Put an Egg in Their Shoe

In just a moment I would like to interact with a post by Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt, which you can read here if you haven’t already. In one sense, I wish they hadn’t written that thing together, because I have some respect for Kirsten Powers. She has done some very fine against-the-tide work on things like international persecution of Christians, and on the Gosnell horrors. I don’t know as much about Merritt, but what I have seen seems to indicate someone who is being wafted along by the breezes emanating from the Zeitgeist Wind Farm, which is a bad metaphor because that’s not how wind farms work. To change metaphors, it is as though they happened to be at the same place on the road because she was walking into a great city while he was walking out of it. Anyhow, however they came to say it, what they said needs a response.

But before saying anything about their argument, I want to say something else about a necessary scriptural backdrop to all such discussions.

As conservative Christians, we are accustomed to discuss homosexual issues in the light of Romans 1. There Paul tells us that our gay pride parades are the result of refusing to honor God as God, and refusing to give Him thanks (Rom. 1:21). Nothing is plainer to exegetes — who are not selling out, or who don’t have a gun to their head — than the fact that an apostle of Jesus Christ taught us that for a man to burn with lust for another man was unnatural, and that for a woman to burn with lust for another woman was even more unnatural. But that is not the point I would like to make, although the point I need to make assumes this. We need to go on to see that this chapter teaches us something else quite important about our current controversies.

The wrath of God is described in this chapter (Rom. 1:18), and it is described as God giving people over to their desires (Rom. 1:24). The mercy of God is found in the restraints He places on us, and His wrath is revealed from heaven whenever He lets us run headlong, which is what is happening to us now. This wrath is described this same way again a couple verses later. God gave them up to dishonorable passions (Rom. 1:26). It is repeated a third time just a moment later. God gave them up to a debased mind (Rom. 1:28). When God lets go, that is His wrath. As Lewis says somewhere, Heaven is when we say to God “thy will be done.” Hell is when He says that to us.

So what consequences follow when He lets go? What does this wrath look like when it is visited on a culture?
The next point is often missed. This progression amounts to the wrath of God being revealed against us because we are being delivered up to the tender mercies of the wicked, which are cruel (Prov. 12:10). Notice Paul’s description of what these people are like outside the bedroom. Right after his observations on men burning in lust for men, and women for women, he gives us an additional character description.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful . . .” (Rom. 1:28-31).

Now who do you want to put in charge of the new civility? Who do you want as an arbiter of true sensitivity in speech? Who should run the training seminars for all the big corporations on what “hate” is? Who should set the boundaries for acceptable public discourse? Who should be the appointed gatekeepers on what constitutes tolerant speech? For any Christian who has read Romans 1 rightly, not these people.

They don’t know what tolerance is. They don’t know how to spell it. They hate the very idea of it. They have taken the biblical doctrine of tolerance and have filed it into a shiv, so that they might smite us all under the fifth rib, as Joab did to people. This should not be surprising to us. Someone who finds the anus of another the object of his desire is not someone that I would trust to determine whether or not this sentence is a hate crime. They are liars and filled with all malice. They are backbiters, overflowing with malignity. They are implacable.

So if you want to form a brigade of tolerance cops, that is bad enough, but then, when you want to staff the whole brigade with these people, the entire spectacle turns into how the right panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights would look if Bosch had just taken three hits of acid just before painting it. The way of peace they have not known (Rom. 3:17). There is no fear of God before their eyes (Rom. 3:18). The only thing that their lawlessness can really do well is breed more lawlessness (Rom. 6:19). So I know! Let’s put them in charge of civility in public discourse.

This is the wrath of God upon us, and the wrath of God delivers us over to more than just our demented lusts. It delivers us over to the ministrations and judicial processes of those who refuse to tolerate any rebuke of their lusts, whether the rebuke is express or implied.

So then, on to the central argument presented by Powers and Merritt. They point out that there are more ways to be unbiblical in weddings than homosexuality, which is quite true, and they wonder why photographers don’t refuse to do weddings for people who are on their third unbiblical marriage. Two quick points, and then to the real issue. First, all such professionals should have the full right to refuse service to anyone, whether or not they are spiritually consistent in the exercise of that right. Second, the reason service is being refused in the cases of homosexual weddings is because the sin involved is flagrant and obvious, and results in something that is not marriage at all. It is same sex mirage, not same sex marriage. A photographer would have to hire a private detective to find out if the previous heterosexual marriage ended on biblical grounds. With the homosexual marriage, the perverse nature of the proposed arrangement has been brought to him, and is standing right on the other side of counter, as much as to say, “whatcha gonna do about it?” So this is an issue that evangelical photographers, bakers, etc. are not pushing. They are pushing back. Homosexuals are pressing this issue with bakers, photographers, and so forth because they are full of the malignity that Paul described for us earlier. They are the ones picking a fight, and I hope they get a real one.

But now let’s go to the heart of the principle that Powers and Merritt are advancing. They are arguing that if an activity is legal, and if someone has a privately-owned business that is open to the public, and a little bell that rings when you open the door, then that someone should be required to provide their professional services to any customer who walks in, so long as they are not required individually to “affirm” whatever they believe to be the sin in question. They can be required to make the sin look good, just so long as they don’t have to sign a paper saying that it is good.

Now to think this “protection” will last any time at all in our current climate is to be a black belt naif. The quaint idea is that liberty of conscience means that we don’t have to affirm that homosexuality is normal. Are we allowed to affirm the contrary? I am glad that Powers and Merritt want to leave us something, but this standard is already under assault, as we speak. So can I be a television broadcaster, or a public school teacher, or a newspaper columnist, or a weatherman, and I can post on my own Facebook page that homosexual behavior “is disgusting,” and I can do this without activists calling for my head and my job, in that order? The only thing to do here is express the wish that Powers and Merritt would get out more. This kind of “protection” is like hoping that we will be spared the worst ravages of the tsunami because the children have built us some sturdy sand castles on the beach.

So let’s see what this principle of theirs would look like if applied in other sectors. Does the proprietor of a business for the public have the right to decline service to someone because that someone’s behavior is offensive to them, although perfectly legal? Powers and Merritt say no, and urge us all to grow up. So . . . a web designer who wants to decline his services to a men-only golf club? A printer of business cards who did not want to serve Gosnell prior to his arrest? A graphic designer in Nevada who does not want to design any newspaper ads for the Moonlight Bunny Ranch?

Someone might say that these scenarios are not realistic, because nobody in those categories is (currently) demanding to be served. The Moonlight Bunny Ranch guy knows not to call the ad agencies that have that little fish on their web site. Right. But the issue is the principle. Suppose he did come into my little graphics shop, and I am being advised in the back room by Powers and Merritt. They are willing to show me the way Jesus would have done it, had He been a graphic designer. My customer thinks my first draft was okay, but he came back in because he wants me to “make her tits bigger.” That’s what draws most of their clientele, he explains. Wait, I say, because I have to do a quick consult on the back room — I fortunately happen to have a couple of experts back there. What, in the column they have written, would give me the right to go back out to my almost customer in order to tell him to put an egg in his shoe and beat it?

Read over their column again. Nothing they have argued would give me that right. And this means that their argument is not just inimical to religious liberty, but also to personal liberty generally. Not good at all.

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228 thoughts on “Put an Egg in Their Shoe

  1. Suppose he did come into my little graphics shop, and I am being advised in the back room by Powers and Merritt. They are willing to show me the way Jesus would have done it, had He been a graphic designer.

    The problem is that people like Powers and Merritt don’t really think gay sex is a sin.  The attitude behind all this seems to be something like, “Yes, technically gay sex is a sin. We can’t take it out without taking away from biblical authority and destroying everything that backs up our faith.  But it’s not like a sin sin, so don’t worry too much about it.  And we’d definitely take it out if we could.”
     

  2. This post was the tits. I’d share it with my more Victorian friends but I’m afraid it would get on their tits and make our relationship go tits up.

  3. Been looking forward to your response since I read this yesterday.  Thanks for delivering with the thoughtfulness many of us have come to expect… :)
    One thing that struck me about Merritt & Powers’ post was how they dismissed out of hand Russell Moore’s distinction between “unbiblical non-marriages” and “unbiblical marriages” (my words, not Moore’s).  It appears the weight of the distinction between natural and unnatural affections, between unions that even unwittingly testify to God’s glory in creation vs those that distort His creation, has no bearing on their prescription.
    Which reminds me of your “Free Fall” post from last week.  The ultimate presupposition on this issue is God’s authority in declaring what is good and right.   But if you’re engaging an audience who dismisses that authority without blinking, is there any compelling cultural  or rational common ground to appeal to?  With abortion we can at least appeal to the value of life, a value which most people innately understand and respect.  But this issue is less tangible in most peoples’ minds.  It certainly seems this ship is going down a bit further before it comes up again…

  4. Thanks Pastor Wilson. I read their article and left a comment that they will certainly not like. The church needs to wake up and start to take a stand. 
    Just because a criminal government legalizes same sex marriage doesn’t make it any more right than their counterfeiting currency at the rate of a TRILLION dollars per year while telling us it’s wrong for us to do the same. 
    The homosexual crowd would like to have everyone support their right so they can feel better about themselves as they refuse to fight the sin that so easily besets them. We all sin- they are just trying to justify theirs and have others join them in it.
    Always appreciate your straight forwardness.
    May God have mercy on America as we fly headlong to the fiscal and fornicative cliff.

  5. The hypocrisy of the secularists (and their religious allies) is stunning. One of the things that really gets me is that they know so well how to prey on Christian sentiments. Not one true Christian was to hate people or treat people badly or make anyone feel bad about themselves. They do not want to be judgmental or angry, generally speaking. But the secularists use this to silence us from speaking out against even the most egregious sin. “Don’t condemn abortion, you’ll hurt the mother’s feelings. Don’t refuse to take pictures of sin, you will hurt them sinners right in the feelings. Don’t you know Jesus was nice? How can you be so mean?” The turning point of this battle is when LGBT activists change the topic to civil rights. If they can make a sinful behavior a civil right and punish people for not celebrating it, there is no end to the depths of intolerance that will come. Watch how they are starting to change the topic of Christian persecution to something like we are making ourselves into victims when we really are not. I wish they had the same compassion for an orphaned Christian child whose parents were tortured for being a Christ follower and they do for the LGBT folks who have their feelings hurt because we won’t ordain them as ministers.

  6. Why is gay sex (or at least relatively monogamous gay sex) such a special sin that we have to treat those committing it with kid gloves?
     

    My take (and the better educated believers here, please jump in and correct me if I err) is that it is the outward manifestation of the homosexual’s relationship with God. Remember, there is a distinction between Sin (the thing) and sins (the manifestations of the thing).
     
                                                                                                                                                   
    We are all born, by nature a slave to Sin–the manifestation of that thing is sins. God defeated Sin at Calvary when we trust Him, he begins the process of transforming our nature from a Sin-ful one to a Spirit-filled one–we call this being reborn in Christ. A result of this transformation is a change in behaviors–over time, we commit fewer sins because the power of Sin over us is defeated and we are able to become more like Christ.
     
                                                                                                                                                   
    The “content” of a person’s sins tells us a lot about their relationship to God and to Sin. Look again at the list of behaviors above in Romans 1:28-31. The quality of those behaviors–sins all–is different in depth and degree than me cussing out the driver ahead of me during rush hour (for which I immediately–in prayer–confess and apologize to God about).
     
                                                                                                                                                   
    It is that fundamental relationship to God that is the problem. When we repent, we allow God to change us. There are beings on this planet who do not want that salvation–they want their Sin. We/I look on in horror.
     
                                                                                                                                                   
    Something else happens worth mentioning. The process of turning from Sin to God eventually results in us taking God’s side against our remaining Sin–we learn to HATE our own sin and we plead with God to release us from its effects on us. We cannot–by nature–look on that Sin and accept it; if you remember your basic theology, God cannot let Sin in His presence–ergo, for we Christians as we become more like Him, so our tolerance of Sin because as his is.
     
     

  7. The real law that needs to be passed is this: private business owners should be able to choose their own clients.   Period.  What Powers and Merritt are doing is attacking the easy target of any bill being considered in a 21st century democracy for being what every such bill is: inconsistent.  So what? 
     

  8. I agree Scott. I think a business should have the right to refuse with no explanation.  The other particular problem is that the LGBT community pushed through the “Born this Way” argument without any evidence.  The constant comparison between homosexuals and the disabled or ethnic groups is just bogus. But many people were convinced of that before the studies showed it to be inaccurate.  Alcoholics are more convincingly “born that way” than the homosexuals. Last I checked you could still refuse service to a drunk.

  9. And let’s be honest about it. This column was not written for the Daily Beast in order to engage Christians on this principle. It was written for the audience of the Daily Beast in order to be able to say, “We’re not like them.” 

  10. Scott, while this is true and businesses do have that right, there are circumstances when they are not allowed to discriminate. For example, no business is allowed to discriminate based on race. That is a “protected class”. What the homosexual-rights lobby has done quite successfully so far is to get sexual preference made a protected class therefore they are not allowed to be discriminated against in increasing measure.
    There is an economic part of this equation. Homosexual couples are free to take their business elsewhere. I remember reading somewhere that homosexual couples are higher earners than the rest of the population. So why get upset if some people don’t want to do business with people with more disposable income? There are plenty of other businesses that would be glad to photograph your “wedding” for a price. Theoretically, the Christian-owned businesses would not compete with the prevailing market and suffer.
    Why not just let that happen? Because that isn’t the goal of all of this. Anyone who does not toe the line with the spirit of the age is to be punished. That’s why.

  11. The main argument I’ve seen against “business owners choosing whom to serve” is that business owners are granted FDIC insurance, police and fire service, and other municipal “privileges” when they become business owners — and they are therefore beholden to uphold the standards of the system they’ve entered.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           How do we respond to that?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Also, I’m going to keep Brian’s question in my back pocket for my next debate on this topic…

  12. I’ll go with “have the right to refuse with no explanation” for any and all, for $500 Bob…
    As the barkeep of this joint is wont to say, it is not no standard, but whose standard.

  13. @Thursday & @Timothy – I do think there’s something unique about homosexuality that explains why we almost intuitively treat it differently (for better or for worse:  either we’re *more sensitive* than we might be with other sin or we’re more harsh).  Unlike almost any other sin, homosexuality is treated as an issue of *identity*.  No one introduces themselves with “Hi I’m a Jim, I’m an adulterer”  or “Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m a liar.”  At least they don’t typically unless they are confessing…  But with homosexuality, you have a disposition clearly declared sinful by the Bible, but claimed as a mark of identity.  Thus I would argue that *both* ways of treating it differently are a good idea:  we should be all the more sensitive to those who are embracing it since it is a sin (which we want them to acknowledge) that is so caught up with their identity (which we want them to embrace as being in Christ);  yet we should also be more decisive and clear about this sin precisely because it is one that seeps so far into the identity.

  14. Doug,
    I agree that we should fight for our freedoms, but what do you think about a photographer applying Matthew 5:38-41 to this situation? Would it be a more powerful witness to tell the homosexuals that this is a mirage and not a marriage, but still serve them better than any non-Christian could?

  15. Tim, I’m aware of the illegality of  racial discrimination in private business. I would like the law of the land to be this:  “Business owners can choose their own clients.”  That is a consistent law.   The law makers in Arizona are trying to protect business owners by allowing a specific loop hole.  That is an inconsistent law.  That is the only point Powers and Merritt are able to make.  And my point is they could make it about _every_ law a 21st century democracy is likely to make.  We don’t make consistent, principle based laws.  We’re too far gone for that.  We’re too fractured.  And so my response to their criticism is: big deal.

  16. I think Thursday got it right in saying that for Kristin Powers and many others, homosexual conduct is not considered to be seriously sinful.  There is no single Christian voice on this matter:  the Episcopalian church in my neighborhood has a male priest married to a man, the parishioners have largely come to terms with it, and would vehemently reject the notion that their beloved priest is a monster of sin or that his marriage is illusory.  A bakery that refused to make a cake for their wedding would probably have been shunned by many local straight people who consider  that anti-gay bigotry is a more serious sin than gay sex.  Even people who believe gay sex is sinful may feel that a religious belief should not determine public policy in a secular state.  I think it is important not to underestimate the degree to which public opinion has accommodated itself to a phenomenon that would have been unthinkable 40 years ago, and I think the bakers and photographers have been caught offguard by having their religious objections dismissed as bigotry pure and simple.   I don’t think this is going to change in the near future, and I think the focus of the struggle has to be not merely railing against the inevitable but actually deciding which hills are worth defending.  In states that list homosexual orientation as a protected category, the only sure way to protect the conscience rights of fundamentalist Christian vendors is to dismantle all civil rights protections and let the free market decide.  But it must be realized that in metropolitan  . .areas in blue states, the Christian vendor is going to pay a heavier price for this than fines and that nothing much can be done about this.   But that is not my main issue.  Pastor Wilson said:” Someone who finds the anus of another the object of his desire is not someone that I would trust to determine whether or not this sentence is a hate crime. They are liars and filled with all malice. They are backbiters, overflowing with malignity. They are implacable.”  I realize this is St. Paul, but is Pastor Wilson actually saying that anyone with gay impulses is a malicious liar and backbiter?  What about gays struggling to be celibate?  What about gays in committed monogamous relationships?  Is an adulterer by definition overflowing with malignity or is he merely a carnal sinner as long as he likes girls?  Los Angeles deliberately recruits gay police officers, some of whom I know.  Would Pastor Wilson believe they are by nature and by definition unable to judge criminal behavior?  I think the problem with this type of characterization is that if we are encourage to believe that every gay person is worthless and wicked, so corrupt that he or she is incapable of a decent action, what happens to this belief when we happen to meet courageous, kindly, law-abiding gay people?  I think the pastor should be free to express his Biblically-based revulsion for gays.  But others are equally free to think that this is coming uncomfortably close to the kind of intolerance that does not ever win minds or hearts–at least not the kinds of minds and hearts worth winning.

