who value no belief in God.  Does mere belief in something make it true?  If so, then theism has more value than atheism.  Again, when one’s argument works just as well, or better, for the opposition, it’s not rational.
                                                                                                                                                                 I could go into other nuances of Eric’s attempts so far, but it’s the same pattern.  Eric is not offering us anything of rational significance to support expectations of any kind from his naturalism.  So when Eric offers the nonsense above that our choice is somehow between justice or injustice, we should confront him on his intellectual dishonesty and evasion.  And when Eric suggests the nonsense response that “justice works”, our reply should simply be, “so does theism, in fact, it works better than atheism, now what?”  Why do all of Eric’s arguments work better for our side than they do for his?  Something is not rational in Eric’s approach to this dilemma.

  101. Katecho, you seem to think that metaphysical primaries require rational underpinnings.  They don’t.  That’s why they’re called metaphysical primaries.  Water is wet.  Fire is hot.  Human nature seeks justice.  That’s the way it is.  I’ll give you a rational underpinning just as soon as you offer me a rational underpinning for why does the sun come up in the morning.  In fact, your whole line of argument really is comparable to your telling a mathematician that he needs a rational underpinning for why two plus two is four rather an five, eight or pi.  

  102. Carole, I think the answer to your question about why are parents content to leave educating their children to the state is that there are things that are more efficiently done at the community level.  One reason (there are others) that government keeps growing and growing is that there is a recognition of more and more things that are done more efficiently at the community level.  And while I would never in a million years tell you that you can’t be a stay at home mom who home schools her kids, in point of fact education is more efficient if it’s done at the community level.  There are tradeoffs; benefiting from that efficiency means that you don’t have as much control over what your children are taught (and public schools can’t accommodate every parental wish regarding what is taught; I don’t want my kids taught creationism and you don’t want yours taught evolution, just for starters).  Also, some schools will be better than others, and income has a lot to do with it, but that’s just another example of rich people getting better services than poor people.  All that said, however, community based education is more efficient.  As is community based fire protection, policing, and social safety nets.

  103. Wow, that’s interesting and news to me.  How did you come to the result that community based education is more efficient than a private tutor?  It costs more, it is less successful, and it contributes to the bullying epidemic etc etc.  In what category is it more efficient?
    By the way, I do want my child to be taught evolution.  He has already studied Darwin and will study evolution more in depth when it is appropriate.  How will he be efficient in understanding how it is false unless he knows what it is?

  104. Dan, sociopaths will always hijack whatever is handy, including someone else’s philosophy, but the question is whether evolution necessarily leads to eugenics, communism, etc.  It doesn’t.  Even if it did, that would not tell us whether it’s true; as I said before, biology and ethics are separate disciplines that often have little to do with each other.  But here’s the rub:  Even if Darwin had never been born and no one else had discovered natural selection, communism would still have hit Russia, Hitler would still have come to power in Germany, and most of the rally nasty parts of the 20th century would still have happened.  I say that with such confidence because those events were triggered  by social and political conditions that would have been there regardless.  Life under the czars had become unbearable for the average Russian (and the Orthodox church was doing everything it could to maintain the status quo), so a revolution was inevitable.  Unfortunately, the communists came out on top and much misery followed, but make no mistake, Russia was going to have a bloody revolution at that point no matter what.  And as I said before, had Russia been governed by libertarian atheists, or even moderate-left atheists, or quite likely even Trotsky atheists, the results would have been very different.  Atheism isn’t the variable that was determinative.  If you want to keep Stalin and Hitler from happening, push for social justice.  (I mostly agree with you about the Palestinians, by the way.)

  105. Carole, I am so glad that you have those resources.  I too think government should generally be the last resort.  After my daughter’s car accident, I had trouble persuading her that she was not entitled to state disability when she was being supported by her mom!  But I prevailed.  I can’t imagine belonging to a church that actually offers financial help or other kinds of practical support.  Even when my cancer diagnosis was followed not too long afterwards by DH’s departure for greener fields, I didn’t get practical help.  But I did get prayer, and that was very  much appreciated.  I am fine now, so I hope all that is in the past.  It is also probably true that I would have starved before asking, so I have to take some responsibility there.  I think your boys are very blessed to have the opportunity to home school with you.  I did teach my daughter art and literature because I didn’t trust the schools to teach them well, and I loved doing that.  And her dad did a lot of science with her.  I also taught her French because I was appalled that foreign language instruction didn’t begin till ninth grade.  In Canada I had six years each of Latin and French, but that probably doesn’t happen any more even there. 

  106. Carole, it’s more efficient for a number of reasons.  First of all, fewer teachers can teach more students, which frees up parents to pursue other activities.  Second, a standardized curriculum makes it more likely that more students will get the basics.  Third, no parent is an expert in every subject that their children will take; schools, on the other hand, can hire a math expert to teach math, an English expert to teach English, a chemistry expert to teach chemistry, etc.  And by the way, a lot of the terrible things that get said about public schools are more urban legend than reality; there are some truly awful schools in the inner cities, as there are truly awful everything else in the inner cities, but most middle class and suburban schools do just fine if you look at cold, hard numbers.  Once again, that mostly comes down to economics.

  107. Jill, I wish you were in my church!  When I have been in the hospital, they have done just what you said you needed, they brought meals to my family.  My pastor and his wife have had my son stay with them for over a week this last time, and they prayed for me at every meal, which meant so much to my son who was very scared.  I truly am blessed and very, very grateful.  Praise God, you are in remission.  I will be praying for that to continue. For what it is worth, I think you have taught your daughter very well.  As always, though we disagree it is a pleasure discussing things with you!  Oh and yes, I am still in Ca.

  108. Eric, what other activities should a mom be pursuing other than raising her children?  With all due respect, I don’t think you have any idea how the school system is run.  Elementary school teachers teach all the subjects in a self-contained classroom.  You may have heard that teachers complain endlessly about large class sizes impeding their ability to be effective.  My experience, Eric is all first hand.  I am not talking about urban legends, I am talking about how it actually is both from teaching in low income and high income schools.  Perhaps you should look at the cold, hard numbers.  I have spent time going over those cold hard numbers and homeschoolers as well as ACCS schools, score higher.

