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There is extensive interaction between religion and culture: religion influences culture while culture influences religion. Most religious believers acknowledge and emphasize the former, but don't recognize the extent of the latter, assuming that their religion is based on revelations from an unchanging divinity about absolute standards of conduct. This prevents them from seeing how their religion is culturally conditioned and thus how they attribute political or economic opinions to their god.

Read Article: Interpreting the Bible - Cultural Context of Biblical Interpretation

Comments
December 20, 2009 at 11:54 am
(1) Blake Kidney says:

Christians, whether liberal or conservative, progressive or fundamentalist, don’t really have any consistent, coherent standards according to which they can judge certain passages as still applicable to them and others as cultural products which might be interesting for historical reasons, but not necessarily binding anymore.

This statement is false. A variety of methods have been developed for determining culture relevance of a command depending on the interpretive methods employed. Here is one:

(1) Determine whether the command falls under the Old Covenant or New Covenant. Christians live under the New Covenant, and thus, are not bound to Old Covenant commands. For example, head coverings falls under the New Covenant as this command was given by Paul who was a delegate or representative of Jesus Christ.

(2) Determine whether the command has theological significance and relevance based upon the usage in the whole context of the Biblical narrative. Does the practice or objects have significance to our understanding of the character and nature of God? For example, head coverings is only spoken of once in the Bible and it has no apparent significance to our understanding of God. Using bread and wine in communion, however, does have significance. The bread and wine is symbolic of Christ’s body, and thus, the symbols should be preserved. All of the ten commandments (which have been restated in the New Covenant) have theological significance for they reveal something concerning the nature and character of God.

(3) If the command has theological significance, then the connection between the actual practices and/or objects should be explored to determine practical application. If the command does not have theological significance, then the command should be distilled within the cultural context to determine the core principle being communicated. Once the principle is determined, the principle is then translated into the current culture context, applied, and obeyed. For example, the command concerning head coverings must be understood within the culture context because it has no theological significance based upon the usage within the whole of scripture. As such, the root principle must be determined. Culturally understood, the head covering centered on an issue of authority within the context of the Church meeting. The head covering was a symbol (or sign) of a woman being under authority and having authority. The principle here is the recognition of authority. Applying this in our modern context, authority should be recognized and acknowledged within the church.

Commands that fall under culture translation will not always have the same application. A command may translate differently in different cultures. Additionally, debate may arise as to the cultural application. This is not problematic within Christianity because we do not live to serve commandments, we live to serve God. As such, we obey, not because we must, but because we want to please God. Our heart and desire is to please God and not to make ourselves look good by obeying. This means our obedience flows out of a love for God and not from selfish gain.

What is most important is the reason why we obey and not whether we do obey. God is not pleased with anyone who obeys for personal profit for this contradicts the very nature of love.

December 20, 2009 at 12:18 pm
(2) Austin Cline says:

This statement is false. A variety of methods have been developed for determining culture relevance of a command depending on the interpretive methods employed.

Ah, but if an “interpretive method” is dependent upon culture, economics, politics, etc., then it’s not independent and this means that it will likely produce results consistent with its own cultural, political, and economic biases/premises. Ergo, it doesn’t successfully separate passages that are supposed to be applicable from those which are mere cultural artifcats.

Here is one:

So, you admit that there is more than one. If the different method produce different results, how do know which is right? How do you choose one method over another, if not because you personally like the products of one over the products of others?

Have you ever arrived at an interpretation that is inconsistent with prior political, cultural, or economic assumptions/commitments/beliefs? Have you ever arrived at an interpretation that required a fundamental change/shfit in behavior that put you at odds with your culture? If not, that’s a problem — it’s unlikely that the “correct” interpretation just happens to agree with the cultural, economic, and political context that you happen to live in right now — something accepted by just about all Christians for the past two millennia.

So in such cases, how do you differentiate between ones where your culture amazingly happens to be right and ones where your culture influenced your interpretation in ways you were unable to recognize? Or to put it more fundamentally: how do you remove your cultural, political, and economic biases from your interpretations?

What is most important is the reason why we obey and not whether we do obey.

So, people who obey to go to heaven and avoid hell are not pleasing God and will go to hell anyway; people who do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing and don’t pay any attention to whether any alleged gods might or might not approve will go to heaven anyway. Right?

January 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm
(3) Blake Kidney says:

Ah, but if an ‘interpretive method’ is dependent upon culture, economics, politics, etc., then it’s not independent and this means that it will likely produce results consistent with its own cultural, political, and economic biases/premises.

Who says? Prove this claim. If this is true, then how could any human ever make any objective truth claims? How can scientists arrive at objective conclusions regarding the data they interpret? What you are suggesting is all human knowledge, including your own, is biased and faulty.

So, you admit that there is more than one. If the different method produce different results, how do know which is right?

Indeed, I am admitting that there are different methods. This wasn’t a discussion about which methods are right or wrong. Rather, this was a reply to your statement which said that Christians “don’t really have any consistent, coherent standards according to which they can judge certain passages as still applicable to them and others as cultural products which might be interesting for historical reasons, but not necessarily binding anymore.”

Christians do have “consistent, coherent standards” standards for interpretation and application. We have a whole academic field devoted to this very thing called Hermeneutics.

As for your question: rather than think about different methods being “right” or “wrong”, a critical analysis on each would be more productive. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each method?

At the core of your questions, however, lies another. How can we arrive at objective truth? Is there objective truth? That is an entirely different discussion.

how do you remove your cultural, political, and economic biases from your interpretations?

How does anyone remove bias from any interpretation? How do you remove your atheistic bias when you interpret the Bible in your commentaries? Is it possible?

So, people who obey to go to heaven and avoid hell are not pleasing God and will go to hell anyway; people who do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing and don’t pay any attention to whether any alleged gods might or might not approve will go to heaven anyway. Right?

I think you misunderstand. God is pleased with our obedience when it is driven or flows out of a heart of love, and not just because we obey.

If God’s ultimate goal in giving people commands was to simply produce a particular outcome, don’t you think it would be far easier for God to force us to do what is right. I mean, why bother with giving commands? Why not make us just like robots?

Rather, God’s ultimate goal is love. What God desires is our love. And so, the question is whether our actions flow out of a heart of love or not.

There are many people out there that do good things, but do so for all the wrong reasons. They obey God or do good things to earn a ticket to Heaven. This does not please God. His goal is love, not prostitution. What God desires is a person who obeys because they love Him. As Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey me.” (John 14:15) The point is that love comes first. If we truly love Christ, then we will obey Him because we love Him. Love should be the source or drive behind our actions.

To illustrate: you have two men, Joe and Bob, that donate time at the local homeless shelter. Bob comes everyday, but Joe comes once a month. Bob is a very wealthy man. However, he is also stingy. Because of this, he feels guilty at times. He also wants to go to Heaven. So, he comes everyday to do his duty. He does this to earn his way into Heaven. Then comes Joe. Joe is nearly homeless. He lives in a one room apartment and works at a local gas station. He has a family. Once a month he comes to help the homeless because he enjoys helping people. He comes because he loves the people there and he loves God. He is driven by love. On the day of judgment, whose reward will be greater?

When a person attempts to “earn” their way to Heaven, they are actually offending God. Why? Because going to Heaven is about having a relationship with God. Heaven is the home and place of God. We go there to live with God for eternity as His children. Going to Heaven is about sharing in love with God. And so, if Heaven is about love, then going to Heaven should be about love. God doesn’t require that we “earn” our way to Heaven. Rather, Heaven is a gift. God has given us this gift through Jesus Christ. God is offering this gift to everyone. Whoever believes in Jesus will be saved.

God is offering this gift, but people reject it and say, “I want to earn it.” God is offering love, but people try to earn it. That is offensive. The only way to Heaven is to accept the gift God is offering. We can’t earn or else it is not love.

When we do accept this gift, then we have taken the first step into a life of love. We no longer need to worry about going to Heaven or the fear of punishment. Rather, our life becomes driven by a love for God and people. We don’t do good things to earn rewards. We do good things to say thank you to God for giving us the greatest gift we could ever have — a full and complete life in fellowship with God.

Once we know God, we can have a bias slanted toward love and truth.

January 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm
(4) Austin Cline says:

Who says? Prove this claim.

It can be supported by looking at how the religious interpretations end up being so consistent with the culture in which they occur. For example, why was the US invasion of Iraq so strongly supported by evangelicals in the US but opposed by similar evangelicals elsewhere?

