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Monday, January 02, 2012

Mourning Christopher Hitchens, seeking Truth and Beauty

Lee Strobel said:  "It was the evidence from science and history that prompted me to abandon my atheism and become a Christian."

Mourning Christopher Hitchens

Plato warned us that a worldview that was naturalistic in nature would lead to brutish behavior. (see more on this farther down)  This is revealed in the attitude of many modern Darwinists.  Yet I do mourn the recent passing of Christopher Hitchens, whose dialogue with Douglas Wilson formed the basis for the Collision DVD that I have mentioned in posts previously.   While I was quite sure that Christopher Hitchens was wrong, I will say that I did not consider him to be brutish.  My hope was always that he would, like his brother, find faith in Christ.  We can be pretty certain that did not happen.  I refer you to Wilson's article which is found here.  It is quite obvious that Douglas Wilson was mourning the passing of a man who probably did NOT repent upon his death bed and in fact had warned people in advance that it was NOT something that he, Christopher, would do if he were in his right mind.   Christopher Hitchens was a contrarian who never followed for the sake of following and made up his mind after consideration rather than simply making knee-jerk assumptions. 

Christopher's brother Peter is actually a Christian author and speaker so he is mourning Christopher's passing and has written on the subject and I shall post this:

In Memoriam, my courageous brother Christopher, 1949-2011

By Peter Hitchens

How odd it is to hear of your own brother’s death on an early morning radio bulletin. How odd it is for a private loss to be a public event. 

I wouldn’t normally dream of writing about such a thing here, and I doubt if many people would expect me to. It is made even odder by the fact that I am a minor celebrity myself. And that the, ah, complex relationship between me and my brother has been public property.  

I have this morning turned down three invitations to talk on the radio about my brother. I had a powerful feeling that it would be wrong to do so, not immediately explicable but strong enough to persuade me to say a polite ‘no thank you’. 
Loss: Peter Hitchens, right, describes his relationship with his late brother Christopher, left, as 'complex' but adds the pair got on better in the last few months than they had in 50 years
Loss: Peter Hitchens, right, describes his relationship with his late brother Christopher, left, as 'complex' but adds the pair got on better in the last few months than they had in 50 years

And I have spent most of the day so far responding, with regrettable brevity, to the many kind and thoughtful expressions of sympathy that I have received, some from complete strangers.  

Many more such messages are arriving as comments here. My thanks for all of them. They are much appreciated not only by me but by my brother’s family.

Much of civilisation rests on the proper response to death, simple unalloyed kindness, the desire to show sympathy for irrecoverable loss, the understanding that a unique and irreplaceable something has been lost to us. If we ceased to care, we wouldn’t be properly human. 

So, odd as it would be if this were a wholly private matter, I think it would be strange if I did not post something here, partly to thank the many who have sent their kind wishes and expressed their sympathy, and partly to provide my first raw attempt at a eulogy for my closest living relative, someone who in many ways I have known better – and certainly longer - than anyone else alive.
Brotherly love: Peter, left, and Christopher, right, play in the sand during a holiday in Devon in the fifties
Brotherly love: Peter, left, and Christopher, right, play in the sand during a holiday in Devon in the fifties
And in Scotland in 1954: Peter says his brother was courageous, often standing up for him against school yard bullies
And in Scotland in 1954: Peter says his brother was courageous - a trait to be envious of

It is certainly raw. Last week I saw my brother for the last time in a fairly grim hospital room in Houston, Texas. He was in great pain, and suffering in several other ways I will not describe. But he was wholly conscious and in command of his wits, and able to speak clearly. 

We both knew it was the last time we would see each other, though being Englishmen of a certain generation, neither of us would have dreamed of actually saying so. We parted on good terms, though our conversation had been (as had our e-mail correspondence for some months) cautious and confined to subjects that would not easily lead to conflict. In this I think we were a little like chess-players, working out many possible moves in advance, neither of us wanting any more quarrels of any kind. 

