The sticky thing about right and wrong

One does not need to see the horrific scenes of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to be reminded that the world is not as it should be. It’s far more subtle. It’s ubiquitous yet unseen, tragic yet strangely expected…it’s so…self-reflective. As C.S. Lewis said, the truth is, we’ve all failed to practice the kind of behavior we expect from someone else.

This is a follow-up on my post, “The Tragic Flaw.” In that post I mentioned that “sin” is best defined as the tragic flaw. This flaw is systemic; it pervades the societal construct. As Morpheus would say, it’s the “world” that’s been pulled over our eyes. Yet, like Neo, we know deep down something is wrong…that things aren’t as they should be. But then we should be asking, where does this sense of what “should be” come from?

To tackle this question, I want to show two short clips. The first one is a “Closer to Truth” interview with Francis Collins. Anti-Christians have postulated that the more education one has the less they will need religion, or Christianity in particular. But here we have a really smart, highly-educated scientist who was an atheist and became a Christian.  One of the reasons he gives for his conversion was coming to grips with the reality of the moral law. Here’s the interview.

According to Collins, it’s the existence but not the expression of the good that is the explanatory power for God.” He says about this universal concept:

“While we will all excuse ourselves by our current failings by maybe having misinterpreted it, but nobody will say it just doesn’t matter, nobody will say good and evil are irrelevant, nobody will say it doesn’t matter whether somebody tries to be good or not.”

Collins mentions that it was C.S. Lewis’s argument for the moral law that was a major factor in him becoming a follower of Christ. Lewis has written extensively and brilliantly on the subject. Two classic works on this subject are: “Mere Christianity” and “The Abolition of Man.” The following short clip is a recreation of a 1941 BBC radio talk by Lewis on the reality of the Moral Law.

Here’s the whole series by CSLewisDoodle of Lewis’s BBC Broadcast talks.

As Lewis asked in the clip, “How did we get the idea of perfect and imperfect behavior?” And then he goes on to debunk two main ways this sense of morality gets explained away:

  1. Decent behavior in ourselves or others is what’s convenient to us.
  2. That morality evolves in society based on what’s best for human beings as a whole.

On this second explanation, Lewis insists that these people miss the point about why we feel we ought to do something or not do it. Their argument ends up being circular; they may be saying what is true but they’re not getting any further. He explains why is so:

“If a man asks, “What is the point of behaving decently,” it is no good replying, “In order to benefit society,” for trying to benefit society, in other words being unselfish, for society only means other people, is one of the things decent behavior consists in. All you are really saying is that decent behavior is decent behavior. You would’ve said just as much if would’ve stopped at the statement, “Men ought to be unselfish.”

“Consequently“, as Lewis concludes, “this rule of moral law or human nature…must be a real thing. A thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves. And, yet, it’s not a fact in the ordinary sense, in the same way our actual behavior is a fact. It begins to look as if we’ll have to admit that there is more than one kind reality. That, in this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behavior and, yet, quite definitely real. A real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us.”

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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93 Responses to The sticky thing about right and wrong

  1. John Branyan says:

    The tolerant, inclusive, compassionate heathen can’t bring themselves to confess that shooting school kids is actually wrong. Instead, they label evil as “mental illness” which they describe as “fully treatable”. We don’t have a pill to prevent murderous rampages yet…but science is working on it!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Exactly. I wrote this comment on your post about evil before I saw this, but it fits here, too…
      First, if evil doesn’t exist then why do so many “deconverts” blame God for the existence of it? Bart Ehrman said it was the problem of evil that led him down the slippery slope toward atheism.

      Second, what would you call a whole people group (Nazis) committing horrible experiments and other atrocities, and generally not being nice (evil), to another people group (Jews)? Why were the same Nazi guards, who committed horrific atrocities in the death camp, kind to their dog when they would come home? Were thousands of Germans insane psychopaths before and during WWII? Should we blame it on their deformed amygdala? Or, were they driven by hate, prejudice, anger….uh….evil?

      Third, how does being able to give someone drugs so they don’t act out on their compulsions explain away evil?

      Finally, why should we trust the atheist brain at all? For they tell us the brain is not fitted for truth, only for survival. And why should they trust their own cognitive faculties when trying to explain evil away? Denial of evil may just be a survival mechanism and not truth at all.

      • jim- says:

        I think you’ve misquoted atheism here. “If” there was a god, he would be evil or incompetent. I don’t blame god because I don’t believe in god. You believe in god and say he is good and merciful. That doesn’t match up with facts Mel.

        • Mel Wild says:

          “If” there was a god, he would be evil or incompetent.

          Fair enough. But my point still stands. Why would God, if He does exist, be “evil” if evil does not exist? And where is it that you’re getting the idea of someone being evil in the first place?

        • jim- says:

          That’s is an excellent question and point to explore Mel. The definition of evil carries multiple characteristics. Morality gets a slight mention, but there is much more to it and if you’ll allow me, evil is anything “harmful,injurious, characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate, disastrous, marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc. “He is known for his evil disposition, or that which is evil” -intention, or conduct that causes harm.
          In the spirit of brevity Mel, every organism and animal is in a constant state of anxiety. On guard, if you will, from everything around it. Everything is in a constant struggle to hold itself together for another day, being preyed upon by natural forces or is being a predator. Everything is inflicting and receiving pain and dying. Even the elements. This is indisputable that evil is continuous and “good” is constantly fleeting moments where one can regroup, but only to face it again tomorrow. Was it Paley that observed, that if you can see the nature of the creation, you can know the disposition of the creator? Whoever made this place and is watching over it, is either incompetent, or, is evil and enjoying what he is watching. “If” there was a god, this is his doing, it is far from good, let alone “very good”.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks Jim. The difference between us and animals, as Lewis pointed out, is that they respond to danger instinctively, whereas, we make moral, cognitive choices, judgments—-even if that choice put us in greater danger. Animals instinctively are what they are, but we make poor choices, even when we know better. And when we fail, we know this because of what “should be.”

