A Debate with Andy Regarding the “Ring of Truth”

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

June 21, 2019

Regarding my Ring of Truth blog:

Andy said, //You’ve not shown that Christianity being true would make [murdering homosexuals] objectively wrong, bad or evil.//

I did write the following (you must have missed it):

“Is atheism any better? Not really. According to logically consistent atheism, since God does not exist, then humanity was not created on purpose or for a specific purpose — we are nothing but a “happy accident” — nothing more than dust in the wind. If this is true, then it follows that there is no objective purpose in which humans ought to approximate. Thus, if atheism is true, there is nothing really wrong with anything!”

This follows because if God exists and created humanity on purpose and for a specific purpose, then there are objective truths about humanity irrespective of the subjective opinions from humanity. Thus, if Christianity is true, then we know what that objective purpose is [based on the teachings of Jesus Christ] — to love ALL persons ALL the time (from each Person of the Trinity to each person the Trinity ever created — including those who consider us to be their enemies). One is free to disagree about the objective purpose of humanity, but they would be objectively wrong.[1]

Andy said, //Even if we allow that premise, then the logical extension of that is that we are evil if we don’t love the mass murderers you mention in the article.//

I agree! We are objectively wrong if we do not love ALL people ALL the time! I don’t know about you, but I have learned to love those who consider me to be an “enemy.” I sincerely desire the best for all people.

Andy said, //Also, if the killers repented before dying then they’ll be in heaven while many of their victims may well be in hell regardless of how moral they may have been in life. Does that have the ‘ring of truth’ to you?//

Yes it does! However, my theological views on that issue are outside of the box you offered. This article sheds light on the topic:

What About Those Who Have Never Heard About Jesus?

Andy said, //Also, the way you describe atheism is self-refuting. If we’ve got the choice to consider your argument about whether we can judge the killers then the killers have the choice over whether to kill. If the killers have no choice then we have no choice about whether to morally judge them.//

Actually my point remains quite strong! If one has a genuine choice regarding how to judge or not to judge killers, then we possess libertarian freedom. If one possesses the ability to judge and evaluate an argument (like the one we are discussing) or a concept like libertarian freedom as either good (option 1), bad (option 2), better (option 3), the best (option 4), the worst (option 5) and so on and so forth, then one possesses libertarian freedom. Libertarian freedom does not make sense on an atheistic/naturalistic view. However, it makes perfect sense on Christian theism (see my entire website).

So, if atheism is true, while you might subjectively feel as if you have a range of “judging options” [each compatible with your nature] from which you (the thing you call “I”) can choose — the fact of the matter is that something other than you chooses that for you. If all is determined, then you do not possess the ability to judge or evaluate my argument or to judge something as either good, bad, right, wrong, true, or false. Physics and chemistry decides that for you.

A sense of vertigo is warranted!

I wrote: “… according to the final commands of Muhammad, Muslims ought to kill all infidels and non-Muslims”

Andy said, //One can take equally violent passages from the Old Testament.//

This might be a problem for Jews, but not for Christ-followers. Christians are bound to the Law of Christ in the New Testament. It was different from the Levitical Laws and one of the reasons the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus.

Andy said, //Plenty of Muslim scholars will tell you how you’re misinterpreting the Koran//

Then they need to deal with the ARGUMENT provided by Nabeel Qureshi I hyperlinked in the “Ring of Truth” article [See also, here and here].

Andy said, //… just as Christian apologists will offer complicated heuristics to explain why all the C18th Christians got it wrong when they cited the Bible to justify slavery.//

Yes, we must evaluate (if one possesses the libertarian freedom to do so) what arguments are good/logically sound, and which arguments fail. The argument Qureshi (and many others) provides is strong. Dr. David Wood is an Islam expert who has devoted his life to understanding the Law of Mohammad. I encourage you to examine his work (he was also instrumental in leading Nabeel to leave Islam and to follow the commands of Christ [See the “Three Stages of Jihad” from David Wood].

Andy said, //But let’s say that the Koran definitely says the Muslim killer did the right thing – how are you showing that’s wrong? You’re basically saying it’s false because you don’t like the conclusion.//

Given the title of the article, I am encouraging people to pay attention to what seems true. The vast majority of people (definitely not all) know that it is objectively (really) true that we ought not kill people simply for possessing a different worldview. So, since we KNOW this is true, any commands to the contrary seem not to have the “ring of truth.” This is similar to a few scientists who reach the conclusion that matter does not really exist (it is simply an illusion like the Matrix). This does not “ring true” either since our experience of matter is stronger than any claims made to the contrary. Thus, we are justified in saying, “Yeah, I see your points, but I still think physical stuff exists.”