At one stage – and I am so sad this never happened – he wrote to me saying he hoped for a ‘soft landing’ (code, I think for abandoning any further attempts to combat his disease) and to go home to his beautiful apartment in Washington DC.
Journey: Peter, right, says he is still baffled by how far he and his brother came from 'the small, quiet, shabby world of chilly, sombre rented houses and austere boarding schools'
Journey: Peter, right, says he is still baffled by how far he and his brother came from 'the small, quiet, shabby world of chilly, sombre rented houses and austere boarding schools'

There, he suggested, we could go through his bookshelves, as there were some books and other possessions he wanted me to have. I couldn’t have cared less about these things, but I had greatly hoped to have that conversation, which would have been a particularly good way of saying farewell. 

But alas, it never happened. He never went home and now never will. Never, there it is, that inflexible word that trails close behind that other non-negotiable syllable, death. Even so, we did what we could in Houston, as the doctors, the nurses, the cleaners, and who knows who else, bustled in and out.

I forgot, till I left, that I was wearing a ludicrous surgical mask and gown, and surgical gloves (I am still not sure whose benefit this was for, but it was obligatory) all the time I was sitting there, and – this is extraordinary – time seemed to me to pass incredibly swiftly in that room. I was shocked when the moment came to leave for the airport, that it had come so soon.
Early days: Christopher stands outside the offices of the New Statesman where he developed a fierce reputation as a left-wing writer in the 1970s
Early days: Christopher stands outside the offices of the New Statesman where he developed a fierce reputation as a left-wing writer in the 1970s
Changing camps: Christopher, right, with former British prime minister Tony Blair in Toronto last year, supported the Iraq war, much to the shock of his left-wing political friends
Changing camps: Christopher, right, with former British prime minister Tony Blair in Toronto last year, supported the Iraq war, much to the shock of his left-wing political friends 

Here’s a thing I will say now without hesitation, unqualified and important. The one word that comes to mind when I think of my brother is ‘courage’. By this I don’t mean the lack of fear which some people have, which enables them to do very dangerous or frightening things because they have no idea what it is to be afraid. I mean a courage which overcomes real fear, while actually experiencing it.  

I don’t have much of this myself, so I recognise it (and envy it) in others. I have a memory which I cannot place precisely in time, of the two of us scrambling on a high rooftop, the sort of crazy escapade that boys of our generation still went on, where we should not have been.

A moment came when, unable to climb back over the steep slates, the only way down was to jump over a high gap on to a narrow ledge. I couldn’t do it. He used his own courage (the real thing can always communicate itself to others) to show me, and persuade me, that I could.

I’d add here that he was for a while an enthusiastic rock climber, something I could never do, and something which people who have come to know him recently would not be likely to guess. 
Talking heads: Peter, right, wishes to thank the many who have sent their kind wishes and expressed their sympathy for him and his family
Talking heads: Peter, right, wishes to thank the many who have sent their kind wishes and expressed their sympathy for him and his family

He would always rather fight than give way, not for its own sake but because it came naturally to him. Like me, he was small for his age during his entire childhood and I have another memory of him, white-faced, slight and thin as we all were in those more austere times, furious, standing up to some bully or other in the playground of a school we attended at the same time.

This explains plenty. I offer it because the word ‘courage’ is often misused today. People sometimes tell me that I have been ‘courageous’ to say something moderately controversial in a public place. Not a bit of it. This is not courage. Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to. 

My brother possessed this virtue to the very end, and if I often disagreed with the purposes for which he used it, I never doubted the quality or ceased to admire it. I’ve mentioned here before C.S.Lewis’s statement that courage is the supreme virtue, making all the others possible. It should be praised and celebrated, and is the thing I‘d most wish to remember.  

