A Friendly Dialogue With Atheist Dr. Hector Avalos Pt. 3

As Continued From Part 1 & Part 2


Avalos & Burnett Dialogue


Dr. Avalos Continues: 
Pastor Harvey Burnett, 
RE: "How is that rationale any better than a biblical rationale in light of the fact that GOd is omniscient?"

Because the claim that God is omniscient/omnipotent is NOT VERIFIABLE, while the claim that there is a medical necessity is. After all, we were able to scientifically verify that your children DID NOT have Down's syndrome, which is not a condition that would necessitate killing a child, in my opinion.

Moreover, you did not use religious evidence to find out that there was no Down's syndrome. You used SCIENTIFIC AND EMPIRICAL evidence. So, all that means is that your doctor did not use the scientific method as well as he or she could have.

On the other hand, the claim that we can kill people because some invisible and omnipotent being told the biblical authors it was OK, IS NOT VERIFIABLE OR FALSIFIABLE by ANY METHOD.

So, apparently you want us to justify killing entire groups of people, including innocent children, on the basis of a being whose existence we cannot verify, but you have trouble saving mothers who, according to the best scientific evidence we might have, would die upon childbirth without an abortion.

Nonetheless, your examples are not at all analogous to the justification you propose for killing children in Deuteronomy because they belong to some religion of which you don't approve. So, please answer these questions as directly as possible, especially as you believe your system of ethics is superior: 
1. Do you think it is ever justified to kill people to eliminate their spiritual worship practices? Yes or No?
2. If yes, why do you need to physically exterminate people for something that is only "spiritual" in your opinion?
3. Are you saying it is sometimes justified to kill innocent infants in order to stop their parents from killing/sacrificing those infants?
4. Is it your view that it is sometimes justified to kill infants physically to save the spiritual life of others?
Pastor Burnett's Response:
Dr. Avalos, 
To my question regarding intervening or killing to save the innocent You responded: 
>>>>My answer is that, if I see an act of deadly violence being committed by a neighboring parent on a child, I will try to stop the perpetrator, with deadly force if necessary, without killing the child. Is that clear enough?<<<<< 
OK, thank you. You have stated that clearly this time and I am only seeking to understand the rationale and application of your world view.  
Granted that we BOTH agree that killing children to save children doesn't seem to make any sense (unless the children themselves are the aggressors and there is absolutely no other method can be delivered) and is a logical contradiction, we also seem to both agree that when there is tremendous harm involved that something must be done. I never said or agreed with the killing of Canaanite children. 
That issue aside you AFFIRM that taking action, even if that action means destruction to save lives is a moral thing to do? 
While it appears that you also believe that babies in-vitro are children, what is your opinion on the death and what we can only term as murder of 50 million babies by means of abortion since Roe V.Wade?

I'm not talking about what actions should be taken to stop it. I'm talking about the moral value of abortion itself. Is it a justifiably moral act? You seem to suggest that killing children is wrong. Please clarify that based on YOUR world view, not mine.

To your questions: 
>>>> 1. Do you think it is ever justified to kill people to eliminate their spiritual worship practices? Yes or No?<<<< 
No. We are not in an ANE culture nor society. What means and methods that were justifiable at that time are not justifiable in this epoch. Our values are centered around freedom of cultures and worship, which emanate from a Christian perspective and world view. God being God often deals with people in moral value systems that are commensurate to the day and time.
>>>>2. If yes, why do you need to physically exterminate people for something that is only "spiritual" in your opinion?<<<< 
This question is moot. 
>>>>3. Are you saying it is sometimes justified to kill innocent infants in order to stop their parents from killing/sacrificing those infants?<<<< 
NO. I have made no such suggestion or indication that I agree with such actions.

