Thursday, February 14, 2019

The building is burning. Do you save the baby or the embryos?

Today, somebody brought up the dilemma about whether you'd save five embryos or a toddler in case a building was burning and you had to choose. The dilemma is meant to show an inconsistency on the part of pro-lifers. If the pro-lifer chooses the toddler, which he almost certainly will, this is supposed to show that the pro-lifer doesn't really think the embryos are valuable human beings.

I wrote up a response, but before I could post it, the person had deleted their comment. Thankfully, I used the "copy" function before hitting the post button in case something went wrong. But now I've got this thing saved on my clip board and nowhere to put it, so I'm going to put it here. This was my response.

How does that show that pro-lifers are wrong? At worst it would only show that pro-lifers are inconsistent. They could be right in thinking the unborn are human beings and wrong in how they respond to moral dilemmas.

But I'm not sure it even shows that they are inconsistent. Consider a parallel scenario in which a hospital is burning down, and you could either save one 16 year old girl who was about to be released from the hospital later that day anyway, or five people who are in a coma and may or may not ever come out of them. Keep in mind the poor girl is screaming for help, while the coma patients are completely unconscious. I suspect you'd save the 16 year old girl, but it wouldn't follow that you thought the lives of the people in the coma were any less valuable. It's just that the 16 year old has a greater capacity for suffering, you have more of an emotional attachment to the 16 year old because of her youth and her being awake and able to suffer, and because she has a better chance of living a full life than the people in the coma. All of those same factors would come into play when choosing the infant over the embryos.

Or consider a scenario in which you can save a 20 year old or a 90 year old. You'd likely choose the 20 year old, not because 20 year olds are more valuable than 90 year olds but because the 90 year old is likely going to die soon anyway. In the same way, a toddler already has a greater chance of living a full life than an embryo since the embryos' only chance of living a full life is if they are successfully implanted, and IVF's are not always successful. There's trial and error involved.

Or consider a scenario in which a total stranger in another room who was mean to your mother earlier that day is in danger, but so is your mother. You can only save one of them. Surely you'd save your mother, not because you don't think the other person's life isn't valuable, but simply because of your emotional attachment to your mother. Well, people are naturally more sympathetic to crying helpless babies than they are to embryos in Petri dishes, but this has nothing to do with whether embryos in Petri dishes are valuable human beings.

There are lots of trolly type dilemmas in which you have to choose between saving various people, but none of these scenarios imply that it's okay to kill certain human beings when such dilemmas are not involved. So your question is just a set up for a fallacious line of reasoning.

There are two kinds of value that a person can have--intrinsic and instrumental. Intrinsic value is the value a person has merely because they're a human being. A homeless person with no friends or family has just as much intrinsic value as anybody else, and that's precisely why it's just as wrong to kill the homeless person as it is to kill anybody else. Instrumental value is the value something has because of its social connections or its contribution to society. Embryos could have equal intrinsic worth with toddlers, but they would not have the same instrumental worth. So while it may be just as wrong to kill an embryo as it is to kill a toddler, when it comes to choosing between embryos and toddlers, instrumental worth comes into play. That would be another reason to choose the toddler over the embryos that is not inconsistent with the pro-life position.

To show that pro-lifers are wrong, you've got to do better than than try to show that they behave inconsistently. You've got to either point out a flaw in their arguments for the humanity of the unborn, or else you've got to offer up an argument of your own showing that the unborn are not living human beings.

After writing that, I went over to the Secular Pro Life blog I have linked over there to the right to see what they had to say about this dilemma, and I found a post by Clinton Wilcox on the subject. His arguments are even better than mine, so have a look at what he said: Pro-Choice Thought Experiment: The Burning IVF Lab.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

You are probably not living in a simulation

Nick Bostrom wrote this article called "Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?" for the Philosophical Quarterly, and it has gone viral. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "That's old news, Sam." Yeah, but I'm just getting around to writing about it. The reason I decided to write about it now is because I keep running into people on the internet who say they think we're living in a computer simulation. I doubt many people really believe that. I suspect it's just a fad to say that they do. Maybe some people do, though. I don't know. It still seems worth responding to, though, because I find it to be a big distraction when trying to have an otherwise serious conversation with people.