If this is true, then how could any human ever make any objective truth claims?

Easy: don’t use an “interpretive method” that is dependent upon culture, economics, and politics.

How can scientists arrive at objective conclusions regarding the data they interpret?

Because they are talking about an objective reality, not interpreting literature.

Indeed, I am admitting that there are different methods. This wasn’t a discussion about which methods are right or wrong. Rather, this was a reply to your statement which said that Christians “don’t really have any consistent, coherent standards according to which they can judge certain passages as still applicable to them and others as cultural products which might be interesting for historical reasons, but not necessarily binding anymore.”

Right, and thus it’s important to be right and not wrong when it comes to deciding which passages are “still applicable to them” and which are “cultural products which might be interesting for historical reasons, but not necessarily binding anymore.” At least, I think it should be important.

As for your question: rather than think about different methods being “right” or “wrong”, a critical analysis on each would be more productive. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each method?

This is why scientists are able to arrive at objective conclusions whereas Christians like yourself simply end up with interpretations fit in with the culture you live in: scientists do worry about being right or wrong. Indeed, one would expect this to be the starting point of anyone actually concerned with reality.

How does anyone remove bias from any interpretation?

In science, this is achieved through the scientific method itself. Curious that you would ask such a question just after implicitly criticizing me for suggesting that all human knowledge is biased. So first you object to any suggest that human knowledge is biased, then you suggest that bias can’t be removed.

What was it I was criticizing… oh yeah, a lack of consistency in Christian exegesis.

Rather, God’s ultimate goal is love.

In that case, then people who love without believing in your god, or while believing in some other god, will still go to heaven.

God is offering this gift, but people reject it and say, “I want to earn it.”

It would be incredibly arrogant of you if you intended this as a statement about the intentions and attitudes of everyone who doesn’t believe in your god.

Once we know God, we can have a bias slanted toward love and truth.

Fortunately, a bias towards love and truth isn’t dependent upon your god and can in fact be found in people who believe in different gods or even no gods at all.

January 5, 2010 at 11:17 am
(5) Blake Kidney says:

It can be supported by looking at how the religious interpretations end up being so consistent with the culture in which they occur. For example, why was the US invasion of Iraq so strongly supported by evangelicals in the US but opposed by similar evangelicals elsewhere?

Your example doesn’t prove your statement, rather, it shows otherwise. If “interpretations end up being so consistent with the culture in which they occur”, then the outcome should be the same and not different. The example you gave shows two different outcomes proving that the interpretation is not culturally biased.

Because they are talking about an objective reality, not interpreting literature.

Whether a person is interpreting a text or an object, they still must use their mental capacities which can be slanted or biased. As such, science is not free from being slanted or biased.

This is why scientists are able to arrive at objective conclusions whereas Christians like yourself simply end up with interpretations fit in with the culture you live in: scientists do worry about being right or wrong. Indeed, one would expect this to be the starting point of anyone actually concerned with reality.

Austin, your statement is really arrogant. Have you ever studied Biblical Hermeneutics? If Christians “end up with interpretations fit in with the culture you live in”, are you saying that your Biblical commentaries are free of cultural bais?

In science, this is achieved through the scientific method itself.

The scientific method has many variants. It doesn’t even have one single standard by which all scientists follow.

Science uses a method to arrive at truth. Likewise, whenever we interpret literature, we employ an interpretive method. Everyone uses a method for interpretation whether they are Christian or not. Now, we can either arrive at a right interpretation or a wrong interpretation. However, the particular method we use may or may not be right or wrong. There is not only one right interpretative method. Each method has strengths or weaknesses. There is only one right interpretation. However, different methods may be employed. Every method has the goal of arriving at a correct interpretation. As such, every method has the goal of objectivity–to arrive at the right or wrong answer–just as the scientific method has a goal of objectivity.

Fortunately, a bias towards love and truth isn’t dependent upon your god and can in fact be found in people who believe in different gods or even no gods at all.

God is love. God is truth.

If those two statements are true, then God is the source of true love. This means that anyone who is separated from the one true God is void of true love.

The question is, does one true God exist? Obviously, being a confessed atheist, you would say “no.”

However, does objective truth exist? If objective truth exists, then where does it come from? For truth to be truly objective, it must be absolute. For truth to be absolute, it must be eternal and never changing. For something to be eternal, it must never have had an origin. Nothing in the physical universe exists that did not have an origin. Thus, objective truth must exist outside the sphere of this physical universe.

The nature of truth is one. There is one truth. If there were two, we would ask, “which is the right one?” And so, there is only one objective truth.

For truth to be objective, it must have existence. It must be an object. It must have being.

Therefore, there must be one true eternal being beyond the scope of the physical universe by which is the basis for all truth.

God is that one true eternal being.

If there is one true God, then all the other gods are false. They are just imaginary. This means that anyone who has faith (not just believing) in a false god is deceived. If we are deceived, then whenever we interpret something, we will be basing our interpretation upon false knowledge which means we will arrive at a false conclusion. We may use the right method for interpretation, but because of our bias, we will arrive at a wrong conclusion.

The only way to be free from false bias is to know the one true eternal being by which all things are founded upon.

As such, love and truth is dependent upon THE TRUTH, in other words, the one true eternal God upon whom all truth is founded.

January 5, 2010 at 11:44 am
(6) Austin Cline says:

Your example doesn’t prove your statement, rather, it shows otherwise. If “interpretations end up being so consistent with the culture in which they occur”, then the outcome should be the same and not different. The example you gave shows two different outcomes proving that the interpretation is not culturally biased.

Two different interpretations that are different from each other, but consistent with the culture in which they occur, is precisely what happens when the interpretation is influenced or even determined by cultural biases. The absence of cultural biases would lead to interpretations that are much the same and inconsistent with at least some of the cultures in which they occur.

Whether a person is interpreting a text or an object, they still must use their mental capacities which can be slanted or biased. As such, science is not free from being slanted or biased.

I never claimed that science is prefectly free from biases. However, since science is dealing with an objective reality, it is always being tested against that reality. Biases the produce errors are thus revealed and cannot be hidden.

This is why science is consistent across cultures. We don’t have Chinese physics, French chemistry, or American biology. Cultural biases are filtered out, leaving behind reality.

Religion, in contrast, can vary greatly across time and culture.

Austin, your statement is really arrogant. Have you ever studied Biblical Hermeneutics? If Christians “end up with interpretations fit in with the culture you live in”, are you saying that your Biblical commentaries are free of cultural bais?

No, I’ve not claimed that my own commentaries are free of bias, cultural or otherwise.

And it’s not arrogant to point out that there are very good reasons for why science is consistent across cultures whereas religion is not.

In science, this is achieved through the scientific method itself.

The scientific method has many variants. It doesn’t even have one single standard by which all scientists follow.

I never claimed that there is a single standard method which every scientist follows all the time. There is, however, enough consistency to talk about a scientific method and it has proven far more successful in determining reliable facts about reality than anything in religion. The scientific method has produced far more consistency in science than any interpretive method has produced in any religion’s understanding of it’s scripture.

God is love. God is truth.

If those two statements are true, then God is the source of true love. This means that anyone who is separated from the one true God is void of true love.

Since you cannot demonstrate that the statements are true, there’s no reason to assume they are true. We can, however, see clear evidence that people who don’t believe in your god or who don’t believe in any gods can have a bias towards truth and love. Since there is evidence which denies the truth of your claim, and you cannot provide any evidence in defense of your claim, then your claim must be rejected. The only reason for continuing to adhere to it is ideological and cultural bias.

And that’s why religion fails where science succeeds: science places a premium on following the evidence where it leads even if it overturns one’s assumptions, biases, and ideological preferences whereas your religion places a premium on defending assumptions, biases, and ideological preferences regardless of what the evidence is.

However, does objective truth exist? If objective truth exists, then where does it come from? For truth to be truly objective, it must be absolute. For truth to be absolute, it must be eternal and never changing.

Prove it. Construct a logical argument which proves that truth must be “eternal and never changing.” Be sure to include all premises and inferences — a superficial series of “if…then” statements like the above is not a proof or even a valid argument.

January 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm
(7) Blake Kidney says:

Religion, in contrast, can vary greatly across time and culture.

Indeed, it can. However, there is an orthodox Christianity that has not varied or changed. The Bible has not varied or changed apart from translation.

The scientific method has produced far more consistency in science than any interpretive method has produced in any religion’s understanding of it’s scripture.

