John Stuart Mill the….Natural Lawyer?

John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism is supposed to be an improvement upon his mentor, Bentham’s, initial version. I guess that, in some sense, it might be. But Mill cheats…

I was going over Mill’s version again yesterday and, along with all of the normal critiques of UT (some of which are devastating), I noticed something that I had not noticed before. Namely, I believe that one could genuinely argue that Mill is smuggling a Natural Law Ethic into his version of UT.

We all know that Mill disagreed with his mentor in that Mill claims that there is a qualitative aspect to pleasures i.e. “better to be a satisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig…” I guess that we could grant that.

But you can’t grant it on UT. UT can’t get you that assertion. And this is where I would argue that Mill smuggles in Natural Law Theory, unwittingly, to try and serve his purpose.

It seems that, if Mill is claiming that it is “better” to pursue certain pleasures over others (namely, intellectual pursuits over and above trivial pleasures), then he must make the claim based upon the *nature* of the thing in question – and that the thing in question is obligated to act in accord with his nature. For instance, if it is better for the human to pursue higher order pleasures, like intellectual endeavors, then it is because this is what contributes to the actual flourishing of humans because it actualizes the full purpose and function of what it means to be *a* human – as opposed to the pig (or whatever else).

In other words, “Humans should pursue higher order pleasures ‘intellectual pursuits” because that is what humans are ‘made to do,’ as opposed to, say, wallowing in mud, for pleasure.”

But, obviously, UT cannot give you that assertion. One must appeal to *another* ethical theory in order to get it – in this case, Natural Law, and the belief that there are “end goals/purposes” to which Humans are obliged to “fulfill” in order to achieve their flourishing.

Once again, I just think Aristotle was onto something that is, in some sense, self-evident.

Cold Case Christianity & God’s Crime Scene For Kids – Review.

Recently, my oldest daughter and I sat down to read through both of J. Warner Wallace’s texts noted in the above title (She just turned eight).

We actually read both of them over a few weeks.

However, as opposed to a traditional review, we decided that perhaps a Q&A could be a bit more interesting. With that said here we go…

Dad: What do you think was the most important idea in CCCFK?

Lily: Jason really thought that maybe Jesus was not real, but then after they [the cadets and detective Jeffries] talked about it he knew Jesus must have been real.

Dad: How did they know that? How did they find out? What did they do?

Lily: They talked about good evidence.

Dad: Like what?

Lily: Well, there were some people that did not even believe in, or like Jesus, but then said they saw Him.

Dad: Like who? Who didn’t really like Jesus, but then said they saw Him alive?

Lily: One person is Paul, and another one is James.

Dad: So why, or how, is that important for showing that Jesus was real, or that He was alive again?

Lily: Because, Jesus’ disciples said He was alive, and why would the bad people [Paul and James] say He was alive too?

Dad: But why is that important that Paul and James said the same thing that the disciples said? Couldn’t Paul and James just lie?

Lily: Because if it was a lie, then people would beat them up and kill them, but why would they just get beat up and killed if they just lied about it? Who’d die for a lie?

Dad: Ok. Iet’s move on to GCSFK

Dad: What do you think is the most important idea in GCSFK?

Lily: Grandma Miri started to believe in God when they {cadets} were doing their mystery.

Dad: What about the book? What was it about?

Lily: It’s about a shoebox mystery, and about reasons to think that God is real.

Dad: Like what reasons?

Lily: Like the universe could not just pop into existence, so God would have to make it.

Dad: Was that your favorite reason? Or was there another reason that was your favorite?

Lily: Yes, that’s my favorite.

Dad: Ok, why was that your favorite?

Lily: I am not sure.

Dad: Is it because that you think it makes more sense that if something begins, then something, or someone had to make it begin?

Lily: Well, it makes more sense than any other reason. Or maybe because that is the only one I can really think about.

Dad: Ok.

Dad: Did you enjoy the mysteries that went along with each of the stories?

