Is Morality Constructed?

Is morality a construct? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“You’re telling me that judging right from wrong is just a matter of our personal feelings and preferences, grounded in nothing more substantial than our own views, with nothing external to back it up? That there are no objectively true moral facts out there in the world?
Yes, but admitting that morality is constructed, rather than found lying on the street, doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as morality. All hell has not broken loose.”
The Big Picture by Sean Carroll pg 409-410.
So says Carroll, and he does want to say that this doesn’t mean morality isn’t real, but this depends on what is meant by real. If you mean that there aren’t systems out there that we call morality, that’s false. People who do not believe in any external source of goodness and morality do hold to some idea of morality. If you mean that morality is not something that we discover, that is true though. In that sense, morality doesn’t exist.
Now for my purposes, when I talk about morality, I push it back further and ask about goodness. Very few people bother to even define good when they use the term. I prefer to go with what Aristotle said in the opening of his Ethics.
Goodness is that at which all things aim. Goodness has a being to it. A good pizza is the one that has the attributes a pizza should have. A good squirrel is one that can climb trees and eat nuts. A good book fulfills the purpose of a book. A good human being is one who lives as a human being ought and does actions a human being ought which are good actions.
It’s simplistic in writing it out because the philosophy is much more in-depth. Edward Feser does have a good introduction to it in his book Aquinas. I recommend someone curious go there if they want to learn more.
So now let’s consider what it means to be constructed. Carroll compares it to basketball. Just because basketball is a construct doesn’t mean the rules aren’t real. It used to be played with baskets and the ball would have to be fetched every time it went in, and then we found a hoop with a net worked a lot better. Why can’t morality be like basketball?
It is true basketball was nothing discovered. It was made up by someone. Normally, a shot is worth 2 points, but we could easily imagine a universe where it is worth 3. We can imagine a universe with 7 players on each team. However, imagine if these universes were real and some team from that universe tried to play a team from ours? We would have to bend the format of the game seriously since things were so different.
I’m an avid gamer and I find the history of video games fascinating. One thing I found out recently was that Mario might not have been the mascot of Nintendo. When Donkey Kong was being worked on, Popeye was being seriously considered for the role of the one fighting the big gorilla. We could have had Super Popeye Brothers or something similar. Bowser could have been forever replaced by Bluto.
There is nothing essential to these games, but is morality something like that? It could be I could have grown up in a universe where it was Super Popeye and be thinking, “Wow. I just learned the other day they were going to go with some plumber guy named Mario for a while. Can you imagine how bad that would have been?”
If we try to imagine a world where it is okay to torture babies for fun or where we would praise the Holocaust as a great event in human history or where boys were encouraged to go out and rape women, it sounds like a nightmare. It’s hard to imagine such a world. I can easily picture our scientific theories changing, but I cannot picture some moral principles ever changing.
The question we have to ask is if those principles are discovered or invented by us. If they are invented, then like basketball, we could make them whatever else we wanted eventually. It could happen just like it did with games. The Yakuza series of games went from a fighting style to an RPG style. Breath of the Wild broke the rules for Zelda games by making a truly open world Zelda game and it was the best selling Zelda game of all time. We can say torturing babies for fun is wrong, but we can eventually get to a point where it will be okay and practically celebrated.
If they are discovered though, we can go against the grain all we want to, but we are doing something truly evil if we torture babies for fun. It doesn’t matter if everyone else thinks otherwise. The whole planet could think it is okay to torture babies for fun and they would be wrong.
Now Carroll does say if we have moral differences, we can sit down and talk them out, but to what end? We talk about matters that we disagree to come to some truth, but if there is no moral truth, then why talk about it? We can talk about why we like different flavors of ice cream, but we don’t think there’s some eternal truth on ice cream flavors to be discovered, although if there was, peanut butter ice cream of any kind would be marked as the best of all.
Not only that, but why should I care about what you have to say in a conversation? Perhaps my morality that I construct tells me it’s okay to kill you on the spot and take your money and credit cards. You might not like that. Tough. Why should I care? Why should I be working on any goal with you? Why should I not just do what i want?
You want to tell me that’s wrong and that you will throw me in prison? Isn’t that just you enforcing your own morality on me? You want to punish someone for disagreeing with a claim you hold that is not objectively true anyway but is just your personal opinion?
Let’s go even further. The only reason any of us does anything is we think we are achieving some good. In Hitler’s mind, doing the holocaust was a good thing. In Stalin’s mind, murdering millions of his people was a good thing. The reason anyone does anything is they are pursuing what they perceive as a good.
But if nothing is truly good or bad but thinking makes it so, what reason is there to truly do anything? It’s all still just chasing an illusion. This is quite interesting for someone like Carroll who wants to be so scientific and live in reality.
But if reality is there is no good or bad at all, then why should we create a fake system just so we can survive? Do we have to deny reality in order to make it in this world? We could say all hell has not broken out yet, but if people en masse ever did embrace the idea of moral relativism or constructivism, there’s no reason it wouldn’t.
In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

School Shootings And Evil

Is this proof there is no God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I saw on Unbelievable? in Facebook a thread with a news story about the school shooting yesterday and showing it as proof that God does not exist. The problem with something like this is that proof is a strong word to use. I could understand skepticism, but most philosophers, even atheistic ones, agree that there would be no proof here. The logical problem of evil is not really used that much anymore.

Now I have some political thoughts on this event that I shared yesterday on Facebook and I plan on sharing here as an addendum to this post, but the theological ones are the ones worth talking about. I have said on another post that I do not understand the usage of the problem of evil in this way.

This is not about whether theism is true or not as this point cannot establish theism or atheism. This is on a more matter of living everyday and of practicality. We could consider it a sort of Pascal’s Wager point on how you would want the universe to be.

Let’s suppose we have two universes. In one, there is no God. Now right away, since I think God is necessary for the universe to exist in any way, I am granting a huge point, but this is just for the sake of argument. In this universe, matters are exactly the same for the most part and the school shooting has taken place.

Will the victims ever live again? Not a chance.

Will the parents ever see their children again? No way.

Will the teacher who was killed ever see their family again and vice-versa? Forget about it.

