Friday, April 29, 2011

Trinity discussion

I've been having a discussion on the Trinity with a oneness fellow at the UPC fan page on Facebook. It's been an interesting conversation to say the least, also very polite, which is odd these days. I explained that the Trinity is not illogical, gave biblical references and I was waiting for his reasoning on why I failed in my delivery and why I was wrong for thinking so. He doesn't give me the answer I was expecting. I was expecting the usual grammar errors for this word or for this context, but no he gives me a new rebuttal. His response was that person is not used in the Bible in reference to God. This surprised me. 

His words:

"This my question.....Where in the bible you read the word person, if we talking about God? Not about person explaining the trinity because i am sure that no biblical ref about that.Heb.1:3 that is the only verse in the bible states that Jesus is the express image of His [God] person." 

I thought OK, why does that matter? 

My response:
"Ok Renz, I see your point. You want person to be in the bible, word for word. I assume, for you to hold the Trinity as a true doctrine you would have to be able to read in the Bible, "God has three persons."

I ask though, what doctrines are so clearly, word-for-word detailed in the bible? I assume you hold that God is omniscient. What verse says, "God is omniscient," or "God is omnipresent." I'm sure you also hold that God is omnipotent. Where in the bible do you find, "God is omnipotent." These are attributes of God that we find described in the Bible in different ways than just plainly saying so.

The Trinity is described in the bible the same way that God's omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence is described. I have given you biblical references and explanations of the Trinity, the same way you would give verses and explanations describing God's other attributes. I have wonder if you've read my responses. The one time person is used in the bible explaining God's attributes, it actually does defend the Trinity doctrine.

Therefore, just because the word 'person' isn't in the bible more as in "Father is a person, Son is a person, and Holy Spirit is a person," doesn't mean the doctrine isn't true. If that logic was followed, then the most beautiful attributes and doctrine of God that we (me and you) hold wouldn't exist. You will have to find some other reason to not hold the Trinity doctrine as true." 
I'm eager to read his response because if that is the only reason he has to not hold the Trinity as true, then he has serious problems with other doctrine. 
Read my posts on the Trinity by clicking here

N.Y. Public Library now offers porn...sort of.

I know when I'm at the public library I like to look at a little porn on the internet before I peruse the books.

The following excerpt comes from Jonah Goldberg's latest post for

"... the New York Public Library has gotten into the porn business. "With adults, anything that you can get on the Internet, you can legally get on a computer in the library," explained an official. "It's difficult, but we err on the side of free and open access."

Well, imagine you went to your local library in, say, 1989 -- or some other year before Al Gore invented the Internet.
Then imagine going up to the librarian and asking him, "Do you carry Hustler?"
The shocked librarian answers, "No."
"Back issues of Swank? High Society? Penthouse?"
"No, no and no," quoth the librarian.
"OK, OK. I get it. Do you have movies?"
Librarian answers: "Yes, of course."
"Great!" you reply. "I'd like to sign out 'Debby Does Dallas.'"
"What? No!"
"How about the VHS of 'On Golden Blonde'?"
Finally, the librarian explodes: "Sir, we do not carry any pornography. What do you think we do here?"
Well, the answer to that question is suddenly in doubt. Because up until very, very recently, the idea that public libraries should -- nay, must! -- peddle unfettered access to hardcore porn would have baffled almost everyone.
I'm hardly an anti-porn crusader, but the list of reasons why libraries didn't -- and shouldn't -- carry porn is vast. The two most obvious and mutually reinforcing reasons are moralistic and budgetary: A) "It's wrong," and B) "We have very limited resources and we must choose what we think is worthwhile and what has no redeeming value."
The problem is that the legs have been knocked out from under both answers. Of course, the moralistic -- or "judgmental" -- bias against porn has been eroding for generations. How bad or good a development that is depends on your point of view." 

You can read the rest of the post by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Five bad arguments against theism

*Don't forget to also read the accompanying post titled, Five Bad Arguments for Theism

In this post I'm going to list the top five worst arguments against theism; arguments I've heard in debates (professional and lay-level) that I think are simply not reasonable enough to not hold theism. What I want to make clear here in the beginning is I don't think a person is stupid for using these arguments. I'm not intending for this post to read like an insult to anyone that uses the arguments. I'm simply voicing why I find the arguments to be the worst of the bunch. I'm also going to write a post about the worst arguments against atheism; so atheists, skeptics, etc. don't think I'm not fair.

1. Hating God. 

The argument goes something like this 1) I hate god 2) therefore, god does not exist. Come on. Not liking something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. This is not a valid reason for disbelief; either God exists or He doesn't, it's not up to whether we believe it or not. Plus, how can you hate something that doesn't exist? This argument violates the law of non-contradiction. 

2. Hypocritical Christianity 

This isn't an argument that professional debating atheists will use (I haven't heard any use it anyway), but atheists "on the street" use. Christians are hypocritical so God cannot exist. This argument is bad because 1) it doesn't follow that God doesn't exist because some Christians are hypocritical and 2) you can't base something's existence, character, etc. on the character of it's followers. Even if all of the Christians in the world and in history were hypocritical, didn't follow God's commands, do you really think that would make God non-existent? God's existence isn't dependent on the actions of His children. 

This argument is contradictory like the argument "Hating God." You must acknowledge the existence of God to use the argument. Let me explain. If you say Christians are hypocritical, therefore God does not exist; where are you getting the standard for how Christians should act? Are you not acknowledging God's standard for living in the process of judging the character of His children? If you are acknowledging God's standard then you must acknowledge His existence I would think. Either way, the person that uses this is simply finding a reason to not believe in something he or she doesn't like, which doesn't disprove the existence of the thing not liked. All this argument is good for is for not attending church, which can be understandable. However, not all churches are hypocritical. 

