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Sunday, 12 April 2009

The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

One of the most common objections to the Christian faith is the problem of evil. Of all objections mounted against the Christian faith, prima facie, it does seem the most compelling, one of the hardest things for us to get our heads around.

How does a Christian reconcile the fact of evil and suffering in the world in the face of a God that is omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent? If he is omnipotent then he knows about all evil before it occurs so why does he allow it? Surely if god is omnipotent then he can halt evil. If he is benevolent then why will not act against it?

Marc raised the same question in the comments section of, Good Friday: Why Celebrate Easter? In the discussion that followed I charged him with special pleading, of holding Christians to a higher standard than the standard he tacitly holds skepticism to. As discussions in comments sections are often missed instead of continuing the debate with Marc I thought I would express myself more clearly here. In doing so I will borrow extensively from a talk Matt gave for the launch of Thinking Matters (which you will see when we finally get the video footage of the talk online). [Given the difficulties of footnoting notes and impressions from talks and knowledge obtained through years of discussions with one's spouse (though some came from primary sources that I read myself) pretty much from this post from this point onwards, though not in entirety, should be seen as being authored by MandM as opposed to just me though it is posted by me because overall it I put it together.]

Before addressing an objection of this nature one should first establish the correct approach to take towards addressing criticisms of the faith and be clear as to what constitutes a fair set of rules for the terms of engagement. Timothy Keller writes,

All doubts, however sceptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs. You cannot doubt belief A except from a position of faith in belief B….

The only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to discern the alternative belief under each of your doubts and then ask yourself what reasons you have for believing it. How do you know your belief is true? It would be inconsistent to require more justification for Christian belief than you do for your own, but that is frequently what happens.

In fairness you must doubt your doubts. My thesis is that if you come to recognise the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs - you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared.[1]

In making his assertions, Marc, criticised my beliefs from a position of belief, or faith, in the correctness of his own. He asked a standard of my beliefs that he did not require for his own.

When one encounters a charge like the one Marc raised, I understand that even if Marc didn’t set the problem out in the manner the world’s top atheist philosophers might have done, his question nevertheless hides a disguised argument that warrants addressing. Daniel Howard-Snyder states,

[T]he theoretical "problem" of evil is often expressed in the form of a pointed question. God is able to prevent evil and suffering and He would know about them before they happened, right? Moreover, since He is unsurpassably good, surely He would not permit them just for the fun of it. So why doesn’t He prevent them?[2]

In the literature this argument is typically more formalised so that it reads something like:

[1] That as God is omniscient and omnipotent (all-knowing and all-powerful) he would be both able to know about all the suffering that exists and act to prevent it;
[2] Given that God is good, he would not allow such evil to exist unless he had a good reason for it.

[2] is what Snyder calls a justifying reason “a reason that was compatible with his never doing wrong and his being perfect in love.”[3]

These premises entail that if God exists then he must have a good reason for allowing suffering. I agree with Marc and those who have gone before him on this part of their objection, I am sure that God does had a good reason. However, the question that follows from here, which is typically “then, what is God’s reason for allowing suffering?” which I concede has powerful rhetorical force, contains a critical flaw.

If one is to look at the question purely rationally it is should become apparent. This flaw is widely noted and discussed in the literature by the likes of Steve Wykstra, Alvin Plantinga, Peter Van Ingwagen, William Rowe, Micheal Tooley, William Alston, and Howard-Snyder to name a few.

So what is this flaw? I have not contested the claim that if God exists then he must have a good reason for allowing evil. However this has not satisfied Marc who wants to know what that reason is. Asking this latter question tacitly attempts to add a further premise to the above argument,

[3] If a Christian cannot provide a detailed account of God’s reasons in [2] then it follows that God has none.

This assumed premise is the point at which the argument succeeds or fails. If the failure to provide God’s reasons in detail does not provide any grounds for thinking that God in fact has no reasons then failure to answer the question, while deeply perplexing and emotionally unsatisfying, does not establish a reason for rejecting God.

Alvin Plantinga provides an illustration of the flaws inherent in [3]. Paraphrasing him; suppose I ask you too look in a tent and tell me if there's a St Bernard inside. In this instance, I would have every reason to trust what you say you see as a St Bernard the sort of thing I would expect you to be able to observe if it were inside a tent. But suppose I ask you to look inside and tell me if there are any 'no-see-ums' inside the tent (a no-see-um is gnat with a big bite that is small enough to pass through the netting of a tent, as such it is too small to see). Now, I have no reason to trust your answer in this instance, as you can't see no-see-ums. Here's the problem; the sceptic is assuming that if there is a reason for our suffering then it is more like a St Bernard than it is like a no-see-um. However, this is simply assumed, not argued for. It is certainly, if not at least possible, that we suffer for a reason but that that reason may not be something that we can easily detect.[4]

As Keller notes, “we see lurking within this hard nosed skepticism an enormous faith in one’s cognitive faculties. If our minds cannot plump the depths of the universe for answers to suffering, well there can’t be any!. This is blind faith of a tall order.”[5]

For the problem of evil to succeed the sceptic must provide some argument as to why God’s detailed reasons for allowing evil are like St Bernards and such an argument must be grounded on premises that Christians are rationally required to accept or else we could simply escape the charge by justifiably rejecting the premise.

Now if a finite human being, such as myself, with limited factual knowledge, limited perspective in time and space and an imperfect moral character cannot produce a good reason as to why evil occurs then I fail to see why the Christian must accept the conclusion: ‘therefore, God cannot possibly have any such reasons.’

William Alston has noted that the sceptic argument in this context is a bit like a person who, with no background in quantum physics, decided that when he failed to understand why the world’s best physicist held a particular view that if followed that the physicist obviously had no reason to hold it.[6]

Suppose I am wrong. Suppose that the failure to provide an answer does mean that it is improbable that one exists and from this, that it follows the existence of God is improbable given the existence of evil. What follows from this? Nowhere near as much as you might think because the fact that the existence of God is improbable on one fact does not mean that it is improbable per se.

Plantinga notes that there are many beliefs that we hold to which are improbable on some body of evidence we believe. If I was playing poker was dealt four aces, then this is highly improbable given the number of cards in the pack and number of possible combinations that I could have been dealt. Yet I am rational in believing that I was dealt four aces as I can see that I have four aces in my hand (to give but one defence).

Moreover, it is well known that a belief can be improbable on one sub-set of beliefs a person possesses and yet highly probable by every thing that the person believes. For example, if I know my friend is French and I know that most French people cannot swim then my belief that my friend is a swimmer is improbable based on this set of evidence. On the other hand, suppose I know that my friend is a life guard by profession and that all life guards, even French ones, can swim. Then despite the fact that a belief is improbable on the basis of one set of evidence, it is not necessarily improbable on the whole.

Finally the question needs to be raised about how well Christianity performs regarding the existence of evil relative to alternative views. Some Philosophers have suggested that the existence of evil might also make the non-existence of God impossible. I can only sketch the reasons briefly but they are worth noting.

First, in order for suffering to exist sentient life forms must exist. However, there have been various discoveries from contemporary physics which establish that a universe evolving life is extremely improbable. For life to evolve there are around 15 constants necessary, each must have precise values and if they were off by a million or even one in a million, life could not evolve. Even if some of these constants had differed by 1 in 10 to the power of 60 then life could not evolve.[7]

Second, some of the worst forms of evil involve human cruelty and evil but in order to identify these things as such this requires the existence of moral principles or rules that prohibit this kind of conduct and deem them as cruel or evil. Now one question that can be raised by many in the literature, William Lane Craig and J.L. Mackie spring to mind, is whether the existence of objective moral principles is likely on an atheistic view of the world.

