Gene Cook, a Christian fundamentalist who runs the website UnchainedRadio.Com solicited one of our regular members and contributors, Zachary Moore, to a debate on his live webcast.
Zach agreed and a recording of the debate is posted here on ExChristian.Net for any interested in listening:
Zach Moore debates Gene Cook
A week later Zach reappeared on the show. The second debate is available for download here: Zach Moore debates Gene Cook part 2
Both files are a little over 7 megabytes, so if you have a dial-up connection, it will take awhile to download.
Below is the first discussion transcribed for those who would rather read, or would like to read along. This transcription was first made available on Zach's site. Thanks Zach!
The Narrow Mind, 7/27/04
Gene: Tonight I have with me a guest, a man by the name of Zachary Moore, and Zachary is someone I met when I was surfing on the website ExChristian.net, I think that’s how you say it, and I typed in an invitation, I found a thread that was entitled, “Where are all the Christians?” or something to that effect, and so I typed in that I would like to have a wide discussion on my webcast concerning the issue of belief and unbelief, and Zachary Moore was kind enough to respond, and so I scheduled him to be with me tonight. Zachary, I’d like to welcome you to The Narrow Mind.
Zach: Thanks a lot, Gene, thanks for having me on, and if I could I’d like to give a special “hello” to any and all members of ExChristian.net that may be listening.
Gene: OK, great. I’d like to say “hello” to them also. And welcome to Unchained Radio, The Narrow Mind.
Zach: Thank you.
Gene: OK, well, I’d like to begin by talking to you, Zachary, about some of the things that I already know about you, but I don’t know very much about you. You mentioned that you were raised in a Reformed home. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about that.
Zach: Yeah, actually both my father and mother came to Reformed theology; my father by way of the Disciples of Christ church, with a short stop in a Messianic Jewish church- my mom came from a Lutheran background. We belonged to a church in Cincinnati, that’s actually where I live and where I grew up, it was called, simply, “Reformed Baptist Church” and it was pastured by a man named Tom Wells. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him- I know he’s written a number of books on theology. He’s actually still preaching- he’s getting on in years- and the church has actually moved and it’s changed names, it’s now called “King’s Chapel” and he co-pastors that with a man by the name of Newton Bush. I don’t know if those names ring any bells…
Gene: Tom Wells seems to… did you say “Tom Wells?”
Zach: Yeah, Tom Wells.
Gene: Sounds familiar.
Zach: Yeah, he actually, he and another Reformed… a guy by the name of Baruch Maoz who is, he’s a Jew, a Jewish Christian, Reformed Jewish Christian…
Gene: From Jerusalem?
Zach: …the Reform is on the Christian part, not the Jewish part.
Gene: Right, is he from Jerusalem?
Gene: I’ve met him before, he was a chapel speaker here at Westminster seminary here in California.
Zach: Oh yeah, he’s a… I’ve had dinner with him, he’s a very, very intelligent guy. But he and Tom Wells jointly married my parents. He was a good friend of my father’s also.
Zach: That’s pretty much… I don’t know if that gives you any clues as to…
Gene: OK, well how long have you been an “apostate,” as you called yourself?
Zach: About five years, I would say, and it’s not the type of thing that happens overnight, certainly, it was a gradual process that just, I guess, sorta happened. I can take you through that a little more in detail if you’d like.
Gene: Yeah, I’d like to find out maybe what it was, you said that… in the email that you sent me you said that there were several reasons for your apostasy, I was wondering maybe if you could go into a few of those.
Zach: Sure. Well, first of all, I guess, I should start at the beginning. When I was a child, of course, I gave you a little bit about the church I grew up in, and my father was very very… he had very very high expectations of my spiritual development and he placed a large amount of importance on Biblical literacy. And so, beyond just going to church and going to Sunday school and all that stuff, on Sunday afternoon when we’d return home, after lunch, myself and my brothers, actually, were all assigned books of the Bible that we had to read the entire book that afternoon and either write a written report or give him an oral report on that. And so, in doing so, I became very Biblically literate. I’ve read the Bible many many times over…
Gene: Did you resent your father doing that?
Zach: Oh, no.
Zach: Not- I mean, it was- at times it was a pain, especially, you know, as I became an adolescent, you know, it was like, “Well, I’d love to go out to play, but man, I’ve gotta read this book of the Bible.” You know, it was a good day when I had to read Jude, and it was a bad day when I had to read Isaiah.
Zach: Usually, to be fair, he’d split up Isaiah in two parts. And so, beyond that, throughout my junior high school, you know, he would give me books by J.I. Packer and Charles Spurgeon, and I’d read through those, and I accepted pretty much everything that I read. I had faith in it- as soon as I was old enough to realize the concept of sin and redemption and all that, I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and I was very… I was believing. I had faith. There’s really no other way to put it. There’s no way that I would consider not having faith, and quite frankly, if I could have, at that time, looked ahead to where I am now, I never would have believed it. You couldn’t have paid me enough money to believe that this is where I would be.
Gene: So, how do you, having a Reformed background, just as a point of question, I guess, how do you look at yourself? There was one time when you believed that, I’m sure, the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. You couldn’t lose your salvation.
Zach: Right. Well, you know I’m aware of those doctrines and obviously by those doctrines I was never really saved in the first place. But you couldn’t have told me that at the time, certainly. And quite honestly, I was no different, absolutely no different from any other, I’m sure you have a lot of kids in your Sunday school or whatever, I was no different from any of them. Given a few changes in my life, a few things that might have gone differently, I could have easily ended up pastoring a church, just like you are, probably with a lot of the same doctrines. So, it’s kinda funny how things work out that way.
Gene: It is. So one was, well, you really haven’t gotten to the reasons why you aposta- you went apostate.
Zach: Right. Yeah, I take a long time to get to anything, I know.
Zach: But as I grew up, my worldview began to expand, and this is something that happens to everybody. When you’re a little kid, your world is centered on your parents, and as you begin to grow up you begin to realize that there is a world outside your parents, there is something bigger than them. And I began to get sort of a… I would call it an “objective” perspective on the world. I realized that in any situation there is “your story,” there is “my story,” and then there is the “truth.” And some of your story may encompass the truth, and some of mine may encompass the truth, but there’s, and there’s all these different sides, and so you really have to look at it from all these different ways. And I think that perspective is really the crux of what led to my apostasy, I think. Having a larger perspective. You know, if you go to Egypt, and you visit the pyramids, if you fly over them, you would look down and you’d say, “Wow, what big squares.” And if you drive past them you’d look over and you’d say, “Wow, what big triangles.” And in both situations you’d be right, it’s just a different perspective, you know? And it’s like the story of the blind men with the elephant- they’re each grabbing a different part of the elephant and they’re each completely missing what they’re talking about. One thinks it’s a rope, one thinks it’s a wall.
Gene: But the difference between Christianity and the analogy of the elephant is that we have somebody up in the balcony yelling, “It’s an elephant.”
Zach: Well… so they say.
Zach: Anyway, so I was growing up, and I had this larger perspective on just the world, and for a long time I would shine this “light of objectivity,” if you will, just about anywhere, on any situation, but I kept it away from my faith. And I think, looking back, I think there were some things that I was kind of queasy about, certainly… the killing, and most of the objections about the Old Testament. I was aware of those types of things. And I really didn’t like to think about them. And so I would be objective about just about everything else, except for my own faith. And it was about this time that I entered into college, and I took a course that I thought would be an easy “A” for me, that’s pretty much the only reason I took it, and it was called “The Bible as Literature.” It was taught by a man named Anthony York, who’s actually written a book, that we actually used as a textbook, called “The Bible as Literature: an introduction,” and he’s written with three other- two other guys, John Gabel and Charles Wheeler. And it basically added another realm of perspective on the Bible, and I began to look at it as a work of literature. And there are, I don’t know if you know, any of the critical analyses, in terms of Biblical literature, that exist- the Documentary Hypothesis, the Yahwist source…
Gene: Yeah, I’ve- I haven’t taken courses on them, as you have, but I am familiar with them, enough that… I’ve been exposed to them, let’s put it that way.
Zach: Well, if anybody out there is interested, I highly recommend that book for giving you an idea of what those things are, but I think that most important thing that it allowed me to do was to look at the Bible as a human work. Which, Christians do believe that the Bible is a human work inspired by God or the Holy Spirit or whatever, but at least at one level it is a human work, and I was able to truly look at it as a human work. And, from that perspective I could see all types of new things in there- layers of theology, the different sources that I mentioned before, the documentary theory of the Gospels, different layers in the Gospels, beginning with Mark, expanding through Matthew and Luke, and then John being something completely different…
Gene: Did you expect them to be exactly the same?
