Have you ever tried to prove the existence of God to someone? Here is what the Apostle Paul says about that.
Romans 1:18-23 New King James Version (NKJV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who [a]suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is [b]manifest [c]in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and [d]Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like [e]corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
What should we take from that passage? Dr. R. C. Sproul, is in heaven now, but he left us a great sermon, God’s Wrath. I highly recommend it. What follows, however, are a few of my own thoughts.
Consider the definition of self-evident.
Definition of self-evident
: evident without proof or reasoning
Now consider the definition of axiom.
Definition of axiom
1 : a statement accepted as true as the basis for argument or inference : postulate sense 1 one of the axioms of the theory of evolution
2 : an established rule or principle or a self-evident truth cites the axiom “no one gives what he does not have”
3 : a maxim widely accepted on its intrinsic merit the axioms of wisdom
What is axiomatic is self-evident.
Did You Know?
In mathematics or logic, an axiom is an unprovable rule or first principle accepted as true because it is self-evident or particularly useful. “Nothing can both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect” is an example of an axiom. The term is often used interchangeably with postulate, though the latter term is sometimes reserved for mathematical applications (such as the postulates of Euclidean geometry). It should be contrasted with a theorem, which requires a rigorous proof.
The point is that there are some things we accept as true just because they are true. Is this contrary to “science”? No. What happened when science began to change the way we prove things.
“Galileo actively argued for a bold new way of knowing, openly insisting that what mattered was not what the authorities… said was true but what anyone with the right tools could show was true. As no one before him had, he made the case for modern science — for finding truth together through the quest for facts.” (from here)
Instead of believing what the “authorities” told us to believe, we demanded proof. That sounds good, but science depends upon mathematics and mathematics starts with, or depends upon, certain axioms or postulates being true. Consider Postulates and Theorems (cliffsnotes.com) which lists mathematical postulates used in Geometry. These postulates or axioms are assumed true, not proven true. What is proven in Geometry depends upon the postulates being true.
So how do we know something is self-evident or axiomatic? Keep in mind were are not talking about a mere assumption or presupposition. Because we are being intentional, we are trying to avoid being illogical, that is, avoid a logical fallacy, an Appeal to Self-evident Truth (logicallyfallacious.com). Therefore, we debate and test what seems self-evident. Consider some common examples of things people believe true they cannot prove.
- In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers asserted the following.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
- How do advocates for the Theory of Evolution prove their theory? They claim the preponderance of the “evidence” proves the theory. In other words, because there is so much data that fits the model the truth of the hypothesis is self-evident (see What is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? (livescience.com) and 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense (scientificamerican.com)).
- How do advocates for manmade Climate Change (AKA Global Warming) prove their theory. They claim the preponderance of the “evidence” proves the theory. In other words, it is a self-evident truth (see Climate change: How do we know? (climate.nasa.gov) and The Most Powerful Evidence Climate Scientists Have of Global Warming (insideclimatenews.org)).
- In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers asserted the following.
What does showing something is true involve? Depends. Usually, we like to use the scientific method. The scientific method involves a methodical process designed to model cause and effect relationships. That is, we gather data and propose a hypothesis about what is going on. Then we try to do an experiment that demonstrates our hypothesis (or model) is correct.
The first of those three examples requires a philosophical conclusion. The second two involve science. These require proof according to the scientific method. What is the problem with the scientific method? We often don’t have the tools to necessary to gather data and conduct an experiment that “proves” what we want to prove, our hypothesis.
Do we have unalienable Rights? That depends upon what we believe about God. Does God even exist? How do we apply the scientific method to God?
The other two questions more clearly suggest the need for scientific proof. Why should we assume mankind evolved from some odd molecules in a primordial soup? Why should we assume manmade Global Warming a real threat?
Let’s look at another definition of axiom.
Axioms are not self-evident truths in any sort of rational system, they are unprovable assumptions whose truth or falsehood should always be mentally prefaced with an implicit “If we assume that…”. Remembering that ultimately “assume” can make an ass out of u and me, as my wife (a physician, which is a very empirical and untrusting profession) is wont to say. They are really just assertions or propositions to which we give a special primal status and exempt from the necessity of independent proof. (from here)
If we cannot prove God’s existence, why does Apostle Paul insist we are without excuse if we suppress the truth in unrighteousness that God exists? Why should we say it is self-evident that God exist? How do we know God exists? The answer involves faith, but the Bible asks us to rest our faith upon evidence.
Psalm 19:1-4 New King James Version (NKJV)
The heavens above us, all by themselves, tell us that the Creator must exist. Life on earth, the beauty of our planet, amplifies the truth of what we perceive in the sky. Consider how gotquestions.org answers the question.
Question: “Does God exist? Is there evidence for the existence of God?”
Answer: The existence of God cannot be proved or disproved. The Bible says that we must accept by faith the fact that God exists: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). If God so desired, He could simply appear and prove to the whole world that He exists. But if He did that, there would be no need for faith. “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29). (from here)
Thus, it may be self-evident that God exists, but the fact is we don’t believe anything until we have tested that belief. That is, we develop faith in our beliefs by testing our beliefs. When our beliefs pass a test, our faith increases. This in essence is not much difference than what we do with a mathematical axiom or postulate.
Psalm 34:8 New King James Version (NKJV)
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Consider reading some of the references below. Then ask yourself these questions. Does it make sense to assume God exist? Should I test this axiom by living as if God exists?
- Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Attempt to Prove That God Exists? (blueletterbible.org)
- 1. Evidence For God’s Existence (bible.org)
- Does God exist? (https://www.gotquestions.org/Does-God-exist.html)
- What Does the Bible Say About God? (https://www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_God.htm)
- Appeal to Self-evident Truth (logicallyfallacious.com)
- How Do We Know What Is True? (realclearscience.com)
- How the Scientific Method Works (science.howstuffworks.com)
- <Postulates and Theorems (cliffsnotes.com)
- Axiom (importanceofphilosophy.com)
- Axiom (britannica.com)
- What’s an Axiom? (webhome.phy.duke.edu)
- Difference between axioms, theorems, postulates, corollaries, and hypotheses (math.stackexchange.com)
@Tom and Tsalmon
After reading your debate comments mainly after I asked about a legal definition of religion near the end of Tom’s post, I wrote a post titled, What is a Religion?.