  17. Michael, on this slippery, wet-glass slope — constructed in Europe 175 years ago, refined to fine art* in these united States over the past 50 years — entire *societies* identify with godlessness, and are shot through with the panoply of sins listed in Romans 1.
    Paul in Romans 1 is describing not only individuals but communities/cultures. 
    (*I told Doug that his recent interview of a Christian ‘rap artist’ smacked of the hip triangulation described in John Rabe’s comment, above.)

  18. Joseph, thanks for the question. But what you would be doing is saying this: “Your union is a mirage, not a marriage. But I will use all my professional skills to make it look like a marriage. I believe it to be a lie, but I will help you tell it.”

  19. And David, the conversation with Prop was anything but hip triangulation. You are right that this is a major problem, but I don’t think it is there. See my post on that whole subject entitled Dear XYZ.

  20. Should a gay photographer (who otherwise hires himself out to photograph public events for publicity purposes) be required to travel in the entourage of a Westboro Baptist anti-gay funeral protest and permit his pictures to be used to promote said “church”?

  21. (1) Jesus made a point of which Powers & Merritt do offer a version/distortion/misapplication.  He said de-branch your own eye before you de-twig your brother’s.  And many ‘evangelical’ churches are full of fornicators, adulterers, and divorce/remarriage.  Have we dealt with these popular sins among us, or mostly condemned the weird minority sins of ‘gays’?  Sins, yes; deal with, yes; but our own Achans may be one reason this Ai is giving us so much trouble, eh?  
    / / / / / / / /
    (2) What is the Christian duty toward professed unbelievers who fornicate in some way, or covetous, extortioners, or idolaters?  I Cor 5:9-13 seems to say don’t worry about it; don’t bother trying to stay away from such people.  (Jesus didn’t).   Eh?  Professed Christians who do that stuff?  Different story:  Hand over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of Christ Jesus.
    /  /  /  /  /  /  / 
    (3) Practical options?  Well, MAYbe a baker or photographer could say, I regard marriage as serious business (lasting joy is worthwhile, but can involve hard work),  so for anyone who wants me to do special work for their wedding, I require them to watch this video…[A video < 30 minutes setting forth the Biblical/Christian/historical/redemptive-analogy view of marriage, with joys and warnings, including a presentation of the Gospel including repentance, as clear, winsome, and attractive as may be...]
    /   /   /   /   /   /   /
    (4) Lust may end up at the crotch, but often doesn’t start there; twinges of lust at a man or a woman may start with face or figure or skin, if my experience be typical.  ‘Gay’ as someone arrogantly sodomizing is one thing; ‘gay’ as someone who feels and resists strong or annoying same-sex attraction is a different thing. (To be tempted is not sin:  Jesus was tempted.)   So Doug’s phrase ‘makes the anus an object of desire’ might could use tweaking.
     

  22. Scott and Carole, For your positions to be consistent, you have to affirm that the Civil Rights Movement in the South in the 60’s was wrong. You have to affirm that Whites should have the right to discriminate in employment housing sales and banking opportunities against Blacks. Maybe that is what you believe. Maybe you believe that it is appropriate to hire illegal aliens. The other option is to reword your argument.

  23. When I lived in Reno, the legal house of ill repute advertised with t shirts and key chains you could buy in the souvenir shops down town. Just FYI

  24. I have to admit this is a tough issue.  And primarily so, due to the fact that conservative Christians have lost the culture war regarding gay marriage.  When I say lost, I certainly don’t mean lost in the sense of being wrong on the issue.  We are 100 percent right on the issue.  But because our country has become so aggressively secular in recent decades, the tide has turned against our Judeo-Christian heritage in general, and against the traditional view of marriage in particular.  Nevertheless, we need to remain firm regarding the traditional view of marriage and family.  We cannot be shy about stating the truth, even when it’s unpopular.  Of course it’s going to be unpopular, since the truth can, and does, divide.  It’s what the truth has always done throughout history.  However, it would do us well to NOT demonize the opposition, since that is not what Christ would have us do.  Calling homosexuality a sin is one thing, but demonizing people is another.  Also, we don’t need to capitulate to cultural pressure by calling homosexual marriage “normal”.  It is not normal.  But again, these are human beings who were created in God’s image; thus they should not be spat upon (literally or figuratively).  Therein lies our conundrum as Christ followers.  Nowhere in the New Testament does it promise an easy political life for Christians.  And no where does it promise Christians perpetual religious freedom.  Religious freedom is great, of course, but it is a byproduct of modern Western civilization.  It did not exist in the apostolic and post-apostolic era of the Church.  What the Bible does promise us is that our Lord will never leave us or forsake us.  Thus, in the meantime, we should stand strong for the truth, stand strong for traditional marriage and family, and stand strong for the cause of the gospel.  The cause of the gospel does not depend on political and religious freedom, since the Holy Spirit is much more powerful than that.  But the cause of the gospel does depend, at least in part, on Christ’s followers standing strong in their faith while at the same time showing love to their neighbor.  This love should never imply that bad is good or that sin is not sin.  But this love should imply a willingness to bring more lost sinners into the kingdom, since we were once lost sinners who were brought into the kingdom.  Which is why we as Christians need to remind ourselves often that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.  Therefore, our battle is primarily a spiritual battle, not a political or cultural battle.  And even if we ultimately lose the cultural and political battle, the greater prize is the kingdom, where our Lord Jesus Christ has already won, since He has conquered sin and death and will reign forever!

  25. Robert,
     
     the problem with making reference to the south befor the civil rights era is this: that was legally enforced/mandated segregation. all the Christian baker wants are what, in other areas, are accepted without comment. Namely, the rights of conscience and association.
     
    Doug,
     
    At the point where Powers and Merritt play the WWJD card, I respond: he’d eat with sinners and we know he did because he wasn’t always eating alone. But he didn’t bake the desserts for the “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Festival. 
     
    I think that works. 

  26. Robert, I don’t think it is necessary to be against the civil rights movement as a whole to be against federal government intrusion in private business.  If I’m remembering my history (based vaguely on things I’ve seen on T.V. back in the old days) the civil rights movement was non-violent civil disobedience aimed mainly at abuses by state and local governments such as forced segregation and voter discrimination.  I can be against those things (and against racism in general) without being  in favor of a federal law that intrudes on people’s rights to decide who they will do business with.  That being said, my _argument_ is not “the law should be X”, but rather … (see next response for my argument).

  27. My argument consists of two points: 1) the only thing Powers and Merritt accomplish in their article is to show that the bill they are denigrating has inconsistencies (which it has) and 2) all bills passed in the give and take of our form of government are doomed to be inconsistent.  And my conclusion is: “big deal”.  It’s sort of like me boasting that I went to the local elementary school and challenged the biggest kid in 1st grade to a fist fight.  And won!  “Big Deal”.

  28. Jill Smith.
     
    I  read your post and wash my hands of your town and you. There is no repentance there–no acknowledgment of sin. Rather, the onus is for the follower of Jesus to ‘recognize’ their sin. I mean really! Your town is soooo cool! So hip! The best food! so happy! great families! fantastic zoning boards! the people are so cutting edge! so intelligent! It looks great! Trendy! popular! What is not to like? Oh! Look! an apple!
                                                                                                                                                    
    But God is not there, the people are dead and I will follow Him. stay cool, though.
     
     

  29. Jill Smith.
     
    Let me amend the above–I do not wash my hands of you–merely your town and this age. I have lived in such towns and neighborhoods. I feel dirty just thinking of them.

  30. So what insurance companies do is considered legal discrimination? I mean look at the criteria they use to create their models for approval and pricing. Talk about hypocrites.

  31. Timothy said: “I feel dirty just thinking of them.”
    I know you do. But that’s your responsibility. None of us are the crucified Christ. We are not called to take on the sins of others in order to redeem them.  Lay your feelings of dirtiness at the foot of the cross. Jesus knows what to do with them.
    Jill Smith: Right on.

  32. I see in a post above the question: “What about gays in committed monogamous relationships?”  The question is stunning in its seeming ignorance of what God says regarding sodomy, which for the sake of brevity, is too numerous to count the amount and types of condemnation that God has rendered, including the destruction of two cities.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The supporting context of the question also seems to suggest that because a government entity endorses a practice, said endorsement and recruiting inoculates the behavior. This argument resembles God’s admonition in Romans 1:32 “…they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”                                                                                                                                                                   Also, I think that it is demonstrably clear that God is primarily speaking of objectively observable behavior. No Holy Ghost X-rays needed.

  33. Sara.
    When I lived in one of those towns, I was out on my daily walk in the rich part of town and two gay men where walking and snuggling enjoying the afterglow of their sin. They saw me, I saw them as we walked past each other. What do I mean by that? I mean that God is in me and His character comes through. they where convicted of their sin with nary a word being spoken. They new it, I knew it. Light and dark; heaven and hell passing in a park on the upside of a trendy town.
                                                                                                                                                                  
     
    What is the trend-line that you see Sara? Is the good that you envision that Pastor Wilson become a gay episcopalian priest?
     

  34. Scott, I believe the “law of the land” should be the unwritten understanding that business owners may choose their own clients, and that local municipalities should have the right to codify restrictions pertinent to the wishes of their voters. For example, I believe there should be no federal or state law outlawing a businessman from posting a sign reading “No niggers served here”. I would not patronize such an establishment if they beat the price of all other competitors by 90%, and I would consider picketing in front of the store, demanding that they relinquish their hateful, prejudiced bias against certain groups of people. My position would not be different in the 1960’s of America, because the general principle is, I believe, a Biblical one.                                                                                                                  
    However, if a business owner in “Smithville” decided to post such a sign, I believe it should be the prerogative of Smithvillians (heheh) to pass a law in Smithville requiring the owner to take down the sign, citing the potential for increased public unrest when rightly-incensed residents were tempted to urinate on the doorstep of said business, or burn it to the ground and roast marshmallows in the dying embers of its charred remains.  Or, the locals could all ban together and boycott the business, thus driving them out of business and helping make their community a better place.                               

  35. Pastor Wilson, you said, “for a woman to burn with lust for another woman was even more unnatural”. Was that in jest or for rhetorical effect, or do you think the text somehow implies an asymmetry between the sexes? Thank you!

  36. Timothy said, “What is the trend-line that you see Sara? Is the good that you envision that Pastor Wilson become a gay episcopalian priest?”  Whoa, I have no idea how we jumped here.  I’m glad that you walk with Jesus and that the Holy Spirit is on you. I was simply 1) encouraging you to give your burden to Jesus [of feeling dirty just thinking about unrepentant gay people and places] because that’s what we ask others to do — give their burdens to Jesus, whether those burdens be sin, or angst, or fear, etc.  He is big enough to handle our sin and our struggles. And 2) to indicate that I concur with Jill’s (very respectfully worded ) caution that we not wholly and unfairly demonize or caricature  a group of people simply because they are gay. She’s right — it does not win hearts and minds. After all, all truth is God’s truth, whether it comes from the mouth of a believer or not. 

  37. Ok Sara. That is good news.
     
                                                                                                                                                                 
     
    I misunderstood what you where saying. Let me be clear about he dirtiness thing; its not a “struggle thing” but a hard-one attribute of God’s work in me.
     
                                                                                                                                                                 
    Its the dirtiness I feel towards my own sins and dying sinful nature. Lewis wrote of this phenomenon. The unrepentant and blind sinner (like the gay episcopalean preists) have no clue (oir little sense of ) the danger they are in. Conversely, as we grow in Christ, our sense of our own depravity–at little sins!–is heightened and commesurably our gratitude for our salvation.
     
                                                                                                                                                                 
    I speak as somebody who really tried to be tolerant–who once thought we could all just get along–as somebody who acted like Christ came with duct-tape to bind instead of a sword to divide.
     
    There comes a point where we learn we really are different from the world in a very fundamental way. At that point, pretending to be nice or tolerant becomes a lie.
                                                                                                                                                                 
    With all that, I do treat individuals with kindness and love and patience. He loves me, He loves them. Often that love requires we rebuke the age in which we live that blurs the lines between heaven and hell.
    Grace and peace.

  38. Regarding Jill’s earlier comment:

     There is no single Christian voice on this matter:

    …I beg to differ.  However, that comment did leave me wishing that Pastor Wilson would coin a similar descriptive name for the false Christian as he has so ably provided with the marriage/mirage phraseology.

  39. Come join Kirsten & Jonathan for next week’s column, where they encourage gay photographers to lovingly photograph events at Westboro Baptist Church, out of the good ness of their hearts and because it is what Christ would have expected of any decent soul…

  40. As the so-called culture war has gone more and more badly for orthodox Christians, I have come to believe there is something more involved than Romans 1, though I certainly cite it frequently as being fully applicable to our times.  I have come to believe that what we are seeing is a judgment on us, that is, on orthodox Christians.  We are being disciplined by God for our unfaithfulness and lack of trust.  Our efforts to stop the tidal wave have proved ineffective because God is not with us.  In part, this may be because we have over the past 1/3 century, at least, put our trust in princes in the battle.  We believed, or at least acted as if we believed, that if we just elected the right presidents, senators, representatives, governors and legislators, WE and THEY would win the culture war.  But I think it goes deeper than that.

    And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the Lord has promised, for we have sinned.” But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the Lord, when that will not succeed? Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies. For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.” But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed out of the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah. 

    (Numbers 14:40-45, ESV)

    Perhaps our children or grandchildren will be led by the LORD to a new dawn of Christendom, but our generation has been unfaithful.  We are fighting and getting beaten and beaten badly.  Perhaps instead of blaming the Amalekites and the Canaanites for our failure to prevail, we should ask whether we are failing because the LORD is not among us because we have been unfaithful.

    Or, again, perhaps we are like the ancient children of Judah, taken into captivity for three score and ten years because, again, they were unfaithful.  God restored Judah, but not until the generation of the unfaithful had died.

    May God forgive us our unfaithfulness and not visit on our children and grandchildren suffering due to our sins.

  41. Sorry for the indention of my preface.  I guess I don’t quite understand the editor.  The only part which I intended to be indented was the following:

    And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the Lord has promised, for we have sinned.” But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the Lord, when that will not succeed? Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies. For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.” But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed out of the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.  (Numbers 14:40-45, ESV)

  42.  I’d like to think that I wouldn’t bake the cake, but that’s easy for me to say when I am not a baker. Let’s say that a 55-year-old man and his 50-year-old wife are bakers. They are also the parents of six minor children, all of whom depend on their parents for their support. Let’s go further and assume that one of these children has a significant health problem which requires expensive medical treatment, treatment that is covered by the insurance the parents can only afford if they continue to be bakers. The parents are too old to start again. Even if they were willing to do so, they would never be able to earn the money needed to properly house, clothe, feed and care for the medical needs of their family.It is one thing to argue, as I most emphatically do, that Caesar should not compel the baker and his wife to bake the cake. It is another to condemn the hard pressed baker for doing so, especially unless we are prepared to make up for their lost income and health insurance, to share in their sacrifice with them in a real and meaningful way, in a way the calls for real, painful sacrifices on our part as well.I condemn those who are pushing for this and even more those who claim the name of Christ while betraying those who believe in conscience they must resist the mandate to bake the cake. But I will not condemn those who believe that they have no choice but to comply with the mandate unless I am willing myself to make up for their losses.Are we the body of Christ? Are we really? Will we stand by and FULLY support the Christian bakers, florists, caterers, etc. or will we condemn them when they are called to carry burdens we ourselves cannot and will not bear?

    I truly believe God is disciplining His unfaithful people. We are the children of Israel who cried against the spies and who, after God passed judgment against them, decided on their own to fight the Amalekites and Canaanites even after being warned that God was not with them. We are the children of Judah, whom God turned over to the Babylonians for 70 years of captivity. In both cases, the unfaithful generation all died off before God delivered to their descendants the promised land. God will deal with the Amalekites, Canaanites, and Babylonians in His own time and in His own way. Right now, He’s using them to discipline us. Now is the time for reflection as to why, for confession, and for repentance. We rightfully rail against those who would oppress us, just as the children of Judah did in Psalm 137, but the discipline will only end with our repentance and very likely we will not live to see the restoration which will only come to our children or grandchildren.

    We are, I am afraid, about to see the sifting of the tares from the wheat, the separating of the goats from the sheep.  The Lord and King of history will prevail.  He already has prevailed.  He cannot be defeated.  But we, His unfaithful people, may suffer discipline.

    I suppose you could say I am a short-term pessimist, but a long-term optimist.  But I’m not sure it is pessimism to recognize that disciplining His people is part of His march forward to victory.May God forgive us for what WE have done.

  43. Greg and Josh
                                                                                                                                                                
     
    The Holy Spirit is at work in our land among His people big time. Do not be afraid or despair. If you are afraid and despairing, tell God in prayer. What we are going through now is for our edification.
     
    We are blessed to live in such times.
     

