Tuesday, August 04, 2020

What to do if your cat gets diabetes

First of all, I'm not a vet. I'm just a guy who loves his cat. My cat was diagnosed with diabetes two or three months ago, and since then I've learned a ton, and I thought I'd condense a lot of the most important stuff to a little post in hopes that it will help somebody.

First of all, let me share a bit of good news. Feline diabetes is reversible. You can actually fix your cat's diabetes and take them off of insulin altogether. Read on.

How do you know your cat has diabetes?

The three most obvious signs are (1) your cat starts drinking a lot of water. Sometimes they hover near their water bowl a lot. (2) Your cat pees a lot. He's peeing not only because he's drinking a lot of water but also because that's his body's way of getting rid of excess glucose which he has an excess of because he doesn't have enough insulin to process that glucose. (3) Your cat has developed neorpathy. Neorpathy is damage to the nerve fibers in your cat's legs. It causes them to be weak in the legs, to wobble when they walk, or to sit or stand on their honches. With most cats, this happens in the back legs, but with mine it was all his legs.

If your cat has any of these symptoms or if things just don't seem right, take him to the vet. The vet will diagnose your cat.

How did your cat get to be this way?

Probably because you've been feeding him dry cat food his whole life. It turns out that dry cat food is really bad for your cat. It has way too many carbohydrates, and not near enough moisture, both of which are really bad for the pancreas and the kidneys.

What should you do now

Your vet will probably prescribe insulin to your cat. My vet had me buy insulin and syringes at WalMart pharmacy because it's inexpensive. There are different kinds of insulin and different kinds of syringes. I didn't know anything when I went to Walmart. They just gave me insulin and asked me what size syringes I needed. I said, "I don't know. The smallest ones you have. It's for a cat."

But the reaity is that there are U100 syringes and U40 syringes, and they are supposed to corresponds to the insulin concentration in the insulin that you buy. If you buy U100 insulin, you need to use U100 syringes. Thankfully, even though I didn't know this at the time, Walmart gave me the right syringes to go with my insulin. There's more information about insulin and syringes here.

Your vet will likely start you off on 1 unit of insulin, then ask you to come back in a week or two to do a glucose curve. The reason they start you off on 1 unit of insulin is because it's more dangerous for a cat to have low blood sugar than it is to have high blood sugar. So you have to start off on a low dose, then do a glucose curve after a week or two to see how the cat is doing. After that, you can adjust the dose accordingly.

When you take your cat back for a glucose curve, you're suppose to feed them and give them an insulin shot, then leave them at the vet all day. The vet will take a glucose reading once every two hours or so, then draw up a curve, interpret the curve, then recommend what you should do in terms of insulin. If you have a good vet, they'll also recommend you get your cat off dry cat food.

Unless you are unable for whatever reason, I recommend doing your own glucose curves. One reason is because taking your cat to the vet and leaving him there all day is emotionally traumatic. That stress will cause your cat's glucose levels to rise giving your vet a false high reading. And you'll feel guilty. A second reason is because to get a good glucose curve, you need to feed your cat normally through the day like you normally would. That won't happen at the vet's office. The vet will just assume you feed your cat once in the morning, and that's it. You'll pick your cat up at 5 pm, and he may be starving. In my case, I don't think they gave my cat any water all day.

A third reason is because taking your cat to the vet for a glucose curve every two weeks just to make sure you're giving the right insulin dose can get expensive. It's cheaper to do it yourself. That brings me to the fourth and final reason--doing glucose curves yourself is easier on you, your cat, and your wallet.

A little about insulin and glucose

When your cat eats, some of that food gets turned to glucose. The body releases insulin, and the insluin works like a key to open the cells to accept the glucose. If your cat has too much glucose too often, the body has to work harder to produce more insulin. Eventually, it wears out, losing its ability to produce insulin or the cells become resistant to insulin. Once that happens, the cells cannot absorb the glucose, and this results in hyperglycemia (i.e. too much glucose in the blood), which leads to all the symptoms of diabetes. It can also cause kidney problems.

The kitty cat body tries to maintain a glucose level of between 80 and 130 mg/dL. But since hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is more dangerous than hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), we want to give ourselves a margin of safety. So we want to shoot for a glucose level between 90 and 270 mg/dL. Actually, I looked at several sources and got slightly different answers. One said 100-130 mg/dL. Another said 90-270 mg/dL. Another said 80-300 mg/dL.

The most important thing is that you keep their glucose level above 60 mg/dL. Anything below that is hypoglycemia which can cause seizures and death.

Doing a glucose curve

You need to get a glucometer with some test strips and lances. I got the AlphaTRAK2 kit, which has everything you need. You can buy more strips and lances on Amazon. Unfortunatly, the strips are kind of pricey, but it's still a lot less expensive than taking yoru cat to the vet every two weeks and traumatizing him. Plus, it allows you to get a reading whenever you need to or want to.

There are a lot of YouTube videos showing how to take your cat's blood glucose with the glucometer. Basically, you stick a test strip in the glucometer. It will turn itself on. An option will come up the first time to enter a code. The code you need will be written on the tube your test strips come in. For example, for a cat it might say "37." There are two buttons on the glucometer. The one on the right makes the number go up, and the one on the left makes the number go down. So just press the buttons until you have the right code. Once that is entered, wait a couple of seconds, and it'll show a little drop on the screen. From that moment on, you have two minutes to obtain a blood sample before it shuts itself off again.

To get the blood sample, rub the outter edge of the ear with your fingers to warm it up and get the blood flowing. Then you prick it with the lance (you don't need the lance shooter, or whatever it's called to do this). Hopefully a little drop of blood will come out. If not, massage the ear on both sides of where you made the prick to kind of push the blood up and through the wound. Once you see a little drop of blood (and it only takes a tiny bit), pick the glucometer up with the test strip inserted, and put the test strip up against the blood drop. The strip will wick the blood up, and you'll hear a beep. Then all you do is wait for the number to come up on the screen.

Don't worry if you're uncertain about my instructions. The glucometer comes with detailed instructions, and there are lots of YouTube videos demonstrating how to do it.

To do a glucose curve, all you have to do is take readings for twelve hours or so, two hours apart. Here's the basic schedule I use:

7:00 am Feed Aristotle.

7:30 am Give Aristotle an insulin shot.

8:00 am Take a glucose reading.

10:00 am Take another glucose reading.

Then take one at noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm. You can do one at 8 pm, too, if you want.

