SirRoxton asks me about spritual things

And now, I’ll answer questions that asked:

Ah, but this meme is more than simply an excuse to ask questions. Involvement is like giving people an invitation to really dig, like getting involved in Truth or Dare. In turn, I think of this as a personal challenge to think of difficult questions I might not otherwise ask.

Well, I would have thought that our friendships were open and honest enough to always allow these sorts of questions at any time. I never really understood the point of games like Truth or Dare. But, if you use it as a tool to think about others and things you want to know more about, I suppose it could be useful.

1) You seem a good Christian. You’ve always been open and honest, never guarded or mincing with words and yet somehow never really tactless, even in your discussion of homosexuality. But I’ve never seen you witness. Do you ever confront people on their religious beliefs, or does your witnessing style lean more towards hoping people are moved by your character and bring the subject to you?

Well, “confronting” has a poor connotation. I try to make sure that people know what I believe. If I were to just go into the office and proclaim “You’re all going to hell, and Jesus is the only one who can save you”, I’m not likely to actually convince anybody of anything. I tend to try to build open, honest relationships with people and let them ask me questions when they want to know what’s different about me.

For instance, take you. It’s my understanding that you received a Christian upbringing, and then sadly chose to leave your parents’ faith. Telling you that I think some of what you’re doing is wrong and the story of Jesus isn’t likely to help, as I’m sure you’re already aware of my perspective. So, I try to demonstrate Christ’s love through my words and actions, and hope and pray that you eventually come back to see the Light. (And yes, I do pray for you, as well as many of my other friends.)

2) When was the last time you had a real spiritual impact on another person’s life?

The most noticeable personal one was helping to bring Jessi to believe and trust in Jesus as her Savior. Yet, it’s hard to know exactly what impact I had in other places. For instance, our trip to Costa Rica this summer certainly had spiritual impact on people down there.

3) How many people have you helped bring to Christ?

That’s also a tricky thing to measure. I haven’t often personally seen people I know accept Christ, but I have, and I do know that I’ve made an impact in people’s lives.

I think that one of the cool things about being in Heaven is being able to see whose lives I’ve touched, and who they’ve touched, and so on. I don’t know if we’ll exactly be able to see it like that, but I like to hope that we will.

4) Do you believe that the basics of Christianity can really be inferred from the world as it is, or is the motivation and inspiration of the Holy Spirit necessary for even that much?

I’m not quite sure where the separation between your cases is. I certainly think that anybody should be able to look at the world around them, and think that there must be some sort of Creator, as well at look at their conscience and realize that they do things wrong and need a Savior. The Holy Spirit is always there, setting up divine appointments (or as a friend of mine calls them, Godinidences) to work in people’s lives.

5) God doesn’t need justification, but there’s a key premise that he is consistent. What do you consider to be God’s motivations for the old testament genocides perpetrated by early Jews, and how, in turn, do these motivations apply (or how do avoid having them apply) to current thinking about foreign policy?

God is a merciful God, but He is also a just God. He requires people to listen to Him. The genocides were against people who weren’t following him, and would likely have committed even worse crimes themselves. Also, since they were in the desert, keeping people as prisoners wouldn’t have been practical, since there was generally a limited supply of food. Also, the Israelites would likely have been corrupted by the foreigners’ idol-worship (and in fact, they often were). I don’t think I can explain it much better than that, but I trust that God knows what He is doing. I found an article that might help explain it better. If you’d like, I could look into it a bit more and get back to you. I certainly don’t have all the answers all the time, but I’d be happy to work through these issues with you if you’d like.

35 thoughts on “SirRoxton asks me about spritual things

  1. I hope I never give you the impression that I’m anything but appreciative for your sincere and heartfelt concern for the status of what you would term my soul.

    So you do think that the existence of a Creator is unambiguously implied by our surroundings, and that the constitution of our conscience is unambiguously the product of God’s moral judgment. I don’t think either are defensible by pure reason, thus necessitating the direct influence of the Holy Spirit to validate the Christian faith. That was the point of my 4th question.