Zach: Well, you mean, exactly the same accounts? No, no, no, no. But, there are things…
Gene: So, them being different isn’t necessarily a problem.
Zach: Well, I don’t just mean that they were different- I don’t mean to gloss over these types of things, but this is- to fully explain these would take an hour, in and of itself.
Zach: If you’re interested in it, I can recommend some things where you can read up on this and see exactly what I’m talking about. But anyway, so I’m seeing all these different layers- these definite human fingerprints, sort of smudging my Bible. And it was kind of a problem for me.
Gene: Could you just give us an example, maybe, of one?
Zach: Yeah, actually, probably the most important one, and the one that really kind of- there was no real place where I would say that, “Here’s where my faith really started to crumble away,” but this was a big… big part of it. There’s a totally new perspective that I found on the Garden of Eden, as it relates to Original Sin. Original Sin, of course, being the central tenet that Christianity is based on- if there is no sin, then there is no need for redemption, and what are we doing going to church? Now, in the Christian doctrine, and this is the way it is because this is the way Paul interpreted this- man… man and woman disobeyed God, and they fell from grace, perfection, whatever, and that is transcendent upon us… the headship of Adam and all that. Well, if you look at it in a mythological perspective, which it certainly can be looked at in that way- it certainly does qualify, at any rate- you have a talking animal, you have a moral lesson… by definition this is a fable, or at least a myth, at least on one level. And what you’re seeing is, before the Fall, you have Adam and Eve, and they’re naked, and they don’t know it- that’s important- they’re naked and they’re not even aware that they’re naked. And all of their wants and needs are provided for- they don’t have to worry about anything, they eat what they want, there’s nothing that they have to do. After the Fall, they do… there’s a difference in their perceptions, they are aware of good and evil, before they weren’t, they know what the difference is between good and evil now. And there are a number of other differences. And if I can quote from Genesis 3: Yahweh tells Eve, basically, he says, “I shall give you great labor in childbearing, with labor you shall bear children, you will desire your husband, but he will be your master.” And to the man he says, “On your account the earth will be cursed, you will get your food from it only by labor, all the days of your life. It will yield thorns and thistles for you, you will eat of the produce of the field, and only by the sweat of your brow will you win your bread.” So, after the Fall, not only are they able to tell the difference between good and evil, but Eve, she gives birth, she becomes like the property of her husband, she has to do what he says. Adam, he has to go out and work and sweat and earn a day’s bread every day. So, before the Fall, they are essentially… children, they have no cares, they don’t know right from wrong, everything’s provided for them. Afterwards, they do know what’s right from wrong, they have to wear clothes, they feel shame if they’re not wearing clothes, Adam has to work for a living and Eve has to- she gets pregnant and has babies. And so, what this seems to be, at least, apparent to me, is a myth explaining why children grow up to become adults. And, you know, there’s other myths…
Gene: And what- what is the answer to that question? Why do children grow up to become adults?
Zach: Yes. It answers that question.
Gene: And- and what is the answer to that question?
Zach: Because… Adam and Eve did this certain thing.
Gene: OK, are you aware that Jesus Christ actually spoke of Adam and Eve becoming one flesh, he spoke of them as real historical characters?
Zach: Well… the character Jesus did, yes.
Gene: But you don’t believe that Jesus was a real person?
Zach: Well... Jesus may or may not have been a real person, I don’t really know. I tend to doubt it.
Gene: Well then, I suggest you be careful when you call him a “character,” if you’re not sure.
Zach: Well, I- when I talk about… when you put…when you’re quoting Jesus you’re quoting him from the Gospels.
Gene: I am.
Zach: Well, that’s… the Jesus that’s in the Gospels I would say is a literary character. There may have been a Jesus that actually existed…
Zach: …and he may have said some of the things that got into the Gospels, but I think that by and large, the things that Jesus says in the Gospels, you’re talking about a literary character, at least to my perspective.
Gene: And that… and you were persuaded to that perspective by taking a college course and reading a book about it.
Zach: Oh, well, more than just one book. It really opened up my… my eyes, and I started reading… I wanted to find out more and more about this- if this was true, I wanted to see what was really going on, so I started reading all kinds of stuff. I read J.D. Crossan, John Meier, Donald Harmon Akenson, who wrote a great book, actually, called “Surpassing Wonder,” which is about the invention of the Bible and the Talmuds. Karen Armstrong, “A History of God.” So this is not… this is not something that one guy out there has just kind of thought up, and put in “a book”.
Gene: No, I understand. This is… those that reject Christianity, this is a common theme among the natural men… among natural man. In fact, the book of Romans speaks of natural man suppressing the truth and unrighteousness, resisting that which God reveals in nature about Himself, and choosing to worship the Creature rather than the Creator. And so, from my Christian worldview, obviously you don’t agree with my Christian worldview, but from my Christian worldview, even that which I see concerning these men writing these books and teaching these classes, seems to be consistent with the testimony that I find in scripture.
Zach: Well… yeah. Well, where you find that, Paul wrote that, right?
Gene: Inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Zach: OK. But, humans are humans the world over and since time began. What’s the difference between humans back then and humans now? I mean, it’s not- are you saying that Paul predicted this? I think Paul was just observing that in his own time and just saying…
Gene: Yeah, but Paul is giving us a reasonable explanation for the way things are.
Zach: Well, sure. Well that’s what theology is: figuring out explanations for things that aren’t readily obvious, I guess.
Gene: So, do you reject the concept of a God altogether, now?
Zach: See, that’s a tough one. It’s nearly impossible to reject the concept of “a God,” in sort of like a theist sense, but then it’s also impossible to reject the concept of any god, or at least disprove them. I hesitate to characterize myself as an atheist, because, certainly you would object to me calling you an atheist because you don’t believe in Vishnu. I don’t think that the god of the Bible exists- I don’t know that to be 100% fact, but I think it’s probably- at least, by my- by the things that I have concluded, by my own reasoning. I don’t think… I don’t want to say that, “No, he doesn’t exist,” but I say, “I don’t think he exists.”
Gene: OK, you’re listening to The Narrow Mind, my name is Gene Cook. I have with me tonight as my guest Zachary Moore. Zachary was raised in a Christian home, in case you just tuned in, you didn’t catch the beginning of the broadcast. If you’d like to get in on this conversation, you’re more than welcome to give us a call. Our toll-free number is 1-800-466-1873, that’s 1-800-466-1873. And I’d like to encourage you also, those of you that are not listening from the UnchainedRadio.com website, I’d like to encourage you to check that out and register as users if you’d like to receive these weekly updates announcing who our guests are going to be and the topic that we’re going to be discussing. Now, Zachary, let me ask you a personal question, if I can.
Gene: Do you feel that you were somehow damaged by your Christian upbringing?
Zach: No, not really.
Gene: You don’t have any resentment, or…
Zach: No, it’s funny. A lot of people… I’m actually kind of… well, at least, from the people that I run into at ExChristian.net- there are a lot of people that come to that site who really have been damaged. And they’re full of anger, and that’s really the whole purpose of that site: to provide a sort of a…
Gene: A place to vent.
Zach: …supportive environment for people who, for whatever reason, whether they’ve been hurt, or whether they’ve come to some sort of intellectual conclusion that they can’t hold these beliefs… it just provides a support mechanism, mostly. And there are a lot of people who come in, and there’s some… some pretty disturbing stories, you should check some of them out.
Gene: Well, I’ve heard- you’re right, there are some disturbing stories, there’s no denying that. This, once again, I think is consistent with institutions being erected that do not hold to what the Bible teaches, number one. Number two, even in those situations where there is Biblical theology you have an abuse of power, or the active sinful nature of men that can lead to all kinds of evils. Zachary, we’ve got a caller here, let’s bring him on and see what he has to say.
Gene: Hello and welcome to The Narrow Mind- I’m going to have to ask you to turn down your speakers, if you can.
Gene: Yeah, can you turn down your speakers for me, please?
Caller: This is Derek.
Gene: Oh, Derek. How’re you doing? You’re on the air.
Derek: I’m on the air right now?
Gene: My screener is camping this week. But I need you to turn down your speakers, if you can. OK, Zachary, this is a gentleman that I am going to be debating in August, and he says that he knows you, I actually spoke to him earlier today.
Zach: Yeah, I actually know him.
Gene: OK, great.
Derek: How’s everybody doing?
Gene: Good. So, what’s on your mind, Derek?
