Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Retroactive Curse?


I’ve been involved in an interesting discussion over at Undeception. In this post, Steve discusses how William Dembski, one of the foremost proponents of the Intelligent Design movement, has embraced Old Earth Creationism. That is, he understands the incontrovertible evidence for the age of the earth. And he knows that such evidence includes a history of suffering and death on our planet before the dawn of man. While he still rejects evolution (acceptance of evolution in Dembski’s case would apparently spell the end of his employment at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is a philosophy professor), his acceptance of the geological and paleontological records creates a conundrum for his theology: billions of years of suffering and death on our planet prior to the dawn of man. More importantly, all of this death occurs before the Fall of man. And Dembski’s theology posits that death and suffering are included in the curse which resulted from the sin of Adam and Eve. No problem, according to Dembski. God merely set a curse upon Creation in anticipation of the Fall.


This is like blaming that the man who struck a match at 3:30 in the afternoon for thereby causing an early morning fire on that same day. Except that God is all-knowing, and apparently therefore it is perfectly rational that the curse resulting from Man’s sin might extend backward for billions of years. And thus does Dembski solve the theodicy riddle (how can evil exist in the creation of a good God?) in his book, The End of Christianity. Blame the extinction of dinosaurs on Adam! Eve eats an apple, and trillions of preexistent bacteria die over billions of years. Of course, such a view wreaks havoc upon common sense notions of cause and effect, which lie at the foundation of all science. If God plays such a huge cosmic trick with the sequence of events, can a scientist like Dembski really trust anything in the natural order?


Dembski has effectively rewritten Genesis 2:17 to read, “For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely set into motion a whole set of retroactive physical, spiritual, and biological laws including the eventuality of death, laws which will not only henceforth govern your lives and all Creation, but actually have already been governing Creation for 13.7 billion years. So, verily, don’t eat thereof. On second thought, maybe you should eat because if you don’t you’ll really screw things up.” And he has altered the grammar of Genesis 3:14-19, effectively replacing a string of straightforward future tense verbs with past perfects. Exactly how does this solve anything for a man who has so much invested in literalism and inerrancy?


Dembski’s commitment to a literal reading of an inerrant Genesis 1 compels him to reject evolution (God created each species “according to its kind”). His insistence upon a literal understanding of Genesis 2 and 3, (and thus a literal Adam and Eve) lead him to reject common descent. But unlike other Biblical literalists, he cannot square the geological and paleontological record with six-day young earth Creationism. The resulting theological dilemma has Dembski contorting Biblical literalism beyond recognition.


Christians who take seriously their faith must deal with the issue in some way. It won’t go away anytime soon. So I am asking my believing readers, How do you solve this dilemma?


o I avoid science, thus shielding myself from all the potential difficulties of squaring my chosen beliefs with hard facts.


o I avoid the philosophical issue of the problem of evil. If I don’t think about it, it doesn’t effect me.


o I avoid the theological issue of death before the Fall. If I don’t think about it, it doesn’t bother me.


o I accept Dembski’s logic. It is the only way to hold together my acceptance of Biblical inerrancy in the face of the vast fossil record showing a long history of death and extinctions prior to man.


o I reject Dembski’s solution as irrational. I accept Biblical inerrancy, but have another solution to the dilemma.


o My view of reality compels me to redefine how God reveals truth, and I do not read the Bible as the literal, inerrant “Word of God”.


Or do you have a different approach than one listed here?

59 comments:

Tom said...

While I agree that one should wait until the wrong has been made to instigate the punishment, the idea of a retroactive curse does not seem to be too outrageous when Christians accept that the curse applies to future generations.

Cliff Martin said...

Hi Tom,

Yes, but (aside from Jesus) I have not yet met a single human who did not, in some way, second Adam's motion. Adam's did not choose for the rest of us, he merely represented us.

God also "visits" the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations. But note,
1) most believers understand that as natural consequences, not curses, and
2) God is never (as far as I know) said to visit sins of the people upon earlier generations.

Of course, I run most of these concepts though a different set of filters than many other believers.

Mattress said...

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Genesis 2:17 (KJV)

God here declares an immediate death upon eating of the fruit. However, in the definition of death you're describing before the fall is physical death. Adam and Eve did not experience immediate physical death upon eating of the fruit. Did God lie to Adam, was the serpent telling the truth?

Perhaps the death God is speaking of here is not physical, but rather spiritual. Jesus seemed to think so when he said "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." Matthew 8:22

Additionally, God implies in Genesis 3:22 that Adam was not physically immortal prior to the fall, since it seems the reason Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden is to prevent them from eating from the tree of life, and thus living forever.