Is it likely that in a universe composed entirely of matter and energy that objective principles or rules could come into existence independently of any mind? Many people find this a puzzling question. My point is not to endorse (or reject) these lines of inquiry; it is simply to show that it is not obvious that the typical sceptical view is any more defensible given the existence of evil than belief in God is and more work would need to be done by the sceptic to show that it is.

So my response to the problem of evil then is three fold. The objection relies on an assumption that is false or at any rate, an assumption that no reason is forthcoming as to why a Christian should accept it. Further, even if evil does make the existence of God improbable one would need further argument to show that this meant Christianity was irrational. Finally, even if the sceptic could do this it the problem of the mirror remains, one would need to show that the alternatives to Christianity, such as skepticism, were better able to account for the existence of evil. As none of these criteria have been met, I remain a Christian.

[1] Timothy Keller Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, 2008) xvii-xviii.
[2] Daniel Howard-Snyder “God, Evil, and Suffering” in Reason for the Hope Within (Eerdmans 1999), ed. Michael J. Murray, 3,,evil,andsuffering.pdf.
[3] Ibid, 4.
[4] Alvin Plantinga Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford University Press: 2000) 466.
[5] Keller Reason for God xvii-xviii.
[6] William Alston "Some Temporary Final Thoughts on Evidential Arguments from Evil" in The Evidential Argument from Evil ed Daniel Howard-Snyder (Bloomington Indianapolis, Indiana University Press: 1996) 317.

[7] Francis S. Collins The Language of God: A scientist Presents Evidence for the Existence of God (Free Press, 2006) 75.


  1. Madeleine,

    I have got to hand it to you and fellow religious folk, you do think about your belief and your arguments often sound reasonable. The same goes for proponants of Islam,Judism, Buddhism etc. You all sound very convincing. Sadly you cannot all be right.

    As Bill Maher puts his belief about God in Religulous(a great comedy), "I don't know, and you don't have any powers that I don't have".

    Todays quote from the good book, " A child who curses his parent(s) is to be put to death. A stubborn and/or rebellious child is to be put to death. (EX 21:17, LE 20:9, DT 21:18-21)

    Now that's a God I want to worship. And while we're stoning people to death let's not forget those homo's, witches, blasphemers, adulterers, etc.

    Nice religion NOT but if I need one I'll go Buddhist. You have way too many crazies in your pack.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr - On Diabolical Mimicry

  2. I don't find the goldilocks values argument particularly powerful. While I dispute macroevolution, the concept that the values could not be off is tenuous, it relies on assumptions that Christians need not hold. I see no reason why the speed of light and planck's constant couldn't be other.

    The moral argument is better. Evil as a concept is pretty meaningless within an atheist worldview, perhaps pain as an unpleasant situation is the best available.

    Further, the idea that reasoning is reliable based on evolutionary assumptions sans God is also unsustainable.

    The existence of evil is not an argument against God, and as you say a good argument for theism.

    I think there are good explanations for evil. The primary one is that we caused it. If I steal a car and crash it while driving drunk, I can hardly blame the car owner.

    There is good reason to think suffering develops character, though this is a benefit God causes despite evil, he is not the cause.

    However there is a competing claim. To remove evil means to remove evil from us, however this means that the world must end. We no longer choose whether we are part of the kingdom or not. The age of grace has ended. While ending evil would benefit those who have chosen God, it would prevent those who haven't from doing so. This is a good reason from God's and our point of view, but his love for others means that he tarries.

    The claim a loving God would not permit evil is partially correct. He will not permit it forever, but to stop permitting it has more consequences that just no more evil.

    The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3)

    Recent blog post: Best Friday

  3. Marc,

    Way to take those verses out of context.
    In the ancient near east, to curse ones parents is to do something like "bring a death curse on them".
    In Pagan cultures of the time, people believed that if you cursed someone, the "gods" would bring judgement on the person, or bring about the curse.
    In Jewish history, it was thought that God would enforce any curse made in his name. Of course, there is no proof that these curses were in God's name, but that's how people would have understood it. Any they would have understood it as a literal attempt at murder, as they firmly believed that these things were real.

    In the NT, we have the example of the prodigal son, as an example of a similar thing. He "asked for his inheritence", that is to say, he wanted his parents dead so he could get his slice. He may not have directly cursed them, but in that time and culture such a thing was taken extremely seriously. I am sure if you put some thought into it you would be able to think of a few reasons yourself. Failing that google is resplendent with them.

    Cursing, biblically, isn't the same as we envisage it today - we tend to see it more like swearing, cussing, or at worst "wishing bad things on someone". But biblically its far worse than that, in its time and culture to curse someone was pretty serious. As serious as me being caught with a bomb and the plans for the english subway or some such thing.


    For me the problem of evil comes back to the problem (if it is a problem) of the imageo dei. In order for us to truly represent God as his "viceroys" in creation, God has to keep out of our affairs to some degree. In the same way a King trusts, and relies on his governors without having to be in their faces directing things. I think thats the point really. God has given us autonomy and freedom, we abused that freedom and as a result lotsa bad stuff happens. God has done more than enough, by becoming human himself, and beginning the process of putting things right.

    The problem is, God is timeless, or at least, God doesnt experience time in the same way we do. So, while we are here frustrated and feeling like God is not doing enough, or fast enough, or he's "just letting it happen" - the truth is the opposite. He's done everything He can without interjecting himself into our existence and taking away our freedom. And in reality, to God its all just a "twinkling of an eye".

    Some initial thoughts anyway :P

  4. Madeleine you shouldn't downplay your own ability. I know you like to make the sharp distinction between those who dabble in philosophy, like yourself but unlike yourself who then think they are qualified to lecture on it, and the real Christian philosophers who frequent this blog such as the likes of Drs Flannagan, Peoples, Beckwith and McGrew, to name but a few, but the fact you can explain such a complex philosophical issue this well, and this is very good, means you are doing bloody well for a lay person. Certainly a lot better than the turkeys Maxim trots out to teach philosophy at Compass and other try-hard events.

    Recent blog post: G20 Cheese

  5. Geoff,

    You can legitimately stone me to death, as Leviticus "24:16 says, "And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death". I await the punishment, I'll even supply the rocks. I have blasphemed saying "God is not great, god is imaginary". Is that disrespectful enough?

    How do you know God is timeless. Please read what Bill Maher said above. Do you have some power that I do not possess? How do you know he is timeless?

    How can I make this really simple. God is imaginary, not real, just like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. We are wasting some really good minds to religion. If the energy that goes into worshipping an invisible man instead went into scientific endeavours, we might not be looking at the end of civilisation. Still I guess many Christians can't wait until end times, meet up with your old buddy Jesus, fight the anti-christ, and head up to spend eternity grovelling at the feet of god. I think I'll go with the Muslim and take the virgins.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr - On Diabolical Mimicry

  6. Marc,

    I don't think I can stone you to death for saying that. If you choose to believe, and articulate that God is imaginary, then that's between you and God, should it turn out He isn't imaginary. I also don't believe that is what is meant by "blaspheme".

    I dont understand how Maher's comment has any bearing on God's temporality. If God should exist, then surely being non-temporal is an essential part of his nature. If you don't believe God is real, I would suggest your argument is moot.