We got on surprisingly well in the past few months, better than for about 50 years as it happens. At such times one tends to remember childhood more clearly than at others, though I have always had a remarkably clear memory of much of mine. I am still baffled by how far we both came, in our different ways, from the small, quiet, shabby world of chilly, sombre rented houses and austere boarding schools, of battered and declining naval seaports, not specially cultured, not book-lined or literary or showy but plain, dutiful and unassuming, we took the courses we did.  

Two pieces of verse come to mind, one from Hilaire Belloc’s ’Dedicatory Ode’ 

‘From quiet homes and first beginnings, out to the undiscovered ends, there’s nothing worth the wear of winning but laughter and the love of friends’

I have always found this passage unexpectedly moving because of something that lies beneath the words, good and largely true though they are. When I hear it, I see in my mind’s eye a narrow, half-lit entrance hall with a slowly-ticking clock in it, and a half-open door beyond which somebody is waiting for news of a child who long ago left home.

And T.S.Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’ (one of the Four Quartets)

‘We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time’

These words I love because I have found them to be increasingly and powerfully true. In my beginning, as Eliot wrote elsewhere in the Quartets, is my end. Alpha et Omega. 


I cannot rejoice over the death of this man.   Some have declared that "Christopher Hitchens is now a Creationist" which, of course, is according to my understanding of life after death actually true.   But that is not the attitude that is to be encouraged.   It certainly is NOT the attitude of God. 


John 5:39-40 - English Standard Version (ESV) 


"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."

2 Peter 3:9 - English Standard Version (ESV)

"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." 

John 14:6 - English Standard Version (ESV)


"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Salvation is free but it is not cheap.   The price was paid by Jesus Christ.   The decision to accept salvation is up to you.  Many Darwinists seem to consider this as a ridiculous concept, and yet they themselves adhere to miraculous events without a source.   Christians know that the existence of all things is a miraculous creation of God.  Darwinists conclude it is a miraculous series of statistically and scientifically impossible events that have no source but random chance.   I invite you to think about which is more logical and, furthermore, which is more wonderful?   

Truth and Beauty!   

I have been so far away from civilization that I could look up at the clear night sky unhindered by any artificial lights of man.   A clear night is lit by uncountable stars and the beauty and wonder that fills my soul when I am able to see this sight was part of the process which brought me to a belief in the Creator God.   The Christian sees the Universe and all that is within it as a marvelous and wonderful creation of God, one which is now slowly decaying from the effects of time and sin and mutation, yet still wondrous in and of itself. 

There was a night in September of 1973 when I was made aware quite clearly that there was such a thing as the supernatural.   Without going into detail, that understanding caused me to pursue witchcraft and demon worship and meditation and psychedelic drugs and anything and everything EXCEPT GOD to find some kind of supernatural power within myself or within the Universe that could be tapped for my use.  After years of trying and studying every conceivable philosophy and religion other than Christianity, I gave up and decided to just please myself.  It was right about then that God sent a messenger to me in the form of one Charles R. Wood, pastor and author and on this particular night a courageous evangelist.   March 13th of 1978, if I have my dates right, was the evening when I suddenly believed that Jesus Christ really was the Savior and I immediately wanted this Truth in my life.   I wanted to know Truth and I wanted to understand what meaning life might have.   It was philosophically unacceptable to me that life would be meaningless.   At last I did find meaning.   Having come to know Truth, I have been able to appreciated the Beauty and Wonder of God and the magnificence of His creation.  It may be running downhill but it remains wondrous and beautiful even today.

One of my commenters accused me of becoming a Christian because I feared Hell.   The truth?  Pastor Wood did not even mention Hell to me on that night (as far as I remember) and I was not likely to have believed in the idea at that time, anyway.   He recognized that I was a seeker of truth and he used the Bible to present truth to me in a positive way, that God was the God of all and that Jesus was the Door through which one would come to know God.   So Jon Woolf's charge was completely false.  Yet that was not an acceptable answer to him, so he then answered.   I will repeat the dialogue below:

I said -"Jon Woolf said...
"You are the one who throws evidence and proven laws away to hope against hope that there is no God and you'll slide by."