  109. A couple of those hard cold numbers:  California spends 40% of its general fund on public K-12 education added to  federal funds that comes to over 70 billion a year.  The average public school student is in the 50th percentile of standardized tests, homeschoolers are in the 80th percentile in all subjects.  You may be surprised to learn that homeschoolers too can hire experts to teach subjects they do not feel capable teaching….A lot of the terrible things that happen in public schools (including high school teachers having sexual relationships with students, partying with students, and talking about how much they hate the students ) do not get said.

  110. Eric, I agree with you that in pre-revolution Russia, life under the czars was unbearable for the average Russian, and it’s true that the Russian Orthodox Church, for the most part, was maintaining the status quo.  However, while life wasn’t rosy by any means, the aftermath of the Russian Revolution proved far worse; first by several years of famine, and second by decades of work camps and death camps interspersed with Stalin’s various “purges” (until he finally bit the dust in 1953).  Lenin was just as brutal as Stalin, but since he died fairly young in 1924, his bloody reign was far shorter than the near 30 year reign of Stalin, who is perhaps the most notorious butcher of all time.  By the way, I’m glad we found something else to agree on regarding the enforced status quo of the Palestinian refugees.  Okay, so we don’t agree on religion, philosophy, or science, but maybe geo-politics? :-)   

  111. Out of all of the 120+ comments so far, the most profound is where Eric the Red wrote:

    “Katecho, you seem to think that metaphysical primaries require rational underpinnings.  They don’t.  That’s why they’re called metaphysical primaries.  Water is wet.  Fire is hot.  Human nature seeks justice.  That’s the way it is.  I’ll give you a rational underpinning just as soon as you offer me a rational underpinning for why does the sun come up in the morning.”

    Eric seems to be using the term “metaphysical primaries” to mean the same thing that we mean by axioms, logical necessities, or necessary preconditions.  I’m not sure why he would prefer this other label, since the act of engaging in metaphysics directly contradicts his commitment to naturalism/materialism.  In any case, I actually agree with the principle that one does not have to rationally derive one’s axioms and presuppositions.  Atheists err when they demand that Christians derive God from a non-God starting position.  However, the problem for Eric is that none of the things he mentioned are metaphysical primaries.  They are all accidents.  They are all contingent.  None of them are necessary in any logical sense.  Our perception of the wetness of water is an accident, as is the hotness of fire.   Those properties are contingent on accidental physical constants.  Also, the human conception of justice is a fluke of nature.  Animals don’t need it.  The “sun coming up in the morning” is an accidental perceptual illusion regarding earth’s rotation on its axis.  Even Eric’s example of “two plus two is four” is a rational derivation from mathematical axioms.  In other words, sums are not primary, they are derived by rational consequence from real axioms and definitions.  So it is valid to insist on a rational basis for concluding that 4 is the sum of 2 plus 2.   Now if Eric had used the example of “2 = 2″, he would have had an example of something that is not derived, but truly taken axiomatically.   So, in fact, none of Eric’s examples are primary or necessary.  I’m afraid Eric is still on the hook for a rational account.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           As a final observation, I think it is extremely telling how quickly Eric was willing to concede that he won’t be offering a rational account for his beliefs.  The odd part is that he continues to argue anyway.  He forgets himself and rattles on with talk about government education, etc, etc.  But now we can simply quote Eric back to himself regardless of whatever objection his raises:  “That’s the way it is.”  If Eric needs no rational underpinnings, I guess we don’t either.  Argument has become pointless.  Nihilism has surrounded Eric in a cold embrace.

  112. Eric the Red wrote:

    “One reason (there are others) that government keeps growing and growing is that there is a recognition of more and more things that are done more efficiently at the community level.”

    I see somebody drank the Kool-aid of government propaganda.  The reason government keeps growing and growing is because they just keep piling all these handouts onto the national debt ($17 trillion so far).  Almost all of our current politicians love giving out bling at the expense of some future generation.  As Eric says, it is highly efficient at the community level.  Highly efficient at getting them re-elected, that is.

  113. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Dan, sociopaths will always hijack whatever is handy, including someone else’s philosophy, but the question is whether evolution necessarily leads to eugenics, communism, etc.  It doesn’t.”

    Agreed.  There are megalomaniacs and sociopaths in every major belief, but I’m reminded of who started this topic.  Who started this ball of tit-for-tat rolling by mentioning the Spanish Inquisition, Cromwell, and Klansmen?  Oh, that’s right, it was Eric.  I guess it’s okay when Eric starts it, but now he wants to finish it when we start playing too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Regarding the question of whether evolution necessarily leads to eugenics, I would agree that it does not necessarily lead there, but it quite naturally leads there, as is evidenced by Darwin’s own family connections to the movement, as well as all of the other leaders of eugenics societies grounding their agenda explicitly on evolutionism.  They seemed to think there was a direct connection, if not a necessary one.  Eric continues:

    “Even if it did, that would not tell us whether it’s true; as I said before, biology and ethics are separate disciplines that often have little to do with each other.”

    Now this cracks me up.  Eric has argued in multiple other threads that ethics are the result of, and grounded in, our biological evolution.  He has argued explicitly that we would not exist as the social creatures that we are without certain necessary evolutionary ethical dispositions.  Now he breezily pronounces that these fields have little to do with each other.  I guess Eric wants a clean slate, or is experiencing cognitive dissonance.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Eric also complains that naming the origin of the eugenics movement in Darwin’s own family tree doesn’t tell us whether evolution is true.  I wonder where he heard about that fallacy?  Perhaps we are getting through.

  114. Jill, whether homosexuality is self-chosen is irrelevant. Identifying oneself by a sin is both a choice and a rebellion against God. Self-identifying homosexuals have doubled-down on sin. That is why comparing people who identify as homosexual to blacks is racist. It de-legitimizes blacks’ entire race, culture, heritage, and history; but cloaks it in smarmy paternalism. They become a “minority group.” Black = gay = minority group. The racism on Eric’s part might be unintentional, but anyone who’s been to college in the last ten years knows that unintentional racism is still racism. I don’t make the rules. Eric the Red is unfortunately a racist and his microaggressions against blacks should be brought to the light.