    I find your final comment quite offensive, and don't really see what I have done or said to deserve it. You do not even know if I am a Christian or not, or anything really about what I believe. You have just categorised me without much information and insulted me.

    Recent blog post: Back Masking

  7. Hi Marc

    Actually I have replied to this line of argument in two previous posts.

    Capital punishment in the Old Testament 1 at

    Capital Punishment in the Old Testament 2 at

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  8. Hi Geoff,

    Good to have your comments and feedback, thank you very much.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  9. Geoff

    I have no idea how you could have found anything that I said above offensive, it wasn't personal. What part offended you? If you are not a Christian then I cannot see anything mildly offensive. I assume you mean grovelling/worshipping?

    I find it hard to believe that you are not a Christian using words like "non temporal". But you are right, Mahers comment wasn't appropriate to temporality but it is when you stated "He's done everything He can without interjecting himself into our existence and taking away our freedom." I would argue that he has taken away freedoms, just check with the homosexual community, and heretics of the past. As Maher might say,"How do you know He's done everything?", I don't know that.

    Let me assure you that I have blasphemed. We both know that God is a jealous God and death is the only fair punishment for such a sin.



    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr - On Diabolical Mimicry

  10. Matt,

    God stated that he is not the author of confusion, well I beg to differ. I have never come across so many people trying to explain the unexplainable, as I have Christian apologists. The Bible, as you show, must be read with background knowledge that most do not possess.

    It is a shame most of your brethren haven't got a clue what your arguments are. Most are still wallowing in the story of Noahs Ark, singing meaningless Psalms and worshipping baby Jesus.

    Many have no idea that Jesus was suppoedly foretold in the Old Testament, and fewer still would know that those prophecies have nothing to do with Jesus. However I am sure that you have an answer to that as well.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr - On Diabolical Mimicry

  11. @Marc,

    I guess its just the condescending tone that I read in your comments, for example:
    "If the energy that goes into worshipping an invisible man instead went into scientific endeavours, we might not be looking at the end of civilisation. Still I guess many Christians can't wait until end times, meet up with your old buddy Jesus, fight the anti-christ, and head up to spend eternity grovelling at the feet of god. I think I'll go with the Muslim and take the virgins."
    Its seems rather ad hominem to me, but anyway, it really doesn't bother me that much, other than I dont feel it has any place in polite discussion.

    I am a Christian, this is true. I met Matt at bible college (although he might not remember :P), however, you appeared to assume and categorise this without any real knowledge of the truth.
    In regards to freedom, well, it all depends on how you define freedom. I was being a bit duplicitious really, because I dont believe we have freedom at all. I believe that it is only by having a relationship with God that we can be "reborn" and regain our freedom. What we do have is the ability to choose and act for ourselves according to our nature. Homosexuals still have the choice to remain homosexuals, and liars to lie, thieves to steal, and adulterers to fornicate. No one is stopping them, least of all me. All I can do is point out how those things are undesirable human traits, and the evidence and result of a lack of relationship with God.
    How do I know God has done everything? 1. Because I have met him, and had a first hand experience of his work. 2. Because I've read and studied the record of his interactions with humanity and can see it in history.
    It might not be enough for you, but it was enough for me.

    Re blasphemy: no doubt you have. I would suggest that blasphemy is ultimately rejection of the knowledge of God as creator and King. You certainly appear to hold that position, and I guess, as any traitor to the crown, you would be under a death sentence.

    (note, I'm no really happy with this post, I dont feel I have been very clear... unfortunately my mind is a bit messed up at the moment)

    Recent blog post: Back Masking

  12. Geoff

    If you read my other post on the Good Friday topic you will get more of a taste of the distain that I have for Christianity and Islam.

    I am sure you are a nice guy, Matt and Tim as well, but your minds have been fogged over by the cloud of religion.

    How can you put homosexuals in the same camp as liars and theives??? I cannot believe you said that, really! Wow, you guys haven't moved on much at all. Why don't we just have a big homo stoning party and rid ourselves of them for once and for all, they don't want to change, let's force them to.

    Madeleine's a woman and I won't be addressing her, in respect for Christianity's position on that sex (ask St Paul).Do be careful though Madeleine, when your crowd are the minority you will have to seek Matts approval to leave the house.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr - On Diabolical Mimicry

  13. Please read what Bill Maher said above. Do you have some power that I do not possess?

    You know, I'm tempted. I really am. I'm tempted to ask Bill Maher if he has the power to concentrate on an argument for, oh, three or four hours at a time instead of tossing off one-liners as an excuse for not looking into things. I'm tempted to ask him if he has the ability to read scholars on all sides of a disputed question and to form and modify his views according to the strength of the arguments they make based on public evidence -- and, if he does, why he never seems to use it when it comes to the matter of religion. I am tempted to ask him whether he has ever made any study of Koine Greek, or of Hebrew, or of philosophy, or of deductive logic, or of probability, or of scientific reasoning.

    But we all know the answers already. Maher is so clueless that he touts the Horus myth in Religulous. Why would anyone with good will and a decent education ever take him seriously?

    How can I make this really simple. God is imaginary, not real, just like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. . . .

    There's the assertion. You've made it, in various forms, over and over, without bothering to substantiate it. In fact, you're creating the impression that it isn't all that important for you to have good reasons for the things you assert, or even to be moderately well informed about them, as long as you can assert them repeatedly in a manner that is drenched in condescension.

    No one is impressed by this. We really don't care which of your unargued opinions make you feel warm and fuzzy and superior to other people.

    Why don't you drop the pretentious sneering and try to argue like a man?

  14. Tim, I am laughing so much I am having trouble retaining my balance on my chair. You really have a gift. I would love to be in the same room as you and Frank Beckwith.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  15. Madeleine,

    Frank is much funnier than I am. Really. I promise.

  16. Tim,

    We both know that you can out argue me on a philsophical playing field, so no point baiting me.

    Coming across a Thinking Christian (almost an oxymoron) is unusual. As I have stated before, most of your ilk wouldn't even know the ten commandments (although a few may know the first set).

    Why don't you pray that God may let me see the light? Answer, because you and I both know that it won't happen.

    You can argue for the existance of your god as long as you like, doesn't make it true. QED.

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr - On Diabolical Mimicry

  17. “Hi Marc
    God stated that he is not the author of confusion, well I beg to differ. I have never come across so many people trying to explain the unexplainable, as I have Christian apologists. The Bible, as you show, must be read with background knowledge that most do not possess.

    It is a shame most of your brethren haven't got a clue what your arguments are. Most are still wallowing in the story of Noahs Ark, singing meaningless Psalms and worshipping baby Jesus. The Bible, as you show, must be read with background knowledge that most do not possess.

    Well I am a theologian most are not so thats not an entirely fair comment. But nearly everything I have written is easily available in such things as a moderately good commentary or moderately competent evangelical apologetics.

    I think the problem is really two fold (a) most Pastors are not theologically trained to the standard they should be, if they were they would impart this information to their congregations and with respect (b) most people in NZ you attack religion have little knowledge of the subject either, the media makes what ever uniformed comments it likes as do internet sites (the comments on kiwi blog are a good example) and people never bother to actually check their facts. The two groups then mutually reinforce each other.