I would be interested in your comments on the post if you care to comment.
Regards and good will blogging.
Here is my response on Rudy’s blog;
Perhaps religion is like Justice Potter Stewart’s statement about hard core pornography, that it is hard to define, but we know it when we see it.
The whole school debate thing, I find uninteresting. If the goal we agree on is that every American child should be afforded minimum education, then how we get there is of little importance to me. Education has changed dramatically and become far more egalitarian since the 18th Century. Given the increasingly rapid pace of change, one can only assume that education, like every other area of our lives, will continue to change in ways that we may control and in ways that are unpredictable. The only thing that is certain, absent some apocalypse, is that we are unilikely to go back to the family and community model of our 17th Century past. Have you considered the bigger picture?
In the 17th Century, an individual was nothing. Every individual relied upon his family and his community for everything from work to education to child care to health care to status. A child without a family or some community organization like a church to belong to was likely to be subjugated to the most desperately lowest of levels of society, forced into virtual enslavement, crimality or prostitution. For a 17th Century person, his status in society was decided at birth by family and sex. Education, given to men of a certain status only, was taken care of by the family. Employment and marriage was a family determination. If you got sick, your family took care of you.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and we have been atomized. We still have the nuclear family but it quickly falls apart as the child matures and goes off, often to the other end of the country, where he or she then starts a new nuclear family. We have this illusion of individuality, but if we look at where everything in our western consumerist society comes from, we really only have two choices: state or commercial business.
Our education comes from either the state or a private business. Our jobs come from either the state or a private interprise. If we get sick, we either have state or commercially provided healthcare. When we get old our children may take us in, but that is only if we have failed to secure our golden years through either the state or commercial enterprises, and even then, because our children have to work, we are likely to end up in a nursing home paid for by medicaid.
Republicans prefer that all of us be taken care of through consumerist enterprises. Democrats prefer governmental social safety nets. The reality is a mix of both. The complaint from Republicans is that government is too coercive. The complaint from Democrats is that share holder value and profit/loss calculations are too heartless. Both have a point, and are missing the point by refusing to see that both sides are right and both options may suck in some way, but there is no going back.
Genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, biotechnologies, etc. are rapidly shaping things in ways that will soon make our current arguments seem naive. A Chinese researcher just created the first genetically engineered child. How long do you think it will be before we are engineering longer living, super intelligent, super fit, calmer and more confident, disease free humans? They are already making mice that live longer and are smarter. How long do you think it will be before robots replace every type of work? I expect airline pilots, my old job, will be done by drones before I die. China is leading the world right now in AI investment and drone technology. They are stealing as much as they are developing and inventing. The question isn’t whether government or corporate billionaires should control our lives. Nope, if we don’t catch up to the real issues and quit arguing about these issues, by the time we wake up, the real question will already have been decided about which ones. Another question is how quickly it will be before we replace current humanity with something that will look back on us now as a lower life form than we now consider chimpanzees.
Interesting. I don’t exactly agree, but your comment reveals how you look at the individual’s place in society. That perspective provides a very different view of the world, and I expect it is commonplace.
Instead of responding with a comment, I will have to spark a debate with a post. In this day and age, how should we define the community we want to belong to?
Yes Tom, Northern Europe, Canada and Japan are all hell holes of totalitarian domination. I know that you have your own ideological absolutes, but they just don’t explain everything other successful modern state? Are you gonna believe your Randian atheist mythology or are you gonna believe your own lying eyes.
You know when my kids were young I used to tell them that I knew everything. As they got older, they began to figure out that I didn’t actually know some things and they asked why, if I knew everything, how come I didn’t know those things. I told told them that that was because those things were not important, and I only know all the important things. Eventually when they grew up this became a running family joke between us, but we all knew it was a joke.
I don’t see where you addressed what I said. I didn’t say Northern Europe, Canada and Japan are all hell holes of totalitarian domination. I said because I don’t know everything I don’t want to use the government to boss others around. I said something you refuse to argue against. So you picked on straw men of your own making.
No actually, you raised the specter of Venezuela, your own straw man, and I said that the actual model that most people may be aiming at is closer to Denmark. You don’t want to deal with Denmark because you prefer to talk in platitudinous absolutes – either we get a Randian utopia or we get an Orwellian nightmare.
In the real world, the possibilities are almost endless. The people of Denmark have an amazing amount of opportunity and personal liberty (for education, for spiritual growth, for entrepreneurship, for leisure activities). I’m sure it might vary from person to person, but I don’t think that most feel overly bossed around by their government.
I’m not saying that we should model ourselves on Denmark. We have a different culture in a different place. But I am saying that the choice is obviously not between the absolutes visited upon us by ideologues at either extreme. It is trying to find the right balance to both make capitalism work and individual liberty thrive while still recognizing that certain equalities of opportunity (like social safety nets) and lopsided wealth distributions can be encouraged or exacerbated by governments.
We must decide what we want and where we want to go. As unsatisfying as that complexity and ambiguity may be, we are not narrowed to only two extreme static possibilities. Indeed, the possibilities are almost absurdly endless and dynamic. Even if Denmark were the gold standard, it will have to change as technology, economics and culture changes.
The world didn’t stop changing in 1776. If the modern democratic state is to survive, it must adapt within its best ideals. It must and it is constantly.
One other thing that both of us should be concerned about. People will almost always chose autocracy over chaos.