  44. Timothy – Completely agree. But it doesn’t make the period of discipline any less real. Edifying discipline, refining discipline is still very real discipline. God was still w/ Jeremiah when his head was in the stocks…..but his head was still in the stocks. (Not that our situation is nearly that bad just yet.) On the current trajectory, orthodox Christians in America have been given a seat at the discipline table and are being fed a scrumptious first course. Who knows, maybe we will finish the course and have had our full. Or maybe it will end up being a seven-course meal….

  45. Josh and Timothy,

    I agree with everything both of you posted and I agree completely with Pr. Wilson’s original post.

    And I am not in despair.  Christ is the Victor.  The war has been decided.  He is marching on from victory to victory.  But I am chastened that we are about to suffer a severe disciplining due to our own unfaithfulness and I know it won’t be pleasant.  But, yes, it is for the edification of His body and so is good and necessary.

  46. Josh and Greg.
     
                                                                                                                                                                
     
    I don’t think its us being disciplined–by us I mean the church–and by disciplined I mean “punished”. I think the government and society  we live in that used to be  christian but is now pagan is going to be disciplined–as in punished–big time. There are a TON of faithful christians in this land and He has a covenental relationship with our founding–that covenant will be honored.
                                                                                                                                                                
     
    Why the supposition that we are going to suffer? Like Patton quipped, I don’t want to die for my country, I want the enemy to die for his. This defeatist attitude among christians has always puzzled me.
     
    Grace and peace.

  47. This from http://www.reformationtheology.com/2011/07/jesus_kristus_kurios.php
    It was a typical day in ancient Rome. As they entered the dreaded arena they had only to say two words and they could live: Kaiser Kurios – Caesar is Lord. Instead they proclaimed: “Jesus Kristus Kurios” “Jesus Christ is Lord” and paid for the privilege with their blood.
    The early Christians followed Christ, not out of mere preference, but out of conviction. Can we say the same thing? Or have we no convictions?

  48. Hi Jill.  You said: “What about gays in committed monogamous relationships?  Is an adulterer by definition overflowing with malignity or is he merely a carnal sinner as long as he likes girls?”  Clearly, both are carnal sins according to the Bible, and we need to call them as such, even if it’s unpopular.  I do admit though, that in some Christian circles, the adulterer is not stigmatized quite as much as the homosexual, and I believe that is wrong.  But even that has more to do with the rampant secularization of the culture in general, where it’s 100 percent acceptable for couples to cohabitate before they’re married, and where divorce has become as common as a career change.  As I stated in an earlier post on this thread, it’s one thing to call homosexuality a sin (and it is a sin), but demonizing people is another.  I firmly believe that Christ does not want his followers to demonize homosexuals, even though we believe it to be a sin.  Also, we don’t need to capitulate to cultural pressure by calling homosexual marriage “normal”.  It is not normal.  Nevertheless, these are human beings who were created in God’s image; thus they should not be spat upon (literally or figuratively).  In the end, I think this is where we as Christ followers need to be careful about how we approach those who are outside of the kingdom.  Is our main priority to win the political and cultural battle?  Or is our main priority to bring more lost sinners into the kingdom, since we were once lost sinners who were brought into the kingdom?

  49. Just to throw a data-point out there. Its not just wedding cakes, its now the NFL and Arizona.
    I know, I know..I can hear Eric the Red now–“but nobody is talking about feeding Christians to the lions!”
     
    Enough. Time to punch back.
     
     
     
     
     

  50. To add to what Dan said, I was cashing a check and the teller–a person I chatted with in every day social situations quite a bit–brought up her friend’s “baby-daddy” when referring to an unwed mother’s child. I was just as saddened and horrified by that change in our language and culture as I am by homosexuality. Again, what is the trend?  which way are we going?
     
    No, its NOT a baby-daddy, its a father and he better well marry the mother!
     
    But, I am intolerant and enjoying it.
     
    cheers!

  51. Timothy – Jeremiah suffered right along with others in Israel, in the midst of their discipline even though he wasn’t the cause of the discipline. So in specific circumstances, some in the church will experience suffering that is not a rebuke. In specific circumstances, I make no judgment because I likely lack the necessary details. But as a whole, I think people underestimate the degree to which American Christians – even many ‘conservative’ Christians – have been happy to accomodate feminism and matriarchy and all sorts of things that have set the stage nicely for this. So the judgment received by those Doug is describing is a real judgment – being given over. And it is their particular judgment. But this judgment is the thing that is producing the discipline/judgment Christians in America are receiving. Spend 40 years going along with matriarchial equality in marriage, no-fault divorce, etc., and then live with God saying, “I’m now gonna make you eat the stew you’ve been boiling all along.”

  52. One other point that I’d like to add with Dan’s post is while typically adulterers and dead beat dads don’t boast or parade or legally demand that you accept what they do as good, many homosexuals do.  I think it is this demand, the demand  that we defy Truth,  that makes it harder for Christians to behave as they would toward other sinners.  If you saw a young man who was bragging about how many babies he had fathered without marrying or providing for them, we would be similarly scornful. Not that it is ever right to demonize, but it is more difficult when the sinner is proud of his deed.

  53. I think that it is instructive to remember how God underscores the behavior in question: “For if God did not spare…turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds).

    Without minimizing sin in general, there is a certain high dudgeon reserved for this behavior.

  54. Carole, good point that, typically, adulterers and dead beat dads don’t boast or parade or legally demand that you accept what they do as good, as many homosexuals do.  I agree this type of behavior makes it even more challenging for Christians to be accepting of them.  Such are the times we’re living in!  

  55. Doug, this is truly another imitation of placing restrictions on who can buy or sell of those who do not show themselves as having in their hearts and in the works of their hands the sign/mark of allegiance to the Roman beast’s disobedience to Christ (Rv 13:17). I’m not sure that (“no religious test”) America is going to wake up from its unrepentant stupor/madness. Regardless, may those who are persecuted/tried by this folly not depart from God’s word in the thoughts of their heart (forehead) and in their deeds (hands) per Dt 6:5-6,8, being faithful even unto death — just as John exhorted the victorious church of his age (Rv 2:10; 14:9,10,11,12) among/under prideful Caesar who abused his stewardship of dominion granted by his Most High Lord and King, the Word of God (Rv 17:14; 19:13,14,15,16; cf. Da 4:31,32,34,37).

  56. Timothy, I had decided to sit this discussion out, but since you mentioned me, “nobody is talking about feeding Christians to the lions” is only half of what I would say.  The other half is that there are some fairly horrific reports coming in from Uganda, Nigeria and Russia about truly awful things that Christians are doing to gay people, and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that it’s the 21st century equivalent of feeding them to the lions.  In Uganda, a Christian newspaper published the names and addresses of 200 local gays, and many of them have suffered mostly Christian mob violence as a result.  In Nigeria, Christian authorities are rounding up gays and torturing them into naming other gays.  In Orthodox Christian Russia, well, you get the drift.  And I’m sorry, but the level of hypocrisy that is required to complain about bakers being told to bake cakes, in light of how Christians are acting when the shoe is on the other foot, is incredible.  Even if I were otherwise inclined to care about the plight of poor photographers and florists being told they can’t turn away business — oh the humanity — I simply can’t bring myself to care in light of what is happening in Uganda.  You want to be treated with respect, tell your compadres in Kampala and Lagos to treat other people with respect.  And yes, that really is how it works.

  57. I asked my gay friend: “What about love between a dude and his daughter — adult daughter?”  He quietly shook his head: “They both need real help”

  58. Adding to Moor’s excellent and unanswered points above: service providers are under obligation to the social contract through social security and medicaid which provide them a share in future productivity of the economy, thus the contributions of queers and the children of queers.
    Separatist responses cannot solve your ethical dilemma. You will find yourselves punishing queers in their flesh. 
    I acknowledge that homosexuality is sin but fail to see a rational basis for persuading a unanimous jury of admirable people that it is a crime like all the other crimes. St. Paul is mistaken about the origin of same sex desire in idolatry (or atheism) and wrong in his prediction of an inevitable cascade of moral fault, crime and murder.

  59. Observing people using the “What Would Jesus Do” card is lots of fun. Watch this:
                                                                                                                                                                                                 “But since Powers played the “what would Jesus do” card, and since Merritt endorses and defends it, I’ll play along. . . . Merritt is not content with simply denouncing Christian photographers and such who do have moral objections to photographing events that would violate conscience. He is after bigger game. He  seems to believe that as a matter of social justice Jesus would have Caesar force his disciples (at least those who are artists) to photograph or paint these events. . . . According to Merritt (and Powers) then, not only would Jesus paint or photograph the  gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender “wedding” ceremony, he would call upon Caesar to force his recalcitrant disciples to do so if they refused. . . . Jesus, according to this line of argument, believes that they deserve, as a matter of justice, to be punished by Caesar.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                 http://juicyecumenism.com/2014/02/24/jonathan-merritt-christian-artistic-expression-and-the-preferential-option-for-caesar/

  60. Eric the Red seems desperate and hasty to assign hypocrisy and guilt to all of Christianity, regardless of whether or not we actually condemn mob violence.  Ready, fire, aim.  But as I’ve said before, the solution to the homosexual agenda isn’t political, but Gospel.  When the culture is changed, the politics and civic policy will follow to restrain evil.  The goal is not to raise a fence while the herd is still on the cliff side of the fence.  The civic fence should have been there for protection before the herd thought it was cool to dive off.  As for mob violence, it is one more symptom of cultural breakdown, not something condoned by Scripture.  As civilians, we are to make way for God’s appointed means of vengeance.  The magistrate bears the sword as ministers of God’s wrath, and they are accountable for due process.  A mob is contrary to all these Scriptural principles.  Eric is late to that party.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Also note that Eric the Red is continuing to hitch a ride on our sense of morality and conviction.  Although Eric has as a moral compass, his utilitarianism provides no magnetic field to direct it.  Utilitarianism cannot speak to the moral issue at all.  At best Eric the Red can only say that assaulting homosexuals is inefficient toward some arbitrarily chosen end.  Eric cannot say that such behavior is wrong or immoral.  He must appeal to us to supply what his worldview lacks.

  61. Well said, Katecho. Also, it’s a big world: there may be some end for which assaulting homosexuals would be efficient. For an utilitarian this is matter of tradeoffs, so there is no principled objection to assaulting homosexuals per se. A debate between two utilitarians regarding the propriety of assaulting homosexuals, in principle, can be completely academical and void of moral outrage. So his moral outrage is completely fake and manipulative.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 In fact, not only his stance on assaulting homosexuals, but the moral outrage itself is on display here for utilitarian reasons, and does not spring from any sense of offense to principled justice: the outrage too is a means to an arbitrary end. Switch the goal, and you will see utilitarians faking moral outrage for not assaulting homosexuals. The debate is not about assaulting homosexuals, but about the goals. And Christians have goals too.

  62. Scoop Moth makes his splash in the community pool with a trip off the  board and a brain flop  . Welcome.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
     
    Scoop, America signed a different Contract. We established a Covenantal government under the stewardship of God on these shores.  You and yours have discarded that covenant for your own ways and I will not buy what you are selling (especially if John Roberts tells me I must!)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
     
    Pastor Wilson has two excellent sermons available that explain the can-o-stubborn that God’s people has coming your way. You may want to prepare yourself.
     
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
     
    http://www.canonwired.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/1556.mp3
    http://www.canonwired.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/1562.mp3
     
     
    Grace and Peace.

  63. Katecho
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
     
    Thank you for the  reminder of Eric’s moral parasitism–it has taken about 100 repetitions on your part for the dim-bulb that resides in my brain to flicker on, but it appears I have actually absorbed what you have said. (:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
    Your “parable of the broken fence” is another idea of yours that will stick with me for a while as I think through its ramifications–from the particular man to the general community. It does describe our actions at the moment doesn’t it?
     

  64. Gianni.
     
    Excellent follow-up points. From you and Katecho, I have learned that when discussing morality with a Utilitarian like Eric The Red, the swiftest end to the nonsense is to argue the general and never the particulars that Eric brings up. That’s an important lesson. Thank you.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
    It also suggests an approach–and time-saver–when the next dead philosophy makes its appearance. Go for the heart of the matter and the details will fall.
     
                                                                                                                                                                                                                
    I expect some utilitarian outrage from Eric over this, but tough. If Eric cannot be bothered to examine the uselessness of his philosophy then I cannot be bothered to pay attention to stomping feet and tantrums.
     

  65. Although Katecho’s usual claim about no magnetic field for utilitarians to hitch their moral compass to is patently absurd, let’s run with it for a minute.  First of all, that tells us nothing about whether God actually exists, which is a yes-or-no fact question whose answer is not dependent on any consequences that may follow.  That would merely prove atheism is unpleasant, but not that it’s untrue.  So it really has no bearing on the fundamental tenet we’re discussing, and is simply an emotional appeal.  Oh dear, says Katecho, atheism can’t be true because it would be terrible if it were.  Well, a great many unpleasant things also happen to be true, and atheism may be one of them, and if we live in a world in which morality is a figment of people’s imaginations, then we live in a world in which morality is a figment of people’s imaginations.  Better to admit that reality and deal with it than to invent an author of something that doesn’t exist just because it makes us feel better.

  66. But we don’t have to fear about that, because Katecho’s claim is patently absurd, for reasons I’ve already explained over and over again to no apparent effect, so I’m not going to repeat myself for the umpteenth time.  Water is wet, fire is hot, and humans practice ethics.  It’s what we do, and we do it in part because it’s in our nature, and in part because it makes our communities more pleasant places in which to live.  If you don’t find those arguments persuasive, then you’re essentially in the same position as the man who once jumped off a cliff because it couldn’t be proven that he’d fall and die.  

  67. And the most telling part of Katecho’s post is that the problem with mob violence isn’t the violence, but the lack of due process.  Does anyone seriously think that a homosexual who is being stoned to death in accordance with Leviticus cares if he got a trial first?  Or that if Congress and the Supreme Court were made up entirely of the regular posters here, that life wouldn’t be extremely unpleasant for gays?  And the central thrust of my original comment, which has been ignored, is don’t complain about bad things being done to you if you want to achieve power so you can do bad things to other people, especially when the badness of being told to bake a cake or sell flowers pales in comparison to the badness of what most of you would like the state to do to gays.    Actually, it doesn’t matter if my morality has a basis to condemn hypocrisy, because your morality very clearly does, as Jesus repeatedly told the Pharisees.  And that kind of hypocrisy does not make you sympathetic to most people, which is why you’re fast losing the culture (to the extent you haven’t already).

  68. Eric, I’m not quite sure that you actually mounted an effective defense/offense against Katecho.

    _

    On another note, could you, Eric, make a value statement on murder purely on a utilitarian basis?  And I ask you to not include anything other than the act of murder itself (not the effect upon the victim’s family or the well-being of society).  Is murder, in and of itself, bad?  To define my terms, I do not include killing in the case of a just war, an execution due to a death sentence, or self-defense, but the killing of another individual without provocation.  Is there a utilitarian argument to declare murder bad without referencing secondary consequences?

  69. Eric sums up: “which is why you’re fast losing the culture (to the extent you haven’t already).”
    Not a bad battle cry there, but you’d do better by throwing dust in the air and crying out, “Great is Orgasma of the Californians!” Makes much better television, and this revolution is nothing if not fashionable.
    Since you’re in the mood for comparative bloodthirstiness, let’s look at our culture of death. Our sexual revolutionaries have retched up 57 million and counting virgin sacrifices on behalf of their goal, with Pilate in the wings not even trying to wash the blood from his hands. These sacrifices are sad, but acceptable for the larger purpose of absolute autonomy from bodily restraint.
     
    Then from this overflowing reservoir of blood comes the cry, “HA! Your Scriptures say to stone the homosexual! Bunch of hypocrites!” although it’s hard to hear over all the vacuums and forceps and curettes. But this is the new sexual imperialism, where actual human life is considered human waste, and actual human waste is considered sexual lubricant. Hey, whatever works, at least until we hit the grave with a satisfying thud.
    But Eric, you are right by saying right now, it appears Christians are losing the war for the culture. But everyone knows how hard it is to talk someone out of suicide.
     

  70. While I applaud Eric’s engagement here, it is morbidly fascinating to watch a moral parasite latch on to the “sympathies of most people” as a survival strategy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

    I honestly cannot decide what exhibits a better moral sense–a tick, a lamprey, a tape-worm or a Humian Utiliatarian.

    Eric correctly discerns that the moral sense and sympathies of a man, a country, a culture  or a church do change.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
     
    But, we also know from scripture and close experience that men, countries ,cultures  and churches do repent and do radically alter their sensibilities and behavior.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
     
    I suspect that Eric senses the fragility of his position–so he does beat the tick–so there is that.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
     
    I think he now knows that the sympathies and allegiance of a Godly people are non-negotiable–I am certainly doing my best to convince him of that fact.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

    I suspect that Eric’s cultural bretheren sense it as well–I mean heck, an old skinny,  redneck patriarch with a duck whistle and a Bible just kicked their butts with the Word of God.

  71. Katecho, well said: “As for mob violence, it is one more symptom of cultural breakdown, not something condoned by Scripture.”  Eric The Red, just because some people around the world are doing something awful in the name of Christianity (not truly representing Christ but their own self-interest), doesn’t mean other Christians will condone it.  Thus, it would only be hypocrisy if we actually did.  So your charge of hypocrisy was ad hominem.  

  72. I have seen them described elsewhere as “churchians”

    that’s not bad, but it does slightly lack the flair that I have come to expect from our host.

    It is a neologism not of his coinage, so there is no reason it would have his flair.