    There really is no excuse for this, at 16 years of age I got interested in the question of whether the Christianity I had been taught at Sunday school was true. I had the standard sceptical beliefs you have, but walked into a local library and began reading, I was literally shocked at the errors I had been taught by the media by public school etc about Christianity and I was shocked that answers to many of these objections had been around for years its just they were ignored.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  18. @Tim,

    hehe :P


    See, herein lies the problem:
    "I am sure you are a nice guy, Matt and Tim as well, but your minds have been fogged over by the cloud of religion."

    Thats kind of insulting. I dont know if you mean it to be, but its an attack on our persons, and not a defense of your position.
    It also appears to assume that "religion" is the only thing we know, and perhaps the only thing we've experienced in our lives.
    I'm 42 years old and I did not become a Christian until I was 29. Prior to that my education was totally secular. So to say that my mind is fogged over by the cloud of religion is quite incorrect.

    Why am I not allowed to lump homosexuals in with liars, and thieves? I've not seen any evidence to show that homosexuality is anything other than a personal choice. If it is, please demonstrate why. As a personal choice, it can certainly be lumped in with lying, stealing, adultery, and numerous other behaviours which are opposed to, what I believe, the human being is "supposed" to be like.

    I am also wondering why you assume that I want to kill homosexuals... it appears you are categorising falsely once again.

    Recent blog post: Back Masking

  19. Marc,

    You can argue for the existance of your god as long as you like, doesn't make it true. QED.

    What, exactly, do you think this demonstrates -- except that you take a dim view of argument as a way to determine whether something exists or not?

    Nevertheless, as you've asked, though in disbelief, I will pray. However, I don't expect the prayer to be answered by a voice talking in your head, so don't misunderstand. I will pray that you will take a sufficient interest in the matter to move beyond the Earl Doherty level, that you will go back over the ground with the plowshare set deeper -- a process that might take a few years -- and that you will in the end find yourself convinced by the evidence that Christianity is true.

    Stranger things have happened. Christian deconverts have come back to reconsider and advocate the faith they left and even despised. Think of William Hone, Frederic Rowland Young, George Sexton, or Thomas Cooper.

  20. I have known Frank for over 10 years; I made contact with him when we discovered Politically Correct Death and I had just set up a University pro-life group.

    When we attended an LA pro-life conference some years back he was working at Trinity and we met him and Frankie and went out to dinner. It was a great evening.

    Matt saw him when he attended a Summit Ministries conference on Worldviews in Colorado a couple of years ago.

    He has posted on our various sites over the years and we have dialogued on and off. He has read bits of Matt's work and has offered considerable help towards Matt's pursuit of academic employment, even authoring a very good letter of reference.

    I have always found him hysterically funny and devastatingly brilliant. His jokes are often most un-PC which very much appeals to my sense of humour. That said he has not stopped by MandM for a while.

    Likewise I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying your contribution to the discussion here. We are seriously starved for people of the cultural nouse, theological knowledge and philosophical ability of yourself, Beckwith and others so when we encounter them we very much enjoy the experience.

  21. Excellent points Fletch. There have of course been Christians who have managed to offer some plausible and possible accounts as to what God's reasons might be to allow evil, you point to some, as does Bethyada. However, none of them resonate fully with me enough to say of them anything more than they might be possible.

    I maintain that the Christian does not need to offer a reason and if anything I lean towards the thought that attempts to provide reasons are not always strategically wise because they shift the burden of proof back onto the Christian.

    The sceptic likes to be able to hold the onus of proof over the Christian, demand that we prove everything we believe to their satisfaction and then label us stupid or irrational if we do not. At the same time the sceptic's challenge is often based on philosophical claims that the sceptic is unwilling to subject to the same degree of scepticism.

  22. Thankyou Scalia. However, I think I am more trying to show that philosophy is a discipline for everyone, that a lay person can obtain a good grasp of it, even a housewife like myself, than I am trying to open the can of worms you refer to.

  23. That's odd Matt, because I grew up a Christian, Mum and brother still are, but I was amazed at the wealth of information that explained the Bible in it's historical context.

    I am perfectly happy without a religion, as stated before I like the idea of reincarnation - although it too is fantasy material.

    I will leave you alone now. Theology and philosophical argument leaves me cold. I really prefer arrogantly poking fun at religion and superstition. There is no argument to convince me to change what I know.

    If I do have a miraculous conversion you will be the first to know.

    Good to see intelligent Christians. (as John Clesse would say, "should have them stuffed".



    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr - On Diabolical Mimicry

  24. Well I couldn't possibly take your word for it Tim. Imagine how the sceptics might attack me for relying on testimony without verifying it with empirical evidence; we will simply have to put your claim to the test and arrange for us to all be in the same room ;-)

  25. Madeleine,

    You sure know how to compliment a fellow!

    I agree with everything you've said about Frank. Incidentally, he swore off blogging for Lent, so for at least the past 40 days his silence hasn't been disinterest in your blog but just the fact that he's had to abide by his own pledge. He's back, however, at What's Wrong With the World, where he and my wife are co-bloggers.

    I agree with your assessment of the problem: if the Christians in NZ don't even know who William Lane Craig is ("Is he a good speaker?" -- forsooth!) then they are not in a position to produce people who can defend their faith with his enviable combination of passion and precision. This is a problem that has been with us for a very long time indeed. All I can say is that right now, you and Matt seem to be doing exactly what you ought to be. I'll pray that the right people will come to Thinking Matters meetings and that something special will be born (or reborn) as a result.

  26. If homosexual conduct is immoral then it is in the same category as lying and stealing. Only if you assume that it is not immoral is it then inappropriate to class it in this category. That is the point.

    When people argue for the permissibility of homosexual conduct on the assumption that homosexuals are not in this category they beg the question; that is, they assume what they are trying to prove. Backing up circular reasoning with insults against those who highlight this is not a rational response.

    Moreover, I again find your conclusions to be a little hysterical. Why does saying a particular type of conduct is wrong entail you want to have throw a party where you stone them to death. If a defender of homosexual conduct were to say he believes homophobia is wrong then does it follow that he wants to execute all homophobes? Funny how the bizarre logic is only applied one way.

    Oh and simply asserting Paul was a sexist will get you nowhere. There is a volume of literature on this topic by evangelical scholars. Nowhere does Paul state women cannot leave their home without getting their husbands permission. Madeleine leaves ours all the time without mine.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  27. Marc wrote: "Madeleine's a woman and I won't be addressing her, in respect for Christianity's position on that sex (ask St Paul)."

    Ok so you are not going to address me. So what's this then:

    "Do be careful though Madeleine, when your crowd are the minority you will have to seek Matts approval to leave the house."

    I could pull a Beckwith and ask how you know I am a
    woman and question what evidence you have beyond an internet resource, I mean, don't you know that the internet is full of unreliable information and people often create false identities on it? But as you are willing to believe that I am a woman on faith and take it on the basis of my testimony, I will instead only highlight your erroneous reading of Paul. (see I can do it to)

    As you have clearly read part of Paul that I have not, could you please cite the scripture that states that women should not be spoken to directly by men and also the scripture that states they cannot leave the house without their husband's permission?

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  28. Great post Madeleine.

    As a parent I also understand Fletch's comments above. There are times when I let my children fall, fail or struggle as we know the bigger picture.

    I have also been challenged as I have read the comments on your site over the last couple of days about the questions that different people ask Christians.
    The same questions they ask Christianity are also the same questions they need to ask of their own beliefs. (The same also goes te other way as well)

    Keep up the good work.

    Recent blog post: EARTHRACE - Visiting the boat.

