CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

In “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003), the second of the Matrix film trilogy, is a fascinating scene in which the prophesied liberator of the human race, Neo, confronts the Architect, the creator of the Matrix. As laid out in the first movie, the Matrix is an elaborate computer simulation into which captive humans are “plugged” from birth to keep them from rebelling against the system. While continually distracted by the living of their lives, so to speak, in the Matrix, humans provide an unending energy source for machines, which have become self-aware and have taken over the world. Neo is one of a handful who have been “unplugged” and are now in the “real world” leading a resistance. When Neo finally arrives at the Source of the Matrix, the machine mainframe, he faces the Architect, himself a machine who speaks with godlike authority and precision. The Architect explains why the Matrix has been intentionally redesigned with its numerous and transparent fundamental flaws:
The first matrix I designed was quite naturally perfect. It was a work of art, flawless, sublime. A triumph equaled only by its monumental failure. The inevitability of its doom is as apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every human being; thus I redesigned it based on your history to more accurately reflect the varying grotesqueries of your nature. However, I was again frustrated by failure. I have since come to understand that the answer eluded me because it required a lesser mind, or perhaps a mind less bound by the parameters of perfection.
As the Architect’s speech suggests, human beings do not seem comfortable with the idea of a perfect existence, because perfection entails a lack of freedom to be, well, imperfect. History’s long record of rebellions and revolutions indicates that many, if not most, people value freedom more highly than even their own health and happiness. But could there exist a world in which decisions borne of genuine freedom culminate in everlasting joy? As a Christian theist I would answer in the affirmative. I suggest that Christianity best explains and fulfills humanity’s strongest psychological inclinations, two in particular:
1. The universal human awareness and experience of evil is evidence of the fall of man, the violation of God’s transcendent moral law through the abuse of free will. 
2. The universal human longing for absolute happiness is evidence of the hope of eternal life, to be ultimately realized in the kingdom of heaven through the exercise of faith. 
By contrast, atheists have been known to argue not only that Christian faith is "wishful thinking," but that the very world which Christians believe God to have created is loaded with "gratuitous evils." But that position doesn't seem coherent. Given that the Christian God exists, the hope of heaven is clearly not wishful thinking, precisely because we live in a sinful, fallen world scarred throughout by the painfully stark reality of evil;" and evil is not demonstrably gratuitous, because in heaven God will remove every trace of pain forever. On the other hand, given that no God exists there is no real "evil" to speak of (beyond emotional responses to suffering in a morally indifferent universe); neither is there any real hope to speak of (beyond the hope of various fleeting pleasures to be had here in this life). Thus atheism fails to explain some very basic realities of the human condition.
Through his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus has offered humanity not only forgiveness of sins committed via moral freedom, but the hope of eternal life in heaven. Moreover, God has retained for us the freedom to accept or refuse the offer. Christian theism thus best explains the concurrence of two well-documented but otherwise disjointed human psychological realities: the desire for moral autonomy and the desire for unceasing happiness. By this reading, the purpose of human existence on earth is to make eternally binding decisions to accept or refuse God’s offer of everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven, through either self-denying faith in Christ or self-seeking unbelief. Or as Neo put it to the Architect: “The problem is choice.” That is, the perceived dichotomy of hope and evil reveals that we simply can't have everything we want. More than that, the problem is desire. As humans beset with a corrupt nature spiritually transmitted through the fall of Adam, we cannot choose to be righteous or sinless. However, we can desire it. It could be argued, then, that our purpose in this sometimes dangerous and heartbreaking, sometimes exciting and beautiful world is to decide what it is we really want. And so the wisdom of Christ calls:
"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 9:35-37).


In light of what Gary had to say about the Book of Daniel, I wanted to share some articles that dealt with the time period in which it was written.

Article 1:

Tektonics: Daniel Defense

At the beginning, J.P. talks about the Maccabean theory:

Generally, the Maccabeean theory holds that the Book of Daniel was written around 168-165 B.C. Most modern radical critics hold that the book was completed in it’s final form at that time, but some allow for parts of Daniel (mainly chapters 1-6) to have an earlier date prior to 168-165. Some say the editor in the 2nd century used certain traditions to compose the final form of Daniel.
This next article (published in 1992 by the late Dr. Gerhard Hasel) focuses on evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls: New Light on Daniel from Dead Sea Scrolls

Here was his conclusion:

Thus the canonical acceptance of the book of Daniel at Qumran suggests an earlier origin of the book than the second century B.C. In 1969, based on the evidence available at the time regarding the Qumran Daniel texts, Roland K. Harrison had already concluded that the second century dating of the book of Daniel was “absolutely precluded by the evidence from Qumran, partly because there are no indications whatever that the sectaries compiled any of the Biblical manuscripts recovered from the site, and partly because there would, in the latter event, have been insufficient time for Maccabean compositions to be circulated, venerated, and accepted as canonical Scripture by a Maccabean sect” (Harrison 1969: 1127).

Subsequent to this, he stated that based on the Qumran manuscripts, “there can no longer be any possible reason for considering the book as a Maccabean product” (Harrison 1979: 862). The most recent publications of Daniel manuscripts confirm this conclusion.

For this next article, I decided to see what Glenn Miller of The Christian Think Tank had to say about it. I did a search on his website, and this was the first article I found:

He is in the midst of re-writing his Daniel dating material, but this article is still up. In it, he says something about paradigms in scholarly discussion in dealing with the manuscript evidence:

This is not, of course, to assert that all who hold to a late-date of Daniel are anti-supernaturalists! There are many good, “moderate” evangelicals who hold to this view--although I suspect it is more often due to the realities of controlling paradigms in scholarly discussion. Controlling paradigms are necessary for extended research, and actually for finding the holes in the paradigm. For specialists outside of a specific field (e.g. paleography), trying to utilize insights and results from a different field (e.g., Danielic studies), dependence on the latter’s controlling paradigms may be the only option--there being no practical way for them to validate it outside of their specialty. So, by themselves, they are not ‘evil’. But when the paradigm becomes a ‘social force’ against renewal, innovation, new paradigm suggestion, and self-critical analysis, it takes it’s place in the hall of “stifling and oppressive traditions”…In the final section of this series, I will show how I think a late-date view can be harmonized (in good conscience) with high-views of Scripture and Jesus’ words in the Gospels. I think the position is difficult to maintain, but I do feel that it can be granted as possible/ reasonable.