    Scroop Moth said ” a share in future productivity of the economy, thus the contributions of queers and the children of queers

    Which… they cannot have without taking someone else’s children, engaging in gestational prostitution, or using the genetic material of someone outside of the relationship.
     

  73. No, all Christians are not engaging in mob violence against gays.  And all gays are not supportive of suing florists and bakers; there are gay libertarians who believe on principle that businesses should be able to choose their customers.  And there are other gays who think that those particular battles aren’t worth the trouble, particularly when they make bigots into martyrs.  That said, when American evangelicals talk the Ugandans into passing a kill the gays bill, from a pure public relations standpoint that makes any claim that it is Christians who are being persecuted completely risible.  You don’t even get to make the argument that utilitarians don’t have a basis for morality because your entire audience except the already-converted has already stopped listening.
     

  74. Jon, not all atheists and not all gays think abortion should be legal.  Both of those camps have a right to life contingent.  But abortion is primarily a heterosexual issue; it’s irresponsible straight people who seem not to know how to use birth control and who then end up at abortion clinics.  You won’t find may gay people there for an abortion.  So don’t even try to lay that one at the doorstep of gays.
     

  75. Wesley, asking a utilitarian to make a value judgment without looking at the consequences of the act is like asking a Christian to make a value judgment without using the Bible.  I view a desirable result as the ultimate justification; you view adherence to what you believe to be the will of God as the ultimate justification.  So, you’re asking me to argue outside my paradigm.  Inside my paradigm, my answer would be that if you spend a few minutes actually thinking through what it would be like to live in a society in which murder were acceptable behavior, you’ll soon see what that would be a really bad idea.
     

  76. Alright, that’s fair, I understand arguing within paradigms and worldviews, but I’m not quite satisfied.  You said:

    Inside my paradigm, my answer would be that if you spend a few minutes actually thinking through what it would be like to live in a society in which murder were acceptable behavior, you’ll soon see what that would be a really bad idea. (emphasis Wesley’s)

    Your paradigm is dependent upon some other standard outside itself in order to make that claim.  If we “live[d] in a society in which murder were acceptable behavior” we’d simply live in a society in which murder were acceptable behavior.  Murder is therefore the good.

  77. And what keeps anyone, if they have the necessary will-power and public opinion, to change us to that society?  Which is consequently why John Locke stated in one of his writings that he did not wish for atheists to have civil rights, but that’s another issue :)

  78. the civil rights movement was non-violent civil disobedience aimed mainly at abuses by state and local governments such as forced segregation and voter discrimination.  I
    Daniel,Kamilla what was forced to be segregated? Part of it was businesses that prohibited Blacks from doing business. Banks would refuse to give loans to Blacks. That is what segregation is as much as separate water fountains. To promote the position that you want, you have to admit that you want certain segregation and discrimination based on religious principles.

  79. Eric,
     
    You don’t even get to make the argument that utilitarians don’t have a basis for morality because your entire audience except the already-converted has already stopped listening.”                                                                                                                                                                                               Do you really believe that truth is dependent upon a willingness to listen, and therefore if no one is listening, we cannot make the argument? When Jesus says words such as “whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…”, there is an implication that some do not have “ears to hear”. That does not stop Him from making His argument.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Also, what makes your “desirable result” better that the “desirable result” of a Stalin, someone willing to “break a few eggs” for his omelet. In your paradigm was only an undesirable result for the “eggs”.

  80. It is a neologism not of his coinage, so there is no reason it would have his flair.

    Arwen, I wondered if there was a term for the word play I described.  Thanks for providing it (even if I did have to look the word up).
    May I suggest a term that may fit the bill nicely while keeping the flavor of Pastor Wilson’s Marriage/mirage neologistic pairing?  Christian/christain.  I admit that I came upon it by accident.  It seems that christain is one of my most frequent typos as my fingers often get slightly out of sync when typing at a speed faster than my brain.  While the typo was always an accident, I had long noticed how the misspelling might well be a fitting description for those who take upon themselves the Lord’s name without the benefit of actual conversion.  A stain on the Lord’s name you might say.  
                                                                                                                                                                             Here is an example of its use borrowed from a comment by comrade Eric above:

    The other half is that there are some fairly horrific reports coming in from Uganda, Nigeria and Russia about truly awful things that christains are doing to gay people, and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that it’s the 21st century equivalent of feeding them to the lions.

    See how it works.  What do you think?
     

  81. Shenanigans surrounding bakers and florists are all for show.  Now that the right has predictably gone and tried to make it legal to discriminate against gays, thereby proving just about everything said about them, I’m half inclined to think the whole thing a ruse to provoke just that outcome.  If you want to pray to God for something, pray for some savvy, because conservatives have less than none.  It’s all for show though, because gays currently make up something like 3% of the population, and only a subset of them ever want to get married.  Say 20% of 3%, or 0.6%.  Maybe less, half the fun of being gay is not having to mess around with marriage.  It’s a rounding error, and once all the fervor dies down you will be able to go your entire life without ever seeing a real live gay marriage, much less having to bake a cake for one.  I’d have to dispute, though, that they aren’t real marriages.  They are, which is what makes the whole “you don’t have to recognize them” so bogus.  Of course you do, what would be the alternative?

  82. As excited as I was to see someone pick up on my question, I was even more discouraged that what ensued wasn’t an answer to my question.  Sometimes it seems like a person needs to be vulgar or anti-Christian to get a question answered around here (or attack Doug directly).  But I’m genuinely in need of help thinking through this, so, please, would all the really smart people who comment here provide some thoughts on my question (or a link if Doug has already addressed it)?  Thanks.

  83. RFB, of course truth does not depend on a willingness to listen, but that’s not the point.  The point is that some people, by their conduct, have forfeited the right to be taken seriously on certain subjects.  A lawyer who has been disbarred for stealing from clients who then gets up in public to expound on legal ethics should expect to get jeered off the stage, even if everything he’s saying is true.  A pedophile priest who tries lecturing people on the sanctity of marriage will be laughed at, even if everything he’s saying is true.  And Christians who get Uganda to pass a kill the gays bill, and then come home to complain that homosexuals are persecuting them by forcing the sale of cakes and flowers will get nothing but derision, contempt and raspberries, for exactly the same reason.  And seriously, the only people who seem not to get that are the Christians complaining they’re being persecuted.  I can assure you that that point is well understood by everyone else, and it’s a huge part of the reason you can’t even get red states to pass religious liberty bills protecting those florists and bakers.  You’re being laughed at, not because you’re Christians, but because you’re hypocrites.

  84. As for your second question, RFB, as to who is to say that my desirable result is preferable to Stalin’s, the same people who get to say that having steak for dinner is preferable to having dog poop.  If you seriously want to make the argument that there is no utilitarian difference between Stalin’s results and my proposed results, well, good luck selling that.

  85. Wesley, no, you’ve fallen into the trap of assuming all outcomes are equal, and they aren’t.  Outcomes that produce prosperity are preferable to outcomes that produce want; outcomes that produce pleasure are preferable to outcomes that produce pain.  Same comment I just made to RFB:  the people who get to decide which outcomes are preferable are the same people who get to decide that having steak for dinner is preferable to having dog poop.  You want to argue that dog poop is just as good a dinner as steak, fine, but I won’t be accepting many dinner invitations to your place.

  86. Moor, when I don’t answer a question it is usually for one of a number of reasons.  Just don’t have time, don’t have a good answer, or I think someone else may answer it better than I could.  However, since you bring it up, I’ll give it a try.  I assume this is the question you are referring to:

    The main argument I’ve seen against “business owners choosing whom to serve” is that business owners are granted FDIC insurance, police and fire service, and other municipal “privileges” when they become business owners — and they are therefore beholden to uphold the standards of the system they’ve entered.      

    FDIC insurance, as far as I know, is “granted” to any bank customer and as such I don’t see how it enters into the argument.  Police service: paid for by me in the form of taxes.  Fire service: paid for by me in the form of taxes.  Other municipal privileges: paid for by me in the form of taxes, and I might add, whether I want them or not and whether they help me or hinder me in my business. 
                                                                                                                                                                             So what exactly is it about this business transaction (me as customer paying for a service) that gives them (the seller of that service) the right to intrude on any religious convictions I may have.

  87. outcomes that produce pleasure are preferable to outcomes that produce pain
     

    Aztec priests derived pleasure from cutting the beating heart out of their sacrificial victims breast.
     
    Attilla the Hun derived pleasure from killing his enemies and raping their wives.
    Eric approves.

  88. St Lee.
     
    What is very sad about Moor is that hell is just full of smart people who would very much like to answer Moor’s question–just not in the manner that Moor is expecting, nor providing the answer that Moor would prefer. It is a terrible thing to see a smart man like Moor embrace his damnation.
     

  89. Moor–it gets worse than my plaid pants, striped socks and matchingcheckered sweater–Satan dresses well. Are you sure you want to promenade down that runway? or would you rather repent.
    Fwiw, God–the author of Beauty–knows a bit about the worthy art of fashion.

  90. Moor  asks a question because he’s not sure how to answer his non-Christian opponents when they make a certain point, and he’d like some help. Moor then expresses appreciation for a good point made by Brian that he can also use in discussions with his non-Christian opponents. Then Moor is accused of “embracing his damnation” and needing to be led to Christ. Are we really reading each carefully here?

  91. Eric, A morally repugnant priest or lawyer has forfeited the right to be taken seriously even when making a valid moral point, but two such individuals don’t disqualify the whole class of priests or lawyers from gaining a hearing. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                   And for your second answer, Eric, no one prefers dog poop to steak, but lots of people prefer being tyrants over others.

  92. St Paul says idol meat purchased at market is morally harmless to the consumer and needs to be avoided only if some confused person might jump to the conclusion that eating idol meat is idol worship.  Abstention is a matter of condescension not conscience. We don’t always expect a lot of acumen from a baker or florist but Doug Wilson you are hopeless.  Write about this again when Evangelicals divest Marriott, IHG and Hilton and refuse the services done to humanity by queers through the ages, possibly including St Paul the great homophobe himself. Anyone who is not trying to be confused can see that the market is not a gift exchange. Endorsements, if they happen in the marketplace, might flow to sellers (Michael Jordan to Nike) but rarely if at all from sellers to buyers.

  93. Ree, you are correct that a single bad apple doesn’t tarnish the entire barrel, but there’s a fairly significant difference you’re overlooking.  Most of the time, a lawyer who has been disbarred or a priest who has abused children will be shunned by the rest of the profession.  The rest of the profession excoriates such conduct and disassociates themselves from it.  Where are the Christian leaders who are excoriating the evangelicals who went to Uganda to get the kill the gays bill passed?  If those evangelicals responsible for the persecution of gays in Uganda were being shunned, disfellowshiped, excommunicated and decried by other Christians, then you would be right.  But that’s not happening.  Liberal Christians are denouncing them, yes, but their fellow conservatives are either silent or approving.
     

  94. Timothy, Eric sides with the victims of the Aztec priests and Attilla, who were suffering because of the things being done to them.  Pleasure is preferable to pain for them too.  And the societies in which they lived would have gotten better results for everyone if that conduct hadn’t been happening.  P.S. If you want to derive pleasure from trying to lead me to Christ, knock yourself out.  

  95. St Paul says idol meat purchased at market is morally harmless to the consumer and needs to be avoided only if some confused person might jump to the conclusion that eating idol meat is idol worship.  <i>Abstention is a matter of condescension not conscience</i>.
     

    I think you and St. Paul define “meat” differently.

  96. Ree.
     
    Read carefully this line by Moore: “half the fun of being gay is not having to mess around with marriage.”/// Yes, I am helping, but not in a way that is pleasant for Moore.
     
     

  97. Eric.
    Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross is propitiation of sin for the entire human race from time 0 to today. Is Jesus death and resurrection  a Utilitarian good?

  98. “an apostle of Jesus Christ taught us that for a man to burn with lust for another man was unnatural”
     
    True … but Paul also said that men having long hair was shameful (hear that Ted Nugent?), that women should keep their yaps shut and have no authority over men (hear that Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann?) and that slaves should submit to their owners.   Not too many fundamentalists insist in literal readings of these passages, however, preferring to do an  exegetical tap dance that simply renders these passages irrelevant (or meaning something other than what the text clearly implies).
     
    Don’t begrudge us outsiders if we simply take a cue from you folks and discard Paul’s teachings on this matter as the ramblings of a man who  spent too much time in the hot Middle Eastern sun without benefit of central air.

  99.  
    Moor, regarding your question: “How do we respond to that?”  In addition to St. Lee’s good point about business owners having to pay taxes for Village services, there are also considerations regarding our religious liberty guaranteed in the Establishment Clause, plus freedom of association, plus property rights.  It is not the government’s job to legislate for the public’s conscience; it is only to legislate against potential crimes.  Moreover, a baker or a florist is not a public business, but a private one.  Public businesses are State/Village owned, such as a post office, a school, or a library.  Therefore, private businesses should be given some freedom here.  No law or government should force a private business to participate in a gay wedding (whether via flowers or cakes) if it violates their personal conscience.  In such a situation, the gay couple should simply take their business elsewhere.  More than likely, it isn’t the fact that they’re gay that is the issue, but the “condoning” of the gay wedding, which would violate the business owner’s religious convictions.  Another example would be if an owner of a pizza establishment serves gay customers who come into his store, yet may refuse to cater a gay couple’s wedding rehearsal dinner.  Again, it should be the business owner’s decision.  True, there may be some people who don’t agree with the pizza owner’s choice, and that is their right as well.  They can choose to not dine there, and they can persuade their friends to not dine there.  This is how the free market should work.  Overall, will some feelings be hurt on occasion?  Probably.  But again, it’s not the government’s job, or the purview of the law, to protect everyone’s feelings from getting hurt.  Thus, we need to strike a reasonable balance between a true act of discrimination, as opposed to someone merely exercising their religious convictions as guaranteed by the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.  When such tensions arise, both parties need to be considered, not just the offended gay couple who was refused floral services.  If some feel compelled to label the private business owner a bigot and a hater for refusing to cater his services for a gay wedding, then how should we label those who readily dismiss the owner’s religious convictions?  Are they bigots and haters too?  Are they anti-constitutionalists?  Does someone’s feelings being hurt override another’s constitutionally protected religious freedom?  These are not easy issues, and I don’t pretend that they are.  But we shouldn’t pretend that it all boils down to simple bigotry and homophobia.  That is pure demagogue.  We need to get the emotion out of it, as well as the phony labels and name calling.  It’s really about striking a balance between discrimination and religious liberty, and determining how much the government should, or should not, intervene in such matters. 

  100. St. Lee disagrees with my statement that there is no single Christian voice about how we should respond to gay issues within the culture.  But even on the far Christian right, there is diversity of opinion:  there are those who believe that gays should be executed, exiled, or jailed; there are those who believe they should not be allowed to hold responsible positions within society; there are those who believe that their sexual activities should not be criminalized but that they should not benefit from anti-discrimination laws; there are those who will tolerate gay conduct that stays more or less in the closet and does not propagandize, to use Putin’s word.  Is only one of these attitudes genuinely Christian, and would that be–of course–the one that is most punitive towards gays?  Am I a “Christain” (i.e. a stain upon my risen Lord as someone explained) because–although I accept Jesus as my Savior, and although I accept my church’s teaching that gay sexual activity is wrong–I do not accept the notion that gay sex is a sin more dreadful than any other, nor do I believe that I was placed on earth to make the often miserable lives of gay people a little more wretched.   I think the problem with writing off as un-Christian anyone who you believe is tolerating evil by not sharing an extreme antipathy to gays is that you end up so far on the margins of the culture that it becomes difficult to engage it effectively.  The fact is that for most Americans the notion of executing, exiling, or jailing gays is repellent, and although it might be easy to say that most Americans are therefore not Christians, that statement dismisses and antagonizes rather than engages and persuades.  If many Americans have reached the point of considering maybe gay marriage isn’t so terrible after all, calling them evil and doomed to hellfire is not likely to make them reconsider.  I think that many people here take for granted that everyone has an innate sense that homosexual behavior is disgusting, pathological, and obviously sinful in the way that worshiping Satan is (for a Christian) obviously sinful.  Assume for a minute that many of us simply do not have that innate sense.  Assume that many of us have gay family members and gay friends,  and that we don’t see the people we love as monsters of depravity.   Assume further that we live in a sexually jaded age and that a description of what two women or two men might do with each other no longer produces much of an ick factor.  Finally, assume that most people no longer share a belief–or a desire–that America ought to be governed by a Protestant version of Biblical Christianity.   What guidance can you give such a person in forming a right conscience about this issue?  I think it would also be helpful to recognize that for some people, the difficulty they face in forming a right conscience is not because they desire to be hip or cool but because they want to be fair.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a sexual orientation which, if expressed, will reportedly result in the flames of hell, and if repressed, will mean I go through life without the kind of relationships and family ties we all take for granted.  When I think of the plight of that person, I don’t have any desire to say, “You know what?  You’re damned.  And we’re not going to let you have any happiness in this life either.”  As a Catholic, I believe that any unrepented sin will land me into hell, but that’s a different issue.  But the Arizona bill, supported by only 28% of Republican voters according to one poll, shows that even in conservative circles people’s attitudes have changed over the last few years.  Presumably some of the opponents of the bill were evangelicals and Catholics who have read Leviticus.  Are they all apostate or is there a valid Christian response other than the one I tend to find here?

