Unapologetic: Theological Reflections on Romans 1-2

The first two chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans are theologically loaded, not only because they represent an essential contribution to Paul’s argument as he begins to teach the gospel message, but also because they have generated much dogmatic reflection and debate on subjects such as General and Special Revelation, the project of Natural Theology, apologetic methodology, the noetic effects of sin, as well as cultural themes related to the suppression of God’s truth (most prominently today, homosexuality). From the First Century to the Twenty-First, this passage has articulated the antithesis between the believing and unbelieving community and has drawn dividing lines among various theological distinctives. More importantly, it has provided the necessary foundation for the church to engage the world with the good news of Christianity.

This essay will be an exegetical-theological reflection on the text, seeking to outline the development of Paul’s thinking and engage some of the discussion that has arisen from his statements. Exhaustive with respect to neither exposition of the passage nor interaction with the secondary literature, this is a modest attempt to present the most salient issues.

[keep reading]

Advertisements

About Evan May

Evan May is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and a pastor at Lakeview Christian Center in New Orleans.
This entry was posted in Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Unapologetic: Theological Reflections on Romans 1-2

  1. James Bradshaw says:

    How do the properties of nature render man “inexcusable”?

    Tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes tear up and destroy entire cities. Animals feed off each other to live. Bacteria and disease elude our efforts to conquer them. Blindness, deformities and cancer befall children at random. Much of the earth would be uninhabitable without the “unnatural” technological advances of man (including most of the US during much of the year). Some of the natural fruits of the Earth would kill us in a painful and prolonged death were we to ingest them. The laws of nature make slips and falls dangerous (and possibly even fatal) …. etc, etc, etc.

    Despite all of this, man should reasonably conclude that God is pleased by only heterosexual conduct as well as … well, whatever it is you think we should conclude?

    I see no morality in nature. It tells us nothing other than that the world is indifferent at best and hostile at worse. While it’s possible that the Creator of this nightmare could be “good”, such a conclusion can only be counter-intuitive (despite Paul’s assertions to the contrary).

    • Evan May says:

      Hey James,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m sorry to hear you feel that way. To me, the Lord is visible in every surface of creation, even the ones with darker hues. But I do not expect everyone to see it this way. In fact, the Bible informs me otherwise.

      Unfortunately, your failure to recognize this is not counter-evidence to Paul’s point, since he claims that humanity suppresses this truth (Rom. 1:18). You are not arguing against this text but illustrating it.

      Of course, Christian theology includes not only a doctrine of creation but a doctrine of the fall, so the items you list are not a product of the world as it was originally made but the consequences of human sin. In other words, the Christian worldview is able to categorize natural evils as *evil*. But in an atheistic world, such simply represent the way things are. You seem to assume a value system that considers things like illness and death as *wrong*. But why conclude this?

      The problem is, while you list things that are wrong with this world, your position leaves us with nothing to do with what is right, despite the wrong. There are not only tsunamis, but sunsets. Not only infant mortality, but childbirth. Have you ever experienced good in this life? Have you felt any joy or comfort or gladness? Then you ought to thank God (v. 21). Otherwise we are left with a worldview in which ingratitude is ultimately the only option.

      But if I could interact with some of the reasoning you provide:

      “Tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes tear up and destroy entire cities.”

      Yes, but included in that statement is the proposition that tsunamis, floods, and earthquakes *exist*. Paul would have us consider the question, where did they come from? Why is there anything, instead of nothing?

      “Much of the earth would be uninhabitable without the ‘unnatural’ technological advances of man.”

      How does man have the intelligence and ability to make such technological advances? This too is evidence of the Creator and his image in humanity. Unintelligence does not produce intelligence. Naturalism does not render reliable faculties of reason.

      “The laws of nature make slips and falls dangerous.”

      Are there laws of nature? From where do they come? What makes them consistent and normative? How do you account for the uniformity of nature?

      “I see no morality in nature.”

      The problem is you then go on to say that the “Creator of this nightmare” could not possibly be called “good,” which is a moral judgment. By what standard do you consider persons (divine or otherwise) to be good or not? Your ethical reasoning (unjustified as it may be by your worldview) testifies to God’s moral nature reflected in your conscience (Rom. 2:14-15).

      “such a conclusion can only be counter-intuitive (despite Paul’s assertions to the contrary)”

      It is counterintuitive only because of the noetic effects of sin. Paul’s assertions, actually, are that such fallen intuitions may not be trusted, since they are idolatrous. We ought to give praise to God; instead, we exchange his truth for a lie.

      But considering the problem of evil, you have listed many facts of nature and of human experience. What you have not shown are:

      1) That evil exists
      2) That specifically gratuitous evil exists
      3) That the existence of gratuitous evil renders the existence of God unlikely or impossible

      On the other hand, the Christian worldview is able to provide an explanation of the presence of evil, as well as the ethical categories to describe it as evil, and a theology of a God who has good and wise intentions for the (temporary) presence of evil.