This is simply not true. You are trying to compare apples and oranges. The scientific method applies to physical reality. It has failed to answer life’s most necessary questions such as “why do we exist?” The scientific method cannot even prove itself. It cannot prove God, love, reason, or even truth.

Religious texts don’t attempt to solve or explain physical reality. Science cannot and does not attempt to explain how I should love another person or why. Science doesn’t deal with morality. It cannot tell whether something is “right” or “wrong”.

Religion has provided an understanding and basis for things such as morality, truth, existence, and so forth.

that’s why religion fails where science succeeds

Really! If science is so great, why hasn’t it saved humanity from self destruction! And yet, Christianity has changed people’s lives for the better. What has science brought us that is truly lasting? Science has helped us extend a person’s life. So what? If I didn’t want to live anyway, why would I care? Religion has given people a reason to live.

This is not to say that science is worthless. Rather, both at the heart are very similar. Science is a pursuit of truth. Religion is a pursuit of truth. Where they differ is that science seeks to manipulate the findings so as to develop new ways of doing things. Religion seeks to live by truth so that we can become a better person. In other words, we use science to make things the way we want them, but religion is about changing ourselves so that we live in harmony with truth.

Prove it. Construct a logical argument…
I will post this later as it is time for lunch.

January 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm
(8) Austin Cline says:

However, there is an orthodox Christianity that has not varied or changed. The Bible has not varied or changed apart from translation.

In fact, how people interpret the Bible and think the Bible teaches them live has varied greatly. I already gave you one recent, relevant example.

This is simply not true. You are trying to compare apples and oranges.

If the comparison is not relevant, then you shouldn’t have brought science up as a relevant, comparable means for acquiring knowledge. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that you’re the one who brought science up in the first place, so allow me to refresh your memory of the context: you questioned my statement that if an interpretive method is not independent of culture and politics, then it will produce results consistent with culture and politics by asking how scientists produce knowledge. The answer is that scientists use a method that is self-correcting and not merely “interpretive.” This allows science to produce more consistent, reliable results.

If comparing the “interpretive methods” of your religious readings of religious scripture against the reliable, productive scientific method is just comparing “apples and oranges,” then your attempt to bring up science in response to my criticism of your “interpretive methods” was a mistake. If you admit this and drop the original objection — which clearly never worked anyway — then of course I’ll drop the comparison. But that would require your returning to directly address the issue of how Christians’ interpretation of the Bible can be more in tune with their own culture than with the interpretations of Christians in other cultures, past and present.

The scientific method applies to physical reality. It has failed to answer life’s most necessary questions such as “why do we exist?” The scientific method cannot even prove itself. It cannot prove God, love, reason, or even truth.

Actually, since our existence is a physical reality, science can provide information necessary to answer that question: evolution. Love, reason, and truth are also addressable by science because they too occupy our physical reality. It’s only “god” that is a problem, apparently because there is no such thing — but fortunately belief in gods and the development of god-concepts are also addressable by the scientific method.

Religious texts don’t attempt to solve or explain physical reality.

Tell that to the believers who read all the statements in scripture about physical reality and dare to take those statements seriously.

Science cannot and does not attempt to explain how I should love another person or why. Science doesn’t deal with morality. It cannot tell whether something is “right” or “wrong”.

Science can tell us about the biochemical processes behind love and thus why we love. Science can tell us what sorts of behaviors elicit the best reactions in others and how we should love them. Science deals with morality all the time because it is used to research how we think about morality, what sorts of moral thinking lead to what sorts of results, etc.

There is, right now and all over world, scientific investigations into love, morality, and all the other things you don’t seem to think science has anything to say about. Some are directly physical and involve investigations of the chemical and electrical activity of the brain. Others are more socially oriented and involve broader research on human social behavior. All of it is science, though, and all of it is producing rich insights into what humans think, how they think, why they behave in certain ways, etc.

Religion has provided an understanding and basis for things such as morality, truth, existence, and so forth.

Religion has created wildly divergent understandings of things like love, morality, and truth, none of which actually need religion to understand or use them.

Really! If science is so great, why hasn’t it saved humanity from self destruction!

In fact science has saved a great many humans from destruction. Science has provided the means for growing food, the means for preserving food, the means for understanding disease, the means for curing or managing disease, the means for preventing the disease, etc. All of this has saved countless lives and improved countless more. Science helps more people not only live longer lives, but better lives — and all because it provides us with reliable, accurate, consistent information about the nature of the our universe.

And yet, Christianity has changed people’s lives for the better.

It’s also changed people’s lives for the worse. In this it is ultimately no different — no better, no worse — than other religions, philosophies, and ideologies. Even the most awful ideologies have made some people feel better about themselves and thus the fact that some set of beliefs helps make a person happier is in no way, by itself, any sort of recommendation for that ideology. A belief system can improve a person’s life regardless of whether it accurately describes reality; science, in contrast, only works when and because it gets things right.

What has science brought us that is truly lasting?

If you don’t think that science has brought you anything that is truly important and valuable, I challenge you to give it up — it should be much easier than giving up Christianity, which you consider so much more important.

Science has helped us extend a person’s life. So what? If I didn’t want to live anyway, why would I care? Religion has given people a reason to live.

Religion is completely dispensable when it comes to having a reason to live, but I challenge you to completely dispense with science when it comes to your health.

In other words, we use science to make things the way we want them, but religion is about changing ourselves so that we live in harmony with truth.

The actual truth is that science helps us understand the truth so we can use the truth to improve our lives. Very often, this means finding better ways to change ourselves so that we can live in harmony with the truth — for example, understanding how disease spreads and changing our behavior to inhibit this.

January 5, 2010 at 7:02 pm
(9) Blake Kidney says:

Prove it. Construct a logical argument which proves that truth must be “eternal and never changing.” Be sure to include all premises and inferences — a superficial series of “if…then” statements like the above is not a proof or even a valid argument.

(Premise) Truth is always true.
(Premise) Truth is never false.
(Inference) Truth must never change. (ie. Truth is absolute. Truth is constant.)
(Conclusion) Truth is eternal.

Firstly, a distinction must be made between absolute TRUTH and relative truth. Absolute TRUTH is eternal truth. It is constant. It is the basis by which all other truths are true. Relative truth is true in relation to absolute truth. It is variable.

For example, I bump into an old friend at the store who tells me his wife Bethany is pregnant. A day later, I bump into another friend who says “Bethany is not pregnant.” Either she is pregnant or she is not pregnant, but both cannot be true. What is the truth? She then tells me, “Bethany is not pregnant! She just had the baby last night.” In this case, truth was relative to time and space. What was true became false when the scenario changed. When Bethany had the baby, the statement “Bethany is pregnant” became false. The truth is that “Bethany was pregnant”. Now, what was true, will always be true. Bethany at one time as pregnant and that is the truth. History will not change. Her pregancy is absolutely true. But, what makes History not change? History changes as it is happening, therefore, it is variable. History is not a constant so it is not the absolute truth.

The best way to illustrate this is to think of variables and constants. A variable can be anything. A constant is always one thing. An equation is not solvable unless it has a constant. If an equation has all variables, it could be anything. For it to be something (for it to be real), it must have something. For example, in the equation x = y, the variables x and y could be anything. However, in the equation x = 2, the constant 2 is very specifically 2, and because it is 2, x is also 2. Since the constant exists, the variable has definition.

Logical Argument:

(Premise) A world exists outside of my mind.
(Premise) I cannot control this world with my mind.
(Inference) The world is an object separate myself. It is real. It is true.
(Premise) Truth is constant.
(Premise) The world is variable. It changes.
(Inference) The world is true, but it is not the truth.
(Premise) I am variable.
(Inference) I am not the truth.
(Conclusion) Truth exists apart from this world.

Another way of saying this is to say that TRUTH is the ONE premise by which all logical arguments are based upon so that we may come to true conclusions. TRUTH is the cause of all causes. TRUTH is eternal, therefore, TRUTH has no cause. (Eternal = no beginning = no cause). Rather, TRUTH provides the basis for all causes.

Logical Argument:

(Premise) A premise is necessary for a logical argument.
(Inference) No premise, no logical argument.
(Premise) TRUTH is the root premise for all other premises.
(Conclusion) No TRUTH, no logical argument.

January 5, 2010 at 7:03 pm
(10) Blake Kidney says:

In fact, how people interpret the Bible and think the Bible teaches them live has varied greatly.

Indeed, this is true. But this does not mean Christians “don’t really have any consistent, coherent standards.” We have standards that are consistent and coherent. We have methods that have been used since the birth of Christianity. The Bible itself uses those methods as the New Testament writers provide interpretations of the Old Testament writings. The whole point of this debate was to show that your initial assessment is incorrect.

