Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 13

What is the relationship between Christianity and morality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

David Eller returns this time in yet another chapter of John…..Loftus’s…sorry, briefly forgot who he was, book. This time it’s to argue that Christianity does not provide the basis for morality. Immediately, I’m wondering who is saying it does.

Morality is something that is discoverable from nature alone. Now there is no doubt that Christianity has been a great incentive for morality and the life of Jesus has provided a powerful example. Christianity did bring about a moral revolution, but it was not by suddenly grounding something, but by revealing what was always there to begin with.

Of course, it’s hard to see how Eller can argue about anything with morality since in this chapter he says that goodness is completely relative. If so, then let us drop any idea of having a good society. We might think it’s good while someone else out there doesn’t. Who is right? No one.

If this is the case and morality isn’t about goodness, what is it about then? Is it about doing what one ought, but why ought someone do anything? What is the foundation for all of this?

Eller also says that by religion killing and hating and warring are often moral. I see no basis for the second, but sometimes, the others were commanded. When evil people rise up, then sometimes the only way to remove them is by force. If someone seeks to take my wife’s life while I am there, I will kill if I have to.

Eller says that killing witches may be good for society, but it isn’t for the witches. By this kind of standard, let us get rid of the prison system. After all, locking up murderers where they can’t escape might be good for society, but it isn’t for the murderers. I would even disagree with that. Put them in a place where they can do less harm and that is for their good as well.

Eller then goes with Michael Shermer’s definition of morality. It’s about doing what is right or wrong in the context of the rules of a social group. Of course, this is just moral relativism at the social level. Which society? The Southern Baptist Convention? Stalinist Russia? Vatican City’s? Nazi Germany’s? Why should we choose any such society and not go our own way?

Eller in the end says morality is nothing more than the human desire to appraise behavior and set up standards of appraisal. From there, we get into the way different religions view morality. Fascinating to be sure, but not really relevant to the overall claim.

Eller does say that he does not believe morality is in any way real or objective. Well, I guess Christianity obviously cannot be the basis for morality since there is no morality to be the basis of. I wonder also why Eller means then by saying that even killing and warring and hating can be seen as moral. Why not?

He also brings up the Euthyphro dilemma. Why do atheists keep doing this and ignore that Aristotle took the challenge on and just went out and defined what goodness is? I suppose reading is just hard for some

He also says that morality would be better off if it got rid of religion, but how can that make sense? How can something be better if it’s not objective or even real? How can there be any sort of improvement?

He also says the danger is religion takes it out of human hands. If anything, that’s the positive. Take morality and put it in the hands of humans and tell them there’s no higher authority for them to answer to and you have a nightmare situation coming up. Those men will themselves become gods. Eller says that this move will empower us to be the ones that decide. That is exactly what concerns most anyone concerned about an authoritarian system.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Lies Couples Believe

What do I think of Chris Thurman’s book by David C. Cook. Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Lies. We live in a world of them. Fake news abounds and how many stories can be shared on Facebook that are absolutely false? Christians also share these stories. It’s easy if something lines up with what you already believe to share it like it’s Gospel.

As Christians, we at least know that Scripture won’t lie to us, but sadly another source we think won’t lie to us is ourselves. We’re going to be honest with ourselves and our own situation. Right? Not likely. If we lie to ourselves, imagine as married couples the lies we can tell ourselves about that!

A great problem with this is that so many of the lies are easily believable. They often have a grain of truth with them. Should your spouse love you just as you are? Absolutely they should! Unfortunately, we take that through to “So I don’t need to change. My spouse just needs to change the way they look at me.” Absolutely not. No doubt, your spouse doesn’t view you perfectly, but Scripture’s view of you is that you’re a fallen human being in need of sanctification constantly.

It’s also easy to blame everything in the marriage on one spouse in particular. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. None of you gets off with a free pass. In every conflict that takes place, including in marriage, it is rarely ever a case of 100-0 with percentage of ownership. Most everyone does something wrong. Even if you are the one that owns the 1%, you need to own that 1%.

