Tony Costa: The Ontological Argument- God or Blue Unicorn Elephants?

2018_tonycosta

Enjoy;

Anchor Audio Link = https://anchor.fm/skeptics-and-seekers/episodes/Tony-Costa-e820ld

At one point late in the podcast, I said something to the effect that I could put a blue unicorn elephant in his mind. And from that point on, that would be a part of Tony’s reality. It is real simply because I made him conceive of it, My attempt at parody was completely lost on Tony as he exclaimed triumphantly that I had just vindicated the ontological argument as it was originally expressed. There was nothing left to do at that point but execute an atomic face-palm. For the second time in a handful of weeks, I will try to explain why the ontological argument should not be taken seriously:

Subjective

Several times throughout the show, I had to point out that all of Tony’s great-making god characteristics were entirely subjective. Tony’s god is the one that provides him with the most emotional solace. Tony offered no way to determine if a property was truly great, or if it just seemed great to him. He and I might even agree on some properties that seem desirable. But our agreement does not mean that a particular property is actually great. We a flawed, sinful beings. Of course we think some things are great that probably aren’t objectively great.

But this is the problem you run into with arguments requiring objectivity such as the moral argument. Christians talk about some things being subjectively moral. But when you ask them to provide an example, they punt to human intuition. Torturing babies for fun is wrong because, well… It’s obvious. I mean, besides psychopaths, who would say that torturing babies for no reason is okay? So that must be objective. But as I have pointed out many times before, universal agreement on a thing does not equal objectivity. We can all agree that something is good and still be wrong about it under objective morality. But the Christian can never provide an objective measuring stick for goodness that everyone can understand.

The ontological argument fails in the same way. Why is having all power a good thing? The only reason given is that it seems like it should be a good thing. But that defies the logic that absolute power corrupts absolutely, I think I could make a better objective case for why having all power is less than ideal. Having the most power might be okay. But that is different from absolute power. Either way, we are only arguing preferences, not objectivity. Until the proponent of the ontological argument can provide for why their chosen great-making properties are objectively the best, the argument does not get off the ground.

Circular

Early in the podcast, it was clear that Tony’s arguments were taking shape. And that shape was circular. The best example of it was when he announced he was going to use the ontological argument to prove the necessity of the trinity. This was novel because it has never been done before. And like a good novel, it was complete fiction.

I gave him plenty of opportunity to make his point. I found it embarrassingly simplistic. I wasn’t even going to bother refuting it for the sake of time. But he never connected the dots. He was only arguing that god had to be plural rather than singular. I interjected and granted his argument would show the necessity of a plural god if valid. But that he needed to explain why three as opposed to two or four.

He seemed completely lost at that point. So he just plowed ahead. I tried to help him rescue his argument by saying again that his read of the ontological argument would prove a plurality. I then asked him if that is all he was trying to accomplish. No! He insisted that three was the magic number. I pressed him to explain why three instead of some other number. His answer was that the Bible says that god is a trinity. So that is why three is necessary. I pointed out that he was not using the ontological argument anymore. He is just making claims from the Bible at that point. But for him, the ontological argument proves the necessity of three because it is a quality of god as expressed in the Bible. So he reasons that it must be a great-making property. His argument was so circular, his real innovation was creating a perfect spear.

Because Tony is a fundamentalist conservative, he takes the Bible as not only authoritative, but literal. Any attribute it gives god is ontologically necessary and great-making. In other words, a particular property of god is great because god said it was great. And round and round we go…

Conclusion: Inconceivable

At one point in the podcast, Tony asked me to give him my idea of a maximally great being. I told him I had no idea as I have no conception of a maximally great being. It is simply not the way I think. The concept of a maximally great plays no part of my thought processes in my day to day life. And that for a number of reasons, I find the idea quite incoherent. He did not even consider my answer. He went on to accuse me of avoiding the question and asking why I wouldn’t answer him. He simply couldn’t conceive of a person who didn’t think that way. My position was inconceivable to him.

Stepping out of his moderator role, Dale chimed in that he thought I was being untruthful because in conversation with him, I expressed some thoughts on the matter. He was way out of line, also factually wrong. I try my best to play along with Christian hypotheticals to charitably help them make their point or express a view I am trying to understand. Dale confused me doing that with me actually having a conception of a great-making properties. On a different podcast, I quipped to Dale that a god who cured cancer would be greater than one who didn’t. Because he does not recognize nuance well, Dale took this to mean that I agree with the formulation of great-making properties. To be clear, I don’t.

I can play the game for the sake of conversation if I happen to be in the mood. But as Dale explained to Tony in another part of the conversation, I don’t believe in any objective great-making properties. This is all fair game to write about because Dale stopped being a moderator at that point and jumped in for a cheap shot that didn’t actually land. It seems even to Dale, the idea of not thinking in these patterns is inconceivable.

They were not the only ones struggling with inconceivability. I cannot conceive of their god because their god entails logical contradictions. They say that god is all good with no ability to do evil or any kind of wrong thing. They also say theirs is the god of the bible. However, by my best lights, the god of the Bible is not all good and does many wrong things. They can propose a perfect god, or the god of the Bible. But they both can’t be the same individual. You just as well ask me to conceive of a married bachelor or a square circle. I can’t do it.

The was a point in the show where I quipped that a greater god than his would be one that saved at least one more person. Triumphantly, he declared that the being I just proposed would then be god. That being would be the greatest possible being. He did not even see the bed of thorns he made for himself. If my conception of the greatest possible being is god, then there are as many gods as there are people. Everyone has a slightly different idea of what the greatest possible being entails. As I pointed out to him, god just becomes a being created and defined by the individual.

This is the logical conclusion of the ontological argument. Without an objective measure of great-making properties, we are left to construct the greatest god of which we can personally conceive. And that god will inevitably be inconceivable to someone else. Perhaps I could conceive of the real god were one to actually exist. But he will have to do better than the ontological argument if he wishes such as me to discover him.

And that’s the view from the skeptic.

David Johnson

 

Recommended Sources (for further study);

a) Tony’s YouTube series with Reverend Sule Prince called “The Third Degree” = https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD8YTj3xxSw3J27nGOj9Wcw/videos

b) Tony’s Twitter Page = https://twitter.com/tmcos_tony?lang=en 

c) Tony Costa Sermons on a range of topics = https://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Dr._Tony_Costa

NOTE SOME HAVE HAD TROUBLE SO IF THE ABOVE LINK DOESN’T WORK WHEN YOU CLICK IT, THEN YOU CAN FIND TONY’S ONLINE SERMONS ON VARIOUS TOPICS BY JUST GOOGLE SEARCHING “SERMON AUDIO TONY COSTA” AND IT WILL POP UP AS THE FIRST LINK OR SO TO CLICK ON

d) Tony Debates Ed Atkinson on the Resurrection on Unbelievable? Radio Show = https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Revisiting-the-resurrection-Ed-Atkinson-vs-Tony-Costa

e) A Range of YouTube debates and Lectures on YouTube with Tony on Islam vs. Christianity and other topics = https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tony+costa+debate

f) Ontological Argument Sources = SHORT 5 MIN VIDEO ON Alvin Plantinga’s version of the Ontological Argument and that mentions some responses to the Parodies = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBmAKCvWl74  ALSO SEE WLC MORE DETAILED EXPOSITION OF THE ARGUMENT IN HIS DEFENDERS CLASS (PARTS 23-26) = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnnKsa-exVE&list=PLIpO3BUiq2IFMS3AP3Yi2oDfc7pzrQs2F&index=23 .

Also see = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmTsS5xFA6k = 10 min DISCUSSION OF ANSLEM’S VERSION- CRASH COURSE PHILOSOPHY. – ACCUSES ANSELM OF BEGGING THE QUESTION.

ATHEIST MATT DILLAHUNTY’S 30 MIN VIDEO ON THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT- DAVID PROVIDED THIS VIDEO IN A PREVIOUS POST = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcVJobux8Xc .

INTERNET ENCYLCOPEDIA ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT = https://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/ & Stanford ENCYLOPEDIA VERSION = https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

 

g) Robert Maydole scholarly level chapter on the Ontological Argument in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (40 pages) = BALCKWELL- ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT CHAPTER- maydole-robert-22the-ontological-argument22

Also see shorter article on it here = ROB MAYDOLE ARTICLE- ONTOLGICAL MODAL MODAL FOR PROVING GOD

 

h) Alvin Plantinga’s book for free “The Nature of Necessity” = NATURE OF NECESSITY-Alvin_Plantinga_The_Nature_of_NecessityBookZZ.org_

186 thoughts on “Tony Costa: The Ontological Argument- God or Blue Unicorn Elephants?

  1. But for him, the ontological argument proves the necessity of three because it is a quality of god as expressed in the Bible. So he reasons that it must be a great-making property.

    I haven’t listened to the show yet. But god claims to be a jealous and wrathful god. Does that make Jealousy and Wrath great making properties?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The podcast is now available. It is relatively short and consumable. My face still hurts from all the atomic face-palming I did. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol. Well, there is a reason why 1st world countries trend away from religion.

        Like

  2. I will be expanding on the theme of why I find the Christian god to be mired in logical inconsistency. It will be another article-length post that I will put in the comments when I complete it. I hope to generate some conversation around it. While my thesis is not new, it is one of those areas where I find the Christian has not provided a good response. Perhaps one will be forthcoming this week.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The was a point in the show where I quipped that a greater god than his would be one that saved at least one more person. Triumphantly, he declared that the being I just proposed would then be god.

    So does this prove that the greatest possible being doesn’t actually exist, and therefore god doesn’t exist? You know, since the ‘one more person’ wasn’t actually saved?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Incoherence of the Necessity of Evil

    Let’s cut to the chase: Is evil necessary or not? Richard Swinburne says it is. And he is not alone.

    https://www.closertotruth.com/series/evil-necessary-gods-world

    If Christians are right about this, then we have a problem. It clashes with the very idea of an all good creator god. I would go as far as to say it makes such a god logically incoherent. Here’s why:

    A Perfect Trinity

    I think we can slice through most of the arguments by just pointing out that the trinity of god is supposed to be the ultimate example of the ideal love triangle, mutual adoration society, or whatever you want to call it. God is so in love with himself that there is no possibility of evil within his theistic community. The singular pantheon that is the triune god has no possibility of disunion of any kind. He somehow attains this perfect communal good without the possibility of evil. That is sufficient for demonstrating that such a state is possible.

    All of the excuses for evil melt away in the shadow of this fact. God can recognize good without the presence of evil. So evil is not necessary for that. God can do good without the possibility of evil. So evil is not necessary for that. God lived in a state of eternal perfection with himself with no evil in sight. He didn’t need evil so that he could freely choose to love himself and for that choice to be valid. Look at all he is said to have accomplished without having the choice to do evil.

    Was god missing something while in this state of solitary perfection? Was he lonely? Was he bored? Was he incomplete in some way? If he was, then he wasn’t god. If he wasn’t, then we must come up with some other reason for why he would want to create a system where evil was necessary. Before doing that, we will first want to address the question of how he could have done so:

    According to Its Kind

    The creation story tells us that everything is reproduced according to its kind. An apple tree does not produce oranges. Sinful humans cannot produce a perfect god. So why should it even be possible for a perfect god to produce sinful humans? If god is perfect, we must take after our mother.

    Look at all the things god had to downgrade to produce us. He is eternal without the possibility of mortality. We are moral with only the faintest hope of eternality. God is incapable of choosing evil and yet he is said to be good. We are capable of choosing evil and cannot be said to be good without having to make such a choice. God has no desire to do evil. We have only the desire to do evil. With so many differences from my supposed father, I demand a DNA test.

    Before leaving this point, it is important to point out how allergic god is said to be to evil. I mean, the smallest sin we could commit still makes us worthy of the hottest part of hell for all eternity. That little white lie is definitely going to leave an eternal mark. God is so sensitive to sin, he cannot be in its presence. By some accounts, he turned his back on Jesus on the cross because he could not countenance the sin Jesus was bearing on our behalf.

    With such an allergy to the smallest sin, how could such a god have even conceived of creating the possibility of evil, let alone, actualize a world he knew would have so much of it? Something doesn’t add up. It would be as if I built a city from the ground up, and established all the restaurants to served peanut-infused dishes. The only thing is in this example, I am deathly allergic to peanuts. I claim that I do this because it is important to me that the people in the city freely choose to avoid peanuts. So I make sure they not only do not have a peanut allergy, but that they enjoy peanuts. Life without the option of peanuts is clearly possible. But I create such a world anyway. More explanation is required.

    Freely Choosing Good

    Swinburne tries to explain why good could not have been our only choice. I believe he fails. We can still have choice without evil being one of them. Just think of all the choices one has at a Disneyland theme park. They can choose a great hamburger or a great hotdog or a thousand other items. But they can’t choose rat poison. It is not on the menu anywhere in the park. Neither is anything else that is likely to kill you or make you sick.

    The same is true for all the rides and attractions, as well as the actors that bring the characters to life. Disney does not seed the park with a few child predators just to keep things interesting. A picture with Cruella de Vil is just as safe as a picture with Mickey. Similarly, petting zoos do not have ravenous lions to eat your 6 year old. They are filled with nothing but safe choices.

    God’s petting zoo in Eden had at least one sin-inspiring snake that ultimately brought down the world. One wonders what other bad choices were in the garden. Had the snake failed to get the job done, might there have been even greater dangers for the newly formed mud golems to navigate?

    Now for some reason, Christians believe that we will have free will in heaven but with the option of evil removed from the menu. Since they believe such a world is possible, they have to explain why we don’t live in it now. All such explanations fail. See my first point. Here is why I think the idea of a perfect heaven is incoherent:

    Because of the Angels

    There is a place in the New Testament where Paul explains something to his readers with a cryptic, "because of the angels." I can do one better than Paul. In this case, the angels really are an explanation. Whatever the angels are, they were in heaven in the presence of god long before there were humans. We know the angels had free will because a third of them used it to attempt a mutiny.

    It seems god has no desire to create beings that don't have the propensity for evil. We just love to do what he hates. The angels are apparently no exception. So if they could use their free will to rage against the machine once, there is no reason to believe they couldn't do it again. Could it be that god fixed the problem by removing their free will? However god fixed his angel free will problem, he could have fixed ours. If the angels still have their free will in tact, we have no reason to believe that they are not still misbehaving, and every reason to believe they are:

    Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 1 Cor. 6:3

    Why the heck would such as us be judging such as them? We were made a little lower than the angels ontologically. It would be like having the monkeys judge us later. That's weird. But never mind. The point is the angels are still apparently up to no good since they will need to be judged just like us. This implies that heaven is just as fallen as earth. Why would anyone in their right mind want to go there?

    We are being asked to believe that in the future, god is going to get it right. When he was by himself, he needed a touch of evil to spice things up because his triune adoration society was not sufficient. So he made angels and gave us Satan. That was a bad outcome. Then he made humans, most of which he will have to dump into the flaming pit with his other misfit toys. But somehow with all this rampant free will, the next iteration will be different, better, fixed. Why would anyone believe that?

    Conclusion: Less Than Perfect

    We are asked to believe the god responsible for this is the greatest conceivable being. Yet he has given us less than a perfect world to contemplate, and less than a perfect story to explain it. Skipping ahead to the end, the outcome is also less than perfect. In the beginning, you had the 3 in 1 god who was bathing, soaking, and perhaps drowning in perfection. It was too much perfection for him. So he spiced things up with less than perfect beings.

    Think about it: there was no suffering, no pain, no sin, no punishment. None were condemned to hell. There was 100% salvation for all who existed. Then, god went on a creative spree. That fit of creation will end with the vast majority of all sentient beings being destroyed and tormented in hell. But before that, they get the great honor of living in a fallen world where they experience even more torment in this life.

    Despite this, we are told that the reward will be so good for those few who make it to this fallen heaven that all the suffering and torment will be worth it. But worth it for whom? How do we measure one person's joy against another's suffering? What sense does that even make? Should I be happy at the suffering of past black slaves because of the freedoms I enjoy today? How does the Christian make that calculus and sleep at night?

    If they are to be believed, the universe went from perfection where 100% of the inhabitants were in paradise, to less than perfect where the majority will be lost. And we are told that this is an equally good state. That math doesn't work.

    Everything about this god of theirs is contradictory and incoherent. These are a few of the reasons why the ontological argument doesn't work on any level. In fact, it is one of the best arguments for the counter-apologist trying to prove god's nonexistence.

    David Johnson

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Whatever the angels are, they were in heaven in the presence of god long before there were humans. We know the angels had free will because a third of them used it to attempt a mutiny.”

      Hi David,
      Is this a story from the Bible? If so, would you share where in the Bible we can read it? If not from the Bible, do you know where it is from? (I was told this story as a child but have not been able to find the source.)

      Thanks,
      Brian

      Liked by 2 people

      1. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 26, 2019 — 8:20 pm

        bbeddor,

        “We know the angels had free will because a third of them used it to attempt a mutiny.”

        That story is one possible interpretation of Revelation 12:3, read in conjunction with 12:9, Luke 10:18, and Daniel 8:10.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. “That story is one possible interpretation of Revelation 12:3, read in conjunction with 12:9, Luke 10:18, and Daniel 8:10.”

          Hi Arthur,
          Thanks!
          I remember reading the Revelation passage but always thought that was a prophecy about things to come because the book starts saying the purpose was “to show his servants what must soon take place” (Rev 1:1). So it seemed to be a future event rather than a past event. Of course, I’ve frequently been wrong in how to understand the book of Revelation.

          Appreciating the references,
          Brian

          Liked by 2 people

    2. Fantastic, David! Beautifully put.

      Like

  5. I think a couple of arguments for the existence of God are reasonable. The ontological argument is certainly not one of them and from what I heard here, I’m not going to be changing that stance anytime soon.

    On a number of occasions, Tony didn’t seem to grasp how ad hoc, how devoid of objectivity his claims were. Why is a trinity the greatest conceivable being? Because it’s better than a unitary? Why so? Because God can then love himself, talk to himself, and hold community meetings. OK. But for the Moslem, Tawhid – the oneness of God – is the religion’s central and single-most important concept, upon which the entire faith rests. By what principle do we adjudicate the pros and cons of oneness vs multi-ness? If more is greater, why not go the whole shebang and become a Hindu: “The Supreme Lord said: O Arjuna, behold My hundreds and thousands of multifarious divine forms of different colors and shapes.”

    What makes three special? Because my religion says so. This was a disappointing response from Tony in the context of a philosophical discussion. We wanted something clean. I suspect even Dale was hoping for more. What we are left with is going down that tortured path of trying to demonstrate the truth of Christianity, not the 3 point deductive argument we were all looking for.

    I think David did well in continuing to push Tony on the broader question of what constitutes a great making property. On a few occasions it appeared as if Tony just didn’t understand the crux of the issue. The arbitrariness of these properties is a big issue with the whole argument. That said, I am inclined to think that a very limited set of objective properties might be demonstrable. For example, goodness could be argued on the basis that we all seek pleasures and satisfactions that in the abstract, find their fulfillment in a transcendent good. One may not be, in any given instant, immediately conscious that one’s rational appetites have been excited by these transcendental ends. But they are arguably the constant and pervasive preoccupation of the rational will. But I suspect this sort of argument would wash right over David.

    I think that even if ontological argument could be defended, it’s no friend of the biblical Christian. One can easily posit a greater God than that depicted in the pages of the bible. A classical conception of God as understood in some Christian thought, is certainly more consistent with the OA.

    I think Tony did quite well explaining some of the biblical texts. But as always the case, who knows what some ancient writer in an entirely different culture was thinking.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hey Anthony,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments on the show 🙂 I don’t agree with your overall assessment of Tony, but I will say that I do think you are correct about it being a mistake to claim the Ontological Argument can be used to prove God is a tri-unity- part of the issue is Tony is a Presuppositionalist and hence you can pick up hints of some of that in the show and that explains where he was coming from on that front a little bit.

      In terms of my own opinion, I do think it would have been better had Tony only claimed the Ontological argument can be used to prove a “complex unity” vs. a strict Unitarian concept of God such as the Islamic one you mention (I reference that in my upcoming show and give a source about Tawhid and its development as some early Muslims did accept that God was a complex unity based on his properties but they just rejected personalizing them as Christians at the time did with Jesus in their debates with Muslims). One of the arguments which I call the “active love” argument is accepted by many Christian experts including William Lane Craig for example, however, believe it or not I think that Craig is wrong here and that the argument relies on an assumption that active vs. possible love makes someone greater, so as weird as it sounds I agree with skeptics that the Ontological argument can’t be used to rule out a strict Unitarian concept of God (or Max Great Being). I hadn’t heard the communication aspect to the argument before so that was new for me but I feel it suffers from the same problem as the “active love” argument that I mentioned above. That said, though Tony is in good company in using those arguments for the complex-unity of God with the Ontological Argument even if I don’t buy it myself- hey it could very well be that my own faculties are defunct in this department, who knows but I side with the skeptics on this issue.

      I also agree Tony did an excellent job of addressing David’s misunderstandings of the so-called “contradictory” biblical texts, I think he conclusively refuted that skeptical notion at this point. That’s what I got out of it.

      Anyways thanks for your take and welcome back to the Boards for Season 2.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi David and Dale,
    Another fascinating podcast! Thanks so much!

    Professor Costa mentioned that St. Anselm’s argument was responded to by Gaunilo of Marmoutiers with his perfect island example. Did Professor Costa say how Gaunilo’s response failed? At one point he talked about the perfect pizza and I assume the same logic would hold for the island – but I sure didn’t get the logic of why Gaiuilo’s argument failed – other than the island isn’t a maximum great being. More details would have been nice.

    Professor Costa mentioned how Kant felt he defeated the ontological argument be saying that existence was not a predicate. Towards the end he seemed to say that Kant was wrong, but did he really share how existence was a predicate? He could have gone into a bit more detail on the reasons Kant was in error.

    At one point, Professor Costa said that God didn’t need to use angels, but He did for His glory. I must admit that I don’t get it. How does God using angels for something rather than doing it Himself give God glory?

    With respect to the triune God – interesting Professor Costa used Islam’s God as an example of a unitarian God as opposed to, say, the God of the Jews whom Jews hold is unitarian. I believe Jews would say that the God of Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jacob, etc. is a unitarian God and not a triune God.

    At one point the claim was made that a unitarian God would have to create something to relate to. Why does God need to relate to something? Which is greater, a being that has to have something or someone to relate to – or a God who doesn’t need to? I think an argument could be made that “needing someone to relate to” might not be a great-making property.

    Dale and Professor Costa talked about God as a necessary being. I still wonder which is greater – a being who cannot stop existing or a being who can stop existing? I think that might tie-in with being all powerful. In other words, is a God who has the power to stop existing more powerful that a God who doesn’t have the power to stop existing?

    With respect to Plantinga’s ontological modal argument – doesn’t one have to first prove or give evidence that this actual world isn’t the only possible world? Are there really other possible worlds? I know possible worlds is used in thought experiments all the time – but isn’t it just a theory? Would Plantinga’s argument need revising if this actual world is the only world?

    An enjoyable show! Thanks for sharing.
    Brian

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Curious about your thoughts on two points in the discussion:

      1. Tony seemed confused as to why the maximally great pizza argument was bad. I was willing to give it up as mindlessly trivial. But he turned it into a win for me by failing to understand it properly. The MGP is not a bad argument because one could add another pepperoni. If it is maximally great, adding another pepperoni would make it less great, not greater.

      Rather, the argument is trivial because the MGP is contingent. The argument for god is that he is non-contingent, therefore, Tony should have granted the MGP and dismissed it as irrelevant because of the contingency factor. I would have agreed. And we would have moved on. How did you see it?

      2. Tony seemed confuse by the evil god challenge. I happen to believe that is a pretty good rebuttal to the ontological argument. In particular, I thought my question was relevant, but didn’t get a real answer. If a maximally good god fought a maximally evil god, would it not be a draw. How could we determine which characteristic was greater as opposed to most desirable.

      A funny little argument might go something like this:

      A. If Christians are right about the necessity of evil, then a maximally great being necessitates the existence of a maximally evil being as well.

      B. The MGB and the MEB cancel each other out in battle, rendering both as indistinguishable from nonexistent.

      C. The MGB is necessarily indistinguishable from nonexistent.

      D. Seaming to be nonexistent is a great-making quality.

      E. The only thing greater would be actual nonexistence.

      Conclusion. The MGB is necessarily nonexistent.

      Feel free to improve upon it, or destroy it, whichever is more entertaining. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, David,

        I couldn’t help but do a quick check on the boards. I only got a chance to hear about 5 minutes of this Acosta podcast, but I wanted to throw out some ideas.

        First things first, regarding the “maximally great pizza,”why would you think that endless amounts of pepperoni on a pizza would make it better? There’s that whole concept of the law of diminishing returns. You CAN have too much of a good thing. There will come a point where too much pepperoni on that pizza will make that pizza too greasy, the crust might not get as crispy as a result, or it could spoil the topping to crust ratio or be more prone to give a person heartburn.

        Oh, and something I’ve been meaning to comment on — “married bachelors.” Isn’t that just a man who has gotten an anullment and hasn’t gotten remarried??? (I’ll take my props, now.)

        We’ve got “virgin births,” too –and, not just with Mary. For the longest time, we thought that it always took a male and a female to reproduce; that is one of those “laws of nature.” Well, now we know that there are lots of female animals that can produce offspring without mating with a male. Some examples include domesticated turkeys and chickens, the pit viper, the bonnethead shark, Komodo dragons and wild whiptail lizards.

        So, we should have enough humility to realize that laws that we think are inviolable might not be locked down as tightly as we think they are.

        Also, I find it so fascinating that the atheists/agnostics in this group seem to give more philosophical/ethical arguments as to why they do not believe in God or think that He exists. This is unlike any of the other atheists that I have met in the past –they were, usually, all about needing SCIENTIFIC evidence. Speaking of science, regarding the “intelligent design” argument, I believe scientists have said that it takes 200 parameters for a planet to be able to support life. That’s pretty mind-blowing. I have a hard time thinking that our life-giving plant is existing just by some crazy-odd-defying fluke.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Teddi you might want to listen again to the pizza slice. I’m not the one who said one could always add one more pepperoni. That was Tony who simply failed to grasp the concept of a maximally great pizza. It would be a theoretically perfect pizza to which one could not add or subtract anything. That is not the only place in the podcast where Tony wasn’t tracking with the ontological argument. And it was his topic, not mine.

          Your virgin birth example rather misses the point. Of course we know about asexual reproducing animals. It is just that humans aren’t among them. Now if Jesus incarnated as a Komodo dragon, the virgin birth story would not be very interesting. What you are trying to do is justify biblical paradoxes and your misguided view that anything, including internal contradictions, paradoxes, and oxymorons are possible. Perhaps Dale will step up to the plate and support his view which is closer to mine than yours. He might explain how modal logic and possible worlds are limited by logical laws. Then again, perhaps he won’t.

          As for your enthrallment with the anthropic principle, it is too far off topic for me to tackle right now. Maybe later. I think you confuse epistemic humility with science denial. It is not epistemically humble to reject the best scientific thinking of the day. You are just denying the epistemic value of the scientific discipline. On most days, I am a philosophy denier because I don’t think philosophy without the hard sciences is a good indicator of hard truths about the natural world.

          You are sadly mistaken if you think philosophy is why I don’t believe in god. It is not. That said, philosophy when done well is no friend to the Christian. I didn’t even want to do this podcast with Tony Costa as I am not a Philosopher. I filled in near the last minute for someone else who backed out of it for their own reasons. It is rare you will see me in such a debate. But the show must go on as they say. As it happens, I was more prepared to debate the ontological argument with Tony than Tony was with me. In no small part, I owe Dale much of the credit who helped me prep a few weeks ago when we thought the debate was going to take place.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. David,

            I know you won’t respond and I’ve been trying to avoid your comments out of respect for your request to not interact with me on the Boards, but I confess I got curious here when you interact with Brian and Teddi, so I still read those.

            Anyways, I will just say thank you for acknowledging my efforts in helping you prep, I appreciate you acknowledging that publically as it helps the skeptics see that I am actually able to see it from the other side and was able to provide some means for you to attack an argument that I personally find convincing 🙂 On my end, even though it has probably lead to your being more against the Ontological argument, I’m glad nonetheless if you have more knowledge of it- that is always a good thing in my books.

            You requested that I step up to address Teddi’s notion of the virgin birth, etc. I have read Teddi’s comment and your subsequent response and so I will honour your request to respond to it just so my answer is out there.

            So, believe it or not, on the issue of contention here I actually think I agree with both you and Teddi- I know that will sound like I’m just trying to back up a fellow Christian but its not. I read Teddi’s point about the married bachelor carefully, its not that she is trying to say that she think logical contradictions are possible such a a square circle (a point I would fully agree is impossible), but she is trying to be clever in saying that actually once you think about there is a sense one can be said to be a married bachelor and they are not actually logically contradictory in the situation that she outlines. Essentially, its just a cute little example where she thinks its not logically contradictory to say someone is a married bachelor.

            But yeah, to be clear, if Teddi would actually claim that she thinks logically contradictory things are possible, than I would emphatically deny that and say its unreasonable to think so. Showing my consistency I would have no issue respectfully and in a loving/edifying way saying that Teddi would be a fool in that regard, IF she were saying that. Its the same as Rene Descartes, I admire this man as brilliant genius- heads and shoulders above me or anyone on these Boards but nonetheless he thought it was possible for mathematical truths to be false or the logically contradictory to be true, his modal evaluating faculties were clearly malfunctioning in that specific respect and he was a fool on that front as a result.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Hi, David,
            It was only today that I heard the whole debate with Tony Acosta –the day that I had made that comment on the MGP, I had only heard the first 5 minutes of it –which didn’t get into pizza talk. I had only read the following statement of yours (and, that was what I was commenting on.)