Actually, on that count I'm a more honest man than you are, Radar. You hold to your beliefs out of a craven fear of punishment and hope for reward. I hold to mine because I honestly believe they're correct."

No, Jon, that was a crass thing to say and entirely inaccurate as well. I had no fear of Hell when I became a Christian and in fact was unsure if Hell existed. Also, I never saw much value in piling up "rewards" because the only reward that means much to me is to see God face to face and hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." So you could not be more wrong.

If you are even as honest as me you would be reviewing your belief system after I have shot it so thoroughly full of holes, but you do not go there. You are willing to say it might all be a joke? Truth is a joke? Fine. You be the Joker and I will be Batman.

So then Jon Woolf replied:

Jon Woolf said...
"If you are even as honest as me you would be reviewing your belief system after I have shot it so thoroughly full of holes," False premise. My belief system stands. It's yours that has been shot as full of holes as Ike Clanton and his pals at the OK Corral. "I had no fear of Hell when I became a Christian" So? I didn't say you became a Christian out of fear. I said you now stay a Christian out of fear ... because fear is, after all, the primary motivating factor that the god of Abraham uses on those he cynically calls his "children."
Jon Woolf has a very brutish and crass idea of Christianity.   After all this time he has absolutely no concept of how Christians think at all.   I NEVER even think about the possibility of me winding up in Hell.  Early in my new life as a Christian I saw that Hell was taught as the last dwelling place of Satan, his demons and all unbelievers and I did not like the concept.   I studied the scriptures to be sure that I understood my relationship with God so that it was clear to my mind just exactly what Salvation was and what it meant and how God accomplished it.   

Salvation is complex.  God needed to satisfy His own law because God is Just.   God needed to be a Just Judge and therefore all who fall short of the law must either pay the price for that failure or allow another to pay the price, but the breaking of the law requires justice.   As the Book of Romans tells us and a knowledge of the five books of the law will confirm, God counted faith as righteousness for Abraham and his descendents and then established a series of sacrifices along with the Mosaic Law that was presented to the Children of Abraham, the Jews, to which they agreed.   Faith was always the key to having a relationship with God from the moment that Adam and Eve sinned until now.  God counted faith as earning righteousness in advance of the Cross before Christ died, He accepted the sacrifices of His people under the Law before the Cross and then Jesus came to live and die and rise again.

Jesus Christ came to establish His personal righteousness in that He did everything He was supposed to do and never did anything He was not supposed to do.   Therefore Jesus did not have to pay for His own sins, as He did not sin nor did he have to atone for having failed to do good, because He always did the will of His Father.  As a man He could be the Second Adam, atoning for the sins that began with Adam and have continued in all men and women since.   As the Son of God He could be strong enough to endure the weight of all the combined sins of all mankind past, present and future and as our Messiah He was willing to endure the hated sins and even separation from God the Father and Spirit for the sake of mankind at the moment He became sin for us.   Having endured torture and mocking and the shame and curse of being hung from a cross and having taken sin upon Himself and gone into death as a man, Jesus Christ could then take back life and reclaim His rightful place as Son of God and Lord over all creation.   Jesus Christ came back and showed Himself in His glorified body to several groups of people so that all of his disciples and followers could see and understand and have faith in His Sacrifice, His Atonement and His Salvation.   He then returned to Heaven to take His throne as Lord of all and sent the Holy Spirit to live within all who would believe and receive His Gift.  Being born again is not a phrase, it is a reality.  

