CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Of course, the big news about stem cells comes from Missouri where they are considering an amendment to the state constitution "ensuring that all federally allowed stem cell research can occur in Missouri." While the headlines are being co-opted by the claims that Rush Limbaugh attacked Michael J. Fox (if Mr. Fox expected to be immune from attacks when taking sides in a political fight, he is delusional), the real battle is about whether embryonic stem cell research should be allowed in the state to the same extent that it is allowed federally.

This discussion always needs to be kept in context: no one of which I am aware is opposed to stem cell research generally. If a disease can be obtained from research on stem cells, then that's okay by virtually everyone. But, here's the issue: researching on embryonic stem cells takes a human life. Embryonic stem cells come from one place: embryos. To get the stem cells from the embryos kills the embryo. The embryo is undoubtedly a living human in an early stage of development. Thus, logically it is clear that the killing of an embryo is the killing of a human being.

Now, I know there are people out there who believe that the killing of an embryo shouldn't have the same moral weight as the killing of a fully developed human being. After all, they reason, it is merely a group of cells at that point with no ability to feel or think. Isn't the taking of this life in furtherance of medical research part of the greater good?

The problem here is that the entire argument for embryonic stem cells is based on a false dillemma. In logic, a false dilemma (or false choice fallacy), is a fallacy of painting the two alternatives offered as the only alternatives while ignoring alternatives between the two. As described on the Santa Rosa Junior College fallacy page:

[The False Dilemma fallacy p]oses a choice between two alternatives without acknowledging any other possible alternatives as if those other possibilities do not exist. A false dilemma allows the writer to assume only one of two choices and to pick the lesser evil instead of exploring a wider range of alternatives. For instance, we might tell you that you either studied all day yesterday or you failed the test. That assumes there was only one way and time to study and that studying at those times would guarantee a passing grade. In fact, of course, one might study at a variety of times and a student may fail a test for a variety of reasons.

The case for embryonic stem cell research is presented as an alternative of allowing embryonic stem cell research which provides the promise of new treatments that cannot be obtained otherwise, or by standing in the way of medical advances by insisting that researchers not be permitted to use embryonic stem cells. This is such a clear false choice fallacy, I am surprised more people don't recognize it. But then, scientists who engage in the research make the case that only embryonic stem cells can provide the treatments that are envisioned. For example, look at the following from An information page on embryonic stem cell research from the University of Madison-Wisconsin:

There are several approaches now in human clinical trials that utilize mature stem cells (such as blood-forming cells, neuron-forming cells and cartilage-forming cells). However, because adult cells are already specialized, their potential to regenerate damaged tissue is very limited: skin cells will only become skin and cartilage cells will only become cartilage. Adults do not have stem cells in many vital organs, so when those tissues are damaged, scar tissue develops. Only embryonic stem cells, which have the capacity to become any kind of human tissue, have the potential to repair vital organs.

A couple of facts about embryonic stem cell research need to be hightlighted.

(1) To my knowledge, there has been no treatments yet developed from the use of embryonic stem cells. Meanwhile, there have been upwards of 50 treatements from the use of adult stem cells. Thus, embryonic stem cells is somewhat of a theoretical dream that these embryonic stem cells can somehow produced treatments that the adult stem cells cannot produce. I agree that embryonic stem cell research is in its infancy, and it is possible that such treatments may come given enough time and money (especially money), but research is already bearing fruit in the area of adult stem cell research which means that no one needs to guess whether that area will provide treatment.

(2) Scientists are discovering alternatives to embryonic stem cells that appear to serve the same function. For example, an article entitled "Synergy between immune cells and adult neural stem/progenitor cells promotes functional recovery from spinal cord injury" reports that adult human stem cells "isolated from adult tissues behave like embryonic stem cells and hold promise for clinical use." In the study, the researchers "introduced adult neural stem/progenitor cells along with a myelin-derived peptide into the spinal fluid of mice and found that they promoted the functional recovery of the spinal cord after injury. The myelin-derived peptide stimulated the activity of immune cells, which created a synergistic response to the implanted adult neural stem/progenitor cells." (The quoted language comes from Reasons To Believe's Daily Newsletter's summary of the report.) This report, when coupled with earlier news of alternatives to embryonic stem cells to achieve the same goals (one such other alternative referenced on CADRE Comments here) makes it clear that it is not an "either-or" issue. It certainly appears probable that one does not necessarily have to sanction through law the ethically questionable practice of killing embryos to research treatments in order to still promote scientific advances using stem cell research.

While I am not a resident of Missouri, if I were I wouldn't vote for a measure that is based on a fallacious argument -- regardless of how much I liked Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly.


Follow-up post on another non-embryonic stem cell treatment entitled Another Embryonic Stem Cell Alternative

I and others have argued that Paul's use of a seed as an analogy for the resurrection is evidence that Paul believed that the body that was buried was in contiuity to some extent with the body that was resurrected. Alan Segal, guest blogging at The Busybody, has argued just the opposite. While conceding that Paul elsewhere indicates his belief in continuity between the buried and resurrected bodies, Segal argues that the seed analogy indicates a lack of continuity:

The metaphor of the grain of wheat suggests two bodies because the ancient world thought that the seed disappeared and was reborn. Other parts of the passage suggest a single body transformed.

When asked for his source for the assertion about ancient beliefs on the seed, Segal could not remember any. Although I cannot refute what is not presented, the sources of which I am aware indicate it is unlikely that everyone in the ancient world knew that the seed "disappeared," thus rendering the resurrection of a dead body inconceivable. Indeed, many ancient writers other than Paul clearly used the seed analogy to describe the resurrection of the dead body.

There are two passages of interest from the ancient Jewish authors, whose commitment to continuity between the old and new bodies is firmly established. The first is, "If a kernel of wheat is buried naked and will sprout forth in many robes, how much more so the righteous." b. Sanh. 90b. I have explained elsewhere why the reference to “robes” probably indicates a belief in a glorified resurrected body. But even if the meaning is more literal, obviously rabbinic Jews saw the seed analogy as a preferred analogy to describe bodily resurrection. The second is, “All the dead will rise at the resurrection of the dead, dressed in their shrouds. Know that that this is the case. Come and see from (the analogy) of the one who plants (seed) in the earth. He plants naked (seeds) and they arise covered with many coverings; and the people who descend into the earth dressed (with their garments); will they not rise up dressed (in their garments)?” Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, Section 33.

There are also early Christian sources that use the seed analogy to refer to the resurrection of the body. One is Origen, who states that the “power which exists in a grain of wheat refashions and restores the grain, after its corruption and death, into a body with stalk and ear. On First Principles, 2.10.3. More to the point, however, are some of the earliest Christian references. The author of 1 Clement and Tertullian refer to the seed “rotting away” and “dissolving,” but this does not count against continuity between old and new. (1 Clement 24; Apology 48). These authors clearly affirm continuity by the miraculous power of God to restore the body even from its remaining dust. For when something dissolves and rots away, it does not cease to exist entirely (nor does it "disappear"), but is reduced to dust or ash. But God made man from dust once and according to these ancient Jews and Christians, will do so again if need be at the resurrection. Remember in Genesis that Man is described, "dust you are, and to dust you will return." Gen. 3:19. As described by a Jewish source:

All the bodies crumble into the dust of the earth until nothing remains of the body except a spoonful of earthly matter. In the future life when the Holy One, blessed be He, calls to the earth to return all the bodies deposited with it, that which had become mixed with the dust of the earth, like the yeast which is mixed with dough, improves and increases and it raises up all the body. When the Holy One, blessed be He, calls to the earth to return all the bodies deposited with it, that which has become mixed with the dust of the earth improves and increases and raises up all the body without water.

Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, Section 34.

A later Christian author also puts it well, mixing the seed analogy with an emphasis on the restoration of the destroyed earthly body:

Some may wonder how decayed bodies can become sound again, scattered members brought together, and destroyed parts restored. Yet no one seems to wonder how seeds softened and broken by the dampness and weight of the earth grow and become green again. Such seeds, of course, are rotted and dissolved by contact with the earth. But when the generative moisture of the soil imparts life to the buried and hidden seeds by a kind of life-giving heat, they receive the animating force of the growing plant. Then gradually, nature raises from stalk the tender life called the growing ear, and, like a careful mother, wraps it in a sheath as a protection against its being nipped at this immature stage by the frost or scorched by the sun when the kernels are emerging, as it were, from early infancy.

