TEST ALL THINGS; HOLD FAST TO THAT WHICH IS GOOD.
Poor form indeed to open with an admission of error, but here are a few words on my mistakes in the debate thus far, in the hope I can do better next time. I could not find a satisfactory structure online for conducting a written debate. I roughly made one up based on bits of stage debates and my own ideas. This structure has served well enough, but it would have been more beneficial to others who might want to use that structure if I’d filled it out more. Perhaps some other time I will write out in greater detail my idea of what an online debate should include. A few spelling errors crept into my work. I did try and exclude them, but there they are anyway. Next time I will try that tiny bit harder to root them out. I am content with the arguments I made, but I can think of one or two supporting links that would have made them stronger still. I have written notes to myself to remember to include those links if I take part in another debate. Fortunately I am infinitely infused with humility and a timid countenance on top of being inherently in the right. Therefore these trifling errors in no way detract from my sole claim to the champion’s belt in this debate.
AND ALSO THE STRENGTH OF ISRAEL WILL NOT LIE OR REPENT: FOR HE IS NOT A MAN, THAT HE SHOULD REPENT.
The 3M company has been making adhesive tape for a long time. Their tape has been used for many purposes, such as paint trimming. In 1925 a representative from 3M met with an automotive paint trimmer and asked how the tape might be improved. The painter said there wasn’t adhesive on the full surface of the tape. ‘Go back to your Scotch bosses and put on more adhesive’ the painter said, invoking the stereotype of Scottish people as thrifty to the point of miserliness. The executives at 3M were tickled by the racist slur and the name Scotch Tape has been used ever since. It’s remarkable what people will accept if it’s repeated often enough. And never so remarkable as in the case of religion. If the faithful make a truth-statement, it is a truth-statement because the faithful made it. Hey presto!
Free Northerner worships a True Scotsman in the sky. If God does something it’s good, begorrah, because God doesn’t do anything bad. And if something bad happens, it’s not God’s doing, saints be praised. Don’t you know, laddie, that it doesn’t matter how one worships the Great Fairy in the sky as long as one does so in exactly the right way.
AND FOR THIS CAUSE GOD SHALL SEND THEM STRONG DELUSION, THAT THEY SHOULD BELIEVE A LIE.
Free Northerner does note that figuring out how to worship God is both mandatory and impossible to explain.
Of course, any truth will be interpreted differently and incorrectly.
As one would expect there to be disagreement on canon as those who can only see the shadows may disagree.
We can’t know how to do it, but we better get it right the first time. The King of Kings wears no clothes and explaining religion is difficult because explaining isn’t something one does in religion. One believes. And if one belief gets in the way of another belief, you wave your hands around and hope nobody notices. God will tell some people lies but He isn’t a liar, God is merciful but He’s also just, no need to select one or the other when faith allows you to hold both at the same time and in the same way.
I don’t mind what’s on the mind of others. I don’t get overly worked up when people believe things I don’t, even if they believe them with vigor. I might enjoy poking holes in flawed arguments proposed out of that vigorous belief, but in no way do I want them to be forbidden from their sincere, traditional, vigorous and stoo-pit beliefs. I have my own, gentle reader.
Now if a person says their beliefs might lead them to killing people, I might in turn poke at them a little harder…
When a person confuses the concepts of belief and understanding, what is agreed upon is said to be true because it is agreed upon. This is when all sorts of rationalizations sprout to convey why the stated conclusions do not match the claims that build toward the stated conclusion. The old switcharoo, eh? I would bet my front teeth that I am far, far more familiar with the Bible than Free Northerner. The evidence for my Bible scholarship in this debate is that I have quoted the Bible more often, more completely, with more accurate and detailed citations than Free Northerner has done. His reply? I did it wrong, because I didn’t read the verses “in their immediate context and in the context of scripture as a whole.” He’s got me coming and going, since I can never be specific enough or general enough. When I quote a specific, I need to go general. When quote a few specifics to make a general statement, I need to go with some specifics but not others. Some Christians (and all Muslims) go one step further in saying what I really need to do is really read the magic spell books in their real original languages to really (really) really REALLY understand them. And by the way, if I don’t believe them I must not understand them, so keep reading until you belunderstand them.