  101. Timothy writes: “And then you go to hell for eternity.”
    And there you have it.  The fundamentalist threat: believe and do what I tell you  (all of which are contained in an ever-expanding Chinese menu of ever-changing items) or have your skin burned off your bones in a literal lake of fire forever and ever and ever by MY God who LOOOOOVESSS me!!  Mee … MEEE …. MEEEEEE!!!
    You guys really need to work on your sales pitch. 
     
     

  102. Hi Jill.  You said: “If many Americans have reached the point of considering maybe gay marriage isn’t so terrible after all, calling them evil and doomed to hellfire is not likely to make them reconsider.”  I agree with you, we shouldn’t call them evil and we shouldn’t tell them they’re doomed to hellfire simply because they’re gay.  Without Christ, all of us are condemned to hell, due to our willful sin before a holy God.  Our only hope is in Christ’s forgiveness based on His atoning sacrifice on the cross.  This doesn’t mean we have to agree that gay marriage is normal; it is not normal.  But it does mean that we shouldn’t demonize people who are gay, as I’ve stated before. 

  103. According to Calvinism, James, not just loves you so much that you are tormented in the lake of fire but created you with the specific intention of doing that.  Not just knew that you would end up in the lake but intended it and planned it before you were born, no matter whether your behavior on earth resembled Mother Teresa’s or the Night Stalker’s.   I keep hoping I have that doctrine all wrong, but most of my Calvinist friends have said, “Yup.  Pretty much.” when I run it by them.

  104. @Timothy
    I’m pretty sure that people of our and St Paul’s day hear the same range of meanings for the word meat: from anatomical to culinary to metaphorical to vulgar. I have many vices but twisting meanings of words in order to contradict or pejorate a speaker is not one of them.  

  105. I just read that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the controversial bill that was sent to her.  She stated, “The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”  Personally, I think it’s a wise decision on her part.  While I disagree with gay marriage, I don’t think legislators should try and game the system to get around it.  We have to be a nation of laws, even laws which we don’t always agree with.  Having said that, if a situation arises where a private business owner feels their religious liberty is being denied, then he/she has a right to fair hearing too.  But as I’ve stated before, as a Christ follower, my chief concern is not to win the cultural and political battles, but to seek Christ’s kingdom and to see more lost sinners brought into the kingdom.    

  106. If 1) God punishes the wicked by giving them over to lusts, and 2) God further punishes the wicked by giving them over to a debased mind, and if 3) these men and women make laws that cause Christians to go out of business, are we right to conclude that the church is being punished for the sins of the wicked?

  107. Hi Jill,
    In the main I agree with you, but I do believe one of the reason homosexuals are deeply unhappy is because they are living in unrepentant sin.  I guess we will see if after all the laws are changed and their sin is embraced by our culture completely, will they still be wretched….I think they will.  That is felt with natural law apart from special revelation.  On that same note, why is it that the ick factor is no longer there for homosexual acts?  Isn’t that similar to divorce no longer seeming tragic, abortion no longer seeming cruel? Once upon a time these things did bother us.  I pray our hearts get no harder. What will seem pedestrian next?

  108. Eric, According to the Ugandans, American evangelicals had nothing to do with the Ugandan response to the push to normalize homosexuality in their country. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                   http://www.worldmag.com/2010/02/homegrown_controversy

  109. Thank you Dan and Ree for taking a stab at the question (and thanks Ree for clearing up the confusion with Timothy, it was admittedly a little odd to be told I needed to repent and such, but Timothy’s nothing if not a straight-shooter!).                                                                                                                                                                                                        If I understand the answers correctly, it sounds like the response should be something along these lines: “Yes, as a private business owner I receive the benefits being provided by this municipality, but they are benefits I pay for with my tax dollars (as a citizen and business owner) and my duty to the “system” simply extends to the payment of those taxes.  I am not beholden to any social standard beyond those established by law.”                                                                                                                                                                         The debate I was having on another site is over anyway, and I reached an expected impasse with the Atheists I was debating.  In the end, I found them to be much like every internet Atheist I’ve debated: prone to name-calling, logic averse, quick to judge and ascribe false motive, and hateful in their assessment of Christianity and the Christian worldview.  It makes for sometimes invigorating, sometimes eminently frustrating, and hopefully always sharpening dialog.

  110. Carole, well said: “Isn’t that similar to divorce no longer seeming tragic, abortion no longer seeming cruel?  Once upon a time these things did bother us.  I pray our hearts get no harder.”

  111. Matt wrote:

    “Shenanigans surrounding bakers and florists are all for show.  Now that the right has predictably gone and tried to make it legal to discriminate against gays, thereby proving just about everything said about them, I’m half inclined to think the whole thing a ruse to provoke just that outcome.  If you want to pray to God for something, pray for some savvy, because conservatives have less than none.”

    Matt seems to be implying that the political right is somehow responsible for making this an issue to club gays with.  Perhaps Matt has forgotten who was the plaintiff in the lawsuits against these businesses.  Hint:  it wasn’t the Christians.  However, I am happy to grant Matt’s premise that this is “all for show”.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I realize that everything these days must be cast in the left/right political paradigm, and that we aren’t supposed to question the main stream media narrative served to us, but for all of the talk about tolerance and respect for other people’s views, I’m not seeing any tolerance or respect for those who have honest religious convictions.  In some cases these business owners aren’t opposed to referring homosexuals to other willing providers of the same service.  Yet they get dragged to court anyway.  Eric the Red wants to protest that this is not religious persecution.  Fine.  We’ll reserve that term for more violent actions.  But it is certainly costly in legal bills, and it is certainly vindictive and hypocritical on the part of those particular homosexuals who want to flex their new political power rather than just get their cake down the street.   When will Matt or Eric the Red acknowledge this more accurate narrative?

  112. Moor wrote:

    it sounds like the response should be something along these lines: “Yes, as a private business owner I receive the benefits being provided by this municipality, but they are benefits I pay for with my tax dollars (as a citizen and business owner) and my duty to the “system” simply extends to the payment of those taxes.  I am not beholden to any social standard beyond those established by law.”

    Thanks to Moor for being a good sport about the earlier confusion.  Posts are coming in fast, but no excuse not to try to read carefully.  I think Dan and Ree answered the way I would respond, but it’s possible to chase the problem a bit deeper, and into a slightly different direction.
                                                                                                                                                                                                               If an atheist supposes that societal benefits (such as FDIC insurance, fire and police services, etc) obligate everyone to conform to all of the standards of that system, then what does the atheist do when the system is theistic?  What happens when the societal benefits and protections come from a religious standard?  Is the atheist still beholden to that standard?  Does the atheist conform or rebel?  I think their honest answer would indicate a double-standard at work.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            As a side comment on the subject of taxation for civic services, in many places the benefits are far beyond what the State actually collects in taxes.  So if the argument is that we are beholden because we get the benefits, it can be a bit simplistic to point out that we are all paying our fair share for those services.  The fact is that we pay far less than what we are receiving, in many cases (especially at a federal level (Obamacare)(cough)).  But who are we then beholden to?  The government which spent money it did not have, without asking us if we even wanted the subsidy?  Why should we be beholden to them on that basis?  Shouldn’t we be beholden to the future generation that has to pay for our largess?  You see, it quickly becomes a complicated mess.  One thing is clear though, our governments love to create situations where the people feel increasingly beholden to them.  The out-of-control State loves that kind of control.  The atheist that Moor refers to seems to aspire to be just that kind of serf.

  113. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Oh dear, says Katecho, atheism can’t be true because it would be terrible if it were.”

    Eric the Red herring has attempted to put these words in my mouth before.  He wasn’t successful then either, because I never offered such an argument.  Eric may enjoy knocking down his straw man arguments, but it wastes everyone else’s time.  Eric also said:

    “That would merely prove atheism is unpleasant, but not that it’s untrue. …      Well, a great many unpleasant things also happen to be true, and atheism may be one of them …”

    Eric has expressed this sentiment before.  It verges on an admission that atheism is unpleasant, which is a confession I’m happy to accept from him.  I too find atheism unpleasant, but it hasn’t been the basis of any of my arguments against it.  Eric said:

    “… if we live in a world in which morality is a figment of people’s imaginations, then we live in a world in which morality is a figment of people’s imaginations.  Better to admit that reality and deal with it than to invent an author of something that doesn’t exist just because it makes us feel better.”

    Eric holds morality lightly in his hand.  He seems to have come to terms that he can’t keep it and keep his utilitarianism at the same time.  But what happens if we replace the word “morality”, above, with the word “purpose” or “utility” or “value”.  Seriously, take a moment to do the susstitution.  What if we live in a world in which values are a figment of people’s imaginations?  What does that do to Eric’s utilitarianism?  Eric seems to be quite comfortable with hominids inventing values out of thin air and then living little utilitarian lives around the made-up values.  It’s a nice warm blanket to make us feel better, apparently.  What in heaven does Eric the Red have against feeling better anyway?  He builds his entire utilitarian house of cards on the value of pleasure, for pleasure’s sake!  Eric is the last one to be lecturing anyone on make-believe feel-good worldviews.

  114. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Water is wet, fire is hot, and humans practice ethics.  It’s what we do, and we do it in part because it’s in our nature, and in part because it makes our communities more pleasant places in which to live.”

    Eric is an enigma of contradiction.  After condemning the invention of feel-good worldviews, he immediately drifts into a justification of the arbitrary human practice of ethics on the basis that it “makes our communities more pleasant”.  Oops.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Eric seems blinded to such a degree that he can’t see that he is arguing from is to ought.  Eric informs us that water is wet, and fire is hot.  Unfortunately, this tells us nothing about whether water should be wet, or fire should be hot.  Should hominids do ethics?  Eric seems to have no answer.  He simply wants to keep shouting that they do.  That’s the problem.  People do behave ethically (even materialistic atheists).  The problem is that Eric has no rational account for this.  In his worldview, it simply is.  It is completely and utterly arbitrary and purposeless.  Any meaning or purpose or value that Eric attempts to assign to the behavior is just post hoc, emotional feel-goodery on his part.  It’s completely irrational in the strong sense of not having any rational basis.  It just is.  Eric has been invited many times to show otherwise.  He seems to revel in the irrationality of his godless worldview.  He keeps parading it around as though he’s proud of it. 

  115. Not only that, but Eric is rapidly aging.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 Every day he is facing the cold fact that a thankless, amoral universe is soon going to forget all about him and everything he has ever done, said, and loved. Not that it ever cared, either. Every day is a day toward total oblivion. Eric is trying to leave a mark, to make people see, to defend an idea. Posting comments on the internet gives him the illusion that something of him will remain after all. It won’t. Nothing will remain of him. Nothing he is doing, or saying, has ever had, and ever will have, any significance whatsoever. Eric could be arguing the exact opposite of what he is doing now, and it would be just as meaningless. Not just that that it wouldn’t make any difference: it’s void of meaning.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 Today is Thursday, and tomorrow is Friday. It won’t go on forever for Eric. One day he will stop breathing. His body will start decaying. They will bury him. They could leave him unburied, prey of vultures, and it too would be meaningless. Tears will be shed for him, but they will be meaningless tears. A few people will remember him for some time. Then they also will die. Nothing will remain. Nothing will matter. It won’t matter who loves who, you’ll love me or I’ll love you, when the night comes falling from the sky for Eric. He will die like the homophobe, like the creationist, like the dictator, like the hypocrite. No justice will be done, ever. There’s no justice. No mercy. Eric will die like the dog, like the spider, like an ancient dinosaur nobody knows he ever existed. Tomorrow is a day closer. There’s a slow train coming, up around the bend. Eric will soon be long, long gone. And yet right now he feels the urge to post a message in reply to what I am saying. That also is vanity.

  116. Katecho, the problem is your assumption that there has to be a should.  There is no should.  Water is wet and fire is hot just because they are, not because it’s a moral imperative.  Humans practice ethics because we do (and because it makes our communities more pleasant to live in) because we do, and not because there’s any moral imperative.   On the same note, Gianni, I am well aware of my own mortality; I’m not a young man and I’ve had a couple of health scares in the not too recent past.  I could tell myself there’s an afterlife to make myself feel better, but that’s all it would be.  Reality is what it is.  And if my agenda were leaving a mark, I can assure you there are far more productive ways to do it than commenting on an internet board with a total regular readership in probably the small three digits.  I’m here mostly because it amuses me.

  117. Here’s a good article:
    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/02/jan-brewers-foolish-veto-104014_full.html
     
    “For critics of the Arizona bill, the substance was almost an afterthought. They recoiled at the very idea that someone might have moral objections to homosexuality or gay marriage.”
    “The critics of the much-maligned Arizona bill pride themselves on their live-and-let-live open-mindedness, but they are highly moralistic in their support of gay marriage, judgmental of those who oppose it and tolerant of only one point of view on the issue — their own.
    “For them, someone else’s conscience is only a speed bump on the road to progress. It’s get with the program, your religious beliefs be damned.”
     

  118. St. Lee disagrees with my statement that there is no single Christian voice about how we should respond to gay issues within the culture.

    Jill, you have misunderstood my point – but its not your fault because I did not clarify.  When you said this:

    There is no single Christian voice on this matter:

    My immediate thought was, “sure there is, and its found in the Bible.”  The problem arises when we listen the all the voices, some Christian and some christain (see my comment from the 26th at 12:30 pm for an explanation of that terminology) and allow our “feelings” or human sense of fairness to trump God’s word.

  119. Katecho, I agree with you on the substance of forcing bakers to bake cakes for gay weddings, which at best seems to be a colossal waste of effort.  As an aside, I’d like a follow-up: were the cakes baked, were the pictures taken?  I’d give it a 95% chance that the plaintiffs were just trolling and used another more friendly provider.  I can see the validity of antidiscrimination statutes in cases like the Jim Crow South, where the situation was so bad it was difficult for blacks to take much of any part in a normal economic life.  That pretty clearly is not the situation here, and here’s the thing, no one even attempts to claim that it is.  But my point was only that the gay discrimination statutes are so stupid and typical, one might even say stereotypical, of the right that I half believe the original suits were designed to provoke precisely that reaction.  Seriously, can you imagine a more dense and useless course of action? 

  120. Katecho, well said: “One thing is clear though, our governments love to create situations where the people feel increasingly beholden to them.  The out-of-control State loves that kind of control.”  Agreed.  The new credo of our age seems to be: accepting more government control denotes “tolerance” and desiring limited government control denotes “intolerance”.  Such are the times we’re living in.

  121. Not your mortality, Eric. The meaninglessness. The meaninglessness of your short and pointless existence. The meaninglessness of what you are talking about. The meaninglessness of taking one side instead of another. The meaninglessness of the next sentence you will type. The meaninglessness of your next smile.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 Show us some more utilitarianism. Join us and preach the Gospel of Christ from now on. That is going to make some people feel better, apparently, including yourself, apparently. Why would you live miserably your last days? Why do you hate yourself so much? Which way you whistle is irrelevant. With some imagination there are always ways to make some people happy. Ways to have fun. If you can fool yourself that your smile is meaningful, surely you can fool yourself again that there is an afterlife and that Christ is Lord. It’s lots of fun to see things that way. Go and post Christian viewpoints in some atheist forum for a laugh. It’s all meaningless, but that’s the point.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 Just kidding. Why would you want to show us the meaninglessness of atheistic utilitarianism? Stay right here, Eric, and keep on entertaining us. At least we believe in the meaningfulness of a smile. Keep pretending that what you are writing does have some sense, or some moral urgency. It doesn’t to us, and it doesn’t even to you, but your time is running out. I heard someone say it may do good to people to tell themselves lies so they will feel better. You will soon be long, long gone. We understand the sheer desperation.
     

  122. As to whether this is persecution, since that seems to be a sticking point, I’m not sure.  There are, to my mind, two approaches.  The first says that since wedding cakes and flowers are such minor things, it can’t possibly be persecution to fine people for refusing to make them in particular instances.  But the second says that only a borderline totalitarian attitude would be concerned legally with such minor things as wedding cakes and flowers to begin with, much less finding the last 10 christian bakers and driving a stake of glitter through their hearts.  There are the laws, and then there is the application of the laws, and no matter how unbiased the former the latter is pretty clearly being directed as recriminations against the losing side in this latest round of the never-ending culture war.  It’s notable that even pro-SSM types haven’t attempted to argue that it is impossible for gay weddingers to find a bakery/florist/photographer in light of the massive consensus of hatred they face.  Because that is clearly an absurd proposition.  It’s also notable that no one has ever actually tried to demonstrate any concrete harm resulting from the refusal of a Christian B/F/P to work with a gay wedding, making the whole thing look even more vindictive.  So the question of persecution isn’t so clear cut, and the current state of affairs ought to make anyone uncomfortable with the implications.

  123. I think it’s worth noting that Eric admits, in his last post, that ethics is merely something that happens, rather than something that should happen.  I suppose you would maintain, Eric, that when faced with someone who does whatever he pleases to secure his own happiness and is successful in doing so, that there’s no true sense that he “should” do anything else.  (Like you just said, there really is no should.)  Have I got that right? That’s remarkably different from most traditional ethical systems, you must admit that.

  124. But it’s not meaningless, Gianni.  Atheists derive the same pleasure from friends, families, volunteer work, eating good food, traveling to interesting places, attending sporting events and reading good books that theists do.  The difference is that we make the most of this life because there isn’t going to be another one.  You seem to think that something can only have meaning if it lasts forever.  And frankly, the whole notion behind the kind of meaning you’re looking for is a hyper-inflated notion of the importance of the human race, both collectively and individually.  Well, Galileo showed us that we’re not at the center of the solar system.  Darwin showed us that we’re not the product of special creation.  Maybe we’re not as important as you think.
     