3. Euthyphro's Dilemma

This "dilemma" has been answered time and again, yet it still resurfaces (kind of like Pascal's wager, not sure why theists use that anymore) like a bad case of ants. You think the ants are gone then BAM you see one again. This is a bad argument because it's not a dilemma at all. There aren't only two answers to the dilemma there are actually more. Many atheists stand behind this argument, I cannot imagine why when the dilemma is not a true dilemma. 

See my posts on Euthyphro's Dilemma and the answers to it by clicking here.
4. Problem of evil 

Atheists stand behind this argument very proudly too. The problem of evil argument is stated something like this 1) If God was really good, He would want to get rid of all evil. 2) If God was really powerful, He would be capable of getting rid of all evil. 3)Since we do have evil, either your God is not good or He is not powerful, either of which sends the knockout punch to the one professing the existence of God. My quick response is that this has nothing to do with God's goodness, power, or existence. This argument doesn't destroy God or Christianity. Like Greg Koukl says, "It wasn't a problem of power that there is evil. And it wasn't a problem of goodness, that there is evil. And in fact, goodness requires evil and power doesn't have anything to do with getting rid of it." 

There is a four-step process (thanks Koukl) for answering the problem of evil. 1) People ought to be allowed to choose between moral alternatives. 2) It's a good thing that we have the freedom to make moral choices. 3) It's part of the nature of moral freedom to be able to choose between good and evil. 4) Raw power cannot make it possible for a morally free being to only choose good. Having genuine moral freedom means you might choose evil and having moral freedom is a good thing. 

More on this four step response by clicking here to read Greg Koukl's article Sixty Second Theodicy.  

5. Multiple Religions 

The argument is that since there are multiple religions then God, or at least the Christian God, cannot exist because of the varieties of gods created by man. It doesn't follow that God doesn't exist because there are multiple religions. There are multiple hypotheses on the mechanisms for evolution. Does that mean evolution isn't fact? Of course not. There are multiple views on aesthetics, yet that doesn't mean there is no art. You see where I'm going with this. Since there are many religions, does that mean God doesn't exist? Not at all. 

These arguments raised against theism I find wanting. I don't mean at all that these are stupid or irrelevant claims raised against theism. What I mean is that these objections do not go very far when analyzed. Many people think some of these are end-all arguments and that's simply not true. When thought over, one can see that these objections fail.
Check out my post about five bad arguments for theism. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Which is better for employment: youth or experience?

Jason Hiner has been writing excellent posts lately. His latest post, Is youth or experience more valuable for working in IT, is very interesting. The article is not very long, but does raise a good question of whether youth or experience reigning supreme in the Information Technology field. Jason makes two points that don't seem to answer the question. 

1. Younger workers are cheaper, willing to work longer hours, and aren't settled specifically in one skill-set.
2. Older workers know how to get things done, been through multiple platform transitions, and can complete projects and "disasters" more efficiently due to experience. 

In point 1 Hiner says that younger workers are sought for those reasons, but then he goes on to say in point 2 that older workers are preferred for said reasons. So which is better? Youth or experience? Hiner left the question open for the reader to vote and give his/her reason for the vote. I voted experience because of the reasons that Hiner gave for older workers being preferred. I think youth will get you in the door for entry-level positions such as Help Desk, support technician, or network technician, but not higher end positions, e.g., network engineer. Lower end positions cater to youth because those positions don't need years of experience. Those positions, to me, seem to be made for training. 

A young man or woman could have the degree for a high-end position, but with no experience, their chances of getting the job are slim to none. If I were a hiring manager I would like to see experience and the degree on the applicant's resume for a high-end job. For a low-end job, a degree would be sufficient because the cost is minimal for a low-end job. 

Read Jason Hiner's article here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Responding to an atheistic comment regarding the moral argument

Even if you don't agree with Wintery Knight, you gotta admit that he runs an interesting blog with very interesting commentators. I stumbled on a post he has called, "Responding to an atheistic commenter on the moral argument." WK posts the entire discussion he and some others had on the moral argument, from both sides of the argument. It's a really good read.

I'll post just a snippet of the discussion. This first part is from a commenter named Joey. To read responses to Joey click here.

"1. Moral principles have existed long before the christian or jewish god has ‘declared’ it in the bible. Look at the writings of Confucius for example.

2. As an atheist my sense of morality is based on empathy, compassion, psychology, science and logic. It is a human (and dare I say evolved) trait to want to empathise – and when I see suffering I want it stopped because it makes me feel bad. I look at science and psychology and see how we are all extremely similar to each other in our make up, and should therefore logically be treated the same by each other. And I look towards how I would want to be treated in such a situation as well – because I do not want to be defrauded, I would want to protect other people being defrauded because after all, why should I get preferential treatment if we are all equally human? There are so many basis for morality!

3. I personally find it a little odd that christians feel they are more moral because they can say that god tells them to be moral. Which would you rather prefer – someone to say to you “I love you because I do and you are amazing”, or “I love you because god tells me to”? Who would you rather be friends with, someone who says “I am not going to kill you because I find it repulsive to the core of my being”, or “I am not going to kill you because I believe god tells me not to, even though you deserve to die because of your sin”

4. That leads me to my fourth point. Morality which is solely based on god has a loophole – which is this: everything god says is wrong is wrong, unless god commands otherwise. I say this specifically because whilst as an atheist I can unashamedly say that I believe the invasion and conquest of another country and the slaughtering of all that nation’s men, women and children is morally repulsive. Christians do not have that luxury, because their moral god commanded them to do exactly that in the bible and said it was ok. Or what about this morality: David and Bathsheba sins by committing adultery and murder. Rather than punishing them for it, god punishes the little baby of theirs by killing him. Or how the bible justifies slavery. Or how the bible commands women to obey their husband but not vice versa. Justice? I would not want to place my trust on that kind of morality."

