Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Could God be wrong?

 Suppose it is God's opinion that adultery is wrong. He is said to have asserted this. Could we say to God that that is just his opinion, and while He has a right to his opinion, we have a right to ours? 

Wouldn't it be a little silly to tell the almighty something like that? 

Of course, God has to exist for this to be true. But many people think there is a good reason to suppose that God really does exist. On the assumption that God exists and has commanded us not to commit adultery, is there any way to argue that adultery can sometimes be OK? 

Could God be wrong? I can see a new theology, fallibilist theology. God may be great, but he goofs up on some of his commandments and has to be corrected by humans. 

How odd it would be if God made it so that fideism is true

 . If reason has no valid statute in religion, it follows that religion has no reasonable status in human life. Therefore it is unreasonable for a man to be religious. The reasonable man is the atheist.

"How odd of God/To choose the Jews." So runs the celebrated couplet whose lightness of humor does not cancel the seriousness of its statement of the initial mystery of the redemptive economy. A greater oddity, however, could be conceived. How odd of God it would have been had he made man reasonable so that, by being reasonable, man would become godless. This brings me to my third subject—that most mysterious of all the oddities on the face of God's earth, the godless man.--John Courtney Murray The Problem of God. 


Do androids have a first person perspective?

 Would androids have a first person perspective. My computer, running a chess program, can beat me in chess. But it doesn't seem to know the joy of victory or the agony of defeat, though we might be able to program it to behave as if it does.

In honor of the World Series

 Sister Wynona Carr. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Are unprovable statements objective?

 Objectivity does not depend on provability. There are unprovable statements that have to either be true or false. "There is intelligent life on other planets" would be one. I don't know how to prove it one way or the other, but it's got to be true or false. 

Consider the claim "An omnipotent being exists." Many people think that statement can't be proven one way or the other. But even if those people are right, there either is one or there isn't. 

If there is a God, does God know that adultery is always wrong, or is God in the dark about it? It's hard to imagine the latter position as even conceivably true. 

ethics and contradictions

 Ethics is a study of right and wrong. Sometimes we know what is right to do, and the question is whether or not we find the will to do it. If there is an universal interest in something, we sometimes choose to follow our private interests or to do what is moral. A course in ethics won't necessarily enable you to resist temptation.  But at other times there are moral reasons that someone can  provide for opposing actions. Take war for example. War kills people, but there do seem to be reasons that many people think justify war. Suppose we have a choice between performing an action and killing one person, or not performing an action, in which case five people are killed, but not as a direct result for our actions. What is right to do? 

Are there ethical statements that can be true or false? Now, a statement can be true or false whether or not there is proof available to us. For example, consider the belief that there is intelligent life on other planets. Being right here just means that the belief conforms to reality. You can be right without being reasonable--for example if I had thought that the Cardinals would win their first seven games, I would have been right. But if I thought that because I am a fan of the Cardinals, then I wouldn't be reasonable in forming my belief, even though it turned out to be true. It would still be wishful thinking, and no less so because I turned out to be right. 

Or consider the idea of life after death.  People disagree about whether or not it is real. But eventually we are all going to die, and when we do, we will either experience life after death,  in which case the people who said that there is life after death would be right and the people who denied it would have been wrong. On the other hand, if there is no life after death, then the people who thought there was no life after death were in fact right, though of course they won't be in existence to collect their bets. 


So what about the moral claim that some shouldn't get an abortion if the only reason for getting it is so as not to look fat in her wedding pictures. People disagree about that--some people think that a fetus is not yet a person, so getting an abortion for any reason or no reason is justified. But others disagree. People produce arguments about this issue. People on different sides of this sort of an issue think that their opponents are making a mistake. that they are getting their ethics wrong. 

Can you get your ethics wrong? Is Hannibal Lecter's murder and cannibilism not just distasteful, or illegal, or impolite, but really and truly wrong? If something is objective, then once you clarify what the terms mean, then the statement is has to be either true of false and the law of noncontradition applies. If it is just relative to a person or a society's feelings or preferences, then the law of noncontradiction does not apply. 

The law of nontradiction says that a statement cannot be both true and false. But if the question is whether McDonald's burgers are better than those of In-N-Out's, then there is an implied "for me" clause which prevents the law of noncontradiction from applying. If you ask whether or not belching after dinner is rude, then there is an implied "for my society." But what about moral judgments, ranging from controversial claims like "Abortion is nearly always wrong," to "It is wrong to inflict pain on little children for your own amusement." Are these statement relative to some person or society, or are they straighforward statements to which the law of noncontradiction should apply. When you ask yourself whether you can apply the law of noncontradiction to moral statements, think of a controversial case, and then a noncontroversial case. 