      And a God who has decisively dealt with evil, including the evil in our own hearts, through the death of Jesus Christ.

      Evan

      • James Bradshaw says:

        ‘In other words, the Christian worldview is able to categorize natural evils as *evil*.’

        Yes … but my point is that I don’t see why one must “naturally” come to this worldview simply through examining nature. Nature provides no clues as to whether its ills are from the hand of God or the hand of Satan or due to the pernicious influence of little green men on Mars. It just IS.

        Let’s say I’m without Scripture or theologians. I grew up alone on an island somewhere. I don’t have shelter other than a mud hut. I have to hunt for fish and wildlife but often go hungry. The earth spews lava at times while at others, it is wracked with torrential downpours. What “natural” conclusions should I come to about my surroundings and any Creator or creators who created both me and everything around me?

      • broken turtle shell says:

        well since you enjoy asking questions so much i will be glad to anwser
        “Are there laws of nature? From where do they come? What makes them consistent and normative? How do you account for the uniformity of nature?”
        yes, they are descriptions of how the universe behaves, they are consistent and normative due to the impossibility of the contrary, i account for the UON as a brute fact due the the impossiblity of the contrary as since trying to posit any deity, even yours not only is a subtle form of question begging but as well commits the fallacy of the stolen concept

        “Unintelligence does not produce intelligence. Naturalism does not render reliable faculties of reason. ”
        Alvin Plantinga has been refuted many many times before Stephen Law as a extensive refutation of his stuff

        ” Have you ever experienced good in this life? Have you felt any joy or comfort or gladness? Then you ought to thank God (v. 21).”
        so i should be thanking God that he is “fattening” me up for judgement? That he is going to make me think like i got my life great and at the last moment BAM! Get kicked into a pit of fire and darkness, this reminds me of my grandparents force-feeding ducks so that they would taste better at the dinner table. Besides what’s point of giving water to a dead tree? God supposedly giving non-Christians nice things supposedly because that’s just how loving and kind he is seems to be doing me a disfavour as it raises my expectations of what to expect for eternity waaaaay to much.
        “Why is there anything, instead of nothing?”
        because its impossible for nothing to exist (by definition)

        “. You seem to assume a value system that considers things like illness and death as *wrong*. But why conclude this?”
        Brute fact, it is necessarily true that pain done to purposely harm others, suffering and arbitrary hate are considered “bad”

        • Evan May says:

          “they are consistent and normative due to the impossibility of the contrary”

          Impossibility of the contrary. So the laws of nature are necessary rather than contingent realities? They could not have been otherwise?

          “i account for the UON as a brute fact due the the impossiblity of the contrary”

          There is no possible world in which nature is not uniform?

          “as since trying to posit any deity, even yours not only is a subtle form of question begging but as well commits the fallacy of the stolen concept”

          I’m not sure I follow. You’re going to need to clarify your argument here in a few more steps. And why is it question-begging for me to presuppose God as necessary, while you assume the uniformity of nature a priori?

          “Alvin Plantinga has been refuted many many times before Stephen Law as a extensive refutation of his stuff”

          An entire literature of rejoinders and surrejoinders surrounds Plantinga’s argument. But the problems for naturalism and reason extend beyond those raised by Plantinga (for example, Victor Reppert’s Argument from Reason and the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagal’s critique of physicalism in his book Mind & Cosmos).

          “so i should be thanking God that he is ‘fattening’ me up for judgement?”

          It doesn’t have to be that way. God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). You can repent of your sin and turn to Christ for salvation.

          “because its impossible for nothing to exist (by definition)”

          The alternatives are not between something and a thing called “nothing” that exists, but between something and *nothing*. The universe is a contingent reality, and it is conceivable that it would not exist.

          Do you hold that the universe is eternal, or do you believe that it had a beginning?

          “Brute fact, it is necessarily true that pain done to purposely harm others, suffering and arbitrary hate are considered ‘bad’”

          Values cannot be brute facts, by definition. It is our values that supply the interpretive grid for facts. And pain is a descriptive category, not a moral one. It commits the naturalistic fallacy to reason from an *is* (“This causes pain”) to an *ought* (“We ought not inflict pain”). The second does not automatically follow from the first.