Will anyone who does such a crime and somehow gets away with it ever get justice? Not necessarily.

Is there any hope for healing? Perhaps, but it sure isn’t built in hope of resurrection.

In a Christian universe, all the answers are different. Now this does not show God exists, but it does show we should hope that God does exist. That an atheist wants to use this is practically a way to me of saying, “Let’s push some hopelessness!”

The pushback I received was mind-boggling. Unfortunately, that thread seems to have been eliminated so I will have to go by memory.

First I had said that good can come out of this, and so the reply was “So you’re saying what happened was good?”

Good grief. Do these people not read?

Let’s be clear. Evil is evil. That’s a tautology, but no one can make evil good. God doesn’t even make evil good. God makes evil people into good people and brings good things out of evil things. There is a difference.

But don’t I believe in Heaven in that this gunman could have repented right before death and received forgiveness and gone to Heaven?

He could have, though I think if someone is that bent on evil it is highly unlikely. However, would you honestly want it to be otherwise? If you would rather someone suffer for evil rather than realize the error of their ways and turn, then that reveals very little about the evildoer and much more about yourself. We should always hope someone will change their ways and repent. We should always hope someone would embrace the good.

Right now, I have an ex-wife. It would be easy to delight if something goes wrong with her and her desires and she has to suffer, but why should I want that at all? Note that this is even a woman who has accused me of being abusive to her and shattered my heart to pieces and I suffer everyday because of it. Why should I delight in her suffering? That will not help me at all in my life.

Instead, I pray for her constantly and that God will show her mercy and where I am in error, let justice and mercy come to me appropriately. If I were to pray that she suffer instead, then that reveals nothing about her and more about me.  Anyone can treat their friends well. It’s how you treat those who wrong you and your loved ones that shows who you are.

However, just because someone is in Heaven or in Hell doesn’t mean that it’s all equal. There are degrees of blessing and degrees of suffering. My ministry partner and I have talked about people who will be scrubbing toilets in the New Jerusalem.

There is also the claim that someone who is murdered if their murderer repents could be forced to spend eternity with the person who murdered them.

Yes? And?

That article is sufficient to deal with those claims.

I was also told that I said the murderer is good. Not at all. Scripture tells us none are good but God alone. The beauty of the Gospel is that it takes evil people and makes them good people, people like you and I.

To those who lost loved ones yesterday, Christianity offers hope of resurrection. It says that good can come out of the darkest places. It offers our Lord who Himself was in the darkest place and out of that came the greatest good. It also says that those who turn to Him can have hope.

From just a practical basis, I would hope Christianity was true and I would think any honest atheist would want to know that there could be a way that good could come out of evil and there will be hope. In an atheistic universe, I gain no practical benefit from this.

May we all pray for those involved yesterday and that includes the shooter’s family who has their own suffering as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Political addendum:

So after this shooting, I did watch and saw Biden make a speech where he pretty much immediately went after the gun lobby and called for the passing of stronger laws concerning guns.
I am old enough to remember where the politicizing of a tragedy was normally condemned right after it happened, but I guess that the rules change when the left has power.
But since it has already been done, here are some points to consider.
If someone is really willing to break a law against murder and even kill kids doing it, do you really think they are going to pay attention to a gun law? Does anyone think the only place to get guns is through a licensed dealer or a place that does background checks?
Here are some better ideas.
From now on, police investigate every claim about someone making any sort of threat whatsoever against a school. If it comes out sometime in this that the villain (And here’s a side point. Don’t mention their names. They don’t deserve credibility. Just call them the X shooter for whatever school it was) was reported many times and had a history of threats and the police never did anything, that’s on them then.
When we say a place is a gun-free zone, what we are really saying is “Come in here and start shooting because we can’t stop you!” Everyone should agree that most people who have guns in this country are good and law-abiding citizens. The overwhelming majority would never do what some idiot did today.
If gun laws won’t stop these people, and they won’t, what will stop them?
For one thing, enforce the laws we have. If someone commits a crime that results in the intentional taking of a human life, don’t dilly-dally on it. Get them in and get them in jail and keep them locked up. If we have to use the death penalty, we do. Let people see that crime has a price to it.
Second, there are countless veterans all over this country who would love to have a side job of some kind where they get to patrol our area schools and keep students safe. Let them take security positions in schools. Many of them would be glad to do it on even a volunteer position.
Third, any teacher who wants to should be allowed to have a gun with them. Don’t think you can trust them with it? Then why trust them with your kids? Teachers are adults who should have the right to arm themselves, especially to protect students that can often be like family to them.
A law will not stop a shooter, but what could stop them is the thought that there are several people in that school who could kill them just as quickly before they get to go on a mass shooting spree. The best defense is indeed a good offense. Let the criminals wonder who it is that has guns in a school or any other place for that matter and let them ask if they are willing to take that risk.
Gun laws do not work and gun-free zones do not work. If you want to murder someone, you will not be stopped by a law. Fear is what will work.

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 2

Do gods have to compete? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re returning to God’s Gravediggers and looking at chapter 2 on the logical rivalry of the gods. Now Bradley’s main area is philosophy. You would hope that a professor of philosophy would give you something worthwhile. Sadly, that is not the case.

Naturally, you have the whole idea that how can people just believe the religion they were born in happens to be the right one? Well, if a religion is right, then some people will be born into it, and yes, they will be born into the right one. However, you don’t see any interaction with anything like Muslims that are regularly having dreams and visions of Jesus and becoming Christians despite growing up and living in Middle Eastern countries.

There’s also the talk about religion being the cause of war when usually more often, religion becomes an excuse for war. Of course, religion can’t be as peaceful as atheism which never leads to destruction, unless you count Stalin, Mao, and Pol-Pot. I do not count Hitler as an atheist, but I also don’t think World War II was a religious war as in followers of one religion against another.

There is the mention of Pascal’s Wager which is badly misunderstood. It’s a shame that the wager seems to be about the only thing anyone remembers of Pascal. Pascal is giving an argument along the lines of the person who is sitting on the fence between atheism and Christianity. He’s suggesting you try to live out Christianity and see how it works out for you. He’s not talking about someone who is unsure if any religion is true and wants to investigate several of them.