I don't think we are living in a computer simulation. I think we're real three dimensional people living in a real tangible world. I have several reasons for thinking this, but first let me say something about Bostrom's article.

The first thing to note is that Bostrom didn't actually argue that we are in a computer simulation. What he argued, rather, was that one of the following things are true:

(1) The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage is very close to zero;
(2) The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero;
(3) The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.
By "posthuman civilization," he's talking about civilizations that have reached a stage of technological development in which they're capable of running ancestor simulations. The third possibility is the only one that entails that we are likely in a computer simulation, but he concludes that "In the dark forest of our current ignorance, it seems sensible to apportion one’s credence roughly evenly between (1), (2), and (3)." That means we can't know whether we're in a simulation or not. Given three equally viable possibilities, it would seem at best that there's a one in three chance that we're in a computer simulation.

But that isn't as interesting as it would've been if he had argued that we are almost certainly in a simulation, which is the conclusion a lot of people want to run with.

Now, let me give a few reasons for why I don't think we're in a computer simulation. First of all, it's because I give a lot of credence to intuitive obviousness. It's a fundamental part of my epistemology to assume that things are just as they appear to be unless we have good reason to think otherwise (See "It's always more reasonable to affirm the obvious than to deny the obvious"). So the default position any of us ought to take is that we perceive a physical world because there is a physical world. This seems to be the most natural and parsimonious assumption we could have. I suspect this is the primary reason most reasonable people will look at the simulation argument as a mere curiosity--a fun thought experiment--but won't take it seriously. And it's the reason I think a lot of people who claim to believe we are in a simulation are either not being honest with themselves or are not being honest with the rest of us. They're just playing games.

Second, I doubt we're in a simulation for some of the reasons Bostrom mentioned in his article. He talked about the enormous amount of computing power that would be necessary to run a simulation resembling our world. Think of the trillions of stars, galaxies, cells in all the living organisms, sand on the beach, grass in the plains, leaves on all the trees, the complete minds of billions of people and animals, and all the information stored on all the computers and libraries in the world. Bostrom recognized all that, but he was far more optimistic than I am. He imagined computers the size of planets and the discovery of new laws of physics that would make the seemingly impossible possible. These are mere possibilities and not sufficient grounds for any kind of optimism. He argued as if there are no limits to computational progress, but surely there are limits to what physical things can do. However much our technology improves, physical things still have to obey the laws of nature. Bostrom gets around some of these obstacles by suggesting that a simulation need not represent everything we think is in our world, but only what is currently being observed. Or, it may not need to simulate the billions of minds that seems to exist. It could just be you, and everybody else is a philosophical zombie. Of course that raises the problem of solipsism, which is another reason to be doubtful.

Then there are the further obstacles of whether we'll survive to reach the level of technology necessary to run ancestor simulations before something terrible happens to either wipe us out or set us back. And there's the further obstacle that even if we could build computers powerful enough to run ancestor simulations, why would we considering how expensive it could be in terms of resources. And what would be the pay off? There are ethical considerations, too, if we suppose these simulations will contain real conscious beings who will suffer. So there are all kinds of obstacles that, to me, make it unlikely that we'll ever run such elaborate simulations. To make it likely that we're in a simulation, it isn't enough to say that one simulation will some day be run. We have to suppose that multiple simulations will be run. You need there to be more people in simulations than outside of simulations in order to make it more likely that you are one of the people inside of a simulation.