        • broken turtle shell says:

          “There is no possible world in which nature is not uniform? ”
          YES
          “Impossibility of the contrary. So the laws of nature are necessary rather than contingent realities? They could not have been otherwise?”
          YES, pure chaos is inchoerent as it is absurd and impossible
          “I’m not sure I follow. You’re going to need to clarify your argument here in a few more steps. And why is it question-begging for me to presuppose God as necessary, while you assume the uniformity of nature a priori?”
          this is a subtle form of question begging, i dont even think you realize it, because after all if God is not aways uniform how can he support nature to be uniform?
          “Do you hold that the universe is eternal, or do you believe that it had a beginning?”
          it has a beginning
          “Values cannot be brute facts, by definition. It is our values that supply the interpretive grid for facts. And pain is a descriptive category, not a moral one. ”
          i think i didnt make this very clear, it is nesseacrily true that we ought not inflict pain, due to the impossiblity of the contary.the idea that we should not cause pain is an intrensic and metaphysical truth that does not depend on any person or mind to remain true. There cannot be a universe no matter how absurd were such a law does not apply. BTW one of your other pages were you talk about subjective and objective morality was quite popluar on an athiest facebook page for a short while. Also you have a very modern idea of what values are, the “tradtional” understanding of what value is can easily be seen as brute facts

          “It commits the naturalistic fallacy to reason from an *is* (“This causes pain”) to an *ought* (“We ought not inflict pain”). The second does not automatically follow from the first.”
          so isnt god punishing people who break his rules an “is”(descriptive) , so does it not commit a natural fallacy to claim that we ought to obey god’s rules?(prescriptive)

  2. Evan May says:

    What natural conclusions have individuals in precisely that condition drawn?

    The religious disposition is universal. Mankind is homo religious.

  3. Nick says:

    Both in your article and in the comment box you have briefly cited Romans 2:14-15 and (apparently) read this as referring to unbelieving Gentiles who have the moral law written upon their consciences. This is a common reading, but have you considered that Paul is speaking of *believing* Gentiles here?

    Here are my thoughts (taken from Augustine actually) on the matter:

    (1) The language of having “the law written upon the heart” is found in various places in the Bible, but in each instance it refers to someone being inducted into the New Covenant: e.g. Jer 31:33; Heb 8:10; 2 Cor 3:3; Cf Eze 36:26. If we’re using the principle of “Scripture interprets Scripture,” the default assumption for this ‘unclear’ Romans 2:14-15 passage should be to think these are Believing Gentile Christians. (The ESV even has a cross reference from 2:15 to Jer 31:33.)

    (2) The context itself is dealing with Jewish pride against the Gentiles, considering them second class, to which Paul speaks of “uncircumcised” keeping the law as a condemning testimony against Jewish hypocrisy (2:26-27). And Paul concludes all this by saying the real circumcision is that done on the heart by the Holy Spirit (2:29). This last verse is undoubtedly speaking of Christians, and the language of the Holy Spirit transforming the heart has a clear echo of the New Covenant prophecies of Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:27, etc.

    (3) I would consider it dubious and highly doubtful that Paul would be speaking of universal sinfulness in Rom 1-3 and yet in 2:14-15 suddenly insinuate that Unbelieving Gentiles can do good works, keep the law, etc. It would make more sense to assume only Believers keep the law in a way pleasing to God.

    (4) The Gentiles doing what the law requires “by nature” would have a Pelagian tone to it, so it makes more sense to think this refers to renewed/restored nature via the New Creation, New Heart, etc.

    Do you agree with this assessment? Do you think it makes more sense to conclude the Gentiles of Romans 2:14-15 are actually Believing Gentile Christians?

    • Evan May says:

      Hey Nick,

      I did not take the time to interact with that position in the essay, but on p. 4, footnote 7, I noted this:

      Some commentators (Augustine, Cranfield, Barth) take Paul to be referring specifically to Christian Gentiles. But see Moo, 148-153; Thomas R. Schreiner, “Did Paul Believe in Justification by Works? Another look at Romans 2,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 3, (January 1, 1993), 114-147. On the flow of argument in the text, Schreiner notes, “What Paul wants to prove here is that the Jews should not consider possessing the Mosaic law as a sign of salvation because even the Gentiles who do not have the Mosaic law have heard the law, and Jews do not consider Gentiles to be saved simply because the latter are aware of the moral norms contained in the law. The connection between vv. 13-14, then, is not that Gentiles do the law, and thus are justified. The connection is that the Gentiles, like the Jews, have heard the law in that it is written on their hearts, but such hearing of the law does not ensure justification” (145).

  4. Nick says:

    I found Schreiner’s article online and am reading it now. From the quote you gave, I don’t see the flow of his argument, just some assertions, so I need to locate the context. I’m particularly curious to find out how he discerns “writing the law upon the heart” more likely refers to the conscience rather than the New Covenant promise a la Jer 31:33 (which as I noted even the ESV cross references here).

    • Evan May says:

      I think the question is, which interpretation best accounts for what Paul is seeking to accomplish at this stage of his argument? Yes, the language is similar to the New Covenant promise, although notice that Paul describes the *product* of the law (τὸ ἔργον τοῦ νόμου) as written on their hearts, what Seifrid defines as “the intended effect of the law.”