Throughout this time, feed your cat like you normally would. A girl on YouTube insisted on only feeding your cat twice a day, but my cat won't put up with that nonsense.

Once you have all the readings you can either draw a curve yourself, or you can type it into Excel and have Excel do it for you. You really don't need to draw a curve. It just provides a visual for people who prefer visuals over raw data.

What will typically happen is that your first reading will be high. The glucose level will go down and reach its lowest point around noon. Then it will begin to rise again.

I recommend reading this web page about how to interpret a glucose curve. Again, the most important reading is that low reading. When I did my first two glucose curves, I took readings at 11 am and 12 am and got my lowest reading at 11 am one Saturday and 12 am another Saturday. That lowest reading is called the Nadir, and one web page said an ideal Nadir you want to shoot for is between 80 and 150 mg/dL. If your Nadir is below 60 or 80 mg/dL, then you definitely want to reduce the insulin you're giving your cat by at least one unit. If it's above 300 mg/dL, then you should increase the insulin dose by one unit.

You don't want to change the insulin dose too quickly. Change it by one unit at a time, then give it a week and do another glucose curve.

Don't freak out if your Nadir is near 80 mg/dL, but your highest reading is something like 411 mg/dL. Obviously, 411 mg/dL is above the normal range, but the important thing is that your cat's glucose level remain within the normal range for most of the day. If it peaks outside of that range, that isn't nearly as dangerous as dipping below the normal range.

Diet and nutrition

If your glucose curve swings wildly from way high to down low, it might be because you're still feeding your cat dry cat food. Stop that! Dry cat food is terrible for your cat, not only because it has all kinds of carbohydrates your cat doesn't need and that cause it's blood glucose to rise quickly, but because it doesn't have enough moisture. Cats naturally get a lot of their moisture from their food.

Glucose is sugar. Raw sugar is the fastest way to raise your glucose level (and your cat's). It goes straight to the blood. Carbohydrates are the second fastest. Cats need nearly no carbohydrates. A third source of glucose is protein, but since it takes longer for the body to turn protein into glucose, eating protein will not cause your glucose to spike.

Cats are "obligate carnivors," which means they have to eat meat, and they cannot live on a vegetarian diet. Dry cat food is full of filler like peas, rice, potatoes, etc., all of which are high in carbohydrates. They don't need that stuff and are much better off without it. They need meat.

If you can put your cat on wet cat food only, their glucose levels will not spike as much, and you and won't get those wild swings in their glucose curves. It'll level the curve out more.

I realize your lifestyle may inhibit your ability to feed your cat wet cat food all the time. Maybe you work a lot of hours and are away from home a lot. Well, I'm just going to tell you what you should do, not what you are necessarily able to do. I'll leave it to you to do what you can.

You should take your cat completely off of dry cat food if you can. If that's all you've been feeding your cat his whole life, he may not be willing to eat wet cat food at first. One thing you can do is buy him a can of tuna in water. My cat goes nuts over tuna. The first few times he tried it, though, he'd only lick up the water, but not eat the solid part. But after eating the solid parts, he became more receptive to wet cat food. So if your cat won't eat wet cat food, try giving him some tuna and see what happens.

Not all wet cat food is created equal. There's a web page called Feline Diabetes that is a wealth of information about feline diabetes (name checks out). It has links to charts with nutritional information about various canned cat foods (like this one and this one), and you can't necessarily find that information on the cat food itself. The important macro-nutrients they show is protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The most important thing to get is food with low carbohydrates.

I'm going to make it easy for you, though. I have done a lot of searching, and the very best canned cat food you can give your cat is Tiki. Tiki comes in a variety of flavours. In the beginning, Aristotle liked all of it. Now, he's getting a little more picky. Tiki has almost no carbohydrates, and it's high in animal protein. And it's real food. If you crack open a can of Tiki, you'll see shredded chicken and maybe even half a quail egg. You could probaly eat it yourself.

Tiki is expensive, but you love your cat. Think of it like this. Your goal is to get your cat into remission. So you may not have to feed your cat Tiki forever. Just do it long enough for him to go into remission. My cat's insulin needs dropped quickly after I started feeding him Tiki exclusively. He topped out at 4 units and is now down to 1 unit.

A less expensive alternative is Fancy Feast. Fancy Feast isn't as low in carbohydrates as Tiki, but it's less expensive, and its better than most other canned cat food. Unfortunately, you'd be best to stay away from the cream and gravy varieties since they are the highest in carbohydrates. It's unforntunate because those are Aristotle's favourites.

If you want to make your own cat food, then check out this web page. There's some important things in there you need to know, like your cat's need for taurine. What's taurine, you say? It's explained in that web page along with a recipe.


That's the skinny of it. There's a lot more information out there, but I wanted to condense what I thought were the most important things into one post. BTW, giving an insulin shot is not that difficult, and your cat can barely feel it. You just lift the fur on the back of the shoulders or rib cage, lifting the skin, stick the needle in, and push the plunger. Your vet will tell you how to do it, and there are demonstrations all over YouTube.

And read this.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 09, 2020

The women at the tomb

Over the years, I've gone back and forth on whether I think the argument for the empty tomb from the fact that the gospels report that women were the first to discover the tomb empty is a good argument or not. The argument is that the authors of the gospels would not have included the story unless it really happened because the story would've been an embarrassment since women had no credibility among Jews, Greeks, or Romans in the first and second centuries. Today, I'm in favor of the argument, but I want to give you my thoughts on both sides of it.

The reason I sometimes don't think it's a good argument is because it's just a narrative. The gospels are not meant to serve as evidence of the empty tomb or the resurrection. The women are never offered as evidence for the empty tomb. So the fact that a first century audience wouldn't have put any confidence in the testimony of women doesn't strike me as being relevant. Why would it be embarrassing to say that women were the first to discover the empty tomb if it's just part of the story and is not being offered as evidence? The fact that women weren't to be trusted hardly seems like a good reason for the author to have left that part out since the author isn't asking the readers to believe in the empty tomb on the authority of those women.

The reason I sometimes think it is a good argument is because I can imagine an outsider in the first century reading the gospels and saying, "Now, wait a minute. You're saying this whole story of the empty tomb originated with women?" In their mind, if all the hysteria surrounding the empty tomb, which lead to belief in the resurrection, started because a bunch of silly women claimed to have found the tomb empty, then that discredits the whole story since women can't be trusted. The authors of the gospels would surely have anticipated this kind of reaction, in which case saying that women were the first to witness and report the empty tomb is kind of embarrassing. The fact that they reported it anyway serves as evidence that it actually happened. And since we in the modern world respect the testimony of women, that gives us good reason to think they actually did find the tomb empty.