  115.  
    Eric, I expected you to wiggle, but an accusation of unfairness? I figured you would have an outdated view of things, but perhaps your thinking is even more ossified than I suspected. Groups don’t just up and get protected. Groups sometimes get protected if a country has interested rulers, financial means, and political will. Protection isn’t a physical law. It is not the natural state of things. Needs do not trigger protection. Protection requires strong men armed and the financial resources to employ them. And here’s the catch: During Civil Rights most blacks and most whites identified themselves by Jesus Christ. With gay rights it is largely people who identify themselves by their sexual proclivities vs. people who identify themselves by Jesus Christ. There is no longer any common ground. This means your little assertion that orthodox Christianity would die out in a hundred years is ridiculous.
    And yes, you are racist for comparing blacks to homosexuals. Shame on you.

  116. Eric, I agree with you that in pre-revolution Russia, life under the czars was unbearable for the average Russian, and it’s true that the Russian Orthodox Church, for the most part, was maintaining the status quo.  However, while life wasn’t rosy by any means, the aftermath of the Russian Revolution proved far worse; first by several years of famine, and second by decades of work camps and death camps interspersed with Stalin’s various “purges” (until he finally bit the dust in 1953).  Lenin was just as brutal as Stalin, but since he died fairly young in 1924, his bloody reign was far shorter than the near 30 year reign of Stalin, who is perhaps the most notorious butcher of all time.  By the way, I’m glad we found something to agree on regarding the enforced status quo of the Palestinian refugees.  Okay, so we don’t agree on religion, philosophy, or science, but maybe geopolitics?   
     

  117. Katecho, my mention of the Inquisition, et al. was for the proposition that ethics isn’t a Christian proposition.  That’s not quite the same thing as saying that Christians aren’t ethical, that non-Christians are ethical, or that some forms of unicorn-worship aren’t more benign than others.  The Episcopalian unicorn seems like a nice guy, if a bit of a milquetoast; the Muslim unicorn, on the other hand, needs to be locked up in a psych ward.  You have this knack for pulling an argument that I’ve made for one proposition and trying to use it to argue a different proposition, and logic doesn’t work that way.  And no, there is no need to offer a rational argument for facts of nature.  Your hectoring boils down to “WHY is the earth a sphere rather than shaped like a taco?”  Well, there probably is some cosmic explanation for it somewhere, but since the earth we live on has the shape that it has, who really cares?

  118. “But now we can simply quote Eric back to himself regardless of whatever objection his raises:  “That’s the way it is.”  If Eric needs no rational underpinnings, I guess we don’t either.  Argument has become pointless.”
                                                                                                                                                                              Katecho is right, and it’s high time. Too many people fail to see the manipulative content of Eric’s posts. Folks, he’s not arguing in good faith. Don’t be fools. Don’t answer him according to his folly, lest you be like him. Answer him according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
     

  119. Dan, my geopolitics can be summed up in George Washington’s admonition to avoid foreign entanglements.  I think that the Jews and the Arabs have both behaved badly, but the Arabs are behaving worse, and their problems at this point are mostly of their own making.  I also think we have no dog in this fight, and American foreign policy in that part of the world is the classic example of what happens when one takes a passing dog by the ears.

  120. And Gianni and Katecho, it’s not that I’m not arguing in good faith; it’s that I’m not giving you the answers your presuppositions require, plus you insist on equivocating; taking a word I’ve used in one context to mean something else entirely.  For example, you’re now using the term “rational underpinnings” instead of “evidentiary basis”.  Those concepts are quite different.  Is there an evidentiary basis for unicorns (yours or other peoples)?  None that I can see.  Is there an evidentiary basis that a search for justice and ethics is found in human nature?  Yup.  We can quibble about how it got there, but it’s there.  But when I talk about an  evidentiary basis, and you then twist it around into rational underpinnings, I then have to ask which of us isn’t arguing in good faith.

  121. Thank you for the link, Kate.
     
    Robert, I agree.  That is a real problem.  We do have families who foster older kids, but as a whole it would be a great ministry for the church to focus some resources.
    As I said earlier, since foster kids generally do need public school, I wish schools would provide training in trades like they once did, before it was considered an insult by the Left.  When it was decided that all kids should go to college, our government schools took a huge downward turn!

  122. Sorry for putting my nose in this conversation and I know Katecho, Dan et al will do a proper job of answering…but Eric, it is the WHY questions that everyone does care about.  They are the most important questions.  That is why we begin asking them from the time we can speak.  …..”Johnny you can’t hit your brother.”  “Why?”  Johnny you should share your toys.”  “Why?”  Should the answer be because the people who currently run the country believe it would be a practical thing for the most people in the room. 
    Why should we be ethical is the most important question in Ethics. 

  123. Sorry, Mr. Good Faith, but I gave you in different threads, repeatedly, an opportunity to tell me why you don’t reject methodological naturalism. You kept on playing dumb and inventing red herrings on the spot, hoping the discussions would sink in the archives before you run out of excuses. Sometimes they did, sometimes it was you who disappeared. But you don’t have to defend yourself. That’s the way it is. It’s just a game you’re playing. That’s what it takes sometimes to keep lying to yourself. Utilitarian means to an utilitarian goal in a completely meaningless universe, where you can create your own meaning, which is enough for you to live in quiet happiness these few days you are left, before disappearing in oblivion, like all these meaningless online discussions, like all the meaningless people who will cry meaningless tears for you at your meaningless funeral, since everything will pass, and nothing was worth the trouble. You’re lying to yourself to be happy, so here’s another joke for you to swallow. Not that it will make any difference. 

  124. The graph Katecho provided starts in 1970–and achievement appears flat.
     
                                                                                                                                                      
     
    However, Fred On Everything has a nice post with some examples of elementary school work that college kids today cannot do. http://fredoneverything.net/SchoolsBrooklyn.shtml
     
                                                                                                                                                      
     
    I have seen similar anecdotal accounts.
     