A third thing to consider is whether a simulation of a human being would actually be conscious. This is not the question of whether computers can be conscious, which I'll address in a minute. This has more to do with what a simulation is. A simulation is a representation of something. It doesn't actually have the properties of that thing. It only has information. Any output you get from a simulation is still a simulation and does not actually have the properties of the thing it represents. If you could simulate a brain in such a way that it outputs things like thoughts, sensations, etc., there wouldn't actually be anything that was thinking and perceiving. You'd just get images or data that maybe you could read off a screen. Just as a simulation of a wet sponge wouldn't actually create anything wet in your computer, so also, a simulation of a brain wouldn't actually create anything conscious in your computer. You could simulate water molecules and multiply them in your simulation, and watch on your screen how they behave, but you'd never get anything wet in your computer as a result. The simulation would remain a simulation and wouldn't take on the actual physical properties of the three dimensional object it was representing. A brain is made of three-dimensional cells and atoms, and supposedly consciousness arises because of their physical structure and activity. But if you simulated these cells in a computer, the information in the computer would not actually take on the physical properties of the cells. The information would just be 1's and 0's. Since that information wouldn't actually take on the physical structure of brains cells, there's no reason to expect the simulation to be conscious.

Fourth, I don't think physical things can be conscious. I don't think conscious states arise purely out of physical processes. This reason has a lot to do with why I'm a substance dualist, but since that's a topic all its own, I'll leave it as an assertion here and not argue for it. In Bostrom's article, he begins with the assumption that not only are physical things capable of producing consciousness, but that the underlying physical substrate doesn't matter. If brains can produce consciousness, then so can computers.

And that brings me to my fifth reason. Even if we grant that consciousness arises purely from physical processes in the brain, nobody has a clue how that happens. Consciousness is completely mysterious. We can observe correlations between physical brain activity and mental states, but what we can't do is explain how we get from those physical states to the mental states. We have no idea what the mechanism is. Consciousness is especially mysterious because of its subjective nature. While physical processes are open to third person observation, conscious states are only open to first person observation. That means that if consciousness is a property of physical states, then physical states have invisible properties that can never be observed in a third person way. All the attempts I've seen at explaining this amount to a lot of handwaving. I'm convinced that nobody has a clue. With that being the case, we have no reason to think that a computer made of gold, silicon, and various other materials that work on logic gates, etc. would produce the same effect that a biological object like the brain would. There could be something about brains that is not true about computers that explains why brains are conscious and computers are not. People just assume it has something to do with the level of complexity, but nobody knows that. If computers are not conscious now, there's no reason to suspect that more of the same would make any difference.

The only way it's likely that we are in a computer simulation is if we have good reason to expect that some day in the future, we will be willing and able to create multiple computer simulations of entire worlds resembling our own, populated by real conscious individuals. But since we have no warrant for thinking such a scenario is likely, and plenty of warrant for being doubtful about it, it follows that we're probably not living in a simulation.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Pro life strategy

Here's something I've been thinking about for a while. There are two questions when it comes to the subject of abortion. There's the moral question of whether or not it's okay to have an abortion. Then there's the legal question of whether or not we should make it illegal. I've met some people who are pro-life when it comes to the moral question but pro-choice when it comes to the legal question. Never mind whether that's a consistent position or not. I want to go in a different direction.

The goal, it seems to me, if you're pro-life, is to reduce the number of people killed in abortions, whether it's the mothers or their unborn. With that being the goal, it seems to me that our primary focus ought to be on the moral question rather than the legal question. I don't mean to say the legal question isn't important, but I think our focus ought to primarily be on the moral question. Here are a few reasons.

First, if you convince somebody that it's wrong to have an abortion, you can prevent them from having an abortion without having to make it illegal. While there are people who think abortion is wrong but ought to be legal, I don't think I've ever heard of anybody who thought there was nothing wrong with abortion but that it ought to be prohibited by law anyway. It's probably harder to convince people to make abortion illegal than it is to convince them that it's wrong, and convincing them that it's wrong is usually enough to discourage them from having an abortion.

Second, if you could convince enough people that abortion is wrong, the legal question would probably take care of itself. People who think abortion is wrong are more likely to vote for pro-life political candidates.