            “The MGP is not a bad argument because one could add another pepperoni. If it is maximally great, adding another pepperoni would make it less great, not greater.”

            I’m not sure if it was the thought of pepperoni ad infinitum on a pizza that distracted me from the details of your statement, but I, clearly, misread it. I think my brain paid too much attention to the “adding another pepperoni” and I’m not sure if I fully digested (ha!) the sentence following it. My apologies.

            If you ask me (which you didn’t), it would seem that the MGP idea would fail by virtue of everyone not agreeing about what characteristics a MGP would have. Some like thin and crispy crusts, some like those horrid Chicago style pizzas and some like more of the NY style. If we can’t even agree on crusts, how can we agree upon toppings, sauce and . . . anchovies.

            I do tend to agree with you about not being keen on turning to philosophy when science can give us an answer. However, that being said, there are things that we think about where science cannot really give us an answer. In those areas, I think that philosophy is fine; but, it has its limitations when presuppositions come into play.

            I don’t deny the value of science in explaining things; in fact, I am a big believer in it. But, I still, as a principle, maintain that anything could be possible. For example, prior to our discovery virgin births in the animal kingdom, the thought of that was anti-science. I would have agreed with science back then, but I would have allowed for “anything to be possible.” Well, how ’bout that –I would’ve been right. What we had, previously, thought to be impossible would have happened. Again, just because, in principle, I think that anything’s possible doesn’t mean I think that it really has a chance of happening.

            As to the “married bachelor” thing, my point in that (aside from being a bit cheeky), was that you never know how exceptions to the rule might come about given a particular fact pattern. Another example that I came across recently in my Shroud research. There was talk about a “three-sided square” in the area between Jesus’ eyebrows. When I saw “three-sided square” I thought, “What???????” Isn’t a three sided square a triangle? Who in the world wrote this. Well, I ended up looking for a picture of what they were talking about, and, lo and behold –I saw what they were talking about. It was three lines that were positioned to form a square, but the 4th line to finish off the square was missing. “Three-sided square” now made sense –as opposed to saying a triangle –which would’ve completely have changed the configuration of the three lines. Now, one could debate lots of aspects of this, but you can see why they called it a “3-sided square.”

            So, I would say that when you make rules up, one needs to prepare for exceptions to pop up. Two things that are diametrically opposed can, under the right circumstances/fact pattern, be true. I’m not saying that this is what, typically, happens. I’m just making the allowance for legitimate exceptions that might pop up for whatever reason. For example, one could say that a person cannot be both evil and good. I could argue that no human is 100% of either of those. A person might be good 80% of the time, but be evil 20% of the time. Another one — saltiness and spiciness (as in hot spiciness) are two different tastes, but, in certain situations, the taste buds can interpret something that is spicy as being salty. Anyway, I think you get my point.

            Like

            1. Like other ideas underpinning your faith, this one is just factually wrong on every level:

              So, I would say that when you make rules up, one needs to prepare for exceptions to pop up. Two things that are diametrically opposed can, under the right circumstances/fact pattern, be true. I’m not saying that this is what, typically, happens. I’m just making the allowance for legitimate exceptions that might pop up for whatever reason.

              Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Dale. He has at least one foot in the world of scientific reality. The first thing wrong with the above quote is you believe we are just making up the rules for the laws of nature. We are not making up anything. We are simply observing and cataloging how nature works. We are not making up rules about gravity or the speed of light. We are just observing how they work and using that knowledge to maximum utility. We could yet be wrong about the rules so that we would have to revise them with better information. But we are not inventing them. That is not how any of this works.

              Some rules such as the laws of logic are inviolable because of their very nature. one thing added to another thing will always create the value of things known as two. It is a description of reality that holds every time in every place. There are, nor can there be any exceptions. Denying this is foolish. Even Dale would call it such. Hedging your bets on this fact is not humble or cautious. It is foolhardy. Being a reality denier does not make you seem smarter except to other reality deniers.

              There are no legitimate exceptions to A = A and not B. If you believe there could be, it is just because you don’t understand the formula. You are suggesting that sometimes, under the right circumstances, oxymorons can actualize in the real world. That is simply not true.

              All of the examples you provide are little more than word play. You have yet to provide an actual example of a paradox that defies the laws of logic. Your best effort was asexual reproduction. It doesn’t matter how many people didn’t know about that process in the past or present. Ignorance of the natural laws does not mean any have been violated. Jesus was not a chicken, or iguana, or anything else that might reproduce asexually.

              A person who behaves in a prosocial way one moment and an antisocial way the next is not oxymoronic. That is as natural as breathing. Every example you try to give makes my point better than yours. You simply can’t come up with any examples of occasional violations of nature’s hard limits. You can only demonstrate areas of your limited understanding of a particular domain.

              You don’t have to know everything to know something. And knowing something eliminates the possibility of certain other things being possible. I know you will never accept this from me. But there are people on your side who could advance your understanding if they chose to do so. I think it only right to acknowledge that Dale, in the gentlest way possible, has tried to address it. He at least deserves credit for that.

              Like

              1. Hi, David,

                I just now noticed this reply from you. (For some reason, in my WordPress notifications, I see when some people reply to me and I don’t see other replies unless I randomly scroll through the zillion comments.)

                Anyhow, unfortunately, I don’t have enough time right now to thoroughly delve into all of your points, but I want to counter the more major ones.

                You say that you don’t have to know EVERYTHING to know SOMETHING. I agree with this statement —as it is stated in this exact way.

                BUT, I think you are way, way off the mark when you say, afterward, that knowing SOMETHING ELIMINATES the POSSIBILITY of certain other things being possible.

                Here are where I see the problems with that line of thinking. First, if you don’t know EVERYTHING, you don’t know if what you THINK you know will happen 100% of the time. You CAN’T know this UNLESS you know EVERYTHING. As such, you can know SOMETHING, but this doesn’t eliminate the POSSIBILITY of something else happening.

                You keep wanting to paint me as a science denier. That is ridiculous. I greatly respect and stand by the scientific method and science in general.

                But, even scientists will tell you that science does NOT prove anything 100% —thereby eliminate freak possible occurrences. Science just gives us a way to confidently proceed in life with decisions we have to make. The more times an experiment has been reproduced, the more confidence we have that we “know” what the rule is (we know “something.”) But, there are, almost always, contingencies to things. So, unless we know EVERYTHING —in order to know every single contingency— we cannot exclude the POSSIBILITY —of a different outcome.

                Again, with a heavily reproduced experiment or observation, that remote possibility will be so small that it shouldn’t factor into our everyday decision-making. But, like the whole virgin birth situation, before this was observed in nature, people who think as you do would have said that this was “impossible,” because we “know” reproduction requires a male and a female. These people didn’t acknowledge that they can’t know all of the facts even about things they think they “know.”

                This is why I can be a firm supporter of science and, also, allow for anything to be possible. Even with the law of gravity —something could, possibly, happen to our planet and/or the universe that could, potentially, change this. Do I believe it will happen? Of course not, but since I don’t know everything, I will never say, with 100% certainty, that something is impossible.

                With how I have just explained my position, are you still in disagreement with me?

                Liked by 1 person

      2. David: “1. Tony seemed confused as to why the maximally great pizza argument was bad. I was willing to give it up as mindlessly trivial. But he turned it into a win for me by failing to understand it properly. The MGP is not a bad argument because one could add another pepperoni. If it is maximally great, adding another pepperoni would make it less great, not greater.

        Rather, the argument is trivial because the MGP is contingent. The argument for god is that he is non-contingent, therefore, Tony should have granted the MGP and dismissed it as irrelevant because of the contingency factor. I would have agreed. And we would have moved on. How did you see it?”

        Hi David,
        I must admit that I don’t have a good understanding on why the maximally great pizza (or island) fails as a rebuttal to Anselm’s argument. I didn’t feel that I got any better understanding from Professor Costa. Dale has made some comments and I’ll have to read through them more. I’ll also have to think a bit more about your contingent vs. non-contingent comment. At this point I just have to say I lack knowledge and opinion on this. I certainly do agree with you that just adding more things to a pizza doesn’t necessarily make it better – it could make it worse. Same with the island – adding more trees might not make it better. My thinking (flawed those it is) runs something like this:
        1. I can imagine a possible world in which the greatest possible pizza (island) does not exist in reality.
        2. Therefore, there is at least one possible world in which the greatest possible pizza (island) does not exit.
        3. That possible world might be this actual world.

        I. I can imagine a possible world in which the greatest possible being does not exit in reality.
        II. Therefore, there is at least one possible world in which the greatest possible being does not exist.
        III. That possible world might be this actual world.

        I’m told that 2 works but that II doesn’t work – and I have trouble understanding why.

        David: “2. Tony seemed confuse by the evil god challenge. I happen to believe that is a pretty good rebuttal to the ontological argument. In particular, I thought my question was relevant, but didn’t get a real answer. If a maximally good god fought a maximally evil god, would it not be a draw.”

        David, I think this argument might depend on one’s definition of “good” and “evil.” St. Augustine in his book Enchiridion (On Faith, Hope and Love) in chapter 11 says that evil is the absence of good. He writes: “… what are called vices in the soul are nothing but privations of natural good. And when they are cured, they are not transferred elsewhere: when they cease to exist in the healthy soul, they cannot exist anywhere else.” So, using this definition, evil depends on good – for evil is anything that takes away from good – so, in that sense, I’m thinking a maximally evil being couldn’t exist. If there is no good, then there can be no evil either. But, of course, others have different definitions of evil and using those definitions the argument of the maximally evil being might work.

        Mostly I thought your points about what attributes to be included in a maximally great being was very good.

        Appreciating the opportunity to learn from you and your podcast,
        Brian

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Hey Brian,

      I’m glad you liked it and as always giving your thoughtful and considerate feedback/probing questions. Obviously, Tony will not be answering and so I guess its on me to provide what I think his take would be based on what I know of him.

      1. ISLAND PARODY;

      The greatest conceivable island- yes you are quite correct that it is exactly the same response that holds for island as the pizza example- it’s the exact say type of parody and thus has the same defeater. The properties that make an island great are subjective and not objective in nature (do you like more trees, big beach, crabs to play with, etc.). Further, islands are contingent (they are created and destroyed as physical objects) and aren’t conceivably necessary in nature (that was the point Tony was saying about the pizza being eatable for example).

      2. Kant & Existence as a Predicate:

      As to Kant, I think there was a little bit of confusion, what Tony was trying to say is that the old Kantian objection that existence is not a predicate is irrelevant to the Modal Ontological argument. Existence is the belonging relation, but yeah I get what your saying it did seem like Tony confused that a bit and did seem to treat existence as though it were a great-making property and so I’m not sure if that was just an accident of live convo or if he would say that existence is a predicate. I can tell you that about 10 years ago he did say much the same thing to me when I took a world religions class with him and so it could be that existence is a great making property compared to non-existence (this is plausible).
      That said, I personally agree with Kant and think that existence is not a property and thus the Ontological argument is only saying that necessary existence is greater than contingent existence to work (though see my modification to that to your other question below as there is some nuance here).

      3. God and the Angels;

      Yes well I’m not entirely sure here, but based on my knowledge of Tony’s class on God’s attributes and his Calvinist position, I would say that rather than the ultimate goal of God’s creating being to achieve the Max utility via saving as many free creatures as possible, he would instead say that the entire point of creation is entirely God-centric and brings glory to Him. Thus, having some people chosen to go to Hell vs. Heaven glorifies God as it magnifies His justice or goodness for example. Similar deal with the angels as in some way by creating them magnifies God’s glorious nature in some way.

      4. ISLAM vs. Jews:

      Well I think Tony used Islam because it’s the same thing, Muslims make a special emphasis on this doctrine in their faith, Islamic polemics is his specialty topic and also he thinks the true Jewish faith rather than the later false Rabbinic Jewish faith does support the Trinity- we shall see how I do on that front next week.

      5. Active Love Argument-

      Again, I personally agree with skeptics on this not being persuasive and problematically even if true then I think it could be used to argue for a potential infinite number of loving divine persons being greater than just three loving divine persons for example. So, I don’t think the potential vs. actual makes things greater necessarily in all cases as this argument assumes.

      But speaking for Tony (or trying to) I think one way would be Robert Maydole’s argument about Ontological completeness perhaps, love only when active and not merely potential is ontologically complete (just put the argument in the context of not love existing in reality instead of God and apply the argument), see p.7-9/40 in Maydole Blackwell Chapter Attachment in the sources or here = https://appearedtoblogly.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/maydole-robert-22the-ontological-argument22.pdf

      6. Necessary is greater than Contingent;

      Well, here is something that we didn’t discuss properly on the show and its my fault for the way I worded it but I wanted to keep it simple and general on the main objections discussed. But the argument actually doesn’t require that one prove that its greater for everything that exists to exist necessarily vs continently, it only requires that it is greater for a Max Great Being (or technically in Plantinga’s formulation a Max Excellent Being) exists necessarily in all possible worlds rather than contingently in some possible worlds.

      Next up, no its not greater to have the power to stop existing as Max Great Being- that is logically impossible like making a square circle. Remember we have to focus not just on one property but all their compossibility as well (how all the great making properties relate to each other coherence wise) and so even if one wanted to say its more powerful to be able to take yourself out, it would immoral to do so removing the standard of Goodness, etc if He were not to exist, etc. Yujin Nagasawa has written an excellent book and articles that have really revolutionized the field in terms of proving that all these properties are not just logically coherent but also fully compossible with each other as well (minus the necessary bit as his goal was only to prove what Plantinga called a “Maximally excellent being” = https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/maximal-god-a-new-defense-of-perfect-being-theism/

      Or also see an interesting take for the Omnipotence and Oneness of a Max Great Being (and/or beings as per an omnipotent council like one might say the Trinity is) vs. a separate Max Excellent Being in each possible world as per the argument of Dr. Jerome Gellman =

      “Jerome Gellman (2000) has offered a clever argument from the claim that in every possible world there is a necessarily existing cause that explains all contingent truths (perhaps a different one in different worlds) to the claim that there is a necessarily existing cause that is omnipotent and that explains all contingent truths in every world. The argument is intricate, and here I shall give a variant that I think is in some ways superior.
      If N is a necessary being that explains all the contingent truths of a world w, I shall call N “a creator in w.” I shall assume the Iterativeness Postulate that
      (IP) if x has the power to gain the power to do A, then x already has the power to do A, though x might have to take two steps to do A (first acquire a power to directly do A, and then exercise the power).

      It follows from IP that if N is a creator in w, then the powers of N are necessary properties of N. To see this, for a reductio suppose that w is actual and N contingently has the power to do A. Then N’s causal activity explains why N has the power to do A, since N’s causal activity explains all contingent truths. But then explanatorily prior to N’s causal activity, N had the power to bring it about that it had the power to do A. But by IP, N had the power to do A explanatorily prior to N’s causal activity, which contradicts the claim that this causal activity explains the power.
      Next, we show that a creator N1 in w1 and a creator N2 in w2 must be the same individual. Suppose first that w1 and w2 are distinct worlds. Let p be some contingent proposition true in w1 but not true in w2. Beings N1 and N2 exist necessarily, and hence both exist in w1. Let q be the proposition that N2’s causal activity does not explain not-p. This proposition is true at w1, since not-p is false at w1 and only true propositions have explanations; on the other hand, q is false at w2. Since N1 is a creator in w1, N1’s causal activity explains q. Therefore, N1 in w1 has the power to make q true, a power it exercises. By what we have already shown, N1 essentially has the power to make q true, and hence it also has this power in w2. Call this power P1. We can now ask why it is the case at w2 that N1 fails to exercise this power. Since N2 is a creator in w2, we must be able to explain N1’s contingent failure to exercise P1 in terms of N2’s causal activity. Therefore, N2 at w2 has the power to prevent N1 from exercising P1. Call this power P2. By what has already been shown, N2 has P2 essentially.

      Moreover, N2 does not exercise P2 at w1, since at w1, N1 does exercise P1. Why does N2 fail to exercise P2 at w1? This must be explained in terms of N1’s causal activity, just like all other contingent facts about w1. Hence, at w1, N1 has the power, P3, of preventing N2 from exercising P2. Hence N1 has that power essentially, and is prevented at w2 from exercising it by N2. Therefore, arguing as before, N2 essentially has the power, P4, of preventing N1 from exercising P3. And so on.

      This regress seems clearly vicious, and so we conclude that N1 cannot be distinct from N2 (if N1=N2, we can say that what explains N2 not bringing it about that p at w1 is simply that N2 brings it about that not-p at w1, and then we can reference our previous discussions of libertarian explanations in Section 2.3.2.3, above). But perhaps we can make the argument work even without going through with the regress. What explains at w1, we may ask, why it is that N2 exercised none of its powers to prevent N1 from engaging in the kind of activity it engages in w1. It must be that the explanation lies in the exercise of some power P by N1 in w1. But then N1 also had this power in w2 and did not exercise it, and its failure to exercise it must be explained by N2’s exercise of some preventative power Q. But Q is one of the powers that P enables N2 to prevent something N1 does in w1, and so P includes the power to prevent N2 from exercising Q. Repeating the argument with the two entities and worlds swapped, we conclude that each of N1 and N2 has the power to prevent the other from its preventing the other. But that is, surely, absurd! (It might not be absurd if N1=N2, since in having the power to do A, I have the power to prevent myself from not doing non-A, but that’s likely just because my doing A is identical with my refraining from doing non-A.)

      So, if N1 is a creator in w1 and N2 is a creator in w2, then N1=N2. It also follows that each world has only one creator. For if N1 and N2 were each a creator in w1, then we could choose any second world w2, let N3 be a creator in w2, and use the above argument to show that N1=N3 and N2=N3, so that it would also follow that N1=N2.

      Thus there is a unique being that essentially has the power to explain every contingent truth in every world via its causal activity. But surely having the power to explain every possible contingent truth via one’s causal activity implies omnipotence. (We can stipulate this if need be, and the stipulation will not be far away from ordinary usage.)

      There are two difficulties in this line of argument. The first is that it requires that each world have one being that by itself explains all contingent truth. What if one takes the cosmological argument only to establish the weaker claim that there is at least one necessary being and the necessary beings collectively explain all contingent truths? In that case, the above argument can still be applied, with “a creator” being allowed to designate a collective and not just an individual. The conclusion would be that the very same omnipotent collective explains contingent truth in every world. Can there be an omnipotent collective? It is tempting to quip that there is a conceptual impossibility in a committee’s being omnipotent, since committees always suffer from impotence, say due to interaction issues within the committee. There may be something to this quip. How, after all, could a collective collectively be omnipotent? How would the powers of the individuals interact with one another? Would some individuals have the power to prevent the functioning of others? These are difficult questions. It seems simpler to posit a single being.

      The second line of argument is that on this argument the creator’s causal activity explains all contingent activity, including, presumably, any free choices by creatures. This problem infects other Leibnizian cosmological arguments. Probably the way to handle it is to give a subtler and more careful definition of what it is to be a creator in w. Maybe the First Cause’s activity does not have to explain all free choices made by everybody, but simply to explain the prerequisites for all free choices made by any contingent beings, and everything that does not depend on the free choices of contingent beings? This is probably all we need for the crucial uniqueness argument.”

      7. POSSIBLE WORLDS OR ONLY THE ACTUAL WORLD;

      Well see the sources of William Lane Craig on that Part 23 he explains what a Logically Possible World is = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnnKsa-exVE&list=PLIpO3BUiq2IFMS3AP3Yi2oDfc7pzrQs2F&index=23 . We already know that Possible worlds so defined exist as abstract and/or mental objects already- we prove them true everyday just by thinking them up in our heads, just as we know numbers and sets and propositions can be said to exist as abstract or mental objects. So there is no way to say that the actual world is the only world, we know that isn’t the case once one understands what a possible world is (its not another universe that actually exists concretely).

      That said, there are some who claim that possible worlds can collapse and be part or subset of this one actual world- so they are subsets of our actual world but I deny this is the case- the actual world is clearly one amoung many possible worlds as per the definition WLC gives above and so this objection fails. But yes there would be some things to modify or discuss otherwise.

      Wow, OK that’s my mental work out for the day lol, glad you liked the show Brian 😊

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Dale: “Obviously, Tony will not be answering and so I guess its on me to provide what I think his take would be based on what I know of him.

        1. ISLAND PARODY;”

        Hi Dale,
        There is a lot here – thank you for the detailed response. It may take me some time to go through it all.

        Learning,
        Brian

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That is cool Brian, you are very welcome and you are worth my taking the time to give you my “pearls” I find, so I’m glad to spend the extra time giving detailed responses to you with sources, etc. as I know they won’t be trampled on 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Dale: “3. God and the Angels;

        Yes well I’m not entirely sure here, but based on my knowledge of Tony’s class on God’s attributes and his Calvinist position, I would say that rather than the ultimate goal of God’s creating being to achieve the Max utility via saving as many free creatures as possible, he would instead say that the entire point of creation is entirely God-centric and brings glory to Him. Thus, having some people chosen to go to Hell vs. Heaven glorifies God as it magnifies His justice or goodness for example. Similar deal with the angels as in some way by creating them magnifies God’s glorious nature in some way.”

        Hi Dale,
        If God is the maximally great triune being, then doesn’t God already have infinite glory without any created things? If, before God created anything, God wanted more honor or praise or glory than the infinite amount God already had as a triune being, then couldn’t one conceive of a greater being who didn’t have this need/desire/want? Dale, which is greater – a being who needs/wants/desires glory – or a being who doesn’t have any needs/wants/desires?

        Prior to creation, when there was only the triune God, wasn’t there also perfect and infinite justice and goodness?

        I must be missing something, but, in what way does creating angels magnify God’s glorious nature? And magnify to whom? To the triune God?

        Dale, I realize you were answering for Professor Costa and so might well not be able to respond for him, and I don’t expect you to. Just sharing my lack of understanding.

        Thanks,
        Brian

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Brian,

          Yes good on you to recognize that I was speaking for Tony and not myself as I am not a Calvinist myself and I actually share your lack of understanding on that front. Certainly God for Calvinists would have been equally glorious without creation and so why He would create in the first place I think is an interesting question for them, but I guess Tony would just say he doesn’t know but God in His Sovereignty decided to do it and who are we to question Him.

          On my end, my answer to this is to save as many souls as possible, that is why God choose to create. Now, you might say if a world with only God in it has an equal overall utility to this actual world where God chooses to create our universe- why bother creating and my answer to that is because it is greater to have more free persons choose to enter into in a perfectly loving relationship with God as possible- hence God gains something by creating and it is only in light of the people that choose damnation that such drawbacks detract from the benefits to make the world with God alone and this world to have an equal overall utility.

          That is my answer as to why God would choose to create rather than just remain in a state of perfection in the Godhead alone.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Dale,

            “On my end, my answer to this is to save as many souls as possible, that is why God choose to create. Now, you might say if a world with only God in it has an equal overall utility to this actual world where God chooses to create our universe- why bother creating and my answer to that is because it is greater to have more free persons choose to enter into in a perfectly loving relationship with God as possible- hence God gains something by creating and it is only in light of the people that choose damnation that such drawbacks detract from the benefits to make the world with God alone and this world to have an equal overall utility. “

            Then you have just proven God was not Perfect before creating these other beings. If a Perfect Being existed in a “less Great” scenario and needed to “gain something” then it makes no sense to call that being “Perfect.”
            (Except to Christians who continually must have their cake and eat it too).

            Further, once you go down that road, you can’t give any reason why God would have stopped at the limited number of other beings he purportedly created. The more beings God created, the more god “gains” (even if, on your view, the losses are outweighed by the gains). So there’s no reason there shouldn’t be vastly more created beings than we actually see – even virtually infinite numbers.

            And the idea that God must create other beings to “save souls” is perversely circular and bizzare. That’s like a doctor creating cancer victims “so I can give some of them a cure. After all, if I didn’t create cancer, I could never offer the cure for cancer!”

            Finally, this creating of other beings (e.g. angels who fall, human beings who sin, suffer and who often end up suffering eternally), is incompatible with God having been a Perfect Being, especially Perfectly Good Being, before creation.

            A Good Being, especially a Perfectly Good Being, would not create gratuitous suffering or evil. Once you do that, the idea of a “Good Being” just makes no sense if it is to have any connection with what those words typically mean to anyone. That a Perfectly Good Being could not create gratuitous suffering/evil is so well ascribed among Christian thinkers explains why so much effort is put in to Theodicies, tryinig to make evil and suffering somehow compatible with a Good God, typically by painting it as “necessary.”

            But this just can’t work. If God was Perfect before creating other beings who could Fall and suffer, then his creating us wasn’t at all necessary, and all subsequent evil and suffering born of our nature was gratuitous.
            A Perfect God is by definition “good enough.” And if creating “free willed creatures”, as Christians like to claim, will entail creatures who do sometimes do evil, let alone creating MORTAL bodies that suffer terribly,
            then that entails that a Perfect God would have to have understood that His desire to create such creatures, even though SOME of them may fulfill God’s desire to have additional loved creatures, will entail the suffering and damnation of many others. Thus God is deciding “I want to make X type of creatures AT THE EXPENSE of other created creatures who will do evil and/or suffer terribly. Again, if God was Perfect to begin with, then ANY decision he makes that would add evil and suffering to the scenario, is simply gratuitous. And hence that God could not be “Perfectly Good.”

            Liked by 5 people

            1. I really was going to get around to addressing this aspect of Dale’s comment at some point. Now that you have done so, anything I would have said just feels duplicative. Then again, when has that ever stopped me? 🙂

              This has been a hobbyhorse of mine for some time. Why would god create anything at all? Further, why would he stop once we get to heaven. Before humanity, there were angels. And they were not alone. Let’s not forget about the Seraphim, Cherubim, & Four Living Creatures around the throne. I saw someplace that the Bible mentions as many as 6 distinct heavenly creatures. All of the ones we have details about are fallen. God’s creative spree didn’t start with humans. And it didn’t end with adding creatures to the heavenly realm. So there is no reason to believe that we will be the last, or that the next creatures won’t be just as sinful as we.

              My point is that god must have had a reason for adding all these beings to existence. If it was to give him glory, then he needed glory, or wanted it. I don’t actually see a distinction between the two. If he just wanted a different kind of perfection, then he was unsatisfied with the perfection he had before. If it was to have more beings freely choose him, then he was unsatisfied with not being freely chosen. There is no answer for why god created anything that doesn’t end by showing he was lacking before creating.

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              1. There is no answer for why god created anything that doesn’t end by showing he was lacking before creating.

                Bingo. That’s really the problem they can’t escape. Basically all they do is end up still slapping the words they want on things “Perfect” to get by theologically. But it’s always, like “Omnipotent” and other qualities, in a diminished form. And of course you nailed it, calling Dale’s molinistic response (which of course he went to).
                Yawn.

                Liked by 1 person

            2. “Further, once you go down that road, you can’t give any reason why God would have stopped at the limited number of other beings he purportedly created. The more beings God created, the more god “gains” (even if, on your view, the losses are outweighed by the gains). So there’s no reason there shouldn’t be vastly more created beings than we actually see – even virtually infinite numbers.”

              Hi Vaal,
              Excellent point! If God’s goal is to have the maximal number of free-will creatures in heaven, then why not have many more humans than there are? Some might say the earth couldn’t support more humans – but then, God could have made the earth much bigger. Or, God could have made humans smaller. How many more humans could inhabit earth (and thus go to heaven) if they were only 1 foot tall? Or 1 inch tall? There could be billions and billions more souls making the free-will decision to love God and go to heaven.

              Thanks for the interesting point,
              Brian

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              1. Allow me to do my best Dale impression: (Clears throat…)

                “Molinism.”

                Thank you. I’m here all week.

                Liked by 1 person

            3. Hey Vaal,

              Good insights though remember I don’t say that actual vs. potentialness is a greater making property in itself and thus I could avoid your objection by saying God was perfect without creation and in a changed way perfect with it- a lateral change in God’s extrinsic relations does not necessitate a vertical change of getting better or worse. But that said once people are actualized, its greater to have as many people freely chose to be in that loving relationship eternally as possible. So yeah, I would escape that in the same way skeptics escape Tony’s argument that its greater to have a complex unity in loving relations rather than a strict Unitarian God.

              It’s the same way I’d answer to your vast infinites of people needing to be created- you are making the same mistake that Tony did in arguing for God’s tri-unity. Plus, perhaps there is a Christian multiverse out there or perhaps creating a larger number of people leads to less people choosing to be saved. When, it comes to infinities though which can overcome these finite answers, I don’t believe an actual infinite number is logically possible and given freewill it could very well be that every single one of them chooses to go to Hell anyways.

              Again, Vaal the point of the God “needing” to create is misunderstanding my answer, He didn’t need to, that’s why I argue there has to be a equal overall utility so it could be a free choice of God to create or not create; any less overall utility and it was logically necessary for God not to create, any more and then creation would have been necessary. Obviously, the reason God creates isn’t to save as many people as possible, but more to have eternal loving perfect relationships with them (had the Fall not occurred that’s what we would have had from the beginning with no need for salvation- so I think you knew what I meant there).

              So on your other stuff, look I agree there is no such thing as “logically necessary evil” (though there is factually necessary evil I would say)- there is a possible world where God exists alone (not before creation as time itself began to exist at the moment of creation imo), so I agree 100% with you there. But its not gratuitous evil (at least not in the sense that would entail any immorality on God’s part), b/c God wanted to obtain the good of creating free creatures that can freely choose to fulfill that or not. So, I get why you think the evil is gratuitous since God could have just not created at all to avoid it but by doing so then the greater goods would not come about either and God choose to actualize those greater goods in His divine wisdom and moral perfection despite the negatives that comes necessarily attached once the decision to create comes about and He did so selflessly since He was good without creation (God doesn’t need us to be perfect as you say) 😊

              P.S.- Just to clarify gratuitous means uncalled for; lacking good reason. God had good reason to create the world with the goods and evils in it, so creation was not gratuitous even if the evil and additional goods are not logically necessary since God could have not created as skeptics are right to point out.