    To your credit, I think you recognize that your explanation for #5 is incomplete. Surely, “not following God” does not present adequate moral impetus for genocide. Nor does “will be a bad influence.” With the benefit of omniscience, I guess a preemptive strike against future atrocities could be reasonable, but where else in the Old Testament has God ever punished *anyone* before the act? In fact it seems canonical that by the institution of free will, God always lets people screw up (sometimes repeatedly) before taking corrective or disciplinary action.

  2. Thank you for the answer to question 5, Pete. I just finished Joshua and was trying to find the justification for the razing of Jericho, Ai, and the other cities destroyed during the First Caananite Campaign. That sheds light on the doctrine and decision-making of the Israelites.

  3. That was the point of my 4th question.

    Using memes to make points about other people’s beliefs is depressing.

  4. Our world is fatally sucking exhaust in a sea without vision or metavision. Something’s gotta give. Talking critically about the way we see the world is an important first step. Think of it as opportunistic world-building.

  5. Surely, “not following God” does not present adequate moral impetus for genocide.

    On the contrary, the very foundation of the Christian faith is that everyone deserves death for rebelling against God. We need to appreciate that God is forgiving and merciful, and has presented a way to spare us from that.

    In fact it seems canonical that by the institution of free will, God always lets people screw up (sometimes repeatedly) before taking corrective or disciplinary action.

    Yes. He has. He did. He then took corrective or disciplinary action.

  6. In can be tough for people to reconcile “loving and merciful God” with “powerful and just God” at times, but be assured that they are in fact the same God. God only turns to destruction when there is no chance for the people being to destroyed to turn back to Him. And there are many places where God has destroyed entire civilizations, such as The Great Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah.

  7. Yes, but his selection of when and when not to be merciful is not whimsical. God is not a whimsical being.

    Don’t you see how tremendously convenient killing the Canaanites was? Were the Canaanites worse than all other cultures on the globe at the time? And these worse-than-all-other-Canaanites just happened to be on the soil God wanted for his people? A suspension of mercy for convenience’s sake? How is that conscionable?

    I really can’t see this scenario as anything more than God being a Machiavellian SimCity player who needed to wipe out one civilization to allow his own to thrive. In comparison to most of the rest of scripture, it’s rather out of character.

  8. God was perfect. He created a perfect universe, and wanted it to go on being perfect.

    But his perfect creations fell from perfection. At that point, they had no place in God’s perfect universe, and their lives and souls were forfeit. But God had mercy and didn’t wipe the slate clean. He created a transitionary system whereby men could reenter the realm of perfection and be in communion with God. The only value of man is his potential of reaching that perfect state. Without that, he is without value, and his fire can be extinguished without a moment’s remorse.

    Ah, the historical demonizing of the “Other,” so crucial for coherence and coordination in a nomadic Hebrew tribe. If there ever a existed a people with a philosophy of tolerance, it couldn’t have existed for long in such a brutal and unstable world. A sense of righteousness quickens our reflexes, increases our dedication to our skills of war, and permits slaughter without hesitation. Without their secretive priests declaring God’s will to the masses, we would never had heard of the Jews, of Nathaniel, Ruth, Solomon, or Jesus.

  9. Give Rizzo a piece of wire and tell him not to chew. He electricutes himself. Whose fault is it? Rizzo’s or ours?

    Plus I’d never subscribe to a religion whose god relies on his creation to remain ignorant. Not a good deity to follow.

  10. Don’t you see how tremendously convenient killing the Canaanites was?

    This is a tenuous premise to base an argument on. Just because something is a good idea on multiple levels doesn’t necessarily mean that it was contrived for the worst reasons. It was tremendously convenient to NASA that JFK was assasinated. It was tremendously convient to Japan that the US had just finished clustering their aircraft at Pearl Harbor. It was tremendously convenient that Apollo 11 worked the first time. Using convinence as an argument is how you get crackpot conspiracy theories like “NASA was behind the JFK killing!”, “PACCOM was conspiring with the Japanese at Pearl!”, and “The Moon Landing was faked!”.