Derek: Well, I wanted to talk to you guys about, Gene, I want to talk to you about Romans 1:20-21. When Paul makes the claim from, I think, his suppositions as a Pharisee. About all men knowing God by nature. And I really… I don’t know, I just think that it is question-begging, and I wanted to see if you agreed with that. Obviously, if I don’t know something, I don’t know it. And if you present something to me, and I’m not convinced, then is it my fault that I’m not convinced? Or is, you know, if you show me something objective, I really don’t have much to fight about it. If you show me a candle, and you go, “This is a candle,” I say, “Really? It is a candle, I don’t really think that it’s not a candle, it’s not a baseball bat, it’s pretty objective- it’s a candle.”
Derek: Now, I might not like the way it smells, that’s subjective. But, the bottom line is that’s a piece of information that I cannot deny, I can’t run and say, “I don’t believe in this,” it’s pretty cut and dry. But when Paul makes the claim that all men know God by nature, don’t you think that’s a little tough? Don’t you think that’s kind of a push?
Gene: I think it’s 100% true.
Derek: But… but what is the truth based on?
Gene: Let… let me give you an example. I just asked Zachary, “Zachary, do you believe that no god exists, are you saying that there is no god,” and he was very hesitant to… to say that “Yes, there is no god.” And the reason for that is because he’s not sure. He believes that maybe the Christian god doesn’t exist, but… and, I would say that the explanation for that is exactly what Paul is saying there in Romans chapter 1, because all men by nature know that God exists, by the nature that has been revealed in the creation. Or, the nature of God that’s been revealed in the creation. So, in other words, when you look at a sunset, or you look at a baby…
Derek: Right, right.
Gene: These are all… these are all natural things that bear witness to God’s existence.
Derek: But is that the only explanation for those material things that you see?
Derek: Why is that the only explanation?
Gene: Because it’s the true explanation.
Derek: But… but you’re begging the issue because you’re not showing that it’s God that created it, you’re just postulating a Creator…
Gene: No- no, I’m not. I’m not postulating…
Derek: …and that’s not effective truth.
Gene: I’m not postulating it, God is. I’m simply telling you what God’s Word says.
Derek: Yeah, but see then we’re going to go back again and say, “Well, how do we know that’s God’s Word?” And then, you can’t- that’s not distinguishable as God’s Word. It’ obviously has many, many problems, just within the Christian camp of understanding whose Holy Spirit is convicting them on the truth or not, and so basically, you’re just making more assumptions, and Paul’s making assumptions.
Gene: Well, the difference is that I believe my assumptions comport with reality, and that my Christian worldview is a precondition for knowledge, epistemology.
Derek: Well, that’s fine and good, but you’re still not giving us the only explanation that’s possible.
Gene: Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m more than… more than eager to hear yours when you come down to San Diego on August 8th.
Derek: I know you are.
Gene: I’m going to have to let you go Derek, we’ve got plenty to talk about.
Gene: Thank you. All right, Zach, any comments concerning Derek’s comments?
Zach: Well, I- actually, I was gonna say, you were saying that… well, when you were talking about that God is evident to all mankind, I was just thinking of another course that I took in college, that was… it was an overview of religion in various cultures. And what anthropologists have found is that at the lowest levels of organization in societies, there is no actual… there is no conception of the metaphysical. At the lowest, at the lowest possible…
Gene: That’s not what I see on Discovery Channel there, Zachary, when we take our cameras into Africa and the outback in Australia. It seems to me that they’re all religious.
Zach: Well… well, it- I’m talking about the very, very lowest. You find what are called ‘clans,’ where the entire society is just basically one extended family. I doubt you’ve run across many of those. But they actually have no metaphysical conception. And when you get one higher, you get what are called ‘tribes,’ which are several clans together, and now they do develop a sort of conception of the metaphysical, but they only believe in ‘witches,’ or ‘witch doctors,’ certain individuals that can manipulate the spirit world. Once you get higher, into… I believe they’re called ‘chiefdoms,’ which are groups of tribes, they believe in sort of like an animism, that there is a spirit force in all things in nature. I think that might be a little closer to what you might be experienced with. When you get higher than that, then they start to believe in, like, gods, that… and they tend to be a little bit more pantheist.
Gene: So, by… I’m just, I question, and I don’t mean this any wrong way… so are you identifying yourself with the lowest level of mankind by your position?
Zach: Well… not necessarily.
Gene: It seems that you are. Zach, we’ve got another caller, let’s bring him on.
Gene: Welcome to The Narrow Mind. This is Gene Cook. What’s your name?
Gene: Paul. How you doing, Paul?
Gene: Good. What’s on your mind?
Paul: I just wanted to jump in, at the tail end of the discussion about Romans 1, all men knowing God.
Gene: OK, go ahead. … You’re on.
Gene: You’re on the air, Paul.
Paul: Oh, Gene? How’s it going.
Gene: Good. You’re on the air.
Paul: I just want to… comment on what Derek called in, talking about Romans 1.
Gene: OK. Go for it.
Paul: And there’s a vital premise that was missing. The reason that he was saying that, well, he doesn’t know it, is because men self-deceive themselves. So… all men know God, but at the same time, they deceive themselves to believe that they don’t know God. And to bring up that it’s a question-begging position, it is on both ends. Since this is a worldview debate, on both ends it’s question-begging. So we assume our worldview when we say that, based on our worldview, all men know that God exists- there are no such things as atheists. And to come and say, “Well, I don’t know that God exists,” is to assume that Paul is wrong in Romans 1, and thus beg the question on your own end.
Gene: I would agree with that. Any comments on that, Zach?
Zach: Not really.
Gene: OK. Thanks for the call, Paul.
Paul: No problem.
Gene: I’ll tell you what, we’re not going to take any more calls tonight, cause I’d really like to talk to my guest, his name is Zachary Moore, and I’d like to get to know him a little bit better. So… do you believe, then, in evolution? When you look at the world, you look at creation, how do you believe that everything came into existence?
Zach: Well, I actually am a scientist- I’m about a year’s away from my PhD in molecular biology, and as a scientist, I’ve seen the papers, I’ve seen- I’ve seen the data, this is what I’ve been taught, and… yeah, I believe that evolution describes how organisms develop.
Gene: OK, and… when it comes to… you mentioned earlier in the broadcast, you mentioned ‘truth,’ you were talking about analyzing things from different perspectives, and you used the word ‘truth.’ I’m wondering, can you explain to me a little bit about how the concept of truth works into an evolutionary worldview?
Zach: What, are you talking about like absolute truth, like objective truth, in a Platonic sense?
Gene: Well… maybe we should define truth. How do you define truth, Zachary?
Zach: Well… truth, in the only practical sense that we can ever hope to grasp, is just reality. And reality, I believe, as Philip K. Dick said, is “What still remains when you stop believing in it.” Now, whatever that means, I’m not sure. But in terms of truth, I’m just saying “what actually exists.” Is it possible to perceive the entirety of truth? No, nobody can do that.
Gene: But is it possible to know things that are true?
Zach: It is possible to know within a great degree of certainty that things are true. It’s not- you can’t know absolutely that things are true. Evolution may be wrong… it may be wrong, but according to the methodologies of Science, it is accepted. We have established procedures, statistical methods, for determining whether… whether we’ll believe something scientifically or not. And even- you know, it’s interesting. People don’t really know this about Science… I actually just published a paper, when you publish a paper, it is not just snapped up and accepted. There is a great deal of skepticism in Science, for everything, and that’s really a good thing. Because it helps you defend your position. People- if you introduce an idea that people are skeptical about, they will look into it, they will challenge it, they will look at it from a different way, and a different way, and a different way, and you have, maybe a hundred different people looking at it from a hundred different ways, and if you have that many people with that many perspectives looking at it, that’s really the best way, it’s really the only way that we, as humans, can arrive at… whatever- whatever we would consider as truth. Or, at least as close to it as you can get.
Gene: Well, that seems somewhat mysterious to me. So, you’re basically… your thesis is, then, that truth is established by numbers, by vote?
Gene: OK, if you say on the one hand that we really can’t know anything to be true, 100%, and then you say on the other hand that there is a great deal of skepticism in the scientific world, it seems to me that if we can’t know anything 100% then it’s all skepticism in the scientific world.
