Archive for the Various Category

Threat against U.S. author by Armenian Government Official

Posted in Historicity, Various on June 21, 2013 by vahagnakanch

27494In the aftermath of a controversial interview on literature and religion conducted by Hetq online with the exiled Armenian author Armen Melikian, the Chief of the Publications Bureau at the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, Mr. Gagik Khachatryan, issued the following threat against the author: “Should you one day come across me in my holy fatherland, I’ll make sure that you eternally vanish from my nation’s sight as a disfigured and forgotten member of my race.” The threat was posted on the official’s personal Facebook page on June 20 around 7:00 p.m. Yerevan time.

Melikian has received several hundred death threats from Armenian citizens over the last six months, mainly from Orthodox Armenian adherents believed to be incited to anger by religious leaders and officials, as well as members of fundamentalist Christian sects which have made inroads into Armenia following its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, embarking on a rampant proselytization campaign.

A charismatic clergyman, Father Komitas Hovnanian, widely known as a spokesman for Catholicos Garegin II, head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, recently went on official public television and referred to Melikian as “the Anti-Christ,” as well as “cobra poison,” “a foreign government mole,” “a Luther,” “a Lenin,” and “a Trotsky.” The clergyman dubbed Melikian “an enemy of the Armenian nation” and incited his listeners to “unlike” Melikian’s Facebook page and join in a national campaign to ostracize him. The threat from the Ministry of Culture, however, is the first of its kind by an actual government official issued publicly against the author’s personal safety.

Melikian moved to Armenia from the United States in 2002, but was forced into exile since 2005 after the National Security Agency of Armenia located an old and incomplete manuscript of his book Journey to Virginland: Catena and interrogated his wife at its headquarters in Yerevan. The book is scheduled for release this November in the United States.

Melikian has been the recipient of over 10 literary awards in the United States for his writing alone.

Melikian places the ultimate responsibility for the official’s conduct with Armenia’s president, the prime minister, the minister of justice, and the minister of culture, all of who, says the author, should resign if the official in question is not immediately dismissed from his post, arrested and prosecuted. Melikian also blames the human rights organizations in the country and all major political or cultural Armenian organizations in Armenia and the Diaspora, both supporting its governing oligarchy and so called “pro-democracy,” for what he refers to as a “conspiracy of silence” on the issue of exiled Armenian writers, calling them “hypocrites and murderers of Armenian intellectual life and literature.” Armenia has several writers who are currently in exile in France, the United States, and Sweden.

Armen Melikian is the prize winning author of Journey to Virginland

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Pagan Roots of Trinitarianism

Posted in Various on July 10, 2012 by vahagnakanch

The Trinity doctrine is not unique to, nor original with, Christianity. It has deep Pagan roots, dating back to at least two centuries BC, and has been prominent in many Eastern religions ever since.

The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church Councils (Western and Eastern churches) brought the Trinity doctrine into Christianity. This occurred before there was a final split between the two over authority. Even those who voted the idea into Roman Catholic dogma declared it was a mystery that had to be accepted by faith. The theologians that wrote the Catholic Encyclopedia admit that there is no Old Testament indication of a triune God, and very little in the New Testament that can be construed that way. They also admit that it was a product of tradition that evolved over four centuries. The RCC gives equal credence to tradition and scripture. In this case tradition is almost the whole criteria for this dogma, aside from a few scriptures that are wrenched out of context and misinterpreted, trying to give the idea legitimacy.

The evolution of this doctrine within Christianity began with The Apostle’s Creed, progressed to the Nicene Creed, and finally culminated in the Athanasian Creed. Click on the links below to read more about them.

The Apostle’s Creed which was not written by the Apostles at all, but by the RCC. While this simple statement of faith had nothing to say about a Trinity, or even hint that Jesus was God, it laid the groundwork for further expansion, and was modified several times over the years.

The Nicene Creed established in 325 AD, was the next step. At the insistence of the Roman emperor, Constantine, and for the purpose of establishing unity between Christianity and Pagan beliefs, Jesus was declared to be coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial with God. This established, Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. Before Constantine’s rule the Christians suffered much persecution at the hands of Rome.

The Athanasian Creed espouses the Trinitarian concepts of Athanasius, a fourth century theologian. The time of its original writing is not known, nor is its author. Most historians agree that it was probably composed in the fifth century, though some claim it may have been as late as the ninth century. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia is vague about its origin.

The Christian Church’s roots were originally from Judaism, which was, and still is, a monotheistic (One-God) religion. There is no belief in a polytheistic (Plural) God in the Old Testament. On the contrary, OT scriptures declare the singleness of God.

Isa. 43:10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

Isa. 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

The Nicene and Athenian creeds are in direct denial of these scriptures as well as many thers. First, they had to declare that Jesus was God, and that he was eternal–which also contradicts scripture.

Num. 23:19 God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Jesus was a man; and he referred to himself as the Son of Man many times.

Psa. 2:7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Jesus was begotten, (born) at a point in time, according to the Jewish prophecies. The Athanasian Creed also states that Jesus was God incarnated. This contradicts scripture also, because God does not change.

Mal. 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. If there is no scriptural basis for the doctrine of a triune God, then from whence did this idea come?

Rome, the seat of emperors for the Roman Empire and the power base of political popes, was heavily influenced by the philosophy and paganism of the former Grecian Empire, which took in much more territory than the Roman Empire ever achieved. Greek literature, sociology, religion, and superstitions played a great part in the formation of Roman government, philosophy, and religion. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Romans incorporated much of their custom and culture into Christianity, just as the Jewish believers did in Jerusalem.

When the Apostle Paul was in Athens he observed, among the worshippers of many pagan gods, an altar to the Unknown God. He took advantage of their superstitions to preach to them of the one true God. Among these people were Epicureans and Stoics philosophers who, were amazed at Paul’s preaching of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Up until the rule of Emperor Constantine, the Christians of the Roman Empire were persecuted. Constantine, however, in the early fourth century saw a chance to help restore the former glory of the Empire by bringing about religious unity. In exchange for the cooperation of the Roman Christian Bishops he made Christianity the official state religion. However, this came at great cost to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. From this time forward Christianity became a mixture of the Christian faith and Paganism.

One of the most common beliefs among Pagan cultures was in a trinity of gods. We find this among the Egyptians, Indians (of India), Japanese, Sumarians, Chaldeans, and of course, the Babylonians, to where historians trace the roots of trinitarism.

Church history shows a gradual assimilation of Pagan ideas into Christianity, brought about mostly by the Roman or Western Church, which became a political/religious extension of the Roman Empire. Foremost among the pagan ideas was the adoption of the trinity doctrine into the dogma of the church. Pagan holidays (holy days) were also incorporated into tradition by “Christianizing” them, thus we end up with Christmas being celebrated on Dec 25th; Easter, which combined the resurrection of Christ with the pagan goddess Ester, and Halloween combined with All Saint’s Day.

In time, the political power of the Roman Popes and the wealth they controlled exceeded that of the Emperors, and the Church became a Monarchy with power over kings and nations. Religious tolerance went out the door, and the Church embarked on crusades and inquisitions to purge out by ex-communication, torture, war, and murder, all those who disagreed with official Church doctrine or resisted the authority of the Pope. Christ-like behavior became a thing of the past, and Jesus’ teachings neglected and changed.

The Reformation, brought about by Martin Luther, threw off the yoke of the bapists and declared justification by faith instead of salvation by obeying the Roman church.However, the Pagan doctrines and traditions of Catholicism carried over into Protestantism and remain intact to this day.

The Trinity doctrine was by no means adopted unanimously by church leaders of the day.Bitter battles ensued, and three versions of the trinity debated, as well as the non-trinity belief, until the present one was adopted. It was a vote of men that established it, not revelation from God or scriptures. Christianity had rejected the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, and replaced Him with a Pagan invention.

Review of The Case Against Christianity

Posted in Various with tags , , , on July 8, 2012 by vahagnakanch

Robert M. Price

Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity.TempleUniversity Press, 1991. 273 pp. ISBN 1-56639-081-8 (hard cover); 0-87722-767-5 (paperbound). Reviewed by Robert M. Price.

After a dozen years of active involvement as a born-again Christian, and another twenty as some sort of Liberal Protestant, I finally gave up on Christianity. I did so partly because the approach to life and faith just no longer rang true to me, partly because the beliefs no longer made any sense. Or rather, I could no longer make light of the fact that they made no sense by retreating to claims of “mystery” and “divine paradox.” Wherever I turned, whatever issue I examined (and in the course of a Ph.D. program in Systematic Theology and another in New Testament and Early Christianity I had occasion to examine quite a number of them, and from a sympathetic standpoint), I found that the great “verities” of the Christian creeds seemed to make sense only so long as you didn’t trouble to think them out too far. If you did, then you inevitably found it was a matter of apologetics. Advocates of the doctrines of Incarnation, Atonement, biblical authority, the Resurrection, the Trinity invariably wound up on the ropes, honest enough to admit that the old doctrines, forged in an era when things looked quite different, could he held today only with considerable retooling, and even then it was a challenge to show their relevance, what difference it would make to believe them. How the believer was at any advantage in dealing with his own problems or the problems of the world because he believed the doctrines. In the end it became apparent to me that theologians stuck to their guns because of sentimentality and because of their association with Christian communities that could be given up no more easily than family associations. Christianity had to be true. But it wasn’t. It isn’t. And that is what philosopher Michael Martin (also the author of Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, 1990) demonstrates with great cogency and breadth in this volume.

Martin deals with pretty much the whole menu of historic Christian doctrines (the historical existence, resurrection, virgin birth, second advent, and incarnation of Jesus, Christian ethics, salvation by faith and/or works, divine voluntarism, and the atonement). He begins with a searching and provocative section on the morality of belief, whether one is entitled to take a short-cut to desirable beliefs without sufficient evidence to establish them. Of course his answer is that one is not, as any religious believer will readily admit when it comes to any other (non-religious) area of life and decision making. Through the rest of the book Martin has little difficulty showing how all the Christian doctrines float in the air like Macy’s parade floats. But he doesn’t stop there. Not only is faith in insupportable notions a sin, a cheat, but Martin shows how doctrine after doctrine falls apart on close examination. There is nothing really to believe! There is no systematic coherence to most of them, no reason belief A should lead to belief B, other than by historical accident. Implicit in the argument of the book is the important insight that the Christian belief set (I almost said “belief-system”) is an accidental collection of doctrines which only sometimes even fit together without being forced. Believers feel they must take or leave the whole thing simply because they accepted it all in one gulp from the church or evangelist who catechized them. If they bothered to question or readjust any particular belief, the illusion of seamlessness would pop like a soap bubble. It would no longer be a matter of simple faith, which is what they want. What, really, does the Incarnation have to do with the atonement? Why should belief in the incarnation of God in Christ imply Trinitarianism instead of Modalism or Tritheism? The believer never even stops to think of these things. But Martin does. He leaves few stones unturned, few paths untrodden, in his effort to reveal the arbitrariness and self-vitiation of the hydra-headed theology.

I would have enjoyed seeing Martin pause at greater length over the implausibilities attendant on the evolution of Orthodox God-Man Christology, but having, one supposes, to make some tough triage calls given a manageable-length volume, he focuses more on recent attempts to render the two-nature Christology coherent (e.g., Thomas V. Morris’s astonishing “two-minds” argument, which sounds like the Nestorian heresy to me!). Martin’s approach is rigorously philosophical. It is good to see him take on Alvin Plantinga, whose “What? Me worry?” approach to epistemology and foundationalism lets supposedly sophisticated believers off the hook way too easily (see also D.Z. Phillips’s chapter on “Reformed Epistemology” in his Faith After Foundationalism).

Martin’s got you covered. There’s a tendency for liberal and neo-orthodox theologians to agree with severe criticisms of traditional faith and then to say, “But of course, this doesn’t affect my position!” Look at Karl Barth’s introduction to Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity, Harper Torchbook edition, or Paul Tillich’s claim that the God atheists reject does not exist. But Martin zeroes in on such modernizers and demythologizers in a separate chapter. Liberal theologians usually manage to end up with a lot of sentimental mush or something that gains its strength from an unspoken accommodation to the very humanism it still claims superiority over.Princeton theologian J. Gresham Machen’s question is still a good one: is Liberalism still Christian? If so, it is a toothless tiger.

With such a comprehensive work as Martin’s The Case Against Christianity I find myself with few criticisms to make. Let me just note a couple of minor factual errors. Observing that the Nicene Creed said little about the Holy Spirit, Martin says this lack was rectified at the Council of Chalcedon. The result was the “Nicene-Chalcedonian Creed.” Actually,Chalcedon produced its own creed, while the Nicene Creed was embellished instead at the Council of Constantinople. There is no “Nicene-Chalcedonian Creed” so far as I know, but rather a Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Also, he garbles wording of the Testimonium Flavianum, the paragraph on Jesus interpolated into Josephus. These slips in no way affect the cogency of the argument, but you know apologists: they love nothing better than to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. They will point to glitches like this and say, “Why bother responding when the atheist doesn’t even have his facts straight?” That’s a dodge, but it’s a shame to give ’em an inch.

More seriously, I kind of wish Martin hadn’t opened his discussion of the resurrection of Jesus with the observation that for all we know, one day science may discover how a man could rise from the dead without divine intervention. He mentions it as a mere possibility, but why bother? Fundamentalists will seize on it as if to make Martin seem to be grasping at straws. Martin might better have pointed to the neglected research of J. Duncan M. Derrett (Anastasis: The Resurrection as a Historical Event) who shows how nick-of-time recussitations from the very lip of the grave were so common in the ancient world that ancient medical texts commonly discussed them. Along the same lines, though, Martin does a fine job of pointing out the absurdity of apologists who appeal to modern physics theories of indeterminacy to argue that there is no absolute cause-and effect structure of inflexible natural law. Apologists thus think to chip away at the “closed system” of naturalists; but what they are really doing is to subvert the very natural regularity that would make an anomalous event seem to point to a supernatural cause. In other words, they destroy the argument from miracle by their attempted defense of it!

When my wife Carol saw me reading The Case Against Christianity, her comment was, “Yeah, like you need one!” Well, some people do. And Martin has provided a good one.

The Big Bang Argument For The Existence Of God

Posted in Various with tags , , on July 8, 2012 by vahagnakanch

Theodore Schick Jr.

 Abstract: Some believe that evidence for the big bang is evidence for the existence of god. Who else, they ask, could have caused such a thing? In this paper, I evaluate the big bang argument, compare it with the traditional first-cause argument, and consider the relative plausibility of various natural explanations of the big bang.

The evidence is in. There is now little doubt that our universe was brought into existence by a “big bang” that occurred some 15 billion years ago. The existence of such a creation event explains a number of phenomena including the expansion of the universe, the existence of the cosmic background radiation, and the relative proportions of various sorts of matter. As the theory has been refined, more specific predictions have been derived from it. A number of these predictions have recently been confirmed. Although this is a major scientific achievement, many believe that it has theological implications as well. Specifically, they believe that it provides scientific evidence for the existence of god. Astronomer George Smoot suggested as much when he exclaimed at a press conference reporting the findings of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, “If you’re religious, it’s like looking at the face of god.”[1] Why? Because something must have caused the big bang, and who else but god could have done such a thing? Astronomer Hugh Ross in his book, The Creator and the Cosmos, puts the argument this way: “If the universe arose out of a big bang, it must have had a beginning. If it had a beginning, it must have a beginner.”[2] So beguiling is this argument that astronomer Geoffrey Burbridge has lamented that his fellow scientists are rushing off to join the “First Church of Christ of the Big Bang.”[3] In what follows, I will attempt to determine whether such a conversion is the most rational response to the evidence.

The Traditional First-Cause Argument

The problems with the traditional first-cause or cosmological argument for the existence of god are legion. Before we examine the merits of the big bang argument, it will be helpful to have them before us.

The traditional first-cause argument rests on the assumption that everything has a cause. Since nothing can cause itself, and since the string of causes can’t be infinitely long, there must be a first cause, namely, god. This argument received its classic formulation at the bands of the great Roman Catholic philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. He writes:

In the world of sensible things, we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known … in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go to infinity, because . . . the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause…. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate, cause . . . therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name god.[4]

Saint Thomas’s argument is this:

1. Everything is caused by something other than itself
2. Therefore the universe was caused by something other than itself.
3. The string of causes cannot be infinitely long.
4. If the string of causes cannot be infinitely long, there must be a first cause.
5. Therefore, there must be a first cause, namely god.

The most telling criticism of this argument is that it is self-refuting. If everything has a cause other than itself, then god must have a cause other than himself. But if god has a cause other than himself, he cannot be the first cause. So if the first premise is true, the conclusion must be false.

To save the argument, the first premise could be amended to read:

1′. Everything except god has a cause other than itself.

But if we’re willing to admit the existence of uncaused things, why not just admit that the universe is uncaused and cut out the middleman? David Hume wondered the same thing:

But if we stop, and go no farther, why go so far? Why not stop at the material world? … By supposing it to contain the principle of its order within itself, we really assert it to be god; and the sooner we arrive at that Divine Being, so much the better. When you go one step beyond the mundane system, you only excite an inquisitive humor, which it is impossible ever to satisfy.[5]

The simplest way to avoid an infinite regress is to stop it before it starts. If we assume that the universe has always existed, we don’t need to identify its cause.

Even if the universe is not eternal (as the big bang suggests), 1’ is still unacceptable because modern physics has shown that some things are uncaused. According to quantum mechanics, subatomic particles like electrons, photons, and positrons come into and go out of existence randomly (but in accord with the Heisenberg uncertainty principles). As Edward Tryon reports:

… quantum electrodynamics reveals that an electron, positron, and photon occasionally emerge spontaneously in a perfect vacuum. When this happens, the three particles exist for a brief time, and then annihilate each other, leaving no trace behind. (Energy conservation is violated, but only for a particle lifetime Dt permitted by the uncertainty DtDE~h where DE is the net energy of the particles and h is Planck’s constant.) The spontaneous, temporary emergence of particles from a vacuum is called a vacuum fluctuation, and is utterly commonplace in quantum field theory.[6]

A particle produced by a vacuum fluctuation has no cause. Since vacuum fluctuations are commonplace, god cannot be the only thing that is uncaused.

Premise 1, in either its original or its amended version, is unacceptable. But even if it could be salvaged, the argument would still not go through because premise 3 is false. An infinitely long causal chain is not a logical impossibility. Most of us have no trouble conceiving of the universe existing infinitely into the future. Similarly we should have no trouble conceiving of it existing infinitely into the past. Aquinas’s view that there must be a first cause rests on the mistaken notion that an infinite series of causes is just a very long finite one.

