Eroding Confidence


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The headline reads “Misbehaving politicians erode public confidence, DeWine [Ohio Attorney General] says.”

No doubt this is the case, but “witch-hunt” politicians, media and others in the community make significant contributions to the same eroding of public confidence.

All the media does is report, someone might reply. Yes, reporting they may do, but the way the story is reported or written makes a great deal of difference.

Moreover, in a secular society, standards of morality are not even extant! If there is some semblance of a moral compass, it is soon changed because someone was hurt in their feelings.


There was a day when sexual immorality was deemed wrong, and people knew why. Not anymore. Today, sexual immorality is hard to define and identify. There was a day when some knew this or that was wrong (or right), and could tell you why it was wrong (or right). People now use their opinion to determine what is right and wrong.

Chaos is now the norm.

It is reported that Andrew Jackson (Democrat) once said, “That Book [Bible] Sir, is the Rock upon which our republic rests.” Since our society no longer rests upon the Book, with the Foundation gone, soon we will be. It is the height of arrogance to think this will not occur.

Look at history.

Spiritual but not Religious


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I once listened to an interview Dan Rather had with Willie Nelson. Dan asked Willie if he was religious. Willie replied he was not, but he was spiritual. This was an interesting answer, but not sure what that means. What does spiritual mean? In Willie’s case, it does not mean religious, though he might have some religious inclinations in him. Google defines it as relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. To me, this definition is not helpful. Relation to or affecting the human spirit? This is another way of saying something like, “There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth” (Prov. 30:12, ESV).

This boils down to: “I don’t want to commit myself to the Lord and His way of thinking and doing. It demands too much of me, so much that I simply don’t have time, neither do I want to take the time to adjust my life to comport with His.” Do you know of many people like this? I do.

People who think and operate this way will be the first to tell you they love the Lord. Yet, in spite of the words they use, their “I love the Lord” life does not correspond to the teachings of the Lord they declare they love; thus, they give the Lord a partial commitment. The Lord demands total commitment, not partial (there is no such thing as partial commitment). Those who love the Lord, on purpose, separate themselves from the ways of this world.

Those who are “partially” committed know the Lord desires more from them. In order to bridge the gap between where one is at and what the Lord desires, they apply an ointment of their own making. This ointment allows them to think they are spiritual, though not religious (as the word is commonly understood). Though one may not be as “bad” as Willie Nelson’s spiritual outlook, they still choose a different approach than the Lord’s. “I love the Lord, but I love Him as best I can given the circumstances I am in, even if that means I can only obey Him some of the time” is adopted. The “I am spiritual” outlook says things like, 1) My husband is not supportive of me attending church. 2) My children have so many activities, activities that I want them to have a part in. 3) I don’t want my kids to stand out from the crowd, because they made fun of, and I know how I felt when that occurred to me so many years ago. 4) Work takes me away, and I must make a living. 5) I am tired!

On and on it goes.

On the other hand, the Scripture teaches, “As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:57-62, ESV).

None of this applies to me! Perhaps it does much more than you think. How many, on judgment day, will say to the Lord, “But, Lord, though I was not religious (i.e., committed), I was certainly spiritual and did love you. Won’t you let me in?”

Perhaps one will hear on that day, “Why should I commit to you when you never did to Me? You committed to your work, your family, your charitable service, but never to Me. I did not fail to see what good you did, but I never saw what good you did in My name with My life controlling yours” (John 14:6). RT

Oh…What Mercy!


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Abraham had a great test given him by the Lord. Because Abraham loved the Lord, he passed the test and, no doubt taught the same valuable lesson he learned to his son, his promised son Isaac. Though little is known of Isaac, we learn at least two things. First, he was a man of great faith. Second, to him were born two sons; their names were Esau and Jacob. Esau was firstborn, but he gave up his responsibility for a moment’s time of fatigue.

Throughout the lives of these two boys turned into men, there seemed to be a strain. Whether that is so or not, one day it came to the point when the the firstborn (Esau) should have chosen a better course than he did. Famished as he was from a day’s activity, he gave up something that should have never been given up, that is, the privilege and responsibility belonging to him. Firstborn status (also known as birthright) meant that with the responsibilities placed on him in leading the family (and those responsibilities were great) came the privileges of receiving half the inheritance. For a moment’s time, physically hungering, Esau gave it up! it had consequences he could not have imagined.