              If anyone wants to listen to a show where David and I discuss this issue briefly see Evil God Dilemma in Season 1 here = https://anchor.fm/skeptics-and-seekers/episodes/Episode-4-Evil-God-Dilemma-e1uv3g

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              1. Against my better judgement, here we go:

                Obviously, the reason God creates isn’t to save as many people as possible, but more to have eternal loving perfect relationships with them

                Besides being something you just made up from head-canon, it doesn’t actually explain anything. Let’s assume you’re correct. What was wrong with the loving relationship he already had with himself? How could a loving relationship with lesser beings, regardless of the number, be equal to the perfect love he already had?

                Let’s further say it is equal for the sake of argument. Why make that lateral move? There has to be some motivation to make any move. All motivation is based on dissatisfaction with one’s prior state. No one is satisfied with having all the money in the world. They will eventually want to spend some of it. Power is meaningless without the ability to exercise it. Your perfect sleep will be interrupted by your desire to do something else besides sleep. Your perfect day will end with you wanting to sleep.

                You cannot describe something god wanted without it being true that he was dissatisfied without it. One can grow weary of the perfect chocolate ice cream and want the perfect vanilla. You can try to hide the dissatisfaction by claiming it was a lateral move. But the fact remains they made that move because of dissatisfaction. If god wanted relationship with lesser beings (which by definition, can’t be perfect IMO), then he was dissatisfied with the state of not having those desired relationships.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. David,

                  I will answer here without saying anything offensive and I will let it be my last word so you don’t have to worry about it going down hill or becoming unpleasant.

                  I will just answer by saying that God’s motivation in creating isn’t selfish but selfless, it is for our benefit, the benefit that we get from being created and living in loving relationship with God (which isn’t head canon, this is all over the Bible). God is perfect with and without creation and we aren’t lesser in every respect. I am an image bearer of God, I don’t believe in Greek pagan notion of the Great Chain of Being whereby we are a lesser degree of God in every single respect. My knowledge that 1+1=2 is perfect and the exact same as God’s knowledge in that respect. Now certainly, I’m not equal to God in many respects and thus am a lesser being but once freed from sin, my loving God and experience of his love, etc. may in fact be perfect just as the love between the divine persons of the Trinity is perfect.

                  Another factor to consider that I don’t believe is the case but let’s assume we are totally lesser than God in every way (including ways relevant to God’s motivation for creating)- well we love lesser creatures all the time and still get something out of it. I loved my pets growing up as a kid and they were lesser beings than me, but I still got something out the relationship and I like to think they did to in their own way. Perhaps it could be like that with God and us.

                  As to all motivations having to be based on dissatisfaction- wow that is quite the claim, can you prove that is true, b/c I can prove via my own actual experiences that is not necessarily the case; sometimes people make changes for the benefit of others rather than themselves or to gain something they don’t currently have but are perfectly content without. I’m perfectly happy and satisfied not giving any money to homeless people, but when I saw one on the street over and over again, I one day just decided you know what I’m going to change and give him a $10 bill for his benefit. I had no dissatisfaction prior to my change in my behaviour from walking past him (it was perfect, I’m not obligated to give everyone on the street my money, so I felt no guilt) to giving him my money that one time (done b/c I chose to help him).

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. That went well enough. Let’s tentatively try another round, shall we?

                    The moment you decided to help another person, you had a goal you wanted to achieve. It matters not that you say it was selfless. I don’t really care as you still got something out of doing it. If it was completely selfless, you would had helped him the first time you saw he had need and you could help. So you did it for your own internal reasons. But that isn’t the point.

                    Once you decided you wanted to help, you were dissatisfied with not helping. Had someone interrupted you and kept you from doing that which you wanted to do, you would have felt the dissatisfaction more strongly.

                    You asked me to prove that all motivation is fueled by dissatisfaction. That is a philosophical position that I cannot see any exception to. Any example you give is an example of someone not wanting to maintain one state and desiring to exchange it for another, different state. That is the very definition of dissatisfaction. God wanted the good feeling of helping lesser beings that didn’t exist. He didn’t have that before. Unwilling to remain in his current state, he desired to change it to something more favorable. Use any words you like. That is dissatisfaction.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. David,

                      OK but I was just taking your advice to try and limit how many replies back and forth I engage in on one thread, so let’s maybe aim to go back and forth 2 more rounds or less on each side after this and reach a natural conclusion at that point.

                      I take it that you accepted my other answers about the positive value gained by God having relations with us (even if we are entirely lesser which I don’t think is the case- its a pagan idea from Plato although I admit some elements of it were incorporated into the NT).

                      As to your example, yes I would have been dissatisfied if my intent was interrupted and prevented from being enacted, but that is not the same as dissatisfaction with my prior state of walking past him without giving him money. All I can say is I would have felt no guilt in just walking past him at all, its not like I felt guilt for having walked past him all the other times in the past and the guilt weighed on me to the point where I had to resolve it by giving him money this time. I assure you I would have felt fine not providing him money but just chose to say the heck with it, I’ll give something to him this time.

                      I think what your hinting at is the “Rationality condition” for freewill, one must or usually has a rational motivation for any free choice they make- I had a reason, I think I was just in a really great mood that day for some reason. But having a motivation or reason that makes one unwilling to maintain their current state does not entail that the previous state was somehow unsatisfactory or inferior to the new state obtained. So yeah, if you want to say God had a reason/motivation that made Him “unwilling” (that’s the term I’d use) to remain in His current state, then I’d say yep, cool but so what- again that doesn’t imply an inferior nature of the previous state being abandoned.

                      God is timeless without creation and then is unwilling to remain timeless and so with creation He becomes temporal- there is nothing inferior with being timeless (that is still perfection for that state) and there is nothing superior about being temporal. God had reason to change his mode of eternality when He decided to create and made the lateral change without any implication about a feeling of “dissatisfaction” about His timeless state.

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                    2. I think I can end my part of the conversation with this post.

                      I don’t think what we are saying is all that different. You are just allergic to the word, “dissatisfaction.” But you are using other words that amount to the same thing. At the end of the day, we are saying the same thing. God had a desire for something he didn’t have. So he made us so that we would give him what he wanted. The moment he wanted something he didn’t have, his condition was no longer perfect, but deficient.

                      I believe the more interesting conversation would be for me to push back on the idea that relationship with a few humans is equally perfect, or even good. We went from no sentient beings being tormented to billions of them being tormented. You can say it is worth it for the ones who make it. But I don’t see how you do the math. My moral compass tells me it is better for none to be created than for one to suffer since the creation was unnecessary. And the situation is so much worse than that since the few who find the narrow path are saved and the many who do not will suffer.

                      You can have the last word. And I will leave it to others to add their voices.

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                    3. No that’s cool David you can have the last word, I think you are semi-correct in saying we agree, but you are wrong in saying that the prior state had any deficiency- there was no time so there was no time when God willed to have something He didn’t have and then had to obtain it.

                      Liked by 1 person

              2. I see David started replying to this, but I haven’t read it yet so I’ll just do this..

                I could avoid your objection by saying God was perfect without creation and in a changed way perfect with it-

                Yeah, that’s the usual “have my cake and eat it too” move Christians make all the time. It’s like when they try to say Adam and Eve, who failed their very first and most consequential test, were created “Perfect.” It’s basically a move that says “I’ll call anything Perfect I damn well please and you can’t stop me!”

                As David, and I, and…everyone…keeps pointing out: the only reason to create or do anything is to fulfill some desire, and that means one has up to that point an unfulfilled desire, meaning they can not be in a Perfect State. You simply can not get around this, except to special plead (what a surprise!) some other version of “perfect” that simply ignores this.

                But that said once people are actualized, its greater to have as many people freely chose to be in that loving relationship eternally as possible.

                Except this raises the problem I already mentioned.

                Plus, perhaps there is a Christian multiverse out there

                Except of course for the lack of evidence for this. Though this has never stopped your molinism before.

                or perhaps creating a larger number of people leads to less people choosing to be saved.

                More unevidenced, unargued for claims. The evidence we have is of a finite number of created beings.
                But Christians aren’t good at accepting evidence. (Now if you actually do want to appeal to a multiverse in which vastly more beings may exist, be prepared to give up other apologetics, e.g. certain cosmological arguments/teleological arguments).

                But its not gratuitous evil (at least not in the sense that would entail any immorality on God’s part), b/c God wanted to obtain the good of creating free creatures that can freely choose to fulfill that or not. So, I get why you think the evil is gratuitous since God could have just not created at all to avoid it but by doing so then the greater goods would not come about either and God choose to actualize those greater goods in His divine wisdom and moral perfection despite the negatives that comes necessarily attached once the decision to create comes about and He did so selflessly since He was good without creation (God doesn’t need us to be perfect as you say)

                Aaaand, we get a massive pile of begging-the-question.

                I actually provided an argument showing how it must have been gratuitous for God to have created beings who suffer and contribute evil. And that therefore a Good God could not have taken this action (a Goo God would not eve have WANTED to take that action).

                All you did there was simply ASSERT that God simply wanted to do it, DID do it, and you simply assigned Him “moral perfection” anyway. Oh, and it’s just not gratuitous.

                This is what it’s always like in discussions with Christians. It’s just a layer cake of special pleading and question begging.

                Once again:

                A Perfect God would have no need to create any more beings. The only way this could be “justified” is if the evil that arose from Him creating other beings was NECESSARY somehow. And therefore that necessity would have to be tied to some other necessity – e.g. it is a necessity born of creating free-willed creatures. And then you have to make the existence of those free willed creatures themselves logically necessary. But the only way you can get THAT ball of wax to be “necessary” is to end up making God, previous to creation, LACKING something NECESSARY – e.g. the entities in question or the necessity of having created those creatures.
                And thus a pre-Creation God, lacking something necessary, can not reasonably be held to be “Perfect.”

                It’s NECESSITY OR BUST when trying to account for the existence of suffering/evil.

                You can’t get there merely by appealing to some desire God may have had for more beings to love, as that just points to the gratuitous evil problem. God wasn’t satisfied with Perfection and chose to add evil, which is gratuitous to Perfection.

                No way around this, except to play the usual Christian game that amounts to “So what, I’m gonna state everything I want in the package I need, and still call it “perfect,” and I’ll still just keep labeling God “Moral Perfection” etc.

                (Not on to see how David has replied…)

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Aaaagh! This place needs an edit function!!!

                  Liked by 2 people

              3. (This quote below is from a post of yours further down the line, but it didn’t have a “reply” button)

                could you please remind your skeptical chum that he went out of his way to ask me a question (despite his already knowing my answer since we’ve debated it before).

                What question are you referring to Dale?

                I entered this conversation producing an argument against what you’d written, not a question, and I have simply continued my argument.

                So…in this thread what question have I asked, and where, that you are tired of answering?

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                1. Vaal,

                  You sent me a post and I replied. But I removed the portion of the comment complaining when I saw you gave me a substantive reply to chew on. This was the reply that I sent that to David about, you said;

                  “Bingo. That’s really the problem they can’t escape. Basically all they do is end up still slapping the words they want on things “Perfect” to get by theologically. But it’s always, like “Omnipotent” and other qualities, in a diminished form. And of course you nailed it, calling Dale’s Molinistic response (which of course he went to).
                  Yawn.”

                  Obviously, you sent me a post originally about why God would create and thus invited conversation on it, I replied to it and then went back and forth with David on it- all perfectly pleasant and then you wrote the above. Anyways, if your now saying you are just giving your thoughts and don’t want me to respond to it, then OK. If I find you are misrep’ing me I might take the initiative to defend myself though as your assessment of Christians and me is more than a little skewed (its alright, its to be expected from a Hell-spawned Satan disciple such as yourself lol).

                  Anyways, you sent me a substantive reply below 21 mins ago- are you sending that to induce convo with me or just sending me your thoughts for me to consider on my own? I will respect whatever you wish to do at this point (if the former, then I will make some time later on tonight or tomorrow to respond).

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                  1. Dale you are thoroughly confusing me. You complained to David that I had asked some question that you have answered a million times, and apparently were expressing weariness in answering, and this IIRC had to do with pointing towards some inconsistency on David’s (or skeptic’s) par..

                    I didn’t ask a question. I provided a positive argument.

                    That fact I didn’t ask a question doesn’t mean you ought not respond. When would it ever mean that? We usually provide arguments for the other side to respond to.

                    It’s up to you to respond to what I’ve written or not.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Vaal, perhaps you are making things more complicated than they need be whether it was a question or an argument- who cares- you said something addressing me and so I was just curious if you wanted a dialogue or not, so stop making things harder than they need to be- just let it go already.

                      I will let you have the last word in your last substantive reply, the one starting with “I see David started replying to this, but I haven’t read it yet so I’ll just do this..”- that was what I was asking you if you wanted me to reply or not but we can just keep it simple by ending the convo there then to end your state of skeptical fogginess lol 🙂

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                  2. (Is there some reason why not all posts here have “reply” buttons on them? I’m trying to respond to another short post you made to David, which didn’t have a “reply” button)…

                    DALE wrote: ut you are wrong in saying that the prior state had any deficiency- there was no time so there was no time when God willed to have something He didn’t have and then had to obtain it.

                    This, again, is just flat out assertion of how you want things to be, with no logical argument given on it’s behalf.

                    I’d like to see you try again.

                    God is supposed to be a rational agent. An agent’s decision is rationally motivated only insofar as it is made with the deliberate intention to fulfill one or more of that agent’s desires. Rational agents deliberate based on the relationship between their desires and beliefs. For example, I have a desire to drink some orange juice. That gives me a reason to act. I employ reason to connect my desires and beliefs to rational actions. I have a belief that there is orange juice in my fridge and therefore reason that taking the action of going to my fridge will fulfill my desire to acquire and drink orange juice.

                    Change the belief – e.g. to the belief there is no orange juice in the fridge – and that action becomes irrational.
                    Change the desire – e.g. change it to the desire to change the channel on my TV – and the conclusion “going to the fridge will fulfill that desire” is irrational. Take away the desire for the orange juice, and I no longer have a reason to ACT on the belief “going to the fridge will fulfill my desire for orange juice.”

                    Now, of course we do sometimes take actions that have consequences we didn’t desire – e.g. if I move my arm and spill my drink off the table. But the lack of desire in such scenarios is what designates “accidental” actions from “deliberate” actions – only the latter being rational in connection with the outcome.

                    So to have a REASON to ACT at all requires a desire.

                    And desires are fulfilled by true states of affairs that fulfill desires. E.g. if I desire that my house is blue and my house is white, my desire is unfulfilled. My desire will only be fulfilled if my house is already blue, or if my house isn’t currently blue, then I have to make it blue. So until a state of affairs fulfills a desire-in-question, which usually require action on the person desiring the outcome, the desire is unfulfilled.

                    So, the only way God could be a Rational Actor is to first have a desire which gives Him reason to act, and then beliefs and rationality that leads to understanding which action will fulfill that desire.

                    So God MUST start with a desire in order to rationally explain His actions.

                    But if God’s desire required an ACTION on His part in order to fulfill that desire, then it follows that before that action, God had at least one unfulfilled desire.

                    And you can’t sell us on the idea that a God with unfulfilled desires is “Perfect.”

                    So..go ahead, refute that with actual reasons to believe your case.

                    Either give an alternative account for how rational actions work, which do not appeal to desires, hence God needn’t have had a desire motivating his action.

                    Or show that having a desire for a state of affairs that does not yet exist, does NOT necessarily entail that desire being “unfulfilled.”

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. About the buttons: I think when Dale uses the admin tools and replies to a post from the back end, it messes up the front end. We went through this last year. Sometimes, I have to use those tools as well. But it seems to work better if we don’t do that. Still, it has never worked perfectly. The biggest part of the problem is that discussion software is hard. And WordPress isn’t very good at it. When replies are not possible, just quote a bit of what you are responding to and tack it to another post from that person. It is a kludge. But it will work for now.

                      Here are a couple of thoughts on your post that I hope you and Dale cover sometime this week:

                      1. Why does anyone assume that time worked differently before the creation of our universe? Even if you say our local space/time started with the Big Bang, that doesn’t mean that some prior local time wasn’t in effect. There would have still been causation. There were temporal events occurring such as the creation of angels, the events leading to the making of Satan and the war in heaven, etc. If we make micro universes in labs, they would have their own space/time bubble. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there was time before the creation of those micro universes. I don’t know why anyone believes god wasn’t temporal before he created this particular space/time bubble.

                      2. Even steel-manning Dales argument about different types of perfection doesn’t help. Here is one way to possibly defeat my “dissatisfaction” argument: A person loves to play chess. Playing the game is a state of perfection for them. However, for the game to be meaningful, there has to be moments of constant unrest. It is a part of the game. One must always be in the process of improving their position and making up for unexpected losses. They might even lose the game. But that is still part of their state of perfection as playing the game is what gives them perfection. And that includes the meta states of dissatisfaction.

                      However, we are not talking merely about meta states of dissatisfaction within a larger system of perfection. One can say that the most beautiful face is one with micro-imperfections. In the ancient art of rug-making, the masters put intentional imperfections into their work. These meta/micro imperfections are not the point. God didn’t just changes meta states within his solitary tri-unity. He ended his state of solitary tri-unity and swapped it out for something more exciting and dynamic.

                      He went from self love to wanting the love of outsiders when no outsiders existed. He went from harmony in the universe to chaos. He went from no suffering to required suffering, no possibility of evil to only the rare possibility of anything else. These are huge macro changes, almost as if he were replaced by a different being altogether. One begins to suspect something like this in the face of the Bible’s insistence that god does not change. Yet we can catalogue major changes.

                      One might be tempted to say that I have succeeded in defeating my initial argument. But I don’t actually think I have. If god is playing chess for enjoyment, then his state of perfection is contingent on something external to himself. If we are necessary for god’s perfection, then we are just as non-contingent as god. Even if the Christian argues that once upon a time, god was internally perfect and satisfied, they have to acknowledge that he chose a state where his satisfaction can only be completed by external means. God’s current state of perfect is contingent on us playing along. If all humans decided to rebel and ignore him, god would get nothing out of it, and would thus be thwarted. He NEEDS us.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. Hey David,

                      I see that Vaal has replied further below and you give some things you wish to hear a response on, I was trying to bring the convo to a natural conclusion but I will try to reply to Vaal when I get some time (and include your issues in that).

                      BTW the issue with the reply has nothing to do with my using admi mode to respond b/c I literally use the admin mode every single time I post and people haven’t had issues responding to those, so I don’t know what else it could be but its not that.

                      Like

      3. Dale: “4. ISLAM vs. Jews:

        … and also he thinks the true Jewish faith rather than the later false Rabbinic Jewish faith does support the Trinity- we shall see how I do on that front next week.”

        Hi Dale,
        Makes me wonder what “true” Jewish faith is and why Rabbinic Jewish faith is false.

        Brian

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        1. Brian,

          The true Jewish faith is the faith espoused in the OT canon- I call it “biblical Judaism”. Rabbinic Judaism didn’t exist until the late first and 2nd century A.D.- I’ve quoted Hebrew scholars on this as its undeniable historical fact. What passes for Judaism today has very little to nothing to do with the Judaism of the OT or even the Judaism of Jesus’ day though the precursor existed in the form of the Pharisees.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Dale: “The true Jewish faith is the faith espoused in the OT canon- I call it ‘biblical Judaism’. Rabbinic Judaism didn’t exist until the late first and 2nd century A.D.- I’ve quoted Hebrew scholars on this as its undeniable historical fact. What passes for Judaism today has very little to nothing to do with the Judaism of the OT or even the Judaism of Jesus’ day though the precursor existed in the form of the Pharisees.”

            Hi Dale,
            Wow! A lot to unpack and think about here. I must admit that I’ve missed where you’ve quoted the Hebrew scholars saying Rabbinic Judaism isn’t “true” Judaism. Myself, I see the Jewish faith as developing and evolving over time. The faith of Abraham seems to have developed and evolved and is a bit different from the faith of Moses. And the faith of Moses and the Israelites seems to have developed and evolved and is a bit different from the faith of Samuel. And the faith of Samuel seems to have developed and evolved and is a bit different from the faith of St. Paul. And, to me, it seems that somewhere around there the “olive tree” branched into Christian and Jew. And each of these branches has continued to evolve and develop and change.

            But… that is just my impression – and I admit that I’m often wrong.

            I do have some relatives who are Jewish – I don’t think that I’ll tell them that they aren’t following the “true” Jewish faith.

            Finding the discussions here to be very interesting – and sometimes even a little troubling,
            Brian

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            1. Brian,

              I’ve really done my research in this department, so I will help you out, I quote two such Hebrew scholars in Part 2 of our show on Messianic Prophecy- Dr. Eliezer Diamond and Dr. Jacob Neusner, see the 34-36 min mark = https://anchor.fm/skeptics-and-seekers/episodes/Episode-21-Messianic-Prophecies%E2%80%93The-Case-for-Jesus-Part-2-e2kpi1

              Liked by 2 people

              1. “Thank you Brian, I appreciate your openness though I admit I’m a little disappointed in what you say about things being a little troubling (assuming that is a reference to my take on the Abraham Test- I understand and still appreciate your openness and genuineness in general, but I admit I was a little disappointed with your statement here if that is what you are referring to).”

                Hi Dale,
                I find it a little troubling that Christians would judge my Jewish relatives (or any Jews) and determine they weren’t of the “true” Jewish faith. It is good to know that there are non-Jews who are judging whether Jews today are of the “true” Jewish faith – but I do find it troubling. But, plenty of Christians judge other Christian denominations and determine if they are “true” Christians or not – so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised if some Christians do the same with Jews.

                Brian

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                1. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 29, 2019 — 8:17 pm

                  Setting aside the “true” Judaism question, I do think it’s critical for Christians, Biblical exegetes, and scholars of Semitic religion to have a historically accurate understanding of rabbinic Judaism’s place in the history of Abrahamic religion. Because there are so many sensitive issues involved (Christian anti-Judaism, racialized anti-Jewishness, Zionism), it is important to tread carefully, but Christians and scholars really need to explore this issue honestly and unsentimentally so that we can get the facts right.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. “Setting aside the ‘true’ Judaism question, I do think it’s critical for Christians, Biblical exegetes, and scholars of Semitic religion to have a historically accurate understanding of rabbinic Judaism’s place in the history of Abrahamic religion. Because there are so many sensitive issues involved (Christian anti-Judaism, racialized anti-Jewishness, Zionism), it is important to tread carefully, but Christians and scholars really need to explore this issue honestly and unsentimentally so that we can get the facts right.”

                    Hi Arthur,
                    Would you have a recommendation for a book or other resource?

                    Thanks,
                    Brian

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 29, 2019 — 10:35 pm

                      I’ve found anything written by Shaye JD Cohen and my favorite Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin to be helpful. There are their books of course, but there are also filmed lectures online and more than a few of their peer reviewed papers.

                      Liked by 2 people

              2. “I’ve really done my research in this department, so I will help you out, I quote two such Hebrew scholars in Part 2 of our show on Messianic Prophecy- Dr. Eliezer Diamond and Dr. Jacob Neusner, see the 34-36 min mark = https://anchor.fm/skeptics-and-seekers/episodes/Episode-21-Messianic-Prophecies%E2%80%93The-Case-for-Jesus-Part-2-e2kpi1

                HI Dale,
                I’ll plan on listening to this sometime today.

                Thanks for the reference,
                Brian

                Liked by 1 person

              3. “I’ve really done my research in this department, so I will help you out, I quote two such Hebrew scholars in Part 2 of our show on Messianic Prophecy- Dr. Eliezer Diamond and Dr. Jacob Neusner, see the 34-36 min mark = https://anchor.fm/skeptics-and-seekers/episodes/Episode-21-Messianic-Prophecies%E2%80%93The-Case-for-Jesus-Part-2-e2kpi1

                Hi Dale,
                I just listened to the section you mentioned. I heard the quote from Dr. Diamond but didn’t hear one from Dr. Neusner. I looked in the show notes but didn’t see Dr. Neusner’s quote there either. Also, I didn’t hear Dr. Diamond say that Rabbinic Judaism was not “true” Judaism – but that how Judaism 1,000 years before Jesus had changed over time and a person from 1,000 years before Jesus wouldn’t recognize the changes. Nor did I hear in the quote that modern Jews did not follow the true Jewish faith. But, I only listened twice and so might not have heard the quote correctly.

                I’ll do some additional research on my own – but thanks for the input and references.

                Brian

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Brian,

                  The point of the quotes which I have access to them in book form and quoted a little from Diamond in the show and said Neusner’s quote says much the same is that biblical Judaism as per the OT is unrecognizable compared to the later Rabbinic version which didn’t exist until after 70 A.D. and really post 200 A.D. with the Mishnah being compiled, etc and Palestianian Talmud. That was the point.

                  Orthodox Jews today claim that there was an Oral Torah given to Moses and was maintained across time, no scholar in the world believes this- it’s provably false, even the Bible itself tells us that Jews completely forgot Moses and God’s law at various times during the biblical OT period.

                  So Dr. Diamond would agree with me that Rabbinic Judaism is not Biblical Judaism and we know that biblical Judaism is the “true Judaism”- if any later Rabbinic traditions conflict with it, we privilege the Word of God and not the word of men, that’s my point.

                  If you’d like a good write up response to typical Jewish claims on this Oral Law/Rabbinic Judaism concept being totally erroneous, see below:

                  Your Jewish friends, if Orthodox, no doubt claim something along these lines— “We have an unbroken, authoritative chain of oral tradition going back to Moses. Who are you to teach us what our Bible says?”

                  The Christian should respond thusly:

                  “I have no problem affirming that some of our customs and traditions can be traced back to the very beginnings of our history as a people. What I am questioning, however, is the notion of a divinely given, comprehensive, Sinaitic Oral Torah. There is plenty of evidence in the Hebrew Bible to affirm that God’s covenant with Israel was based on the Written Torah, but nowhere is there any evidence for a divinely inspired Oral Torah going back to Moses. There is no evidence in the Hebrew Bible, or even in Jewish writings for several centuries after the Bible was completed. The traditional concept of the Oral Torah given by God to Moses is a myth; it was in fact developed by rabbis from the first through the sixth centuries CE.

                  I am aware that the Talmud claims otherwise, declaring that the covenant made with Israel was from the start based on an Oral Law, however, the Talmud’s idea of the Oral Law is not right. My argument is based on the following seven principles: (1) God’s covenant with Israel was based on the written Word alone, (2) no references to the Oral Law, whether explicit or implicit, can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, (3) not only is there no evidence for an Oral Law in the Tanakh, but there were times when the Written Law itself was forgotten, (4) Moses did not receive every detail of the Oral Law on Mt. Sinai, (5) sometimes the rabbinic writings abuse or convolute the plain meaning of Scripture, which demonstrates that they cannot really be traced back to Moses, (6) the Oral Law doesn’t always understand the written Word, because many of the traditions only came into being centuries after the Scriptures were written, and (7) the fact that the rabbinic traditions had to be written down is proof that there could not have been an Oral Law passed down from Moses, which would have needed to have been preserved for 1500 years without being written down.

                  I know this topic is very sensitive, but I encourage you to keep reading without fear. If your position is right, there’s no reason to worry about what you’ll read; however, if you find your views being challenged by what you read, if you’re really serious about the truth, then you should see where the questions lead. Let me reassure you that you can continue to respect and honor the sages of the past, even as you question their authority. After all, it was God who gave us minds and hearts so we could think and pray and study and search, and he is pleased when we use the abilities he has given us to find out his will for our lives. Let’s see where our study leads us.

                  The Scriptures indicate clearly that God’s covenant with Israel was based on the written Word and on the written Word alone.

                  When Moses came back down from Mt. Sinai, he told the people everything he had heard from God, and, after the people had promised to live according to what Moses had told them, he wrote down everything that God had told him (Exod. 24:3-4a). Even after Moses’ second trip up and down the mountain after Israel’s sin with the golden calf, everything was written down according to God’s instructions (see Exod. 34:27). It was this Book of the Covenant that formed the basis for their life together as God’s people, and this book was to be handed down through the generations. There is no mention of an oral tradition, nor is any hint given that there is any additional, hidden information not contained in the book, necessary for the establishment of the covenant.

                  Deuteronomy declares that future kings of Israel were to make a copy of this book of the law and study it diligently; no mention is made of an oral explanation that accompanies these written words. It is obvious that the written Word can be understood without the aid of oral interpretation (see Deut. 17:18-20). As the people were preparing to enter the Promised Land, they were told to write the words of the law on stones and to set them up on Mount Ebal (see Deut. 21:1-8). They were to keep the book of the law in the Ark of the Covenant, and it was to be taken out to be read every seven years so that all generations would hear the word and learn to fear God (see Deut. 31:9-13). No mention is made in any of the Five Books of Moses of an oral tradition to accompany this Written Law. The Written Torah was intended both to serve as a witness against God’s people and to provide the key to their success for living faithfully according to his covenant.

                  There are many good reasons for writing down the covenant: it preserved it for future generations, it kept regulations from becoming forgotten or confused, and it ensured its authority. If Israel could manage to forget the Written Torah from time to time, imagine what would have happened with an oral tradition. It is highly unlikely that it would have been preserved intact throughout the centuries! Why do you think the rabbinic traditions were also consigned to the written Word and not simply passed on orally?

                  All the necessary requirements for living faithfully as God’s people are included in the Written Torah. Laws regarding everyday life, as well as instructions for carrying out all the religious duties, are meticulously described. Where creativity or design beyond the description was needed, the Scriptures say that this was provided by the Spirit of God and the gifts of the artisan, not by an oral tradition. The laws are not merely general summaries or vague “chapter headings”, but are sufficiently detailed in themselves as not to require fleshing out by an oral tradition. Those elements that appear to need further clarification (e.g., what is meant by “a handful”) are sufficiently clear as not to warrant a precise definition.