If the comparison is not relevant, then you shouldn’t have brought science up as a relevant, comparable means for acquiring knowledge.

Indeed, I brought up the issue of science. The use of the scientific method is relevant. It’s just not all encompassing. It’s NOT the ONLY way for acquiring knowledge. You can’t say science succeeds and religion fails just because of the methods employed by each.

Truly, science is religious. The world was created by God. Because of this, the scientific method works. A scientist expects that an experiment will produce exact results because the scientist believes that the universe is governed by a particular set of laws that makes experimentation possible. Without this fundamental premise, science fails. As such, science and religion have a beautiful relationship.

I do not wish to enter a debate over which is better: science or religion. I am not saying that science is invalid or unimportant. Science is beneficial and has a place in our lives. I am saying that religion also has a place. Both work together.

Both science and religion use interpretation. The data of science comes by observation and experimentation of the natural world. The data of religion comes from God given to humanity. Both must employ methods of interpretation in order to analyze the data and derive a conclusion. Both have practical application and use for life.

science can provide information necessary to answer that question: evolution.

Evolution is a theory for the development of life. Evolution does not have an explanation as to the origin of life. Additionally, evolution doesn’t explain the meaning or purpose of life.

A belief system can improve a person’s life regardless of whether it accurately describes reality

Really? Do you really think that?

At the core, Christianity is not merely a belief system. Christ spoke about a transformation that takes place by His command. A real transformation (or improved life) is when Christ Himself actually comes down and changes a person inwardly. This isn’t a belief but a fact. Either Christ has done it or not. It doesn’t matter what you believe about it.

The actual truth is that science helps us understand the truth so we can use the truth to improve our lives.

You proved my point. Science is means to an end. In science, we “use the truth to improve our lives”. Religion is not about “using” the truth for our own ends. Religion is about being shaped and molded by the truth. In science, we don’t seek to change ourselves. We seek to change reality. Religion is about changing you and living in harmony with reality.

January 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm
(11) Austin Cline says:

In fact, how people interpret the Bible and think the Bible teaches them live has varied greatly.

Indeed, this is true. But this does not mean Christians “don’t really have any consistent, coherent standards.”

Changing, varied standards is a good example of inconsistency.

Indeed, I brought up the issue of science. The use of the scientific method is relevant.

Science is defined by the scientific method. If the scientific method is not relevant in a comparison of methods, then neither is science.

Truly, science is religious.

Prove it.

Evolution is a theory for the development of life. Evolution does not have an explanation as to the origin of life.

True, but irrelevant. The question was why we humans exist. We humans evolved; ergo we exist because of evolution.

Additionally, evolution doesn’t explain the meaning or purpose of life.

The purpose of life is reproduction; meaning is something you have to create.

A belief system can improve a person’s life regardless of whether it accurately describes reality

Really? Do you really think that?

Of course, and unless you want to argue that only Christians have ever had their lives improved, then you must admit that people following false religions have had their lives improved through their religions — ergo, that improvement occurred regardless of the religions’ accuracy.

Religion is about being shaped and molded by the truth.

Sorry, but that’s not the definition of religion. This inaccuracy undermines everything that follows.

(Premise) Truth is always true.
(Premise) Truth is never false.
(Inference) Truth must never change. (ie. Truth is absolute. Truth is constant.)
(Conclusion) Truth is eternal.

1. Your first and second premise are the same; what’s worse, they are the same as the inference. So your “argument” that “proves” truth is eternal depends upon the premise that truth never changes — which is circular.

2. You don’t demonstrate that “never changes” is the same as “absolute.”

3. In fact, truth can be temporary and you admit it, but you add the adjective “relative”. You think you can get around the implications of this (that your argument is rendered false) by creating a new type of truth, “absolute truth,” which is immune from the reality that what is “true” changes — what is true today may not be true tomorrow. However, unless you can demonstrate that this “absolute, eternal truth” exists, you can’t use it as an except to the reality of truths not being eternal.

3. Even if your argument were accepted, you’ve actually undermined your original claim. You did so through your example: “Bethany is pregnant.” You deny that this qualifies as an absolute, eternal truth, but I don’t think you deny that it is objectively true. However, you originally claimed that truth cannot be objective unless it is absolute and eternal. Your example of an objective truth that isn’t absolute or eternal demonstrates that your original claim was false.

Absolute TRUTH is eternal truth. It is constant. It is the basis by which all other truths are true.

You must first demonstrate that such a thing exists before you can base an argument on it. For example, your second argument relies on the premise “truth is constant,” but you only give examples of truths that are inconstant — like pregnancy. Without demonstrating the existence of absolute, eternal, constant, unchanging truths, your premise is invalid.

So I asked you to demonstrate truth must be“eternal and never changing,” and your argument depends on the existence of a type of “truth” called “absolute” truth which you define as eternal. This, in turn, renders your argument circular.

In order to argue that truth must be “eternal and never changing,” you must provide evidence, premises, and inferences which do not rely upon the assumption that there is such a thing as eternal, unchanging truth.

January 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm
(12) Blake Kidney says:

Changing, varied standards is a good example of inconsistency.

Varied methods is not varied standards. A method is not a standard. Having varied methods is not an example of inconsistency or incoherency.

The question was why we humans exist. We humans evolved; ergo we exist because of evolution.

How can you say this statement is true: “Evolution does not have an explanation as to the origin of life.” And then say “we exist because of evolution”?

This is a contradiction.

Your first and second premise are the same

They are similar, but not exactly the same. The first establishes that truth is always true. But, can truth be always true and be something else? The second premise establishes that truth cannot be false.

You don’t demonstrate that “never changes” is the same as “absolute.”

In my mind, the two are the same. But I do see why you would think different. Absolute means complete or perfect. Perfection means that nothing can be added or subtracted. If you add or subtract something from perfection, then it changes. Thus, perfection is unchanging.

In order to argue that truth must be “eternal and never changing,” you must provide evidence, premises, and inferences which do not rely upon the assumption that there is such a thing as eternal, unchanging truth.

I think you really missed my argument.

Absolute truth is the premise by which all other premises and inferences are based upon. As such, there is no premise or inference by which to argue for absolute truth except absolute truth itself. Based upon that, you are suggesting that any argument made for absolute truth is circular because nothing can prove absolute truth except absolute truth. The argument is not circular because absolute truth does in fact provide a solid grounds for it’s own existence. The nature of absolute truth is that it is always true. The nature of any truth is that it is always true. This is evidenced by the fact that the premise (truth is always true) stands. In fact, the premise stands so well that we are able to develop logic and scientific methods. Every experiment we perform, we provide evidence that truth is true because if this premise proved to be false, then the experiment could not stand. Experimentation relies on reproducable results. The results are capable of being reproduced because the premise that truth is always true stands. We expect and receive the same results because truth will not stop being true. When something is true, it is true and will always remain true until the object (not the truth) changes.

Even in the example I gave, truth was always true. Forever, Bethany will have gone through pregnancy. The only thing reason it was not true is due to our relativity to the truth according to time. We are before it, during it, or after it. Our relativity to it does not change it’s truthfulness. No matter what we do, we cannot go back in time and change the fact that Bethany was pregnant.

I have made a classification between relative truth and absolute truth because there is a difference. Absolute truth is what makes all other truths true. This means all other truths are relative to absolute truth. The reason all truth stands is because it is based upon absolute truth.

All of logic also is based upon the absolute nature of truth. A premise can be a basis for an argument because truth is always true. You can argue for a conclusion because you have premises that are always true. If the premise is false, then argument falls apart. Truth doesn’t change, and so the argument will not fall apart if the premise is true.

Truly, real foolishness and incoherence is to say there is no such thing as absolute truth. Why? Because no logical argument can be made if there is no absolute truth. This first premise is the base for all other premises and inferences. If there is no absolute truth, then nothing is truely true. It is true sometimes, but not always. And who is to say when the premise has changed?

And so, anyone who says, “there is no absolute truth” has no grounds to make any other truth claim. They have immediately denied all logic and reasoning. That is why statement collapses on itself. If “there is no absolute truth,” then even the statement itself is not always true. The statement is contradictory.

The premise “truth is always true” stands. It is the nature of truth and the foundation of all math, logic, reasoning, and science. This premise is evidenced by the fact that is remains true. Every experiment proves, every equation proves it, and every logical argument proves it. We depend on this very premise for the basis of our own existence. How could we live if we thought that truth could change at any time? Why would be expect anything to be consistent, coherent, or to produce reproducible results? We would not.