  29. Madelaine

    Quick comment: 1 Corinthians 11

    3: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5: but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head -- it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6: For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. 7: For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

    St Paul "appears" to be a little misogynistic, but I'm sure you have a good explanation.

    The "leaving the house" refers to the time when the Muslims rule over our land, and they will eventually, because as we both know, most Christians are Sunday School Christians who won't stand up for their belief, whereas the Muslims will.

  30. "Do be careful though Madeleine, when your crowd are the minority you will have to seek Matts approval to leave the house".

    Referring to Muslim takover. It will happen, maybe not overnight but it will. Christians are too weak in their religion. The Muslims learn their ancient text word by word. How many suicide bombers does Christianity produce? None. They don't believe in the certainty of an afterlife as much as the Muslims.

    I know stoning is OT punishment but Christians have put many Homo's to death in the name of their God. Do I need references?

    Recent blog post: Justyn Martyr - On Diabolical Mimicry

  31. LOL! How else am I to make sure they keep coming back!

    We have had What's Wrong with the World blogrolled for some time and regularly read it and occasionally comment on it - we used to read Right Reason too.

    Thanks for your encouragement and prayers. The very fact that philosophers of the calibre of yourself, Beckwith, Pruss (trying to think of who else has posted here..) have actually come here and commented, I hope, highlights to the leadership of the aforementioned NZ Christian institutions (who for the most part have heard of Bill Craig *rolls eyes*) that they actually could bolster their philosophy programs if they just looked in the right direction... hint hint (if they are reading).

    You coming here not only has provided us with Easter entertainment and timely assistance with the likes of Marc, et al, and further evidence to our Christian readers that Matt, Beretta's Glenn and I are not freaks of nature, but you very well could be helping both us personally and the advancement of Christian Philosophy and Apologetics in New Zealand, simply by being seen here.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  32. Christians are too weak in their religion. The Muslims learn their ancient text word by word. How many suicide bombers does Christianity produce? None. They don't believe in the certainty of an afterlife as much as the Muslims.

    So you judge the seriousness of people about their religious beliefs by the number of suicide bombers they produce? Wow. Just ... wow.

    Christians have put many Homo's to death in the name of their God. Do I need references?

    It's a thought, since you don't seem to have them for any of the other charges you throw around. (Unsourced web allegations will be returned unclicked.) But it would be even more pertinent if you could point to anything in the New Testament that would condone this, much less enjoin it.

  33. You said that you would not speak to me because I was a woman, then when you spoke to me you cited Paul as an authority for this.

    When I asked you which part of Paul said this you cited a scripture that does not say that men cannot speak to women.

    You offered a text that talks about women dressing modestly, when they speak in church. Notice they are speaking. And the speaking is happening in church. And note who Paul is addressing this instruction to. Women. Paul, in this passage, where he allegedly condemns speaking to women, is speaking to women.

    Further, you are suggesting that this is misogynist. I fail to see how. This text tells women to be careful to not dress like slappers in Church. To suggest that a dress code is adhered to in a certain context is misogynist - could I turn up to my office job in a bikini? If you receive an invitation to a wedding and it says "black tie" do you find this emasculating? Some nightclubs will not admit men who try to enter wearing jeans is this some big conspiracy to place matriarchy as the dominant view in society?

    Some contexts require a standard of dress. So what? Reading more into it that is not there is foolish.

    Recent blog post: The Problem of Evil: Why does God Allow Suffering?

  34. @Marc You can argue for the existence of your god as long as you like, doesn't make it true. QED.

    And you can aver that there is no God, doesn't make it true. QED.

    At least the arguments have substance to them, you only have belief to fall back on to support your statement. /irony.

    Recent blog post: Fiji in crisis

  35. I was having you on a weeee bit when I said I wasn't going to I talk to you.

    Paul said, "the head of a woman is her husband", and rightly so.

    Are you going to argue that the Christian church has given any respect to women over it's 2000 year history, except May of course.

    No women clergy, few, if any, women saints (yes I know you are not Catholic but that was the Church for a long time) It still happens today to women trying to hold positions in a male dominated organisation.

    You have benefitted from the hard work of the womens liberation, not from any work of the Church.

  36. I doubt that it's in the NT but that doesn't stop Gods followers from intolerance.

  37. Marc said : Are you going to argue that the Christian church has given any respect to women over it's 2000 year history, except May* of course.

    No women clergy, few, if any, women saints (yes I know you are not Catholic but that was the Church for a long time) It still happens today to women trying to hold positions in a male dominated organisation.

    You have benefitted from the hard work of the womens liberation, not from any work of the Church.

    First, I presume that "May" is Mary, the Mother of God, who has the supreme position in the Roman Catholic Church of being honoured above all creatures.

    Second, Marc, you really need to get out more. To that end, here's a link to one of my posts on Authentic Feminism in History. My post will demonstrate to you that most of everything you think you know about the Church and Her influence on the lives on women over the centuries, is dead wrong.

    Women's liberation, on the other hand, is trying very hard to put women back where we were during Roman times, with our co-operation of course.

    Recent blog post: Fiji in crisis

  38. Lucyna, I grew up a Baptist and Mary meant nothing, other than Jesus's mother. The Catholics have elevated her to a status that she was never entitled to.

    Name one woman that holds a position of authority in the Catholic Church. Even the protestants allow women some degree of power - since women achieved rights less than 40 years ago.

    We are going to have to agree to disagree. If you think you have had fair treatment from the Church over the years then you have received what you deserve.

    I say the same about women in Islam. If they want to follow such a dumbass religion then don't come moaning to the media about honor killings. Toughen up.

    An alternate page for info is

  39. Paul said, "the head of a woman is her husband", and rightly so.

    Ok here you misrepresent Paul’s teaching note carefully what he says in context

    "I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife"(emphasis mine)

    Note here Paul draws an analogy: husbands are the head of their wives in the same way the Christ is the head of the Church. Paul makes the same point in his epistle to the Ephesians

    “For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior .”(emphasis mine)

    Now in Christian theology Christ is the head of the church because he humbled himself, made himself equal with humans, served them, suffered and died in order to bring about their flourishing and remained completely obedient to God in the process. He was exalted to the head of the church because he did these things. This is the model Paul proposes in this passage husbands have the position of leadership in the same way. This incidentally is clear from the context where Paul draws an application

    “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind--yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:24-29)

    Christ’s model was servant leadership. When looked at in its context and in terms of the theological basis upon which it is elaborated by Paul, the command for husbands to be the head of their wives, clearly does not mean they superior to women. It does not involve treating them as inferiors and with contempt. Rather, in context, it actually states that men should treat their wives as equals, and sacrifice their own selfish interests for the sake of their wives welfare out of love and devotion to them, in this context that Paul goes on to command women to submit to their husbands. The only reason why one can read Paul’s reference to “husbands being the head of their wives” as misogyny is because one has removed the words from their context and ignored the specific meaning Paul put on them.

    Are you going to argue that the Christian church has given any respect to women over it's 2000 year history, except May of course.

    Here again you have a caricatured view of Church history, in fact there are a good number of sociologists who argue that Church improved the role of women significantly over the 2000 years of its history especially if you consider the place of women in Greco-Roman society. Alvin Scmidt for example argues for this in his book Under the Influence . But to give you some examples from the Church’s 2000 year history here are just a handful of the top of my head.

    1 Female Infanticide: widely practised and accepted by Roman and Greek culture, the early Church polemicised and campaigned against it leading to laws outlawing it passed by Christian emperors. The Church also set up orphanages to look after abandoned children most of which were female.