When I trusted Christ as Savior I repented of my sins and accepted that He was rightfully Lord over all.   At that moment my dead spirit was reborn and I became a child of God.  Before I was a creation of God but not yet His child.  I am now part of His family and an heir to all that He will bequeath to me, which is relationship with Him while on Earth in this life and eternal life with Him forever once this finite body dies.  I do not ever fear Hell and neither do I think that my actions can ever sever the connection between me and my God.   Jesus used the phrase, "born again" because He wanted both Nicodemus (to whom Jesus was speaking when John recorded the conversation for posterity in the Gospel of John) and all Christians to understand that becoming a Christian is a permanent change.   No one can be unborn.   I do not depend on my actions to justify me before God, I depend upon the Atonement and Justification of Christ for that.  Since Christ's Salvation is forever and even beyond forever (since God invented time) I do not fear God in the sense of terror.   I love God as my Lord, my constant Companion, my Friend, my Guide and my source of Peace and Strength.  I "fear God" in that I revere and respect God as Almighty and Transcendent who is Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent.   I am in awe of God when I view the Universe or the tiniest organism and see the design of a Mind far superior to mine.

Reading Romans from chapter three to the end of chapter eight the Christian clearly sees that God has nothing but Grace for us and that Jesus has paid every price.   I will give you a couple of examples:

Romans 3:21-30 - English Standard Version (ESV)

The Righteousness of God Through Faith
"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
  Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.  Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,  since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith."

Romans 5:1 - English Standard Version (ESV)

Peace with God Through Faith
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Romans 8:1 - English Standard Version (ESV)

Life in the Spirit
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Look, guys, if you know Greek or Norse Mythology and then compare it to genealogical charts it is obvious that some cultures turned ancestor worship into something bigger and more complex but it was still nothing more than making your ancestors into little "g" gods with human flaws and therefore no comparison to God at all.   Even many of the great Greek philosophers understood that the concept of "GOD" was superior to either following a pantheon of so-called gods or, even worse, naturalistic materialism.   To Plato and his followers, being a naturalistic materialist was a crass and brutish way to perceive the world.  I agree.

From  my post of December 1st, 2010

Included in that post was a review of Science's Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism by Cornelius G. Hunter

"...Presuppositions and axioms: are Christians rationalists?

‘Moderate empiricism’ is a philosophically and theologically ‘loaded’ issue. A Christian should not embrace Hunter’s position carelessly. It follows, to some extent, Bacon’s na├»ve idea that religion should not precondition results, and that science could not speak to religion. This is a position that has been thoroughly discredited by history: either a theologically-informed science will operate, or an anti-theological science develops.7 This in itself should be a warning signal.

Painting from
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, the champion of empiricism, emerges as the hero of the Intelligent Design book, Science’s Blind Spot

In considering Hunter’s ‘moderate empiricism’, some hard questions need to be faced. Is it possible to put aside all preconceptions? If so, does that mean that, for the sake of science, the Christian must treat God and Scripture as only one possibility among many, giving up his conviction in the reality of God and veracity of Scripture when dealing with scientific issues? If the answer is yes, is this morally acceptable? In short, the Christian is committed to belief in the existence of a Creator God and the veracity of his revelation in Scripture. But this appears to place the Christian on the side of rationalism, prejudging the issues before empirical investigation. To become empirical seems to require the Christian to exchange his principles for uncertainty.

In response, we will take for granted the position of orthodox Christianity that the Christian does have a duty to acknowledge God in every sphere of life, and should not partition his thought life between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’. But this does not turn us into ‘rationalists’.

In evaluating ‘moderate empiricism’, we should recognize that it is impossible to actually abandon all presuppositions in favour of completely open possibility—impossible to do that and still live with the results, that is. For instance, suppose one gave up the presupposition of regularity in the universe. There would then be no reason to suppose that the experiment you did yesterday would turn out the same today, or that the sun would rise again. All prediction would be destroyed. The fact of the matter is that a host of presuppositions is required to even carry on a rational conversation: presuppositions about the nature of logic, about the existence of other minds, and about the regularity of nature, to name a few. Hunter could never advocate an abandonment of all presuppositions.

So how do we distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate constructs ‘imposed’ on science? This subject needs to be handled carefully, for both empiricist and rationalist positions are problematic. In walking a fine line between extremes, a very helpful distinction could be made between rationalistic ‘axioms’, and ‘presuppositions’ necessary for all reasoning, including science itself.