Zach: Oh, it is. And in fact, there are some things in Science that are… that have been historically accepted just dogmatically, as a matter of faith, sort of as a religious concept. In fact, this was shattered when retroviruses were first discovered. For the longest time, the Central Doctrine of Molecular Biology was: DNA creates RNA creates Protein. And this is some- this is something that has been tested, and experimented- experimentally shown to be true, over and over and over again. And it was just accepted as truth, and some scientists accepted it, a little bit as absolute ‘Truth.’ There was nothing that could violate this central thesis. But then along came retroviruses, and retroviruses don’t follow the Central Doctrine. They go: RNA, DNA, RNA, Protein. And so, people started… when that first came out, people were challenging that, and they didn’t believe it, and… experiment after experiment after experiment showed that, in fact, that was true. So in Science, what we believe is true is true, conditionally, until something else comes along to replace it, or something else comes along that shows that that’s not true.
Gene: I mean, for example, is it true that 2+2=4?
Zach: Yeah. Well, but that’s not scientific, though.
Gene: But, OK… but I was asking the question in reference to truth. Can we know anything to be true 100%?
Zach: Not really. Because, I mean- and I’m not a mathematician, but my wife is. There are, in fact, very, very complicated calculations and equations and things that you can use in Mathematics using Number Theory, that actually show that 2+2=5. You can actually do something like that in Mathematics.
Gene: Zach, with all due respect, if leaving Christianity results in 2+2 becoming 5, I’ve just found another reason to cling to Christ.
Zach: Well, that is- that’s Mathematics, that’s not Ex-Christianity. If you want to criticize Mathematics…
Gene: Well, you’re saying- in Christianity, we have objective truth.
Gene: We… we can know things to be true. Because those things which are consistent- Jesus Christ said “I am truth,” so truth is really personified in the person of Christ. Everything that is consistent with Christ and His Word is true, everything that is an objection, or antithesis to Christ and His Word is seen as false or a lie. The world in which we live in, is a world that is logically manifest, that is- we have reason manifest in understanding things and our Theory of Knowledge, we have reason manifest in our communication of language, we have reason manifest in our… in our working with numbers… such as 2+2=4. These are all logical equations. And these are standards that men accept, universally. But in the evolutionary worldview, there is no such thing as a Universal Law. But yet, as a scientist, I am sure that you would believe that there are things called ‘laws.’ Such as the law of gravity, the law of non-contradiction…
Zach: Well… well, those are just descriptive laws. Those are just describing the nature of the Universe.
Gene: But they’re describing something.
Gene: And so, it’s language that is helpful to describe a reality.
Zach: For us. And, in fact, they may be wrong.
Gene: So, the law of non-contradiction might not exist, is that what you’re saying?
Zach: It might not.
Gene: Well, once again, if abandoning Christianity, if abandoning the Christian worldview that… that teaches that there is a sovereign God who has endowed Man with the ability to reason and to think, and to have a relationship with Him, if abandoning that results in complete skepticism, then you really live in a world that, for me, is… is a crisis. I mean, you can’t even know that you’re talking to me on the phone right now.
Zach: Well, that’s true, who’s to say I even know I’m alive? Maybe I’m just a figment of your imagination…
Gene: But you just said, “that’s true.” So… is that true, or is that not true? Is it true that you can’t know that I’m talking to you on the phone right now? You see, what you’re doing, Zachary, is you’re made in the image of God, and so therefore, you are assuming universal truths in the world in which you live, and you are even applying them in this conversation, but yet you are rejecting at the same time that there is something as universal truth.
Zach: Well, I’m not saying absolutely that I actually exist. I’m not saying that.
Zach: Like I said, there is no such thing as absolute truth, I cannot know absolutely… I think I exist. Can I prove that I exist? Well… no.
Gene: Is it… is it true that there is no such thing as absolute truth? Because, once again, you’re borrowing the Christian worldview that teaches that there are universal truths, and you’re making a statement about truth, in a universal manner. But yet rejecting universal truth at the same time. It seems to me that you can’t have it both ways.
Zach: Well… I’m also borrowing ancient Greek philosophy, too. Not that- I would say that I’m ‘intersecting’ the Christian worldview, I’m not necessarily borrowing from it.
Gene: OK. ‘Intersecting?’ I- OK, that’s a good description. But why are you intersecting? If the Christian worldview, according to you, has already been established as false, because of your research, and…
Zach: No, I haven’t. No, see- I’m not saying that it’s false. I don’t think it is- I don’t think it’s true. But I- you can’t prove, do you see what I’m saying? You can’t prove anything.
Gene: OK, when you say you can’t prove, once again, you’re assuming that there are things that can be proven. Are there things that can be proven?
Zach: I can’t think of any. No.
Gene: So for you to say, “you can’t prove the Christian worldview,” is a meaningless statement.
Zach: Well, that’s why I pretty much leave it alone. I say, “I don’t think it’s true.” I’m not set out to- I’m not setting out to prove anything. I’m not setting out to prove that Christianity isn’t true. I’m not setting out to prove that Atheism is true.
Gene: But… you’re saying that if somebody could prove to you that Christianity was true, then you would believe it.
Zach: How would they do that?
Gene: Well, that’s what I’m asking you.
Zach: Well, that’s my question, too. And the fact that I haven’t gotten- that I haven’t been able to figure out what that answer might be, is pretty much the reason why I still am where I am.
Gene: Let me ask you this: do you have any children?
Gene: OK. Do you plan- well, that question really is neither here nor there. I have four children, and I have a different background than you do. I was raised in a home where there was talk about God, but we never went to church. And, I basically began to live out my… my sinful nature in my late teens and early twenties. And, so… so, I kinda came from the opposite view, it seems that you were raised in a Christian home, but now you, by the experience of the reality in which you live, you’ve come to the conclusion that that’s not the way to go. My experience was the opposite, in that…
Zach: Well, I’m not saying that, either. I’m not saying that Christianity isn’t the way to go, necessarily. I’m saying that I don’t think it’s true, but I wouldn’t see a problem with anybody else being a Christian, either.
Gene: OK, well that’s good. But… you, I’m sure that… the website- ExChristian.net, talk to me more about the purpose in which- you’re a moderator on that website. Why do you take an interest in that website?
Zach: Well, I actually, I came to all these conclusions that I’ve told you about, long before I found this website, but I was just… I’d always just kept these things to myself, and I would… I don’t know, I guess I’d sort of like, argue in my own head. I like taking the Devil’s Advocate point of view, for just about everything… I love arguing.
Gene: But you don’t believe in the Devil.
Zach: Well, that’s just a…
Gene: …figure of speech. Right, OK.
Zach: So, I’d just be thinking about these things and reading these books and I didn’t really have anybody to talk to, and so one day, I just went to the Internet, and I was like, “OK. I’ve gotta find somebody out there who thinks like me.” Because I’d never met anybody, I’d never heard of anyone who had left the Christian faith. And, so I actually found a couple sites, LosingMyReligion.com, whose motto, humorously enough, is, “Stay home Sundays, Save 10%.” And then I found ExChristian.net, and it’s just- it’s full of resources, lists of errancies in the Bible, lists of atrocities. Basically, for people that are coming out of Christianity, it kinda gives- fills in everything that they haven’t been- I mean, they’ve been taught all the good things that Christianity has done, they’re not really aware of all the bad things. So, it kinda fills that in. And then there’s a forum that allows you to I guess, sorta like decompress, take out some of your frustrations. The analogy that we always use is that it’s kinda like an Alcoholics Anonymous for people coming out of Christianity.
Gene: But, when you compare it to that, it seems to me that alcohol is something for those that are… have- have come to that point in their lives that they need to join AA, it’s because it’s basically wreaked havoc in their life. It- it’s been something that’s been destructive to them. But you don’t believe that Christianity is necessarily destructive.
Zach: Not necessarily, but it can be. Christianity is a human… it’s- and, I do want to get across that I don’t have a problem with faith, per se. Faith is actually a really good thing, in general, for humanity. All throughout history, Mankind has had faith, in all kinds of different things. And I think it’s worked to, basically his betterment. If faith in religion was a bad thing, we definitely would have gotten rid of it by now. But it’s not, and in fact there’s a book called “Darwin’s Cathedral,” I can’t remember the author offhand, but it- it basically talks about, it kinda fuses Darwinian selection and religious history, and explains how religion actually tends to be good for society. And, just faith in general… a really good example is the movie “Miracle on 34th Street.” Are you familiar with that movie?
Gene: Yes, I am.
