Shaky Foundations

[NewsFlash! evanescent is not (as I assumed) the author of the article discussed below. If you follow this link to my previous comment thread, you will see that he never actually claimed to be the author, but just recommended the article as what we should read to understand the ethical system he endorses, which is called Universal Utilitarianism. I have made a few edits in the post below, but in case I missed anything, know that the following is a response directed to evanescent, due to his insistence that we all read about Universal Utilitarianism at http://ebonmusings.org%5D

After the comment thread on Ethical Question II spiraled out of control, I said I would post separately a consideration of an article at ebonmusings.org which describes the ethical system that evanescent endorses, which is called “Universal Utilitarianism” (UU for short).

What should we do, and why should we do it? These two questions frame the field of inquiry known as ethics or moral philosophy.

Right off the bat, I disagree with this definition. I’ll give you one question, but there is no need for a second. From the Christian perspective, why is simply because God has set a standard, so the only real question is “What is that standard?” From the atheist perspective also there is only need for one question: “Why?” The existence of a reason why a thing should be done is sufficient to recommend that that thing is what should be done. (If somebody else has a different idea about what should be done, then the argument about what to do will have to be played out in the arena of “Why should we do this instead of that?”) And note that (as I argue elsewhere), this is exactly the kind of why question that science (and atheism) is impotent to address.

If there is no divine retribution after death, they ask, why be a good person – why not just do whatever you want?…What persuades an atheist to be ethical? What entices us to do right, if not the promise of a heaven? What frightens us away from doing wrong, if not the threat of a hell?

The question of motivation is indeed a good question. It is framed here rhetorically, but there is a real answer. The state of the world should easily be sufficient to demonstrate that threat/promise of appropriate reward is not, and has never been, sufficient to cause moral behavior. A Christian does not seek to act morally in order to earn reward from God. Christians understand that the best we have to offer is as filthy rags to God, but we are instructed that God has prepared good works for us to do, and they should flow from our gratitude for having been saved despite our total depravity. In short, the Christian motivation for morality comes not from looking forward to promise of a reward (or threat of punishment), but from looking backwards to the salvation that Christ’s perfect work purchased for us.

I claim that there is one true absolute, objective, universal moral code, by which I mean a moral code that is the same for all people, that applies equally to all people at all places and all times, and that returns the same results regardless of who performs the evaluation if it is performed correctly. I do not mean to imply by these statements that this moral code exists independently of human beings – by no means should my statements be read as suggesting that I believe that there is a set of rules carved on stone tablets hidden in a remote mountain cave, or drawn in letters of fire floating through the ether in a Platonic higher world. On the contrary, I believe that morality is a concept created by humans for humans; morality exists because we exist. I do not believe, however, that this makes morality subjective, for reasons that I will show.

OK, I’ll keep reading to see how you show that “a concept created by humans for humans; [which] exists because we exist” can be “absolute, objective, universal…to all people at all places and all times.” If UU is really universal then it existed, say, a billion years ago, before any man existed (and thus “exists independently of human beings”). If you insist that it didn’t start being universal until humans created it (i.e. it is only universal “to all people at all places and all times” — but not at places or times without people), then UU must have been created perfectly by the first human, and remained absolute, objective, and universal since our species has continued to survive. That’s a rather odd claim from an atheist that protests so loudly for evolution. How can an evolutionist posit a hard and fast line demarking the first homo sapiens from whatever the missing link was? Or why would morality be immune to every other characteristic of our species which has evolved so radically?

It’s the same with morality as it is with logic. Either logic is out there, independent of the minds that use it, or it is dependent on the minds that use it, and thus liable to be created (and changed) as the minds see fit. You say that morality (and I guess you would say the same about logic) is “created by humans for humans”, and that it “returns the same results regardless of who performs the evaluation if it is performed correctly.” Were the first humans, the creators of morality and logic, subject to the requirement to (per)form it correctly? If so, then “correct” standards for morality and logic were “out there” prior to their creation. If not, then our absolute, objective, universal standards for logic are dependent on whatever was rattling around the completely uneducated brain of the first half-evolved human.

I claim that morality is by definition the way a person behaves in those situations that take the form of an N-person Prisoner’s Dilemma.

So by this definition, there is no moral element involved when self-interest and public-interest coincide? This is not a helpful definition (and I don’t know how many would agree with it), and I don’t see how it has been shown that the Prisoner’s Dilemma is relevant to the question.

The first point against [moral relativism] is that moral relativism gives us no motivation to better ourselves or our society, no motivation to search for and correct systemic wrongs….Defenders of moral relativism might object that this is a fallacious argument from consequences, but I reply that this is only a fallacy when seeking to discover empirical truths about the world. The argument from adverse consequences is not a fallacy in the moral sphere…

It doesn’t take a defender of moral relativism to object to fallacious arguments — any rational person will do! So we are not discovering “empirical truths about the world?” I thought you were trying to prove that morality is not subjective! Doesn’t sound very absolute, objective, or universal.

…because, after all, morality is precisely that field of philosophical inquiry that seeks to produce guidelines for behavior that lead to the best consequences. If a moral code produces adverse consequences when applied, then I argue that is indeed a sign that the moral code in question is faulty or deficient in some way.

Well, I never stipulated that definition (or even saw it asserted previously in the article, much less defended). But if that was the definition of morality, then the subjective nature of determining what are “best consequences” forces morality not to be absolute, objective, or universal.

I’ll skip over the “Various Proposals Considered”; for the most part, I agree with them, as they are a competent and concise rebuttal to that set of non-theistic alternatives — evanescent should consider more carefully how those successful arguments cut his own legs out from under him! On to the positive arguments:

One such principle, whose relevance and utility will here be taken as axiomatic, is pragmatism – the criterion of what works.

And what is the prognosis of success for your system if not everybody in the world shares the same presuppositional foundations as yourself?

For a proposed moral code to be acceptable, it must be possible to implement it, it must be possible for people to follow it, and it must be possible to live by it for extended periods of time. This rules out ethical systems that are…

…worth following! (See my tagline upper-right…) If it has to be perfectly fulfillable (if “it admits of no exception to its rules”), then it would have to be void of any meaningful requirements! If “live by it for extended periods of time” means kinda live by it, then how are you going to define that curve by which you are grading? How does kinda comport with absolute, objective, or universal? “We’re only human — nobody’s perfect!” So I guess your solution is to lower the standards so that we (all? some?) actually will be perfect?

It is unrealistic to expect such a system to work as long as human nature remains unchanged.

Amen! And how do you propose to change human nature? I’m sure your long-term plan includes plenty of nurture, but are you going to optimize man’s inherent moral characteristics through genetic engineering?

It has long been known that no catalog of facts about the world, no matter how complete, can ever by itself furnish us with a moral system. There must also be some decision made of what to value which can never be derived from mere knowledge of those facts…

Again, amen! But who is going to make that decision, and how? What do you do when different people inevitably make different decisions?