    2. Widow burning: a common practise in India and some parts of pre-Christain Europe outlawed due to the efforts of missionaries

    3. Female education: records from the early church show that the church was one of the first institutions to set up schools for both sexes.

    4. Female foot binding: a common practise in china of breaking and crushing girls feet at birth was outlawed largely due to agitation by Christian missionaries.

    5.Pater familas: roman law allowed a husband to put any member of his family including his wife to death, this was outlawed by Christian emperors

    6. Spousal abuse: The Puritans condemned spousal abuse often preaching against it and excommunicating those who engaged in it.

    7. Women’s Suffrage: The first nation to give women the vote was New Zealand and this was due to lobbying by Presbyterian women in the Christian temperance union.

    8. Canon law: protected women from coercive marriages by making consent a necessary feature of a valid marriage.

    With a little bit of research I could find plenty of other examples. People who say the Church has done nothing for women in history do not know history.

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part IV

  40. Marc

    See the following quote from an interview with Rodney Stark a leading sociologist of religion about his book on the rise of Christianity, his book documents the details:

    You seem to argue that Christianity was an overwhelmingly good social force for women.

    RS: It was! Christian women had tremendous advantages compared to the woman next door, who was like them in every way except that she was a pagan. First, when did you get married? Most pagan girls were married off around age 11, before puberty, and they had nothing to say about it, and they got married to some 35-year-old guy. Christian women had plenty of say in the matter and tended to marry around age 18.

    Abortion was a huge killer of women in this period, but Christian women were spared that. And infanticide -- pagans killed little girls left and right. We've unearthed sewers clogged with the bones of newborn girls. But Christians prohibited this. Consequently, the sex ratio changed and Christians didn't have the enormous shortage of women that plagued the rest of the empire.

    What about in the Church itself? How did women find their place?

    RS: Women were leaders in the early Church. Paul makes that clear. And we have Pliny's letter in which he says that among the people he's tortured were two "deaconesses." We're not helped by Bible translations that render "deaconess" as "deacon's wife." I'm not saying the Church was ordaining women in those days. Of course it wasn't. But women were leaders, and probably a disproportionate number of the early Christians were women.

    Some of their husbands may have been there, but the wives were there. There's another thing we don't understand: In every single society of which we have any evidence at all, women are more religious than men. We're not sure why. But what that has meant is that religious movements are disproportionately female. That's certainly turned up in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when we have good numbers. People in the early Church remarked on it back then. The early church fathers noticed that the movement had more women

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part IV

  41. Marc, this thread is probably not the place to discuss it, but if it weren't for the influence of the Catholic Church over the years, women would still be seen as chattel or property...

    There is a good article about women in the Catholic Church HERE if you want to read it. Interestingly, the (female) writer points out that it was protestantism that lessened the role of women in the Church -


    The Catholic Church had for centuries developed women’s talents and skills and seen a sacramental meaning in the union of the two sexes. It took a more crude and rhetorical form of Christianity, the Protestant sola scriptura notion with its misunderstandings about Mary and abolition of the calendar of saints, to remake Christianity into something from which women could feel excluded. There had been more churches named after women than men, and the calendar had been crammed with female names. Now "Scripture alone" gave a bleaker message—and the rich Catholic understanding of the Church as Mother, and use of female imagery in referring to her, was gone too.


    Also, women in other Churches are ordained as ministers, NOT priests. This is a totally different thing.
    As MICHAEL J. TORTOLANI writes -

    Sacramental theology teaches that a grace-giving sacrament instituted by Christ must be carried out the way Christ intended it-this is considered "essential and normative" for the Church.

    Most Protestant churches have entirely rejected the sacramental system of Rome and the Eastern churches and, as a result, have rejected a sacrificing priesthood as well. Instead, they ordain "ministers," a role very different from that of priest. Ministers do not act in the person of Christ and make no claim to do so. Furthermore, not all Protestant churches ordain women.

    Recent blog post: Death Star Canteen

  42. Madeleine,

    This post reminded me of a beautiful passage in E. M. Blaiklock, Why I am Still a Christian (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), p. 17. As part of my ongoing crusade to make Blaiklock better known, I'll copy it out here:

    Does God answer prayer? Indeed He does: not, perhaps, always in accordance with the garbled specifications of the petitioner, but in fashions infinitely more subtle and wise. Does God guide? My day to day experience convinces me of such a partnership. I have seen pain and grief grow significant in His hands in such a fashion that I would not be without the experiences which made His wisdom manifest. It is not a contradiction, as shallow thinking asserts, to believe in a God who is both omnipotent and loving. Meaning must be measured over larger tracts of life and time than the eager atheist allows. Like an ant on the carpet, he sees the color under his tiny feet and denies the pattern. Life must be seen whole.

  43. Certainly within living memory. Mother Teresa, anyone?

  44. Madeleine,

    Carts to the library! A kindred spirit!

  45. Laidlaw's library is where I am headed so thanks for that.

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part I

  46. I so wish I was close enough to make use of that library.. I could use reading some Blocher and Ridderbos. I also miss all those Word commentaries.. I only have 2 :s

  47. Let us know what you find!

  48. No not her. Horrible, misguided woman. May have had good intentions regarding establishing her ministry and advancing the Catholic Church but I wouldn't hold her up as someone to be admired. She was only a nun anyway.

    Read a review of Chatterjee's book here

    Also Hitchens book :

    I know how much you all love Hitchens!

  49. I really prefer arrogantly poking fun at religion and superstition. There is no argument to convince me to change what I know.I find these two lines utterly believable.

  50. Only Nun?
    Only gave her life to helping less fortunate people?

    She's still only human, and no doubt made mistakes. She's no doubt done more to help people than all the posters on this forum combined. And THAT should make you think.

    Recent blog post: 9 Marks of a Healthy Church

  51. I find it interesting to see how the skeptics position keeps shifting.

    First, it was suggested the church gave no respect for women in its 2000 year history.

    Several people pointed out this was false.

    Then in response it was claimed that women were never in positions of authority.

    This was shown to be false.

    Then it was suggested none were in positions of authority in the last century.

    This was contested

    Now the claim is simply, one Nun is a horrible person. As though that somehow actually esthablished anything at all.

    The problem is no one was arguing that every nun in the world was a good person. It was claimed the church never respected women in any context, a fairly serious claim.

    Either defend this or retract your intial comment.

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part V

  52. Defend.

    The Church has given a "pitiful amount" of respect to women over the last 2000 years. Obviously "no respect at all" is a slight exageration.

    A sad little nun is not what I would call a position of authority.

    So the Catholics have 33 Doctors, of which 3 are women, whose role is nun or mystic. The remaining 30 are men in roles of Bishop and Pope. Yeah, that seems fair!

    If women are happy with their past treatment and current place in religious organisations then good for them. As I have previously said, you get what you deserve, and maybe you get a lot.

  53. If I'm not mistaken, "saint" is the highest honour the catholic church can bestow on someone.. Not even the Pope is guaranteed to become sainted. The "sad little nun" (which is extremely derogatory and insulting and totally uncalled for) is going to get the highest honour her church can give. That's respect...

    The catholic church isnt "the church" by the way.

    Thinking things through isnt your strong point is it?

    Recent blog post: 9 Marks of a Healthy Church

  54. The Church has given a "pitiful amount" of respect to women over the last 2000 years. Obviously "no respect at all" is a slight exageration.Well again I would be interested in your basis for this claim.