                                                                                                                                                      
     
    Given that the feds lie through their teeth, I am curious about two things in the provided graph.
                                                                                                                                                      
     
    1. Have the measurements changed to ‘hide the decline’  (i.e. like CPI stats and employment stats)?
    2. Was there a decline prior to 1970?
     
                                                                                                                                                      
     

  125. Eric, you said to Katecho: “In fact, your whole line of argument really is comparable to your telling a mathematician that he needs a rational underpinning for why two plus two is four rather than five, eight or pi.”  You also said: “Your hectoring boils down to: WHY is the earth a sphere rather than shaped like a taco?”  I hope you can see that these two statements are fundamentally different.  I agree that the earth being shaped like a sphere rather than a taco doesn’t necessarily require any rational justification (except perhaps for astronomical or astrophysical reasons beyond my limited understanding of celestial bodies).  However, I’m not going to let you off the hook that easily regarding your first statement about telling a mathematician that he needs a rational underpinning for why two plus two is four.  To be honest, that was a stunning, yet revealing, statement about your worldview.  Philosophically speaking, knowledge is only possible when there is a coherent foundation to reality.  This acknowledgement of a coherent, rational order of the universe is a necessary presupposition for acquiring knowledge, discerning truth, and doing science.  Whether one accepts or denies this presupposition, it would be impossible to practice science (or mathematics or physics) in a random, disorderly universe.  Moreover, truth is that which corresponds to reality.  For instance: 2 + 2 = 4.  This is always absolute, and does not depend on our sense perception or our emotions for its veracity.  It is not merely a personal judgment or an opinion.  Therefore, it is proof of absolute truth. Moreover, it is also proof of an inherent order in nature guided by an intelligent principle or being, which of course I believe is God.  And there’s the rub.  You casually (and unapologetically) assert that something as defined, orderly, and consistent as mathematics doesn’t require a rational underpinning (or what we’ve been referring to as rational ground).  How do you explain this gap in your worldview?  Why do you think this gap can be casually dismissed?  Utilitarianism assumes at the outset there is no ultimate truth and no ultimate absolutes; there is only “what works”.  In the naturalistic Darwinian framework, man arrives here by purposeless, directionless, blind, random chance forces, yet you ascribe to human nature such “inherent” features as justice, ethics, and now mathematics?  Thus, we are to believe if a universe evolves, and a planet evolves, and plants and animals evolve, and human beings evolve, that the inherent, fundamental, “natural” outcome must be such that mathematics is possible?  This is your rational equivalence of water is wet and fire is hot?  Eric, it’s simply puzzling that someone with your obvious intelligence can’t see the fallacy in such reasoning.  This is why many of us contend that your worldview is utterly incoherent at its premise.  Clearly, mathematics requires a rational underpinning or rational ground; how could it not?  In our reality, 2 + 2  = 4 whether someone has a clue about it or not.  But the fundamental reason that 2 + 2 = 4 is due to the reality of a coherent, rational order in the universe.  This is the fundamental reason we’re able to discern truth as well as discover an inherent order in nature, which makes science (and mathematics and physics) even possible.  I have an answer for all of this: it is God.  Eric, while I acknowledge your reluctance to come to the same conclusion, it does appear that your worldview has a blind spot that you’re not seeing.  You are drastically oversimplifying things by saying that water is wet and fire is hot, and casually dismissing the rational basis of mathematics.  I doubt you’re going to convince too many people that mathematics doesn’t require a rational underpinning.  Lastly, you said: “Is there an evidentiary basis that a search for justice and ethics is found in human nature? Yup. We can quibble about how it got there, but it’s there.”  You see, it’s this quibbling that is your blind spot I believe.  This quibbling isn’t unimportant or incidental.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite — it’s everything.  The fact that “it’s there” not only compels, but demands, a rational justification for being there.  I realize that you and I are at an impasse here, but I wanted to make one last ditch effort to explain our fundamental differences in the hope of finding at least some measure of common ground.  If none is to be found, then so be it.  I’ve enjoyed the discussion nonetheless.           

  126. Timothy, that’s a great point.  In the 4o years that the government has focused on bringing the lowest scores up, they have only succeeded in bringing the highest scores down.  One of the biggest problems in California is the lack of preparedness college freshman have for the state colleges.  The colleges are forced to let A and B students in, but the students cannot pass the basic classes. So college professors spend the majority of their time teaching pre-freshman classes.  This in turn is making it virtually impossible to get the classes needed to graduate in 4 years. The professors have written a writing curriculum for high school seniors that most school districts are now adopting. This takes the place of English Literature, so like cursive writing, English Lit has been removed from the core curriculum.  Who needs Chaucer and Shakespeare anyway, and I’m sure learning to sign your name won’t be that necessary…

  127. Just to clarify:  There is a huge difference between discussing the rational underpinnings for something that everyone acknowledges exists — ethics — versus having a discussion about something — God — in which whether he exists is the central point of the discussion.  And that’s why I’m not applying a double standard to my own world view, even though I understand why it might seem that way to someone who doesn’t understand the difference between the two questions.  It is not disputed that humans practice ethics, everyone acknowledges that they do, even though there may not be perfect agreement as to what ethics consists of.  It is disputed whether there is a deity out there.  And that’s the difference between a question of evidence — does God exist — versus a question of rational underpinnings.  Sometimes there is no rational underpinning; somethings things are the way they are just because that’s the way they are.  In the case of ethics, there is a perfectly good rational underpinning in that there is a utilitarian benefit to practicing ethics, but it’s not necessary because as a matter of reality, it’s something humans do.  Now, is any of this going to satisfy Katecho or Gianni?  Nope.  They’re going to quibble with anything that doesn’t require a God as foundational support.

  128. Carole, I agree with you that there are a lot of “why” questions it would be nice to have answered.  But sometimes there isn’t one.  Why does water boil at the temperature it does?  Well, if it didn’t boil at that temperature, it would boil at some other temperature, and then we could ask why it boils at that temperature.  There is a more formal, structured chemical answer to the question — that’s the temperature at which there is equalibrium between its liquid state and its gaseous state — but that only pushes the “why” back another level, because then the next question is why is that the temperature at which there’s equalibrium.  And no matter how far back you take it, you will eventually reach a point at which you can go back no further and the only answer is “just because.”  Which is also the case for why two plus two equals four rather than pi.