Third, if you were to make abortion illegal without having persuaded a significant number of people of the immorality of abortion, then you're going to create the hoary back ally abortion scenarios we hear about all the time. If people are motivated more by morality than by legality to avoid abortions, that won't happen nearly as much.

Fourth, the moral argument against abortion is pretty solid, and one can't really make a legal case against abortion without the moral case. So logically, the moral case comes first anyway.

Fifth, If we tone down the rhetoric about making abortion illegal, people are more likely to listen to us. A big reason for why we get so much push back from the pro-choice crowd is because they're afraid we're trying to "control women's bodies," or deny them their rights or force them into unsafe back ally abortions. Pro-choice people fear pro-lifers for these reasons, so they're not very interested in what we have to say. I think that if we gave them less reasons to fear us, they'd be more likely to listen to our moral case because in that case, we're not using coercion; we're using persuasion. Instead of threatening to force them to carry their unborn to term and give birth, we're pleading with them to choose life.

Sixth, to make abortion illegal, you have to convince a significant number of people. Convincing a handful of people won't make any difference to the legality of abortion. However, with each individual you persuade of the immorality of abortion, you will have made the world a slightly safer place for the unborn. It may never be possible to make abortion illegal in this country, but it is possible to persuade people not to do it for moral reasons. And every time you convince somebody of the moral question, that's one more pro-lifer who can then go on to persuade others. And that's how the moral movement can get underway.

One argument I've heard (I think from Frank Beckwith) for focusing on the legal question is that the law has an effect on the morals that people hold. If you make something legal, people start thinking it's morally okay. If you make it illegal, people start thinking it's not morally okay. I grant that's true. My response is that I agree the legal question is important. We should want to make abortion illegal. What I am saying, rather, is that making it illegal shouldn't be our primary focus. I think our primary focus in abortion persuasion is the moral question. I think the pro-life movement, as a whole, would have more success in saving more lives if that were the primary focus.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Plantinga's ontological argument for the rationality of theism

I think Alvin Plantinga's ontological argument is often misunderstood both by atheists and by Christian apologists. Alvin Plantinga was not trying to argue that God exists. Rather, he was trying to argue that belief in God is not irrational or unreasonable. He said in his book, God, Freedom, and Evil, "What I claim for this argument, therefore, is that it establishes, not the truth of theism, but its rational acceptability" (page 112).

Lemme explain how I think his argument does that. This is his argument (put in my own words, not his).

1. There is a possible world in which maximal greatness is instantiated.
2. Maximal greatness consists in having omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in all possible worlds.
3. Therefore, a being with omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection exists in all possible worlds.
4. If something exists in all possible worlds, then it also exists in the actual world.
5. A being with omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection exists in all possible worlds. (from 3)
6. Therefore, a being with omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection exists in the actual world.
The whole argument hinges on that first premise. None of the other premises are controversial. So what reason is there to think the first premise is true? One reason (the reason almost always cited) is because there is no obvious contradiction in the notion of maximal greatness. If it isn't logically contradictory, then it's logically possible, so there is a logically possible world in which maximal greatness is instantiated.

But what if we begin with a different premise: There is a possible world in which maximal greatness is *not* instantiated. This premise doesn't seem anymore contradictory than the other premise. Yet it leads to the opposite conclusion. I'm going to shorten the argument a little to get rid of some extra verbiage so should be obvious enough to go without saying.

7. There is a possible world in which maximal greatness is not instantiated.
8. Maximal greatness consists in having omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in all possible worlds
9. Therefore, there isn't a being with maximal greatness in any possible world.
10. Therefore, there isn't a being with maximal greatness in the actual world.
That isn't to say there isn't a being with omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection in the actual world, just that if such a being existed, it wouldn't be a necessary being.

So either a maximally great being necessarily exists, or it is impossible. There's no middle ground. And either there is a possible world in which maximal greatness is instantiated or else there is a possible world in which maximal greatness is not instantiated. It's logically impossible for both premises to be true since they each lead necessarily to conclusions that contradict each other.