          And, if we do have a sense of what is good, what things should be, even if they aren’t, we must ask where this comes from, because it seems we’ve had it from the beginning. If there wasn’t the “should be” we couldn’t even have this conversation.

        • jim- says:

          Thank you. CS didn’t account for that part of us we share on par with other animals. We too have that instinct. We have added reasoning to it, but have you have ever been surprised by danger, car crash, assaulted, a loved one or child in imminent danger, you know all about that too. Fight or flight? We respond to danger instinctively as well, and very effectively. That is our card when shtf, and that is the number one focus of our existence. Even socially, it’s safety first and foremost. And we’re talking really, about the immorality of this creation. The constant barrage of evil thrust at every creature and element. “If” god exists, this is his doing. Even the slightest perceived good leads to more advanced evil. It is his way.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Yes, we share fight or flight at the amygdala level, but morality is not about these base instincts.

          In other words, anger is an instinctive fight or flight reaction, but the many different ways we could respond to that impulse deals with morality.

  2. I believe this is the very reason the world reels in horror and confusion when pure evil bursts onto the scene as we see in these mass murders. People who live in the false frame work of “one should just “be good”” as their moral compass have no grid for understanding the nature of evil. That is why they all stand with their jaws on the floor crying, “Why would this happen?!” “What is wrong with the world?!”… because there is no answer when you remove the reality of God’s existence and especially the existence of Satan.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yup, massive denial of the big elephant in the room.

    • John Branyan says:

      Another element of the charade is blaming everyone except the perpetrator for wrongdoing. Society failed. The government failed. The parents failed. The schools failed. The church (of course!) failed.

      Then we have endless conversations about what WE must do to prevent another tragedy. WE are all responsible for affecting change. WE all need to be part of the solution! WE must ‘stop the insanity’! …just keep your religion to yourself.

      • It’s really frustrating, isn’t it? I think what happens is that if we can blame something abstract like the culture or society, then we never really have to confront the nature of sin on an individual level.

        I call that the universal “We,” the mouse in your pocket. That way if we ever start to catch a glimpse of sin in ourselves, we can simply dismiss it as not really ours. It’s them, it’s circumstances, it’s an epic fail of some mouse in our pocket that caused us to respond as we did. We of course are always good, totally incapable of evil, so if you ever encounter any evil, there simply must be another explanation.

  3. Well said and well presented, Mel. Love your video clips, too.

  4. One does not need to see the horrific scenes of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to be reminded that the world is not as it should be. It’s far more subtle. It’s ubiquitous yet unseen, tragic yet strangely expected… it’s so…self-reflective. As C.S. Lewis said, the truth is, we’ve all failed to practice the kind of behavior we expect from someone else.

    Since you have introduced your post with the Douglas High School mass-shooting, I can and will focus on the more tangible, less subtle, and VERY SEEN and VERY OBVIOUS and real components of the American epidemic. Please notice too that I said “AMERICAN,” not the “world.” Most of the world does not have this epidemic on the scale the U.S. has it. Douglas High School does not represent the “world.” Sandy Hook Elementary does not represent the world. Columbine H.S. does not represent the world. One mass-shooting every 64 days in the United States (a 2011 – 2014 stat) does NOT represent the world! And by the way, I could not find ANY verifiable stats or data of mass-shooting reductions by C.S. Lewis or related to C.S. Lewis concepts. Hahahahaha! Lewis and your following essay is really quite irrelevant to Douglas H.S., our rising AMERICAN epidemic of mass-shootings, and their tangible multi-faceted causes.

    Some relevant telling facts:

    — The U.S. makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, but holds 31% of global mass-shooters. Countries with the most mass-shoooters 1966-2012…

    • 90 — United States
    • 18 — Philippines
    • 15 — Russia
    • 11 — Yemen
    • 10 — France

    — Gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the U.S. than in other high-income [civilized, religious?] countries, per 1-million people, 2010. In the U.S. 36 gun-related deaths. The next closest country, Canada with 5.*

    — According to the World Health Organization (2011) the U.S. and N. America ranks average-to-poor or worse in all categories of mental-health delivery per 100,000 population. Europe far outpaces and surpasses all regions around the globe.*

    — Mental-health/illness accessibility, delivery, higher public education and awareness, and assistance/insurance programs available to a population (like Europe!) are undeniably MAJOR components of high or low gun-related homicides and suicides.

    — Laws and legislation of gun-controls (as in Europe) is a major component of high or low gun-related homicides and suicides.

    — Socioeconomic and Occupational standards such as cost-of-living, housing, quality of K-12, under-grad, and post-grad education available and attained are MAJOR components of high or low gun-related homicides and suicides.

    * Source available if requested

    Therefore and respectfully Mel, this is clearly NOT a worldwide problem and by no means can be grossly oversimplified by theological conjectures. In fact, it seems to be AMERICA (and perhaps Africa) that is not as it should be with mass-shooters compared with the rest of the world. May I make a suggestion? Perhaps you should completely rewrite your opening paragraph to represent the reality of the AMERICAN gun/mass-shooting epidemic. 😉

    Thanks and hope you are having a good week.

    • John Branyan says:

      Bravo, Professor! Bravo!!
      I say again BRAVO!!!
      I’m standing up to write this in order to pay proper respect to your magnificent mind.

      C.S. Lewis didn’t write anything regarding gun statistics! HAHahahah! How foolish of Mel to cite Lewis at all! Hahahahahahah!

      Douglas High School does not represent the “world.” Excellent point! Brilliant! Insightful! Compelling! Oh MY GOD! You’re so smart! I’m having trouble catching my breath…I’m woozy!!

      I hope Mel rewrites the opening paragraph! It’s going to change EVERYTHING!!!!!!

      Please! Please! Please! Write more things, Professor! You’re a towering intellect, good sir!!!!!