>>>>4. Is it your view that it is sometimes justified to kill infants physically to save the spiritual life of others?<<<< 
No, I have made no such suggestion or indication that I agree with such actions.
I also added this:
Dr. Avalos,
I really appreciate this dialogue. I'm working up on enrolling in your university, taking your class and getting an A (LOL)
Anyway, you said:
>>>>Because the claim that God is omniscient/omnipotent is NOT VERIFIABLE, while the claim that there is a medical necessity is.<<<< 
>>>>On the other hand, the claim that we can kill people because some invisible and omnipotent being told the biblical authors it was OK, IS NOT VERIFIABLE OR FALSIFIABLE by ANY METHOD.<<<< 
You fall in error in two ways my friend. There are MANY scientific claims that are neither empirically verifiable nor subject to falsification. Example, logic, which is used to set forth ideas and communicate even scientifically is not falsifiable. Big bang cosmology is scientific, but it is not falsifiability in may of its most core and basic elements. So falsifiable, although an element of parts of science is not essential to how something is known. At least not in total.

Secondly, "medical necessity" is like much of atheism. It's ambiguous and highly subjective. Doctors will and do council patients to abort based on Downs syndrome when the abnormality is empirically detected at an early age. Just as they did in our case, they did not push the issue, but they did make the recommendation. Further, there is really not a hard and fast standard of what constitutes a "medical necessity". This is a highly subjective area of medicine open to much interpretation. Just so happens that this is also a field of empirical study is it not? This alone confirms that not all scientific conclusions are based on empirical facts or methods of falsifiability.
Now, you KNOW this isn't true: 
>>>>So, apparently you want us to justify killing entire groups of people, including innocent children, on the basis of a being whose existence we cannot verify, but you have trouble saving mothers who, according to the best scientific evidence we might have, would die upon childbirth without an abortion.<<<< 
From the best possible resources, the childbirth/death issue is only a extremely small amount of cases. In fact since there are no standards to assess it, in part because it is not a medical emergency to do so, what constitutes a "necessity" is open to interpretation. So that is a myth that is often perpetuated on this subject. I have written about that here:
http://bethelburnett.blogspot.com/2008/12/abortion-issues-and-myths.html
In short, you have failed to point to a Christian value that demands or commands us as Christians to destroy lives or kill children. The outcry against the murder of children has been spearheaded by Christians, not atheists, no matter how much they talk or how moral they claim to be. In fact, I can identify, probably 10 anti-abortion groups that do so because of their Christianity, but would have a HARD TIME identifying just ONE anti-abortion or right to life group that does so because of materialism or atheism.

Not to say that such groups do not exist, but can you point me to one?
Dr. Avalos Responds:
Pastor Harvey Burnett, 
I will be glad to engage your claims about the philosophy of science. But, for now, let's keep to the fact that you think killing children is justified in Deuteronomy 7 and other passages.

So, please answer these questions as directly as possible, especially as you believe your system of ethics is superior: 
1. Do you think it is ever justified to kill people to eliminate their spiritual worship practices? Yes or No?
2. If yes, why do you need to physically exterminate people for something that is only "spiritual" in your opinion?
3. Are you saying it is sometimes justified to kill innocent infants in order to stop their parents from killing/sacrificing those infants?
4. Is it your view that it is sometimes justified to kill infants physically to save the spiritual life of others? 
Or, you can add whatever other related discussion you wish, as long as you answer these questions clearly, as well.
Pastor Burnett Responds:
Dr. Avalos, 
Thank you and I appreciate your time, but I believe I've answered the questions although it may not have come through, but look u about 2 comments previously. Nevertheless, I'll cut and paste both the questions and answers: 
To your questions: 
>>>> 1. Do you think it is ever justified to kill people to eliminate their spiritual worship practices? Yes or No?<<<< 
No. We are not in an ANE culture nor society. What means and methods that were justifiable at that time are not justifiable in this epoch. Our values are centered around freedom of cultures and worship, which emanate from a Christian perspective and world view. God being God often deals with people in moral value systems that are commensurate to the day and time. 
>>>>2. If yes, why do you need to physically exterminate people for something that is only "spiritual" in your opinion?<<<< 
This question is moot. 
>>>>3. Are you saying it is sometimes justified to kill innocent infants in order to stop their parents from killing/sacrificing those infants?<<<< 
NO. I have made no such suggestion or indication that I agree with such actions.