We want to know origins. We want to know why we are here even if there no real reason (we want to know that too). This is why we don’t see scientists just throwing up their arms and saying “there's no way to tell it's all here that's all.” They are still making theories because we want to know. We don’t find it satisfying to just leave it hanging. Perhaps there is no actual reason and saying that is not satisfying than sloughing off the question as though it's not important; that is most unsatisfying of all. Yet modern secular thought can't even ask the question much less answer it. It's not enough to merely talk about planetary formation and how the galaxy emerged. That's not an answer to the question “why are we here?” Even if the answer is “there is no way to know” we still want to know that definitively. Modern secular thought can't give a definitive answer because the question is out of bounds. That is a metaphysical question and modern though abhors metaphysics even though Heidegger would say it is metaphysics. When purpose and ends and goals have already been eliminated as impossible there's no point in asking.

Materialist philosophy denies the possibility of purpose and science understands anything explanatory beyond the mere physical pentameters as beyond its domain. Secular thinkers attribute the nature of all being to a cosmic accident and assert the possibility that it all just popped up out of nothing. That is irrational enough as it is, because it leaves reality as a dead end. What's worse is the game physicists and cosmologists play with asserting that the universe could emerge from actual nothing when they know quite well that's not where the evidence points. As in the chapter on eliminating alternative (five) none of the modern cosmological alternatives actually even hint at a why and they all have their problem in terms of how. We saw that they had to use fine tuning to to make certain forms of inflation work. Inflation was brought into avoid god arguments. But fine tuning might implies purpose, mind, or plan; so they have to turn to the evidence of mind (fine tuning) to avoid mind, that is rather irrational and incoherent.[1]

We are, therefore, left with reality as a brute fact. The brute fact is to be dreaded, thus the state of purpose being the antithesis of the brute fact is to be preferred. Sean Carroll says there is no reason why anything exists. He warns against not understanding reality all the way to the top. He says this because he wants us to know science.

More than two decades ago, the renowned astronomer Carl Sagan wrote that “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. This is a clear prescription for disaster.” Unfortunately, Sagan’s warning remains as true today as ever: American culture is deeply infused with an anti-intellectual distrust of scientific knowledge, a failure to understand the nature of peer-review, and an unwavering predilection for conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. [2]

Why is it important to know and understand the process that tells us there's no point to life? The ultimate reality we are going to get out of that is that nothing matters, but he wants us to know science we can understand climate change and vote accordingly. I share his concern about climate change but, what's the point of caring about future generations when life is just a big accident and there's no point to any of it?

It’s not true that every effect has a cause! That’s just a convenient way of talking about certain features of the macroscopic world of our everyday experience, one that is not applicable to how nature works at a deeper level. When you want to tackle questions about the fundamental nature of reality, it’s necessary to leave behind concepts of “cause and effect” and replace them with “the laws of physics.” Those laws take the form of patterns relating different parts of the universe to each other, not relationships of causality. So a better question is: what does our best understanding of the laws of physics tell us about the origin of the universe, and why it might exist at all? The answer is “not much.” This is a case where we have to be humble. The universe might have had a beginning, or it might have existed forever, we just don’t know. There’s certainly no reason to think that there was something that “caused” it; the universe can just be.[3]

As we showed in chapter five we do not know there is no cause of it all. The concept of reality springing into being for no reason no cause is idiotic and renders everything unimportant and meaningless. Look at his reasoning, he still replaces cause and effect with laws of physics. Does that mean description of what happens? Or does it mean OP's and TS? As we have seen it depends largely upon what they need it to be, But he;'s still replacing prescriptive process of causes with a top down process that describes a law like regularity? Where do the laws come from? That's not part of the field of study. You are not supposed to wonder that. I see this as the ultimate irrationality and incoherence. He admits the laws don't tell us much about the origin so we have to be humble. That's odd because he's already said there's no cause the universe has no origin no cause no creator, that's about as arrogant as you can get. In what sense are we being humble? If the patterns don't tell us about the ultimate origin how do we know there's no cause or no creative agent? I am also not sure that creator is a cause in the same sense that he means no cause, so his very understanding might not rule out a creator in a more modern God concept. He admits the possibility that the universe might have a beginning to it or might be eternal. In the Chapter on eliminating alternatives I already proved it can't be eternal. That was the Smith article.Apparently he must realize the hollowness of this denial of reason and meaning because he tries to address the meaning issue, replacing real meaning with a private one:

The trick here is “true” meaning. My life has meaning without any supernatural guidance, no matter what anyone else might say about it. The meanings that we finite human beings attribute to our lives are the only kinds of true meanings, because those are the only kinds of meanings there are. In my view, the fact that life is temporary is precisely what does give it value. Why should we care about a century-long existence if it was followed by an infinitely-long span of additional existence?
Life span has nothing to do with it. Its not a matter of longevity. Maritain Luther King Jr. was relatively young when he died but his life is a lot more meaningful than Mine will ever be, I've lived much longer than they did. Yet we have our private meaning but beyond our own lives it's meaningless. Carroll is trying to import meaning into a meaningless view point. He can’t make the reasons for existence make sense or have meaning merely because he says it does. Then he tries to import meaning through subjective means. He dogmatically asserts that supernatural meaning isn't true meaning. How he can say that is a mystery in itself since supernatural meaning would take precedence over and determine the natter of the physical world. His own private meaning dies with him. How is that more meaningful than eternal necessary will of the ground of being? How could a private meaning known only to one little mind that amounts to a flash in the pan be more meaningful than an eternal truth known always to the essence or the good? Moreover, this is empirically the case since supernatural is essentially mystical experience (the power of God to raise us to a higher level of consciousness). The modern secular world has come to accept a false notion of the SN, the true Christian notion is God's power to raise us to a higher level of God consciousness. [4] Empirically we can prove that there is an experience, usually understood as pertaining to God or to the transcendent or the divine and summing up the meaning of reality, those who have it receive a transformative experience. There is a huge body of scientific work that prove the transformative nature of this experience.[5]