                  From the time of Moses to the return of the people from exile, the Written Law was used as the standard by which to judge the faithfulness of the people and their leaders. While not one leader of Israel mentions an additional oral tradition—not Moses, not Joshua, not Josiah, not Ezra, not Nehemiah—all of the great leaders were adamant about keeping the Written Law. There is not one reference to the Oral Law in the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures—every single time the law is mentioned, it refers to the Written Law. Take a look for yourself and see what you find (e.g., Josh. 8:31–32; 23:6; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 23:25; Mal. 3:22; Dan. 9:11, 13; Ezra 3:2; 7:6; Neh. 8:1; 2 Chron. 23:18; 30:16; 34:14). If such an oral tradition existed at all—and I’m not saying that it did—it is clear that it wasn’t very relevant to the keeping of the covenant.

                  If the Oral Law really were necessary for living out the covenant, then why is it impossible to find a single explicit appeal to it anywhere in the entire Hebrew Scriptures, while there are many completely obvious references to the Written Law? Such references can’t be found, because an Oral Law which can be traced back in its entirety to Moses never existed in the first place. It’s a myth, and yet the rabbis constantly appeal to the Oral Torah. Most of the practices and studies of the rabbis are based on the Oral Torah, especially the Talmud and the medieval Law Codes, rather than on the scriptural text; no wonder they keep citing a supposedly authoritative Oral Torah! Unfortunately, such a concept goes against all the biblical evidence.

                  Not only is it at odds with the command to obey what is written, but sometimes the interpretation found in the Oral Law even completely contradicts what is written. How do you think Moses or Joshua would have responded if they had heard a Jewish leader explaining that “even though the Torah legislates that an unrepentant, stubborn and rebellious son is to be stoned to death so that the whole congregation would fear God (see Deut. 21:18–21), we tell you that God never intended that Written Law to be followed. Instead, he put it in the Torah so we would have the merit of figuring out that he never meant it!” At the very least, the biblical leaders would have wondered where the authority behind that statement had come from!

                  The burden of proof lies with those who claim that an ancient Oral Law exists. It is not enough to say that the reason the Oral Law is not mentioned in the Tanakh is because it is oral, not written. Since when has lack of evidence been an acceptable argument for accepting a statement?

                  In sum, all the explicit biblical evidence is against the existence of a binding Oral Law that was passed to Moses at Sinai; none of the explicit evidence is for it.

                  There are no explicit or implicit references to the Oral Torah within the Written Torah.

                  In the first section, I tried to make it absolutely clear that there is no explicit mention of the Oral Torah in the Hebrew Scriptures. In this section, I want to consider whether the evidence in Scripture for the existence of an oral tradition might take a more subtle form. I’ll consider some of the passages in Scripture that are often considered as hints of an Oral Torah and see how they hold up to scrutiny.

                  One of the texts that is said to lend support to the existence of an Oral Law is Exodus 34:7 (mentioned in the section above), in which Moses goes up Mt. Sinai for the second time and God says to him: “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Though most impartial translators would automatically assume the accuracy of “in accordance with,” the Talmudic rabbis prefer to read this as “on the mouth of.” Following the Talmud (b. Git. 60b), Rashi explains this to mean: “But you are not permitted to write down the Oral Torah.” Given that everything in the passage in question is emphasizing the written nature of the covenant and given that Moses was told to write everything down, it is difficult to see how such a contradictory interpretation could have gained so much prominence in the traditional Jewish view, but it has!

                  Exodus 24:12 is another passage held up as evidence of Moses receiving both a Written and an Oral Law on Sinai. Rashi interprets the “teachings and commandments” written on the tablets to mean that all of the 613 commandments [mizvot] are there, embraced within the Ten Commandments. His explanation, which indicates that God had communicated with his people in such a way that all they needed to know about living out the covenant was there in writing, is a viable interpretation. A similar interpretation is also found in Targum Pseudo Jonathan.

                  However, sixteenth-century biblical commentator Obadiah Sforno maintains that it was because of the idolatry of the Israelites that God did not write out the whole Torah with his own hand, as he had written the Ten Commandments, but had also presented Israel with an Oral Torah. This interpretation is highly speculative.

                  In b. Baruch 5a, the Talmud interprets Exodus 24:12, in which God states that he would give Moses the law on stone tablets, as referring to the Mishnah and the Talmud, the whole Pentateuch, the Prophets and the Writings (e.g., Schottenstein Talmud, 5a, n. 15). In other words, on Mt. Sinai, Moses received the entire Hebrew Bible and all of the Oral Law. Granted, these rabbis understood that they were not setting forth the plain meaning of Scripture, otherwise they would have declared their interpretation as final and authoritative; however, this interpretation moves beyond even the creative use of a text, to the abuse of a text.

                  This last interpretation is an inadequate interpretation of Exodus 24:12 for the following reasons:

                  The Talmud doesn’t explicitly say that it is offering anything other than the plain meaning of the text; throughout the centuries, however, it has been quoted as if it were explaining the literal meaning of the passage. This text from the Talmud has been abused by subsequent generations, who have taken it as authoritative. Maimonides opens his Mishneh Torah with an explicit reference to the Talmudic interpretation of this verse, declaring that God gave Moses both the Written and the Oral Torah on Mt. Sinai.

                  This interpretation cannot be taken seriously, since the Hebrew Scriptures didn’t reach their completion until about one thousand years after Moses, and the Talmud wasn’t finalized until two thousand years after Moses. This alleged revelation of the entire Bible on Mt. Sinai is just absurd.

                  Nowhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures does it state that God himself wrote the Prophets and the Writings. While it is appropriate to say that God inspired texts like the Psalms or Job or Ecclesiastes, it would be theologically problematic to say that God wrote prayers to himself, wrote arguments about himself, and wrote meditations on the meaning of life and death!

                  There are two options for those who want to hold on to the traditional interpretation of Exodus 24:12: 1) They could enter into the hopeless task of arguing that the Talmud does have the true interpretation of the text, which would force them to admit that the Scriptures have no intrinsic meaning but can be made to say whatever one wants them to mean; or, 2) They could acknowledge that even though the text is not actually referring to later tradition, nevertheless, a highly creative use of the text is still justified because the commentators knew that their traditions could indeed be traced to Moses. Either way, it proves my point that the text cannot be used to demonstrate the existence of an Oral Law given to Moses. In the first case, they would have to recognize the arbitrariness of Scripture, which can be twisted at the will of the rabbis. In the second case, they would have to employ a contradictory, self-defeating, circular argument since they justify this particular Talmudic interpretation of the text because they believe that this interpretation is true, not because the Scripture verse actually indicates their position is true.

                  The rabbis are aware that there are no explicit references to the Oral Torah in the Scriptures, but they maintain that the Written Law cannot be understood without the aid of the Oral Torah, and they affirm that there are clues in the Scriptures regarding the existence of an Oral Torah. In support of this point, one Orthodox Jew, Chaim Schimmel, commends this ambiguity regarding the Oral Law in the Torah for its ability to cultivate true faith in Jews, rather than fostering their reliance on science.

                  Deuteronomy 12:21 contains another one of these so-called “hints” of the Oral Law. According to the Talmudic interpretation, this passage, which has to do with the slaughter of animals, refers to certain instructions regarding the procedure which God was supposed to have given Israel; however, since these particular instructions cannot be found in the Written Law, it is argued that they must be part of the Oral Law given to Moses (Rashi, following Sifrei and b. Chullin 28a).

                  The passage in Deuteronomy is part of a larger discussion regarding centralized worship and sacrifice, but also includes instructions for slaughtering animals for normal consumption. It is actually very clear, when read as part of the whole chapter, that the “instructions” mentioned in verse 21 refer back to those instructions found earlier in the chapter (v. 15), not to some additional Oral Law. The fact that very particular phrases or words (bekol-awwat napsheka “as much as you desire” or “whenever you desire”; ‘-k-l basar “eating meat”; z-b-h “slaughter”) are used several times in the twelfth chapter of Deuteronomy demonstrates the very close connection between these instructions. The case is made even stronger when you consider the fact that the phrase “as I/he commanded” ka’asher+ts-w-h occurs seventy times in the Pentateuch, and in every single case, without exception, it refers back to something previously stated by God, Moses, or another authority, in the written Word.

                  This phenomenon also applies to the reference to the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. When Moses recounts the Lord’s words some forty years after receiving the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:1-17), he uses the phrase “as the Lord your God commanded you” in connection with two of the Ten Commandments (Sabbath, honoring parents), acknowledging that those particular instructions had already been given in the Written Torah. This phrase is not used in Exodus—since those commands were only just being received—but in Deuteronomy, Moses can refer back to the instructions that have already given. The same thing is happening when Deuteronomy 12:21 refers back to Deuteronomy 12:15.

                  Traditional Jews attempt to refute this line of reasoning by claiming that 12:21 can’t refer back to 12:15 because it doesn’t give a command, but rather grants permission. This is not true for several reasons. First of all, the topic of commands can be found in 12:11, 12:14, and 12:21. Secondly, although the Hebrew imperfect verbs in these places are sometimes translated into English as “may,” in Hebrew they are normally understood as imperatives, i.e. commandments. In other words, the distinction made between “permit” and “command” is somewhat artificial in the Hebrew.

                  Other traditional Jews assume that this passage must be referring to particular rituals regarding slaughter God verbally gave to Moses that do not appear in the Written Law. Verse 21 is concerned with non-ritual slaughter (the chosen verb here is z-b-h, rather than sh-ch-t, which is the verb for ritual slaughter in Rabbinic Judaism, but appears nowhere in Deuteronomy!). But even if the verb does refer to ritual slaughter, it can still point back to previous written instructions that should be followed even when slaughtering animals for consumption at home. No additional oral tradition is necessary to make sense out of the passage as it stands.

                  Where did the Israelites learn the detailed instructions of shechitah if they didn’t have an Oral Law? They didn’t! They had the Written Torah, which gave certain instructions regarding slaughter, particularly the command to “slit the throat,” which is the most fundamental meaning of the root sh-ch-t. As more details and traditions were developed throughout the centuries, their origins were gradually forgotten, and the rabbis began claiming that they could be traced back to Moses himself, with passages like Deuteronomy 12:21 supposedly providing hints to this Oral Law!

                  Another alleged hint can be found in Numbers 31:21, which refers to “requirements of the law” (huqqat hattorah) given by Moses to Eleazar the priest regarding soldiers returning from battle. The reason why this verse is considered to be a hint of the Oral Law is because it refers to detailed purification rituals which are not found in the Written Law, but Eleazar refers to them as “requirements of the law.” While on the surface, this appears to uphold the concept of the Oral Law, upon closer analysis, we see that it is not a strong argument.

                  Significantly, the phrase “requirements of the law” (huqqat hattorah) can only be found in one other place in the entire Bible—also in Numbers (19:2)—and it, too, is connected with Eleazar the priest. Again, it has to do with soldiers and with the ritual requirements for those who had come into contact with a dead body, including those killed on the battlefield. It is not too difficult to see that there is a genuine connection between the two texts and that the latter instruction points back to the earlier ritual of purification. If there had been additional information given in Numbers 31:21, and if these stipulations had been understood to be requirements of the law (which is unlikely), the only reason we would know that they were given by God to Moses is because it is referred to in writing. The more likely explanation is that the actual commandment was stated in Numbers 19:2, and that in Numbers 31, Eleazar was giving the people practical instructions on how to carry it out. In other words, what can be observed here is merely a demonstration that the practical application of the Written Law has to be worked out in every generation.

                  God did not just communicate with Moses on Mt. Sinai, but gave different laws at different times during their stay in the wilderness. Perhaps God continued to give new instructions through Moses when Eleazar was facing the questions regarding the purification of returning soldiers and their spoils of war; however, the only reason we know that Eleazar received these laws from Moses is because they were put in writing. It is the written Word that is the foundation for God’s covenant with Israel.

                  Don’t you find it curious that all the foundational documents of the Oral Torah—the Mishnah, the Talmuds, the Midrashim—were ultimately written down in books, and all the foundational documents of the Oral Torah that followed—most notably the Responsa literature and the Law Codes—were written down in book form from the very outset? They were written down, because if they had not, they could not have been accurately preserved. How could a body of laws that was given to Moses—but was never written down—have survived intact through all the turmoil and neglect of the centuries up to the time of the rabbis?

                  The final primary text used to give support to hints of the Oral Torah in the Written Torah is Deuteronomy 30:11-14. This passage is intended to stop us from looking for a further divine revelation on matters relating to Torah observance, since the Torah is no longer in heaven, but is now in our “mouths and hearts.” In the views of the rabbis, this means that the Torah is passed on orally. Is this what Moses meant here?

                  The text is actually quite straightforward: The people had already been given the Written Torah along with the tablets of the Ten Commandments; they had heard and understood what God required of them. There was no need to go searching for the will of God since it was in their hearts and on their lips. The very next chapter of Deuteronomy emphasizes that God’s commandments were to be passed on in written form and that the Written Torah was to be read and followed. There is no good reason for thinking that this passage hints at an Oral Law, which is supposed to accompany the Written Law.

                  Don’t you find it a bit odd that the only time Rabbinic Judaism can speak of a totally oral tradition is when there is no evidence to support it?

                  There are a couple of other things I want to discuss in relation to the Oral Law such as whether the term torot suggests two different forms of the Torah (Written and Oral), and whether the Written Torah can be understood without the help of an Oral Torah. I’ll cover those topics in sections 6.2 and 6.3. I close this discussion by reiterating my opening claim: There are no explicit or implicit references to the Oral Torah in the Written Torah.

                  Throughout biblical history, not only was there no evidence of an authoritative Oral Torah, but at times there was gross ignorance of the Written Torah.

                  If you’re familiar with traditional Judaism, you’ll know that the rabbinic portrait of biblical Jewish history is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the Rabbis acknowledge that the people of Israel were not without their sins and blemishes. On the other hand, the rabbis recast many of the biblical characters as Talmudic scholars and faithful adherents of the rabbinic traditions, which is a very different picture from what is actually presented in the Tanakh. I want to consider this discrepancy here since it poses a challenge not only to the rabbinic belief that the people were sufficiently capable of handing down intact through the generations an unwritten body of law, but also to the assertion that such a body of law existed in the first place.

                  A perusal of the Hebrew Scriptures offers a number of texts which describe, often in agonizing detail, the failure of our ancestors to keep the Written Torah. They struggled to remain faithful even while under the leadership of Moses and, as forewarned by God, things only got worse after Moses’s death. Although Moses passed on this warning to the people (see Deut. 31:16-18, 27-29), they paid little attention to it.

                  The rabbis do comment on the disobedience of Israel in the wilderness, recognizing their failure to keep certain commandments, including the celebration of Passover and the practice of circumcision; however, in reference to Joshua 5:2, Rashi creatively ascribes the failure of Israel to practice circumcision for forty years to a constant lack of wind from the north, and cites other traditions that speak in terms of a second circumcision which went beyond what Abraham had commanded. In other words, the Israelites had been faithful as far as Abraham’s command was concerned, but just hadn’t completed the second stage until after arriving in the Promised Land.

                  Not only do these interpretations contradict the biblical text itself, but in their attempts to soften the accusation of disobedience against the Israelites, the rabbis raise the issue of Abraham’s faithfulness and his relationship to the Oral Law. How can you hold that Abraham was lacking certain necessary details about circumcision, but still claim that he kept the Oral Law in its entirety, which is the standard interpretation of Genesis 26:5? In addition to this, despite the fact that the Torah accounts for around 42,000 deaths during the wilderness wanderings as a result of God’s judgment on Israel’s disobedience, there are Rabbinic traditions that portray that rebellious generation as devoted Torah scholars (and even to some degree, devoted Talmud scholars). How is this justified?

                  Of course there were always some people who were faithful (a righteous remnant), but during the time of the judges, the people “did as they saw fit,” and idolatry and other forms of disobedience were rampant in the land. In fact, Eli the priest allowed his sons to do things which the law forbade. God was continually sending judgments upon the people. As a result of the people’s disobedience, the Ark of the Covenant was taken away by the conquering Philistines. If this is how the Scriptures describe not only the people, but also the leadership, during the time of the judges, how can the rabbinic tradition portray some of them as devoted scholars, and Eli, who couldn’t even keep his own sons in line, as the head of the Sanhedrin (see Yalkut HaMechiri, Tehillim [Psalms] 75:4; b. Tem. 16a)?

                  As communicated to Samuel, God interprets Israel’s demand for a king as a personal rejection and as yet another example of the disobedience that had been ongoing since leaving Egypt (1 Sam. 8:7-8). In what is described as Israel’s “golden days,” during the reigns of David and Solomon, things were not much better: even those two kings were guilty of blatant disobedience, succumbing to adultery and idolatry. It was in the reign of Rehoboam, son of Solomon, that Israel broke away from Judah. For more than two hundred years the people of the northern kingdom, led by their kings, persisted in their idolatry. Torah observance was so far down on the agenda, and idolatry so popular, that most of God’s true prophets had found it necessary to go underground because of persecution. God himself said that in the land there were only seven thousand faithful to be found during the days of Elijah, who courageously contested eight-hundred-and-fifty false prophets of Baal. It took a destructive fire from heaven to convince the people that it was God, not Baal, who deserved their worship and obedience!

                  Judah, the southern kingdom, didn’t fare much better. Asa (for the most part), Hezekiah and Josiah stand out from the rest of the kings of Judah because of their faithfulness. Tragically, a purified, functioning Temple proved to be the exception to the rule. Manasseh had desecrated the Temple and introduced idol worship into the house of God. Furthermore, for great periods of time the Written Law was nowhere to be found, partly because (according to Radak) Manasseh had been so thorough in his attempt to destroy Torah scrolls. Rabbinic tradition does not even try to find excuses for the state of affairs before Josiah’s reforms. The footnote in the Stone edition to 2 Kings 22:8 follows Radak and explains:

                  Manasseh had systematically destroyed all the Torah Scrolls and alienated the nation so thoroughly from the Torah that the people were completely unfamiliar with its contents. Sixty-seven years had elapsed since the beginning of Manasseh’s reign, so that [the] discovery [of the Torah] was a surprising revelation to everyone.
                  During Josiah’s purification of the Temple, one of the Torah scrolls was discovered. Based on the reactions of Josiah and the people when they heard it read, it was clear that the Torah had been abandoned for a very long time. The neglect of Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Sabbath all needed to be addressed and reformed (see 2 Chron. 30, 36:21 and Neh. 8).

                  Unfortunately, after the death of Josiah, things fell apart again and corruption trickled down from the top. The people’s disobedience to God’s Law resulted in the destruction of both Israel and Judah and led the to the people’s exile. During the initial period after the return from exile, the people, including the priests, were guilty of intermarriage, usury, and working on the Sabbath (see Ezra 9, 13:15-22; Neh. 5:1-13, 13:23-30). A hundred years later, Malachi had to address the corruption of the Levites and priests (see also Ezek. 44:10).

                  The ninth chapter of Nehemiah presents a national confession of sin in which the history of the constant rebelliousness and deep sinfulness of the people of Israel is recounted:

                  Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the warnings you gave them. Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways (Neh. 9:34–35).
                  Ezra’s confession (9:6-7) completely confirms this picture. Both confessions simply repeat the same story that is told time and time again throughout the Tanakh. The punishments meted out by God, who is rich with compassion and incredibly long-suffering, also support the truthfulness of the confessions. Even the people acknowledged that God never gave them what they really deserved (Neh. 9:31, 33, 36-37; Ezra 9:13).

                  Unfortunately, this pattern continued. Within a decade after those heartfelt confessions and the written agreement, bound with a curse and an oath, to follow the Law of God (Neh. 10:29), the people were intermarrying again with the other nations, neglecting the Sabbath, and refusing to tithe (see Neh. 13:10-11, 15-18, 23-27). It appears that it was the national norm to neglect the Written Torah of the Lord.

                  As I come to the end of my rehearsal of Scripture’s long, sad story about our people’s constant rebellion against God and their refusal to keep his laws, I want to raise the question with which I started this section: How can you read the many accusatory biblical accounts of our nation’s history and still argue the possibility for a highly complex collection of laws, traditions and customs to have been successfully handed down orally by this same people through the generations? How could they have managed to preserve an Oral Torah, when it is clear that they couldn’t even manage to remember and honor the Written Torah during much of that time?

                  Perhaps it is easier to accept the possibility and preservation of an Oral Torah when the tradition paints a different picture of this same history, as often seems to happen. Consider the following description, which can be found on the Being Jewish website:

                  After Moses passed away the Children of Israel continued to study Torah. In the Land of Israel they built yeshivos, and Teachers taught Torah to thousands upon thousands of students constantly. Some yeshivos were smaller, of course. We find, for example, that the Prophet Elisha had at least one hundred students (2 Kings 4:38–44). Students generally searched until they found the best Teacher for them, since people aren’t all able to learn at the same level. (www.beingjewish.com/unchanged/true_mesorah.html)
                  I find it difficult to see how this can be squared with the survey of the Tanakh I’ve just recounted. It seems clear to me that the history of Israel and Judah was marked by apostasy more than fidelity and by ignorance of the Written Torah more than obedience to it. The terrible divine judgments suffered by Israel and Judah emphasize this verdict. Clearly then, the idea that an unbroken chain of oral tradition was preserved during the biblical period is completely untenable, especially since, according to rabbinic belief, this oral tradition was not secretly preserved by a few choice disciples from Moses until Ezra but was often the heritage of a larger portion of the populace.

                  Contrary to many rabbinic traditions, Moses did not receive every detail of the Oral Law on Mt. Sinai.

                  Even though there are passages in the Torah that clearly refer to the giving of laws both before and after the revelation on Mt. Sinai, and even though there are only four passages in which Moses clearly admits that he does not yet know what should be done in a particular situation, nevertheless, traditional Jews claim that Moses received the Oral Law in its entirety on Mount Sinai (or, at least, was given all basic principles that would ever be needed to interpret the Written Torah).

                  It is these four passages (Lev. 24:10-23; Num. 9:1-14; Num. 15:32-36; Num. 27:1-11) in which Moses expresses uncertainty that I want to consider in this section to determine how the Talmud deals with these situations.

                  It seems that in Leviticus 24:10-23, Moses is presented with a new situation—a young man with an Israelite mother and Egyptian father curses God’s Name during a fight with an Israelite—and wonders how it should be handled. So he waits for God to reveal his will. Eventually, Moses is told that any blasphemer, regardless of nationality, should be stoned to death. This is fairly straightforward, unless you have to explain why Moses didn’t already know what to do, even though he’d already received the entire Oral Law.

                  Numbers 15:32-36 presents a similar case to that of Leviticus 24 (in fact, it is so similar that Rashi explains them both together). This time, the new situation has to do with a man caught gathering wood on the Sabbath. The passage explains that Moses and Aaron put him in custody because “it was not clear what should be done to him.” At some point, God reveals to Moses that the man must be stoned to death outside the camp.

                  In his commentary on Leviticus 24 (in which he also comments on Num. 15), Rashi maintains that Moses knew full well that the penalty for blasphemy (and for desecrating the Sabbath) was death; what he didn’t know was by what means the sentence should be carried out. Rashi seems to be admitting that Moses didn’t know the Law in its entirety, which certainly contradicts other rabbinic statements that claim Moses received a complete revelation of Torah and Mishnah and Talmud and Haggadic lore on Sinai, even to the point of knowing everything that any student would ever learn in the future (see y. Meg. 28). Rashi’s explanation also challenges the idea that even if he did not receive the whole Oral Law, Moses was still given all the necessary principles for interpretation (see Exod. Rabbah 41:6).

                  Things get even more complicated when it comes to explanations for Numbers 9:1-14, which addresses the issue of whether those who had become unclean by touching a dead body could still fully celebrate Passover. Moses tells them to “wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.” This statement seems clear enough: Moses doesn’t know exactly what to do and needs further information. Rashi sidesteps Moses’ uncertainty, however, by emphasizing his humility. According to Rashi, Moses wanted those who had posed the question to have their piety honored by allowing the answer to be brought to the people through them (Sifrei Beha’alotecha 1:22). Rashi doesn’t quite address Moses’ lack of knowledge on this point, and he wholly disregards the text when he claims that the instruction was allowed to be spoken through those who had brought the question, even though Moses clearly delivers this Torah law himself.

                  Similarly, in Numbers 27:1-11 Moses is presented with the question of whether surviving daughters could inherit their father’s property if he had no sons. What does Moses do? He waits for an answer from the Lord who reveals new laws on the matter, and after Moses tells them to the people, they become part of the Written Law. Rashi, repeating older rabbinic traditions, has two explanations for this situation. One is similar to the case above: the merit of the daughters earns them the privilege of having the law “written through them” (B. Batra 119a; Sanh. 8a). The other indicates that “the law eluded [Moses]” as a punishment for assuming authority he should not have claimed (Mid. Tanchuma Pinchas 8).

                  Once the simple, clear interpretation of these four texts is rejected, explanations start to become forced and grow ever more complicated, which forces subsequent interpreters to account for their difficulties. Texts like the four above generate discussion on what exactly Moses received on Sinai. Some rabbinic traditions suggest that Moses simply couldn’t remember everything he did receive, while others cannot allow for Moses to forget anything. Some traditions maintain that many, perhaps even thousands of laws were forgotten after the death of Moses, which has led to the need for study and deduction (and helps explain the later disputes between the sages) to fill in the gaps of the missing details.

                  Rather than maintaining that all of these forced interpretations are correct, wouldn’t it just be simpler to acknowledge that Moses never received an Oral Law in addition to the Written Torah on Mount Sinai? Which explanation makes more sense to you?

                  The rabbinic writings at times completely violate or twist the plain meaning of the Scriptures, making clear that they cannot represent a valid tradition dating back to Moses.

                  Within the Tanakh there are examples of the interpretation and application of laws from the Torah. These applications always show that it is the plain, natural meaning of the law that is intended, not some convoluted or contrived meaning. God seems to speak in a clear, straightforward manner, which means that the people’s obedience or disobedience cannot be blamed on an inability to understand what is being put before them. In other words, when God and Moses speak, they mean exactly what they say.

                  Granted, additional layers of interpretation of a text are certainly possible, but they should not violate the plain sense, and they carry no authority. If an interpretation contradicts or violates a text, it should not be considered either Mosaic or divine. Unfortunately, this is precisely what rabbinic interpretations do much of the time. I’ve chosen a couple of representative examples of rabbinic interpretations of passages from the Tanakh that claim to carry legal authority, or which claim to have the correct, original meaning.

                  The first example comes from Deuteronomy 21:18-21, in which a stubborn, rebellious son is brought by his parents before the elders to see what shall be done. The fact that the commanded punishment of stoning is meant literally can be concluded from the fear response expected of the people of Israel when they hear about it. The death penalty is also commanded in a number of other situations (see Deut. 13:5, 17:7; 17:12, 19:19, 22:21-22, 24 and 24:7). All of these cases point to behaviors that would undermine society if they were not punishable by death.

                  How did the Talmudic rabbis deal with texts like this in which a rebellious son is given the death penalty? Their desperate attempts to avoid the harshness of the punishment result in some very convoluted, complicated interpretations. Some try to argue that such a situation in which parents would bring their son to be judged by the elders could never have arisen in the first place (i.e. R. Shimon, R. Yehuda), and, therefore, never will be encountered in “real life.” Some claim that the passage about the rebellious boy should not be taken literally because it was meant either to strengthen parental authority or children’s obedience, or to encourage parents to raise their children with the proper values. Some add so many additional stipulations that the law could never possibly be put into effect (see Mish. Sanh. 8:1-4; Sanh. 71a; Maimonides, Hilkhot Mamrim 7). Rabbi Yehuda even concludes that these kinds of passages are not really meant to be applied, but were only put in the Torah by God to test our conscience and ability to determine whether God really meant what was claimed in his name or not. Can you believe it! Not only is the Word of God rendered useless, it actually becomes a divine trick, put there to test our ingenuity so that we can, through study, determine that God never meant what he said!

                  Deuteronomy 25:11-12 is another case in which corporal punishment (in this case, cutting off a woman’s hand for seizing her husband’s assailant by the genitals) is rejected by the Talmudic sages. They maintain that the punishment is not to be taken literally, but should be replaced by a monetary fine (b. B.K. 28a). Sa’adiah Gaon believed this passage deserved a literal interpretation, but thought it had more to do with providing a means of escape for the man than with the woman’s punishment. Maimonides maintained that whoever insisted on the literal interpretation of the punishment (thereby going against rabbinic tradition) was a false prophet and should be put to death!

                  Malachi 2:16a states: “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord.” What do the rabbis do with this? They turn it on its head, so that instead of God speaking about his rejection of divorce, he’s depicted as saying to the husband, “If you hate her, divorce her!” or “For he who hates [his wife] should divorce [her], says HASHEM, God of Israel” (Stone edition)! This interpretation can be found in the Targum, in Rashi, Radak, and Metsudat David and Zion. Isn’t that incredible! That is the very opposite of the plain meaning of the text, and yet it is presented as the standard modern Orthodox translation, without offering any other possibilities for interpretation. Talk about reading one’s own ideas back into the Bible!

                  This is but one example of many rabbinic attempts to harmonize the biblical texts with their practice. Unbiased scholarship shows that the ideas of the Oral Torah, most all of which originated more than a thousand years after Moses, were read back into the Scriptures, often at the expense of the Word of God itself. Let me give you four more examples.

                  The first is not as crucial as the other three are, but it does show how a misinterpretation can influence subsequent understanding and end up twisting the very meaning of the text itself. The passage is Deuteronomy 31:16, in which God is telling Moses about the unfaithfulness of Israel which would take place after the death of Moses. The text seems fairly straightforward, however, R. Gamaliel, and then R. Yehosuah ben Chananiah take the phrase “will rise” as proof of the resurrection of the dead in the Torah, rather than it’s plain meaning, which refers to the level of rebellion the people will reach after Moses has gone. Seeing an allusion to resurrection in this text became an accepted, authoritative interpretation of the passage, and influenced how the verse itself would be understood, even though there is no mention of resurrection in the text. What is really amazing is that some Orthodox Jews maintain that precisely because an interpretation is so far-fetched (couldn’t possibly have come from reading the plain meaning of the text itself), there must be some authentic tradition behind it, rendering it worthy of respect! In other words, it’s the absurdity of the interpretation that gives it validity. With logic like that, what’s the point of dialogue? (And traditional Jews criticize Christians for being irrational!)

