Conversation Ben , Chris, Stacy, Dan

In Apologetics, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved on February 26, 2009 at 5:17 am

 Dan Neal at 9:59pm February 18
Thanks Ben the last paragraph from p 253 no human acts are good or bad in some twisted logic is how Hitler and his gang of thugs justified their final solution…Evil prevails when good men do nothing

SR  at 8:31am February 19
Toughest yet most intriguing and life changing class I ever took was called Theodicy – dealing with the problem of evil in context of the existence of a good omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God. Try defining good and evil. It’s harder than you might think.

Ben  at 11:07am February 19
It is some twisted logic. I would be interested in dissecting what went wrong with Hitler’s thinking someday. In my own quick assessment of his logic, Lamont seems to separate actions into a consecutive time frame, such that the action precedes the consequence. And since the two are distinguishable, he separates one identity (the action) and defines it as a variable that is dependent on the following identities (the consequences), which are dependent variables of the action, for you can not have the consequences without the action. So where is the independent variable in this case? It should have been the action but Lamont is saying it is not the action. For example, I perform the action of eating an apple. One consequence is that my body gains energy, which is good. But another consequence is that I die because little did I know the apple was poisoned.

Ben  at 11:08am February 19
Therefore on Lamont’s terms, the action must be bad because the sum of consequences was bad, so I will be going to hell for eating an apple. The problem is that the sin of the world destroyed the person, i.e., the sin was the bad action of the world poisoning the apple. And I let the world destroy me. I wasn’t smart enough to overcome in Lamont’s terms.

Ben  at 11:08am February 19
Jesus on the other hand frequently took actions totally outside the sphere of time into the domain of the heart. For example, is there a time frame for love? Love will eternally be love, regardless of time. God is love. God loves me. And He called me into this relationship of love. Hence, I have a self-love in my heart that is independent of consequences. So, I eat the apple because I have self-love in an effort to be “good” to my body. Although my body still dies because it is poisoned, I will not be going to hell for eating an apple. For, “Grace be with all who have undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 6:24 (Holman). Although the consequences of my actions resulted in my body dying, I was not morally wrong because of the love in my heart for myself and ultimately for Jesus Christ.

Ben  at 11:16am February 19
Stacy – I was just looking at my book on theodicy this morning. What a coincidence! This area is something that concerned me from a very young age. I remember when I was about 12 or 13 saying to a friend: “How could a loving God do something like this?” I was talking angrily about how terrible it was that my mother couldn’t walk because of her multiple sclerosis. And thus began my search that I told you about last year.

Chris  at 12:41pm February 20
This is quite a complex topic to address and ethics/morals are something that I think many many before us have tried to explain or clearly define without a definitive answer (yes I’m including those put forth in most religions and many philosophers; they to me are all pieces of what is correct/moral).

I do agree with Lamont’s statement that actions in themselves are not inherently right or wrong. So what do we mean right or wrong, since these are value assessments in themselves? Everyone needs to come up with a working definition of what in the world we mean by this. How do we define what is right/moral? Through some appeal of a standard (religion, philosophical system, personal standard, etc) or through it’s consequences? Like Lamont, it is my opinion that the consequences are the ultimately means of assessing what is right or wrong. I do understand that this leads to a relativistic system of morals or a situational type ethical framework, but to me, that is simply reality.

Chris at 1:10pm February 20
What is deemed correct in one situation, would be morally wrong in another. So we must look at who and what it affects along with the overall changes in happiness, suffering, or pain. Here lies my working definition of what is right/moral. It is anything that decreases the amount of pain and suffering in the world or anything that increases happiness or quality of life. This definition for me works in most cases as broad principle, but I’m sure there are many cases in which it is not so black and white. Pertaining to sin within the context of Christianity, I would say that many of the things that deemed immoral are simply not moral issues based on my previous definition. For example God defined eating unclean foods as a sin in Leviticus 11:1-47 and Deuteronomy 14:3-20. Is eating ‘unclean’ food really a damnable offense? The Bible makes this particular issue a moral one claiming to be a sin (or an offensive against God or his will).