He tries to impart the mystagogoue wonderment that he feels in science. He starts by tearing down my meaning: Aside from the existential importance existential of understanding science, there’s also a purely aesthetic issue. The scientific worldview offers, I would argue, a far richer and more elegant picture of the cosmos than any ancient myth or grand narrative conjured up by the human imagination during the Iron Age. As Charles Darwin would put it, there is grandeur in this view of the universe. And he’s right. Consider a few nuggets of mind-boggling truths, courtesy of science’s ongoing investigation into the arcana of reality: the cosmos has no center and no boundaries. The fastest moving organism travels more than half the speed of sound — and it’s a plant. 

He is turning to a subjective element to impart a meaning that can't be gotten by the brute fact of the universe. Since he has had no SN experience o the divine he is hardly in a position to tell those of us who have that his view is more meaningful. This is especially so for those of us wh o were atheists first, then had such experiences, I can compare the two he cannot. This is a crucial point, his “richer elegant picture of the cosmos” only pertains to the physical how of natural corporations it does not even address the why. That is important because it means he's stuck with what Tillich called the surface of being, He's not able to communicate the depth of being and that is what tells us there is God. Just knowing the fiddly bits of the cosmos and watching nebula from super cool though that may be does not compare to a personal relationship with the ground of being. While a modern scientific account of cosmic formations does outweigh the slap dash creation of ancient lore, that is not what religion is about, Religion is not about explaining the physical nature of things or how it works, and to stop with that surface level is to miss all the meaning there is.

Religious belief is about integration tin to one's place in they universe. It's more than just understanding the physical workings. The integration point is fielding depth of being. All religions deal with thism they all define the nature of the human problematic, they assess what is at the heart of the problem of being human, They medicate a solution usually in terms of ultimate transformation experience, that transformation opens up the point of integration where we understand our place in the universe. As Christians we understand that in terms of contingency. We are creatures of God. To be is to be a creature of God creature of God; we know our place in the universe and it all makes sense at least to some degree. We can't have any of this with just the physical level of understanding, WE can have scientific wonderment and God. Those are not mutually exclusive. But we can't have depth of being with kjust the surface level o existence. Moreover the scientific wonderment as he describes is not moving because it's science, The individual scientist may get a thrill from personal accomplishment but the real transformative aspects are pointing beyond themselves, The physical reality is pointing beyond itself to depth but the secular naturalist can't acknowledge that. We know they are pointing beyond human finifutde because they point to the infinite. The juxtaposition of our own finite mortality against the infinite of space produces the sense of the numinous, The wondrous nature of the cosmos is a trigger for foundations of mystical consciousness. This is probably what Carrroll is sensing but his ideology wont allow him to acknowledge it.

[1]Horgan, Op cit chapter 5 Fn3-5
[2]Sean Carroll, “The Evidence is pretty incontrovertible...” Salon. (May 8, 2016) online resource URL: ... thout_god/ (accessed 9/20/16.)
[4] Joseph Hinman,"The True Christian Concept of the Supernatural part 1" Metacrock's Blog (feb 22, 2016) (accessed 10/3/16)

[5] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of Go. Colorado Sproimgs: Grand Viaduct, 2014

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The last time I posted in a piece entitled "Star Trek, Proxima b, Nanovehicles and the Unlikely Appearance of Life," I wrote about the Star Trek Vision - a view point that has existed for a long time (thanks to fellow CADRE member Jason Pratt for pointing that out), but has become more in vogue over the last 50 years. The unsupported idea is that the universe is absolutely teeming with life such that any time a planet is thought to have water, it is almost automatically assumed that life exists on that planet. Just this morning, there is a story on Yahoo! News which provides more evidence of this rule.

According to Business Insider, NASA is set to announce surprising news about Europa -- (spoiler alert) -- it appears to have oceans of liquid water below its frozen surface. In the article entitled "NASA will soon reveal a 'surprising' discovery about a moon of Jupiter that may support life." To say that it "may support life" isn't really all that controversial and I have no problem with that assertion because, as I pointed out, it is statistically probable that there are thousands of planets that are capable of supporting life, but that doesn't meant that there are thousands of planets that actually have life. But, of course, that is where the Star Trek Vision takes us -- if the planet can support life, it is likely to support life. And the article delivers just such a viewpoint. 

Astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa. Surprising evidence ... a subsurface ocean ... one of humanity's sharpest eyes in space ... could this be the discovery of extraterrestrial life?

Fortunately, the author of this article is a bit more cautious than most, because he answers that final question with "We wouldn't count on it." Unfortunately, such careful analysis is usually sorely lacking from these popularizations of science. The authors usually know that the readers expect life out in the universe and give them the hope that it has been found. 

But I pointed out last time that if we don't know how abiogenesis occurred (the springing of life from non-life) then it is becomes really difficult to predict the likelihood that life came into existence outside of our own little part of the universe. If the arising of life was a freak event - an event so totally unlikely that you are more likely to win a Powerball Lottery (or Mega-Millions Lottery - don't want to leave out potential blog sponsors) where you have to select the correct six numbers on a lottery ticket with a pool over a 100,000,000,000,000 numbers from which to choose - then it is possible that Earth is the only place in the universe that life arose. Or, for that matter, if the rise of life on this planet were the result of an all-powerful being who exists outside of this universe and He chose to place life only on Earth then it's certainly possible for Earth to be the sole home of life in the universe, as well. 