  129. Dan, thank you for the conversation; I think you’ve gone the extra mile to actually understand where I’m coming from.   I agree with you that we may simply be at an impasse, but I think it’s over a different issue than the one you think.  I agree with you that the universe has a rational order, but rationality simply implies predictability based on past experience.  If my cat is pregnant, I rationally expect her to give birth to kittens rather than puppies because in the past, experience has shown that that’s what happens when cats give birth.  If she’s hungry, I rationally expect her to want tuna rather than broccoli.  But, if we lived in a world in which cats had evolved (or been created) differently so that they liked broccoli, then she would want broccoli.  Neither of those, however, are necessarily the product of a prescriptive lawgiver; it’s merely descriptive.  On this planet, at this time, cats don’t eat broccoli.  A rational universe is simply plausible expectations based on past experience (and whatever conclusions can be drawn from those experiences).  

  130. Dan, as you know, I believe that our moral instincts are the result of being made in the image of God.  But how do you account for the eastern religions which impose highly developed codes of ethics and morality yet are not based on a belief in God, a judgment, or an afterlife?  Confucianism and Taoism come to mind.  Many Jews have a passionate commitment to living ethically without a belief in a personal afterlife.  I read an interesting Pew research study today (I think on the WND website) that showed that in most affluent western societies, the majority of respondents believe that ethical conduct does not depend on religious belief.  I think many posters here are assuming that Eric’s atheism and belief in evolution make his claims to having found ethical standards outside religion simply ludicrous.  If this is so, how do we account for the development of moral and ethical codes within the context of nontheistic religions?

  131. Jill, good question.  But actually, you’ve already answered it.  I will explain.  You said: “I think many posters here are assuming that Eric’s atheism and belief in evolution make his claims to having found ethical standards outside religion simply ludicrous.”  My short answer is: absolutely not.  In fact, I’m inclined to believe that Eric is a very ethical guy.  Moreover, I believe there are many moral and ethical people who don’t adhere to Christianity.  The issue in my debates with Eric has always centered on the lack of a “rational ground” for morality and justice in a worldview based on naturalistic Darwinian Evolution.   Thus, you’ve already answered the question.  You said: “Dan, as you know, I believe that our moral instincts are the result of being made in the image of God.”  There it is.  The fact that Eric (or any atheist, or Eastern mystic, etc.) has the ability to act morally and ethically is because: 1) they’ve been created in God’s image, and 2) the notions of right and wrong are woven into the fabric of the universe.  In other words, we all have a moral intuition and a moral conscience because of God, because we are created in His image.  Whereas in a purely atheistic worldview, there is no rational foundation for morality or justice; there is only mere sentiment.  So you see, it’s not about the ethical standards of the atheists themselves; it’s the lack of a coherent premise to justify the ethical standards that is the issue.  I would subscribe that Eric (and everyone else) lives under the same God and thus will be held accountable to the same God.  But as we all know, the gospel of Christ is not about being saved due to one’s morality and ethics; it’s about being saved in spite of them.  No amount of human moral effort can bridge the infinite chasm between our sin and God’s holiness.  The Law was never meant to save us, because it is incapable of doing so.  The Law was meant to expose our sin and reveal that we aren’t able to follow it.  Yet the Law was also meant to point us to the One who could save us.  And we are only saved by God’s grace and mercy as we receive Him by faith; we bring nothing to the table but our faith and repentance.  Our own moral standards and good works are wholly insufficient to save us.  Thus, we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone, based on Christ’s finished work on the cross.  Lastly, the overarching point regarding non-Christians having high ethical standards is this: in the end, without Christ, ethics don’t matter.  They fall short.  How short?  Infinitely short.  Are high ethical standards good?  Of course they are, since they reflect the image and character of the God who created us.  Nonetheless, while the Law is good, it doesn’t save us.  It was never meant to save us.   

  132. Dan, would you agree and or discuss that there is still an appeal to an outside source which is viewed as superior and objective in some way.  Confucius was a “wise” man and adviser to royalty and the masses.  He is given a special status in some way and therefore should be heeded.  We similarly do the same thing with our founding fathers and the constitution.  They are referred to in a way that elevates them above the average man.  Is it possible to do ethics solely on natural revelation?  Even Eric is appealing to an objective practically of pleasure and pain…I don’t think this can actually work for him in the end, but there is an attempt at getting at an objective right and wrong, I would say an attempt to getting at the source of our conscience.

  133. In other word doesn’t he still face the is to ought problem?  A king’s kingship took an is to an ought, but the founding father’s appealed to God.  Eric appeals to what?  Why should I be compelled to go against my subjective desires and recognize the claims of others?  That is what I don’t think Eric ever answers.

  134. Ah, I think I am asking you to elaborate on this, ” So you see, it’s not about the ethical standards of the atheists themselves; it’s the lack of a coherent premise to justify the ethical standards that is the issue. “

  135. Hi Carole.  You asked: “Is it possible to do ethics solely on natural revelation?”  The answer is: yes, of course, since man is created in God’s image.  But are these ethics acceptable to God for our justification?  No, they are not.  Do they lead to our salvation?  No, they do not.  Without Christ, even our best ethics condemn us.  Apart from Christ, all of man’s ethics fall short — infinitely short.  As I stated previously: Are high ethical standards good?  Of course they are, since they reflect the image and character of the God who created us.  Nonetheless, while the Law is good, it doesn’t save us.  It was never meant to save us.

  136. Carole, regarding your point about “an appeal to an outside source which is viewed as superior and objective in some way,” I think what you mean is an appeal to an outside “authority” that is highly regarded and given special status.  This of course is true for all of us.  We all appeal to these non-Biblical authorities on a regular basis in virtually every field (e.g. law, history, theology, science, medicine, mathematics, etc.).  Nevertheless, as Christians, our ultimate authority is Scripture.   