      • jim- says:

        Even Mel’s blood would be better without BuffoonYawn.

        • John Branyan says:

          Bravo, Jim! Bravo!!
          You’re a genius as well! I’m always blown away by your brilliant rhetoric. So thoroughly researched! And so cleverly articulated! You’re an inspiration, good sir!

          BRAVO!!!!

        • jim- says:

          It’s obvious something new need to be done, and all you do is stick to tried and failed prayer policies and then acting like a hackass troll while people are dying on your watch. Yeah. You got me

        • John Branyan says:

          …people are dying on my watch.

          That’s the kind of powerful insight that I’m talking about! It’s obvious you’re a deep, deep, thinker.

        • jim- says:

          Take your meds john. Then read some more scriptures. Obviously the ones you’ve studied so far haven’t made you a Better person. Hell, they haven’t even made you funny

        • John Branyan says:

          Two things:
          Douglas High School does not represent the “world.”
          No verifiable stats or data of mass-shooting reductions by C.S. Lewis or related to C.S. Lewis concepts.
          I rest my case.

        • jim- says:

          It represents the Problems in the US, not the world, and you could do yourself a favor and see that. But then that would require a reverse plunger to suck your head out of your ass

        • John Branyan says:

          Excellent point!

          The world doesn’t have a problem.
          Neither does Uranus! The gun violence on Uranus is ZERO! Maybe Mel should think about that!

          I love talking to you smart people!

        • Mel Wild says:

          Good point and thanks for the suggestion, John. If I were actually talking about gun violence in America, or Uranus, I would seriously consider changing it. But I’m glad they brought this up, otherwise I would’ve never known that America had a problem with gun violence. And I’m glad the rest of the world has no issues whatsoever.

        • John Branyan says:

          Wait…this wasn’t about gun violence?!!
          Are you suggesting that Professor Taboo missed the point?
          HAHAhahahah!
          Perhaps it is YOU who misunderstood the theme of your article. If I’ve learned anything from our conversations, it’s that the Professor is NEVER wrong.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Professor Taboo, if you think my post was about the problem with gun violence, or the mass shooting problem in America (which there is a serious problem), or if you thought C.S. Lewis’s point had anything to do with the problem of gun violence in America (he was a Brit, btw), or if you thought that what’s wrong with the world can be reduced to gun violence in America, then you certainly missed the whole point. But, apparently, blame-shifting is alive and well. And I’m glad you appealed to some moral standard for your outrage, although I would hardly know where it comes from.

      • …if you think my post was about the problem with gun violence, or the mass shooting problem in America (which there is a serious problem)…

        At first I thought your post WAS going to be about Stoneman Douglas H.S., gun violence and the mass-shooting problems in America (not the world) because you opened in the very first paragraph with exactly that reference. Then immediately wrote three sentences later about C.S. Lewis and religious “right and wrong.” I think that was a HUGE oversimplifying LEAP and misleads readers to think there is direct or subtle connections between Nikolas Cruz, his behavior, his victims, the high school campus, and gun-laws/gun-violence in the U.S. (not the world) with C.S. Lewis concepts, philosophical “sin,” and us(?) or the U.S.(?) or the world(?) ‘not practicing proper behavior that we expect from others.’ To be honest, I don’t see those connections in the least. As I suggested, you would’ve been much better off not even mentioning at all Stoneman Douglas H.S. and those multiple complexities that lead up to Nikolas Cruz’s behavior of which I was pointing out to you and your readers.

        …if you thought that what’s wrong with the world can be reduced to gun violence in America…

        Nope. That isn’t what I said or intended, nor was your interpolation of what I said correct. What I WAS saying about what YOU wrote in your opening paragraph was that Nikolas Cruz, Stoneman Douglas H.S. and the multiple complexities — such as poor gun-regulations in America (not the world) and poor mental-health delivery in America (not the world), to name just two — are significant critical factors into why Cruz behaved the way he did. Due to my years employed in the field of Psych/A&D, I can tell you without any doubts that approaching Nikolas Cruz with C.S. Lewis and some philosophical right-n-wrong speech on the day before or the early morning hours before his shooting spree would have done very little to nothing. His behavior would’ve been exactly the same.

        A secondary point of my comment-criticism to your opening paragraph would be that you did not go into ANY of the contributing factors that led Nikolas Cruz to do what he did. What do you know about his family background? What do you know about the history of very relevant engagements and discourses between Cruz and those H.S. students and staff? What do you know about how he obtained his lethal assault-rifle? Do you know if Cruz was on any type of prescribed meds for anti-social behavior, intermittent explosive behavior, or dissociative behavior, or several other possible/probable diagnoses? Did the parents try and legally commit him to a psych hospital at anytime? If you didn’t and don’t know anything about these contributing factors to Cruz’s behavior, then why even mention Stoneman Douglas H.S. and its implied circumstances?

        If you wanted to strictly talk about philosophical or ideological “rights and wrongs” (as you did), then I was suggesting you leave out anything specific and too subjective and complex… like Stoneman Douglas H.S., Nikolas Cruz and the implicit gun-violence in America, not the world.

        But, apparently, blame-shifting is alive and well. And I’m glad you appealed to some moral standard for your outrage, although I would hardly know where it comes from.

        Sorry, I don’t see at all how these last two sentences are relevant. Blame-shifting? You’ll need to elaborate much better for me to help you understand my points. Though I can make a few guesses, who do YOU blame for Nikolas Cruz’s behavior and the senseless deaths of 17 people/students and the traumatic suffering their families will endure?

        My moral standard? Where does it come from? Would you like to ask? 🙂

        Mel, I hope you understand clearly that with my initial comment I am not criticizing your right to debate philosophical ideological concepts of morality, ethics, and how to find them and apply them. Everybody in the world does it on some level. I was pointing out that your introduction to it was “flawed,” grossly oversimplified (and perhaps naively insensitive to families of the victims?), and misguides readers to equate the events, causes, and background of Stoneman Douglas H.S. to such a detached, colossal debate… which frankly has been ongoing since at least the Bronze Age. See my point(s)?