My last blog post pointed out that at least one scientist believes that humanity has no real idea as to how life could spring into existence independently. Talk show host and author Eric Metaxas focused on another aspect of the problem of life arising on its own in a recent article for CNS news entitled "Evolution Just Got Harder to Defend." In the article he points out how the discovery of some fossilized ancient stromatolites were causing headaches for those who believe that life arose through purely natural processes. Apparently, these stromatolites have been dated to 3.7 billion years ago -- about 220 million years older than the previously oldest existing fossils of living critters on Earth. That is a problem. Metaxas writes: 

This, admits the New York Times, “complicate[s] the story of evolution of early life from chemicals ... .” No kidding! According to conventional geology, these microbe colonies existed on the heels of a period when Earth was undergoing heavy asteroid bombardment, making it virtually uninhabitable. This early date, adds The Times, “leaves comparatively little time for evolution to have occurred … .” That is an understatement. These life forms came into existence virtually overnight, writes David Klinghoffer at Evolution News and Views. “[g]enetic code, proteins, photosynthesis, the works.” This appearance of fully-developed life forms so early in the fossil record led Dr. Abigail Allwood of Caltech to remark that “life [must not be] a fussy, reluctant and unlikely thing.” Rather, “[i]t will emerge whenever there’s an opportunity.” Pardon me? If life occurs so spontaneously and predictably even under the harshest conditions, then it should be popping up all over the place! Yet scientists still cannot come close to producing even a single cell from raw chemicals in the lab.

The problem, of course, is exactly what Eric points out in that final couple of sentences. Using the best of equipment in controlled environments, scientists have not come even close to creating a single living cell. If it cannot be done in a specialized, controlled environment, how exactly does it happen naturally in a harsh environment? To say that life will "emerge whenever there's an opportunity" as does Dr. Allwood is simply the Star Trek Vision without any scientific basis establishing that life can "emerge" using purely naturalistic processes at all. Moreover, just because life exists on Earth does not mean that it emerged using only naturalistic processes unless you confine your thinking to the limited Carl Sagan viewpoint that the universe is all that is, all that was and all that ever will be. Isn't it possible that, given what we already know about life being very, very, very difficult to create in a controlled laboratory environment, scientists will never find a naturalistic means by which life arose? 

By the way, I am not suggesting that we stop looking for a naturalistic process. Like the great Christian scientists of old, I believe that God has put us here, at least in part, to discover and marvel at the works of his mighty hands. If God did it through a naturalistic process, then let's find it and praise God for being so incredibly creative that he could make it work when scientists couldn't figure out even where to start looking. However, if a person tells you that we are really close to knowing how it happened and being able to create life from non-life in a laboratory, just smile, nod your head and ask them if they have seen the latest Star Trek movie. That's what they really believe is true anyway. 


Rashomon, 1950 Kurosawa's great classic film reflecting upon the Human condition (see my Review)

Keith Parsons enters the discussion about God and evil on Secular Outpost [1] with a look at gratuitous evil. That means evil that God doesn't allow for any rational reason. In other words the kind of thing about which one says, "there's no excuse for that, God could have no reason to allow that." An example of gratuitous evil might be what happened to the woman gunned down in Chicago while pushing her child in the stroller. She was hit by a stray bullet. One might be tempted to think -- I can see why God would allow the gunman to waste his life or even why he would allow the other member he was shooting at to be shot, but why did God have to allow this woman to be hit by the stray bullet? In this piece I'm not going to deal with the inductive issues but to disagree with the approach to understanding gratuitous evil.

Gratuitous evil is evil that God would not permit. In Alvin Plantinga’s terms, God would not actualize such evils either strongly (i.e. by directly creating them) or weakly (i.e. by allowing free creatures to commit them). A gratuitous evil is one that God would have no morally sufficient reason for actualizing (strongly or weakly). God has a morally sufficient reason for actualizing an evil e in a world W if and only if e is necessary in W for some good g, and W, containing both e and g, is better (by whatever criterion) than any world W*, actualizable by God, where W* contains neither e nor g. Put simply, where W is the real world, God permits evil e because e is necessary for the realization of good g, and g is realized, and the world with both e and g is better than it would be with neither e nor g.[2]

The problem with this concept is that it seems to frame the alternative to gratuitous evil in such very specific terms it seems to imply that the allowance of some forms of evil could serve no purpose. I want to distinguish between two types of evil. The one would be evil acts that directly leads to the good. One example, suppose the shooter of this woman repents and gives his life to God because he is so remorseful for his act and thus changes his life. Thus his sin led to remorse and through that saves several future victims. Then the woman's death would not be in vain, So that evil would not be quite as gratuitous, although, of course, still evil. The other type would be consequential evil. That is to say, the event itself would not lead to good consequences but allowing it would still be necessary to achieve a certain end. An example of this type might be the same event if the gunman never changes. But the skeptic might assert that since God is all powerful he should be able to stop that shooting or make the bullet miss.

If we take a larger view it may well be that God can't eliminate or micro-manage every kind of problem such that he could intervene in all such cases. Of course the skeptic will always bring it down to "isn't God all powerful?" They will try to play off God's goodness against his power. For example saying God is either not good or not all powerful. Yet as I pointed out last time, while God is the most powerful aspect of being and while God has all authority, he does not have the ability to contradict logical necessity. He can't create creatures who really love him if he forces them to love him by creating them such that they could not do otherwise, because love is a choice. That is not love it's a circumvention of the will. This necessity of allowing free will means that God has to risk our making evil choices. If there are certain kinds of evil that will persist in possible worlds, God is stuck with allowing those so long as free moral agents do not internalize the values of the good. This internalizing step comes though the search for truth. Thus God's existence cannot be beyond question as it would be if God intervened every time something bad loomed on the horizon. So God must allow a real world in which random danger can strike at any time. From that point we can work out the special situations in which will intervene if indeed he does,

Parsons seems not to like free will defense; he certainty doesn't like this idea of unfailing moral evil in all possible worlds ("trans-world depravity"--TWD).