Consider a single-column stack of children’s blocks resting on a table. Each block rests on the block below it except for the block that rests on the table. If the bottom block were taken away, the whole stack would fall down. In a finite stack of blocks, there must be a first block.

In an infinite causal chain, however, there is no first cause. Aquinas took this to mean that an infinite causal chain is missing something. But it is a mistake to think that anything Is missing from an infinite causal chain. Even though an infinite causal chain has no first cause, there is no event that doesn’t have a cause. Similarly, even though the set of real numbers has no first member, there is no number that doesn’t have a predecessor. Logic doesn’t demand a first cause anymore than it demands a first number.

Finally, even if this argument did succeed in proving the existence of a first cause, it wouldn’t succeed in proving the existence of god because there is no reason to believe that the cause of the universe has any of the properties traditionally associated with god. Aquinas took god to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good. But from the existence of the universe, we cannot conclude that its creator had any of these properties.

An all-powerful being should be able to create an infinite number of different universes. But we arc acquainted with only one. Maybe our universe is the only one the creator had the power to create. In the absence of any knowledge of other universes, we are not justified in believing that the creator is all-powerful.

Similarly, an all-knowing being should know everything there is to know about every possible universe. But our universe gives us no reason to think that the creator has this kind of knowledge. Maybe our universe is the only universe he knew how to make. Without further information about the cognitive capacity of the creator, we can’t conclude that the creator is all-knowing.

Finally, a universe created by an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being should be perfect. But the universe as we know it seems flawed. It certainly doesn’t seem particularly hospitable to humans. Clarence Darrow explains:

Even a human being of very limited capacity could think of countless ways in which the earth could be improved as the home of man, and from the earliest time the race has been using all sorts of efforts and resources to make it more suitable for its abode. Admitting that the earth is a fit place for life, and certainly every place in the universe where life exists is fitted for life, then what sort of life was this planet designed to support? There are some millions of different species of animals on this earth, and one-half of these are insects. In numbers, and perhaps in other ways, man is in a great minority. If the land of the earth was made for life, it seems as if it was intended for insect life, which can exist almost anywhere. If no other available place can be found they can live by the million on man, and inside of him. They generally succeed in destroying his life, and, if they have a chance, wind up by eating his body.[7]

Every place on Earth is subject to natural disasters, and there are many places where humans cannot live. Insects, on the other hand, seem to thrive most everywhere. When the great biologist G. B. S. Haldane was asked what his study of living things revealed about god, he is reported to have said, “An inordinate fondness for beetles.” If the Earth was created for us (as many theists, including Ross, believe), it certainly leaves something to be desired.

Not only might the first cause be something less than perfect, it might be something less than human. David Hume provides the following example:

The Brahmins assert, that the world arose from an infinite spider, who spun this whole complicated mass from his bowels, and annihilates afterwards the whole or any part of it, by absorbing it again, and resolving it into his own essence.[8]

This is a coherent account of the creation of the world. It is logically possible that everything in the universe came from the belly of an infinite spider. So even if there was a first cause, it need not have been god.

The Big Bang Argument

The big bang argument for the existence of god is supposed to succeed where the traditional first-cause argument fails. Let’s see if it does. Ross’s version of the argument goes like this:

6. Everything that had a beginning in time has a cause.
7. The universe had a beginning in time.
8. Therefore the universe had a cause.
9. The only thing that could have caused the universe is god.
10. Therefore, god exists.

Unlike the traditional first-cause argument, this argument is not self-refuting because it does not imply that god has a cause. If god had no beginning in time, he need not have a cause. Moreover, this argument doesn’t deny the possibility of an infinite causal chain. It simply denies that the actual chain of causes is infinite. While this represents an improvement over the traditional first-cause argument, the big bang argument runs into difficulties of its own.

Premise 6 conflicts with quantum mechanics because, as we have seen, quantum electrodynamics claims that subatomic particles can come into existence through a vacuum fluctuation. These particles have a beginning in time, but they have no cause because vacuum fluctuations are purely random events. Such particles, then, serve as a counterexample to premise 6.

Premise 7 conflicts with relativity theory because the general theory of relativity claims that there was no time before there was a universe. Time and the universe are coterminous-they came into existence together. This finding of Einstein’s was anticipated by Augustine who proclaimed, “The world and time had both one beginning. The world was made, not in time, but simultaneously with time.”[9] If there was no time before there was a universe, the universe can’t have a beginning in time.

Ross tries to avoid this conclusion by claiming that although the universe did not have a beginning in time as we know it, it had a beginning in another time dimension, He writes:

By definition, time is that dimension in which cause-and-effect phenomena take place. No time, no cause and effect. If time’s beginning is concurrent with the beginning of the universe, as the space-time theorem says, then the cause of the universe must be some entity operating in a time dimension completely independent of and preexistent to the time dimension of the cosmos. This conclusion is powerfully important to our understanding of who god is and who or what god isn’t. It tells us that the Creator is transcendent, operating beyond the dimensional limits of the universe.[10]

Ross needs the premise that the universe has a beginning in time to arrive at the conclusion that the universe has a cause. But the general theory of relativity prohibits the universe from a having a beginning in its own time dimension. So he postulates a higher time dimension that is independent of and preexistent to the time dimension of the universe.

As confirming evidence for the existence of this higher time dimension, Ross cites the Bible:

Again, by definition, time is that realm or dimension in which cause-and effect phenomena take place. According to the space-time theorem of general relativity, such effects as matter, energy, length, width, height, and time were caused independent of the time dimension of the universe. According to the New Testament (2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2), such effects as grace and hope were caused independent of the time dimension of the universe. So both the Bible and general relativity speak of at least one additional time dimension for god.[11]

Whether the Bible speaks of an additional time dimension for god, the general theory of relativity does not. It makes no mention of an agent that exists outside of the space-time continuum. God is not written into the general theory of relativity.

Ross’s argument here is a transcendental one, in both the logical and the theological senses of the word. It goes like this:

11. There can be no cause and effect unless there is time.
12. The universe has a cause.
13. Therefore the universe has a beginning in time.
14. The universe cannot have a beginning in its own time dimension.
15. Therefore the universe has a beginning in a time dimension independent of and preexistent to its own time dimension.

This argument arrives at the conclusion that the universe has a beginning in time by assuming that the universe has a cause. But the big bang argument uses the premise that the universe has a beginning in time to arrive at the conclusion that the universe has a cause. So Ross is arguing in a circle. He is assuming that the universe has a cause to prove that the universe has a cause. Because Ross begs the question about whether the universe has a cause, he does not succeed in proving the existence of a higher dimensional time, let alone the existence of a transcendental god.

Even if Ross’s argument were not circular, it would still be equivocal because it uses the words “time” and “cause” in two different senses. Ordinary time is one-dimensional because it flows in only one direction. Ross’s hypothetical time is two-dimensional because it flows in an infinite number of directions, just as the lines on a plane point in an infinite number of directions.[12] Cause, as ordinarily understood, requires a one-dimensional time because a cause must always precede its effects. (An effect cannot precede its cause.) In a two-dimensional time, however, the notion of precession or succession (before or after) makes no sense. So from the fact that the universe has a beginning in a higher time dimension, it doesn’t follow that it has a cause (in the ordinary sense), and that is what must be shown in order for the argument to succeed.

Furthermore, Ross’s appeal to the Bible is unwarranted. Before we can accept the Bible as a source of data, we need some reason for believing it to be true. Traditionally, the truth of the Bible has been justified on the grounds that god wrote it. But this approach is not available to Ross because the existence of god is what he is trying to prove. He cannot assume the existence of God to prove the existence of God. So lie can’t appeal to the Bible for evidential support.

The claim that the universe has a cause is essential to the big bang argument. Premises 6 and 7 do not justify this claim, for neither of them is true. But the failure of these premises to justify that claim does not necessarily mean that it is false.

There are good reasons for believing that the universe does not have a cause, however. Edward Tryon and others have suggested that the universe is the result of a vacuum fluctuation. Ross considers this theory but rejects it on the grounds that a vacuum fluctuation the size of the universe could only exist for 10-103 seconds, “a moment a bit briefer than the age of the universe.”[13] But this follows only if we consider mass-energy to be the only type of energy in the world. Tryon suggests, however, that there is “another form of energy which is important for cosmology, namely gravitational potential energy.”[14] If the total amount of gravitational potential energy in the universe is equivalent to the total amount of mass-energy, then the universe may have a zero net value for all conserved quantities. But if it does, then a vacuum fluctuation the size of the universe could exist for a very long time. Tryon summarizes his reasoning as follows:

If it is true that our Universe has a zero net value for all conserved quantities, then it may simply be a fluctuation of a vacuum, the vacuum of some larger space in which our universe is imbedded. In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time.[15]

So not only can subatomic particles be uncaused, so can the universe.

Premise 9 is also suspect because even if the universe has a cause, it need not be god. Like the traditional first-cause argument, the big bang argument tells us nothing about the nature of the creator. Specifically, it doesn’t tell us whether he (she, it?) is all-powerful, all-knowing, or all-good. And the universe itself gives us no reason to believe that the creator has any of those qualities.

Ross’s argument, if successful, would give us reason to believe that the creator is transcendent, at least in the sense that he exists outside of the normal time dimension. On the basis of scripture, Ross makes the further claim that God is a person.[16] But if God is transcendent in Ross’s sense, its hard to see how he can also be a person. Paul Davies explains:

The problem about postulating a god who transcends time is that, though it may bring him into the “here and now,” many of the qualities which most people attribute to god only make sense within the context of time. Surely god can plan, answer prayers, express pleasure or anxiety about the course of human progress, and sit in judgement afterwards? Is he not continually active in the world, doing work “oiling the cogs of the cosmic machine” and so on? All of these activities are meaningless except in a temporal context. How can god plan and act except in time? Why, if god transcends time and so knows the future, is he concerned about human progress or the fight against evil. The outcome is already perceived by god.[17]

Ross’s god exists in a two-dimensional time — like a plane — in which be can travel an infinite number or directions.”[18] Thus Ross’s god knows the future as well as the past. How such a being can plan, act, hope, or even think is a mystery. In the absence of an explanation of how such a being can be a person, Ross’s claim is incoherent.

Not only does the cause of the universe not have to be god, it does not have to be supernatural. It has long been known that if the amount of matter in the universe is great enough, then the universe will someday stop expanding and start contracting. Eventually, all the matter in the universe will be drawn back to a single point in what has come to be known as “the big crunch.” Since matter supposedly cannot be crushed out of existence, the contraction cannot go on indefinitely. At some point the compressed matter may rebound in another big bang. If so, the big bang would have been caused by a prior state of the universe rather than some external agency.

This bounce theory of the universe has fallen on hard times, however. In a paper entitled “The Impossibility of a Bouncing Universe,” Marc Sher and Alan Guth argued that the universe is not mechanically efficient enough to bounce.”[19] In terms of mechanical efficiency, the universe appears to be more like a snowball than a superball. Moreover, recent estimates indicate that there is not enough mass in the universe to stop its expansion. So it is doubtful that the big bang was the result of a prior big crunch.

Although the universe as a whole may never contract, we know that certain parts of it do. When a star has used up its fuel, the force of gravity causes it to contract. If the star is massive enough, this contraction results in a black hole. The matter in a black hole is compressed toward a point of infinite density known as a “singularity.” Before it reaches the singularity, however, some physicists, most notably Lee Smolin, believe that it may start expanding again and give rise to another universe. In a sense, then, according to Smolin, our universe may reproduce itself by budding off. He writes:

A collapsing star forms a black hole, within which it is compressed to a very dense state. The universe began in a similarly very dense state from which it expands. Is it possible that these are one and the same dense state? That is, is it possible that what is beyond the horizon of a black hole is the beginning of another universe?

This could happen if the collapsing star exploded once it reached a very dense state, but after the black hole horizon had formed around it….

What we are doing is applying this bounce hypothesis, not to the universe as a whole, but to every black hole in it. If this is true, then we live not in a single universe, which is eternally passing through the same recurring cycle of collapse and rebirth. We live instead in a continually growing community of “universes,” each of which is born from an explosion following the collapse of a star to a black hole.[20]

Smolin’s vision is an appealing one. It suggests that the universe is more like a living thing than an artifact and thus that its coming into being doesn’t require an external agent.

Smolin’s theory has the advantage of simplicity over Ross’s. Because it does not postulate the existence of any supernatural entities, it has less ontological baggage than Ross’s. It also has the advantage of conservatism over Ross’s theory. Because it doesn’t contradict any laws of science, such as the conservation laws (which must be rejected by anyone who believes in creation ex nihilo), it fits better with existing theory. Other things being equal, the simpler and more conservative a theory, the better. The fewer independent assumptions made by a theory and the less damage it does to existing theory, the more it systematizes and unifies our knowledge. And the more it systematizes and unifies our knowledge, the more understanding it produces. Since Smolin’s theory is simpler and more conservative than Ross’s, it is the better theory.

Smolin’s theory is also potentially more fruitful than Ross’s because it is possible to draw testable predictions from it. But what if these predictions are not born out? Does that mean that we must embrace the god hypothesis? No, because our inability to explain a phenomenon may simply be due to our ignorance of the operative laws. Augustine concurs. “A miracle,” he tells us, “is not contrary to nature but contrary to our knowledge of nature.[21]

We would be justified in believing that an inexplicable event is the work of god only if we were justified in believing that a natural explanation of it would never be found. But we can never be justified in believing that, because we can’t predict what the future will bring. We can’t rule out the possibility that a natural explanation will be found, no matter how incredible the event. When faced with an inexplicable event, it is always more rational to look for a natural cause than to attribute it to something supernatural. Appealing to the supernatural does not increase our understanding. It simply masks the fact that we do not yet understand.

What’s more, any supposed miracle could be the result of a superadvanced technology rather than a supernatural being. Arthur C. Clarke once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. So the seemingly inexplicable events that many attribute to god could simply be the work of advanced aliens. Erik von Däniken argues as much in his book Chariots of the Gods, where he claims that the wheel that Ezekiel saw in the sky was really a UFO. Explanations that appeal to advanced aliens are actually superior to explanations that appeal to supernatural beings because they are simpler and more conservative — they do not postulate any nonphysical substances and they do not presuppose the falsity of any natural laws. If astronomers feel the need to join a church, they would do better to join the First Church of Space Aliens than the First Church of Christ of the Big Bang.

* Theodore Schick is Professor of Philosophy at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This article was originally published in Philo, the Journal of the Society of Humanist Philosophers, and has been electronically republished here with the written permission of the Society of Humanist Philosophers.

Notes

[1] Thomas H. Maugh, “Relics of ‘Big Bang’ Seen for First Tillie,” Los Angeles Times April 24, 1992, p. A30.
[2] Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1995), p. 14.
[3] Stephen Strauss, “An Innocent’s Guide to the Big Bang Theory: Fingerprint in Space Left by the Universe as a Baby Still Has Doubters Hurling Stones,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), April 25, 1992, p. 1.
[4] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (New York: Benziger Bros., Inc., 1947).
[5] David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, ed. Norman Kemp Smith (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril, 1947), pp. 161-62.
[6] Edward Tryon, Nature 246, December 14, 1973.
[7] Clarence Darrow, The Story of My Life (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932), pp. 419-20.
[8] Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, p. 180.
[9] Augustine, The City of God (trans. Dods) 11.6.
[10] Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, p. 76.
[11] Ibid,, p. 80.
[12] Ibid., P. 81.
[13] Ibid., p. 96.
[14] Edward Tryon, “Is the Universe a Vacuum Fluctuation?”
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, pp. 77f.
[17] Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), pp. 38-39.
[18] Ross, The Creator of the Cosmos, p. 81.
[19] Alan H. Guth and Marc Sher, “The Impossibility of a Bouncing Universe,” Nature 302 (1983): 505-507.
[20] Lee Smolin, The Life of the Cosmos (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 87-88.
[21] Augustine, The City of God (trans. Dods) 21.8.

Was Christ a Political and Social Reformer?

Posted in Various with tags , , , on July 8, 2012 by vahagnakanch

by Charles Watts

ALTHOUGH Thomas Carlyle has said that “in these days it is professed that hero-worship has gone out and finally ceased,” thousands of the professed followers of Christ idolize his memory to such an extent that they appear to be entirely oblivious of any defect either in his character or in his teachings. They regard their hero as having been the very embodiment of truth, virtue, and perfection; and those persons who are compelled to doubt the correctness of these assumptions are regarded by orthodox believers as most unreasonable and perverse members of society. Probably the principal cause why such erroneous and extravagant notions are entertained of one who, according to the New Testament, was very little, if at all, superior to other religious heroes can be accounted for by the fact that the worshippers of Christ were taught in their childhood to reverence him as an absolutely perfect character, and as being beyond criticism. Thus youthful impressions resulted in fancied creations which, in matured life, have been accepted as realities. The Rev. James Cranbrook recognized this truth, for in the preface to his work, ‘The Founders of Christianity’ (page 5), he observes: “Our own idealizations have invested him (Jesus) with a halo of spiritual glory, that by the intensity of its brightness conceals from us the real figure presented in the Gospels. We see him, not as he is described, but as the ideally perfect man our own fancies have conceived. But let any one sit down and critically analyses the sayings and doings ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels — let him divest his mind of the superstitious fear of irreverence, and then ask himself whether all those sayings and doings are in harmony with the highest wisdom speaking for all ages and races of mankind, and with the conceptions of an perfect human nature, and I am mistaken if he will not find a very great deal he will be forced to condemn.”

Even the sons of Labor, the apostles of Democracy, and the advocates of Socialism appear disposed to adopt Jesus as their Patron Saint. Conjectures are being constantly made by professed modern reformers as to what the Carpenter of Nazareth would say upon the many political and social questions that agitate the public mind in this the latter half of the nineteenth century. These hero-worshippers seem to overlook the apathy of Jesus in respect to the evils of his own time. Of course, it is not difficult for an impartial observer to learn why the name of Christ is invoked to support the various schemes that are now put forward to aid the regeneration of society. However little Christianity is practiced among us, it is extensively professed, and it is thought by many a virtue to assume a belief, whether there are sufficient grounds for doing so or not. This slavish adherence to fashion is an undignified prostration of mental freedom and independence, and it is also a fruitful source of the perpetuation of error. My purpose in examining the claims set up for Jesus as a political and social reformer is to ascertain if the records of his life, doings, and teachings justify such claims. If Jesus were judged as an ordinary man, living nearly two thousand years ago, my present task would be unnecessary. If we assume that such a man once lived, and that what he said and did is accurately reported, he should, in my opinion, be considered as a youth possessing but limited education, surrounded by unfavorable influences for intellectual acquirements, belonging to a race not very remarkable for literary culture, retaining many of the failings of his progenitors, and having but little regard for the world or the things of the world. Viewed under these circumstances, I could, while excusing many of his errors, recognize and admire something that is praiseworthy in the life of “Jesus of Nazareth.” But when he is raised upon a pinnacle of greatness, as an exemplar of virtue and wisdom, surpassing the production of any age or country, he is then exalted to a position which he does not merit, and which, to my mind, deprives him of that credit which otherwise he would, perhaps, be entitled to.