Andy said, //If I tell you that right wing Christianity has to be false because it’s against gay marriage, you’d dismiss that as a bad argument.//

Exactly, but “gay marriage” is not something that “rings true” for the vast majority of humanity [or for me]. There is no force behind that claim. Murdering innocent humans (gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist, or otherwise), on the other hand, seems to be really (objectively) wrong! Most people possess this intuition [at least I do]. While not all possess this inner moral compass, I am appealing to the majority of humanity — or [more importantly] even only a few who know that it is really wrong to kill someone simply for thinking that Islam or atheism is true. If their intuitions are correct, then they ought to be a Christin since that world view makes sense of their experiences.

Andy said, //If God is against it then it’s wrong, full stop, right?//

If God created humanity on purpose and for a specific purpose, then anything opposed to that purpose is objectively wrong [i.e., it does not correspond to reality], but one is free to have it their own way. However, if one wants to approximate to one’s objective purpose in life, then one ought (implies libertarian freedom) to “full stop” if their thoughts and/or actions are against the objective purpose of the existence of humanity (which on Christianity is the eternal love and flourishing for all humans).

Andy said, //So if it turns out Allah is real and Muslims are right, it’s irrelevant whether or not you dislike what that means. Your ‘ring of truth’ here is just an argument from personal taste.//

No, as I explained above, it’s no more “personal taste” as the ontological existence of matter is “personal taste” [Andy misses the point: things can “ring true” even if we have a “distaste” for what “rings true”].

Andy quoted me: “Thus, if Christianity is true, then we know what that objective purpose is.”

Andy replied: //That doesn’t get you any closer to the conclusion you wanted to get to.//

To be fair, Andy did not interact with the entirety of my case. I have implied (and clearly pointed out elsewhere) the difference between ontological/objective purpose/morality, and how we stand in an epistemic position to know ontological reality. If my case is considered in its entirety, then we don’t just get “close” to a conclusion — we [actually] reach it!

Andy said, //I could have a child in order to harvest its organs. Would that obligate the child to offer me its organs? The ring of truth says no.//

Right! It “rings true” that one ought not have a child to harvest her organs. It “rings true” that this little girl has a right to her own life (also why abortion is wrong). The question raised is the following: what would ontologically ground this claim of objective truth? That is to say, Andy’s “purpose” for his little girl would be opposed to the ultimate purpose of his little girl’s existence. This makes sense of the “Law above the law” referred to at Nuremberg.

*[Moreover, consider this: If Andy built a robot for the purpose of mopping his floor, then there is something true about the existence of this robot irrespective of the opinions from the robot. That is to say, it is a fact that the robot was created by Andy to mop Andy’s floor. It “rings true” that there is nothing wrong with Andy’s creative intent. If the robot fails to accomplish its purpose, then Andy has a “bad robot” on his hands — he will try to fix it, reprogram it, or perhaps throw it in the trash and build a new machine. However, if Andy built a robot for the purpose of executing all homosexuals, then Andy’s creative intent for the robot violates the Law above Andy’s law — the Law of Christ which is clear that all persons are to be loved all the time. So, if Christian theism is true, then there is something objectively true about all humanity irrespective of the creative intent or subjective opinions from any particular human. I contend that this is exactly why it does not “ring true” that Andy’s daughter is obligated to give her organs to Andy — this violates the higher objective. Andy would violate the objective purpose for humanity (God’s purpose) if he harvested his daughter’s organs — even if that was Andy’s intent and purpose for having his daughter in the first place].

Andy said, //The only objective truth about humanity you’d have from us being made by a God is that the God made us. That doesn’t create obligations or morality unless you already have some axioms you’re relying on. If so I’d like to hear what they are and how you support them.//

My point is simple: If God created humanity on purpose and for a specific purpose, then there are objective truths about humanity irrespective of the subjective opinions from humanity. That is to say, there is a reality apart from human opinion. Thus, statements made regarding the purpose of life — and how we ought to live — either correspond to reality or they do not.

********************

I pointed this out above and said that “You must have missed it.”

