Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Owned: Debunking Christianity: Omniscience Doesn't Exonorate God For The Colorado Movie Massacre

John Loftus is again attempting to use the tragic deaths and injuries from last Friday in Colorado to foolishly attempt to demonstrate  that God cannot exist because of the fact that this terrible event happened. Last time he tried debunk the "Free-Will" defense. This time, he tries to tear down God's omniscience as a theodicy. I don't think his argument works because I don't think that God's omniscience or our free will exonerates God for the actions of James Holmes. I want to be clear I am not claiming that I am owned Loftus but that God already has.

Previously I've suggested some reasonable ways a good God could have stopped James Holmes from firing on innocent people in that Colorado theater without revealing himself, and without abrogating Holmes's free will. Link. But is there another way to exonerate God in what I call the Omniscience Escape Clause? Could God have overriding reasons based in his omniscience for allowing that horrible tragedy to happen? I don't think so at all. While this isn't impossible it's extremely improbable to the point of being virtually impossible.

I still really don't like the free-will defense because we don't have it. We are going to see if Loftus can demonstrate that God cannot have sufficient reason for allowing evil and suffering.

Before proceeding there are very important questions concerning whether there is evidence for a personal three-in-one beginningless omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenelovent, omnipresent God who consequently never had a prior moment when he chose his values or his nature, never had a disagreement within the Godhead, never took a risk, never learned any new truths, and so on, and so forth. Questions include why this God created at all, why he set human beings up for a fall into sin, how it's possible for a God/Man to truly be a God/Man, or how this God/Man's death atones for sin, and why God expects people living in a scientific age like ours to believe in miracles in the superstitious past like the resurrection of this God/Man or be thrust into hell. These kinds of questions, if studied in scholarly depth, already diminish the probability that there is a God who needs to be exonerated for allowing the killing spree of Holmes. With no God there is no need to exonerate him.

Answering the above questions or not being able to answer the above questions does not prove or disprove that God exists. The Bible contains some of these answers and for the others, why is it so difficult to understand that God has not chosen to reveal that information to us?  For the sake of this post, Loftus assumes that God does exist in order to show that God's omniscience does not excuse God for allowing James Holmes' shooting spree.

Even granting this kind of God it's hopeless trying to exonerate such a deity based in omniscience. Theists claim we cannot fathom God’s omniscient ways. This is either a blanket statement covering all that we think we know about the ways of an omniscient God (i.e. nothing), or we can know something about the reasonableness of his ways.

I would argue that we neither have the right or ability to judge the reasonableness of God's ways. We have no right to judge God's actions any more than you do for fumigating your house.  Also we only know of God by what he has revealed to us through God's word and his creation.

As a blanket statement we would consequently have no way of knowing that God's ways are reasonable or good ones at all, and if that's true, we would also have no reasonable way of knowing whether we could trust him. 

That is one of the things that very much sets Christianity apart from every other worldview: the promise of a personal relationship with God. God shows you that God is worthy of your trust as your relationship grows. That relationship isn't an equal relationship - we are not God's equals.

But if instead we can know something about God's ways then we should know enough about them to know that they are reasonable and good ones.

Humanity is fallen. Why would you trust your own perceptions and thinking process to judge if God's ways are reasonable?  It's like trying to measure an infinitely straight line with a broken, cracked, and bent ruler.  It doesn't work.

But there is absolutely no reasonable explanation for why such a God would allow this tragedy to happen. Not one potential explanation works at all.

Bald assertion. How do you know that?  How can anyone really say that? I don't know why God allowed that or anything really bad to happen.  Sometimes we do find out when we see how things play out. Sometimes we don't find out.  The point is that God has proven to be trustworthy in my own life so I know I can trust God no matter how bad things get or what I feel.

Think otherwise? Then I challenge believers to try. Go ahead. Think. Don't proof-text from the Bible since that's also in question here.

For  Loftus, the Bible is questionable, but not looking at what it says you are saying you don't really want answers to your questions. 

Come up with one reasonable explanation for why God might have allowed this tragedy to happen when there were many reasonable ways he could have stopped it before it happened. Just one. Give it your best shot. 

Bottom line: I have no idea why God allowed James Holmes to kill and hurt so many people. It's also hasn't even been a week yet and we have no idea what will happen in the end. 

The bottom line is that theistic attempts to exonerate God based in his supposed omniscience cut both ways. We’re told God is so omniscient that we can’t understand his purposes, and this is true, we can’t begin to grasp why God allowed Holmes to do what he did if he exists. But if God is as omniscient as claimed, then he should have known how to avert this tragedy before it happened since we do have a good idea how he could’ve done so, especially since by not doing so there will be more people who reject the very faith he so desires people to have in him.

It's because of the purpose that God has  in mind that God allowed the tragedy to take place because of course God could have stopped him. God didn't. Why? I don't know yet, but one day we will know and  because of the good God has been to me in my life, including through my suffering, I know I can trust God.

The Omniscient Escape Clause as I have argued elsewhere, makes one's faith unfalsifiable and forces the skeptic to prove the believer's faith is impossible before he or she will ever consider it to be improbable--an utterly unreasonable standard of proof. 