Zach: The little girl, and there’s the guy who’s supposed to be Santa Claus, and she does not believe that he’s Santa Claus. But everybody who watches that movie wants her to believe that that guy is Santa Claus. Even though everybody knows that he is not. And, but deep down everybody kinda does think that he is Santa Claus when they watch that movie. So there is… there’s definitely a positive aspect to faith and we… we really encourage faith. And while I don’t necessarily have faith in the metaphysical anymore, I do have faith in a lot of physical things… I have faith in myself, I have faith in humanity, especially. So I’ve kind of moved away from… sort of like what you’re saying with moving away from the Creator and into the Creature. Because I think that the Creator is actually humanity, that God was actually created, or that the concept of God was created by humanity. So I’m coming at it from both…
Gene: A few minutes ago, you used the word ‘atrocity.’ In your thinking, according to your worldview, what is ‘atrocity?’
Zach: Something that is immoral, probably on a pretty large scale.
Gene: OK. And what is… according… when you say ‘immoral,’ based on what moral code or moral standard?
Zach: Ah, see, this is the problem that I had, this is actually one of the later problems that I had as I was leaving the faith. Is… I… had, I had acquired all this knowledge, and I had acquired all these different perspectives on Christianity and the Bible. And I was really very confident that, there was a lot more to it than mainstream Christianity teaches. But I was still at a loss, I’d heard this argument before, that you can’t have morality outside of the Bible, and it really bothered me, because I knew that there was… I knew that I knew what was right and wrong, but I couldn’t think of why that was. I think that’s the argument that C.S. Lewis uses in “Mere Christianity” to justify his belief in God. But, then I discovered that, in fact, it is possible to have a moral system- a secular moral system, if you use humanity as the focus. And so, in this system…
Gene: I wonder why one doesn’t exist, then.
Zach: Well, it does. In my opinion, it does, and where Christianity is good, or does good is when it intersects with that secular human morality.
Gene: In where- what is that… can you identify that secular human morality code for me?
Zach: Sure. What is good is to lessen human suffering, and what is bad is to increase human suffering.
Gene: Did you see the movie “I, Robot?”
Gene: It’s funny that you mention that. Because it seems to me that’s exactly what was going on in the movie. The robots had… well, V.I.K.I., the main- if I can kind of digress for a moment- I’m sure a lot of our listeners haven’t seen it, so let me set it up a little bit. V.I.K.I. was kind of like the main- the ‘mainframe’, if you will. Kind of like the master computer behind all the robots. And, the way that she was designed, she had the ability to begin to become human, in some of her characteristics- that she was… she was gaining the ability to reason, she was gaining the ability to… to basically- interpret the laws that were programmed in her from the beginning. In doing so… I- in watching this movie, I couldn’t help but realize the parallel that you’re talking about now. Because, in the movie, if you recall, once the… once the computer began to interpret the laws in a subjective manner, that is, they… he, the computer disconnected the laws from the original source by which they were given, that is Man, and began to interpret them. He began to justify evil behavior toward Man because he believed that his logic was infallible, since he could reason that it was better to take certain actions and protect Man, than allow Man to have these freedoms by which Man might destroy himself.
Zach: Right. Well, that’s actually a little closer to the ethical theory taught by John Stuart Mill, that’s called ‘Utilitarianism.’
Zach: And a lot of people had objections to that theory, specifically for that, and Ursula LeGuin actually wrote a story called, “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas.” Which is basically the same idea from “I, Robot,” there’s this city where everything is perfect, except for one child, chosen at random, that gets tortured completely. And because of that torture, everybody else is made happy. But, is it right for one person to suffer so that everyone else can be happy? And… that just doesn’t jive with our ideas of justice. So that’s why, ultimately, utilitarianism failed as an ethical theory.
Gene: But… but I guess the question is, “Why doesn’t it jive with your theory of justice?”
Zach: Well, it- I mean, would you… would you agree to live in a city where everything was perfect as long as one child at random was tortured continually?
Gene: No, but I would… I would not agree to live there because I’m a Christian. And according to my Christian worldview, I have an objective standard by which I can measure good and evil and torturing innocent people is something that is evil. And I can say that very dogmatically and objectively.
Zach: Right, and I would say that I would not live there because that’s causing unnecessary human suffering, and so it goes against secular human morality.
Gene: But what… what’s wrong with unnecessary human suffering in the- in the evolutionary worldview?
Zach: Well… in the evolutionary worldview?
Gene: Isn’t that survival of the fittest? If it makes the majority of the people better and happier and stronger, it seems to be that it would fit with the worldview.
Zach: Well, it’s not the ‘evolutionary worldview.’ It’s the ‘human worldview.’
Gene: But humans have evolved.
Gene: In your understanding.
Zach: Right, but you can’t apply- I mean, you can’t apply this to other animals, necessarily. You can’t say it’s wrong for a cat to kill… you can’t say, as a human, that it’s wrong for a cat to kill another cat, because it causes undue feline suffering. You can only apply this to humans.
Gene: That’s because humans are made in the image of God. And the reason why you know that there is something right and something wrong, that there is something called ‘truth’, that there is something called ‘contradiction’, Zachary, is because you are made in God’s image. But you, like the men in Romans chapter 1, are suppressing the truth and righteousness and denying the very Creator who has endowed you with these gifts.
Zach: Well, it’s by virtue of these gifts that I’m denying him.
Gene: It’s kind of like, if I can use an analogy, in order for a two-year old to slap him grandfather in the face, the grandfather has to pick up the two-year old and hold him. And so, when you say, “It’s by these gifts, these ‘gifts’ that I have that I’m denying him,” that’s exactly what you’re doing. You have no foundation for the gifts or the abilities that you have in an evolutionary worldview where God is removed.
Zach: Well, sure I do.
Gene: OK, well, what is the foundation for your morality? Is it just, consensus?
Zach: Well, you- you have to start with some axiomatic assumptions. Preferably as few as possible…
Zach: Well, you have to start with something, otherwise…
Gene: So, why is my axiomatic- axiomatic assumption of the Christian god not a good starting point?
Zach: Well, I’m not saying that it is, necessarily, but what- it’s one more than you need. You’re just- you’re just assuming one more thing than I do. See, I assume- we basically assume the same things, except you also assume that there is a god.
Zach: So, I… I haven’t found a reason to make that assumption. Or, I’ve lost my reason for making that assumption.
Gene: OK. Are you saying then, that a consensus of human beings, living in a society, is what establishes morality?
Gene: OK, then how is morality established?
Zach: Well, it’s… it’s… it’s just one of those self- it’s based on the axioms- they’re self-evident, you don’t have to agree to them. And you certainly don’t have to vote on them.
Gene: They’re self-evident, Zach, because you’re made in the image of God. Can’t you see that?
Zach: No. I’m- they’re self-evident because I’m a human, and I exist and I know- I’m aware that I exist, and I know that I don’t want to die. I know that that’s a bad thing. So, I can apply that to all other humans that are in existence and say, “Well, if I don’t want to die, then they certainly don’t want to die either,” so it would be wrong for me to cause them to suffer, kill them, or whatever.
Gene: Zach, why don’t you want to die?
Zach: I don’t know. I just don’t.
Gene: Do you enjoy life that much?
Zach: Yeah. Well, that’s the purpose of life, is to live it. I mean, if…
Gene: Purpose implies purpose-giver.
Zach: Not necessarily.
Gene: It seems to me, Zach, and… and- it seems to me that every sentence out of your mouth has, what you called an ‘intersection’ with the Christian god.
Zach: Well, yeah. Well… Christianity has grown up in the human setting also, so there’s bound to be lots of intersections. I mean, Christianity has…
Gene: But these are intersections that cannot be accounted for outside the Christian worldview.
Zach: Oh, sure they can.
Gene: OK, let’s just narrow this down, we’re running out of time. Let’s narrow this down to one. Do you believe that there is something called the Laws of Logic?
Zach: Yeah, as far as practical use is concerned, yeah.
Gene: OK. Where did these laws come from?
Zach: They just exist.
Gene: They just exist. So, your axiomatic is that the Laws of Logic just exist.
Gene: And that is somehow more reasonable to you than a God who creates men in His own image, gives them the ability to reason, and makes them reasonable beings so that they might be able to reason in the world that they live in and come to an understanding of the God who made them.
Zach: Well, it’s a lot easier for me to look at an apple and an orange on the table and say, “Well, an apple is not an orange,” than it is for me to conceive of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent deity… and all the things that are supposed to have happened in the Bible. It’s a lot easier for my brain to wrap around that.
Gene: OK. Well, Zach, I’ve enjoyed the conversation and maybe we can pick it up and talk some more in the future.
Zach: Absolutely. Any time.
Gene: OK, well let me ask you this: are you available next Tuesday?
Gene: All right, well let’s continue this next Tuesday on The Narrow Mind.
Zach: OK, bye.