Now after all of this, he does give an interesting lesson on logic and validity and soundness and other such matters. There is little if anything here that is objectionable. If anything, a number of atheists could be helped by getting a crash course in logic.

Unfortunately, then we get back and we get Hume with his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. I will quote the section that Bradley quotes in its totality:

“I may add as a fourth reason, which diminishes the authority of prodigies, that there is no testimony for any, even those which have not been expressly detected, that is not opposed by an infinite number of witnesses; so that not only the miracle destroys the credit of testimony, but the testimony destroys itself. To make this the better understood, let us consider, that, in matters of religion, whatever is different is contrary; and that it is impossible the religions of ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China should, all of them, be established on any solid foundation. Every miracle, therefore, pretended to have been wrought in any of these religions (and all of them abound in miracles), as its direct scope is to establish the particular system to which it is attributed; so has it the same force, though more indirectly, to overthrow every other system. In destroying a rival system, it likewise destroys the credit of those miracles, on which that system was established; so that all the prodigies of different religions are to be regarded as contrary facts, and the evidences of these prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite to each other. According to this method of reasoning, when we believe any miracle of Mahomet or his successors, we have for our warrant the testimony of a few barbarous Arabians: And on the other hand, we are to regard the authority of Titus Livius, Plutarch, Tacitus, and, in short, of all the authors and witnesses, Grecian, Chinese, and Roman Catholic, who have related any miracle in their particular religion; I say, we are to regard their testimony in the same light as if they had mentioned that Mahometan miracle, and had in express terms contradicted it, with the same certainty as they have for the miracle they relate. This argument may appear over subtile and refined; but is not in reality different from the reasoning of a judge, who supposes, that the credit of two witnesses, maintaining a crime against any one, is destroyed by the testimony of two others, who affirm him to have been two hundred leagues distant, at the same instant when the crime is said to have been committed.”

The whole of this is that every religion seems to have miracles and these miracles contradict one another and thus rule them all out. However, this is simply false. What if I said, “In studying biological evolution on the origin of life, every scientist has a different theory and all these theories are used to argue against the other theories and so no theory is true.” You can be a Christian who fully disbelieves in evolution and still see that as highly invalid.

“Gentlemen of the jury. We have seen many theories put forward today to explain the crime. All of them contradict one another, so there is no reason to believe that my client committed the crime.”

Not only that, but let’s look closer and especially at the big three, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism would certainly want to deny some miracles of Jesus, like the resurrection, if not all miracles, and Islam does acknowledge the miracles of Jesus and many in Judaism, but not the resurrection and sees Muhammad as the final prophet, but Muhammad did no miracles. It is only in the hadiths years later that we have any miracles.

Meanwhile, Christians have no problems with the miracles in the Old Testament and since there are no miracles in Islam in the life of Muhammad, we really have no problem there. We just look at the evidence for Islam and problems in the Qur’an. We also still have the very positive case for the resurrection.

So thus far, color me unpersuaded by Hume’s observations.

Now it should be acknowledged that a general theism can be held by all the religions. In the Middle Ages, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philosophers could all use arguments like Aristotelian ones to argue for the existence of a deity with such and such attributes. Knowing which deity it is would come down to personal revelation. Not a single one of the five ways of Aquinas establishes Christianity, but they do establish theism and thus refute atheism and they are consistent with Christianity, but also with Judaism and Islam. If one faults the argument for not proving Christianity, then one is faulting an argument for not proving what it was never meant to prove.

He then goes on to talk about the resurrection. Please do not be drinking anything as you read this:

“Did the Resurrection occur? Of course, the question itself rests on the presupposition that Jesus actually lived: he can’t have been resurrected unless he’d been alive beforehand. And some might question that. But suppose one grants this contentious presupposition. Then someone intent on exploring the credentials of this belief may be dismayed to find that the four Gospels provide different, and inconsistent, stories of the Resurrection; that those stories were unmentioned by, and apparently unknown to, early Church Fathers until well into the second century A.D.; that there are no independent and well-authenticated records of Jesus ever having lived, let alone having died and having risen from the grave; or, again, that many of the earliest Christians of whom we do have an authentic historical record, the so-called Docetists, whose views held sway from 70 C.E. to 170 C.E., regarded Jesus as having always been nothing but an apparition, a spirit without any physical body that could die or therefore be resurrected.”

Bradley, Raymond. God’s Gravediggers: Why no Deity Exists (pp. 69-70). Ockham Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Sorry, but only on the internet is there really any contention that Jesus lived. I am sure Bradley would be horrified if I said about a scientific argument, “This assumes that evolution is true, but suppose one grants this contentious presupposition.” Unfortunately for him, that is the exact way mythicism sounds. Not only this, but he pays no attention to Paul in 1 Corinthians, where most scholars go to today to argue the resurrection, does not look at any Gospel scholarship for those who want to go that route, and gives no indication from the Church Fathers on the beliefs of early Christians that he claims.

He later asks why a resurrection proves that one is divine. Didn’t Lazarus rise in the Gospels and many when Jesus died in Matthew 27? Even accepting both of those for the sake of argument, no one ever said because someone rises from the dead, they are divine. It is first the nature of the resurrection of Jesus, as He rose to never die again, but also that His resurrection was based on the claims that He was making about Himself and who He said He was. The resurrection was God’s vindication of Jesus’s claims about His own identity. It would behoove Bradley to read some N.T. Wright. At least he could be better informed in his disagreement.

Bradley also uses an analogy of a horse race. Suppose you have reason to believe the race has been rigged so that the horse you are betting on will win. Unfortunately, everyone else has that same position and the majority disagree with you, so you’re probably wrong.

If Bradley thinks this is an effective argument, why is he an atheist? After all, the majority of people alive and who have ever lived have not been atheists and so it would seem the preponderance of the evidence is that atheism is false. In reality, we could say easily that most any position on most subjects is wrong. In the ancient world, the majority of people thought there was no problem with slavery. If Bradley traveled back in time to that era, should he just accept he is wrong if he disagrees?