Chris at 2:16pm February 20
But in reality this was just a matter of practical advice given the food preparation processes of that time period. Not a moral issue and I can find more examples if someone would like me too to reinforce my argument. Okay, back to my original argument about situational ethics. Sorry for getting sidetracked about my previous point, but I wanted to make a brief point about many things that proclaimed to moral issues when they in fact are not (based on my definition). Ben, you are right about Lamont separating the action from the consequences and here’s an example why:
Person X kills person Y: X killed Y because X was robbing Y. This is obviously morally wrong and most people would label this as murder.
Person X kills person Y: X killed Y because X was defending himself/herself from Y.
Sorry for the crudeness of the example; in both of these situations the act of killing has occurred. But in each situation the act of killing could be labeled differently.

Chris at 2:24pm February 20
In the first one, it is obviously wrong/immoral that killing occurred and we would label it as such. In the second one, most people would label this as permissible and morally/ethically justified (meaning not wrong, especially if Y was threatening X’s life. You must decouple the act itself from the consequences and determine whether a particular action was a moral/right one based on the situation. Simply saying killing is wrong is oversimplifying everything and does not take into account the reality of the situation.
Another example is the poor man that steals bread for his family. In this situation, the family is destitute and obviously needs to eat (let assume it’s been 5-6 days since their last meal). Is is morally wrong for this man to steal when there is no other means to provide food? Again, we must look into the consequences of this instead of the action. One loaf of stolen bread or the possibility of one of the family members dying from starvation?

Chris at 3:04pm February 20
As for your apple example… it is not a moral/right or wrong issue in terms of your perspective (maybe the person that poisoned it though!). The outcome of your death based on the action of eating the apple had no basis in your direct choice, so it is not a moral issue for you… simply a matter of misfortune. I’m assuming that this example is alluding to Adam’s eating from the Tree of Knowledge/Life. We can tackle the issue of Original Sin in another post if you want. But I will say this… God created the universe and everything in it, so he also created the Tree of Knowledge/Life. That kind of implicates him in indirectly creating the ‘poisoned’ apple. That might place him in an ethically dubious position by allowing such a thing to occur in the first place (like the poisoner in your example).

Now how do you evaluate the consequences of an action as right or wrong? Utilitarian approach, rights perspective, justice approach, common good perspective, virtues based, and so on?

Ben at 3:17pm February 20
Thank you for adding to the conversation Chris! It might be a couple of days until I can respond. I will be attending talks on philosophy and religion here at the university tonight and all day tomorrow.

Ben at 9:06am February 23
I will respond with more in a few days, but here is a bit for reflection. A moral life is inextricably interwoven with the depth of love in your soul. One’s deliverance from the danger of wrongdoing begins within that love, which was given to us by the creator of love as follows:

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

We have witnessed this love in the gentle and gaunt man who was brutally beaten and left to wither and die nailed onto the planks of a cross. When we witness the consequences of the hurt and pain felt by this man, we see that it was not the result of murder.

Ben at 9:06am February 23
The cause is delineated to the wrongdoing of everyone because the pain experienced by this man was when the creator of love turned His back on this man and looked away in His love for you and me:

“At about three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'” Matthew 27:46 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

And that is the love of the creator named in Hebrew: Yahweh.Ben Clayton at 9:07am February 23
So, what did this man on the cross say about unclean food?
“And He said to them, ‘Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a man from the outside can defile him? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated.’ (As a result, He made all foods clean.) Then He said, ‘What comes out of a person—that defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, lewdness, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.'” Mark 7:18-23 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Ben  at 9:07am February 23
What did He say about murder?
“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” Matthew 5:21-22 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Ben at 9:08am February 23
And what would He say to the person who stole the loaf of bread?
“He also said to them: ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Ben at 9:09am February 23
“‘So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:5-13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Ben at 3:36pm February 23
Looking back on what I said this morning, I need to add that one’s love for God is inextricably interwoven with trust, belief, or faith, as you can tell from John 3:16. You can not have that love without trusting in Him.