Ambrose, On His Brother Satyrus, 2.55.

Other New Testament verses show that early Christians used the seed analogy to emphasize continuity with transformation, such as growth. Matthew 13:31-32 uses the mustard seed as an analogy for the Kingdom, emphasizing its size when “it is full grown.” See the similar usage in Mark 4:26-29. In another parable, the Kingdom is compared to the seed that falls in various types of ground, where it is referred to as having “sprang up” and “grew up.” Mark 4:3-7. These references envision a seed as growing or sprouting, with no emphasis on discontiniuity.

All in all, the fact that so many ancient Jews and Christians unquestionably used the seed analogy to describe the resurrection of the dead body renders it probable that Paul did so as well. I would be interested in seeing references to the seed "disappearing," but have found none in ancient Jewish and Christian sources. There are many references to the seed "rotting away" or "dissolving," but those same references attest to the resurrection of the dead body by God's miraculous power. Uses of the seed analogy in other contexts by Matthew and Mark also emphasize continuity with transformation, rather than cessation and new creation.

A few days ago, I posted a reply to a challenge regarding how people who believe in inerrancy can reconcile that belief with certain events described in the Bible under the title Focusing on the Trees While Ignoring the Forest." My response has received a great deal of attention, and I have been reading many of the comments from the sidelines but declining to do much commenting due to time constraints. Now, a week later, I have fixed my attention on four different responses that I received and want to use some specific examples to clarify what I meant. Thus, this is the first of what I expect to be four posts that are responsive to some of these comments, challenges or objections to the viewpoint I expressed in my essay A Reasonable Understanding of the Destruction of the Amalekites.

One enterprising skeptic carrying the moniker Freezbee challenged my statement that the Amalekites were understood to be evil and wicked people. He posted a lengthy challenge to that statement by quoting every single verse he could find in the Bible that might possibly reference the Amalekites and entitled it The sad, but true story of the Amalekites. I posted a response which was mostly quoting from my underlying essay in which I point out that the commentators were in agreement that the Amalekites were a wicked, evil people. Freezbee made some comments to my response, and I wanted to address them here because I think it is illustrative of the approach taken by many skeptics when arguing about Biblical issues.

First, in my view, Freezbee’s view of the mentions of the Amalekites is very much agenda-driven. He has a goal -- make it appear that the Amalekites are not evil people. To do this, he must ignore or downplay the verses of the Bible that portray them as evil. For example, he notes that Deut 25:17-19 reads:

"Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way when you were leaving Egypt, that he happened upon you on the way, and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear God. It shall be that when the Lord, your God, gives you rest from all your enemies all around, in the Land that the Lord, your God, gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under heaven – you shall not forget!"

Now, these verses seem to describe a base attack on the Israelites -- an attack on those who are too old and crippled to stay in the midst of the march through the wilderness. Certainly, Freezbee and others like him would not be so callous as to say that attacking old and crippled people is a sign of goodness. It would seem that this is evidence of the type of evil that was part of the Amalekite culture. So, how does Freezbee handle this? He says:

Moses has grown old, and apparently his memory isn't, as he remembered it. This isn't quite the same story as in Exodus; but who cares? Just pick and choose the version that you like the best.

Now, let's keep in mind something that is important in these conversations: context. In this case, the context of the discussion. I am defending the viewpoint that the account of the destruction of the Amalekites is justified only because of the doctrine of inerrancy. If I didn't believe in this doctrine, I could choose to dismiss this account because I don't like it. But I have written my defense of the account with the idea that the Bible is inerrant, and this belief has consequences for those who would attack this viewpoint.

In this case, he is trying to make it sound as if there is some deep inconsistency between the accounts in Exodus and Deuteronomy. In fact, there's nothing in Exodus that contradicts the account set out in Deuteronomy. The Exodus account doesn’t mention the facts raised in the Deuteronomy account, but Exodus doesn’t say particularly what the Amalekites did either. Thus, given the concept of inerrancy in which this discussion takes place, there is no reason to conclude that they cannot both be true. Yet, Freezbee wants to play up the silence of Exodus on the points raised in Deuteronomy as evidence that they aren't true. Instead, he wants people to accept that Moses must have been a dottering old fool who couldn't remember the events that took place in Exodus and so made up facts. Why does he do this? I can only conclude that his explanation is nothing more than his desire to simply downplay this very clear explanation of what the Amalekites did that caused them to be under the wrath of God.

When I raised the fact that the Deuteronomy account simply clears up facts not included in the Exodus account, his response was much the same: "What is the most likely - that a 120 year old man has a few memory faults about an event that happened 40 years, or that he doesn't?" A few memory faults? Fabricating an attack on the old and weak among the Israelites is not a mere memory fault, it would be an outright fabrication. If it were a "memory fault", then certainly there must be some grain of truth to the account that Moses has misremembered, but that doesn't seem to be considered as a possibility. But this whole line of discussion takes us out of the context in which the discussion takes place -- the starting point of inerrancy. Thus, the answer, my friend, is that it is more likely that Moses, inspired by God included accurate information in both the Exodus and Deuteronomy verses.

You see, Freezbee is trying to argue from both sides. In my essay, I am taking the account of the Amalekites as being part of an inerrant Bible and arguing why, from that point of view, it is still not evil or detestable what God did. In other words, I am showing why the destruction of the Amalekites was ultimately good despite the fact that, from our limited human perspective, it would be considered bad for any human being to engage in such acts. In doing so, I show -- using the Biblical account -- that Amalek was bad. His answer is not to acknowledge that Amalek was bad, but to try to make the case that Amalek wasn’t bad. However, he can only do this by throwing out inerrancy. Well, if we’re going to throw out inerrancy, there is no reason to have this discussion at all because I can simply take the position that the account of the destruction of the Amalekites is someone’s "memory fault", too. But I don’t feel free to do that within the confines of this conversation, and if Freezbiz is arguing that the OT account is unreliable on this issue, then he has no basis for arguing that the OT account is accurate when it comes to the verses from 2 Samuel which serve as the basis for the initial attack against Christianity.

He further objects, repeatedly, to the fact that I am quoting from interpretations of the Bible. He says, for example, when I quote from the Jewish Encyclopedia, "The quoted entry is not based on the biblical record, but on later interpretations." Maybe he doesn’t realize this, but his post is also a "later interpretation" of the Biblical texts. Whenever we read the Bible, there is some level of interpretation involved. The question is whether I should accept Freezbee’s interpretation that the Amalekites were good guys who have been given a bad name or the interpretation of virtually all other Biblical commentaries that I read that the Amalekites were truly evil people. I think that the answer, when posed in that light, is very clear. But to make it clearer, let’s take a look at a couple of other things.

First, he objects, in part, to the use of the Jewish Encyclopedia because "[n]owhere in the OT is it mentioned that Amalek held any personal grufge [sic] against Israel." Okay, but that assumes that the Bible is the be-all and end-all of interpretation. That’s simply bad hermeneutics. The Bible, while inerrant, does not always contain every relevant piece of information on a topic. Rather, a great deal of information that informs the understanding of the Biblical texts is found outside the confines of the Old and New Testaments. We look to science, archaeology and other ancient texts to give a more fuller background for the Biblical world than what comes from a straight reading of the Bible. Among these texts are other ancient Jewish rabbinical teachings that can provide additional information about the Biblical texts. In this case, we find in the Rabbinical teachings other information that can be used to supplement that Biblical record as to the evilness of the Amalekites. From the Jewish Encyclopedia entry on the Amalekites:

A kinsman of the Israelites, Amalek nevertheless displayed the most intense hatred toward them: he inherited Esau's hostility to his brother Jacob. When other nations hesitated to harm God's chosen ones, his evil example induced them to join him in the fray. "Like a robber he waylaid Israel"; "like a swarm of locusts"; "like a leech eager for blood"; "like a fly looking for sores to feed on"; Amalek ('am lak = the people which licketh) hurried over hundreds of miles to intercept Israel's march: (Tan. Ki Teze, ix., and Pesik. iii. 26b)

"Having taken the list of the tribes from the archives of Egypt, he arrayed his hosts in front of the Israelitish camp—over which God's glory rested in the sheltering pillar of cloud—and called the names of the tribes aloud, one after the other, and pretending to have business negotiations with them, he treacherously slew the last, or, rather, the guilty ones among them, those chosen by lot".