Bradley then asserts that a diligent inquiry into matters will show that the evidence for a religious belief is not valid, but this just reeks of the Mormonism claim to pray the prayer to see if Christianity is true. I have done a diligent search and concluded Christianity is true. Yet by Bradley’s definition, he would say I must not have done that because I did not arrive at the conclusion he did. Now if I did become an atheist, well then, I searched diligently. Anyone who disagrees does not.

Yet Bradley gets even worse in this very section:

“He might go so far as to question, with Albert Schweitzer and others, whether there is good historical evidence for the existence of a Christ Jesus, and end up embracing merely the so-called “ethics” associated with the Jesus myth. He might even come think that there’s good reason to subscribe to the so-called “Mythicist” tradition of those who confidently assert that belief in Jesus has no more warrant than does belief in Santa or Sherlock Holmes.”

There is wiggle room here, but it looks like he’s asserting that Schweitzer was a mythicist. Obviously, there has been a lack of a “diligent inquiry.” Schweitzer was definitely not a mythicist. Mythicism is highly regarded as a joke position today. Unfortunately, Bradley does not know this.

In talking about laws of nature, he says that they are descriptive and not prescriptive. So far, so good. Then he says “Who made them? Who enforces them? How frequently are they broken?” He tells us that these questions do not arise from laws of nature, therefore, there is no reason or experience for thinking someone like a god is behind them.

Sorry, but many people still think that the question of where these laws comes from is a good question and just asserting your position is not a good argument in reply. He also says there is no warrant in reason or experience for thinking they have ever been broken. This is true, granted that you completely ignore the reasons people give and the experiences they do for thinking just that. Nope. No need to give an argument. They’re just wrong. He also says that even if science hasn’t brought about the way for how a phenomenon came about, we can be confident that it will.

Because?

He could be right, but upon what grounds? Even if he is right, how does that rule out theism? It doesn’t.

He then tells us that all miracles done in the name of God or religion have a foundation in illusion or self-delusion.

Isn’t it great to be an atheist and get to make sweeping grand claims without any evidence that people should just take on faith? God forbid he read any of Keener’s books on miracles!

But wait, he does give one! They are impossible because they violate the laws of nature which cannot be broken. Let me spell out the logic for you here.

The laws of nature have never been broken.
Therefore, miracles are impossible.
Miracles would be a breaking of a law of nature.
But a law of nature has never been broken.
Therefore, miracles are impossible.

The argument is entirely circular. It is only if you know the laws of nature have never been broken can you assert that it is impossible to break them. However, even if we granted they have never been broken, that doesn’t mean they never will be. Hume himself said that if you drop a stone and it falls 1,000 times, that does not prove it will fall the next time you drop it. Why should past experience of consistent laws in a universe that is an accident lead me to think that the future will be the same?

Whew! That’s a lot, and keep in mind this is only covering the highlights of the chapter! Next time we look at this book, we will cover chapter 3.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: God’s Gravediggers Part 1

What do I think of Raymond Bradley’s book published by Ockham Publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I got this book seeing it on sale on Kindle and seeing praise from Graham Oppy for it. I thought this would then be a good and challenging read. Unfortunately, the more I go through this book, the more I see it is not that. Bradley holds to extreme fundamentalist views. Unfortunately, I can easily see why.

Bradley grew up in New Zealand in a situation that was hyper-fundamentalist. He talks about being at Bible camps and all manner of events constantly. At one, he talks about how a leader taught about masturbation and treated it essentially as if it was the unforgivable sin and identified it with blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Whether or not one agrees with masturbation or not, I don’t know anyone who thinks that’s what Jesus was talking about in the Gospels.

There was also the case that his parents when confronted with questions would tell him to have faith. Now I cannot prove any of these stories, but I am going to accept them on face value. I really have no reason to not do so.

So let’s say this at the start. Parents. If you think your faith is extremely important and that your child should believe the things you believe, don’t you think you should study those things and why you should believe them? If you have no reason to believe what you believe, why should your children?

I can think of no other area in your life where people would say have faith? Whether you are a conservative or a liberal, do you tell your child to just have faith your position is true. Do you tell them why you think they should support or oppose gun control instead? Do you tell them why they should or should not support minimum wage laws?

Bradley also early on talks about what could convince him of theism. On page 7, he tells how if the heavens opened tomorrow and God was revealed and kept sharing His desires and ended all injustice and human and animal suffering, he might consider revising his beliefs. When atheists make statements like this, it tells me they are not open to argumentation. They want an experience. (All the while, telling Christians to not go by their experiences.)

He also says that dates are given for people like Caesar in ancient history, but not for the Son of God. It’s hard to believe so many people think this is a serious objection. Now if everyone believed Jesus was the Son of God, of course, they would have written that, but hardly anyone did. Bradley compares the Caesar on the throne to what the rest of the world said was a crucified criminal and asks “Why was one recorded and not the other?”

He also goes on to say the prevailing view among Christians at the start was Docetism. Source for this? Good luck.

When he writes about the existence of Jesus, he says most scholars regard what was said in Josephus as interpolation possibly invented by Eusebius. Source for this? None. He also says Tacitus was at best just hearsay of what Christians were reporting. Source? The same. None. Most scholars think there is some interpolation to Josephus’s first reference to Jesus, but not the whole statement is interpolation. The second one is hard to regard as interpolation.

The reference to Tacitus is not hearsay as Tacitus did not care about hearsay and regularly checked every claim given, including by his best friend Pliny. He was a senator and a priest. If anyone had access to the information, it was Tacitus.

Bradley goes on to decide how his parents reacted to his questioning. This included physical beatings by his father that were so bad a neighbor threatened to call the police. It also involved some books he got being burned. This is actually a great example of how NOT to reach your children. His parents saw this coming for years. They sat him down with two experts, but never seemed to consider learning themselves.

At this, I can have some sympathies for Bradley as such abuse is never justified. However, it looks like Bradley has stayed at this state. He is still the fundamentalist that he was years ago as we will see.

We will continue next time on chapter 2.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: Three Views on Creation and Evolution Conclusion

What are my final thoughts? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So having reached the end, I want to lay out some thoughts on the matter. While I have my views, I want to focus on what I think we should agree on. All of what I say will be that which I think should be agreed on by all Christians in the debate.

