Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My conscience is my authority

Many, many people, in the face of tragedy have broken away from the religious creed of their childhood, rejected the God of the Bible and set a course for what they believe to be freedom.

One atheist titled his post a while back, “NO FUCKING MASTERS!!”

Lesser men, like the one just mentioned, when confronted by unexplainable and unwelcoming challenges in life conclude that they couldn’t do any worse on their own, and proclaim that every man is a law unto himself, i.e., his own inner consciousness is a sufficient law. Of course drawing a line from suffering to the perceived sabotaging nature of an objective moral code is a broken line at best. Nevertheless, our desires seek only for opportunity and suffering presents as good an excuse as any for those looking to seize control of their lives.

The passion to strive for something greater or to become someone greater is noble. Even those who want no masters look for someone upon whom to base or mimic their direction or goal. As so often happens, those people who sail without a rudder completely miss the point. The authority to be worthy of being followed or imitated arises out of the nature of a superior moral integrity. It’s no advantage to follow just anyone who happens to be higher up in the scale of power or popularity than ourselves.

Atheists will be happy, I think, to hear me say that it’s no different for the religious. Many Christians say that because God has said a thing, therefore it is authoritative. Most have heard of the annoying bumper sticker: “God said it, I believe it, That’s the end of it.” I’m sorry to anyone whose been confronted with such ignorance.

On the other hand, those who are in an intentional relationship with God are there because they wanted to know what kind of God it was who said this or that. Is He a Being whose character does not contradict the moral basis of life? Atheists conclude that, Yes He is. Many of us have reached a different conclusion. Authority, must be of a moral, not a superstitious character. For some it’s good enough to say, “Because God has said so that’s good enough for me.” Or, “Because the creed of my Church has said so therefore it must be blindly followed” To their credit, atheists have rebelled at such nonsense.

As Napoleon said of Jesus, “Other men exercised authority by coercive means. Jesus Christ never did. His authority was worthy. He proved himself worthy not only in the domain of God, which we do not know, but in the domain of man, which we do know; He is worthy there, consequently He prevails . . .”

The authority of Jesus is not the authority of autocracy or coercion, but the authority of worth, to which all that is worthy in man bows down. It is only the unworthy in a man that does not bow down to worthy authority.

14 comments:

The Atheist Missionary said...

Mak, where do you draw the line between "lesser men" (i.e. unbelievers) and those who only differ with you in relation to "disputable matters"? Romans 14:1(NIV) I don't see your preferred holy book as giving any useful guidance on this issue.

As far as the topic of your post is concerned, you can't have it both ways. Either something is moral because God says so or morality exists independent of Him. I suggest that it must be the latter (even if God were to exist) because otherwise God could proclaim that mass murder is ok. Of course, by reading the OT and viewing human history you could well argue that God loves mass murder (if He exists).

Makarios said...

I explained this in The Neophyte Asks. You are of course refering to Plato's Euthyphro dilemma. But that is not the case.

You're right in what God commands or permits IS good and what He forbids is wrong, bad, evil, self-destructive. Why? Because:

. Objective moral Goodness and Obligation are based on God’s character. Therefore, God’s commands are not arbitrary, for they are the inescapable expression of His Just and Loving nature.

. And, since our moral obligations are grounded in the Divine commands, moral values and duties do NOT exist independent of God.

This is what it means for morality to be objective vs. subjective, selective or relative to the situation. Morality is not based on the individual’s character or personality or level of empathy, or that person’s likes or dislikes, sanity or insanity. Nor is morality based on community standards. Community standards may or may not cohere with what is objectively morally right or wrong. The killing of 6,000,000 Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals was right by the community standards of Germany in the 1940's but it was objectively wrong. American Style Slavery was right by the community standards in the 19th century but it as objectively wrong.

Some might ask, “Why pick God’s nature as definitive of the Good?” That’s easy.

God, by definition, is the Greatest Conceivable Being. A Being which is the PARADIGM of goodness is greater than one which merely exemplifies goodness. Almost everyone recognises that for morals to be objective there must be some ultimate standard of value.

God is simply the least arbitrary stopping point.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Yeah ... but the problem is that it is still arbitrary. The concept of God is only absolute because you choose to believe that is so.

If you accept that moral values and duties do NOT exist independent of God you are stuck with the fact that it would be ok if he directed you to kill your firstborn. Ooops. Sorry Abraham .... I guess that is ok with you as long as you hear the voice of God telling you to do it.

Makarios said...

Yeah ... but the problem is that it is still arbitrary. The concept of God is only absolute because you choose to believe that is so."

If God is real, he’s real regardless of whether you or I believe Him to exist. The thing that Flute could not get is that objective morals, values and obligations exist regardless of whether we’re aware of them or not, regardless of whether we experience them or not. As well, just because we EXPERIENCE something objective, it does not then render that objective moral subjective.

When I asked her if my cleaning out her bank account would be objectively wrong, she said that it would be a subjective experience for her. It would not. What I did to her would be objectively wrong regardless of her perceptions. The Nazis thought killing millions of people was fine and dandy. It was objectively wrong. American slavery was thought to be a good thing, even by many Christians. It was objectively wrong.
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“If you accept that moral values and duties do NOT exist independent of God “

I do not believe that to be true. OBJECTIVE morals, values and duties do not exist independent of God but quite obviously anyone can come up with their own moral code of conduct. It might even agree on many point with God's objective moral code. The difference is, individual codes of conduct are thoughts, opinions, desires etc. Even if your whole family, or community or country believes this code to be correct, it does not, in and of itself, make it objectively correct. The buck does not stop with you, your family, community or country. Why? Because that kind of a moral code changes with time. The objective wrong of stealing remains wrong for all people, for all times and for all places.
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“you are stuck with the fact that it would be ok if he directed you to kill your firstborn. Ooops. Sorry Abraham .... I guess that is ok with you as long as you hear the voice of God telling you to do it.”