>>>>4. Is it your view that it is sometimes justified to kill infants physically to save the spiritual life of others?<<<< 
No, I have made no such suggestion or indication that I agree with such actions.
 Dr. Avalos Responds:
Pastor Harvey Burnett, 
Thanks for these answers. I wonder if you can clarify this answer: 
>>>> 1. Do you think it is ever justified to kill people to eliminate their spiritual worship practices? Yes or No?<<<< 
No. We are not in an ANE culture nor society. What means and methods that were justifiable at that time are not justifiable in this epoch. Our values are centered around freedom of cultures and worship, which emanate from a Christian perspective and world view. God being God often deals with people in moral value systems that are commensurate to the day and time. 
To me EVER = AT ANY TIME past or present = ALWAYS. So, would your answer be YES,if the question were phrased as follows: 
Is it always unjustified to kill people to eliminate their spiritual worship practices? Yes or No?
I just want to make sure I don't misrepresent your position.
Pastor Burnett's Response:
What may have been justifiable behavior in certain times or epochs may or may not be justifiable behavior in our time or modern culture.

For example, Greeks and Roman aristocracy maintained young fair skinned boys as consorts. In fact some Roman Caesars and other leaders were at one time consorts of prior national leaders. We call them pedophiles and deplore those actions today. 
However in their time that sort of behavior was acceptable and both you and I could have possibly been killed for our dissent on the issue. Now, scripture takes a position on sexual immorality of all types, just as the New testament takes a position on murder of all types.

Now are you asking for my answer or the answer that you think is the "catch-all" of Christians?
Dr. Avalos Response:
Pastor Harvey Burnett , 
I just wanted to ensure that I did not misrepresent your position, which is that of a moral relativist.

As do all moral relativists, you believe that some things are right or wrong depending on time or circumstance. And like every other religious moral system that has advocated genocide/infanticide, you simply think that genocide/infanticide is justified when your religion does it, but not when another religion does it (past or present). 
Is that an accurate representation of your views on genocide and infanticide?
Pastor Burnett's Response:
No. It's not an accurate portrayal at all. 
First, there is not, will not be, and has never been a Christian call to genocide/infanticide. So doing a buckshot approach doesn't touch on what my position is. I've already explain that the Catholic Vicar, during the inquisition did not speak for either Jesus nor Christianity, though claiming to do both. So I don't see the effectiveness of the claim in general, or the part of the argument that leads to this statement: 
>>>you simply think that genocide/infanticide is justified when your religion does it, but not when another religion does it (past or present). <<< 
In addition I can say that I am no more of a moral relativist than you IF you believe that killing children is always wrong. 
Genocide is not a tenet of the Christian faith and as I've already argued. Unlike atheism, Christianity clearly expresses moral outrage over the murder of 50 million babies since 1973.

I am just wondering why in the criticism of Christian values, do we not see moral outrage from naturalists and atheists regarding something that has happened in out time?
 Dr. Avalos Response:
Pastor Harvey Burnett, 
RE: “Unlike atheism, Christianity clearly expresses moral outrage over the murder of 50 million babies since 1973.”

Your outrage is misdirected. Dr. Francisco Ayala, a former Dominican priest and a renowned geneticist, notes the following: “Consider, he said, that at least 20 percent of pregnancies are known to end in spontaneous abortion. If that results from divinely inspired anatomy, Dr. Ayala said, “God is the greatest abortionist of them all.”
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/29/science/29prof.html?pagewanted=all
If so, are you outraged at God? 
You are also quite misinformed on basic abortion statistics. The VAST majority of abortions are experienced by women who identify as Christians, not atheists. For example, a report by the Guttmacher Institute found that: 
“Thirty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic.” That is a combined total of at least 65%.
Sources: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html
-Jones RK, Finer LB and Singh S, Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2010. 
If true, those women were probably raised reading the Bible more than they read Darwin’s work, which few people actually read.
He also added:
Pastor Harvey Burnett, 
You are simply defining "Christian" in an arbitrary manner, which is why you can say that there "has never been a Christian call to genocide." Again, you wish to call "Darwinist" even things Darwin never said, but you refuse to call "Christian" ideas and practices by people otherwise recognized as Christian. That is a clear inconsistency. 
What constitutes a "true" Christian ultimately rests on a faith claim. And since all faith claims are equal in their unverifiability, then your claim of what constitutes a "Christian" is really no better than any other. ALL Christian groups believe they hold the true version of Christianity, and so you are still not explaining why we should think your definition is any better. 
In addition, many of your arguments depend on TIMING. You tell us that genocide/infanticide was justified in ancient times, but not today. You don't explain why, nor do you explain why we should accept your view of the timing at which genocide and infanticide were justified.