  137. Carole, you asked me to elaborate on this: “So you see, it’s not about the ethical standards of the atheists themselves; it’s the lack of a coherent premise to justify the ethical standards that is the issue.”  What I mean by this is, even atheists cannot live consistently according to the premise of their worldview, since it’s an incoherent premise.  In a purely atheistic worldview, there is no rational foundation for morality or justice; there is only mere sentiment.  An atheist of course will not admit this, and I believe it’s due to a blind spot in their worldview.  Philosophically, it is untenable.  Nevertheless, I believe all ethical atheists adhere to the same God-given notions of right and wrong, since these are woven into the fabric of the universe that God created, irrespective of whether atheists acknowledge it or not.  There is no rational justification to assert that mere natural selection, through purposeless, directionless, blind, random chance forces, will compel people to be just and fair and altruistic, other than by pure coincidence.  It’s just not plausible.  Thus, whenever anyone (atheist or not) is living according to high ethical standards, even this is due to God’s common grace, since all of us reflect the image and character of the God who created us.  But as I stated previously, without Christ, even our best ethics only condemn us.

  138. Carole and Dan, I think I understand that Eric’s ethics (which I agree are highly developed) are the result of his having been made in the image of God.  Ditto for the ethical Taoist who does not believe in God but loves right conduct.  It is as natural to love ethical behavior as to love mathematics, philosophy, and logic.  It is all part of the package.  But I am still wrestling with the question: can Eric, denying that God-given nature, find any objective source for his ethics?  As I understand the debate, Eric says he can, while we acknowledge his ethical code but think he fails to see its divine origin.  Am I understanding this clearly? //Carole wonders if, without God, there is any objective reason for her to respect the claims of others if they conflict with her subjective wishes.  I see her point completely, but I also see Eric’s.  If we evolved from the primordial slime in a random manner undirected by any divine creator, I think there could still be objective reasons to treat one another fairly and kindly.  Most people are hard wired, even from an evolutionary point of view, to welcome pleasure and to avoid pain.  Even from self-interested perspective, there is reason to avoid conduct which will result in being shunned or punished by others.  We don’t want to live in a society in which our physical safety is menaced by others; we may be willing to give up the impulse to cheat and steal because we don’t want these things done to us–and our best protection lies in defining a basic ethical code and insisting that everyone respect it.  If random evolution were true, natural selection would favor humans with a cooperative, pro-social ethos.//So, while I believe Eric is mistaken about the source of his morality, I can see how a logical case could be made for objective (objective because individuals within the society have chosen to sacrifice the selfishness of a purely subjective morality for the sake of harmony and mutual benefit) ethics.  Dan and Carole, you are so good at helping me clarify my thinking.  Where am I going wrong?

  139. Hi Jill, the problem that I see with Eric’s moral relativism is that he can extend  from a single person to a society, but he cannot claim universal truths.  There is no moral authority, so if there were a conflict between two groups there is no right answer. I am not sure how one could argue that China’s limits on childbirth were “wrong” or even slavery… So, as you said, we could work together as a pack to ensure our survival was more likely, but I don’t think that is what I want to call morality.

  140. Carole, thank you.  The example of China’s one-child policy is really helpful for demonstrating that a policy can have social utility but be morally wrong.  I can think of many things that might promote the safety of the group–like torture–but which should be forbidden because they are evil.  Yet the ethical consensus of the herd could value its utility over any collective intuition of wrongdoing. 

  141. Katecho, I don’t in the least mind being a horse, but I hope that the water I refuse to drink is not the crystal stream of Christian truth.  Invincible ignorance is a partial defense in my faith, but probably a sign of reprobation in yours.  Either way I must hope and pray that you are mistaken.

  142. Carole, well said: “…we could work together as a pack to ensure our survival was more likely, but I don’t think that is what I want to call morality.

  143. Carole and Jill, very good case in point regarding what we’ve been discussing: “The example of China’s one-child policy is really helpful for demonstrating that a policy can have social utility but be morally wrong.”  This also goes for abortion in America (deemed socially useful for personal freedom, population control, etc.) as well as the early 20th century eugenics movement (which deemed some races inherently superior to others).  We can also add the Left’s agenda to expose children at a young age to sex education and contraception (deemed socially useful for their “education” but which consequently promotes sexual experimentation and promiscuity).  Thus, what one group deems useful and necessary for social utility, another group may deem morally questionable or even morally objectionable.  Without an objective reference point to judge the law or policy against, we’re left with laws and policies being decided and enforced by whoever has the most clout or the most power. 

  144. Jill, you asked: “But I am still wrestling with the question: can Eric, denying that God-given nature, find any objective source for his ethics?”  The answer is no, he cannot.  Ethics must be objective, not subjective, for the well-being of society.  Moral judgments are only meaningful, and rational, if they transcend the subjective self.  Unless there is a basis upon which they are firmly rooted and grounded, any moral judgments or claims are, in reality, unjustifiable and therefore insufficient.  If moral judgments are based solely on one’s own standard (the subjective self), then one cannot lay just claim against another regarding the propriety of that person’s standard, which is his own.  Ethics and morals, then, are thus relegated to one’s personal whims and feelings, however fickle and unreasonable those may be.  This of course is absurd (and potentially dangerous) because some actions are inherently right and some actions are inherently wrong.  The well-being of a civilized society depends on that basic premise.  But if we deny the objective moral reference point from which the justification of that premise derives (the transcendent God), then ethics and morals are ultimately meaningless and arbitrary.  In Eric’s philosophy of utilitarianism, there are no inherent fundamental rights from God, so what do you have?  On what basis do you call slavery evil?  Or the porn industry evil?  In the atheistic, Darwinian worldview, all you have is survival of the fittest, where might makes right.  But “right” is mere semantics, since there is no right or wrong, there just “is”.  So it “is” justified if people take advantage of other people, whether in the slave industry or the porn industry, just as it “is” justified if the stronger bear kills the weaker bear, since everything is based on impulses, urges, and survival.  It’s obvious that Eric builds his own moral framework into his utilitarianism, but philosophically he has no justification for doing so (nor does he admit he’s doing so).  Rationally, if we believe in some form of justice, there must exist a transcendent Judge behind it.  Conversely, if we believe there is no ultimate justice in the afterlife, then what would be the basis for justice in this life?  If there is no God, and thus no divine Lawgiver or Judge, wouldn’t the universe be governed by survival of the fittest where the only law is might makes right?  It seems to be that it would.  Thus, any worldview that’s rooted in pure utilitarianism or pragmatism is an abdication of morality, at least philosophically speaking.  It may not be the intention of the person holding to this worldview, but it’s the end result nonetheless.  In a random, purposeless, materialist universe, any notion of morality would simply be an organic development within a particular community, with its rules and precepts being upheld by whoever has the most clout or the most power.  And this must be the case in a universe governed by survival of the fittest.  There would be no moral sense or moral intuition within us, but only amoral instincts protecting and promoting our own survival. 