Thurman also admits in the book that he himself is still at times believing some of these lies. Odds are that we will never grow entirely out of believing the lies, but that is something that we aim for every day. No one is doing marriage perfectly. The best marriage seminar experts out there still have their marital struggles.

In the book, Thurman ends each section with some truths on the issues to see where the distortions really lie. He takes you through a step by step process and then includes things you can do to help along the process of change. These also include honest confessions to your spouse of ways that you have erred on the path and a prayer that you can pray to help you on the journey. That makes this a good book then for couples to also read together and then they can discuss the lies that they find. (No doubt with some, “See? I told you so,” showing up.

I would have liked to have seen more in this book on the issue of sexuality in marriage, especially since this is one of the big areas that couples fight about in marriage. It would be good to know how the lies couples believe apply to that area. I also did at times not agree with some of the interpretation of Scripture, but none of the interpretation I recall really changed the essential point of each of the lies.

This is a good book for couples to go through together. Both husband and wife could then learn together how they are believing things that are false and how they can improve. The more lies that are removed from a marriage, the better it will be.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/3/2017: Alan Branch

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Our culture is undergoing changes we never would have thought possible growing up and Christians face challenges that would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago. The homosexual movement especially has risen up and demanded what is called “equality.” Why should this be given? Don’t you know? It’s not a choice. You’re born this way!

Well, are you?

My guest on the show this Saturday says “No. You are not born this way.” He is the author of the book Born This Way? and has looked deeply at the subject of if homosexuality has some sort of genetic origin. We’ll be talking about that this Saturday. His name is J. Alan Branch. So who is he?

Alan Branch got his B.B.A. at Kennesaw State College in 1991. He went on to get a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in December of 1993. He went on to get a Ph.D. from there in 2000 in theology with a focus on ethics. As of now, he is the Professor of Christian ethics at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

What is the origin of homosexual attraction? Is it a choice? Are people born this way? If they are not, does that mean that they chose it? Branch’s book is a look at all the theories raised thus far to explain homosexuality and how it comes about. He looks at psychologists of the past as well as medical research done today to see if there is a genetic link of some kind to homosexual attraction.

So we’ll be having a brief history of this kind of study. We’ll be looking at Freud to see what he thought about homosexuality and then, we’ll move on to talk about Kinsey. Kinsey is a figure that needs to be talked about because he’s still highly influential in our culture today, yet not many people really know about all that was done by Kinsey and the kind of person he was.

What about objections raised today? Don’t we see this in the animal kingdom? Isn’t it thought that homosexuality is thus natural in so many animals? If it’s something natural, shouldn’t we have no problems with it today? What are we to say to this?

And of course, there’s the question about reparative therapy. If this is not something that is genetic, does that mean that it can be changed? If it can be changed, it is something that will even work? Many of us have heard the horror stories about what has gone wrong with this therapy and about people who claimed to be cured and yet fell back into the homosexual lifestyle. What are we to do then?

I hope you’ll be listening to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. We’ll be working on getting it up for you as soon as we can. Please also consider going to ITunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. It’s always good to hear what you like about the show so I can know what you want to hear.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Good Without God

What do I think of Greg Epstein’s book published by Harper Collins? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Epstein’s book Good Without God is an odd read. It’s written by an atheist no doubt, but it’s not the same shrill angry rant against religion that you encounter. Epstein does strike me as someone I could have a reasonable conversation with, even though at times Epstein does make many of the same mistakes about religion.

Consider how he says that religious people like to say that Hitler was an atheist to avoid talking about the Crusades and the Inquisition. Hitler wasn’t an atheist, but there’s no doubt that Stalin, Mao, and Pol-Pot were. I also think we should talk about the Crusades and Inquisition. He also points out that the Nazi belt buckles had “God with us” written on them.