      But given that v. 14 is introduced with an explanatory γὰρ, what do you see as its relationship to Paul’s statements in v. 12? (“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law”). In other words, how does Paul’s description of the Gentiles (who are defined by Paul as those μὴ νόμον ἔχοντα) provide evidence for the fact that those who sin ἀνόμως will perish ἀνόμως, and specifically since this follows his argument in chapter 1 that there is a General Revelation that renders the pagan world as inexcusable?

      I’m inclined to see Paul’s phrase in light of his argument, rather than to insist his phrase must mean something because the ESV provides a cross-reference in the margin. Likewise, let’s allow Paul’s description of “nature” to be informed by his use of the term in preceding chapter; it may sound Pelagian to say the Gentiles “by nature” pursue the requirements of the law, but only if we are importing our understanding of that phrase into Paul’s statement (since his very point is that they will be guilty on the day of Judgment, v. 12). Indeed, Paul’s assertion that every person knows God seems to contradict his descriptions in Romans 3, that no one understands or seeks for God—unless we make proper distinctions for the context of his respective statements.

      But my question for you is, when does Paul ever use the term φύσις to refer to a “renewed/restored nature via the New Creation”? Φύσις in Paul is always a reference to the creational (albeit fallen) nature (1 Cor. 11:14; Eph. 2:3; Gal. 2:15; 4:8), as is the case in Romans 1.

      That being said, I wouldn’t claim certainty for this position, and I think alternatives may be viable. My reading of v. 14-15 is not essential to the argument articulated in my essay, although I do think it provides interesting explanatory power (e.g., the discussion of moralizing unbelievers).

      Thanks for reading and engaging, Nick.

      Evan

  5. Nick says:

    I’m not avoiding your recent post, just sharing what I wrote down after reading that Schreiner article. It has many good points, but I don’t see how he can believe in justification by faith alone after what he said because he repeatedly referred to salvation by Christian obedience (repeatedly rejecting the ‘hypothetical obedience’ claim).

    For example:

    P137: “It is quite likely in Rom 2:26-27 that Paul is speaking of Gentiles who really fulfill the law. This interpretation is supported by Rom 2:28-29 . . . v.29 grounds such Gentile obedience in the work of the Holy Spirit.”

    This is virtually identical to what Augustine said about Romans 2 as a whole, the only catch is that Schreiner doesn’t believe Christian Gentiles are the subject of 2:14-15, but Schreiner repeatedly argues that Christian Gentiles are the subject of 2:7,10,26-29 (P139, etc). So he begins by basically admitting the context before and after 2:14-15 is of Christian Gentiles. In fairness, he does say at the start of P140 that his theology wouldn’t be affected if 2:14-15 was Christian Gentiles, so it’s strictly a matter of exegesis for him.

    On P144 at the end, Schreiner says 2:14-15 refers to Unbelieving Gentiles who “occasionally observe the law” but this occasional observance isn’t enough to save, only to condemn. I think he has raised the stakes on himself, because in the same context he now has Christian Gentiles who observe the law AND Unbelieving Gentiles who observe the law, but each ‘observe the law’ in different enough ways that it makes all the difference. But the Christian Gentiles ‘observing of the law’ isn’t even a perfect observing either, so this makes his claim of a distinction more dubious.

    Now onto P145, which you quote. Schreiner seems to be saying that Paul’s point here is that possessing the (Written) Law is no advantage because even the Gentiles possess the Law (though in oral/conscience form). This argument doesn’t seem coherent to me because it’s a non-sequitur and illegitimate comparison. The Gentiles *don’t* possess the Law in any comparable sense to possessing the Written Torah, hence the reason why they’re Gentiles. It seems a blasphemous trivializing of the Torah to suggest the Gentiles already have the Mosaic Law in some significant manner, and is like saying a Christian holding the Bible isn’t much more informed than an African tribesman. The argument would be equivalent to saying that having a PhD wont let you into heaven *because* a High School Diploma isn’t enough to let you into heaven.

    On P147 he transitions to discussing 2:26-29, but first he speaks on 2:17-24:

    “In 2:17-24 Paul argues that the Jewish possession of the law is worthless without obeying it.”

    I agree with this, but then this makes his claim on 2:14-15 even more weak and redundant. In 2:14-15 the alleged argument is ‘possessing the law doesn’t save because the gentiles also possess the law’ (a non-sequitur), and yet now in seven long verses Paul says possessing the law doesn’t save because they’re breaking it. God’s Name being blasphemed among the Gentiles is by far a more important and legitimate argument for those who think possessing the law is enough. Surprisingly, Schreiner spends only 2 sentences discussing 2:17-24.