The contentions which it is my purpose to dissipate are: that Jesus was a political and social reformer, and that his alleged teachings contain the remedies for the wrongs of modern society. Before directly dealing with these points it ma be necessary to glance at the various aspects of reform that have, at different times in our national history, been presented to the community; also to briefly consider the nature of the required reforms, and some of the principal methods that have been adopted to secure them.

In quite primitive ages important struggles took place to establish greater equality in the conditions of life. In the time of Moses, according to the Bible, the land, for instance, was not merely the subject of “tracts for the times,” but the laws and regulations relating to it were practically dealt with. It did not, however, cease to be property, and its inheritance was recognized as a rightful thing. The stock-in-trade of many modern reformers is the denunciation of those who “add house to house, field to field, and grind the faces of the poor.” If this condemnation is one of the many features of Socialism, then Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel may, in this particular, be fairly termed Socialists — a name foreign to their language and to the ideas of their day.

The contention with some is, that Christ was a successor to all these prophets, that he took the same kind of objection as they did to the then existing state of things, and that he used the same form of speech in denouncing them. The general reply to this is, that Christ was, if anything only a prophetic reformer, not a real one. In proof of this many facts in his alleged history may be cited. For instance, he did not rescue the land from the control of the Romans, who held it from the people very much in the same way as landholders do now he did not attempt to render any aid to the laborers of Rome, who in his day were resisting the injustice of the capitalists he did not deliver his brethren of “the royal house” from their foreign rulers; he did not redeem the Jews from their social evils, or restore justice to their nation. In a word, he entirely failed to do the reforming work that was expected of him. About the year 1825 the “Christian Socialists of London” called special attention to the question of land as regulated by Moses, and the living in common by the early Christians; but no practical issue arose out of the discussion. From that period down to the present the same subject has been more or less agitated, and still the matter is very far from being settled. Now, if it is alleged that Christ sought to bring about a just settlement of the land problem, then the existence of the present oppressive land laws proves that he failed, and that his most devout followers have been equally unfortunate. If Christ had been a practical reformer, We should not have in our midst the deplorable injustice, the wrongs, and the inequalities that now afflict society. These evils and drawbacks — the growth of centuries during which Christianity was in power — will doubtless be lessened, if not altogether destroyed; but the work will be achieved by a moral revolution, inaugurated and conducted by men who will possess ability and experience that it is evident Jesus never had.

It must be borne in mind that there are two kinds of revolution — one that is gradual and intellectual, and therefore useful; the other that is sudden, born of passion, and therefore often useless as an important factor in securing permanent reforms. We know that every change of thought, or condition of things, involves a revolution which, if controlled by reason and regulated by the lessons of experience, must aid rational progress, and tend to build up a State, and secure its permanence. But there is another kind of revolution, which is sought to be produced by Nihilism and Anarchism, both of which aim at the destruction of the State. I am not in favor of either of these “isms,” believing, as I do, that in our present condition of society some form of government is necessary. Law and order, based upon the national will, and the principle of justice, appear to me to be essential in any scheme that is accepted for the purpose of furthering the political and social progress of the world. Then we have Socialism, which concerns itself with economic, ethical, political, and industrial questions. The principal subject, however, dealt with by Socialists is the accumulation and distribution of wealth. State Socialism dates from the time of the eminent French writer, Claude, H. Count de St. Simon, whose works were published in 1831. He tried to secure the amelioration of the condition of the poor, and aimed at the organization of labor and the distribution of the fruits of industry, upon the principle of every man being rewarded according to his works. Socialism is, in fact, an attempt (whether it is the best that could be made is with some persons a debateable point) to regulate the social relations, making them more equal than they are at present, either by individual combination, by municipal or cooperative action, by a philanthropic policy of the Church, or by the control of the State. This last phase of the Socialistic scheme means the complete regulation by law of the equality of individuals, the State being the owner of the land, and of all the instruments of industry that are at present possessed by individuals, public companies, etc., who now regulate, in their own interest, production and distribution.

Having thus briefly stated the general conceptions and aims of political and social reformers, the next step is to inquire in what relation Jesus stands to any or all of them. Of course there is only one source of information upon the subject at our command — that of the four Gospels. From these it will not be difficult to demonstrate that Jesus was no mundane reformer. Although he was surrounded by poverty, slavery, oppression, and mental degradation, he made no effort to rid society of these curses to humanity. As John Stuart Mill observes, in his work upon Liberty (pp. 28, 29), in referring to Christian morality: “I do not scruple to say of it that it is, in many important points, incomplete and one-sided, and that, unless ideas and feelings, not sanctioned by it, had contributed to the formation of European life and character, human affairs would have been in a worse condition than they now are.”

Professor Huxley, in the Nineteenth Century, No. 144, pp. 178-186, point; out that Christians have no right to force their idealistic portraits of Jesus on the unbiased scientific world, whose business it is to study realities and to separate fiction from fact. The Professor’s words are: “In the course of other inquiries, I have had to do with fossil remains, which looked quite plain at a distance, and became more and more indistinct as I tried to define their outline by close inspection. There was something there — something which, if I could win assurance about it, might mark a new epoch in the history of the earth; but, study as long as I might, certainty eluded my grasp. So has it been with me in my efforts to define the grand figure of Jesus as it lies in the primitive strata of Christian literature. Is he the kindly, peaceful Christ depicted in the catacombs? Or is he the stern judge who frowns above the altar of Saints Cosmas and Damianus? Or can he be rightly represented in the bleeding ascetic broken down by physical pain of too many medieval pictures? Are we to accept the Jesus of the second or the Jesus of the fourth Gospel as the true Jesus? What did he really say and do? and how much that is attributed to him in speech and action is the embroidery of the various parties into which his followers tended to split themselves within twenty years of his death, when even the three-fold tradition was only nascent? …. If a man can find a friend, the hypostasis of all his hopes, the mirror of his ethical ideal, in the Jesus of any or all of the Gospels, let him live by faith in that ideal. Who shall, or can, forbid him? But let him not delude himself that his faith is evidence of the objective reality of that in which he trusts. Such evidence is to be obtained only by the use of the methods of science as applied to history and to literature, and it amounts, at present, to very little.”

Equally emphatic are the remarks of John Vickers, the author of The New Koran, etc., who, in his work, The Real Jesus, on pp. 160, 161, writes: “Many popular preachers at the present day are accustomed to hold Jesus up to admiration as the special friend of the poor — that is, as the benefactor of the humble working class, and their representations to this effect are doubtless very generally believed. But a greater delusion respecting him than this can scarcely be imagined; for, however much he may have been disposed to favor those who forsook their industrial calling and led a vagrant life, his preaching and the course which be took were prejudicial to all who honestly earned their bread. He did nothing with his superior wisdom to develop the resources of the country and provide employment for the poor; all his efforts were directed to the unhinging of industry, the diminution of wealth, and the promotion of universal idleness and beggary. It was no part of his endeavor to see the peasant and the artisan better remunerated and more comfortably housed, for he despised domestic comforts as much as Diogenes, and believed that their enjoyment would disqualify people for obtaining the everlasting pleasures of Paradise. A provident working man who had managed to save enough for a few months’ subsistence he would have classed with the covetous rich, and required him to give away in alms all that he had treasured as the indispensable condition of discipleship. On one occasion he is said to have distributed food liberally to the hungry multitude; but the food was none of his providing, since he was himself dependent on alms. Moreover, the recipients of his bounty were not a band of illfed laborers returning from work, not a number of distressed farmers who had suffered heavy losses from murrain or drought, but a loafing crowd who had followed him about from place to place, and spent the day in idleness. Such bestowment of largess would only tend to produce a further relaxation of industrial effort; it would induce credulous peasants to throw down their tools and follow the wonder-working prophet for the chance of a meal; they would see little wisdom in plodding at their tasks from day to day, like the ants and the bees, if people were to be fed by wandering about trustfully for what should turn up, as the idle, improvident ravens (Prov. vi. 6; Luke xii. 24),”

Many eminent Christian writers maintain that Jesus was a social reformer, because he is represented as having been in favor of dispensing with the private ownership of property, and also of people living together, enjoying what is called “a common repast.” Professor Graetz, in the second volume of his able ‘History of the Jews,’ devotes a chapter to the social practices which prevailed at the time when Jesus is alleged to have lived. On page 117 he states that Christianity was really an offshoot from the principles held by the Essenes, and that Christ inherited their aversion to Pharisaical laws, while he approved of their practice of putting their all into the common treasury. Farther, like them, Jesus highly esteemed self-imposed poverty, and despised riches. In fact, we are told that the “community of goods, which was a peculiar doctrine of the Essenes, was not only approved, but enforced … the repasts they shared in common formed, as it were, the connecting link which attached the followers of Jesus to one another; and the alms distributed by the rich publicans relieved the poor disciples of the fear of hunger; and this bound them still more strongly to Jesus.” But Graetz also adds that Christ thoroughly shared the narrow views held by the Judaeans of his time, and that he despised the heathen world. Thus he said: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you ” (Matt. vii. 6). If this is “Christian Socialism,” it is far from being catholic in its nature. The Socialistic element of having “all things in common” was limited by Christ to one particular community; it lacked that universality necessary to all real social reforms. It was similar to his idea of the brotherhood of man. Those only were his brothers who believed in him. He desired no fellowship with those who did not accept his faith; hence he exclaimed: “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they the burned ” (John xi,. 6); “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me” (John xvii. 9) ; “But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God (Luke xii. 9); “He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark xvi. 16). This may be the teaching of theology, but it is not indicative of a broad humanity, neither would it, if acted upon, tend to promote the social welfare of mankind.

Professor Graham, M.A., of Belfast College, contends, in his work, Socialism: Old and New, that Christ taught “Communism” when he preached “Blessed be ye poor,” when “he repeatedly denounced” the rich, and when he recommended the wealthy young man to voluntarily surrender his property to the poor. The Professor also says: “In spite of certain passages to the contrary, pointing in a different direction, the Gospels are pervaded with the spirit of Socialism but be adds: “It is not quite State Socialism, because the better society was to be brought about by the voluntary union of believers.” He admits, however, that “the ideal has hitherto been found impossible; but let not any say that it does not exist in the Gospels — that Christ did not contemplate an earthly society.” Now this last point is just what could be fairly urged, if the Gospels were trustworthy. There can be no reasonable doubt that the disregard of mundane duties would be the logical sequence of acting up to many of the teachings ascribed to Jesus. For instance, he said, “My kingdom is not of this world ” (John xviii. 36). “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hatoth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John xii. 25). “I am not of the world” (John xvii. 9). “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body what ye shall put on. … Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself” (Matthew vi. 25, 34). “If an man comes to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke xiv. 26). “Ever one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew xix. 29). Even the disciple who wished to bury his father was advised by Christ to forego that duty of affection, for “Jesus said, Follow me; let the dead bury the dead.”

The fact is, Christ was a spiritualiser, and not a social reformer. If he had been to his age what Bacon and Newton were to theirs, and what Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, and Tyndall have been to the present generation; if he had written a book teaching men how to avoid the miseries of life; if he had revealed the mysteries of nature, and exhibited the beauties of the arts and sciences, what an advantage he would have conferred upon mankind, and what an important contribution he would have given to the world towards solving the problems of our present social wrongs and inequalities. But the usefulness of Jesus was impaired by the idea which he entertained, that this world was but a state of probation, wherein the human family were to be prepared for another and a better home, where “the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.”

We have thus seen the views of the scientist, the historian, and the professor, upon the subject under consideration; it will now be interesting to learn what one of the successors to the apostles has to say in reference to the same question. B.F. Westcott, D.D., the present Bishop of Durham, in his work, Social Aspects of Christianity, says: “Of all places in the world, the Abbey, I think, proclaims the social gospel of Christ with the most touching eloquence. … if I am a Christian, I must bring within the range of my religion every interest and difficulty of man, for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

This is not by any means correct, for many other “foundations,” which have nothing to do with Christ, have been laid, and upon them systems, some good and some bad, have been built. For instance, there are Individualism, Socialism, material standards of progress, unlimited competition, and the application of science. These are “other foundations” that men have had apart altogether from Christ. But the solution to present social evils, Dr. Westeott considers, is to be found only in the Christian faith. He says: “We need to show the world the reality of spiritual power. We need to gain and exhibit the idea that satisfies the thoughts, the aspirations, the aims of men straining towards the light.” He admits that science has increased our power and resources; but, he adds, it “cannot open the heavens and show the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Of course it cannot for science has nothing to do with the impossible, or with the wild speculations of theology. In the ‘Social Aspects of Christianity,’ as presented by the Bishop, it would be difficult, indeed, to recognize the principles of true Socialism. Moreover, as it is admitted by him that science has increased our “power and resources,” it is a proof that Jesus must have been a poor reformer, when we remember that he did nothing what ever to aid this strong element of modern progress.

From the references which I have here made to some of the ablest writers of to-day, it will be seen how Jesus is estimated by them. I now propose to analyses the various statements which, according to the Four Gospels, were uttered by him, that have any bearing upon the political and social questions of our time. It will then be seen whether Christ has any claim to be considered a political and social reformer.

That the political views held by Jesus were exceedingly crude is evident from the circumstance recorded in Matthew xxii. It is there stated that, on finding a coin of the realm bearing the superscription of Caesar, Jesus declared that both Caesar and God were to have their due. The very pertinent question put by the disciples afforded a good opportunity for some sound advice to be given upon the political subjection in which the people to whom Christ was talking were living. They were in bondage to a foreign power, and were anxious to know if it were “lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not.” Instead of returning a clear and intelligible answer, Jesus replied in words which were evasive and meaningless, so far as the information sought for was concerned. If he had any desire to alter the then existing political relations, or to suggest any improvement, he might have given a practical lesson upon the duties and obligations of the ruled to the rulers. Another opportunity was lost when, Pilate having asked Christ an important question, “Jesus gave him no answer” (John xix. 9).

Subsequently, however, Jesus recognized the “divine government,” for he said: “Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John xix. 11). He also, having stated, “My kingdom is not of this world,” added: “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jew.” Christ’s notions of government were similar to those ofSt. Paul, who said: “The powers that be are ordained of God. … and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Romans xiii. 1, 2).

Now, in the very face of these scriptural utterances, we have men to-day who allege that Christ is their hero of democracy. The belief that he ever intended to improve the government of this world by secular means is utterly groundless. His negligence in this particular cannot be explained away by saying that society was not ripe for reform, and that Jesus lacked the power to revolutionize the institutions of his time. There is truth, no doubt, in the latter allegation, for the power of Christ for all practical work seems to have been very limited indeed, He did not attempt any political reform, as other men in all ages have done; he did not make honest endeavors to inaugurate improvements which, under happier circumstances, might have been carried out. There is no evidence that Christ ever concerned himself with such reforms as civil and religious liberty, the freedom of the slaves, the equality of human rights, the emancipation of women, the spread of science and of education, the proper use of the land, and the fostering of the fundamental elements of human progress. His language was: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? But seek ye first thekingdomofGodand his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Christ’s declaration that his kingdom was not of this world may be taken as a reason why he made no adequate provision for secular government; but those who worship him assert that his pain is the only one that can be successfully adopted to secure the desired reforms, and that he really did contemplate a better state of society on earth than the one that then obtained. Where is the evidence that this was so? Not in the New Testament, for it is nowhere recorded therein that such was his mission. With him the question was: For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul” Even Renan, who is so frequently quoted by Christian advocates as extolling Jesus, admits that he lacked the qualities of a great political and social reformer. In his ‘Life of Jesus’ Renan says that Christ had “no knowledge of the general condition of the world” (p. 78); he was unacquainted with science, “believed in the devil, and that diseases were the work of demons” (pp. 79, 80) he was “harsh” towards his family, and was “no philosopher” (pp. 81-83); he went to excess” (p. 174) he “aimed less at logical conviction than at enthusiasm”; “sometimes his intolerance of all opposition led him to acts inexplicable and apparently absurd” (pp. 274, 275); and “bitterness and reproach became more and more manifest in his heart” (p. 278.)

But let us further consider what it is said that he taught in reference to life’s social requirements, and also what was his estimate of the world and the things of the world. Under any system conducted upon rational principles the first social requirement is to provide for sufficient food, clothes, and shelter; for to talk of comfort and progress without these requisites is absurd. Now, it was about these very things that Jesus, as it has already been shown, taught that we should take no thought. In Matthew (e. vi.) special reference is made to the Gentiles who did take Thought as to the necessities of life; but other people were not to be anxious upon the subject, “for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things,” and a promise is given that he will provide them as he “feedeth” “the fowls of the air.” Poverty and idleness were essentials to Christ’s idea of a social state, as is proved by his advice to the rich young man, to whom he said: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor” (Matthew xix. 21). In John (vi. 27) it is also said: “Labor not for the meat which perisheth.” What wealthy Christian will sell what he has and give to the poor, and thus carry out Christ’s idea of social duties? And if the toiling millions did not labor for their meat, they would get but little of it. It is not overlooked that Jesus said to the young man, “and follow me”; which meant, I presume, that he was to join the Christian society in which they had “all things common” (Acts iv.). But this state of existence could only be maintained by giving up all one’s possessions and adding them to the general stock. If all did this, the stock would be soon exhausted. And the point here to be noted is, that in Christ’s scheme no provision is made to provide for a permanent mode of living, except by prayer or miracle.

Surely it must be obvious to most people that a communion of saints, fed directly by God, could not be any solution of the social problem for those outside such communities Besides, there is little prospect of outsiders being made partakers with the saints, unless God the Father draws them unto Christ (John vi. 44); but no one can go to the Father except by Christ (.John xiv. 6). Thus our chances of admission into the Christian fold are very remote, for if we are admitted it must be through Christ, to whom we cannot go unless the Father draws us; but then we cannot go to the Father except by Christ. This is a theological puzzle, which must be left for a “Christian Socialist” to unravel if he can. an invisible power, where no labor is performed, and where no interest is taken in its progress, or in the dignity and personal independence of its members, is the height of folly. It implies the destruction of all human institutions, and the substitution of a “divinely-ordered state of things,” such as some of Christ’s followers allege they are now hourly expecting. Well might the late Bishop of Peterborough say: “It is not possible for the State to carry out all the precepts of Christ. A State that attempted to do so could not exist for a week. If there be any person who maintains the contrary, his proper place is in a lunatic asylum” (Fortnightly, January, 1890).

