Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Friday, September 04, 2009

    New Book Out: The Making of an Atheist by James Speigel
















    The Making of an Atheist by James Speigel

    This quote was part of a blurb sent to me on this book:


    Could it be that their opposition to religious faith has more to do with passion than
    reason? What if, in the end, evidence has little to do with how atheists arrive at their
    anti-faith? That is precisely the claim in this book. Atheism is not at all a
    consequence of intellectual doubts. These are mere symptoms of the root cause-
    moral rebellion. For the atheist, the missing ingredient is not evidence but obedience.

    10 comments:

    marnie said...

    The idea that the root cause of atheism is "moral rebellion" assumes that 1) god-belief is necessary for a person to have morals 2) that religious authorities are the authorities on morality also and that 3) atheists aren't moral and don't want to be. It also dismisses intellectual arguments against gods out of hand.

    swordbearer said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    swordbearer said...

    I imagine atheists don't have a problem with being moral when they define their own morality, who would? And who would ever be immoral ... when one could just change the rules to fit one's desires and pattern of living.

    As to your arguments, tell me...
    1. On what foundation does moralty depend and show itself trustworthy, if not from God?

    2. Are you suggesting ethics and morality that are meaningful and binding apart from God?

    3. What is the authority and standard of morality and ethics you espouse?

    4. Are you thinking that man can possess certainty or knowledge (or morality or anything else) apart from God?

    5. Are you suggesting YOU are a moral person?

    marnie said...

    You have a problem with people defining their own morality because, it sounds like, you think it is easy to just change at whim. I, however, think it is irresponsible to defer something as important as moral decisions to somebody else or something else (Bible). In regard to changing definitions of what is or isn't moral, I think this is really a question of a person developing over time and through experience their feelings on what is right or wrong. That is not a bad thing, in fact, it may be a sign of personal growth.

    1. Ideas of morality are created, I believe, both through learning from those around you and to a certain extent it's innate. I think if one has confidence in themselves and compassion for others, they will find their moral compass trustworthy.

    2. Absolutely.

    3. I don't think there is a final authority, except that we as people form governments that enforce some of those morals which also contribute to a stable society. Personally, I espouse the idea that we should "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This idea itself is separate from belief in god, although Christians also have these words to guide them. Morality is very complex, but this sums it up pretty nicely.

    4. Yes, man can possess knowledge apart from god and should rely on their natural abilities to make sense of the world and figure out questions of morality.

    5. Let me clarify what I posted before because it wasn't very clear. Both atheists and theists commit moral acts and immoral ones. Personally, yes I have done good things and bad things and I can recognize that even though I am responsible for my own moral code.

    swordbearer said...

    Marnie stated: " I, however, think it is irresponsible to defer something as important as moral decisions to somebody else or something else (Bible). "

    Response: So, morality is entirely personal? Suppose you have never accused anyone else of doing wrong?

    Marnie stated: "I think this is really a question of a person developing over time and through experience their feelings on what is right or wrong."

    Response: So there is no such thing as absolute morality? Are we to assume "right and wrong" changes over time, or that the person simply changes... which is it? If a person now (through experience, etc.) changes position, does that mean what they thought & did before was wrong? (i.e., absolutes exist) Or, are you saying that what they believed before may be right (for them)? etc., so that for one person it may be right while for another person it is wrong. Is there an absolute when it comes to morality and ethics or is it personal, relative, etc.?

    As far as your responses:
    1. So morality is BOTH innate as well as from learning?

    - So, do you agree there's an aspect of morality that's beyond humanity or do you posit foundation and standard of morality all within humanity?

    -If morality is innate, where does it come from? Are we to assume morality stems from humanity (which non-creationists attribute to an accident)?

    - If morality comes from learning but there is no absolute standard, how can society hold people accountable who commit horrible acts in keeping with what they have been taught?

    - Acccording to your system, what's a person to do whose inate feelings differ from what they've been taught? Besides that, how does one know their inate feelings are correct, or that they should be followed, particularly if by violating them, they may seem to profit, even if temporarily?

    Seems your system of morality, while void from absolute truth (though it contains truth in part) is subject to the condemnation and warning found in Isaiah, where Scripture speaks and says "Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

    2. See #1

    3. So if there is no standard, and morality is personal, what do you do when it comes to things like abortion. Some are for it; others are against it. Who decides? If the majority decides, what gives them the right, and whose to say the majority is right (i.e., take Hitler's reign for example). Not only this, but you've failed to provide a standard (besides giving the biblical principle). Is it the "law of the land"? Is it the "majority's opinion"? What is it? And besides this, whose to say (from your perspective) that the principle itself is right (or to be obeyed)? Suppose again, that if to NOT follow the principle seemed to profit a man, what then? Your position is bankrupt.

    swordbearer said...

    4. How can man possess certainty (apart from God/revelation) that what he thinks is right is actually right & not illusion, not the result of living in multiple universes, etc.

    On the issue of morality, how can man "figure out" the questions of morality if ultimate morality doesn't exist (and/or cannot be discovered)?

    5. If you assert that all men (theists and atheists) commit immoral acts, are you not suggesting there is an absolute standard of morality by which we can be judged? (If so, then you are affirming the truth of Scripture that states " Romans 2:1-2 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth." (Romans 2) ... that is unless you are going to argue a personal or relative standard of morality, which leaves your assertion either baseless, meaningless, or authority-less.