…But while it is true that moral directives cannot be derived from the bare facts of the external world, they are still based on those facts

I agree with this: moral directives can indeed be decomposed into part that can be derived from the bare facts of the external world (a.k.a. general revelation, or natural law), and a part that cannot; a part which depends on special revelation. And your naturalistic worldview by definition cannot span that gap! You’re stuck with what can be derived from facts, and you have no means to absolutely, objectively, universally decide “what to value“.

For example, any moral system that proposes unequal treatment of people based on immutable characteristics such as race and gender is wrong and should be discarded, based on scientific findings that all human beings are fundamentally the same at the genetic and cognitive levels.

But we can morally apply unequal treatment to Downs’ syndrome victims, and all others who we can scientifically demonstrate are fundamentally deficient on genetic and cognitive levels, right? And if we ever scientifically determine that a particular group of people are fundamentally superior at the genetic and cognitive levels, it would certainly be moral to give them special treatment.

Any moral system, in fact, that proposes that human beings should do anything because it is God’s will should be suspended until such time as we have compelling evidence that there is a God…

Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. But you don’t believe the evidence. Now what?

…and he does indeed will such a thing.

Jesus, the Son of God, endorsed the rest of the scriptures, which tell us a lot about what it is God’s will for us to do. But of course this is useless to our discussion as long as you don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God.

…a seemingly simple question: What is the ultimate aim of morality? What state does it seek to bring about? The answer to this should, I hope, be obvious: the goal of morality is to ensure happiness.

Apparently it’s not as obvious as you think because again, I reject your definition — as should every orthodox Christian. The goal of morality is not to make men happy, but to glorify God, by reflecting his perfection back to himself.

All people want to be happy…Some ethical systems attempt to camouflage the point where they switch from “is” language to “ought” language. I will not do this, but rather state it plainly…

It’s big of you to continue to wear your logical fallacies on your sleeve.

…in general, people ought to be happy. I hold this proposition to be axiomatic and foundational, and I further hold that any ethical system that has as its highest aim something other than producing happiness is completely missing the point.

Any ethical system that has as its highest aim something other than reflecting the perfect goodness of the God who defines the moral standard, is completely missing the point.

Look, you’ve correctly pegged the problem as one of human nature — it is part of the nature of humans to be rebellious. No ethical system you can dream up can bypass the nature of humans to disobey it. Paul describes exactly what would happen as a result of any ethical system you could possibly dream up:

I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.

And here is God’s own assessment of his own perfect moral law: The letter kills! You want to bring about happiness through an ethical system. But it’s just not possible. Even if God’s objective was to make everybody happy, he wouldn’t be able to do it with an ethical system: “If there had been a law given which could have given life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.” But because the letter of the law kills, even God could not achieve your objective with a moral system.

I realize that by this point, I’m only a little past half-way through the article (and evanescent is just getting to the definition of Universal
Utilitarianism)! The remaining section titles do look intriguing, but time is short, and words are already long, and given that I disagree with all of evanescent’s shaky foundations, I really don’t see the point of climbing the stairs — at least not right now.

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44 Responses

  1. I briefly read this, and it appears that there’s some major weaknesses in Eavn’s ethical theory – both formal and material – but I’d like to just comment on one thing, perhaps even sticking up for Evan:

    “What should we do, and why should we do it? These two questions frame the field of inquiry known as ethics or moral philosophy.”

    Now, I’m not too sure how Evan meant this, but at least he means that these questions *frame the field* of inquiry. Ruben seemed to object.

    As I said, I’m not too clear on the intentions by either, but I will say that two very important points about ethical inquiry is norm and fact, or we could call it authority and relevance. Or, (maybe) as Evan said, why and what.

    This is an important distinction for ethicists since both authority and relevance seem to need to be there. For example, say that one is a Platonist – we should seek after the good. The good, say, is an unchanging, universal form. It is thus authorotative. But, it is not relevant. It comes with no content. There is a material failure. Maybe hitting my neighbor on the head is “the good?”

    Conversly, some have provided a more relevant ethic. Say, Confucious. Here you have loads of content. Confucious say…. Confucious say…. Confusious say…. The problem is with authority, viz., who cares what Confucious say!? Who is he? How about what Nagarjuna say? (He was perhaps the greatest Buddhist philosopher.)

    The distinction between norm and fact also comes into play in ethical disagreement. Sometimes there may be agreement at the level of norm, but not the level of fact. So, though both parties in an ethical dispute, say, a debate about whether we should drain the swamp, may agree that we should take care of the earth, they may differ with respect to fact. One side things *this case* is harful, while another doesn’t.

    Since our situation changes, we constantly have to apply God’s norms to the facts – to the situation around us. All ethical systems must be relevant in that way (and, no, this isn’t situatinal ethics in the sophistacted Fletcherian way).

    So, though I disagree with Evan’s system, he may have been trying to get at the fact that oth fact and norm are important. All ethical systems must bring the two together. In fact, this is one failure of non-Christian ethics, They seem to be either authoritative, or relevant, but not both. Some people think that we should run in fear if a non-Christian can produce and objective syetmn of ethics. But this isn’t so. If it’s not relevant, then it’s useless. In Christianity we have both.

    Lastly, I’ll just say that if you read a book, or a companion to ethics, you’ll see that Evan didn’t even bother to address the main problems against utiliterianism. Since he hasn’t, and the critiques out there are pretty devastating, there’s really no need to interact with what he’s said. That’s not to say Rube wasted his time, though.

  2. frame the field

    Maybe better for me to say: with Christian ethics, the why is trivial, so the what is the only part that requires investigation. For any atheist ethics, the why is what is troublesome, and if the why could ever be properly sorted out, then the what should be clear. Or maybe if a why could ever be sorted out, there would still be work to do to work that out into what, and I would have to give evanescent back a point.

    But as evanescent himself pointed out, what can be “derived from the bare facts of the external world” leaves us short of a full ethical system, because decisions about value still need to be made. I think that pretty neatly reflects your dichotomy between fact and norm. Plenty of relevant systems (like evanescent’s) can be constructed, but the system has no impetus until value decisions direct it one way or another. “Minimize suffering, maximize happiness” is fine, as far as it goes — but it goes nowhere without value decisions about what is suffering, what is happiness, and how much happiness in how many people is it worth to eliminate how much suffering in how many people?

  3. I read this perhaps even more briefly than W, because I found that Rube destroyed the ethical project in the first few paragraphs.

    The philosopher asks FIRST what should be done, and from there seeks to discover the why in order to justify what should be done. The Christian, however, seeks to ask why first, and knows that once that is decided, then the what answers itself.

    Why should we be moral? To imitate God because we were made in his image. Eph 5:1 says to be imitators of God, as beloved children. That answers the why, but also the what. If we should imitate God because we are made in his image, then we should do what his character would dictate ought to be done. God is the standard.

    Rube’s simplicity of approach is already devastating to atheistic moral philosophy, so I read no further.

    It is devastating because in seeking to answer the what before the why, you must presuppose the why, pretending as if that is understood. But fundamentally, this means answering why differently than it is supposed to be answered, namely by presupposing that to imitate God because made in his image is a priori invalid. This a priori assumption is the shaky foundation on which all atheistic philosophy necessarily stands, and yet itself has absolutely no basis, but is merely arbitrary.