After all, did those children not suffer just as they would today when they were being slaughtered? Did they not bleed then, as they might today, if killed by a sword? So why should it be moral then, but not today, in your opinion? 
In addition, anyone who believes (e.g., some Jihadists, as you claim) that God still accepts genocide and infanticide is really on no less solid theological ground than you are because both of you are depending on faith claims which are equal in their unverifiability. 
The fact that you think Christianity changed the rules only means that this is your faith claim. But it does not show that your faith claim is valid. There were plenty of other prominent Christian figures who thought, for example, that the Old Testament laws still applied and that includes Calvin and the Puritans. Adulterers were put to death in Calvin's Geneva based on those laws. People held to be "idolatrous" in the Americas were exterminated or persecuted based, in part, on those Old Testament laws. 
So, unless you define "Christianity" more clearly and specifically, then I am not sure why we should accept your version of Christianity as true, and those of others, as not true.
More importantly, you continue to hold sacred a book or group of books that do say that genocide and infanticide are sometimes justified.

Accordingly, you cannot evade the charge of accepting the justification of genocide/infanticide if you continue to hold sacred a book that says that these actions are sometimes justified.
Imagine a current German citizen arguing that he is no longer calling for genocide of the Jews, but that he still believes Mein Kampf to be a sacred book and he believes that HItler's call to genocide of the Jews was justified during Hitler's time, BUT NOT TODAY. Would you hold such a person as moral? 
If my reasoning is not sound, then please answer these questions: 
1. What is your definition of "Christianity," and why should we accept that as the true definition? Please be clear and concise.
2. Why should slaughtering innocent children be held as morally acceptable at ANY TIME past or present?
3. Do you repudiate, condemn, and/or denounce all calls to genocide and infanticide in the Bible? Yes or No?
4. If not, then how does being a "true" Christian signal your repudiation, condemnation and/or rejection of all calls to genocide and infanticide?
5. Would you regard a person as moral if he is no longer calling for genocide of the Jews, but still believed that such genocide was justified in Hitler's time, and not today?
Pastor Burnett's Response:
Dr. Avalos, 
Start with last things first, so far as abortion is concerned you said: 
>>>>You are also quite misinformed on basic abortion statistics. The VAST majority of abortions are experienced by women who identify as Christians, not atheists.<<<<<< 
What you stated regarding the issue was not an issue I rendered any stats on. Neither was a comparison or overview of who is getting abortions a point of debate here. To address the point, I would expect to see more women who identify themselves as Christian receiving abortions as compared to atheists based on the sheer numbers.

However, to bring back into the conversation what i thought we were talking about, I would only say that the comparison I made was clear and you know as much. To restate, this is what I have consistently said and you have consistently avoided: 
"Genocide is not a tenet of the Christian faith and as I've already argued. Unlike atheism, Christianity clearly expresses moral outrage over the murder of 50 million babies since 1973....I am just wondering why in the criticism of Christian values, do we not see moral outrage from naturalists and atheists regarding something that has happened in our time?" 
I have also asked this: 
"...In fact, I can identify, probably 10 anti-abortion groups that do so because of their Christianity, but would have a HARD TIME identifying just ONE anti-abortion or right to life group that does so because of materialism or atheism." 
You have failed to answer of adders these issues, you just simply skirt by the issue and raise another. However, the issue you raise is a red herring with no bearing on the subject. You can raise it, but I'll answer it no more than I have above.

So do you admit the RIGHT NOW failure of atheism, which claims to have a moral value that values humanity and that is moral without God, has FAILED to become concerned about the murder of children while it simultaneously criticizes God for what is perceives to be historical atrocities at his command?