Andy replied: //No, I just reject that it logically leads to the conclusion you made.//

One is free to [arbitrarily] reject or accept my case. The pertinent question is the following: does one have good reason to reject a conclusion?

I pointed out that Many scholars (including the former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi) have provided strong arguments demonstrating that Mohammad’s final commands were to “kill the infidel.”

Andy replied by saying some on the internet disagree: //They do, and it’s easy to find their arguments online.//

It’s important to point out that Andy has not refuted Qureshi’s case I provided in the above blog.

Andy said, //Regarding gay marriage you’re offering an argument from popularity that you’re losing.//

Even if this is true, it is irrelevant to my case. Be that as it may, when one takes the totality of human experience this would not correspond to reality. Sure, a higher percentage of humans today might think something is right when they formerly thought it was wrong. The main point of my article is that some things — like murdering innocent humans merely for holding a different worldview is objectively wrong. So, if the tide turns once again, and the majority of humans thinks homosexual marriage is wrong — does that instantly make it wrong? That does not “ring true!” Thus, if our intuition is correct, then objective moral values and duties exist (even if the current majority of the western world disagrees with me).

By the way [as noted above], “percentages” are irrelevant. If even one person believes that 2+2=4 when the rest of the world came to believe that 2+2=5, then this one person is justified in saying “I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks, 2+2=4 ‘rings true.’ I will continue to affirm this proposition.”

Andy said, //Based on polling in 2019, a majority of Americans (61%) support same-sex marriage, while 31% oppose it. Support is even higher in Europe. You’re forced to rope in Muslim countries to get support against it, and you’ve already said you reject Muslim views on morality!//

Andy is inadvertently strengthening my case. After all, if Islam becomes the majority worldview in the future (a possibility) — and the Muslim view against homosexuality follows, then the majority of the world will be opposed to homosexual marriage. The question raised is this: Is the majority (in this possible world) objectively wrong?

If so, then objective moral values and duties exist [welcome to theism].

I think there are many reasons to think Islam is false. The one point I am focussing on here is that it does not “ring true” that infidels (including homosexuals and atheists) ought to be killed [for their beliefs].

Regarding Andy’s claims about the Old Testament, I said, “This might be a problem for Jews, but not for Christ-followers. Christians are bound to the Law of Christ in the New Testament”

Andy replied: //Which was the heuristics I referred to before. And yet when Christians want to they’ll refer to Old Testament morality to make their point.//

Now Andy is painting with extremely broad brush strokes leading to incorrect claims. Sure, perhaps some “Christians” do this, but most academic Christians do not make such sloppy claims. I encourage you to study the work of Dr. Douglas Moo, for example.

Andy asserted: //Basically you’ll quote whatever bit of the Bible makes whatever point you want to make while other Christians will quote opposing parts with equal confidence to make a completely opposite point.//

FALSE! I am quite careful not to do such things (See, Homosexuality, Tattoos, & the Sabbath)! To be clear, sometimes the OT might be able to offer illumination on certain passages in the NT, but there is a big difference between Jewish Law and the Law of Christ. Missing this clear distinction will lead to many mistakes.

Andy said, //Which was the point I was making in the first place. You demand others respect nuance in the Bible but will cherry pick lines from the Koran and take one person’s word on the meaning!//

It appears that Andy did not consider Qureshi’s case. It is also clear that Andy is not familiar with the rules of interpretation that both Islamic scholars and Christian academics hold [the rule of abrogation]. When one applies the same rules to both, it is clear to see the vital differences between both worldviews. These “differences” are the point to the above article. One “rings true,” and the other does not.

********************

Although I previously stated that I would give Andy the last word, here I am again. These next comments must be my final response (I simply do not have time for “black holes” on the internet these days).

Andy said, //Tim, with respect I don’t think you got my point about DNA, free will, etc. My point is that the free will debate is a red herring when discussing morality or culpability and consequences for immoral behaviour.//

I beg to differ [this is my field and I’m tracking with Andy perfectly]! This is especially the case since not only did I reference moral oughts and ought nots, but also rational oughts and ought nots. If our actions follow from our thoughts and beliefs, and our thoughts and beliefs are ultimately caused and determined by something other than the thing Andy refers to as “I,” then Andy is not ultimately responsible for any of his beliefs or following actions.