    On P148 Schreiner is clear that the the uncircumcised law-keepers of 2:26-27 are Gentile Christians. Astonishingly, he also links Romans 2:26 to 8:4, the latter which speaks of the righteous requirements of the law being met by us walking by the Spirit. On P150 he emphasizes the reality of obeying the Law by having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and cites many OT prophecies, including Jer 31:33. Now that even Schreiner has said Jer 31:33 applies to Romans 2, though verses 28-29, there is even less reason to avoid linking it to 2:14-15.

    On P152 he concludes by saying:

    “Rom 2:6-10 speaks of doing good works to obtain eternal life, Rom 2:26-29 speaks of keeping the law to obtain an eschatological reward and be a member of the covenant people, and Rom 2:13 says that those who keep the law will be justified. We conclude that those who observe the law are doing good works, and that such good works are necessary for justification and eternal life.”

    This is even bigger in light of the fact he now connects all this to Rom 2:13, which comes immediately prior to 2:14-15! So in the end, Schreiner has basically said everything Augustine said about Romans 2, the only difference is that Schreiner didn’t include 2:14-15 in this. Again, I don’t know how he can say this and affirm Sola Fide.

    • Evan May says:

      Just to clarify, I don’t agree with Schreiner on his understanding of verse 13, although I do agree with him on v. 14-15 and some of his supporting arguments, which is why I cited it in the footnote.

      But I disagree with you that his position contradicts justification by faith alone. Salvation is a category broader than justification, and it necessarily includes sanctification. To argue that obedience is necessary for salvation is not to argue that our obedience is the meritorious *basis* for our justification.

      “Now onto P145, which you quote. Schreiner seems to be saying that Paul’s point here is that possessing the (Written) Law is no advantage because even the Gentiles possess the Law (though in oral/conscience form). This argument doesn’t seem coherent to me because it’s a non-sequitur and illegitimate comparison.”

      But that is precisely Paul’s argument. Mere possession of the Torah is not an advantage on the Day of Judgment (v. 11-12). It is only later that Paul argues that the Jew has an advantage because of the Torah, which is not advantageous with respect to justification but with the value of Special Revelation (3:1-4).

      • Evan May says:

        By the way, to see Schreiner’s position on Justification by Faith, see his critique of N.T. Wright in Credo Mag’s issue, titled “Justification: The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls”:

        http://www.credomag.com/issues/Justification2.pdf

        On p. 54, he comments:

        “Wright’s statement about individual assurance raises another question. He insists rightly that justification isn’t a process. One doesn’t become more justified as time passes, and those who are justified are assured of final salvation. On the other hand, Wright also says that final justification is based on works. If final justification is based on works, then how can believers have assurance that they will be justified on the final day? Wright never answers or attempts to answer that question. I would suggest along with many others that it is better to conceive of works as the fruit or evidence of justification. Wright knows the distinction posited here but finds it to be unhelpful. Still, the language of basis should be rejected, for it suggests that works are the foundation of our right standing with God, but how can that be the case if justification is by grace? And how can we truly have assurance if justification is based in part on works?”

  6. Nick says:

    Evan,

    I don’t want to bog you down with all this writing, so I’ll try to be brief in response to your last post. After reading that link you gave, I think the bigger issue to 2:14-15 is whether 2:6-10, 2:13, and 2:26-29 all link together and are saying the same thing, as Schreiner argues they are. Do you agree with Schreiner on that point? To me this pushes the 2:14-15 identity question somewhat to the sidelines, but still worth exploring.

    I’m not sure what you’re asking about v12 in relation to v14. It seems to me that what Paul is saying is that the more knowledge one has, the more culpable they are for their sin. So the Jews will be held to a higher standard at judgment time than the Gentiles. In the case of Christian Gentiles, they came from paganism and had bad moral formation from that culture, so they will be subject to sin more easily, to which God will judge them more leniently. That’s how I read 2:15b.
    For Paul to be suggesting that the Gentiles of 2:14-15 “do the law” in a way that doesn’t really matter seems out of place in Paul’s argument and doesn’t really make any theological point.

    You asked me when does Paul ever speak of “nature” to refer to a transformed nature, especially in light of the New Covenant. I admit the conclusion that this refers to transformed nature in the New Covenant comes mostly from the notion that Christians receive a new heart; this has to be read into the text based on other things we know. That said, Paul speaks of ‘gentiles by nature’ (2:27) and ‘Jews by nature’ (Gal 2:15), but this isn’t referring to human nature or fallen nature, but something more akin to covenant status (e.g. the ‘natural branches’ of Rom 11:21). So I wouldn’t rule it out on Lexical grounds alone.

  7. Nick says:

    By “your last post” I meant your post on February 6, 2014 at 7:18 pm.
    I didn’t know you responded again more recently.