Gene: OK, Zach, thank you, bye. Well, there you have it, Zachary Moore, raised in a Reformed home, sounds like he had good parents, parents that were concerned about his spiritual health, concerned about his spiritual welfare. But now, because of his education, and… quite frankly, his education that came from the University, he has now left the faith. But, my observation has been he’s still assuming the Christian worldview. He’s still assuming the Christian worldview in the way he speaks, and the way he thinks, and he can’t escape it. And the reason he can’t escape it is because the Christian worldview is Truth. All of us are made in the image of God. And because we are made in the image of God, we carry certain attributes that God has given human beings, that alone belong to him. He hasn’t given these attributes to animals, he hasn’t given them to plants, but he’s given them to us because we’ve been made in His image. And the same time, we have raised our fists in… in mutiny. And we have raised our fists to the God who has made us, and resisted everything good He has given us in this world. All of us, at some point, have done this. And yet, God has been gracious to condescend to Mankind in the person of Christ, that some of these selfish, unappreciative, self-centered human beings might be saved and might be spared the very justice that we deserve. What a gracious God we have. If- if you’re a Christian out there, and you’re listening to this webcast, you need to pray for Zachary, you need to pray for your own children, because it may be one day that your child, your son or daughter adopts the worldview that Zachary has adopted. I’m sure he has parents that are praying for him on a regular basis. And I tell you what, it just breaks my heart to see men and women rejecting God, rejecting Christ, when I have come to know Him as such a loving and gracious savior. May God be gracious to all of us, may God be merciful to His enemies. Until next week, this has been The Narrow Mind, my name is Gene Cook.
The Narrow Mind, 8/3/04
Gene: Well, last week we had a guest by the name of Zachary Moore, I’ve asked him to come back and chat with me again tonight. I felt that the- the dialogue went well, I felt that we were just getting to know each other when we ran out of time, and so I’ve asked him to come back again. So, Zach, I’d like to welcome you once again to The Narrow Mind.
Zach: Hi- thanks for having me on the show again, Gene. And again, a special “hello” to any members of ExChristian.net that are out there listening.
Gene: Yeah, we did have some… we did have some comments, some users’ comments posted by some of your friends from…
Zach: Actually, Gene, could you turn yourself up a little bit? I- it’s a little hard for me to hear.
Gene: Yeah. How- is that better?
Zach: Yeah, much better.
Gene: OK. We did have some comments posted from some people from ExChristian.net, and some were… some were good and some were ugly. I suppose we should expect that. But, anyways, I thought the dialogue went well, and I asked you to come back because I was kind of interested in talking to you more.
Gene: Now, during the course of the week, you took it upon yourself to listen to our conversation once again and actually transcribe it.
Zach: Yes I did.
Gene: So, I guess I want to start by asking you, why did you do that?
Zach: Mostly for my own purposes, so I could study it closely- more closely… and just kind of reflect on it, I guess.
Gene: OK, and did you get a chance to reflect on it?
Zach: Oh, yeah.
Gene: Well, all right, I thought I’d give you an opportunity to… maybe we could, before we get into some new material, if there was anything that you kind of… that kind of jumped out at you as you went back over, as you actually typed out the words of our conversation?
Zach: Well, actually, the main thing I wanted to address, first of all, was mostly the comments you made at the closing. I wasn’t- I had signed off at that point, so I really didn’t hear you make them until afterwards, I listened to it. But, one of the things that you implied in your closing comments was that the cause of my losing my faith was brought on by my education, specifically my University education.
Gene: Yeah, that’s what I said.
Zach: And I realize, that may be, in part, because of the characterization that I gave was incomplete or maybe misleading. And I realize that there is… there is kind of the idea out there among some Christians that secondary education, specifically, public universities, education can be detrimental to your faith. And, if I could, I’d like to- because of my own special situation- I think that I can shed a little more light on that.
Gene: OK, great.
Zach: My father went to the same college that I went to, and in fact he took the very same course that I told you about last week, and in fact he took it from the very same professor. He took- he had that professor at the beginning of his career, and I actually had him right before he retired. So we- we knew- we gathered the same information from the class, and in fact when I was taking it, I was able to talk with him a little bit about it, and just kind of go over the things that I was learning, and he had really had the same information taught to him years ago, and in fact he is now continues to be a devout Reformed Christian, whereas I have taken a different path. And I would see that course as more of a ‘touchstone’ of my awakening, not necessarily the complete process of my apostasy.
Gene: OK. When you say “touchstone,” in other words, that’s kind of a place that you can look back at when you began to ask questions?
Zach: Well, like I said, it was really the first time when I began to have a new perspective on the Bible and on Christianity. And my parents, my father especially is aware of that same information, but he’s come to different conclusions. And, as far as my parents go, you said that- certainly, they do love me, and they do- I’m certain that they do pray for me, and it really does kind of make me sad, I’m very sympathetic to their position… I know where they’re coming from, I used to hold those same beliefs. And it really makes me sad, for where I am now, to know that their belief system forces them to see me as spiritually dead. I… I can’t help but feel sad about that. Fortunately, in my case, there is still a lot of love, despite our differences in beliefs. But this is not always the case, in fact there are a number of families, probably thousands of families that are torn apart because they have different beliefs, and in fact, in the Gospels, the character Jesus pretty much explicitly states that he came to divide father and son, mother and daughter. In Luke 12:51, he says, “Do you think that I have give peace on earth, no, I tell you, but rather, division.” So, I think this is sort of an… irony of the different paths that faith can take you.
Gene: Yeah, he does say that, in fact, and that is very much true, that he has become a source of division among many families. Now, you said that you and your father took the same course, same professor, same school… and I’m sure you compared notes.
Zach: Yeah, in fact he had a lot of the same notes, a lot of his tests were very similar to mine.
Gene: Now, is it… do you think that he’s just not willing to look at the evidence objectively? What do you think the difference is between the conclusions that you arose to…
Zach: He was not willing to give up his faith. And… I was more willing. And, well, and it’s not just based on to that course. I went… I took that course and I went a whole different path. My dad took that course and kept on going closer towards Reformed Christianity. So that was… our paths kind of crossed there, and he went one way and I went another.
Gene: Yeah, that’s very interesting to me, that you guys took the exact same course.
Zach: Yeah, yeah… I know.
Gene: So, OK, let’s get back to- anything else that you’d like to talk about that was said last week?
Zach: Not unless it happens to come up, I can’t think of anything.
Gene: OK. Let’s talk more about where you’re at today, in your… in your pursuit of understanding the world in which you live in.
Gene: You mentioned that you’re a scientist.
Zach: Yes, I am.
Gene: What type of science do you specialize in?
Zach: I’m… the program that I’m in is actually ‘Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine.’
Zach: So I study the molecular causes of disease. Right now, I’m looking into atherosclerosis, which is the number one killer in Westernized societies.
Gene: And as you study the human body, you’re not struck by the notion that there is a designer in all of this?
Zach: Well, I mean- the human body is incredibly complex, from our viewpoint, and it, it is… it’s a very- if I can get into aesthetics, it is a very beautiful thing, but it is also… it has the potential to be a very ugly thing. Studying disease, specifically, as I have, there are so many things that can go wrong with the human body, and it kind of begs the question, “Why, if our bodies really were designed, why are- why do these things happen?” And there are other things about the body that don’t necessarily ‘go wrong,’ but if you’re looking at them from a design standpoint, you would say, “Well, why was that designed that way- that doesn’t really make any sense.” So you can kinda see things both ways.
Gene: Yeah, well, you know what the Reformed Christian answer would be to the first question?
Zach: Oh, sure, sin has corrupted the body, and all that.
Gene: Yeah, we have come under the curse of God because Adam rebelled against God. He was our first father, and as a result, sin and death was brought upon this world. And God is in the process of redeeming His people from this creation. But you- you speak as though disease, and things going wrong with the human body is a ‘bad thing.’
Zach: Well, it is from my perspective, certainly.
Gene: You speak of it negatively. But I wonder why it’s a bad thing. You know, I wonder why it’s a bad thing to become ill… if you are in an evolutionary worldview. Now, I know that- I don’t think you came out and classified yourself as an evolutionist, but…
Zach: Well, I do believe that evolution- the evolutionary theories that we hold, that we have are accurate, or at least as accurate as they can be.
Gene: Yeah, but… I just… I guess it doesn’t make sense to me… if that’s all part of the natural process, as some have said, death is as much a part of life as life is. Why are we fighting it? I mean, what’s the big deal? Why don’t we just give in to the natural process so that we can continue to move forward?