Look at the collapse of the Soviet Union. We went in there thinking that the Russian people would naturally revert to capitalism and Jeffersonian democracy. But instead they chose they stability of oligarchy over the freedom and chaos. They chose Putin. Right now Venezuela’s problem is that it is a failed state, not Socialism. Is it as likely to go to military dictatorship as democracy?
On Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, intellectuals talk a big game about high ideals, but ideals are a luxury when your kids are starving. If inequalities in this country were to get bad enough, are we just as likely to choose the Russian model as the Denmark one? The hope is to find a better balance between imperfect realities, not utopian absolutes.
Right now the news is full of American billionaires playing power games. A sign of things to come?
People do what they are educated to do. The American Revolution was a long drawn out bloody affair. When it was over, with deliberation the colonists set about creating the government they wanted.
We don’t know how to do what they did because we have not been educated as well.
You do realize Ayn Rand was an Atheist? I also think the framers of our Constitution predate her by a few years, but why let facts get in the way of happy feelings?
You think Denmark has nothing to do with Venezuela? You think you are a “moderate” Socialist, but there is no such thing.
You have no principles for what you want to do. When you insist we have no God-given rights, that government gives us our rights, you split your religious beliefs from your politics. That eliminates inconvenient moral principles. So it is that when our leaders ignore their oath to support and defend the Constitution, you don’t care. So it is that when I ask you for a moral justification for Socialism you don’t have to respond.
What about political principles? Since suave and articulate politicians promise us that they can fix everything, Socialism must work.
What about economic principles? It is other people’s money. So it is that when I point out the fact we cannot calculate the opportunity cost you have nothing to say except Denmark.
Why do we live longer today? Is it because of Medicare? No. We live longer because of competition. If we completely nationalize our healthcare, that competition will cease. That is what the people you vote for want, but don’t worry. Since the technology will never be developed, our grandchildren won’t know what they are missing. Given the decline of American education, there isn’t much chance that they will discuss the issue, certainly not in school.
But you are right about one thing. The world did not stop changing in 1776, but it is still important to remember what happened in 1776.
“You do realize Ayn Rand was an Atheist?”
Yes, that’s why I called the Randian Utopian myth “atheist”. And that’s why the recent adoption by some Christians of Rand’s atheist, essentially Nietzschian, myth as morally antithetical, even humorous. I think Rand would find it hilarious that evangelicals now look to books like “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” for moral suasion. Perhaps the only thing Rand would have found more pathetic than communist ideologues would have been evangelicals.
“I also think the framers of our Constitution predate her by a few years, but why let facts get in the way of happy feelings?”
And why would you let my actual statements of opinion and fact get in the way of what you’d wish I had said.
Socialism, like communism and capitalism, is an actual definable ideology that depends upon the closed utilities of the entire system. One of the defined qualities of the socialist ideology is that the government owns ALL the means of production of goods and services so that the government can distribute the wealth of production equally according to utility. Saying that Denmark is socialism is like saying a jackass is the same as a mule. It’s like saying that communism automatically becomes capitalism as soon as it trades goods and services with another state.
As for God given rights, I have told you repeatedly that I don’t know if they actually exist or not. I know that, unlike God given responsibilities, they are not explicit in the Bible, and in fact appear to be an 18th Century pseudo philosophical theory that Saint Paul and King David would have probably considered alien. That said, I can certainly see how we would afford each other certain essential freedoms if we governed ourselves as individuals and as a culture in such a way as to live up to our unambiguously revealed God given responsibilities. If we live up to our God given responsibilities, we would certainly act “as if” we all have rights.
I have told you this repeatedly, but you prefer your straw men so that you can argue against what you wish was true rather than what actually is true.
Let me know when you want to deal with the truth of what I have actually pointed out, such as why Denmark is successful. That would be an interesting discussion.
“What about economic principles? It is other people’s money. So it is that when I point out the fact we cannot calculate the opportunity cost you have nothing to say except Denmark.”
One of first recorded examples of money was a small silver ingot called the shekel. Silver has little intrinsic value – you can’t eat it or use it for tools or weapons. But it works better than say shells as a medium for transfering the value of goods and services over large areas. The only reason that silver was used is because the governing body enforced and standardized its use.
The reason for eventually coining silver was because it prevented cheating by counterfeiting the weight and quality of the silver, with lead for example. The ruler guarantees the wieght and quality of the coin with his stamp of authority and anyone caught counterfeiting the coin would be tortured and killed. When Jesus said render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s He was being far more literal than we care understand today. Money itself is a function and product of government enforcement, more so today than the time of Christ.
I completely understand what you mean by “your money” and “opportunity costs”. Under our mythology about capitalism (and all it is just a generally accepted operating myth) there is utilitarian truth to what you say. However, an ideological myth either about an economics or how we should govern ourselves means nothing if it’s utility is not balanced with altruism.
If not, something like an unborn child’s right to life should only be viewed in terms of the opportunity cost to the mother that the government is forcing her to forego – after all it’s her body and her money that is being taken away. Like the unborn child, can’t the same be said about the poor person’s right to life through life saving medical care and drugs? When should the government get involved to enforce that right? If it goes against capitalistic realities, how much practical utility do we sacrifice?
These questions where economic realities smash head on, mix and conflict with our Christian responsibilities to love and help one another are not black and white. They present trade offs and unintended consequences. When you pretend the practical utility of governmental and economic mythologies have their own “natural” altruist moralities, I think you may be making both a moral and a practical rational error. There is no such thing as capitalism without a good deal of government. Since the rise of science and the Industrial and capitalistic economic revolution, no government can long survive without science and capitalistic wealth creation. But we still would not want to live in the world we would have created if government and capitalism were not governed by a universal moral altruistic principle of love.
Government did not invent money. It invented tax and spend. See => https://citizentom.com/2011/01/10/what-adam-smiths-the-wealth-of-nations-says-about-the-origin-and-use-of-money/#more-10203.
We now have a fiat currency. Why is it worth anything? We need dollars to pay our taxes. It is surprising how many people don’t understand that, but we are so well educated we don’t even think about it.