  125. And by the way, if you want to talk about lack of meaning, what about the billions of people who aren’t elect and who were predestined to be damned, without there being a thing they can do about it?  Your theology works for you because you consider yourself one of the lucky lottery winners who is going somewhere nice for eternity.  In other words, you’ve got yours.  But your theology has nothing to offer most people who didn’t win that lottery.  At least under my system, they get to rest in peace.

  126. Jonathan, your question, and Timothy’s earlier comments, are premised on the assumption that an obvious sociopath like Hitler or Attila the Hun is entitled to the same consideration as the person who understands that happiness is tied to ethical goodness.  In other words, all results are equal.  But I haven’t said that, and I’m unaware of any utilitarian who believes that.  What a sociopath thinks will make him happy (at the cost of everybody else’s happiness) is irrelevant to the objective question of what makes humanity happy through better living.
     

  127. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Katecho, the problem is your assumption that there has to be a should.  There is no should.”

    We can’t overlook the irrationality of Eric’s persistence on this matter.  Look at how many words he’s written, and how many times he’s returned to rebuke us and to inform us what our problem is.  We have a problem, you know.  There is no should, and Eric has come to tell us what we should think about that fact.  Eric protests that our way of thinking should be other than it is.  We should stop believing in shoulds.  But what is the point of argument if no correction in thinking should result?  Apparently, as a postmodernist, Eric uses arguments and words the way that two warring chimp clans throw rocks and sticks.  Eventually one or the other clan gains an upper hand and is satisfied, but it’s not because either of them should have done so.  The entire confrontation has no rational basis or imperative.  It’s only part of the ebb and flow of ancient explosion debris left over from a big bang.  It just is.  Eric is finally beginning to let go of his claims to reason and rationality and morality.  He’s coming to terms with his nihilism.

  128. Eric, I’m not sure I follow you.  I’m not talking about sociopaths, I don’t think.  Say my friend Billy, who buys his shoes from a company that exclusively uses slave labor.  He loves the shoes, is perfectly happy and content.  He agrees that slave labor is tough on the slaves, but says “That’s just how the market works.”  Whatever suffering is involved here is too distant, it doesn’t really bother him.  Now, if I understand you right, your system couldn’t say that Billy should buy his shoes elsewhere, without qualifications.  Only that many people will buy their shoes elsewhere, because the (evolved and socially conditioned) altruistic pleasure in ethical shopping exceeds the pleasure of owning cheaper shoes.  Though I disagree with it, I’m not really trying to judge your system here (I did make a judgment that it was different, I admit), but understand it for exactly what it is.  I do really think there is a substantial difference, which can make it difficult to understand one another sometimes.

  129. Ok, clarifying question. Sorry to double post.  Would you say, Eric, that the lack of some sort of foundational, unqualified “should” isn’t really a concern to you, because people will act ethically, whether there is such a foundation or not?  That is, people are hard-wired through evolution to behave ethically, and the fact that there’s really no moral imperative to do so doesn’t change the fact that people are hard-wired this way, and it seems to work, and we’re happier because of it, so let’s just go with it.  Is that close to your position?

  130. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Water is wet and fire is hot just because they are, not because it’s a moral imperative.  Humans practice ethics … because we do, and not because there’s any moral imperative.”

    And Christians practice theism because we do.  Therefore, in Eric’s worldview, to argue against Christians is equivalent to arguing that water stop being wet, or that fire stop being hot.  All argument becomes instantly irrational.  We see that Eric’s argument is no longer with us, but with the depressing world he thinks he lives in.  Eric may as well argue against the laws of nature that produced this vomit soup.  Naturalism has stultified on its own core presupposition, and deposited Eric in the black hole of nihilism.

  131. Eric , you confuse meaningfulness and pleasure. Under your system there may be pleasure, but there is no meaning.
                                                                                                                                                                               You also confuse objective meaning and experiencing meaningfulness. Under your system, people may think they experience meaningfulness, but they are kidding themselves. Under your system there is no objective meaning.
                                                                                                                                                                               In Christian theology the reprobates do not live meaningless lives at all. Their existence is totally meaningful. This doesn’t mean that they necessarily experience meaningfulness. To the degree that they do, typically, they radically misunderstand the significance of their lives. But the significance is objectively there.
                                                                                                                                                                               You will say, “I’d rather believe that my life has no meaning than believe that my life has the meaning reprobates have in your theology.” My point exactly. You lie to yourself in order to be happy. But in Christian theology these would not be your only options.
                                                                                                                                                                               It’s not true that Christian theology has something to offer only to those who are currently the believers. We are not calling unbelievers to embrace Christian theology as unbelievers or as reprobates, but as believers. For as long as an unbeliever lives, it can’t be known whether he is a reprobate. But as I said, even the lives of reprobates are meaningful.
                                                                                                                                                                               Finally, thanks for insisting, through mentioning what your system makes of Galileo and Darwin, that under your system your life is meaningless. I think we all begin to get the idea, but maybe you can elaborate more. That would save me time.
                                                                                                                                                                               Also, since this discussion is about ethics, your clarifications about the word “should” have been most appreciated. I, for one, agree that under your system there are no obligations. Also I have tried to explain that your system implies that we have an hyper-inflated notion of ethics, but it sounds more persuasive when you say it. If you still think some of us are having difficulties grasping the genius of your position, your next step may be to say at the outset, when you post a comment, “What follows is incoherent, and my moral outrage is on display only because it makes me feel good. I take this position for fun. I will soon be long, long gone, I am desperate, please understand.”

  132. Katecho, I haven’t said you shouldn’t believe in shoulds; of course that would be a contradiction.  What I’ve said is that there aren’t any shoulds (or at least none of the kind you’re thinking of).  Whether you choose to believe in something that doesn’t exist is your business, but they’re not going to spring into existence because you want them to.  There’s the practical concern of what happens to people who don’t believe in things that don’t exist, but that’s not really a should either; that’s merely a description of the likely results.

  133. Jonathan, in answer to your second question, yes, that’s close to my position.  Like the poor, we will always have sociopaths with us, but most people behave ethically most of the time because they’re hard wired to do so.  There’s evidence that some animals behave ethically, presumably for the same reason.  There’s a famous chimpanzee study in which chimpanzees were only fed if they pushed a button that gave another chimpanzee a painful electric shock; most of them chose to go hungry.  (Not sure how well humans would have done on that test, by the way.)  If humans weren’t hard wired to behave ethically, we wouldn’t survive, or at least not well.

  134. On the question of buying shoes made by slave labor, I will admit to shopping at Wal Mart despite the fact that a lot of its goods come from China, which means there’s a high probability that slave labor was involved.  What that means is that I don’t always live up to my own principles; I’m human, though I do refuse to buy goods that were manufactured in China.  But I wouldn’t say there’s an objective ought so much as the reality that the world is a better place if there isn’t slave labor.  I also think that a more effective way to end slave labor is to push for legislation denying slave-made goods access to American markets in the first place; the Chinese won’t notice if I don’t buy their products the way they will if abolishing slavery is the only way to get their goods to market.

  135. Gianni, even if everything you said were true, that takes us back to my earlier comment about whether something is unpleasant doesn’t necessarily make it untrue.  Even if God’s existence is required for life to have meaning, if God doesn’t exist and life has no meaning, well, then God doesn’t exist and life has no meaning.  So the real answer to your arguments is so what.  Whether you find my belief system palatable has nothing to do with whether it’s true.  In fact, even though I don’t believe that life is meaningless, I’m half tempted to concede that it is just to stop wasting time on an irrelevant line of argument.

  136. The secondary problem with your argument is that it assumes that people only find meaning in the same things you do.  As it happens, I’m quite happy with my life, thank you very much, even though there are some things I might change if I got to do it over.  Since you assume that life only has meaning if it lasts forever, it’s not going to satisfy you, but then I’m not living my life to satisfy you.  It has meaning to my satisfaction, and ultimately that’s what’s important.
     

  137. Eric, the Milgram Obedience Study and the Stanford Prison Project both suggest humans would not do at all well on the chimp test.  In both cases, however, people behaved with escalating levels of brutality because they believed that allegiance to a higher authority demanded that they do so.   I always wished the studies had told us more about the kind of people who found it in themselves to disobey orders to inflict what they believed to be serious pain or humiliation on others.  Were they individualists who simply were not susceptible to a chain of command?  Were they like Quakers with a strong tradition of behaving gently and ethically?

  138. And finally, the fact that you don’t know who those predestined to hell are doesn’t change the fact that under your theology, most of the planet is headed to hell and can’t do anything about it.  And your theology has nothing to offer them.  If they’re not of the elect, then they’re not of the elect (talk about an unpleasant reality), so from their standpoint, there’s no point to anything except prolonging life to avoid hell as long as possible.  It’s nice for you that you managed to dodge that bullet, but don’t pretend that there’s any meaning for the people who didn’t.

  139. Jill, I think the two studies you reference point out the dangers of authoritarian systems like religion.  I suspect that most of the people who found themselves becoming monsters in those studies were mostly decent people who never would have done those things on their own.  It’s only when an authoritarian system comes along and turns them into monsters that stuff like that happens.

  140. Eric the Red said: “Darwin showed us that we’re not the product of special creation.”  But is that something to be proud of?  Eric, I’m not sure if you have kids or not, but if you did, I assume they’d want to know that you’re their father, right?  I mean, it would be rather cruel to say, “No, you are not mine, I’m not sure where you came from.”  Moreover, if you do have kids, how did you explain to them that there is no God, and that they are not a special creation of God, but a sophisticated ape or chimp?  Did you have such a conversation with them?  I’m truly curious.
     

  141. Eric the Red, a worldview based on promoting one’s happiness as the highest standard is ultimately morally bankrupt.  As I asked you before, what if one’s happiness leads to hedonism?  Wouldn’t that be the ultimate utilitarian ideal?    
     

  142. Eric the Red, you said: “What that means is that I don’t always live up to my own principles.”  But you’ve also said that “…the problem is your assumption that there has to be a should.  There is no should.”  Well, if that’s the case, they why “should” you live up to your own principles?  Do you really not see the contradiction in that?  It seems like a rather incoherent position to take (and be dogmatic about no less).

  143. Thanks for reply, Eric.  I’m glad I’m understanding you.  I think a problem you may have is that what you describe is not what most people think of when they talk about morality.  Most people think of morality as a separate sort of category from existence (ought rather than is) imposed by a force outside of us.  If you violate it, then you’re bad and wicked, and those words have tremendously important meaning, and are not mere descriptors.  It’s almost magical, in some ways.  So when they say, “Naturalism can’t provide the grounds for that,” and you say, “Yes it can,” it’s confusing, because you mean something rather different than they do.  What you mean by morality or ethics, and what they mean, are quite different, especially in a subjective, inner-feeling sort of way.  A person who thinks there’s a supernatural category of righteousness/wickedness that penetrates everything in the universe feels very different about doing wrong than a person who thinks that morality (mores) is simply how people tend to act.  As long as they’re being consistent, of course, which may not be possible with either the Romans 1 knowledge of God or naturally-selected, genetically-caused guilt pressing in on them, depending on your point of view.

  144. Dan, I’m going to hazard an answer for Eric, mostly as a game to see if I’m understanding him right.  Please correct me if I’m wrong, Eric, and if I’m right, pat me on the head and give me a treat .  I (says Eric) should act in accordance with my principles if I want to minimize suffering, which makes me happy because I’m not a sociopath.  Am I close?

  145. Eric the Red, you said: “Like the poor, we will always have sociopaths with us, but most people behave ethically most of the time because they’re hard wired to do so.”  Really?  You believe we all evolved by a blind, random chance mechanism of natural selection, unguided by anything, yet we’re hard wired to behave ethically?  Eric, I must say, it takes quite a bit of faith on your part to assert such claims.  Unfortunately, neither “ethics” itself, nor being “hard wired” to behave ethically, are scientific categories.  They are purely metaphysical categories, and are wholly beyond the realm of science.  This is why when people come to believe in such foolishness as Darwinian Evolutionism, based on “science” as we’re always told, it’s a curious thing when it ultimately turns out that it’s not the science that undergirds the worldview, but the metaphysics.  And our collective answer should be: of course it is, because all worldviews are derived this way.  So the question becomes, where does one put their faith and their trust?  For some, it is God.  For others, it is the metaphysical belief in a blind, random chance mechanism of Darwinian natural selection.

  146. Jonathan, well said: “Most people think of morality as a separate sort of category from existence (ought rather than is) imposed by a force outside of us.”  I agree completely.  Also, I wanted to say that you write very well.

  147. 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, where the only law is that “might makes right”.  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.

  148. Jonathan, you said: “I (says Eric) should act in accordance with my principles if I want to minimize suffering, which makes me happy because I’m not a sociopath.”  But my reply again would be: why “should” someone want to minimize their suffering, if there is no “should” as Eric asserts?  You see what happens when we start from an incoherent premise such as “there is no should”?  Everything that follows becomes meaningless and absurd. 

  149. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Jill, I think the two studies you reference point out the dangers of authoritarian systems like religion.  I suspect that most of the people who found themselves becoming monsters in those studies were mostly decent people who never would have done those things on their own.  It’s only when an authoritarian system comes along and turns them into monsters that stuff like that happens.”

    At this point Eric has had to abandon prescription, and retreat into mere description.  This is significant progress.  Still, he presses on as though it was only a flesh wound to his worldview.  Eric now has to be careful not to tell Christians that we should change anything at all about our theology or beliefs, since it is obvious that he no longer has any rational basis for such prescription.  Instead of rational argument to effect change in us, Eric has retreated to a path of emotionally loaded negative description.  In other words, innuendo.  Eric has chosen the path of manipulation by emotional suggestion.  In postmodernism, words are used for their effect on others, not because of truth.  Getting the desired effect is all that matters.  Since there is no prescription or expectation in the material world, no one can appeal to what others should or shouldn’t do.  Words devolve into tools of manipulation and power play.  Verbal confrontation is the equivalent of rival chimp clans throwing rocks and sticks at one another.  So we see that Eric describes religious systems as “authoritarian” and “dangerous”, turning people into “monsters”.  My, how emotional!  But not even Eric’s utilitarianism can prescribe against danger or monstrosity.  It can only describe such things as inefficient in relation to some arbitrary goal.  Should we want to be efficient?  Utilitarianism can’t say.  Whatever is, is.
                                                                                                                                                               Eric the Red also wrote:

    “…most people behave ethically most of the time because they’re hard wired to do so.  …  If humans weren’t hard wired to behave ethically, we wouldn’t survive, or at least not well.”

    Again, Eric offers more description (presupposing his own materialism), but let’s work it into the corners.  “Most people” would include theists, since “most people” on this planet are theists.  So Eric seems to be observing that most theists are ethical most of the time, otherwise they wouldn’t survive.  As a materialist, Eric attributes this to being “hard wired”.  Fine.  Theists are hard wired to be ethical most of the time.  As a utilitarian, Eric seems to have just given theists a pass in terms of efficiency.  We’re doing all right.  In fact, we are hard wired to be efficient, otherwise we wouldn’t survive.  In fact, theism must be even more efficient than atheism since theists survive in much greater numbers than atheists.  Eric has been stripped of any prescriptive basis to object to Christianity (which he has conceded), and now it seems he has stripped himself of any utilitarian basis to object to Christianity.  We’re doing better than atheism.  (Not that we had any real choice in the matter, being hard-wired and all.)  It seems all of Eric’s avenues for argument against the Christian faith have been closed.

  150. But Dan, that’s what’s so brilliant about Eric’s position (if I’m reading him right). I think it false, foul, wicked, and craven, but it’s also very, very clever.  We have pretty much an unanswerable question, I think, when we ask the naturalist what you just asked.  It’s quite damning to their whole system,  in my opinion.  They really can’t account, morally, for that last ought.  But Eric (not alone, I presume) has an insanely clever ( and hideous) way out.  They don’t need to account for that last ought.  People are genetically programmed to be ethical (with a few sociopathic exceptions who need much more than argument) so we don’t need to persuade them to minimize suffering.  They just do.  “Are you planning on causing a bunch of suffering?  No?  Then why do you need that last ought?”  See how very elegant it is?  I think everyone arguing with Eric should pause for a moment and appreciate it.  I’ve been admiring it for most of the night.  It’s like a beautiful but poisoned blade in the hands of a Haradrim warrior.

  151. Dan, when I was about five, I asked my mother if Santa Claus was real.  Instead of giving me a yes or no answer, she asked me, “Well, dear, what do you think?”  So I thought about it, came to the conclusion that he probably wasn’t real, and only understood later that my wise mother’s purpose in not telling me the answer was so that I could learn to think for myself.  Later, when my own children asked me about God, I gave them the same answer:  “Well, dear, what do you think?”  So they thought about it, and mostly came to the same conclusion I had about Santa.  And I would never tell them, or anyone else, that they are just sophisticated apes, because that’s just wrong.  Millions of years of evolution produced something new entirely.  I may share a common ancestor with an ape, but if you go back even further, I also share a common ancestor with a mushroom.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant differences.  And by the way, it is amazing how much nonsense I have avoided being sucked into over the years simply by hearing my mother’s still small voice ask me “Well, dear, what do you think?” when this or that snake oil salesman has come calling.