Which is what they’d had long before. It was a motto that was made and not made specifically for the military. It just carried over to the Nazis. By this standard, all of our wars have to be specifically religious wars because we have “In God We Trust” written on our money. (Wait. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. A lot of atheists might run with that.)

Epstein’s book surprisingly is a lot of self-help for atheists and thinking about many different issues. He does at least think that atheists shouldn’t be seeking to destroy religion. He does think some have been too ardent in their war on religion. Still, as you read the book, you get the impression that a lot of atheists are trying hard on so many issues that don’t make sense. Can you speak of being fortunate in anything for instance? What happens when you want to thank someone and there’s no one to thank?

Epstein also doesn’t really answer the main question. What does it mean to be good? At one point, he says that there is a knockout blow to theism on this. It’s the Euthyphro dilemma from Plato. If you don’t know this, it’s where Socrates questions Euthyphro on goodness and says “Is something good because the gods will it, or do the gods will it because it is good?”

This is supposed to be a killer to the moral argument because how is it known what is good? Just replace gods with God. Now some might say “God’s nature is the good.” I have just as much a problem with that. The problem is the same. It still doesn’t tell us what the good is. “The good is God’s nature.” Okay. How does that fit?

The sad thing is that this question was answered not too long after Plato. Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics wrote about what goodness is and said that the good is that at which all things aim. Thus, he answered this by giving a definition of goodness. He spent some time fleshing that out of course, but he did answer the question. Unfortunately, atheists are a little over 2,000 years behind the times.

In fact, Epstein after this seems to take an approach of moral relativism, but if there is no truth to a moral issue, how can you have a debate over which view is true? You’re just discussing preferences. How can anyone even be good without God if good itself has no real meaning?

Now Epstein later on, does try to answer this question more by saying that things are only good in relation to human beings. In other words, if we weren’t here, there wouldn’t be anything good. I dare say this strikes me as a bizarre position. Either we discover goodness in these things and they are good, or goodness is an idea we throw onto them but they don’t essentially possess.

At this, we could just as well throw the Euthyphro dilemma back at Epstein and have him answer it. Is something good because of how it relates to us, or does it relate to us the way it does because it is good? Without a proper foundation for goodness, Epstein will be caught in his own dilemma. He could escape by postulating an objective goodness beyond human beings, but then he has a problem with what this will be ground in.

What this means is that in the long run, Epstein has written a book to address a question and never really addressed it accurately himself. Not only that, we could just as well ask who is asking this question? Who is the theist out there making a claim that you can’t be good without believing in God? Perhaps there are a few laypeople making this claim, but most of the scholars and academics in the field would never make such a claim.

Epstein’s book can be an interesting read to see just how it is a lot of non-religious people think, but it’s still desperately lacking. In fact, if anything, Epstein’s book shows me even more that goodness makes no sense without God. Hopefully Epstein will see that same way soon.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/10/2016: William Webb

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For those curious about the past two weeks, we recorded Holly Ordway fine except for the last twenty-five minutes or so. We’re going to redo those and then have the whole be released together. After that, I will put up my discussion at the Apologetics Academy. Now let’s go to this week.

We all want to do what the Bible says to do. Right? Yep. Those commands last. Why, we never go to church outings where pepperoni pizza or shrimp is served. Oh wait. We do. That’s odd. When we go to church, we have someone there to wash our feet as our Lord said should be done and…..no wait. We normally don’t. Well we at least greet one another with a holy kiss. (Okay. To be fair, I do that one with my wife and then ask immediately if I greeted her already or not.)