    Ah, Van Til.

  4. You mean Cornelius Van Til, the hard talkin’, fast shootin’, uncompromisin’ homicide detective who is takin’ his apologetic to the streets and stickin’ it to the atheistic man in graphic novel and soon to be Major Motion Picture Cruel Logic?

  5. Hello all,

    I’m the author of the article that’s being attacked here. (I’m not Evanescent, although I do know him.) I’m not going to comment on most of this, because I feel my original essay already addresses most of these points, but I would like to respond to this:

    “The goal of morality is not to make men happy, but to glorify God, by reflecting his perfection back to himself.”

    On the contrary, the goal of Christian morality is human happiness, just as universal utilitarianism says. I think I can prove it. Consider the following thought experiment.

    Let’s say God handed down the exact same set of rules, but proclaimed that there was no reward whatsoever for following them. Even if you love your neighbor, keep the commandments, and believe in Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, you still go to Hell when you die, and burn forever and ever, exactly the same as people who disobey. In that scenario, would you still do what God said to do?

  6. Ebonmuse,

    So sorry for the confusion! I have just put a disclaimer up front, and made a few edits, which I hope take mitigate of the problem. Since the whole article is written in the first person (I claim, I take as axiomatic, …), and since I had it in my head that evanescent was the author, most of my response is directed to him (you say, I thought you were trying to…), although I guess evanescent has the right to say “well, I didn’t write the article, and I don’t agree with such-and-such particular statement”.

    In the end, I hope you will agree that I have been sufficiently respectful in my tone that you are not being “attacked”, but merely “challenged”, “debated”, or “rebutted”.

    Sorry again for the confusion, and thanks for stopping by.

  7. …In that scenario, would you still do what God said to do?

    As a Christian, I do sometimes worry about the danger that my faith is false, not from God, but merely a product of my own efforts to fit in with my family, friends, culture, etc., and I won’t know my faith was false all along until I’m burning in hell. But my response is not to give up and apostatize, but to continue to have faith: to see the existence of what faith I do have (Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!), as evidence for the proposition that God has elected me and given me faith, and that it is his unshakable will that I will persevere and enjoy him forever. And if not, then there was nothing I could have done about it.

    So I will answer your question with “Yes, in a way I do keep the faith in the face of the fear that there will be no reward.”

    Even as an atheist, it should be easy for you to agree with the following proposition: “IF the Christian God exists, then ‘happiness of men’ is not his goal, because if so, God is already a failure in that goal, which is self-contradictorily impossible.”

    (i.e., God may or may not have a wonderful plan for your life)

  8. RubeRad, you didn’t answer my question. I didn’t ask about “keeping the faith in the face of the fear that there will be no reward”. I asked whether you would keep the faith if you had definite knowledge that there was no reward. Would you?

  9. His Ebon,

    “Let’s say God handed down the exact same set of rules, but proclaimed that there was no reward whatsoever for following them. Even if you love your neighbor, keep the commandments, and believe in Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, you still go to Hell when you die, and burn forever and ever, exactly the same as people who disobey. In that scenario, would you still do what God said to do?”

    This is a type of argument the ethical system known as Egoism makes, quite frequently. By way of response:

    i) Egoism has been subjected to piercing criticisms.

    ii) Ambiguity and Vagueness

    a) There’s many an ambiguity here. For example, the by-product of an act vs. self-interest as the sole intent of the act. That Christians have, *as a by-product*, the benefit of life with God in heaven, *does not mean* that those things (e.g., heaven et al) are *the sole intent* of the act.

    Glorifying God, says the Christian, is an *intrinsic good.* Thus it still *should* be done regardless of the self-interest. So, the Christian does not use the “happy” *by-products* as the sole legitimate intent of moral actions.

    b) This brings up the distinction between *reasons* and *motives* for an act. A motive is some state within a person that influences and moves him to believe something or act in a certain way. A reason is something that serves rationally to justify some belief one has or some action one has done. Citing a *reason* for doing X is an attempt to cite something that makes X the thing I rationally or morally ought to do. Thus, *just because* something (say, self-interest) may serve as a *motive* M for doing X, it *does not* follow that M serves as *the reason* for doing X. Thus self-interest may be a legitimate *motive* for glorifying God, but something else, say the intrinsic worth of glorifying God, would serve as the legitimate *reason* for doing so.

    c) Apropos b, even if I grant self-interest is a legitimate reason for doing something, that reason may be a *prudential* and not a *moral* reason. That is, it may be wise, good judgment, etc., to avoid hell *without* saying that these constitute *moral considerations* for glorifying God.

    iii) The Connected Doctrine Problem

    a) Your hypothetical asks us to consider things *counterfactually.* In Christian theology, you tinker with some of the doctrine, you tinker with the rest. I therefore claim that the kind of “god” that would punish someone who put their faith in the active and passive obedience of Jesus Christ, as the atoning sacrifice, is not a god worthy to be glorified. So, that we wouldn’t have as the goal his glorification, given your hypothetical, is not a *relevant* defeater. We’re talking about different gods, now. I’d have to see an argument why glorifying *that kind* of god would be an intrinsic good.

    b) It makes no sense to speak of “Jesus Christ” since there would have been *no purpose* to his becoming incarnate. Thus we’re not even talking about Christianity anymore. it is therefore not a critique against Christianity.

    c) If the just and the unjust are punished exactly the same, then this god is also unjust. Thus we have another disanalogy. In fact, why make “rules?” You seem to be letting on to more than you want. Do you presuppose that the Christian God just arbitrarily makes rules? It seems as if you have a voluntaristic conception of Christianity. I therefore doubt that you even deny what Christians affirm. You rather deny the existence of a god of your own devising.

    d) Thus your argument is disanalogous. That we wouldn’t glorify X god as a goal doesn’t say that we would not glorify Y God has a goal. Thus even if one said “yes” to your question, that wouldn’t bother *Christianity* in the least.

    The above is just a sample of the type of vague and rather entry-level stuff your morality paper was chalk full of, sorry to say.

  10. “Wacky Fundamentalist”, you do a great deal of circling around my question, but as far as I can tell, you haven’t answered it either.

    If you had definitive knowledge that people who follow God’s rules will be eternally damned anyway, would you continue to follow those rules? I don’t need a lengthy digression on counterfactuals, thank you very much. I’d just like an answer to my question, yes or no. I don’t think this is hard.

  11. I didn’t ask about “keeping the faith in the face of the fear that there will be no reward”. I asked whether you would keep the faith if you had definite knowledge that there was no reward. Would you?

    As we both know, is does not imply ought, so whether I would or would not is irrelevant to whether I should.

    And reward or no, whether I would behave morally would still depend entirely on whether God had regenerated me. If he left me in my original sin, then doubtless you could count on my selfishness to guarantee that I would act however my own self-interest dictated, whether for good or evil. But if he gave me a new nature, then the new nature would seek to do good.