I think this calls for something at the end. Hmmmm...


Loftus failed again to prove anything. Just because something is unfalsifiable does not make something false or true. By admitting that Christianity is unfalsifiable is tantamount to admitting that Christianity is undebunkable. He is admitting that he can only demonstrate that he thinks that Christianity is unreasonably improbable. He fails to prove this and I reject that conclusion.  That's really no where close to showing that Christianity is empirically false.

Debunking Christianity: Omniscience Doesn't Exonorate God For The Colorado Movie Massacre
Enhanced by Zemanta

FacePalm of the Day - Debunking Christianity: James Holmes and the Free Will Excuse

John Loftus is up to trying to argue against a "free-will" defense for God to explain the actions of James Holmes last week when he killed 12 people and wounded scores of people who  assembled to see the Dark Knight Rises movie in a Denver suburb movie theater. Loftus amazingly actually brings up some good and valid points, but his conclusions are flawed.

I call this the free will excuse because that's what it is. It's an attempt by believers to excuse God for the massacre in Colorado by James Holmes. I've already suggested reasonable ways a good God could've acted to avert this tragedy but didn't. Now I want to briefly address the objection that God does not interfere with our free choices, even if that means some of us will do heinous crimes on occasion.

You don't have to accept the idea that God doesn't interfere with our free choice to be a Christian. It's an intramural debate among Christians and neither viewpoint is a litums test for orthodoxy or salvation. I realize that Loftus is primarily arguing a straw man from my point of view because I reject the idea that God does not interfere with our free choices even if it means some of us do evil sometimes.

If God doesn't interfere then there is no way he could ever answer any prayers involving other people. Don't bother praying for anyone to be saved, since God won't interfere with one's free will. Nor for safety when traveling, since a drunk may cross the center line and crash into you of his own free will. Don't pray for the cessation of conflicts around the world either. Don't even pray over your meal, since a food handler may have been negligent such that it contains toxic levels of e-coli bacteria. I had already mentioned this.

This one paragraph above is one of the most clearest things I've ever read Loftus write. I think he is 100% right. That is why I reject the notion of libertarian free will. According to the Bible, no one is saved unless God supersedes their will. On our own, we don't even know we need salvation. Even that realization comes from God.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. - Romans 8:5-8

If God does interfere on some occasions then let me humbly suggest he should at least interfere when it comes to the most heinous of crimes.

Who says God doesn't? Just because God does not interfere in everything, all the time, in the same way, does not mean that God does nothing every time.

 Why bother answering a prayer that a baseball, basketball, or football team wins a game when he should reserve his interference for the times when he is needed the most?

 Who says when God and how God should interfere? Last I checked, only God  does.

 It's these kind of heinous crimes that we should see him interfering with by stopping before they happen. Since we don't see him doing anything about them it's clear he doesn't interfere with anything at all. And if he doesn't interfere at all then his existence is indistinguishable from his non-existence. 

I don't think Loftus, or any of us, can say we know when God does or does not interfere from stopping terrible things from happening. If God stops something evil, most of the time, we would not know what God has held back from us and protected us from. Sometimes we are shown what we have been protected from, but if we truly knew what it was or everything that could have gone wrong for us, we wouldn't get out of bed in the morning.

Furthermore, I think it's obvious that the more power someone has to avert a tragedy then the more of a moral responsibility he has to interfere with it. If I encountered a gang of thugs beating up some kid I cannot be expected to physically stop them. But a superman who came upon them doing so should. So also with God, the ultimate superman.

So why? For what reason is the one who is to hold such a superman accountable for his or her  action or inaction? If you believe this, then you can't really accept a relativistic morality. So who is God accountable to? Us? No way.

The fact of the matter is that we do not have as much free will as commonly supposed, if we have any at all, as I wrote about here. Since we don't have that much free will anyway, there should be no objection to interfering when someone wants to commit a heinous crime like James Holmes did. 

Why would a lack of free will mean that James Holmes (or anyone)  is not accountable for our actions? James Holmes decided to kill people. He decided to sin. It's the same way when anyone of us sins. I disagree that there should be no objection because a lack of libertarian free will  does not mean you are absolved from responsibility for the things you say and do.

If an omniscient God somehow needs to judge us then he can judge our thoughts and intentions alone. He should therefore stop people like James Holmes dead in his tracks before he acts on his thoughts.

Who says God doesn't ever stop anyone? If God didn't intervene we'd have far more examples of such incidents.

That he does not do this is strong convincing proof, empirical proof, that such a God does not exist.The extent of suffering in our world makes the existence of God implausible.

It's not proof of anything. Loftus' logic assumes that the extent of suffering in our world is as bad as it could be. He assumes that no one is stopped from doing more evil that they already do. There is no way he can prove that. Also scripture tells us that the suffering of the world is for a reason. There is no purposeless suffering.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. ” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. - Genesis 50:18-21

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.- Romans 8:18-25

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  - Romans 8:28-30

Debunking Christianity: James Holmes and the Free Will Excuse
Enhanced by Zemanta