  11. God gave man the intelligence to make good decisions.

    Why should anyone want to know more any more than they need to be a perfect creature? Let’s pretend that the bed gives Rizzo every opportunity to explore his potential and be happy (which isn’t the case). Why confuse things by showing Rizzo the floor? Why confuse mankind by showing him the fabric of reality?

  12. Unfair analogies. NASA would actually have had to kill JFK.

    God wanted the land for his people, and he killed the Canaanites for it. There’s no conspiracy. The conspiracy would be thinking that by some great concidence God killed the Canaanites both because he wanted the land and because he thought the Canaanites were the most deserving of it.

  13. Well, the Israelites were trampsing through the desert for something on the order of 40 years. A hundred thousand people can march a long way in 40 years. God promised the Holy Land to the Israelites numerous times. It would not be surprising that God decided to give the land of the greatest sinners to his chosen people. Thus, God lends fire support to Moses, who in turn leads the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. In 40 years, the Israelites could have marched virtually anywhere in Asia, Africa, or even Europe. But they didn’t. They homed in on Jericho, and 40 years after they rebelled against the Egyptians, sacked Jericho and began the First Canaanite Campaign.

    The question really isn’t “Why the Canaanites?”, its “Why did it take so long for the Israelites to sack Jericho when the city was no more than six months away?” The answer? Because God was giving the Canaanites time to come back. He then took corrective or disciplinary action.

  14. You showed him the floor, not I.

    Your reasoning makes all of science, medicine, technology “immoral.”

  15. And, if fact, various aspects of each were officially considered immoral by Christians–until the authorities could no longer deny the advancements. We’d be several hundred years ahead of where we are today if Christianity (or any other conveniently suppressive force) never gained so much support from monarchies during the Middle Ages in Europe.

  16. I’d rather there be two gods–one merciful and one merciless–than a single deity with dissociative personality disorder. :)

  17. Yes and no…

    Could God have permitted perfect beings to have minds adapted to persuing science, medicine, and technology without giving it free reign to grapple and toy with the sphere of morality?

    Not being able to grapple with morality would mean never even being *POSED* questions like “to clone or not to clone” and “what is a permissible level of cruelty in animal testing.”

    In essence, without eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, we would not even be capable of considering things that could potentially be evil, which would, indeed, constrain our examination of science.

    It is not that science is inethical, but that our minds, in their perfect state, would never traverse into such territory. You are, of course, welcome to despise such constraints and the notion of a God who sees such constraints as “perfect.”

    And yes, my fault. Mea culpa. :)

  18. Well, that’s a complaint against Christianity: The Institution, not Christianity: The God-Driven Faith and History According to Modern Fundamentalists. I don’t think Pete would have any disagreement with you here.

  19. I think you misunderstood me. God is both just and merciful. There’s no personality disorder there. His justice requires payment for sin, thus the sacrifices of the Old Testament and the Sacrifice of Jesus in the New.

  20. God gave us brains, and the ability to use them and contemplate our existence. Science was created by us to try and understand more about this world that God created for us. I think that science has some of the best evidence out there that God has to exist.

    Other than that comment, I can’t quite follow your lines of reasoning here… Do you have specific questions about what I believe? Or should this just continue being and arguing with each other?

  21. Well, the belief–when common enough–becomes the overbearing institution. I don’t care if Pete agrees or not.

  22. I think that science has some of the best evidence out there that God has to exist.

    What evidence, dear?

  23. One of the laws of thermodynamics is something to the effect that “things don’t get more orderly on their own”. And while I’m not sure of the exact Physics of that law, it’s very consistent with what I observe in everyday life. Things don’t spontaneously structure themselves into ordered systems. Therefore, there had to be some sort of Supreme Being who created the universe, the laws of physics, and us.