An ‘axiom’ is the term Hunter uses for the rationalistic propositions or premises assumed a priori to be true and then used as the filter for determining the truthfulness of other investigations. But in contrast, we can call the Christian’s pre-theoretical commitment to the existence of a Triune Creator God and to Scripture a ‘presupposition’.

The fact of the matter is that a host of presuppositions is required to even carry on a rational conversation: presuppositions about the nature of logic, about the existence of other minds, and about the regularity of nature, to name a few.

The crucial difference is that presuppositions are always non-optional. All reasoning either presupposes the existence or non-existence of God, and on this all-important point there can be no neutral ground. Every act of reasoning is therefore taking sides based upon either recognition or non-recognition of God. There is no option to ‘do away’ with presuppositions. Christian presuppositions, then, cannot be eliminated in response to the empiricist’s call for neutrality, for on these fundamental issues, there is no neutrality."


So I do assert that we can learn from Intelligent Design but we must not fall prey to Theistic Evolution or in any way yield ground to naturalistic materialists.  Enter Plato for the finishing thought via the blog post listed and attributed below:

Plato’s warning (360 BC . . . yes, 2,350 years ago) on the inherent amorality, nihilism and ruthless factionalism rooted in evolutionary materialism

The worldview commonly described at UD as “Evolutionary Materialism” — roughly: the view that our cosmos from hydrogen to humans must be explained “scientifically” on matter and energy in space and time, evolving by forces of chance and necessity –  is nothing new. For, 2,350 years ago, Plato described it as a popular philosophy among those who saw themselves as the cutting edge elite in his day.

As he said in the voice of The Athenian Stranger in his dialogue, The Laws, Bk X:

[[The avant-garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . .

He also saw the consequences of this thinking, and therefore warned in no uncertain terms:

[[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here],  these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . .

This is exactly what we are seeing in our time: evolutionary materialism promoting radical relativistic amorality, manipulation of the balance of public views, ruthless factions that use amoral “might makes right” tactics, and a rising tide of abuse of those who dare to differ.  As, of course, the author of this post is currently experiencing through an episode of cyberstalking.

(SIDEBAR: I will not bother to share the current contents of my comments inbox, save to say that they are on the dossier on aggravating circumstances, and that they are foul, sadly reflective of unhinged, en-darkened minds joined to benumbed consciences that imagine that those who differ with them “must” be ignorant, stupid, insane and/or wicked, so they are free to slander as they please — as long as they think they can “get away” with it — in the teeth of libel law, and to threaten in the teeth of cyberstalking laws. They do not understand or care about the difference between liberty and destructive license,  and do not shun to boast of their shameful resort to the mafioso threat: we know you, where you are and where those you care for are. Worse, in my scan of the fever-swamps that are egging these on, I found but few voices of reason or conscience that cautioned: you are going too far, stop. I do thank those few who have tried to speak up for decency. But, the balance of the attitudes expressed is all too revealing about the force of Plato’s warning on what is liable to happen if such en-darkened, benumbed factions seize power. A point echoed by 100 million ghosts of victims of atheistical regimes over the past 100 years. We can hardly say that we have not been warned, or that we do not have historical exemplars to guide us. And, TWT, a word to you:  if you choose to publicly reveal your ignorance of the democides of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and all too many more, that simply reveals more about what  you really are. Wake up, man! You plainly do not understand the matches you are trifling with.)

Now, the root of this problem of amorality is the IS-OUGHT gap often thought to have been definitively discussed by Hume in his “guillotine” argument:

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. [A Treatise of Human Nature. London: John Noon. p. 469.]

That pretended “surprise” is inadvertently revealing, on many levels. Arthur Holmes therefore aptly retorts, echoing Elizabeth Anscombe:

However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .
R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .
Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . [Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1984), pp. 70 – 72.]

The relevance of this comes out as soon as we consider the concept that we have rights; binding moral expectations that others should respect us as holding an innate, inalienable dignity:

If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly.  Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights.[p. 81.]