  8. Evan May says:

    Broken Turtle Shell,

    “YES, pure chaos is inchoerent as it is absurd and impossible”

    “Pure chaos” isn’t the only alternative to the current scientific laws or the uniformity of nature. Even secular scientists who hold to a multiverse theory contend that there are universes that do not operate according to the physical laws that we understand—which would make them contingent.

    And you seem to be confusing physical necessity and logical necessity. To say something is physically necessary is not the same thing as saying it is logically necessary. Pure chaos may be scientifically incoherent, but that does not mean it is logically impossible.

    “this is a subtle form of question begging, i dont even think you realize it”

    I’m sorry, but to make an assertion and then to excuse yourself from explanation because it is supposedly too subtle for me to realize is not an argument. : )

    “because after all if God is not aways uniform how can he support nature to be uniform?”

    According to the Christian worldview, the uniformity of nature is rooted in God’s ordinary providence.

    “it has a beginning”

    If it has a beginning, then it is a contingent reality, which must be explained. As Leibniz said, “The first question which we have a right to ask is, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’” Furthermore, if the universe began to exist, then it has a cause of its existence, which must be transcendent.

    “it is nesseacrily true that we ought not inflict pain, due to the impossiblity of the contary.”

    But you haven’t demonstrated the contrary to be impossible. Why is it *impossible* that no such moral prohibition would exist? Simply asserting it to be the case does not gain you any ground.

    And is it always wrong to inflict pain? What about a doctor setting a broken arm? The doctor inflicts pain, but betters the patient. So it must not be the case that inflicting pain is intrinsically wrong. It must be placed within the context of a developed moral theory, which you have not provided.

    “There cannot be a universe no matter how absurd were such a law does not apply.”

    I agree that objective moral laws are necessary truths, but you have not shown how such necessary truths can be justified *according to your worldview*. That’s the issue. And in claiming that they are necessary truths, you’ve simply pushed the question back, since atheism cannot account for logical norms as well as ethical norms.

    “so isnt god punishing people who break his rules an ‘is’(descriptive) , so does it not commit a natural fallacy to claim that we ought to obey god’s rules?(prescriptive)”

    No, because God’s laws are already *oughts*. They are normative by the nature of the case.

  9. broken turtle shell says:

    “According to the Christian worldview, the uniformity of nature is rooted in God’s ordinary providence”
    but god can only give such providence if he himself is eternally uniform, so how do you justify the uniformity of god? (without begging the question of course) and please dont say God revealed to me that he is immutable or something like that because you just presupposed the problem away! You would have offered no more evidence that nature will be uniform then for a person who just assumes it to be like that in the first place!

    “Pure chaos may be scientifically incoherent, but that does not mean it is logically impossible.”
    it is logically impossible due to its utter inchoerence, its not just scienficaly impossible but as well logically impossbile.Its impossible for some form of order not to exist. Take gravity for example, the non-uniformity of gravity could be infinitely attractive or repulsive, or anything in between, at any time with no cause. The same is true for everything from the fundamental property of matter to complex biological systems. Since non-uniformity is not logically coherent it’s not an option. Therefore we accept uniformity (it’s axiomatic) because of the impossibility of the contrary.

    ” Why is it *impossible* that no such moral prohibition would exist? Simply asserting it to be the case does not gain you any ground.”
    due to how absurd and self refuting it is if anyone actually believed otherwise! Seriously even try thinking about no such moral prohibition not existing leads into non-sensical absurdity. This is like trying to argue that you dont exist!

    “I agree that objective moral laws are necessary truths, but you have not shown how such necessary truths can be justified *according to your worldview*.And in claiming that they are necessary truths, you’ve simply pushed the question back, since atheism cannot account for logical norms as well as ethical norms.”
    the laws themself are their own foundation, the bedrock themselves, the idea that moral laws implies a law-giver is very much arbitary assertion. I could pull off a “platonic entities of the gaps” or a “karma of the gaps” if i really wanted to just mess around with you about athiesm accounting for logical/ethical norms but if i did i would be blathering about something i dont care or believe about. Also athiesm is not MEANT to account for logical/ethical norms, just like i dont expect the exstance of your argyle sweater in your profile pic to account for why 1+1= 2.

    ““The first question which we have a right to ask is, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’”
    because by definition its impossible for nothing to exist, if the universe didnt exist we would have a dark and empty void of darkness but that isnt nothing* because it still has identiy so therofore it exists and counts as a “thing”, if it did not have idenity we would not be even able to conceive it in our minds! Thus its literally impossible for nothing to exist

    “Even secular scientists who hold to a multiverse theory contend that there are universes that do not operate according to the physical laws that we understand—which would make them contingent”
    maybe so, but we would expect some sort of order and understandability in any universe no matter how different the physical laws are, they would still be uniform

    • Evan May says:

      “but god can only give such providence if he himself is eternally uniform, so how do you justify the uniformity of god? (without begging the question of course) and please dont say God revealed to me that he is immutable or something like that because you just presupposed the problem away!”