    Scientists who don’t want to believe in God try to come up with other explanations for Creation, such as evolution and the Big Bang Theory. However, evidence for those theories is tenuous at best and many scientists don’t believe them. (And the classic questions: “Where did all the matter in that speck in the center of the universe come from?” “Why did it explode?” “Where did that energy come from?”) However, it’s the best theory that they can come up with that doesn’t require God, and so it’s what ends up in our textbooks.

    I have other resources on this subject, including a 2-hour video, if you’d be interested in looking at them sometime.

  24. I don’t like instructional videos. In my experience, speakers in such videos are very careful to try to hide their premises, making vague allusions to notions that supposedly support their arguments. There are a thousand contradictory philosophies in the world, and all their adherents, some of which may even have faith stronger than yours, could produce a convincing video.

    I’d rather hear it from you. First, because you’re honest, and you don’t obscure your reasoning. Second, because I can call you on anything that seems “off.”

    Tides rise and fall, and rocks get stacked into neat rows. As our highly ordered sun decays, our world inefficiently picks up a tiny fragment of its energy and uses it to develop complex life. Introduce a number of species formerly alien to each other, and they’ll develop a unique, ordered, self-sustaining ecosystem with nuances no biologist could predict. All this is courtesy of the decaying sun and the laws of thermodynamics.

    Is an entity with a will that exists outside the physical constraints of our universe with access to all knowledge and essence contained therein sooo much more plausible than some basic initial condition?

    Look, it could all be true. I’m just of the mind that all of this makes it crystal clear that without the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit asserting basic truths, the world, as observed, follows no absolute logical course to the existence of God. I just wish we could agree on that point.

  25. Hahaha. Most laypeople have no clue what entropy is. Yes, it increases all the time, but it does not preclude complex things from forming. For instance, phospholipid membranes form all the time–and yet the disorder is increased (the water molecules around them become more disordered). Entropy isn’t about “order” in the regular human sense. Ice is more ordered than water, and yet you don’t usually see it accompanied by more complex molecules or lifeforms.

    And, no, I can’t explain the Big Bang. I don’t know enough physics (or rather enough math), but–from the formation of the universe to the formation of galaxies–I do put some faith–if you will–in physicists who know their stuff. Beyond that (as the scale gets smaller), I know that the Second Law isn’t broken.

    Either way, it should be the physicists and physical chemists who “debunk” “evilution,” not people who have no idea about thermodynamics (what did they teach you at the Academy in chemistry and physics classes?), except that they don’t seem to think that evolution contradicts thermodynamics. And, for your information, lots of those scientists actually do believe in God. It’s just that–in light of certain information–some physical phenomena can’t be denied.

    It doesn’t bother me that Big Bang hasn’t been explained. For the longest time, nothing that we now know about our environment was understood. Argument from ingorance (“We can’t explain it, therefore God did it!) isn’t a valid argument (or at least, it has been consistently breaking down in the past). And if the Big Bang gets replaced by a newer theory–that can explain red shift and such–it’s no skin off my back.

    Give me an example of a respected scientist who doesn’t believe in evolution…

    It’s easy to find the “work of a Creator” in living organisms if you completely ignore all that’s suboptimal about their “design.” The eye is perfect? Sure, if you ignore the problems such that it’s wired backwards to the brain and that so many people need corrective lenses and such. And yet a lousy eye is still infinitely better than no eye at all.

    As for fossils not meaning anything because “radiodating doesn’t work,” you should really research radiodating some more…

    If/when you and Jessi have a child, during its development, for a while the fetus will sport a full-blown tail with extra vertebrae (like any self-respecting vertebrate), which will later be reabsorbed. Then the fetus will grow fur (not sparse hairs like adults have but more like a nice forest), but then that too goes away because people no longer have fur. Anyway, my point is that God–if He were perfect–should’ve streamlined fetal development. Fetuses of other groups also suffer from similar predicaments (teeth in birds, limbs in whales). Why make organisms so messed up if you don’t have to? That’s why natural selection seems like a better explanation for these phenomena… It can only work with variation that’s already there, and can’t come up with anything from scratch if the precursors aren’t already in existence. Developmental biology (“embryology”) is an amazing, growing field that has started to shed a lot of light on vertebrate evolution.