How is it we want to do what the Bible says when so often we don’t seem to do what it says? My guest this week has written on that and he’s used three case examples to make his point. Those examples are what the Bible says about slaves, women, and homosexuals. Hence, the book title is Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. Who is he? His name is Dr. William Webb.

william-webb

He got his B.A. from Providence College in 1980, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary in 85, and a Ph.D. from there in 90. His further bio says that:

Dr. Bill Webb is married (Marilyn) with three grown children (Jonathan, Christine, and Joel) and a dog (Muffin). Education: Ph.D. Dallas Theological Seminary. Teaching: Professor of New Testament for 20 years (Heritage); Adjunct professor primarily at Tyndale Seminary and occasionally at ACTS and Acadia. Bill has worked as a pastor, chaplain, and professor over a span of twenty some years. In addition to conference speaking ministry, he has published several articles and books, includingReturning Home (Sheffield Press, 1993), Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals (InterVarsity, 2001),Discovering Biblical Equality (two chapters; InterVarsity, 2005), Four Views on Moving from the Bible to Theology (one view and responses; Zondervan, 2009), Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts (InterVarsity, 2011), Bloody, Brutal and Barbaric: War Texts that Trouble the Soul (forthcoming), and Getting Revelation Wrong: Rethinking End of the World Scenarios (forthcoming).

We’re going to be talking about the above problems and asking if we’re being obedient to the text or not and how could we tell. What does the case study of slaves, women, and homosexuals mean for us. After all, it’s quite easily agreed that slavery is wrong today, and even those of us who are very complementarian like myself don’t agree with much of the older views on women. Some people are more in agreement with homosexual practice, but for the most part I think the Christian church disagrees with it, and I am certainly in that number. How do we approach these and other issues?

Be sure to join us this Saturday and be sure to leave a review on ITunes for the show. I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Life Better Without God?

If you remove God from your life, will it be better? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, someone on twitter sent me a link to an article by Skeptic Mom on the question of if life is better without God. I took a look and saw a whole lot of issues that I deal with in the modern day church and figured this would be a good example. Now looking at the post, I don’t see Skeptic Mom at this point as some anti-theist, but just someone who is skeptical of religious claims, which is just fine, but I wonder how many of these claims she’s skeptical of are Christian claims and how many are cultural Christian claims. Let’s start with the first one.

For Skeptic Mom, the first benefit is that her life is more her own. What does that mean? Let’s look at what she says about this:

At church, we were taught stories about biblical characters, such as Jonah, who were punished for putting their own desires over God’s. Stories such as Jonah and the whale (or great fish or sea monster) were told to remind us that God had a plan for each of us and that we must follow his plan. Our job was to discover God’s plan and to follow the path he had chosen for us. We were told to trust that God knew best.

Now that I am an atheist, I no longer have to try to determine what God wants for me. I feel free to determine what I want out of life. I can set my own goals and make my own decisions. The realization that we create our own purpose in life has been a very freeing experience for me.

This is an example of how far our church education has gone. I do not fault Skeptic Mom for this. I fault our churches and the teaching curriculum that we often have. Let’s take a story like Jonah. Do we really think the writer of Jonah sat down and wrote the story hoping that the end lesson for his audience would be “God has a plan for your life.”? Unfortunately, too many of us are taught that. I still remember being in the Sunday School class at a church once and hearing that Joshua wrote the book of Joshua so that the Israelites would learn to obey God. This was in fact not a children’s class. This was the college class of which I was a member.

Our college students are getting simplistic teaching at their churches and Ph.d. atheism in the universities (Along with a culture of wanton sexuality) so why are we surprised that so many are falling away into atheism? It’s not really a contest.

If I was starting to teach on the book of Jonah, I’d want to ask some questions first. For instance, do we have any idea of who wrote it? Maybe it was Jonah. Maybe it wasn’t. Do we have any idea of when it was written? What was the context it was written in? Do we know who the audience is? For some books, we might have better answers then others. Then I’d want to know the historical situation going on. Why is this book important enough to be in the canon? For the Old Testament, what did it mean to the early Jews? For the New Testament, what did it mean to the early Christians?

Then I’d want to see what is going on in the book. For Jonah, this isn’t a book about following the will of God, though one certainly should. This is a book about the grace of God. God is a gracious God who desires to see all people come to Him, even a pagan nation like Assyria. In fact, Jonah tells us the reason he did not want to go to Nineveh is because he knew of the grace of God. This is a preacher who has a massive revival after a few days of preaching and he is upset about it. The point we have to ask from the story is who is the God described in the book of Jonah and how are we to live in response?