Even you assume this premise that truth is always true. You build logical arguments that use premises that are assumed to remain true. At the same time, you reject the evidence for absolute truth. The problem here lies not in the logic or reasoning, but a willful rejection of the evidence. You have chosen in your own mind to reject the evidence for absolute truth and not because it is illogical. You use logic and all logic assumes truth is always true. You use absolute truth to argue logically, but reject absolute truth when it proves the existence of God.

This is the classic struggle I have with atheists (not all, but many). They deny absolute truth, not because of a lack of evidence, but because what absolute truth represents. Absolute truth is an authority. Without absolute truth, the atheist is free to argue or make any claim without having to submit unto or recognize any authority greater than themselves.

This is evidenced in the statement “meaning is something you create.” Meaning is determined by the creator. When a person speaks, they are communicating a message. The meaning of the message is determined by the speaker. They use a medium, such as audible words, to transmit their message. No one can tell the speaker what they mean. The speaker may not use the medium correctly, and thus, may not communicate what they mean. However, this does not remove the speakers right to the meaning. I cannot tell you what you mean when you write as you cannot tell me what I mean. Meaning is determined by the one speaking; the author, artist, and creator.

Humans did not create themselves. We did not decide what we would be like at our birth. We did not choose the date of our birth or the means of our birth. We are not the author, artist, or creator of ourselves. Whether you reject or deny the existence of God, the fact remains that humans did not create themselves, and therefore, do not determine the meaning of life.

To say, “we create the meaning of life”, is to say that we are our own creator. To create our own meaning is to attempt to be our own creator.

This is the position of the atheist: “meaning is something you create.” The atheist uses absolute truth to argue against the existence of a creator all while elevating him/her self to the position of creator.

It all boils down, not to logic or reasoning, but a willful rejection of the truth.

There is no point in arguing or debating with you anymore, because your response will always be the same. You will reject and deny any possible conclusion, whether logical or not, that threatens your throne. You will find whatever means you can to justify your biased viewpoint and accuse everyone else of being biased because they don’t hold to yours, which is what you have done in the article above.

There is no sense in arguing with anyone who rejects absolute truth as they no longer have any grounds for any logical statement or any basis for truth. If absolute truth doesn’t exist, then there is no ground for any truth statement to be true. If there is no basis for truth, then there is no real objectivity. If there is no real objectivity, it is pointless to debate because it means there is no right or wrong answer. It’s just my view versus your view.

I assert the existence of absolute truth on sufficient grounds. As such, I am not promoting, advocating, or asserting my view. I love truth. I am seeking truth. This is why I like science. At the core, science is a pursuit of truth. This is also why I am Christian. Jesus Christ claimed to be the truth. Based upon the evidence, I believe Him. He is proven by His consistency and faithfulness. The truth is always true. Christ is always true.

January 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm
(13) Austin Cline says:

Varied methods is not varied standards.

Depends upon the method.

How can you say this statement is true: “Evolution does not have an explanation as to the origin of life.” And then say “we exist because of evolution”?

Easy: we humans evolved from another primate. Ergo, we exist because of evolution. How live originated isn’t part of that.

They are similar, but not exactly the same. The first establishes that truth is always true.

1. They are the same because they simply express the same idea in different words.

2. The first does not “establish” anything, it merely asserts it.

3. You admit that what’s truth today may not be true tomorrow, ergo that the premise is false.

You don’t demonstrate that “never changes” is the same as “absolute.”

Absolute means complete or perfect.

1. Absolute has many meanings. If you intend “perfect,” why not say so?

2. I fail to see how “perfect” is an appropriate adjective for “truth.” If I say “It’s the truth that she is pregnant,” explain how “perfect” applies.

Absolute truth is the premise by which all other premises and inferences are based upon.

Prove it.

I have made a classification between relative truth and absolute truth because there is a difference.

You have not established this, merely asserted it.

All of logic also is based upon the absolute nature of truth. A premise can be a basis for an argument because truth is always true.

Feel free to show how.

The premise “truth is always true” stands.

You merely assert that it stands; you have not established this.

They deny absolute truth, not because of a lack of evidence, but because what absolute truth represents. Absolute truth is an authority.

Prove it. Demonstrate that this is indeed their motivation, using direct and verifiable quotes.

This is evidenced in the statement “meaning is something you create.” Meaning is determined by the creator.

Prove it.

When a person speaks, they are communicating a message. The meaning of the message is determined by the speaker.

Only under one definition of the term “meaning.”

They use a medium, such as audible words, to transmit their message. No one can tell the speaker what they mean. The speaker may not use the medium correctly, and thus, may not communicate what they mean.

If they do not communicate what they intend, then the message is carrying some other meaning than what they intend. This means they failed to determine the meaning of the message — ergo, it’s possible for the speaker to not determine the meaning of the message.

However, this does not remove the speakers right to the meaning. I cannot tell you what you mean when you write as you cannot tell me what I mean.

I cannot tell you what you intend; but I can tell you what message(s) your words communicate and thus what your message means. To cite an extreme example, you might accidentally use a racial epithet without intending to denigrate others, but that’s what the word means to others and thus that is what your message would mean, despite your intentions.

Meaning is determined by the one speaking; the author, artist, and creator.

You are conflating communicated messages with everything that might be created. Demonstrate that they are all equivalent.

Whether you reject or deny the existence of God, the fact remains that humans did not create themselves, and therefore, do not determine the meaning of life.

Meaning: value, importance, significance.

Prove that the value, importance, and significance of something cannot be determined by anyone other than its creator.

By your “logic,” a book or meal cannot have meaning to me unless I create them. I challenge you support this.

There is no point in arguing or debating with you anymore, because your response will always be the same.

Yes: I challenge you to support things you merely assert, then claim have been “established” by the mere act of claiming them.

I assert the existence of absolute truth on sufficient grounds.

No, you merely assert it. Allow me to quote you: “Absolute truth is the premise by which all other premises and inferences are based upon. ”

Since you do not establish that “absolute truth” is needed as a premise for all other premises and inferences, you don’t assert the existence of absolute truth on any grounds at all. You merely claim that it exists because it has to exist.

January 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm
(14) Liz says:

First, hats off to Austin – I would not have the patience to keep responding! But maybe that’s why he runs this blog and I just check in from time to time… ;)

Second, it’s important too to consider that the scientific method is based on repeatability and testability. That is, if I’m a scientistic that has been testing my hypotheses, I need to lay out my methods. Another scientistic should be able to reproduce my experiments and come up with similar results. Likewise, other scientists may be testing the theory with different experiments. It’s not like one guy in one place with one experiment is working on evolution. There are multitudes working on evolution from different angles. Every so often, you do hear experiments criticized by peers for biases or being improperly set up, lacking controls, etc. In short, when we read about a topic, like evolution, we are not reading the work of one guy that works in secret and in isolation.

January 11, 2010 at 3:08 pm
(15) Blake Kidney says:

Since you do not establish that “absolute truth” is needed as a premise for all other premises and inferences, you don’t assert the existence of absolute truth on any grounds at all. You merely claim that it exists because it has to exist.

Of course I claim that absolute truth exists because it has to exist. Every argument made comes down to this. How do I know the planet Mars exists? It has to exist because there is evidence to support it’s existence.

There is evidence to support the existence of absolute truth which I have given. However, you reject the evidence. Why? Not because it is illogical or irrational, but simply because you have chosen in your heart to reject it. You have a bias.

The problem is, you can’t see it!

January 11, 2010 at 4:38 pm
(16) Austin Cline says:

Of course I claim that absolute truth exists because it has to exist. Every argument made comes down to this.

Prove it.

There is evidence to support the existence of absolute truth which I have given.

You have yet to show any.

However, you reject the evidence. Why? Not because it is illogical or irrational, but simply because you have chosen in your heart to reject it.

Prove it. You must be really amazing, to have achieved such “insight” into my “heart” given that you don’t know me and have never met me. I’ll therefore be really interested to hear just what sort of proof you have for this dramatic assertion.

The problem is, you can’t see it!

I also can’t see any dragons in my basement. In that situation, though, I conclude that they just don’t exist. Why should I reach a different conclusion for the claims of a person who presumes to know my heart, even though they don’t know me and have never met me? A person claiming that there’s a dragon in my basement, despite never being there and not knowing anything about it, would be just as credible.