For Jacob, the consequences of doing what he did was not easily experienced either. He not only deceived his brother (at his mother’s behest), but was always on guard because he knew his brother turned against him. He leaves home and experiences one heartache after another; in fact, so troubled by his life’s experiences, he said to Pharaoh (king of Egypt) that his life has been nothing but trouble (Genesis 47:9). Nevertheless, though Jacob did wrong and paid for it, it was through Jacob that God chose to bless humanity.

Jacob had twelve sons, but it was one son that Jacob wrapped his life around; his name was Joseph. Joseph was the son of his old age, but Joseph soon experienced his own heartache when he was kidnapped by his brothers, sold into bondage and placed in a foreign home where the wife of a significant leader cast her longing eye. For many years, Jacob lived with the knowledge his son had been killed by animal because his other sons told him as much. What Jacob did to his older brother was done to him. In this tumultuous time, Jacob had two sons stand tall. Joseph stood tall for the Lord, and the Lord blessed him accordingly. Jacob taught Joseph well. There was another son; his name was Judah.

There is not much said about Judah in Genesis; that which is said presents to us experiences of the man that also was heart-breaking. In Genesis 38, the experience of Judah was a loss of his wife, the loss of two sons, and an intimate relationship because of loneliness (and sin), but also exposure. It was later in his life, when confronted by the deed he and his brothers were guilty of (kidnapping, selling Joseph and lying about it), he appealed and bowed to Pharaoh’s “right-hand” man, Joseph (unbeknownst to Jacob). The humiliation and horror did not escape any of Jacob’s sons. They were now at the mercy of Joseph.

We are, also, at the mercy of the Lord. Joseph was in perfect position to render justice and judgment, but he chose to take a different course than what his brothers expected. As we read this article right now, do we think of the Lord’s mercy as He extends it to us? If not, perhaps we should. He is in perfect position (and always will be) to render justice and judgment, but oh what mercy! RT

Your Response?


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In our last article, there were two things that were highlighted. First, God created man and woman perfect, but sin was introduced by the Serpent into this world by extending an invitation to the first couple to disobey God. This invitation was received and resulted in  a corrupted relationship with the Lord, a relationship the Lord could not accept. Yet, in His mercy and love, He gave man a temporary bridge wherein man could get back to God.

In this article, our attention will focus on Abraham. Abram (as he was called early on) was a man of great faith, but he was a man without a home. He had a home for the first seven decades of his life, but after he traveled with his father away from his original homeland, the Lord called him to go to a land he would be told about later. Abram gathered his possessions and his family and traveled hundreds of miles on foot to arrive at a land now known as Israel (or Palestine) today.

Abram was a man devoted to the Lord, but in his devotion to the Lord he was perplexed about God’s promise to him (Genesis 12:1-3). The Lord reassured him (15:1-6), and Abram trusted in the Lord answer to his perplexity. Sarai, on the other hand, was still perplexed. She knew about the Lord’s promise, but many years had come and gone and, still, no promise fulfillment. She, then, intervened and gave Abram her maid (Hagar) so children could be born, thus fulfilling God’s promise to Abram. She reasoned that if this occurred, she (Sarai) would be the beneficiary of the union between Abram and Hagar.

Sarai presumed on the Lord’s prerogative and His will. Much heartache came to the family because of Abram, Sarai and Hagar. Apart from the heartache, the Lord’s purpose was not thwarted by confused intentions of three people. About 13 years later, the original promise to Abram was brought to completion in the union between Abraham and Sarah. The promised son, Isaac, was God’s message to Abraham and Sarah there is no obstacle in human affairs the Lord can’t overcome if He chooses to do so. Sarah was beyond the normal years of child bearing, but the Lord was not beholden by any physical limitations.

Abraham and Sarah were tested again, but a test unlike any a parent can comprehend (Genesis 22). Yet, a test (trial) it was. Abraham was called by God to take his son of promise and give him to the Lord. Abraham was prepared to do exactly that. The Lord was pleased with Abraham’s response, and reassurance was given to Abraham about the promise from God much earlier in Abram’s life (12:1-3).

It’s likely you know the story reasonably well, but though it is known, what application can we make? Let me offer two applications. First, there is no obstacle known to man the Lord can’t circumvent. This makes sense, I am sure, because as the Creator of the entire material universe, nothing is beyond Him. To Abram and Sarai, the impossible not only became possible, but was realized in experience. Do you have this kind of trust in the Lord?

Second, the Lord does not need (or want) man to help Him. What can man do to help the Lord? Not-one-thing! If this is so (and it is), then it is our duty and it should be our desire to trust in the Lord, obeying His will. Abraham was called on by the Lord to choose between two of his greatest possessions in life – will he give one or the other away. How would you have responded? RT

Why Blood?