From my reading of Genesis, physical death already existed before the fall of man. I believe God was talking about a spiritual death when he told Adam he would die on the day he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Certainly his relationship with God was severed rather severely, and we know that the only hope for life after physical death is through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

You also know from my comments on the undeception post that the possibility of evil is a necessary component of any Good universe because without the freedom to choose evil you are nothing more than a slave.

Rich G. said...

Hmmm... It's been pretty quiet for a while.

Retroactive Curse? I cannot fathom any reversed cause-and-effect within the flow of time. As was written quite a while back, it is the whole concept of events flowing one after another that defines time's one-way arrow. Events follow from causes (preceding events), not 'tuther way 'round. To assert anything else seems irrational, at best.

The closest I can come to any semblance of a theodicy is to separate natural misfortune from moral evil. Events such as the Haiti earthquake is a massive misfortune for those directly impacted, whereas those perpetrated by 'Papa Doc' Duvalier are plainly of a different character.

I guess I fall into a "soft inerrancy" view of Scripture. There are no mistakes of a material nature in the moral lessons, while I can allow for figurative language and fallible authors.

Rich G.

David McMaster said...

I choose to hold out hope that one day science and scripture as it was intended to be understood will reconcile. Indeed, the more I read of discoveries made in the natural sciences the more hopeful I become.

One example might be a Bose-Einstein Condensate. The omnipresence of God might seem ridiculous to the skeptic until the properties of a Bose-Einstein condensate are considered. For someone like me this topic almost screams metaphysics. Although you could say I'm merely trying to read metaphysics into it couldn't I just reply that you're doing your best to keep it out? (Please note that all I'm saying here is that the properties of a Bose-Einstein condensate and the idea of omnipresence seem to have similarities.) Why shouldn't there be more breakthroughs in science until eventually we find science agreeing completely with scripture properly discerned.

The matter of this reconciliation is not settled precisely because there are so many more discoveries both physical and metaphysical to be made. When we think of all the knowledge that is yet to be uncovered isn’t it true that you and I know just as much as any scientist.

As a Christian it seems it would be vital that we hope to the end that what we believe God authorized to be written will ultimately prove out. Don’t lose hope Dr. Dembski! No one need come up with convoluted interpretations of the Bible to appease the science of the moment. If your hope has been lessened by some scientist’s claim that rather than allowing for God science proves His non-existence, then I urge you to hold on to what you first believed. That’s not blind faith. That’s hope that God did and always will do what He says in His word in a way that is consistent with the laws and rules he established.

Cliff Martin said...

Matt,

I agree with you about the death following the Fall being spiritual. But that does not solve the problem of death before the Fall for many. I'm not sure it entirely solves it for me. We still must ask why, in an unfallen, pristine creation, there would be so much death, predation, suffering, species extinction, etc. Do you see no problem here?

Rich,

I think everyone who deals with the the theodicy problem separates natural from moral evil. But how is merely separating the two a theodicy? Other than perhaps needing two different approaches, the two kinds of evil each present its own challenge to theism. It just means we have two "problems of evil". Do you see this differently?

David,

I think you know that my interest in physics, relativity and quantum physics, string theory, etc. was originally driven by my suspicion that there is at some root level of reality a crossover between the seen and unseen worlds, between the physical and metaphysical. The quest for the illusive Theory of Everything may be a quest for just such a crossover, and may remain a mystery to us for that very reason. Some subatomic events predicted by quantum theory are down-right eerie. String theory starts to look strangely other-worldly. And the Bose-Einstein Condensate, as you suggest, may be a point where the two worlds converge.

Of course, at this point, we are on purely conjectural grounds. We may in time come to understand all of these mysteries of physics in purely physical terms. I think traditional Christian thought would say the two worlds are entirely separate. But you and I both look to the possibility that they may be more connected than we have thought.

Mattress said...

Cliff,

I think physical death and suffering were always a part of creation from the beginning. I don't see what the fall of man necessarily has to do with the death and suffering of things there are not men (though I can see how people could make a connection from the curse, though God doesn't really mention animals in regards to it). Also, are death and suffering actually bad (evil) things? Christians are told to rejoice in suffering.

If you feel that death before the fall is a problem, why do you feel that way? Do you believe animals have spirits?

Rich G. said...

Cliff:

I think everyone who deals with the the theodicy problem separates natural from moral evil. But how is merely separating the two a theodicy? Other than perhaps needing two different approaches, the two kinds of evil each present its own challenge to theism. It just means we have two "problems of evil". Do you see this differently?