  12. Ebon,

    I did answer your question, perhaps a cup of coffee, a determination to grasp your interlocutor, and a healthy dose of critical thinking could help you out here.

    Now, if you’d like the short answer to your question:

    ” I’d just like an answer to my question, yes or no. I don’t think this is hard.”

    *****

    As my above post demonstrates, the question is imporoper. It is a complex question fallacy and it would commit me to propositions that I do not accept. Furthermore, your question was a negation of Rube’s claim that we have God’s glory as our ultimate goal. You negated this by appealing to self-interest. I think I did a handy job at showing you that this was a misplaced objection. That is, I showed that *even if what you say were true in some minimalist sense,* you have not negated Rube’s claim. Put differently, even if you received an affirmative answer, that wouldn’t be enough to prove your negation of Rube’s claim. Moreover, I showed that even a negative answer wouldn’t be a refutation of Rube’s claim.

    *****

    So, continuing to claim “you haven’t answered my question” isn’t a refutation of my argument and my reasons I gave for my answer – which you should be thankful for since I taught you some things you were apparently unaware of. I thus claim that *you* have not answered *my* rejoinder.

  13. Ebon,

    Give me a yes or no answer: Have you stopped beating your wife?

    Sincerely,

    Wacky

  14. Ebon,

    Let me spell it out more. Let’s see what the cash value would be if we answered “yes” to your question:

    Rube said: “The goal of morality is not to make men happy, but to glorify God, by reflecting his perfection back to himself.”

    Ebon replied: On the contrary, the goal of Christian morality is human happiness, just as universal utilitarianism says. I think I can prove it. Consider the following thought experiment.

    Let’s say God handed down the exact same set of rules, but proclaimed that there was no reward whatsoever for following them. Even if you love your neighbor, keep the commandments, and believe in Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, you still go to Hell when you die, and burn forever and ever, exactly the same as people who disobey. In that scenario, would you still do what God said to do?

    Call Rube’s claim, C1. Ebon tried to deny C1 by ~C1.

    To contradict a claim one must rebut the actual claim. if not, one argues ignoratium elenchi. Does ~C1 deny what C1 affirms? I don’t think so. Here’s why.

    Take Leibniz’s law of the indiscernability of identicals:

    (x) (y) [(x=y) —> (P) (Px Py)]

    The above equation simply states that for any entities x and y, if x and y are really the same thing, then for any property P, P is true of x if and only if P is true of y.

    Both C1 and ~C1 use the term God. Call God in C1 G* and God in ~C1 G**. Now, let’s look at a property G* has:

    G* has the property (or attribute) of being just.

    But, Ebon’s G** is not just. He does not give people their just desterts.

    Call the property of being just J.

    G* is J. G** is not J.

    Thus we can see that Leibniz’s law shows that G* and G** are not identical. Thus ~C1 *does not* negate C1.

    Therefore, to say “yes” to ~C1 only shows that we do not glorify G** as an intrinsic good. But the argument needed to refute the Christian’s goal of glorifying G*.

    Put differently, Ebon’s argument trades conceptions of Gods and tries to infer that what might follow from G** can be applied to G*. This is fallacious.

    Therefore, Ebon’s rejoinder to Rube’s claim is fallacious.

    Not only that, the rest of my claims serve to heap more problems on Ebon’s rejoinder.

    Hope that helped, Ebon,

    Regards,

    Wacky

  15. It seems no one here will give me a straight answer to a simple yes-or-no question, so I don’t think any further point would be served by my continuing to post about this. Good day, all.

  16. It seems you won’t give a simple answer to my yes or no question, so I don’t think any further point would be served by my continuing to post about this.

    Btw, I posted something else which proves my point, but for some reason this blog randomly doesn’t accept posts. Anyway, what I’ve done still stands. And, Ebon, do let me know if you decide to put your little thinking cap on and deal with my answer to your question. Thanks for playing.

  17. Wacky, your comment was stuck in moderation; I have released it now.

    Thx above for the reason/motive distinction; I think that’s very helpful.

    And by the way Ebon, I answered your question as succinctly as I could: in my originally sinful state, I would not do good, but if God had regenerated my human nature, then I would seek to do good — no different from the situation in reality.

    I’m still wondering how you “expect such a system [as UU] to work as long as human nature remains unchanged.”

  18. Ebon,

    Just in case you come back, the answer is “NO”.

    No. If I knew for SURE I was going to hell, there’s no chance at all that I’d want to obey anything God told me to do. In fact, I would hate him so much that I would try to invent ways to disobey him. I’d probably become a satan worshiper, a homosexual, a murderer, a liar, a cheat, a thief, and anything else I could dream up. That’s what I would do if I was consigned to everlasting damnation.

    In fact, if you read Romans 1:18-32, Paul says exactly the same thing.

    And he says that this is why people sin.

    That would be ALL people, including you and me.

    That’s why our right standing before God, our justification, cannot be by works of the law, but must be by faith alone in Christ alone. Because it is only when we are first judged to be righteous that we can even begin to WANT to obey the law of God.

    But look at that! If my spot in heaven is already guaranteed apart from my obedience, then what AM I obeying for? My obedience is gratitude for receiving my spot in heaven by grace alone, by the good will of God, which Jesus Christ purchased for me on the cross.

  19. Wacky and Rube,

    Since I said something different from what you just said, I take it that you would disagree. I also take it that Ebon won’t be back to interact with my post. So I say that if you have objections, I’d like to hear them. If I take too long to respond, Rube will please send me an email to remind me to do so.

    E

  20. E,

    It’s not that I necessarily disagree. My point was that his question was not a yes or no question. There were far too many ambiguities, subtleties, etc., that would need to be disambiguated, analyzed, etc. As I pointed out above, a “no” answer doesn’t help since the two positions are not even talking about the same God. Thus to say “no” or “yes” doesn’t help Ebon *at all.* For me to answer “yes” or “no” would be to commit me to positions I do not accept. From your “no” answer, Ebon’s next move is to say, “See, you have self-interest as your goal for following God, not his glory.” I anticpated this answer of his and made qualifications and clarifications undermining his presuppositions. He was too lazy a thinker to think through it with me. In debate, answering a question commits one to the presuppositions implied by the question. That’s why it is a valid debate maneuver to question the presuppositions of questions. In many cases, like here, that is not, contrary to Ebon’s simplistic understanding, being evasive. it’s doing the hard work required when discussing philosophical or theological issues. But Ebon’s a typical lazy atheist. He just wants to score cheap points. He’s not looking to dialogue, but to undercut theists.

  21. Well, I don’t think my “no” answer concedes his presuppositions, because the question I’m answering is simply: “If you knew for sure God would send you to hell, would you obey him?” The answer to that question is no.

  22. But it does. One example is that he said “even if you believe on Jesus.” Thus you’re conceeding to a God who sends people to hell, even if they place their trust in Jesus. This is an unjust god. Thus the god is not the same god as our God, and so you’re “no” tells us nothing about *our God.*

    Another example, without qualifications, “no” means: “then you obey God for the goal of human happiness.” Distinctions had to be made here before it was appropriate to give an answer. Presupposed in his answer was the proposition “answering ‘no’ shows that you do not have as your goal God’s glory but, rather, human happiness.”