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When was the last time you read Genesis? Perhaps it was not long ago; can you tell someone about the story of Genesis? It’s a very good story, but the people, circumstance and events within its pages are all true. Because many people think it is not, properly understanding worship escapes them.

In six days, the Lord created the heavens and the earth, and on the 6th day the Lord created the male and female. In Genesis 2, the Lord attached the female to the male and humanity has the divine introduction to the smallest unit in the community, the family. This attachment is very important for the family unit and for society. About the family, since the Lord does the attaching, the individual ways of thinking the male and female will certainly have must be bonded together under the banner (teaching) of the Lord to form one unit. Whose opinion holds sway when the perspectives are so different? The only perspective to hold sway is the Lord’s, thus the two become one flesh.

The Lord set up the family, the perfect creation of the smallest unit to beautifully enhance the community. It did not take long, however, before outside influences created havoc with the Lord’s perfect creation of the family. This indicates something important for us. The male and female were created perfect in all-respects, and that included with free-will, or the ability to choose freely. It’s up to each person to choose to do or not do whatever is desired. There are consequences to each choice, the but the choice belongs to each.

Adam and Eve both freely chose to eat fruit forbidden by the Lord, and with this choice sin corrupted the couple. This spiritual corruption could not be helped, but to also pass down to the children taught. Even if the vast-majority of that which was taught was virtuous and righteous, that little bit of corruption was still there! Since that time, man has “bent-over-backwards” to reach God, to bridge a gap that could never be bridged. So, in the interim, God gave a substitutionary method of being pleasing to Him.

The method was blood sacrifice. Why blood? Life is a gift of God, and the life of man is in his blood (Leviticus 17:11). Yet, man’s life (his blood) is now tainted/corrupted by sin. Thus, the life of a human being was not “taint-free” or “corruption-free” of sin. Select animals of God’s choice were not however. Why animals? The blood (life) of man could not atone for his own guilt, his own sin. Yet, the Lord did not want His creation to be left with no remedy to address the separation, wherein he could reach God. He gave man an avenue to cross the bridge to reach God via the substitutionary method of animal sacrifices. The blood (life) of animals was not tainted with corruption like the blood (life) of man. Since life is in the blood (cf. Lev. 17:11; Gen. 9:4-7), and man could not of his own ability bridge the gap to God, God gave a temporary substitute-bridge (the blood of animals).

Why did an animal have to die? When sin enters life, spiritual death results. God could justifiably take one’s life physically since He is the giver of life both spiritually and physically. God, however, chose not to do this. In His mercy, He chose the blood of creatures that could not have sin (ever) taint their blood (or life). Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22; 10:4).

In Genesis, we read of man’s effort to get to God, of man’s effort to live without God and God’s redemptive plan unfold. RT

A Historical-Critical Introduction to the Qur’an

Larry Hurtado's Blog

I’ve just been exploring the newly published book by Nicolai Sinai, The Qur’an:  A Historical-Critical Introduction (Edinburgh University Press, 2017; the online listing here).  Of course, the Qur’an and Islam are far too late to be included in a blog site on the origins of Christianity.  But I couldn’t resist mentioning this new book.  Drawing on the growing body of scholarly work on the Qur’an, its formation, textual history, and relationships to the cultural settings in which it was formed, Sinai’s book makes all this available to students and general readers in a clear, balanced, and richly documented discussion.

A historical-critical approach to biblical texts has been in play for a couple of centuries, and students in courses in universities and theological seminaries have been introduced to it for a long, long time.  So it’s good now to have a student-oriented textbook that illustrates such an approach to the…

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God’s Choice/Election


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R. C. Sproul wrote: “Let’s assume that all men are guilty of sin in the sight of God. From the mass of humanity, God sovereignly decides to give mercy to some of them. What do the rest get? They get justice. The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice” – Chosen by God

Justice is rendered by God in ALL respects, but as Sproul asserts it, this can be misunderstood. In the context of God’s choice/election, some make, perhaps unintentionally, God arbitrary in His decisions. They (otherwise known as Calvinists in theological perspectives) try to get around this by speaking of God’s sovereignty, that is, it is God’s sovereign will, His sovereign choice to save some and not others. What is in view with this perspective is this: God chooses who will be saved (apart from that person’s individual will) and who will be lost (in spite of a person’s desire to be saved). To a rational person, this makes God arbitrary, even a monster!

