Amateur Hour at Triablogue

Triablogue’s amateurs have compiled a supposed refutation of The Christian Delusion. Some uninformed bloggers are already hailing it as a “massive” and definitive refutation. Yet, even the most superficial look at Triablogue’s efforts reveals yet another instance of amateurs who don’t know enough to know that they don’t know enough about the topics they discuss.

Being merciful to DC’s readers, I will not provide an exhaustive catalog of Triablogue’s factual errors, illogical arguments, or misreadings of my chapters. I will provide a few samples within these categories:

A. The Credentials Card
B. Ill-read Reviewers
C. Misrepresented arguments
D. Misunderstood Arguments
E. The Ridiculous and the Mundane

THE CREDENTIALS CARD
I am a firm believer that an author should have expertise in the subjects on which he or she writes. Loftus has made a noble effort to include writers with graduate degrees or doctorates.

Nonetheless, Steve Hays (Infidel Delusion, p. 3) offers this observation concerning my critique of Paul Copan’s defense of Old Testament ethics and discussion of the Nazi Holocaust:

On a related note, not all of the contributors are writing within their field of expertise. For example, Avalos has a chapter entitled ―Yahweh is a Moral Monster. However, Avalos doesn‘t have a doctorate in ethics or bioethics...Likewise, Avalos has a chapter on ―Atheism Was Not the Cause of the Holocaust. However, Avalos doesn‘t have a doctorate in modern European history.

Apparently, it does not matter that Hays also does not have a doctorate in ethics or in modern European history, and so how is he able to evaluate arguments about these subjects? Nor does Hays seem to mind that Copan, who is the center of my critique of chapter 8 in The Christian Delusion, has no doctorate in Old Testament. Hays does not seem to mind that D’Souza lacks a doctorate in biblical studies, AND in ethics, AND in modern European history.

Furthermore, Hays’ comment shows only how little he knows about the study of ethics in academia. The fact is that few scholars who write on ethics or biblical ethics have a “doctorate in ethics or bioethics.”

Peter Singer, for example, who is called a “bioethicist” in Hays’ own section (p. 115), does not have a doctorate in ethics. The highest degree he lists on his own website is a B. Phil (1971): Peter Singer CV

Similarly, consider these well-known authors and works on ethics:

-Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. New York: HarperOne, 1996.

- Walter C. Kaiser, Toward Old Testament Ethics. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1991.

Kaiser has a Ph.D. in Mediterranean Studies from Brandeis. His website speaks of “graduate studies in Old Testament and ancient history at Brandeis University.” Kaiser Bio

Richard B. Hays lists a PhD. in “New Testament.” Hays Bio

Indeed, most biblical scholars who write on ethics develop that specialty within the context of their graduate work or as a subspecialty after their doctorate is finished. They become recognized by peer review. The same goes for many other areas that involve biblical studies, as is the case with my study of how Nazis used the Bible.

My work on biblical law, ethics and the Nazi Holocaust has been reviewed by other scholars, and so Hays & Co. are simply attempting to divert attention from the fact that they present no qualifications or expertise (e.g. peer reviewed writings) in these subjects whatsoever.

ILL-READ REVIEWERS
Paul Manata does not read very much, and here is the evidence (Infidel Delusion, p. 194):

Avalos looks at war and genocides in this chapter and doesn‘t show a familiarity with studies on war and genocide. For example, there‘s no interaction with David Livingstone-Smith‘s book The Most Dangerous Animal, no interaction with the works of R.J. Rummel, no interaction with Meic Pearse‘s The Gods of War, no interaction with Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, by James Waller, and no interaction with Richard Overy‘s, The Dictators.

Manata completely ignores the fact that I already devoted part of a book (Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence [Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2005) to studies of war and genocide.

In Fighting Words, I discuss in great detail the types of arguments and studies (e.g., statistical studies that supposedly show religion is not a big factor in wars) that are found in books by Waller, Overy, etc. even if I did not cite those specific titles and authors. D. L. Smith’s book was published after my book, and so does Manata also require Smith to mention every previous book, such as mine?

Even James K. Wellman, who vehemently disagrees with my theory of religious violence, acknowledges (James K. Wellman, ed., Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence Across Time and Tradition [Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007] p. 5):

There are a handful of theoretical explanations for religious
violence that have been put forward over the last century. Hector
Avalos’ Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence
(2005) does a comprehensive job of outlining the various
psychological, sociological, sociobiological, and humanistic
explanations for religious violence. There is no need in this
introduction to duplicate his efforts.


So, at once, Manata shows himself to be an utter amateur, and poorly read on the subject of religious violence, genocide or war. In fact, I am not sure he has even read the books he lists.

Similarly, Steve Hays pontificates as follows on p. 115: “Avalos says, ―We must also recall that all the supposed crimes and wickedness of the Canaanite are narrated by their enemies, the biblical authors (224). There are archeologists like John Currid who‘ve corroborated these accounts (e.g. child sacrifice).”