Zach: Well, Gene, it’s because we’re humans, and we’re not- I mean, you speak of it, of the evolutionary worldview as stepping back from the whole process and looking at it and saying, “Oh, well, this is- this would be better for everybody so they should all go along with that,” but we’re not… we’re not stepping out from it, we’re not looking at it objectively. We are humans, we are a part of the whole mess, and for us, suffering is bad, being sick is bad, dying is bad. We don’t like that. And so, that is the reason why we try to alleviate these diseases and try to find cures for them.
Gene: And… and that is totally disconnected from the Christian worldview that says that the reason for that is we’re made in the image of God.
Zach: Right, and I know that’s… that can also be really damaging. Do you know of- are you familiar with the Christian Science movement?
Gene: Yeah, well actually, there’s a Creation museum here in San Diego.
Zach: Well… no, Christian Scientists. I’m sorry, did I say “Creation Science?”
Gene: Maybe you did, I just…
Zach: I thought I said “Christian Science.” But these are people, and I can’t remember the name of the woman who came up with this… but they believe that, in fact, every disease is the will of God, and that modern medicine is counter to God’s will, and they will not- if somebody in a Christian Science church gets sick, they will not take them to a hospital. They will sit around and pray for them, and there are a number of different churches, independent churches, that will do the same thing, and I think there have been a number of news stories recently that- somebody’s been really, really sick and they refuse to take them to a hospital. Jehovah’s Witnesses do something similar, they refuse to have blood transfusions. And that seems to me to be an immoral aspect of belief if you are precluding yourself from taking advantage of modern medicine, simply because you have faith the God will heal you. That- that just seems immoral to me.
Gene: Well it is. It is- I believe that we have a responsibility to preserve life. In fact, if you draw the law of God as it was given to Moses to its logical conclusion, that’s what you come up with- we do have a responsibility to preserve life any way we can. Christian- we were talking about you being a scientist, and you said “Christian Science,” so I thought you were using “Christian” there as an adjective, I didn’t realize that you were talking about the denomination “Christian Science.” Yeah, I would disagree with their position, I would find it unbiblical, in fact, what they’re doing there is they’re emphasizing the sovereignty of God, and not realizing at the same time the responsibility of Man. And so they- they have an imbalanced view of life and our role in this world.
Zach: Right, but they don’t believe that. They believe that their view is balanced, they believe that they are right, and they have Bible verses to support them. And so, it comes down to, well, who’s interpreting the Bible correctly? Is it you or is it them? And who can… who can accurately judge that?
Gene: Yeah, see the… I- that’s to say that there isn’t any way of knowing that there can be an accurate interpretation. And- and we would- we would argue that there is a way of knowing that the Bible has been interpreted accurately. And it’s called- I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term, the ‘analogy of faith,’ but we compare scripture with scripture, and the… the type of interpretation that doesn’t harmonize the various parts of the Bible is an interpretation that’s wrong, or that’s an error. Because God’s Word is given to us as a unit, we would expect the Bible to harmonize with itself from beginning to end, and in fact that’s what it does, and that’s our goal is to… to interpret the scriptures in such a way that they are consistent with what we know to be true in other parts of the scriptures. But- there are seminary-level classes exegesis, interpreting the scriptures, there are rules of interpretation that extend not just to Biblical interpretation, but to liter- contractual interpretation.
Zach: Yeah, but who came up with these rules?
Gene: Well, there… there… there are actually rules that fall under the heading of logic. There are- there are rules that extend- are extensions of logic. And… for example, if one of our presuppositions is that the Word of God is the very Word of God, we take two different parts, and they seem to be in contradiction to one another…. One of two things is true: either it’s not the Word of God, or we have misinterpreted the scriptures.
Zach: Well but, it’s- since you’ve taken that presupposition, you’re- you’re precluded from taking the other conclusion. Do you see what I mean? It can only go one way.
Gene: That- for a Christian, that’s right. Because God’s Word is the highest testimony that God could give as evidence of Himself.
Zach: But… see, you’ve blocked yourself off from- from having an actual choice between the two.
Gene: No, I- it was a choice. It was definitely a choice when God caused me to be born again and open my eyes to the reality of His Word. I didn’t have any trouble accepting it as His Word. So that was a- that was a legitimate choice on my part- God did not… God did not make me believe His Word by twisting my volition, God revealed to me the truth of His Word, and made it easy for me to believe.
Zach: But then you’ve already- you’ve made your conclusion before you even examine anything.
Gene: Well, we all have presuppositions. What’s interesting about that- you’re right, I did- I did make a conclusion, but… my conclusion was based on the… the faith that God had given me through the new birth experience that we call ‘regeneration’ or being ‘born again.’ I had lived twenty-six years, as I mentioned last week, in the state of darkness, and I saw that the pursuit of my own desires and the pursuit of my own lust simply brought destruction upon myself and those who I claimed to love. And it’s… you just turn on the five o’clock news, and you can see that the problems we face in this world are because we are a lawless people. We- we don’t have respect for life, we don’t have respect for other peoples’ property, and we forget that we’re made in the image of God, because of the effects of sin. Now…
Zach: Well, I wouldn’t say that we all do. I would say that a certain number of us do.
Gene: Well, we all do to some degree. We may not be felons, but we all break God’s law. We’ve all violated the Ten Commandments, for example. And because of that, we have- we have evidenced ourselves to be children of Adam. It’s interesting that nobody has ever kept the Ten Commandments, nobody’s been able to keep them, nobody ever claimed to keep them, except for one man, Jesus Christ. But going back to my presuppositions- see, we both have presuppositions. Yours is now that the Bible is not true.
Zach: Oh, no, no, no, no. No, no, no, that’s not a presupposition.
Gene: No, it is.
Zach: No, it’s not. I’m not making any negative claims about the Bible. I’m saying that I don’t accept the positive claims that you make. It’s a mistake to characterize that as a negative presupposition.
Gene: To- to say that, “I don’t accept your positive claims that the Bible is true,” is by way of contrary to say that, at the same time, “I don’t accept that the Bible is being true.” So that is your presupposition- you can’t just do the- the nutshell game, and say, “Well, I’m not affirming any positive…”
Zach: But Gene, it’s not a presupposition because I, at one time I did, in fact, believe that. And I’ve- as I was telling you last week, because of the evidence and the fact that I see so much of a human hand in the construction of the Bible, and Christianity itself, that I have come to the determination that I don’t think it is.
Gene: See, I’m the opposite of you. I once believed that it wasn’t, and now I believe that it is. So, it’s as much my presupposition as it is yours. In other words, you- I come from the opposite background as you do. So you- we can’t just say that- I mean, I’m ready to admit that the Bible is now… the fact that the Bible is the Word of God is the presupposition that drives my worldview.
Zach: Right, but did you make that conclusion based on any evidence, or did you just decide…
Gene: No, no, no. Based on the evidence that- as I picked it up and began to read, it began to… Romans chapter 8 says that the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. Jesus- Jesus Christ, as he begins to save a man, he- as you know, in Christian doctrine- he indwells that man with his Holy Spirit, and it gives him eyes to see and ears to hear things in His Word that have never been heard by the natural man. I mean, there’s all kinds of evidences that support the faith that I have. Faith is not fedeism, it’s not a blind leap into a dark chasm. Faith is… based on reasonable… reasons, if I can put it that way, for lack of a better word, to believe. And it just happens to be that the God of Christianity seems to me to comport with reality.
Zach: OK. So you’re just, you’re saying that the evidences that you found for your belief are contained within the Bible itself?
Zach: OK. Do you- do you not see how that’s circular?
Gene: Oh yeah, it’s circular.
Gene: But we all have our axioms. And if… if God is my axiom, then whatever evidence- I can’t offer any higher evidence than God’s own testimony.
Zach: How do you know it’s God’s own testimony?
Gene: Because God has sworn it’s His testimony. And not only that, but because- and you know this from typing out the transcript last week- God’s own testimony is actually a precondition for knowledge.
Zach: Why is that?
Gene: It’s a precondition for truth, it’s a precondition for morality.
Zach: How can you show that to be true?