                  Psalm 119:126 can be read in two ways, each of which makes sense of the Hebrew: “It is time for you to act, O Lord; your law is being broken” (NIV); or, “It is a time to act for the Lord, for they have violated Your teaching” (NJV). The first interpretation emphasizes divine action, the second human action, but in both cases the action is a response to the fact that God’s law is being broken. How does tradition interpret this text? “It is a time to work for God, make void His Torah.” In other words, breaking or suspending certain laws is justified when God’s honor is at stake. How can this be argued with any kind of legitimacy?

                  Deuteronomy 25:5-10, which is about levirate marriage, is another case in point. While the text plainly states that a man’s brother is to marry his widow and name the first son after his dead brother, the Talmud concludes that the man does not need to carry on the name of the dead brother. Raba acknowledges that in this case the ordinary meaning of the text has been replaced by rabbinic interpretation. It is cases like this that make me wonder how the inspiration or authority of the Oral Law can be supported.

                  The final example I want to bring up is Exodus 23:2. The misinterpretation of this text has become almost a proverbial quote in rabbinic literature. It has been so turned on its head that rather than taking the text at face value as a warning against following the majority (i.e., when they are doing wrong or perverting the course of justice), the text is used to lend support to the idea that the majority of rabbis should be followed. There are many places which demonstrate the continuing effects of this misinterpretation which is used to justify majority rule, and none of those who use the quote admit that this is not what the verse actually says. In fact, some of them declare their interpretation to be fact, or even a divinely legislated principle (e.g., R. Reinman, R. Hirsch).

                  How can one possibly move from the explicit message, “Do not follow the majority,” to its complete opposite, “The majority must be followed,” especially when the misuse of the text is used to justify the powers of the rabbis to determine that they must be listened to when they interpret other texts, even when the rabbinic majority overrules the plain sense of the text, the message of a prophet, or sometimes even the voice of God himself?! As a result of this tactic, there is no way to question rabbinic interpretation, unless the majority of the rabbis change their minds. Is there any place left for appeal to the Scriptures, to the intervention of God, to logic or reason? Even though this text very clearly states, “Do not follow the majority,” tradition bases its authority on the very opposite: Majority rules!

                  These misinterpretations together constitute clear proof that the oral traditions are neither divinely inspired nor Mosaic. Are you ready to reject the principle of “majority rule”?

                  The Oral Law has large, critical gaps in its understanding of the written Word because most of its traditions came into existence centuries after the Scriptures were written.

                  I have already established that ancient Israel often struggled to keep the Written Torah and that there is a tradition of reading later Talmudic practices back onto the biblical characters and taking them literally (i.e., Adam knew about and was amazed by Rabbi Akiva [b.Sanh. 38a, cf. also b. A.Z. 5a]; after the flood, the descendants of Noah studied the rabbinic writings [b. Sanh. 24a)]). Many of the Torah laws do not seem to have been understood by the rabbis, most likely because of the significant gap in time between Sinai and the traditions. One of the traditional explanations for why there are disagreements and disputes among scholars is that many of the details of the laws had been forgotten. This forgetting is attributed to Moses himself (cf. Exod. Rabbah 41:6; b. Ned. 38a; y. Hor. 3:5), Joshua, or to the Sages of Israel (Rashi, b. Eruvin 21b). Some say that Moses’ death caused such a shock that other laws disappeared from the memory of the people. The Talmud itself explains that so many laws were forgotten that even through acute legal analysis, they could not be reconstructed, thus the majority had to be followed (Tem. 15b). As if this account from the Talmud didn’t cast enough doubt on the legitimacy of the Oral Law, the Talmud also says that Caleb’s brother Othniel was an advanced Talmud scholar who managed to restore the forgotten laws by means of pilpul (“dialectics”) (b. Tem. 16a)!

                  One of the laws apparently forgotten during the period of mourning for Moses was designated as a halakha lemoshe misinai (“a law given to Moses on Sinai”). Such a law was neither based on a scriptural text, nor could its authority be derived from a scriptural text. This should make you wonder how it could ever be recovered when it was lost, since it cannot be found or derived from Scripture, or deduced through logic, and cannot be revealed by a prophet (since the Torah is no longer in heaven, according to the traditional interpretation of Deut. 30:12).

                  It is because these details were forgotten, the Talmud explains, that there were so many legal disputes among the rabbis about the interpretation of particular laws. What I find very interesting is that the Talmudic rabbis can demonstrate a remarkable agreement on extra-biblical traditions—even on the details—and yet, when it comes to interpreting biblical laws, they can’t seem to reach the same kind of consensus. Why would there be so much disagreement on the Written Law—and on even quite important things such as karet (the punishment of being cut off from others) and which animals and birds should be treated as unclean—if Moses had actually received everything needed to understand it, and then handed that understanding down through the generations to the rabbis themselves? How can you agree on thirty-nine subdivisions of labor forbidden on the Sabbath, but be so unsure about so many specifics of the Written Torah? How does this reflect on the claim that the Oral Law can be traced back to Moses in an unbroken chain?

                  The idea of there being an unbroken chain going back to Moses is a myth. Far from receiving an authoritative interpretation of the Written Torah, the rabbis developed their own traditions, and, because they were so near to them in time and in mindset, the rabbis knew these traditions quite well. Granted, there are still some disputes over minutiae in the oral tradition, but there is a general agreement on basic Jewish lifestyle. The disagreements on the Oral Law are nothing like those that are attached to the Written Law, and I would argue that this indicates that the interpretations were never passed down from Moses through the generations in an unbroken fashion.

                  It is ironic that while there is a very strong memory for the sources that were developed by the Talmudic rabbis, they struggled to understand the biblical sources. Their traditions were developed by human beings; they didn’t spring from God himself. Furthermore, in most cases, those traditions didn’t arise until hundreds of years after the events of the Bible, long after the laws had been given. These traditions have no direct line going back to the Bible itself.

                  Those who agree with Rabbi Moses Lopes Cardozo that “the interpretation Moshe taught Yehoshua [Joshua] is precisely the same interpretation taught today” are deluding themselves.

                  The fact that the rabbinic traditions had to be put in writing, beginning as early as 200 CE, proves that there could not have been a previous, oral tradition passed down from Moses to the rabbis—meaning a period of roughly fifteen hundred years—without being written down.

                  There are several reasons why the Oral Law had to be committed to writing in the first centuries of this era: life had become more difficult for Jews, they were spreading out across the world, and interpretations and discussions of the Law were growing while scholarship was declining. Considering all that the people of Israel had experienced from the time of Moses to Ezra, it would seem as though the Oral Law (if it existed) would have needed to have been written down earlier than it was.

                  According to tradition, the reason the Oral Law could be preserved in the early days of its existence was because the Israelites were so close to the revelation on Sinai. According to this perspective, for the first fifteen hundred years the people were close enough to the Torah and had such a deep understanding of the Law that they were able to preserve intact and hand down all the details of the Oral Law from generation to generation without having to write them down.

                  I find this traditional explanation hard to swallow. First, as I’ve shown earlier in this section, rather than commending the people for their heightened spirituality, the Hebrew Scriptures tell a rather sad story of the nation’s disobedience through neglect of God’s laws. Second, so many of the laws that occupied the rabbis are nowhere to be found in the Tanakh. Third, it is only after the completion of the Bible that references to the legal disputes of the rabbis can be found. In fact, the Sadducees maintained that their contemporaries, the Pharisees, had generated many of the traditions the Pharisees claimed were ancient, and when this accusation is added to the mix, it becomes even more difficult to believe that the Oral Law they were advancing had actually originated with Moses.

                  It is interesting to note that, according to the Scriptures, all of the sins for which Israel was punished can be directly related to the written laws; there is no mention of the people suffering because they had violated the Oral Law. Some try to argue that this omission is due to the fact that the Oral Law was never transgressed, but, given their track record with the Written Law, it doesn’t seem possible that Israel would have acted any more faithfully when it came to the Oral Law. It makes much more sense simply to assume that there was no Oral Law at the time.

                  The fact that the rabbis, even those rivaling Rabbi Akiva’s stature, could not keep the Oral Law preserved in their memories, but had to commit it to writing within one to two hundred years after it had come into being (combined with the realization that those laws have continued to expand exponentially through the years), is a very good indication that if an Oral Law had existed over fifteen hundred years ago, it could not possibly have been preserved without being written down at some point.

                  There are good reasons why God based his covenant with Israel on a Written and not Oral Law—even when the laws were written down, the people struggled to remember them and keep them. That’s why the prophets were so necessary—they were sent by God to get our people back on track when they had strayed from God’s ways. Not only the people, but their traditions had got lost along the way. God sent Yeshua, the Messiah, into the world to teach us and to provide an example of how the written Word can be lived out through the Spirit. With Yeshua as our guide, there is no need for Talmuds and Law Codes, however profound or beautiful they may be.

                  Yes, there is much to be appreciated in the traditions preserved by the rabbis, but Moses did not receive an Oral Law in addition to the Written Law. Furthermore, the Written Law can be understood and lived out without the help of an Oral Law. It is the Word of God that brings life, not the words and traditions of human beings. We are only standing on firm ground when we hold on to God’s Word alone.”

                  For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 5, pp. 4-84 or see Objection #1 under the “Traditional Objections” section of the “Answers” tab at https://www.realmessiah.com/index.php/en/answers

                  Liked by 1 person

            2. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 29, 2019 — 5:16 pm

              There is an ongoing debate among Biblical scholars, including Jewish Biblical scholars, about when it is appropriate to describe the Israelites of Sacred Scripture and history as “Jews” and their religion as “Judaism.” The translation and definition of terms like Ioudaioi/Ioudaios and Ioudaismos is controversial. Then there is the related debate of when we can begin speaking of “Christianity” and “Judaism” as separate religious entities.

              Britannica’s entry on rabbinic Judaism reads as follows:

              “Rabbinic Judaism, the normative form of Judaism that developed after the fall of the Temple of Jerusalem (AD 70). Originating in the work of the Pharisaic rabbis, it was based on the legal and commentative literature in the Talmud, and it set up a mode of worship and a life discipline that were to be practiced by Jews worldwide down to modern times.”

              I think that’s a great starting point. Rabbinic Judaism developed after AD 70. Now, does that tell us if rabbinic Judaism is “true” Judaism or “false” Judaism? Personally, I’m not sure what those categories would even mean, especially in light of the debates that I mentioned. Yet I agree with Dale that rabbinic Judaism cannot tell us what OT era Israelites believed. Furthermore, although rabbinic Judaism does have historical antecedents in the second temple period, we would be wrong to assume that the Ben-Zakkaism that birthed rabbinic Judaism after 70 was normative pre-70.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. “There is an ongoing debate among Biblical scholars, including Jewish Biblical scholars, about when it is appropriate to describe the Israelites of Sacred Scripture and history as ‘Jews’ and their religion as ‘Judaism.'”

                Hi Arthur,
                For a long long time I thought Jews were just descendants from the tribe of Judah. But then I saw that St. Paul called himself both a Jew and a descendant from the tribe of Benjamin. So, I figured there might have been a little intermarriage between the tribes. Then, a distant Jewish relation told me that many Jews with the name “Levi” had been DNA tested and were from the tribe of Levi – the priestly tribe. I came to realize that the term “Jew” encompassed descendants of multiple tribes of Israel.

                Appreciating your comments,
                Brian

                Liked by 1 person

                1. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 29, 2019 — 7:00 pm

                  Of interest on that topic: “The Origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fgene.2017.00087/full

                  Do you happen to know if we can hyperlink text or if that is only an admin privilege? Dale or David?

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. “Of interest on that topic: “The Origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fgene.2017.00087/full

                    Do you happen to know if we can hyperlink text or if that is only an admin privilege? Dale or David?”

                    Hi Arthur,
                    Your link came through fine.

                    Thanks,
                    Brian

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 29, 2019 — 8:22 pm

                      “Hi Arthur,
                      Your link came through fine.”

                      Thanks, I was wondering if I could hyperlink regular text, as in making “The Origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish” a clickable link.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. Brian,

                      No idea how to hyperlink text, there is a way but I don’t know how.

                      Also, I noticed you asked me about the show where I gave my thought-experiments about killing a pregnant woman, etc. I don’t know where that comment is anymore, but here is the link to the show I did on Dogma Debates to discuss it with David Smalley = https://www.spreaker.com/user/smalleyandhyso/401-christian-apologist-vs-david-smalley

                      Liked by 2 people

      4. Dale: “6. Necessary is greater than Contingent;

        … Next up no its not greater to have the power to stop existing as Max Great Being- that is logically impossible like making a square circle. Remember we have to focus not just on one property but all their compossibility as well (how all the great making properties relate to each other coherence wise) and so even if one wanted to say its more powerful to be able to take yourself out, it would immoral to do so removing the standard of Goodness, etc if He were not to exist, etc.”

        Hi Dale,
        I must admit that I don’t see why having the power to stop existing is logically impossible for one who is supposed to have infinite power. Dale, where does St. Anselm or Professor Plantinga say we have to look at the compossibility of attributes? (It has been a long time since I attempted to read Professor Plantinga’s book on necessity and I must admit that I failed to understand it very well – so he may well have addressed compossibility.)

        Dale, many Christians hold to the view that anything God does or commands is moral. So, if God decides to cease to exist then it would be moral for God to cease to exist. Would you agree? With respect to removing the standard of goodness, what need is there for a standard if there is no existing God? If nothing exists, then why would it be immoral for a standard of goodness not to exist?

        I’ll try to get through some of your links and references to see if I can get a better understanding.

        Thanks for sharing your opinions and references,
        Brian

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Brian,

          Thanks for your follow up 🙂

          Well its logically impossible for a Max Great Being to not exist is all I’m saying so I’m not necessarily saying having the power to not exist or to end one’s existence in general is logically impossible- in fact as weird as it sounds part of my notion of Hell includes the possibility of there being voluntary annihilationism (voluntary in the sense that the person decides to be annihilated rather than God imposing that on the person externally against their will).

          As to Plantinga’s book on compossibility of the Omni attributes- he talks about it on p.143-144/173 in the attachment to his book Iprovide or here = https://www.difa3iat.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Alvin_Plantinga_The_Nature_of_NecessityBookZZ.org_.pdf

          I would agree with Christians that its logically impossible for God to do or command anything immoral and that the standard of necessary moral truths is grounded in God’s nature. God’s can’t arbitrarily change the moral as in one of the horns of Euthyphro Dilemma (If God commands rape its cool just because He said it). But yes God’s essential nature is the ontological foundation and therefore prior to His commands and actions. So it’s impossible for God to lie, He can’t just arbitrarily choose to lie one day and say OK that is good b/c I did it. I hate to recommend a show that Tara wants the whole world to see but I did a show on the Right to Reason Podcast whereby I was speaking about God’s command to kill and how that is moral. At one point, I was thrown a curve ball when he asked how I’d respond to Muslim if they said Allah told them to rape a little girl.

          I was thrown off by it a little and wasn’t prepared for the question but the way I tried to answer speaks to your question here = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB5SPnrXcI0 or see my follow up comment where I clarified what I meant to say;

          “Hello everyone,

          This is Dale from Skeptics and Seekers (the Christian guest on the show). Some skeptical listeners have voiced some confusion about my answer related to Mohammed marrying a child, I wasn’t prepared for the question and thus I don’t think my answer was the clearest on the show; so, I just wanted to clarify here. Also, here is a helpful source on what I mean by “logically possible world” in terms of modal logic, see here = https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/possible-worlds/ .

          1. In the real/actual world, I state categorically that the answer is “No”, it is immoral for Mohammed to marry a child and thus a morally perfect Allah could not give such a command.

          2. The reason for this is that it clearly violates various moral principles (such as the principle of autonomy, beneficence and non-maleficence), there are no feasible circumstances in this world that would allow for a moral justification of such an action in the same way there is for killing (not murder as the two are not the same thing contra Robert on the show).

          The difference is immediately obvious when one notices that both skeptic and Christian alike can think of at least some circumstances that could obtain in the actual world whereby killing a human being is morally justified (for example, in war or in self-defense); however try and do this with regard to raping a child- I can’t think of any set of feasible circumstances that would justify that, can you?

          3. Finally, given that Robert’s hypothetical scenario postulated that Allah was in fact morally perfect, I had to operate within the perimeters of the hypothetical scenario and thus say that there are some possible circumstances in a logically possible world, whereby it might be justified to do this.
          For example, I can conceive of a possible world where humans mature faster than they do in this world and reach sexual maturity faster (just like animals mature faster than humans). An actual example that did obtain in the actual world is Adam and Eve, they were created sexually mature and ready for action so to speak despite only being a few days old at the time, so in those circumstances, I don’t think it was wrong for Adam and Eve to be married and have sex without having to wait 18 years or whatever.
          My thanks again to Robert for having me on to discuss this important yet controversial topic 😊

          Kind regards,

          Dale”

          Liked by 2 people

          1. “I would agree with Christians that its logically impossible for God to do or command anything immoral and that the standard of necessary moral truths is grounded in God’s nature. God’s can’t arbitrarily change the moral as in one of the horns of Euthyphro Dilemma (If God commands rape its cool just because He said it). But yes God’s essential nature is the ontological foundation and therefore prior to His commands and actions. So it’s impossible for God to lie, He can’t just arbitrarily choose to lie one day and say OK that is good b/c I did it. I hate to recommend a show that Tara wants the whole world to see but I did a show on the Right to Reason Podcast whereby I was speaking about God’s command to kill and how that is moral.”

            Hi Dale,
            We read in Genesis 9:6 and other places that it is against God’s law for humans to shed the blood (kill) other humans. Yet, God told Abraham to kill his own son. So, if it is immoral to kill and then God commands Abraham to kill, then it seems, on the surface at least, as if God is commanding something immoral. And, isn’t deceiving someone a type of lie? Yet, we read the whole reason Jesus used parables was so people wouldn’t understand. (Matthew 13:11) Now, I know there are plenty of Bible verses saying God doesn’t lie – so, again, on the surface there seems to be some conflicts.

            I understand and respect your views here that it is logically impossible for God to do and command anything immoral – just saying that some might not hold that same view after reading some parts of the Bible.

            Thanks,
            Brian

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Brian,

              That’s the point, you are in error that it is immoral to kill- no one ever said that, the 10 commandments give humans a general duty not to murder, but that is it, there is nothing immoral about killing even if it is not morally ideal. In certain circumstances it is the moral thing to do is to take someone’s earthly life.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Brian: “We read in Genesis 9:6 and other places that it is against God’s law for humans to shed the blood (kill) other humans. Yet, God told Abraham to kill his own son. So, if it is immoral to kill and then God commands Abraham to kill, then it seems, on the surface at least, as if God is commanding something immoral. …”

                Dale: “That’s the point, you are in error that it is immoral to kill- no one ever said that, the 10 commandments give humans a general duty not to murder, but that is it, there is nothing immoral about killing even if it is not morally ideal. In certain circumstances it is the moral thing to do is to take someone’s earthly life.”

                Hi Dale,
                Thanks for the feedback and for your opinion that I’m in error that there are places in the Bible saying it is against God’s law to shed the blood (kill) humans.

                “I [God] will demand an account of every man’s life from his fellow men.
                ‘He who sheds man’s blood,
                Shall have his blood shed by man,
                For in the image of God
                Man was made.’” (Genesis 9:6)

                Seems to me to be saying not to shed the blood (kill) of humans.

                “All the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill [phoneuō – kill/slay/murder], you shall not steal, you shall not covet’, and so on, are summed up in this single command: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself’. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbor; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.” (Romans 13:9-10).

                Seems to me to be saying that killing a person/neighbor is not an act of love towards that person.

                Of course, there are places in the Bible where it tells people to kill others – and not just Abraham and his son. So, a bit of a conflict – at least on the surface. Dale, you say “there is nothing immoral about killing” – perhaps it depends on what one sees as immoral/wrong/evil/sin. I tend to think it is when we hurt/harm/damage someone. I tend to think when, what we do is not an act of love towards that person, but an act of harm, then we are acting immorally.

                I also know that we do sometimes hurt people intending something good will come out of it. But the person is still hurt, and wouldn’t it be better if we got the good without the hurt?

                Dale, would you give a couple of examples of circumstances when “it is the moral thing to do is to take someone’s earthly life”? Would you consider it an act of love?

                Thanks are respecting that we have different opinions on killing people,
                Brian

                Like

          2. “The difference is immediately obvious when one notices that both skeptic and Christian alike can think of at least some circumstances that could obtain in the actual world whereby killing a human being is morally justified (for example, in war or in self-defense); however try and do this with regard to raping a child- I can’t think of any set of feasible circumstances that would justify that, can you?”

            Hi Dale,
            Aren’t the killing cases of doing evil so that a good can come of it? One kills in war or self-defense in order to protect the innocent. The killing is bad – the protecting the innocent is good. It would be better if one could protect the innocent without killing (doing evil). A question to ask is “does the ends justify the means?”

            Dale is it ever justified to kill (or rape) and innocent if it means saving other innocents? I guess it is kind-of like the trolley problem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

            Just reflecting on whether one should do evil if it prevents a greater evil,
            Brian

            Like

            1. Brian,

              No killing is not necessarily doing an evil so that a good can come about. Lying would be. The difference is that in order for something to be immoral one has to violate a moral principle and if the principle (such as the principle of life) allows for what ethicists call a morally justified “exemption” and/or “exception” then no violation has taken place. So yes, killing is allowed/good in some circumstances even if its not morally ideal that such circumstances should ever come about. In the case of lying, the Bible provides me with knowledge that this principle has no morally justified exemptions or exceptions- it’s the only principle that seems to be absolute as per why God can’t lie.

              As to killing innocents, I explained in the show that there are circumstances where killing the innocent is the moral thing to do such as my example of the pregnant woman with the bomb in an office building filled with innocent works and one having to shoot that person to stop her thereby killing both her and the innocent baby- so yes I don’t think that the innocent vs. guilty distinction makes a hard line between someone being killable vs. not in certain circumstances.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. “As to killing innocents, I explained in the show that there are circumstances where killing the innocent is the moral thing to do such as my example of the pregnant woman with the bomb in an office building filled with innocent works and one having to shoot that person to stop her thereby killing both her and the innocent baby- so yes I don’t think that the innocent vs. guilty distinction makes a hard line between someone being killable vs. not in certain circumstances.”

                Hi Dale,
                I must have missed your bomb example. Would you share where I can find it?

                Thanks,
                Brian

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Hi, everyone,

                Dale mentioned that the Bible provides no morally justified exceptions or exemptions for lying. I can think of example after example of situations where lying would be the morally correct thing to do. How about this classic example: In Nazi Germany, a German named Fritz is hiding Jews in his home. The Gestapo knock on Fritz’ door, he opens it, and they demand to know if there are any Jews in his home. Barring any other twist in the fact pattern, the only moral thing for Fritz to do is to lie to the Gestapo.

                I’m totally guessing here, but I feel certain that I’ve got to be right on this –I think that the type of lying that is prohibited by God/the Bible is lying where a person is trying to enrich himself or where the lying is self-serving (for something other than self-defense.)

                I think that the word “lying” (in terms of what’s prohibited in the Bible) is probably more specific than what we might be thinking –I think it might be more of a term of art.

                I’ve always thought that truth can be overrated. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that self-serving lies are morally correct –they aren’t in my book. I’m talking about in situations where “white lies” –which are still, technically, lies — are better than the truth. Why? Because, I place a higher value on kindness than truth. I’ve seen people wield the truth like a vicious sword to hurt people. We have to use good judgment to ascertain, for example, when a person needs to hear the “white lie” for their own benefit, and when a person needs to hear the hurtful truth for their own benefit.

                Speaking of overrated values, loyalty can be overrated, too. Again, generally speaking, loyalty is good, but loyalty to people who are perpetrating injustices on others can be a very dangerous and, in the right circumstances, evil thing. Of course, these matters have to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

                Moral absolutes are always going to do injustice to certain situations. Let’s even look at the horrific crime of rape. I think it was Brian that said in an earlier comment that he couldn’t imagine a situation where it would be morally justified. I can. What if a sadistic armed robber breaks into a family’s home. The armed robber tells the father that he has to have sex with his son or daughter or else he’s going to kill the kids –or, even the whole family. In this situation, the rape would be justified, because it would be to preserve life. Although the whole family would have severe trauma and lifelong psychological scars from the whole situation, many people rise from these ashes all the time and still manage to get enjoyment out of life and do good things in life. Again, I’m not saying that these victims won’t still have psychological scars, but I view life as the most valuable gift that God gives us. I don’t think that God would view what the father had to do in this fact pattern as a sin at all. Do y’all?

                I must say, in these fact scenarios I’ve presented, if the Bible said they would be a sin (which I really don’t think the Bible would, because the intent behind these controversial actions is, truly, to do good and to protect.) But, if someone proves me wrong, then I’d have to sin and beg forgiveness afterwards. God knows what is in our hearts and minds. I would trust God to exercise His judgment against me fairly.

                One last thought, in these controversial scenarios, if one applies the golden rule/love thy neighbor test, most people would rather be raped and live than not be raped and die. What if you add to the scenario that the kids or family wouldn’t just be killed, but they would be tortured and then killed. See what I mean –for there to be justice, there have to be exceptions to rules, or else the rules can perpetrate injustice in certain situations.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I’ll try to get around to some of your other comments this weekend. But I’m going to take a stab at this bit right now:

                  I must say, in these fact scenarios I’ve presented, if the Bible said they would be a sin (which I really don’t think the Bible would, because the intent behind these controversial actions is, truly, to do good and to protect.) But, if someone proves me wrong, then I’d have to sin and beg forgiveness afterwards. God knows what is in our hearts and minds. I would trust God to exercise His judgment against me fairly.

                  This is where you and Dale have your deepest disagreement. He would say that the true follower of god is one who would follow no matter where it leads, even if it leads to you killing your kid at god’s command. It may seem wrong to you. But you have to trust that god is morally perfect and you are not. The whole Abraham test is about whether one would defy god or not if god told them to do something that seemed awful. If you are just going to follow your own path and ask for forgiveness, then you are not really following god.

                  Theologically, I believe Dale is right. socially and humanly, I think you are right. But once you start down the path you have outlined, you are closer to my idea of humanism than Dale’s idea of a follower of god.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. “He would say that the true follower of god is one who would follow no matter where it leads, even if it leads to you killing your kid at god’s command. It may seem wrong to you. But you have to trust that god is morally perfect and you are not. The whole Abraham test is about whether one would defy god or not if god told them to do something that seemed awful. If you are just going to follow your own path and ask for forgiveness, then you are not really following god.”

                    Hi David,
                    One challenge is to figure out whether what is in the Bible are the commands of God – or just fallible people’s understandings of what God is commanding and wants. A number of years ago I picked up a book called: “A Catholic Guide to the Bible” by Father Oscar Lukefahr, C.M. that was helpful to me in coming to a better understanding as to how some denominations might view passages that, seemed to me, to be very immoral. I know not all denominations hold to this author’s views – and there is still the challenge as to knowing how to understand some passages. The author wrote:

                    ” A fifth principle is that Old Testament passages should be interpreted in light of Jesus Christ and of the New Testament (C 129). Some excerpts from the Old Testament make us wonder: ‘Can this really be part of the spiritual message God sends to guide us?’ The Psalmist’s cry for revenge, ‘O daughter Babylon, you devastator, / happy shall the be who pay you back…/ who take your little ones / and dash them against the rock!’ (Ps. 137:8-9), is such a passage. It is certainly not part of the message of Jesus! We can presume, therefore, that it is a reflection of the imperfect theology of the Old Testament, not an indication of God’s will for us.
                    As a general rule, it is safe to say that if an Old Testament passage attributes something to God which we cannot attribute to Jesus Christ, then that passage should be interpreted in light of Christ’s life and teaching. For example, it is not likely that God actually commanded Old Testament military leaders to slaughter every man, woman, and innocent child in the cities they overran. It is far more likely that these leaders mistakenly believed God to be behind their directives and that their erroneous attitudes are reported as they perceived them.” (page 28)

                    ” The theology of the Book of Deuteronomy is limited. Its authors were people of their own times, and they did not have the fullness of Revelation granted through Jesus Christ. They, along with many other Old Testament authors, did not make distinctions between God’s causing something and allowing something. Since God is all-powerful, they believed that God had to be the cause of everything, including suffering. And if God caused something bad to happen, God must have had a good reason. Usually, that reason was punishment for sin. So if people suffered, it was because they sinned.

                    ….The main problem with the Deuteronomist theology, then, is that it leads people to believe that personal suffering is always the result of personal sin. This mistaken notion was questioned in some Old Testament books like Job, and it was refuted once and for all by the teachings and life of Jesus Christ, the innocent victim of the sins of others.” (pages 52-53)

                    ” Another weakness in the Deuteronomist theology may be found in its approach to God as the cause of all things. Deuteronomist authors did not understand the difference between God’s causing something and God’s allowing something. As a result, they sometimes saw God as causing a sinful decision and punishing that same decision. An example of this is 2 Samuel 24, where God is said to have prompted David to carry out a census of the Israelites and then to have punished David and the Israelites for the same census! This passage illustrates the fact that God’s inspiration of biblical authors does not remove their limitations. We see in 2 Samuel 24 the faulty theology of its author, and we are spurred on to find a better understanding of divine causality in the light of the entire Bible, especially the light flowing from the teaching of Jesus.” (pages 57-58)

                    ” We are not doubting the inspiration of Scripture when we question whether God actually commissioned the holy wars and the systematic slaughter of innocent people. We are saying that the Bible is accurately recording the perceptions of Israelites of long ago, but that these perceptions were wrong. The inspired message, the one intended by the inspired authors, is not that God orders the destruction of pagans, but that the readers of the Bible should not be ensnared in paganism.” (page 59)

                    I think of some of these things when thinking of the story of Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice.