Much of what Skeptic Mom has here unfortunately comes from a rabid individualism that we have in the text that we center on what the text means for me. We often jump straight to application instead of doing a rich and rewarding look at the text. This also fits in with the idea of “God has a plan for your life” which is something not really taught in Scripture and no, do not dare try to individualize Jeremiah 29:11 on me. Try to look up the context of what is going on in that passage first.

Sometimes people come to me with what they think is a difficult question. They want to know what God’s plan is for their life. I tell them that’s really a simple question and they’re usually surprised. I tell them every time that the answer is to conform them to the likeness of Christ?

“Well what does that say about who I marry?”

“Well you need to marry a Christian of the opposite sex, but the more important question is not what kind of spouse will you marry, but what kind of spouse will you be?”

“What does that say about my career?”

“Don’t work somewhere immoral, but it’s not who will you work for but what kind of worker will you be?”

“Where should I live?”

“It’s not a question of who will be your neighbors, but what kind of neighbor will you be?”

Notice how many times we ask these questions, it’s about what the world and others can do for us instead of the other way around?

So as it turns out, I have great freedom here and so do you. I tire of the idea that we have to find God’s will as if it’s an Easter Egg Hunt and God will give us clues that we’re getting warmer or colder. #1 then is a belief of cultural Christianity. It is foreign to the Bible. Let’s move on to #2. This is about intellectual growth. Skeptic Mom writes that:

When I was a Christian, I did not often think deeply about religious issues. One reason for this was because I didn’t view religion as complex. I thought it was a matter of finding the true religion and the right answers. Often, I simply looked to an authority, such as a trusted minister or the Bible to find answers. The other reason I rarely thought deeply about religion was because my beliefs were rarely challenged. Almost everyone I knew was religious, and those who were not did not challenge my beliefs. It was a subject that was rarely discussed on anything more than a superficial level.

Now that I have become an atheist, I think more deeply about religious issues. Because the majority of people I interact with are people who do not share my perspective on these issues, I am forced to confront another point of view. Even when my beliefs are not directly challenged, I often hear people stating an opinion that differs from my own. This forces me to think about my position on issues to determine what I really think and to determine if I have a good reason for holding my position. Even when I am speaking with another atheist about issues that we agree on, I find the conversations tend to be deeper because we often look at the issues from other points of view to determine if our opinions and assumptions are correct. I think that the reason we can more easily look at different perspectives and possibilities is because neither of us believe that there is a right answer given to us by a deity.

This one really saddens me in particular. As many readers know, I have been on a long crusade to stop anti-intellectualism in the culture. Now do I think in many cases this has hit the atheist movement. Absolutely. Most arguments I see on the internet from atheists are quite frankly embarrassing to look at. I think many in the movement who claims to be “brights” and intellectuals are anything but. Yet if it happened there, I believe it happened because it started with the church first.

And this is the anomaly. You go back and look at the early church and the medieval period and the Reformation era and these were guys who took the life of the mind very seriously. The abandonment of intellectualism in the church around the late 19th century and the early 20th century was one of the worst choices the church ever made. Too many Christians live in a climate of anti-intellectualism where any real thinking is seen as going against the virtue of “faith.” This faith however is certainly not any kind of faith that the Bible endorses. That I have written about elsewhere.

In fact, I would say when I get together with my Christian friends, we have rich intellectual discussions. It’s not “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” When we do quote the Bible, we also have a great discussion on what the various passages mean and how best to apply them today. My own wife could tell you that if I need to tell her something, I could quote Scripture. I could also quote Lewis or Chesterton or Aristotle or Epictetus. I believe in having a rich intellectual reservoir to draw from and that includes those outside of the church. Christianity provides me a wellspring of knowledge to draw from.