According to some he also used witchcraft to secure victory for his men (Yalk. Reubeni, and Chronicle of Jerahmeel, xlviii. 13). "Moreover, he mutilated their bodies, making sport of the Abrahamic covenant" (see Pesik. l.c. and Pesik. R. xii., Mek. BeshallaH).

But the Bible itself records that the Amalekites were consistently joining with the enemies of Israel and seeking to attack them. As noted in the Jewish Encyclopedia entry linked above:

The Amalekites themselves always appear as hostile to Israel. Thus (Judges, iii. 13), together with the Ammonites, they assist Eglon of Moab, and (Judges, vi. 3, 33, vii. 12) they aid the Midianites and the children of the East against Israel. Ps. lxxxiii. 7 refers to both occasions.

Now, Freezbee simply tries to downplay these accounts by noting that the Amalekites are "simply running along with the others to punish Israel," but that simply downplays that they are the willing accomplices to these efforts to destroy Israel in the OT times.

In sum, I think that the evidence is more than sufficient to establish that the Amalekites were the types of people that the commentators describe. It is impossible to read the accounts about them and not understand that they were seen in that light by the Jewish people, they were joining in with other nations when they sought to destroy Israel, and they were among the chief cancers which needed to be removed for Israel to survive. If you want to try to ignore verses like those in Deuteronomy that make it very clear why they were considered evil and worthy of destruction thereby abandoning the discussion on the grounds of Biblical inerrancy, then my response is that you should also ignore the language of 2 Samuel where it talks about their destruction since it isn't the most relevant story in the Bible, anyway. That distinction belongs to the accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let's talk about that.

The 2006 GodBlog Conference is underway at Biola University courtesy of the Torrey Honors Institute. The list of speakers at both the main sessions and the breakout sessions is impressive, including Dr. John Mark Reynolds, author of Middlebrow, Mark D. Roberts, author of, La Shawn Barber, author of La Shawn Barber's Corner and Dr. Andrew Jackson, author of SmartChristian. A speaker who I'd love to hear is Melinda Penner, the primary author of the STR Blog.

While I live too far away to attend, I encourage all Christians who have the time and ability to travel to Biola University in Southern California do so to hear from this assortment of speakers who should be very entertaining and informative.

Daniel L. Dreisbach, Professor of Justice, Law and Society at American University, has written a pretty good article for Imprimus Magazine entitled "Origins and Dangers of the 'Wall of Separation' Between Church and State." The article makes the case that the "Wall of Separation" between Church and State as penned by Jefferson and mutated by the Supreme Court as a metaphor for the Consitutional Establishment Clause language is flawed. Of course, this is nothing new since many books have been written on this subject, including Robert L. Cord's book, The Separation of Church and State, which did an excellent job of analyzing the flaw in this approach nearly 30 years ago.

In his article, Prof. Dreisbach writes:

First, Jefferson’s trope emphasizes separation between church and state?unlike the First Amendment, which speaks in terms of the non-establishment and free exercise of religion. (Although these terms are often conflated today, in the lexicon of 1802, the expansive concept of "separation" was distinct from the narrow institutional concept of "non-establishment.") Jefferson’s Baptist correspondents, who agitated for disestablishment but not for separation, were apparently discomfited by the figurative phrase and, perhaps, even sought to suppress the president’s letter. They, like many Americans, feared that the erection of such a wall would separate religious influences from public life and policy. Few evangelical dissenters (including the Baptists) challenged the widespread assumption of the age that republican government and civic virtue were dependent on a moral people and that religion supported and nurtured morality.

Second, a wall is a bilateral barrier that inhibits the activities of both the civil government and religion-unlike the First Amendment, which imposes restrictions on civil government only. In short, a wall not only prevents the civil state from intruding on the religious domain but also prohibits religion from influencing the conduct of civil government. The various First Amendment guarantees, however, were entirely a check or restraint on civil government, specifically on Congress. The free press guarantee, for example, was not written to protect the civil state from the press, but to protect a free and independent press from control by the national government. Similarly, the religion provisions were added to the Constitution to protect religion and religious institutions from corrupting interference by the national government, not to protect the civil state from the influence of, or overreaching by, religion. As a bilateral barrier, however, the wall unavoidably restricts religion’s ability to influence public life, thereby exceeding the limitations imposed by the First Amendment.

As I have previously noted, it is likely that Jefferson's Wall of Separation was referencing Roger William's use of the same phrase where he argued that a wall was needed to protect the garden of the church from the desert of the state. In other words, Williams' view -- one which Jefferson was likely adopting -- was that the wall was only being used to keep the national government from having a corrupting influence on the church by being able to choose one as the church of choice through incorporating a "church of the United States", but was not intended to keep the church from having an influcence on the state. This is consistent with the use of the metaphor in the letter to the Danbury Baptist Association which had been written worried about government encroachment into religion -- not the other way around.

Still, I think the article is well-written and reasonable -- at least more reasonable than the interpretation of the First Amendment being foisted upon us by the courts which virtually any scholar of First Amendment studies recognizes as being hopelessly confused due to the incorrect interpretation of the "Wall" being firm and impassible.

The CADRE is please to announce a new article being put up on the CADRE Answering Skeptics page authored by Chad McIntosh, (author of the very fine Doxazo Theos blog) entitled "Can God be a Causal Explanation of the Universe?"

Austin Cline of Atheism.about has briefly suggests God can’t be used as a causal explanation of the universe based on causes and physical laws. Cline quotes two atheists, Robin Le Poidevin and B.C. Johnson, who have offered similar arguments to that effect. In this article, Chad McIntosh contends that Cline is mistaken (as is often the case) and criticizes the arguments to which he alludes. I conclude that far from making their case, they actually provide good reasons to believe God exists. Consider the following quote from the article:

If the universe can't be explained by the necessity of it's own nature (e.g. by the natural laws thereof) then it must have an external explanation. What would such an external explanation look like? Remembering back to our initial support for (1), it must transcend space and time, be metaphysically necessary, and changeless and immaterial. The only things we know of that can exist in that way are either abstract objects (numbers, laws, sets, values, propositions, properties, et cetera), or minds. But abstract entities do not have causal efficacy (e.g. the number two cannot cause anything) and so cannot be the explanation of the universe. So the explanation of the universe is most plausibly taken to be a mind, which is minimally what everybody means by "God".

Excellent article. I highly recommend everyone take the time to read this relatively short (perhaps 4 pages of written text) essay.

The uncredible Hallq has issued a challenge to the CADRE to respond to one of his arguments. Ordinarily, I don’t respond to challenges for a couple of reasons. First, the people who throw out such challenges are ordinarily not particularly interested in considering the validity of the response. They throw out the challenge expecting that it cannot be answered, and then proceed to find any response inadequate if it is anything other than indisputable (which usually isn’t the case) -- in most cases the reply to the response consists of a derisive attack on the responder.

Second, my own feeling is that this is not a debate blog. We are largely an opinion and information blog. We allow comments to what we write and will respond if we think it necessary to clarify or defend a particular point of view, but generally we don’t carry on with endless discussion about what’s said. We do this in part because we think that the answers that we provide are either good or bad on their own merits, and we leave it to the readers to use their own minds to be able to discern the truth for themselves. But since we are generally not interested in making this a debate blog, we are ordinarily not inclined to respond to challenges because it will turn this into a debate blog. Also, it allows others to dictate what we write about based on their challenges.

Having said that, I am inclined to respond to Hallq’s challenge because it does reflect a flawed approach to Christianity that I want to expose here -- which is part of what I enjoy writing about. It is the "can’t see the forest for the trees" syndrome. It arises when someone focuses on one or two trees in a forest of thousands of trees and tries to make a generalization about the forest from the one or two trees.

Here’s Hallq’s challenge:

Last month I did a post on Hitler's religious beliefs. It attracted some attention of the folks at Christian CADRE. I issued a bit of a challenge to them, but they apparently left before seeing it. I expected this debate to die out for awhile, but now I see Christian CADRE has post up tying Hitler's actions to the fact that he "rejected every form of Judeo-Christian morality."

So now I repeat what I said last month: Anyone who thinks the Bible is inerrant and then uses the Holocaust to attack those who don't should be ready to explain why the Holocaust was a bad thing but the cited passages in the Bible aren't bad things. I had cited three passages: Deuteronomy 13, where the Israelites are told to kill worshipers of other gods; Leviticus 20:13, where they are told to kill homosexuals; and I Samuel 15:2-3, where they are told to exterminate the Amalekites to the last child.