Lily: I liked the kid mysteries because I’m a kid, and that was interesting to me.

Dad: So you thought the mysteries about the skateboard and the shoebox were “fun enough” to read about? You wanted to know what happened?

Lily: Yes.

Seeds. A “Stone in the Shoe”…

This was a tough evaluation. As can be seen above, she was a tough nut to crack – but that does not mean that the wheels where not spinning.  Lily asks very deep, penetrating questions regarding the nature of God, the Trinity, the plausibility of the life of Jesus, and other parental curve balls. Therefore, it was my supposition that she was prime for Wallace’s fine introductory, but substantial, book(s) regarding the rock-bottom fundamentals of the Christian faith. But even as her father, it can be quite difficult for even me to read her at times, even while reading the book(s).

There were occasions when I could tell that she would be listening, or reading along, very intently. Yet, there were times, and topics, when she would seem to simply “check out” (I do not want to name those particular topics as it may slant your perspective of them. The truth is simply that it is more a reflection of what she was/is dealing with, as opposed to the presentation of the topic – this may be the same regarding your own child i.e. one topic may pose great interest while another may seem “irrelevant” at the moment, though not forever). However, I am not worried in that I am confident that there were many seeds that were planted, some nice little stones in the shoe – some very good ideas that seem to have wedged themselves within her mind. Ideas that she will ponder over at times – Why would “the bad guys” just lie and get “beat up” for stuff they knew wasn’t “real”… Why doesn’t stuff just “pop up” if no one made it? – “If an alien did come…?(the “alien” will make sense if you decide to read the book). Those types of ideas come up every now and again. And, if so, we discuss them.

Naturally, I am hoping that more of the material will come to her mind as these issues present themselves later on in her journey. Again, the seeds are there, the stones are doing their proper work of mental aggravation, and I trust them to continue `(and it is only a positive that the material, the big ideas, are interwoven throughout a fictional story specifically designed to relate with, or parallel, each of the main arguments). Lily recalls the fictional elements well, and, as time will tell, I do not doubt that this will help her to recall the arguments that coincide with them. Moreover, these are common discussions that we have within the home, and Wallace’s contributions, I believe, in their own way, help to solidify a much larger, and longer, conversation.

Wallace’s texts may be exactly the sort of material that your child is ready to go through with you. Be ready to know the material yourself – you know your child. And yet there may be things that surprise you – she may not care for one topic, but may care for another. She may ask such questions only in the context of a discussion – but she may never ask such questions of you – yet be intrigued with the book in her own quiet way. Be flexible. Let the ideas (and God) do their own work, over time, if need be…

(A Good Friday Poem)

As Black gathers and Darkness circles
As winds howl and stars scream

Night tumbles down as a cloak of wool
and Truth slips under the wicked dream

Hands of Hell touch My face
disclosed, unveiled, where they’re from

Oh, Father,
My Father, my hour has come.

And its Easter Conclusion:

Love rushed back into His chest

and death and hell could hear the scream
the blackest nightmare had been a dream

and Life and Truth and Love at last
broke the dawn as a trumpet blast

wicked lay low and evil was shamed
because Love, because Love would live again!

“Red Letter” Christian Difficulty

Now, this may be a bit of a surprise to some. Namely, that there are those that identify themselves as “Red Letter” Christians.

Some of these individuals apparently give something like “more weight” to the words that are highlighted with the red-dye within the New Testament as, some would claim, are more significant (in some moral sense) than the rest of the New Testament text. I do suppose that this sounds a bit more pious, to an extent, as these individuals want to (I suppose) honor Christ in some sort of significant fashion. It should be stated that, from what I know, they do not necessarily reject the rest of the New Testament, but again, these individuals simply give more ear, and attention, to the words in red. Of course, if one identifies as a Christian at all, then it should follow that he adores, and lives by, the sayings/teaching of Jesus recorded within the Gospel narratives. I believe that it is safe to say that we can (or should) all agree.