      Well, since the first half of my sentence was “*According to the Christian worldview* the uniformity of nature is rooted in God’s ordinary providence,” then this is a matter of Christian theology. It is not begging the question for me to inform you of what the Christian worldview holds to, such as divine immutability or God’s eternal unchanging will. We’re discussing matters internal to Christianity here. It seems you’ve lost track of where we are in the interaction at this point.

      “You would have offered no more evidence that nature will be uniform then for a person who just assumes it to be like that in the first place!”

      What I am offering is a worldview that is able to justify the uniformity of nature, not simply assert why we must believe in it. Even contending that it is a necessary truth (a very odd position philosophically) does not gain you traction, since a worldview in which necessary truths (invariant, objective norms) are intelligible is required.

      “due to how absurd and self refuting it is if anyone actually believed otherwise! Seriously even try thinking about no such moral prohibition not existing leads into non-sensical absurdity. This is like trying to argue that you dont exist!”

      Well, since I offered a counter-example to your universal claim that you haven’t dealt with, I think you need to slow down a little before you declare victory. Is it always wrong to inflict pain? What about a doctor setting a bone? Certainly at least you need a little more nuance.

      I agree that objective morality is intuitively obvious (and I’d contend that this is so because we are made in God’s image). The question is not *what* is self-evident, but *why* it is self-evident (beyond your bare assertion that it simply is the case). In a time and chance universe, and given random naturalistic mutation, certainly our moral intuitions could have evolved differently. So there is no reason, given atheism, why this must be the case.

      “I could pull off a ‘platonic entities of the gaps’ or a ‘karma of the gaps’ if i really wanted to just mess around with you about athiesm accounting for logical/ethical norms but if i did i would be blathering about something i dont care or believe about.”

      Except that platonic entities and karma are not able to account for moral norms either, since they are impersonal. And your comparison of my argument to a “god of the gaps” approach is inaccurate and unfair.

      “Also athiesm is not MEANT to account for logical/ethical norms, just like i dont expect the exstance of your argyle sweater in your profile pic to account for why 1+1= 2.”

      Actually, I agree with you here. Atheism has no more explanatory power than my sweater. : )

      “maybe so, but we would expect some sort of order and understandability in any universe no matter how different the physical laws are, they would still be uniform”

      But your admission here puts you in the position of needing to revise your previous claim, which was that the laws of physics were necessary truths.

  10. broken turtle shell says:

    “Except that platonic entities and karma are not able to account for moral norms either, since they are impersonal”
    yes they are, again like i said moral laws needing a law giver is an arbtary assertion, its actually obvious why those impersonal forces can account for moral norms due to cause and effect. However your hatred and dismissal of impersonal forces shows how you really hate “true” objective morality. Again just because something seems strange to you doesnt make it anyless invalid, for example christians always tell me just because the trinity seems so strange doesnt make it automatically inchoerent or irrational, so if that is true i see no problems with impersonal forces accounting for moral norms
    “It is not begging the question for me to inform you of what the Christian worldview holds to, such as divine immutability or God’s eternal unchanging will”
    i am not sure if i made it clear or not, your justifcation for the uniformity of nature just pushes the supposed problem back one step on to god and you have the same problem.
    “In a time and chance universe, and given random naturalistic mutation, certainly our moral intuitions could have evolved differently. So there is no reason, given atheism, why this must be the case.”
    no they could not have evolved differently, so there is reason given athiesm why is must be the case, and it is quite obvious why due to the fact that certain action would all have the same results in any universe, no matter what, if anything given evolution we would not be having this chat, or even be alive if our moral intuitions came out differently
    “But your admission here puts you in the position of needing to revise your previous claim, which was that the laws of physics were necessary truths”
    no what i meant was that unifomity in the laws of nature were necessary truths
    “Is it always wrong to inflict pain? ”
    oh right what i meant that it was wrong to cause pain arbtiarily.
    “Actually, I agree with you here. Atheism has no more explanatory power than my sweater. : )”
    well by that definition Christianity has even less explanatory power then your argyle sweater

    • Evan May says:

      “its actually obvious why those impersonal forces can account for moral norms due to cause and effect.”

      Again, cause and effect are valueless. Demonstrating that the cue ball causes the motion of the billiard ball says nothing of whether or not the action is right or worthy of respect.

      “However your hatred and dismissal of impersonal forces shows how you really hate ‘true’ objective morality.”

      It’s not about “hatred” (an odd way of describing it) but being honest to reality. Impersonal platonic forms do not have the quality of *oughtness*. They simply are, without any ability to require conformity in a moral sense.