    When answering questions you tacitly agree to the presuppositions assumed by answering them. Whether you know it or not, answering his *precise* question (all that was icnluded above) got you to admit to an unjust god. Now, if you meant your answer to be referring to the same God as the biblcial God, you conceeded possible injustice in God. You conceeded vulnerability to Euthyphro’s dilemma, too. Now, this isn’t a big deal. I just know enough to know not to fall for complex question fallacies. Perhaps Ebon wasn’t sharp enough to see what he was doing. As an apologist, I don’t take those risks. If I simply answered his complex (and loaded) question, I would commit myself to certain presuppositions inherent in the question. If Ebon was a sharp atheist, he’d call me on it later in the dialogue. I’d then be forced to retract and qualify.

    So, that’s where I’m coming from. if you don’t agree, that’s fine. To me it’s fairly obvious and so I don’t feel the need to spend the energy debating it.

    peace

  23. It was pretty obvious that Ebon’s question was a trap, akin to “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?”. Wacky is right that yes/no answers to the question have no bearing on the actual question of whether “the goal of Christian morality is human happiness”.

    For the goal of Christian morality to be human happiness, then it would have to be the case that morality is a means of attaining human happiness — which, in Ebon’s question is equated with salvation and heaven. But the bible makes painfully clear that no one can obtain salvation via morality.

  24. Wacky,

    You’re right, it would be an unjust God. So no, I wouldn’t want to obey him.

    This doesn’t admit that God is unjust, because the fact is, I do want to obey him. But I’m happy to say that if God were unjust, I wouldn’t want to obey him. After all, since he actually IS just, I DO want to glorify him by obeying him.

    I understand Ebon’s question is seeking to make me accept his presuppositions. You don’t need to repeat what you’ve already said. But I just don’t think that answering no really falls into his trap, even if he thinks it does. I really couldn’t care less if he thinks I have fallen into his trap. Let him say that I have, and I’ll explain to him how I haven’t.

    Do I think he’ll understand what my “no” answer entails? No, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean I should withhold my answer. I can continue to converse with him on the question or whatever.

    But you say that as an apologist, you don’t want to end up committing to someone else’s faulty presuppositions. But first, I’d say that presuppositions are unstated. I say let the conversation progress on its natural course, and eventually presuppositions will be revealed more clearly.

    Second, you might notice that your approach only irritated him. You’re interested in trying to control precisely how he understands what you’re saying, but you’ve only ended the conversation. I don’t want you to have absolute control over how I understand you and what you’re saying. I want to be able to exercise my mind and interpret you. Sure, you can help me along in that process, and you should, but you cannot control the process.

    It shouldn’t be a mystery as to why he jumped ship. From his point of view, you wouldn’t answer a question he was honestly asking. Was it intended to be a trap? Of course it was. But you accomplished nothing by calling it a trap and refusing to walk into it. I chose rather to walk into it and declare myself free from his non-existent trap.

    By answering his question, I am not committing myself to his unstated presuppositions. He is essentially asking, if God were different than he is, would you want to obey him? The answer is no, and I’ll stand by that. But when he then declares that he has won the argument, I’ll say, no, you haven’t, because that’s not the God I believe in, not the God who has revealed himself.

  25. Your answer irritates me. So, stop it. ;-)

    Echo, if you can’t see how you reason poorly, no matter how pious and lofty you want to project yourself, it’s still that – bad reasoning.

    My tactic ended the conversation because he didn’t want to reason properly. That’s an apologetic victory. One aim is to show that the non-Christian cannot reason against the christian apologist. It shouldn’t have ended it. Any textbook on informal fallacies will teach you that the appropriate response to complex question fallacies, is to break down and analyze the question.

    How about this, Echo: have you stopped beating your wife?

    Now, you wouldn’t give a yes or no answer. Now, if you didn’t, then could I say, “Your approach irritated me, and so I’m gonna stop the conversation”? Thatn would be absurd. And, by parity of reason, your response to me is that. Your response to me has put you on a slippery slope. You appear arbitrary if you say that the correct approach to fallacious complex question is to break them down and question the assumptions, but yet you don’t afford me the same right to do that.

    So, if your apologetic tactic is to pander and cater to the pagan, be my guest. That’s not how I engage in apologetic debates.

    Lastly, your comments still make no sense. Let’s try to understand the context of the dialogue. Ebon did not try to argue about a *different* God, he tried to argue that we do not worship *the same God* as Rube talked about, for reasons other than self-interest. To sit there and say, “I answered ‘no’ because that would be a different god and so, no, I wouldn’t worship *that* god” is to totally misunderstand Ebon’s point. So, good job, your “no” answer was totally irrelevant to what Ebon was trying to get at!

    So, anyone could have answered “yes” or “no” had they wanted to equivocate on “God.” I treated Ebon better than that. I knew what he was getting at. Apparently you didn’t. In fact, if you read my posts – which I don’t think you have – you’ll note that I already covered the simple yes or no answer approach, and found that answering yes or no was actually pointless. That is, it didn’t answer the question(s) *Ebon* was asking.

  26. Actually, now that I think about it, another quick way to evade the trap is just to say “Yes”. What does he have then — “You’re lying”?

  27. Actually, now that I think about it, another quick way to evade the trap is just to say “Yes”. What does he have then — “You’re lying”?

    He might also say, “Your ugly and your momma wears combat boots and dresses you funny.” 8-P

  28. I just don’t think the goal of apologetics is to push people away. I understand your point. I did read your posts, though I admit that even after having taken symbolic logic, my eyes glazed over in your post that contain many symbols. I figured I knew what you were getting at. My concern when dealing with an unbeliever, is not to show him how stupid he is. My concern is to bring him the gospel, and to confront him with the truth.

    Again I say, I accepted none of his presuppositions by my “no” answer. Please don’t assume that I don’t understand what I’m saying when I say that. I’ve read Van Til, I’ve taken a logic class, etc. I’m a seminary student and was a philosophy major. I’m not a child, nor am I ignorant. Under the (impossible, implausible) conditions which he described (which conditions I don’t accept as possible) I would not want to obey God. That’s the long and short of it.

    But once I answered his question simply, and honestly, then I could continue to interact with him on his own terms, and explain how his conditions are impossible and irrelevant, or whatever. But nonetheless, under the conditions he described, he asked about my personal desire. Would I WANT to obey such a God? No. No one would. So let’s thank God then that those conditions are contrary to fact.

  29. *post that contained many symbols*

    sorry

    I just didn’t have the time or energy to read that post all the way through carefully. But I got your point, which I thought I could safely assume hadn’t changed, from the rest of what you said.

  30. You surely realized that from Ebon’s perspective, flawed though it may be, he perceived you as simply equivocating and not answering, and therefore his heart was merely hardened toward you and our message. You did HIM no good at all.

  31. I never said that “my goal” was to “push people away,” Echo. Where did you get that idea?

    Because I wouldn’t play into his traps? Is that “pushing people away?”