To read the rest of the discussion (it's good) click here.

The original post that caused such a discussion can be found here (there's good dialogue there too). 

Who should pass on Apple's iPad 2?

Jason Hiner, blogger and technology researcher for TechRepublic lists reasons why some should buy and why some shouldn't buy Apple's latest tablet the iPad 2.

Who should pass? The following is taken from his post.

  • Fans of iPad 1.0 - The worst reason for upgrading — and I’ve heard this a lot more than expected — is “I really like the original iPad so I’m going to get the new one.” If you’re not going to do much video calling and you’re not going to experiment with the iPad for creating videos and podcasts, then there’s really not much reason to upgrade from iPad 1 to iPad 2. You don’t really need the dual core if you’re not doing all the video calling and multimedia creation, and the slightly thinner/lighter form factor of the iPad 2 is nice but far from essential. The original iPad is still a great device and holding on to it for another year until the iPad 3 and the next generation of competitor tablets arrives could be a very wise choice.
  • Heavy readers - If one of the main reasons that you want an iPad is to use it as an e-reader then I wouldn’t recommend the iPad 2. For hard-core readers who read 2+ hours at a time, who read mostly books, or who spend a lot of time reading outside in full sunlight, then I’d recommend an Amazon Kindle instead. If you’re an omnivorous reader who wants a tablet primarily to read Web pages, magazine articles, non-fiction books with lots of maps and graphics, and PDF documents, then I’d simply recommend picking up an iPad 1, which lots of upgraders are currently unloading for as low as $300.
  • Supporters of open standards - Like the iPod before it, the iPad has appealed to a much wider audience than just traditional Mac and Apple fans. However, the thing to keep in mind before buying the iPad — especially if it’s your first Apple device — is that it will start to insidiously rope you into the Apple ecosystem. Sure, you can get content from outside the Apple ecosystem and use it on your iPad, using Amazon music and videos or Netflix or Barnes & Noble Nook, for example, but you’ll quickly find that it’s easier to just use the Apple ecosystem to buy content. Before you know it, you’ll have a small library of content with DRM that only works in iTunes and on Apple devices (this isn’t the case with music any more, but it is still the case with movies and TV shows). So, next time you upgrade you’ll be more likely to buy another Apple product so that you don’t orphan a bunch of your content. If you’re a supporter of open standards and use a lot of different platforms (e.g. Windows, Linux, Android, Xbox 360, etc.), then you’ll have a hard time wrestling with the iPad to make it work with all of your content and open file formats, and you’ll especially have a hard time getting content from the iPad to play nice with other platforms. You’re probably better off waiting for a really good Android tablet to emerge.
To read the full article click here

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why objective morality fails on scientific naturalism

I've written quite a lot of blog posts on objective morality, what it is, where it comes from and such. With each post I write, I'm trying to work the meaning out in my mind, i.e., how does objective morality work in the world and in us, human beings, and how this works with worldviews other than the Christian worldview. Does objective morality only fit perfectly in the Christian worldview? The answer I come up with is yes. Objective morality fits only within the Christian worldview. It fits perfectly within the Christian worldview. Objective morality does not fit at all within the scientific naturalist worldview. It can't. The piece, objective morality, does not fit in the puzzle pieces of scientific naturalism. You can try to shove it in with all of your might, but it just won't fit. You might hear some popular naturalists speak that there is objective purpose in their worldview, that morality is objective; don't buy it for a second. All of that is rhetoric. (In this post I'll be borrowing heavily from J.P. Moreland's essay The Image of God and the Failure of Scientific Atheism).

Evolutionary naturalist Michael Ruse writes

morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says "Love thy neighbor as thyself," they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction...and any deeper meaning is illusory.

From Michael Ruse's statement, it's hard to find intrinsic value and an objective moral order given naturalism. To the naturalist, morality is simply an aid to survival and reproduction, i.e., kin selection and reciprocal altruism. What is kin selection? Self-help by way of natural selection; but natural selection isn't operating at the level of individuals, it operates at the level of the individuals' genes. An example of this is: a mother who dives into a burning car to save her daughter. The mother is not acting out of pure altruism, i.e., our of selfless concern for the well-being of others; rather she is acting out of desperation to make sure her genes, which are shared by her daughter, make it into the next generation. Even if she (the mother) dies, her genes live on through her children. Reciprocal altruism is, "I'll be nice to you, so that you'll be nice to me." On naturalism, human worth and objective morality is, as Michale Ruse said, illusory. 