But, why should we consider that people have rights at all? The only enduring answer to this has been aptly summarised in the US Declaration of Independence of 1776, the 235th anniversary of which was celebrated just yesterday:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .”

Or, digging in deeper, to the roots of this thought, we can trace how John Locke in Ch 2 Sect, 5 of his Second Treatise on Civil Government, cited “the judicious [Richard] Hooker” in the classic (but now largely neglected) 1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.

In short, the is-ought gap of ethics points to the question that rights and correlative duties arise from our being equally valuable as creatures of God. But such claims often do not sit well with modern or post-modern people, who wish to reject the moral argument to God.

But, as we look on and see the consequence s of that rejection, we can begin to ever more deeply appreciate the wisdom of the founders of modern liberty and democracy who grounded liberty in the premise of the inherently good Creator God, who made us all equally in his image and placed us under the moral government of the Golden Rule.

(F/N: If you imagine that the Euthyphro dilemma, so-called, drags such general theism anchored in an inherently good Creator God down into the same muck of amorality as materialism, I suggest you rethink in light of here and the onward linked.  [Note, this will still hold if God created by means of directing the course of nature over the 13.7 BY often said to have obtained for our observed cosmos, so please save your favourite anti Young Earth Creationism talking points, strawmen and red herrings for another venue, and as this is a worldview level philosophical -- primarily ethical -- discussion relevant to the design vs materialism  issue, kindly put away your "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo" talking points as well.])

In case you think I exaggerate the problem, let us hear prof William Provine of Cornell, in his now notorious 1998 Darwin Day address at the University of Tennessee, his home state:

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them . . .

This, plainly, speaks for itself, once we bear Plato’s grim warning and the moans of 100 million ghosts from the century just past in mind.

All I will add is that if we have no freedom of will, that necessarily includes no freedom to think, know and reason for ourselves, i.e. Provine here inadvertently underscores the self-referentially absurd and irrational nature of evolutionary materialism.  (And that means the attempted defence of the denial of significant freedom of the will Provine went on to put forward, collapses.)

Haldane, by the early 1930′s, knew better:

“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” [["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

And, Will Hawthorne administers the coup de grace:

Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces].  (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)
Given our se

cond assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

Given what has been going on over the past few days and weeks, the usual talking points on how atheists can be “good without god,” are pointless; for we can see for ourselves how they are plainly paralysed in the teeth of Internet thuggery by their fellow atheists, how they have no firm anchor for principles of thought and action that should tell them where to draw firm lines and stand by them.

We have been warned. So, now, let us heed the warnings from Plato to Hawthorne.  



End?  In this life, you will not meet your end until you have expelled your last breath and your heart has made the last beat.   Then, while your moral body will begin to immediately begin to decay and your soul will no longer have a home it is your eternal spirit that will have left existence and enter into the rest of eternity.   By definition, eternity has no end.   Some of you are betting on no eternal spirit, no existence after life, no sense or reason for living and even no free will at all.   Those who take Darwinism to the logical conclusion must have much trouble finding joy in life.   There is only pleasure or pain or boredom or interest, there is no Truth and no Beauty and no Wonder at the Eternal and Almighty God.   I mourn for Christopher Hitchens and send condolences to his family and friends.   Please do not follow Christopher into death believing in a 19th Century myth!  Please at the very least look into the idea of Jesus Christ, as Lee Strobel did as an investigative journalist.   He began his look at God as an unbelieving naturalist and a cynical one at thatHaving begun the post with a Strobel quote, I will end with one:

"In short, I didn't become a Christian because God promised I would have an even happier life than I had as an atheist. He never promised any such thing. Indeed, following him would inevitably bring divine demotions in the eyes of the world. Rather, I became a Christian because the evidence was so compelling that Jesus really is the one-and-only Son of God who proved his divinity by rising from the dead. That meant following him was the most rational and logical step I could possibly take." - Lee Strobel