    Well, Jesus “pushed people away” too, then. People could have said this about some of Jesus’ answers:

    “You surely realized that from the that Pharisee’s perspective, flawed though it may be, he perceived you as simply equivocating and not answering, and therefore his heart was merely hardened toward you and our message. You did HIM no good at all.”

    Or, what about trying to answer my question: Have you stopped beating your wife?

    If you don’t answer “yes” or “no” then I will “perceive you as simply equivocating and not answering.” Surely you’d rightly scoff at me here. Now, here’s the unfortunate conclusion. By parity of reason, you’re correct approach to my above complex question fallacy serves to show that you should take what you’ve said here against me as worthy of scoffing!

    And, yeah, for the 100th time, I got it. You’re a seminary student. You majored in philosophy. You’re the man, Echo. You do every thing right. You know how to do theology, philosophy, apologetics, et al. When you speak, we had better not disagree or else we’ll get put in our intellectual place.

    Oh well.

  32. Wacky,

    I don’t think your criticism of what I have said is fair. When I said that I was a seminary student and had been a philosophy major, that was to counter the implied charge in what you had said to me that I am intellectually inferior somehow. I didn’t say that to toot my own horn but to defend myself as not being an idiot, and not just for your sake, but for the sake of someone who might happen to read this blog and get taken in by your comments.

    Have I stopped beating my wife? No, I haven’t stopped, because I never started in the first place. Yes, I realize that this is the classic unanswerable question to some people, but I think the whole notion is a bit silly.

    To be sure, Jesus did not answer peoples’ questions directly all the time, especially when it came to the Pharisees. But had I been there and said to Jesus, “Hey Jesus, all you’re doing is hardening them to your message,” he would have responded, “Yeah, I know, that’s what I’m deliberately doing.”

    “Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
    (Matthew 13:10-13 ESV)

    When you said that you were trying to prove to Ebon that his reasoning was flawed or that he was unable to reason properly given his presuppositions, I’m saying that I disagree with your goal.

    Why do you feel the need to make him feel stupid before you can give him the gospel? Do you honestly think that anyone on this entire planet will respond positively to such arguments?

    I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to be faithful to Van Til. You’re trying to be a good presuppositionist. That’s fine. Van Til is great. But you can’t begin with someone by humiliating them. Trying to prove to them how flawed their views are will only push them away. ONLY push them away.

    What is the message that changes hearts? Is it this: “You are unable to reason properly.” Or is it Christ crucified?

    Van Til taught us that we need to understand that unbelievers can’t reason properly. WE NEED to understand that. Unbelievers don’t need to be confronted with this fact right away. Don’t try to get them to understand Van Til. Teach them the gospel, and you will fix their reasoning.

    Don’t you understand that people deny the existence of God because they know that his judgment bears down on them? Don’t you understand that they hate God because he has consigned them to eternal damnation? This is what Paul makes clear in Rom 1. If you want people to accept, no, to ADMIT that God exists, you don’t achieve that by trying to convince them that everything they think and believe about everything is wrong.

    The stumbling block to their admitting God exists is not their lack of understanding of their own reasoning processes. The stumbling block is the wrath of God that they are aware of and cannot bear to look at! The only way to remove this stumbling block is to tell them that they can come out from under God’s wrath through faith in Christ. This message, and this message alone softens hearts. Any other message only serves to harden.

    We preach Christ and him crucified, says Paul.

    Van Til is very helpful I think. Good stuff. He teaches us how to understand the unbelieving mind. But I think one of his biggest shortcomings was that he didn’t teach us how to approach with and connect to the unbelieving mind. When he was asked about this sort of thing, he simply said that it wasn’t his job. That was the job of the practical theology professors.

    This flaw has led to many reformed folk approaching unbelievers in the wrong way. We don’t have to prove to them that their reasoning is flawed.

    Just like they deceive themselves about God because they fear his wrath and cannot bear to face it, so too they cannot bear to face the fact that all their reasoning is flawed, so they will simply never accept that message. NEVER.

    The message they can accept, Lord willing, Spirit using, is the message of forgiveness, the propiatory life, death and resurrection of Christ on their behalf. This message can be accepted because it is GOOD NEWS, not bad news.

    If you want to confront someone with the law first to help them understand their need for Christ, by all means, confront them with the law of God. Show them they are a sinner. But if you try to show them that their mind doesn’t work properly, you’re only going to make them feel stupid and push them away, ESPECIALLY if your argument successfully convinces them!

    Now, once in a while, you may run into someone that might accept what you have to say in this regard. If that’s true, it’s only because they’ve already heard the gospel and already believe it.

    The approach you are taking will never, ever work.

    But Wacky, let’s not make this personal. Please don’t interpret this as an attack on you. I actually had no idea how strongly I felt about it until these last few days interacting about it here. I’m a bit surprised, frankly. So don’t take it personally. This is not about you and me, but about ideas. I feel strongly about ideas, as you clearly do too. So let’s make it about ideas, not personal. I’ve almost always appreciated what you’ve had to say here and elsewhere, and this debate here should really be considered more of a polite disagreement between brothers who have a GREAT deal in common. It’s nearly impossible to convey humility and politeness on a blog, because the reader does so much interpretation. I know how I mean what I’m saying, and I know how it would sound if I said it. But you can’t hear voice inflection or tone or anything. So please interpret what I’ve said here as not an angry shouting match or something.

    E

  33. E,

    “I don’t think your criticism of what I have said is fair. When I said that I was a seminary student and had been a philosophy major, that was to counter the implied charge in what you had said to me that I am intellectually inferior somehow. I didn’t say that to toot my own horn but to defend myself as not being an idiot, and not just for your sake, but for the sake of someone who might happen to read this blog and get taken in by your comments.”

    I didn’t imply that you were intellectually inferior. I implied that in one instance your reasoning was off. And, it was. To critique my answer because “it irritated him” suffers from this rebuttal: “your response to me irritates me.” But you don’t think you should have answered me differently. So, neither do i think my comments were problematic. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    “Have I stopped beating my wife? No, I haven’t stopped, because I never started in the first place. Yes, I realize that this is the classic unanswerable question to some people, but I think the whole notion is a bit silly.”

    It’s not unanswerable. For example, if someone had beat their wife in the past, they could easily answer yes or no. Secondly, the problem isn’t that it is unanswerable, the problem is that it is a complex question. It is more than one question. When you break it down, you can easily answer it.

    “To be sure, Jesus did not answer peoples’ questions directly all the time, especially when it came to the Pharisees. But had I been there and said to Jesus, “Hey Jesus, all you’re doing is hardening them to your message,” he would have responded, “Yeah, I know, that’s what I’m deliberately doing.”

    So it’s no obvious problem or deficiency that I didn’t answer his fallacious trappings. In fact, I did precisely what Jesus did in situations when he was asked trick questions. yet I get chastised.

    “When you said that you were trying to prove to Ebon that his reasoning was flawed or that he was unable to reason properly given his presuppositions, I’m saying that I disagree with your goal.”