But Hays has no expertise to judge what archaeological evidence does or does not “corroborate” biblical accounts of Canaanite behavior. Perhaps Hays missed the fact that I wrote a rather lengthy review of the supposed archaeological evidence for Canaanite crimes and wickedness. See: Creationists for Genocide

If Hays has such expertise, then he should tell us which specific pieces of archaeological evidence were the most impressive to him.

NOTE: I certainly respect Dr. Currid’s opinion, even if I disagree with him. Dr. Currid is listed as a Director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project (Bethsaida Excavations Project), a project with which I was briefly also associated. See Hector Avalos, “Bethsaida in Light of the Study of Ancient Health Care,” in Rami Arav and Richard Freund, eds. Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee, Volume 3 (Kirksville: Truman State University Press; 2004) 213-231.

I will give credit to Jason Engwer for at least being honest enough to say that he had not read some of the material to which I was responding (p. 192): “Earlier in this review, I said that I‘m not familiar with some of the Christians who are critiqued at length by the authors of The Christian Delusion. I don‘t have much familiarity with Dinesh D‘Souza‘s work, and I don‘t use the argument Hector Avalos is criticizing in chapter 14, so I don‘t have much to say about that chapter.”

MISREPRESENTED ARGUMENTS
Concerning my attempt to show the flaws of Copan’s argument for the superiority of biblical ethics, Hays remarks (Infidel Delusion, p. 110):

For the most part, his essay is a study in comparative cultural anthropology. He compares OT ethics with Hammurabic ethics. However, this doesn‘t show that Hammurabic ethics is morally superior to OT ethics, much less that Yahweh is morally monstrous. Rather, it merely documents some differences between Hammurabic ethics and OT ethics.

Hays does not appreciate these comparisons because he does not understand the nature of Copan’s arguments or my rebuttal of them. More schematically, Copan’s arguments may be described as follows:

A. Feature X renders laws morally superior.
B. Biblical laws have Feature X.
C. Near Eastern laws lack Feature X.
D. Therefore, biblical laws are morally superior to Near Eastern laws.

So my efforts were not so much to say that Hammurabi’s laws are morally superior in some “absolute” manner. Rather, my argument would be better represented as:

A. IF you claim that Feature X makes a law morally superior
B. Then, I can show you the existence of Feature X in
Near Eastern laws; AND/OR
C. Feature X exists in higher amounts/quality in Near Eastern
laws otherwise deemed inferior by Copan.

For example, Copan claimed biblical laws were superior because they are embedded in narratives, and he claimed that Hammurabi’s laws are not embedded in narrative. I simply showed that laws were also embedded in narratives (a prologue and epilogue) in Hammurabi’s Code, and so Copan was simply wrong.

So, to refute Copan, I don’t need to prove that Feature X actually makes laws superior by some objective moral standard. I just need to prove that WHAT COPAN CALLS a superior moral feature exists in non-biblical laws. That exposes Copan’s inconsistency and moral relativism concerning the usefulness of Feature X in evaluating ethical superiority.

MISUNDERSTOOD ARGUMENTS
Perhaps the most repeated claim by Triablogges is that one cannot judge morality unless one uses objective standards. For example, Hays declares (Infidel Delusion, p. 110):Finally, as a necessary precondition to demonstrate that Yahweh is morally monstrous, Avalos must be able to evaluate OT ethics (or NT ethics, for that matter) by reference to some objective moral.

But this only shows that Hays completely misunderstood my argument, especially since Hays also noted this statement of mine (Infidel Delusion, p. 110): “Avalos says, ―‘As an atheist, I don‘t deny that I am a moral relativist. Rather, my aim is to expose the fact that Christians are also moral relativists’”

So, if I conclude that Christians are moral relativists, then clearly I am saying that CHRISTIANS ALSO CANNOT EVALUATE ETHICS BY REFERENCE TO SOME OBJECTIVE MORAL STANDARD.

However, Triabloggers cannot seem to recognize that there is a difference between CLAIMING to have objective moral standards and those standards actually existing. Indeed, Triabloggers offer no evidence that there are such things as “objective moral standards” beyond their own say-so or the say-so of biblical authors.

So, my argument is not necessarily: “Yahweh is monstrous according to objective standard X.” Rather, my argument is better represented as: “IF you regard Action X as morally evil, then Yahweh also endorses/accepts Action X.”

For example, I show that Yahweh also endorses or approves the same types of laws Copan calls immoral in other cultures (e.g., genocide, infanticide). I show that Yahweh sometimes prescribes laws akin to the types of laws that render other gods as moral monsters in Copan’s eyes.

Misunderstanding the claims of relativist ethics also makes Triabloggers think they have triumphed by showing some sort of self-referential incoherence within moral relativism. Thus, Manata says (Infidel Delusion, p. 122):

Next, Avalos claims that there are only two types of people in the world.
1. Those who admit they are moral relativists; and
2. Those who do not admit they are moral relativists.
I am in group (2). But so what? No realist or objectivist would ―
admit they are moral relativists. Avalos probably meant to add ―“but really are” to the end of (2).