January 11, 2010 at 5:18 pm
(17) Blake Kidney says:

we exist because of evolution.

The words “because of” indicate causality. Evolution is not the cause of our existence. We don’t exist because of evolution. Rather, evolution is merely a process which proposes how we developed. Evolution does not explain existence. Therefore, it does not answer the question “Why do we exist?”

You admit that what’s truth today may not be true tomorrow, ergo that the premise is false.

You overlooked or missed what I said. The truth does not change over time. Only the perspective of the viewer. When something happens, it is true and it is always true. At some point, you were born. If you die tomorrow, you will not become “unborn.” The fact that you existed will always be true.

Absolute has many meanings. If you intend “perfect,” why not say so?
My intention was “unchanging” which is what I initially stated. However, you could not see how “absolute” could mean “unchanging.” As such, you asked that I demonstrate this.

I fail to see how “perfect” is an appropriate adjective for “truth.”
The word “perfect” means “unqualified; absolute”. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/perfect)

There is a difference between absolute truth, which is unqualified, and truth, which is qualified. For example, a person might say “the building is orange” and another says “the building is blue.” Both are true. But how? We must qualify the statement. “The building is orange on one side.”

Then there is absolute truth. For example, “one plus one equals two.” It has no qualification. It is the same everywhere.

Question is, on what premise or basis is “one plus one equals two” true? How do we prove this?

I said, “Absolute truth is the premise by which all other premises and inferences are based upon.” You replied, “Prove it.”

I did prove it. Disprove it.

I said, “Meaning is determined by the creator.” You said, “Prove it.”

I did. That is why you agreed with me when you said, “I cannot tell you what you indend.”

I can tell you what message(s) your words communicate and thus what your message means.

Yes, I agree. However, you didn’t create the meaning; you discovered it.

Meaning: value, importance, significance.

Prove that the value, importance, and significance of something cannot be determined by anyone other than its creator.

The creator is the source of the created. As such, the creator has ownership over the created. The creator authors the what, why, when, where, and how of the created. Because the creator has ownership and authority of the created, the creator determines meaning (purpose, value, importance, significance) of the creation.

By your “logic,” a book or meal cannot have meaning to me unless I create them. I challenge you support this.

Not true. The creator determines meaning because the creator has ownership over the intention. If the creator relinquishes ownership, then the meaning (purpose, value, importance, significance) may change.

When I create an aesthetic painting for a friend, my intention is that they find it beautiful. The purpose for the painting to exist is for the pleasure of my friend. The value, importance, and significance of the painting comes in this. If my friend receives the painting and finds it ugly, then the painting is worthless. It did not achieve the original intended purpose. As such, the value of the painting was determined by the meaning. Now, as an artist who has ownership over the painting, I can change the purpose. However, my friend cannot change the purpose unless I relinquish the right of ownership over the intended purpose.

Because the above is true, we have laws which protect such rights. We have copyrights over works of art.

No, you merely assert it. Allow me to quote you: “Absolute truth is the premise by which all other premises and inferences are based upon. ”

I have provided multiple arguments to sustain this. You reject my arguments. However, you have not provided any arguments that disprove or refute my arguments. You simply reject it.

——————————————————

You must be really amazing, to have achieved such “insight” into my “heart” given that you don’t know me and have never met me.

Indeed, you are correct. I cannot see into your heart. All I have to go on is the evidence. Based upon the evidence I have, this is my analysis.

If I am wrong, then prove it.

January 11, 2010 at 6:06 pm
(18) Austin Cline says:

The words “because of” indicate causality.

And our species exists because of the process of evolution. The process of evolution answers the question of “why do we exist” in the same way that the process of digestion answer’s the question “why does poo exist.” Obviously neither are the only factor involved, but it’s the most immediate and one that needs to be mentioned.

Pehraps that’s not the answer you were looking for, but in that case you should ask a different question.

You overlooked or missed what I said. The truth does not change over time.

But it does. The truth-value of the statement “She is pregnant” does change over time. It is true one day and then not true a few days later. This is not impacted by the truth-value of some a statement like “she was pregnant at some point” not changing.

The fact that you existed will always be true.

And another statement, “he exists,” will not always be true. These are not merely differences of perspective but entirely different factual claims. The statement “he exists” and “he existed at some point” are not equal statements made from different perceives, but separate and independent factual assertions.

I fail to see how “perfect” is an appropriate adjective for “truth.”
The word “perfect” means “unqualified; absolute”. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/perfect)

Now we’re back to you needing to explain what you mean by “absolute truth.” Saying it means “unchanging,” then saying that “unchanging means absolute” doesn’t help. You have yet to establish that there is such a thing as “absolute truth” which exists as a separate category from just plain old “truth.”

There is a difference between absolute truth, which is unqualified, and truth, which is qualified. For example, a person might say “the building is orange” and another says “the building is blue.” Both are true. But how? We must qualify the statement. “The building is orange on one side.”

Then there is absolute truth. For example, “one plus one equals two.” It has no qualification. It is the same everywhere.

Sorry, but “one plus one equals two” can also be qualified as being true for strict math but not necessarily other situations.

So it sounds like you want to define “absolute truth” as “always true everywhere, at all times, regardless of context or your perspective.” However, any allegedly “relative truth” can be expressed as an “absolute truth” if stated specifically and clearly enough — what you call “qualifications” can simply be described as being clear and specific. So, your attempt to demonstrate that there is a a category of “absolute truth” separate and distinct from regular “truth” hasn’t succeeded.

Question is, on what premise or basis is “one plus one equals two” true? How do we prove this?

The mathematical proof is quite long and complicated, not for those untutored in complex mathematics.

I said, “Absolute truth is the premise by which all other premises and inferences are based upon.” You replied, “Prove it.”

I did prove it.

Where? I’ve seen you assert that it has to exist, but asserting the necessity of something is the not the same as proving its existence.

I said, “Meaning is determined by the creator.” You said, “Prove it.”

I did. That is why you agreed with me when you said, “I cannot tell you what you indend.”

Your error here is in conflating “meaning” with “intention.” They aren’t identical, though they are obviously related. I pointed this out in the passage you quoted from, so you might have wanted to address that matter.

Meaning: value, importance, significance. Prove that the value, importance, and significance of something cannot be determined by anyone other than its creator.

The creator is the source of the created. As such, the creator has ownership over the created.

Sorry, but I don’t see how “source of” logically, legally, or otherwise implies “ownership of.” So your first inference fails.

Because the creator has ownership and authority of the created, the creator determines meaning (purpose, value, importance, significance) of the creation.

Even if we accept, for the sake of argument, that “source of” entails “ownership of,” this latest inference also fails. You’ll need to establish how “ownership” entails in any way that one can determine value, importance, or significance to another.

The creator determines meaning because the creator has ownership over the intention.

This depends on the assumption that meaning and intention are identical in some fashion, an assumption you have yet to establish. Since I specifically disputed this idea, you of course had an opportunity as well as need to establish this link but you chose not to; instead, you simply chose to continue using the assumption as if its truth were obvious and undisputed.

When I create an aesthetic painting for a friend, my intention is that they find it beautiful. The purpose for the painting to exist is for the pleasure of my friend. The value, importance, and significance of the painting comes in this.

The value, importance, and significance of the painting to you come from all that; whether it has any value, importance, or significance to anyone else is another matter and may not come at all from any of that. I may value the painting because I like the color scheme, regardless of your intentions. In fact, I may value the painting for something completely at odds with your intentions — you may have intended something very realistic but instead created something ironically abstract which I value highly.

You are thus providing yet another example of how meaning and intention are separate issues.

Because the above is true, we have laws which protect such rights. We have copyrights over works of art.

Copyrights are a relatively recent and modern creation; they did not exist for most of the history of art. This is a niggling little fact which, I’m afraid to say, completely invalidates your claim. We have copyright laws in order to protect people’s commercial interests in what they create, not because they have any control over what a book, song, or painting “means” to everyone or anyone else.

You must be really amazing, to have achieved such “insight” into my “heart” given that you don’t know me and have never met me.

Indeed, you are correct. I cannot see into your heart. All I have to go on is the evidence. Based upon the evidence I have, this is my analysis.

If I am wrong, then prove it.

Sorry, but the burden is entirely yours to prove your assertions are true. It’s not mine to disprove them, any more than it’s my burden to disprove the assertion made by some stranger that there is a dragon in my basement. If that stranger has sufficient evidence to make their case, then they should do so — merely alleging that they have a case that can be made isn’t enough.