Ben  at 4:05pm February 23
Let me ask a more complicated but common scenario about murder. Say that a woman is raped and is deciding to murder the unborn child because she can not afford the child, is a crack addict, and does not want to go through the hassle of having a baby. In addition, the use of crack during her pregnancy could have potentially caused the baby to be deformed in some way. She decides that the consequences of keeping the baby will be too hard to deal with and will cause too much pain. So she has the baby murdered. Did she really have the ability to measure all the consequences? What if this baby was destined to be some great military leader that would save the lives of millions? Or maybe, 30 years later this person would be your best friend and would save your life somehow. Who else besides God knows these consequences?Ben Clayton at 4:16pm February 23
Even in the case for the man stealing the loaf of bread. How does he know whether the store keeper will shoot him for stealing?

Ben at 4:42pm February 23
In my situation of the apple, I was not implying the fruit eaten in the Garden of Eden. Apples are my usual lunch. Note it was the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, not simply knowledge. Notice how God gave Adam the choice of whether to trust Him or not:

“And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.'” Genesis 2:16-17 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Also note how it was the devil that persuaded Eve by saying that she would be like God in determining what is good and evil. It was the devil’s persuasion that implanted this desire to know what is good and evil.

Ben  at 4:43pm February 23
“‘No! You will not die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate; she also gave [some] to her husband, [who was] with her, and he ate [it].” Genesis 3:4-6 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Dan Neal at 7:24am February 24
Hey Ben I noticed your friend posted a comment and I might weigh in you cannot seperate morality from God anymore than we can seperate the taste of an apple from an apple. Most want to be moral netural because a when we accept a moral law we must have a moral law giver. Second we tend to put ouselves as abitor of God’s intention instead of being his created beings. Who can know the mind of God where were we when he hung the moon and stars. God’s ways are not our ways and our ways are not his ways. Finally a fool hath said in his heart there is no God! To disect God from the position of some sort of intlectual distance is to miss his offer of initmate friendship. Man whee did that come from? Have a great day.

Ben at 9:53am February 24
Thank you Dan! You are right. When God is removed from our lives, we replace Him with a substitute. This substitution is complex and multiply faceted, since God normally occupies our life on many different levels

.Christopher at 2:35pm February 24
Okay, I’ve not taken the time to respond to your posts Ben, but I will soon. Again, this is why I like that we can still debate and analyze this stuff despite the fact that we are on opposite sides of the fence. Your depth of analysis and well stated responses really are quite appreciated! There are not many who I can discuss these topics with that actually provide a decent answer… I get disappointed that so many people who claim the faith but yet have a childlike understanding of something that impacts their lives everyday and so such a great degree. I just wanted to say that, but let’s not get off topic on this.

Christopher  at 2:49pm February 24
And one more quick question about the last posts by Dan and yourself (I’ll fully respond later). If morality only comes from God, then how do you explain the large percentage of people who are not believers in God/Jesus or some other religion not related to the Judeo-Christian family of religions who act in moral ways? I’m an currently not a believer in God (Christian sense), but I still act in ethical/moral ways. I’d also say that I’m more ethical than most and many people think that I am Christian (Ben can attest to this). I’ve had some interesting reactions when they find out I’m not. But back to the point, how do you explain ethical/moral behavior when someone is disassociated from God? What about much of the recent studies in sociobiology that are showing that people might have evolved a rudimentary ethical system through just be communal creatures? We’ve seen evidence of other species acting in moral ways (at least we’d call it moral if humans were doing the same thing).

Christopher at 2:58pm February 24
Looking at this from another view, how do we deem what is in the Bible actually moral? I feel that many situations in the Bible and the morals that put forth are simply horrible. Take the story of Abraham and Issac. God asking Abraham to place his son Issac on the alter to prove his love to him is simply insanity and flat out child abuse. Things change drastically if you look at the story from Issac’s point of view. What does this say about God? What lasting impact did this event have on Issac? Imagine what would happen if you did this to you child? If you did that today, you would be jailed and child services would have you child within minutes! The story of Job is another example.