You can't rule out one of these premises in order to affirm the other because that's circular reasoning. I've talked to both atheists and theists who have tried to do that, and I couldn't get them to see that their reasoning was circular. If there is no non-question-begging way to adjudicate between these two premises, then as far as we know, one is just as likely to be true as the other. With that being the case, then one is not being irrational to affirm either premise. And since the conclusions follow necessarily from the premises, it follows that one is not being irrational in affirming or denying the existence of a maximally great being.

And that means theism is not irrational. It's a modest claim, for sure, but since there are people who think theism is irrational, it's a claim that's worth making.

I wrote more about Plantinga's argument elsewhere. I went into more detail about possible world semantics, so if you had a hard time following the argument in this post, read this one.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 16 of 16

These are the various ways "astheneia" is used in the New Testament.

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness [astheneian]. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." (Romans 8:26)

The context suggests that it means general impotence, inadequacy, etc.

"When evening came, many who were demon posessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities [astheneias] and c/arried our diseases.'" (Matthew 8:16-17)

In this context, the word strictly refers to illnesses. Matthew quoted from the Septuigint which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. The word for diseases here is "nosous." The physical weaknesses result from the diseases. That's why "astheneia" almost always means physical illness. To be physically weak is an illness, or a symptom of an illness.

"When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sicknesses [astheneia], and laying his hands on each one, he healed them." (Luke 4:40)

"If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple [asthenes] and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed." (Acts 4:9)

Here, "asthenes" is translated as "cripple" because the context proves that this is what was wrong with the guy. (See Acts 3:1-10)

"Is any one of you sick [astheneo]? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord." (James 5:14)

It's clear from the context that James is talking about physical sickness.

"Who is weak [asthenei] and I do not feel weak [astheno]? Who is lead into sin and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast in the things that show my weakness [astheneias]....I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about in my weaknesses [astheneiais]." (2 Corinthians 11:29-30, 12:5)

In this context, Paul seems to be using astheneia in different ways. He seems to be encompassing physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness [astheneia].' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses [astheneiais], so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses [astheneiais], in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak [astheno], then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

The thorn in Paul's flesh, which is the context of this passage, is somewhat controversial as to its nature, so I won't make a case over whether it was physical or not, but I believe that by weakness in this passage, Paul is referring to any kind of weakness, be it physical or otherwise.

"As you know, it was because of an illness [astheneia] that I first preached the gospel to you." (Galatians 4:13)

The context indicates that Paul was referring to an illness because in the next verse, he says that his "astheneia" was a burden to them. He probably had to be taken care of because he was sick. That's why hundreds of Greek scholars all agree that this word should be translated "illness" in this context. Furthermore, the literal translation is, "weakness of the flesh," so it was a weakness in his body which is why the NAS translates it, "bodily illness." I'll say more about this later.

"One who was there had been an invalid [been in his astheneia] for 38 years." (John 5:5)

From the context, it's clear he was crippled or too sick to walk. Here, his "astheneia" is a result of his "nosema," meaning his sickness.

"When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness [astheneia] will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." (John 11:4)

From the context, it's clear that "astheneia" is the sickness that threatened Lazarus' life, so it was a physical illness. Furthermore, it was given to Lazarus to bring glory to God just like when Jesus healed the man born blind. He wasn't blind because he sinned or his parents sinned, but so that the glory of God would be displayed in his life by his healing.

"About that time, she became sick [asthenesasn] and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room." (Acts 9:37)

It's clear that her "asthenesasn" was a physical illness because it lead to her death.

"For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill [esthenesen (a form of the word "astheneia")]. Indeed he was ill [esthenesen] and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow." (Philippians 2:26-27)

Because he almost died from it, it must have been a physical illness.

"Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick [asthenounta] in Miletus." (2 Timothy 4:20)

It's clear Trophimus was sick because his sickness was why he was left behind in Miletus. He didn't have the strength to travel.