                    Just sharing some thoughts for whatever they are worth,
                    Brian

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Hey Brian, you wrote: One challenge is to figure out whether what is in the Bible are the commands of God – or just fallible people’s understandings of what God is commanding and wants

                      Assuming God exists and can communicate with us now, why would he not step in to clarify/confirm his actual desires and commands? And if it’s because there’s value in wrestling with the text, why would it be considered moral to punish people who come up with the wrong conclusion?

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. “Assuming God exists and can communicate with us now, why would he not step in to clarify/confirm his actual desires and commands? And if it’s because there’s value in wrestling with the text, why would it be considered moral to punish people who come up with the wrong conclusion?”

                      Hi Bryan,
                      I don’t know!!!
                      What I do know is that as a spouse, a parent, a sibling, and a child, I have the power – almost superpower – to misunderstand what I’ve been told by family and friends. Sometimes to their great frustration.

                      In ignorance of why, if there is a God, God doesn’t do what I would expect,
                      Brian

                      Liked by 2 people

                    3. Indeed, Brian. I also assume those family and friends don’t punish you with fire torture, annihilation or eternal shunning, they make efforts to bridge the misunderstanding. Curious that mere mortals have this power to fix communication problems on the fly whereas the purported god hasn’t gotten past parchment scrolls and millennia long games of telephone.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. “I also assume those family and friends don’t punish you with fire torture, annihilation or eternal shunning, they make efforts to bridge the misunderstanding.”

                      Hi Bryan,
                      Clearly you haven’t met my family!!! {Just kidding!}

                      Brian

                      Liked by 3 people

                    5. Agreed Brian, I entirely agree that one has to have knowledge that a morally perfect God is indeed commanding the action in question and in the case of the Bible there is always a possibility of human contamination or human misinterpretation. One must do their best to adjudicate on these issues on a balance of probabilities before acting and personally I’ve said I would never kill simply because a religious text says to do so- I don’t have sufficient knowledge that the written commands come from God to warrant over-riding my moral conscience that killing someone in such circumstances would be wrong. Of course, if I did have sufficient warrant to think the command came from a morally perfect God, then one ought to follow the command.

                      I’ve carefully considered the Abraham example and I think I’m very probably correct in my reading of the story, is it possible I’m in error or that the Bible itself is in error on this point due to human contamination in the Word of God- sure its possible, but we have to base our lives on what’s probable.

                      Liked by 2 people

                  2. Hi, David,

                    You mentioned that Dale uses the term (and, perhaps, has certain criteria for a “true follower of God.”

                    I think that “true followers” of God can have all sorts of imperfections. After all, one could argue that if we were “true followers of God” we would do everything perfectly. But, we are sinners and incapable of perfection.

                    So, I think one can truly believe in and want to obey and please God, but be sinful in, sometimes, prioritizing one’s own preferences to God’s. Isn’t that what we do every single time we sin?
                    At least, if someone flunks the Abraham test” it was, probably, because they were trying to follow the “do not murder” and “love thy neighbor” rules; maybe someone in Abraham’s position wasn’t sure if he was really getting a message from God, or if Satan was posing as God or if the command to kill his son was the result of a hallucination/mental illness. God might consider these mitigating factors under the circumstances.

                    Hesitation or non-acquiescence to commit something as dramatic as a cold-blooded killing —that is so contrary to how God usually operates— doesn’t, necessarily, mean you aren’t still a follower/believer in God. It could just mean that you choose to sin by not obeying this particular command because of, perhaps, unresolved uncertainties about it —so, you make the safe choice of opting out. Or, maybe you just disagree with it and don’t do it. Again, it’s not as if anyone adheres to (or is even capable of adhering to) God’s will 100% of the time.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. You are failing to appreciate the challenge of the Abraham test. In it, I stipulate that there is no doubt that the order comes from god. That is not in question at all. Whatever it takes for you to be sure of such a thing, that has already happened. It is only a question of if you will obey god when it violates your own understanding of morality. If you would not follow god at that time, you are probably not really a follower of god. You only pretend to follow god when it suits you to do so. But at the end of the day, you are the final arbiter of right and wrong and not god. At that point, you just as well stop pretending. I did. 🙂

                      Liked by 3 people

                    2. David and Teddi,

                      Just to be fair to Teddi, I think you (David) need to clarify your test scenario for her- what you mean when you say it violates our moral conscience? The reason I ask is because if the knowledge that killing someone violates our God given moral conscience applies in the 100% degree and at the same time we supposedly have 100% knowledge that a morally perfect God is ordering us to kill, than that would actually be a violation of the logical law of non-contradiction which is impossible to occur.

                      So, if you qualify and say that our God-given moral conscience tells us its 95% or 99% certain that it is immoral to kill, yet we have 100% knowledge that a morally perfect God is ordering us to kill- in that case I think the answer is a clear yes we kill.

                      That said, I totally understand why Teddi finds it difficult, its the same reason Marvin, Gary Habermas and countless others find my giving such a blunt yes answer to the question so jarring- I would claim as a Christian to have positive warrant that a morally perfect Christian God would very very probably not order me to kill someone today, that time is past as we are in the Messianic era now and so without some sufficient/very very very strong warrant to overcome my knowledge that God would not give such an order than I would never do it.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Hi, David,

                      I had not read where you had set up the “Abraham test” with the stipulation that there was no question that the command was from God. (I think I had just read some of the other comments in reference to it.)

                      So, with your stipulation in mind, here are my thoughts.

                      First, I would argue that it’s not, necessarily, that one is trying to substitute one’s own ideas about MORALITY for God’s.

                      With the Abraham test, for some people, it might be more about not wanting to kill their child that they deeply love.

                      A great many people will do something that they know is wrong under God’s laws in order to save/protect someone that they love deeply. This doesn’t mean that they are trying to substitute their moral code for God’s. It might only mean that, as imperfect people, we will (to one extent or another) do what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do.

                      No typical human that I am aware of is remotely capable of perfect obedience to God. God’s acute awareness of this is why he put Himself on this earth as Jesus to redeem us from our sin.

                      Also, flunking the “Abraham test” doesn’t have to mean that a person loves their child more than God. It could just mean that a person might choose to disobey God in this instance (and accept whatever punishment might result from it), because one can’t bring oneself to harm someone they love so much. God knows the difference between a mutinous heart and a heart that is disobeying Him without a desire to de-throne Him.

                      The same exact person might be willing to go against his own morals if the test is to kill someone else other than someone extremely dear to him.

                      So, I think that we can acknowledge God’s authority over us yet still sin by not doing what we know we should. This is regular, run-of-the-mill sin. The “Abraham test” is just on a much grander scale, because God is commanding someone, DIRECTLY, to do something —as opposed to telling EVERYBODY, indirectly, what to do (like with the Ten Commandments and the other rules in the Bible.)

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. I think we are losing sight of the real issue. This started back when you said the following:

                      I must say, in these fact scenarios I’ve presented, if the Bible said they would be a sin (which I really don’t think the Bible would, because the intent behind these controversial actions is, truly, to do good and to protect.) But, if someone proves me wrong, then I’d have to sin and beg forgiveness afterwards.

                      You were saying that you would lie to save lives even if someone convinced you that that such would be a sin. You would do it anyway and beg forgiveness. You then brought up the Abraham test, not me. But you equivocated that you wouldn’t have a way of being certain the command was from god. But the Abraham test assumes absolute knowledge that the command was from god. No equivocation is allowed. It is only a test of if you would obey god when it violated your conscience. I pointed out that if your conscience is the highest moral authority for you, then you are not really a follower of god except in the stuff you are okay with.

                      Dale added color on the Abraham test, but then proceed to equivocate as well by saying that he is almost certain that god would never make such an order today. So he would have reason to doubt the order came from god. Again, that is not the true spirit of the Abraham test. The only part of the test that matters is that you have certain knowledge that god ordered you to do something that violates your conscience. You would either obey god or you would not.

                      I get why it is so difficult for the two of you to just give a straight answer. And I had credited Dale in the past for at least not trying to dodge the question. But now he has the hedge that has him all but eliminated the possibility that god would order something like that. It is not the true spirit of the test as I believe you both know. Surely, all of the skeptical readers know it. We are all capable os saying that we would deny god to his face were he to command us to violate our conscience. Either you would or you wouldn’t. It sounds like you would violate god’s command, Teddi. And I think Dale would not violate the command. I believe this is another major difference between the two of you that Dale would rather not highlight. My apologies if that is not the case.

                      I ask you both to please clarify your positions for the rest of us following along. Should the Christian violate their conscience and obey a command from god that seems immoral? Or should they disobey what they know is god’s command to do what is right in their own eyes. The question is not that complicated.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    5. David,

                      I find your characterization of me equivocating very strange indeed given how I did not question the condition that we had 100% knowledge that a morally perfect God is commanding me to kill at all, what I was clarifying was the aspect that says we have knowledge that such a command “violates our moral conscience”. If both are held in the 100% degree that is a logically impossible contradiction as I can’t know that A is true and A is false at the same time.

                      Now, that said I don’t have 100% knowledge that God’s commanding me to kill is a violation of my moral conscience though I have positive warrant for saying it very probably is, approx 95% knowledge/warrant I’d say. Thus, only knowledge that a morally perfect God is commanding me to kill in the degree of 95.01%-100% would over-ride my knowledge against such a command coming from God and make me obey God and kill. Now, I’ve stipulated that I personally would only kill if I had 100% knowledge that a morally perfect God told me to kill, this is technically illogical on my part as I only require 95.01%+ but I think the emotional doubts of “what if I’m wrong” is why I make the irrational demand for 100%.

                      It is this emotional doubt that I think Teddi is trying to get at, logically I should kill if I have 95.01% knowledge perfect God told me to kill but the “what if I’m wrong” factor makes me choose to error on the side of caution even if it means sinning. Now, Teddi does seem to differ from me in implying that even if she had 100% knowledge that a morally perfect God told her to kill, she wouldn’t (but she hasn’t explicitly said this yet so I don’t want to mischaracterize her), she would choose sin because its so hard to do.

                      In the case of the latter, I just fundamentally yet understandingly and respectfully disagree with this position- its equivalent to saying that Abraham should have sinned and not obeyed God, no his example is an example for all of us. We ought to all show faith in God like Abraham did and be willing to sacrifice or kill our own kids for God.

                      Of course, I fully agree with Teddi that doing this is hard, its why even in the Abraham account, God doesn’t actually command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but in the Hebrew says “Please I beg you do this” and then reminds Abraham of his covenant promise to give Abraham descendants through Isaac (which some scholars say put in Ab’s mind the idea that Isaac would be resurrected afterward) = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP0E87LEkRM

                      Finally, I also fully agree with Teddi, that if the above holds and she does choose to sin to save her kid and she later repents of her sin and goes back to be willing to obey God then she can be forgiven. God is willing to forgive everyone, even Hitler and so someone failing the Abraham Test out of love for another person is likewise a forgivable sin provided that one later on repents and turns back to be willing to obey God should such a command come up in the future.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    6. Let’s just focus on the idea that it is okay to reject god’s command and ask for forgiveness later. I suppose this is possible. But it seems to violate the spirit of what it means to be a follower of god. Suppose this is not a one-off. Rather, a person habitually chooses to tell little white lies because they believe it is better than harsh truths. But they are convinced that god disagrees. They just repent every time and keep on going. It it real repentance when a person uses it as a get out of jail free card?

                      Are they a true follower of god when they consciously decide not to follow god in certain areas? How is that different from a gay person continuing in her gay lifestyle while professing that she is a follower of god and knows that god is against it? Can she just repent every day and keep practicing homosexual behavior because it works with her moral compass? If not, what’s the difference between that and what Teddi is proposing?

                      Teddi, feel free to jump in.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    7. David,

                      Yeah I agree in no way is it OK or moral to reject God’s command, it is a sin, period. But just saying that God could forgive us for our sins afterward if we repent of it, etc. or technically if one is a true Christian- God has already forgiven us for all our sins past, present and future- we have already been forensically justified. But I mean repent after in a practical sense.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    8. “Finally, I also fully agree with Teddi, that if the above holds and she does choose to sin to save her kid and she later repents of her sin and goes back to be willing to obey God then she can be forgiven.”

                      Hi Dale,
                      So… by repent do you mean that Teddi would regret saving her child and wishes she had killed her child – and, if she had the option, that she now is willing to obey God and kill/murder her child? If not, what do exactly do you mean by repenting and being willing to obey God?

                      Dale, do you think Teddi not killing her child would have been a sin (an act of evil)? How is hurting and killing someone an act of love towards that person? Isn’t killing someone damaging that person? And isn’t damaging someone St. Augustine’s definition of an act of evil?

                      Thanks – and struggling to understand,
                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    9. Brian,

                      Why did this topi have to get brought up again, finally rid of Tara and yet still this topic comes up lol. Yes, I think it would be a sin to disobey God in that case and so you would repent from saving the child (an act of evil). Killing someone is an act of love in some cases, I love my child so much I would shoot and kill someone to protect them or shoot and kill Nazi’s in WW2- a very loving thing to do overall.

                      Sometimes the ends justify the means, this isn’t always the case, I’m not a Utilitarian but still sometimes in a Fallen world circumstances dictate that the right thing to do is to kill (murder is always a sin, there are no justifications for that). As to St. Augustine’s definition of evil, my understanding is that there is no such thing as evil only a lack of good (light vs. darkness argument) so technically there is no evil only a lack of goodness to varying degrees. Anyways, I have my own understanding of ethics and morality, so why do I care what Augustine thought- he wasn’t an inspired author.

                      As to the struggling to understand bit, did you listen to my show on David Smalley’s Podcast- I explain it all there = https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/401-christian-apologist-vs-david-smalley/id493845276?i=1000431669693

                      Liked by 1 person

                    10. “Why did this topi have to get brought up again, finally rid of Tara and yet still this topic comes up lol. Yes, I think it would be a sin to disobey God in that case and so you would repent from saving the child (an act of evil). Killing someone is an act of love in some cases, I love my child so much I would shoot and kill someone to protect them or shoot and kill Nazi’s in WW2- a very loving thing to do overall. …”

                      Hi Dale,
                      My apologies if I brought up a topic that I shouldn’t have. I had thought I was merely responding to your post and Teddi’s posts.

                      Myself, I don’t see how saving a child is an act of evil. Saving a child doesn’t hurt or damage the child and so seems to be a good/healthy thing. You say killing someone to protect your child could be an act of love – but we are talking about how killing the child would be an act of love. So, in your example, how would killing the Nazi be an act of love toward the Nazi? I can understand why protecting a child from harm would be an act of love towards the child (but not how killing the child would be).

                      Dale, you say “murder is always a sin, there are no justifications for that” reason – but isn’t that what killing a child is? To me this seems to be a contradiction – murder is a sin yet it is a sin if one doesn’t murder when God orders it.

                      You say: “As to St. Augustine’s definition of evil, my understanding is that there is no such thing as evil only a lack of good (light vs. darkness argument) so technically there is no evil only a lack of goodness to varying degrees.” Exactly!!! Taking a life is taking away the goodness of that life – it is taking away the health lf a person – damaging or hurting a person is taking away that which is good. Killing doesn’t add to the goodness of that person – it creates a lack of goodness.

                      “Anyways, I have my own understanding of ethics and morality, so why do I care what Augustine thought- he wasn’t an inspired author.”

                      Dale, St. Augustine is considered by many Christians to have some great insights. If you don’t care what he, or any Christian author, thought that is fine by me and your perfect right. As to whether he was inspired or not – I don’t know – I do know that many Christian claim they have been inspired by St. Augustine. It seems to me that many people are inspired by a great many things, events or people. In reading his “Confessions” I got the impression that St. Augustine was inspired by the scriptures and through prayer and how God had interacted in his life – but, if you don’t believe he was inspired that is no problem on my end.

                      Thanks for the link to the podcast.

                      And, please, if this is a topic you don’t want to respond to, that is fine by me – again, my apologies if I contributed to something I shouldn’t have.

                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    11. Brian,

                      No not at all, I was just playfully complaining as many of regulars from Season 1 will know about, we had a poster named Tara who would not talk about anything other than my answer to the Abraham Test, she even went out of her way to email my friends, family and my university to try and get me kicked out of school. Further she threatened to try and get some guests who agreed with me fired from their jobs- so there is a whole history on this issue here. But yeah its new for you and Teddi, so no worries in bringing it up at all- I was more just joking around with you 🙂

                      Again emotion doesn’t translate but not upset at you at all and I’m glad to see you clicked on the link, I was meaning my last reply as more of a playful complaint along the lines of “here we go again”, so happy to discuss anything with you Brian- I love doing anything I can to help out a fellow seeker 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    12. “No not at all, I was just playfully complaining as many of regulars from Season 1 will know about, we had a poster named Tara who would not talk about anything other than my answer to the Abraham Test, she even went out of her way to email my friends, family and my university to try and get me kicked out of school. Further she threatened to try and get some guests who agreed with me fired from their jobs- so there is a whole history on this issue here. But yeah its new for you and Teddi, so no worries in bringing it up at all- I was more just joking around with you 🙂”

                      Hi Dale,
                      I’m sorry for you that you had to experience such a reaction. That must have been very frustrating.

                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    13. Brian,

                      Yeah, but I do think that it has made me stronger and reinforced that I am indeed saved given that I was prepared to put my money where my mouth is and stand up for my beliefs even potentially at great expense to myself.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    14. Hi, David,

                      I’d have to strongly disagree with your saying that the question is not that complicated. If a Christian (or anyone else for that matter) has deeply internalized God’s own moral code, and then if God’s obedience test for them is to violate that moral code in the second biggest possible way —by killing someone— there is going to be some serious cognitive dissonance in a person.

                      The cognitive dissonance is massively heightened if there is no explanation/justification given by God as to WHY the killing needs to happen.

                      But, you haven’t addressed the key argument that I made which is, with the Abraham test, the REAL test isn’t about going against your conscience. It’s about killing your own child —which would create the greatest pain for a person to kill the person they love the most.

                      If the “Abraham test” involved theft or some other sin, I wouldn’t hesitate —even though it violates my conscience that was developed from God’s own moral code.

                      The other thing that is key to my argument which you haven’t addressed yet is that we go against God’s commands regularly —every time we sin. That just means we don’t choose to do what we know to be the right thing at that moment —it’s not a substitution of moral codes.

                      The “Abraham test” is just a bigger deal because (1) God is very personally commanding us, AND (2) God is testing our obedience to Him in a very dramatic way.

                      But, again, I think that most Christians would pass the test if God commanded us to do something that violated our conscience/moral code but was less grisly and didn’t involve someone that we love.

                      One other thing, did you put any stipulations in the Abraham test as to whether God specified that there would be a direct punishment for disobedience to this specific test, and what that punishment would be?

                      If the certain punishment was going to be eternity in Hell with no chance of redemption (unlike how sin is, typically, handled by God), then I’d force myself to pass the Abraham test. But, that would be to avoid eternal punishment, and my moral code wouldn’t have changed. I’d, also, know that my child would be with me in Heaven.

                      So, as horrific as that would be to have to carry out, I think that I (and most other Christians) could pull it off under those tight conditions.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    15. David: “You are failing to appreciate the challenge of the Abraham test. In it, I stipulate that there is no doubt that the order comes from god. That is not in question at all. Whatever it takes for you to be sure of such a thing, that has already happened. It is only a question of if you will obey god when it violates your own understanding of morality. If you would not follow god at that time, you are probably not really a follower of god. You only pretend to follow god when it suits you to do so. But at the end of the day, you are the final arbiter of right and wrong and not god.”

                      Hi David,
                      As I understand the problem it is when an all-good, all-moral God commands an act that one believes/knows to be immoral. Seems to me to be entering into the realm of paradoxes or contradictions. What does one do when the law of non-contradiction no longer applies? And, I must admit, on the surface, this violation of the law of non-contradictions seems to happen multiple time in the Bible. Parts of the Bible seem very clear – don’t shed human blood (murder) – love one another. Other parts seem to contradict and say pretty much the opposite. Jewish, Christian and other commentators have tried to explain these apparent contradictions for centuries – some with more success than others. (And, of course, there are plenty of people who say to ignore all commentators and just read the Bible as is.)

                      I do remember reading about one’s conscience in the Vatican II document “Gaudium et Spes: The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”):

                      “In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.” (Paragraph 16; http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html )

                      I would hope that when one is in the world where the law of non-contradiction no longer applies – that one would act in love towards others and not deliberately damage them.

                      Just a thought,
                      Brian

                      Like

                    16. Brian,

                      As I understand the problem it is when an all-good, all-moral God commands an act that one believes/knows to be immoral. Seems to me to be entering into the realm of paradoxes or contradictions. What does one do when the law of non-contradiction no longer applies? And, I must admit, on the surface, this violation of the law of non-contradictions seems to happen multiple time in the Bible.

                      It doesn’t actually create a paradox or contradiction. When the text was written they had different ideas about what is and isn’t moral. At the time the highest morality was obedience, and whatever god said to do was the moral thing to do. That is why it was such an unforgivable sin that Adam and Eve ate the fruit and why Abraham was praised for being willing to sacrifice his child.

                      The reason you think it is a contradiction now is that our morals have changed since the time the bible was written. At the time it was written, they would not have seen any of the things you mentioned as a contradiction as contradictory. God said to do it, therefore the moral thing is to do it and it was good because god said to do it.

                      The whole point, as I see it, of the Abraham test is to point out that the claims that god is all-good and all-moral are just wrong. As you pointed out already there are passages in the bible that contradict the idea of an all-good and all-moral god.

                      I would hope that when one is in the world where the law of non-contradiction no longer applies – that one would act in love towards others and not deliberately damage them.

                      I wish more people thought like this rather than just blindly following what they think their god wants. The world would be a much better place. Sadly this is not the path that Christians and other theists seem to want to take.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    17. “It doesn’t actually create a paradox or contradiction. When the text was written they had different ideas about what is and isn’t moral. At the time the highest morality was obedience, and whatever god said to do was the moral thing to do. That is why it was such an unforgivable sin that Adam and Eve ate the fruit and why Abraham was praised for being willing to sacrifice his child.

                      The reason you think it is a contradiction now is that our morals have changed since the time the bible was written. At the time it was written, they would not have seen any of the things you mentioned as a contradiction as contradictory. God said to do it, therefore the moral thing is to do it and it was good because god said to do it.”

                      Hi Darren,
                      I would agree that there is a difference in the Abrahamic test being given back in the days of Abraham and one given today. But… even back then God had said not to kill people: “For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life. Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.” (Genesis 9:5-6) So, why wouldn’t this be a contradiction for Abraham – on the one hand God says to kill his child and on the other hand God says not to kill (shed blood)?

                      I do think the emphasis on love and helping people is more brought out in the Gospel stories than in some of the Hebrew texts. And, so I would agree with you that ideas of what is moral and what isn’t have evolved over the centuries.

                      Brian

                      Like

                    18. Brian,

                      So, why wouldn’t this be a contradiction for Abraham – on the one hand God says to kill his child and on the other hand God says not to kill (shed blood)?

                      Because god said it and the sin is to disobey god, not to kill someone. You are coming about it as if the sin is to kill people, but if you go back and read it as the sin is disobeying god, then there is no contradiction. God commanded that Abraham kill his son because god wanted proof that Abraham loved him more than his son, so obeying god is the moral thing to do. In the genesis passage you are quoting god commanding Noah, after god just murdered every living thing on the face of the earth with a global flood. Obeying god and not fighting with the people that are following god is the point, not killing or not killing someone in general.

                      I do think the emphasis on love and helping people is more brought out in the Gospel stories than in some of the Hebrew texts. And, so I would agree with you that ideas of what is moral and what isn’t have evolved over the centuries.

                      Not really. Even the gospel stories are more about obedience than anything else. Modern readers will read into the text that we are supposed to love and help people, but even that is just in the context of the people that already believe like you do. And Jesus only really ever does good things to prove that god was on his side. The point is that people should be obeying god.

                      It’s also worth pointing out that some of the passages that indicate that Jesus was more loving weren’t actually part of the original. For example, the ‘cast the first stone’ passage wasn’t part of the original, it was added much later. And the only reason we would think that Jesus was that accommodating is because of that passage. Take out that passage and the gospels read a lot differently.

                      I promise that if you go back and read the gospels from the point of view of the old world morality of obedience above all, the gospels make a lot more sense and are much more consistent with the old testament. The love part is just so that the followers don’t fight amongst themselves.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    19. If we had 100% certainty that God was 100% moral (as is defined by the 10 Commandments and Jesus’ commandments), then we would Know that God must know something about the situation that we don’t know.

                      For example, what if Abraham’s kid is the anti-Christ. Then, killing such a kid makes moral sense. It would, probably, still be really hard for a father to kill his own kid, but more people would probably be on board with following God’s command under such circumstances.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    20. Exactly Teddi, imagine you are the father/mother of little baby Hitler and God commands you to kill him in order to spare all those millions of people from being butchered.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    21. “Exactly Teddi, imagine you are the father/mother of little baby Hitler and God commands you to kill him in order to spare all those millions of people from being butchered.”

                      Hi Dale,
                      Maybe instead of killing his son, Adolph’s father could have loved him and been a wonderful example to him. What little I’ve read about Adolph’s father – he wasn’t a very good or loving father. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_family#Father_of_Alois_Hitler

                      Possibly there might have been other ways than murdering the baby that would have spared the lives of all those millions of people.

                      Just thinking of options other than murder,
                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    22. Yes Brian, there might be other options, but God being omniscient would know that there was no other way other than killing Hitler to get the job done and so if He orders you to kill then you know there is nothing else other than killing him to get the job done on the table, otherwise God would order me to do that instead.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    23. “Yes Brian, there might be other options, but God being omniscient would know that there was no other way other than killing Hitler to get the job done and so if He orders you to kill then you know there is nothing else other than killing him to get the job done on the table, otherwise God would order me to do that instead.”

                      Hi Dale,
                      I see and appreciate where you are coming from – and understand your logic.
                      Yet, it still seems a bit odd that I (and others) can think of less lethal options but that the all-knowing God wouldn’t. But… maybe I should just leave it that I’m glad God hasn’t told me to murder anyone.

                      Glad for your comments,
                      Brian

                      Liked by 2 people

                    24. Brian,

                      God obviously does think about these options. Let me ask it this way, are you able to prove to me that more souls are saved in a world where God prevents Hitler from doing his thing? What are the precise numbers, how many souls are saved in this world vs. that other possible world? Obviously, human don’t know suh things, only an omniscient God does.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    25. “God obviously does think about these options. Let me ask it this way, are you able to prove to me that more souls are saved in a world where God prevents Hitler from doing his thing? What are the precise numbers, how many souls are saved in this world vs. that other possible world? Obviously, human don’t know suh things, only an omniscient God does.”

                      Hi Dale,
                      No, I’m not able to prove that. Of course, I’m not sure that God’s goal is to save as many souls as possible. But I do understand that is your belief and I respect it.

                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    26. Brian,

                      What are your religious views, are you a general Theist, Deist, Atheist? I’m curious about where your coming from?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    27. “What are your religious views, are you a general Theist, Deist, Atheist? I’m curious about where your coming from?”

                      Hi Dale,
                      At this point in my life I’m a seeker who is a bit skeptical about what I’m told about God. I find the first cause argument somewhat compelling – although I’m skeptical about getting from a first cause to that cause being God. I find parts of the Bible to be inspiring but I’m more than a little skeptical about its inerrancy, infallibility or that it was written by God. I question whether there are really other possible worlds in addition to this actual world. And, I’m extremely skeptical that this is the best of all possible worlds.

                      Does that help?
                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    28. Yes Brian,

                      That was helpful. I hope I can maybe help with the “Gap Problem” when I finish the Cosmological Argument for you. I do think I an strongly get you a personal Creator God who is necessary and I can also provide a weaker case for the other properties- so we’ll see if that helps at all. Plus the other arguments will be helpful as well I think.

                      Just to be clear I think you believe in that a God exists but its a weak belief. Do you take a Theist or Deist position? My goal this season (and I’m not so arrogant to think that I will necessarily be successful) but I will really try my absolute best to try and cement your belief in God based on the Cosmological argument and I intend or hope to get the Moral Argument done as solo shows before this Season ends; that’ll be a goal I will try to accomplish with God’s help 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    29. “Just to be clear I think you believe in that a God exists but its a weak belief. Do you take a Theist or Deist position? My goal this season (and I’m not so arrogant to think that I will necessarily be successful) but I will really try my absolute best to try and cement your belief in God based on the Cosmological argument and I intend or hope to get the Moral Argument done as solo shows before this Season ends; that’ll be a goal I will try to accomplish with God’s help ”

                      Hi Dale,
                      I’d say that I believe there is likely to be a first cause – but what that first cause is, l don’t know. There have been times when I’ve believed there is a God and times when I haven’t. Today I am open to the possibility there is a God but I wouldn’t say that I have a belief there is a God.

                      Hope that helps,
                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    30. Cool thanks for letting me know, I made my promise/goal for you this season, will be interested to see if I fulfill it, or get you a little closer once my solo shows come out 🙂 I may fail, but I’m happy to try my best for a seeker (I was there myself once) 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    31. Hi, Brian,

                      I just read your response to Dale, and that gives me clarification on where you are —I wasn’t totally sure to be honest. I had the overall sense that you believe in God and that you are, probably, a Christian as well. However, a few of your questions had me wondering if there might be some doubt there. I do want to say that even Pope Francis —as I am sure you know— has had doubts. Every critically thinking Christian or Jew has. That’s to be expected.