One would think, since naturalism cannot explain the existence of objective morality, it counts as a nod toward Christian theism. Atheist J.L. Mackie acknowledged: "Moral properties constitute so odd a cluster of properties and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful god to create them."2 The best scientific naturalism can do is explain what I call "low-end" morality, which is explained partly by kin-selection and reciprocal altruism; it cannot explain intrinsic value, objective moral order, or the high equal value and rights of human persons (high-end morality). Naturalists Peter Singer and Helga Kuhse acknowledge that the best justification for the high equal value of human persons is in the grounding of Judeo-Christian doctrine of the image of God.3 This claim by Singer and Kuhse is acknowledged by many thinkers, most notably by Joel Feinberg. 4 

J.P. Moreland writes 

The following skeptical question, Feinberg believes, has never been adequately answered: why would we treat all people equally in any respect in the face of manifest inequalities of merit among them? The simple response "Because we just have such worth" does not answer the skeptic's query. If "human worth" is real and generic, says Feinberg, then it must supervene on some subvenient base that (1) we al lhave equally in common and (2) is nontrivial and of supreme moral worth. Operating within a naturalistic framework, Feinberg considers several attempts to delineate that base, and he judges them all to be a failure because they

  • require an entity such as "pricelessness" for which we have no answer as to where it came from and with respect to which one must postulate a problematic, mysterious, intuitive faculty of direct awareness of such an entity;
  • are grounded in a degreed property (one that is possessed to a greater or lesser degree) such as rationality (Feinberg takes the potential for rationality to be degreed) which, therefore, cannot do the job of founding equal worth for all; 
  • simply name the problem to be solved and do not provide an explanation of the problem itself.
At the end of the day, Feinberg acknowledges that the notion of equal worth and equal rights for all human persons is groundless and may simply express a noncognitivist, unjustifiable pro-attitude of respect to ward the humanity in each person. 5  

Feinberg gives an excellent illustration of the difficulty of grounding equal value and rights (objective morality) on a naturalistic worldview. It cannot be done because given naturalism, it's illusory.
J.P. Moreland then cites David Hull who is the leading philosopher of evolutionary theory in the twentieth century. 

The implications of moving species from the metaphysical category that can appropriately be characterized in terms of "natures" to a category for which such characterizations are inappropriate are extensive and fundamental. If species evolve in anything like the way that Darwin thought they did, then they cannot possibly have the sort of natures that traditional philosophers claimed they did. If species in general lack natures, then so does Homo sapiens as a biological species. If homo sapiens lacks a nature, then no reference to biology can be made to support one's claims about "human nature." Perhaps all people are "persons," share the same "personhood," etc., but such claims must be explicated and defended with no reference to biology. Because so many moral, ethical, and political theories depend on some notion or other of human nature, Darwin's theory brought into question all these theories. The implications are not entailments. One can always dissociate "Homo sapiens" from "human being," but the result is a much less plausible position.

He (Moreland) goes on to cite atheist James Rachels as claiming, "...a Darwinian approach to the origin of human beings, while not entailing the falsity of these notions, nevertheless provides an undercutting defeater for the idea that humans are made in the image of God and that humans have intrinsic dignity and worth as such. Indeed, according to Rachels, Darwinism is the universal solvent that dissolves any attempt to defend the notion of intrinsic human dignity." 7 

Rachels writes: 

The doctrine of human dignity says that humans merit a level of moral concern wholly different from that accorded to mere animals; for this to be true, there would have to be some big, morally significant difference between them. Therefore, any adequate defense of human dignity would require some conception of human beings as radically different from other animals. But that is precisely what evolutionary theory calls into question. It makes us suspicious of any doctrine that sees large gaps of any sort between humans and all other creatures. This being so, a Darwinian may conclude that a successful defense of human dignity is most unlikely.

Rachels is correct. On the naturalistic worldview, "...a successful defense of human dignity is most unlikely." All you have with naturalism is an explanation for low-end morality. Naturalism cannot explain the high-end morality that humans demonstrate, which is behavior that doesn't care about reciprocal or genetic advantages to the action. Why do people give blood? The blood is going to help those who the person does not know. There is no naturalistic rationale for this behavior. Richard Dawkins concedes that that the Darwinian thesis cannot explain why people give blood, a fact that he puts down to "pure disinterested altruism." 9 The Darwinian model cannot account for "love your enemies." Or for the actions of Mother Teresa, or for the good Samaritan model. The Darwinian model is confined to the realm of self-interest and the essence of morality operates outside the realm of self-interest. As Dinesh D'Souza writes, "The whole point of morality is that you are doing what you ought to do, not what you are inclined to do or what is in your interest to do. Morality is described in the language of duty, and duty is something that we are obliged to do whether we want to or not, whether it benefits us or not." 10

J.P. Moreland finishes his essay with 

Naturalists can't appeal to emergence to solve their problems because (1) this is just a label for the problem to be solved and not a real solution and (2) it begs the question against Christian theism in a most egregious way. It would seem, then, that important features that characterize us human persons provide evidence that there is a Creator God who made us. And this is exactly what one would predict if biblical teaching about the image of God is true. 11


1. Michael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262 - 69 

2. J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), p. 115 

3. Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer, Should the Baby Live? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 118-39. 

4. Joel Finberg, Social Philosophy (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973), pp. 84-97

5. J.P. Moreland, "The Image of God and the Failure of Scientific Atheism," in God is Great, God is Good (USA: Intervarsity Press, 2009), pp. 45-46 

6. David Hull, The Metaphysics of Evolution (Albany: State University of New York, 1989), pp. 74-75

7. Moreland, pp. 46-47

8. James Rachels, Created from Animals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 171-72. Cf. pp. 93, 97, 171

9. Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) pp. 230.

10. Dinesh D'Souza, What's So Great About Christianity (USA: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007) pp. 239-240.

11. Moreland, pp. 47

Check out all of my posts on morality by clicking here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Euthyphro's Dilemma revisited

Due to the recent William Lane Craig and Sam Harris debate, there has been more discussion regarding objective morality and Euthyphro's *cough* false *ahem* Dilemma. Rather than write an entirely new piece, I'm going to use a part from my post Objective morals and Euthyphro's False Dilemma.