I am not interested in complaints that I have taken these verses out of context. I am not interested in Clintonesque discourses over the exact definition of words like "genocide." I want to know by what moral principles evangelicals condemn Hitler but hold up the Bible as the gold standard of morality. Can a coherent rationale be given that is in any way better than simple Divine Command Theory?

Okay, here's a rule to always remember when reviewing challenges to Christianity: context is crucial. What is the context in which he raises this challenge? He raises the challenge in response to Nomad's post showing that Nietzsche's philosophy more than anything else was directly related to the rise of Hitler's destructive Third Reich. In all sincerity, this is so apparent that it seems almost not worthy of the time that Nomad put into the post. Consider the following excerpt from William L. Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (which is quoted on the Internet here) concerning his take on the Relationship Between Friedrich Nietzsche and the Nazis:

There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung. Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman--and in the most telling aphorisms? A Nazi could proudly quote him on almost every conceivable subject, and did. On Christianity: "the one great curse, the one enormous and innermost perversion... I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.... This Christianity is no more than the typical teaching of the Socialists."

* * *

Such rantings from one of Germany's most original minds must have struck a responsive chord in Hitler's littered mind. At any rate he appropriated them for his own--not only the thoughts but the philosopher's penchant for grotesque exaggeration, and often his very words. "Lords of the Earth" is a familiar expression in Mein Kampf. That in the end Hitler considered himself the superman of Nietzsche's prophecy cannot be doubted....

Obviously, most experts can see the connection between Hitler and Nietzche, so what exactly is Hallq's problem? He objects that Christians cannot claim that the Holocaust was bad without first condemning certain passages in their own Bible as bad. Is Hallq somehow saying that the Holocaust wasn't bad? I doubt it. I am sure that unless he's insane he's quite in agreement that the Holocaust was horrendous and ought not to be repeated. But he's claiming that the Bible has God ordering holocausts (of a sort) in various parts of the OT and he wants us Christians to condemn the actions of God in the OT.

Fousing on the context of Hallq's comment, I have a question: which Christian churches are advocating for the complete annihilation of a people, the killing of homosexuals and/or the killing of people who worship other gods? Let’s review the main denominations:

Roman Catholic Church? No, they aren’t advocating these positions.
Eastern Orthodox Church? No, they aren’t either.
Lutheran Church and its associated churches? No.
Episcopal Church and its associated churches? No.
Methodist Church and its associated churches? No.
Baptist Church and its associated churches? No.
Foursquare Gospel Church and its associated churches? No.
Presbyterian Church and its associated churches? No.
Worldwide Church of God and its associated churches? No.
Anglican Church and its associated churches? No.
Charismatic churches? Friends churches? Quakers? No.

You see, here’s the forest: no one advocates these things in any church in the world today (not even Fred Phelps and his apparently easily fooled congregation advocate these things -- they just pray for God to hurt other people). In fact, you would have to go to the far fringes of Christianity to find people who believe these things, and I am not even certain they exist there because I know of no group that is accepted as Christian that believes that any of these are the types of policy that are taught in the Bible.

Are churches simply ignoring these verses that Hallq seems to believe makes the Christian claims about the Holocaust hypocritical? No, the vast majority of these churches developed their theology by taking the entire word of God under counsel and coming to a conclusion as to how they work into the entire revelation of God through the Bible. They read where Jesus clearly said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and love our enemies. The overriding Christian message is that of love -- not killing. Thus, these verses are not a concern because of a thing that Hallq doesn’t want to hear about: context. Remember, he said "I am not interested in complaints that I have taken these verses out of context." Well, Hallq, if you’re not interested in the facts, then there is no answer for you because context is the key to a correct understanding of anything. I challenge you to find any other field of study where context is irrelevant.

The Bible doesn't teach that these things are the rule, and certainly Christians today understand that the rules about killing homosexuals, killing worshippers of other gods or the slaying of the Amalekites were put in place for a time and circumstances that are no longer in play due to the coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. For example, I have previously published a long explanation of how the Amalekite annihilation can be understood rationally when looking in context. As I said in my on-line article "A Reasonable Understanding of the Destruction of the Amalekites”:

The sources are consistent in their view of the Amalekites as an exceptionally wicked people. The verses from Deuteronomy point to their treachery (accord, Exod 17:8-16). They are seen as the embodiment of evil and hatred towards the Jews which were God's chosen people. While Israel was to make justice and brotherly love—-even to strangers-—its guiding rule (see, e.g., Leviticus 19:34), the Israelites were commanded to not forget that Amalek had perpetrated a cowardly and unprovoked attack on the feeble and hindmost, when the Israelites were marching from Egypt.

Amalek's enmity against Israel stems not only from its legacy as Esau’s grandson (Jewish Encyclopedia, supra), but from what it represents. Amalek was the first among nations (Num 24:20), i.e., the leading force of evil. Consequently, the struggle between Israel and Amalek can be seen as a heavenly metaphor played out in real life for the eternal struggle of good versus evil.

The Israelites were God's chosen people. It was through them that Christ was to enter into the world. The Amalekites, the forces of Mordor (so to speak), were seeking to eliminate the Israelites and God’s plan of salvation. The manner in which they acted was very much as a terrorist might approach the task-—picking on the poor and weak with cowardly attacks. They needed to be eliminated so that God’s plan of salvation could proceed. God chose His people which were His agent for the ultimate "good" of the Christ to act as His hand of judgment upon the Amalekites, and ordered their absolute annihilation.

Don't like the fact that the order of the Amalekites needs to be looked at in the context of pre-Jesus’s coming context, and the Amalekite identification with evil? Fine, but then simply acknowledge that you aren’t really interested in the truth. The Amalekites were like a weed growing in the garden that needed to be pulled so that the garden could flourish in accordance with God's plan. But to understand that requires reading the entire Bible and understanding the verses in the context of the time and circumstances that were occurring. But then, you don't want to hear about context. You’d rather spend your time staring at a couple of the less attractive individual trees while ignoring the rich, verdant forest filled with life blooming around you of which those trees are only a miniscule part. In doing so, you only fool yourself.

The latest issue of World Science has an interesting article related to the search for the origins of life. It's entitled "Tiny genome may be melting away, study suggests" and discusses the discovery of the very small -- miniscule by expected comparisons, really -- bacterium known as car­sonella rud­dii. Now, car­sonella rud­dii is a bacterium that lives inside an Ar­i­zo­na in­sect, Pa­chyp­syl­la ve­nus­ta, a.k.a. the Hackberry Petiole Gall Psyllid (pictured at right), which lives on tree sap.

Okay, what surprises the scientist is that little car­sonella rud­dii is much, much smaller than the expected 400,000 letters of genetic code necessary for life. In fact, it is less than half of that size. According to the article, it has "182 func­tion­al genes. These cor­re­spond to 160,000 'let­ters' of ge­net­ic code; pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates had placed the min­i­mal ge­nome at about 400,000." Wow! Even the scientists are amazed:

"It’s un­be­liev­a­ble, real­ly," said Nan­cy A. Moran of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ar­i­zo­na in Tuc­son, Ariz., one of the sci­en­tists who con­ducted the new re­search. "It’s be­lieved that more genes are re­quired for a cell to work." The find­ing pro­vides new in­sights in­to bac­te­ri­al ev­o­lu­tion, Moran and col­leagues wrote, also in the Oct. 13 Sci­ence.

Does this mean the end of Intelligent Design's claims for evidence of a designer of unknown origin based on the problem of irreducable complexity? Not really. It's important to really look at what's happening with little car­sonella rud­dii. First and foremost we're still talking about 160,000 letters in 182 functional genes. Since the research is seeking the absolute simplest cell, it is not as if the 182 functional genes representing 160,000 letters evolved. That's not possible since evolution occurs only amongst living things. Thus, we are still in a state where this 182 functional genes had to come together by chance -- a highly unlikely scenario as anyone who has ever played the lottery can tell you.

Moreover, it's important to remember that the collection of genes doesn't function as an organism unless they're in a particular order -- much like the words in a book wouldn't make much sense if they were randomly written. Thus, in addition to 182 functional genes coming together, they had to come together in the correct order to be able to work as a functioning, living organism. To get an idea of how improbable this is, think about how many ways 10 things can be ordered. Just getting ten things together by chance is tough enough, but any ten items can be put together 10! (10 + 9 + 8 + 7 + . . .1 = 55) ways. In other words, if there are 10 things that need to come together in only one way, assuming that the 10 things can be brought together naturalistically by chance, there is only a 1 in 55 chance that they will come together in the right way.