I don’t need to add “but really are” to my #2, because I already made clear that even those who claim to be following objective moral values are not doing any such thing.

I already showed in the same chapter that all supposedly “objective moral standards” are actually tautologies such as: “X is objectively evil because X is objectively evil.” You cannot rationally differentiate this from its opposite: “X is not objectively evil because X is not objectively evil.” I had already explained that adding God does not change that at all. For example:

A. “X is evil because God says X is evil” dissolves into:
B. “Whatever God says is evil should regarded as evil because whatever
God says is evil should be regarded as evil.”

Those circularities do not constitute proof that there are objective morals because I can show how they all dissolve into tautologies. There is no “objective” evidence given by Manata for why anything God says should be regarded as good or evil. There is no “objective” reason given by Manata for why the word of a creator should be regarded as good or evil.

Thus, all Triabloggers are doing is precisely this: “I value what God says because I value what God says.” But did they prove that this should be an objective moral standard? Of course not. It is just their say-so. And who made up the rule that the only type morality has to be objective or absolute?

That is why it is also absurd to say that relative morality = no morality. Relativists simply have a different definition of morality: “Moral actions are those that accord with our individual and group interests and values.”

Given that definition, my argument is that we create needless problems for our own safety and well-being when we base a moral system on unverifiable causes and consequences as opposed to verifiable causes and consequences. I illustrate this idea with the following example:

A. I have to kill person X because Allah said so.
B. I have to kill person X because he is pointing a gun at me.

In Case A, I cannot verify that Allah exists and said anything. In Case B, I can verify that a gun is pointed at me. I’d rather live in world where B is the case and not where A is the case. But Manata responds (p. 122):

This is ridiculous. This says nothing for a moral system. Where is the normative claim? Besides being ambiguous vague (what if the person pointing the gun at Avalos is a policeofficer?), these examples have nothing to do with morality. Furthermore, as an admitted relativist, there is no objective moral difference between A and B. Both A and B are equally moral.

Manata does not integrate fully my conditional statement quoted on p. 112 of their supposed refutation: “if the word ‘moral’ describes the set of practices that accord with our values, and if our highest value is life, then it is always immoral to trade real human lives for something that does not exist or cannot be verified to exist.”

If I value living in a world where I am not going to be killed because people get it in their heads that they are following orders from beings I cannot verify to exist, then I will like B. If Manata doesn’t value living in such a world, then I suppose he won’t have any objection to some Jihadist who believes Allah wishes him to exterminate Manata.

Manata also misses the point that a police officer can be verified to exist and treated accordingly. Allah’s will and wishes, however, are unverifiable. Can Manata really not see the difference?

When it was pointed out that Muslims could also appeal to Allah to kill, Steve Hays tells us (Infidel Delusion, p. 115): “That doesn‘t mean Allah has the prerogative to issue these directives. Whether a deity has the right to tell us what to do depends on the nature of the deity, and our obligations, if any, to the deity.”

And just who is going to decide which deity has the prerogative to issue those directives? Are these not human judgments? All Hays is saying is: “I believe Allah does not have Right X because I believe that Allah does not have Right X.”

Such reasoning was repeated when I pointed out that any god in the ancient near East could accompany laws with a formula such as: “I am Shamash” (analogous to “I am Yahweh” in biblical law). Hays, however, seems to just assume his god exists (Infidel Delusion 115): “We could say Shamash is the true god if it‘s true to say that Shamash is the true God. But unless Shamash is truly the true God, so what?”

But we can apply Hays’ argument to Yahweh: “Anyone could say Yahweh is the true god if it’s true to say Yahweh is the true God. But unless Yahweh is truly the true God, so what?” The problem, of course, is that Hays cannot grasp that BOTH the Yahweh and Shamash worshipper can say the same thing, and it does not make it true.

It’s strictly Hays’ human judgment no matter which God he thinks is authorized to do anything. Thus, Hays only proves the point that he is a moral relativist insofar as whatever he thinks is right is what he then ascribes to the deity he favors on the basis of moral criteria he preselected. He cannot show that any morality is coming from outside of his own judgments.

If Triabloggers object that relativist morality then becomes chaos, the same applies to theistic morality because not everyone will ever agree on what God said or wants. It is just that atheists spend time arguing about things that can be verified to exist, and theists argue about things that are not verifiable.

On a more empirical and historical level, Triablogue’s brand of supposedly objective ethics have been shown to be completely contradictory. After all, the following have been advocated AND opposed by those who say they believe in God or objective ethics:

A. Genocide
B. Rape
C. Homosexuality
D. Adultery
E. Infanticide
F. Biocide (Noah’s Flood)

Indeed, even today there are self-described Christians who believe abortion is murder, and self-described Christians who think it is not. So how are theistic ethics less chaotic? Whether you believe in God or not, the practicality of any moral system will ALWAYS depend on how much agreement or power of enforcement it has.