For #3 Skeptic Mom says that the world makes more sense because:

When I was a Christian, there would be times I would learn something that did not fit with my Christian worldview. Often, I would have a brief moment of thinking, “if this is correct, Christianity is not.” Instead of revising my worldview, I would find a way to rationalize my beliefs, decide the information must be incorrect, or ignore that piece of information. For example, I used to believe that our personality was contained within our soul. When we went to the afterlife, our personality would be intact. When I learned how after Phineas Gage suffered a severe head injury his personality changed so drastically that his friends said he no longer seemed to be the same person, I began to see personality as a function of the brain and not the soul. For a moment, I questioned my religious teachings about the soul, but I quickly dismissed this thought and tucked it away in a corner of my mind.

Once I allowed myself to truly consider that my Christian beliefs might be wrong, thoughts I had dismissed came flooding back to my mind. Once I looked at the information without my lens of Christianity, it made more sense. It is very freeing to know that now as I come across new information, I can accept it without trying to make it fit into a preconceived worldview.

I can’t really buy this last part, because we all have a worldview and we will all try to interpret new data in light of that worldview first. Few of us would see a piece of data and decide to chuck our whole worldview at that point. For that to happen, it must be an incredibly convincing piece of data and if you trade in your faith lightly, then it was a faith that you took lightly to begin with.

Now I would like to state that I do not attempt to answer questions really on the relationship of mind and body or dualism like that. That’s not my area. I know many people who do and they happily address objections like this one. This I think is an important part of worldview thinking. You cannot be a master or authority in everything, so you need to learn to be an authority on select issues and seek to learn as much as you can about those. Still, this is a secondary question for Christianity. The primary questions are “Is there a God?” and then “Did He Raise Jesus from the dead?” If one is convinced of these, then one can look at an objection and say “I do not understand that, but I see it does not touch these primary issues so I am willing to think about it, but I am not willing to base my worldview on it.”

I would in fact argue that the world makes more sense on theism. I think theism best explains morality, existence itself, statements of truth, and the life and resurrection of Jesus. I do not think atheism really explains anything. This is part of the problem. I hold my worldview because it makes the most sense. Someone holds the opposite for the same reason. I advise those curious to read the best scholarship on both sides. From there we move on to #4 which is about having a morality that makes sense. Skeptic Mom writes:

I used to assume that whatever God said was right was good. And, anything God said was wrong was a sin. However, there were several Bible stories that I learned in Sunday school where it seemed that God was wrong. For example, I thought it was wrong for God to test Abraham to see if he would sacrifice his beloved son. Even though God did not make Abraham go through with the sacrifice, I thought that the experience had to have been horrifying for both Abraham and Isaac. I also thought it was wrong for God to demand that his subjects be so loyal that they would even be willing to sacrifice their own children. I would not have wanted my parents to be willing to sacrifice me to God and I knew I would never be willing to sacrifice children I might have one day. I struggled to understand how God was right in this and other Bible stories. My Sunday school teachers taught us that when we could not understand God’s ways it was simply because human beings were not smart enough to understand. Assuming that must be the case, I tried not to think too deeply about those stories. Later in life, I also began to question if everything I was taught was a sin was really a sin. Some things that I was taught was a sin, such as premarital sex, did not seem really wrong, at least not all of the time. I had a tough time reconciling how certain things could really be sins worthy of eternal hellfire. Yet, somehow, I assumed they must still be sins if god said they were.

Now that I am an atheist, I no longer believe in the concept of sin. I am not concerned with what the Bible says is right or wrong. I decide for myself whether something is right and wrong based on whether the action is harmful or whether it promotes human flourishing. My judgments are now based on my values. And, when I learn of immoral acts that are by the Bible, I condemn them.

The start is a basic version of Divine Command Theory, which I do not hold to. Still, even a holder of that viewpoint would want to flesh it out even more beyond that. I understand the problem with stories in Sunday School. One key part is that when difficulties were raised, students were told humans are just not smart enough to understand. While there could be some truth to this, in that surely the way a deity could act would be hard for me to understand, let us not dare make a statement that will dissuade the asking of questions and the seeking of answers! When we do that, we are creating atheists.