Since you think big government is such a great idea, let’s nationalize the airlines. Dumb idea? Well, I hope you think that, but who knows? You never actually say how your Socialism that isn’t Socialism is supposed to work.
Please observe that the healthcare industry is far more complex than the airline industry. The idea that those bumbling fools in Congress have to regulate the healthcare industry is bad enough, but someone has to (I would prefer most regulation take place at the state level.).
What is absurd is the clowns in Congress who want a single payer system. The waste, fraud, and abuse would be horrific.
You think government is about altruism? No. It is not, and you won’t find that proposed in the Bible. Love is a choice. Love is an individual responsibility.
Government is force. It exists to maintain order, not to make us love each other. When politicians “love” us, they are just trying to buy our votes with “other people’s money.
If we are fortunate, we live in a country where government maintains order by providing some sort of justice. Otherwise, we are lucky if we are not a slave of some sort.
When government works well, it protects the rights of the weak. When government works poorly, those with power protect their power by pitting everyone against everyone else.
“Government did not invent money. It invented tax and spend.”
Straw man. I did not say it did. But I did say that government is very much required for money now. And I agree that collecting taxes to maintain larger governments and empires was one of the reasons for for the invention of money (as was the invention of script and records). Modern capitalism does not exist without money and government regulation of money. You can’t have one without the other unless you invent something else just like money to take its place.
“Since you think big government is such a great idea, let’s nationalize the airlines. Dumb idea? Well, I hope you think that, but who knows? You never actually say how your Socialism that isn’t Socialism is supposed to work.”
Another man of straw. Seriously, I am not lying. I am not a socialist. Really, no kidding, cross my heart.
A socialist ideologue is a very specific thing and it is a thing that I am not. Believing that all the means of the production of all goods and services should be owned by the government is Socialism and I don’t believe that thing. Would SHOUTING this in ALL CAPS help?
I have actually worked and contributed to the prosperity of a profitable airline and I don’t, did not, do not, want to see that airline nationalized. On the other hand, if you think airlines actually exist without government infrastructure, regulation and support, then you believe in capitalist green unicorns because such a thing does not exist in the wild. Airlines are public transportation systems and as such they are one of the most government regulated and supported industries in the world. All the airports and airways are owned and operated by the government. If you want proof that this is true then just look at the Trump shutdown. One of the main reasons why Trump had to fold like a wet noodle is because airline safety, support and performance was collapsing before our eyes as necessary government support and regulation declined.
Could it all be done with less government. Maybe. I’m not ideologically invested either way, but the skies are safe, tickets are dirt cheap and more people are free to fly than ever so something must be working right with the current balance. However, all such systems are dynamic so who know what will work better in the future. I couldn’t have picked a better example of why balance somehow works whereas absolutist ideologies are ridiculously impractical and also immoral. Thanks.
As for health care, I honestly don’t know if single payer is the best option, but I don’t have an ideological problem with it or even going more in the other direction by breaking up insurance company medical care and drug monopolies.
They seem to have lower costs and better outcomes in single payer countries, but I understand your point about the loss of innovation. No matter what route we go, however, government will need to be involved at some level.
The difference between us is that you want ideological purity, even when you are absolutely surrounded by evidence of the moral and practical delusion to believing in such purity. The problem with ideological purism is that it pretend to know things when it doesn’t and it simply ignores all contradictory evidence.
Have you ever thought that maybe the invention of the ability to endlessly say “I don’t know, but I will try to use this epistemology to find out” is at the core of the scientific revolution? Think about it – acceptance of our own ignorance may be the smartest thing that we ever did. It is too bad that ideologues don’t practice that humility very well, and that such people of drive the morally neutral epistemologies science and technology to do the most immoral things.
“You think government is about altruism? No. It is not, and you won’t find that proposed in the Bible. Love is a choice. Love is an individual responsibility.“
Seriously, what Bible have you been reading because much of it that I’ve seen is shock full of God demanding, kings truing to practice and prophets asking for altruism in government, upon penalty of apocalypse in many cases. Love isn’t just a choice, it is a “commandment”. Giving people as much freedom of choice as possible to voluntarily follow God’s number one law is not the same thing as saying that we should allow or promote evil in government or that we should not practice altruism in government. Governmental justice itself, when it is just, is the altruism of love in action.
Christianity spread among slaves and enslaved nations with dominating governments. If that could not stop Christians from choosing to love in their hearts, why would God object to a government that promoted a balance between individual choice and the common altruistic good?
Furthermore, love is as much a team as it is an individuals sport. One could even argue that one individual sitting around loving all by himself but not expressing that love through community is a form of moral masturbation – it makes you feel good but it is not very productive for anyone else. Because it has unique powers government is a special medium for how we can express altruistic love and the tolerance for choice that comes from love, but that just makes it more important what kind of government we make in a democracy – it does not exempt government from our greatest God given responsibility.
Is any of this getting through or do you still just imagine “socialism, socialism, socialism” in every word I write?
Show me in the Bible where God says the government is suppose to redistribute the wealth, tax some people so it can give to others.
I don’t have to imagine “socialism, socialism, socialism” in every word you write. I just have to consider who you vote for, who you have alligned yourself with.
So you babble confused drivel. H. Clinton and Obama never did anything to explain themselves except spout worthless platitudes. Their ideology was about how wonderful they are, how much they care. Your history lessons and proclamations of grand complexities don’t explain your beliefs. They don’t do anything except give you excuses to believe whatever you want. The people you voted for, H. Clinton and Obama, did whatever they could get away with. They made up excuses to do what they wanted.
What do you stand for? It looks like you stand for anything your glorious leaders, people like H. Clinton and Obama, want to do.
Redistributing the wealth is not love. It is stealing. Love is not an excuse to steal.