In these cases it is tempting to apply the "fact vs. opinion" distinction. Be careful. Both of those terms are ambiguous. "Fact" can mean either true, or provably true. "Opinion can mean either "Reasonable people can believe either the claim or its denial," but it can also mean that it's a matter of personal or societal taste, and therefore it cannot be true or false. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Exclusivism on truth, pluralism on rationality and salvation

 You could be an exclusivist about truth (Religious claims are true or false, and when there is a contradiction only one side can be right), but a pluralist about reasonableness (reasonable people can hold contradictory positions when it comes to complex issues without being open to charges of irrationality), and a pluralist about salvation (People can be saved even if they don't believe certain things about God or Christ). 

I personally lean toward all three of those positions. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Calvinists on free action and God's glory

 Calvinists will argue that to act freely is to act on one's own desires. You are excused from doing an action if you wanted to do otherwise, but somehow God forced you to do it against your will. But, when you sin, you do what you want to do. You had the desire to sin,  you were able to sin, and  you did sin. So it is your responsibility, whether God predestined  you to do it or not. 

According to Calvinists (and many secular philosophers who are called soft determinists), you are free just in case you want to do something, and have the power to carry out  your will. They maintain that the idea that you could have done otherwise given the actual past is a false and incoherent concept of free will, and one that does not obtain in the real world.

On the face of things, this position adds strength to the atheistic argument from evil, since it deprives the theist of free will as an explanation for human (and demonic) wrongdoing. Rowe's argument from evil, for example says: 

1) An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

Now Calvinists believe that some people go to hell, and even if they meet the soft determinist's definition of free will, it is still the case that those people could have been saved if God had chosen to save them. But what they maintain is that what is good, in the final analysis, is what gives God greater glory, not what makes humans happy, even for eternity. Hence, they maintain, having millions of people (and fallen angels) in hell is better than God saving everybody, since if he damns millions of people he gets not only to exercise his mercy on those he forgives and saves, but also gets to exercise his wrath against unrepentant sin. That renders God a more glorious being than he would be if he just saved everyone, and therefore it is right for God to do, even though it inflicts intense suffering on millions of people and fallen angels. 

On the standard of divine goodness

 It seems appealing to say we shouldn't judge God, or that God himself is the standard of goodness. The problem with attempts to avoid having some standard of goodness to which one appeals is that without such a standard, the term "goodness" is deprived of meaning. If I say that Kyler Murray is a good quarterback, and you ask me what I mean by that, I can point to the fact that the Cardinals are the team with the only perfect season in the NFL, and then go over his completion percentage, quarterback rating, rushing and passing touchdowns, number of interceptions, etc. If he started losing games and getting bad numbers, and you came to me and told me he should be benched, it would be no argument to say, no Kyler is the standard of goodness, and by definition everything he does is worthy of approval.


Part of the standard definition of God is to say that that being is perfectly good. So before we call someone God, we have some idea of what that is supposed to mean--we are presupposing a standard of goodness that some being, such as Yahweh, meets. If someone were to say "Who are you, O man, to answer back to God," the answer would have to be that this would make sense except that some who says that Yahweh is not good is arguing, in fact, that Yahweh doesn't merit the title of God. In virtue of what is some being, however powerful, entitled to the title of "God?" Answering back to a being who really is God would be mistaken by definition, but to assume that this being merits the title of God would be to beg the very question at issue.

If there is no standard of goodness that we are claiming that God meets when we say that God is good, then the phrase "God is good" doesn't mean anything. Is it an expression of subjective approval on our part (we like the Big Guy, or think we had better because of what the Big Guy might do to us), or is it an actual statement? And if it is a statement, what is it?

Monday, October 11, 2021

Get ready, get ready, the worrrld is coming to an end

 Oh, not this again. 

When I was a young Christian Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth was popular. If Lindsey had been right, the Rapture would have happened around 1981. 

But here is a new book saying that Jesus will return in our lifetime. 

What part of “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." don't you understand? 

On the other hand, I was starting to wonder when the Antichrist was elected President in 2016. (Just kidding). 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Lucifer and miracles

 Can Lucifer perform miracles? In the Temptation story, Lucifer implies that he has the power to perform them, and Jesus never disputes this

What about alien life?

 Why believe there are, or are no, aliens? I don't think we've been visited (and if we have I don't think they are very interested in us), but I wonder how you would settle the question of life on other planets?  

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Even in the ancient world, we thought most events had natural causes

 People accept natural causes for most events, science or no science. Otherwise, miracles wouldn't get anyone's attention. Jesus's walking on water wouldn't have meant anything if fisherman on the sea of Galilee routinely walked on water to find better fishing spots.

Phony miracles

 Peter Popoff is notorious for this sort of thing. 

Here. 

Does religion cause wars?

 Is religion the cause of most wars? 


This is a popular myth. 

God and life after death

 The case for life after death seems closely tied to the case for God. If there's a God, then having us live 70 years in the veil of tears and then just having it all end seems hard to understand. Think about all the virtuous people who had have to suffer in this life, and think about all the nasty people who have exploited others and died in their beds of old age. Life ain't fair, and if this life is all there is but there is a God, then God ain't fair. But, the concept of God is of a just being. Therefore, it seems as if, if God is going to be fair, he's going to have to provide some kind of afterlife for those he creates.