    I posted several examples in a previous post of far more than pitiful respect. I also refered you to the work of a sociologist who argued that Christianity improved the lot of women considerably.

    Moreover even if you could establish this claim, I am not sure what it proves, suppose Christians in history have done bad things. Does that entail theism is false? I could document numerous atrocities committed by atheists ( many of them far worse than anything done by Christians) does it follow atheism is false?

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part V

  55. Geoff, my point is that a few female saints is a pitiful attempt to show that women hold an equal place in society.

    Surely the teachings of Jesus, and the supposed kindness and caring of Christians would have given women an equal role. Why can't a woman be pope or a bishop, because of some non-sense that Paul espouses?

    Why hasn't God spoken to these poeple over the centuries to say, "treat women as equals in all areas of life"? We both know why. He speaks to no-one. Maybe another chance to chance to use the lines of Epicurus. Not able, not willing, non existant.

    "The catholic church isnt "the church" by the way."

    Of course it is Geoff, we both know that, anything else is a spin-off. (7th day adventists, mormons, c of e, jehovahs, etc)

  56. Matt

    I am not asserting that theism is false just because women were treated unfairly, I am just saying that I would have thought that a group such as Christians would have been the first to treat women as equals, same goes for homosexuals, heretics, etc. I don't expect that of non-believers because they do not receive any moral guidance from a higher power. What happened to the teaching of Jesus?

    I am sorry but I do expect Christians to behave in a manner that Jesus would have wanted. I expect the same of Buddhists, and generally find they are true to their beliefs. The same cannot be said for Muslims.

    Got this load of BS from

    "A few decades ago it was ok to criticize homosexuality as depraved and sinful, yet today ‘human rights’ and political correctness have largely extinguished our ability to critique and criticize homosexuality, leaving us with at least one group in society that are now beyond criticism."

    Maybe if you were a nicer, kinder, more caring group of people then I wouldn't have such distain for your religion.

  57. Marc, you are an idiot.

    The Church recognises thousands of Saints, many of whom are female. So your comments about a "few female saints" shows profound ignorance. Do a couple of Google searches on Catholic Female Saints to see what I mean.

    Doctors of the Church are a special category of Saint, and women are not excluded from that category. So, there aren't as many as men? Are women not equal in NZ because we've only had 2 female Prime Ministers? Is that what you are arguing?

    Now when it comes to being a Pope, of course a woman cannot be Pope. The prerequisite of being Pope is being a Priest, for starters. Priests can only be men. Being a Priest is not a position, it is an ontological reality, ie something a man can be changed into through the power of God. For His own reasons, God only wants male priests. But that is irrelevant when it comes to woman's equality. Women are not made equal by what we can do - we are made equal by who we are.

    In fact, it could be argued that women are superior to men, because we were made last in the order of creation. And we can bear children, something men cannot do. But I would not consider you beneath me because you have not created new life in your body.

    For someone that is seeking to make a point, all your leaping around as someone nails you on one thing to bringing up another shows an incredible unpreparedness for this conversation. Normally typical for those who rely on skeptics and atheist sites for their informatio on Christianity.

    Recent blog post: The French step up to the plate as the USA reenters the age of Carter

  58. Marc,

    It appears your error is thinking that making female saints is an attempt to show that the catholic church believes in male/female equality.

    The reason there is no woman pope or bishop is nothing to do with Jesus or Paul's teachings, but human error. In this case, the error is the (catholic) Churches tradition rather than biblical teaching. You must remember that since these traditions came into being, much information has come to light, and several hundred years of thinking has gone past. That doesnt let them off, but it does explain why.
    God has spoken to them, its clear enough to us today in the Bible. It wasnt so clear to them a thousand years ago.

    And no, the catholic church "today" is not the "church", its a part of the Church - which is - those who believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, who's life and death is fulfilment of the Scriptures, and through which salvation comes.

    Recent blog post: 9 Marks of a Healthy Church

  59. Madeleine,

    What luck searching for some of Blaiklock's work? Any successes?

  60. You make me chuckle Lucyna. You actually believe that God wants only male priests, why do you think that is? Perhaps because men wrote the Bible. In fact did any women even write any of the scriptures? Answer No. When Jesus chose desciples did he choose any women? Answer No.
    The Muslim God and Jewish God, assuming they are different, but that's another story, must also only want men. Perhaps because he likes men. Perhaps that explains his "apparent" hatred of Gays, wink, wink.

  61. Lucyna, To continue...

    Resorting to attacking me personally doesn't advance your cause, it bounces off me like Kryptonite off Superman.

    I have read that there are over 10,000 saints on one website. Perhaps you, if you are catholic, and Maria suggests you are, could educate me as to how many saints you do in fact have and how many are women, then I will be better informed for future discussions.

    It could be argued that women are inferior to men. Look at the punishment God gave you for eating the apple - pain in childbirth and a directive that your husband will rule over you. (NIV, Genesis 3:16-19) Rule over generally implies a superior position, no?

    I don't need atheist websites for information to deride Christianity, it is provided in the Bible and throughout Christian history. You should hang your head in shame at the atrocities carried out in the name of your God. No attrocities have been carried out in the name of my God because I don't have one.

  62. Marc, no, not because men wrote the Bible.

    When God entered physical reality, He was created as a man, not a woman. Everything He did was significant, even being male rather than female. Our Lord was our first Priest, and He passed that on to His Apostles. Who have passed the priesthood on throughout the ages.

    While as the most glorious human creature He ever created or will ever create was His mother, a woman. The New Eve and the Ark of the Covenant.

    If you were God, and you wanted to become human, wouldn't you create the most awesome, amazing perfect woman to be your mother - or would you just randomly pick the first girl that looked like she'd be up to the challenge?

    Think about that long and hard, before trying to second-guess the mind of God.

    Priests, following in the footsteps of Christ, are meant to be servants of God, not power-mad flunkies that hold all the authority to themselves, keeping women out because we are inferior.

    If you want to argue about Catholic matters, then I'd suggest doing a wee bit more reading.

    Here's a good place to start: Catholic AnswersSome theologians have even speculated that one reason for the reservation of priestly orders to males could be that men are typically worse people than women. Most murderers, rapists, thieves, and scoundrels of the highest order are men. It is, therefore, men and not women who are in particular need of models of self-sacrificial service and love. A priest is one who gives sacrifice, and the sacrifice is not only something he does but something he is:

    We who have received the sacrament of orders call ourselves "priests." The author does not recall any priest ever having said that "I was ordained a victim." And yet, was not Christ the Priest, a Victim? Did he not come to die? He did not offer a lamb, a bullock, or doves; he never offered anything except himself. "He gave himself up on our behalf, a sacrifice breathing out a fragrance as he offered it to God" (Eph. 5:2). . . . So we have a mutilated concept of our priesthood if we envisage it apart from making ourselves victims in the prolongation of his Incarnation (Fulton J. Sheen, The Priest Is Not His Own, McGraw-Hill, 2). The priesthood is misconstrued in terms of domination, power, and exultation; it is properly understood in terms of service, love, and sacrifice, and there are more than enough opportunities for both men and women to exercise these offices outside of the priesthood.
    Does the Catholic Church Hate Women?Recent blog post: The French step up to the plate as the USA reenters the age of Carter

  63. Yes. Laidlaw's library (which we live very close to) appeared to not have many of his works, a couple was all we could find and not all the titles you mentioned.