First, whatever is shown to be true by science and Scripture should be accepted. Christians should have no problem with whatever method God chose to use. If the evidence showed He used evolution to create, then we accept that. If we find evidence that shows that the Earth is much younger than we thought, then we accept that.

If we hold to inerrancy, this should not be a problem. We would realize that if Scripture is true then whatever is shown by science will align with it. To say otherwise is to keep going on with the outdated conflict hypothesis.

Second, we should not try to fill in gaps with God. When the medieval scientists did their work, they were filling in gaps of knowledge and thought by explaining more, they were giving more glory to God. They were discovering how the creator chose to work and tended to want to use materialistic explanations. They really did not do appeal to miracle.

If we put God in as just someone to stop a gap, then we have a very different view of God. We often have it that we think the universe can exist just fine on its own and is not dependent in any way on God, despite Scripture regularly telling us otherwise. This is where we get to the internet atheist idea that if evolution is true, God is out of a job. This is itself a theology that does hold that the universe can exist on its own. How it exists needs to be answered.

Third, that doesn’t mean there could never be gaps where miracles could occur, but a miracle should not be occurred to just because there is a gap in knowledge. I would think we would need some indication from Scripture that a miracle took place and a problem clearly insurmountable by materialistic means. Unfortunately, no one will agree entirely on what that means, which means it is part of the debate.

Fourth, we need to stop telling everyone why they’re holding the positions that they hold unless they say otherwise. Atheists will tell Christians they hold their views for a fear of death, for example. Christians will tell atheists they just want to live in sin. Now in some cases, this could be true, but we need to realize that saying that doesn’t deal with the arguments.

Meanwhile, between us, something I saw in the book was various appeals to why someone held their view and the reasons were never good. It was a psychological motive that the other person would always deny. No matter who is doing this, it doesn’t help our debate any.

Fifth, we need to realize there are going to be gaps in our knowledge always no matter our viewpoint. I said I would have some of my own questions for evolution and here is a big one I wonder about. I wonder how sexual reproduction came about. I can understand single-celled organisms reproducing by themselves. It sounds like a complex process, but that is within onesself.

I have a hard time understanding how through small incremental steps a system evolved between the two sexes in species where they would reproduce in such a method. I would be willing to accept that this is just an unknown at the time, but for me, it is a big unknown. That brings me to my next point to discuss.

Sixth, either way, we definitely have to avoid making people think, no matter their worldview, that they must choose between Christianity and science. When atheists tell Christians they have to accept either evolution or Christianity, a great many will choose Christianity because it gives them greater benefits in their lives and sadly will become hostile to science and not make great contributions that they could make.

Christians, meanwhile, will not reach atheists if they say it has to be one or the other. This should be seen as an in-house debate. Whatever one thinks of evolutionary creationism, I really don’t think it should be labeled a heresy. Heresy is a very serious charge that puts someone outside of salvation.

Ultimately, perhaps we should all just listen to one another more. Instead of saying why we think the other person believes X, let them tell us why they believe it. What is their evidence? Maybe we should then respond to that.

I would like to see this debate get along better and have us realize we are Christians debating an issue that is really secondary. We all unite on Jesus, which is the most important aspect.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Not All Atheists Are Alike

What do you do when you encounter that atheist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

An atheist friend of Deeper Waters (Yes. There are atheists who read what I write and like it even though they disagree because of my own handling of the issues) wanted me to remind everyone that while not all Christians are alike, neither are all atheists alike. This is something I hold strongly to hence I use terms often like “internet atheists.” You can think of them as fundamentalist atheists, fundy atheists, evangelical atheists, etc. Something really amusing about these people is they spend more time talking about God than a lot of Christians do.

You know these people. These are the people that break out in hysterics when anything religious is mentioned. These are the people that show up on a YouTube video of a Christian song with a bunch of Christians minding their own business and want to argue with them. These are the people who talk about the BuyBull and constantly say Jesus never even existed and share mindless memes and emotional arguments.

These are the people who also usually think they’re the smartest ones in the room. They think they are masters of reason and that theists never have any good points and atheists always win every debate that they’re in (I can attest I have heard debates where I thought the atheist was wrong, but that he beat his Christian opponent) and that every Christian is just emotionally committed. I always say that these people honor reason with their lips, but their heads are far from it.

One test I usually give these people is to link to Andrew Loke’s book on the resurrection. This book is very scholarly, and it is also very free. It costs an atheist nothing to get it. So far however, no atheist who mouths off about how weak Christian theism is has yet to be willing to get this book and go through it. If an atheist wants to be serious about religion, they need to be willing to read something like this.

The sad reality is that so many of these people think that they are giving brilliant arguments if no one answers them. What’s sad is that no one answers them not because they are unanswerable, but because it is a waste of time. You make a serious comment and you just get the laugh response and more obnoxiousness. For me, these people are like slinkies. It can be kind of fun at first, but after awhile, you realize it’s going to be the same thing over and over. They’re really boring and they just drain your time and don’t give any intellectual stimulation back.

Another trait of these people is an absolute hatred of Christianity. They cannot think of any good thing about Christianity. Christianity is the source of all evil in the world. It is responsible for the holding back of science and for all the suffering people on the LGBTQ+ group go through. For them, Christianity must die because it is Christianity.

Fortunately, not all atheists are like that. There are some atheists who are interested in honest dialogue. They disagree intellectually with Christianity, but they know that many Christians are fine and wonderful people, granting many are jerks, and that Christianity has brought some good to the world. They realize someone can be intelligent and rational and believe in God. They present actual arguments with actual premises and read what disagrees with them and are always learning.

If only we had more like these.

Something else good is that usually, these atheists are willing to shut down their more embarrassing brothers. I also want to point out that I try to do the same with Christians who give bad arguments. These atheists and I agree that there are bad arguments for their positions and there are bad arguments for Christianity and we don’t like any of them.

When you’re online or even in person, find out what atheist it is you have met. The nature of the objections is a big clue, but how they give the objections is as well. If someone said, “Well, I’m skeptical because it looks like a lot of scholars think Jesus never even existed” and you present the data otherwise and they respond positively with something at least like, “Wow. I hadn’t heard that before. Let me think about that and study it and get back to you.”