Right now, I'm leaning in favor of that second argument, but just a few weeks ago, I was leaning toward the first argument. I guess it's still something I need to think through. Or maybe I should just throw up my hands and admit that I don't know whether it's a good argument or not. It surprises me sometimes how an argument can seem very persuasive to me at one time, then years later, it doesn't seem persuasive anymore. It really makes me doubt myself.

Let's suppose the story of the women finding an empty tomb is not historical. Where might it have originated? One possibility is that there were some women who dishonestly claimed to have found the tomb empty. If that were so, I would expect the first person they told to have wanted to check it out, so this is a no go for me.

Or maybe they mistakenly thought Jesus was buried in a tomb that they found empty. Would everybody else be likely to have mistakenly thought the same thing? If they were mistaken to think Jesus was buried in a tomb, it doesn't seem likely they would've honed in on a particular tomb, so I don't see how finding a random empty tomb would've made them think Jesus' tomb was empty. But even so, this seems like a mistake that would've easily been corrected for anybody who was actually curious about it.

Maybe Jesus was buried in a tomb, but they didn't know which one. Maybe they thought they did know, and they went to the wrong tomb. Again, this could've easily been corrected, especially if they knew who buried Jesus or whose tomb Jesus was buried in. They could just find out which tomb Jesus was buried in.

Another possibility is that Mark or some earlier person made it up. But why would they? What purpose does it serve? Maybe it's just to demonstrate the devotion they had to Jesus since they were going to the tomb to anoint his body. It doesn't seem like it would've been made up as a way of saying, "Look, we have all these witnesses to the empty tomb." If that were the purpose, it's more likely they would've had all the apostles find the tomb empty. Unless Mark has an ending that was lost, he didn't even say the apostles found the tomb empty, only the women. The same thing is true of Matthew. Only Luke and John have men visiting the empty tomb. In Luke, it was just Peter, and in John, it was just Peter and an unnamed disciple (presumably John).

Of course the fact that I can't come up with a good reason for the gospel authors to have included the story of the women finding the tomb empty doesn't mean there isn't one. But it does make me think it really happened. The historicity of it does a better job of explaining why it's in the gospels than anything else I can come up with.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

An argument against transubstantiation

About 20 or more years ago, Stand to Reason used to have an open discussion forum. One time I had a semi-formal debate with a Catholic guy about transubstantiation. It was semi-formal in the sense that we didn't agree to any format or length restrictions, but we treated it like a debate, and we got an equal number of posts. There were also some other people who chimed in. Anyway, I printed out the discussion before STR deleted the forum, so thankfully I still have a copy of it. I'm just going to post my opening statement arguing against transubstantiation. All the terrible parts can be chalked up to the fact that I wrote this 20 or more years ago. All the good parts can be chalked up to me. :-) It's long, too, so I'm cutting out all the pleasantries and stuff.

I've been looking forward to Matt starting a thread about transubstantiation because I think it's a really interesting subject. The doctrine differs from consubstantiation in that while consubstantiation is the belief that Christ is present in, with, and under the bread and wine, transubstantiation is the belief that the bread and wine cease to be bread and wine and literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus even though it retains the properties of bread and wine such as appearance, texture, and taste. I guess the best thing to compare it to would be petrified wood. Each molecule of wood is replaced one at a time with minerals until there is no wood left--only rock--but it still looks like wood. The interest thing about this doctrine is that if it is true, then every time the priest says his incantation over the Eucharist, a divine miracle takes place. Transubstantiation isn't just something that happens in the spiritual world; it happens in the physical world. There is a miraculous physical change from the constituents of bread and wine into the constituents of human flesh and blood.

It's my belief that there are no good reasons to believe that a divine miracle happens in the physical world when the priest consecrates the Eucharist.

I'm sure we all come to the table with our preconceived ideas. Bias is something we all have to deal with when exegeting the scriptures, and I don't claim to be an exception. I do, however, believe it would be easier to convince a protestant that transubstantiation is true than it would be to convince a Catholic that it's not. The reason for that is because of why protestants and Catholics believe what they do. Protestants believe that scripture is the only infallible rule of faith and that any doctrine or teacher ought to be tested in light of what has already been revealed. In Acts 17:11, the Bereans were commended for searching the scriptures to see if what Paul said was true, and he was foundational to the church. How much more should we test traditions and modern church leaders in light of what has already been revealed! So all one need do to convince a protestant of transubstantiation is reason from the scriptures with him and demonstrate that the scriptures really do teach transubstantiation. Catholics, however, don't believe in transubstantiation because the Bible says it. They believe it because the Catholic Church says the Bible says it. Their understanding of what various passages and themes in the Bible mean is based on the authority of the church to accurately translate it for them. So it's almost impossible to convince a Catholic that transubstantiation is a false doctrine by reasoning from the scriptures with them because for them, it's a matter of authority. In the Catholic's eyes, the protestant simply doesn't have that divinely inspired light to give an infallible interpretation of the scriptures. The protestant is wrong, not because his arguments fail, but because he contradicts what the Catholic Church says, and the Catholic Church is right because they are infallible. So the only way to convince a Catholic that any of his doctrines are wrong is not to reason with them from the scriptures, but to shake their faith in the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Since Catholics understand the scriptures in light of how the Catholic Church interprets them, Catholic apologetics consists of digging up reasons to confirm what they already believe. So it's much easier for Catholics to be guilty of eisegesis than it is for protestants. Of course, there's a downside to that for protestants. Since protestants attempt to exegete the scriptures, and since they are not perfect, denominationalism is inevitable. People are going to read the scriptures and interpret them in different ways--especially where there is ambiguity. Catholics maintain doctrinal unity because they have a central governing body who interprets the scriptures for all Catholics. Catholics are then spoon fed these interpretations. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons maintain unity the same way. They have a governing body who claims exclusive divine authority to interpret the scriptures, and the members are spoon fed. Actually, the unity among Jehovah's Witnesses is much more impressive than it is among Catholics. You can go to a Kingdom Hall anywhere in the world, and they are all exactly the same (except for the language). Most of them are probably having the same lesson on any given Sunday, too. The downside for Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics, though, is that they have to come up with clever ways of changing their views without compromising their authority to correctly interpret the scriptures. Jehovah's Witnesses used to do it by making an analogy of a light getting brighter and brighter. They denied actually changing their views about anything and claimed that their understanding of it simply became more clear. Later, however, they had to start being more honest and apologize for changing their views. The Watchtower Society used to call itself a prophet and God's mouthpiece. In their apology for changing their views, they said they were not inspired prophets (as if there were such a thing as an uninspired prophet who wasn't a false prophet), and they attributed their failed dates to "false expectations" rather than false prophecies. I think Catholics have done a much better job of changing their views without looking like false prophets or something. The way they do it is by reinterpretation of earlier teachings. For example, in the council of Trent, there were lots and lots of anathemas and the Catholic Church taught that if you were not Catholic, you were not saved. They now teach that protestants and even Muslims can be saved. They didn't change that view by overturning Trent, but rather, they changed the view by reinterpreting Trent. Now they say that the anathemas of Trent do not actually mean that only Catholics will be saved. So now you've got interpretations of interpretations. The modern interpreters are interpreting the past interpreters who were interpreting the Bible so they can claim that they've always taught the same thing. It's a clever method for Catholics to use, but it undermines their argument for the need for an infallible interpreter. Ya see, having an infallible interpreter of the Bible doesn't help you if the interpreter himself is subject to interpretation. Who's going to interpret him? I am willing to believe in transubstantiation if Matt or anybody else can give me a convincing argument from the scriptures for it. Will Matt or anybody else be willing to stop believing in transubstantiation if I can give a convincing argument that it is not true? Will reason prevail in our effort to understand the scriptures or will the authority of the Catholic Church prevail? I look forward to you answer.