Yet, should one simply single those sayings out as more significant, for any reason, presents a bit of a problem for multiple reasons. However, here we shall merely look at a few of them. But they are very significant.

The first might simply be that the words in red are most likely not direct quotes taken straight from the mouth of Christ, as if someone “copied and pasted” His latest Facebook status. Reason being, as an oral culture, and as time had passed from the event and the transmission, this was just not the concern. Now, strictly speaking, this is not a problem (or shouldn’t be) for even self-labeled “Red Letter” Christians. But it is a bit odd simply due to the fact that the red letters are not exactly tape recordings, either

But the second problem is much more substantial.

Jesus claims, in the “red letters,” that one has to read (and acknowledge) the rest of the New Testament with the same sort of significance that apparently, according to some of the “Red Letter” Christians, should only be given to the “red letters.” Well, this is odd, right?

For instance, Jesus, in the red letters, tells his disciples that, “The one who listens to you listens to me and the one who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” Luke 10:16 – We can safely assume that “the 12” were there as he said this to, you know, the disciples. Now, one might object in claiming that this example was only to that specific context, or occasion – but the problem is that this is not the only occasion, or context, in which Jesus makes this type of charge (for instance, Christ states the same sort of charge again, in a different context and occasion, in Jn. 13: 20).

Now, Peter, one of Jesus’ “inner three,” was one of those individuals.

And he wrote a book (or two) of the New Testament. Namely (if the arguments for the traditional author hold) both 1st and 2nd Peter.

So, it seems that if you listen to the red letters, then you, per Jesus’ strong words of warning, must “listen to” Peter, who is telling of Jesus’ message, in 1st and 2nd Peter.

But there is more.

Peter, within those same books, teaches that Paul is also composing Scripture that tells of Christ – 2nd Peter 3:15-16.

Now, again, Jesus has already stated that “The one who listens to you listens to me…” So, if you truly listen to Jesus, then you must listen to Peter, and by extension, you must listen to Paul. However, as is already known, Paul composes more of the New Testament than any other single author.  So, at least at this point, we have all of the Gospels, all of Peter’s texts, and all of Paul’s texts. (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon… you get the picture.)

Moreover, we now also have all of John’s texts, to boot – John, 1 John, 2 John, 3rd John, Revelation… Why? Obviously, John also being one of the “inner three” was among the disciples, when Christ told those very disciples, “The one who listens to you listens to me…” and these texts are just what John is “telling us.”

To add even more weight, Jesus promises these very disciples (in the red letters) that The Father will send “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – Jn 14:26.

Does the mere “Red Letter” Christian want to claim that Christ was wrong – or that the Holy Spirit actually failed to do what was promised there? That would “let the cat out of the bag” regarding what one actually believes concerning the ability of God to accomplish His promises…

Furthermore, just these few simple “red letter statements” give us the overwhelming majority of the New Testament – all of which include the apparently controversial “theology.”

But there may be another objection:

“Well, I believe that the “Red letters” are the real teachings of Jesus, and the other stuff was simply added by corrupt individuals with a competing agenda.”

First, all of the above arguments would have already placed such an objection on very thin ice if one actually believes the “red letters” – because Jesus had already promised something of a implied guard against that in those very letters –  But it is even worse:

Why would the “Red Letter” Christians (those that might claim as much) even trust that those “red letters” are actually the teachings of Jesus to begin with?

This would create something of a dilemma:

If you are trusting some guy(s) to have recorded Jesus’ actual words, then it is arbitrary (and ad hoc) that you are not trusting that some guy actually recorded further teachings and truths of Jesus.

However, if you say that you are trusting that God/the Holy Spirit inspired or helped “that guy,” but not the others, then you must believe that the above statements, by Jesus, were divinely inspired – which, as the argument claims, point to the rest of the New Testament as divinely inspired, too.