The Sermon on the Mount, or “in the plain,” as stated by Luke (vi. 17), has been called the Magna Charta of the kingdom of God, proclaimed by Christ, although it has never been made the basis of any human government. Its injunctions are so impracticable and antagonistic to the requirements of modern civilization that no serious attempt has ever been made to put them in practice. It may be mentioned that the genuineness of the “Sermon has been boldly questioned. Professor Huxley writes: “I am of opinion that there is the gravest reason for doubting whether the Sermon on the Mount was ever preached, and whether the so-called Lord’s Prayer was ever prayed by Jesus of Nazareth” (Controverted Questions, p. 415). The Professor then gives his reasons for arriving at this conclusion.

The Rev. Dr. Giles, in his ‘Christian Records, speaking of the Sermon on the Mount, says: “There is good ground for believing that such a collective body of maxims was never, at any time, delivered from the lips of oar Lord”; and Milman declares that scarcely any passage is more perplexing to the harmonist of the Gospels than this sermon, which, according to Matthew and Luke, appears to have been delivered at two different places.

Mr. Charles B. Cooper, a very able American writer, aptly observes: “If this discourse is so important, as Christians profess to believe — the sum of all the teachings of Jesus, and the sufficient source of all morality — it is curious that Mark and John knew nothing about it, and that Luke should dismiss it with such a short report. Luke, omitting the larger part of the matter, takes only one page to tell what occupies three pages in Matthew; and to find any parallel to much of Matthew we have to go to other chapters of Luke and to other occasions. In addition to which, they disagree as to whether it was given on a mountain or in a plain.”

Taking a broad view of the teachings as ascribed to Christ, I should describe most of them as being the result of emotion rather than the outcome of matured reflection. They are based upon faith, not upon knowledge, trust inProvidencebeing the cornerstone of his system, so far as his fragmentary utterances can be systematized. In my opinion, the idea of his being a political and social reformer rests upon an entirely mistaken view of the union of what are termed temporal and spiritual things. Examples of this may be seen in such injunctions as “Love one another” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The first was clearly applicable to the followers of Christ, for he expressly states, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples” (John xiii, 35); and the second command applied only to the Jewish community, not to strangers who lived outside. These injunctions did not mean that those who heard them were to love all mankind. Christ himself divided those who were for him from those who were against him. To the first he said, “Come, ye blessed of my father”; to the other, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

It has always appeared to me to be remarkably strange that Christ should be regarded as the exemplar of universal love. Neither his own words, nor the conduct of his followers, justify such a belief. It is, of course, desirable that a social state of society should be based upon love and the universal brotherhood of man. This is the avowed foundation of the religion of the Positivists, their motto being, “Love our basis, order our method, and progress our end”; but no such commendable features are to be found in the Gospel of Christ, or in the history of the Church. Jesus declared that his mission was only to “the lost sheep of the house ofIsrael” (Matthew xv. 24). Moreover, the conditions of discipleship which he imposed would, if complied with, exclude the possibility of love among all men (Luke xiv. 26); as would also his avowed object of breaking the peace and harmony of the domestic circle (Matthew x. 34, 35). It may be said that such are the contingencies attending the belief and adoption of a new religion. Be it so; but that only shows the futility of the contention that Christ established universal brotherhood. It is absurd to argue that he did so, when we are told in the Gospels that his mission was to the Jews only (Matthew xv. 24); that he would have no fellowship with unbelievers (Matthew xv. 26); that he threatened to have his revenge upon those who denied him (Matthew x. 33); that he instructed his disciples to “go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not” (Matthew x. 5); and, finally, that he commanded those disciples, when they were about to start on a preaching expedition, that “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for thelandofSodomandGomorrahin the day of judgment than for that city” (Matthew x. 14, 15). Shaking the dust from the feet, be it remembered, was an Oriental custom of exhibiting hatred towards those against whom the act was performed. And surely the punishment that it is said was to follow the refusal of the disciples’ administration was the very opposite of the manifestation of love. This accords with the non-loving announcement that the lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power ” (2 Thess. i. 7, 8, 9).

These references ought to be sufficient to convince any one that Jesus cannot be reasonably credited with a feeling of unqualified love for the whole of the human race. His conduct, and the general spirit of his teachings towards those who differed from him, forbid such a supposition. His injunctions, if acted upon, would annul the influence of the ancient maxim of “doing unto others as you would they should do to you.” Certainly he failed to set a personal example by complying with this rule, as his harsh language to those who did not accept his authority amply proves. It is reported that Jesus said (Matthew v. 22), “Whosoever shall say Thou fool shall be in danger of hell fire”; yet we find him exclaiming, “Ye fools, ye fools and blind” (Lakexi.40; Matthew xxiii. 17). He advised others to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,” while he himself addressed those who were not his friend’s as “hypocrites” (Matthew vii. 5); “ye serpents, ye generation of vipers” (Matthew xxiii. 33). We may here apply Christ’s own words to himself: “I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, And by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew xii. 36, 37). In Luke (vi. 37) he counsels us to “forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”; but in Mark (iii. 29) it is stated, “He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” The unfortunate point here is, that we are not told what constitutes blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.

From these cases, and there are many more in the Gospels of like nature, it is clear that Jesus taught one thing and practiced another — a course of conduct which his followers have not been slow to emulate. But such an inconsistent trait of character disqualifies those in whom it is found from being the best of social reformers. Example is higher than precept.

Whatever may be urged in favor of Christ’s supposed “spiritual kingdom,” his teachings have but little value in regulating the political and social affairs of daily life, using those terms in the modern and legitimate sense, inasmuch as he has given the world no practical information upon either the science of politics or of sociology. The affairs of this world had but little interest with Christ. With him preeminence was given to the soul over the body. We are not to fear him who can kill the body only, but rather fear him “who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew x. 28). Here we recognize the great defect in Jesus as a sectarian reformer. He treats this world as if it were of secondary importance, and he furnishes no useful rules for its practical government. True he says, “Blessed are the poor” and Woe unto you that are rich”; but what does this amount to? These empty exclamations will not abolish pauperism, neither will they produce the organization of honest industry, whereby human wants can be supplied and social comforts secured. Would it not have been better if Jesus had devised some plan whereby poverty should become extinct?

To talk, as Professor Graham does, about producing a better state, of society by a “union of believers” is, in my opinion, folly. How is it to be done? Every member of “the union” would have to live on the alms of the wealthy members. It would, in fact, be a society of the destitute supported by voluntary contributions. Surely no sane Socialists ever proposed to divide mankind into two classes — i.e., Paupers And those who feed them. We know what the result of such a policy was in the case of the Church. As the Professor says, the Church obtained the funds of the rich in return for certain considerations which were supposed to affect them in this world and in the next; and out of such proceeds the clergy distributed bread to the poor and kept something better for themselves. ThusEuropefor centuries was infested by fat, idle monks and an army of miserable beggars. A more detestable condition of society to men of honor and independent spirit never existed. Yet this “Christian Plan” finds favor, as we have seen, in “the Abbey,” and is really the necessary outcome of Christ’s mendicant teachings. For did he not allege that the poor were blessed, and that “ye hath the poor always with you” (Matthew xxvi. 11)? If he contemplated that the period would arrive when “it should be impossible for men to be poor,” Why did he not give some practical instructions to hasten its advent? This would have been a grand contribution to social reform. But his overwhelming anxiety about another life, was, with him, the “one thing needful” and to it every other consideration had to give way.

I am quite unable to understand how anyone can mistake the obvious meaning of the parable in which the rich man appears in hell and the poor man in heaven (Luke xvi. 19-26). The only assigned reason is that the one was well-to-do in this life, while the other suffered privations. This is no justification for either of the men being where they are represented to have been. For poverty is no virtue, neither is it a crime to be rich. Men of wealth can be worthy characters, and poverty may be allied with much rascality. The wrong does not consist in possessing riches, but rather in the misuse of them; and, therefore, to be poor does not seem the highest qualification for future bliss, and to be rich is not a sufficient cause for anyone being excluded from an abode of happiness. But this parable is another illustration of Christ’s exaltation of poverty. He even dispatched his disciples on a mission of propaganda, without scrip, money, or purse, to beg their way through the world (Luke, x. 7-10). Is this the highest model that can be given for a mission to the poor? It is thought so little of to-day, even by professed Christians, that they never adopt the plan suggested by their “Master.” They may preach “Blessed be ye poor,” but they have no desire to be one of them. They read the warning, “Woe unto you that are rich; for ye have received your consolation” (Luke vi. 24); but they appear to be exceedingly comfortable with their material consolation. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and they are consoled more with the riches of this world than with the chance of having a harp in the next. In the case of the rich voting man (Luke xviii.) it is true Christ advised the giving up of private property; but it is also true that the advice was not deemed practical, for the young man “went away sorrowful (Matthew xix. 22). Supposing he had accepted the advice, he would then have swelled the ranks of the poor unemployed, and thereby have become the recipient rather than the benefactor, although it is recorded that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts xx. 35). The giving up all one’s possessions would be as injurious to a community as the amassing of wealth by the few is pernicious.

What is required is a social arrangement whereby all members of the community shall have their fair share of the necessities and comforts of life; and this arrangement Christ did not understand, or, if he did, he made no effort to bring it into force, and consequently he lacked the elements of a true social reformer.

Christ refused to say anything upon the subjects of property, civil rights, and law and government. “One of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, Who made me a judge, or a divider over you?” Here Jesus had an opportunity, as a social reformer, to give the world an important lesson upon the duty of one man to another; but he did not avail himself of it. He acted more like a modern lawyer would do, who, when asked by a stranger to give him advice, would reply: “I am not your appointed solicitor if you want information, you must consult your own legal adviser.”

The parable of “the rich man who set up greater barns,” related in Luke (xii.), is another illustration of Christ’s defective teachings in reference to the affairs of this life. The man in the parable proposed to enlarge his premises so that he might be able to put by increased stock of fruits and goods, and thus be in a position to take his “ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” There does not appear to be any great crime in this, for he lacked room wherein to bestow his fruits, etc. (v. 17). Surely there could be no serious objection to making such careful provision for “a rainy day.” Such conduct is frequent necessary to the advancement of personal comfort and general civilization. Have not Christians in all ages, since their advent, done the same thing, when they have had the opportunity? Laying up treasures on earth, although forbidden by Christ, is often an effective precaution against starvation, and again in old age the slave of charity. But for doing this very thing the man was told: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” (v. 20). Jesus then said, “Therefore I sty unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat,” etc. Here we have the prominent Christian requirement of making the duties of this world subservient to the demands of a future existence put forth by one who is claimed as being a model social reformer. If it is alleged that Christ meant that the man in the parable should have distributed his fruits and goods rather than store them up, the reply is, the account does not say so. Why did not Christ, instead of making heaven the principal consideration, point out the evil influence of the monopoly of wealth upon human society? The social problems cannot be solved by indulging in speculations as to another world, of which we have had no experience. The principle sought to be enforced in this parable is evidently that the soul is of more importance than the body, and that heaven is of greater value than earth. Thoughtlessness of the things of time is directly encouraged by reference to the ravens: “For they neither sow nor reap; which neither have store-house nor barn; and God feedeth them” (v. 24).

It is worthy of note that Jesus never once intimated throughout his career, either by direct statement or illustration, that this world was the noblest and most desirable dwelling place for man, and that it was the home of social felicity and mutual happiness. His heart and home were in his Father’s house, whither he went to prepare a place for his followers, to whom he gave a promise that he would come and receive them unto himself (John xiv. 2, 3). So little did Christ understand the philosophy of secular reform that when he condemned covetousness (which was very laudable upon his part) it was because he thought it interfered with the preparation for inhabiting “mansions in the skies,” rather than in consequence of its effects upon homes on earth. He entirely overlooked the agencies that promote human comfort. The means that have been employed to produce and to advance civilization received from him no matured consideration. If every word attributed to him had been left unuttered, not one feature of modern progress would be missing to-day. Let anyone carefully read, with an unbiased mind, the four Gospels, and then ask himself the questions: What philosophic truth did Jesus propound? What scientific fact did he explain? What social problem did he solve? What political scheme did he unfold? The New Testament does not inform us. On the contrary, while other men, with less pretensions than himself, were active in giving the world their thoughts upon these great questions, Jesus remained silent in reference to them. It is no answer to say that to deal with the subjects was not his mission. For, if he came simply to talk about another world, at the sacrifice of the requirements of this, then my contention is made good that, whatever else he was, he certainly was no political and social reformer.

It appears to me that the gospel of Christ is a very poor one for any practical purposes, inasmuch as it never deals with the material comforts of human beings. It does not suggest any means by which the poor could obtain that power by which they could secure the amelioration of their sad condition. It is not here overlooked that Christ is credited with saying that those who sought the “Kingdom of God” should have food, drink, etc., added unto them (Luke xii.). But, unfortunately, experience teaches that such a promise cannot be relied upon, for it is too well known that many of those persons who occupied much of their time in seeking thekingdomofGodremained destitute of the necessaries of life. It was during the prevalence of this superstitious belief, and of an unreasonable reliance upon Christ, that personal misery and intellectual sterility prevailed throughout the land. For many generations the indiscriminate followers of Jesus failed to give the world any new thought, or to establish any new political or social institution; and from the Church nothing of practical secular value emanated during the fifteen centuries of its uninterrupted reign. This, however, is not all that can be fairly urged upon this point. The followers of Christ not only failed to originate any social scheme for the good of general society themselves, but they did their utmost to crush those who did. It appears almost incredible that such persistent efforts were ever made to extinguish every new thought as those recorded of Christians, when they had the power to do as they pleased. New books were despised and destroyed, and new inventions were said to be the work of the Devil. True happiness cannot coexist with physical slavery and, mental serfdom, and yet, it must be repeated, Jesus did nothing to remove these evils. His apathy towards the institution of slavery is the more strange if we accept the authority of Gratz, that Christ was connected with the Essenes, and that, to some extent, he founded his system upon theirs. By that community slavery, we are told, was prohibited; yet we read that both bond and free were one in Christ Jesus. Is not this striking evidence that Jesus had no intention to seek the removal of this inhuman blot from the history of our race? between Socialism and Christianity dwell with much persistency upon Christ’s views as to the division of property. But let us see what are the facts of the case. Jesus told those who were willing to leave their homes, families, and lands for his “sake and the Gospels” (Mark x.), that they should receive “an hundredfold” of each in this world, besides “eternal life in the world to come. Now, this is ridiculous in the extreme; for what possible advantage could it be to any one to have his or her relatives multiplied a hundredfold? Besides, where could Christ get either a hundred mothers to replace ever one that had been forsaken, or a hundred acres of land to compensate for each one that had been given up? And even supposing he could do this, what becomes of the theory of despising landed possessions? Moreover, if the smaller number and quantity were a drawback, the larger must be more so. Further, there is but little self-denial involved in parting with ten acres of land to secure a thousand. It is really surprising that the Jews did not “catch on” in this matter. Probably they saw that it was all a sham, because Christ had no means of keeping his promise. Where were the houses, land, etc., to come from? Evidently Christ had none, for he appears to have been entirely destitute of all worldly goods, having “not where to lay his head” (Matthew viii. 20). Would not such an augmentation of property be antagonistic to the principle Jesus taught on another occasion, when he said “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (Matthew vi.)? No marvel that his friends thought he was “beside himself” (Mark iii. 21), or that the Jews considered “he hath a devil, and is mad” (John x. 20), and that “neither did his brethren believe in him” (John vii. 5). If any man at the present time dealt with the question of property in the same way as Christ is here represented to have done, he would not be, regarded as a social reformer, but rather as a man whose intellect was far from being brilliant, and whose ideas were exceedingly confused. Christ’s reply to the high priest, who asked him the question, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark xiv. 61), is, to my mind, clear evidence that he was neither the political nor the social Messiah that some persons allege him to have been. His reply was, “I am; and he shall see the son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Does not this accord with his statement, “I am not of the world,” and “my kingdom is not of this world”? Should not this settle at once, as a fact, that the mission of Jesus was not to be the founder of an earthly government, or the promoter of a mundane social system?

As to the idea that Christ will come, as he said, “in the clouds,” that relates to the future, and has no bearing upon the present inquiry, the results of which will not be affected by either the fulfillment or the failure of that prediction. The question is not what will be, but rather what Christ did to entitle him to be classified as a secular reformer. Professor Graham, as we have seen, admits that Christ did not inaugurate State Socialism, but that he only proposed a sort of friendly society among Christians themselves. In doing even this, however, he showed himself sadly defective in the knowledge necessary to a real reformer. There exists to-day in this country an old-established Christian sect, termed Quakers, who keep a common treasury for the purpose of aiding those of their numbers who are in need. But, be it observed, they fill their treasury by industry and the result of laboring “for the meat which perisheth,” the very thing that Jesus forbade. The method of the Quakers is a very charitable one, for it prevents their poorer members from going to the workhouse, or from begging in the streets, as other Christians are so often forced to do. They are enabled, by this plan of industry and of “taking thought for the morrow,” to preserve their dignity and selfrespect, and to receive all the advantages of assistance without being branded as paupers, who have to forfeit many rights in consequence of their poverty. This scheme of mutual aid is not based upon Christ’s advice to “forsake all,” under the insane idea that they will be kept alive, upon the same principle that the ravens and the lilies of the field are; on the contrary, among the Quakers all who can both “toil and spin.” Jesus, in his method, counselled no sort of thrift, nor made any provision for the time of need. There is no record, that I am aware of, that any society of men ever lived upon help from heaven without labor, and due care being taken for the requirements of life. Certainly such a society does not exist in “Christian England.”