Just like Skeptic Mom.

Looking at the story of Abraham, it’s important to note that Abraham was told to do this for Isaac was not just a random child, but was the son of the promise. The way to know that Abraham believed the promise was to see if Abraham would act in a way that would put the promise itself in jeopardy. Abraham had himself interacted with God many times and seen miraculous events in his own life, so it wasn’t that he just heard a voice in his head and that had no bearing in reality. He had even spoken to God when God came before him in the form of a human messenger to discuss the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham was also an old man and Isaac would have been a much younger one. Anyone really think an old man like Abraham could force Isaac to get on an altar? Isaac was seen as a willing sacrifice, and Isaac lived in a culture where many would die at a young age and death could come from wild animals, enemy raids, or disease at any moment. Finally, let’s not forget that God STOPS the action from taking place. We also see how shocking this must have been for Abraham because the request is so unusual and out of character for God that we think that something has to be up in this whole story. Indeed, there is. This was the way of showing Abraham really believed the promise.

Yet I do not think morality makes sense in atheism. What is the good? What is the evil? To say that which promotes human flourishing is too vague. No doubt many slave owners thought human flourishing was benefited by owning slaves. No doubt many Nazis believed human flourishing was benefited by the final solution. No doubt many communists believed that human flourishing was established by removing those who were impediments to the rule of Communism. We can even ask it on a smaller level. Did the refrigeration industry cause human flourishing when it put many in the ice industry out of a job? Why should we care about human flourishing anyway? What makes us so special? Maybe we should stop having bacon and put pig flourishing primary?

Then of course, what is goodness itself? How does it exist? Is it a reality that is found in things and actions, or is it just this idea that exists in the mind that we apply to those things and actions? Those are two very different positions. One ends in objectivism. One ends in relativism.

I also do not think for a moment that we should take the position that we need the Bible to know right from wrong. I think the Bible teaches many great moral truths, but these could be known apart from Scripture. In fact, passages like Romans 2 that speak of the Law written on our hearts agree with this. The only reason the people in Romans 1 can be held accountable is that they already do have an idea of right from wrong. It is also not like that the Israelites got the Ten Commandments and said “Wow! We have to stop this murder thing! Turns out that’s not a good thing to do!” Christian morality should be informed by the Bible, but also by sound thinking in the study of philosophy and metaphysics.

The last part is a focus on life and here I will quote just the first paragraph.

When I was a Christian, I spent a great deal of time trying to make it to heaven and avoid being sent to Hell. I spent time trying to avoid activities that would bring the condemnation of God, feeling guilty over being a sinful human being, and begging for forgiveness from God for displeasing him. Instead of trying to make this life the best one it could be, I spent a lot of time worrying about the next life.

At this point, I have to wonder what kind of environment Skeptic Mom was in. It sounds like one that was highly legalistic and very anti-intellectual. This is a kind of Christianity that should be abandoned. Let’s consider something interesting about guilt. Recently I did a search on Bible Gateway after a guest on my show noted that guilt is never talked about in Romans. I went to the search tool and put in the word guilt. It was not in Romans, but I noticed something about every time guilt was used. It never once referred to a feeling of guilt. It referred to guilt in the legal sense. The same with innocence. Yet guess what we focus on here in America? Yep. The feeling of guilt, something not talked about at all in the text.

Are there some feelings talked about? Yep. Honor and shame. These permeated the Biblical worldview and yet how often in churches do you hear sermons on honor and shame? If you’re like me, never. In fact, a search for these terms in the Bible show that they showed up far more in the NT than their Western counterparts.