    However, Auckland University's online library database is showing many hits for Blaiklock Resources including Jesus Christ: Man or Myth?, Why I am still a Christian: an address to students at the University of Auckland, The Archaeology of the New Testament, and his commentary on Acts The Acts of the Apostles: an historical commentary.

    I have reserved them all online. I have to head to the Law Library to complete an assignment in the next few days so I will take the opportunity to have Matt drive me and carry the books home.

    Recent blog post: Half April HalfDone Stats: MandM 6th Most Read Blog in New Zealand

  64. Oh, most excellent! He actually has two works on Acts, but either one will do admirably. I love him for the grace of his writing -- he wears his erudition lightly. "Why I am Still a Christian" (his own contribution to the book by the same title, which collects essays by various academics) is truly a beautiful piece, crafted by a masterful hand.

    Incidentally, if you have (or could be induced to have) any interest in the history of historical apologetics, do ask me for reading suggestions. There is a massive amount of work now available online, and I have been culling the best items out of it for several years now. You can find an introductory bibliography here. If you want to know about more, just ask me, as I have about 30 gigs (not a typo) of this in electronic form, all of it copyright free, some of it not available online.

  65. Marc,

    The worst atrocities in history were carried out last century by Godless Communism. You may not be a Communist, but it seems that those who do not have a reference point back to God are far more likely to 1) see human lives as nothing, and 2) see nothing wrong with snuffing out the lives of those who are not useful.

    Be careful of the company you keep, Marc.

    Recent blog post: The French step up to the plate as the USA reenters the age of Carter

  66. You would think that Communist ideals such as social justice and minimum standards of living would have more in common with followers of Jesus than with Godless atheists. Sadly Christians seem more intent on supporting capitalism and supporting right wing agendas.

    You only have to look at the blog links and blog attitudes to see a strong correlation between Christianity and conservative right wing views.

    Do you think Jesus would have been a liberal or a conservative? Would he have stood for accumulating personal wealth or spreading it amongst the people, fairly. Remember he said that "it is easier to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven".

    Would Jesus have stood up for the poor, for women, for homosexuals, for the oppressed, for equality? We both know that he would.

    Christian groups support the right wing parties in America, they are Bush people. I can never understand why Christian groups love guns, war and hating those that oppose their views, especially in America.

    I am liberal in my views. I believe that people should be free to make thier own choices as long as they are not harming or interfreing with others. If you want an abortion that should be your choice, not the choice of a religious organisation. If you want to worship your God, that should be your choice but not in the public domain. Euthanasia - personal choice, drugs - personal choice.

    I can't imagine that anything I say will have any impact on you, and vis versa. I enjoy the company that I keep, thanks. We think for ourselves and want to see a society free of religious interference, one where the Pope's attitude towards condoms is given the condemnation it deserves.

    It's a big struggle but one worth persuing for the glory of mankind, not for the glory of God.


  67. Marc

    Once again you are showing the rational indefensibility of your position. You have in many places criticized belief in God because historically many people who held these views committed atrocities in devotion to them.

    Yet in this response who express sympathy with socialist ethical views, despite the fact that an even greater number of atrocities have been committed by people who held these views and in devotion to these views.

    That simply shows once again that your position is not rationally defensible.

    Recent blog post: The Foundations of the Alexandrian Argument against Feticide Part VI

  68. Matt

    Thanks for your time over the past few days. I have learned from the experience. You are well versed in apologetics and philosophical argument. I am not equipped to deal with this level of debate, and I haven't the time or desire to attempt the rebuttals necessary. (I haven't even fully listened or understood the Dennett debate)

    It is glaringly obvious that both Christians and atheists are rarely persauded to alter their position despite the best arguments put forward. You can never prove the exitence of God to me, and I have no way of disproving his existance to you.

    That said, I will continue to oppose religious interference in New Zealand public life whenever I can. I will fight Christian attempts to limit a womans right to have an abortion; the right to euthenasia; I will defend the homosexual community's right to be treated with dignity, despite my personal homophobia; will speak out against home schooling, religious schools, religion in public schools, violence against children (funny how Christians favour corporal punishment - never figured that one out), prayers in any public forum (including parliament), etc.

    You have been lead down a path to belive in the Christian God, a Muslim has followed a path to his God, same as all religious people. You don't have any choice either as you don't have any free will, that's right THERE IS NO FREE WILL, despite many philosophical arguments to the contrary. I am making a bold assertion but my path has lead me to that conclusion.

    Once again all the best. Thanks for not booting me off. Good luck in the blog ratings. Maybe one day, like Arnie, "I'll be back".



  69. Marc: "it bounces off me like Kryptonite off Superman."

    You do know what kryptonite does to Superman, right?

    Recent blog post: Naturalism and Purpose: Rumours of them being seen together are false

  70. Guest wrote: "I am always disturbed when a Christian can answer a question like The Problem of Evil, and yet not once mention Jesus, his death upon the cross, or his resurrection. Any starting point for answering this question, as a Christian, must start with Jesus Christ.Accepting some abstract picture of God as the philosophers define God (omni-everything and thats the end of the picture) and then arguing from first principles and ignoring God's own self revelation will never provide an answer to this question. If you want to give a CHRISTIAN answer to this question... don't forget to include Christ!"Actually I was not attempting to answer the problem of evil. My argument is that one does not need to answer the question "why does God allow evil" to be rationally justified in believing in God and the existence of evil.

    As to your other comments. First you state that Christ is the answer to the problem of evil. This is true or false depending on what you mean. Evil creates a whole raft of problems. There is the problem of how to cope with it, the problem of finding sense and meaning in it, the problem of how it is to be overcome, etc. I agree that Christ provides an answer to many of these problems. However, that was not the problem I was addressing. I was addressing the so called intellectual problem of evil and it is certainly not clear that Christ's death and Resurrection demonstrates that evil is not evidence against God's existence.

    Second, you refer to the God of the philosophers as abstract and as one where God is defined as omni-everything and that's the end of the picture. This is a caricature of contemporary Christian Philosophy; no Christian Philosopher thinks that this is all there is to God. Moreover, you don't refute a position by calling it abstract, the issue is not whether its abstract but whether it is true. Mathematics is abstract, it expresses truths. Further I don't know where anyone on this blog has "argued from first principles" (whatever that means) and ignored revelation. Trendy theological cliches are not really an argument.

    Recent blog post: Divine Commands and Intuitions: A Response to Ken Perrott

  71. I will be honest and say I do not know. Don't ask me and don't comment to me because no offense but I have heard and read more than the greater majority. I belive in something that is similar to a matrix. I know it sounds extreme, that is why it's only a theory. I know a lot about all the different theories of life and what's next. I don't belive anyone of you are wrong or right. It's nice to think that there is more to it all, but unfortunately I think that the fact that we were even made should be grand enough. I hold another theory that good can't exist without bad. I also hold a theory that bad can't exist without good. Ignorance is bliss. Now I don't want to say anything bad about: atheisim, bible, islam , nor anything else. I belive that people have will or at least are givin the idea that they do, but if I were God I would NEVER put people in a lake of fire for any reason because I made that person and I knew exactly what that person was going to do. I belive in something similar to string theory, but I call it wave theory. I will be honest that I do not like my theories, and I couldn't belive that everything was this simple at first. Still when it comes to theories the more simple the explanation the better. I know I am contradicting, but If you look at everything it all contradicts itself.


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