  145. By the way, I saw the movie “Son of God” yesterday, and it was amazing.  It was incredibly well done, very powerful, and very moving.  It was a stunning achievement in film making, and I think it will be a great evangelistic tool for years to come. 

  146. “Now, is any of this going to satisfy Katecho or Gianni?  Nope.  They’re going to quibble with anything that doesn’t require [the Triune God] as foundational support.”
                                                                                                                                                   Yeah. What do they think they are anyway? Christians?
                                                                                                                                                   Now, is any of what Katecho or Gianni are saying going to satisfy Eric?  Nope.  He’s going to quibble with anything that will require him to stop lying to himself in order to be happy.

  147. One of the things that Eric( and I think many atheists forget) is how modern the idea of equality is.  It took over a hundred years for anyone to think Locke’s work worth quoting.  He was a Christian as were the Christians who put his ideas into practice. I find Eric presents his “ethics” as if all agree that we are created equal and should work together by consent…this is not how it has been.  I am sure Jill remembers the hard battle the Catholics fought in N. Ireland to get the vote.  That was in the 1970s. Was it 1999 or 2000 when the blue bloods were finally forced to give up their seats in England?  Last I checked, the queen has not given up hers. So, Eric, actually I do think that people indeed require a rational underpinning, a foundation, a presupposition, the Triune God, in order to believe that they should be ethical.

  148. Carole and Dan, thanks.  Nothing like being woken up by an earthquake to get the blood flowing.  It had been so long I had forgotten what they are like!  Carole, do you think that hierarchy, which as you point out was the dominant form of society until very recently, is inherently wrong?  Part of my Catholic training is that hierarchy on earth paralleled hierarchy in heaven, the great chain of being and so on. 

  149. No, I definitely do not, but I do think it is a position that many take now in the states as a given. I think Eric most definitely does. I am a happy member of a patriarchal household (am I supposed to say compatibilist  these days?  That means something else I thought, but I think it is the new PC word! :))  We are not in a congregational church etc.  But since I  lived  in Ireland for over a decade followed by a few years in England, I do have some rather strong atypical views on that situation….and being Paddy’s day and all…
    Dan, I am eager to see that movie.  Glad to hear it is worth watching.
     

  150. Sorry this is going to repeat but it might not make sense if posted later.
    No Jill, I do not.  I think Eric takes it for granted that it is the “natural” position though, which is one of the reasons why I don’t think he can do ethics as a utilitarian.  This is an essential question that requires moral authority.  For example, I am a happy member of a patriarchal household. It is a by consent because I believe it is taught in the Bible, however I don’t think I would want to be in a patriarchal house that wasn’t governed by the Bible… The authority does not end with my husband; he too is governed. These are hard questions and remind me again how much we need our Lord.

  151. Carole, I think that patriarchy without the patriarch believing himself accountable to God would be tyranny, as would be a kingdom under a sovereign who believes himself accountable to no one but himself.  In a properly functioning Christian hierarchy, the lord of the manor believed himself responsible for the wellbeing of his tenants and dependents.  The scandal of the English governance of Ireland was that the British helped themselves to the land but were absentee landlords who did nothing to promote the welfare of the people.   I have always been really torn as someone who is both Catholic and British by birth.  I was brought up to be an ardent royalist but over the 27 years I have lived in the States, constitutional monarchy now looks to me to be a little silly.  C.S. Lewis once said that democracy is the only form of government that can be entrusted to a fallen and corrupt population, and I think he was probably right.  But I think a Christian hierarchy, where people focused on responsibilities rather than rights and where people saw care for their “inferiors” as a moral duty might have been a pleasant society in which to live.  Did you live in Northern Ireland? 

  152. No in the south, Cork. I have never met a Catholic British person.  I agree with you completely about a proper functioning hierarchy. I could not function in a marriage that wasn’t patriarchal (complimentary was the word I was thinking of earlier :)) but I wouldn’t want to be obedient to a sister’s husband either.  I guess that sums up how I feel about  Ireland. Not only in marriage, but when I have worked for someone who is truly leading well and appreciates me doing a good job taking care of my own patch, so to speak,  I have been very happy and very hardworking. It is uncomfortable and unsuccessful when leaders don’t lead.    Perhaps that’s one of my gut reactions to a society I envision with Eric’s description.  If there is no moral authority, I immediately see a mess and believe that if we do not follow God, we will follow someone else and that definitely won’t be pleasant.