  152. Dan, if someone’s idea of happiness is hedonism, then he’s objectively wrong.  You, and others, persist in the mistake that happiness is subjective, and that all outcomes are equal.  They’re not.  I may think that eating a food I’m fond of but allergic to will make me happy, and for the few moments that it’s in my mouth I’ll be right, but an hour later when I’m standing over the toilet wretching my guts out, I won’t be very happy.  Hedonism is like that too.  For a short time it feels great — I once had a 20-year-old libido too — but the long term effects of it are devastating.  And not that good for society either.

  153. Jonathan, you’re right that most people think morality infers some prescriptive rule imposed by a force outside ourselves.  I might agree with that depending on how “force” is defined.  If you mean a conscious, sentient lawgiver, then I don’t agree with it.  If you mean that actions have consequences — which I think both of us would agree is the case — and those consequences are the force that drives morality, then I would agree with it.  But I think morality is tied to the nature of existence.  A bird that depended on its feathers for survival, who then plucked out its own feathers, would be engaging in an immoral act (to the extent that morality applies to birds) because it has destroyed that which it needs to survive.  Humans survive by our wits, so refusing to think and acknowledge reality is a deeply immoral act.  Not because there’s any lawgiver who prescribed that we ought to think, but because thinking and acknowledging reality are central to our ability to survive on what is often an inhospitable planet.

  154. Yes, Katecho, I’ve been saying here for months that it’s descriptive rather than prescriptive, and I’m very disappointed in you if you’re only now hearing that for the first time.  And yes, most theists are ethical most of the time, but it’s not because of their theology.  I’ve known theists who were decent people, and theists who were scoundrels.  I’ve known atheists who were decent people, and atheists who were scoundrels.  Good people will be good people regardless of their theology.  But it takes theology (or some other authoritarian system) to make an otherwise good person into an evil person.  That’s the lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Obedience Study.

  155. Jonathan, you are on a roll tonight.  But now I have a question for you.  Unlike almost everyone else here, you understand my world view.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that you’re the first person I’ve encountered here who does understand my world view.  Maybe I’m just not a very good writer and haven’t been expressing it very well.  But at any rate, finally there is someone here who understands where I’m coming from.  So, now that we understand one another, why do you think my position is wicked, hideous, and all the other bad words you used?  If my system results in people being ethical, then other than the mere fact that it doesn’t include God, what’s wrong with it?

  156. Eric, I’d love to answer you at greater length, but I have a very early morning tomorrow, so I really must sleep. But briefly, I think it’s all those bad things because it’s not true.  True ethics, true righteousness, is much more than avoiding suffering. It’s loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s only really possible when received from Christ as a gift, bought with his blood.  You see how if that’s true (and it is), your system is abhorrent.  It doesn’t produce ethical people at all.  I also, though I’ve admired it above, can’t accept the dodge on that last ought. I believe passionately in reason, and believe that morality is coherent and rational. If ethics derives from what we’ve evolved to do, then it’s untethered to reason.  It’s simply what’s happened.  It might have happened differently.  A different generic mutation way back in the chain causes a different method of reproduction, and then rape would be moral.  It’s historically arbitrary.  The same, really, goes for reason itself.  Imagine a parallel world where instead of developing reason, a species develops complex delusions that are highly  beneficial to survival (Dawkins explains how these could work).  Then ask yourself how you know you aren’t in that world.  I can’t believe in a system where reason and ethics are subgenres of history, especially when history is essentially arbitrary.  That’s the short version.  Oh how I wish I could keep going, because aesthetics is part of it too, but I need to wake up in four hours so I absolutely must sleep.

  157. Jonathan, sleep well.  In the meantime, here’s a partial response:  We could not have evolved with a different set of ethics, because we’re social animals.  A humanity that evolved with a different set of ethics — one that inflicted suffering — would not have survived.  Pain is nature’s way of telling us to stop doing what we’re doing, so a pro-pain ethic would essentially have resulted in humans becoming extinct very quickly.

  158. Eric the Red wrote:

    “I’ve known atheists who were decent people, and atheists who were scoundrels.  Good people will be good people regardless of their theology.  But it takes theology (or some other authoritarian system) to make an otherwise good person into an evil person.”

    Stalin and Mao might beg to differ.  In any case this is the sort of logical inconsistency that makes it difficult to take Eric seriously.  Eric wants to distinguish between “good people” and “scoundrels”, but those are metaphysical concepts not available in Eric’s materialism.  There is nothing in the material world that corresponds to good or to evil.  Eric certainly gives no such referent.  Eric has said that people are ethical because they are hard-wired that way, but so are the unethical people.  One biochemical reaction is no more ethical than another reaction.  Reactions are amoral.  Anyway, reactions can’t influence their motions without a change to the laws of physics themselves.
                                                                                                                                                          How did Eric leap from:

    “Katecho, the problem is your assumption that there has to be a should.  There is no should.  Water is wet and fire is hot just because they are, not because it’s a moral imperative.”

    to:

    “if someone’s idea of happiness is hedonism, then he’s objectively wrong.”

    If there are no imperatives and no expectations in the explosion debris field, how is hedonism objectively wrong?  Water is wet, and hedonists are hedonists.  Whatever is, is.  I’m pretty sure we’ve been over this ground before and that Eric surrendered all of it.  It’s like Eric has amnesia or something.  Perhaps he’s just being dishonest.  Perhaps he finds dishonesty to have utilitarian efficiency right now.  He doesn’t always live up to his principles, after all.  There’s no prescription against dishonesty, right?

  159. Katecho, well said: “In postmodernism, words are used for their effect on others, not because of truth.”  So unfortunate but so true.  Which is why the communication tool of choice by the Left in this country is the demagogue.  No reason, just raw emotion.   

  160. Eric the Red, I was going to ask you about this statement too, but Katecho beat me to it: “Dan, if someone’s idea of happiness is hedonism, then he’s objectively wrong.”  You can’t say that based on your worldview, unless you admit that it’s utterly inconsistent.  How can you possibly derive objectivity here?  And if you assert that objectivity means producing a more desirable outcome, then whose outcome, other than yours, is it more desirable?  That is completely subjective, Eric, since not everyone has the same desires.  Here’s another troubling statement: “We could not have evolved with a different set of ethics.”  How did you arrive at that?  You just made a blatant metaphysical assumption regarding the “necessary” outcome of a “set of ethics” derived from evolution.  In other words, there’s only “one way” a set of ethics could have evolved, because it simply had to be that way.  There’s no getting around it, Eric, that is all philosophy and not a shred of science.  And the philosophy is incoherent too. 

  161. Katecho: Eric waffles the way he does because the alternatives are Nietzschian madness and Christianity.  He has clearly exhausted his other two options (Stoicism and Hedonism).

  162. Eric, you said: “If my system results in people being ethical, then other than the mere fact that it doesn’t include God, what’s wrong with it?”  First, I must ask, what is ethical to you?  Is lust in the heart ethical?  Lying?  Cheating on your taxes?  Cursing?  Taking office supplies home?  Speeding?  Watching porn?  Being lazy?  Not honoring one’s parents?  Blowing one’s temper?  Bragging?  Gossiping?  Slandering?  Shall I go on?  You’ll notice that I didn’t mention rape or murder or child molesting.  You see, your ethical “system” as you refer to it, is an illusion.  And the reason why it’s an illusion is because it doesn’t address the heart, where sin and evil take root.  In the Christian worldview, we all stand guilty before a perfect and holy God, and there’s simply no way we can become right with God on our own merit.  We all have a sin problem, because we’re all born with a sinful nature.  Our hearts are wicked and deceitful.  Thus, even if we don’t act out every lustful thought, the fact is we still have the lustful thoughts.  And the angry thoughts.  And the murderous thoughts.  And the hateful thoughts.  What, then, becomes of your ethical system, Eric?  A false hope of self-control?  A false hope of self-restraint from one’s passions and lusts?  And who decides what’s ethical?  If we subscribe to an autonomy of ethics, then how do we derive a “collective” autonomy of ethics for the broader community.  Again, Eric, the gaps and holes abound in your utilitarian worldview.

  163. Moor wrote, insightfully:

    “Eric waffles the way he does because the alternatives are Nietzschian madness and Christianity.”

    I think Moor is very close to the mark.  Unfortunately, I suspect Eric is slowly coming to terms with nihilism.  He wants desperately to protest his former faith, but his attempts are sounding empty and hollow.  There’s just no meaning left from which to mount an offensive.  Eric seems to comfort himself with a kind of private therapeutic meaning and purpose, but I think he now sees that it will never apply to anyone else.  Eric fizzes like Eric, and water is wet.  Reason has nothing to do with it.  Eric is just a complex byproduct of a series of accidents.  So his ability to press an argument is just not sustained by his materialism (even if he might otherwise have had a point).  Chemical chain reactions just make lousy debaters.

  164. Eric the Red wrote:

    “We could not have evolved with a different set of ethics, because we’re social animals.  A humanity that evolved with a different set of ethics — one that inflicted suffering — would not have survived.  Pain is nature’s way of telling us to stop doing what we’re doing, so a pro-pain ethic would essentially have resulted in humans becoming extinct very quickly.”

    Apparently Eric is not aware (forward pun) of the argument for philosophical zombies.  To a consistent materialist, all of the social patterns that Eric evokes can be described on purely biomechanical terms without appeal to ethical awareness, pain awareness, or even awareness of any kind.  There are robotic (or pure software) simulations that are modeled in terms of social interaction even though no one posits awareness in the reactionary feedback system.  For example, a robot arm could be constructed with pressure sensors to pull away to avoid damage, all without any alleged sensation of pain.  The point being that since philosophical zombies are logically possible, there is no logical necessity for ethical or pain awareness to account for the social human interactions that Eric referred to.  While I grant that Eric is ethically aware, he is simply incorrect about the necessity of ethical or pain awareness to account for the behavior.  For all Eric knows, he may be the only one with awareness, and we are all philosophical zombies.
                                                                                                                                                                  As another example, we could consider things on a cellular level.  I don’t think Eric supposes that cells are self-aware or ethical, yet they can be described in terms of social interaction.  They can live together in groups without going extinct and without metaphysical awareness of ethics and pain.  Cells don’t even argue with each other about how they should behave.
                                                                                                                                                              If Eric’s point is that, even without ethical awareness, certain behaviors can lead to extinction and would have been selected out, I wouldn’t dispute that premise under evolutionary presuppositions, however that doesn’t make the result ethical by mere virtue of its survival.  That doesn’t logically follow at all.  If a certain species of honey bee has a docile social behavior that makes it vulnerable to another marauding species, to the point of extinction of the docile species, it would be irrational to suggest that the killer bee species is the more ethical of the two.

    “Pain is nature’s way of telling us to stop doing what we’re doing …”

    The endless brawling and casualties in the animal world is nature’s way of telling us absolutely nothing.  There is no regard for survival or ethics.  Nature doesn’t care about such metaphysics.  Atoms don’t care what molecule they are attached to, living or dead.  Their fizzing doesn’t stop.  Survival and ethics do not appear in the equations of their motion.  Eric needs to find a new gig.  He’s not displaying a lot of competence on this topic.

  165. Eric said,
                                                                                                                                                                                                 “Gianni, even if everything you said were true, that takes us back to my earlier comment about whether something is unpleasant doesn’t necessarily make it untrue.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                 I was making no such point: that since something is unpleasant therefore it is untrue. I was inviting you to stand on your cliff and watch down. Nothing more, nothing less. I found that most people in your position don’t want to look down. From your evasive replies I don’t see that you are willing either. In fact, your evasiveness indicates that you know in your heart that it’s not a pretty sight. But you still don’t look down. If you eventually do look down, and if you swallow what you see, sure: from that it doesn’t follow that your cliff is not there. And that’s not the point I want to make.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 “So the real answer to your arguments is so what.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                 So your opinions have no traction whatever for people who don’t see things under your system. Why would we accept them? Your system implies that the moral import of the contrary opinion would weigh just as much, which is zero. You have no category for a moral obligation under your system, and so you have no category for any duty to honestly follow an argument to its logical conclusion. Rationality is gone, as there are no preconditions for it. Your opinions are wrong under our system and they are meaningless under your system. Under our system you are a manipulative blasphemous idolater, and under your system you are lying to yourself (and to others) in order to be happy. Notice that there is an asymmetry between your system and our system, since under our system we are not lying to ourselves in order to be happy. This is what I hear you saying: “Stop lying to yourselves in order to be happy! Look at me: I lie to myself (and to you!) in order to be happy!” Why should anybody pay attention to what you are saying? I mean, except in order to try to show that seeing things under your system is a form of madness? And of course, madness is the content of the cup.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 “In fact, even though I don’t believe that life is meaningless, I’m half tempted to concede that it is just to stop wasting time on an irrelevant line of argument.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 The audience gasps. Visibly nervous, Eric is just about willing to look down the cliff, and drink the cup, but eventually doesn’t. (Spoiler ahead: in the next scene Eric will claim to have swallowed the cup, but he will lie.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                 “The secondary problem with your argument is that it assumes that people only find meaning in the same things you do.  As it happens, I’m quite happy with my life, thank you very much, even though there are some things I might change if I got to do it over.  Since you assume that life only has meaning if it lasts forever, it’s not going to satisfy you, but then I’m not living my life to satisfy you.  It has meaning to my satisfaction, and ultimately that’s what’s important.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                 I never said life only has meaning if it lasts forever. You continue to confuse happiness with meaningfulness. You also confuse being meaningful with finding meaning in things. Your system implies that any meaning you find or give to things is not objectively there. You lie to yourself in order to be happy. To misquote you, “whether something is pleasant doesn’t necessarily make it true.” You are not looking down the cliff.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 “And finally, the fact that you don’t know who those predestined to hell are doesn’t change the fact that under your theology, most of the planet is headed to hell and can’t do anything about it.  And your theology has nothing to offer them.  If they’re not of the elect, then they’re not of the elect (talk about an unpleasant reality), so from their standpoint, there’s no point to anything except prolonging life to avoid hell as long as possible.  It’s nice for you that you managed to dodge that bullet, but don’t pretend that there’s any meaning for the people who didn’t.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                 You miss the point again. We are not talking about feeling good, but about meaningfulness. You were saying that although there may be no meaning under your system, there’s no meaning in the Christian worldview either, at least for the reprobates. That is not the case. The sinful, rebellious lives of the reprobates are entirely meaningful, and so is their eternal damnation. The fact that the reprobates will find Hell unpleasant is irrelevant. To quote you, “whether something is unpleasant doesn’t necessarily make it untrue.” All characters in a story are totally meaningful, including the bad guys, because the story has an Author who gives a unified meaning to it. Think about that next time you watch a movie. Under your system, there is no meaning because there is no Author. But you lie to yourself in order to be happy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 Deal with it. Time is ticking away. Today may be your last day. In any case, soon you will be long, long gone. And nothing will matter anymore. That’s because nothing ever mattered. The things you are saying now are meaningless. You could just as well have been arguing the contrary position in all your discussions. You could just as well have died a happy Christian, or a happy thief, or a happy camel. There’s no story. Only lies.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 There’s no justice, no mercy, no vindication. Dust to dust. Your existence is completely void of meaning, but you are lying to yourself in order to be happy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 Drink the cup, Eric.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 “And Moses took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.” (Ex 32:20)
     

  166. Eric is not being inconsistent, evasive, and has not been backed into the corner.  Rather, Eric is having a conversation with a group of people who insist in defining terms in a way that Eric has already specifically disclaimed.  You define morality in terms of a prescriptive ought; I describe it in terms of a factual is.  You can keep saying, “Aha!  So your morality has no prescriptive ought, and therefore doesn’t exist,” as many times as you like, that doesn’t win the argument for you if I’ve already explained myself using a different paradigm.  In other words, since we have different paradigms, you can’t simply win the argument by asserting that your paradigm is the correct one.  You have to show why mine isn’t. And that has not been done.  And since we’re all basically repeating ourselves at this point, I’m going on to other things, just as soon as I explain, one last time, why hedonism is objectively wrong.

  167. Moor Dan and Ree.
     
    I apologize for the confusion; please continue to call me out when I goof up. I will try to be more careful when replying…maybe a 3 sips of coffee rule before hitting ‘Post Comment’ will help.

  168. By the way, since we have different paradigms, it’s hardly surprising that we define terms differently.  My arguments are based on using terms as they are defined within my paradigm.  Your responses are to object that I’m not using the definitions I would be using within your paradigm.  But just because we have a foundational difference as to the nature of morality doesn’t mean that my argument isn’t valid using my understanding of the nature of morality.

  169. Hedonism is objectively wrong because of the results it produces.  You then go on to ask how I can objectively say those results are undesirable.  As Jonathan James has already pointed out, I don’t have to.  However, to the extent that I do have to, it’s because humans evolved as social creatures, which requires behaving in a certain way.  That’s it.  It’s not difficult.

  170. And, even if my system is as horrible as Gianni describes — which it is not — that’s not an argument  for the existence of God.  So far, other than bald, naked assertions, nobody has even tried to offer any evidence of that.  OK, that’s it for me on this thread.

  171. @James Bradshaw.
     