THE RIDICULOUS AND THE MUNDANE
Here, I offer brief comments on some of the more humorously simplistic arguments in The Infidel Delusion.

1. Abortion = 100% Salvation Rate
Copan’s defenses of child-killing in the Bible often centers on how those children were better off because they went immediately to heaven. I pointed out that such defenses actually made a fantastic argument for abortion because only abortion provides a 100% salvation rate, while allowing those children to be born and grow up means risking an eternity in hell. In his immense wisdom, Hays responds (p. 117):

But even on its own terms, that would be a very shortsighted argument for abortion. Far fewer humans would be saved over the long haul. For a 100% abortion rate would quickly result in the extinction of the human race. If there‘s no replacement rate, there‘s no salvation for future generations. Only the aborted generation would be heavenbound.

But how does Hays know how many generations God has in mind for human existence? After all, if God decided to end the world tomorrow, would Hays say: “God, you can’t do that because there are still future generations to be saved”?

And the reverse can also be true: Future generations might be damned even more if allowed to be born. After all, does Hays show the same concern for generations that were born before Christ’s salvation arrived? Doesn’t God care about all those generations who perished unsaved before Christ? And how did Hays specifically calculate the proportion of saved to damned in his soteriology?

2. p. 112: “To my knowledge, he also supports racial preferences (in what is euphemistically termed ―affirmative action.”)
Where does Hays get this information? Where have I said that I support “racial preferences”? Can he produce a quote of mine to such an effect? In fact, I have been known as an opponent of racial preferences. Yet, this sort of undocumented blather passes for argumentation repeatedly at Triablogue.

SUMMARY
I don’t necessarily mind amateur bloggers who are cognizant of the level from which they speak. The greatest disservice to Christian apologetics are amateurs who don’t know enough to know they don’t know enough to evaluate the topics they discuss. My advice to Triabloggers: Arm yourselves with sound training and education and return when you are ready for prime time.

FINAL QUESTION FOR TRIABLOGUE
1. Do you think killing infants is always wrong? Yes or No?

49 comments:

Lion IRC said...

Killing infants is not always wrong.

An animal might kill an unattended human infant for food and that would not be "wrong"

Sad - but not a "sin"

Lion (IRC)

Louis said...

Lion,

Abracadabra: you solved the riddle! Not.

Although he didn't explicitly qualify this, call me crazy, but I suspect Dr. Avalos intended the question to apply to moral agents. You don't believe that non-human animals are moral agents, do you? Certainly you would agree that it's nonsensical to talk about a "moral" tiger, or an "ethical" virus, or an "evil" rock.

So, for beings to which moral agency can be ascribed (humans, gods), is killing infants always wrong?

GearHedEd said...

Did anyone else notice that there are virtually NO comments on most of Triablogue's screeds?

Does anyone even read that stuff?

cipher said...

Dr. Avalos,

Excellent article. This stood out for me in particular:

Copan’s defenses of child-killing in the Bible often centers on how those children were better off because they went immediately to heaven. I pointed out that such defenses actually made a fantastic argument for abortion because only abortion provides a 100% salvation rate, while allowing those children to be born and grow up means risking an eternity in hell.

This is something they never address. Even after five decades of observing this behavior, I find the denial and cognitive dissonance astonishing.

Some uninformed bloggers are already hailing it as a “massive” and definitive refutation.

"Definitive refutation" = "Says what I want to hear".

Rob said...

This is only tangentially related to the 'moral monster' and moral relativist/objectivist claims, but I'm curious of Dr Avalos' take.

Numbers 5 seems to describe an OT law directly from Yahweh that women who are suspected of being unfaithful should be forced to drink a bitter mixture made with the 'dust' of the temple floor- which I expect would be made up primarily of 'strewing herbs' or 'bitter herbs' used for their disinfectant properties (sacrifice a few goats a day on a dusty floor and you need something like that). Many herbs of this type are also known abortifacients.

Does that reading have any merit? A commandment of forced abortion directly from God would seem to be a direct blow to objectivist claims by modern Christians, given their unwavering opposition to elective abortion.

mindyourmind said...

Thank you, Dr. Avalos. I shudder to think what you will do to this Amateur Apologetic Assembly if you had taken more time.

Their effort, to me at least, has a whiff of desperation to it. It is a poor effort, one which, had I been a Christian, I would have regretted ever having seen the day.

Ken Pulliam said...

Dr. Avalos,

I think somehow we demean ourselves when we respond to such amateurish reviews as those on Tribalogue. It is obvious as John said that they don't know that they don't know.

John W. Loftus said...

Ken, Hector and the rest of us have discussed this. Several of us have concluded we should respond. Isn't it interesting that when you go to Triablogue there are comments expressing the same thing as you expressed with regard to them responding to us? We are miles apart aren't we?

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Main stream Christians must not only defend their theological / belief system from atheists, but the Bible itself.