But if one believes that if the red letters are actually authoritative and inspired, then one must believe that all of the above are authoritative and inspired.

But if one does not believe all of the above to be authoritative and inspired, then one cannot believe that the red letters are actually authoritative and inspired, either.

There could be another objection:

One might make the claim that all of the “other” texts were not truly written by those followers of Jesus. Now, if true, then it would absolve the “Red Letter” Christians from any obligation to follow through with the argument. Or would it?

The weaker response to such an objection would be to simply reply with the counter, “You are simply asserting that the writings are inauthentic – but assertions are not arguments – why should I believe your claim that the rest of the N.T. was not written by the traditional authors? In fact, we have a few thousand years worth of arguments that they are the authors. Do you have any such argument that compels me to think otherwise?”

Conversely, the stronger response would be to simply point out that, according to their own view, Christ, in the red letters, promised the protection, and guidance, of His message. But if the above objection is true, then He was not able to actually do so – which would simply create another dilemma for the “Red Letter” Christian, of which you can “cash out” for yourself.

So, in quick conclusion, “black” letters are equally as “red” as others, and they ought to be read as such.

The least desired oddity of the multiverse..

Part 1 – Within the ‘Multi-verse’ there are an infinite amount of universes. Of course, then, the probabilities for any existing -anything- are logically inescapable. Meaning that, within this context, it is at least logically possible that there is a universe in which the combination of the materials that make up each article of clothing eventually combined to form the clothing, the same with the chemical make up of the dryer, and the same with the being looking at the clothing.

In fact, in one of the infinite universes, the individual (if we are merely combinations of certain chemical compounds) looking upon the clothing is *you*. After all, all possibilities are exhausted within an infinite amount of universes; all chemical/elemental combinations are realized (we could even merely claim at least logical possibility).

And here is “the kicker.” In an infinite amount of universes -they are realized an infinite amount of times (again, at worst, this is logically possible). There are an infinite amount of *you’s* staring at your own clothing… I suppose in amazement. But we all know better. The multi-verse theory is true. No one should be amazed.

And remember: All of this to avoid the almost inescapable premise that the Universe had a beginning.

 

Part 2 – As I was thinking upon a certain picture, it brought to mind certain logical ramifications regarding the ‘multi-verse’ theory and if it were actually to be true. Of course, the reason for pointing out such ramifications is simply to reveal the many seemingly absurd positions in holding to such a theory. Sure, it does not mean that the ‘multi-verse’ is not true, only that one must descend ever deeper into the depths of “goofiness” to hold to it.

But, I believe, that an even “goofier” argument can be made that would surely outrage an atheist that desires to hold to the theory. Namely, for the same reasons listed below regarding infinite combinations of elements/materials/chemicals (all must be logically exhausted, or surely possible- even an infinite amount of times) an atheist would be “cornered” into believing:

….that a man named Jesus walked on the water; a man named Jesus asked water to turn into wine at the precise moment it happened; a man named Jesus told the wind and waves to cease at the precise time that it ceased; and numerous other apparently miraculous events (not to mention any and all of the “normal” daily activities from the sermons to the statements).

But you might ask, “Walk on the water? That is impossible.”

No – Only very improbable according to Richard Dawkins:

“A miracle is something that happens, but which is exceedingly surprising. If a marble statue of the Virgin Mary suddenly waved its hand at us we should treat it as a miracle, because all our experience and knowledge tells us that marble doesn’t behave like that…

In the case of the marble statue, molecules in solid marble are continually jostling against one another in random directions. The jostlings of the different molecules cancel one another out, so that the whole hand of the statue stays still. But if, by sheer coincidence, all the molecules just happened to move in the same direction at the same moment, the hand would move. If they then all reversed direction at the same moment the hand would move back. In this way it is possible for a marble statue to wave at us. It could happen. The odds against such a coincidence are unimaginably great but they are not incalculably great. A physicist colleague has kindly calculated them for me. The number is so large that the entire age of the universe so far is too short a time to write out all the noughts! It is theoretically possible for a cow to jump over the moon with something like the same improbability. The conclusion to this part of the argument is that we can calculate our way into regions of miraculous improbability far greater than we can imagine as plausible.”