The Euthyphro Dilemma

What is another response from unbelievers? It's called the Euthyphro Dilemma (named after a character in one of Plato's dialogues). The dilemma is: Is something good because God wills it? Or does God will something because it is good? This is a popular objection to the moral argument for God's existence. If you say something is good because God wills it, then that good becomes arbitrary. God could have willed that cheating is good or that hatred is good, etc. That doesn't work does it? If you say that God wills something because it is good, then that good becomes independent of God, which makes moral values and duties exist independently of God, which contradicts premise 1. 

How does Craig answer the Euthyphro dilemma? He says that "we don't need to refute either of the two horns of the dilemma because the dilemma is a false one: There's a third alternative, namely, God wills something because He is good...I mean God's own nature is the standard of goodness, and His commandments to us are expressions of His nature. In short, our moral duties are determined by the commands of a just and loving God."6
So according to Craig, moral values and duties don't exist independently of God because God's own character/nature defines what is good and those morals flow out of God's nature. When the atheist asks, "If God were to command spouse abuse, would we be obligated to abuse our spouses?" he's asking a question akin to "If there were married bachelors, who would the bachelor be married to?" There is no answer because the question is absurd. 

Craig assures us that the Euthyphro dilemma presents us with a false choice, and we shouldn't be tricked by it. "The morally good/bad is determined by God's nature, and the morally right/wrong is determined by His will. God wills something because He is good, and something is right because God wills it."7

1. William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010), pg. 132
2. ibid, pg. 133
3. ibid, pg. 133
4. ibid, pg. 134
5. ibid, pg. 134
6. ibid, pg. 135
7. ibid, pg. 136

Common questions to this answer of Euthyphro's Dilemma are: How do we know God is good? How is his nature good? Wouldn't it be possible for murder and rape to be 'good' if God commanded it? 

Philosopher Ed Feser has an answer to the above questions. [h/t] Joe's comment on WK's blog post.

“Given the doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals, on which being is convertible with goodness, that which is Pure Actuality or Being Itself must ipso facto be Goodness Itself. Given the conception of evil as a privation – that is, as a failure to realize some potentiality – that which is Pure Actuality and therefore in no way potential cannot intelligibly be said to be in any way evil. Given the principle of proportionate causality, whatever good is in the world in a limited way must be in its cause in an eminent way, shorn of any of the imperfections that follow upon being a composite of act and potency. Since God is Pure Actuality, he cannot intelligibly be said either to have or to lack moral virtues or vices of the sort we exhibit when we succeed or fail to realize our various potentials. And so on. All of this is claimed to be a matter of metaphysical demonstration rather than probabilistic empirical theorizing, and the underlying metaphysical ideas form a complex interlocking network that is (as anyone familiar with Platonism or Aristotelianism realizes) motivated independently of the problem of evil or the question of God’s existence.” 

Read more by clicking here

Greg Koukl answers the questions too

"The Christian's job is not done, though, because Bertrand Russell's observation suggests a second problem. Socrates' challenge to Euthyphro has not been met. What is "good"? It doesn't help to say that God is good unless we know what the term refers to. 

If the word "good" means "in accord with the nature and character of God," we have a problem. When the Bible says "God is good," it simply means "God has the nature and character that God has." If God and goodness are the very same thing, then the statement "God is good" means nothing more than "God is God," a useless tautology. 

The answer to this problem hinges on the philosophical notion of identity, expressed symbolically as A = A. When one thing is identical to another (in the way I'm using the term), there are not two things, but one.[10] For example, the president of Stand to Reason (Gregory Koukl) is identical to the author of this article. Everything that's true of the one is true of the other.[11] The author and the president are the same. They are not two, but one. 

According to Christian teaching, God is not good in the same way that a bachelor is an unmarried male. When we say God is good, we are giving additional information, namely that God has a certain quality. God is not the very same thing as goodness (identical to it). It's an essential characteristic of God, so there is no tautology.[12]
A proper understanding of Christian teaching on God removes one problem, yet we still face another: What is "good"? How can we know goodness if we don't define it first?
The way Abraham responded when he first learned of God's intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah gives us a clue to the answer:
Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly? (Genesis 18:25)

Here's the question. How did Abraham know justice required that God not treat the wicked and the righteous alike? As of yet, no commandments had been handed down.
Abraham knew goodness not by prior definition or by some decree of God, but through moral intuition. He didn't need God to define justice (divine command). He knew it directly. His moral knowledge was built in.[13]
Even the atheist understands what moral terms mean. He doesn't need God in order to recognize morality. He needs God to make sense of what he recognizes. 

This is precisely why the moral argument for God's existence is such a good one. The awareness of morality leads to God much as the awareness of falling apples leads to gravity. Our moral intuitions recognize the effect, but what is the adequate cause? If God does not exist, then moral terms are actually incoherent and our moral intuitions are nonsense. 

Christians need not fear Plato on this score. When Euthyphro's dilemma is applied to Christianity, it mischaracterizes the Biblical view of God. Goodness is neither above God nor merely willed by Him. Instead, ethics are grounded in His holy character. Moral notions are not arbitrary and given to caprice. They are fixed and absolute, grounded in God's immutable nature. 

Further, no outside definition of piety is necessary because morality is known directly through the faculty of moral intuition. God's laws express His character and--if our moral intuitions are intact--we immediately recognize those Laws as good. 

This doesn't mean Christianity is true, only that it's is not handicapped by Plato's challenge to Euthyphro."

Read his whole post by clicking here

Study objective moral values and duties further:

Do objective moral values and duties exist?

Euthyphro Argument

What is the basis of our values?