        I hope too you can appreciate and welcome(?) alternative viewpoints to your blog-posts, yes?

        Best regards

        • Mel Wild says:

          At first I thought your post WAS going to be about Stoneman Douglas H.S., gun violence and the mass-shooting problems in America (not the world) because you opened in the very first paragraph with exactly that reference.

          But it clearly wasn’t. I only mentioned Stoneman Douglas H.S. because it was a recent event in most people’s minds, an extreme example that something’s wrong with our world. But I could’ve talked about Russian athletes doping, or the lady who cut me off in traffic and nearly killed me because she was putting on her makeup….or a million other more subtle ways in everyday life where we don’t act as we know we should.

          Sorry, I don’t see at all how these last two sentences are relevant. Blame-shifting? You’ll need to elaborate much better for me to help you understand my points.

          That’s simple. Blame-shifting is a primary flaw in human relationships since the beginning. You turned my point that we often don’t do what we ought, or expect from others, into blaming America for world problems. Instead of actually trying to understand what I was saying, you went on your own tangent about gun violence, which is misdirecting readers to think America is the problem to what I was talking about, not the world-mindset that I was actually talking about. You, sir, changed the subject for your own end, so please don’t lecture me about what you think I should’ve said. I know what I said and why I said it.

          I hope too you can appreciate and welcome(?) alternative viewpoints to your blog-posts, yes?

          Of course, I don’t mind lively debate and honest disagreement, otherwise I wouldn’t have post these subjects. But I don’t appreciate people hijacking the conversation and then lecturing me about something I was not talking about. To say I was “misguiding readers” is a bit hypocritical.

          Got to go. Will check in later….

        • Again, to say it is “the world” is a gross oversimplification, especially if you mean every square mile of human activity, including churches, synagogues, and mosques. And I’ve adequately explained why I think that is wrong. LOL Your other random examples could be caused by 3-4 times as many legitimate reasons other than morality, ethics, or common courtesy. It just isn’t that simple Mel.

          That’s simple. Blame-shifting is a primary flaw in human relationships since the beginning. You turned my point that we often don’t do what we ought, or expect from others, into blaming America for world problems.

          Ahh, then by your definition of blame-shifting, I was being much more specific and precise with where “blame” should rest: in/on multiple causes. Other than Nikolas Cruz’s final acts, it is NOT one source that contributes. Cruz’s sphere of influence over his last 14-years is as much a source. American gun-laws, lack of mental-illness delivery and educated public awareness, the NRA’s heavy financial interference, etc, etc, are INSIDE America… so in that regard America’s institutions and citizens share the blame too. I think I was clear why I redirected correctly — or at least properly expanded your post — the subject of your introductory paragraph. We can agree to disagree on these details. 😉

          Of course, I don’t mind lively debate and honest disagreement, otherwise I wouldn’t have post these subjects. But I don’t appreciate people hijacking the conversation and then lecturing me about something I was not talking about. To say I was “misguiding readers” is a bit hypocritical.

          I think “hijacking” and “lecturing” are too emotionally-charged words Mel, especially on a subject that is so serious and in dire need of comprehensive information as to the nature of chosing lethal force to resolve problems and why lethal force is repeating and rising in the U.S. Besides, your entire post is still up, yes? I didn’t steal it. It wasn’t hijacked. Lecturing? No. Remember, I used the words “suggestion/suggest” in my comments at least twice. Nevertheless, your comments are open to the public, yes? If you do not care for any alternative viewpoints, then moderate me or ban me. But I hope you wouldn’t because IMHO I certainly do not behave in ways (like others here) to warrant that.

          Like we’ve agreed on before Mel, we can certainly agree to disagree — as I suspect will be much of the time, LOL — and leave it at that. But typically it is helpful for all sides of an issue to adequately (and respectfully) explain their position and its support. If you’d like, I’m happy to now stop our dialogue. My viewpoint, criticisms, and suggestions have been made. Thank you for allowing them sir.

        • Mel Wild says:

          You are talking past me and obviously not open to criticism, so we will have to leave it at that. Good night.

        • Perhaps. And you have a good night as well.

      • John Branyan says:

        TA-DA!!!
        The wise professor responds with 734 words to help Mel understand his own blog post.
        Bravo! Again I say…BRAVO!!

  5. “If” there was a god, he would be evil or incompetent.”

    I’m always curious about the psychology behind the atheist accusation that God is either evil or incompetent? What is it within ourselves that frightens us so much that we’re unwilling to consider the possibility that we might not be the fluffy bunnies of goodness and morality we imagine ourselves to be?

    What if “we” are actually the evil and incompetent ones?

    What we seem to do over and over again is to create God in our own image and then to recoil in horror, and eventually reject Him as non existent. That’s tragic, but somewhat comical too, because it is so irrational and transparent. So for me, grace, the whole concept of forgiveness and mercy, enabled me to really see the truth about the nature of myself, without fear. God is not the problem, He is actually the solution.

    • Mel Wild says:

      What if “we” are actually the evil and incompetent ones?
      What we seem to do over and over again is to create God in our own image and then to recoil in horror, and eventually reject Him as non existent.

      Very good question, IB. What I see here is blame-shifting, which is part of the “flaw” I’ve been talking about. We’ve been scapegoating God from the very beginning.

      So for me, grace, the whole concept of forgiveness and mercy, enabled me to really see the truth about the nature of myself, without fear.

      That’s exactly the point! As C.S. Lewis said, “the truth is, we’ve all failed to practice the kind of behavior we expect from someone else.” Grace reveals our hypocrisy, our inability to truly practice other-centered, self-giving love. Grace reveals the flaw in US, not God. And God’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy shows us what it should be.