I guess I do. I would rather assert that natural events are not "evil" in and of themselves. To see them as "evils" would be to pass a moral judgment on them (and by extension - on all creation itself). For example, to see an earthquake as an evil calls into question the whole of Plate Tectonics - without which we would not have a breathable atmosphere.

In his Systematic Theology, Charles Finney asserts that "good" is to seek the highest and best for God and His creation, while "evil" is anything else that falls short, i.e. to seek something else for my benefit at the expense of God's. He (Finney) makes a thorough case that "good" and "evil" are exclusively moral choices made by beings capable of making informed, rational decisions, thereby excluding all animate and inanimate events that are not the result of those decisions.

So I see a vast difference in kind between moral and natural.

In regards to the recent events in Haiti, I would assert that the suffering caused or exacerbated by the corrupt government is plainly evil, whereas the earthquake was simply a natural event, however unfortunate for those in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This does not mean that we should stand back and simply let things play out - we have an obligation (based on our common humanity) to help relieve those suffering from either cause.

Rich G.

Cliff Martin said...

Matt and Rich,

Maybe I’m missing something here, but from where I sit, both of you are falling into the category of believers I refer to in the Earthquake post of a couple of days ago: “I am sometimes amazed at the indifference of some believers who claim this huge affront to faith does not faze them.”

Matt > If you feel that death before the fall is a problem, why do you feel that way?

Do you intend to say that you don’t see a problem with death?? Come on! Yes I feel that death before, during, or after the fall is a problem. Like you, I do not attach any causal relationship between the Fall of man and death, particularly pre-Adamic death. But, yes, death is a problem. It is an evil (in the dictionary sense of “harmful or tending to harm”). Paul calls it the “final enemy”, destined for destruction. I do not understand how you can dismiss the problem of evil and suffering by declaring they’ve been around from the beginning of creation (True) and that Christians are told to rejoice in suffering.

It is not that I have not developed my own answers to this theological problem. I have. But you seem to be saying that it is not a problem that needs solving.

Rich> Of course, plate tectonics is not morally evil. It is a natural part of the created order. But don’t you ever ask yourself why God fashioned Creation to include things like giant meteorites, entropy and death, plate tectonics and tsunamis, death and pain, animal suffering, predation, and extinction? (And yes, l do understand that as things are, we could not live without entropy, death, plate tectonics, etc.) But do these things line up neatly with your notion of God? Did he have no alternative but to create this way?

I see the same "vast difference" between natural and moral evil as you do. I still fail to see how merely proclaiming them to be different erases the problem.

Again, it is not me ultimately asking these questions. It is an world full of unbelief. I am merely parroting their proclaimed basis for skepticism re. the Christian God. And I must say that their argument, on its face, has considerable merit. I think we should develop better answers. It is part of what I do on this site. You and Matt seem to both be saying that I’m wasting my time, because we really have no theological problem here. I doubt very much if your statements will carry any water with those who still see the plain, simple logic of Epicurus.

Rich G. said...

Cliff:

But don’t you ever ask yourself why God fashioned Creation to include things like giant meteorites, entropy and death...

Well, yes. But I also accept that this is the system we were born into, without having been consulted as to whether or not we wanted it. I suspect that God chose to limit himself by creating matter, partitioning off an area where this grand experiment could play itself out.

I doubt very much if your statements will carry any water with those who still see the plain, simple logic of Epicurus.

The more often I read that "plain, simple logic" the less I am inclined to accept the premise - that there are only two choices: impotence or malevolence. It begins to sound more and more like "Can God make a rock too big for him to pick up?" Sure, it is a question that we can put into language, but is it one that we can solve?

Usually it seems that active disbelievers will frame these kinds of questions then trumpet their "solution" as proof.

I think, for believers, maybe the better question could be "How can a holy God countenance and use evil to produce good, and still be good himself?" I have no satisfactory answer to this that treats God as a free moral agent capable of making his own decisions, consistent with his own nature and character. Every answer seems to devolve into treating him as an impersonal, uninterested force, like gravity. However, I believe that when we step out of this space-time existence, we will begin to see the answer.

Cliff Martin said...

Rich,

Of course, if there is a meaningful Christian-Theistic response the the problem of evil God will be shown to be neither malevolent nor impotent. We agree there. But it is hard for most Christians to see past this apparent dilemma, and practically impossible for non-believers to do so. I agree with you, Epicurus was wrong. But I do not think the church has done a very good job of responding.