When the Bible (New Testament) promises Signs (σημεῖα), Wonders (τέρασιν) and Mightly Works (δυνάμεσιν) (2 Corinthians 12:12) as proof of Apostleship (that the Christian God is true), Evangelical apologists must argue against the New Testament as to why the dead aren’t raised and the sick are instantly healed by the laying on of hands or anointment with oil.

Then, just as it seems the Evangelical apologists have the New Testament proofs explained and under control, they must argue in reverse (with some big spin) against atheists as to exactly why miracles DO occur today just as the truth of the New Testament promised.

Finally, just as these main line Evangelical apologists seem to have their spinning plates of logic carefully balanced on their apologetic sticks, they must again go on the attack (followed by a defense) against their other followers of Jesus / Christians (such as Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and other “cults”) as to why these “heresies” aren’t really Christian at all.

The reason I’m not a Christian anymore, I just couldn’t keep lying to myself for emotional security and fellowship. When it finally came to either being a Christian or being honest, I chose honesty!

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

My experience is a bit different from Ken's. The main successful battles won in Iowa on behalf of good science and historical education have included a vigorous countering on the blogosphere of the misinformation machines of amateurs such as Triabloggers.

The internet is where many people now turn for their information. As long as we don't say anything, then the folks who are looking for information are sometimes only left with the Triablogues of the world. Not responding gives the impression to some that we can't respond.

I think, for too long, biblical scholars have refused to get down into the trenches and fight misinformation in popular venues. We should change that.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear Rob,
I am not sure whether these substances are abortifacients or not, but they could be. They may be more like magical poisons that the woman overcomes if she is innocent. It is an ordeal ritual analogous to ones we see in Mesopotamia for women suspected of infidelity.

I have a few comments here:
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/
2008/07/paul-copans-moral-relativism-response.html

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

I think Mr. Loftus' passion for truth, not hate, is massive, and much appreciated. I am not sure what the evidence is for consigning Loftus to the "neverland" of professional advancement.

The politics of "anger" is curious. Apologists applaud anger in biblical prophets, but see it as negative in skeptics.

Cole said...

While I believe there are some necessary truths when it comes to morality I also believe that some things depend on the context. Killing babies is one of them. Clearly there are contexts where this would be okay. If we had to kill a baby in order to save the whole human race then clearly this would be justified.

Gandolf said...

Morrison said... "John, the level of work you put into this, when you obviously have no hope anymore of a Professional Career like Avalos, is truly impressive.

Your level of hate must be massive, and undoubtedly will have bad effects on your health over time."

Morrison crawls out and hurls! the abusive hate card, at atheists.Telling us how hate has a bad effect on people.

After having himself also just hurled words of such blatant personal hatered at John.

We feel sorry for you too, dear Morrison.Its obvious,you live by such double standards, and whats even worse!, cant even see it.

Papalinton said...

Hi Hector, John
I left a couple of comments on the Triablogue site, and there is no doubt they do not know that they do not know. Interestingly though, their counterclaims or rebuttals are put in such an off-handed and superior manner they're even oblivious to the hubris and cockiness of their position. This nut is not for cracking. But I post anyway. At least it's on the record.

Cheers

cipher said...

But what impesses me more about the level of hate you have, (it just oozes from some of your posts lately) is that it convinces me that I, and other believers, would be in great danger if you ever had any kind of power over us.

Right - because it isn't as though we have nothing to fear from you Christo-fascists. You merely want to turn the earth into a Dominionist theocracy, trigger Armageddon then spend eternity jeering at us as we roast in hell.

John W. Loftus said...

I have a few moderators here and the comment by Morrison should not have been approved because he is banned. I'll let it stand now though. He is KC_James on Amazon and goes by so many names it's hard to keep track of them all, like Andrew, and Winston Smith.

cipher said...

He is KC_James on Amazon and goes by so many names it's hard to keep track of them all, like Andrew, and Winston Smith.

I was unaware they were all the same person.

Winston Smith - naturally, he'd choose the name of a fictitious character who's persecuted for being the only one who sees what's going on.

Christian Agnostic said...

'Morrison',

You are a deeply silly man. Loftus is a curious mind and a seeker after truth. As an alleged follower of Christ you should demonstrate love and compassion, even for those who might consider enemies in thought, word or deed. Spurious, name-calling posts on websites like this demean you and the religion you claim to follow.

Ken Pulliam said...

Hector and John,

You guys have more patience than I do.

cipher said...

Ken, you've been arguing with imbeciles ever since you started your blog. In fact, you told me why you felt it was necessary. When did you do a 180?

T said...

Cipher wrote,

Right - because it isn't as though we have nothing to fear from you Christo-fascists. You merely want to turn the earth into a Dominionist theocracy, trigger Armageddon then spend eternity jeering at us as we roast in hell.

What great comment!
T

cipher said...

Thanks - I actually meant to say, "It isn't as though we have anything to fear".

Double A said...