The burden of Christ’s preaching was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What was meant by this kingdom it is rather difficult to decide, for it is variously described in the Gospels. It is certain, however, that whether it signified the reign of peace and justice on earth, or the appearance of Jesus “in the clouds”‘ neither event has taken place up to date, although Christ said that in his time the kingdom was “at hand.” In Luke (xvii. 21) it is stated “the kingdom of God is within you”; but that does not quite harmonize with the description given of it in Matthew (xiii. 47-50), where it is alleged that the kingdom of heaven is “like unto a net that was cast into the sea,” which, when full, had the good of its contents retained, and the bad cast away. “So shall it be at the end of the world,” when the angels are to “sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Now, if this refers to a condition upon earth, it is not a very happy one. And in neither case is there any light thrown upon the rational conduct of men, either politically or socially. Besides, the repeated references made by Christ to the approaching end of all earthly institutions render the idea of his being a reformer of this world altogether meaningless. The termination of mundane affairs was to occur in the presence of those to whom Jesus was speaking (Matthew xvi. 28). Whatever other texts may be cited to the contrary, the meaning here is clear, that no opportunity was to be given, and no provisions made, to reform the political and social conditions of earth. Let any one read the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, and try to harmonize the declarations there ascribed to Christ with the belief that his mission was to reform the world, and the impossibility of the task will soon be evident. True, in Matthew (xxv.) works of utility are required to secure a place at the “right hand” of God. But what does this involve? Uniformity of belief (Mark xvi. 16), and only the relief, not the cure, of poverty. No scheme was even hinted at by Christ whereby the, great army of the poor and depraved should be impossible. He was inferior to the French philosopher, who aimed at providing a condition of society wherein men should be neither depraved nor poor.

and social progress? Briefly, they are these: The cultivation of the intellect, the extension of physical and mental freedom, the recognition and the application of the principle of justice and liberty to all members of the community, regardless of their belief or non-belief in theology, the knowledge and application of science and art, the organization of labor and the proper cultivation of the soil, the possession of political power, the understanding of the true value and use of wealth, and, finally, the persistent study of, and the constant struggling against, the numerous evils, wrongs, and injustice that now rob life of its comforts and real worth. These are the agencies that all men, who claim to be political and social reformers, should support and cultivate. Not one of these originated with Jesus, and throughout his career he never availed himself of these essentials of all progress. Thus, to designate him as the great social redeemer is entirely unjustifiable. His very mode of living was the opposite to that of a practical reformer. He was an ascetic, and avoided as much as possible the turmoil of public life, from which he might have learnt something of what was necessary to adjust the social relations. Prayer, not work, was his habit. In the day, and at night, would he retire to the solitude of the mountain, and there pray to his father (Luke vi. 12 and xxi. 37). So far did he believe in the efficacy of supplications to God that he frequently told his disciples that whatever they asked of his father he would grant the request (Matthew xviii. 19; xxi. 22; John xvi. 23). That this was a delusion is clear from the fact that he prayed himself for the unity of Christendom, that his followers might be one (John xvii. 21); yet from his time down to the present divisions have always existed among Christians. He distinctly promised that “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name that will I do” (John xiv. 13, 14). Relying upon this, the Church for centuries has been asking that unbelief should cease, and yet we find it more extensive to-day than it ever was. The lesson learnt from experience is, that all reforms are the result of active work, not the outcome of prayerful meditations.

With all these drawbacks in the character of Jesus, it is to me marvelous how he can be accepted as a model for us in the present age. But thousands of his devotees insist upon claiming him as their Ideal, although they cannot regulate their conduct by such a standard. Such persons overlook the fact that, if the better parts of an Ideal are marred by that which is erroneous and impracticable, it is comparatively useless as a guide in life. That Christ’s alleged teachings are so marred the Gospels amply testify. His conduct, on several occasions, was such as his followers would not attempt to emulate to day. Such, for instance, as his treatment of his parents (Luke ii. 43-49 John ii. 4); his cursing of the figtree (Matthew xxi. 18, 19); his driving the money changers from the temple with “a scourge of small cards” (John ii. 15); his possession of an ass and a colt, which evidently did not belong to him, and riding upon both of them into Jerusalem (Matthew xxi. 2-11); his expletives to the Pharisees (Luke xi. 37-44); his breaking up the peace of the domestic circle (Matthew x. 34-36).

Judged by the New Testament, Christ was certainly not “The Light of the World,” for he revealed nothing of practical value, and he taught no virtues that were before unknown. No doubt in his life, supposing he ever lived, there were many commendable features; but he was far from being perfect. While he might have been well-meaning, he was in belief superstitious, in conduct inconsistent, in opinions contradictory, in teaching arbitrary, in knowledge deficient, in faith vacillating, and in pretensions great. He taught false notions of existence, had no knowledge of science; he misled his followers by claiming to be what he was not, and he deceived himself by his own credulity. He lacked experimental force, frequently living a life of isolation, and taking but slight interest in the affairs of this world. It is this lack of experimental force throughout the career of Christ that renders his notions of domestic duties so thoroughly imperfect. The happiness of a family, according to his teaching, was to be impaired before his doctrines could be accepted. So far as we know, he was never a husband or a father; and he did not aspire to be a statesman, a man of science, or a politician. Now, a person who lacks experience in these phases of life is not in the best position to give practical and satisfactory lessons thereon. Even in the conditions of life he is said to have filled, this “Light of the World” failed to exhibit any high degree of excellence, discrimination, or manly courage. As a son, he lacked affection and consideration for the feelings of his parents. As a teacher, he was mystical and rude; and as a reasoner, he was defective and illogical. Lacking a true method of reasoning, possessing no uniformity of character, Christ exhibited a strange example — an example injudicious to exalt and dangerous to emulate. At times he was severe when he should have been gentle. When he might have reasoned he frequently rebuked. When he ought to have been firm and resolute he was vacillating. When he should have been happy he was sorrowful and desponding. After preaching faith as the one thing needful, he himself lacked it when he required it the most. Thus, on the cross, when a knowledge of a life of integrity, a sensibility of the fulfillment of a good mission, a conviction that he was dying for a good and righteous cause, and fulfilling the object of his life — when all these should have given him moral strength, we find him giving vent to utter despair. So overwhelmed was he with grief and anxiety of mind that he “began to be sorrowful and very heavy.” “My soul,” he exclaimed, “is sorrowful even unto death.” At last, overcome with grief, he implores his father to rescue him from the death which was then awaiting him.

Christ is paraded as the one redeemer of the world, but his system lacks such essentials of all reform as worldly ambition, and reliance upon the human power of regeneration. If we lament the poverty and wretchedness we behold, we are told by Christians that “the poor shall never cease out of the land.” If we seek to remove the sorrow and despair existing around us, we are reminded that they were “appointed curses to the sons of Adam.” If we work to improve our condition, we are taught that we should remain “in that state of life in which it has pleased God to call us.” When we endeavor to improve our minds and to cultivate our intellects, we are informed that “we are of ourselves unable to do any good thing.” if we seek to promote the happiness of others, we are assured that “faith in Christ is of more importance than labor for man.” We to-day have but a vague idea of the extent of the influence such teachings once exercised over the minds of those who believed them. These teachings have permeated the minds of orthodox Christians, stifling their reason and perverting their judgment, till they cherish the delusion that the reasonings of philosophers, the eloquence of poets, and the struggles of patriots are all worse than useless unless purified by the “Spirit of Christ.” It is such delusions which foster the erroneous and retarding belief that every thought which does not aspire to the throne of Christ, every action which is not sanctioned by him, and every motive which does not proceed from a love for him should be discouraged as antagonistic to our real progress in life.

It is contended by some that, although Christ did not give detailed remedies for existing evils, he taught “general principles” which would, if acted upon, prove a panacea for the wrongs of life. This was not so, for his “general principles” lacked the saving power that was desired. What were those “principles” as laid down in the Gospels? So far as they can be understood, they were as follows: Absolute trust in God; implicit belief in himself reliance upon the prayer of supplication; disregard of the world; taking no anxious thought for the morrow; encouragement of poverty, and contempt of riches; obedience to the law of the Old Testament neglect of home and families; nonresistance of evil; that persecution in this world and punishment in some other would follow the rejection of Christianity and that sickness was caused by the possession of devils. These are among the leading “principles” taught by Christ; and, if they were acted upon, there would be an end of all progress, harmony, and selfreliance. But even if the “general principles” propounded by Jesus were good, that would not be enough to make him the greatest reformer. It is necessary, in addition to knowing what is to be done, to have the knowledge of how it is to be done. And this is just what Jesus has not taught us. Principles do not aid progress unless they can be applied; and, whatever value his teachings may have as matters of belief, they are incapable of application in the great cause of political and social advancement in the nineteenth century.

Judged from the Secular standpoint, the real redeemers of the world are those who study the great facts of nature, learning her secrets, and revealing her power and value to the human family. While Christ devoted himself to the mysteries of theology, such reformers as Copernicus, Galileo, Bruno, and subsequentlyNewton, Locke,Darwin, and a host of other servants of humanity, endeavored to the best of their ability to ascertain the truths of existence, and to vindicate the principle of freedom. Copernicus and his immediate successors redeemed the world from errors which for ages had been nursed by the Church; Locke based his philosophy upon knowledge, not upon the faiths of theology;Newtoncontended that the universe was regulated by natural law, not by supernatural power; andDarwinexploded the Bible error of creation. These redeemers rescued mankind from the burden of ignorance and superstition that had so long prevented the recognition of truth and the advancement of knowledge. Shakespeare contributed more to the enlightenment of the human race than Christ was capable of doing; Darwin far surpassed St. Paul in bringing to view the great forces of nature, and the Freethought heroes and martyrs aided the emancipation of intellect to a far higher degree than either the “Carpenter of Nazareth” or the whole of his followers. The power that has enabled these secular redeemers of the world to achieve their glorious results was found, not in perplexing theologies, but in the principles of Science andLiberty– the true saviors of men.

Various

Posted in Various on July 8, 2012 by vahagnakanch

A Bit Of Church History
A Critique of Fundamentalism
A Preacher Advocates Church Taxation
A Rejoinder to Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict
A Verdict on Josh McDowell
ADL Rewrites New Testament
An Enquiry Concerning The Evangelical Religion
Argument from Insufficient Knowledge of the Bible for the Nonexistence of the God of Christianity
Bible Morality
Biblical Evidence Of Reincarnation
By This Time He Stinketh
Can Mystical Experience be a Perception of God?
Christianity and Agnosticism
Christianity And Civilization
Christianity and Paganism
Christianity’s “absolute morality” is neither absolute nor a good morality
Commandments Five to Eleven
Confessions of an Australian Atheist
Confessions of an Evangelical Atheist
Copin’ with Copan
Critique of John Warwick Montgomery’s Apologetics
Critique of John Warwick Montgomerys Arguments for the Legal Evidence for Christianity 
Critique of Josh McDowells Non-Messianic Prophecies
Critique of Maisel’s “Is Jesus God?” pamphlet
Critique of Moreland’s Scaling the Secular City
Critique of New Testament Reliability and “Bias” in NT Development
Damnable Syllogism
Despair Optimism And Rebellion
Does the Free-Will Defense Constitute a Sound Theodicy?
Double-talk in Defense of the Dubious: God’s “Respect” and “Forgiveness”
Doubts In Dialogue
Earliest Christianity
Examining Miracle Claims
From Believer to Atheist
From Fundamentalist to Freethinker: It All Began with Santa
rom Fundamentalist to Humanist
From Missionary Bible Translator To Agnostic
From Taoist To Infidel
From Which Religious Sect Did Jesus Emerge?
GA Wells Replies to Criticisms of his Books on Jesus
Genealogical Saga of Judaism
Ghosts, Vampires, Pat Robertson and Other Scary Creatures
God or Blind Nature
Helping God Help Us Help Ourselves
How I Walked Away
How To Handle Bibliolaters
Is Christianity Absurd?
Is The Bible The Word Of God?
Jeremiah’s New Covenant vs. Christianity
Jesus Teachings, Christ, Devil, Atheism
Jesus Under Fire
Judaism and Jewish Apologetics
Kerygmatic Sources of the Jesus Movement
Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire: A Look into the World of the Gospels
Luke and Josephus
Luke and Quirinius
Mistakes Of Jesus
Moses
My Post Christian Testimony
National Bible Week
On the Nature of Morality
On The Problem Of Unjustifiable Suffering
Pagan Roots of Trinitarianism
Patrick Glynn’s God: the Evidence
Prayer
Problems with Heaven
Prophecy and Palimpsest
Reliability And Belief
Revelation’s Place in the Christian Bible
Review of Can We Trust the New Testament?
Review of The Case Against Christianity
Review of The Hidden Face of God
Review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark
Review of In Defense of Miracles
Review of Answers to Tough Questions
Review of Fighting Words
Review of Jesus After 2000 Years
Review of More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
Secret Instructions of the Society of Jesus
Skepticism and McDowell’s “Proof”
Ten Golden Words
The Bible’s Unholy Origins
The Absurd Life Barabbas and Christ
The Apology of John Paul II
The Apostles
The Argument from Nonbelief : A Rejoinder
The Arguments from Confusion and Biblical Defects
The Arguments From Evil and Nonbelief
The Bible Unearthed
The Big Bang Argument For The Existence Of God
The Church Is A Burden, Not A Benefit, In Social Life
The Claims of Christianity Examined from a Rationalist Standpoint
The Errancy of Fundamentalism Disproves the God of the Bible
The Gospel of John and the Hellenization of Jesus
The Great Preposterous
The Heart Of the Bible
The Human Origin of the Bible: How Nicaea Defined God with a Vote
The Incoherence of Original Sin and Substitutive Sacrifice
The Institution Narrative of Luke 22:19-20
The Jesus Story
The Little Known Literary Battles Between the Gospel Writers
The Lowdown on God’s Showdown
The Poverty of Theistic Morality
The Riddle of the Four Faces: Solving an Ancient Mystery
The Secret Gospel of Mark
The Strategies of Christian Fundamentalism
The Trilemma Lord, Liar Or Lunatic?
The Trinity Doctrine/Dogma Exposed
The Uniqueness Of The Bible
Was Christ a Political and Social Reformer?
Why Christians Must Steal From Secular Morality
Why I Am An Infidel
Why I Am No Longer a Christian
Why I Am Not a Christian
Why I Quit Going To Church
Why Jesus Isn’t Coming Again

The Arguments From Evil and Nonbelief

Posted in Various on July 8, 2012 by vahagnakanch

Theodore Drange

When God is conceived of as an all-powerful and all-loving deity, many arguments for his nonexistence can be raised. Two of the main ones are the Argument from Evil (hereafter abbreviated AE) and the Argument from Nonbelief (hereafter abbreviated ANB). In what follows, I shall provide precise formulations of those two arguments, make some comments about them, and then try to refute the main defenses (of God’s existence) that might be put forward against ANB, which I consider the stronger of the two. I take ANB to be a sound argument establishing the proposition that God (conceived of in a certain way) does not exist.

1. The Arguments Formulated

  • AE: I first define an expression that will be used in the argument:
  • Situation L = the situation of the amount of suffering and prema ture death experienced by humans in the world at the present time being significantly less than what it actually is at present. (In other words, if the actual amount, at present, is, say, a total of n units of suffering and premature death, then in situation L that amount would be, at present, significantly less than n units.)
  • Then AE, making reference to situation L, can be expressed as follows:
  • (A) If God were to exist, then he would possess all of the following four properties (among others):
  • (1) being able to bring about situation L, all things considered;
  • (2) wanting to bring about situation L, i.e., having it among his desires;
  • (3) not wanting anything else that conflicts with his desire to bring about situation L as strongly as it;
  • (4) being rational (which implies always acting in accord with his own highest purposes).

 

  • (B) If a being who has all four properties listed above were to exist, then situation L would have to obtain.
  • (C) But situation L does not obtain. The amount of suffering and unfairness in the world at the present time is not significantly less than what it actually is at present.
  • (D) Therefore [from (B) & (C)], there does not exist a being who has all four properties listed in premise (A).
  • (E) Hence [from (A) & (D)], God does not exist.

 

  • ANB: To formulate ANB, I put first forward these two definitions:
  • Set P = the following three propositions:
  • (a) There exists a being who rules the entire universe.
  • (b) That being loves humanity.
  • (c) Humanity has been provided with an afterlife.

 

  • Situation S = the situation of all, or almost all, humans coming to believe all three propositions of set P by the time of their physical death.
  • Using the above definitions, ANB may be expressed as follows:
  • (A) If God were to exist, then he would possess all of the following four properties (among others):
  • (1) being able to bring about situation S, all things considered;
  • (2) wanting to bring about situation S, i.e., having it among his desires;
  • (3) not wanting anything else that conflicts with his desire to bring about situation S as strongly as it;
  • (4) being rational (which implies always acting in accord with his own highest purposes).

 

  • (B) If a being who has all four properties listed above were to exist, then situation S would have to obtain.
  • (C) But situation S does not obtain. It is not the case that all, or almost all, humans have come to believe all the propositions of set P by the time of their physical death.
  • (D) Therefore [from (B) & (C)], there does not exist a being who has all four properties listed in premise (A).
  • (E) Hence [from (A) & (D)], God does not exist.

 

2. Comments on AE

The expression “being able, all things considered” in AE’s (and ANB’s) premise (A1) is there taken very literally. It means that there is absolutely nothing to prevent the action, not even chance. Consider, for example, a boy who has on past days done twenty consecutive pushups. Today the issue is raised whether he is able to do merely five consecutive pushups. The obvious answer is yes. If he has done twenty, then (refreshed) he is certainly able to do five. But suppose that, just as he is about to perform the fifth pushup, he is struck by lightning, which prevents him from completing it. We should say of the boy, in retrospect, that he was able to do the five pushups, but he was not able to do them all things considered. When his being struck by lightning is considered, then we must say that under those conditions the boy was not able. Thus, in premise (A1), when God is said to be able to bring about a situation, all things considered, that means that if he were to try to bring it about then there is absolutely nothing which might prevent him from doing it. In other words, if he tries to do the given action, then, necessarily, he does it.

Understood in the above way, AE’s (and ANB’s) premise (A1) is supported by the Bible’s repeated claim that God is all-powerful. Being all-powerful, he would have been able to have brought about situation L, all things considered, as claimed in AE’s premise (A1). There are many ways in which he might have done that. One of them was for him to have made the earth a calmer and more stable planet, with much fewer storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Then there would not occur so much suffering and premature death as a consequence of such natural catastrophes. Another way would have been for God to make people hardier and more resistant to germs and other afflictions. Then there would not occur so much suffering and premature death as a consequence of disease and infirmities. It might be objected that a significant reduction in premature deaths would soon lead to overpopulation and even worse problems. But, being all-powerful, God could have done things to prevent overpopulation in a humane way. For example, while making humans less subject to premature death, he could also have given them genes that make women increasingly less fertile the more times they give birth, thereby preventing very large families. That would bring about situation L in a way that would not introduce additional problems down the road. Still another way for God to have brought about situation L would have been for him to guide mutations in such a way that a greater percentage of them are beneficial to the organism. That would have eliminated much unnecessary suffering that occurred through the centuries. God could also have made organisms, especially humans, smarter than they are. That would have given them a better means for coping with evil than they presently have. In addition, God could have made people more altruistic than they are. Had he done that, there would be much less crime and cruelty in the world than there is. Obviously, there are a great many ways in which God (assuming he exists) could have brought about situation L.

A point needs to be made regarding omnipotence. It might be thought that since God is omnipotent, he cannot have conflicting desires. The term “conflicts” in premise (A3) conveys the idea that it would have been impossible even for God to satisfy both desires simultaneously. But for God, nothing is impossible. Hence, he cannot have such conflicting desires, which makes premise (A3) automatically true.