    • Ron says:

      “I’m always curious about the psychology behind the atheist accusation that God is either evil or incompetent? ”

      Christians posit that God is the all-perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful architect of all that exists. So if there is ‘evil’ in the world, then this God is ultimately responsible — or doesn’t exist.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Christians posit that God is the all-perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful architect of all that exists. So if there is ‘evil’ in the world, then this God is ultimately responsible — or doesn’t exist.

        Ron, I would agree that God is ultimately responsible because, as we believe, He set up the cosmos the way it is. But then we must ask, in what way is He responsible? Also, what is evil? For instance, malicious intent would be the opposite of good intent, so which one do you think is God’s intent?

        As David Bentley Hart said, Christian thought teaches that the cosmos was entirely God’s creature, called from nothingness, not out of any need on his part, but by grace; and that the God who is Trinity required nothing to add to his fellowship, bounty, or joy, but created out of love alone. This particular love is other-centered, self-giving (agape, benevolence).

        And love is about mutually-shared relationship and it requires free choice, otherwise it’s not really love. It’s coercion or slavery. And, if we are given choices, with the knowledge of right and wrong, then why are we blaming God?

        And why is the highest honor given to people who willingly lay down their lives for another?

        We believe God entered into our humanity through Jesus Christ because of love. He showed us what God is really like and what it means to be fully human. I would add, if we actually followed His teachings there would be no more war, poverty, greed, murder, envy, revenge, blame-shifting, and all the other issues that poison humankind…but we willingly don’t. Yet, He willingly laid down his life because of this other-centered, self-giving love.

        • Ron says:

          “In what way is God responsible?”

          In the same way that manufacturers are held accountable for product defects; and engineers are held responsible for structural defects; and software developers are held responsible for coding errors.

          Also, what is evil? For instance, malicious intent would be the opposite of good intent, so which one do you think is God’s intent?

          Yes. I’d define ‘evil’ as malicious intent. But I generally shy away from using that word because it comes loaded with too much religious baggage.

          So in response to your second question:

          An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-perfect being wouldn’t create imperfect things. That — in the words of Spock — would be highly illogical.

          Yet, according to your worldview, evil exists. So we must conclude one of the following:

          – God is ambivalent, or
          – God is malevolent, or
          – God is benevelont but incapable of actualizing good intent, or
          – God does not exist.

          “God . . . created out of love alone.”

          As I stated in another post, the word “perfect” means to be complete, which means:

          – lacking in no essential detail
          – entirely without flaws, defects, or shortcomings
          – excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement
          – as good as it is possible to be.

          In other words, a perfect being is a self-fulfilled being without needs, wants or desires.

          Yet the Hebrew scriptures report God experiences rage, anger, hatred, jealousy, vengefulness, grief and remorse — traits deemed incompatible with those of a perfect and complete being.

          “It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.” ~Antoine de Saint Exupéry

          And love is about mutually-shared relationship and it requires free choice, otherwise it’s not really love. It’s coercion or slavery.

          Right. But Christian doctrine advises that an eternity of torment awaits those who spurn God’s affections. So it’s not really a free choice afterall — is it?

          And why would an all-knowing God willfully create beings predisposed to making the wrong choice? It makes little sense to proceed when the outcome is known with absolute certainty; much less to become angry upon actualizing the results predicted.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Ron, I don’t have a lot of time today, so I will have to briefly respond to your points.

          “In what way is God responsible?”
          In the same way that manufacturers are held accountable for product defects…

          Not if the problem is on the user end. A manufacturer is not responsible for the misuse of his or her product. And you would also have to prove that these are actually defects and “coding errors.” By what standard gives you the right to judge? What standard are you appealing to? I don’t think having free will is a defect.

          An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-perfect being wouldn’t create imperfect things.

          Sorry, but your argument is non sequitur. Your conclusion does not follow your premise. Even a human manufacturer does not create perfect products, products that function just fine, nor do they necessarily create a product that has all the attributes of the designer. And you are disregarding the point that we are saying the world became flawed after it was created. And, besides, we’re not talking about making a computer or car. We’re talking about a living sentient being that has autonomy, the ability to make its own choices, even wrong ones. The designer could simply create sentient beings to evolve and change based on certain parameters.

          According to Christian theology, God created man in His image, but it doesn’t mean He created gods. He created us, not to be perfect, but to have a mind like God has a mind, to have the ability to love, create, make choices, and be in relationship like He is in relationship within Himself. The picture you’re painting is a straw man and not what we are claiming about creation or God.

          Yet the Hebrew scriptures report God experiences rage, anger, hatred, jealousy, vengefulness, grief and remorse — traits deemed incompatible with those of a perfect and complete being.

          Only if you hold a Biblicist literal view of these passages. The early church did not hold this view. They saw these as anthropomorphic, anthropopathic, and phenomenological language. In other words, it was language to describe OUR experience with God. Yet, the Bible also says that God never changes. The early church fathers referred to this theologically as the “Essence and Energies” of God. And they held these views because taking a literal view makes God contradict Himself, and that’s a basic violation of exegesis. The only true nature of God is how Jesus describes Him (John 1:18; Matt.11:27) as expressed between the Father, Son, and Spirit within the triune life of God. And none of those negative emotions are expressed within God.

          Right. But Christian doctrine advises that an eternity of torment awaits those who spurn God’s affections. So it’s not really a free choice afterall — is it?

          First, your conclusion is incoherent. Of course, you have a choice to respond to the one who made you or reject Him. Second, you are expressing the “infernalist” or literalist view of hell, which only one of four major views. The point is, we don’t know for certain, other than we will all face our Maker one day. But it could be like C.S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce.” You choose to remain separated from Love. As Lewis said in the story, the gates of hell are locked from the inside. Again, we cannot be realistically dogmatic about the doctrine of hell.

          And why would an all-knowing God willfully create beings predisposed to making the wrong choice?

          Because of LOVE! What you are implying is that He should’ve created automaton robots who always follow their program, who have no mind of their own and, therefore, CANNOT experience real love. Is that what you want? Is that a better life? So, to make someone be autonomous, it requires at least a certain amount of free will, which means RISK. God is risking the fact that there will be some who will reject His offer.