For the other kind, I tend to just ignore them for the most part. They are just big time drainers and impervious to any reason whatsoever. For the atheist types who oppose this, please do your part also with these people and help us shut them down all the more. They do your side more damage than they do mine after all. If you are one of the negative atheists I wrote about, really consider what you’re doing. If anything, you’re giving more evidence to Christian theism just by your obnoxiousness.

And for my Christians, do what you can to be avoid being their counterpart. Study and know your side well. Also, don’t be obnoxious in presenting the gospel.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Ravi and Atheism

What does it mean for theism when we have the fall of Ravi? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was part of the Mentionables Podcast where we talked about the whole Ravi situation. I wrote yesterday about the victims of Ravi Zacharias. Today, I would like to turn my attention to the arguments atheists are now putting forward about Ravi.

Let’s state this clearly. Ravi has no bearing on if Christianity is true or not. That rests solely on Jesus Christ and if He rose from the dead or not. All we can gather from Ravi is that those who call themselves Christians, and whether they are or not is not my judgment call to make, can be just as fallen as those they are preaching to.

Yet as soon as this happened, many atheists were sharing this as if this was a grand victory. I understand the desire, but keep in mind one way this is not a victory for anyone. There were real victims of what happened. Real people were hurt by Ravi. Let us never lose sight of them.

Many atheists have acted as if all of Christianity is responsible for this. Most of this sadly falls on what happened at RZIM. Even here, we don’t really know about who knew what and what they could have done otherwise. Without knowing the ins and outs of the organization, it’s hard to know what was going on and thus make a judgment call.

Most of us then had no power to do anything whatsoever in this situation. Not to mention there are plenty of Christians in other countries that could have even less to do with the situation. They are not responsible at all.

Now do atheists demonstrate that some Christians are hypocrites. Yes, to which, they don’t go far enough. All Christians are hypocrites. Nay. That’s not going far enough still. All human beings are hypocrites. The only exception would be the human being who has no moral standards whatsoever, and let’s face it, we don’t want to be around him anyway.

Ironically, many atheists when pulling this demonstrate that we all know that Christianity should produce a higher character. It has been said that hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue. When Christians fall short, that is supposed to demonstrate something about Christianity.

It doesn’t. It demonstrates something about Christians. It’s odd to imagine a philosophy where you judge the philosophy by how people don’t manage to live up to it. Consider it like abstinence. When people don’t live up to it, it’s considered a failed philosophy. What failed though is the unwillingness of the person to follow it and I know many people who practice abstinence and I definitely did up until marriage.

Now what about other positions? Are Christians and others inconsistent when we make statements about the violence in Islam or the destruction caused by atheists in atheistic societies? The difference here is what is being pointed out is the logical outworking of the position. In Islam, Muhammad himself engaged in the violent behavior and his followers immediately did that and there are passages in the Qur’an that lead to that interpretation.

As for atheism, it can be argued that if there is no God, all is permissible, as Dostoyevsky argued. Some atheists have acknowledged this as well. If this is the case, then why not go ahead and murder millions of your own people? Why not the Gulag? Why not the Killing Fields?

Keep in mind none of this is saying all atheists or Muslims are like this. It is not saying all of them are responsible for the evils in their belief system. Once 9/11 took place, that doesn’t mean every Muslim in America was responsible. One would need to show a certain Muslim knew about what was going on and then they would be responsible.

What Ravi did was horrible and honestly, if our critics are saying something about moral character, we all need to pay attention. However, this doesn’t demonstrate Christianity is false. Also in all of this, whatever our position, let us come together on the fact that the victims still need our support and we should seek to help them however we can.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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Another Bad Atheistic Argument

Does the size of the universe prove there is no God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I check writings of atheists often and I got a blog notification this morning of an atheist blog that will remain nameless. I commented once in response to a post here and soon found my comments being moderated while my opponents got to keep going on. Underhanded movements in comments are something that cause me to ignore someone very quickly.

But today, I see a post about proof of atheism. Hey. I gotta see what this stellar argument is. As I expected though, I was gravely disappointed. This argument as not stellar at all, other than that it was about space.

The idea was about how vast the universe is and we can’t explore it all and how many stars there must be out there. Why would a being of omniscience or omnipotence do this? Now that is a good question. I leave it to the more scientifically minded to address it. However, the author made no attempt to answer and just said that we don’t know what brought about the Big Bang, but it sure wasn’t God.

Because, well, reasons I guess.

Now notice this. This argument just points to something we don’t know and assumes right off that there can be no good reason for this. Considering how limited our knowledge of the universe really is, isn’t that a hasty conclusion to make? Why should we think there’s no good reason for it?

Not only that, suppose I have several philosophical arguments for God, like the Thomistic arguments, that are deductive arguments such as the conclusion is reached with certainty from the premises. If so, then those arguments trump an “I don’t know” argument any day of the week. I can just as well say back, “I don’t know either” and still have my strong case for theism.

We’re also often told that religion stops people from answering questions and science goes “Let’s find out!” Well where is that scientific attitude here? Instead, it’s just “I don’t know” and then “It’s not God.”

The argument is also actually theological. “If there is a God, He would not create this way.” Really? How is that known? Where is this data coming about that if a god exists of any kind, He wouldn’t create in such and such a way?

Even if we granted the challenge to monotheism, couldn’t we hypothetically say that perhaps polytheism is instead true and atheism is still false? After all, the world of comic books is a world populated with several planets and universes and such, and yet it is often a world teeming with gods. Of course, I don’t think that is true, but that would still be enough to show atheism still has work to do.

If you’re an atheist, please don’t engage in such lazy thinking. If you want to make a claim about how God would or wouldn’t do something or why He would or wouldn’t, bring some data. Where do you get this knowledge of God and what He is like? Also, it is not effective to say, “I wouldn’t do it this way.” Okay, but I think we can all agree you’re far from omniscient and omnipotent and it’s just ridiculous arrogance to think you can come anywhere close to that.

A lot of self-respecting atheists would not make this kind of argument out there. They’d actually be agreeing with a lot of what I say in this post I suspect. There are bad arguments for theism and bad arguments for atheism. We should make it a point to eliminate both wherever we see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

How Bad Can Atheist Arguments Get?