What I am saying is simple...YOU as the critic of God live in a glass house. (When I say you I refer to materialism in general). When I asked is the killing of children always wrong, you admit the following: 
>>>>>No. I can envision certain situations in which human beings, including infants, are in cases of terminal illnesses, where families might be forced to remove life sustaining technologies. In such cases, we must have scientific evidence of that infant’s condition.”<<<<<< 
So according to you, there are times when killing children is right based on your finite understanding of science.

I have already stated and affirmed without refutation from you that our scientific knowledge is not omniscient. I have also established without refutation from you the fact that not all science is subject to empiricism OR falsifiability. You have refuted NETHER assertion.

You hold with finite knowledge and without the ability to be 100% certain of necessity that killing children IS NOT always wrong. 
On the other hand, God is omniscient, has all answers to all things even if humans don't and makes certain decisions based on what he knows.

You claim that faith is not subject to falsifiability and is therefore invalid. I have ESTABLISHED that many important parts of science is not subject to falsifiability but is held valid by materialists...So what do we have here??? 
We have NOTHING that undergirds your argument. In fact, though it is full of emotional and self-righteous zeal, when examined it fails.

Is ALL science subject to falsifiability?

Do you believe that killing children is absolutely wrong no matter what?

Until you can answer yes to both, you have no argument at least regarding this issue!
I also added this:
Dr. Avalos, 
You render that my argument doesn't represent "true Christianity". When in reality it simply doesn't represent the understanding of Christianity that you and your associates have become accustomed to criticizing. 
The essential of the faith DO NOT center around an exposition or secondary issues such as those you raise. The essentials of the faith center around the gospel of Jesus Christ, his life death burial and bodily resurrection, the acceptance that God exists and has communicated to man through Jesus Christ and a short list of other things. These are the things it takes to be a "Christian". Would you like to become one? 
So I have not rendered a different version of Christianity. I have rendered a clear and cogent understanding differentiating between the teaching of God through scripture specifically Jesus Christ and the bible from the teaching of MEN supposedly speaking on behalf of or for God such as Popes and other religious persons.

One more thing, it strikes me as a question, how do you know genocide/infanticide is wrong under any ruberic, whether for spiritual or purely secular reasons?
 Dr. Avalos Responds:
Pastor Harvey Burnett, 
RE: "You render that my argument doesn't represent "true Christianity." 
Not at all. I am just arguing that what you call "true Christianity" is a faith claim that is no more verifiable than anyone else who claims to be following "true Christianity."

So, I make no judgment about whether anyone's Christianity is THE true form, but rather argue that any claim to have the "true" form of Christianity is equally unverifiable.

If I am wrong, tell us: How did you VERIFY that your version of Christianity is true, while those of Catholics, for one possible example, are not? 
To do so, you need to provide a clear and concise definition of "Christian" which you have not done so far despite repeated
He also added this:
Pastor Harvey Burnett 
Re: "Do you believe that killing children is absolutely wrong no matter what? Until you can answer yes to both, you have no argument at least regarding this issue!" 
But why does the same logic not apply to your God-based ethics? That is to say, unless you can tell us that killing children is absolutely wrong no matter what in God-based ethics ( which you have now clearly admitted it is not because you hold that infanticide and genocide were justified at some points in the past), then you also have no argument at least regarding this issue.

By claiming that that genocide/infanticide can be right or wrong depending on time or circumstance, then you are as much a follower of moral relativism and situation ethics as any so-called "materialist" you have cited.
He also added this:
Pastor Harvey Burnett, 
I am not sure you and I have the same definitions of science, and so you ask me questions that assume I am accepting your premise about what science is.

I use the definition of science accepted by a standard dictionary of the Bible published by a well-known Christian press. This definition was reviewed by specialists in science and religion.