Abraham lived surrounded by a culture where child sacrifice was the norm. We who are Christians are constantly bombarded by the values of the culture in which we live. We are constantly evaluating and assessing what we are being told, especially as it challenges or contradicts the Bible cf. Adultery or Divorce or Homosexuality.

If you read the account, you will note that Abraham in no way believed that Isaac would die. He believed that he would return with the boy. This was no, “Ho hum, I’m off to kill my son today.” This would have been a big deal. To believe that God has said both do not murder, DO NOT sacrifice your children to gods, AND NOW go and do exactly that is not something that he would have taken lightly.

Bottom line, God DID NOT require Abraham to kill his son. This was an issue of faith and He would never do that again. Why? Because it wouldn’t make any sense in a culture or context such as ours.

The Atheist Missionary said...

What if you cleaned out her bank account and gave it to Oxfam?

You wrote: Abraham lived surrounded by a culture where child sacrifice was the norm. C'mon man, you are dodging the point. Please read Genesis 22 again in its entirety (I'm using the NIV). The bottom line is that if there is a God and that account is true, He is one sadomasochistic sicko.

Makarios said...

The bottom line is that if there is a God and that account is true, He is one sadomasochistic sicko."

If God had wanted him to go through with it, I'd agree.
TAM you need to put yourself into that context to understand this. You can’t compare 21st century America 4,000 BC Canan or where ever it was. This would be something like me believing that God told my wife and I to abort our next child. Or believing that God told us to divorce or believe that God was telling me to have an affair. It would make no sense BUT I’m positive that that is what God is telling me to do. The issue is one of obeying God.
Obviously whatever it was that Abe heard and how he heard it left no doubt in his mind that this was the real deal. The concept of, What were once vices are now habits, happens all the time. And the way that it happens is we become immune to the horror of that particular action or behaviour. Like the research company's finding showed, the public's attitude toward adultery, fifty years ago is the same as it is today toward adult/child sex. The only thing stopping paedophiles from going main-stream is our becoming accustomed to it, our knowing "good" people who enjoy it, our knowing rich and famous people who are into it, our having a family member who is into it. That's all that it takes.
Bottom line TAM is that God did NOT require Abe to sacrifice his son. God did not allow Abe to do what was the norm in his community at that time.
Atheists are forever making their case based on hypothetical scenarios, like what if Hitler asked for forgiveness and then saying, "What kind of a horrible God would forgive Hitler?" There is no evidence whatsoever that Hitler had any regrets for what he'd done. And I think atheists are going to be aghast at the punishment Hitler receives. Likewise, God did not require Abraham to sacrifice his son and to judge God based on the idea that if He had he be a horrible God is illogical and unreasonable.

Marcus Wellington said...

..."What kind of a horrible God would forgive Hitler?" Hitler's actions and OUR actions are all worthy of hell. I believe Hitler did believe and repent, after all he was a Christian. I don't see why he shouldn't be on his way to heaven on the day of judgment. ( A lot of athiests don't realize peopple don't go to heaven instantly - they sleep in their graves until the day of judgment and if they are cleaned by the Blood of Jesus they go heaven. )

JD Curtis said...

Hitler was no more of a Christian than my dog Waverly.

Flute said...

When I asked her if my cleaning out her bank account would be objectively wrong, she said that it would be a subjective experience for her.

That was not my answer. This is not the first time your memory has been faulty with regards to me. My answer was
"The subject is "wrong objectively" not "wrong"."

You have yet to show that morals are objective.

Objectivity ... a proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are "mind-independent"—that is, not the result of any judgments made by a conscious entity.

Makarios said...

Yes dear. And as I’ve already shown THAT can only happen if morals are a direct projection of Creator God’s character and NOT the result of any judgments made by a person, family, community or government. That kind of a moral code is subjective, selective, relative and subject to change based upon the whims of society.

Objective morals, values and obligations exist independent of what you or I think, exactly the same as the Laws of Logic and the Laws of Mathematics.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Mak, I still don't see what's necessarily immoral about cleaning out someone's bank account and giving it to Oxfam. Illegal perhaps ... but not immoral - even if Lordy Lordy says so.

Flute said...

Objective morals, values and obligations exist independent of what you or I think, exactly the same as the Laws of Logic and the Laws of Mathematics.

These "Laws" are descriptions. Not prescriptions.
And besides as Albert Einstein said: "as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

Makarios said...

These "Laws" are descriptions. Not prescriptions."

Ya? Try violating one and see what happens.

Glen20 said...

These "Laws" are descriptions. Not prescriptions."

Ya? Try violating one and see what happens.

Man, it's comments like this that show you really don't understand. It's like Ray Comfort saying when you step off a building you violate the law of gravity.

And, since our moral obligations are grounded in the Divine commands, moral values and duties do NOT exist independent of God.

I hope, no PRAY, that you finally discover what the word "objective" means and you stop misusing it.