What are we to make of the “Brights” today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There are some atheists that give Christianity a fair hearing and can give a take. Some of them can look and say “I can understand how from a rational perspective that you can see this as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus or the existence of God.” Some of them can admit arguments from the other side need to be wrestled with.

Unfortunately, from what I meet online, these are the exception.

I could sadly say the same for Christians reversed, but the problem is many atheists claim that by being atheists, they are champions of reason and evidence. For them, I often modify the saying of Jesus. These people honor reason with their lips, but their heads are far from it.

Saturday night I had posted in a debate group in a thread about someone saying something about how Jesus probably wasn’t white. I agree with this. Jesus looked like the average Jew of His day and was most likely more olive-skinned than anything else. Still, for humor, I always post this meme.

So an atheist messages me yesterday morning asking if I had abandoned my faith thinking I had because I had posted this. Like I said, these guys are not experts in reason and evidence. He invited me to check out his website. Now I’m not going to comment on posts about science as science because I know that is not my area. However, I did see a guest post worth mentioning. We’ll go through it piece by piece as a fine example of how NOT to do atheist apologetics. It’s by someone named Jim Dorans, although I wonder why anyone would want to put their name to this.

“Every single attempted logical argument for the existence of the Abrahamic God, without exception, fails on at least one count.”

Well this is first off a very bold claim. Every single one of them fails. Hopefully, we’ll see that evidence. Also, keep in mind arguments from philosophy are not for the Abrahamic God normally, but for a god who is consistent with the Abrahamic God. It could be that God exists and all the Abrahamic faiths are wrong.

“Saint Anselm of Canterbury made the logical error of assuming the need for a perfect being, and worked from that point on. By that reasoning, and working from an unproven assumption, it was very easy to “prove” the existence of God.”

What would be nice to see is some quote from Anselm showing this. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. Heck, this guy doesn’t even state what Anselm’s argument is or what it is even called. I do not accept the argument, known as the ontological argument, but this is in no way a refutation of Anselm.

“However, that very same reasoning could be applied by an opponent to prove the existence of Zeus, so that’s another reason why it’s a very weak argument.”

And here we are wrong again. Zeus is a being in a polytheistic system. He is never described as a perfect being. If anything, Zeus is a really big human figure with some special powers. You could compare him to Superman. Zeus is a part of a system that needs to be explained. He is not like the god of the Abrahamic faiths.

“Thomas Aquinas too, committed a similar error by assuming the need for a necessary being, and so, based on that unproven assumption, still managed to make a good argument for the existence of God.

It was very much begging the question, and from that fallacious standpoint, he was able to effectively define God into existence.”

As a Thomist, I just find this laughingly hysterical. Again, there is no quote of Aquinas. There is not even a listing of his arguments. There is nothing to show that the author has even read Aquinas. Aquinas’s arguments are also deductive arguments where if one accepts the premises and can show no fault in the form, the conclusion follows.

Normally, if you are responding to an argument, you lay out what the argument is and then show how the proponent thinks the conclusion follows. You try to be as charitable as possible with it. Then you show why you think the proponent of the argument is wrong.

“Again, using the same flawed reasoning, an opponent could just as easily define Zeus into existence.”

See above.

“The well-worn cosmological argument fails too, but for different reasons. Hugely complex, monstrous, recycled arguments tell us the 9,742 ways that a naturalistic explanation is logically impossible, but those 9,742 ways are then “falsified” by inserting God, because God is exempt from, and unbounded by, the laws of logic.Usually, the main claim revolves around the Bereanistic “it is impossible to cross an infinity”, which is just another way of saying that it is impossible to get to the start of an infinity in the past.”

It depends on what kind of infinity is being crossed. Some Aquinas was open to. He said, for example, in q. 46. article 2 of the Prima Pars of the Summa that you cannot demonstrate by reason alone that the universe had a beginning. It must be believed on the basis of Scripture. Today, scientists can debate that one back and forth, but Aquinas is not making an argument like that.

Aquinas says an infinity is impossible though if there is dependence on the ongoing activity of what comes prior. Picture my illustration of an eternal statue standing eternally in front of an eternal mirror. How long has the mirror been reflecting the statue? Eternally. Is the image in the mirror still dependent? Yes.

Aquinas uses the example of a stick pushing a rock and a hand moving the stick. Remove the hand or the stick and the rock doesn’t move. That is the kind of infinity Aquinas says is impossible to have. You cannot have a chain of secondary causes without one primary cause.

Note also that Dorans doesn’t say why or why not this is the case. Is it possible to transcend an infinite? Is it possible for the universe to be infinitely old? He doesn’t tell us.

“The claim then implodes on itself by stating that there must have been a First Cause (which therefore must have crossed that infinity in the past).”

Brace yourself for the demonstration.

“This First Cause is claimed to be God, which of course contradicts the principle of cause and effect, by stating that God does not require a cause, because he is er…God. So, we have now invoked the fallacy of special pleading.”

And everyone who has read anything on the cosmological argument howls with laughter at this point. I can do no better than Ed Feser does. Let’s look at what he says about it here.

1. The argument does NOT rest on the premise that “Everything has a cause.”
Lots of people – probably most people who have an opinion on the matter – think that the cosmological argument goes like this: Everything has a cause; so the universe has a cause; so God exists.  They then have no trouble at all poking holes in it.  If everything has a cause, then what caused God?  Why assume in the first place that everything has to have a cause?  Why assume the cause is God?  Etc.


Here’s the funny thing, though.  People who attack this argument never tell you where they got it from.  They never quote anyone defending it.  There’s a reason for that.  The reason is that none of the best-known proponents of the cosmological argument in the history of philosophy and theology ever gave this stupid argument.  Not Plato, not Aristotle, not al-Ghazali, not Maimonides, not Aquinas, not Duns Scotus, not Leibniz, not Samuel Clarke, not Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, not Mortimer Adler, not William Lane Craig, not Richard Swinburne.  And not anyone else either, as far as I know.  (Your Pastor Bob doesn’t count.  I mean no one among prominent philosophers.)  And yet it is constantly presented, not only by popular writers but even by some professional philosophers, as if it were “the” “basic” version of the cosmological argument, and as if every other version were essentially just a variation on it.