    ........
    Note: The solution to all the inadequacies & insufficiencies in the position you hold is posited in the absolute morality and justice of God, who not only created man in his own image with moral capacity, responsibility and accountability, and who also has provided reconciliation and justification for those who have failed to comply & meet his standard of righteousness, ... this being accomplished through the redemption and substitutionary atonement of his Son, who voluntarily gave himself for our forgiveness and righteousness so as to allow God to provide salvation in a way as to be both just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Christ Jesus.

    I urge you to put aside the false thinking that morality is simply what man wants to call it and acknowledge that your own assertions reflect a standard which is absolute and common to all men, one by which your own assertions suggest we are accountable and therefore in need of aquittal and innocence and power. For this reason, Christ came, and for this reason we may find both truth and forgiveness in him.

    marnie said...

    I don't know what your first response means really. Yes morality is personal. I don't see how it can not be person since people are the ones who commit the moral/immoral actions. And there are some absolutes and some things are relative.

    1. I'm an atheist, so yes humanity is a human domain. It happens all the time that what people are taught and what they feel are different. As I said, people should use their compassion for others and their ability to reason to come to a conclusion on what is moral or immoral. Biblical quotes don't have any weight with me.

    3. When it comes to abortion, yeah it should be a personal choice. We live under governments, and in the US we say we have certain inalienable rights, which people try to get the government to respect and protect. Obviously, people have differing opinions and it's a tug of war between different groups about what gets made into law when it comes to abortion especially. There is no absolute authority. That does not mean it must be god's authority. Maybe it makes you uncomfortable that there is no ultimate authority, but people just have to live and learn and we tend to do that slowly. Look back through history, and you'll see the progress we have made as a whole toward a better moral understanding. What people used to think was okay we now think of as immoral, like slavery for example. The best thing to do is not always the easiest and sometimes doesn't even appear to profit you personally. People have the moral capacity to consider both what is good for them and others. When you open your mind to consider not only your own wellbeing but others as well, you'll know at least that you're on the right track.

    4. Nothing is absolutely certain, and it seems to me you are just uncomfortable living with that and want to insert a god to make things more certain. As I said, men can do their best with what they have.

    5. I'm obviously not affirming scripture that states anything about your god. There are some moral absolutes and some things are relative. It is possible (of course because it is solely a human domain) for people to pass judgment on others and themselves in determining whether an action was moral or immoral or neither.

    Note: The solutions you are claiming are not solutions really. I'm sure there are inadequacies in humanity's current understanding of morality and definitely in my own articulation above. You just want all the holes filled in for you by someone you can claim knows best. What actually needs to be done requires more work than that, work that needs to be done here on earth by us.

    Puritan Lad said...

    Marnie,

    You are running is a circle. Consider this quote:

    "As I said, people should use their compassion for others and their ability to reason to come to a conclusion on what is moral or immoral."

    Your statement assumes that there is an objective moral standard (people should) in order "to come to a conclusion on what is moral or immoral". That makes no sense. Why "should" people do this?

    Also, you wrote:

    "when it comes to abortion, yeah it should be a personal choice", only then to tell us that "There is no absolute authority". If there is no absolute authority, then on what authority will you claim that anything should be a personal choice?

    You them tell us, in direct contradiction to with you wrote above, that "There are some moral absolutes and some things are relative. It is possible (of course because it is solely a human domain) for people to pass judgment on others and themselves in determining whether an action was moral or immoral or neither." How do we determine what are moral absolutes and what are relative? How can be moral absolutes without any absolute authority? How do we decide?

    “Without absolutes revealed from without by God Himself, we are left rudderless in a sea of conflicting ideas about manners, justice and right and wrong, issuing from a multitude of self-opinionated thinkers.” - John Owen

    Puritan Lad said...

    Marnie: "Yes, man can possess knowledge apart from god and should rely on their natural abilities to make sense of the world and figure out questions of morality."

    Marnie,

    Can you prove this statement? How can knowledge be obtained without God? I hold that God is the precondition of all human knowledge, so you'll have to help me here.

    swordbearer said...

    Well put, PL!

    Marnie stated: "When it comes to abortion, yeah it should be a personal choice."

    Response: So from your perspective abortion can be moral for one while being immoral for another.

    Imagine a society where this and other issues of morality (theft, murder, etc.) are simply "personal choice".

    Marnie stated: "Obviously, people have differing opinions and it's a tug of war between different groups about what gets made into law ..."

    Response: So from your perspective the ultimate societal standard of morality is human law. Does this mean that in Hitler's day, the killing of Jews was "moral"?

    Not only this, but think of how often societal laws not only differ from one another from one locale to another(where one would be "moral" in your case while the other - opposite position - would also be "moral"), but where societal laws "flip flop" over time depending upon the current dominant persuasions. Again, the condemnation and warning of Isaiah applies to those who espouse & practice such circular reasoning which says "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil ..."

    Marnie stated: "Look back through history, and you'll see the progress we have made as a whole toward a better moral understanding."

    Response: History shows that apart from a standard, anything can be justified and changed based on the prevailing people, principles and opinions at the particular time or place.... therefore, if no standard exists, prevailing principles can opinions can and do change.... and besides this, from your perspective (if we are truly accidentally born with no obligation to one another), one cannot provide authoritative grounds for why the golden rule should prevail (Note however, the biblical worldview not only provides such grounds but for the accountability of all in carrying it out)

    I CHALLENGE YOU (that as PL has clearly laid out the circularity of your thinking and worldview) to not only reconsider the inadequacies and inconsistencies of your present worldview and cast it aside, but to give real consideration to the REASON-ableness and the practical implications of the biblical worldview, for not only would it provide you with a reasonable and defensible position but will lead you to the knowledge of your need for Christ who as a redeemer and Savior is sufficiently able to meet both the present and eternal needs of your soul.