I also see in Skeptic Mom an idea that Christianity should be focused on the next life. To be sure, Christians should be heavenly-minded, but not at the expense of Earth. Earth is not an afterthought. It is not a mistake. It is the place God designed to dwell with His people. We might have interrupted the plan, but we did not ruin it. That is still His plan. The hymn is true that this is my Father’s world. We should focus on Christ, but never lose sight of this life that He has given us. This is the world we live and serve and worship in. This is the world that we are to seek that His will be done here as it is in Heaven. This is the world that we seek to have brought to Christ that He will rule over it.

Too many churches do have this idea that this world doesn’t really matter. Christ does not share that idea. This is the world that He loves.

In the end, I conclude that I have all the things that Skeptic Mom says she has and in fact, I think I have overall a better explanation of reality. Now to get into the arguments for that, there are many other posts on my blog here that can go into each of those, but I especially think Christianity best makes sense of the life and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It looks like Skeptic Mom got a legalistic and anti-intellectual version of Christianity and sadly threw the baby out with the bathwater. I wonder if she has ever considered reading someone like N.T. Wright and the depths of his knowledge on such subjects.

I also think this is a warning to the church. The Christianity Skeptic Mom abandoned is rampant and people see it as real Christianity. It is not. I do not doubt people in it are real Christians, but it is not because they are following the Bible well and the long Christian tradition. Our churches could all be benefited by better equipping the saints with good theology and doctrine and teaching them how to think and examine both sides of the argument.

Hopefully in fact, both sides of this argument will do that. We could have much better debates.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/30/2014: R. Scott Smith

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Morality. Most of us do agree that there is such a thing, although a growing number are increasingly saying that they don’t, which is quite frightening. We know that there is a good and there is an evil and we have a good idea about what it is we are to do. This is a phenomenon of reality that needs to be explained. How do we do it? To find out about this, I’m having R. Scott Smith come on the Deeper Waters Podcast. 

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Who is he?

Professor of Ethics & Christian Apologetics in the MA Christian Apologetics program, Biola University (starting my 15th year)

MA, Philosophy of Religion & Ethics, Talbot; PhD, Religion & Social Ethics, USC

Author of 4 books: In Search of Moral Knowledge (IVP, 2014), Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality (Ashgate, 2012), Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church (Crossway, 2005), and Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge (Ashgate, 2003).

Contributor to several books, journals, and other magazines/websites

What we will be talking about is the latest book of his, In Search of Moral Knowledge. 

Smith’s book is a fascinating one that takes you through a tour of ancient philosophy, biblical theology and ethics, the medieval period, and then modern theories, including naturalistic theories, that attempt to give a grounding for the morality that we all seem to share. What theory best accounts for it? In the end, he decides that the Christian worldview is the best worldview for explaining morality.

We will be asking a lot of questions along the way of course. Since the book starts off with looking at the early Greek philosophers, one question that can come to mind is “Why should we care?” After all, if we are Christians, don’t we have the Bible to tell us right from wrong? Why should Christians bother studying the ideas of Plato and Aristotle since this isn’t part of inspired literature? Can it really help us to understand morality?

When it comes to biblical ethics, at this point, it is the atheist who will have a rejoinder. “Yes. Let’s talk about biblical ethics. Let’s talk about slavery and genocide and all of that stuff. Remember, all of this is what shows up in the ‘Good Book.’ Why should I take the Bible as a relevant source on morality when it contains so much that is immoral?”

As we go through the medieval period, we can ask what we have really gained from all of this. Most of us today do still have a good idea of right and wrong. Did the medieval period really contribute in any significant way to what we know about reality? Does it really help us to understand what people like Aquinas thought about morality?

Finally, we will be looking at modern ideas from Christians and non-Christians and seeing how they add up and asking if morality can really be explained in an atheistic worldview? If it can’t be, then why is it that we should think that the Christian worldview is the best explanation for morality?

If you’re interested in the moral argument for God’s existence, then I urge you to please subscribe to the Deeper Waters Podcast on ITunes and be watching your feed for this latest episode! You won’t want to miss it!

In Christ,

Nick Peters