  153. Actually, Carole, I think “complementary” is the word you’re looking for, not “complimentary.”  But I do like getting compliments from my husband. ;)

  154. Carole, well said: “It is by consent because I believe it is taught in the Bible, however I don’t think I would want to be in a patriarchal house that wasn’t governed by the Bible.  The authority does not end with my husband; he too is governed.”  Jill, also well said: “I think that patriarchy without the patriarch believing himself accountable to God would be tyranny, as would be a kingdom under a sovereign who believes himself accountable to no one but himself.”  Not only is the notion of hierarchy right, it is God-ordained.  Children submit to parents; parents submit to God; wives submit to husbands; husbands submit to God; parishioners submit to elders and pastors; elders and pastors submit to God; civilians submit to civil authorities; civil authorities submit to God (ideally); and the Church submits to God and to God’s Word.  God is the foundation of this hierarchical structure, and God is the head of this hierarchical structure.  God created and ordained all of this for His good purposes, with His glory and authority in mind.  When any man (or child) decides he doesn’t need to submit to any authority, what he’s really saying is: I want my freedom to do what I want, and I don’t want anyone telling me what to do.  Unfortunately, our society and culture feeds into this lie, by encouraging kids to dishonor and disobey their parents, by encouraging women not to submit to any man, and for encouraging people in general to submit no authority beyond themselves.  And when people become a law unto themselves, nothing but chaos and destruction will follow.  Such is the pride and foolishness of man when he dethrones God and places himself there.  And such is the hubris of man when he encourages others to do the same.  In truth, we need this authority in our lives — all of us.  Can this authority be abused?  Of course it can; and shame on us when we abuse it.  And shame on husbands when, instead of being a servant leader to their wives, they instead lord their authority over them and disregard their feelings.  That is not how God designed marriage.  But God’s design isn’t negated just because some foolish men abdicate their biblical role as servant leaders; it just means those men need to repent and set a better example for their children. 

  155. Thank you, Dan, again for writing with such clarity.  And thank you, Ree!  Clearly, I need to stop even trying to use that word :) .  I’m sticking with patriarchy. 
     
     

  156. Hi, Carole.  Lots of English Catholics, like Tony Blair, Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, and Malcolm Muggeridge.  Also a few English royals such as the Duchess of Kent and others who gave up their place in the succession in order to convert.  But I imagine that most are humbly born like me!  When I was in Cork at the age of 15 (back in the mid-sixties), I saw a play about the tragedy of unwed motherhood.  Even though I certainly was frightened of anything that might make me pregnant (reinforced by compulsory visits to serve tea and distribute gifts at the Home for Unwed Mothers), I thought the play was a little over the top.  Little did I realize that at that time, pregnant Irish girls were being forced into the abusive Magdalen Laundries where they had to remain for years on end. //I think that if one wants to have a complementarian marriage, it is above all essential to make sure that your mate is a person of good moral character.  Everyone is flawed and fallen, but there are character flaws like an inability to be faithful that unfit a person to be a leader within marriage.  It is deadly on every level–emotional, spiritual, financial, even physical (like having an STD brought home)–to offer yourself into the keeping of such a person.  I think the Victorians were onto something when parents checked out their daughters’ suitors, and when community standards were such that adultery carried real social consequences.  However, I don’t regret that I did my best to be a compliant, kind, and nurturing wife.  One of my few consolations was the knowledge that my own conduct did not cause what happened to me.

  157. Hi Jill, Evelyn Waugh is one of my favorite writers although the ending of a Handful of Dust is one of my least favorites.  I will definitely never get it out of my mind! I remember when Mrs Blair got pregnant and everyone was shocked at her age!  That seems so funny now…anyway, I had no idea either of them were Catholic.  I only ever encountered Church of England.  I agree with you on comp, comp, comp..patriarchal marriages. :) In fact having to deal with anyone at all in the world is much better when they submit themselves to the authority of Scripture.  I pray my son will meet his bride at our church but I trust in God’s plan.

  158. I love the ending of Brideshead Revisited when the dying Lord Marchmain blinks.  And, of course, the quotation from Chesterton’s Father Brown about the thief he let escape:  “I caught him with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.” The scene where Julia tells Charles that she cannot marry him outside the Church because although the marriage might be good, it would be a rival good to God’s has actually helped me in my thinking about gay marriage.  And The Loved One is a good corrective to my sometimes inordinate attachment to my three cats!  (Yes, people do call me Crazy Cat Lady.)  But I agree with you about Handful of Dust–definitely my least favorite.  Do you ever read Matt Walsh online?  I don’t always agree but he writes with stunning moral clarity.

  159. Crazy Cat Lady, huh?  My perception of you keeps changing…I at first imagined you to be quite a bit younger than I am because your ideas seem so much fresher and you write so well. I don’t know how to incorporate the cats into my current image! :)  I will stop trying to convince you to visit a homeschooling conference, I promise, but Matt Walsh is speaking at the one in Ontario (Ca) this year. 

  160. Carole, meow.  When is the conference?  I think I seem (not look) younger than my years because I have always kind of liked the notion that while I have to grow older, I don’t have to grow up!  That plus spending a lot of time around teenagers.  I have two Maine coons who between them weigh 40 pounds and one tiny but elegant Siamese.  None of them can stand the others, and I spend a fair bit of time breaking up fights.  My bed is the only demilitarized zone; the rest of the house is a system of Berlin Walls designed to put space between enemy combatants.  But I will stop hijacking the board with cat talk before I am invited to do so!  As a nondriver, getting to Ontario might be quite a challenge but I would love to hear Matt Walsh and meet you!

  161. I have wondered as well, when the buzzer will sound indicating we had fallen too far away from topic.  I too am a nondriver!  I’m not going to the Ontario conference though, it is a good one, I have been in the past, but I can only convince my husband that these conferences are “vacations” one time a year and we are booked in for Chea.  I believe Canon Press will be represented; so I am looking forward to that.  See you on the current post.  I think it is excellent and hope for good discussion!

  162. I haven’t been much for pets, but moving back home I inherited two Maine coons.  A mother and daughter, dignified, ladylike, and best of friends.  They rule the roost as outside cats.  I enjoy watching them anticipate my moves outside as they prance ahead with bushy tails waving in the air like tall plumes.

  163. They have lovely dispositions, and whiskers as wide as dinner bowls.  And I love the huge slayed paws that function like snowshoes.  Some people think they descended from Marie Antoinette’s cats that she sent to America; others think they came with the Pilgrims and then escaped into the forests of the Northeast where they became river cats.  The first time I used a spray bottle, I realized that they love water.  The first time one of mine opened the shower door and walked on in when I was alone in the house, I was Janet Leigh in Psycho.  I’m glad you have your Maine Coons, Erik, and now I really will stop blathering about cats and go back to my Youtube cat channel!

  164. And that should have been Katecho,  not Eric!  Clearly my belief that I am wide awake is delusional.  My senior moments come too often, but I really can tell the two of you apart. 

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