"When this had happened, the rest of the sick [astheneias] on the island came and were cured." (Acts 28:9)

It's clear in the context that "astheneias" referred to those who were physically ill because this happened as a result of Paul curing a specific disease called dysentery, which we know is a physical illness.

"That is why many of you are weak [astheneis] and sick [arrostoi], and a number of you have fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 11:30)

In this context, astheneis is a result of arrostoi. Weakness is a symptom of sickness. In this case, it clearly means physical weakness, and incidentally, these people were apparently sick as a result of God's punishment for taking communion unworthily, so God does use sickness as punishment for sin, which is evident in a number of other scriptures, which I'll say more about later.

"Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses [astheneias]." (1 Timothy 5:23)

It's clear from this scripture that Timothy was suffering from physical stomach problems making him weak.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses [astheneiais], but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

In this case, weaknesses just means inadequacy, and probably not physical illness. The same is true of Hebrews 5:2 and 7:28. In Hebrews 11:34, the weakness of Samson refers to his relative weakness compared to the unusual physical strength he had when his hair was still long. Then his weakness was turned into strength just before he died. (See Judges 16:23-30)

"I put this in human terms because you are weak [astheneia] in your natural selves..." (Romans 6:19)

In this context, atheneia refers to the Romans' inability to understand spiritual things. (1 Corinthians 2:14) It has nothing to do with physical illness.

"I came to you in weakness [astheneia] and fear, and with much trembling." (1 Corinthians 2:3)

In this context, Paul does not appear to be talking about physical illness.

"It [the body] is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness [astheneia], it is raised in power." (1 Corinthians 15:43)

In this context, astheneia means our physical bodies have limitation and are subject to decay, old age, sickness, and death.


Saturday, February 02, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 15 of 16

VII. Why I wrote this article.

The teaching of healing in the atonement does real damage to real people.

A. Judgemetalism

If healing is guaranteed in the atonement, then the only reason for any Christian to be sick is because he is either a miserable sinner or because he hasn't got enough faith. This causes people to associate the healthy with the spiritual, and the sick with the depraved. Naturally, some become arrogant and judgemental, while others become subject to reproach. Such judgementalism hurts both the person being judgemental (since any sin is harmful to us), and the victim of the judgement (since suffering from sickness is bad enough without also having to suffer the reproach of one's fellow brothers and sisters in Christ). If proponents of healing in the atonement are to be consistent when a loved one dies of a serious illness, they should condemn them as miserable sinners unwilling to repent, and possibly even unsaved since if they didn't have enough faith in the atonement to be healed, then they possibly didn't have enough faith in the atonement to be saved either. Judgmentalism is an inevitable by-product of healing in the atonement.

B. Grief

As I mentioned above in the part about the emotional argument that refuting healing in the atonement destroys people's faith, quite the opposite is true in many cases. Now most of us are relatively healthy, so we don't see the immediate dangers of this teaching in our own experience. But for those who suffer from serious diseases, this doctrine can be deadly. Some die because they had enough faith to give up medicine. Others undergo radical disconfirmation. It throws people into dispair because of not being able to identify and repent of some secret sin. They think as long as they are sick that God must be forever displeased with them. It is my prayer that Christians will learn to be content in every situation. The spiritual fruit of joy is not conditional upon our situations.

C. Faith

Healing in the atonement destroys people's faith as I also mentioned above in the same section under emotional arguments. When the belief in healing in the atonement is radically disconfirmed, people are forced to reject either the teaching or God. If they have been thoroughly convinced that the Bible does teach healing in the atonement, then they are forced to believe the Bible is untrue, and that God must not exist. Some people never come to faith at all because they believe that if Christianity were true, and healing in the atonement is what Christianity teaches, then Christians in general ought to be more healthy than the rest of the public. Since they aren't, then either healing is not in the atonement, or Christianity is not true. If all these people have been exposed to are people who believe in healing in the atonement, then these people will reject Christianity as untrue.