The hackneyed example is that moral evil is permitted in the world because moral evil is necessary in our world for freely-chosen moral goodness, and there is no alternate world, actualizable by God, in which the overall balance of moral goodness to moral evil is better than in the real world. Perhaps there are possible worlds in which free creatures always choose to do good, and so, in those worlds, moral evil is not a necessary condition for moral goodness. However, perhaps no such world is actualizable by God. Perhaps, all possible free creatures suffer from what Plantinga calls “trans-world depravity,” that is, the “counterfactuals of freedom” (over which God has no control) are such that every free creature will freely choose to do some evil in any world in which it exists. In this case, not even God can create worlds with free creatures and no moral evil. Therefore, so far as human creatures can know (since we cannot know the counterfactuals of freedom) perhaps even the grossest moral evils are not gratuitous. I would add that, since we cannot know the counterfactuals of freedom, then neither can we know that moral evils are not gratuitous. Perhaps God could have created a better world after all.

"Perhaps there are possible worlds in which free creatures always choose to do good, and so, in those worlds, moral evil is not a necessary condition for moral goodness." But the possibility of evil would have to exist in APW because free will must exist. Does that mean TWD? I don't know if some evils must be performed in APW but I can see that might be the case. After all it might be the case that to be a free moral agent is to give in to temptation, unless the good is internalized. An example would be Reinhold Neibuhr's idea of sin nature that he took from St. Augustine but then liberalized. The anxiety of self-transcendence leads to evil choices as a matter of selfish self preservation unless and until we internalize the values of the good.[3] In this example sin nature is in effect anxiety that comes with self-transcendence, the ability to understand one's temporal plight in relation to the larger scheme; thus all sentient beings who have moral natures would tend toward sin in this model.

Parsons states, "perhaps even the grossest moral evils are not gratuitous. I would add that, since we cannot know the counterfactuals of freedom, then neither can we know that moral evils are not gratuitous. Perhaps God could have created a better world after all." That does not seem to follow. Either way we can still know that there is a justifiable purpose in allowing consequential evil. Such evil is not gratuitous because it has to be allowed to achieve certain ends. But he doesn't stop there. He goes on to takes his position to absurdity. He is speaking of unwanted undeserved suffering; he says, "note that if if even one...instance...of suffering is gratuitous, that is if even one is such that God would have no morally sufficient reason for permitting it, then God does not exist."

It is odd that they are willing to take it down to that level. Would the atheists be willing to say that if one miracle happens there has to be a God? I doubt that they would but one thing I know, they would never admit there was a miracle, But I don't necessarily object to the idea since it would be against God's nature to allow gratuitous evil. But I think I have just demonstrated that there is no such thing. All forms of evil that occur must be allowed whether they lead to direct and specific good or not. They all are the result of necessities. That is not to say that the individual evils must be excused or tolerated and in all those cases where they wrought by humans we could choose to prevent them. There may be instances in which God intervenes but we don't know the parameters. That doesn't mean there aren't any. It means that the causes of evil must be allowed and in those cases where God does act to prevent there are certain reasons we don't understand. We can understand the reasons for allowing evil generally. Overall I've explained that by the use of internalizing work of the search and the idea of keeping the search inviolable.[4]

The variables are too complex by far to tabulate probabilities. We can't know enough any given to say if there is or is not a rational reason for some kind of pain. The consequential pain is what we have in place of gratuitous pain; that is pain that has to be of necessity given the objectives of creation but has no direct positive outcome,or we may not know enough about the outcomes to say.


[1] Keith Parsons, "Gratuitous Evils: What are the Chances?" Secular Outpost, April 26,2016, BLOG url: ... qus_thread (Accessed 8/30/16)

[2] Ibid

[3] Reinold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man vol.I Nisbet &co. 1943
Niebuhr doesn't actually speak of internalization values of the good but he does compare the selfish resplne to comprehending justice. There is clearly an internalizing of values innovated,

[4] Joseph Hinman Soteriologocal Drama, The Religious a propri. website URL
http://rel ... drama.html

Star Trek turns 50. Wow! 

We have likely come to the point where the majority of the American population has been raised on what I call the Star Trek Vision. It's a very positive and optimistic vision that is easy to embrace. It is the vision of humanity traversing the galaxy in a sleek spaceship (more of a space hotel, actually) in search of "new life and new civilizations." And the universe responds to this search by being populated by a whole host of alien races that are largely like humanity or somewhere on the road between becoming like humanity or having evolved beyond humanity. The Star Trek crew has the "Prime Directive" of not interfering with the developing populations, but when it encounters alien civilizations at our level or beyond, the crew aspires to befriend any and all who accept the Federation's vision of universal peace. (Rarely, if ever, has the crew encountered the likes of the aliens in Independence Day, although the Borg are a reasonable comparison.) In the Star Trek Vision, life abounds on virtually every non-gas giant planet that the crew visits.

I expect it is this vision that has been so ingrained in our national psyche that has led us to have great faith in the idea that life must almost certainly be present and abounding in every corner of the universe. I remember when I was in Law School, one of my fellow students told me that his father didn't believe in God because "with all of the planets out there, there has to be more intelligent beings than humanity in the universe, and so that means the Biblical teaching that man was created special is hogwash." (I may not have the exact wording down, but that was the gist of what I was told.) You see, somewhere it became the popular belief that it is inevitable that life somehow bursts into existence if the right conditions exist.  And with a million-billion stars in the universe (and that number may be low), there has to be other places in the universe where life exists and therefore life exists elsewhere in the universe.  Hence, we spend hours of time searching the galaxy for signs of life - from the SETI project to the search for water on Mars or Titan to (most recently) the search for planets outside of our solar system capable of sustaining life. 