“...science describes the systematic attempt to understand the universe through evidence derived from one or more of the five natural senses and/or logic. Methodological naturalism, which refers to the assumption that only natural causes should be used in explaining natural phenomena, also is an essential part of modern science. Under this view, all supernatural phenomena are undetectable through scientific methods.” Source: The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006-2009), volume 5, p. 126.
1. Do you think that the NIDB is a reputable source?
2. Would you accept that as a working definition?
Pastor Burnett's Response:
Dr. Avalos, 
>>>>By claiming that that genocide/infanticide can be right or wrong depending on time or circumstance, then you are as much a follower of moral relativism and situation ethics as any so-called "materialist" you have cited.<<<<<

I haven't said that genocide/infanticide can be right or wrong. I asked YOU how do you know it's right or wrong. This is what I stated:

***One more thing, it strikes me as a question, how do you know genocide/infanticide is wrong under any ruberic, whether for spiritual or purely secular reasons?**** 
I want to know this. Now it appears that you believe in situational ethics or moral relativism? Is that true? I mean I'm not making a big deal out of it, I simply want to know how you know your epistemology. What makes you believe that it is either right or wrong?
I also added this:
To bolster my last question to you, I mean you spend a lot of time saying that genocide/infanticide is wrong. 
The question that is in order is, how do you know this? What is your basis for such determination? In what is your belief that genocide is either moral or immoral rooted?

I think that's a perfect question since YOU raise the issue at every opportunity that the God of Christianity and Christianity itself is wrong. I'd like to know your response above all other things here.
Dr. Avalos Reponse:
Pastor Burnett,
Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate your willingness to dialogue civilly about very difficult issues. 
I think that we often disagree, in part, because we are using terms quite differently, and also because you assume that I accept some of your premises. 
RE: “you spend a lot of time saying that genocide/infanticide is wrong.”

I don’t accept this premise. I would say that I spend a lot of time showing you that you do accept genocide and infanticide when it occurs in your sacred scriptures. I spend a lot of time showing that your position on genocide/infanticide is not completely different from what you call materialistic philosophies with the crucial exception that you differ on which times and circumstances such actions are justified (they are in the Old Testament to you).
RE: “The question that is in order is, how do you know this?"

Here is a case where you and I are not using the word “know” in the same manner. I make a distinction between epistemic claims and claims about values. For example, consider these two statements: 
1. I know that I have five fingers on my right hand.
2. I know that idolatry is wrong.
Statement #1 is verifiable once you assume that your five senses and logic can give you reliable data (and assuming you do have five fingers on your right hand by a commonly accepted anatomical definition).

Statement #2 will differ by, among other things, culture and religion regardless of how well your five senses and logic are working.

Religious beliefs have consequences and affect what you call “right” and “wrong.” If you believe that idolaters are evil and worthy of extermination, then you might not have empathy for them. If I don’t believe in idolatry, then I probably will not kill anyone or hate anyone for such a practice.
You seem to have a lot of empathy for aborted fetuses, but I don’t see the same compassion or empathy extended to the Canaanite children, who, you have indicated, were justifiably exterminated. Why did you make that difference?

To date, you still refuse to repudiate or denounce biblical directives to kill entire groups of people including, women and children. Why do you refuse, if you believe all life is sacred and of equal value? 
RE: “What is your basis for such determination? In what is your belief that genocide is either moral or immoral rooted?” 
My moral judgments involve balancing individual and group interests and values. Determinations are also rooted in neurobiological phenomena, such as the ability to tolerate suffering in human beings. Determinations are based on using known/verifiable consequences, and not on relying on unknown/unverifiable claims.