Someone is responsible for aborting each fetus. Those parties will be judged in a way that it would be much better had they not aborted. So your arguments about whether aborted babies finding 100% salvation requires going down a worm-hole of atrocious sin first. Not an option for someone with Christ. Thank you.

cipher said...

Doesn't matter. The babies still go to heaven. They beat the odds. The people who abort or perform the abortions are risking their own salvation to ensure the salvation of others - throwing themselves on the salvific grenade. Sounds Christ-like to me.

Lion IRC said...

Hi Luis,

My response was to the question “is killing infants ALWAYS wrong”.

I can’t surmise what this may or may not encompass. To do so would suddenly open the question to individual interpretation. What do you call an infant? Why not ask the same question about killing people of ANY age?

Does it include the infants who died at Hiroshima? Does it include infants whose mothers claim the “right” to do with their own body as they wish? Who draws the objective line between infants of one species and another – Richard Dawkins? For that matter, who draws the objective line between HUMANS of one type and another – Adolph Hitler?

If there is some reason why the death of infants amounts to collateral damage or lesser of two evils, who OTHER than an all powerful, all knowing, Higher Being would you prefer to decide on this question?

Lion (IRC)

P.Coyle said...

"Someone is responsible for aborting each fetus. Those parties will be judged in a way that it would be much better had they not aborted."

Why? Because it denies to the fetus a full and fair opportunity to be born, to reach the age of reason, and to end up believing the wrong things (or not believing the right things) and thus go to hell?

If one believes that aborted fetuses have a free pass to get into heaven, then it would be reasonable to believe, not only that abortion is not morally objectionable, but that any woman who refuses to have an abortion is guilty of a form of child abuse, since she places the eternal salvation of her "unborn child" at risk.

This is even more true if one takes seriously the argument that infanticide ordered by Yahweh himself is to be defended on the grounds that it was in the best interests of the infants, and was thus an act of divine love. Didn't Jesus say "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect"? If even infanticide is a revealed form of divine perfection, why quibble about abortion?

If, on the other hand, one believes what you just said ("Those parties will be judged in a way that it would be much better had they not aborted"), then Jesus got it wrong when he said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." He should have said, "Greater love has no woman than this, that she lay down her soul for the soul of her child."

cipher said...

In fact, there are some apologists who state outright (and, I think, a lot more who harbor the opinion) that God ordered the execution of thousands of infants in order to prevent them from growing up, becoming idolaters and going to hell.

Oh, wait, I forgot - it's different when he does it.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Pardon the pun, but where the hell does the Bible say babies / children (under the age of some type of accountability) get a free pass to Heaven?! (Could a Christian provide me with chapter and verse on this?)

If there is an Original Sin pasted down (according to Paul) from Adam, then babies will fry like bacon in Hell too.

This is one more reason Christianity is fueled with wishful thinking not found in the Biblical text!

cipher said...

If there is an Original Sin pasted down (according to Paul) from Adam, then babies will fry like bacon in Hell too.

Indeed, I'm pretty certain that's what Augustine thought.

P.Coyle said...

Pardon the pun, but where the hell does the Bible say babies / children (under the age of some type of accountability) get a free pass to Heaven?! (Could a Christian provide me with chapter and verse on this?)

I'm not a Christian, so perhaps this doesn't count. However, in a similar discussion in another blog, a Christian cited the following passages:

Deuteronomy 1:39. This doesn't pertain directly to whether babies get a free pass into heaven, however.

Isaiah 7:16. Again, this doesn't pertain to whether babies get a free pass into heaven. Indeed, it is part of an oft-cited supposed prophecy of the coming of Jesus. The specific verse says, "But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste." If we were to accept the entire passage as a prophecy of Jesus, then the "boy" referred to would have been Jesus, and the meaning of the verse would be that as a young child Jesus would not have "known enough to reject the wrong and choose the right."

2 Samuel 12:12-23. My Christian source commented, "King David being told by God that he will be with his baby boy in Heaven." To that one might respond, "Where the hell did you get that interpretation"? In the passage described, David is told that God has taken away his sin, and he will not die. However, his son will die. There is nothing about David being with his son in heaven.

Luke 10:16; John 12:48; Romans 1-2 Thessalonians 4:8; Romans 1 and 2. The Christian's comment about this group of verses: "Condemnation not based upon original state but upon rejection of God."

1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:12-13; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Romans 2:15-16. The Christian's comment about this group of verses: "God will judge righteously and justly" (which rather seems to beg the question).

Not one verse cited stated that babies get a free pass to get into heaven.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Louis Talbot, In Bible Questions Explained (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1934; p. 244) says: "All infants, including stillborn babies, and young children who have not reached the age of accountability at death, go immediately into the presence of God."

Talbot cites Mark 10:14 as his prooftext: "But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God." (RSV here).

cipher said...

Have you noticed that the "age of accountability" always seems to coincide with puberty?

Ken Pulliam said...