And this optimistic expectation that life will spontaneously arise which has led to another phenomenon: the belief that if we can find a nearby planet with something as simple as water, it follows that it is very likely that life exists on that planet. In fact, it happens almost every month - a planet is found which becomes the new "favorite" for finding life outside of Earth. The latest candidate is Proxima b - a planet in orbit around Proxima Centauri a mere 4.2 light years from Earth. Close enough, in cosmic terms, to be like a short drive out of town for dinner. Of course, 4.2 light years is a lot farther than an out of town restaurant, and will take many years to reach in terms of real space travel.

But, of course, the finding of this little rocky world that may have water (note my emphasis on "may") immediately catapults to stardom (no pun intended) Proxima b as the next possible place where life may exist. Immediately, the speculation erupted. According to a story on AmericanBazaarOnline entitled "Astronomers discover new ‘Earth’ planet which may have water, life on it" the assumptions began before the discovery was officially announced. 

It is assumed that the planet is in the habitable zone of the star leading to the possibility of having liquid water on its surface. “The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface — an important requirement for the emergence of life,” the source said. “Never before have scientists discovered a second Earth that is so close by,” the source added.

The excitement continued the next day after the discovery was announced. The LA Times reported

Could life exist on Proxima b? There are several unknowns that make it impossible to say right now, according to scientists. The planet is tidally locked to Proxima Centauri, so one side may permanently face the star while the other remains shrouded in darkness. But if there is an atmosphere, it should redistribute heat across the surface, the researchers said. 
As an M dwarf, Proxima Centauri is prone to frequent flares and bursts of X-rays that would send down 400 times the X-ray flux that Earth receives from the sun, according to the study. Those X-rays could eat away at the atmosphere, even if one exists.And it’s also not clear whether water could have survived on the planet over the eons. The answer depends on how violent the star was in the past and where the planet originated — both of which remain a mystery.***If there were life on this planet, it probably survived either underground or deep within its hypothetical oceans, said Kaltenegger, the director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute, which is dedicated to the search for habitable worlds. But there’s a chance that organisms evolved to handle the extreme radiation that may reach the surface, she added, perhaps by using biofluorescence.
It seems that anytime there is the possibility of water on a planet, the speculation immediately cranks up the "this is a possible home for life" meme. Having lived 50 years with the Star Trek Vision, it is perfectly understandable. If the conditions exist that might possibly support life - especially the existence of water which seems to be the single most relevant factor needed to support life - then it must be that life exists there because everyone knows that the universe is simply oozing with life.
Well, yes, the conditions can exist that make it more likely that life can be sustained in a particular location. In fact, I don't have any doubt that there are many earth-like planets in the universe of a million-billion stars which sit in the habitable zone, have water, have an oxygen atmosphere and are not bizarre step-children with characteristics that make them unlikely that they could really support life (like orbiting a brown dwarf star or having no planetary rotation). But the fact that habitable planets exist that could support life does not prove that there is life out there to support.

If that statement comes as a surprise or if you find it to be a flight of fancy it is because you have been immersed in the Star Trek Vision.  The simple fact is that scientists cannot give an explanation as to how life began. Oh certainly some scientists propose theories about life forming around deep water vents, but these remain pretty tenuous theories without much more than a hope that they are truthful. And if we don't know how life began we have no real basis for saying that life could begin in other places simply because the conditions necessary to support life exist. 

Consider this: those with the Star Trek Vision believe have become convinced that life is so amazingly part and parcel of the universe that it will almost certainly spontaneously arise under the right conditions. Well, if life was so easily created that there must be thousands or even millions of planets with life because life arises so easily, why is it that scientists have been unable to create life in a controlled environment like a laboratory? Perhaps, life does not spring into existence as easily as those with this Vision believe.

Moreover, there are some well-respected scientists who appear to be 100% believers in the natural occurrence of life who, through year's of research, arrived at the same conclusion. Over at the under-appreciated Proslogion blog, Jay L. Wile, Ph.D. (Nuclear Chemistry) recently published a post entitled "Dr. James Tour Tells Us How Little We Know About the Origin of Life."  Dr. Tour, it turns out, is a very accomplished scientist. According to Dr. Wile:

Dr. Tour is a giant in the field of organic chemistry. For example, he is the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry at Rice University. For those who aren’t familiar with the academic structure of universities, only the most elite professors are appointed to a position that is named in honor of someone else. This is called an “endowed professorship,” and anyone who holds such a position is in the upper echelon of academia. He has won several awards for his outstanding research accomplishments, including being named by Thomson Reuters as one of the top ten chemists in the world in 2009. Not only is his research outstanding, but he is also an excellent teacher, having earned the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice University in both 2007 and 2012. 

In the post, Dr. Wile reviewed an article written by Dr. Tour entitled "Animadversions of a Synthetic Chemist" (you know he must be bright to use the word "animadversions" in a sentence and not mean some new character or feature in an Anime movie) and a related video of a lecture on the same subject entitled "The Origin of Life: An Inside Story - 2016 Lectures (with James Tour). In both the video and the article, Dr. Tabor takes a step by step walk through biochemistry and concludes that scientists who believe that we are even close to understanding abiogenesis (how life began) don't have a clue what they are talking about. As stated by Dr. Wile, Dr. Tours is saying "We have no idea how some of the most basic molecules necessary for life could have been produced by unguided processes."

Dr. Wile's article (which is much shorter and distills down the points of the lecture to just a few paragraphs) points out the Dr. Tours discusses the fact that he, as a synthetic organic chemist, managed to create a nanovehicle (a vehicle made from a very few molecules). The creation of this nanovehicle was a very involved process. According to Dr. Wile: 

If you want to get an idea of how complicated it all is, he gives the details on how he made one of the many chemicals that he needed (episulfide 37). It involved starting with a pristinely-cleaned flask, a chemical that had been made and purified in a previous step, an organic solvent (not water), and two simple chemicals. Since the reaction produces heat that would destroy the process, the flask was soaked in a very cold bath so that it wouldn’t get too hot. After that, it was cooled even more. The solution was then filtered, and the resulting liquid went through another chemical reaction that produced a solid, which was (once again) filtered. The filtered solid was then washed with alcohol and dried under vacuum.
That was how they made just one of the many chemicals they had to make in order to produce a nanocar. Temperature had to be carefully regulated throughout the process, and to make that single chemical, two separate filtering steps had to be performed. Finally, to get rid of all traces of liquid, the solid had to be dried under a vacuum.