Andy said, //Imagine a criminal appearing before a judge. He’s been found guilty of burning someone’s house down for fun.//

Was this verdict really up to the jury, or did physics and chemistry causally determine this verdict? If so, does physics and chemistry always get it right? How would you know — if physics and chemistry always causally determines everything about you — including your thoughts [and judgements] on courtroom decisions?

Andy said, //The owner begged him not to do it…//

Was it really the owner…  or physics, chemistry, and past events of nature?

Andy continued: //… explained how it would leave him homeless, and also explained that the arsonist would pay a heavy price for it. The criminal tells that free will doesn’t exist and his DNA made him do it.//

Was the criminal free to do otherwise? Did physics and chemistry force those thoughts into his skull and determine those words to come out of his mouth?

Andy continued: //Therefore the judge *should* let him go…//

If the criminal is correct — that libertarian freedom is not possessed by humans — then this conclusion is incoherent. There are no *shoulds* in a completely deterministic state of affairs. There is only what IS the case, not what OUGHT TO BE the case [another reason why a naturalistic worldview does not “ring true”].

Andy said, //The judge replies: “If you think I am capable of being persuaded by the logic of your argument so that I have my mind changed then equally you should have been capable of having your mind changed by the owner of the house before you burned it down. Therefore you are culpable and should go to prison. If however it’s true that free will doesn’t exist and your DNA made you burn it down then equally I can say that my DNA compels me to send you to send you to prison.”//

Andy has made my point for me loud and clear! If ALL is ultimately determined by physics, chemistry, events of nature, and things other than the thing humans refer to as “I”, then no one is responsible for their beliefs or following actions (talk about an absurd and meaningless life — does that “ring true”?). The arsonist was caused and determined, the judge was caused and determined, Andy’s atheistic beliefs (true or false) were not up to the thing he refers to as “I.” Moreover, if determinism is true, then Andy does not even have an ability to evaluate his current beliefs as good, bad, true, or false. Again, something other than Andy determines that for Andy.

It would benefit Andy to read some atheistic philosophers who affirm the same point I am making here. John Searle provides great material to read on this topic.

Andy said, //So the whole DNA / free will argument makes no practical difference to the judge’s decision.//

Sure it does! If all things are causally determined by things other than humanity, then the judge — or anyone for that matter — is not only determined by something else to think and judge as the judge thinks and judges but he cannot ever think, judge, or believe otherwise (even if his thoughts are actually incoherent).

Andy said, //It also plays no part in how well the judge weighs up the facts of the case.//

FALSE! On an exhaustive deterministic view, the judge did not do the “weighing” — things other than the judge determined this for the judge. So, if the judge would have found the arsonist NOT GUILTY of arson, it would not have been the fault of the judge — he’s merely a “falling domino” (so to speak) in a causally determined state of affairs.

Andy said, //After the reliability of a calculator is not reduced by the fact that they lack free will!//

[The pertinent question is how does Andy know (or how can Andy rationally affirm) that the calculator is reliable? We are not discussing mere “reliability,” but rather, the ability to rationally infer and rationally affirm knowledge claims. This topic is discussed in further detail here.] The calculator analogy is one that has been abandoned, not only by philosophers of mind, but even by atheist philosophers in the field. After all, if the programmer of the calculator determined a calculator to always compute “5” after one types in “2+2=”, then the calculator will reliably state that “2+2=5”.

If one had two calculators, and one calculator always and reliably stated “2+2=4” and the other “2+2+5,” then the calculators are at a stalemate. After all, they do not think of or about abstract laws of logic. Humans, on the other hand, are vastly different. We can decide [and choose], over time, what beliefs we ought to hold and affirm and what beliefs we ought to reject. A human, then, can discern which calculator has been programmed correctly, and which one has been programmed incorrectly.

That is to say, humans can do this only if we possess libertarian freedom!

A calculator is a completely different kind of thing. The calculator might be programmed to reach true conclusions about mathematics, but it does not engage in the process of rationality to ultimately choose what beliefs it ought to affirm. I recommend a study of indirect doxastic voluntarism.

Moreover, calculators do not possess the ability to judge and evaluate what they are causally determined to compute. Calculators are tools designed by rational humans — made to reflect the rationality of the human programmer. Calculators have no ability to infer the best explanation — they are mere tools caused and determined by rational humans [to reflect the rationality of humans].