As you know, after I made this post, on the same day, Haiti suffered the horrible earthquake. I posted on the Earthquake, and its relationship to faith. That post is more germane to our discussion here. I responded to Michael this morning ... did you see it? Also, I have been dialoging with friends on Facebook about that post. Yesterday. I responded to a friend with this comment:

"I'm not convinced that the theological questions are completely beyond our reach. We are learning more about God, and what purposes he might have with the cosmos, ordered as it is. For example, understanding that entropy (and with it, death, decay, suffering of all kinds) has been around since the creation moment ought to suggest some things to us ... things about which a former generation would have had no clue.

I am convinced that we ought to engage our minds, put two and two together, and stop listlessly shrugging our shoulders every time this issue arises."


I have found it difficult to engage Christians on this topic. When it comes to the problem of evil, either they 1) do not care, 2) do not understand (or accept) science, 3) do not agree that it is a problem, or 4) are resigned that the problem is so mystery enshrouded we can never offer more than a shrug.

I'm looking for thinking Christians who reject all four of those premises, and who will pursue the matter with me. Maybe you can understand why I so often play devil's advocate, and why I am intentionally provocative.

Rich G. said...

Cliff:

Yes, I have been following the posts about Haiti. I just kept with this thread for continuity.

"But I do not think the church has done a very good job of responding."

I would write:

"But I do not think the modern, evangelical church has done a very good job of responding."

Rich G.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > ... I have not yet met a single human who did not...

Have you met a single human who was born with more than five digits on each limb?


Cliff > ... common sense notions of cause and effect, which lie at the foundation of all science...

How do "common sense notions of cause and effect" carry over to the uncaused effects of quantum physics?

How do "common sense notions of cause and effect" carry over to "block time"?

Did Einstein really write "People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubborn, persistant illusion." ?

Isaac Gouy said...

David McMaster > ... all I'm saying here is that the properties of a Bose-Einstein condensate and the idea of omnipresence seem to have similarities.

Without knowing which properties of a Bose-Einstein condensate you're talking about it's difficult to understand what you're trying to suggest.

I just read Sébastien Balibar's complaints about the popular image -

"Does it look like troops marching in step? ... But in fact, that's not the right image at all. ... the atoms are no longer discernible from one another. If we persist in imagining them as particles, they are constantly exchanging places; if we adopt the wave interpretation, instead, they are superimposed waves which occupy all the space available to the gas. ... In a quantum condensate, however, there are no more individual atoms, just a big wave of macroscopic matter." pages 50-52

The atom and the apple: twelve tales from contemporary physics

Rich G. said...

I've been working on a theory based upon the discussions here, and on Lostpedia:

Is it possible that our conception of "Good" is both flawed and inadequate when applied to God? So often we seem to be imposing our simplistic understandings upwards in order to make judgments apply to the eternal. Maybe like how a vine could feel about the vinedresser. The grape vine would be incapable of understanding the purpose of the thinning, pruning, weeding planting and removal activities going on all around. I see a parallel - we cannot see the larger purpose, all we see is a lot of destruction occurring in the midst of remarkable beauty, with only an inkling of how one is essential to the other.

Cliff Martin said...

Rich,

I think that our concept of "good" may not be be flawed (that is, it may be essentially correct because, after all, we learned "goodness" from God himself), but most certainly is inadequate, or incomplete. After God created the cosmos, complete with all the natural laws which would lead to things like death and suffering, plate tectonics and hurricanes, he took a step back and saw that his creation was "good". I like to to think of "good" in this context not as "pleasant, beautiful, nice" nor even "morally good" as we might count moral goodness. But rather, he saw that it was useful, that it would accomplish what he was after, that it was good because it was exactly how he needed it to be,

Rich G. said...

Cliff:

I would still say "flawed" in the sense that even our understanding has been tainted by sin.

As an engineer, I've had numerous experiences where I have had to explain a concept that, to me at least, was very simple but technical - only to have it replayed back to me (by my wife, kids, clients, etc.) in an oversimplified form that was almost unrecognizable. I think I see the same kind of think happening. We get a form of "good" that is simplified for us, then we apply it backwards, thinking we really understand what we are doing.

Like a contractor following a highway construction plan, he follows the specifications, but the engineer follows a "higher law" - the laws of the nature and behavior of the materials being used, in choosing which specifications to follow and which to supersede with specials.

Crude parallel, I know. I'm still refining my thoughts.

Rich G.

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > Is it possible that our conception of "Good" is both flawed and inadequate when applied to God?