One defect in this argument is that it paradoxically claims both that God cannot have conflicting wants and that for God nothing is impossible, which seems to be a contradiction. But the more basic defect in the argument is that it interprets “for God, nothing is impossible” in an unrestricted way. Most theologians and philosophers of religion recognize that omnipotence needs to be restricted to what is logically and conceptually possible and to what is consistent with God’s other defining properties. Even the Bible (Tit 1:2; Heb 6:18) says that it is impossible for God to lie. Presumably, if it is part of the very definition of “God” that God never does anything wrong, then it follows that there are actions, namely, wrong ones, which God cannot perform. Thus, God might very well have two desires that logically conflict. If it is logically impossible for both desires to be satisfied, then even a being who is omnipotent (defined in the appropriate way) would be unable to satisfy both of them. And that is how the term “conflicts” in premise (A3) is to be taken.

AE’s premise (A2) might be supported in various ways. First of all, Christianity regards Jesus of Nazareth to have the same attitudes as God, and Jesus is described in the Bible as feeling compassion for the multitudes he encountered with regard to their earthly suffering (Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32; Mark 6:34, 8:2). So if God exists, then he too must feel such compassion, which entails that God must want situation L. Secondly, according to Psalm 145:9, “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made”, and according to James 5:11, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” Third, God loves humanity (John 3:16, I John 4:8-16), and the sacrifice of Jesus was supposed to exhibit maximal love (John 15:13). Christianity often describes its God as being “all-loving”, which means that God loves everyone and everything maximally. But part of the concept of love is wanting the best for whoever or whatever the object of love may be. Thus, the God of Christianity must want situation L, at least in the minimal sense that situation L is among his desires. Since most theists regard God to be an all-loving being, they presumably take him to feel some sort of regret about humanity’s great suffering. If A loves B and A is aware of B’s suffering, then A must feel bad about it. That is part of the very meaning of “love”.

But there is a problem here. AE’s premise (A2) maintains, not just that God wants situation L itself, but that he wants to bring it about. Someone could want something which he is able to bring about and yet not want to bring it about himself. For example, I may want my study to be clean and yet not want to clean it myself, since, out of laziness, I want someone else to clean it. Or, alternatively, my wife may want my study to be clean and yet not want to clean it herself. She may instead want me to clean the room because she thinks that for me to do that would help develop my character. Thus, to simply show that God as described in the Bible wants situation L would not in itself establish AE’s premise (A2). I shall try to address this problem.

First of all, given human nature and the state of the world, it is not clear that there was any way for situation L to come to obtain other than for God to bring it about. However, even if there were such a possibility, if indeed God does not want to bring about situation L himself, then there must be some other desire on his part that overrides a desire to bring about situation L. But in that case AE could be refuted on the basis of its premise (A3). And in that case it would not matter much whether we say that (A2) is false as well. On the other hand, if there is no such overriding desire, then there is little difference between God wanting situation L and God wanting to bring about situation L himself. There is reason to say that, with God, the one entails the other. That is, assuming God has no desire that overrides a desire to bring about situation L, since he is not lazy and since his all-loving nature fills him with zeal directed at the object of his love, for God to want situation L is essentially the same as for him to want to bring it about. It would then follow that any arguments showing God to have situation L among his desires would indeed suffice to support AE’s premise (A2) as well.

Given the bifurcation of AE’s premise (A) into (A2) and (A3), and given our understanding of omnipotence as being restricted by (at least) logic, it becomes clear that it is premise (A3) that is the most problematic one of all of them. It is a highly debatable matter whether any good support can be provided for the truth of that premise. That is an issue that I shall not address in the present essay. I shall here leave it as an open question whether or not there is a great deal of force to the Argument from Evil.

Premise (A4) claims that God is rational. The point is that God would not simply abandon one of his goals for no reason. Rather, he would perform whatever actions are called for by a goal that is not overridden by any other goal. The idea that God is rational in this sense is implied throughout Scripture. It is implied by those Biblical verses that declare him to have infinite understanding (Ps. 147:5) and to have created the universe through his wisdom and understanding (Prov. 3:19). It is also implied by verses that say of God that he does what he wants and nothing ever prevents from happening those things that he wants to happen (Isa. 46:9-11; Eph. 1:11). The Bible is largely the story of a ruler of the universe who is eminently rational in having goals and performing actions to bring them about. AE’s premise (A4) therefore receives excellent Biblical support. Christianity and most forms of theism in general do not doubt the truth of (A4).

Premise (B) should not be controversial and is here being taken to be an analytic truth. Anyone who doubts it is probably not understanding it properly. If God is rational and has it among his top (non-overridden) priorities to bring about a certain situation, and is able to bring it about, all things considered, in the sense discussed above, then there is no way for him not to bring it about. Since all conceivable alternatives have been eliminated, it becomes necessary that God bring about the given situation. Another way to put the matter is to say that part of what it means to be “rational” is that if X is rational and X is able to do Y, all things considered, and X wants to do Y without that desire being overridden by any other desire then X does Y. Thus, when the concept of rationality is fully explicated, premise (B) becomes true by definition.

Premise (C), though true, could be false. It is only a contingent fact about the world. It is like the statement “there are not fewer pieces of chalk on the table than there actually are”, where that is referring to some specific number, say, three. Although AE’s premise (C) could be interpreted in a way that makes it necessarily true, the intention in AE is to interpret it in a way that makes it merely contingent. The expression “the amount of suffering that there actually is at present” is to be taken to refer only to a certain specific amount, just as “(the number that) there actually are” in the chalk analogy could be just a way of referring to the number three.

Steps (D) and (E) are conclusions. They follow logically from the preceding steps from which they are derived. Since the argument is valid, the only way to attack it would be at one of its premises. And the one which I think is most vulnerable would be premise (A3). That is all I shall say about AE in this essay. I present it here only as background material for the discussion of ANB, which I regard to be the stronger of the two arguments.

3. Comments on ANB

Assuming that God exists, there are various ways by which he might have brought about situation S. One way would have been direct implantation of the given beliefs (set P) into people’s minds. (A possible Biblical example of belief-implantation might be the case of Adam and Eve.) Closely related to that method would have been the creation of “belief genes” which are passed on from one generation to the next. Infants could be born with the tendency to automatically form a belief in set P as their minds develop. The process could perhaps be aided by the influence of the Holy Spirit within each person.

Another way for God to have gotten the message across would have been by the performance of spectacular miracles. For example, God could have spoken to people in a thunderous voice from the sky or used skywriting to proclaim set P worldwide. In addition, back in the days of Jesus, events could have occurred differently. Instead of appearing only to his followers, the resurrected Christ could have appeared to millions of people, including Pontius Pilate and even Emperor Tiberius and others inRome. He could have proclaimed the truth of set P before all those people, demonstrating the existence of an afterlife by his own resurrection. He could have made such a definite place for himself in history that it would have enlightened billions of people coming later about the truth of set P.

God could also have brought about situation S without resort to spectacular miracles. He could have done it through non-spectacular, behind-the-scenes actions. For example, he could have sent out millions of angels, disguised as humans, to preach to people in all nations in such a persuasive manner as to get them to believe set P. Another useful action would have been to protect the Bible itself from defects. The writing, copying, and translating of Scripture could have been so carefully guided (say, by angels) that it would today contain no vagueness or ambiguity and no contradictions or errors of any sort. Also, it could have contained a large number of very clear and precise prophecies that then become amazingly fulfilled, with that information noted by neutral observers and widely disseminated. People reading it would have been much more likely to infer that everything in it is true, including set P. If all that had been done, then situation S would probably now obtain. Certainly the way God is depicted in the Bible, he is able to accomplish such things (whether spectacular or not), all things considered, which makes ANB’s premise (A1) true.

One last way for God to bring about situation S worth mentioning is the use of the Internet. Those who browse the World Wide Web could regularly receive set P, perhaps even if they try to avoid it. God could also “flame” all and only nonbelievers who are sitting at their computers by warning them of future judgment. CDS could also fall from the sky (for use by those with CD-ROM drives) containing set P, delivered in spectacular colors and sounds. Modern technology has made it relatively easy for God to get his message out to the world, so much so that we can declare ANB’s premise (A1) to be obviously true. Unlike the problem of evil, the problem of nonbelief is one regarding a certain lack of information, and it is even more easily solvable in the present “Information Age” than it would have been in the distant past.

ANB’s premise (A2) states that if God were to exist then he would want to bring about situation S, where that is to be understood in a kind of minimal way, meaning only that the bringing about of situation S is among God’s desires. So, it is a desire that might be overridden by some other desire, which creates a need for premise (A3). The same relation exists here between premises (A2) and (A3) as was pointed out, above, in connection with AE. There is the issue of whether God might want situation S without wanting to bring it about himself. I would say that if there is some desire on God’s part that overrides a desire to bring about situation S, then ANB’s premise (A3), and ANB along with it, could be thereby refuted. In that case, the issue would be moot: it would matter very little whether or not we declare ANB’s premise (A2) also false. On the other hand, if there is no such overriding desire, then one might very well say that God wanting situation S would be essentially the same as God wanting to bring about situation S. Since God is not lazy and is highly motivated, there would in that case be no reason for him to not want to bring it about. In other words, as with AE and situation L, if you cannot find a counter-example to premise (A3), then you will not find any reason for God to want situation S but not want to bring it about himself.

I shall proceed for the time being on the assumption that there is no overriding desire on God’s part that would suffice to refute ANB’s premise (A3). Given that assumption, all that would be needed in order to support premise (A2) would be arguments to the effect that God has situation S among his desires. There are at least seven different arguments to show that. Let us label them Arguments (1)-(7).

Argument (1). The Bible says that God has commanded people to “believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ” (1Jo 3:23). The way it is usually interpreted, “believing on the name of the son” requires at least awareness of the truth of the propositions of set P. It follows that, having issued the command, God must want people to at least believe those propositions, which means that he wants situation S. And that makes ANB’s premise (A2) true.

Argument (2). There is another Biblical commandment to the effect that people love God maximally (Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30). But loving God maximally (i.e., to an extent that could not possibly be increased) requires that one be aware that God loves humanity and also be aware of all the good that God has done for it. If someone were to love God but not be aware of all the good that God has done for humanity, then it would be possible for such a person to be made aware of all that good and thereby come to love God still more. And being aware of all the good, in turn, requires belief in set P. Hence, again, having issued the given command, God must want people to at least be aware of the truth of set P, which makes ANB’s premise (A2) true.

Argument (3). A third argument for (A2) is based on the Great Commission, according to which God (via his son) directed missionaries to preach the gospel message to all nations (Matt. 28:19-20) and to every creature (Mark 16:15-16, KJV) or to all creation (NIV). Thus, God must have wanted people to at least believe set P, which is contained within the gospel message. And he not only wanted the message preached to all nations, but expected that to happen (as shown by such verses as Mark 13:10; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8, 13:47, 28:28). Furthermore, according to the Book of Acts, God went so far as to empower some of the apostles to perform miracles which would help convince listeners of the truth of the message. Since miracles are works of God, we could say that, in effect, God himself was indirectly starting to bring about situation S. So, getting people to at least believe set P must have been a high priority for him. This is very strong evidence that ANB’s premise (A2) is true.

Argument (4). A fourth argument has to do with the missions of Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist. According to John 18:37, Jesus declared: “for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Presumably the truth here referred to includes set P as an important component. It follows that an important part of the mission of Jesus was to testify to the truth of a message that includes set P. And, according to St. Paul, it was God who was working through Christ to reconcile the world to himself (II Cor. 5:19). God, then, must want people to believe the message, and not just the local people to whom Jesus spoke directly, but people all over the world. This may be gathered from the previous chapter in which Jesus indicated that he has sent his disciples into the world (John 17:18) and that the purpose is to make the world aware of the gospel message. In his prayer to his Father, he said, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (verse 21) and “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me” (verse 23). Thus, since God wants his son to testify to the truth of a message which contains set P and wants it to get out to the whole world, ANB’s premise (A2) must be true. As a subsidiary point connected with this argument, the mission of John the Baptist is also relevant. It says in John 1:6-7: “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light [Jesus], so that through him all men might believe.” It is understood that at least part of the object of the belief here referred to is set P. This, then, further supports the claim that God wants all humans to believe set P.

Argument (5). According to St. Paul, God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4). As with Argument (4), a good case could be made that the “truth” here referred to includes set P. Certainly Christianity takes it that way. And interpreting it that way, the verse is in effect telling the reader very directly that God wants (among other things) all humans to come to believe set P. He must then want at least situation S. So the inference from that verse to the truth of ANB’s premise (A2) is very direct!

Argument (6). The next argument for (A2) is more controversial. One of its premises is the claim that, according to the Bible, God wants all humans to be saved. There are indeed verses, like the one quoted in Argument (5), above, that either state it directly or else point in that direction. But in order for people to be saved they must believe in God and in his son. But to believe in God and in his son would include believing set P. Hence, God must want people to at least believe set P. Those who don’t are damned. It follows that (A2) must be true.

There are two main objections to this argument. One of them, sometimes raised by Calvinists, is that some verses in the Bible indicate that God does not want all humans to be saved. The other, sometimes raised by inclusivists, is that the Bible is not perfectly clear about the requirements for salvation and some verses suggest that charitable behavior might be sufficient, in which case belief in set P would not be a necessary condition, after all. It appears, then, that the premises of this last argument for (A2) leave some room for doubt.

In defense of Argument (6), it could be pointed out that Biblical scholars disagree about how to interpret the alleged contrary verses, and some of their interpretations favor the argument. Furthermore, most Christians support those interpretations which favor Argument (6). They reject the Calvinist (“double predestination”) idea that God has pre-selected some people for salvation and others for damnation. On the contrary, they regard God as a loving and merciful being who wants all to be saved, at least in the minimal sense of having that as one of his desires. As John Hick put it, the Calvinist idea that God created beings whom he does not want to attain salvation is “diametrically at variance with the dominant spirit of the gospels”. In addition, most Christians are exclusivists and accept the doctrine that belief in God and his son, and thereby set P, is an absolute requirement for salvation.

My conclusion regarding this matter is that, although there are other interpretations of the verses cited above, most Christians would accept the premises of Argument (6). That then allows the argument to provide further Biblical support for premise (A2) of ANB. I concede, though, that Argument (6) remains controversial. Nevertheless, it should be noted that even if that particular argument were rejected, other arguments provide good support for premise (A2). With or without Argument (6), (A2), like ANB’s premise (A1), receives excellent support from the Bible.

Argument (7). Finally, I want to put forward an argument for ANB’s premise (A2) that makes no reference to the Bible. Almost all theists, at least in the U.S., regard God as a being who loves humanity and who wants that love to be reciprocated. So, God, conceived in that way, must want people to be aware that he exists and that, out of love for humanity, he has provided people with an opportunity for a blissful afterlife. It would benefit people to be aware of all that, for it would provide them with comfort and hope for the future. Since God loves people, he must want them to attain such a benefit. Also, awareness of the truth of set P would help people reciprocate God’s love, which God also desires. It follows that he must want them to have such awareness, which in turn makes ANB’s premise (A2) true.

When it comes to ANB’s next premise, (A3), the situation is somewhat different. There are no Biblical verses that support it directly. If (A3) is to receive any support at all from the Bible, it would need to be of an indirect nature. There are two arguments for it that I would like to consider. The first, which I shall label “Argument (8)”, is that Argument (6) is sound and Argument (6) appeals to the matter of people’s eternal destiny. Since there can be nothing regarding humanity of a “weightier” nature than that (Matt. 10:28, 16:26; Mark 8:36-37; Luke 12:15-21), it follows that God can have no wants regarding humanity that outweigh his desire for its redemption and eventual salvation, which (on the exclusivist assumptions of most Christians) call for situation S. And since God wants everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, as shown in Argument (5), we may infer that there is no overriding want on God’s part that would suppress his desire for situation S. This, then, provides some indirect support for ANB’s premise (A3). One objection to this line of reasoning is that it presupposes Argument (6), which has to do with controversial issues regarding salvation. That is admittedly a weakness in it.

There is another kind of indirect support for ANB’s premise (A3) that does not get involved in such issues, which brings me to the second argument. Call it “Argument (9)”. It appeals to the force of earlier arguments, in particular, Arguments (1)-(4), which made no appeal to the concept of salvation. Looking back at Argument (1), we note that, according to the Bible, God has commanded people to believe in his son, which is quite forceful. Although that may not prove it, it does suggest that God’s desire for situation S is not overridden by any other desire. As for Argument (2), according to the Bible, God’s commandment that people love him maximally is described as the greatest of all the commandments (Mt 22:38, Mk 12:29). That too suggests that God wants people to be aware of what he has done for them, which calls for them to believe set P, and that this is not a matter overridden by other considerations. Further, as already pointed out in Argument (3), according to the Bible, God not only sent out missionaries to spread all over the world the gospel message (which includes set P), but also provided some of them with miraculous powers in order to help get their listeners to accept the message. That suggests that situation S must have been such a high priority in God’s mind as not to be overridden by anything else. Finally, Argument (4) has to do with the mission of God’s son to the planet earth, indicating that a large part of that mission was to get a message out to the whole world that includes set P. It is hard to see how God could have any purpose regarding humanity that might override his son’s mission to the planet earth. Evangelical Christians regard Jesus’s mission as the key to human existence and the meaning of life, so it does not seem they could view it as overridden by something else. In summary, Argument (9), then, is the argument that premise (A3), though not directly expressed in the Bible, is nevertheless implied by several Biblical passages, particularly in the very forceful way that premise (A2) is Scripturally supported.

Argument (9) is admittedly inconclusive. Premise (A3) receives no direct explicit support from Scripture. On the other hand, this weakness may not be fatal, first of all because any support, even of an indirect nature, is better than none, and secondly because (A3) is put forward not just as a claim but also as a challenge. It says that if God were to exist, then he would not have a certain type of desire, one which both necessarily conflicts with and also outweighs his desire for situation S. It is certainly a challenge to even conceive of possible candidates for such a specialized desire, for it is hard to understand what God might want from humans as much as their belief in propositions, including set P, on which depends their love and worship of him, and possibly even their own salvation. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible to imply that God might have such a desire. To deny its existence, then, appears not to be such a terribly bold claim. It should be taken as a challenge by anyone who wishes to attack ANB’s premise (A3) to describe a plausible candidate for the specialized desire called for in it.

ANB’s premise (A4) is exactly the same as AE’s premise (A4). It is the only step, aside from the conclusion, that both arguments share. As was pointed out in the discussion of AE, premise (A4) receives excellent Biblical support and to deny it would be totally outside the conceptual framework of Christianity. It would be hard to find any theist anywhere who would deny God’s rationality.