                      The reason that Dale and I (and so many others) are so fascinated by, and passionate about the Shroud of Turin is because the scientific and forensic evidence authenticating the Shroud removes almost all of the small amount of doubt that I would sometimes have when I was younger.

                      I first found out about the Shroud when I was around 16 or 17 years old. The first book that I read about it was Gary Habermas’ book “Verdict on the Shroud.” I, just recently, bought a used copy from eBay or Amazon for a couple of dollars (since my copy is probably still at my mother’s home somewhere.) Anyhow, Habermas did a wonderful job with it.

                      Barrie Schwortz’ website, Shroud.com, is the very best place to go if you want every great scientific and/or scholarly article on the subject. Schwortz updates his website with all the newest books and articles on the Shroud either quarterly or bi-annually. He has, truly, done (and does) a great service to humanity in creating that one-stop type of website.

                      If you want answers, you will find them there. I’m still in the process of distilling scores of Shroud articles and information from 4 Shroud books to be able to share with y’all (on this what I have found to be the most compelling information.) The past 2 weeks I haven’t been able to work on it, but it’s coming along.

                      Have you, by any chance, done any in-depth research on the Shroud? With the scientific and forensic evidence from the Shroud, all other arguments about God’s existence are just the “cherry on top.”

                      I am really happy that your mind is open, and that you are receptive to really listening to the various arguments. But, if you have not explored Shroud.com, you are truly missing out on a treasure-trove of the most important information you will ever read.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    32. “Have you, by any chance, done any in-depth research on the Shroud? …”

                      Hi Teddi,
                      Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I appreciate them. I’ve never thought there was anything unusual or wrong about having questions or doubts about things. Questions and doubts can, sometimes, lead one to discover truths. Seems to me that much of the advancements in human knowledge has been because people have had questions or doubts.

                      And, no, I’ve not done any real reading or research about the Shroud of Turin. I’ve not even listen to the Skeptics and Seekers shows about it. It is good to know that you were helped on your spiritual journey by the Shroud.

                      Thanks again for the encouragement,
                      Brian

                      Liked by 2 people

                    33. Hey Brian,

                      I just want to back up what Teddi is saying about the Shroud of Turin being important evidence to study if trying to figure out if Christianity is true or not. I can give you a couple suggestions as to a couple of shows I did where I outline the actual evidence if you’d like.

                      The nature of the Shroud’s remarkable images, I outline that in Parts 4 here = https://skepticsandseekers.wordpress.com/2018/09/10/supplemental-6-part-4-evidence-for-christianity-based-on-the-shroud-of-turin/

                      &

                      Part 5 = https://skepticsandseekers.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/supplemental-7-part-5-evidence-for-christianity-based-on-the-shroud-of-turin/

                      And/or if you want an overall view of all Shroud data many people (including those not interested in the Shroud, enjoyed the interview with Shroud expert Barrie Schwortz) = https://skepticsandseekers.wordpress.com/2018/11/10/supplemental-13-barrie-schwartz/

                      I would really appreciate if you made some time to listen to them to see if it wets your whistle or not, as Teddi said the Shroud was really important for her in believing in Jesus and it played a significant role in my journey to Christ, so hopefully you’ll think its worthy of some consideration.

                      Appreciate hearing your thoughts if you’re kind enough to give some of the Shroud shows a listen 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    34. Hi, Dale,

                      I just want to correct something that was stated. The evidence of the Shroud’s authenticity did not bring me to believing in Jesus and believing in God. I was raised in a Christian household, and I had, and have, always believed in God and Jesus.

                      What the Shroud evidence has always done for me is quiet the small amount of natural doubt that all critically thinking Christians have regarding anything that requires faith.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    35. Cool, I stand corrected 🙂 Looking forward to when you are finished your research so I can post it up as a solo show blog for people 🙂

                      Like

                    36. Hi, Brian,
                      I agree with you that there is nothing unusual or wrong about having questions or doubts about things. I, also, agree that questions and doubts are important in our quest for discovering Truth.

                      I sincerely hope that you didn’t think that I was trying to imply anything negative about you regarding my mentioning that a few of your questions made me wonder whether there was some doubt there –as in, if you are a believer in God (with the built-in, natural doubt that comes from the need to have faith in something or someone) or whether you were grappling with the question of whether God and Jesus exist.
                      In my communications with you, the overall impression that I have been left with was that you were a believer who was just pondering topics. Either way, I very much so enjoy reading your comments and communicating with you, and I have learned a lot from these communications.

                      As I mentioned to Dale, in an earlier comment today, I was already a believer in God and Jesus when I learned about the Shroud. But, the Shroud evidence quieted the small doubts that would sometimes enter into my mind, because the Shroud evidence is grounded in forensic medicine, science, history and reason.

                      What every atheist claims we don’t have –scientific evidence for the existence of God– we, in fact, do.

                      I’m really happy to hear that you have not delved very deeply into the Shroud, because I think that you might find it to be a total game-changer. I do hope that you listen to Dale’s shows regarding the Shroud. I knew a good amount about the Shroud, and there were many new things that I learned from his show. Also, there are a lot of details that Dale couldn’t get into (because of time limitations), so don’t think that what he mentioned is all there is. There’s a lot more –especially when you look to see the various tests that were performed on the Shroud –and by multiple experts.

                      I know I’m like an excited puppy when it comes to the Shroud, but I’m not at all alone. It’s examining real evidence of the supernatural and how that relates to us while we are on earth.

                      Warmest regards,
                      Teddi

                      Liked by 2 people

                    37. “I sincerely hope that you didn’t think that I was trying to imply anything negative about you regarding my mentioning that a few of your questions made me wonder whether there was some doubt there –as in, if you are a believer in God (with the built-in, natural doubt that comes from the need to have faith in something or someone) or whether you were grappling with the question of whether God and Jesus exist.”

                      Hi Teddi,
                      I did not think you were implying anything negative at all. I can tell that you are very excited about the Shroud. It looks like there are something like 15 or more episodes on the Shroud – that will take some time to listen to a process.

                      Thanks again for the encouragement,
                      Brian

                      Liked by 2 people

                    38. You have my full support Teddi, I’m excited to post up your research, from what you’ve sent me privately, I think many people who do look at your materials will learn a lot 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    39. Hi, Brian,

                      I just saw this comment of yours —not sure if it came before or after the one I commented on (where I brought up the Shroud.). But, anyway, I just want to tell you that I, too, wonder how exact or accurate the Bible is given the multiple versions and how meanings can get lost in translation, and how those were such different times back then that we might not understand certain things the same way (in their proper context.)

                      We can’t be certain if the writers were accurately conveying the information God wanted to be conveyed or not. “Divine inspiration” doesn’t, necessarily equate to an exact transcript. Plus, it’s hard to be sure what things are exact descriptions vs. artistic license or just plain old allegory.

                      But, I don’t worry about that in the least. Why? Because it’s something that I seriously doubt that we will ever be able to get a definitive answer on. So, to me, that is where “faith” comes into play.

                      But, if you have to have faith in something, there is going to be a built-in amount of doubt that can, at minimum, creep up in one’s mind from time to time.

                      May I recommend that you focus in on four things that have the fantastic ability to extinguish all but the most minute amount of doubt. Scientific and forensic evidence, along with history and common sense work in conjunction with each other to shine light on the truth of God’s existence. I find this body of evidence to be unshakable in what it proves beyond a reasonable doubt. Truly. These four things that I recommend focusing on are as follows:

                      1. The Bible tells us in John 2:19 that Jesus made the following statement and claim: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews thought that the temple that Jesus was referring to in this statement was the 2nd temple of a Jerusalem which King Herod commissioned. However, John 2:21-22 tells us the following: “But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He has risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had said.” Jesus was saying, in essence, crucify me/put Me to death, and I will rise from the dead in three days. So, that’s a big claim, isn’t it?

                      But, aside from all of people who witnessed a resurrected Jesus, we have the Shroud of Turin as the most exquisite evidence of Jesus’ being resurrected from the dead.

                      If someone was wanting to leave behind compelling evidence of a supernatural occurrence —like a person being resurrected—wouldn’t the best evidence of that be evidence which, in and of itself, is so scientifically inexplicable that it is more reasonable to believe that a resurrection occurred (especially in light of Jesus’ claim) as opposed to anything else?

                      2. The Biblical account of what happened to Jesus from the time He received his sentence to die by way of crucifixion all the way through his being resurrected and appearing in front of around 500 people.

                      3. The Shroud gives us evidence which affirms that Jesus was who He said He was, and in doing so, this, also, proves the existence of God.

                      4. The Sudarium of Oviedo is not only consistent with the Bible, but it, also, corroborates the Shroud’s authenticity.

                      Having been reasonably knowledgeable about the Shroud since my teens, I didn’t think there was much more for me to learn. I was incredibly wrong about that. The deeper that you go in researching the Shroud, the more you learn about it. It leaves me in a state of wonderment —as hard evidence of the supernatural should. But, even more importantly, the more you learn the details of the horrific story that the blood and forensic evidence tell, it can create such a deeper, more emotional understanding of why God put Himself on this earth in human form to give us this message, this profound gift where we may seek redemption through His payment.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    40. “Exactly Teddi, imagine you are the father of little baby Hitler and God commands you to kill him in order to spare all those millions of people from being butchered.”

                      Hi Dale,
                      Just wondering… do you think a possible world in which baby Hitler was killed and millions of people were spared would have been a better world than this actual one? If not, wouldn’t it be better to let baby Hitler live?

                      (Here we go with possible worlds again! Feel free to ignore my questions if you want. It is no big deal. Heck, I’m not sure that there are possible worlds other than this actual world.)

                      Just curious,
                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    41. Brian,

                      All things considered, no it was better to let Hitler live, thus why God didn’t order his dad to kill baby Hitler or something in real life, but still the point was made. So God’s goal is to save as many souls as possible and allowing Hitler to grow up and slaughter 6 million Jews and have WW2 is worth it to get that benefit. In a possible world where God prevents Hitler in whatever way (killing or giving him another teddy bear growing up or something) would lead to a world where less souls are saved and that’s why we exist in this world.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    42. And this is where I have to just point out the awfulness of this way of thinking. You have to think of the holocaust as a good thing because of more souls being ultimately saved. How you heart must have thrilled at the 9/11 attack. And it doesn’t just stop at the big things. Since this is a world where at this very moment, some child is being abused in unspeakable ways, you must count that as a good thing because it is a necessary part of the world where the maximum souls are saved. It justifies everything.

                      Tell us, is there anything over which you can mourn, that you would consider a genuine tragedy? Is there anything you wish had not happened under your world view? To reduce the world by one less tragedy would reduce eternity by at least one less soul. Is that how the math works for you?

                      Liked by 3 people

                    43. David,

                      I mourn over all of them, none of these factually necessary events are good things in themselves, they are a consequence of living in a sinful Fallen world. God weeps at such tragedies but allows them to save as many souls as possible. It is good to allow freewill creatures to cause or actualize evil but that doesn’t mean the events themselves are good, they are still evil.

                      As to how the math works, it works by defeating the skeptic who in his/her arrogance thinks he/she can judge God as though they have any clue about how the math works, that is why I asked Brian if he could tell me how many souls get saved in this world vs. another possible world where WW2 doesn’t happen vs. another possible world that is the same as ours except I eat a cookie for breakfast today. The point is, I’m not the arrogant one, I recognize as a finite human being I haven’t the foggiest as to the final outcomes of various factors. The skeptic on the other hand pretends they do know that it would be better to have one less tragedy- more skeptical assert and assume strategy.

                      As your skeptical chum Darren would say, “you are just making things up” at that point, I need you to demonstrate that your skeptical claim is actually true on a balance of probabilities if you are going to make a positive claim to know that God is immoral for allowing WW2 to happen.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    44. Dale,

                      It amazes me at how truly unless you have to make your god with this sort of apologetics. You do realize that it is your god that made up the rules for which souls get to be saved and which don’t in the first place right? You don’t think he could just change the rules so that everyone gets saved if he wanted to? Or do you feel your god is completely powerless and has absolutely no say as to who gets saved? Is he so incompetent that the only way he can think to save people is to make sure that thousands of children starve to death each day? Is he so utterly helpless that he can’t figure out a way to save souls without cancer existing in the world?

                      The god you are describing is so completely useless and incompetent that I’m surprised you feel any need at all to worship him. You do realize that eventually, humans will fix all these problems, we are going to be doing something that apparently your god is incapable of doing. I know you don’t believe that hell is an actual torture chamber, so you don’t have Teddi’s excuse of not wanting to be tortured for all eternity. Serious question, So why do you worship such a pathetic god?

                      Liked by 2 people

                    45. Darren,

                      Wow it seems so weird to see you just give a straight forward question like this, seemingly given in earnest and done respectfully without pre-judgement- thanks for that 🙂 I will honour the request by answering as earnestly as I can.

                      So, I would say that God has the power to influence but not ultimately cause someone directly to be saved- salvation entails a free will choice and its logically impossible for God to determine or force a freewill creature to freely choose salvation. So in a sense yes God is powerless to force us to freely choose to be saved.

                      Does this make him a pathetic God, no it makes him great. Its like saying Can God create a rock so big He can’t lift it? If the answer is “No”, well that’s a pathetic God- this is ridiculous reasoning. So, I don’t see God’s inability to determine or force a free will creature to freely choose something as a diminishment but a perfection. I also think it is greater to create a world of free creatures (even ones that choose Hell) over a world full of mindless yet morally perfect robots.

                      I don’t believe you when you say that humans will be able to fix all of our “sin” problems, we will solve some issues just as we already have in the past but definitely not all of them- only Jesus an do that.

                      So why is God a Being worthy of worship- He is a maximally great Being in having all of the great-making properties to their maximal compossible degree including moral perfection. Worship entails valueing the proper things in its proper degree, when you open a door for me I say thank you, when you create me and the universe and are the paradigm of goodness, I say Hallelulia, thank you God to a much higher degree than just someone who merely opens a door for me. So worship entails ascribing to God various things as is proper to Him- our praise and thankfulness, asking for help, asking forgiveness for our sins against him, etc. They involve things that we all see as being proper to give to other human beings but just to a much lesser degree when they display goodness or great-making properties or if I wrong you I ask forgiveness, worship just means that I recognize God’s ultimate place in the light of all these things.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    46. So in a sense yes God is powerless to force us to freely choose to be saved.

                      But he does have the power to change the rules so that he doesn’t require the choice in the first place. That was my point. If he really only wanted a certain people hanging around with him he could have created a second heaven for everyone else. Or not even bothered to create the earth in the first place and just had everyone be born directly into heaven and those that wanted to leave could have had the free choice to go to the second heaven where he isn’t. Or heaven 345 which that person would find more fun.

                      I also think it is greater to create a world of free creatures (even ones that choose Hell) over a world full of mindless yet morally perfect robots.

                      And an even greater world than that is one that you don’t need to be saved from in the first place. And where hell doesn’t exist.

                      I don’t believe you when you say that humans will be able to fix all of our “sin” problems, we will solve some issues just as we already have in the past but definitely not all of them- only Jesus an do that.

                      Its just as well human advancement is not dictated by what you believe then.

                      So why is God a Being worthy of worship- He is a maximally great Being in having all of the great-making properties to their maximal compossible degree including moral perfection.

                      We already know that isn’t true. Cancer exists after all and any maximally great being wouldn’t allow cancer to exist.

                      Its also not a good reason to worship a being. Because the maximally great being wouldn’t require or want worship, he would be embarrassed by it. He would tell you to live your own life and stop thinking so much about him.

                      … asking for help, asking forgiveness for our sins against him, etc.

                      A maximally great being wouldn’t need us to ask forgiveness because he would not have created the ‘sin’ rules in the first place. It isn’t possible to sin against a maximally great being.

                      They involve things that we all see as being proper to give to other human beings but just to a much lesser degree when they display goodness or great-making properties or if I wrong you I ask forgiveness, worship just means that I recognize God’s ultimate place in the light of all these things.

                      Maybe, but your apologetic is not describing a ‘maximally great Being’. It is describing someone who is largely incompetent and petty. Or else morally bankrupt. Neither option describes a maximally great Being.

                      But I suppose you answered my question, so I am happy to leave it at that.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    47. Darren,

                      Cool thank you for asking a straight forward sincere question and I respect your critique of my answer 🙂 I will just say one last thing for you to understand my answer, I would actually deny that God could “change the rules” in the sense that you mean, I actually think God didn’t have a choice on that front, the “rules” are logically necessary I would say.

                      In the case of the second Heaven idea for example- that’s a great notion, it handles my “Quarantine” notion of Hell perfectly but believe it or not, I could say this is entirely correct. Its not the case that Hell is designed to be bad, but this isolated place is more turned into Hell because it is filled with sinful people. In essence it is the damned that make Hell, hell and not another Heaven; its the same as the Earth, what is wrong with the place morally speaking, nothing God created it, its great, God said it was good- but obviously its not perfect right now and the reason for that is because of Man’s Sin via the Fall and that has corrupted it and filled it with evil. So God could create a second heaven with all the palm trees, pizzas and margaritas one could want but once you stick all those sinful people in it and have them relationally separated from God (as per their freewill choice), but once the sinful people are added to the mix, then this is what makes it Hell necessarily (not a thing God can do about it).

                      Just some last minute clarification but happy to leave it at that 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    48. I would actually deny that God could “change the rules” in the sense that you mean, I actually think God didn’t have a choice on that front, the “rules” are logically necessary I would say.

                      Like I said, you aren’t actually describing the maximally great being, you are describing someone that is largely incompetent. After all, if I could do a better job of it, then he can’t be all that great.

                      In essence it is the damned that make Hell,

                      Since the mythology seems to suggest that all the greatest enlightenment thinkers are in hell, and the people in charge of the crusades are in heaven, I think your assessment is probably backward. 🙂

                      and the reason for that is because of Man’s Sin via the Fall and that has corrupted it and filled it with evil.

                      Had I been the one doing the creating I wouldn’t have made the rules so that sin was able to corrupt, or existed in the first place. So I suppose that makes me a greater being that your god. 🙂

                      Liked by 2 people

                    49. Darren,

                      Alright cool, I hear you on this front. When I get to the Ontological Argument in my solo show- probably not til Season 3 at this rate, I promise I will address the research of Dr. Nagasawa who has really done the best job at refuting your issue of the compossibility of all the major great-making properties, so I will address it in time in a proper rigorous way on the show.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    50. so I will address it in time in a proper rigorous way on the show.

                      Sounds good. Another question I would love to be answered is why we should care that you are defining god as you are. I would also love to have a method described to demonstrate you are correct in your definition, that the definition accurately describes the god you are trying to define.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    51. Darren,

                      So here is my promised reply about how the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism/Atheism (as per the show Reasonable Disbelief & Irrational Atheism) works.

                      1. Element #1- Understanding Natural Selection:

                      Modern atheistic/naturalistic evolutionary mechanisms do not assume or entail an intelligent designer who guides the mechanisms with the aim of producing true beliefs. They merely allow for the survival of a species so as to pass their genes onto the next generation irrespective of the truth or falsity of any beliefs one may have beyond the needed behaviours fostering their survival.

                      I don’t think I need to demonstrate this is actually true as you don’t deny it yourself- I quoted Richard Dawkins and I could easily find more supporting quotes along with actual proof from science if you like (the case of Darwin’s finches, or the famous Peppered Moth example, or Richard Dawkin’s has other more modern examples in his book (which I own and have fully read years ago- called the Greatest Show On Earth- want proof??? Fine, Richard Dawkin’s refers to 3 cases in Ch.5 of his book; i) The Lizards of Pod Mrcaru on p.113-116, ii) The most famous and important case of the decades long research on E-coli bacteria by Richard Lenski, p.116-133 and finally iii) The research by John Endler on wild guppies, p.133-141). *** By the way, I also own “The Greatest Hoax on Earth” by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati- the response book to Dawkin’s book, proving that when I research something I try my best to look at both sides.

                      So yeah, I trust there will be no further question about whether I know fully how natural selection operates as I’ve demonstrated that I’ve read and hope you’ll trust me when I say that I understood Dawkin’s case study examples as to how the mechanism works. Thus, I understand evolutionary mechanisms accurately and am using that understanding properly in utilizing Plantinga’s argument.

                      Yes, I understand skeptics have a misunderstanding where they think that intelligent design and creationists don’t understand how natural selection works and that the process is not totally random when they appeal to Boeing 747 being assembled in a junk yard in a tornado does not fully apply because natural selection mechanism is not random (of course the random element applies with the other mechanisms such as genetic mutation for natural selection to operate on and hence why such arguments are still relevant if made properly).

                      But yeah, so your point is taken that naturalistic evolution is not a totally random process- so what? That has nothing to do with the argument I’m advancing here, neither Plantinga nor I were ever claiming that it was totally random anyways. The point is neither natural selection nor any of the other natural mechanisms involved in an Atheistic Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory involve mechanisms that are necessarily “aimed” at producing true beliefs, survival value is all the matters.

                      2. Element #2- Darren’s Objection that Survival Value and True Beliefs are Correlated:

                      This is where you make a common skeptical claim, that at least most of the time, belief motivated behaviours beneficial for survival are correlated to their veracity. Note this means we know there is not a constant correlation relation that obtains here.

                      Ans:

                      So, in the first place Alvin Plantinga I think is correct to point out that actually, on evolutionary Atheism (the natural mechanisms of evolution are solely responsible for the development and functioning of our cognitive functioning) we can make no claim to “know” this is the case (regardless of whether its true or not).

                      This results in a total meltdown of having to abandon all knowledge claims for “Evolutionary Atheists” because you use your cognitive faculties in coming to all your beliefs (I’m assuming here that there is no outside process that is not filtered through your cognitive faculties involved).

                      But of course, you would point out that you do “know” some things such as the fact that you exist, yes, I agree and that claim to have at least some knowledge is what proves that either evolution and/or Atheism/Naturalism must be false. The only reason you can have such knowledge is because God exists and designed your faculties to produce true beliefs; thus, your refusal to abandon knowledge claims in such matters is a remnant of God creating your cog faculties prior to their being damaged during the Fall. But on the conjunction of Atheism/Naturalism/Materialism and evolution you simply cannot have any knowledge.

                      BUT, this is where you will say that at least in some respects we can know that there must be a link between true beliefs and beliefs fit for survival because of the interconnected web of our beliefs, etc. So, we must have some true beliefs because things like hand-eye-brain coordination would be impossible otherwise and hence survival would be impossible as well- how could I stab a bear and kill him without true beliefs of where the bear is in relation to where I and the spear am?

                      In this first place one could say you don’t know this either skeptic- how do you know there are bears or any predators in the first place- maybe it’s all illusion, hallucination or faulty memory on our part that makes us think predatory animals exist but really its just plants. Or, this is where I might make a weaker version of the argument and granted this concession in my blog, it may be the case that some of our beliefs are necessarily linked or correlated to our survival- I’m happy to concede that for the sake of argument and further I am even willing to concede that we can know these truths, so I don’t have to go as far as Plantinga does in his argument.

                      However, here is the kicker, we know that, on “evolutionary Atheism” there are times that false belief can likewise equally serve to be beneficial to survival- you yourself have conceded that you think this is the case when it comes to the matters of God and religious beliefs (the particular focus of David’s blog this week and therefore is relevant to the very question we are debating in relation to Plantinga’s EAAN).

                      Hence, two problems arise- how can one use their cognitive faculties to adjudicate which “evolution-produced beliefs” are correlated to truth vs. being derived from false beliefs? Couldn’t it be the case that even when an interconnected set of beliefs are involved in coming to conclusion that false inferences can be made even if some of the component beliefs the conclusion derives from are true?

                      Secondly, let’s say we can adjudicate some matters, you have already conceded that when it comes to religious/God beliefs in particular, our faculties cannot necessarily be trusted to produce true beliefs- they obviously lead to contradictory and thus false conclusions in at least some people. So how can you then use those cognitive faculties as an Atheist to say you are “warranted” in knowing that lack of belief is rationally justified? You simply cannot do this as it would be irrational thing to do, in the same way you think religious adherents are irrational in trusting their cognitive faculties to conclude that God does exist or that Christianity is true- the problem is this is a double-edged sword and makes it irrational to lack belief in God/Christianity based on such faculties as well. On “evolutionary Atheism”, maybe the evidence is proven beyond reasonable doubt, but our cognitive faculties are simply not geared to obtaining true beliefs in this department and hence no human can ever know one way or another.

                      That’s my take to respond to your two objections as I see them- i) I don’t understand what natural selection is or how it works and ii) that survival behaviours and true beliefs are constantly or mostly correlated. Hope it was helpful and happy to let you have the last word on this as I need to buckle down this week on school and Cosmological stuff 😊

                      Take care,

                      Dale

                      Liked by 1 person

                    52. If we had 100% certainty that God was 100% moral…

                      Then I suppose your next step is to demonstrate that God is 100% moral. Just asserting that he is doesn’t help your case at all.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    53. I’ve never tried to fit God into tight definitions. I just try to assess and understand Him as best I can by what the Bible says about Him.

                      As far as I am concerned, there’s always the potential (remember, anything’s possible) that certain details in the Bible are being misinterpreted and/or mistranslated. So, how can one, properly, get hyper-technical with details when so much can be in play? I don’t think that it’s even really necessary when there is such a clear message that the Bible sends out.

                      Just to be clear, what I had written dealt with IF I was 100% certain about “x,” “y” and “z” about God, the Abraham test would be easier. But, I don’t pretend to have that level of certainty about very strict definitions of God.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    54. Just to be clear, what I had written dealt with IF I was 100% certain about “x,” “y” and “z” about God, the Abraham test would be easier. But, I don’t pretend to have that level of certainty about very strict definitions of God.

                      I am perfectly happy with my moral compass, and I can say with 100% certainty that the Christian god is a moral monster. And given the post, you made in the other thread about how god is the biggest bully on the stage and you don’t want to be tortured for all eternity so you are just going to go along to get along, I think you recognize the same thing.

                      And to answer your previous question, if Abraham’s kid is the anti-Christ, I’m pretty sure god could have just prevented the egg from being fertilized, he wouldn’t need anyone to kill the child for him.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    55. Hi, Darren,

                      Those are your words –that “god is the biggest bully on the stage.”– not mine. A bully doesn’t want good things for you. A bully doesn’t want to bless you with an eternally good life. A bully doesn’t give you life and all sorts of different blessings.

                      I don’t view God as a bully. I do, however, view Him as an almighty being who is the furthest thing from a chump or a doormat.

                      I don’t know about you, but I don’t view police officers and judges, in general, as bullies. If you follow the law and are respectful to them, everything will (usually) turn out to be quite copacetic. God is like this but on a much grander scale, and God gives us things that judges and police officers do not.

                      As for if a random parent is given the “Abraham test” (I wasn’t trying to say that Abraham’s son in the Bible was the anti-Christ), I would agree with you that God could have prevented that person’s life from being created –as opposed to having to ask a parent to kill his son.

                      But, that’s not the real point of the test in my opinion. I think it’s a test regarding one’s loyalty, trust and obedience to God.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    56. God is like this but on a much grander scale, and God gives us things that judges and police officers do not.

                      Yes, according to the mythology, he will lock us in the basement and torture us for all eternity.

                      And sure, you may not have used the word bully, but you definitely described him as one.

                      Like

                    57. Teddi: “For example, what if Abraham’s kid is the anti-Christ. Then, killing such a kid makes moral sense. It would, probably, still be really hard for a father to kill his own kid, but more people would probably be on board with following God’s command under such circumstances.”

                      Hi Teddi,
                      I must say that I’m not understanding the concept of Abraham’s son even possibly being an Antichrist. Abraham’s son lived long, long before the Incarnation and the coming of Jesus as the Christ. St. John is very specific that the Antichrist is one who denies that Jesus is the Christ who has come in the flesh from the Father. It would seem to me that nobody could be the Antichrist before the Incarnation when Jesus came in the flesh from the Father. It would only be after Jesus was born that one could deny that He had come. Also, nowhere does St. John say anyone should kill any of the Antichrists, does he? Teddi, would you elaborate a bit more about how Isaac could possibly be the Antichrist and why he should be killed? Do you believe everyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ come in the flesh from God should be killed? Below are the only times I see the word Antichrist in scripture – please let me know if I’m missing something.

                      “ Children, these are the last days; you were told that an Antichrist must come, and now several antichrists have already appeared; we know from this that these are the last days. Those rivals of Christ came out of our own number, but they had never really belonged; if they had belonged, they would have stayed with us; but they left us, to prove that not one of them ever belonged to us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and have all received the knowledge.
                      It is not because you do not know the truth that I am writing to you but rather because you know it already and know that no lie can come from the truth.
                      The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ – he is the liar, he is Antichrist; and he is denying the Father as well as the Son, because no one who has the Father can deny the Son, and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well.” (1 John 2:18-23)

                      “ It is not every spirit, my dear people, that you can trust; test them, to see if they come from God; there are many false prophets, now, in the world. You can tell the spirits that come from God by this: every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh is from God; but any spirit which will not say this of Jesus is not from God, but is the spirit of Antichrist, whose coming you were warned about. Well, now he is here, in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3)

                      “ There are many deceivers about in the world, refusing to admit that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. They are the Deceiver; they are the Antichrist. Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and not get the reward it deserves.” (2 John 1:7-8)

                      Suspecting that I’ve misunderstood something about your post but – or maybe about the Antichrist,
                      Brian

                      Like

                    58. Hi, Brian,
                      With regard to the “Abraham test,” I meant it in a general way, as if, would other people kill their own kid if God commanded them to do so. I was saying that, if God told us our kid was the Anti-Christ, and that He wanted us to kill our kid, that would clarify things more —to show a moral reason behind the act of killing.

                      I wasn’t trying to say or imply that Abraham’s say was the Anti-Christ.

                      But, by us getting our wires crossed, I’ve learned new things from your response. Thanks!