          Again, Ron, I don’t mean to be disrespectful but this “all-knowing perfect God argument” is fallacious on all counts. All it does is pit itself against a certain caricature of what you think God is, not as He necessarily actually is.

        • Nan says:

          Yet, the Bible also says that God never changes. Huh! If that’s true, then we’re all in a world of hurt based on the several events recorded in the Hebrew Bible.

        • Ron says:

          Not if the problem is on the user end. A manufacturer is not responsible for the misuse of his or her product. And you would also have to prove that these are actually defects and “coding errors.” By what standard gives you the right to judge? What standard are you appealing to? I don’t think having free will is a defect.

          Except, we’re not the end user — we’re the end product and God is the end user. This is similar to the way humans become the end users of their AI-powered devices and robots.

          Nor did I infer that free will was a design flaw. I’m arguing that it becomes one if your ultimate desire is to have something that functions to your exacting specifications without deviation. Who cares if machines lack “free will” and don’t love us. I just want them to function as intended.

          Regarding standards: I evaluate the merits of all propostions in relation to their congruence with logic, reason and reality. How about you?

          Sorry, but your argument is non sequitur. . . .

          According to the scriptures, Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

          So please explain this non sequitur. Why would (a presumably logical) God intentionally create beings possessing characteristics opposite to those desired? And on what biblical basis can you assert that God values our “free will” over obedience to God’s divine will?

          Moreover, you’re missing (or ignoring) the overarching point: perfection implies totality. A perfect being would be a self-sustaining entity with no reason or desire to create anything. To argue for a god with desires is to argue for a god who lacks the quality of perfection.

          I dislike Fisking, so let me wrap this up.

          An ultimatum (“love me or perish in eternal torment”) may be a choice, but it’s about as freely made as handing over your wallet to avoid getting shot. Plus, I find it very difficult to love an incorporeal being whose existence remains to be demonstrated.

          While I can appreciate your desire to defend your beliefs, please realise that your “exegesis” amounts to just one more self-assessed “correct” interpretation among the thousands of other conflicting “correct” interpretations already in circulation.

          Reality reveals the claim of having a “close personal relationship with God” is merely an exercise in self-delusion. Because if Christians actually had this direct pipeline to God there’d be no conflicting interpretations or need for apologetics.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Ron, I was going to answer every erroneous point you made here but, frankly, I’m getting tired of this so I will just cut to the chase. Your whole line of argumentation about perfectionism is fallacious, vacuous, and absurd.

          First, you are trying to compare God to a manufacturer of a machine, which we are most definitely not machines. We are organic, sentient beings, capable of making our own dumb choices, capable of not doing God’s will at all. That’s the risk God took to have an actual relationship with us, and for us to know love as humans.

          Second, you don’t understand Scripture. For instance, when Jesus said, “Be perfect…” He meant be complete, come to full maturity. That was the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount where He said this. When we begin interact with God in relationship our nature starts to become like God’s nature, and His nature is centered in other-centered, self-giving love. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with being error-free like some sterile robot.

          Furthermore, you would absolutely hate being the product of what you are accusing God of not doing. You would NOT have free will, you would not even have the choice to be an atheist, you would not have any freedom whatsoever. You would only have what God programmed you to have, and you would not experience anything that makes life most precious. You would just be a thing. You cannot have free will and have freedom. That would be a total contradiction. You trample on the very gift you’ve been given by God because of His love when you make these accusations.

          And you obviously are not open to what I’m saying so I don’t want to waste any more time here. So I will say to you, believe whatever “self-delusion” you want. Just be very glad God didn’t give you your wish.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Correction: “You cannot have free will and have freedom” should read “You cannot have freedom without free will.” (Which includes free will to make mistakes, go wrong, or make the right choices.)

      • So the conclusion then is, if we rid the world of God, we rid the world of evil?

        • John Branyan says:

          Ron won’t be able to respond to you because his mind has been destroyed by godlessness.

          To answer your question, “yes” if there were no God evil would not exist. Because if there were no God, nothing would exist. Mel’s question, “in what way is God responsible for evil?” is the right thing to ask.

          Ron’s conclusion that God doesn’t exist because there is evil in the universe is atrociously simplistic.

        • Ron says:

          No. My conclusion is that the proposition (that ‘evil’ can coexist with an all-perfect omni-deity) is logically incoherent.

          As the scriptures inform us, “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Mat 7:18, KJV)

          So if you propose that God is good, and that God is the origin of all that exists — whenceforth cometh evil?

        • Well, that question is a bit like asking where darkness comes from. Darkness is simply an absence of light. God said, “let there be light,” so we stay in His light or we stray off into the darkness. God didn’t have to create the dark, the evil, it is simply what exists the farther you move away from God.

          Your question reminds me a bit of an egg sitting under a chicken staying warm. And the egg rolls away from the hen and than accuses the hen of creating the cold?

          What is incoherent is to reject the warmth and safety of the nest we have been given and to instead insist that the dark should be light and the cold should be warm, and that evil should be good.

        • Ron says:

          How is it possible to stray away from an omnipresent being? Or off into the darkness when everything is supposedly bathed in God’s ever-present light? Your response generates more logical contradictions than it answers.

          Please note that I’m not totally averse to the possibility some deity might exist. I’m just not convinced to the liklihood they’re the ones currently on offer.

        • “Your response generates more logical contradictions than it answers.”

          I don’t wish to take Mel’s thread off topic, but you’ve mentioned “logical contradictions” a few times and earlier I believe you said something akin to, “assuming God is logical.”

          I’m always curious about people’s inability to stand within a paradox, to conceive of the fact that two things can be true at the same time?

          Mel is speaking of where does moral law come from, but we could ask a similar question about logic. Where does your concept of logic come from and why do you believe it is superior or more moral than other forms of understanding?