Some reply like this: God chose to save Noah and those in the ark, but decided to let the others drown (callously, without regard to their own desire to willingly submit to the preacher of righteousness and obey).

The word sovereign is defined: Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion; as a sovereign ruler of the universe (Websters). It is true that God’s sovereignty gives mercy to some; this is in accordance with Hebrews 5:8-9 (“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”). It is in His power to do this; thus, His sovereignty is exercised. Justice is render to all (2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”), and in this justice, mercy is extended to those who choose to obey. There is nothing in the word “sovereign” that intimates the supreme power (sovereignty) of God taking away volition from His creation, those created in His own image.

Before us, therefore, I offer the following:

  1. Man has free will and can choose whether or not to obey the Lord’s express will. This is taught in Joshua 24:15, Matthew 11:28-30 and Acts 26:19 (just to name a few).
  2. It is God’s desire to save all. This is taught in 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9.
  3. Thus, God has given all the choice whether to be saved or not. This is taught in Acts 2:40

Remarks in relation to Romans 9. The word “Israel” is the physical nation and the church (9:1-6). The children of Abraham are: 1) through promise (Isaac), 2) physical descent (Ishmael) (9:6-10). Thus far, the only reason for individual identification is to contrast physical descent with spiritual descent. The context of God’s election (choice) is this: a contrast between physical and spiritual descent. It was through Isaac and it was through Jacob that God chose to bring His Son into this world; it was not through Ishmael and neither was it through Esau. God’s choice of election was through whom He chose to fulfill His promise to Abraham – not a word about salvation (9:10-11). In Romans 9:12-18, Paul illustrates, via Scripture, God’s choice in this process. 1) God spoke about what would happen (from the perspective of Rebekah) in Genesis 25. The older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). In that which Scripture speaks concerning them, i.e., their individual lives, this did not happen. Three options: First, it never happened, and God was wrong. Second, it happened, but is not recorded. Third, application of the prophetic words did not apply to individuals, but to the two nations. For those who accept the Inspiration of Scripture, the first is ruled out. To accept the second option, a viable one, one needs evidence (for which there is none). That leaves the third option, and the context of Romans 9-11 bears this out.

God chose Jacob, and it was near 1,500 years later the words of Malachi records God’s choice in terms of love/hate. Certainly, Coffman had it right when he wrote, in his remarks on Malachi, “This choice between Jacob and Esau had nothing at all to do with individuals, but concerned whole nations of people. ‘The selection of Jacob was the selection of a people rather than an individual.’ … the eternal destiny of Jacob or Esau is not connected in any way with what is written here. This passage in Malachi was written centuries after Isaac’s twins were born; and it was the posterity of those brothers concerning which the prophet wrote” (Barnes, Calvin, Butler, Ellicott, Lange, Pulpit, all affirm similar).

CONTEXT: Paul speaks concerning a contrast between two peoples: spiritual Israel and physical Israel, with the former in good standing with God, the latter not. It was God’s choice to show mercy to those of spiritual Israel rather than physical Israel, and it was God’s choice to show mercy to one nation as compared to another nation. God showing mercy to one, not the other is based on God’s choice (9:15). In this context that Paul makes clear salvation is not in view, but God’s sovereign will in relation to nations is (cf. Dan. 4:17), thus Egypt was brought into the discussion in relation to the physical nation of Israel. Paul’s point in this is not exclusively “God’s prerogative to choose” (though this certainly applies), but to show that God chose to offer salvation to the Gentiles (non-Jews) as He did to the Jewish people (Romans 1:16-17; 9:25-26). Moreover, those who identify themselves with physical Israel, it’s only the remnant of those identified with physical Israel that will be saved (9:27-29).

Why will only a remnant be saved? Because, as Paul states, those of physical descent chose (elected) their own way of salvation, and not the Lord’s (9:30-10:3).


Atheism is Alive and Well in Congress


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Some atheistic remarks in relation to an abortion law proposed by the House GOP in Congress: “Women across the country deserve better. This law is a continuation of the Republican Party’s assault on women’s reproductive health” (Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles). “This bill is a cruel and ruthless attempt to undermine women and attack our rights to govern our bodies” (Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin).

The Dispatch (A-15, 10.4.2017) speaks of the law having no chance to pass in the Senate, and this may well be the case. If so, then why try? Because the life of children is on the line! “It’s not that bad!” someone might say. The Dispatch cites a 2013 Center for Disease Control stat: “…of the more than 664,000 reported abortions in 2013, 1.3 percent occurred at least 21 weeks into development.” Is there some sort of virtue in this low percentage? That is still over 6,000 murders!