With rationality and freedom in mind, consider a short syllogism deductively concluding that humans possess libertarian freedom:

1. Rationality requires deliberation.
2. Deliberation requires libertarian freedom (liberation).
3. Therefore, rationality requires libertarian freedom (liberation).
4. Some humans are rational.
5. Therefore, some humans possess libertarian freedom.

This argument hinges on the word ‘deliberation,’ which has been defined this way:

‘To weigh in the mind; to consider and examine the reasons for and against a measure to estimate the weight of force of arguments, or the probable consequences of a measure, in order to a choice or decision; to pause and consider’ (Webster 1828).

With the definition in place, consider the next question raised: Is it possible to truly deliberate without libertarian freedom?

The answer should be clear after dwelling upon the nature of determinism. If exhaustive determinism is true, then the non-rational laws of nature and past events (or God), always exhaustively determines a person’s considerations, examinations, and estimations (all of one’s thoughts about their beliefs and one’s beliefs about their thoughts). If that is the case, then the person cannot rationally affirm or provide justification that their beliefs really are the best or true (including their belief that determinism is true). With this in mind, it seems that libertarian freedom is necessary if one genuinely possesses the ability to rationally evaluate one’s thoughts/beliefs and to deliberate in the truest sense.

It follows that if deliberation is impossible, then so is rationality.

I like to show that rationality requires libertarian freedom by asking one simple question: “Do you possess the ability to reject incoherent thoughts and beliefs in favor of coherent thoughts and beliefs? Yes or No?”

If one answers “yes,” then he or she simultaneously affirm libertarian freedom as one affirms his or her ability to choose between at least two options consistent/compatible with one’s nature. However, if one answers “no,” then several problems arise:

1- Why trust your answer?
2- Why should anyone listen to your opinions about anything (including those on this topic)?
3- Libertarian freedom exists anyway, if you affirmed your ability to reject “yes” (in favor of “no”), and thus, you tacitly affirm “yes.”

As Greg Koukl points out:

“The problem with [determinism] is that without freedom, rationality would have no room to operate. Arguments would not matter, since no one would be able to base beliefs on adequate reasons. One could never judge between a good idea and a bad one. One would only hold beliefs because he had been predetermined to do so. . . . Although it is theoretically possible that determinism is true — there is no internal contradiction, as far as I can tell — no one could ever know it if it were. Every one of our thoughts, dispositions, and opinions would have been decided for us by factors completely out of our control. Therefore, in practice, arguments for determinism are self-defeating” (Tactics; 2009;128-29).

Koukl is exactly right. It is self-defeating to argue for determinism.

The respected philosopher (and atheist) John Searle agrees. He is clear: “Rationality only makes a difference if irrationality is possible.” This means that one must possess the ability to ultimately choose (directly or indirectly) to be rational or irrational — and both of these options are a genuine possibility, and thus compatible with a rational person’s nature.

A thought experiment forcefully illustrates the necessity of libertarian freedom when it comes to rationality:

Suppose a mad scientist exhaustively controls (causally determines) all of your thoughts and beliefs all the time. This includes exactly what you think of and about and exactly how you think of and about it. All of your thoughts about your beliefs and all of your beliefs about your thoughts are caused and determined by the mad scientist. This also includes the next words that will come out of your mouth.

Question: How can YOU (not the mad scientist) *rationally affirm* the current beliefs in your head as good, bad, better, the best, true, or probably true without begging the question?

Good luck with that!

For these reasons (and others) many atheist or naturalistic philosophers are moving away from the ideas purported by average internet atheists. They affirm that libertarian freedom must be possessed by humans — even if we can’t make sense of it on a naturalistic world view. I concur — if I were to change my mind to think that atheism is true, I would have to make room in my worldview for libertarian freedom. At the least, I would hold to libertarian freedom and then punt to mystery as to how to make sense of it. To argue otherwise is self-defeating.

Andy said, //As for the ‘ring of truth’ view – I have no idea what’s supposed to feel like to either have free will or not have it//

To be clear, my argument is not based upon what it “feels like” to possess libertarian freedom. It is based on what logically follows if determinism is true.

Andy said, //I’ve been told that tests have been made that show that we often decide to something subconsciously before we’re aware of it…//

My case is not based upon what “sometimes” happens or “often” happens. It is what logically follows if ALL thoughts, beliefs, actions, and behaviors are ALWAYS causally determined.