Whatever accords with our values is what we call “right” and what does not accord with those values is what we call “wrong.” That is true regardless of whether you believe in God or not.
I think where we differ is that you think that adding a God to a moral system somehow makes it better. It doesn’t. It actually complicates it, and creates more ambiguities and more contradictory results. 
First, any time that you appeal to unverifiable claims about what a deity thinks, you are basically using your own say-so. I cannot verify that what you call God thinks X is wrong or right. Thus, you are simply identifying your wishes with God's wishes to any observer who cannot verify your claims. 
Appealing to the Bible only transfers that problem to another set of human beings, whose claims I cannot verify. Thus, anyone who says “God thinks X is wrong” can just as well be countered by someone who says “God thinks X is right.” There is no way to adjudicate objectively between these positions. 
Empirically, you see the contradictory results. There are Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin, and Christians who believe it is not. There are Christians who believe killing in war is murder, and those who believe it is not. There are Christians who think genocide is permissible (Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II being examples), and Christians who say it is not. 
The very claim that you are a Christian, and others are not, simply devolves into yet another unverifiable claim about what “true” Christianity is. 
Thus, historically and empirically, a God-based morality has never brought uniformity, and cannot bring uniformity precisely because anyone can claim that God believes a particular act is right or wrong. 
Second, any God-based moral claim is ultimately just as circular as any other ("materialistic" or not), and you cannot show that it comes from outside of yourself. Thus, saying “X is wrong because God says X is wrong” just devolves into a circularity: “Whatever God says is wrong because whatever God says is wrong.”

But you have not shown, and cannot show, why anything God says SHOULD BE right or wrong without resorting to yet another circularity. Try it out, and you will see (e.g. because God is the creator becomes: Whatever a Creator says is right is right because whatever a Creator says is right is right). 
Thus, my basic argument with you is not so much that genocide/infanticide are wrong (they are to me). Rather, my argument is that you have not shown, and cannot show, that God-based morality is any better. In fact, it is worse because now you are relying on completely unverifiable claims. 
So ultimately, our main argument revolves around this question:

Do you want morality based on things for which you have verifiable evidence, or do you want morality based on the unverifiable say-so of people who claim that they speak for God (like biblical authors)? 
Could you answer that last question?
 Pastor Burnett's Final Response:
Dr. Avalos, 
Once again, thank you for the dialogue and I certainly appreciate your time and the spirit in which we can carry on a conversation.

You ask the following: 
>>>>Do you want morality based on things for which you have verifiable evidence, or do you want morality based on the unverifiable say-so of people who claim that they speak for God (like biblical authors)?<<<< 
The primary difference between our world views is the basis in which morality is founded. In the materialist world, there can be no such thing as truly objective moral values. You affirm as much by offering an argument for moral relativism rooted in empiricism.

The problem is broad. First, Materialism ie: "rocks" or "chemicals" don't have a mechanism or a foundation for the development of moral values. Neither does the material world by itself have a basis for the grounding of such values and if objective moral values do exist under materialism, we would have an even more difficult time "knowing" or distinguishing the difference between those values which cannot be accounted for by means of verification or empirical evidence. It seems that in a materialist world view, all values would be simply assigned by humans and based on human preference etc.ie: subjective.

However, you and I both "know" that is not true. You "know" that murder is wrong and that love is right. You know that the victimization of the weak and the poor, by the strong and rich is wrong. These are things for which there is no empirical evidence to distinguish the difference and whatever evidence that could be submitted does not suggest a wrong or a right.

Although there may be circumstances around each one of the actions that I name, the basic premise is true, there are things that we both agree that are higher moral values to be aspired to and also things that we both agree that are lower moral values that are repulsive.

So in short, there is a such thing as good and there is a such thing as bad period. The funny thing is that, even though I don;t agree with your conclusions from scripture, if there was no such thing as absolute values your argument and criticism of the bible and God is moot. It's simply your preference and in another time it may mean nothing.

Although you perceive that I have done the same, you have described that what we have at best is a sort of relativistic morality. One in which you state: 
>>> My moral judgments involve balancing individual and group interests and values. Determinations are also rooted in neurobiological phenomena, such as the ability to tolerate suffering in human beings. Determinations are based on using known/verifiable consequences, and not on relying on unknown/unverifiable claims.<<<< 
However there are problems with this. There is no objective "group interest" except for the one you perceive. So that is an individually subjective perception. Secondly, many truths, as I have previously stated, are not verifiable, including truths of logic, statements affirming the mind and many other truths that we live by and determine actions by every day. So by the evidence that we even recognize morals and moral values cries out that there must be a better foundation than materialism or naturalism for that relationship to exist.