VIII. Conclusions

In conclusion, I just want to reiterate a few points I made in this article. God does heal people (James 5:14-16), but healing is not guaranteed (Romans 8:23). Sickness is often the result of sin (John 5:14), but it is not always the result of sin (John 9:3). Satan is often the author of sickness (Job 2:7), but he is not the only author of sickness (Acts 13:11).

There's one more entry to this series, so. . .

Continue to Part 16.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Healing In the Atonement, part 14 of 16

B. A loving father would want his children to be well.

This is about the most fallacious argument there is. The idea is that since God is a loving father, then he would do everything any loving father would do, and he would not do what any loving father would not do. God is just like us. He thinks like us, reasons like us, and shares our worldly point of view. To show the fallacy of this reasoning, I will show how it is used in other contexts.

1. Prosperity teachers use this argument to say that Christians ought to be rich and healthy and prosperous in every way. Since we would want the best in every situation for our children, God would also want the best for us, his children, in every situation. The problem is that what we think is best for us is not necessarily what God thinks is best for us. The Bible clearly shows that "money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10), so although God does bless some people with material wealth (e.g. Job 42:10), it is not in everybody's best interest to have material wealth. Jesus said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:24-25)

For some people, wealth could be more of a curse than a blessing. Surely God wouldn't put a stumbling block in anyone's path.

"When tempted, nobody should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone." (James 1:13)
Likewise, "the Lord disciplines those he loves" (Hebrews 12:6), and just as he did so in the Old Testament, we have no reason to think he wouldn't use the same method today. A psalmist wrote that "in faithfulness you have afflicted me." (Psalm 119:75)

2. Universalists use this argument to say that everybody will eventually be saved. They argue that since none of us would send our son or daughter to hell for eternity and disown our children forever with no hope of reconciliation, then surely God would have more mercy than we would and would therefore always leave the door open, and eventually, everybody will be saved. Jehovah's Witnesses and Unitarian Universalists use this argument to say that hell doesn't even exist. They argue that surely no loving father would banish his own son or daughter to such vile torture as hell, and certainly not forever when the person committed only a lifetime of sins.

3. Atheists use this argument to say that God doesn't exist. They reason that any loving father would spare his children hardship if he could. If God is all powerful and all good, then evil should not exist. Since evil does exist, then God must not exist.

The reason all of these arguments are fallacious is because God is not like us. He's a lot smarter than we are.

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God did not promise us a rose garden. On the contrary, he promised us suffering. There is no logic in thinking God would spare us one kind of suffering on the basis that he's a loving father while not sparing us another kind of suffering for the same reason. In truth, God is often willing to deliver us from any kind of suffering, be it sickness or persecution, but there is no guarantee in either case. God delivered Peter from prison (Acts 12:5-11), but he did not deliver Stephen from being stoned (Acts 7:59-60).

C. We should be known by our good health.

The question is often put to me, "Why would anybody desire to be Christian if they saw that we had no advantage over them? How are we to be set apart from the world if not by superior health?" Somehow, this makes them reason that God must want all Christians to enjoy perfect health. Contrary to such reasoning, the Bible tells us explicitely how we are to be known by the world.

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34)
We are to be known, not by how prosperous and healthy we are, but by how we live our lives.
"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
Rather than being known for how God pours out material blessings and health on us, we are to be known by the joy we have in spite of our suffering.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12)
Joni Erickson Tada is a shining example of how sickness can be used to God's glory. She has been a quadraplegic for around thirty years, and through it has become an inspiration to thousands of others. The thorn in Paul's flesh is what kept him from boasting (2 Corinthians 12:7). A psalmist wrote that "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word....It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your faithfulness you have afflicted me" (Psalm 119:67,71,75).

Sometimes, it is God's will that a person be sick because affliction brings about refinement.

"My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." (Proverbs 3:11-12)

"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:10-11)

Continue to Part 15.