        • Ron says:

          Very briefly:

          All the evidence suggests that basic logic is innate. One study showed human infants are capable of deductive problem solving as early as 10 months of age. Another found that even fish have the ability to discern patterns. The more complex forms of logic (mathematical, computational, philosophical, etc) have to be taught.

          Logic and empiricism have proven themselves superior methods of gaining a better understanding of our world; they possess no moral qualities per se.

        • “Logic and empiricism have proven themselves superior methods of gaining a better understanding of our world; they possess no moral qualities per se.”

          LOL! I suspected you would say as much. So what leads you to conclude that logic and empiricism are superior methods for understanding the world? Do you see no value in poetry, art, music?

          Also, how do you reconcile your alleged morality free logic, with your humanity? I mean, I presume you don’t actually go about killing off the sick, the weak, the elderly? Logic would suggest none of those people are very cost effective to keep around.

        • Ron says:

          Poetry, art and music represent expressions of human emotion. Logic and empiricism are merely tools, and they can be deployed in multiple ways. For instance, they can be used to explore the universe, or to develop technologies that improve our quality of life, or to create tools that generate new ways of expressing our artistic talents; so I don’t see any conflict in values.

          As to morality, our tools are totally agnostic. The same hammer that’s used to construct a roof over someone’s head can also be used to bash in their skull. Therefore questions of moral concern revert to the moral nature of the person who’s wielding the tool.

          While logic might initially support the notion that killing off weaker members of society is cost effective, it’s not the only factor under consideration; other values come into play, and they are usually deemed more important than saving money.

        • Your response is actually contradictory and logically incoherent.

        • John Branyan says:

          Perhaps the response was written by a fish? I’ve been told they recognize patterns.

          Ron doesn’t believe in objective morality. Logic does support killing off weak people. No getting around that. You can press him on the “other values” that come into play but I’ll betcha Ron won’t be pinned down on specifically what those might be.

  6. Pastor Randy says:

    Great post! Love the video–the heart knows it longs for God, even when Quantum Physics says we do not need God! Thank you for sharing!

  7. jim- says:

    And the short answer to your question “And where is it that you’re getting the idea of someone being evil in the first place?” Observations sir. Don’t forget to look around you. We are constantly told the big lies, but if you look around, “goodness” didn’t pour out, but evil at every level. Overwhelming evidence of malevolence.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Sorry, “by observation” doesn’t answer the question, Jim. You still haven’t told me where your idea of good or evil comes from. Why is one thing good and the other thing evil?

      • jim- says:

        The very definition as stated above is clear enough. Evil is explained in nature as well, as a lack of cooperation, which cooperation is inherent among all the creatures as a matter of survival. Without cooperation and living civilly amongst themselves nothing is stable enough to maintain order. As for people, we’ve seen examples of this as well among tribes without god. I feel you are trying to assign credit to god for something that just is. Great dialog, and thanks for the link yesterday. Tough to fight battles you’ve already won.

        • Mel Wild says:

          The very definition as stated above is clear enough.

          I’m not asking you for a definition or observation, Jim. I’m asking where you get this notion of what “should be.” Again, why is one thing good and the other thing evil? What I’m wanting to know is where you get your sense of morality and ethics from.

          Evil is explained in nature as well, as a lack of cooperation, which cooperation is inherent among all the creatures as a matter of survival.

          Your answer about cooperation is actually incoherent. The strong inherently eat the weak in nature, so nature is evil now? And why should we cooperate at all? Why shouldn’t we be like nature where the stronger of us survive and the weaker ones perish?

        • jim- says:

          Is that what you see? Or is that what you’ve read?

        • jim- says:

          Also, the most adaptable, not always the strongest. Don’t take 1 piece and ruin the context, as in any debate.

        • Mel Wild says:

          But, again, adaptability does not explain morality and ethics. You still haven’t addressed the question. You are only addressing lower levels of survivability.

        • jim- says:

          And that is where it comes from. Adaptation, cooperation, survivability, all are observable traits that consequences to actions instills inherent morality. We don’t do things for fear of argued morals, we don’t attack a lion with our bare hands. We already know better. Writing that in to a book changes nothing. The fear of consequences is the moral equivalence of your fear of God, and that’s another easy sell to place fear into one over a miserable life after death. Apply any topic and the reasoning behind it is natural cooperation.

        • Jim,

          You’ve seen me use this outstanding article before on my blog and other’s blogs. I think it very much applies here in your discussion with regard to morality found in biology: The Biological Basis of Morality by Harvard University’s Dr. E.O. Wilson:

          https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1998/04/the-biological-basis-of-morality/377087/

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’m in the middle of a couple of projects. I will look at your article when I get a chance.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And that is where it comes from. Adaptation, cooperation, survivability, all are observable traits that consequences to actions instills inherent morality. We don’t do things for fear of argued morals, we don’t attack a lion with our bare hands.

          Sorry, Jim, you’re not describing morality at all; you are describing self-interest and survivability. Again, it’s a circular answer. Not attacking a lion with our bare hands has absolutely nothing to do with morals; it just means we’re not stupid. Morals begin when a starving person could steal the money out of someone’s purse left on a table because they’re hungry but decide not to because it wouldn’t be right. So, why would we do this?

        • jim- says:

          Ethics is a wonderfully challenging study, and in the spirit of brevity you have missed the point. Check out this neutral article i shared with Branyan on this and see if their is any common ground. The lion is just a small example to illustrate that we learn by trial and error better than we learn from a book. And the hungry thief example you gave us pretty weak. I would venture a guess based on my observations, that the outcome would be evenly split, or possible even favor an atheist over the Christian. We are very mindful of others, as we can see from your bantering dialog with other Christians, that we are POS. Good scripture comes to mind before banning brain yawn, ” agree with thine adversary while thou art in the way with him, lest he perceive thee as thine enemy” but among yourselves you allow trash talking and rudeness over good dialog. See how well the Bible works. Even I know better than that

        • Mel,

          I’ve added a comment here to Jim’s comment below that has a weblink to a very good article. If you could accept it out of Moderation, that would be appreciated. Thank you sir.