Part of the justification to oppose the legislative effort is in relation to pain suffered. Evidently, according to some, pain in the womb by a child is not felt until “at least 24 weeks of development” occurred.

Thus, the moral standard is “suffering” and “pain,” not the nature of life as given by God. Atheism is strong in the Democrat Party!




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In an editorial (10.3.2017), the Columbus Dispatch admonished readers “not to leap to conclusions about how best to combat this kind of violence” before the facts are all in. The kind of violence the editorial had in mind was that perpetrated by a morally deranged man in Las Vegas, having killed nearly sixty people and injured eight times as many!

One man, however, produced a commentary meme (on Facebook) about how much easier it is to own a particular firearm than it is at being a barber. He would resist my characterization of his commentary-jumping to a conclusion, but in this context, he certainly did. He has often spoken in favor of gun-control (as a very thoughtful man, though one may disagree with him, his words need to be considered).

The man guilty of a deranged act was himself morally deranged. He fires and hope to escape judgment. Escape, he did not. Though he killed himself to escape police arrest. He now is before the Lord Almighty! In a context where the writer speaks of why Jesus came to this earth, and that He is coming again, the Holy Spirit said this: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, KJV). The morally deranged man did not escape judgment. Yet, in our society, one would not know this at all; apart from some religious folk, nothing is said about such things.

Though the Dispatch heeded us to be more discriminating in conclusion jumping, they also noted the frequency of gun violence escalating in society. What kind of solution is there to these violent atrocities? They admit there are no easy solutions, but a number of options are available to be pursued. Such options are 1) better mental health care, 2) “regulations making it harder for people with mental illness and those with violent pasts top own guns”, 3) “aggressive enforcement against illegal sales.”

Perhaps these suggestions are worthy of serious consideration, but the one solution that should have been proffered, but was not is what is most troubling. The solution I have in mind is much longer in implementation, at the very least a generation’s amount of time. But, given the “solutions” in place already, “the deep cultural rift that makes the problem so difficult to even talk about” will be, and currently are, a waste of time.

What solution do I have in mind?

In the latest issue of Apologetics Press (October 2017, p. 10), Kyle Butt wrote a brief article on how “people all over the world associate atheism with immorality.” It is true, and recognized within the article, that some atheists are moral people. Their morality, however, is not based on atheistic ideology, but an ideology that has its source in theism. It is theism, especially Christian theism, that speaks of transcendent love, kindness, courtesy, respect and behavioral qualities of this sort. Of course, atheists will affirm the same, but as mentioned, they have no foundational reason to do such. Moreover, what separates atheistic approach from the Christian approach is its lack of accountability.

Christian philosophy/ideology teaches that actions and thoughts lived on this earth are accountable to Almighty God, who will bring all into judgment. “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30-31, KJV). Atheism can’t give any good reason for a moral foundation that obligates man to act in a certain way; all atheistic ideology can hope to accomplish is that others agree with them, with society compelling behavior norms; of course, this is not a morality based on moral virtue of a righteous Judge, but a “morality” based on self-preservation. Yet, as we look at society as it has implemented this approach, not much is accomplished.

On the other hand, in accordance with the Lord’s way, Jesus said “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). In this exhortation from the Lord we have: 1) a community standard (peace), 2) there is a moral standard (holiness), 3) and accountability.

Yes, it is true the morally deranged will not heed the Lord’s counsel. It’s also true, the Lord’s way is the best solution known to man; man won’t implement, however, because he wants an atheistic society.

GILMORE -ROSENBERG DEBATE: Suffering, Morality and the Existence of God



GILMORE -ROSENBERG DEBATE: Suffering, Morality and the Existence of God

September 27, 2016, on The Ohio State University Campus. Book published by the Warren Christian Apologetics Center (Vienna, WV); 2017; Ralph Gilmore: Ph. D (University of Tennessee), Professor of Bible and Philosophy at Freed-Hardeman University (Henderson, TN); Alexander Rosenberg: Ph. D (John Hopkins University), Professor of Philosophy, Duke University (Durham, NC)


Rosenberg’s First Affirmative. Rosenberg argues that suffering prevents one from believing in God. He gave a definition to what he meant: the state of undergoing pain, hardship, distress (5). He spoke of examples of suffering in humanity by other humans and from natural calamities. If God exists, then he had a reason for suffering’s experience. On the other hand, “the existence of suffering is overwhelming evidence, I think, that God does not exist” (9). Since Rosenberg thinks there is no good answer to the question about why suffering exists and is experienced, then it must be the case God does not because is to have a reason, a purpose. The lack of a sufficient explanation from Christians is evidence God does not exist (10-11). He knows this is not an iron-clad position, so he calls it probabilistic or, it’s probably the case God does not exist.