You don’t think that all the great kings of the Bible taxed and redistributed wealth? You don’t think that those kings, good or bad, taxed and spent the wealth of the nation on infrastructure, on military defense, on justice and on administration? You’re the self proclaimed biblical scholar – show us in the Bible where that process was specifically stated as banned or where it was called “stealing” and you know that we can both find plenty of places that say or imply that that is exactly the sovereign authority of the ruler. The idea that the Bible would regard it as evil stealing if sovereign might sometimes redistribute the wealth of the nation for the common good is preposterous on it’s face.
What have I said that is unreasonable Tom? You know that it is so you think to defect by being childishly insulting? (What glorious leader are you imitating there?). You don’t want to accept what is right in front of your eyes because that reality doesn’t match your strange ideology which you have weirdly tried to sanctify with scripture. What is that quote, something like “there are none so blind as those who will not see”.
Democrat word games? When you cannot tell the difference between a politician buying votes and honest charity, you probably can’t figure out the meaning of redistributing the wealth.
Read 1 Samuel 8. Then let me know when you can find a Bible passage that supports Government charity.
I read a book recently that hypothesized the influence of wheat on civilization. The invention of wheat cultivation by humans may have been an accidental discovery by our hunter gatherer ancestors, but one it happened it had profound and inexorable effects. We settled down in one spot and built granaries to store excess for the offseason. We built walls and armies to protect the granaries from other bands of humans. We had to subjugate ourselves to kings to lead these armies and build those walls.
Meanwhile, our dependence on wheat took much of the nutritious value out of our diet. Excess allowed population growth that made us work harder and harder under the yolk of the rulers to feed that population and it’s warrior and priest classes. A blight could cause famine, suffering and death. We drove off hunter gatherer bands in the neighborhood and spread our wheat centered city states like a virus over the land. Over time, because of this new symbiosis with men, wheat species spread to the point where it is the most widely distributed plant species on the planet. In the end, the author mused whether we domesticated wheat or it actually domesticated us, but there was no going back.
1 Samuel 8 appears inapposite to the question of what government normatively should or should not do, but it does show some regret for the loss of the innocence that accompanied the rise of large agricultural civilizations, kingdoms and then empires. Unfortunately, after the agricultural revolution, that ship had sailed which 1 Samuel 8 appears to me to acknowledge. God’s recognition of our new dependence opon government is just that, not what some ideological maximum about the role of government that you seem to be trying to square that circle to fit.
But that is just my interpretation of this passage and I claim no infallibility of interpretation. Do you?
I’ve given my sincere reply. Do you really have to respond with a smug self righteous one or can we both just admit that our interpretations are jaded by our experience and overall knowledge and even when our revelation is somewhat correct, it is probably only infinitesimally true.
You guys kinda remind me of Fraser and his brother Niles. Not that there’s anything “wrong” with that.. just saying. Of course as I generally default with Tony on these issues, there is some admiration that brothers, like yourselves, can communicate so lovingly to the point where the dead horse you’re beating is completely pulverized. 🙂
Still no Bible passage demonstrating government-run charity. Instead, we get a screwy interpretation of 1 Samuel 8. Look again at what you have to pile on to get the interpretation you want. Read the Book of Judges. The people of Israel were quite capable of defending themselves when they obeyed the Lord.
Have you never heard this admonition? Be careful what you wish for. God punished the Hebrews by giving them what they demanded. How else do you explain this verse?
Do I have all the answers? No. But then again I favor a limited government, not the kind you want. I don’t want to force my beliefs on anyone, and I don’t want anyone else forcing their beliefs on me.
I prefer to think that we are each trying to coax the horse in the direction that we think it should go. It takes a long time to kill a horse with small prods, but eventually you’re right – it always happens.
You interpretation that the Israelites didn’t think that they needed a king appears on its face to deny the whole point of the passage. Your next quote does little to negate my interpretation or to reinforce yours. Sounds like a good case for democracy, not that a democracy, like a king, should not redistribute wealth for the common good. You seem to hope if we can just immerse ourselves in the rabinacal weeds, that you will need have to prove you big picture points. It looks to me like your trying too hard to bend scripture to fit your ideology rather than the other way around.
Long ago, I read a book by two economic conservatives and they gave an analogy that I continue to ponder. They gave the scenario where a person stands on a street corner and hands out twenty dollar bills to anyone who is willing to stand in line to get one. They hypothesized that the line would get exactly as long as it was worth less than twenty dollars for that last person to want to stand in line. Sure, the people who were willing to wait that long would get twenty dollars, but no good or service would be produced, no investment in human or other capital made, so effectively (according to your concept of economic opportunity costs), that money and the time it takes to stand in line is wasted.
For the authors this analogy demonstrates that the government will always have to create wasteful barriers in order to just hand out redistributed wealth and therefore it is foolishness for government getting into the charity business. The truth of this analogy seemed obvious to me at first, but after pondering it for years, I’ve come to see it differently.
First of all, if the waste of the system is apparent to government, it would be just as wasteful for a charity or a charitable individual to do the same thing. In other words, even if a charitable billionaire rather than government were to do the same thing, it would have the same exact waste.
This process calls for a certain amount of waste whether a person voluntarily redistributes his wealth out of charity or a government does it for the common good. It’s the “process” that may be economically wasteful, and not the redistribution, or whether or not you wish to classify it as an act of “charity”.
On the other hand, if either the individual or the government invests wealth in favor of human capital like education, retraining, or infrastructure, or any number of other capital investments, then there is growth rather than waste.
Second of all, if the person does nothing but spend the money that he got from either government or charities, it creates demand that will cause sellers of goods and services to make their own capital investments which in turn will create jobs that eliminates the need for the giveaways. Think of the Keynesian annology that if all we did is pay some people to dig holes and other people to fill them up, then it would have a positive economic impact. Think of how much better the impact is if people are paid through either charity or government to produce necessary goods and services or to make capital investments in themselves.
The best moral argument against just giving handouts is it’s economic waste, not its altruism.