Don’t take my word for it.  The atheist Robin Le Poidevin, in his book Arguing for Atheism (which my critic Jason Rosenhouse thinks is pretty hot stuff) begins his critique of the cosmological argument by attacking a variation of the silly argument given above – though he admits that “no-one has defended a cosmological argument of precisely this form”!  So what’s the point of attacking it?  Why not start instead with what some prominent defender of the cosmological argument has actually said?”

Feser is stating what many of us already know. No one is using this argument that Dorans is dealing with. No one. Again, this is not saying anything about Pastor Bob using it. I am referring to anyone academically inclined. Feser goes on.

“And that, I submit, is the reason why the stupid “Everything has a cause” argument – a complete fabrication, an urban legend, something no philosopher has ever defended – perpetually haunts the debate over the cosmological argument.  It gives atheists an easy target, and a way rhetorically to make even their most sophisticated opponents seem silly and not worth bothering with.  It‘s a slimy debating trick, nothing more – a shameless exercise in what I have elsewhere called “meta-sophistry.”  (I make no judgment about whether Le Poidevin’s or Dennett’s sleaziness was deliberate.  But that they should know better is beyond question.)


What defenders of the cosmological argument do say is that what comes into existence has a cause, or that what is contingent has a cause.  These claims are as different from “Everything has a cause” as “Whatever has color is extended” is different from “Everything is extended.”  Defenders of the cosmological argument also provide arguments for these claims about causation.  You may disagree with the claims – though if you think they are falsified by modern physics, you are sorely mistaken – but you cannot justly accuse the defender of the cosmological argument either of saying something manifestly silly or of contradicting himself when he goes on to say that God is uncaused.


This gives us what I regard as “the basic” test for determining whether an atheist is informed and intellectually honest.  If he thinks that the cosmological argument rests on the claim that “everything has a cause,” then he is simply ignorant of the basic facts.  If he persists in asserting that it rests on this claim after being informed otherwise, then he is intellectually dishonest.  And if he is an academic philosopher like Le Poidevin or Dennett who is professionally obligated to know these things and to eschew cheap debating tricks, then… well, you do the math.”

And I fully agree with Feser again. Either Dorans is intellectually dishonest, which I do not want to say due to the principle of charity, or he is just ignorant of basic facts. Still not the height of charity, but ignorance is easier to take care of than outright dishonesty.

“What is even more amusing is that more special pleading is then used to justify the original special pleading, because God is, well, God …

But why God? Why not Zeus?”

And again, this is still not understood. God does not have a beginning and in Thomism at least, His very nature is to exist. He is what it means to be. You might as well ask “What caused existence to come into existence?” It is either something that already existed, which is a problem since its existence needs to be explained if existence had beginning, or it is something that didn’t exist, which means something can come from nothing, which is nonsense.

So here we have a claim that all the arguments fail and yet none of them are even spelled out at all, no writings are cited, and this is from only two philosophers. There are plenty of others. Some arguments I will think work. Some I will not, but the claim from Dorans is that they all fail and yet we haven’t seen them all put to use and what we have seen, it is the response that fails and fails miserably.

Again, if you want to be an atheist, be one. You can do that. However, please do not be one like Dorans and actually do your intellectual homework and read the other side and take them seriously. Christians need to do the same. Don’t present yourself as a champion of reason and evidence though when your very words will betray you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Worldviews and the Problem of Evil

What do I think of Ronnie Campbell’s book published by Lexham Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If there is any objection normally raised up against theism, it is the problem of evil. How can a good God allow so much evil in the world or any evil even? The argument from my perspective is not the most rational or logical, but it does have a strong emotional appeal. As I write this, our society is on lockdown from fear of a virus and even before this point, atheists were already making memes about God allowing or not doing anything concerning this virus.

In this book, Campbell looks at how different worldviews answer the problem of evil. He deals with naturalism, pantheism, panentheism, and theism itself. Each topic is dealt with the same way. In the end, there is more examination of theism since this is where Campbell lies and he spends more time on defenses of it. In each chapter, he also looks at the best defenders of each position.

Each worldview has to deal with the following questions: Life, human consciousness, the metaphysics of good and evil, and human responsibility. At this, I would have preferred the first two be left out. Let’s suppose we grant the positions of life and consciousness as questions to be set aside for the moment. If we look at just evil itself, how well does each worldview explain it?

Campbell does treat each view fairly and then looks at theism. Here, I would have also liked to have seen more distinction. He focuses naturally on Christian theism, but I was hoping in the book to see a comparison between Islam and Judaism and perhaps even deism as well. Campbell makes the Trinity a necessary part of his defense, so Islam would definitely have some problems, but couldn’t Judaism possibly work still since it would be open to incarnation, resurrection, and Trinity? After all, the first Christians were open to all of these and were Jews.

I was pleased to see the engagement with New Testament scholarship when talking about the Trinity. Campbell looked at some of the best research on this and if you’re not familiar with it, you will gain enough to be basically cognizant of the issues. This is explained in a way that is easy to understand as well.

Campbell also has some questions about classical theism. I really did not find them convincing as a classical theist myself. Still, it is not necessary to Campbell’s book that you embrace his view. I did appreciate his critique of open theism, however.

The final chapter also deals with the defeat of evil and looks at questions such as the nature of Heaven and Hell. While I am not a proponent of conditional immortality, I don’t think many of them would find his arguments in this case tenable. There was some said on Heaven, but I think more needed to be said.

If there was something else I would add, it would be a brief chapter on those who are dealing with suffering right now. What advice does Campbell have for us when we are in the midst of the pain? At that time, the intellectual arguments don’t really help out that much. I realize this book is not meant to be a pastoral book, but that would be something good still to have.

Overall still, this is a very thorough work on the problem of evil and atheists who want to use it as an argument need to deal with it. It’s also a rare book that deals with pantheism and panentheism on the problem of evil as well. Now maybe someone who studies this more will go forward and look at Judaism, deism, and Islam more on evil.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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