Now, consider if there are 182 things (like functioning genes) that need to be put together in a particular order. That is 182! or 182 + 181 + 180 + . . . + 1 possible combinations with (as far as we know) only one being workable assumuing that all 182 genes will come together in one place sheerly by chance. The odds that they would arrange themselves in the correct order by chance are 16,653 to 1 against which is, to put it mildly, quite extraordinary.

Second, little car­sonella rud­dii isn't making it on its own. Like a man strapped to life support, car­sonella rud­dii wouldn't be able to survive independent of the life-sustaining help of its host. You see, car­sonella rud­dii is a parasite that not only has to be with its host to survive, it appears to be actually morphing to become a mere biological organelle of the host. Consider the following from the World Science article:

Like a cash-strapped com­pa­ny that has to merge with a rich­er firm to keep go­ing, they say, the mi­crobe and its genes seem to be lit­er­al­ly fus­ing in­to a larg­er crea­ture, be­com­ing cogs in its cel­lu­lar ma­chi­n­er­y.


To live, such in­sects of­ten re­ly on res­i­dent bac­te­ri­a that make and share key nu­tri­ents with them. The host and mi­crobes de­pend on each oth­er to live, a re­la­tion­ship called en­do­sym­bio­sis. The bond is so close and an­cient that the mi­crobes live with­in spe­cial in­sect cells that have ev­olved to house them, called bac­te­ri­o­cytes.

The bac­te­ri­a thus live in a shel­tered world with a sim­ple, pre­dict­a­ble di­et and lifestyle. So they get by with sim­ple ge­net­ic in­struc­tions. If they or their an­ces­tors had any ex­tra, un­need­ed genes, these would ge­ner­al­ly have been lost over the course of ev­o­lu­tion.

The re­search­ers col­lect­ed Pa­chyp­syl­la ve­nus­ta bugs from hack­ber­ry trees on their uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus and around town. They ex­tracted the Car­sonella DNA and se­quenced it, and got a jolt. "It lost genes that are con­sid­ered ab­so­lute­ly nec­es­sar­y. Try­ing to ex­plain it will prob­a­bly help re­veal how cells can work," said Moran.

The sci­en­tists spec­u­late that in the bac­te­ri­um’s ev­o­lu­tionary past, some of its genes moved in­to the in­sect’s own ge­nome, be­gin­ning a pro­cess of gene takeo­ver.

An­i­mal and plant cells have spe­cialized in­ter­nal struc­tures called or­ganelles, ti­ny sacs of ma­chin­ery used for var­i­ous pur­poses. Strong ev­i­dence sug­gests many of these or­ganelles are de­scen­dants of sym­bi­ot­ic bac­te­ri­a that once lived free, but grad­u­al­ly be­came in­cor­po­rat­ed in­to the cell. A trans­fer of genes from the bac­te­ri­um to the host is of­ten part of the pro­cess.

Car­sonella may likewise be turn­ing in­to an or­gan­elle, the re­search­ers wrote.

In other words, little car­sonella rud­dii not only cannot survive on its own without the host, it's actually giving up the ship and fast becoming an organelle in its Psyllid host. So, in other words, while it is a living organism with only 166,000 letters of genetic code, that is not enough to allow it to continue in existence on its own. It can only survive by freeloading on the more complex Psyllid organism, and such dependence is so complete that it is actually merging with the Psyllid as a means of continuing survival.

So, while this is truly interesting, it seems to me that it supports the idea of irreducible complexity because the study seems to suggest that while an organism may need fewer that 400,000 letters of genetic code to be able to "live", such life can only exist if it has a more complex organism already in existence which it can use to serve the functions that it cannot itself serve with its fewer functioning genes. In fact, in this case the researchers believe that little car­sonella rud­dii had to, at one time in the past, been more complex but lost them over time due to its symbiotic relationship with the Psyllid host.

Thus, while there may be some form of life that is possible to live for a short time, it seems to me that this research does little to support the idea that an organism could function, long term, on significantly less than 400,000 letters of genetic code. Certainly, it doesn't appear that the earliest life couldn't have been significantly less than 400,000 letters and survived without some other entity already in existence that had at least that number.

A while back I wrote about a book that I enjoyed entitled 1491, by Charles C. Mann. The subtitle provides an apt description: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. As I wrote in my first post on the subject, my only issue with 1491 was a remark Mann made about mathematical development in Europe as compared to the Mayans:

It didn't appear in Europe until the twelfth century. Even then
European governments and the Vatican resisted zero--a something that stood for nothing--as foreign and un-Christian.

After doing some initial research, I voiced skepticism that the Catholic Church opposed the use of zero in any systemic way. Bede joined in and did some more advanced research and also voiced his skepticism. I then heard from Mr. Mann, himself, who appreciated our efforts and looked into the issue himself. He then informed Bede and me that he would correct the passage in the revised paperback edition. True to his word, the revised edition states:

It didn't appear in Europe until the twelfth century, when it came in
with the Arabic numerals we use today (fearing fraud, some European governments banned the new numbers).

In addition, Mr. Mann dropped some nice words about Bede and me in an Afterword thanking people who helped with revisions, corrections, and feedback:

A number of bloggers weighed in, for which my especial thanks to
James Hannam (Venerable Bede), Chris Price (Layman) and Laura Gjovaag (Tegan).

Page 385.

If you did not get a chance to purchase the hardback edition, take advantage of the less expense but improved paperback version. 1491 is an excellent book that keeps getting better.

BK recently wrote a good article rebutting the commonly asserted (at least on the Internet) belief that Hitler was a Christian. Some time ago I wrote an essay on where Hitler actually drew most of his philosophical beliefs, and I offer it here today. I hope that others find it useful in this discussion.

“They may all be called heroes, inasmuch as they derived their purposes and their vocation, not from the calm regular course of things, sanctioned by the existing order; but from a concealed found, from that inner spirit, still hidden beneath the surface, which impinges on the outer worlds as a shell and bursts it into pieces. (Such were Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon.) They were practical, political men. But at the same time they were thinking men, who had an insight into the requirements of the time-what was ripe for development. This was the very truth for their age, for their world… It was theirs to know this nascent principle, the necessary, directly sequent step in progress, which their world was to take; to make this their aim, and to expend their energy in promoting it. World-historical men-the heroes of an epoch-must therefore be recognized as its clear-sighted ones: their deeds, their words are the best of their time…

World history occupies a higher ground than that on which morality has properly its position, which is personal character and the conscience of individuals… Moral claims which are irrelevant must not be brought into collision with world-historical deeds and their accomplishment. The litany of private virtues-modesty, humility, philanthropy, and forbearance-must not be raised against them… So mighty a form [Hegel adds elsewhere] must trample down many an innocent flower-crush to pieces many an object in its path.”
Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, (New York: McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1991) pg. 347-8 quoting G.W.F. Hegel, _Lectures on the Philosphy of History_, trans. J. Sibree (London: 1902), pp.31-32, 70, 34.

“The quotation from Hegel at the beginning of the chapter (cf. pg. 347-8) points to the advantage Hitler had in the existence of the deep-rooted belief in the “heroic leadership” reflected in nineteenth-century German thought and literature…

Friedrich Nietzsche sums up this tradition in inimitable fashion. The future, he declared, belonged to the artist-politician, the political leader who was the artist in another medium.

‘Such things are incalculable, they come like fate without cause or reason, inconsiderately and without pretext. Suddenly they are here like lightning:: too terrible, too sudden, too compelling and too “different” even to be hated… What moves them is the terrible egotism of the artist of the brazen glance, who knows himself to be justified for all eternity in his “work” as the mother is justified in her child.’
Ibid., pg. 351 with quote from F. Nietzsche, _Zur Genealogie der Moral_ (1887), sec. II, para. 17.

“For his faith in the decisive power of the human will, Hitler could again draw on the teaching of German nineteenth-century thinkers, two in particular. The first was Arthur Schopenhauer, the author of _The World as Will and Idea_, from which his secretary says he could quote whole passages. The second was Friedrich Nietzsche: He presented his collected works to Mussolini… Hitler refused to recognize any difficulties as inherent in a problem. He saw only human incompetence and human ill will.”
Ibid. pg. 352.