For more posts on morality click here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Firefox 4, Internet Explorer 9, and Chromium

If you've been on the web at all recently, whether you're using Firefox or Internet Explorer (IE), you've probably been prompted to upgrade your browser to the latest version. I say, go for it. I've tested both of the latest versions of Firefox and IE without any trouble at all from either upgrade. Both upgrades are quite substantial to the dominant browsers (IE 9 is so much better than IE 8).

Internet Explorer 9

This is what IE should have been a LONG time ago (I say the same thing about Windows 7). I'm not just talking about the browser's visuals when I say that; what I mean is performance. IE 9 does not suffer from the "walking through knee high mud" syndrome that it used to suffer from. Not that it was every incredibly slow, but it was slower than just about every other web browser available. Now, how has IE9 improved on performance? Let me tell you. 

Internet Explorer 9 boasts that its performance has increased by way of hardware acceleration. Even though the other mainstream browsers do not use this feature, it can improve your browsing experience. Microsoft gives the fish tank illustration. While playing Fish Tank in IE 9, you can have up to 1000 fish displaying on your screen without suffering from performance drought. Nice. 

Memory management is another nice feature of IE 9. Don't worry about having too many tabs open. When a tab is closed, IE 9 can rapidly release memory so performance isn't hindered. IE 9 will also notify you when add-ons are slowing browser performance; something Firefox 4 and Chrome do not have. 

For the full list of how IE 9 is "better" than its competitors click here

Firefox 4 

With the release of Firefox 4 Jason Hiner, a blogger for TechRepublic, was very excited. He felt that Firefox was in need of an improvement and he wanted to stick with the ol' Fox. However, after testing Firefox 4, he is now ready to move on to a different browser. I'll let him speak for himself. 

"After using Firefox 4 for less than a week, it’s clear to me that Mozilla hasn’t fixed the speed issues or the resource problems, and I’ve finally reached the point where I’m tired of fighting with Firefox. I’m tired of constantly looking at my open processes to see what’s bogging down my system and virtually every time it turns out to be Firefox.

The situation finally came to a head on Monday and Tuesday of this week when both cores of the CPU on my system were at 80% for big chunks of the day on both days, and the culprit was, naturally, my newly-installed Firefox 4. The clincher was when I took all of the tabs that I had open in Firefox (about 10 of them) and copied and pasted the URLs from Firefox into Chromium. Then, I closed down Firefox. The CPU utilization immediately dropped under 20% and everything on the system started running at normal speeds again." 

He then goes on to say:
"I had been using Firefox as my primary Web browser for six years. That’s certainly the longest I’ve ever stuck with a single browser — I was on Netscape and then IE for 3-4 years each before jumping to Firefox in late 2004. Still, I’m not going to be uninstalling Firefox. I’ll keep it around for occasional testing — especially for new TechRepublic features. But, I don’t see much chance of it regaining its spot as my primary Web browser."

Even after reading about his situation TR (TechRepublic) members chimed in, some agreeing and some disagreeing with Hiner's experience. My experience with Firefox 4 was not like Hiner's, but I didn't put the browser through extensive testing like he did. When I did open multiple tabs and use it in a work setting, I did notice Firefox being a resource hog. I put IE 9 through the same test and found out that IE 9 did not gorge itself on my system's resources like Firefox did. I was stunned. 
Don't let this stop you from trying or even using Firefox 4. I know this won't stop those that are true to the Fox, but for those of you on the fence, go ahead and give Firefox 4 a drive around the web. The visuals are updated, the ride is smooth, and there are some cool new features. Just don't be alarmed when you find that IE 9 runs leaner than the new Firefox. 

Read Jason Hiner's article on Firefox 4. 

Goodbye Firefox. Hello Chromium (not Google chrome).

The image I used came from:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wanting objective morals without an objective moral standard

Listening to the Harris vs Craig debate last night on "Is good from God?" I noticed, yet again, a person defending objective moral values in a relativistic fashion. In the opening statement, it appeared that both men agreed on objective morality. What is objective morality? Objective morality, put simply, is a standard of morals that is binding on us whether we acknowledge them or not. I wouldn't want to confuse objective morals with universal morals because universal morals are morals that are recognized universally not necessarily objectively. Right now, universally people acknowledge that murder of an innocent is wrong. What if tomorrow, universally, people acknowledged that murder of an innocent wasn't wrong? That would mean that it's fine to go down the street, gun blazing, killing everyone you see and you could get away with that action. Objective morality means that even if tomorrow, the universal opinion is that killing the innocent is fine, that objectively killing the innocent is not fine, it's bad even if you don't acknowledge that it's bad. That is objective morality. 

Having said that, I think some defenders of objective morality are actually defending universal morality. Why do I think that? Well, for one because such defenders are basing their arguments on either a) evolution or b) utilitarian principles. Objective morals cannot be a product of evolution/herd/culture morality. Why? If objective morality developed by evolution, then I understand that it would have developed by natural selection. If the objective standard was developed by natural selection, then how could that be "objective?" Objective morality is the standard whether we acknowledge it or not; it's true without any help from us. An objective moral value is selflessness. Can selflessness be a product of natural selection? No. In natural selection the self is maximized. Greg Koukl gives a good explanation:

"So, in abbreviated form, the reasoning goes like this: I ought to be unselfish because it is better for the group, which is better for the species, which is better for me. So why ought I be unselfish? Because it is better for me. But looking at what is better for me, is selfishness. So all of this so-called description of where morality comes from, gets reduced to this ludicrous statement: I morally ought to be unselfish so that I can be more thoroughly selfish. That is silly. Because we know that morality can't be reduced to selfishness. Why do we know that? Because our moral rules are against selfishness and for altruism. They are against selfishness and for the opposite. When you think about what it is that morality entails, you don't believe that morality is really about being selfish. Morality is about being unselfish, or at least it entails that. Which makes my point that this description, based on evolution, does not do the job. It doesn't explain what it is supposedly meant to explain. It doesn't explain morality. It is simply reduced to a promotion of selfishness which isn't morality at all." 1

We can see from this observation that objective morality cannot have evolved over time. When dealing with evolution, it's all about the self. When dealing with morality, it's all about selflessness. 