The fact is, Like William L. Craig successfully argues that if objective moral values exists, they exist apart from man and the foundation for them are best explained if God exists. 
Now, your objection to the existence of God, which I don't plan to argue here, is rooted in a supposed lack of empirical evidence for God and historical contradictions of biblical texts. You pose that the God of the bible condoned genocide/infanticide, whereas persons with moral agency don't do this and that religious persons make allowances for such actions based on their belief in God.

Now the actions of God are certainly not easy to reconcile. I cannot provide a simple answer to this, but you cannot come to such a simple conclusion either. However complex, HIS actions can be reconciled, but it begins with this...the alternatives fall far short. There are no evil or good rocks or trees.

So your point is, If I believe in this God, what is to stop him from giving a divine command right now for all Christian to kill babies and commit acts of genocide? (Not for a minute do I agree that God commanded either, but for argument's sake I proceed) 
That's where Jesus comes in. In that same bible that you criticize me for believing, it states:
Hebrews 1:1-2 ~ 1-God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2-Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds 
If Jesus is the final authority of God and is the succession of the prophets, or the one whom is at the pinnacle of biblical history, then he has also said this: 
John 10:10 ~ The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 
He hasn't come to give any Christian a command to destroy anyone or anything. This is done at the direction of God (Jn. 4:34) Further Mt. 10:34-37 Jesus speaks against this zeal of the nation to punish everyone stating that the conflict he brings to bear would not be one whereby the Jews are justified at the expense of everyone, but one that would tear families apart. Why? Because of the expectation nationalistic liberation where God exacts justice upon their enemies.

Do some interpret differently? I'm sure they do. But fact is that your worry that Christians and the Christian religion facilitates genocide simply because God states it, is a straw-man argument. Have men said contrary? Yes, but we've already covered that ground.

There's more I could say, but Dr. you've been gracious and you wrote the article and you shall have the last word. Thank you my friend! 
Now, if you REALLY want to get me going, write a book on Sargon. That subject was one of the most interesting pieces of info I ever read and I can't find any material written by Christian historicists or apologists on the issue.

Thanks again!
Ends Dec. 8th 6:46 PM 


Closing Statement & Observation

I will post Dr. Avalos's response to my last commentary IF he chooses to respond. I would also like to state that even though the Dr. and I certainly disagree, this was one of the most civil dialogues that I've participated in. I commend Dr. Avalos from sticking with the arguments and not hurling broad character statements at myself nor at any Christians. I HOPE I have lived up to a Christian presentation of my arguments and most of all been biblically centered in my responses.

I leaned much in this dialogue and I hope that those who read, both Christian and non-Christian have also learned if the object is to know and understand truth.

Pastor H. Burnett
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3 comments:

  1. Great dialogue however, I must admit I got very frustrated with very long answers to simple yes and no questions.

    For example:

    Do you want morality based on things for which you have verifiable evidence, or do you want morality based on the unverifiable say-so of people who claim that they speak for God (like biblical authors)?

    Two possible answers

    1. I want verifiable evidence.

    2. I want morality based on the unverifiable say-so of people who claim that they speak for God (like biblical authors)?

    My answer is #1 What is yours? 1 or 2?

    Is genocide or infanticide ever acceptable at any time Yes or No?

    My answer is No!

    What is your answer? Yes or No?


    ReplyDelete
  2. My answer to #1 is option 1 my answer to question 2 is no, regardless of which god commands it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. First, what is morality based upon "things for which there is verifiable evidence"? That makes no sense. There is no "verifiable evidence" for morality. There is the body of morality. That is called moral ontology. There is no "verifiable evidence" for moral ontology. What you are saying is how do we get to moral epistemology? How do we develop moral ontology or find or come to know moral "duties"?

    In essence, you are saying by what method is moral epistemology developed? You as given the option between men outlining what is moral and God outlining what is moral, who's path should be followed?

    the answer to that is plain...If God is God as he has stated and he is good intrinsically which we know man is not under any circumstance (that is intrinsically good), then I follow God or his divine command, because that command is and would be good.

    Now, name ONE divine command of God binding upon Christians that is bad? Then, how do you know that that command, whatever it may be (if there are any) that is bad? In other words what are your meta ethics derived?

    ReplyDelete

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