    I shared your sentiment–it was one of my chief hatreds of God./// My version of this complaint to God went like this, “God, if I where you, I would have never created the world. You doing so is an act of Evil. How dare you call yourself good! I hate to see a bird die and you created this knowing full well it would happen? What are You? Sick? Insane?(I was usually yelling at God at this point–I also cussed like a mother-%**%&^ while doing so; when I felt fear of cussing at God, I would say–but you paid for it! yes or no!–alright you son-of-a-b…. You suck God. You are an evil, angry terrible thing. I spit on you and hate you. F-you God. Whey the HELL did you even F-ing create me you piece of sh_t?” ///This went on for years. ///There are a couple of points I hope you learn from this. ///1. I was as you are; we shared the same complaint(s). 2. I know what the Gospel said–that my cussing, screaming and hatred for God where paid for at the cross and that I could come to Him cussing and screaming and full of hatred and with my complaints. 3. He changed me. 4. I still hate death, I still grieve over suffering and the struggle that is everyday life. 5. My perspective has changed–I now experience–in just as real and fundamental way as I experienced the rage and hatred of several years ago–what C.S. Lewis described–“Christianity is not something I see, but rather the means for which I see everything else”. 6. It real James–you can (and should) take your very real concerns directly to God. When you are convicted of sin by your hatred and cussing, point to the propitiation of sins at the Cross and tell God, that God says it is atoned for there. God does not take saints, he creates them. The starting point is ornery devils like you and me.
     
    You James Bradshaw can

  172. Katecho.
     
    Thank you again for the lesson; I am taking notes and will devote time to studying what you do. You see thinks I don’t see yet, and they are the things that need seeing for all the dust that gets stirred up.

  173. No harm done Timothy!  It really was something of an enjoyable experience to be on the receiving end of a strong witness for truth.  I remember vividly, after my conversion, wondering why on earth all the Christians I’d formerly known had never bothered to tell me the Good News.  I assume in retrospect that it was fear, and I can almost guarantee that I would have loudly, obnoxiously, and hatefully decried their attempts, but that is not an excuse for them.  So, in a way, thank you.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

  174. Eric, given your system, you can only speak about generalities. It’s not that your “ethics” “doesn’t exist”: your “ethics” is useless to make any decision on the rightness or wrongness of what has happened or what may happen. This in spite of the fact that you do venture to make such decisions: but it’s a completely meaningless affair, which has no traction or appeal — except for people who lie to themselves and others in order to be happy, and for people who are easily fooled by the kind of manipulative language that runs on ambiguity and equivocation.
                                                                                                                                                                               You can say that any given pleasure-seeking choice over an altruistic choice is objectively wrong, but you can also say that it’s objectively right. It’s not like we have supposedly evolved as social animals as opposed to pleasure-seeking animals. Look at us. We are both. It’s a matter of tradeoffs, statistics and averages.
                                                                                                                                                                               So on the one hand, you can say that in your system a pleasure-seeking choice (rather than an altruistic one) is “objectively wrong because of the results it produces”, and you “don’t have to explain how” you can say that. But “to the extent that you have to” (whatever that means!), “it’s because humans evolved”, among other things, “as social creatures”, which sometimes “requires behaving in a certain way. That’s it. It’s not difficult.”
                                                                                                                                                                               But on the other hand, you can also say that in your system a pleasure-seeking choice (rather than an altruistic one) is objectively RIGHT because of the results it produces, and you don’t have to explain how you can say that. But to the extent that you have to (whatever that means!), it’s because humans evolved, among other things, as pleasure-seeking creatures, which sometimes requires behaving in a certain way. That’s it. It’s not difficult.
                                                                                                                                                                               Indeed, for any given action prohibited by the Ten Commandments, on your terms, you can say everything and the contrary of everything. We have evolved as creatures that both behave and don’t behave according to the Ten Commandments, which “requires” that we behave in any which way we happen to behave. So much for your “ethics”. On your terms you can say that Christian ethics is wrong, but you can also say that it’s right. So your “ethics” is useful only to manipulate others and lie to yourself.
                                                                                                                                                                               The other things you say are beside the point: just more red herrings. Nice to see the things you left untouched, and the cases you dropped.
                                                                                                                                                                               “And, even if my system is as horrible as Gianni describes — which it is not — that’s not an argument  for the existence of God.”
                                                                                                                                                                               No surprises here: Eric refuses to drink the cup, and plays the red herring card one final time. Apparently, he is going to lie to himself and others, in order to be happy, until the bitter end. And why not? We have evolved to be this kind of creatures, so somebody will have to do this: the “wrong thing” (also known as “the right thing”).
     

  175. Moor.
     
    Thank you for the kind words.///
    Rereading this thread,  Matt made a comment, I lit into his remark about “half the fun of being gay..”, your comment was next and I read that as a reponse to my comment and then I went full-tilt on you; I am very sorry thank you for being so patient. ///
    In defense of your friends, sometimes their strategy is most appropriate. Christ himself used a variety of tones during His ministry–from gentleness to the repentant whore, sarcasm to the ritualistic types and anger at others. The key is that Christ interacts with individuals individually, for Christ was a Godly man–generic gentleness, sarcasm or anger is counter-productive–we can all sense it as out of place when we experience it.///  Thank you again for your patience in dealing with my mistake.

  176. @Scroop Moth when referencing in disucssing Idol Meat wrote:
     

    St Paul says idol meat purchased at market is morally harmless to the consumer and needs to be avoided only if some confused person might jump to the conclusion that eating idol meat is idol worship.  Abstention is a matter of condescension not conscience.

    This is so wrong an interpretation that I suspect yours is  a reprobate mind incapable of even discerning the  gentle-kindness St. Paul evinces towards his younger bretheren in-Christ with this passage.

  177. @Jill Smith.
    I hear, understand and commiserate with your point of view and your urge to compassionate acquiescence to the ways of this world. When I read what you write, I cannot help but think that it is this that got us into this mess in the first place.
     
    Grace and Peace to you.

  178. Eric the Red wrote:

    “My arguments are based on using terms as they are defined within my paradigm.  Your responses are to object that I’m not using the definitions I would be using within your paradigm.”

    This is false.  Eric still traffics in trainloads of metaphysical terms that have no referent within his paradigm.  However, a presuppositional approach deals with competing paradigms on their own claims, without mixing presuppositions from other paradigms.  You’ll notice that none of my arguments against Eric’s materialism or utilitarianism have appealed to Scriptural authority.  My arguments are an internal critique of materialism and utilitarianism on their own merits.  I’ve shown that Eric cannot sustain certain concepts from within his own paradigm.  Things unravel precisely because of the materialistic supposition.  Eric can continue to play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey with the metaphysical terms and labels, but it’s the metaphysical concepts underneath them that are taken away from him, one by one.
                                                                                                                                                            Now Eric could simply concede that certain metaphysical concepts no longer apply in materialism.  He has conceded that prescription does not apply, for example.  But he is fond of other concepts, such as morality, and he doesn’t want to seem too nihilistic.  So he modifies the meaning of words so that he can continue to use them.  For example, materialistic ethics are now defined as whatever is consistent with survival.  I pointed out the problem of docile bees wiped out by marauding killer bees.  Eric would have to define the killer bees as the ethical ones, because they survived.  Eric ignored this problem completely.  Once we see what Eric is up to (and why his materialism forces him to go there), it doesn’t matter where Eric pins the label next.  The original concept will have been taken away from him, and he will be exposed.
                                                                                                                                                           Similarly, we have pointed out that materialism is a purely reactionary worldview.  Materialistic morality (or immorality) is not something selected by rational means, but is simply the conditioned result of accidental processes.  In other words, it is a behavior imposed on collections of atoms by directionless events.  There is no proactive self that arrives at a behavior, rather there are properties and behaviors that arrive on sets of atoms.  Nature arrives at a set of behaviors in animals.  Eric concedes that things are just hard-wired in certain ways.  Water is wet, fire is hot, and animals behave in certain ways (to which Eric attaches the label “moral” after the fact).  Eric has even argued (incorrectly) that such behaviors are necessary.  (Presumably this includes theistic behaviors, so that theists, by surviving, become as moral as any materialist.)  So, far from being the result of rational consideration, the term morality simply refers to behaviors which were allegedly necessary for animal species to achieve the condition of survival that they possess.  Unfortunately, this kind of definition would include such behaviors as defecation.  Animals would go extinct if they couldn’t defecate to eliminate waste.  Defecation is hard wired and necessary for survival.  Therefore, defecation is moral.  This is what materialism does to itself when challenged.  Ethics turns to poop.

  179. “Pain is nature’s way of telling us to stop doing what we’re doing, so a pro-pain ethic would essentially have resulted in humans becoming extinct very quickly.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                         
    Eric apparently isn’t aware of what’s involved in giving birth.

  180. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Hedonism is objectively wrong because of the results it produces.  You then go on to ask how I can objectively say those results are undesirable.  As Jonathan James has already pointed out, I don’t have to.  However, to the extent that I do have to, it’s because humans evolved as social creatures, which requires behaving in a certain way.  That’s it.  It’s not difficult.”

    Eric may not return to this thread, but I wanted to point out some more fallacies for future reference.  The most obvious here is the genetic fallacy.  A genetic fallacy is the attempt to connect validity with origin.  This is a fallacy of irrelevance.  For example, Richard Dawkins is fond of his attempt to invalidate Christian belief by saying “you were just raised in a Christian home”.  Of course even if someone was actually raised in a Christian home, this fact tells us nothing about whether Christian belief is valid or not.  The origin of a belief is logically irrelevant to whether it is true or not.  Similarly, naming the evolutionary origin of a behavior is irrelevant to whether it is right or wrong, good or bad.  So if Eric claims that we evolved to avoid hedonism (or pain), whether that is the true origin or not, the origin of such feelings tells us nothing about whether those feelings are valid or invalid.  I realize Jonathan James was enraptured with the cleverness of Eric’s dodge, but I hope it’s clear why it was invalid.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Eric also argued that ethics had to arise, necessarily, or else our species wouldn’t even be around to disagree about it.  I addressed this error earlier with a discussion of philosophical zombies which have no awareness of ethics or anything else, but go through the right motions as if they did.  Therefore, an actual awareness of ethics is not logically necessary at all.  But perhaps Eric, as a faithful materialist, would retreat to the position that, even if ethical awareness is not strictly necessary, at least certain external behaviors resembling ethics had to have evolved, by necessity, or else our species would have gone extinct.  (Not sure why I’m bothering to help Eric salvage his argument, but anyway.)  Even if we grant that this was necessary, it still falls to the genetic fallacy.  Eric may have explained the origin of a behavior, but this simply cannot logically establish the validity of the behavior.  For example, if we explain the origin of a rapist’s behavior (tracing it to tragic abuse as a child), this origin does not then suddenly validate the rape.  If we give the evolutionary origin of killer bees that devastate other hives, naming this origin does not validate genocide.  Validity is logically separate from the question of origin.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Finally, Eric has claimed that “Hedonism is objectively wrong because of the results it produces”.  Technically, in Eric’s paradigm, hedonism doesn’t produce anything, and is not causal.  Rather the forces of nature produced a behavior which Eric then labels “hedonism”, after the fact.  But aside from that technical error, Eric can’t say that hedonism is wrong.  Whatever is, is.  Whatever nature allows, nature allows.  No laws of nature are broken by the hedonist.  Hedonism is just a perfectly legal pattern of physical movements.  As a utilitarian, all that Eric can say is that hedonism is less efficient than social cooperation.  However, in taking this position, Eric is at odds with Richard Dawkins’ concept of the selfish gene.  Dawkins argues that evolution favors selfishness (hedonism) at the genetic level.  So does evolution favor hedonism or not?  Eric has offered no objective explanation.  In any case, Eric tries to ground the wrongness of hedonism on the consequence it produces.  This is also called consequentialist ethics, i.e. the ends justify the means.  But most of us have learned that the ends do not justify the means, and that it is a fallacy to assume they do.  The ends themselves need to be virtuous and valuable.  So evolution might tell us that sharing is valuable for survival of humans, but not that the survival of humans is valuable.  Eric doesn’t just get to take the latter for granted.  He has yet to escape that infinite regress.  If the survival of humans has no value, then neither do those behaviors which promote it.  That’s the fate of consequentialism.

  181.  
    Katecho, well said: “Technically, in Eric’s paradigm, hedonism doesn’t produce anything, and is not causal.  Rather the forces of nature produced a behavior which Eric then labels “hedonism”, after the fact.”  Exactly.  The overarching problem with Eric’s ethical system is that it is an illusion.  The reason why it’s an illusion is because it doesn’t address the heart, where sin and evil take root.  Eric’s system only deals with outward behaviors, but not the evil that stems from the heart.  Thus, what could Eric’s ethical system possibly have to say about sins such as pride, greed, lust, envy, covetousness, or hate?  These sins first take root in the heart before they are acted out.  But Eric’s system has nothing to say about this until such behaviors are actually acted out.  But isn’t a little late by then?  You see, it’s all so utterly inconsistent, and we would never bring up our children that way.  As parents, what do we seek to teach and cultivate in our kids?  Simple outward morality (e.g. don’t do this, don’t do that)?  Of course not.  We teach them about character and attitude and virtue; attributes which are cultivated in the heart and serve as a guide to help direct their behavior.  So when Eric says something like, “Hedonism is objectively wrong because of the results it produces,” the problem is, by the time we find out, it’s a little too late.  It would have been much better if the would-be hedonist had his heart changed long before his hedonism took root in his heart and began to consume him.  But in Eric’s system, there was nothing to know and nothing to judge until the undesirable results were ultimately manifested.  Lastly, to address Katecho’s probing question, “So does evolution favor hedonism or not?”  This is precisely why I kept pressing Eric that if one’s happiness leads to hedonism, wouldn’t that be the ultimate utilitarian ideal?  It certainly appears to me that it would.  Eric of course denounces that it would, but he offered no objective, coherent explanation for his denunciation. 

  182. Dan wrote:

    “We teach them about character and attitude and virtue; attributes which are cultivated in the heart and serve as a guide to help direct their behavior.  So when Eric says something like, “Hedonism is objectively wrong because of the results it produces,” the problem is, by the time we find out, it’s a little too late.”

    Nice post.  This is a very important observation about consequentialist ethics.  Consequentialism seems to require the individual to somehow extrapolate and weigh the future consequences of an action to determine how to act.  Should I steal money from my employer to send my children to college?  This leads utilitarians into all manner of rationalization.  What if by stealing the money, my child eventually graduates as a virologist who finds the cure for influenza?  On utilitarian consequentialism, this survival benefit to “society” would far outweigh the stealing.  But we understand that this is simply not how people actually do ethics.  Most of us don’t decide our principles by situational ethics, with a scale in our hand to tease out the balance of future consequences in the moment.  Rather we consider the virtue of an act beforehand, rationally, on principle, so that when any situation comes, we already know how we will act, even if a virtuous act ends up somehow harming us or our neighbor unintentionally.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Now Eric would probably say that I’m overcomplicating his circumstantialism.  He would probably say that his system doesn’t place the burden of measuring unknown consequences on anyone, but that nature itself sorts out the behaviors in a giant, generational feedback loop of negative or positive reinforcement.  But look what that does to ethics.  It destroys it.  It basically frees us to behave like animals, doing whatever strikes our fancy, because nature will sort it all out anyway.  Eric’s ethics are anti-virtue, not to mention irrational.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Dan also wrote:

    “This is precisely why I kept pressing Eric that if one’s happiness leads to hedonism, wouldn’t that be the ultimate utilitarian ideal?  It certainly appears to me that it would.  Eric of course denounces that it would, but he offered no objective, coherent explanation for his denunciation.”

    It’s not clear to me that Eric even has a rational mental category for objectivity.  Part of the problem of evolutionism is that it describes everything, and its opposite, leaving us no closer to answering anything about what should be.  There are no expectations for or against anything.  So objective expectations utterly fail.  If any behavior (such as hedonism) is exhibited today, evolution is said to describe how it came about, thus evolution could be said to “legitimize” everything that exists, simply because it exists (genetic fallacy).  How would the behavior have persisted (survived) if it wasn’t as legitimate as any other behavior that persisted?  There is nothing in naturalism to help us make distinctions, let alone objective ones.  Thanks Dan.

  183. Thank you too, Katecho.  I always enjoy, and benefit from, your posts.  This was a good point: “Part of the problem of evolutionism is that it describes everything, and its opposite, leaving us no closer to answering anything about what should be.”  And this was a probing question which Eric cannot answer, at least not coherently: “How would the behavior have persisted (survived) if it wasn’t as legitimate as any other behavior that persisted?”  Questions like this beg for a reasonable, coherent answer, for which the utilitarian has none.

  184. Good thoughts, gentlemen.
                                                                                                                                                                               I like what Katecho says, about writing here also for future reference. One would wish that the results of conversations such as this would be used in future conversations as well. It often seems that when a new discussion starts, things are rebooted, and we need to start from scratch once again. Indeed, Katecho, I have appreciated your practice of linking old discussions.
                                                                                                                                                                               Dan, you had the good sense of bringing the matter of hedonism into this discussion, asking Eric, “What if one’s happiness leads to hedonism?  Wouldn’t that be the ultimate utilitarian ideal?” Eric denounced the concept as “objectively wrong”. As Katecho has shown, that is nonsense under his system: “Water is wet, and hedonists are hedonists.” The final twist, of course, is that now in retrospective Dan’s question was not simply theoretical. Eric himself is the Hedonist in question, as under his atheistic system, where no meaning is to be found, he lies to himself to be happy.
     

  185. Timothy, thank you too.  I always enjoy your posts.  All of us are called to be defenders of the faith and defenders of the truth.  It’s a noble and worthwhile calling.  And even when we fail at it, by God’s grace we can get back up and press on.  Grace and peace to all of you.  

  186. <katecho’s head explodes>  I’m over-encouraged.  Thanks all around.  I enjoy getting thoughts out, but it’s encouraging to know others read it too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The wolves better be careful comin’round here, cuz the sheep have sharp teeth!

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