What about good deeds? They're really done just so you can get something back right? The old "scratch my back I'll scratch your back." Well, I can think of a few things people do without getting anything back in return. I'm doing a good thing when I help someone that I do not know. So, I'm not trying to preserve my family, my "herd" at all, this person is a complete stranger. I'm in a restaurant waiting for a table, sitting down on an already crowded booth in the waiting area. An old man walks in and I give him my seat. Why do I do this? There's definitely not a reward; I'm not getting money or a free meal for this action, I'm not his grandson, cousin, brother; I'm simply a human being doing a good thing for another human being who is a complete stranger to me. 

Why does a soldier jump in front of enemy fire for an innocent bystander? There's definitely no reward for him in that action. There's no preservation of his species when he does that. He is not looking out for himself. When you see a person stranded with car trouble on the side of the parkway, you stop to help him. You have no connection with him, yet you help him. You don't help in hope of earning money or recognition; you help because you felt like you ought to help him. No one else had stopped to help and you felt it was the right thing to do. Objective morality imposes the ought on us whether you acknowledge it or not. Evolution can't explain morality. 

Can utilitarianism explain morality? First we should define what utilitarianism is. Utilitarianism (also called consequentialism) is a moral theory developed and refined in the modern world by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). It can be defined as follows: An action or moral rule is right if and only if it maximizes the amount of nonmoral good produced in the consequences that result from doing that act or following that rule compared with other acts or rules open to the agent. 2 I'm going to be borrowing heavily from J.P. Moreland's critique of utilitarianism because he answers my question quite well. In fact, I'll just post his rebuttals here. 

"Several objections show the inadequacy of utilitarianism as a normative moral theory. First, utilitarianism can be used to justify actions that are clearly immoral. Consider the case of a severely deformed fetus. The child is certain to live a brief, albeit painless life. He or she will make no contribution to society. Society, however, will bear great expense. Doctors and other caregivers will invest time, emotion, and effort in adding mere hours to the baby's life. The parents will know and love the child only long enough to be heartbroken at the inevitable loss. An abortion negates all those "utility" losses. There is no positive utility lost. Many of the same costs are involved in the care of the terminally ill elderly. They too may suffer no pain, but they may offer no benefit to society. In balancing positives and negatives, and excluding from the equation the objective sacredness of all human life, we arrive at morally repugnant decisions. Here deontological and virtue ethics steer us clear of what is easier to what is right.

Second, in a similar way, utilitarianism denies the existence of supererogatory acts. These are acts of moral heroism that are not morally obligatory but are still praiseworthy. Examples would be giving 75 percent of your income to the poor or throwing yourself on a bomb to save a stranger. Consider the bomb example. You have two choices — throwing yourself on the bomb or not doing so. Each choice would have consequences and, according to utilitarianism, you are morally obligated to do one or the other depending on which option maximized utility. Thus, there is no room for acts that go beyond the call of morality.

Third, utilitarianism has an inadequate view of human rights and human dignity. If enslaving a minority of people, say by a lottery, would produce the greatest good for the greatest number, or if conceiving children only to harvest their parts would do the same, then these could he justified in a utilitarian scheme. But enslavement and abortion violate individual rights and treat people as a means to an end, not as creatures with intrinsic dignity as human beings. If acts of abortion, active euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and so forth maximize utility, then they are morally obligatory for the utilitarian. But any moral system that makes abortion and suicide morally obligatory is surely flawed.

Finally, utilitarianism has an inadequate view of motives and character. We should praise good motives and seek good character because such motives and character are intrinsically valuable. But utilitarianism implies that the only reason we should praise good motives instead of bad ones, or seek good character instead of bad character, is because such acts would maximize utility. But this has the cart before the horse. We should praise good motives and blame bad ones because they are good or bad, not because such acts of praising and blaming produce good consequences.

In sum, it should be clear that utilitarianism is an inadequate moral theory. Unfortunately, ours is a pragmatic culture and utilitarianism is on the rise. But for those of us who follow Christ, a combination of virtue and deontological ethics is a more adequate view of common sense morality found in natural law and of the moral vision contained in the Bible." 3

Evolution and utilitarianism fail to explain morality, especially objective morality, which more and more people seem to be acknowledging. However, they're "accepting" it, then smuggling in their preferences, which is not adhering to an objective moral standard. Someone may say, "I believe in objective morality," but then he says that women should be beaten if they don't give in to sex. That's relativism. You cannot make objective moral statements when your worldview is relativism. On relativism, anything goes! What's true for you is not true for me goes both ways. On relativism, we wouldn't have women's rights or the abolition of slavery. On relativism, rape, murder, adultery, could not be wrong. Relativism is personal preference and guess what? Personal preferences are very diverse. Relativism if thought through critically is not what any sane person really wants to commit to because of its volatile nature. Relativism, evolution, and utilitarianism cannot explain morality. 

The major thing to realize here is that people want objective morality. People want to acknowledge that some things are objectively good and some things are objectively bad, and that we realize the ought in us pushing us to do the right thing. We all want to acknowledge that. Why do some dislike it though? Why do some people want objective morality in a different way? Because the objective moral standard can only be explained by God. Some people want the objective moral standard without the sufficient grounding for the moral standard, which is God. 