  26. Not to be too literal here or too insultive… but is there any independant evidence that the israelites roamed in the desert for 40 years? Alot of the old testament stories always seemed akin to George Washington and the Cherry Tree, or Paul Bunyon and Daniel Boone. We managed to botch those stories after 50-100 years. So imagine how long they’d been passed down among israelites by word of mouth before someone actually took berryjuice to rock and wrote it down. Then think about how botch the original story could be.
    This is why I try to avoid too much literal interpretation (unless it cuts to my advantage ;) what a lawyer I’m going to make!).

  27. I have no idea about the “40 years” thing. From what I understand, the phrase “40 days and 40 nights” (e.g., the duration of Noah’s flood) is meant to convey “a really long, long time” (the ancient Israelites really excelled the use of metaphor; this conclusion is based on scholars’ study of writings contemporary to the early Old Testament books and comparing those writing to the Bible proper). We can’t begin to guess what was actually meant by “40 days and 40 nights”–maybe a month, maybe two years, maybe something else.

    The Israelites seemed to be infatuated with the number 40, which is why I don’t think “40 years” should be taken at face value. Could be significantly less or significantly more.

  28. No, I don’t really know the physics definition of entropy. I’m fairly certain that my background in physics was quite deficient. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used thermodynamics to make my point.

    I appreciate your acknowledgment that you don’t know where the Big Bang came from. I believe that God spoke the universe into being, and you believe that it spontaneously existed and exploded. Both of those explanations require faith, and are really just as “religious”. My main objection would be that your religion shows up in science textbooks, often without even a mention that some believe that the universe started differently.

    The reason that I keep on trying to refer people to other sources is that I think that they can do a better job of explaining it than I do, and me explaining it would mainly be trying to copy them. I’d suggest a look at Refuting Evolution, by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, which I’d be happy to lend you (if you give me a few weeks to find where I left it at my parents’ house), and is also available on the web. From searching just now, there’s apparently also a sequel which I haven’t read. (And to be honest, I haven’t read the first one for a few years.) The video that I mentioned earlier is from Dr. Kent Hovind, who has 39 DVDs about the topics involved, backing up his claims with scientific evidence (and a good dose of humor). I’d be willing to purchase the rest of them if you’d be interested in watching them with us. It’d be a good discussion, and good excuse to have you over for supper.

  29. Haha, “Dr.” Hovind–who got all his degrees from institutions that aren’t accredited for granting those degrees… :)

    Sarfati does what creationists do best: quote scientists’ opinions out of context. Yeah, biologists argue about the mechanisms of evolution; few respectable ones argue the fact of evolution. As for his whole problem in the reptile-to-bird transition, see Like others, he lumps everyone from astrophysicists to biologists under the label “evolutionists.” For your information, these people aren’t working together. They don’t give a crap about each other’s work for the most part unless their field depends on information from the others (biologists depend on chemistry, physics, geology, but not vice versa; therefore, it’s not the biologists’ fault, for instance, that the oldest rocks on the planet have consistently been found to be ~4.4 billion years old in different geology labs and by different methods).

    Your creation story does no better job of explaining anything about the world or its origin than does the Hindu story about the Lord Brahma. Let’s say that evolution proves to be false (which isn’t likely). Another theory based on science is going to replace it. Intelligent design is not science.

  30. Hovind’s stock-in-trade is arguing that “evolutionists” “worship” time. Yes, time is required for any process from rock weathering to gestation to “evilution.” You also “worship” time when you bake a cake. No matter how high you make the temperature in the over, it won’t come out nearly edible unless you let it in there for some 30-40 mins (prefferably at the right temperature).

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