Rosenberg does address what he thinks are “cop-out” answers to what Christians say are reasons for suffering. That which he offered in chart form were flippant replies (I suppose) he heard from others (such as: God works in mysterious ways; we’re too feeble minded to understand God; all dogs go to heaven; God’s a sadist; animal suffering was a mistake).

Rosenberg does not believe man has free-will, thus his argument strikes at the free-will defense that Christians make. In other words, God created humans with free-will, and since humans make bad choices that end up causing much harm, what evil there is in the world (a result of bad choices) is not the fault of God, but of humanity. He believes there is no reconciliation between free-will, suffering and God’s existence. He gave an example of a math-quiz problem. A math-quiz scenario allows one to freely choose the answers given. If a wrong answer given is “incentivized” to prevent a wrong answer (that is, given an incentive to not freely choose the wrong answer), then why could God not incentivize man with free-will wherein he will always choose to do right, rather than the wrong, thus not bring evil into the world?

SUMMARY An atheist says, “I know God does not exist.” Rosenberg does not say this; this leaves him open to criticism (Gilmore exploits this opening). There is no logical argument with premise 1, premise 2, and therefore a conclusion that says, “therefore God does not exist.” Rosenberg offered questions, a semblance of a philosophical argument, a discussion on free-will, but he never gave an argument wherein the premises demanded the conclusion “God does not exist.”

Gilmore’s First Negative. After some introductory words, Gilmore calls out the atheist position as one of arrogance (a word he did not use), arrogant because the atheist said, in effect, “I have surveyed all the evidence, and I know there is no God!” Gilmore also briefly explains what atheists think is their best argument (an argument that Rosenberg did not make, though he came close). 1) God is omnipotent, 2) God is omniscient, 3) God is omnibenevolent, 4) Evil exists (18). Gilmore claims that suffering, as it is interpreted as evil, is not incompatible with the existence of an all-loving God who is powerful enough the eradicate evil.

Gilmore takes up the claim that if God has the qualities Christians declare, then, as Rosenberg asserts, it is perfectly reasonable for man to have free-will and God, at the same time, to eradicate evil and suffering wherein man does not need to experience it. Gilmore calls this nonsense (19). Gilmore defines how omnipotence is to be understood from a biblical perspective, that is, whatever can be done by an all-powerful being, God can do it. God, however, cannot create free-will beings without the possibility of those free-will beings choosing to hurt themselves. “…God cannot make a free being, in a physical world, without the possibility of suffering…” (19) unless he were to eliminate of the special characteristics of man that currently experiences physical and emotional pain. In this connection, Gilmore identifies three “wills” of God: 1) ideal will, 2) circumstantial will and 3) ultimate will of God.

Gilmore brings to the discussion the purpose of animals. He anticipated the question that would be asked of him, “Why consider the purpose of animal existence?” but I had much difficulty in gaining clarity from him in his answer to this. In fact, I had to study his chart (evidently put together by John Clayton) to gain what he desired for me to gain, for I did not read/hear it in his oral presentation (20-23). It seems to go like this: animals are associated with human characteristics, but this is mere fantasy. Second, animals do not feel pain as humans do because animals “…have no susceptive stimuli that can cause immediate protective reaction” in relation to pain. The pain they feel, however, does not correspond with the pain/experience of humans. Third, without the natural “predation” in the animal kingdom (that is, the predatory initiative of animals), the animal population could grow to such a number the animals would starve to death. Purpose associated with the animal kingdom, then, are as in the words Gilmore includes, the words of Thomas Warren, the purpose of the animal kingdom is toward man’s environment, “the ideal environment for ‘soul-making’” and this contributes to man’s moral development. After much effort at trying to understand, I think I see his point, but I can only imagine my “lostness” if I heard it orally!

Gilmore brings to the fore the lack of objective morality Rosenberg subscribes to; it is called “nice nihilism.” Gilmore demands his terms be defined, then identify how it could have come into existence, and why this should be accepted. Gilmore also disputes Rosenberg’s rejection of free-will having any relevance to the discussion, Gilmore insisting that it has everything to do with the discussion because without it there is no intentionality with decisions, thus no moral compass.