How do you reply when someone contradicts himself from one sentence to the next? Is the Bible “not very explicit” or is the Bible “clear?” Do those who never heard of Jesus due to the circumstance of their birth deserve to go to Hell or not? Here’s Free Northerner:
As for those unreached by the Gospel, the Bible is mostly silent and not very explicit. The Bible is clear: Man is a sinner and damns himself to the punishment he rightly deserves.
Again, when you are talking about made up being who live in made up places then you can go ahead and keep making up what they can and can’t do, you don’t have to stop with the traditional stories. Unless you do.
Free Northerner: “Trevor then enters into Trinitarianism, where he argues that God does not exist because we can’t understand Him.” I do not claim that what we do not understand does not exist. I do claim that what we do not understand, we do not understand. There are some unkind words for those who talk authoritatively about that which they know not, but I’m not an unkind enough man to repeat those words. Instead, a suggestion from Ludwig Wittgenstein: “What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence.”
A few times Free Northerner does pass over in silence. “As for the prophecies of the end times, they only fail if you define such phrases ‘shortly’ and ‘at hand’ in a particular manner. Not dipping into eschatology here either.” Yes, when it comes down to Free Northerner telling us what it means to be a Christian… nope, not gonna do it. You just gotta believe. Believe what? You know, believe!
Free Northerner and I have a deeper disagreement than what it means to be a Christian. It’s a disagreement so deep that he cannot imagine that I’m not on his side.
Trevor then makes the common (among atheists) mistake of judging morality by his own human moral compass. By what right does he decide slavery is immoral? How can someone who believes man is literally the accidental arrangement of carbon, water, and electricity (to grossly oversimplify) by chaotic forces impute any moral value to the actions of said sacks of carbon?
Free Northerner believes in rights. Free Northerner believes in natural rights, natural laws, divine rights, all sorts of specters.
Even among those who may not have heard of Christ by name, if they seek Him and follow the natural law written in their heart, they will find Him.
Like all believers in natural rights and natural laws, Free Northerner holds that these phantoms are universal (but not universal) and known (but unknown). They are whatever they need to be.
Here Trevor once again condemns God as monstrous by his own standards of morality. Does not God have the right to harden the heart of His own creation when His own creation rejects Him? By what right does Trevor deny God this right?
Natural law is the card up the sleeve of every theologian and philosopher who wants to tell himself he wins without actually having to play.
As for babes, have they followed the natural law written into their own hearts, and is not God a God of mercy?
I didn’t believe in natural rights when I made this poster in 1986. I didn’t believe in natural rights when I wrote a review of L. A. Rollin’s book The Myth of Natural Rights in 2010. I didn’t believe in natural rights when I wrote about them in my book Confessions of a Failed Egoist in 2014. I didn’t believe in natural rights when I replied to a criticism by the Ludwig Von Mises institute of Canada, also in 2014. And today, right this moment, I don’t believe in natural rights. I believe men do what they do, then use rationality to rationalize what they did.
Free Northerner and I agree on what it means to be a Christian. We both say that being a Christian means whatever a Christian says it means. I have said so in my opening statement and in my follow-up, and Free Northerner says the same:
If Christ does not require specific theological knowledge and views to save, who am I to demand that a Christian hold to such particular views?
Free Northern says the specifics aren’t needed to be a Christian, only the basics do. Or does he mean that the basics aren’t needed, only the specifics? What are the basics and what are the specifics? Well, you know… whatever… Free Northerner had an unlimited word count and two previous posts to give us the answers. Christianity has had two thousand years. Both have failed us. From the beginning until today, to be a Christian means whatever a Christian says it means.
- Trevor Blake is the author of
Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays
(Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014)