On the contrary, saying such a thing but then refusing to make the case, instead insisting that I must disprove them, is in my mind strong evidence that no such case really exists. Shifting the burden of proof to those who are simply hearing one’s claims is an old tactic happily employed by people who dimly recognize that they don’t have much of a position, but are loathe to admit their weaknesses or the validity of critics’ challenges.

You have been challenged to prove your allegation about my “heart.” Rather than actually make a case for your allegation, you lamely shift the burden to me, suggesting that unless I can disprove you then your allegation should be accepted as valid and fair. I think you have provided in this an excellent summary of your entire way of approaching an argument: make assertions and assumptions which you cannot support (except perhaps through further, equally dubious assertions, thus committing multiple Begging the Question fallacies) then insist that others must prove you wrong.

January 12, 2010 at 5:34 pm
(19) Blake Kidney says:

The process of evolution answers the question of “why do we exist” in the same way that the process of digestion answer’s the question “why does poo exist.”

Digestion doesn’t answer why “poo” exists. It answers how it became waste. The reason “poo” exists is because someone or something digested it. If you encountered a pile of “poo” on your carpet, you wouldn’t say, “that exists because of digestion.” You would say, “that exists because some creature has discharged it on my carpet.”

The truth-value of the statement “She is pregnant” does change over time.

Yes, indeed, the qualification of time changes as per your perspective. But the fact of the pregnancy will always remain. The truth will always be true. At no time will anyone be able to say that the pregnancy did not happen.

Our human perspective is framed by time. Our view or perspective of reality does not change the truth. Just because I see the pregnancy has happening in the past, doesn’t mean the pregnancy did not happen at all. As such, the truth did not change. The only thing that changed was my perspective of the truth.

Your error here is in conflating “meaning” with “intention.”

The error lies within your view. The definition of meaning is “what is intended to be”. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/meaning) You are the one rejecting this truth.

Sorry, but I don’t see how “source of” logically, legally, or otherwise implies “ownership of.”

If I create something, it is mine. If I say something, it is my word and I am held accountable. If I do something, it is my actions and I am held responsible. If I have a child, it is my child and I am held responsible.

The value, importance, and significance of the painting to you come from all that; whether it has any value, importance, or significance to anyone else is another matter and may not come at all from any of that. I may value the painting because I like the color scheme, regardless of your intentions. In fact, I may value the painting for something completely at odds with your intentions — you may have intended something very realistic but instead created something ironically abstract which I value highly.

Another person may find a different meaning or value than the one originally intended by the author. But how does that make the different meaning valid? It is only valid to the other person.

It doesn’t really matter what the other person may value or not. I, as the artist, have created the painting for a meaning. And since it did not fulfill the meaning for which I created it, I will discard it. It has no value to me.

Once I have discarded it and the other person takes ownership, then I have relinquished my rights to meaning. At that point, they may invest a new meaning.

However, the other person as a spectator does not have a say as what the painting means. They might say, “this is what it means to me.” And I would say, “Indeed, that is what it means to you, but it doesn’t matter. I made it and this is what it is supposed to mean.”

To illustrate, let’s say I made a chair. The value, importance, and significance of the chair is to be a seat for myself. I made the chair and it failed. The wood rotted which caused the chair to collapse. I then say, “this chair is worthless.” Another person comes along, sees the pile of wood, and says, “I like this chair. The overall composition will serve nicely as a piece of art upon my wall.” So, I give the chair to them. Being the new owner, they use the chair to fulfill the new meaning of an artistic piece on the wall.

In the same example, let’s say the chair suceeded and was meaningful. And let’s say another person comes into the room and says, “this chair doesn’t really mean anything to me.” And so the other person begins to use it in destructive ways. The chair then is damaged. Well, it doesn’t really matter what the chair means to that other person because I own it. And so, because the other person has damaged my chair, I expect recompense.

You’ll need to establish how “ownership” entails in any way that one can determine value, importance, or significance to another.

Indeed, I understand what you are saying and I agree. Authorship or ownership does not dictate what another person may receive. Even still, the value, importance, or significance to the other person is not valid until ownership has been transferred. Once ownership has been transferred, the new owner becomes the new authority or creator that dictates meaning.

In this conversation of meaning we were intially speaking of the meaning of life. You said, “meaning is something you create.”

The scenario with regards to the meaning of life varies from that which is given above. As humans, we are not creators of our life, we are the created. Which means, in the given example, we are not the other person. We are the chair.

while ownership may be exchanged and meaning may change of an object such as a chair, the chair itself does not determine the meaning. The created object is always subject to the authority placed over it.

The only way a chair can escape this is to become the owner of itself.

God hasn’t given up ownership over His creatures. And so, humans are at odds with God for this very reason. They want to be the “owner” over their life.
So, a struggle exists between the creator and the creature. The evidence for this lies within the heart and nature of the creature. The creature is trying to be something other than what God intended. As such, the creatures struggles with questions of existence, identity, and meaning. Death is evidence of the struggle between creature and creator. If the creature could determine and create meaning, then the creature could also produce life. Humans, however, cannot produce life. Other evidence includes a inward void or emptiness as though something were missing, the lack of desire for God, the resistance to God’s authority and commands, and the inability to exihibit characteristics and qualities unique to God in truth.

the burden is entirely yours to prove your assertions are true.

This is an assertion. If “the burden is entirely yours to prove your assertions are true”, then prove it.

Additionally, if the above assertion is true, then you must also disprove my assertions. Why? Because by denying my assertions, you are also making an assertion. Also, if you deny any evidence, you are making another assertion. Therefore, you must also prove any assertion that asserts my assertions are wrong.

make assertions and assumptions which you cannot support

I have given support for my assertions. The only one who hasn’t given support for their assertions is you. You have said, “Christians, whether liberal or conservative, progressive or fundamentalist, don’t really have any consistent, coherent standards…” and yet, you have given no support for this. You have said, “The purpose of life is reproduction; meaning is something you have to create.” And yet, I have not seen any support for this. You said, “I think you have provided in this an excellent summary of your entire way of approaching an argument: make assertions and assumptions which you cannot support…” and yet you haven’t given any support of this.

The problem is that you reject my assertions and my support. You reject it, not because it is irrational or void of logic. The arguments are logical and rational. If it is not due logic, then it must be due to a bias. Why do you have such a bias? I do not think the problem lies within your mind, as you have proven through your writings that you are intelligent. The problem must then lie within your heart. Is there other evidence to support this? Indeed, you claim the meaning of life is something you create. The only reason to create meaning is because a lack or void of meaning exists. As such, if there is a lack of meaning, there is a lack of a creator. A lack of creator suggests a lack of God. Why would God be absent? You must be at odds with God. This is further evidenced by the fact that you are an atheist. You don’t know God, and yet, you reject any evidence for His existence despite the plethora of evidence. Therefore, you are biased due to a heart that is separated from God and at odds with Him. But why? Why would anyone have such a bias? Because God represents a threat. How could God be threatening? Because God is an authority–Creator over the creature. Why is God’s authority a threat? Because the creature wants to create his own meaning. He wants to be God. So, the creature fights against God spending all his time arguing every claim, criticizing every evidence, and struggling against any notion or idea of God. And yet, God, in His infinite love, allows Him to do so in the hope that one day, He might see the folly of his bias, give it up, and seek to befriend His Creator. He is waiting.

January 12, 2010 at 7:30 pm
(20) Austin Cline says:

Digestion doesn’t answer why “poo” exists.

It’s the process by which it is created, so it is indeed an answer to that question.

The truth-value of the statement “She is pregnant” does change over time.

Yes, indeed, the qualification of time changes as per your perspective.

So you agree that the truth-value of a statement can change over time. Thank you. Now you will have to revise your argument.

The error lies within your view. The definition of meaning is “what is intended to be”.

That is one definition, but not the only one — as you know, since you provided a link. To declare that it is the only legitimate definition, contrary to all dictionaries, is dishonest.

So once again: treating “meaning” with “intention” as always the same is wrong and thus cannot be used as a premise in your argument. Meaning is not always equivalent with intention.

Sorry, but I don’t see how “source of” logically, legally, or otherwise implies “ownership of.”

If I create something, it is mine.

According to our laws, yes, but that’s simply how human customs are organized. Trees create fruit but don’t own the fruit.

Another person may find a different meaning or value than the one originally intended by the author.

Thus you acknowledge that you were wrong all along: meaning does not lie exclusively with the intention of a creator/speaker/writer. Meaning can also come from others not involved with the creation and without regard for any intentions. Thus you admit that meaning and intention are not always equivalent.