Is it possible that our conception of "God" is both flawed and inadequate?

God is a symbol. The connotation of the symbol lies beyond all naming, beyond all numeration, beyond all categories of thought. p48 "Thou art that: transforming religious metaphor"

There seem to be only two kinds of people: Those who think that metaphors are facts, and those who know that they are not facts. Those who know they are not facts are what we call "atheists," and those who think they are facts are "religious." Which group really gets the message? p48 "Thou art that: transforming religious metaphor"

The process that should have led to a stunned appreciation of an "otherness" beyond the competence of language ended prematurely. The result is that many of us have been left stranded with an incoherent concept of God. p320 "The Case for God"

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

"Is it possible that our conception of "God" is both flawed and inadequate? "

Yes. Not only possible, but evident.

"God is a symbol..."

That is his opinion. Mine's different from his. I'm not going to debate his opinion with you. That is, unless you have one of your own that you are willing to reveal and defend.

Rich G.

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > That is his opinion.

That is a religious tradition.

That is a religious tradition in Christianity.

It's the contrast with that Christian tradition that leads Karen Armstrong to write "many of us have been left stranded with an incoherent concept of God."

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

"It's the contrast with that Christian tradition that leads Karen Armstrong to write..."

Why bring her into this? Don't have any thoughts of your own?

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Rich has hit the nail on the head. You are obviously very intelligent, very thoughtful, and often your contributions here are helpful, insightful. But for the most part, you only nitpick. And that from the comfort and safety of personal anonymity. None of us has a clue who you are, what your credentials are, what you core beliefs are, etc.

What makes this blog interesting (for me) is the personalities, the interactions based on relationship. We know each other. You, we do not know. You choose to conceal your own opinions, your own world-view. It makes discussions with you uninteresting at the least, and typically, unproductive.

I, for one, would be so much more welcoming of your comments, and I would likely react less, if I knew you, your background, how you think about life, what you think about God. I know all of this about Psi, Tom, BrownPanther, Steve, Rich, RBH, and the many other frequent contributors. Maybe you enjoy being mysterious, and hiding behind your anonymity. But you may not realize how utterly boring you are as a result.

Isaac Gouy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > Why bring her into this?

So the curious have something they can look at to learn more.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > We know each other. You, we do not know.

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself...

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself..." [Lev. 19:34, KJV]

But thou dwellest not among us as a fellow sojourner, nor dost thou countenence the requests of thy host when he asketh thee thy business.

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > ... as a fellow sojourner ...

But the stranger ...

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

"But the stranger ..."

So?

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > So?

So it is not the fellow sojourner "thou shalt love him as thyself" but the stranger.

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

"So it is not the fellow sojourner "thou shalt love him as thyself" but the stranger."

What's your point? The requests that have been put to you have nothing to do with "loving the stranger".

Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > What's your point? The requests that have been put to you have nothing to do with "loving the stranger".

My comments on this blog should be taken at face value. They stand for themselves.

That would be more charitable than making personal remarks - "Don't have any thoughts of your own?"

By the end of last year even psi seemed to have had enough of the personal remarks.

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

As host, I have the right to establish the tone of this blog. If I prefer discussions to be self-revelatory and personally engaging, I set the tone. Everything from my posts to my blogger profile are quite revealing on a personal level. This is intentiona, as I prefer discussions with real people. If you find that stifling or uncomfortable, you are free to keep hiding. But expect that others here will respond to you differently.

Psi may have reached a level of dissatisfaction with the nature of some of our discussions. I do not presume to know why he has dropped off the radar. But you are mistaken if you think that Psi prefers an anonymous, impersonal approach. He has often allowed his personality (which I find delightful) to show in his comments, and he is very forthcoming in his personal opinions. He has his own blog site, where his views are quite transparent. I consider him an engaging friend, and I hope he shows up here again!

Mike said...

Isaac,

Could you maybe tell us why you don’t want to let us know your ideas, beliefs, etc? I know this is a personal question too but I'm just wondering if you would answer this.

Mike

Isaac Gouy said...

Mike > Could you maybe tell us why you don’t want to let us know your ideas, beliefs, etc?

Could you tell me why you need to know them?

If you think the comments I've made are not understandable because I haven't proselytized to you, then I need to make my comments clearer.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I do not presume to know why he has dropped off the radar.

Didn't he make it plain enough?

You wrote: "Do you understand why I consider your questions about Christianity vs other religions less than sincere when you are starting out on a premise of atheism?"