  8. “Evil is explained in nature as well, as a lack of cooperation, which cooperation is inherent among all the creatures as a matter of survival.”

    Oh totally. My favorite part is playing the spider and insisting that the fly cooperate by politely stepping into my web so I can promptly eat him. The fly’s cooperation is totally all about my survival, so if he cooperates nicely he must be a very moral fly, indeed.

    Nature is so totally all about morality. Sheesh people, don’t you know all the happy little forest creatures sing songs and work cooperatively with one another?

    • Mel Wild says:

      LOL! Exactly. As I’ve said before, my “loving” snugly cats would torture and eat me in a heartbeat if I were the size of a mouse. I think these people have watched way too many Disney movies growing up. 🙂

    • John Branyan says:

      And when the spider tears the fly open and sucks out his guts, it’s not evil because right and wrong don’t exist in nature. And thus, we complete the perfect circle of atheist logic.

    • jim- says:

      Cooperation, adaptability, and consequence teaches us to stay out of the web. Nothing more. That’s all. Very simple. Nice job cherry picking 1 point and placing it out of context.

      • John Branyan says:

        Nice job affirming IB’s comment without realizing it.

        The fact that a web exists crashes your cooperation theory.
        And you still can’t accuse the spider of immorality for eating the fly.
        I’ll spell it out since you don’t do well with illustrations:

        “Morality doesn’t come from nature.”

        • jim- says:

          Oh but many experts disagree with you john. As well as I. In fact the paradigm shift is under way as more evidence is discovered. This is a neutral read you might find insightful. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1998/04/the-biological-basis-of-morality/377087/

        • John Branyan says:

          Let’s see if you believe your own BS:

          Is the spider immoral when it eats the fly?

        • jim- says:

          Nature is explaining a basis for morality every day. Don’t forget to look up from your device once in a while and look around you. There are some obvious connections and some no so easy. Do you always pollute the comments of every blog you visit, and add nothing of value? Go sit at the boys table john. This one requires a little thought.

        • John Branyan says:

          Do you always pollute the comments of every blog you visit with nonsensical statements that you don’t even believe yourself?

          “Nature is explaining a basis for morality every day.” LOL! — Hogwash.

          Is the spider immoral when it eats a fly?

        • jim- says:

          Discussion is the key to validating ideas and thought. I am not always right. I can bounce things off Mel and get his insights. I’m ok with that. However, if you are the Christian I am supposed judge the religion by… no thanks. Your arrogance is keeping any reasonable person from wanting what has made you what you are.

        • John Branyan says:

          Sorry. Didn’t see an answer to my question in that response.

        • jim- says:

          It was a metaphor john. I’ve explained those before. You are stuck on flys and spiders, and I was saying that it is through experience that we learn not to fly into the web, meaning trouble and so forth. It wasn’t my analogy, but it summed it up pretty well. I think you can type faster than you can think. As a Christian you should be an expert by now on implied meaning and reading between the lines.

        • John Branyan says:

          Still didn’t see an answer to the question.

          It is you who types faster than he thinks. You’re claiming “nature is explaining a basis for morality” when nothing in nature exhibits morality. That was IB’s metaphor.

          If you’re going to say things on blogs where you don’t control who gets blocked, you should be careful before you spout useless, atheist nonsense. Round these parts, we’re accustomed to defending our beliefs.

        • jim- says:

          Read the article. There is more than just your opinion in the world. Or mine for that matter. Maybe , just maybe a third party that believes in god might moderate better since you are changing meds all the time. I’m not the only one that believes another way. Maybe there is a third option

        • John Branyan says:

          “I’m not the only one that believes another way.”

          True. Also irrelevant.
          What you claim to believe is that morality is derived from nature.
          What you have failed to do is admit that nature does not display any morals.
          It doesn’t matter what medication I take.
          It doesn’t matter what other people believe.
          It doesn’t matter who “moderates” this conversation.
          You are responsible for supporting your thesis. You weren’t expecting to be held accountable for your statements because you’re accustomed to speaking in your echo chamber.

          If you had any sense of decency or respect for the people in this conversation, you’d admit that you made a mistake. We all do it from time to time. An important part of being an adult is admitting when you screw up.

        • jim- says:

          You have failed to understand what i said, meant to say, implied, and spelled out in plain English. I answered fine. Your being an ass

        • John Branyan says:

          You have failed to say, imply, and spell our in plain English the answer to the question – “Is a spider immoral for eating a fly?”
          But keep calling me names. It makes you seem really intellectual.

        • jim- says:

          I know how you operate. You read to find fault instead of comprehension. If you can do it with the Bible and write miles of excuses, maybe you should try that level of application to something more simple, like plain English.

        • John Branyan says:

          Finding fault is sometimes the result of comprehension. Maybe don’t take it personally…

        • jim- says:

          Bravo, Branyan! Bravo!!
I say again BRAVO!!!
I’m standing up to write this in order to pay proper respect to your magnificent mind.

        • John Branyan says:

          Please. Take your seat.
          I’m embarrassed…

        • jim- says:

          And BTW, you see only that you want to see. Pretty narrow

        • Your patience, tolerance, determination, stoicism, and unparalled attempts to continue this dialogue Jim is mind-numbing and deserves to be applauded! Wow! Honestly, very FEW could match your efforts here, on your blog, and other blogs. I tip my hat to you Sir. 🎩 😉

  9. Pingback: Where do you get your standard of morality? | In My Father's House

  10. John Branyan says:

    “Logic and empiricism have proven themselves superior methods of gaining a better understanding of our world;”

    Well said, Mr. Spock.
    But logic and empiricism have nothing to say about right and wrong. You’ll have to pull out some good old-fashioned intuition and emotion. This is where we humans always confuse you Vulcans.

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