Transubstantiation causes a dilemma for Catholics. If it turns out to be true, then Catholics violate the scriptures by drinking blood. If it turns out not to be true, Catholics are guilty of idolatry because they worship inanimate objects.

The Old Testament command to abstain from eating blood (Leviticus 3:17) is repeated in the New Testament (Acts 15:29). The fact that Jesus is God does not nullify this command because (1) there is no disclaimer that says, "unless it's God's blood," and (2) Jesus came "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3). Jesus took on the nature of a servant, "being made in human likeness" (Philippians 2:7). He was incarnated in human flesh and was conceived in the womb of Mary, who was also human, and "as to his human nature [he] was a descendent of David," (Romans 1:3) who was also human. In his flesh, he shared a common ancestor with all humans. He was flesh as much as we are flesh, and his flesh came from the same place as ours did. If it is wrong to eat human flesh or drink human blood, then it is wrong to drink Christ's blood or to eat his flesh.

Because Catholics believe Jesus is physically present in the Eucharist, they actually do worship it. In 1378 of the Catechism, it says, "Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord." Again in 1418, it says, "Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the alter, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration."

If transubstantiation is true, then Catholics are guilty of consuming blood. Or if it is not true, then Catholics are guilty of idolatry.

Belief in transubstantiation is counter intuitive. It's equivalent to claiming that your computer is a Christmas tree. It may look like a computer, smell like a computer, and taste like a computer, but it's really a Christmas tree. The Eucharist retains all of the physical properties of bread and wine. If you look at it under a microscope, you will find that it is still made of wheat and grapes. If the Eucharist really is Jesus, then it would be more accurate to say that Jesus turned into bread and wine than to say bread and wine turned into Jesus. If we don't define things by their properties, then how do we define them? If we start saying a computer is a plant that grows in the forest and has to be cut down and decorated, and a Christmas tree is something with a central processing unit, a keyboard, and a monitor, then words will cease to have any meaning. Bread by any other name is still bread because it has the properties of bread. Bread is something made of wheat, water, and other things. Wine is fermented grape juice. If they retain those properties, then they are still bread and wine. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck. To claim that flesh and blood can have all the properties of bread and wine, and none of the properties of flesh and blood is just counter intuitive.

The context for understanding the Lord's supper in 1 Corinthians 11 starts at verse 17 and ends with verse 34. The problem was that the Corinthians were treating the Lord's supper like a regular meal. Paul said, "It is not the Lord's supper you eat, for each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody" (vs. 20-21). Paul was using the Lord's supper to promote unity among the Corinthians. He starts off in verse 18 mentioning the divisions, then he explains what he means, then he quotes the oral tradition, then he warns them of the consequences of the way they have been conducting the Lord's supper. Then he closes in verse 33-34 by telling them to do the opposite of what he said they were doing in verse 21. That is the context with which we must understand verse 29. "For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself" (v. 29). In another post, Joe gave the correct meaning of the Greek word, but his definition was misleading because he gave an incomplete definition of it. Like most words, the Greek word used in this passage means different things in different contexts. In this context, it means to distinguish. Since the context is making a distinction between the Lord's supper and a regular meal, the context dictates the we understand "diakrinon the body of the Lord," to mean we should make a distinction between eating the Eucharist and eating a regular meal. To argue that recognizing the body of the Lord means realizing that the bread is literally Jesus' flesh begs the question. The question is not whether, "the bread is the body of Christ," for even protestants acknowledge that, because the Bible is explicit that the bread is his body, and the wine is his blood. The question is over whether or not we should take that literally. So taking "diakrinon the body of the Lord," to mean "realize that the bread is Jesus' body," still leaves us with the question of whether or not it is literally his body. The context has everything to do with making a distinction between the Lord's supper and a regular meal. It has to do with eating the Lord's supper with reverence and not in an unworthy manner. More specifically, it has to do with treating each other as equals during the Lord's supper.

If the Bible is explicit that the bread is Jesus' body, and the wine is his blood, then it is also explicit that the bread is bread, and that the wine is wine. In 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul writes, "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." Paul is saying the exact opposite of what the Catholic Church says. The doctrine of transubstantiation says that it is no longer bread; it's literally Jesus' flesh. But Paul says it is still bread, so it's obvious that Paul did not take Jesus literally when he said, "This is my body" (v.24). Even Jesus showed that he was not being literal about the bread and wine. In Matthew 26:27-29, it says, "Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." If it literally changed from wine into blood, Jesus would not have called it the fruit of the vine. Clearly he meant it metaphorically. Furthermore, he says that it is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Are we to believe that Jesus actually poured out his blood and atoned for sins before ever going to the cross? Of course not! The broken bread was a symbol for his broken body to be eaten in remembrance of his sacrificial death (1 Cor 11:24-26). The last supper foreshadowed the actual death. In Matthew, Jesus predicts that he himself will drink it with his disciples in his Father's kingdom. Are we to believe that Jesus is going to drink his own blood? Surely not!