Let us now consider the other steps of ANB. For reasons analogous to those given in connection with AE, premise (B) is true by definition and should not be controversial. It is based on the idea that if there is no way whatever for situation S to not obtain then S must obtain. And, given that there exists a being who possesses all four properties listed in premise (A), every possible way for situation S to not obtain has been ruled out, so situation S would have to obtain. Another way to view the matter is in terms of the definition of “rational” as it appears in premise (A4). As pointed out earlier in connection with AE, given the truth of all of premise (A), premise (B) comes to be true just in virtue of the definition of “rational” as used in premise (A4). That is, for a being who has all four properties cited in premise (A) to not bring about situation S would exhibit irrationality on his part, which would contradict (A4), so that is logically impossible. Whoever doubts premise (B) is not understanding it properly.

Like AE’s premise (C), ANB’s premise (C) is an empirical fact about our world. Probably less than half the people in the world believe all three propositions of set P. In any case, there are billions of them who do not. (C) is the proposition from which the Argument from Nonbelief derives its name. Note that the Argument from Nonbelief is also an argument for nonbelief in that it aims to prove the nonexistence of God. Thus, it is both “from nonbelief” and also “for nonbelief”, which may suggest circularity. However, the circularity is avoided when the two types of “nonbelief” are specified. The argument proceeds from the fact of widespread nonbelief in set P, as one of its premises, to a proposition which expresses nonbelief in God, as its conclusion. There is no circularity there.

Step (D) is the first conclusion in the argument. As in the case of AE, it follows logically from premises (B) and (C) by the logical rule known as modus tollens. The final conclusion, step (E), also follows logically. As with AE, premise (A) entails the proposition that if God exists, then there would exist a being who has all four properties (1)-(4). And that proposition, together with (D), logically entails the final conclusion, (E), by modus tollens.

As with AE, when all the support for all the premises is included, ANB needs to be classified as an inductive argument. If a distinction were drawn between a “deductive problem of nonbelief” and an “inductive problem of nonbelief”, then ANB would be addressing the latter, not the former. It is an evidential argument, not intended to be conclusive, since the support for its premises is of an inductive or evidential sort. However, ANB itself, disregarding the support for its premises, is a deductive argument, and in my opinion, sound.

Since the conclusions of ANB follow logically from its premises, the only way to attack it would be at one or more of the premises. Dividing (A) into four, there are a total of six premises to be considered: (A1), (A2), (A3), (A4), (B), and (C). Of these, I hope to have shown above that only (A2) and (A3) leave room for debate. The others seem to be non-controversial. And of the two premises about which there may be some debate, (A2) strikes me as the one that is more clearly true, not only being extremely well supported within the Bible but also being regarded as intuitively correct by a majority of theists. Although I shall later consider a challenge to (A2), let us first look at defenses of God’s existence that attack ANB’s premise (A3).

4. The Free-will Defense

According to this objection, which may be called “the Free-Will Defense” or FWD for short, premise (A3) of ANB is false because there is something that God wants even more strongly than situation S and that is the free formation of proper theistic belief. God wants people to come to believe the propositions of set P freely and not as the result of any sort of coercion. He knows that people would indeed believe those propositions if he were to directly implant the belief in their minds or else perform spectacular miracles before them. But for him to do that would interfere with their free will, which he definitely does not want to happen. Since God’s desire that humans retain their free will outweighs his desire for situation S, it follows that premise (A3) is false, which makes ANB unsound.

There are many objections to FWD. First and foremost, assuming that God wants to avoid interfering with people’s free will, it is not clear that that desire actually conflicts with his desire for situation S. Why should showing things to people interfere with their free will? People want to know the truth. It would seem, then, that to show them things would not interfere with their will, but would conform to it. Even direct implantation of belief into a person’s mind need not interfere with his/her free will. If that person were to want true beliefs and not care how the beliefs are obtained, then for God to directly implant true beliefs into his/her mind would not interfere with, but would rather comply with, the person’s free will. An analogy would be God making a large unexpected direct deposit into someone’s bank account. It would make the person quite pleased and would not at all interfere with his/her free will. Furthermore, as was explained previously in Section I, there are many different ways by which God might bring about situation S. It is not necessary for him to use either direct implantation or spectacular miracles. He could accomplish it through relatively ordinary means. It would be ludicrous to claim that free will has to be interfered with whenever anyone is shown anything. People have their beliefs affected every day by what they read and hear, and their free will remains intact. Finally, even the performance of spectacular miracles need not cause such interference. People want to know the truth. They particularly want to be shown how the world is really set up. To perform miracles for them would only conform to or comply with that desire. It would therefore not interfere with their free will. Hence, FWD fails to attack premise (A3) of ANB because it fails to present a desire on God’s part that conflicts with his desire for situation S. That failure makes the Free-Will Defense actually irrelevant to premise (A3).

Even if there were people whose free will would be interfered with by God showing them things, it would seem that such people would be benefitted by coming to know how things really are. Quite apart from the issue of salvation, just being aware that there is a God who loves humanity and who has provided an afterlife for it would bring comfort and hope to people. A loving God would certainly want them to have such comfort and hope. So, even if it were granted that showing things to some people interferes with their free will, FWD would still not work well, for it has not made clear why God should refrain from showing them things of which they ought to be aware. Such “interference with free will” seems to be just what such people need to get “straightened out”.

There is a further objection concerning God’s motivation. FWD seems to claim that God wants people to believe the propositions of set P in an irrational way, without good evidence. But why would he want that? Why would a rational being create people in his own image and then hope that they become irrational? Furthermore, it is not clear just how people are supposed to arrive at the propositions of set P in the absence of good evidence. Is picking the right religion just a matter of lucky guesswork? Is salvation a kind of cosmic lottery? Why would God want to be involved in such an operation?

Sometimes the claim is made that, according to the Bible, God really does want people to believe things without evidence. Usually cited for this are the words of the resurrected Christ to no-longer-doubting Thomas: “because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Also, Peter praises those who believe in Jesus without seeing him (I Peter 1:8). But the message here may not be that God wants people to believe things without any evidence whatever. It may be, rather, that there are other forms of evidence than seeing, such as, for example, the testimony of friends. Perhaps God is simply indicating that he approves of belief based on the testimony of others. Note that, earlier, the resurrected Christ had upbraided some of his disciples for not trusting the testimony of other disciples (Mark 16:14). His words to Thomas may have been just a continuation of that theme. Thus, it is not clear that God desires irrational belief on the part of humans, nor is it clear why he should want that, if indeed he does.

As another objection to FWD, even if it were true that showing people things interferes with their free will, that seems not to have been a very important consideration for God. According to the Bible, he did many things, some of them quite spectacular, in order to cause observers to have certain beliefs. An advocate of the argument needs to explain why God was willing to do such things in the past but is no longer willing to do them in the present.

Finally, the claim that God has non-interference with human free will as a very high priority is not well supported in Scripture. According to the Bible, God killed millions of people. Surely that interfered with their free will, considering that they did not want to die. Furthermore, the Bible suggests that God knows the future and predestines people’s fates. That, too, may interfere with human free will. In addition, there are many obstacles to free will in our present world (famine, mental retardation, grave diseases, premature death, etc.) and God does little or nothing to prevent them. This is not conclusive proof that God does not have human free will as a high priority, but it does count against it. It is at least another difficulty for the Free-Will Defense. Considering these many objections, the argument seems not to work very well. Let us turn to a different defense against ANB.

5. The Testing Defense

The idea behind what might be called “The Testing Defense”, or TD for short, is that God permits so much nonbelief among people in order to somehow test them. It might be objected at the outset that God need not test people, for he already knows everything (as stated in I John 3:20). The Bible says repeatedly that God and his son know everything there is to know about people. On the other hand, God is also said to have tested Abraham (Gen. 22:1,12) and the Israelites (Deut. 8:2, 13:3), perhaps also Adam and Eve. Could it be that tests are performed on people, not for God to find out anything, but for others to be shown? For example, Job was tested (Job 1:8-12, 2:3-6), but it was not for God to learn anything about Job but to prove something to Satan. Perhaps God’s omniscience need not be a barrier to testing in general. People may be tested for the benefit of angels or saints or other onlookers. Or it may be to demonstrate to the people themselves their own defects. TD is the argument that premise (A3) of ANB is false because there is something that conflicts with situation S which God wants even more than situation S, and that is to test people.

The question to be raised is how the performing of tests might conflict with situation S. There are two versions of TD. According to one version, the evidence for the propositions of set P is inadequate, and what is being tested is people’s inclination to believe those propositions despite the inadequate evidence. If God were to provide additional evidence for set P, thereby making the evidence adequate, then that would necessarily upset such a test. When the argument is put in that way, it becomes closely related to FWD, and encounters some of the same objections. Why, for example, should God, who is rational, create people in his own image, but then hope that they believe things irrationally, without adequate evidence? I shall not pursue this version.

The second version of TD is the one usually appealed to by evangelical Christians. It is a mainstay in the revivals of the evangelist Billy Graham, who urges people to “make a decision for Christ”. According to the second version, the evidence for set P is already quite adequate. The historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection and for the accuracy of the New Testament in general, from which set P may be inferred, is certainly sufficient and is readily available to anyone who wants to know the truth. Hence, people who do not believe set P must be refusing to believe because of some spiritual defect, such as false pride (sometimes referred to in the Bible as “a hardening of the heart”). God wants such people to be discerned and identified, perhaps so they can be weeded out on the Day of Judgment, and it is for that purpose that the tests are performed. But if God were to supply still additional evidence for set P, then, first of all, it would probably be futile (as suggested in John 12:37 and Luke 16:31). Secondly, even if it were not futile but were actually so overwhelming as to surmount people’s false pride and thereby get them to believe set P, then that would make it too hard to discern and identify people with the spiritual defect of false pride. So the tests would necessarily be upset, which God does not want. Since God’s desire that the tests not be upset both conflicts with and outweighs his desire for situation S, it follows that premise (A3) of ANB is false.

There are many objections to this second version of TD. One obvious one is that there really is no good evidence for set P, even its proposition (a). The alleged historical accuracy of the New Testament is totally unconvincing. Therefore, the argument’s claim that such evidence exists is erroneous.

But even if there were good evidence for all the propositions of set P, it is clear that billions of people in the world are unaware of it. Nor are they in any good position, barring divine intervention, to become aware of it. Their cultural circumstances prevent it. Thus, the claim made in TD that the evidence for set P is “readily available” to everyone is also clearly erroneous.

Consider now those people who have ready access to the New Testament and any other documents or evidence that may be relevant to the truth of set P. If they do not believe set P, does it have to be because they are “refusing to believe” due to something like false pride? Certainly not. One alternate explanation is that they simply find the documents or evidence unconvincing. There is nothing about the Bible that clearly shows it to be true. A neutral observer has no reason to accept Christianity over the many other religions.

Furthermore, even if there were clear evidence which shows set P to be true, it may be that people have simply not reasoned correctly about the matter. They may never have managed to “put two and two together”. Their failure to believe set P could be due to an honest mistake in their thinking about God and the afterlife. Therefore, the claim made in TD that all nonbelievers in set P must suffer from some “spiritual defect” is clearly wrong.

The whole idea of a worldwide test is fraught with difficulty. Millions of people die too young or are too ill or retarded to be properly tested. The lives of many revolve solely around the struggle for survival. Thus, the world is far from being ideally suited for the purpose of testing humans. That in itself is good reason to deny that God is involved in any such testing process or has it as a high priority.

If there were any test going on of the sort described, it would be very unfair to non-theists and to people in non-Western traditions. Most people have powerful inducements to stick with the belief system of the family they were born into. It would be unfair to punish those with the “wrong” religion for not rebelling and switching to one which accepts set P. To suggest that God is engaged in such a practice runs totally contrary to his being just and loving, which are properties attributed to him by most theists, at least in the U.S.

A further problem with the testing idea is that it fails to clarify how strongly one must hold the relevant beliefs in order to pass the test. Suppose someone believes the first proposition of set P but has a little doubt about the second and third. After all, the concept of a loving God who has provided humanity with an afterlife is not one given in experience or intuitively obvious. Someone could easily have some doubt in that area. Would such a person necessarily fail the test? The whole area of belief-tests seems filled with unclarity and conceptual snares.

If God really were interested in identifying people who refuse to believe set P, then he ought to have made the evidence for set P quite good and quite convincing. It is only then that the reason for nonbelief would have to be something other than “unconvincing evidence”. So it is only by providing a lot more evidence for set P than there already is that God could reasonably perform the sort of tests that TD attributes to him. What this shows is that there is no real conflict between God’s desire for situation S and his alleged desire that people’s false pride be revealed. God could have gone ahead and provided a tremendous amount of evidence for all three propositions of set P, enough to cause almost all people to accept them, and then see who the “holdouts” are. The ones who still do not believe set P after all that may very well be “refusing to believe”. In that way, God could have both of his desires fulfilled: he could have situation S and also perform the sort of test described in TD. Since those desires do not really conflict, it is proven that TD is actually irrelevant to premise (A3) of ANB and clearly does not refute it.

6. A Recent Use of TD

In an essay entitled “Why Isn’t the Evidence Clearer?“, John A. Bloom has tried to explain, from a Christian perspective, why God has not presented humanity with clearer evidence for the truth of such propositions as those in set P. On p. 3 Bloom says the following:

[T]he God of the Bible is in no way dependent upon mankind even for love or worship. That He reveals Himself at all is for our benefit, not His.

But even if He reveals evidence of Himself only to benefit us, why isn’t He more forthright about it? This much seems clear: If He made His presence or the evidence too obvious, it would interfere with His demonstration, which is intended to draw out or reveal the true inner character of mankind. … He is restraining Himself in order to demonstrate to human beings something about our inner character, or tendency to evil. We might call this “the Sheriff in the tavern” principle — people tend to be good when they think they are being watched by an authority. If a sheriff wants to find out or reveal who the troublemakers are in a tavern, he must either hide or appear to be an ineffective wimp, otherwise the bad guys will behave as well as everyone else. …

Of course God is not running an experiment because He already knows the outcome. It is more like a demonstration with the results saved for Judgment Day.

Bloom seems to think that nonbelievers behave in wicked ways and God (like the sheriff in the tavern) wants to “catch them in the act”. So God stays hidden because if the nonbelievers were to learn of his existence they would mend their ways and behave morally.

The obvious objection is that nonbelievers are no more wicked than believers. There is no “act” to “catch” them in. No one has ever produced any evidence whatever that Christians (or theists generally) behave in a more moral manner than do non-Christians (or non-theists).

As shown in the above quotation, Bloom seems to think that if God were to provide more evidence of his existence then that would have an effect on nonbelievers. But in another passage (p. 4) he says the following:

Would the performance of an undeniable miracle in a scoffer’s presence be enough? However impressive such feats would be, the records of history show that most people choose to ignore whatever evidence they have, no matter how clear it may be. …

From the human perspective, why isn’t the evidence clearer? Because God knows, and has already demonstrated, that no matter how clear He makes the evidence, it will never be sufficient for some. More evidence by itself will not convince people whose minds are already emotionally attached to an opposing view, because people are not always rational.

Bloom seems oblivious to the contradiction here: that for God to provide nonbelievers with more evidence of his existence would affect them (just as the presence of the sheriff in the tavern would affect the potential troublemakers) and yet (because of the irrational close-mindedness of nonbelievers) such action on God’s part would not affect them. Not knowing which of the contradictory propositions to assert, Bloom asserts them both!

Another contradiction has to do with whether or not the existing evidence (for set P) is already sufficient to enlighten nonbelievers. [This connects with the two different versions of TD mentioned above at the beginning of Section 5.] Not knowing what to say, Bloom says both things! In the quote above, he says that the evidence is not sufficient (because of the nonbelievers’ irrational close-mindedness). But elsewhere in the essay (pp. 4-5), he says:

Some people will repent on seeing even a low level of evidence; for others a higher level is required. Some people will get much more evidence than is needed to convert others but still not repent. Despite the varying levels of evidence to which people are exposed throughout various times and cultures, God states that He has given each person enough so that they know better than to continue doing evil. …

God provides sufficient evidence for self-centered people.

Thus, Bloom contradicts himself, saying in one place that the existing evidence is sufficient for nonbelievers and in another place that it is not sufficient.

If the evidence is sufficient, then why are there so many nonbelievers? The very fact that they do not believe shows that whatever evidence they had was not sufficient. On the other hand, if they have not been provided with sufficient evidence, then it seems unfair to punish them. Instead of punishing them, an omnibenevolent deity should seek to enlighten them. After all, as Bloom himself says earlier, God reveals himself to people strictly for their benefit, not his.

All the objections raised against TD in Section 5, above, apply against Bloom’s statement of it. He says that the Bible itself provides good evidence for the Christian God, but that claim has been thoroughly refuted. Even if there were such evidence out there, it is clear that many, if not most, people are unaware of it (as Bloom himself seems to grant by his reference, above, to “various times and cultures”), so to punish such nonbelievers would be totally unfair. Finally, even if Bloom were right and nonbelievers are in an irrational “state of denial” regarding the evidence for the God of Christianity, he still owes us an explanation for why such a deity would want to punish such people. What they would seem to need, instead, is some sort of treatment for their irrationality. Maybe they could use a good course in critical thinking, for they seem not to know what is best for themselves.

The Testing Defense is encountered every now and then, as shown by the Bloom essay, and it has a slight connection with the popular Pascal’s Wager idea. But the notion that billions of people are somehow aware of the propositions of set P but are “refusing to believe” them is just too far-fetched to take seriously. And the idea that God is more interested in “catching” such people than in curing them of their ignorance is also too unreasonable to accept. It is clear that some other sort of defense is needed against the Argument from Nonbelief.

7. The Afterlife Defense

The objection here is that it is ANB’s premise (A2) that is false, after all, because God is really not interested in situation S, but rather, a future situation somewhat like S. It is a situation in which everyone will believe the propositions of set P, but most of the people will have come to believe them in an afterlife rather than prior to their physical death, as specified in situation S. Since it is this other situation that God wants, and not situation S, the argument’s premise (A2) is false. Let us call this objection to ANB “The Afterlife Defense” or AD for short. It is a defense of God’s existence which appeals to the idea of a future society in which God, or his son, reigns as king and in which everyone believes all three propositions of set P (or knows them, as an advocate would put it). People who died without having been sufficiently enlightened about the gospel will be resurrected at the time of the future kingdom and given another opportunity “to come to the knowledge of the truth”. Because of this, God does not want situation S, which relates only to belief prior to physical death. And so, premise (A2) of ANB is false.

There are several objections to AD. First of all, there are conceptual problems with the idea of a general resurrection of the dead in which people somehow come back to life in new bodies and can nevertheless be identified as the people they were prior to death. This is a large topic in itself, and we need not pursue it here. It should just be noted that many are not convinced that such an afterlife is even conceptually possible.