But recall – with an infinite amount of universes, these “improbable combinations” are not improbable at all – they will happen at some point – at even must happen an infinite amount of times.

So, in the case of even “A guy named Jesus walking on water” one simply has to have the correct combination of the atoms that make up the feet to match exactly (fit on top of) the atoms that make up each molecule of water.

Ridiculous? Of course it is. That is the point.

Where Do Progressives “Go”?

I have often pondered an apparent absurdity that is almost always held in tension within a certain group within society:

The belief that morality is subjective and relative – while simultaneously claiming the label of “Liberal Progressive.”

Of course, the tension is revealed in the question:

“If one believes that morality is subjective to each individual; and there exist no truly objective or absolute moral truths, then what is the grounding for labeling oneself a ‘progressive’ – which is is almost always in reference to views concerning social morality and/or positions?”

But why should this question be considered a problem? Because the very meaning of ‘progression’ implies that one is actually moving towards an Objective Standard that society is progressing *towards*; an Objective Standard by which society can measure its “progress” to morally superior positions from which it has held, or currently holds.

But how is this logically possible for those that label themselves as “progressives,” when many of the same individuals have simultaneously argued that no such Objective Standard exists, and that morality is determined by each individual’s own subjective notion of ‘right and wrong’?

If no such Objective Standard exists, then there is, literally:

Nothing for Liberal “Progressives” to ‘progress’ *towards*

One would only be justified in saying that “we are moving *this* way; not *that* way.”

But, certainly, one is not justified in claiming that one is truly “progressing.” To say that one is a “progressive,” one must hold that there is an Objective Standard that society may truly “progress” towards. But if morality is relative, then there is no such Objective Standard.

It seems that, in order for one to be a consistent Liberal Progressive, one must either adopt the existence of an Objective Standard of moral positions that may be “progressed” *towards* – or deny that one is actually a “progressive” as there is not truly such a thing in the absence of a Standard (and simply claim that he/she is a “Liberal ‘Mover'” or some such term).

Calvin’s Dilemma

A few mornings ago, I was reading one of the gospel accounts that pertains to the oft referenced Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10). But, as is not uncommon, there were a few things that ‘bothered me.’ That is, a few things that bothered me in regard to Calvinism. First, it clearly states that Jesus loves the young man.

Now, I am often told by my Calvinist (or Reformed) friends that one must read the text, allowing the text to interpret (and frame) his theology, as opposed to allowing one’s theology to interpret (and frame) the text. Of course, I do not necessarily disagree with this hermeneutical principle. But I do not believe that they are quite as passionate about using such a method as they often proclaim. This seems to be one of those passages, along with others, that their theology is employed to interpret the text, as opposed to simply allowing the text to “say what it wants to say on its own merit.”

A Dilemma:

For the time being, let us simply overlook the possible argument concerning Jesus’ love for the young man (which has to redefined to mean a different ‘love’ than the ‘love’ Jesus would have for the ‘elect’) and move on to what I see as a dilemma that any person taking the text at face-value (what we are told we are supposed to do) would also notice. However, the dilemma is not friendly to Mr. Calvin.

A dilemma is a logical problem. That is, “in syllogistic, or traditional, logic, any one of several forms of inference in which there are two major premises of hypothetical form and a disjunctive (“either . . . or”) minor premise.”* Now, this dilemma is not one in this strict sense. It is simply a dilemma in the lay-sense of the term that there are very nasty implications for either choice of which one is left to choose between.

We know the story. The young ruler asks Jesus how he is able to inherit eternal life. Jesus (paraphrased) states that the young man be obedient to all ten commandments, to which the young man claims he has been obedient. Christ then (paraphrased) tells him to sell his possessions and then “come follow Me.” The young man walks away, disheartened, unable, or unwilling, or both, to do such a thing.