When Jesus said, "This is my body," and "this is my blood," he was sitting right there with them in the likeness of sinful flesh. He had not yet received his resurrection body. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that a resurrection body can be in two places at once. The resurrection body is just as physical as the natural body, and physical objects are limited to being at once place at one time because if there was a physical object in two places at the same time, it would be two separate physical objects. Since Jesus was sitting there with his disciples, he could not have been speaking literally when he called the bread his body and the wine his blood.

If John 6 were to be taken as a prediction of Jesus instituting the Lord's supper, you would expect him to fulfill that prediction by instituting it, yet interestingly enough, in the gospel of John, Jesus does not institute the Lord's supper. John's silence on the Lord's supper begs for an explanation if we are to understand chapter 6 as having anything to do with it. The explanation is simple. John 6 has nothing to do with the Lord's supper, and therefore, it does not necessitate a narrative of the Lord's supper. If John 6 did have to do with the Lord's supper, then John would've given us a narrative of the Lord's supper in order to make sense out of John 6.

In John 6, Jesus was using a metaphor that wasn't that uncommon in the ancient world. The shock it evoked had more to do with the fact that it was being applied to a human being and was therefore misunderstood. The metaphor of eating things was more often used of teachings, words, sayings, etc. or simply ordeals. For example, when making an allusion to his passion, Jesus said, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about" (John 4:32), and when Peter tried to prevent his arrest, he said, "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:11). To say that you were eating somebody's words meant that you were taking them into your thoughts, meditating on them, making them part of your life. We have a modern version of it ourselves. when people tell us what wonderful people we are we say we are, "eating it up." Likewise, the Bible tells us that "man doesn't live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" (Deut 8:3, Matt 4:4, Luke 4:4). Jeremiah is even more explicit about it. He says, "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty" (Jeremiah 15:16). It is appropriate that Jesus apply the metaphor to himself because John refers to Jesus as the Word of God (John 1:14, Rev 19:13). Instead of saying, "I will raise him from the dead," he says, "I am the resurrection" (John 11:25). It is appropriate, therefore, that instead of saying, "I can give you the bread of life," he says, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35), and instead of saying, "eat my words," he says, "eat me" (John 6:51). In the context of John 6, to eat Jesus means to make him our teacher and our master. We are to be his slaves, and we are to live by every word he speaks. He asks us to have undivided loyalty to him because he is the revelation of the Father (John 14:9). To know Jesus is to know the Father (John 8:19). To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father (John 12:44-45).

In John 6, Jesus starts off with a soft metaphor and beings to push it. First he says, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life" (v. 27). This begins his "eat me" conversation. If we misunderstand Jesus in the beginning of it, we will misunderstand him at the end. If we understand him at the beginning, then we have a much better chance of understanding him at the end. Now let's think about this for a minute. Jesus contrasted the food he would give them with natural food. Natural food spoils, but the food Jesus gave them would endure to eternal life. If Jesus was talking about the Eucharist, we should expect that the bread, if not eaten, would endure forever. Is that the case? No, it's not. Jesus is using bread in chapter 6 in the same way that he uses water in chapter 4. He used the same kind of language with the Samaritan woman he met at the well. He said, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13). The girl's response makes it obvious that she misunderstood him because she thought that if Jesus gave her that water, she wouldn't have to keep going to that well to get water. Jesus didn't correct her, either. Instead, he changed the subject. It shouldn't surprise us, then, that he was also misunderstood when he started calling himself the bread of life that people should eat. Their response was the same as the woman at the well. They said, "From now on give us this bread" (v. 34). Notice the striking parallels between his bread of life conversation and his conversation with the woman at the well.

Woman: Whoever drinks the water will never thirst (John 4:14).
Others: Whoever comes to Jesus will never go hungry or thirst (John 6:35).

Woman: Give me this water (John 4:15).
Others: Give us this bread (John 6:34).

Woman: Water will give eternal life (John 4:14).
Others: Bread of God gives life to the world (John 6:33)

If this bread is metaphorical, how do we get it? Well in verse 29, it says, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." In the previous verses, Jesus was telling them to work for the bread the lasts forever, which is Jesus himself. So we acquire Jesus, and therefore eternal life, not by eating the eucharist, but by believing in Jesus. John 6 has nothing to do with the eucharist. It has to do with believing in Jesus for eternal life. Jesus reiterates that fact in verse 40 and then again in 47. If John 6 were talking about the Eucharist, then we should believe that our salvation is gained by eating the Eucharist (John 6:54), but it's not. It's gained by believing in Jesus. I just challenge anybody to read John chapter 6 carefully because if you do, you will see that it is about believing in Jesus for eternal life--not about eating the Eucharist for eternal life. The eating part is a metaphor. Jesus is the bread of life, but he's not literally a loaf of bread. Likewise, the bread of the Eucharist is the body of Christ, but it's not literally Jesus' flesh. Think about it. Transubstantiation claims that there is no bread, only Jesus' flesh. But in John 6, Jesus didn't say bread will turn into flesh. He said, "I am the bread." How can he be bread if the bread was turned to flesh? Even if taken literally, Jesus is saying the opposite of what the Catholic Church is saying in John 6. If Catholics want to continue calling the Eucharist bread after it has changed to the body of Christ, then they are just reversing the metaphor. Instead of literal bread and figurative body, they are saying it is literal body and figurative bread.

The fact that Jesus said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35), is no more literal than when he said, "I am the light" (John 9:5), or "I am the vine" (John 15:5). Neither one of those is in the context of a parable, so Hal's analogy still works. Saying, "This is my body," is no different than saying, "I am the vine," because in both cases, Jesus is saying what one thing is, the other is. What the bread is, the body is, and what the vine is, Jesus is. The fact that Jesus called himself the true bread and the true drink does not help Matt's case because Jesus also called himself the true vine (John 15:1). All parables contain metaphors, but not all metaphors are parables, so Matt's argument that Jesus is not telling a parable in John 6 doesn't help his case either.