In a sense it is altruistic for the government to forcefully redistribute wealth in order to pay for the common defense or a common justice system or common roads and bridges, but nobody thinks of that as charity. Why is paying for the common good of human capital investments that benefit capitalists and workers alike to be seen as any less moral. It is whether or not something is most effectively and altruistically provided by government rather than some other government created entity or individual that matters. I find all your arguments to the contrary, at least to this point, unconvincing, and even contradictory.
The people of Israel wanted a king, but God wanted them to worship Him, not to idolize some man. The Book of Judges describes Israel repeatedly turning from God, suffering conquest, and being rescued by God after the repented. One of the scariest books of the Bible.
Your little analogy about the guy standing on the street corner passing out money misses several details.
1. The guy on the street corner is buying votes, not solve the problem of poverty.
2. Both the taxpayers and those on welfare waste time filling out forms, but that benefits a constituent group, bureaucrats.
3. Government programs are notorious for delivering very little bang for the buck. Private charities, because they must compete are more efficient. They often make serious efforts to help people help themselves, whereas politicians want dependents.
4. Because the poor spend whatever they get, there is a theory that taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor stimulates economic activity. There are several problems with this. It is stealing. The money comes from high wage earners (The rich pay capital gains.). High taxes discourage people from working and leaves less money for them to either to invest or give to charity.
I am not going to debate the meaning of distributing the wealth. Stupid! However, I will make fun of your nonsense. When you were in the Navy, were you receiving charity? Well, if you were, that is just another example of government waste.
I think that it is morally healthy to be skeptical. However, it can be morally unhealthy to be completely cynical. Remember hope is a virtue.
As I write this I am sitting in a VA office. Your cynicism about government and its employees does not match my lived experience or the experience of most of the other veterans at this facility of the kind and dedicated personnel and services provided here. Have you ever considered that your own cynicism about government has provided a self fulfilling prophecy? Attitude is life good brother.
“When you were in the Navy, were you receiving charity? Well, if you were, that is just another example of government waste.”
Well, if it were charity then I would have been serving as a charitable worker not just a recipient, don’t you think? If you want to cast every form of goods and services provided by government as charity, are we not all the recipients of military charity, including you. I was paid by tax payers to defend the rich and the poor, no matter their tax status.
I was an enthusiastic participant and supporter of the redistribution of goods and services toward the common good of defense. I think we were all not perfect but we were effective. Much of that effectiveness comes from teamwork, comradeship and sense of common mission. The only thing I regret about my military contribution to the common good was that it took me a couple of years to learn that esprit de corps. When I did, it changed my life. A more positive, less cynical attitude is life affirming – I highly recommend it to you. It’s never too late. 😊
“4. Because the poor spend whatever they get, there is a theory that taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor stimulates economic activity. There are several problems with this. It is stealing. The money comes from high wage earners (The rich pay capital gains.). High taxes discourage people from working and leaves less money for them to either to invest or give to charity.”
My reading on your theory is that it is a popular conservative fallacy that the data do not support. Some of our biggest economic boom times were during some of our highest marginal taxation rates. To paraphrase one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet, I’m not going to stop investing or trying to earn another buck on that investment just because I pay more taxes on the gains.
Now the fact that people pay less taxes on speculation than work, that’s its own scandal that sets up some weird incentives. But that is a discussion about fairer taxation schemes, not taxation in general.
So hand Uncle your paycheck!
“The people of Israel wanted a king, but God wanted them to worship Him, not to idolize some man. The Book of Judges describes Israel repeatedly turning from God, suffering conquest, and being rescued by God after the repented. One of the scariest books of the Bible.”
That seems reasonable to me. For their own good, God did not seem to want the Israelites to have a king “yet”. Does the agricultural trap that was going on about then have something to do with that? It is one exegesis. One way or another God did not seem to think they were ready for monarchy at that moment.
God’s manifestation of Himself to Israel was incremental and progressive until His ultimate manifestation of Himself in Christ, don’t you think? It appears that none of the Israelites, including the king they chose, could be trusted to humble themselves in love of God.
For us today, however, this does not appear to be a statement that we should not have any government as much as it is a statement that we should have a good government. I don’t believe that the Bible is saying that government is inherently an evil idol, but it appears that the God of the anointed King David must have found government to be a necessity at that time.
Regardless, I don’t really see how this verse does anything but confirm that government should be altruistic. I agree that we should not idolize government (or demonize it either), but that seems to less a problem today than idolizing money as the Republicans do and reason as the Democrats do.
You’re floundering. That verse confirms we should put God before government. It says nothing about an altruistic government, which is really a stupid idea.
Sure! Give me your money. I’ll be altruistic with it.
“2. Both the taxpayers and those on welfare waste time filling out forms, but that benefits a constituent group, bureaucrats.”
You’ve apparently have not worked for a regular corporation where they define endless “meetings” as the business alternative for actual work.
It depends on what you consider “welfare”. Medicare, If you define that as welfare or charity, has less administrative costs than the private insurance companies who, prior to Obamacare, continually looked forward to 20 percent profit margins. Ah, the joys of unfettered capitalism. My company and the pilot group were being killed by continuously rising medical insurance costs. I bet my company would have given us a raise to do so if we could have bought into Medicare.
Sorry, but this is kinda fun, and I was waiting for the rice to cook. Later, it’s dinner time.
Medicare is going bankrupt, depending on who we believe. Not financially sound.
The primary reason college and medical expenses keep rising is that government keeps throwing money at college and medical special interests. The more money available to limited resources, the more people with those resources will charge. Of course, people desperate to go to college or for medical care will demand government spend more, but that puts the pinch on anyone who has to pay their own bills. Not fair to our children.
“So hand Uncle your paycheck.”
Ha! I’ll show you my taxes if you show me Trump’s.
“Medicare is going bankrupt, depending on who we believe. Not financially sound.”
That must be one of the oldest lies in the Republican pantheon of lies. Keep it up though – let me know when that third rail starts to ouch?