    My goal was to apply accepted rules of reasoning to the situation. Ebon should agree. For example, he can see atheist Doug Walton use the same tactic in his book Informal Fallacies: A Handbook for Critical Argumentation. Ebon asked a complex question fallacy (not to mention other problems with his question). I simply did what he would do if faced with the same situation. Just like you did with the beating wife question. You didn’t just give a “simple” yes or no. Had Ebon cared about having a rational dialogue, he would have interacted with my appropriate questions rather than being evasive (which, ironically, he tried to apply to me).

    “Why do you feel the need to make him feel stupid before you can give him the gospel? Do you honestly think that anyone on this entire planet will respond positively to such arguments?”

    That wasn’t my intention. My intention was to give him the best possible answer. My intention was to treat him like the rational individual that he is, and ask of him what he asks of the theists – to reason coorectly and avoid fallacies.

    Many people who want to avoid fallacies would have no problems with my approach. Atheist bullies, who are used to picking on 13 year old Christians, will. I know my environment. Ebon was not a sincere “seeker.” If he was sincere, he would have been treated differently. Honestly, I can tell you haven’t engaged in much apologetical encounters – especially with types like Ebon and Evan. I find your view naive, to say the least.

    “I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to be faithful to Van Til. You’re trying to be a good presuppositionist. That’s fine. Van Til is great. But you can’t begin with someone by humiliating them. Trying to prove to them how flawed their views are will only push them away. ONLY push them away.”

    I was not. And, I am much farther away from van Til than you might think. I wasn’t even employing presuppositional apologetics. I simply pointed out that his question was flawed. he demanded a yes or no answer to a complex question. Applying rules of logic that even atheists agree with is not “humiliating,” unless, of course, they just came to try to push fallacious arguments on unsuspecting theists.

    Telling someone that their question was inapropriate, and then providing objective reasons for that, shouldn’t “push” anyone away. I’m not going to tip toe through the tulips because an atheist gets upset that I won’t join in his little games.

    “What is the message that changes hearts? Is it this: “You are unable to reason properly.” Or is it Christ crucified?”

    The Spirit changes the heart. Anyway, you’re now confusing *causes* for belief with *reasons* for belief. I was engaging in the latter. Furthermore, how much more would Ebon have objected to my answer had I not said yes or no, but “Christ was crucified and then raised from the dead”? ! I think you’re all over the map, brother.

    “Van Til taught us that we need to understand that unbelievers can’t reason properly. WE NEED to understand that. Unbelievers don’t need to be confronted with this fact right away. Don’t try to get them to understand Van Til. Teach them the gospel, and you will fix their reasoning.”

    I didn’t. I simply employed the *accepted* response to complex question fallacies. I think you’re overanalyzing the situation and unfairly psychologizing me and my motives. Ebon and I didn’t even get to get into anything good because he refused to enagage in dialogue.

    Anyway, the rest of your post was just your comments which stem from a naive and simplistic approach to these issues. Don’t get offended. I’m just calling it like I see it. There’s a reason why no one in the entirte Christian community does apologetics like you’re suggesting. I think your pietist approach does great damage to the Christian cause. But, hey, if that’s how you feel “called” (or whatever) to engage in apologetics, that’s fine. I think we’ve strayed way beyond the context of our dialogue, anyway.

    Bottom line, “no” wasn’t a good answer, and my approach was the accepted approach when facing complex question fallacies. That he got “upset” and threw a hissy fit isn’t cause for you to comment about my answer. he threw a temper tantrum because I wouldn’t let him play his silly games.

  34. Wacky,

    You’re impossible.

    For the record, if Jesus deliberately hardens someone’s heart, that doesn’t mean we should necessarily. We don’t simply do whatever Jesus would do. Unless of course you think you should go to your local megachurch and beat the guy at the espresso bar with a whip.

    But aside from that, I guess it’s best to drop it.

  35. Echo,

    You’re impossible.

    For the record, I never said I should do it *necessarily.* I just proved that it wasn’t *necessarily* wrong. But I can find you secular examples if you like. God read a few intro to informal fallacies textbooks – take notes on how to deal with complex questions. I did nothing that should have hardened Ebon’s heart. I simply took the accepted approach to dealing with complex questions that one would even find in secular books. There should have been no problem. How was I to know Ebon was immature and couldn’t muster the synapses to have an intelligent conversation?

    I also never said we should “do whatever Jesus did.” You’ve fallacious overgeneralized my comments, and taken them too far. I simply said that it was not automatically a problem to deal with trap questions in the way I did. But, if you don’t like me pointing out Jesus, I’ll point to Paul. I bet his saying “But who are you, Oh man, to talk back to God, was’t the answer his interlocutors thought best answered their question!

    So, yes, drop it, Echo. Don’t take offense that i thought you didn’t deal with the situation well. “No” wasn’t a good answer. And it was actually your answer, not mine, that treated Ebon’s question with disrespect. If you can’t see that now, re-read the thread a few times.

    cheers!

  36. Rube, but it is irrelevant to our discussion. There’s no need to “Amen” it. My bringing up Jesus was not bad form. In fact, you guys are offering bad arguments from analogies. Because there is *one* or *two* things Jesus did that we shouldn’t do, that doesn’t mean that *everything* Jesus did we shouldn’t do. So, you’d need to offer *relevant* arguments, not bad arguments from analogy. How about this one: Jesus was sinless – so we should not try to be. Now, all Echo did was bring up Jesus PARABLES!!!! But we Jesus didn’t alaways answer trick questions with parables. Sometimes he correctly divided the question, Exposed bias. Etc. I was not bringing up Jesus’ responses via parable. So, Echo (and to the extent Rube agrees with him) haven’t even BEGAN to answer my objection. SO, my point about Jesus still stands. Thus Echo is critiquing Jesus, not just me.

    In fact, Jesus even answered HIS OWN DISCIPLES that way. So, it was not ALWAYS to harden someone’s heart. But, I think Rube thinks it would knock him down a few notches to disagree with Echo, cause Echo is in seminary.

  37. Also, not all parables were answers to questions. So, the parable/question answer link that you must have to make your point, isn’t even there.

    Also, what about Jesus the logician.

    Read dallas Willard’s article:

    http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=39

    What of some piestistic Christian chastised me for rigerously applying logic to an apologetic encounter with an unbeliever who “got upset and unded the discussion” because he didn’t have the intellectual fortitude to reason critically. Say i responded: “But Jesus used logic to deal with people.”???

    Now, say he responded:

    “But just because Jesus did, that doesn’t mean we should! Afterall, are you going to cleanse the temple like he did?”

    And then his friend said,

    “AMEN and amen, I made that point too.”

    How would we respond? I see no relevant difference here….

  38. But, I think Rube thinks it would knock him down a few notches to disagree with Echo, cause Echo is in seminary.

    That’s about as impossible to respond to as “You’re too defensive!”

    Rube, but it is irrelevant to our discussion

    My point is that your antagonistic form pushes people away in a way that makes it look like you know when people aren’t elect, so we might as well make a public spectacle of them, for the benefit of those on the fence.