Gilmore gives attention to Rosenberg’s theory of the mind. Rosenberg does not believe in free-will, thus he does not (cannot) believe in intentionality. If there is no intent, then what is thought, said and done is determinism, and determinism can have nothing to do with right/wrong, with morality. Gilmore calls out Rosenberg by asking about his brain. Is the “brain” (the material mass of flesh) the mind, or is there something else? The “I” in a sentence (such as “I feel pain”) represents the person; Hume and Russell tried to eliminate the person (the ego, the I, the impression of self-existence), but they had no success. If Rosenberg is correct, then in his determinism, it can’t be said that he intentionality wrote a book.

Rosenberg’s Reply to Gilmore. Rosenberg demands that theism must provide a rationale for how suffering is compatible with and all-powerful, all-knowing and benevolent God. “Unless I can understand how that happened, I cannot accept the idea that a loving God would create the kind of suffering which we see manifest around us…” (32). Rosenberg disputes Gilmore, but does so by assertion, not proving or supporting his assertion. In his mind, since God is so capable as theism argues, He could have employed a different set of Laws that govern humanity than the ones that currently do; if that is so, then He could have employed a set of Laws wherein free-will is compatible with a no-possibility-of-suffering world. Rosenberg also gave him explanation for “the origin of morality,” which he calls altruism. He admits difficulty in understanding why it exists, but ultimately says we could not exist if it did not. In other words, that has to be it: it was brought into existence for self-preservation purposes. “We never would have survived starting at the bottom of the food chain, let alone find our way within 100,000 years at the top of the food chain, without human cooperation, without being nice to one another.”

Gilmore’s Response to Rosenberg. Gilmore speaks about suffering in relation to pain-receptors, and that suffering benefits us because it molds/shapes us in learning to live in this current environment. Free-will is part of this learning process (pages 35-41 develop these thoughts). God had only two choices in the creation of man: 1 create with free-will, 2) create without free-will. When God created man with free-will, He created knowing it was a “two-edged” sword. The gift given can be utilized to bite the giver of the gift (if you will). With free-will, the possibility of evil exists. The evil that does exists is not in catastrophes of nature, but in sin; sin is the only intrinsic evil that exists. Sin is evil because it adversely affects relationship-building, especially with God. the world in which we live, a world that was created without anything evil within, but with the possibility of evil to exist (with free-will creatures) is “as good as any possible world” for man to live (p. 39).

Gilmore’s Negative Rejoinder. Gilmore summarizes his presentation and Rosenberg’s philosophical failings (in principle).

Rosenberg’s Affirmative Rejoinder. Rosenberg asked many questions, spoke about Gilmore’s failing to give an adequate answer to why man feels pain when, in his opinion, God could have created man without feeling pain. “… the job of the theist is to explain why God made evil actual” (p. 45). The remaining moment of Rosenberg’s rejoinder was in introducing normative ethics and meta-ethics in relation to theistic debates.

SUMMARY to this point: Rosenberg spoke of his desire to have explanation of compatibility for the existence of evil with a traditional concept of an all-powerful God. He never did set forth an argument that demanded the conclusion “thus, God does not exist.” Gilmore gave explanation, a thorough one, but it was not an explanation Rosenberg accepted, though he could not give a counter-reply to why Gilmore’s answer was not adequate (indicative of the point “evidence does not matter” when a position is desired).

Gilmore’s First Affirmative. He starts out describing his opponent as a methodological atheist instead of an epistemological atheist. The latter demands that he (Rosenberg) give explanation to all the 300 million species that exist, something Rosenberg can’t do. Since Holy Spirit is not eh latter, then he must be the former. Building on this, Gilmore puts forth an argument (a syllogism): 1) Either Theism or Physicalism (materialism), 2) Physicalism can’t be sustained, 3) thus, Theism. Gilmore gave four reasons why this argument can be sustained, building mostly on the point of objective morality. “Piggy-backing” this, he offers, in his second main argument, another argument built on morality, highlighting the fact that one such as Rosenberg is in no position to judge with a moral standard when he has no moral standard. The argument: 1) if there is a universal moral standard, then theism is true. 2) there is a universal moral law. 3) thus, theism is true. Gilmore gives two additional, complementary arguments along similar lines (p. 50). The remainder of his portion of this affirmative is building the case for an objective morality and how the atheist can’t do so, but he tries, just to same, to live as if there is one. Thus, God exist. Gilmore, in my mind did a very good job; yes, he got into the use of philosophical jargon, but I did not find this troubling like, perhaps, most did.