Christopher  at 3:04pm February 24
I believe that most people are inherently moral due to our biology and most normal people’s drive to be a good person (neurological disorders, psychological disorders, or a very bad environment growing up will alter this ‘natural state’). I think people attribute religion to morality when it is simply a placebo effect. I think that they would act in almost the same way if their respect religion was not in place. Religion sometimes does provide a positive environment to reinforce certain aspects of morality, but it is not the major source of it.

Christopher at 3:05pm February 24
Oh Dan, thank you for contributing to this conversation! Ben spoke very highly of you and I look forward to your responses.

Ben at 3:55pm February 24
These are great questions Chris! Take your time in collecting your thoughts. I will have to gather my thoughts as well. As quick response to your second post at 2:49pm in order to add to your current reflection: no person is free from sin and is capable of doing good works worthy of being accepted into Heaven. Even Christians have sin, but we have been justified to God through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul answers your questions directly:

Ben at 3:56pm February 24
“yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified. But if, while seeking to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are also found to be sinners, is Christ then a promoter of sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild those things that I tore down, I show myself to be a lawbreaker. For through the law I have died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” Galatians 2:16-21 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Dan Neal at 11:02pm February 24
Chris and Ben great conversation I hope I am not intruding and Chris I would like to intro myself I am a friend of Ben’s through church and would extend an invitation to visit us any time. Ben maybe we can continue to discuss with Chris and your approval.

Ben  at 1:33pm February 25
Dan – My approval? What do you mean? You are free to join the conversation anytime you like!

Ben at 1:39pm February 25
Chris – I forgot to say yesterday that you are welcome! Thank you for the compliments about my responses. I try the best that I can, but my knowledge of course is not perfect. Hopefully, Dan will correct me if I’m wrong on some matter. He has read the Bible 7 times, cover to cover!

Ben at 2:08pm February 25
In regards to your question, “how do we deem what is in the Bible actually moral?” This question brings up an interesting point. Every action recorded in the Bible is not moral. For example, King David commits adultery with Bathsheba (in 2 Samuel 11:2-4). This point is important because it shows that the Bible is filled with “real” people who commit sins. It is God’s will for us not to sin and He would never lead us to sin. We know what sin is, because God tells us in His word.

Ben at 2:38pm February 25
Abraham and Isaac is one of the most profound events in the Old Testament (read Genesis 22). It would be difficult to write all that can be said about that chapter in this note, but I will hit some key points. First, it demonstrated and tested through action the fear (reverence) Abraham had in his heart for God. At that time, it was well known that human sacrifice was morally wrong. Indeed, the Philistines were considered heathens because they sacrificed people to Molech. Abraham had no idea why God was asking him to sacrifice his son, who by the way was believed by scholars to be in his 30’s based on Sarah’s age (his mom). Nevertheless, Abraham was on the verge of sacrificing his son when an angel stopped him just in time to prevent the act from happening.

Ben at 2:53pm February 25
There is no record of the son having emotional trauma because he was tied down and almost sacrificed, i.e., no expressions of adverse feelings such as anger or hatred. Isaac actually appears to trust the father through the whole incident. He actually asks Abraham: “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Genesis 22:7 (Holman). And Abraham replies: “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” Genesis 22:7 (Holman). What is profound about this statement is that it was a prophesy of the Lamb of God (Jesus) to come about 1900 years later, because at that time God provided a Ram for Abraham to sacrifice and not a lamb.

Ben  at 3:00pm February 25
Indeed, we find the whole incident foreshadowed what was to come when Jesus died for our sins on the cross. Do you noticed the similarities in the following passage when compared to John 3:16?

“‘Take your son,’ He said, ‘your only [son] Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.'” Genesis 22:2 (Holman)

So, how does that reframe what occurred on the cross for you?

Dan Neal at 10:55pm February 25
Hey guys sorry for the delay but I have been traveling and just returnee tonight late. I hope to weigh in on some of this tomorrow.Chris thanks so much and Ben just wanted to make sure I was’t intruding


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