As you can see, the process to create this single nanovehicle was extremely difficult. And here's the point: According to Dr. Tours, "Designing nanoncars is child’s play in comparison to the complexity involved in the synthesis of proteins, enzymes, DNA, RNA, and polysaccharides, let alone their assembly into complex functional macroscopic systems." In his Animadversions article, Dr. Tours concludes: 

THOSE WHO THINK scientists understand the issues of prebiotic chemistry are wholly misinformed. Nobody understands them. Maybe one day we will. But that day is far from today. It would be far more helpful (and hopeful) to expose students to the massive gaps in our understanding. They may find a firmer—and possibly a radically different—scientific theory. The basis upon which we as scientists are relying is so shaky that we must openly state the situation for what it is: it is a mystery.

While I do agree that it is possible that there is some simple mechanism that today's scientists with all of their equipment, supplies and grants have overlooked, it certainly appears that abiogenesis is not something that readily or easily happens. Even if abiogenesis did happen through natural processes on Earth, that act may be a unique event in the history of the universe, and unlike the Star Trek Vision, all that we may discover out there are planets that may have water and oxygen atmospheres, but are otherwise barren, lifeless rocks. Maybe that's all that our future in space holds. 

It may be the case - despite protests from the naturalistic purists -- that we not only are presently not able to piece together how life arises naturally without a designer, but it may be that the creation of life is something so incredibly complex which requires such perfect circumstances to occur that it cannot possibly happen without a designer. Maybe the idea of a God who created life isn't that far-fetched after all.

A man walking down the beach comes across an old bottle. He picks it up, rubs it and out pops a genie! The genie says, "In exchange for freeing me from the bottle, I will grant you three wishes."The man says "Great! I want one billion dollars in a Swiss bank account." Poof! There is a flash of light and a piece of paper with account numbers appears in his hand!He continues, "Next, I want a brand new red Ferrari right here." Poof! There is a flash of light and a bright red, brand-new Ferrari appears right next to him!He continues, "Finally, I want to be irresistible to women." Poof! There is a flash of light and he turns into a box of chocolates. ~ Edited from Christiansunite Clean Jokes 
It is probably the most consistent challenge raised to the existence of God: the problem of evil. It has been most succinctly and accurately stated with the following syllogism: 
  1. If an all-good, all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God exists, then evil (suffering) does not exist.
  2. Evil exists.
  3. Therefore, an all-good, all-knowing, all-loving, all powerful God does not exist.
Not only is it the most consistently raised challenge, it is almost certainly the best argument against the existence of God. It is so powerful, that St. Thomas Aquinas found it to be only one of two arguments against God's existence that he considered worth answering in his Summa Theologica. C.S. Lewis, probably the greatest Christian apologist and popularizer of the 20th Century, basically devoted an entire book to the problem of evil when he wrote, The Problem of Pain. Of course there have been others who have tackled the problem of evil and, in my humble opinion, provided outstanding responses to the challenge. Some excellent shorter responses by well-known Christian authors that are available on the Internet are Peter Kreeft's "The Problem of Evil," William Lane Craig's "The Problem of Evil" and Dallas Willard's "God and the Problem of Evil." With such renowned thinkers already having tackled the problem, I recognize that anything that I write will probably be mere parroting of earlier thoughts. But it seems to me that there is an angle that I cannot recall seeing much written about the Problem of Evil that I can tackle here, i.e., assuming that the problem of evil does not make it logically impossible for God to exist, why doesn't he do something about all of the evil?

The Problem of Evil as a Logical Problem

It is important to first recognize that the problem of evil has several components. The syllogism is what one might call the patriarch of the "Problem with Evil Family." It is the logical question: "If God is all-powerful and all-good, then why does evil exist at all?" In other words, if evil exists is it logically impossible for an all-good, all-powerful God to exist?  But the logical question is only the first part of the question. Assuming that the Christians have solved the primary logical problem (which they have) and established that it is not logically inconsistent for God and evil to co-exist on earth, a second question is whether it is less probable that God exists. After all, if God isn't completely wiped out as a logical matter by the existence of evil, doesn't the fact that evil exists make it less probable that God exists. It is to these two logical problems that the links shown above generally respond and I invite readers to consider them as quick primers on the Christian answer to the challenge.

The Problem of Evil as a Practical Problem

A third part is a more practical question:  "If God is all-powerful and all-good, then why doesn't he do something about the evil that exists?" The last time I posted, I wrote of the very sad situation of little Victoria - a ten year old girl who was drugged, sexually abused and killed by her mother, her mother's boyfriend and her boyfriend's cousin. The question becomes "if God is all-powerful and all-good, how can he allow that to happen to this poor, helpless child?" At this point, this isn't really an objection to God's existence, but a challenge to God's goodness and power. It is a question with a lot of emotional power behind it because it is very difficult to imagine someone who we would call "good" allowing such a thing to happen when they have the power to do something to stop it. 

The "why doesn't God do something" question fascinates me. You see, when the skeptic challenges God in this way, it is usually in those exact words that she presents the challenge, i.e., if God is all-good and all-powerful He would "do something" about evil. As an example, this is exactly the language used by the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy which introduces the problem of evil this way:

If God were all-powerful, God would be able to do something about all of the evil and suffering. Furthermore, if God were morally perfect, then surely God would want to do something about it. And yet we find that our world is filled with countless instances of evil and suffering.