“Yet I think no one who lived in the Third Reich could have failed to be impressed by Nietzsche’s influence on it… Nazi scribblers never tired of extolling him. Hitler often visited the Nietzsche museum in Weimar and publicized his veneration for the philosopher by posing photographs of himself stare in in rapture at the bust of the great man.

There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung. Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman-and in the most telling aphorisms? A Nazi could proudly quote him on almost every conceivable subject, and did…

Finally there was Nietzsche’s prophecy of the coming elite who would rule the world and from whom the superman would spring. In _The Will to Power_ he exclaims: “A daring and ruler race is building itself up… The aim should be to prepare a transvaluation of values for a particularly strong kind of man, most highly gifted in intellect and will. This man and the elite around him will become the “lords of the earth”

… “Lords of the Earth” is a familiar expression in _Mein Kampf_. That in the end Hitler considered himself the superman of Nietzsche’s prophecy can not be doubted.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), pg. 100-101

“Thus, for the formation of higher cultures the existence of lower human types was one of the most essential preconditions …It is certain that the first culture of humanity was based less on the tamed animal than on the use of lower human beings. Only after the enslavement of subject races did the same fate strike beasts. For the first the conquered warrior drew the low-and only after him the horse. Hence it is no accident that the first cultures arose in places where the Aryan, in his encounters with lower peoples, subjugated them and bent them to his will …As long as he ruthlessly upheld the master attitude, not only did he remain master, but also the preserver and increaser of culture.”
Ibid. pg. 87 quoting A. Hitler, _Mein Kampf_ (Boston:1943), pg. 295-6.

“The strong men, the masters, regain the pure conscience of the beast of prey; monsters filled with joy, they can return from a fearful succession of murder, arson, rape and torture, with the same joy in their hears, the same contentment in their souls as if they had indulged in some student’s rag… When a man is capable of commanding, when he is by nature a “Master,” when he is violent in act and gesture, of what importance are treaties to him? …To judge morality properly, it must be replaced by two concepts borrowed from zoology: the taming of a beast and the breading of a specific species.”
Ibid. pg. 111 quoting F. Nietzsche, _Zur Genealogie der Moral_ and _Der Wille zur Macht_.

The above quotations are meant to provide some context for the thesis of this post. The ideas of many of the great German philosophers of the 19th Century, and in particular, those of the Friedrich Nietzsche, contributed significantly to the intellectual environment that helped to produce Nazism. Nietzsche himself was not a Nazi, of course, nor even an anti-Semite. He did not even think much of the German people as a “tribe”. But so far as Hitler was concerned, this hardly mattered. The two shared a fundamental philosophy rooted in primacy of the will over all else, and the right of the powerful to impose his own set of morals upon those who were less than himself. That Hegel, Schopenhauer, Stein, Nietzsche, and Co. failed to appreciate what their ideas would mean in practical application does not excuse them from the consequences of the intellectual climate they bequeathed to Germany, and ended in the Nazi death camps and world war.

The balance of this post will focus on Nietzsche’s ideas specifically, taken from his most famous book, Beyond Good and Evil (Toronto: Penguin Books, 1990). All quotations will be from this copy, hereafter referred to as BGE, and I will offer both page and paragraph references so that those with other editions may more easily look them up. I apologize in advance for the length of the quotations, but I consider them necessary, and also to avoid the potential misperception that they may be taken out of context. All emphasis, when shown, is original to the text.

“ ‘Freedom of will’-is the expression for that complex condition of pleasure of the person who wills, who commands and at the same time identifies himself with the executor of the command-who as such also enjoys the triumph over resistances involved but who thinks it was his will itself which overcame these resistances. He who wills adds in the way the sensation of pleasure of the successful agents, the serviceable ‘under-wills’ or under-souls-for our body is only a social structure composed of many souls-to his sensation of pleasure as commander… In all willing it is absolutely a question of commanding and obeying, on the basis, as I have said already, of a social structure composed of many ‘souls’” on which account a philosopher should claim the right to include willing as such within the field of morality: that is, of morality understood as the theory of the relations of dominance under which the phenomenon ‘life’ arises.”
BGE pg. 49. Para. 19.

“All psychology has hitherto remained anchored to moral prejudices and timidities: it has not ventured into the depths. To conceive it as morphology and the development-theory of the will to power, as I conceive it-has never yet so much as entered the mind of anyone else… The power of moral prejudices has penetrated deep into the most spiritual world, which is apparently the coldest and most free of presuppositions-and, as goes without saying, has there acted in a harmful, inhibiting, blinding, distorting fashion… Supposing, however, that someone goes so far as to regard the emotions of hatred, envy, covetousness, and lust for domination as life-conditioning emotions, as something which must fundamentally and essentially be present in the total economy of life… and yet even this hypothesis is far from being the strangest and most painful in this tremendous, still almost unexplored realm of dangerous knowledge-and there are in fact a hundred good reason why everyone should keep from it who-can! On the other hand: if your ship has been driven into these seas, very well! Now clench your teeth! Keep your eyes open! Keep a firm hand on the helm! –We sail straight over morality and past it, we flatten, we crush perhaps what is left of our own morality by venturing to voyage thither-but what do we matter! Never yet has a deeper world of insight revealed itself to daring travellers and adventures: and the psychologist who in this fashion ‘brings a scarific’- it is not the sacrifizie dell’intelletto, on the contrary! – will at least be entitled to demand in return that psychology shall again be recognized as the queen of sciences, to serve and prepare for which the other sciences exists…
pg. 53-54. Para. 23

Hitler obviously did not shy away from these “unexplored realms of dangerous knowledge” nor did his hand ever waver as he steered Germany through these seas. Having rejected every form of Judeo-Christian morality, and having developed in full the “will to power,” he and his followers certainly flattened and crushed this competing morality, making psychology the “queen of the sciences” as Nietzsche had dreamed. Who could argue that Hitler had not freed himself from the prejudices and presuppositions of the pre-existing morality, the morality that Nietzsche himself considered to be obsolete.

Every superior human being will instinctively aspire after a secret citadel where he is set free from the crowd, the many, the majority, where, as its exception, he may forget the rule ‘man’- except in the one case in which, as a man of knowledge in the great and exceptional sense, he will be impelled by an even stronger instinct to make straight for this rule.
Pg. 57, Para. 26

Few are made for independence-it is a privilege of the strong. And he who attempts it, having the completest right to it but without being compelled to, thereby proves that he is probably not only strong but also daring to the point of recklessness. He ventures into a labyrinth, he multiplies by a thousand the dangers which life as such already brings with it… and is torn to pieces limb from limb by some cave-minotaur of conscience. If such a one is destroyed, it takes place so far from the understanding of men that they neither feel it nor sympathize-and he can no longer go back! He can no longer go back even to the pity of men!
Pg. 60-61, Para. 29

Perhaps Hitler drew comfort from such words as these as he sat in his bunker in April 1945. No doubt he was untroubled by the cave-minotaur of conscience, and no doubt, there was no man left to pity him.

Our supreme insights must-and should-sound like follies, in certain cases like crimes, when they come impermissibly to the ears of those who are not predisposed and predestined for them… The virtues of the common man would perhaps indicate vice and weakness in a philosopher; it may be possible that if a lofty type of man degenerated and perished, he would only thus acquire qualities of whose account it would prove necessary in the lower world into which he had sunk henceforth to venerate him as a saint… Books for everybody are always malodorous books: the smell of petty people clings to them. Where the people eats and drinks, even where it worships, there is usually a stink. One should not go into churches if one wants to breathe pure air.
Pg. 61-62, Para. 30

Not much doubt what kind of book(s) Nietzsche is talking about here, and Hitler would no doubt agree. The Christian Bible, and even more so, the Hebrew Bible, bore such a stink in the latter’s mind. Given Nietzsche’s utter contempt for Christianity, it should come as no surprise that he held its values and morals in the lowest possible opinion. Yet, when Hitler actually escaped those morals, rather than merely sneered at them, one must wonder if Nietzsche would have had any idea of what would come of it. In my opinion, he should have seen at least the shadow of Auschwitz, and certainly of World War II, but I expect the na├»ve optimism of the 19th Century infected him too deeply to imagine such horrors.