The fact that Jesus didn't correct doesn't help Matt's case either because he didn't correct the woman at the well either. As a matter of fact, Jesus made a point out of cloaking his teachings in parables and metaphors. He admitted that, "I have been speaking figuratively" (John 16:25). He did this because he didn't intend for everybody to understand him. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. . .This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand" (Matthew 13:13). It continues with an explanation of why they don't understand. It says, "For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them" (v. 15). By not explaining the metaphor to everybody, Jesus was weeding out those who were not devoted to him wholeheartedly. Only those who confessed, "You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69), remained loyal to Jesus. God will continue using the same methods of weeding out the loyal from the fickle. In 2 Thessalonians we find that some will be deceived by counterfeit signs and wonders. It says, "They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness" (2 Thessalonians 1:10-12).

Jesus never says anything remotely like, "I mean this literally," in John 6. He repeats himself, which is hardly cause for believing either way, but he never says that he was speaking literally. Instead, he says, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). If anything, Jesus was admitting to speaking figuratively.

Since the web site Joe gave was way too long to respond to, I'll just respond to what he posts. Joe says that the Eucharist held extreme significance for the early church, which I don't dispute at all. But the debate isn't over how important the Eucharist was. The debate is over transubstantiation. Joe also argues that the preservation of scripture would not have occurred had it not been for the Catholic and Orthodox churches. I don't dispute that either, but I don't see what bearing that has on whether or not the Catholic Church has correctly interpreted those scriptures throughout its history. If I had a book written in Chinese, and it was the only copy of it in the world, that wouldn't mean I understood what was written in it.

We hardly know anything at all about Clement of Rome except that he was the Bishop of Rome around 100 CE. Scholars speculate that he may have known Paul because Paul mentioned a Clement in Philippians 4:3 as one of Paul's fellow workers. We have no way to know whether or not it's the same Clement, but it's possible. Philippians was written around 55-56 CE. If Clement was 20 when Paul wrote that letter, he would've been 64 at the turn of the century. 1 Clement, which was written to the Corinthians, is the only authentic letter we have from him, and it was written around 95-100 CE, which is pretty early relatively speaking. 2 Clement was not written by Clement, as practically all scholars agree. Clement of Rome never said anything about the Eucharist, so I don't know why Joe envoked him as an authority on it.

The first quote Joe gave from Augustine merely says the the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. To use this as an argument for transubstantiation begs the question because the issue is whether or not such terminology ought to be taken literally or figuratively.

I don't see how the second quote is even relevant. The third quote might be used in support of the Mass, but I don't see how it supports transubstantiation.

In the third quote, Augustine seems to refute Joe. Augustine says the sacrament is a sign for the invisible sacrifice, and that the daily sacrifice of the church is the sign for Jesus offering himself as the sacrifice. Augustine is making a direct allusion to Hebrews 9:11-14 where it says Jesus offered himself in the Most Holy Place once for all. I don't see what it has to do with transubstantiation.

Not all of the early church leaders believed in transubstantiation. Clement of Alexandria wrote that, "Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when he said, 'Eat my flesh and drink my blood,' describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith." (c. 195)

Tertullian didn't appear to take John 6 as a reference to transubstantiation. He wrote, "They thought his discourse was harsh and intolerable, for they thought that he had really and literally directed them to eat his flesh. . .His word is spirit and life. So he likewise called his flesh by the same description. Since the word has become flesh, we should desire him in order that we may have life. We should devour him with the ear and feed on him with our understanding. We should digest him by faith." (c. 210)

Lactantius wrote, "The bread signifies his body. For he himself is the food and the life of all who believe in the flesh that he bore." (c. 304-313).

Studying the writings of the early church is useful for finding out what people believed, but they were not infallible, and they diverge quite a bit on a lot of issues. I meant to discuss early church fathers a little more, but I've been writing this post for a long time, and I'm kind of tired now.

For further reading:

"Catholic vs. protestant interpretation of John 6"

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What does it mean to act freely?

A person on the internet argued that we don't have free will since our choices are determined by our desires, we don't choose our desires, and we couldn't have done otherwise. In my response, I avoided terms like "libertarianism" and "compatibilism," but that's what I was talking about. I basically gave a short defense of the compatibilist notion of free will against the libertarian notion of free will. Here's what I said:

If it's true that our desires determine our choices, then isn't it the case that we could have done otherwise if we had wanted to? Does the ability to do otherwise have to be categorical, or can't it be qualified?

It seems to me that if my actions arise out of my own desires, then I am doing exactly what I want to be doing, and if I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing (as opposed to being forced or determined to act contrary to my desires), then I am acting freely.

Consider the alternative. Imagine that my every desire is to choose X, but somehow, spontaneously, I end up choosing not-X. It seems to me that if my choice of not-X isn't preceded by my desire, then I couldn't have done it on purpose. And if I didn't do it on purpose, then it was not in my control. And that means I was forced, by this spontaneous event, to act contrary to my desire. Why call that freedom at all? It seems to me that's a denial of freedom.

So we can only be free to the degree that we control our own actions, and we can only control our own actions to the degree that our actions are determined by our antecedent desires. That means we are most free when our actions are determined by our desires.

That's free will in the most meaningful and useful sense because it leaves us in control of our own actions, and it leaves room for moral culpability. It also keeps the world from being random and chaotic.

I don't see why it should matter that we don't choose our desires. The supposition that we'd have to choose our desires results in an infinite regress. Before I could do anything, I'd first have to have a desire. But before I could have that desire, I'd first have to choose it. But before I could choose it, I'd first have to want to. Before I could want to, I'd first have to decide to want to. Etc. etc.

There's one of two ways to avoid this infinite regress. You can either start with a choice that is not determined by any desire, or you can start with a desire that is not the result of your choice. We've already seen that if you have a "choice" that happens apart from any antecedent desire, then it's not really a choice at all since you couldn't have intended to do it. It was an accident that was random, and you had no control over it.

So the only alternative is that our choices originate in desires that we did not choose. That's the only way we can have any meaningful kind of freedom because it's the only way we can do anything on purpose.

For further reading on this subject, check out my series on "William Lane Craig against Calvinist," especially Part 3B and Part 4.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Christians and the Mosaic Law

There's one objection that gets raised to Christians all the time. It's the claim that Christians cherry pick from the Mosaic Law. Christians are inconsistent, for example, because they oppose homosexuality, but they're okay with wearing clothes made of two kinds of fabric.

This objection is based on theological ignorance about the relationship between Christianity, the Mosaic Law, and morality in general. While it is true that Christians affirm some aspects of the Mosaic law and do not practice other parts, they aren't being inconsistent. There is a principled reason for making a distinction between laws that should be kept and laws that don't need to be kept. This is my effort to explain what that principled reason is.