Do you know what percentage of the budget goes into Social Security and Medicare? How about the amount spent to pay interest on the national debt?
Here is the Medcare problem.
You want to blame Trump, of course, but Democrats violated the Constitution when they push these programs.
Tsalmon, I liked your comment.
“Like you, I believe in God based on faith, and because the universe just doesn’t make sense without that presupposition. On the other hand, I read somewhere that Voltaire once wrote that he did not believe in God but that he hoped that his servant did, else the servant might murder Voltaire while he slept”
The problem in our contemporary world is there are people who believe in a faith that believes if you don’t agree with their faith, you deserve to die, and they will be rewarded by their God for accommodating your demise.
Wonder what Voltaire would say about making sense of a paradox of nterpretation and authority of what is a religion?
In my opinion, we need the Supreme Court to define what a religion is that is being protected under the First Amendment, or define the difference between religion or a political entity.
Regards and good will blogging..
Interesting thought SW. Defining our terms so we can at least agree as to what we disagree on would good. What is and is not a religious belief might be one place to start.
Is atheism a religious belief? Are deterministic ideologies like communism or libertarianism religious beliefs? All these “isms” seem to require certain leaps of faith that are religious in quality. When epistemologies based upon pure reason (like mathematics, logic and science) take leaps of faith, then they technically are not being very scientific in my opinion, but honestly, can we as humans actually stop ourselves from thinking religiously? Is it kind of like asking ourselves to think without using our brains?
Ever since the Enlightenment there has been an ongoing battle between reason and religion. We are creatures of the successes of Enlightenment thinking and the epistemologies (like science) that exploded out of the Enlightenment. On the other hand, our original success as humans began at the same time as that we began to think religiously. (As I eluded in an earlier comment here, I may even be the reason that we were so successful where other human species failed). Every human in Modernity these days is a creature of reason, but we are much older creatures of religion. We are rational animals with God shaped minds. To deny either reason or religion is to deny our basic humanity, but the inherent conflict between these two things that make us human is at the heart of the subject of Tom’s post above.
In fact, the continuing dialectic drama between reason and religion, in my opinion, is at the heart of most of our religious conflicts and it is the source of many, perhaps most, political conflicts. The Reformation itself and the endless fracturing of Christianity can be seen as continuing effort to resolve religious differences by applying the tool of reason to the Christian religious revelation. The development of the modern evangelical movement can also be viewed as an effort to build some credible bridge between scriptural inerrancy, which has blind fundamentalism at it’s extreme. and zealous advocacy of pure reason, which has ideologies like communism and atheism at its extreme. Each extreme and everyone in the middle are trying desperately to control the politics. This same political conflict is playing out inside of each religion and between the various religions all over the world right now.
I don’t know if Tom would agree, but I think his blog here is basically about this conflict and his efforts to give political rational to his religious beliefs and religious revelation to his political rational. I our own way, that’s what we are all trying to do. Since we are both rational and religious animals by nature, perhaps we can’t help ourselves.
Interesting helpful comment. Thanks, I will dwell on it and perhaps write a post in reply.
Regards and goodwill blogging
I thought when I first started my blog with the anti-Trump theme.. that started the Age of Enlightenment.
The conflict you refer to is not a conflict between religion and reason.
We use religion and reason as excuses to bully other people. When we put other things, things like sex, stuff, science, state, and self, before God, we forget that our neighbors belong to God, not “me”.
Christianity is a rational belief. Our God is, as the Bible says, not the author of confusion. The Bible may ask us to believe things we don’t understand, but not things that don’t make sense.
And if I disagree with you on rational or religious grounds, then the only source of our conflict is because one or both of us want the other’s stuff?😏
I don’t really disagree with your basic statement that an apparent incompatibility between religion and reason is probably either an error or a lack of knowlege about one or the other or both. You may be right in that materialism often plays a factor, but to say that lust for the material is the only reason for disagreement and conflict is a bit reductionist don’t you think?
People will not only kill, they will also die in pursuit of religious and rational causes. To willingly sacrifice oneself is the ultimate abnegation of material desire in favor of an idea. Whether the cause is either religiously or rationally based in truth or not seems to be less important than that the person believes in its truth enough to give up everything for it.
The Bible doesn’t call upon Christians to pick fights with people. Reason doesn’t suggest that’s a good idea either. There are various religious and political ideologies, unfortunately, that encourage such behavior. All in some way put things, things like sex, stuff, science, state, and self, before God.
What kind of disputes do Christians have?
The Scopes Monkey Trial was all about sex? Well, in so far as Darwinian Evolution is about sex, maybe it was.
Conflict happens in many ways my knife sharpening brother. William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow fought it out during the Scopes Trial. The movie dramatizing the trial, “Inherit the Wind”, makes Bryan out to be an aging country bumpkin and Darrow (played by the Spenser Tracy) to be the erudite rational man, however, even a little research on these two great men of their time shows that nothing could be further from the truth.
Far from being a rube, Bryan was a populist progressive Democrat who earned the presidential nomination of his party twice.
Bryan actually won the case. However, it has been seen by history as him winning a minor battle and losing the war. Christian fundamentalists and literalists felt like they put up their best with Bryan and now for most Americans he is more remembered as a fool than the great orator and defender of the wisdom of the common man that he actually was.
Christian fundamentalists who view every word of the Bible literally came off as anti-science. Christians of all cloths felt their religion cheapened by the encounter.
Much of the politics and theology of the past two centuries has been shaped by this conflict between fundamentalist atheist rationalists and fundamentalist Christians with everybody else caught in the middle and trying to find some compromise between defending the truth of Biblical inerrancy and defending the truth of rational epistemologies like science.
Given the vast body of scientific archeological and DNA data that have been added to the Natural History record since the Scopes trial, the fact that we are still debating this nearly a century later means that the perceived conflict between religion and reason is far from being done. It continues to shape government and politics and makes strange bedfellows of a certain billionaire prophet of vice and certain dogmatic disciples of Christ. Wait, bedfellows? I guess you’re right – it is all about about sex. 😉
The Scopes Monkey Trial? Well, we do tend to fight the way we won the last war.