Psi wrote: "I'll just shut up then seeing as I am not sincere as I am an atheist."

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

Psi may have taken offense (wrongly!), but that is not the same as "having enough of the personal remarks". Mark (Psi's real name) has written personal emails to me about my cancer-ridden wife, he has shared with me details of his own life far beyond anything you have ever offered. He has never, to my knowledge, expressed discontent with our discussions being too personal.

Psi choose to take offense at something I clearly did not say. If you (especially you!) will look closely at what I wrote, you will see that I never equate atheism with insincerity, nor to I believe there is any such confluence. So, Psi chose to check out based upon his own choice to read something into my statement that plainly is not there. I am sad he did so. But that is entirely different from our requests that you be more personally forthcoming.

I never had to make such a request of Psi. He has a naturally forthcoming, engaging personality, the result being that it is a pleasure to converse with him. You, Isaac, could use a little help in those departments. Unless you enjoy being faceless and boring.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Unless you enjoy being faceless and boring.

Apparently you wish to establish name calling as "the tone of this blog".

Oh well.

Which box is it you consider yourself to be outside?

Cliff Martin said...

Isaac,

"Faceless" and "boring" are not names. They are adjectives. They are not judgments upon your personality. They are judgments upon your chosen style of interacting here. You chose to be faceless (do you disagree??). And the result is that for me at least, interacting with you lacks interest and vitality. In short, though you may be a charming and delightful individual, the persona you present here is flat boring. Sorry.

But no, name calling is not and will never be the "tone of this blog."

A brief review of your own comments here will demonstrate amply that you resort to insults which, again in my opinion, go far beyond "boring".

Mike said...

Isaac, you asked, “Could you tell me why you need to know them?”

Isaac, I *want* to know your beliefs, ideas, etc. I don’t *need* to know them. When I originally asked you (on that other post) if you were an atheist, agnostic, theist, I was asking as a fellow traveler on this amazing journey we are all on. Personally, I think that everybody’s interaction on this blog is richer if we see where the responder is “coming from.” Perhaps you would disagree? As for my question, I was hoping maybe you could tell us *why* you don’t want to share your beliefs, etc. For example, you might say something like, “I don’t share them because I don’t want anyone to judge me or my responses based upon my experiences, beliefs, etc. I don’t want to cloud or influence anyone’s perception of me or what I write. If you take what I write at face value, then my responses will not provoke any bias from anyone.” Or something like that. Of course this is all conjecture on my part. You may have another reason. The reason *I* would like to know the answer to my question is because I’m curious!

Isaac Gouy said...

Mike > Of course this is all conjecture on my part.

Those all seem reasonable.


Mike > The reason *I* would like to know the answer to my question is because I’m curious!

Forgive me, I regard that as vulgar curiousity which I have no reason to sate.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > A brief review of your own comments here will demonstrate amply that you resort to insults which, again in my opinion, go far beyond "boring".

So you say but do not show - quote me.

Rich G. said...

Isaac:

"I regard that as vulgar curiousity "
Which meaning of "vulgar" do you intend? For you previously wrote that I must understand the author's [yours] intended definition, rather than my own.

"Main Entry: vul·gar
Pronunciation: \ˈvəl-gər\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin vulgaris of the mob, vulgar, from volgus, vulgus mob, common people
Date: 14th century

1 a : generally used, applied, or accepted b : understood in or having the ordinary sense
2 : vernacular
3 a : of or relating to the common people : plebeian b : generally current : public c : of the usual, typical, or ordinary kind
4 a : lacking in cultivation, perception, or taste : coarse b : morally crude, undeveloped, or unregenerate : gross c : ostentatious or excessive in expenditure or display : pretentious
5 a : offensive in language : earthy b : lewdly or profanely indecent
synonyms see common, coarse
"

Rich G.

Mattress said...

"I like to to think of "good" in this context not as "pleasant, beautiful, nice" nor even "morally good" as we might count moral goodness. But rather, he saw that it was useful, that it would accomplish what he was after, that it was good because it was exactly how he needed it to be"

Cliff,
Are you implying here that the ends justify the means for God?

Cliff Martin said...

Hi Mattress,

"Are you implying here that the ends justify the means for God?"

If by that you mean that ends justify any means, no. But we all make choices based upon a consideration of outcome verses cost ("... who for the joy set before him endured the cross ..."). If God deems the annihilation of evil and death as worth the combined sufferings that he and his creation would endure in the process, and we characterize that as "ends justify means", then yes, that is what I am saying.

Mattress said...