Now, let us set up the problem:

According to the “I” within the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.,” (Irresistible Grace) God’s grace is literally irresistible. That is, if one receives a true invitation from the Almighty, then one is literally unable to turn away from the invitation, thus being made regenerate and “saved.” Now, the first question before us is:

Does Jesus offer a true invitation to the young man to “follow Me”? If Jesus does actually offer a true invitation to the young man, then the doctrine of Irresistible Grace is necessarily false – simply because the young man is able to decline/resist/turn away from the offer to follow Christ. So, this first option does not seem to be acceptable to the Calvinist.

Yet, the second question is no better an alternative for the Calvinist:

Was Christ’s offer to “follow Me” not a true invitation to actually follow Him? If Jesus gives an invitation to follow Him, yet it not being what Calvinist’s call an effectual call** (unbeknownst to the young man, of course) then Christ is deceiving the young man in thinking that he could actually follow Him. But, of course, the young man cannot. Jesus is a “deceiver.” So, the Calvinist must reject this second option, as well. But, again, the Calvinist cannot accept the first, either.

Now, in order to “get out” of the dilemma the Calvinist must find a third option, split the horns, of the dilemma. But what might those options be?

The Calvinist might suggest that Christ’s invitation was merely to follow Him – as in, “hang out”, “learn from”, “be with”, etc. “The invitation had nothing to do with salvation and eternal life.” But that will not work because the very context of the question asked was very specifically centered on how to obtain eternal life, which is salvation. Also, we see throughout the Scripture that to become a Christian is usually interchangeable with answering Jesus’ call to follow Me. Or, even ask yourself, “If I were to tell an individual to ‘follow Christ’ aren’t I actually inviting them to surrender their life to Him, and be saved?'” Of course. So that option seems to be a serious example of “biblical gymnastics”, to say the least.

Another option that the Calvinist might employ might be to suggest that this “invitation” by Jesus was merely what the Calvinist would define as the “general call” for salvation. That is, not the “effectual call” for salvation. Had it been the “effectual call” the young man could not have refused the invite. But we have already noted the problem with this option. Namely, Was Christ’s offer to “follow Me” not a true invitation to actually follow Him? If Jesus gives an invitation to follow Him, yet it not being what Calvinists call an effectual call** (unbeknownst to the young man, of course) then Christ is deceiving the young man in thinking that he could actually follow Him. But, of course, the young man cannot. Jesus is a “deceiver.”

Therefore, if the Calvinist accepts the first option, so that Jesus is not deceiving the young man, then the doctrine of Irresistible Grace is not true. Yet, if the Calvinist desires to save Irresistible Grace, then Jesus is, in some sense, a “deceiver” in that the young man was led to believe that he could have actually followed Jesus – but Jesus knew all along, though “going through the motion” of inviting him to follow, he could not actually do so.

Lastly, after this interaction with the rich young man, why does Christ go on to imply that being “rich” is any more an impediment to receiving the gospel than anything else? After all, if Christ calls a man “effectually” it just doesn’t matter what state one may be in – rich, poor, fat, ugly, tall or skinny. Nothing, literally, could stop the effectual call. Yet, according to Scripture, there are states in life that one may find themselves that seem to hinder one’s ability to follow Jesus (being rich, being self-righteous, pharisaical, etc.).

But that is for another post.

For a very serious logical critique of Calvinism, see: “What’s Wrong With Calvinism” – Dr. Walls. Then see James White’s response. In my view, White’s response is seriously lacking, but judge for yourself.

*Encyclopedia Britannica
**The ‘effectual call’ is simply that “call” that theologians deem the “call” that is specific and *always* results in salvation of the one “called.” This is contrasted with the “general” call, which is a call for, apparently, all people to be saved, but does not end in salvation for an individual apart from the more specific effectual call.