And if there is any doubt about how he felt about standard Judeo-Christian values, consider the following:

There is nothing for it: the feelings of devotion, self-sacrifice for one’s neighbour, the entire morality of self-renunciation must be taken mercilessly to task and brought to court… There is much too much sugar and sorcery in those feelings of ‘for others’, of ‘not for me’, for one not to have to become doubly distrustful here and ask: ‘are these not perhaps-seductions?
Pg. 64, Para. 33

I would personally hope that such ideas would be seductive. Sadly, for Hitler, he was not only cautious of them, but openly scornful, though it is hard to see how he could be said to be more scornful of them than was Nietzsche, excepting that he acted on his scorn, rather than merely wrote about it.

The faith such as primitive Christianity demanded and not infrequently obtained in the midst of a sceptical and southerly free-spirited world with a centuries long struggle between philosophical schools behind it and in it, plus the education in tolerance provided by the Imperium Romanum-this faith is not that gruff, true-hearted liegeman’s faith with which a Luther, say, or a Cromwell, or some other northern barbarian of the spirit cleaved to his God and his Christianity; it is rather that faith of Pascal which resembles in a terrible fashion a protracted suicide of reason-of a tough, long-lived, wormlike reason which is not to be killed instantaneously with a single blow. The Christian faith is from the beginning sacrifice: sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of the spirit, at the same time enslavement and self-mockery, self-mutilation. There is cruelty and religious Phoenicianism in this faith exacted of an over-ripe, manifold and much-indulged conscience: its presupposition is that the subjection of the spirit is indescribably painful, that the entire past and habitude of such a spirit resists the absurdissimum which ‘faith’ appears to it to be.
Pg. 71, para. 46

Hitler, no doubt, cheered such language, with devastating consequences. Both he and Nietzsche clearly misunderstood the heart of Christianity equally, but in Hitler’s case, again, the result was catastrophe.

“…he (Hitler) shared with Stalin the same materialist outlook, based on nineteenth-century rationalists’ certainty that the progress of science would destroy all myths and had already proven Christian doctrine to be an absurdity.”
A. Bullock, _Hitler and Stalin_, pg. 386

…he who is only a measly tame domesticated animal and knows only the needs of a domestic animal (like our cultured people of today, the Christians of ‘cultured’ Christianity included-) has no reason to wonder, let alone to sorrow, among those ruins-the taste for the Old Testament is a touchstone in regard to ‘great’ and ‘small’-: perhaps he will find the New Testament, the book of mercy, more after his own heart (there is in it a great deal of the genuine delicate, musty odour of devotee and petty soul). To have glued this New Testament to form a single book, as ‘bible’, as ‘the book of books’: that is perhaps the greatest piece of temerity and ‘sin against the spirit’ that literary Europe has on its conscience.
BGE pg. 80, Para. 52

Hitler, no doubt, would not have embraced Nietzsche’s high opinion of the Old Testament, but the latter’s assessment of the New clearly would have won over the dictator’s heart. Thus, if one wonders what set of moral values one should abandon in Nietzsche’s brave new world of morality built on Will, one need look no further than a world without New Testament attachments to self sacrifice and caring for one’s neighbour. The Nazi’s agreed.

The philosopher as we understand him, we free spirits-as the man of the most comprehensive responsibility who has the conscience of the collective evolution of mankind: this philosopher will make use of the religions for his work of education and breeding, just as he will make use of the existing political and economic conditions. The influence on selection and breeding, that is to say the destructive as well as the creative and formative influence which can be exercised with the aid of religions, is manifold and various depending on the kind of men placed under their spell and protection. For the strong and independent prepared and predestined for command, in whom the art and reason of a ruling race is incarnated, religion is one more means of overcoming resistance so as to be able to rule: as a bond that unites together ruler and ruled and betrays and hands over to the former the consciences of the latter, all that is hidden and most intimate in them which would like to exclude itself from obedience… To the majority of ordinary men, finally, the great majority, who exist for the service and general utility and who may exist only for that purpose, religion gives an invaluable contentment with their nature and station, manifold peace of heart, an ennobling of obedience, one piece of joy and sorrow more to share with their fellows, and some transfiguration of the whole everydayness, the whole lowliness, the whole half-bestial poverty of their souls…
Pg. 86, Para. 61

This was, for me, one of the most chilling parts of Nietzsche’s entire book. He was talking about Christianity, of course, and its use in keeping the mass of humanity subject to their betters. The problem, of course, is that he teaches as well that the master race need not be bound by such a thing, as they are not made for service, but for dominance. Hitler expected to one day have to destroy Christianity, just as he would Judaism, but he also understood that Nietzsche was right about the need for a religion of some kind for the masses, needed to keep them in line, and thus, he sought to create a new religion around himself.

“Political reasons led Hitler to restrain his anticlericalism and refuse to let himself be drawn into attacking the Church publicly, as Bormann and other Nazis would have liked him to do. But he promised himself that, when the time came, he would settle his account with the priests of both creeds. When he did, he would not be restrained by any judicial scruples.”
_Hitler and Stalin_ pg. 386

Dr. Hans Kerrl, Minister of Church Affairs “The party stands on the basis of Positive Christianity, and Positive Christianity is National Socialism…National Socialism is the doing of God’s will…God’s will reveals itself in German blood…Dr. Zoellner and Count Galen (the Catholic bishop of Muenster) have tried to make clear to me that Christianity consists of faith in Christ as the Son of God. That makes me laugh… No, Christianity is not dependent upon the Apostle’s Creed… True Christianity is represented by the party, and the German people are now called by the party and especially by the Fuehrer to a real Christianity… The Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation.”
_The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich_ pg. 239

It is hard to imagine Nietzsche disapproving of this proposed agenda.

Inasmuch as ever since there have been human beings there have also been human herds (family groups, communities, tribes, nations, states, churches), and always very many who obey compared with the very small number of those who command-considering that is to say, that hitherto nothing has been practiced and cultivated among men better or longer than obedience… The strange narrowness of human evolution, its hesitations, its delays, its frequent retrogressions and rotations, are due to the fact that the herd instinct of obedience has been inherited best and at the expense of the art of commanding… This state of things actually exists in Europe today: I call it the moral hypocrisy of the commanders. They know no way of defending themselves from their bad conscience other than pose as executors of more ancient or higher commands (commands from ancestors, of the constitution, of justice, of the law, or even of God), or even to borrow herd maxims from the herd’s way of thinking and appear as ‘the first servant of the people’… All this notwithstanding, what a blessing, what a release from a burden becoming intolerable, the appearance of an unconditional commander is for this herd animal European, the effect produced by the appearance of Napoleon is almost the history of the higher happiness this entire century has attained in its most valuable men and moments.
BGE, Pg. 121-122, Para. 199

One might forgive Hitler for placing his name alongside Napoleon’s in this monologue. The masses are the herd, desperate to follow a true master of the new morality, a morality constructed entirely from the will of the master and his tiny band of super men. This too was among the most depressing parts of Nietzsche’s entire book for me personally. To view human beings as mere herd animals, and Napoleon as an example of what we herd-folk should aspire to have (and for the few to be!) is one of the great tragedies of philosophy. To me it is obvious that such a belief system virtually begs for a Hitler to rise over us, and that is the thing Nietzsche himself, in his romantic self delusion, did not appear to see.

Nor did Nietzsche apologize or back away from his view of humanity.

Let us straight away say once more what we have already said a hundred times: for ears today offer such truths-our truths-no ready welcome. We know well enough how offensive it sounds when someone says plainly and without metaphor that man is an animal; but it will be reckoned almost a crime in us that precisely in regard to men of ‘modern ideas’ we constantly employ the terms ‘herd’, ‘herd instinct’, and the like. But what of that! We can do no other: for it is precisely here that our new insight lies…
BGE, Pg. 124, Para. 202

We, who have a different faith-we, to whom the democratic movement is not merely a form assumed by political organization in decay, but also a form assumed by man in decay, that is to say in diminishment, in process of becoming mediocre and losing his value: wither must we direct our hopes?-Towards new philosophers, we have no other choice; towards spirits strong and original enough to make a start in antithetical evaluations and to revalue and reverse ‘eternal values’; towards heralds and forerunners, towards men of the future who in the present knot together and constraint which compels the will of millennia on to new paths. To teach man the future of man is his will, as dependent on a human will, and to prepare for great enterprises and collective experiments in discipline and breeding so as to make an end of that gruesome dominion of chance and nonsense that has hitherto been called ‘history’… it is the image of such leaders which hovers before our eyes-may I say that aloud, you free spirits?”
BGE, Pg. 126, Para. 203

I must pause here, and say that it does not look, to me, like Nietzsche is even any longer speaking to the great mass of us in the herd. Rather, to a man like Hitler, it would sound more like the two of them had huddled together and made their plan, knowing full well why it was necessary for them to seek these great goals of the will.