Andy said, //… if I’m offered coke or pepsi, if I get to weight up the options and have the one I decide to choose, then that’s all the free will I need.//

That statement entirely misses the point.

Andy said, //One can say that my choice was actually effectively set in stone before I was born, but so what?//

It depends upon what one means my “set in stone.” Are we discussing things that “must happen” necessarily based on the laws of nature and past events (like one’s receding hairline)? Or are we merely discussing what will happen — but will freely happen (not causally determined by any antecedent cause)? Are we discussing what one WILL freely choose (source-hood freedom), but nevertheless, will be freely chosen by the agent (and not other than the agent)? Philosophers in this field recognize that not all things “set in stone” must happen necessarily and this also includes contingent choices freely made in a libertarian sense. Understanding modal logic is key in addressing these questions.

Andy said, //A) It was still the one I wanted and B) That would be the case even if a God existed, who presumably knew I’d choose pepsi even before my grandparents were born.//

It is clear that Andy has not been privy to the vast amounts of writings that have been offered related to this particular field (which is cool, one cannot be an expert in all things). I recommend my website! Regarding (A), if one affirms that he or she always chooses based upon one’s greatest wants/desires, and these greatest wants/desires are determined by one’s nature (which is not up to the individual), then one is going to run into rationality problems very quickly. Regarding (B), if God knows how one will FREELY choose, it does not entail that it was not FREELY chosen. Knowledge does not stand in causal relation.

Let’s consider (A) (think about it if you’re free to do so): Compatibilists typically argue that our nature — which is not up to us — causally determines our wants and desires (so those are not up to us either), and these wants, desires, and preferences causally determine all our choices. Although all compatibilists are determinists, they claim that we are still “free” as long as nothing stops us from choosing according to our greatest desires (which are causally determined by something other than us. This is a problem for those who claim all of their beliefs are based on their greatest desires which is based on their nature which is not up to them.

Indeed, Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN) comes to mind as the EAAN shows that if naturalism true, then one’s beliefs are merely selected for the purpose of survival (as opposed to the target of truth). If this is the case, then we stand in no epistemic position to know if our beliefs really are true (since our beliefs would be aimed at survival as opposed to truth). The compatibilist/determinist faces similar problems for different reasons as their beliefs are not aimed at truth, but merely their greatest desires at the moment (which is ultimately caused and determined by something external to the the thing he or she refers to as “I”).

Indeed, a sense of vertigo is warranted for the compatibilistic determinist!

[Shifting gears…]

I pointed out the following: “When one takes the totality of human experience this would not correspond to reality. ”

Andy said, //Tim, you’ve shifted the goalposts now so instead of most people agree with you now it’s, “sure, I’m actually in the minority but if you go back in time you’ll find more people agreed with me then!”.//

I am simply referring to the majority of ALL humanity. This entails all humans who have ever existed including the ones who exist at the present moment. But nevertheless, as I pointed out above, “percentages are irrelevant” to my argument.

Andy said, //For most of history it was seen as fine to make poor children do hard manual labour, to keep slaves, and for girls to get married at 13, 11 or younger!//

What about 12? I digress…

Right, so if this belief does not “ring true” for a person [in the majority or the minority] — or one believes that forcing children to do hard manual labor is REALLY wrong no matter what anyone thinks or believes, then it follows [they should also affirm that] objective moral values and duties exist. In this case, some humans were objectively wrong for forcing young children to do manual labor.

A question is raised for my interlocutor: How does Andy logically ground the proposition: “It is wrong to force children to do hard manual labor”? Is it just based upon his greatest desire, or would this statement still correspond to reality if he changed his mind (or desires) on the issue tomorrow?

Back to Islam: I said, “It’s important to point out that Andy has not refuted Qureshi’s case I provided in the above blog.”

Andy replied: //Tim, it’s really easy to find opposing views to Qureshi’s views from other Muslim scholars, and his view is not one shared by any if the Muslims I know.//

Bad arguments can be found responding to nearly all things on the internet today! Pointing out that “some people on the internet disagree” is not an academic response to another’s argument. Perhaps that is how atheists debate on the internet these days, but in academia we have to actually interact with one’s argument, and then demonstrate why they think one’s conclusion does not logically follow. In this case, one is free to point to the arguments others have made showing why Nabeel is wrong, but the fact remains, Nabeel has appealed to a specific law of hermeneutics (which is applied to people of all worldviews — including claims made by atheists). Interestingly, it is this same law that Muslims appeal to when conducting jihad. The question is raised: why *should* these Muslims change their minds?