                      Liked by 2 people

                    59. “With regard to the “Abraham test,” I meant it in a general way, as if, would other people kill their own kid if God commanded them to do so. I was saying that, if God told us our kid was the Anti-Christ, and that He wanted us to kill our kid, that would clarify things more —to show a moral reason behind the act of killing.”

                      Hi Teddi,
                      Thanks for explaining. I do appreciate your posts and learning about your perspectives. Seeing how others look at things often will broaden my own thinking.

                      I think Darren brought up that God would have other resources to get things done the way He wants without me having to kill for God. It still seems a contradiction to me for God to say don’t kill and to love – and also say to kill. I don’t know that I could work through such a contradiction.

                      Thanks again,
                      Brian

                      Like

                    60. Hi, Brian,

                      In reading what you were saying about the anti-Christ, is that supposed to just be one person (a la Damien in the “Omen” who has the mark of the beast per Revelations? If not, is everyone who denies Christ an anti-Christ?

                      When I was referring to the anti-Christ in the generalized “Abraham test” hypothetical, I was had Damien fro the “Omen” on the brain.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    61. “In reading what you were saying about the anti-Christ, is that supposed to just be one person (a la Damien in the ‘Omen’ who has the mark of the beast per Revelations? If not, is everyone who denies Christ an anti-Christ?

                      When I was referring to the anti-Christ in the generalized ‘Abraham test’ hypothetical, I was had Damien fro the ‘Omen’ on the brain.”

                      Hi Teddi,
                      My limited understanding of the Antichrist is that he (or she) is only talked about by St. John in 1 John and 2 John. My impression is that the Antichrist had to be a Christian who then rejects that Jesus is the Christ who has come in the flesh from God the Father. My understanding is there can be (and have been) many Antichrists.

                      Perhaps others have a better understanding of the Antichrist. If so, I hope they share.

                      I’ve actually never watched the Omen – but I understand what you mean.

                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    62. Hi, Brian,
                      I can’t speak to whether the remake of “The Omen” was any good, but the original was FANTASTIC! It was a trilogy, and it had Gregory Peck in it. The third installment had Sam Neill playing Damien as an adult in, “The Final Conflict.” Great stuff —as a kid, I’d always pull out my Bible and read Revelations after watching it.😆

                      You might want to consider watching it —you’ve missed a great one.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    63. “I can’t speak to whether the remake of ‘The Omen’ was any good, but the original was FANTASTIC! It was a trilogy, and it had Gregory Peck in it. The third installment had Sam Neill playing Damien as an adult in, ‘The Final Conflict.’ Great stuff —as a kid, I’d always pull out my Bible and read Revelations after watching it.😆”

                      Hi Teddi,
                      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll consider watching it.

                      Brian

                      Liked by 1 person

                    64. Hi, everyone,

                      First, Brian, the piece from the Vatican document that you just posted on conscience is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for posting that. I will be printing that off and using it again. Just perfect and beautiful in its explanation.

                      One of the areas where I think my view of God varies a bit from many others (and I could be persuadable away from this view if I saw evidence that convinced me that view is incorrect), is that I do not try to define God —in absolutes or otherwise.

                      If I believe that an almighty creator has the power to punish humans eternally if they go against him and don’t try to by by his rules, and if this creator has the power to grant a wonderful, eternal life to those who do play by his rules, I’m not going to get hung up on whether this creator is 100% good, 100% just, Perfect or anything else. I’m going to, at minimum, go along to get along.

                      Now, I know this doesn’t sound very honorable or right, but being honorable or right won’t be much consolation if one is being, potentially, punished harshly for all of eternity.

                      It is one thing to stand up for —and even die for— your morals and principles against people on earth —where, the worst that they can do to you is torture you for a finite period of time or kill you.

                      It is, however, another thing entirely to rebel against a being that we believe to be almighty and that can punish us eternally.

                      I just keep things simple, because I can’t think of a good reason why I shouldn’t. So, what I understand of God’s nature and character is based upon (1) what He has done and (2) what He says He will do and (3) what His rules are.

                      I don’t try and “define” the character of other humans, so why should I try and “define” the character of God? The free-will that people have —and God certainly has— means that we can all choose to act out of character at times and under certain circumstances.

                      If an almighty being wants to perform a seemingly cruel and harsh loyalty test on someone, it is, obviously, within his prerogative. I view tight definitions of God as limiting what He can or will do, so I don’t presume or assume anything like that.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    65. “First, Brian, the piece from the Vatican document that you just posted on conscience is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for posting that. I will be printing that off and using it again. Just perfect and beautiful in its explanation.”

                      Hi Teddi,
                      I’m glad that you liked it. I’ve found it useful myself.

                      Brian

                      Liked by 2 people

                    66. Sorry, more than the typical auto-correct problems from my iPhone with that last post.

                      Like

                2. Hey Teddi,

                  Excellent thoughts and I respect your disagreement, now the skeptics can’t accuse us of secretly colluding to agree with each other no matter what. Anyways, left to my own devices I would say I agree with your sentiment that such cases provide clear exemptions to the moral principle of truth just as they are are morally justified exemptions to the principle of life preservation or the principle of autonomy for example.

                  My only reason for saying that moral principle of truth has no exemptions is solely due to the biblical revelation and I would just say, I disagree with your interpretation that the verse in question speaks of a narrow reading rather than an all inlusive one. God is truth and it seems to imply that falsehood of any kind for any reason is immoral or sinful. When the Bible contrasts man with God, it says God is not a man that He should lie for example- so there seems to be something fundamental against any and all falsehoods whereby God as a morally perfect Being can’t lie.

                  That said, on a human level, when confronted with the situations of Nazi Germany, etc. that you mention I can tell you I would lie there. However, I would still recognize that I am sinning when I do it regardless- this relates to the Moral Hierarchy whereby sometimes moral principles will conflict and one has to choose the lesser of two evils via violating a moral principle to prevent a worse evil from coming about. God can’t choose the lesser of two evils, everything He does has to be good even if not morally ideal in the sense it doesn’t violate a moral principle.

                  But yeah, I take your point, if it weren’t for the Bible verses against lying, I would most assuredly allow exemptions to the moral principle of truth- my moral conscience seems to be defunct in that department as I tend to privilege my reading of the divine revelation over my moral conscience in this regard. But I’m not 100% on this and so I could be wrong, it could be I’ve misread the text and/or the text is in error in this regard and thus I should prioritize my own moral conscience over the Bible. For me, its a matter of probabilities and I think my reading of the Bible is more probably true than my own conscience in this respect, hence I favour the understanding that God can never lie no matter the circumstances and thus it is a sin for us to do so no matter what (even if it is the lesser of two evils at times, it is still an evil).

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Hi, Dale,

                    Thanks for your response. With regard to my comments about lying, I only meant them regarding man —not God.

                    Although, my being the type of person that thinks that anything’s possible (given the right contingencies), I don’t preclude the possibility that God may have not revealed all of His plans for us in the Bible.

                    Since I view our Creator as someone who is powerful beyond my imagination, I, personally, don’t try to peg Him in with tight definitions that have to be 100%. To me, anyone that powerful and ingenious can do anything He wants to.

                    His greatness commands my respect and obedience, and His great love and gift of life and free-will to all of humanity (including me) makes me love Him.

                    So, I remain resolved in feeling that I don’t need to know or understand everything. Although I might be wrong, knowing what’s most important, I think, is what’s most important.

                    You bring up the “lesser of the two evils” argument. I can, largely, agree with that characterization, but can committing a lesser evil (to save someone’s life) be righteous (in a, perhaps, less-than-perfect way?) I think (and hope) that God places a premium on our intention. Thanks for the additional perspective!

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Cool, you are welcome Teddi, its nice to have your perspective on this matter as well 🙂 As to on the human level- alright, yeah I think we are pretty much on the same page then except I’m a little more philosophically minded and so when you ask me can committing a lesser evil to accomplish a greater good be righteous, I have to say most emphatically not (at least not in a technical sense) but of course God in judging us is a fair judge and thus he takes into account all the morally relevant circumstances and understands we were placed in a situation where we had to sin (though one could argue that the fact that we are privy to such circumstances is our fault ultimately as humans, we shouldn’t live in a Fallen state where such dilemmas arise to begin with). But yes, the Bible is clear that our intentions and motivations to only do good is always a key factor in God’s judgement I believe.

                      Liked by 2 people

            2. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 29, 2019 — 8:50 pm

              You and Dale are having a great discussion. I myself have wrestled with these issues for a long time.

              “I guess it is kind-of like the trolley problem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

              In Catholicism, we would be allowed to pull the lever in good conscience as long as we are only diverting the train with the intent of saving five people, and not with the intent of killing the one man. His death would be an unintended consequence of our action.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Brian: “I guess it is kind-of like the trolley problem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem”

                Arthur: “In Catholicism, we would be allowed to pull the lever in good conscience as long as we are only diverting the train with the intent of saving five people, and not with the intent of killing the one man. His death would be an unintended consequence of our action.”

                Hi Arthur,
                I’m familiar with the doctrine of double effect. But, let’s say you had to actively push a person in front of the trolley in order to save the five people – doesn’t the Catholic Church hold that would be wrong?
                “A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church; #1753)
                “… One may not do evil so that good may result from it.” (CCC; 1761)

                Of course, the recommended solution is to save everyone and not have any deaths – anything less is not good, right?

                Thanks,
                Brian

                Liked by 2 people

                1. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 29, 2019 — 10:46 pm

                  “But, let’s say you had to actively push a person in front of the trolley in order to save the five people – doesn’t the Catholic Church hold that would be wrong?”

                  Yes, that would be wrong according to Catholic teaching. It would be murder. But pulling the lever would be moral as long as you did not do so to cause the death of the single person.

                  “Of course, the recommended solution is to save everyone and not have any deaths – anything less is not good, right?”

                  In either trolley scenario the Catholic should try to save as many people as possible, but without committing murder.

                  Catholic ethicists and moral theologians oftens debate the limits and applicability of the principle of double effect, so some Catholic experts might take a more stringent or a more liberal view than I have here.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Brian: “But, let’s say you had to actively push a person in front of the trolley in order to save the five people – doesn’t the Catholic Church hold that would be wrong?”

                    Arthur: “Yes, that would be wrong according to Catholic teaching. It would be murder. But pulling the lever would be moral as long as you did not do so to cause the death of the single person.”

                    Hi Arthur,
                    I sometimes wonder how, intending to save 5 lives, one pulls a lever of a trolley, knowing an innocent person will die as an unintended effect, is moral – but pulling a trigger on a gun, knowing an innocent person will die as an unintended effect, is immoral. In both cases 5 people will be saved and an innocent person killed.

                    Just sharing one of the many things I’ve pondered,
                    Brian

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 30, 2019 — 4:17 pm

                      I would describe shooting to kill or pushing a person in front of a trolley as lethal actions, unlike diverting a trolley. It is true that all three actions result in the death of an innocent, but by diverting the trolley would you have taken lethal action against an innocent person, as you would be doing in the other scenarios? I don’t believe so.

                      Liked by 2 people

                  2. Hi, everybody,
                    I’m just now noticing this very interesting discussion. I’ve read a good number of comments on it, but I’m not sure I’ve read them all.

                    Anyhow, I’m wondering a couple of things —especially with regard to the verse that Brian mentioned “shedding blood.”

                    First, I had been taught in Sunday school —but I’ve heard others say this numerous times as well— that the Ten Commandments really prohibits murder (Where there is a malicious intent) as opposed to killing. So, was the verse Brian mentioned, maybe, just a general rule?

                    Also, with regard to situations where it could be the moral thing to kill —I think there are many. For example, the killing that soldiers engage in as a part of a righteous war.

                    Then, there’s self defense and the defense of others.

                    With a scenario where someone says: either you push this one 99 year old person (or, maybe it someone a lot younger) in front of a train or 5 babies are going to die, I would think that, theoretically speaking— the right thing to do would be to save the 5 babies. I would argue that there was no malice in the person’s heart that killed the one to save the five. Also, with regard to the one person that was killed, there’s the issue of “duress” —in that, it’s going to be 1 or 5 that die.

                    Wouldn’t killing Hitler or a member of the SS be a righteous thing to do during the war if placing them under arrest was not a possibility?

                    Maybe I am misunderstanding the Catholic position, but is the Catholic Church opposed to all wars? I would have assumed not, but now I’m not so sure.

                    Moreover, isn’t the Pope protected by the Swiss Guard or something like that? Would they kill someone to protect the Pope —like the Secret Service would do to protect the American President?

                    If someone can morally kill someone attempting to assassinate the Pope, then the verse about shedding blood must be, a general rule with exceptions.

                    I’d be interested in hearing the various takes on these issues.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. arthurjeffriesthecatholic November 2, 2019 — 4:24 am

                      The official Catholic view is that it is morally permissible to use force, including lethal force, to prevent an aggressor from causing harm if non-violent means are insufficient. That applies to killing aggressors in wars of just defense and it would allow members of the Swiss Guard to kill in defense of the pope. However, since Pope Francis appears to adhere to an ethnic of Christian nonviolence, as did Benedict XVI, St. John Paul II and St. Paul VI, I’m not sure what directives the Swiss Guard have been given about the use of lethal force.

                      I think that the traditional Catholic response to your scenario about the babies would be that it is morally impermissible to use lethal force against a non-aggressor for any reason, including to save other innocents.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. Hi, Arthur,

                      Thank you for your interesting response. It sounds like the Catholic Church’s view on war (from what you describe) appears to be the same as mine.

                      On the example I gave with the babies, I think I added (possibly, I can’t remember for sure) a twist that might not have been on the example that one of y’all gave. My example had an aggressor that was giving someone the choice of either saving one person or saving five.

                      I think that in such a situation, if one doesn’t make the choice (under obvious duress of course) to pick to have either the one person die or the five to die, one’s lack of action could be the proximate cause of people dying.

                      But, yes, I agree that in the face of a non-aggressor, it’s a different situation.

                      Liked by 2 people

                2. Hi, everyone,

                  With the statement made in the above comment, that one cannot do evil so that good may result, this can get pretty technical.

                  If one takes a life/sheds blood in self-defense or the defense of others, is the taking of a life/shedding blood actually evil in such a circumstance?

                  Maybe, shedding blood isn’t, in and of itself, evil; maybe, it needs to have the guilty mind associated with it to be evil.

                  I’m not really certain if these circumstances just might mean that the “evil act” might not be punishable (due to the extenuating circumstances), or if the act is only evil when done with a guilty mind.

                  To make it even stickier —kind of like with our penal laws— what happens if someone unintentionally kills someone through reckless or negligent behavior? Talk about muddying the waters.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Right, shedding of blood comes in many different contexts, and needs to be evaluated in such. Including evaluating the state of mind of the life taker.

                    Would you stipulate that mere mortal humans do not have the same control over their state of mind and knowledge of the context that a purported omnipotent and omniscient being does? Would you then, judge such a being in the same way you would a human?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Hi, Bryan,

                      Yes, I will wholeheartedly stipulate that we, as humans, often-times cannot control our thoughts. Sometimes, we can lessen the likelihood that we won’t think bad thoughts if we try our best to control who and what we are around. But, obviously, this is not fail-proof.

                      I’m not clear on what you were mentioning in your question to me about “knowledge of the context.” Were you asking me if I think humans always understand the context of their own behavior or the behavior of others?

                      If it’s regarding our own behavior, mentally stable people should know good and well what Was going through their head at the time they commit an act.

                      In terms of judging others actions (like in a trial), we would need to investigate the matter to try our best to figure out what the context was when someone shed blood.

                      As for being critical of and judging an omnipotent, omniscient being, that doesn’t seem like the brightest thing to do.

                      I can understand and appreciate David vs. Goliath type battles; however, depending upon what one’s religious beliefs are, that will only result in an EARTHLY death.

                      But, humans being critical of the Almighty is like trying to fight a tornado with a feather. There’s just no way to win that battle —assuming that someone even wants to, or has a reason to, engage in such a battle.

                      Once again, however, I want to point out that the conversation is turning towards judging God —as opposed to first determining if He exists.

                      Can you see why I keep thinking that many skeptics don’t “approve” of God or hate Him?

                      If a Christian-turned-skeptic was in a foxhole being shot at, do you think their belief in God might suddenly come back really fast as they are praying to Him for help? Skeptics won’t likely admit it, but we all know what would be going through their head at that moment —or, if they got shot and were dying, I’d bet my last dollar they would be begging for forgiveness from God for how they have been acting towards Him. I’m not saying that there might not, still, be some degree of doubt.

                      What I am saying is that I think that engaging in arguments about whether or not one agrees with God is pointless unless someone is angry at Him. Otherwise, it makes more sense (in my mind) to focus on whether God exists with an open mind.

                      Now, debating IF there is a God, that’s a different story. But, if we, for the sake of argument, assume that the God of Christianity does exist, what’s your game plan?

                      Liked by 1 person

  7. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 27, 2019 — 1:43 am

    I don’t take a position for or against the ontological argument, but I regard this episode as a win for David. In my view he was at his best. He was very effective at poking holes in Tony’s arguments, and Tony’s responses to David’s objections were mostly unconvincing. That doesn’t mean that Tony’s wrong, but in my view David prevailed in this debate.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is truly humbling coming from you as I always appreciate your research and effort you bring to the board. If Dale ever gets tired of the game, I would consider you a worthy opponent.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. David,

        I’m not saying this in an upset way at all, but I get the impression that you are dissatisfied with me as your interlocutor or feel I’m an unworthy opponent. You mention during the show with Randal that “it felt great to actually get challenged for a change” (implies I don’t provide substantive challenge to you), you leave a post saying you didn’t like the response on the prayer and miracles issue and requested to bypass me by bringing others on the show to presumably do a better job than I have, and now you try to entice Arthur to be my potential replacement.

        Now, I had no intentions of leaving the show on my own initiative as many people have said they do find me to be a worthy opponent based on my years of research and scholarship. On the substantive issues if not in presentation, I do feel that I do a good job in providing a counter to your skeptical ideas. But if you are at the point where you don’t feel so (as you seem to be hinting at of late, but again I’m not good at reading intentions so I could be wrong in reading things this way), then I don’t want you to feel stuck with me as a partner. Remember I left the show last Season and you sought to bring me back, you mentioned you wanted to retire after Season 1, at first I didn’t want it to end but in the end I was willing to respect your wishes to end things, but once again you wanted to return with me for a Season 2.

        Anyways, the point of this comment is not as a complaint, but I just want to let you know that as a friend I don’t want you to feel obligated to have to do the show with me if you feel I’m somehow unworthy of your time in someway. As I said, I’m happy to continue on but if you wish to end things, we could at least do the show til the end of the year as I spent time studying and writing up my blogs for the Trinity/Incarnation discussion, but then after that we can amicably part ways (I only ask if you can still help me learn how to do my own thing so I can post my own blogs or Podcasts or YouTube videos, etc for people to benefit from my research).

        So yeah, the balls entirely in your court on this front, I have no desire to end the show or to be replaced, I believe I’m doing a good job at representing the Christian side on the show, but if you or the audience doesn’t think I’m doing a good job, then I don’t want you to feel you have to work with me out of obligation. Let me know how you feel on this.

        Like

        1. Allow me to dispel any uncertainty about the matter: I have no dissatisfaction with you as a partner in crime. Randal does provide me a different kind of challenge that forces me to think in different patterns. The fact that I’ve got your number and can see you coming a mile away is not a negative about you. I have been trained to think like, and in a sense, counter think like you since birth. Joyce would also not provide me with mental challenge despite how smart and capable she is. We have all had the same kind of mental training. So it is hard for us to surprise each other with something novel. Lord knows I try every week. But I have no illusions on the matter.

          This is demonstrated by how well we can answer for the other when someone asks a question. While I do not agree with your positions, I know them well enough to predict how you will answer most questions. And while you get it wrong sometimes, you can answer a question pretty well in the spirit of how I would answer it if you were trying to tell someone what I would say on a given issue.

          I appreciate challenge just as you do. Randal comes from one branch of Christianity that I have little experience with. He has charismatic roots. Author would be an interesting challenge because he is Catholic, another branch of Christianity with which I have little first-hand familiarity. You should find it a complement that I would identify him as a worthy replacement for you if you decided to hang up your spurs. That is because he is the only one I know who puts as much effort into the game. He is every bit as academic as you, and also extremely well-versed in many flavors of Christianity. We are lucky to have him on the board.

          What you don’t know is that Andrew and I talked about doing this kind of podcast for years before launching it. The problem was that we could not find a worthy candidate on the Unbelievable board till you came along. I auditioned you there. And it was clear that I had found my interlocutor. Nothing about that has changed. I’m just glad to know that we have a worthy backup in the event that you are run over by a horse, or whatever it is you Canadians drive. 🙂

          Rest easy, my friend.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Alright thanks for clarifying that David, as you know I’m often wrong when I read into things, so I just wanted to present those evidential factors to see if there was some kind of trend or if it was all in my head. But yeah glad to see that I’m completely off in my reading there as I have plenty of good things in store for the audience 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. arthurjeffriesthecatholic October 27, 2019 — 11:30 pm

              I just want to chime in and say that I definitely won’t be replacing you anytime soon Dale. The amount of work you put into this show is daunting. If I were co-hosting, David would be lucky to put out one episode a month with how long it would take for me to prep each time. I definitely couldn’t do what you or David do week after week. Heck, it would take me at least one uninterrupted hour (which I’ll never have) just to compose one of your more comprehensive comments. You’re doing great work! I admire it.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Thank you Arthur, that really means a lot to me- as you say I put a lot into it and the weekly Podcast format is quite daunting even for me, sometimes the blogs include multiple topics in one and I’m like Oh my goodness I need to like 2 months to address all these properly, but you learn to sacrifice and just keep the extra stuff for another day 🙂

                Liked by 2 people

  8. David, just wanted to chime in and say kudos for your debate performance. I was most surprised at how often Tony backed up his positions with a litany of assumed Christian underpinnings. That seemed a strange way to approach debating the ontological argument with a skeptic who shares none of them, nor would/should grant them in a debate where god’s existence is on the table. The triune god proof was a particularly strong part of the debate for you.

    Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. BTW, a maximally great pizza sounds delicious. But if more pepperoni is wrong, I don’t want to be right 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi, David,
    You mentioned in that last remark to me that at the end of the day, we are the final arbiters of right and wrong.

    I get what you are meaning by this, but I’m going to split an important hair here.

    Yes, because of our free-will, we can (1) choose to create or own moral code, (2) change it when it suits us or (3) we can choose to live by no moral code at all.

    In the alternative, we can choose to follow the moral code set forth by God and Jesus.

    Having both the power of free-will and the ability to sin, humans can still choose to hold out God’s laws as the laws we want and try to live by—even though we will be very flawed in our follow-through. That’s what sin is all about, and that’s why God created a human form of Himself to redeem us from our sin.

    I’m wondering how much of a correlation there is between how much a kid or young adult is pressured (by parents and/or the church) to meet religious standards that can never be perfectly achieved and the percentage of those people who, later on, renounce God and their religion.

    If one is pressured —especially as a kid or young adult— to win in a seemingly all-or-nothing situation, there’s a strong temptation to just walk away from the challenge. Am I wrong about this?

    Like

  11. I mourn over all of them, none of these factually necessary events are good things in themselves, they are a consequence of living in a sinful Fallen world. God weeps at such tragedies but allows them to save as many souls as possible. It is good to allow freewill creatures to cause or actualize evil but that doesn’t mean the events themselves are good, they are still evil.

    It still shocks me today after all these years after leaving Christianity and debating in this arena that Christians can write or say things like this and not be toppled over the weight of the cognitive dissonance required.

    ‘“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.’ – R.W. Emerson

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bryan,

      It involves no cognitive dissonance for the logical person;; the two are easily consistent. I don’t like causing my child emotional and physical pain by stabbing them in the arm, but I gladly feel right as rain letting my doctor do it with a needle for their overall benefit. Likewise, I might mourn losing a girlfriend, but for the overall good, I’m willing to allow her to excercise her freewill in ending the relationship despite any lesser evils of any pain that we both might go through in the short term. Finally, I might mourn having to kill another human being in a war, but for the overall good, I would feel no moral guilt whatsoever- its the good and right thing to do in those circumstances.

      The ends justify the means in these particular instances, and it is the same in the case of God and His allowing WW2.

      Like

      1. Right, so, God’s perfect plan involves his chosen people burning in ovens. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given this same deity created Hell, and the crazy game show it takes to avoid it.

        It’s all right here on the page. No cognitive dissonance? Let the reader decide.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Bryan,

          You mention Hell, time to educate I’d say, check this out = http://christianthinktank.com/gr5part2.html . Never critique Christianity based on Hell again until you’ve read it and learned how to engage in critical thought on the subject.

          Anyways, I’ve had my fun putting you in your place via responding to your skeptical attacks, I think I will end the unproductive convo with you at this point (any follow up responses from you will be replied to with Bible verses) as I want to focus on more substantive dialogues. I was surprised and grateful to see that Darren actually gave me a sincere question, as amazing as it sounds I’d rather spend my time on him in that thread at least as he seems to sincerely be interested in considering my view substantively there.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. I had such a good time listening to the next podcast that I decided to post it early. Enjoy.

    https://skepticsandseekers.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/reasonable-disbelief-vs-irrational-atheism/

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Teddi wrote:

    I just want to correct something that was stated. The evidence of the Shroud’s authenticity did not bring me to believing in Jesus and believing in God. I was raised in a Christian household, and I had, and have, always believed in God and Jesus.
    What the Shroud evidence has always done for me is quiet the small amount of natural doubt that all critically thinking Christians have regarding anything that requires faith.

    Good to see you putting this down so plainly in words. Dale agrees incidentally, he has an 11 point argument for the truth of Christianity you must accept first before the shroud evidence is compelling.

    So, a good next step would be for you to clarify or walk back then, how the shroud is a “checkmate” for skeptics and non-believers?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Bryan,

      I am unfamiliar with the 11 point argument that you are referencing. All that I can tell you is that I think that a person can have their doubts about the veracity of the Bible and their doubts about the authenticity of the Shroud, and still find that the scientific and forensic evidence derived from the Shroud point squarely to the existence of the God of the Bible.

      I am in the process of distilling snippets of information from many scholarly articles on the Shroud so that skeptics can do the least amount of work to view the most important information that I have come across.

      But, in the meantime, if you are as intellectually curious as I think you are, take a look at this large collection of evidence which is listed regarding the Shroud of Turin. The sources are, also, attached for all of the evidence listed. This is all science –no hoodoo.

      Click to access e9120bf7684edaa4f89912d08848ead35306.pdf

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Teddi,

        Yeah don’t let Bryan trip you up, he doesn’t understand what he is talking about and so he is trying to make an issue out of the fact that everyone has an interpretive grid that they use in assessing the evidence.

        So he is just saying that look, you can point to the evidence that the Shroud has “3D” images let’s say but that alone doesn’t prove Christianity is true, you need to go beyond that data and interpret in terms of explanatory models and an overall framework that allows one to conclude that Christianity is true (that’s what my 11 premise argument does).

        On a simplistic level, Bryan is complaining if you said the scientific evidence for the Big Bang proves God exists- Bryan would say no it doesn’t. He’s right, at best it only proves that the universe began to exist via the Standard Big Bang Model and then the philosophical Kalam Cosmological argument uses that evidence within the overall framework of a deductive argument to conclude that God does in fact exist, but nothing about the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation or red-shift evidences or singularity theorems themselves prove that God exists on their own.

        So that is all he is saying with the Shroud evidence, there is no issue here we are totally on the same page as it is perfectly fine to speak colloquially in saying that the Shroud or Resurrection evidence proves the truth of Christianity.

        Like

        1. So that is all he is saying with the Shroud evidence, there is no issue here we are totally on the same page as it is perfectly fine to speak colloquially in saying that the Shroud or Resurrection evidence proves the truth of Christianity.

          Actually, it isn’t fine as neither you or Teddi are being consistent in your argument. If the structure of the argument is that you can’t think of any physical mechanism to produce the shroud, therefore it wasn’t physical. Then to be consistent you also have to admit that because you can’t think of any supernatural mechanism, then it wasn’t the supernatural.

          If inability to determine how it was done physically equates to a low probability of it being done physically, then an inability to determine how it was done supernaturally should give it an equally low probability of it being done supernaturally and the fact you can’t demonstrate the supernatural is even a real thing, to begin with, drops the probability of it being supernatural even lower. So when you compare the two probabilities, the physical mechanisms are going to be more probable than the supernatural mechanisms just because of the structure of the argument you are using.

          So you can point out all you like that you can’t think of any way to do it physically, that doesn’t make the supernatural magically more probable. You also can’t think of how to do it supernaturally and in addition you can’t even demonstrate that the supernatural is even a real contender as an option.

          Like

    2. Hi, again, Bryan,

      In an effort to keep Shroud of Turin oriented information in the comment area related to a podcast concerning it, I’ll be posting more Shroud information in the section where Dr. Kelly Kearse was interviewed on June 7, 2019, regarding the bloodstain evidence. I’ve posted some additional articles there as well. I hope that you, and others, find the articles to be as interesting as I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Comments on this thread are temporarily closed.

    I have tried to be patient with commenters and allow off-topic discussions on just about anything related to Christian/atheist topics. But I have no more patience for shroud digressions. That ends here!

    A significant portion of S&S has been devoted to nothing but shroud. I invite and encourage all people interested in the subject to seek those places out and engage. But do not bring it to other places on the board. In particular, If I am featured by writing or podcast on a particular board, you can know that shroud talk will not be allowed. Anyplace where Dale is doing a solo show or a particular shroud blog, your comments are welcome. There is no shortage of that here. So respect the format or post elsewhere.

    Thank you all for your cooperation.

    David

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Check your email.

      Like

  15. Thanks everyone for your patience and cooperation. Comments for this thread are again open for business.

    Liked by 1 person

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