What was that trial about (see =>https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scopes_Trial)?
I do think it funny that you don’t actually use the word school or school teacher within your comment.
Why is our government telling us how to educate our children? Politicians are experts in discerning the truth? Judges are the ones most qualified to decide what is what is not “science”. The bozos can’t even define religion (Of course, nobody else can either.). All the clowns in the mass media did was push their own view. Overall, the Scopes Trial just facilitated a stupid mess.
What was Scopes Monkey Trial about? Because we have taxpayer funded, government-run school, everyone wants those “free” schools to teach what they think they ought to teach.
The trial was a fight over money and making other people come to heel. So what was the eventual solution? Judges decided to take “religion” out of our schools. Secularism is a religion too, but that is not what Liberal Democrat judges, who refuse to define religion, want us to think of Secularism.
You think it funny to suggest that the Scopes Monkey Trial might have had something to do with sex? Well, let’s consider again the idols I mentioned: sex, stuff, science, state, and self. Idolatry is to put anything before God. Perhaps only a few of us have the sinful capacity to put all those things all at once before God. So I suppose I should have linked that list with an “or” instead of an “and”. Still, Atheists delight in the Theory of Evolution. For if they can proved to themselves that God does not exist, they can put sex, stuff, science, state, and self, anything they wish, before God. They have nothing to lose.
You seem angry Tom. Like I said, a century later, the Scopes Trail still picks at an open sore for Christians. If there is no issue between religion and science, why all the anger and name calling?
I know, just stop the horrors of attempting to provide the opportunity of a decent education to all children and it will upend our cultures enslavement to materialism. All our problems are solved. We can go back to those good old days when we were perfect and America was great.
But don’t you think that your anger may belay an argument between reason and religion that roots far deeper than that?
You are attacking me, not my argument. Ad hominem.
Not true, but perhaps you sometimes have trouble seeing daylight between the two. But ok, your argument sounds angry then. Why?
The Theory of Evolution is either true or not. It is only because it has profound implications to Bilblical literalists at one extreme and anti-religious atheists thumbing their noses at the other that there ever was a Scopes Trial. And that clash between reason and revelation have only reverberated louder over the past century. Seriously Tom, do you think that there would even be this strange movement against public education if not for this ongoing argument and it’s manifestation in issues from Climate Change to abortion to the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise clauses?
And I’m not saying that your anti-religious concerns are unfounded – there is a weird irrational moral hostility to religion that many atheists espouse, especially in academic circles. On the other hand most of the actual public school teachers that I know are religious folks. (My guess it that they are more religious than the general population).
It also seems to me that that hostility is reciprocated by religious people and sometimes with a belligerence that neither seems very rational nor very Christian. Someone who has not yet found the love and redemption of God is a crippled soul to be pitied, not reviled, don’t you agree?
Think! A straightforward presentation of facts does not indicate the need for an anger management class.
You act like the public school system is some kind of grand marvel. Because government runs it we fight over our public schools constantly. If nothing else, we can count upon teachers somewhere either on strike or threatening to strike for a pay increase.
Why do we resort to ballots? Is it because the public is wise? Is it because we elect wise and honest people? Or is it because the alternative is worse? Bullets do hurt more than ballots.
Do we have a socialist education system because it is the best way to get the job done? A government-run education monopoly? A monopoly? Brought to us by the pro-choice crowd? Liberal Democrats care so much for children.
Those who can afford it either send their children to the private schools or buy more expensive homes to get their children in the best public schools. Do you have any idea how people will fight school boundary changes that leave their homes outside the district they want to be in? And you pretend there is no strife involved?
One of the reasons public education became popular is that the price, “free”, undercuts the Catholic school system. In spite of the fact the public schools are “free”, beneficiaries of religious bigotry, private schools, including the Catholic schools,p still remain.
So yes, when people abuse the power of government and force their neighbors to pay for really dumb things, I get disgusted. How thick do you have to be not to get this?
You need to go on a diet? Why don’t you visit Venezuela for a couple of months? Won’t cost much. There is nothing to buy.
“How thick do you have to be not to get this?”
This is not making this about me rather than ideas? What is even more strange is that you are not even mad at me but angry at straw men who don’t really exist in the American political wild – free range socialists and purple unicorns. You want to escape food scarcity, then go to Denmark. No one in this country from either party wants to be Venezuela, but many admire Denmark. Why, because it works. Why social safety nets combined with robust markets work, now that’s the million dollar question.🙄
Your list of angry grievances is hard to integrate, but have you considered that they are all material in nature?
You seems to think that if the government picks a Christian’s pocket, it has taken something important from us.
It works! Bull! You are making an indefensible statement, assuming you are actually trying to be logical.
Think about the definition of a government monopoly. Whenever we deprive people of the use of their own money and insist the government spend it, we can only guess how the people we took it from might have made better use of it.
We have this holy cause. Government has to do it, whatever “it” is. No competition!
When competition is not allowed or seriously discouraged, we have a difficult time figuring out how well any alternative might have worked. That is, we don’t know the opportunity cost (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opportunity%20cost). We don’t know how well people might have solved the social problems we insist on giving over to government. Instead, we have to trust politicians, people nobody trusts, including you.
In addition, when we deprive people of their wealth, we enslave them to the degree we deprive them of their wealth. Instead of working for themselves, they are working for the state. If they don’t like what the state is doing, that is a problem. If there is not a good moral justification for creating this problem, we should not do it.
You love Donald Trump? Well, if you don’t want him to have more power, then why do you insist upon foisting Liberal Democrats on the rest of us?
Like it or not, those people, Liberal Democrats. are Socialists. I don’t care what you call yourself. I care what you vote for. If your words and deeds are out of sync, that’s the problem, not anything I have said.