The Mosaic law was only given to the Hebrew people under the Mosaic covenant. It has never applied to anybody outside of that nation.

However, there are universal moral principles that have always applied to everybody, whether they were part of Israel or not. Some of those moral principles are codified in the Mosaic law.

So there are Mosaic laws we are obligated to keep, but it is not because they are in the Mosaic law. Rather, it's because they codify universal moral principles.

Christians are not under the Mosaic law, so they have no obligation to keep anything in the Mosaic law merely because it is in the Mosaic law. However, they do have an obligation to keep whatever universal moral principles there are, even if they are in the Mosaic law.

Even though the Mosaic law is not incumbent on Christians, it can serve as a moral guide to a certain degree since it captures universal moral principles. But not every law in the Mosaic law has an underlying universal moral principle. In the case of those laws, we don't have to keep them.

There are a few ways we can make the distinction between laws we should keep and laws we don't have to keep. One way is to look at the basis upon which God judges other nations. For example, we see God punishing other nations for things like violence and for their sexual practices, but he never punishes them for violating the Sabbath or for wearing the wrong clothes. So we know that the prohibitions against murder and adultery are universal moral principles and ought to be obeyed, but we can't say the same thing about wearing clothes with two kinds of fabric.

Another way we can tell is by looking at the moral standard of the New Testament. The New Testament writes to a broad Christian audience, including non-Jewish Christians who are not under the Mosaic covenant. So we can look at the moral proscriptions spelled out in the New Testament to tell what moral obligations Christians should have.

A third way is to give some weight to our own moral reasoning. God has written his moral law on our hearts, and through careful reflection, reasoning, conscience, and moral intuition, we can distinguish between right and wrong. This kind of moral awareness is open to everybody, whether they are Christians or not.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Christian Universalism

I had a debate on Christian Universalism one time. I argued against it, and my opponent argument for it. Here's my opening statement:

Thank you, rjohnson741, for the challenge and for shortening the character limit to 6000.


Pro defines Christian universalism as "the belief that all mankind will be saved through Jesus Christ." But we need to also explain what it means to be saved. In general, to be saved is to be rescued. In Christianity, we are being rescued from the wrath of God. Notice the contrast Paul makes between wrath and salvation:

1 Thessalonians 5:9 "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."


Romans 5:9 "Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him."

Once more:

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 "…Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come."

People are under the wrath of God is because of their sins (Romans 1:18, Colossians 3:5-6). To save people from the wrath of God, Jesus died for their sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). His death provides forgiveness for sins (Matthew 26:28). Consequently, salvation comes by the forgiveness of sins (Luke 1:77).

The alternative to suffering the wrath of God is having eternal life (John 3:36), so to be saved is to have eternal life (Titus 3:5-7). A person who has eternal life will not come under the judgment of God (John 5:24).

From all this, it follows that a person who is saved will (1) have their sins forgiven, (2) be spared the wrath of God, (3) not come under the judgment of God, and (4) have eternal life. If there is any person for whom all four of these things are not true, then that person is not saved, and if there is any person who will not be saved, then Christian universalism is false.

Contra universalism

Christian universalism is false because there are some people whose sins will not be forgiven, who will suffer the wrath of God in judgement, and who will not have eternal life.

1. Not everybody will have their sins forgiven.

Matthew 12:31 "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven."

Pro could claim that nobody ever has or will commit this sin, but the context indicates that some already have.

2. Some people will suffer the wrath of God.

Colossians 3:5-6 "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience."

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 "…Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come."

And let's not forget the bowls of wrath poured out on mankind in Revelation 16. All of these passages say that wrath is coming. There will actually be people who suffer the wrath of God.

3. Some people will come under the judgment of God.

John 5:28-29 "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."

Matthew 11:22 "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you."

2 Peter 3:7 "But by his word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men."

These passages show that there will be a day of judgment in which some people will come under the judgment of God.

4. Not everybody will be raised to eternal life.

Daniel 12:2 "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but others to disgrace and everlasting contempt."

Matthew 25:46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Pro's argument for universal salvation

Pro's argument can be summarized like so:

1. God accomplishes all of his desires.
2. God desires the salvation of all people.
3. Therefore, God accomplishes the salvation of all people.

This argument commits the fallacy of equivocation because God's desires in the first premise does not have the same meaning as God's desires in the second premise. There is a difference between desiring to act and desiring a state of affairs, e.g., we might desire to punish our kids so they will learn good behavior, but wish we didn't have to.

And there are many examples in the Bible of God desiring things which he does not bring about. The most obvious example is morality. God has a desire for people to act morally (Proverbs 21:3), but every one of us acts immorally.

In Ezekiel 33:11, God says, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live." God has a desire that the wicked repent and live, but many don't, and the old testament is filled with examples of God killing the wicked.

So there are different senses in which God desires things. He has a moral will and a sovereign will. When we say that God accomplishes all his desires, we are speaking of God's sovereign will. But when we say that God desires that people turn from their wickedness and live, we are speaking of God's moral will.

We know that God does not sovereignly desire the salvation of all people through the following reasoning:

4. Whatever God sovereignly desires, he accomplishes.
5. God does not accomplish the salvation of all people.
6. Therefore, God does not sovereignly desire the salvation of all people.

Pro agrees with 4. I have already demonstrated 5. 6 follows from 4 and 5. Since God's sovereign desire in premise 1 of Pro's argument is not the same as God's moral desire in premise 2 of his argument, Pro's argument commits the fallacy of equivocation, and his conclusion does not follow from his premises. So Pro has not demonstrated Christian unversalism.


As many of you already know, there are a plethora of other scriptures I could've used to undermine universal salvation. There are so many that it's not possible to bring them all up in this debate. If I have room in the next round, I'll bring up some more of them.

Monday, April 20, 2020

What is meant by the subjective/objective dichotomy in morality? (and other questions)

Somebody on a discussion forum asked some questions about Christian morality, and I responded. This happened several years ago, but I was just looking for an old post and stumbled on this and thought it might make a good blog post. So here you go.

As you pointed out, the phrase "objective morality" gets tossed around a lot without defining terms. So let me define this phrase first because it can be taken in at least two different ways.

First way:
Morality is what we take to be right and wrong. Objective morality would then be moral conclusions we came to without the influence of bias or prejudice, but rather that we came to through a fair and impartial look at the facts informing our circumstances.