The problem is that those raising the objection are usually pretty vague about what that "something" is that God ought to "do." But this objection ultimately raises two questions: what should God do and to whom should He do it? In at least one instance, God chose a means to stop evil which skeptics loudly denounce.

Noah and the Problem of Evil

Why doesn't God "do something" about the problem of evil? The simple answer is that at one point God did do something to stop it. At one time, God decided to wipe out all evil in the world. It was an event that is regularly discounted by the secular world as a tall-tale -- Noah's flood. To the extent the secular world even know about the flood (probably from watching Evan Almighty), it only recalls that Noah built a big boat and loaded it up with two of every animal in the world. To them, it is a quaint tale on the order of the Paul Bunyan stories, but to the Christian committed to Biblical truth it tells us of a time that God did exactly what the atheists complain that God would do - he "did something" about the evil and he did it in a way that permanently stopped the evil doers with whom God dealt from committing evil again. The account of Noah begins: 

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved [e]in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the [f]sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:5-8)

As the reader will notice, God saw the evil in the world and decided to "do something" about it - he destroyed all of the wickedness by destroying all of the life on the planet except for Noah and his family who "found favor in the eyes of the Lord." Isn't this what the skeptics are seeking? The argue that if God is all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, they insist that he should "do something" about the evil in the world, and He did. In a sense, it is like the joke about the genie mentioned above. The skeptic "wishes" for God to "do something" about evil, and he does so -- just not the way that the skeptic would have liked. You see, the skeptic wants God to act, but only in the way that the skeptic wants God to act. But the skeptic misses the lessons that come out of the Biblical account of Noah and the flood. 

Evil is Part and Parcel of the Human Condition

First, the story of Noah establishes that even the destruction of most living things and leaving only a remnant surviving who are considered good will not destroy evil forever. Notice, in the flood account, God destroys virtually all non-plant life -- every last person and animal except those which were preserved on the Ark -- but this did not result in the eradication of evil. Rather, evil returned to the earth shortly thereafter and has remained with us ever since. So, purging the world and only retaining a remnant of good people is not the solution to the problem of evil. But why not?

The answer is simple: on this side of heaven, as long as people exist, evil will exist, too. Christianity teaches that humanity is a fallen race. When we fell, we brought "original sin" which is a shorthand way of saying that people are all inclined to evil over good.  Jesus clearly taught that evil comes from within humanity. 

“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” ~ Mark 7:20-23

While some outside Christianity argue to the contrary, there is ample practical evidence that evil emanates from within us.  Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason said that we may be able to convince ourselves that we're okay, but all one needs to do is look at the newspaper to see that there is something wrong with the world. We are a fallen people, and as long as we are a fallen people evil will be part of humanity. 

What do they want God to do and to whom?

I can truly relate to the skeptic's dissatisfaction with the flood account's solution to evil. The "something" that God chose to "do" is unsettling because the cure in that case seems worse than the disease. At first glance, it seems like overkill to destroy all life to get rid of evil. Still, even destroying all of the life on earth except a few people and the animals was insufficient to result in a permanent end of evil. Perhaps that's why the skeptic seems so vague when she is asked to identify specifics as to what God should do.

Consider the alternatives: Should God allow the evil to happen first to establish that evil was really about to happen and then destroy the evil-doers? That would not stop the evil because the evil would happen before God intervenes and people would still be arguing that God is either powerless to stop the evil or he is indifferent to the evil occurring in the first place. Alternatively, should God only intervene before evil happens and destroy or punish the evil doer for what has not yet happened? That would stop the evil, certainly, but wouldn't people now condemn God for suddenly and (to all appearances) unjustly spirited away a loved one? Should God destroy the one who commits the evil or merely punish them? Punishing a person who commits evil would seem less harsh, but for some people punishment is evil in and of itself and so God is committing evil by punishing the evildoer.

What level of evil is sufficient to call for God's intervention? Murder? Rape? Theft? Lies? Gossiping? Visiting Internet porn sites? Gambling? Using illegal drugs? Cheating on our Income Tax Returns? Failing to notify the cashier that he gave us too much change? Calling another a "fool" without cause? Not loving our neighbor as ourselves? All of these - and a great many more things - are evil in the eyes of God. Should God stop all of them or just the ones that the skeptic believes are sufficiently evil to warrant God's intervention? Are each one of us (especially the skeptic demanding that God should "do something") included in the call to be destroyed or punished before we commit evil? Would the skeptic prefer that God be an all-knowing playground attendant standing over our shoulders watching everything we say and do and intervening whenever we do something wrong? What is the skeptic's response when God says "It's your turn to be punished/destroyed for the evil you have done (or might do)?" What is it exactly that the skeptic wants to happen? I believe that is a legitimate question and saying God should "do something" is not a sufficient response.

The Ultimate Solution 

Or maybe the solution is this: God has determined that we have chosen this path of evil and He will let us follow it to our ultimate destruction. We have been born into a world where evil is part and parcel of being human, and we will live in this place for a time. Ultimately, God promises to come again and destroy the world -- not with water but with fire (1 Peter 3:10). At that time, all of the evil will be destroyed and the deeds of the Earth (evil) will be exposed and judged.. But in the meantime, those of us who truly want good and hate evil are left here and have to endure the evil borne of humanity. 

Yet, for those who truly want evil to end -- not just the really bad stuff, but all of the evil -- and who want to see the world without evil, God has created a pathway for them to live everlasting lives in a new world where there is no longer any pain, hunger, tears or evil. Yes, little Virginia was slain because of the evil that is part of humanity, but Virginia -- if she really wants to live in a world where no one will ever do such a thing again -- had the opportunity to do so by merely accepting the gift of Jesus' atoning death (and I would argue that those who are not yet competent to make that decision are welcomed into God's arms based upon the degree to which they accept the light that they have). 

God is going to be doing something about evil. The only real question is whether the skeptic will be on the side that sees the new Earth which will then be free of evil, or whether he will be considered part of the evil with which God is dealing. 

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