      “i see no problems with impersonal forces accounting for moral norms”

      Throughout this exchange you seem to have failed to see the distinction between claiming that something is the case and demonstrating that it is the case.

      “i am not sure if i made it clear or not, your justifcation for the uniformity of nature just pushes the supposed problem back one step on to god and you have the same problem.”

      This is an internal critique of alternative worldviews, so the objection here is confused.

      “no they could not have evolved differently”

      That is not self-evidently so, and many atheistic philosophers and evolutionary theorists would disagree with you.

      “oh right what i meant that it was wrong to cause pain arbtiarily.”

      Ok, so who determines whether or not it is arbitrary? For example, if it were the case that killing one innocent person would relieve the suffering or death of a thousand, would it be morally right to kill them (to inflict pain on them in light of the broader considerations)?

      Even if you can establish that it is objectively true that we ought not inflict pain, there is still a great distance to establishing a workable meta-ethic.

    • broken turtle shell says:

      “Again, cause and effect are valueless. Demonstrating that the cue ball causes the motion of the billiard ball says nothing of whether or not the action is right or worthy of respect”
      not unless the action causes pain and suffering to the person whocauses it in both this life and the next. But since i am pretty sure i dont believe in a next life, i am only bring this up as a thought exercise and see how you respond .

      “Impersonal platonic forms do not have the quality of *oughtness*. They simply are, without any ability to require conformity in a moral sense”
      oughtness is formed by our personal interactions and awarness with the impersonal, our interactions with the impersonal requires conformity. So as i have demonstrated here the Christian rhetoric that moral laws implies law-giver is entirely without foundation

      “That is not self-evidently so, and many atheistic philosophers and evolutionary theorists would disagree with you”
      theortically they could have been different, but if they were then we would not be alive if they had evolved different. Due to the fact that certain actions would all have the same results in any universe, no matter what,and no matter who values those actions

      “Ok, so who determines whether or not it is arbitrary? ”
      what is subjective, done on an emotional whim, done only to cause suffering, done in away that does not encourage recporcity is what is arbitary. and this remains true independent of how anyone, me, you, or spider-man thinks. NO ONE determines whether it is arbitary or not,its just our minds that is aware of what is arbtiary with our interaction with the impersonal, but if we did not have minds what is arbitary would still be the same regardless.

      “Throughout this exchange you seem to have failed to see the distinction between claiming that something is the case and demonstrating that it is the case”
      thanks! i noticed that my university professors always accuse me of the same thing- making claims without evidence!

      • Evan May says:

        “not unless the action causes pain and suffering to the person whocauses it in both this life and the next.”

        I’m having difficulty following how this is a response to my statement that you quoted.

        “oughtness is formed by our personal interactions and awarness with the impersonal, our interactions with the impersonal requires conformity.”

        This is circular. How does our “interaction with the impersonal” (whatever that exactly means) *require* oughtness? You’re assuming oughtness in the premise.

        “So as i have demonstrated here the Christian rhetoric that moral laws implies law-giver is entirely without foundation”

        It’s not rhetoric if it is definitionally true (in the way that bachelorhood implies being non-married).

        “theortically they could have been different, but if they were then we would not be alive if they had evolved different.”

        Once again, your revised statement demonstrates my point. If they could have been different, then they are not logically necessary. Whether or not we would have survived if they were different is beside the point.

        “what is subjective, done on an emotional whim, done only to cause suffering, done in away that does not encourage recporcity is what is arbitary.”

        And who interprets these criteria and applies them? How are competing interpretations resolved? What about the Nazi who is convinced that the elimination of the Jews is a moral necessity?

        “thanks! i noticed that my university professors always accuse me of the same thing- making claims without evidence!”

        Glad someone has already had that awkward conversation with you! : D

  11. broken turtleshell says:

    “Impersonal platonic forms do not have the quality of *oughtness*. They simply are, without any ability to require conformity in a moral sense”
    isnt that a hasty generlization fallacy?because some impersonal entites dont have the quality of *oughtness* they all dont.i mean i think i said this earlier- oughtness is formed by our interactions with the impersonal. This is just like christians getting confused with concepts and their formation- concepts are not some sort of magic woo-woo, they are formed by our awarness of the world around us. besides if you are saying that Moral laws must require a law giver you are saying that morality is nessearily subjective,at anyrate i have been reading your blog and you tried to deflect that arguement about if moral laws requiring a law giver being subjective and said that even though your morality is techincally subjective, its not subjective in an arbtiary or meaningful sense. at any rate morality cannot “prove” the existance of your god so to say as just because people react a certain way that only your religon can make sense of (impossible for you to prove btw) doesnt mean its true. Just like everyone can believe Batman or Spider-man is real but that doesnt make those characters real

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s