Andy said, //Tell me, have you sought out any of these opposing views or asked any Muslims face to face?//

Yes I have! However, this is irrelevant to the case Nabeel Qureshi has made.

Andy said, //Imagine if all my views on the Bible were *based* on the opinions of an atheist who used to be a priest – would you say I’d done my homework if I didn’t consider the views of Christians?//

Not so fast! If determinism is true, then your views on the Bible are ultimately “based” and causally determined by the laws and events of nature. Moreover, if you really do have the ability to consider different views free from the deterministic laws and events of nature (or anything else), then welcome to the Land of the Free (in a libertarian sense).

Let’s get back to the main topic. Bottom line: if it “rings true” that homosexuals ought not be killed (and they should be loved), then a worldview that can make sense of this objectively should be preferred by a rational agent. To this point, no attempt has been made to explain how Nabeel Qureshi has reached a faulty conclusion regarding what logically follows from the final commands of Mohammad. Moreover, on atheism (Andy’s subjective greatest desire) there is no objective purpose for the existence of humanity, and thus, no objective purpose in which humanity should approximate.

By the way, if Christianity is true, then it is objectively good and right to always love all people all the time. We ought to seek human flourishing — even for those who consider us to be enemies (See The Parable of the Good Samaritan).

Be that as it may, humans are free to eternally disagree with the objective purpose of humanity. These humans simply won’t be allowed to hang out with those of us who have learned that we ought to always freely follow the teachings of Jesus. After all, these loving commands correspond perfectly with the objective purpose in which humanity was created — [eternal love and flourishing]!

Have it your way!

********************

Andy offered my quote: “Right! It “rings true” that one ought not have a child to harvest her organs.”

The salient point is the following: How does one logically ground what seems to be true? Is it really true (objectively speaking) that Andy should not have a child to harvest her organs, or is that simply something relegated to public opinion, subjective preferences, or the majority vote? If it’s the latter, then there is nothing objectively (really) wrong with Andy harvesting his daughter’s organs. If it is the former, then welcome to theism — God exists!

Moreover, if Andy does not possess libertarian freedom, then if physics and chemistry causally determine Andy to harvest his daughter’s organs, then physics and chemistry is responsible — not Andy (he is a mere “falling domino” who has no choice in the matter). Does that have the “ring of truth”?

Andy said, //Cool, so you concede my point. Me having a child for that purpose doesn’t create obligations for that child.//

Not so fast, if God created ALL humans on purpose and for the specific purpose of love/flourishing, then there is something true about ALL humans irrespective of the opinion from any human. So, in this case, Andy’s subjective opinion about his purpose for his daughter would oppose ultimate reality. Like I referenced above, there is a Law above the law (or truth about reality irrespective of any human’s subjective opinion).

While it would be true that there is something objectively true ABOUT humanity irrespective of the subjective opinions FROM humanity, “obligations” arise if one seeks to strive to correspond to reality (if one seeks truth). As I noted above, one is free to have things his own way for eternity and be willfully ignorant. Those individuals simply will not be allowed to hang out with those of us who have learned how to correspond to reality (love and flourishing).

Like Burger King says, “Have it your way!”

Andy said, //And a God creating you to harvest your organs wouldn’t create the same obligation.//

Andy continues to miss the point. There is an important difference between objective moral facts and objective moral duties or “obligations.” If one misses this vital distinction they are sure to make logical errors. I am currently focused on the former while Andy misses my point and is focused on the latter.

With that said, if it is true that God created humans on purpose and for the specific purpose to harvest their organs, then there would be something OBJECTIVELY true about humanity irrespective of the subjective opinions FROM humanity. Be that as it may, we stand in an epistemic position to know that this odd thought experiment does not approximate to ontological reality. We stand in a position to know that God created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to eternally love and flourish together.

This also makes sense of what seems to “ring true” for most sane people. But even if “most people” disagreed, anyone who does think this “rings true” should definitely reject atheism. On atheism there is nothing really wrong (in an objective sense) with Andy harvesting his daughter’s organs. On Christianity, however, such an act is objectively wrong and evil!

What worldview possesses the “ring of truth”?