Are you saying that God made an unfallen universe full of suffering with the fall in mind in order to add his own suffering to that (now fallen) universe to negate the effects of that universe's fall?

Wouldn't it have been a lot easier to simply not have made the universe to begin with?

Cliff Martin said...

Mattress,

You've missed a few very important points. My view is that God created this universe subject to death and decay, and therefore filled necessarily with suffering from the very beginning. Why he did so involves, of course, some speculation. I have outlined my views in three earlier posts:

POST #4: Entropy, the Concept
POST #4: Entropy, the Timeline
POST #4: Entropy, the Implication

Rich G. said...

Cliff:

I've started to wonder if the story of Job may be an allegorical answer to this question. That the whole of creation is a demonstration to answer a cosmic challenge that may predate Creation.

Or to take a tongue-in-cheek approach, a more substantial answer than "42".

Cliff Martin said...

Rich!

Yes! Last Friday, I was discussing with a friend (Rick Showalter, for those who may know him) some pre-creation scenarios involving God and Satan, and he suggested the same thing about Job's opening chapters. Interesting. I'll have to give that more thought.

Mike said...

Isaac > Forgive me, I regard that as vulgar curiousity which I have no reason to sate.

Sometimes I’m not sure how to take stuff on this blog. So I’ll just ask. Are you saying I’m being vulgar (in a bad way) by asking you this? I did not mean any of my questions to you in any kind of offensive way. I don’t think that I’m out of line by asking these kinds of questions here. My perception is that most here don’t mind (and even enjoy) discussing what they believe, etc.

Maybe I’m off here but there seems to be some hostility on this blog. Maybe I’m wrong and it is just good-natured banter. But I don’t perceive it that way. I’m not talking about the “vulgar” reference (again, I’m not sure what you meant by that). I’m just talking in general about the interaction on this blog.

I think that your mysteriousness (can’t think of a better word at the moment) can actually hinder some richer discussions here. Maybe you don’t want anyone to be biased by letting us on to what you believe (conjecture of mine) but did you ever think that it might have the opposite effect? That people may draw conclusions about you (whether these conclusions are correct or not)? And maybe that can get in the way of how they interact with you?

Are these questions too personal? Now I’m wondering if that question was too personal. I really am; I’m not being a smart-aleck.

I think you have added a lot of stuff to think about here with your comments. I just think you could add so much more.

Ah, Isaac, I just wish we could all be friends here. I think this blog is a great discussion site!

Isaac Gouy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isaac Gouy said...

Rich G. > Which meaning of "vulgar" do you intend?

3abc

Isaac Gouy said...

Mike > Maybe I’m off here but there seems to be some hostility on this blog.

Perhaps defensiveness taken to an extreme becomes hostility.

Rather than check again that we understand something correctly there's often an unfortunate defensive response - just dismiss what others say - and do so by attacking them.

Given the frequency and regularity with which we all make mistakes and misunderstand, there's always a good chance we'll turn out to be wrong and the others right.

Mike said...

Nicely said, Isaac!

Mike Gene said...

Hi Cliff,

You write, “I have found it difficult to engage Christians on this topic. When it comes to the problem of evil, either they 1) do not care, 2) do not understand (or accept) science, 3) do not agree that it is a problem, or 4) are resigned that the problem is so mystery enshrouded we can never offer more than a shrug.

I'm looking for thinking Christians who reject all four of those premises, and who will pursue the matter with me. Maybe you can understand why I so often play devil's advocate, and why I am intentionally provocative.”

We are then kindred spirits, as I too reject all four premises. So I would love to pursue the matter. I have my own rather esoteric “answers” that have come to bring me great peace with these matters. I’d be curious to know if they resonate with anyone else or if its just me.

I’ll be praying for your wife and for you. I can empathize with your situation.

Mike

Cliff Martin said...

Thank you Mike.

I would be especially interested in your thoughts. I love your approach to molecular biology (often recommending you book to friends), even though I am no fan of the I.D. movement. Your thoughts in this field of science have always excited me. Thus, any ideas you have along the lines of evolution and theology and theodicy would, I'm sure, interest me greatly.

MIke Gene said...

Hi Cliff,

My approach to evil and God doesn’t really overlap with my book. It rests in several metaphysical “truths” that I see and builds from there. All I can do is share what I see and if it resonates and helps, great.

I’d start with a simple question – God, in all his power and wisdom, could have created any of an infinite number of possible creations. Yet of all the possible realities He could have created, why did He bring this particular one into existence?