But Nietzsche continues, telling us more about what such a man will be like…

The circumstances one would have in part to create, in part to employ, to bring them into existence; the conjectural paths and tests of virtue of which a should could grow to such height and power it would feel compelled to these tasks: a revaluation of values under whose novel pressure and hammer a conscience would be steeled, a heart transformed to brass, so that it might endure the weight of such a responsibility…
Ibid. Para. 203

Hitler did so steel himself, but we were not ready for him it seems, and so he failed, something Nietzsche himself feared might happen…

…on the other hand, the need for such leaders, the terrible danger they might not appear or might fail or might degenerate-these are our proper cares and concerns, do you know that, you free spirits?... he who has divined the fatality that lies concealed in the idiotic guilelessness and blind confidence of ‘modern ideas’, even more in the whole of Christian-European morality: he suffers from a feeling of anxiety with which no other can be compared-for he comprehends in a single glance all that which, given a favourable accumulation and intensification of forces and tasks, could be cultivated out of man… The collective degeneration of man down to that which the socialist dolts and blockheads today see as their ‘man of the future’-as their ideal!-this degeneration and diminution of man to the perfect herd animal (or as they say, to the man of the ‘free society’), this animalization of man to the pygmy animal of equal rights and equal pretensions is possible, no doubt of that! He who has once thought this possibility through to the end knows one more kind of disgust than other men do-and perhaps, a new task!
Ibid. Para. 203

Hitler clearly knew this disgust, and also the new task that was needed to make certain it did not happen. God save us from such Utopians, both socialist and national socialist, in the future. Hopefully the 20th Century has taught us sufficiently well what it means to put ideas like this into actual practice.

Actual philosophers, however, are commanders and law-givers: they say ‘this shall be!’, it is they who determine the Wherefore and Whither of mankind, and they possess for this task the preliminary work of all the philosophical labourers, of all those who have subdued the past-they reach for the future with creative hand, and everything that is or has been becomes for them a means, an instrument, a hammer. Their ‘knowing’ is creating, their creating is law-giving, their will to truth is –[will to power.- Are there such philosophers today? Have there been such philosophers? Must there not be such philosophers?
Ibid., Pg. 142-143, Para. 211

Hitler proved that there were, indeed, such philosophers ready to spring themselves upon us at (in)opportune times. May God continue to protect us from such men (and women!) of the future.

Our virtues? –it is probable that we too still have our virtues, although naturally they will not be those square and simple virtues on whose account we hold our grandfathers in high esteem but also hold them of little. We Europeans of the day after tomorrow, we first-born of the twentieth century-with all our dangerous curiousity, our multiplicity and art of disguise, our mellow and as it were, sugared cruelty in spirit and senses- if we are to have virtues we shall presumably have only such virtues as have learned to get along with our most secret and heartfelt inclinations, with our most fervent needs: very well, let us look for them in our labyrinths!
BGE, Pg. 147, Para. 214

Had Nietzsche looked where Hitler would look, and had he explored those corridors, perhaps he would not have been so brash in his statements. But when will go untroubled by conventional morality, then the monstrosity of Nazism becomes not only possible, but, as it turns out, very, very probable.

It seems that, however little we may think ourselves old-fashioned and grandfatherly-respectable in other respects, in one thing we are none the less worthy grandsons of these grandfathers, we last Europeans with a good conscience: we too still wear their pigtail (of good conscience). –Alas! If only you knew how soon, how very soon, things will be-different!
Ibid. Para. 214

Indeed. And how prophetic, looking back from 1945.

I take little pleasure in this post. In fact, after re-reading Nietzsche again for what was now the third time, I found myself so completely depressed, I sought refuge yet again in the wonder, wit, and wisdom of the great G.K. Chesterton, both in Orthodoxy and in The Everlasting Man. The belief that man was evolving, and indeed, that this evolution could be controlled, be it a Marxian control, or Nietzschean, was the great lie of the 19th Century. It took us the 20th to learn that this was a lie (I hope!). Now it is necessary to remember those lessons, and to apply them. Human beings are not mere herd animals, nor are they cogs in history. We may be a type of animals (in fact, we must be), but we are a unique type, and as such, we are not subject to easy formulas that can shape and mould us into some future superman, or super race, or super society. We are much better than that, but for me to go into what THAT means would require yet another post, and one that would explore, far more deeply, my own personal beliefs, grounded, as I believe them to be, in the ancient faith of Christianity as it actually is, not as its critics believe it to be.

Not long ago, I was enjoying some music and conversation on AuralMoon, when one of the listeners posted a complaint about the Pope's comments about Islam from a few weeks ago. After a few moments of conversation, this listener (joined by another) made a common claim that I hear almost exclusively on the Internet: Hitler was a Christian.

Of course, the reason that this claim is heard rarely outside the Internet is because it simply isn't true. The people who have been led to believe this nonsense are people who read the articles written by people like John Patrick Michael Murphy who publish such nonsense on the SecularWeb. Fortunately, Marvin Olasky has recently written a column which once again puts such arguments in their proper place -- the trash bin. In "Were Nazis Christians? Are Christians fascists?", he points out that another new book destroys these arguments.

That's why it's good, in this year of popular culture paranoia, to have a scholarly book that shows how those who developed the Nazi religion "were decidedly anti-Christian because they saw Christianity as a Jewish phenomenon in the 1920s to the 1940s to be anti-Semitic meant being anti-Christian and vice versa." This book by University of Calgary professor emeritus Karla Poewe, "New Religions and the Nazis," shows that influential pro-Nazi ideologues saw Christianity as "a foreign faith and psychology imposed on Germany."

Nazi theologians praised "Aryan religion" with its ethic of power and complained that "The Pauline-Augustinian-Reformed teachings about original sin (are) insulting to the ethical and moral feeling of the Germanic race." Nazis, Poewe notes, "learned their anti-Semitism outside of the church, then hated the church because it would not affirm their anti-Semitism, and finally developed their outright rejection of Christianity."

Poewe also explores in depth attacks on "Jewish-Christianity" and Nazi romanticism concerning "the Indo-Germanic faith-world (that) included Hinduism, Buddhism and a pre-Christian Germanic Faith." Nazi theologians particularly admired the Bhagavad Gita, the most influential Hindu scripture, because it has the avatar Krishna telling the warrior Arjuna to kill his cousins and be psychologically detached from the deed: Nazi leader Heimrich Himmler "saw his destruction of the Jews in that light."

In all honesty, I find the anyone who believes Hitler to have been a Christian is living in the heights of self-deception. Sure, he occasionally claimed Christianity, but nothing in his life reflects a true belief in Jesus. I have never seen anything that suggests that Hitler continued to attend church (church membership being something far different than being active in the church -- ask any pastor), or anything that suggests Hitler made himself accountable to a Pastor or Priest in anyway. In fact, his execution of Christian pastors, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, should be enough to convince anyone with half a brain that he was not a Christian.

Consider further the following from "Hitler and Christianity by Edward Bartless-Jones published at the always-informative Bede's Library:

Five days after becoming Chancellor in 1933, Hitler allowed a sterilization law to pass, and had the Catholic Youth League disbanded (Shirer, The Rise). The latter was a measure applied to other youth organizations too, in order to free up young people to join the Hitler Youth. At the same time, Hitler also made an agreement with the Vatican to allow the Catholic Church to regulate its own affairs. (It is probably worth noting here the low value that Hitler placed on written agreements.) Parents were pressured to take their children out of religious schools. When the Church organized voluntary out-of-hours religious classes, the Nazi government responded by banning state-employed teachers from taking part. The Crucifix symbol was even at one point banned from classrooms in one particular jurisdiction, Oldenburg, in 1936, but the measure met with fierce public resistance and was rescinded. Hitler remained conscious of the affection for the Church felt in some quarters of Germany, particularly Bavaria. Later on, though, a wartime metal shortage was used as the excuse for melting church bells (Richard Grunberger, The Twelve Year Reich, Henry Holt, Henry Holt, 1979 and Richard Grunberger, A Social History of the Third Reich, Penguin, 1991).

As always, I recommend the articles collected on the CADRE's Hitler Christian? page as a basis for understanding Hitler's true views.

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