    There’s no love apparent when you speak the truth.

  39. “That’s about as impossible to respond to as “You’re too defensive!”

    :-)

    “My point is that your antagonistic form pushes people away in a way that makes it look like you know when people aren’t elect, so we might as well make a public spectacle of them, for the benefit of those on the fence.”

    Hmmmm, I began by sticking up for one of the guy’s points.

    I then gave an objective reply to his question you, and it was not “antagonistic.”

    Then he responded in an evasive way (which actually pushes people away) and basically said that my quite relevant post was not worth reading and that I didn’t answer his question (when any and all can see that I handled his question in the appropriate manor).

    So, we still, up to this point, have not seen antagonistic behavior that pushes people away. We have seen, right off the bat, the atheist have no desire to *dialogue* but rather is so set on trapping the theist that if he doesn’t get a “yes” or “no” answer then we are somehow being evasive – ‘nother trap.

    Moving on….

    I then replied again, and while being a tad bit sarcastic (which I hoped would get him to want to get into the fight), my reply was not antagonistic. I told him, again, that his question was improper.

    My sarcastic reply was at the level of what *you* said in your post:

    “It’s big of you to continue to wear your logical fallacies on your sleeve.” – Ruben S.

    Uh oh, guess you’re a big meany too.

    Rube, have you ever stopped to consider that if you gave devastating critiques your opponents would complain about you just like they do me? If you had really good criticisms, crippling ones, apropos ones, then they’d take your comments about wearing fallacies on your sleeve and tell you how much of a jerk you are.

    I then, continuing to want a good dialogue, and making every attempt to show Ebon the error of his ways, spelled out my point in great detail. I applied Leibniz’s law and made a, I think, good argument against him. In that post I did not do anything antagonistic.

    Moving on….

    Ebon replied in an antagonistic way:

    “It seems no one here will give me a straight answer to a simple yes-or-no question, so I don’t think any further point would be served by my continuing to post about this. Good day, all.”

    This takes all the work I did in responding to him, and treats it like a waste of time. He never even showed and INCLING that he had tried to understand what I said. In fact, there was NOTHING I did in my posts which could be called “antagonistic.” I made a sarcastic comment, like you did, but the rest was helpful and relevant to the discussion.

    Moving on…

    Echo came back and asked for interaction with his answer.

    I did nothing antagonistic with him. I simply stated that he accepted the presuppositions associated with the trap question. That’s a fact. You guys can disagree if you like, but that’s based on a sophomoric understanding of logic, sorry to say. I’d recommend Doug Walton’s book on Informal Fallacies. By answering the “yes” or “no” request with a “yes” or a “no” you concede to certain presuppositions that Ebon thought inherent in the “yes” or “no.” I also pointed out that Echo’s answer was not helpful. To say “no” and say “but that’s a different God” was NOT the answer Ebon was asking. Actually, and ironically, Echo’s answer treated Ebon’s request with disrespect. Whereas I tried to break it down and show the error in asking it, Ebon catered to his bad question and then admitted that his answer wasn’t even about the *Christian* God – which is what Ebon was asking. So, one could say Echo answered Ebon’s question with a trick answer!

    Moving on…

    Echo said this

    “Second, you might notice that your approach only irritated him. You’re interested in trying to control precisely how he understands what you’re saying, but you’ve only ended the conversation.”

    But this was uncalled for. He started making psychological evaluations of which he has no knowledge or warrant, only ignorant conjecture. I actually too the approach in answering the trap question laid out in informal fallacy books. I’m sure Jesus’ answers “irritated” his opponents. Paul’s [the apostle] must have too.

    Anyway, I’m not going to keep going on with this.

    You made a claim about how I interacted with Ebon in this thread. About my apparently acting as if I know they aren’t elect. That I was antagonistic towards Ebon. Well, can you back up that charge? Or, must I pander and cater to the pagan? If he doesn’t like to think critically, by golly! don’t make him. That would only upset him!

    You see, I actually did what you said in your post, Ruben:

    “It doesn’t take a defender of moral relativism to object to fallacious arguments — any rational person will do!” – Ruben S.

    So, I take it that I’m rational. I then objected to his fallacious question. But, I GOT CHASTISED for doing that. “But Wacky, Ebon was irritated at you. You hurt his feewings. Now he weft, and we may nevo hab a chance to save him. Good job, Wacky! We gots ta do seeker sensitive apolwetics. Make em feel all warm an cozy.”

    Incidentally, did you guys check Horton’s interview on 60 minutes?

    They asked him about Joel Osteen.

    Horton replied:

    “It’s cotton candy doctrine, and he’s heretical.”

    Why don’t you post about Horton’s “antagonistic” reply to Osteen. That probably pushed him away. I’m sure if I said that Ebon was using cotton candy logic, you and Echo would condemn me from your high horse.

    I don’t think Osteen liked that, and I think it irritated him to be called a heretic. After all, did you see him break down and start crying soon after the interviewer relayed that information!

    How mean of Dr. Horton.

    Lastly, Ruben, your comment was, again, irrelevant. Your “point” was in response to what Echo said. You said “Amen,” remember? You tried to imply that he made a good point about the parables.

    I showed that he didn’t. So, you still need to worry about my: “We’re not holier than Jesus” counter argument.

    But your latest response doesn’t address this. It’s an unfounded attack. It’s an attack of someone ignorant with apologetics. A new convert to reformed Christianity and reformed apologetics. It shows no idea of distinctions between apologetic situations. With people asking honest questions, vs. those who just want to trap and make Christians look stupid. My documentation of Ebon’s total disregard of anything I said, taking no time to interact with quite relevant – and non-antagonistic – responses, puts him in the category of the latter.

    For dialogues I’ve had with people actually interested in having sincere dialogue, my approach is much different.

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/10/emotional-problem-of-evil_28.html

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/02/if-evil-then-god.html

    Why is there a difference in approach?

    And, just as one could say that a sarcastic response pushes people away, so does bad reasoning. I have seen the latter on display here time after time. I’ve seen bad, weak, and illogical arguments on display here time after time. Don’t you think that your guys’ penchant towards bad reasoning pushes people away too? Is it God honoring to use bad arguments so long as we blow sunshine up the atheists skirt?

  40. One of my posts is “stuck in moderation.”

    I also wanted to point out what Ebon said:

    “It seems no one here will give me a straight answer to a simple yes-or-no question, so I don’t think any further point would be served by my continuing to post about this. Good day, all.”

    But apparently *I’m* to blame for how I answered his question. It was *I* who ran him off. If it wasn’t for my “antagonistic” request that Ebon adhere to agreed upon rules of logic, he’d still be here. When he said “no one here” and “Rube, you didn’t answer my question,” he really just meant “me” and was referring to how I “irriated” him. he just didn’t want me to feel bad, so he said “no one.” He actually wasn’t “irriated” by Rube’s answer.

    It looks to me like Echo had an axe to grind.

  41. Released from Spam Purgatory now…

  42. Wow.

  43. “Wow.”

    Beams, motes, ‘n all that stuff….

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