Additionally, it seems to “ring true” that humanity has an obligation to approximate to reality [when humans approximate to reality, humans flourish]. Do we not have “obligations” to approximate to reality when it comes to mathematics, the laws of logic, and the scientific method? Why would one say we have “obligations” to approximate to reality in all things except for the objective purpose in which humanity was created? That seems ad hoc to say the least.

Be that as it may, one is free to not refer to these facts as “obligations.” One can simply point out that another is failing to approximate to objective reality (the way things are apart from human opinion).

Andy said, //If a God created you for a purpose you like then you may be happy to go along with it, but that’s serendipity. You’ve not shown that an automatic obligation follows.//

Again, Andy continues to miss point after point. My point has been to simply show that if God created humanity on purpose and for a specific purpose, then there are objective facts/truths ABOUT humanity irrespective of the subjective opinions FROM humanity. It follows that if God created humanity for the specific purpose to love all people all the time (from your neighbors to those who consider you to be an enemy), then one is objectively “good” when they correspond to ultimate reality. “Goodness” and “badness” are degrees of approximation (or lack there of) to reality.

That is to say, to a degree that one approximates to objective reality, to that same degree he or she is objectively good. To a degree that one fails to correspond to reality — and “misses the mark (sin) — to that same degree one is objectively bad.

Consider the following argument:

1. If a truth corresponds to reality, it is objectively true [apart from human opinion].
2. If God created humanity for a purpose, then this purpose is a truth that corresponds to reality.
3. Therefore, if God created humanity for a purpose, then this purpose is objectively true.
4. God created humanity for a purpose. [To Love God and all people]
5. Therefore, God’s purpose for creating humanity is objectively true [apart from human opinion].

Andy concludes: //I’m glad my argument had the “ring of truth” for you, Tim! Thanks for the conversation.//

The pleasure was mine! Andy actually made my case stronger!

********************

Andy added a postscript of an incomplete quote from me: “Sure it does! If all things are causally determined by things…”

It’s quite telling that he intentionally deleted the most important part of my point. Here is the entire quote from above:

“Sure it does! If all things are causally determined by things other than humanity, then the judge — or anyone for that matter — is not only determined by something else to think and judge as the judge thinks and judges but he cannot ever think, judge, or believe otherwise (even if his thoughts are actually incoherent).”

Although Andy has not addressed this HUGE problem (see the above conversation to verify), he simply ignores this significant problem and falsely asserts:

//I already addressed that argument so there’s nothing here for me to reply to – I can only invite you to read the whole judge post again. As I said, thanks for the conversation.//

Andy seems quite rattled and offers one more comment to his friend following along:

Bradley ” Did you learn anything from TS in this exchange?” I learned that his arguments don’t work, that he can’t admit when he’s wrong.

Hmmm… that shoe seems to be on the other foot, but I’ll let those who have read this entire exchange come to their own conclusions.

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18)!


Notes:

[1] I asked Elliott Crozat (a fellow “Purpose Theorist”) to review the above. He pointed out a footnote might be in order for those who are new to Purpose Theory (as opposed to the more common “Divine Command Theory.” He stated the following:

As philosopher Thaddeus Metz uses it, purpose theory (PT) is a claim about what is needed to make human life objectively meaningful. On PT, the following are necessary conditions for human life to have objective meaning: (1) God exists; (2) God created human beings for a purpose. As Metz has noted, PT “implies nothing about whether God in fact has a purpose or whether God even exists.” (Could God’s Purpose Be the Source of Life’s Meaning?, p. 201 in Exploring the Meaning of Life)

In short, although most purpose theorists are theists, an atheist can be a purpose theorist, too. The conjunction of PT and atheism entails nihilism. In other words, the purpose theorist accepts the following proposition, call it M: If human life is objectively meaningful, then God exists and created us for a purpose. (Note that the contrapositive of M is M*: If God does not exist and/or did not create us for a purpose, then human life is not objectively meaningful.)

The purpose theorist who accepts the antecedent of M concludes that the consequent of M is true. However, an atheist can accept M, deny the consequent of M, and thus deny the antecedent and conclude nihilism. To put the point another way: The atheistic purpose theorist can assert M*: Since God doesn’t exist, human life is not objectively meaningful. You articulated this point nicely in: “According to logically consistent atheism, since God does not exist, then humanity was not created on purpose or for a specific purpose — we are nothing but a “happy accident” — nothing more than dust in the wind.”

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim is currently enrolled at North-West University pursuing his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics, history, and biblical data.

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