Harry McCall said: If there is an Original Sin pasted down (according to Paul) from Adam, then babies will fry like bacon in Hell too.. He is right that according to that theology, babies ought to go to hell but contemporary Evangelicals are much too concerned about the bad PR such a doctrine would bring. Thus, they have attempted to find a way out of it but in doing so they violate the basic tenets of their own theology. I did a two part series on this subject.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Thanks for the responses.

The theology of baby or childhood salvation is, to say the least; highly problematic based on Biblical texts (Canonical / New Testament) and non-Canonical Jewish texts. I’ll want to (and will respond) as I review some Biblical texts and Ken’s two articles. (My time tonight has been consumed on ETV’s programs on Egyptology.)

(Sorry about the spelling “pasted” (glued). This word was quoted several times from my above post. My mind was somewhere between past and passed type as “pasted”.)

Ken Pulliam said...

BTW, R. C. Sproulchided Billy Graham for saying at the memorial service for the OKC bombing that children who died went to heaven. Sproul rightly says this contradicts the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith. He called Graham's teaching: "justification by youth."

cipher said...

BTW, R. C. Sproul chided Billy Graham for saying at the memorial service for the OKC bombing that children who died went to heaven.

Right, because we can't ease a parent's suffering at the expense of doctrine, can we?

The sooner these people have exited the stage of history, the better off humanity will be.

P.Coyle said...

Talbot cites Mark 10:14 as his prooftext: "But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God."

The verse would be equally suited to prooftexting a biblical defense of abortion or infanticide.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Part 1
In the Hebrew Bible (and LXX)


The problem with the references by P.Coyle in the Hebrew Bible regarding children’s rights in Israel is that we are comparing apples and oranges or projecting this present temporal life on to an eternal place of dread called Sheol, the grave, the pit (translated as Hell in the LXX).

Sheol is an eternal state of separation from God (For in death there is no memory of you. In Sheol, who shall give you thanks. Psalm 6:5) where one exists below the earth in the shadows and shades. An eternal place where all go, both good and bad (The wicked shall be turned back to Sheol, even all the nations that forget God. Psalm 9:17).

In Israel, babies and children were property of their fathers often used as human sacrifice to the Hebrew god EL /Yahweh; a personal property which was never considered in the afterlife (note especially the first born male child).

Likewise, we find stories of the neighboring gods living in the unseen world only as adults. Thus, even the younger Ugaritic god Ba’al is a sexually mature man when compared with the aging ’l.

Conclusion: In the Hebrew Bible Sheol is the underworld where all lead a dreaded eternal existence away from Yahweh and it is definitely not the Heavenly of bliss in the New Testament Jesus would have one believe.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Part 2
In the New Testament


In the New Testament, there is plainly no direct nor indirect references to either babies or children going to Heaven. The best that can be gleamed is what Hector quoted from the conservative evangelical reference above by Talbot.

However, the problem with Mark 10:14 is that Jesus is using children as only in a symbolic way in that one must totally and mentally shallow what Jesus is teaching about The Kingdom of Heaven without any questions: “Hook, line and sinker”.

The above example is drawn from the fact that Jesus has continually run into textual problems from the First Testament posed by the scribes, Sadducees (who based their facts on the Hebrew Bible and did not believe in spirits and the afterlife) and Pharisees (Who did believe in spirits and the afterlife), and knew that Jesus was more wrong than right on these matters and told him so.

So how did Jesus back himself up on this? He created his own proof text: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. (John 14: 1)

Another problem of Talbot using Mark 10:14 is the fact that Jesus avoided the gentiles and warn his apostles to do the same: (These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: Matt. 10: 5).

Thus, we can be assured that this illustration involved an earthly kingdom with ONLY Jewish children lived and is especially re-enforced textually when we consider Jesus’ sarcastic and derogatory remake to the Canaanite / Gentile woman in Matt. 15:26 by calling her dying sick daughter a dog!

Conclusion: The noted Jewish scholar Alan Segal once remarked that he did not know when nor how the righteous dead moved from the underworld (Sheol) to the a place (Heaven) in the sky.

Facts prove The Kingdom of Heaven (τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν) is to be located here on earth in a future state as taught by Jesus in the so-called “Lord’s Prayer”: Thy Kingdom come (ἐλθέτω). (then) Thy will be done (ενηθήτω), on earth just as it is in Heaven (Carried out by the angels and even Satan at times).

The final picture of this future Kingdom of Heaven is again to be located here on earth and inhabited only by adults who know enough about life (and its sins) to enjoy its wealth and riches (Revelation 21 - 22).

Finally, I totally agree with the excellent articles by Ken Pulliam listed at his blog (as noted in his above comment). Those who feel God’s love will allow babies and children to pass, after their deaths, straight to some sky Heaven will do well to read Ken’s blog.

cipher said...