Second way:
Morality is, in fact, what is actually right or wrong. Objective morality would then include moral obligation we would have whether we choose them or not, whether we believed in them or not, whether we approved of them or not, etc. In other words, the moral imperatives would be incumbent on us independently of human sentiment.

When theists use the phrase "objective morality," we are using it in that second sense, not in the first. Since moral obligations do not derive from any human thought or decision, they must come from some source outside of humanity. We believe it comes from God.

So we humans do not invent right and wrong; rather, we recognize right and wrong. Moreover, morality exists independently of the Bible. It is not merely because some imperative is in the Bible that it is therefore wrong as if the Bible made it wrong. Rather, it is wrong already because God forbids it, and the Bible merely records it because it is true. So the Bible recognizes that certain things are true or false, but it doesn't make them true or false.

After all, Adam, Eve, and Cain were punished for their immorality before the Bible was ever written. God punished the world with a flood for their immorality before Moses ever received the law on Mt. Sinai. And other nations who never received the Mosaic Law were still punished for their immorality.

But as far as specifics go, most moral imperatives have prima facie force. That is, they apply in most circumstances but are not without exception. To be objective is not necessarily to be absolute. For example, it's generally wrong to lie to people, but there are circumstances in which lying is the right thing to do. I went into more detail about that on my blog.


All it takes for objective morality to exist for there to be any action at all in any situation that it would either be wrong to do or wrong not to do regardless of what any human thought. And it's not hard to think of examples.

1. A man who beats his wife with a baseball bat just because she forgot to get Oreos while she was at the store is doing something that is morally wrong.

2. A single man who has sex with the wife of another man is doing something morally wrong.

3. A woman who slips a date rape drug in her dad's drink, then rapes him while he is incapacitated is doing something morally wrong.

Conversely, I have never heard any theist offer a rational explanation as to WHY it can only be objective, when emanating from a deity or a "holy text."

It's because morality consists of imperatives. Moral law is prescriptive. It imposes obligation. It tells people what they must and must not do. Imperatives can only come from persons. If all that existed in all of reality were non-sentient material objects, nothing would be right or wrong. The universe could be thoroughly described merely with "is" statements, but no "ought" statements. Imperatives can only come from one person imposing their will on another person.

People have instituted governments that make laws which are also prescriptive. But no human law can make something that is otherwise wrong become right or vice versa. Even laws can be just or unjust. For example, a law that required parents to sacrifice their firstborn child in a fire would be morally wrong. It would be wrong to make such a law, and it would even be wrong to obey such a law if it were passed. So the moral law has authority over every conceivable human law, and it is the basis upon which human laws can be judged either just or unjust.

So the authority behind the moral law must be personal, absolute, autonomous, and transcendent. No conceivable creature could have such authority, even if there were a superior alien species from another planet. Something like a god would be necessary to ground morality. The fact that the God conceived of by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and even deists is a person who is autonomous and transcendent and responsible for creating everything else that exists makes that sort of God a sufficient source of morality. It is hard to think of anything else that would suffice.

If a moray is "objective," it is static.

That is not true. What gives a moral imperatives their objectivity is that they come from a legitimate authority whether that authority requires the same thing all the time or whether the authority requires different things at different times.

Can any theist state, specifically, which morals are "universal and objective" that cannot be derived outside of the "holy texts?"

A moral does not need to be derived from holy texts before they can be universal and objective. As I said before, it isn't holy texts that make things right or wrong. Holy Texts can only record things. Any authority holy texts have is grounded in God. God would have that same authority whether the holy text existed or not.

In my view, God created us in such a way that we are able, through reflection on our experience, reason, and intuition, to discern between right and wrong. As the Bible puts it, God's law is written on our hearts. While the Bible can clarify things for us in many cases, for the most part, everybody knows right from wrong even if they're ignorant of the Bible.

Once an "objective moral" has been defined, what significance could the phrase "appropriate to the time" possibly have on the objectivity of a moray?

Some moral are stated in broad terms, then applied to specific circumstances. When the circumstances change, so does the appropriate action. On the surface, it may appear as if the moral obligation has changed since at one time, a person should do X, but at another time, they should do Y. But in reality, the reason they should do X at one time, and Y at another time, is because of some broader moral principle that hasn't changed at all.

For example, it might be appropriate to give a person medicine while they are sick, but once that person is no longer sick, it is no longer appropriate to give them medicine. So it isn't as if the moral law changed from "Give medicine" to "Withhold medicine." Rather, the general moral principle in both cases is "Take care of the person's health," and what changed over time was what the person needed to stay healthy.

So time and circumstances can affect the specific moral obligations we have in virtue of more general moral principles. That's where our "reason" comes into play. It isn't as if there's a moral code that specifies every possible situation you could be in. Rather, there are general moral principles we are instinctively aware of, and we have to use our reason to discover how they apply to specific circumstances, which change through time.

Who is the final arbiter of a disagreement between two (individual or groups of) humans regarding the "objective" moray within any holy text?

We have to make a distinction between moral ontology and moral epistemology. Ontologically, the final arbiter of any moral disagreement is God because it is God who determines what is right or wrong. But epistemologically, disagreements have to be settled on the merits of the arguments for and against both sides, and sometimes people never succeed in settling their differences. Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses have an organizational structure designed to interpret scripture on behalf of everyone else, and they also settle disagreements.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

How do you determine what should and shouldn't be read literally?

People sometimes ask whether the Bible should be read literally, and I always answer that the question is based on a false premise--that the Bible is a monolithic book. I then go on to explain that the Bible contains lots of different genres, and each document should be read in light of its genre. That means some things are going to be literal and some aren't.

So then the question comes up: How do you determine what should and shouldn't be read literally? Somebody asked me that on an Ask a Calvinist thread on debate.org, and this was my response:

It's easier in some cases than in others. In a lot of cases, the text explicitly tells us. For example, in Revelation we are told that this or that vision represents something else. Jesus taught in parables, and parable is a commonly understood genre in which a story or scenario is meant to capture some deeper truth.

The rules for determining whether something in the Bible is literal or not are just the same as determining whether something outside the Bible is literal or not. In most cases, we recognize the genre of some piece of literature and interpret it according to its genre. We recognize that history and personal letters should be interpreted differently than apocalyptic or poetic literature. But we also recognize figures of speech. Figures of speech are funny because if you're not familiar with figures of speech that are common in some culture, then you can mistakenly take something literal that's not meant to be literal. That happens a lot with foreign exchange students. So knowing something about historical and cultural context helps with that.