I believe it is because of us. And by us, I do not mean human beings, humanoids, or sentient beings. I mean you and me and everyone we know around us and everyone they know, etc. This is our reality. You and me could not exist in any of those other possible realities. For what makes us us? Our genetic identities. Our experiences. Our memories. Our choices. Since all of the things that make us us are part of this creation, this creation must exist if we are to exist.

I’ll stop here to see if that makes any sense. You don't have to agree; I'm just wondering if you can see it.

Cliff Martin said...

Mike,

No, my comment did not anticipate a tie-in between biological design and theodicy ... I meant only to say that I respect your thinking.

I think I understand what you are saying. But at this point, it sounds a bit circular. You'll have to tell me more. Here's an idea: would you be willing to write a fuller description of your thoughts in an essay which I could then use as a guest post?

Mike Gene said...

Hi Cliff,

Thanks for the kind words. I could write a guest post for you, but it would have to wait until later in the future, as I would need to sit down and organize all my thoughts into a coherent narrative. If you want, I can email you when I have something.

Regarding my point above, let’s put it this way. Start with two, fundamental questions.

First, why, out of all the possible realities that could have been created, did God choose to bring this one into existence? This is basically the argument from evil, but stripped of its reference to evil.

The second question boils down to something all self-reflective humans should ask – Who am I?

Now, I would actually start with the second question. Ask yourself that question and think about your answer.

Anonymous said...

According to Russian Orthodox Christian Vyatcheslav Krasheninnikov: Humans were created about 7500 years ago. Birds participate in time creation. It's a sin to kill birds. Dinosaurs live under our level. They will get out through sinkholes and lakes. To kill them, go for their nerves. Demons grow human skin and put it on so as to look like us. Demons will invite people to be healed inside their UFOs; those who go will be like zombies after. Gov't provides demons with diamonds and allows demons to abduct people. If you're being abducted, scream: "JESUS!!!" Demons use diamonds and souls to power their UFO craft. The bigger the diamond, the more it lasts. Demons have 4 UFO bases: 1)Moon 2)Inside fake mountain Kailash in Tibet 3)In lake Baikal in Russia 4)In Atlantis which is underneath the Mariana Trench in Pacific Ocean. There are no aliens. Nobody lives on other planets. Airplanes that go down are hit by demons because they need the airspace to fight Jesus. Antichrist is pale with red eyes. He's possessed by Satan since he's 12 years old. He flies. He wears gloves to hide long nails. He's surrounded by demons who appear as angels of light. Don't go into a UFO to be healed by demons. 666 is given by isotope rays on wrist or forehead when people stretch hands to receive small plastic grey card (world passport). Police will chip and isotope ray people on highways. Food stores will isotope ray people too. Antichrist will also release prisoners to mark people. Reject 666 at all cost. If you're about to be marked, scream: "Lord, have mercy!" three times. Go hide with Orthodox Christians to escape 666. God gives you a name during baptism. Devil gives you an anti-name during anti-baptism. Barcode is Druid black magic curse and a form of mark of the beast just like Social Security. People who took any number (which is an anti-name given during anti-baptism by the beast) on documents or in computer go to temporary hell; but those who receive green 666 (given with world passport with no name on it) on forehead or wrist go to permanent hell. How not to go to hell? Give back all these anti-name anti-baptism documents back to the beast by writing to appropriate authorities. If authorities refuse to cancel these anti-names, then write again (up to three times). If you wrote to the gov't three times about it, but gov't refused, then God will not send you to hell. Don't take the microchip. If you already took it, get rid of it because microchipped people will be influenced by computers to take the world passport (grey plastic card with no name on it). Don't go into a UFO to be healed by demons. Those who reject 666 will go to heaven. Also, their direct ancestors will be saved from hell. Jesus was born of the Father before time. Jesus is 100% God. Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only. Holy Spirit is 100% God. Jesus incarnated. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. His body felt pain but didn't have the original sin (eating of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve). After crucifiction, Jesus preached in hell. Those who believed, got out of hell. After resurrection, Jesus has a body that doesn't feel pain; He is still considered to be 100% God and 100% man. Holy Spirit (who proceeds from the Father) descended upon God-bearer when She agreed to conceive the Word (Jesus). Jesus incarnated this way. She always remained a virgin: before, during, and after. She didn't have personal sins (by the grace of God) but the original sin (eating of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve) was on Her; so, Jesus is Her Saviour too. She died 15 years after Christ's ascension; Jesus resurrected Her body in 3 days. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/55141.htm http://www.goholycross.org/studies/councils.html http://fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/life_after_death.htm