I agree with Harry, but I wanted to address a minor point -

Sadducees (who based their facts on the Hebrew Bible and did not believe in spirits and the afterlife)

This gets said a lot, but I've never been convinced of it. No Sadducee writing has survived (that we know of); all we know of them comes from the NT, Josephus and rabbinic texts. They seem originally to have been a political party, not a religious sect, and, insofar as they did have any agreed-upon, group-specific beliefs concerning the afterlife, they seem to have been against the idea of physical resurrection (in opposition to the Pharisees). I don't know that they had no believe in the afterlife at all. As they existed for perhaps as long as several centuries, and as they were exposed to numerous religions that did espouse such a belief, I'd be surprised if they didn't assimilate it in some form.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Hi Cipher and thanks for responding.

As has been noted by a number of scholars, the Sadducees (unlike the Pharisees and the Essences) left us no written texts. What little we do have in writing about them comes from the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles 23: 8 (For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.), the Talmud and mainly Josephus.

Some parallels have been drawn between the Sadducees and the current Jewish sect known as the Karaites in that the oral Torah (Talmud) is rejected. As such, the Sadducees seem to have ignored the growing popular extra-canonical religious doctrines based on texts we now label the “Old Testament Apocryphal and Pseudopigraphia” whose dogmas and new developing religious after life ideas did much to influence Jesus, the New Testament and its child: Christianity.

The fact that Josephus tells us in THE JEWISH WAR 11:164f that “The Sadducees …do away with Fate altogether, and remove God beyond, not merely the commission, but the very sight of evil. They maintain that man has the free choice of good or evil… As for the persistence of the soul after death, penalties in the underworld, and rewards, they will have none of them.” has caused some to label them as practical atheists (Ant. XIII: 173).

cipher said...

Right, and that's my point. You always have to be careful with Josephus, and as far as the rabbis of the Talmud are concerned - they saw themselves as the heirs to the Pharisees, so , obviously, that's where their sympathies lay.

I don't think we have any way of knowing for certain what the Sadducees really believed - insofar as they had a unified set of beliefs to begin with.

Paul D. said...

As far as I can tell, the strange doctrine of the heaven and hell dichotomy is a later innovation not found in the beliefs of the early church or the Bible itself. Hell in particular seems to be a place made-up by organized religion as a tool of fear and had to rely on metaphors from Greek mythology since the Old Testament didn't mention the place. As such, arguing about which place dead babies go to seems absurd.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Hi Paul D.,

The Bible of the early church was the Septuagint (LXX) and not the Hebrew Bible (or what Christians call the Old Testament). All quotes, be they by Jesus (in the Gospels) or from the Epistles are from the LXX. As such, the general translation for Sheol, the pit and the underworld in Hebrew is translated in the LXX by the Hellenistic term Hades / Hell (The King James Version is a good example of this fact).

Facts prove that no one talked about Hell more in the New Testament than did Jesus, especially in reference to those who fail to do the right works (Contra Paul’s salvation via faith alone).

There are two comforting issues Christians want to hear about Heaven:

A. Babies and Children who die go immediately into Heaven.

B. Families are reunited with their loved ones after death.

Sadly for all Bible believing Christians, neither is directly (nor indirectly) supported by any Biblical texts, but are only supported with the humanistic philosophy we call theology.

Cole said...

Paul D.,

The Old Testament does mention hell:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Daniel 12:2

In the context here there is a division into joy or misery after death and resurrection. As the life after death is everlasting so the contempt is everlasting.

The word used to describe the plight of the lost implies an ongoing existence in which this "abhorrence" continues to fall on them. If nonexistence were in view then it would be strange that they were awakened from the dust only to be then annihilated again.

GearHedEd said...

Cole said,

"...If nonexistence were in view then it would be strange that they were awakened from the dust only to be then annihilated again."

How about it makes the MOST sense if, when we die, that's it.

Finis.

No more.

The religious notion that we're going to suffer some "judgement" after we die is utter nonsense. And I don't say this because I have some crazy, immoral habits that I'm afraid some Peeping Tom deity might have seen. It just simply makes NO SENSE.

(Here come the St. Paul quotes to "prove" that what the bible says is true...)

Christians!

Find some evidence from outside the cathedral that supports life beyond the grave! Otherwise:

I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries! Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!

cipher said...

From Cole's blog:

God is never obligated to save sinners. Grace is unmerited favor and God is therefore never obligated to show mercy to those who have rejected Him. So, if God reveals Christ to just one person and saves just that one person then He does nothing wrong by doing so. He's under no compulsion or obligation to be gracious. I don't know why God doesn't reveal Christ to everybody and save everybody. But I know He does nothing wrong by not doing so. The question isn't "Why does God save some and not others?" The question is "Why does God save anybody at all?"

Yeah, your God's a real sweetheart, Cole. There's nothing about him, as you Christians generally present him, that would make me want to know him.

Right, I know - we're all simply too deeply mired in sin to understand. I have a better suggestion; God is a projection of your personality - and it ain't pretty.

Harry H. McCall, CET said...

Cole,

When it comes to God and salvation, as an atheist, it’s all out war on both God and the Bible.

I honor the saying of the British Military between God and myself: No quarters offered. No Quarters given.