But how does that make the different meaning valid? It is only valid to the other person.

The value or importance of an object to its creator is also only valid to that creator; I don’t have to care or give it a second thought.

It doesn’t really matter what the other person may value or not.

…to the creator, just as what the artist thinks may not matter to anyone else.

Once I have discarded it and the other person takes ownership, then I have relinquished my rights to meaning.

Feel free to demonstrate that you ever had any right to establish any exclusive meanings.

However, the other person as a spectator does not have a say as what the painting means.

This is simply a restatement of your original claim that only the creator can determine meaning, a posit in you have yet to prove.

You’ll need to establish how “ownership” entails in any way that one can determine value, importance, or significance to another.

Indeed, I understand what you are saying and I agree. Authorship or ownership does not dictate what another person may receive.

And how does this not undermine your argument?

Even still, the value, importance, or significance to the other person is not valid until ownership has been transferred.

Prove that it isn’t “valid.”

The scenario with regards to the meaning of life varies from that which is given above. As humans, we are not creators of our life, we are the created. Which means, in the given example, we are not the other person. We are the chair.

This presumes a context of human laws. You’ll have to demonstrate that this context exists, or that a similar context exists.

God hasn’t given up ownership over His creatures.

First you’ll have to demonstrate that there is a deity which created us, then demonstrate that there is a context analogous to human laws where creation leads to ownership.

the burden is entirely yours to prove your assertions are true.

This is an assertion. If “the burden is entirely yours to prove your assertions are true”, then prove it.

It is, however, not a empirical and factual assertion — it’s an assertion about basic standards of civil discourse. If it is your intention that you will not abide by the standard of “the burden of proof or support lies with the claimant,” you must declare this now.

Unles and until you do so, I will hold you to it and insist that you support your claims rather than shift the burden to others, expecting them to prove you wrong.

make assertions and assumptions which you cannot support

I have given support for my assertions.

The only one who hasn’t given support for their assertions is you. You have said, “Christians, whether liberal or conservative, progressive or fundamentalist, don’t really have any consistent, coherent standards…” and yet, you have given no support for this.

That’s a lie. I last referenced my support in comment #6 and you have yet to address that.

Repeating an assertion with new terminology is not “support,” it’s a circular argument.

You have said, “The purpose of life is reproduction; meaning is something you have to create.” And yet, I have not seen any support for this.

You haven’t asked for support, which makes complaining about its absence now petulant and dishonest — especially if you’re going to refuse to abide by the ethical and intellectual standard of supporting one’s empirical claims.

You said, “I think you have provided in this an excellent summary of your entire way of approaching an argument: make assertions and assumptions which you cannot support…” and yet you haven’t given any support of this.

You forgot the rest of that quote: “…(except perhaps through further, equally dubious assertions, thus committing multiple Begging the Question fallacies) then insist that others must prove you wrong.” I have pointed out your use of dubious premises to support a conclusion, which is a Begging the Question fallacy, and thus have supported the claim. You have not denied that you insist others prove you wrong even in cases where you haven’t bothered to offer support for your position, so what’s to support?

The arguments are logical and rational.

Then you would be able to formulate a valid logical syllogism; the one time you tried, I pointed out all the problem and you never fixed them. Ergo, this claim is false.

What’s more, I don’t think that a person who is trying to refuse to abide by basic standards of civil, logical discourse should try to promote themselves as having only offered logical, rational arguments. Quite the contrary, such a person can be counted on to not really appreciate such arguments because they won’t accept the ethical and intellectual standards which lie behind their use.

If it is not due logic, then it must be due to a bias.

You forgot an additional premise: there is no possible way that you could have explained yourself poorly, such that even a valid position might not be accepted. This premise, however, requires us to assume that you are perfect.

Given how many errors I’ve pointed out so far, I don’t think that this assumption should be accepted. Not only are you not perfect, I frankly don’t think you comprehend the basics of logical arguments.

January 14, 2010 at 3:26 pm
(21) Austin Cline says:

Blake Kidney, in his capacity as a representative of the best that Christianity has to offer, unambiguously rejects as a minimal standard of adult discourse the idea that claimants should support their claims. Since such a refusal makes productive, serious conversations impossible he won’t be permitted to post here anymore.

I find it amusing that the system treated his last message as spam – I guess it’s a lot smarter than I thought.

January 15, 2010 at 3:24 pm
(22) Todd says:

“Of course I claim that absolute truth exists because it has to exist.”

This sentence proves that Blake is an eloquent idiot. The only absolute truth is math; everything else is hearsay or perception.

Why would absolute truth have to exist? Because Blake said so? This claim is “A = A because A = A”. It’s circular illogic.

January 15, 2010 at 5:40 pm
(23) Puzzled in Peoria says:

There is a difference between absolute truth, which is unqualified, and truth, which is qualified. For example, a person might say “the building is orange” and another says “the building is blue.” Both are true. But how? We must qualify the statement. “The building is orange on one side.”

“The building is orange on one side” , and yet, “the building is blue.” The ability to “qualify” these statements so that both are true explains a lot about Mr. Kidney’s ability to remain firm in his faith.

January 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm
(24) John Hanks says:

Absolute truth is imaginary. It is a hypothesis or a guess. It can be supported scientifically, but it cannot be proven except in a limited mathematical sense.

January 16, 2010 at 12:21 am
(25) Tom Edgar says:

As Shakespeare would have it. “Much ado about nothing.”

Incidentally Whilst sounding like a Christian apologist I don’t recall the poster actually claiming to be a Christian.

January 16, 2010 at 7:42 am
(26) Austin Cline says:

Tom: do a Google search for “Blake Kidney”.

January 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm
(27) Tom Edgar says:

Thank you Austin. I had thought he could also have been “Curious Bill” on the other site, and possibly be an e mail friend who has this same obsession with “Truth” as a religious philosophy, who is certainly not a Christian. He uses the same old arguments and terminology and nauseum.
Wish I had your patience and surgical knife mentality.

January 17, 2010 at 10:24 am
(28) Zack says:

You have to wonder about a guy who chooses to call himself an organ that produces urine.

From the website of Blake Kidney, with editorial comments provided by me:

I do not wish anyone to be my follower or to speak highly of me.

Done and done!

I do not wish to share my personal opinions or even tell you what I think is best for you.

You’re kind of long-winded for a guy who doesn’t want to share his opinions.

I wish to make it very clear that if you put your faith in me or my words, then you are entering a dangerous path.

Agreed! But in that case, why do you produce so many words?

If anything, I am the least of all.

It would be rude of me to disagree.

I am also not going to say that I have all answers.

Except, of course, when you’re wagging your finger at atheists.

I have much to learn and room to grow.

Except, of course, from atheists.

January 18, 2010 at 12:24 pm
(29) Pandamonk says:

Blake, repeat your questioning of “claimants should support their claims” so it can be analysed and evaluated.

January 18, 2010 at 4:00 pm
(30) Tom Edgar says:

Kidney

I ask you as I ask all the other polysyllabic, proselytising, pusillanimous pontificating, posturing, preaching pundit windbags. Sow the verifiable evidence for the Gods existence.

Scientifically to disprove a theory the proof negating it is sufficient. I have yet to be presented with the proof negating atheism. Your ill mannered insults in saying you will pray for us I find offensive in the extreme.

February 27, 2013 at 6:00 pm
(31) Ned B. says:

Austin, I thought I would extend a point that you made: that often bibilical literalists will point to some passage in the bible that supports their position, and, as far as they are concerned, that should end the argument.

In some cases the bibilical quote even seems to contradict the point being made. When I point that out, I am just being an uninformed heathen. Being an atheist, one is rightly not swayed on any issue by what the bible says. But if you are going to use that tack, at least get it right.

For example, I have had people point to passages in Exodus (early 20s in terms of chapters, can’t remember specifics right now) and claim that the text not only opposes abortion, but supports the contention that abortion is murder. These passages lay out penalties if say one person assaults another and the victim is killed, loses an eye or tooth, etc. Then they discuss the situation where a pregnant woman is assualted and consequently suffers a miscarriage. That passage says that the assailants basically go before the judges and pay the woman’s father or husband some sort of damages as the judges decide. However, if the woman loses an eye or tooth or life, the penalty is the old testament eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, life for a life. Clearly, if the pregnant woman is killed, that is considered murder and treated accordingly. Equally clearly causing a miscarriage (an induced abortion really) is not.

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