3. ibid. 

Related content

Clicking the above link will lead to more resources for morality.

Wintery Knight's morality posts (more resources here too.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Falling backward or forward?

There are a number of spiritual experiences people claim to have. One such experience is being "slain in the spirit." Growing up in churches that promote things like being "slain" I seen this event quite often. I never quite understood it as a child, nor did I really care that it was happening because I was, well, a child. I was used to it. Seeing people fall backward by the pushing, err, gentle touch of a person's hand was like seeing an ant crawl across dirt; it wasn't a big deal. However, as I grew older, I questioned the authenticity and purpose of falling backward in the spirit.

The questions that birthed in my mind were, "Is this real?," "Why do this?," and "Isn't this crazy?" The question I should have brooded over is, "Is this biblical?" That question didn't ever cross my mind because I was certain of this act being a vital part of Christianity. I can honestly say that I tried it. Yeah, I did. Why? Because I thought that was a key part of being a Christian. Killing bad habits and character flaws in my life? Nah, falling out was way more Christian than sanctification. That sounds silly, but I really thought I had to a) fall out often and b) speak in tongues; certainly after accomplishing those things I would be very spiritual, right? 

After falsely falling out a few times, I started to think that maybe I was doing it wrong. Could I be a barrier to sincerely experiencing this great Christian experience? What was I doing wrong? The whole thing became a step by step process to me. Once I realized that I was making it religious I thought, "Oh, I'm making too much of this. I need to clear my mind." The next time, my mind was clear, I fell out and nothing. I still didn't feel a thing. I felt a person praying over me, repeating Jesus' name over and over and after she left me, I stood up, and then proceeded to my pew to think about what happened.

I never truly experienced the "slain in the spirit" thing. Not once. I faked it a bunch of times. After trying to actually experience it, I faked fell out a few times afterward to get people to stop praying for me. I know, it sounds horrible, but that's all I knew to do. This is what happens to youth in churches that promote such things. Granted, my experience isn't analogous to every single youth in these movements, but I'm sure there are a lot like me.

So, what is by definition being slain in the spirit? Most commonly, being “slain in the Spirit” happens when a minister lays hands on someone, and that person collapses to the floor, supposedly overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit.1 Is there biblical support for this? People in the movement claim support from the following passages:

Revelation 1:17
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last,

Ezekiel 1:28
Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.  
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Daniel 8:17 
17So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, "Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end."
 18And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up.

Daniel 10:7-9 
7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. 8So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. 9Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

The contrasts between the biblical falling on one's face and the practice being slain in the spirit. Gotquestions?.org offers the contrasts between the two. 

1. The biblical falling down was a person's reaction to what he saw in a vision or an event beyond ordinary happenings, such as at the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:6). In the unbiblical practice of being slain in the Spirit, the person responds to another’s touch or to the motion of the speaker's arm.

2. The biblical instances were few and far between, and they occurred only rarely in the lives of a few people. In the slain in the Spirit phenomenon, falling down is a repeated event and an experience that happens to many.

3. In the biblical instances, the people fall upon their face in awe at either what or whom they see. In the slain in the Spirit counterfeit, they fall backwards, either in response to the wave of the speaker's arm or as a result of a church leader's touch (or push in some cases).

I think the third contrast is the strongest contrast. The falling on one's face as dead was in reverence and awe of a holy and awesome God. We cannot stand the majesty of Jehovah God, so we fall on our face in reverence (as dead). There are few words to describe the moment of encountering God's holiness. Isaiah described his condition as undone (or ruined); "like dead" is another good way to describe a finite human being's condition when he is encountered by the holy God of all creation. finishes the answer to the question with this:

"We are not claiming that all examples of being slain in the Spirit are fakes or responses to a touch or push. Many people claim to experience an energy or a force that causes them to fall back. However, we find no biblical basis for this concept. Yes, there may be some energy or force involved, but if so, it is very likely not of God and not the result of the working of the Holy Spirit.

It is unfortunate that people look to such bizarre counterfeits that produce no spiritual fruit, rather than pursuing the practical fruit which the Spirit gives us for the purpose of glorifying Christ with our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Being filled with the Spirit is not evidenced by such counterfeits, but by a life that overflows with the Word of God in such a way that it spills over in praise, thanksgiving, and obedience to God."

I agree completely. I noticed (growing up in such churches) that the very people that were participating in the "spiritual" events during the service, would afterward go out to eat at a restaurant and verbally pound people, and show absolutely no change in character (no spiritual fruit was apparent). Being slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, etc., is not an indication of one's sanctification, nor are those practices a measuring rod for closeness to God. I'm reminded of what speaker Damon Thompson once said, "I would rather be a pastor of a congregation seeking sanctification than a pastor of a congregation that speaks in tongues, yet has no sign of spiritual fruit." The Christian continues in repentance and seeks godliness. 

A great sign and wonder is what the Holy Spirit does in our heart/character; changing us, regenerating our heart, chiseling our character taking away our greatest flaws. The Holy Spirit helps us to persevere to the end, which is how the Christian overcomes struggles in his/her life. Our life should not be devoted to seeking signs and wonders, rather our life should be devoted to following God and His will. Do I seek signs and wonders? No I do not. How is my Christian life? Well, I grow to love God more and more everyday. I'm continually amazed by Him and I believe I always will be amazed by Him.

Are signs and wonders for the church today? Well, that's another blogpost for another time. However, I won't leave you empty handed. Below, I'll list fair and balanced resources for you to look into. Until next time, grace and peace to you. 

Further study.