A second objection is that AD has no basis in Scripture and may even conflict with it regarding the doctrine of salvation. The argument claims that some people will not attain salvation by what they do or believe in this life, but rather, by what they do and believe in the next life. It is only in the afterlife that they will come to believe in God and the afterlife and thereby meet that important requirement for salvation. But the Bible does not say anything about such a possibility, and, in fact, some verses seem to conflict with it. The Bible says, “Now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2) and “It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). This seems to require that the criteria for salvation be satisfied in this life and leaves no room for anyone coming to satisfy them after having been resurrected into the next life.

The third objection is closely related to the second one. If AD were correct, then just about everyone will eventually attain salvation. People who are aware of having become resurrected and who are at that time preached to by angels and given the opportunity for salvation are not likely to let such an opportunity slip by. Yet, according to the Bible, Jesus himself said that very few people will be saved (Matt. 7:14, Luke 13:23-24). So, here is still another place where the argument seems to conflict with Scripture.

The fourth objection to AD is that it seems to be incompatible with the Great Commission. Why should it be important to God to have missionaries go forth to spread the gospel to all nations, beginning at the time of Jesus of Nazareth, if people will receive another chance at such education in the afterlife? Presumably they would learn the truth of the gospel much more readily than under past or present conditions, for they would presumably be aware that they are in an afterlife, which in itself would make an enormous difference. Why should missionaries struggle to convince people of the gospel message in this life when the same job could be accomplished effortlessly (say by angels) in the next life? AD has no good answer. Until some answer is given, the argument appears incompatible with the importance placed upon the Great Commission.

The fifth objection is similar to the fourth one. There is a great mystery surrounding AD. Why should God set up the world in such a way that there is a prior period when people are pretty much left on their own, followed by a kingdom-period in which God or his son reigns? What is the purpose of it all, especially if people can become resurrected from the one period to the other and have the more important portion of their existence, including satisfaction of the criteria for salvation, during the second period? Why even bother with the earlier period? The argument leaves all this unanswered, and that is still another reason to regard it unsatisfactory.

Finally, there is excellent support for premise (A2) of ANB, as shown above in Arguments (1)-(7). AD has done nothing to undermine that support. For that reason alone, it ought to be rejected, but the above objections to AD also render it untenable. It appears that the only way to attack ANB is through its premise (A3). Let us turn, then, to a consideration of another objection to the argument that accepts its premise (A2) but rejects its premise (A3).

8. The Unknown-purpose Defense

According to the Free-will Defense, God is afraid that bringing about situation S would interfere with people’s free will, which he wants to avoid. And according to the Testing Defense, he is testing people as regards their beliefs and wants to avoid upsetting the tests. Both of these might be called “Known-purpose Defenses” of God’s existence against ANB. I here exclude the Afterlife Defense, because it does not put forward any purpose for nonbelief but merely belittles it. Both of the Known-purpose Defenses against ANB have been shown above to be failures.

This brings us to a defense that cannot be so easily refuted, the Unknown-purpose Defense, or UPD for short. According to UPD, God does have some purpose for permitting all the nonbelief in set P, but it is an unknown purpose so far as humanity is concerned. Contrary to the suggestion made in the Afterlife Defense, God does want to prevent or eliminate the nonbelief, i.e., to bring about situation S. But there is something else that necessarily conflicts with that desire, something which God wants even more than to bring about situation S. If we were to learn what that “something else” is, then we would fully understand why God has permitted so many people to live their earthly lives without any awareness of the truth of set P.

UPD is a direct attack on ANB’s premise (A3). In fact, it is not anything more than a flat-out denial of it. UPD has both an actualist and a possibilist version. According to the latter, ANB is possibly unsound and therefore fails as a conclusive proof of God’s nonexistence. That is, ANB needs to establish that God cannot possibly have any purpose which would falsify its premise (A3), but this is something that it has failed to do. This is a point that might plausibly be made by someone totally neutral on the issue. It is a point that advocates of ANB (ANBers) are willing to grant. The objection to the possibilist version of UPD is that it is too weak to function as a defense of God’s existence by most theists. Since they want to affirm the existence of the particular sort of deity against which ANB is raised, they need to show that ANB is definitely unsound, not just possibly unsound. For that reason, it is only the actualist version that is relevant in the present context of discussion. In what follows, then, I shall take “UPD” to refer only to its actualist version.

A Burden-of-proof Objection can be raised against UPD. Advocates of UPD (UPDers) are making a specific existence claim: there actually exists a divine purpose for permitting all the nonbelief in set P that there is in the world. So they have the burden of showing that such a purpose really does exist, a burden which they have not at all fulfilled. But they may try to sidestep this objection by applying it against their opponents. Since ANBers are trying to prove or establish something (even though their proof is not intended to be conclusive), they also have a certain burden of proof: to show that each of their premises is indeed true. The issue comes down to whether there is any controversial step in ANB which ANBers have failed to adequately support, thereby failing to fulfill the burden of proof that is upon them. If so, then UPDers can seize that point in an attempt to sidestep the Burden-of-proof Objection raised against their own existence claim. The main candidate for such a step is again premise (A3) according to which God does not have any purpose which necessarily conflicts with and outweighs his desire to bring about situation S.

In Section 3, above, Arguments (8) and (9) were put forward in support of ANB’s premise (A3). Argument (8) presupposes Argument (6), which appeals to the exclusivist idea that people who do not believe set P by the time they die will end up damned. According to (8), since situation S pertains to people’s eternal destiny and there cannot be anything more important than that, God cannot have any purpose which overrides his desire to bring about situation S, which makes premise (A3) true. Of course, the exclusivist presupposition behind that mode of reasoning might be challenged, though it is important to note that most Christians accept it.

The other argument used to support ANB’s premise (A3) was Argument (9), which appeals to the forcefulness of Arguments (1)-(4). In the case of Arguments (1) & (2), the idea is that since God commanded all people to love him maximally and to believe in his son, which requires believing set P, he cannot have purposes which override his desire for situation S. Also, the maximal love commandment is said to be the greatest of all the commandments (Mark 12:28-30), which indicates that this is not a matter to be overridden by other considerations. And in the case of Argument (3), the idea is that since God actually empowered some of the apostles to perform miracles in order for them to spread the gospel message (which includes the propositions of set P), it is unlikely that he has purposes which override his desire that the message be spread. Finally, in the case of Argument (4), the idea is that since Jesus declared that his purpose in coming into the world was to testify to the truth (which presumably includes set P), it is not possible that God would have some other purpose which overrides the spreading of belief in set P. All of this, then, is good Scriptural support (albeit of an indirect nature) for ANB’s premise (A3).

Thus, the fact of the matter is that there is good support for ANB’s premise (A3) whereas there is absolutely none for the existence claim within (the actualist version of) UPD. Because of that, ANB does clearly satisfy the burden-of-proof requirement placed upon it, whereas UPD does not. UPD therefore succumbs to the Burden-of-proof Objection.

I would like to develop at length another objection to UPD which I shall call the “Further-properties Objection”. Christians usually ascribe to God the property of wanting people to love him maximally. Such a deity must want people to believe set P, since that would increase their awareness of what he has done for humanity and thereby help them to love him maximally. If a person who is not aware of the truth of set P were to love God, then he would come to love God still more if he were to become aware of it; so God must want people to be aware of the truth of set P. Furthermore, as shown previously, the fact that, according to Scripture, God actually commanded people to love him maximally and called that his greatest commandment can also be used to support ANB’s premise (A3). What can UPDers say in opposition? If God really does have the sort of overriding purpose that they say he has, then why did he issue the “maximal love” commandment and call it his “greatest” commandment? It would make no sense for him to do that. Consider an analogy. Suppose my class is divided into two groups of students, those I want to have certain information, X, and those I don’t want to have X because of some overriding consideration. Then I order them all to perform task T and even inform them that that is my most important order. But performing task T requires having information X. I think that I could here quite properly be said to be irrational. It would make no sense for me to order people to do something I really want them to do where for them to do it requires having information which I do not want them to have. This is very much like the situation in which UPDers place God. They concede that he wants all of us to love him maximally and has even ordered us to do so as his “greatest” commandment. But for us to do that, we need to be aware of set P. Then the UPDers claim that there is some unknown divine purpose which overrides God’s desire to make us aware of set P. If God has such an overriding purpose, then why should he issue the given commandment? We can’t understand it. UPD makes God appear irrational.

Another reason for God to reveal to humanity his purpose for permitting so much nonbelief in set P (or at least the fact that he has such a purpose) would be to provide ammunition which would refute ANB’s premise (A3) and thereby ANB itself. That would help eradicate whatever nonbelief there may be that was based upon ANB, something God would like to see happen if he were to exist. No doubt there is in the world more nonbelief based on AE than on ANB, but that may change in the future. In any case, it would behoove God to nip ANB-based nonbelief in the bud. His failure to do so is a sign of irrationality. Or, rather, it is a sign of his nonexistence, since God is by definition rational.

Another property of God as usually conceived (beyond the usual ones and in addition to the property mentioned above) is that of having done the following three things: (1) he sent his son to “testify to the truth” (of set P); (2) he directed missionaries (by way of his son) to spread the gospel message to all nations; and (3) he even empowered some of the missionaries with the ability to perform miracles in order to help them get the message across. According to what might be called “the Great-Commission Reply”, that only shows that God wanted situation S, not that he wanted to bring it about himself. Having human missionaries do the job was more important to God than the result itself. But that in itself is very peculiar. When Christians try to explain why God issued the Great Commission, they normally think the reason to be that God wanted the gospel message spread to all nations. That is, they regard the final result to be what is of main importance. To claim that it wasn’t the result but the process itself that was most important to God would leave many questions: In particular, why? Why should having humans bring about the result be more important than the result itself? One result here would be worldwide awareness of set P. How could that be secondary in God’s priorities to the activity of the missionaries? And why did God stop empowering missionaries with the ability to perform miracles? They would have been much more likely to succeed in fulfilling the Great Commission if they had retained that power and if still more of them had it. Also, why did God permit the Bible to become defective (containing contradictions and factual errors, etc., as shown by various essays on the Secular Web)? To put the matter in a more general way, why hasn’t God done more to help his missionaries spread belief in set P? If he really wanted them to succeed in their assigned task, then he should have done more to assist them.

UPD could be brought in here. It might be said that there are answers to all these questions, but humanity is unaware of them. For some reason, God has not revealed the answers. Nor has he revealed the purpose for all the secrecy surrounding the matter or even that there exists such a purpose. There are at least two objections to this sort of move. First, there is no reason to cling to the Great-Commission Reply if one is going to appeal to UPD. One may just as well say that we do not know any of God’s purposes regarding the widespread nonbelief in set P and let it go at that. There is nothing in Scripture to warrant connecting such purposes with the Great Commission. To do so is pure speculation. The second objection is that here again UPD makes God appear irrational. The situation is like that with human suffering except that the present framework is more constricted. It is clearer from Scripture that God really does want “all men to come to a knowledge of the truth” than that he wants any reduction in earthly suffering. Jesus himself declared that he came to earth to “testify to the truth”. And so the “unknown purpose” idea has less conceptual space in which to operate.

The present objection to UPD is what I call “the Further-properties Objection”. On the basis of both Scripture and the usual theistic conception of God in the U.S., it ascribes to God the further divine properties of (1) wanting (even commanding) all humans to love him maximally and (2) having sent his son and missionaries to spread the gospel message worldwide. The argument is that UPD becomes utterly implausible when confronted by these further properties.

Still another argument could be brought up against those Christians who are exclusivists. According to Scripture, God wants everyone to be saved. But exclusivists say that salvation is denied those who fail to believe set P. So this must provide God with powerful motivation to bring about situation S (or universal belief in set P). How could he have a purpose which overrides that? As the Bible implies, there is nothing more important, so far as humanity is concerned, than salvation (Matt. 16:26, Mark 8:36). The conceptual space here for an unknown divine purpose is exceedingly limited. Yet UPDers might still try to interject their appeal to mystery. We would like to ask them: how could humanity develop a soteriology (a theory about salvation) if there lurks in the conceptual background some unknown divine purpose that pretty well upsets whatever Christians think they have learned about salvation from Scripture? In the end, the appeal to UPD would cause exclusivist Christians to regard God as remote, hidden, and mysterious. Not much could be said about salvation with such unknown purpose(s) in the background. Much of the evangelical missionary effort would thereby be undermined, for exclusivist missionaries with the UPD outlook could not answer questions about salvation. They would have to say things like “That is not for us to know”, which would run counter to the missionary message of “Here is the truth!”

Even some evangelical Christians find that exclusivism depicts God as irrational and that seems right. A deity who wants all humans to be saved but who permits 2/3 of them to be damned for lack of information essential to salvation appears to be quite irrational or insane. This can be regarded as an extension of the Further-properties Objection. When God is viewed as having the further property of wanting all humans to be saved, exclusivism is shown to be so implausible that not even UPD can rescue it. To appeal to UPD within that context would undermine the missionary effort and thus be inimical to evangelicalism. What I have tried to show is that it is utterly irrational for Christians to appeal to UPD, especially if they espouse an exclusivist soteriology. Even without exclusivism, I regard the Further-properties Objection to refute UPD within the context of Christianity or any similar theistic religion.

Still other objections to UPD might be put forward. Consider the following worldviews, call them “AH” and “UH” (for the “agnostic hypothesis” and “unknown-purpose hypothesis”):

  • AH:
  • Part I: At least one of the following disjuncts is true:
  • (1) there is no divine power of any sort that rules the universe, or
  • (2) there is such a power but it is not in the form of a single personal being, or
  • (3) there is such a being but he or she is not both all-powerful and all-knowing, or
  • (4) the being is not completely rational, or
  • (5) the being does not have a strong desire to bring about universal awareness of the truth of set P among humans, or
  • (6) the being does not desire that humans love him or her greatly.

 

  • Part II: There is no anomaly or mystery surrounding the fact that at least half of all humans in the world lack an awareness of the truth of set P.

 

  • UH:
  • Part I: All of the following are true:
  • (1) there is some sort of divine power that rules the universe, and
  • (2) that power is in the form of a single personal being, and
  • (3) he (i.e., said being) is all-powerful and all-knowing, and
  • (4) he is completely rational, and
  • (5) he has a strong desire to bring about universal awareness of the truth of set P among humans [and even sent his son to “testify” to it and commanded missionaries to spread the message worldwide, even empowering some of them to perform miracles in order to accomplish that], and
  • (6) he has some overriding purpose for permitting the great lack of awareness of the truth of set P that exists among humans, a purpose unknown to humanity, which if known would fully explain it, and
  • (7) in addition, he has some purpose for all the secrecy surrounding the purpose mentioned [in (6), above], also unknown to humanity, which if known would fully explain both that secrecy and all the secrecy surrounding itself [i.e., this purpose mentioned in (7)], and
  • (8) he strongly desires that all humans love him maximally [even commanding them to do so and calling that his “greatest” commandment].

 

  • Part II: Part I gives rise to an anomaly or mystery surrounding the great lack of awareness of the truth of set P that exists in the world and the secrecy surrounding the purposes mentioned in (6) and (7), because, not only is humanity ignorant of those purposes, but it seems impossible, given the being’s properties mentioned in (3)-(5) & (8), that he might have such purposes and permit humanity to be ignorant of them.

 

 

The reason for formulating conjunct (5) in UH in terms of God wanting to bring about the awareness rather than in terms of God simply wanting the awareness itself is that in the context of UPD we are assuming that the Great-Commission Reply and all other Known-purpose Defenses have been abandoned. The UPDer has backed down on all those battles and has come to concede that, as claimed in ANB’s premise (A2), God must want to bring about situation S. The battle line, then, is totally at premise (A3).

The reason for mentioning God’s desire for humanity’s love [disjunct (6) in AH and conjunct (8) in UH] is that it creates an anomaly when conjoined with items (6) and (7) in UH. A god who strongly desires that humanity love him maximally should not have purposes which he keeps hidden from humanity. Such secrets only create a obstacle to the desired love. It might be claimed that the purposes are not kept secret from us but are simply beyond our comprehension. But even if that were so, God could at least reveal to humanity that the purposes exist. He could have had passages inserted into Scripture which reveal that he has purposes which are beyond our comprehension, such that, if we could understand them, they would clarify for us why he permits so much nonbelief in set P. That would go far towards removing the obstacle in question. But because God did not reveal to humanity even the existence of any of the relevant purposes, the anomaly remains.

Between AH and UH, UH appears to have the lower a priori probability because of the logical structure of the two hypotheses. AH is a huge disjunction and UH is a huge conjunction. The only way for the conjunction to be as likely or more likely true than the disjunction would be for the individual conjuncts to have a much higher probability than that for the individual disjuncts. But that is not the case. There is no reason whatever to regard the conjuncts as more probable than the disjuncts, especially since each of the conjuncts is itself highly problematic and controversial. Thus, all things considered, AH is the more reasonable hypothesis to accept.

Furthermore, AH is more reasonable than UH because it is not confronted by any anomaly, whereas UH is. In other words, AH does not make any appeal to mystery, whereas UH does. Hypotheses which appeal to mystery defeat the purpose of explanation itself. Also, it is important to Christianity’s missionary effort to be able to put forward explanations for phenomena. The missionaries need to show their listeners that Christianity can explain things better than rival worldviews. So the appeal to divine mysteries and “unknown purposes” would be counter-productive and out of place there. Furthermore, not only does UH appeal to mystery, but it creates a much greater mystery than the initial fact to be explained (which was the widespread nonbelief in set P). The greater mystery is the anomaly mentioned in UH’s Part II. That is still another reason to reject it, especially within the context of Christianity. Since AH is clearly the preferable hypothesis or worldview, it is reasonable to accept it as the better supported position. It would be reasonable, then, not only to reject UPD, but to deny the existence of the God of Christianity as well.

9. Conclusion

One main thesis of this essay is that AE is not the only important atheological argument around. There is another contender to take on God’s existence and that is ANB. Both arguments are very strong, especially in the context of Christianity. The problem of nonbelief and the problem of evil are parallel problems in the philosophy of religion and should receive parallel treatment within it.

A second main thesis is that the problem of nonbelief is an even greater difficulty for theism, and especially Christianity, than is the problem of evil. When AE and ANB are applied specifically to the God of Christianity, ANB is a stronger, more forceful, and more cogent argument for their conclusion (that that god does not exist) than is AE. There is Biblical evidence that if the God of Christianity were to exist then he would have a great concern about humanity’s widespread lack of belief in set P. There is also Biblical evidence that if that deity were to exist then he would have a great concern about humanity’s earthly suffering. But the former evidence is stronger than the latter evidence. Hence, the widespread absence of such belief among humans is a better reason to deny the existence of that type of deity than is the widespread earthly suffering among humans.