Rosenberg’s First Negative. Rosenberg tries to distance himself from the traditional suffering/morality arguments atheists put forth, but then proceeds to argue about arbitrariness of God making a command and its relation to morality. He poses an “argument’s sake” 11th command. Did God give this command because it was morally right, or did God give this command because He declared it right? If the latter, then the morally right is based on God’s fiat, God’s decree.  Rosenberg thinks this is an “ungetoverable” dilemma for the theist. He concludes from this that morality exists apart from anything associated with God (p. 64). Rosenberg anticipate the response to his remarks by addressing the “Divine Command” theory, which is the nature of God is such that nothing radiates from His being that is morally wrong, “God’s commands are the morally right ones because of his very essence or nature” (p. 64). On pages 66 through the end of his speech (p. 68), Rosenberg explains “nice nihilism,” (though he calls himself a utilitarian). It is nice because man is a cooperative, altruistic being, which accords well with survival in the desert of the African Savannah.

Gilmore’s Second Affirmative. Gilmore begins by asking questions with unstated answers about the nature of suffering and if there is any warrant to the infliction of it (on occasion). Then he begins to address the age-old Euthyphro problem Rosenberg brought up, asserting that Rosenberg believes Plato proved religion and scientism face the same problem. I don’t think he explicated very well here. Nevertheless, Gilmore then says, “God is who he is, because he is,” stated with much emphasis, meaning that God’s attributes and existence are co-eternally bound. Moreover, Euthyphro dealt with polytheism, not monotheism. Gilmore also declared he is not a “divine-command” theorist, which means if God declared something, that something is morally right; if this is so, then God, in an arbitrary way set forth that which is moral, even the point of commanding another to kill his son! The ring of arbitrariness is social-Darwinism, which can’t account for one single moral fact. Gilmore again emphasized the nature of morality is not in commands, but in the nature of God. He then explicates the nature of holiness in relation to God’s wrath which has a goal that one can see/experience in the ultimate respect. Not so with utilitarianism because it’s subjective in nature, nothing transcendent about it. He finishes his portion of this affirmative, which was nothing but a reply to Rosenberg’s first negative, with a discussion of RNA, DNA and how Rosenberg declared evolution a mess!

Rosenberg’s Second Negative. Rosenberg summarized Gilmore’s last speech, but said it amounted to little because the terms and expressions used have no meanings. For instance, what does this mean: God is who he is, because he is? Moreover, as far as Rosenberg is concerned, neither does the idea of God’s existence and essence being eternally bound have meaning. Rosenberg said he was not going to address what he called “cheap shots” at Christian theist and difficult passages of the Old Testament, that is, he was not going to address it as it pertained to this current debate. He then spent the remainder of his time giving attention to science, and evolution and the “god of the gaps.”  He addressed the phrase “survival of the fittest” having no existence in Darwin’s book, though in the very next paragraph, he spoke of the idea behind its coinage, without using the term. Rosenberg called out Gilmore’s use of a stat, saying that he was wrong, though to later follow that Gilmore was right in the use of something else he said. In all this that was said, there was no denial of Gilmore’s speech, but only explanation of methodology.

Rosenberg’s Negative Rejoinder. His last speech of the occasion was simply to remind people that Gilmore never gave an adequate response to the Euthyphro problem. If one is going to argue the existence of moral suffering implies the absolute nature of moral law, which implies God’s existence, then theists need to “…what it is about God and about the moral laws that so bind them together…” and Rosenberg said Gilmore failed in this.

Gilmore’s Affirmative Rejoinder. Gilmore presented his main argument in chart form again, maintaining that he did prove that God has existence because “physicalism” (materialism) can’t be sustained. Since Rosenberg’s perspective can’t be sustained, the only alternative is God (without regard to whether one can adequately explain this or that). Also, with physicalism, there is no moral source, thus no objective, absolute moral right/wrong.

LAST IMPRESSIONS: From a biased perspective, Ralph Gilmore was more than capable of handling the arguments set forth by the atheistic college professor. The upside of the debate, in my view, was Gilmore’s logical arguments that Rosenberg did not address directly because, I suppose, Rosenberg could (would) not. The thrust of the debate was on morality, a position the atheists have much trouble dealing with; try as they might to thrust the Euthyphro argument against theists, the trouble lands in the lap of the atheist to even determine what is moral or not. The downside of the debate was in the philosophical terms and ideas expressed; most people without some training in this area would be lost. As I listened to some who went to the debate, this is exactly what was expressed. I thought both participants carried themselves well (if one can interpret the words on a page accurately), neither descended into disparagement. I thought Rosenberg seemed to be a worthy opponent.