Gene: All right, let me- let me try. If we are made in the image of God, as the Bible says we are, OK, assuming my worldview for a moment, and if we are called to reason, and part of that being made in the image of God is the ability to reason- God says “come reason with me,” then we have a… we have a foundation, a source, from the reasonableness that man possesses. In fact, man possesses this- this reasonableness universally, that is, man reasons logically. And since logic is an attribute of God, and we are made in His image, I now have a source for why I think logically. Whereas, the world- the man who denies the Christian God, and God’s own Word, does not have a source- he basically has no foundation for were logic comes from. That- that’s just one reason, so…
Zach: That’s not entirely true. Logic can be explained, and reason itself can be explained naturalistically. There is a number of- there’s quite a bit of research in neurology, neuroanatomy that’s really picking apart the way the brain works and we’re discovering, in fact, that just about everything that is unique to humanity, humankind, or the human condition, can be found right within our own skulls. In fact, a lot of the things that you would consider ‘gifts of humanity’ that God gave us: conscience, reasoning, emotion, the ability to use language, fairness- we’re actually beginning to see these in higher primates. A lot of reasoning skills, language skills in gorillas- you’ve heard of Koko the gorilla? She can use sign language, she was taught to use sign language? Very recently, she communicated to the humans that she works with that intends, on her own volition, to teach sign language to her own children, when she has them.
Gene: Let me- let me ask you something, Zach.
Gene: Did you see that firsthand?
Zach: No, but somebody else did.
Gene: OK, but yet, you believe it, don’t you?
Zach: Well, I believe it conditionally, unless I can find some way to disprove it.
Gene: Well, you’re stating as though it’s fact. I mean, it doesn’t sound like you’re making a conditional statement about the way you believe these things.
Zach: Well, like I said before, Science is- the entirety of Science- truth in Science is conditional, so whenever I say anything, I say it conditionally.
Gene: OK, going back to the explanation of logic. I gave you my explanation of logic, and I showed that the reason why I believe the Word of God is a precondition for logic, is because it gives us an explanation for the world in which we live in and the fact that we reason according to the laws of logic universally. My question to you is- according to your worldview, what- what is the source of logic?
Zach: Logic is just a function of our brains, it’s the way our brains work. Why do our brains work that way? I don’t know. Evidently, it’s been very advantageous to us, however.
Gene: OK, so this is my point- and see if you can follow my reasoning on this- my point is this- the Christian worldview gives me, who- I don’t- I don’t believe I’m a dumb guy, I mean, I’m not educated in many areas, such as history and science like you are- however, I think God has given me the ability to reason. So my reasoning goes like this: I look around, I see- I see design. God reveals Himself to me in the person of Christ, and I begin to read what other believers claim to be His Word. It bears witness with my spirit that it is, in fact, the Word of God- now it gives me- it gives me a source, it gives me a logical explanation for the existence of things like logic. Apart from that, the best you can say is, “I don’t know. That’s just the way it is.”
Zach: Well, Gene, tell me this: are you saying that you would rather have an answer, even if it’s the wrong answer, than no answer at all?
Gene: No, I… no, not at all. In fact, I’d rather have no answer than the wrong answer.
Zach: Well that’s my position. In that, we’re in agreement.
Gene: But you haven’t shown why I have the wrong answer. See, I don’t believe that I have the wrong answer. In fact, I’m convinced that I have the right answer.
Zach: Well, OK. But your- your belief system is based on… I mean, it’s not based on nothing. If somebody came up to you when you were still an unbeliever and said- and basically told you everything that there is to know about Christianity, would you believe?
Gene: Well, see, from the Reformed perspective, you have to know that I must be born again, because I’m spiritually dead. And so as much as I would like to say I would believe, the fact is that I hated God, even though I wouldn’t express it in those words, I was His enemy, I was estranged from Him and He rescued me. He opened my eyes and He opened my ears. And so I- I couldn’t believe, in the natural state until God was so gracious to reveal Himself to me in the person of Christ.
Zach: OK, but, how did you see that revealed?
Gene: Through the preaching of His Word.
Zach: OK, so out of- out of the Bible, right?
Gene: The Gospel.
Zach: The Bible is central to your worldview. Right?
Gene: The Bible- the Bible… yes, you couldn’t say it any clearer than that. The Bible is very central to my- in fact, is foundational to my worldview.
Zach: Exactly. Exactly, so, if there is a problem with the Bible, then there is a problem with Christianity. And because I have found a problem with the Bible, then that pretty much- in my mind- calls into question your worldview.
Gene: Well maybe, the problem isn’t with the Bible, but the problem is with your understanding of the Bible.
Zach: That could be, but I have to trust myself, because who else am I going to trust?
Gene: Well… you have to trust yourself.
Zach: Exactly! Exactly, and that’s what I’ve done- that’s all that I’ve ever done. And I’ve come to these conclusions. So… I mean, what can be said?
Gene: Well, let’s talk about that when we come back from the break. We’re gonna take a quick break, we’ll be right back. You’re listening to a discussion here, I have Zachary Moore, who is a moderator from ExChristian.net, he was raised in a Reformed home, we’ll be talking more with Zachary when we come back from our break. My name is Gene Cook, you’re listening to The Narrow Mind.
[commercial and announcement break]
Gene: All right, we’re back. Once again, my name is Gene Cook, and… you know, some Christians ask me, they say, “Gene, why do you- why don’t you play some Christian music on there?” And I suppose the reason for that is that there is so much theology in secular music, that… and not only that, but it’s better. I have to say that secular music is oftentimes, if not most times, better produced, better sounding, better arranged, better written, and- it’s just loaded with theology, I mean, that song [‘The Reason’ by Hoobastank] right there is a perfect example. So anyways, I’m talking to my guest I had with me, Zachary Moore, and… go ahead, Zachary, let’s pick up where we left off before.
Zach: Ah, could you turn yourself up again, a little bit?
Gene: Yeah. Noah, could you turn me up a little bit over there? I’ve got my son working with me today, I’d like to… like to thank him, Noah. Noah, turn down the maroon one just a little bit on my channel. The maroon one. Just a little bit. There we go. OK, that’s better. Can you hear me OK, Zach?
Zach: Wrong way.
Gene: OK, turn it- not all the way down. Turn it up- turn the maroon one on channel one. OK. Go ahead, turn it up a little bit more. There we go.
Zach: That’s perfect.
Gene: OK, great. Yeah he’s… he just turned eleven years old…
Zach: Oh, wow, that’s great.
Gene: …he’s a big help for me, and he’s over there on the sound board, he’s- he’s the one playing all the bumper music and all that.
Zach: Oh, I know I was always doing that with my dad.
Gene: Were you? Well, hopefully he’s listening tonight.
Zach: Actually, I don’t think so…
Gene: No, I’m talking about my son.
Zach: Oh. Great.
Gene: Hopefully, he’s over there, sitting there listening and taking all this in, because I don’t want him to- I want him to be exposed to things early on, you know.
Gene: Obviously, I can’t… make him be a Christian, I can’t implant or impose on him my Christian ideals or my Christian worldview. I can only try to teach him what I’ve come to know, and hopefully he has the ability to digest it and, by God’s grace, grow up to be a Christian man, so… but that’s a whole ‘nother subject.
Gene: So, anyways, we were talking before the break, we were talking about our- our presuppositions, what drives our worldview. So I- I am saying is that the Word of God- and you won’t hear this often, Zach, and I suppose the reason for that is much of what falls under the umbrella of apologetics these days, which is- for those who may not be familiar with that term, which is the defense of the Christian faith, or the defense of anything in general- but specifically here talking about the Christian faith, is evidential in nature.
Zach: Right, right- there’s a lot of people out there that try to do that.
Gene: Right, and I don’t see… if, in fact, the Reformed understanding of the Word of God is true, which I am completely sold out that it is, you could probably tell that- then, really it doesn’t do any good to present natural man with a bunch of evidences because he only interprets them through his presupposition- through his grid that he’s viewing the world in. So there’s no neutrality when it comes to men, they’re either in Christ, or they are outside of Christ. And the reason why I suppose I argue the way I do, is because men want to assume the attributes of God, mainly the ability to love, the ability to reason, the ability to be moral beings and make moral… moral classifications, moral charges, if you will, moral decisions. But yet, they… they don’t have a source, an objective source for their logic, for their morality, for their love, or anything it’s just… like you said, it’s just the way things are.
Zach: Right, and, you know, I can appreciate that, that’s a stance that’s coming solely from a faith perspective, and I can respect that, because… I mean, you cannot argue with faith. Faith is faith. But the problem is, when you… somebody that has faith, goes out and tries to proselytize, and they use- they do use evidences or they- they try to use logic, and… faith is illogical. When you really think about it, faith is believing something to be true that you cannot know is true. And that’s just illogical. And so when you try to mesh faith with logic, you get all kinds of convoluted…
Gene: I would disagree with your conclusions there, I would say that I have… I have every reason to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I can test it, as I mentioned before, as a precondition for… for knowledge. And… for a precondition for logic, for reason.
Zach: But could you test it- could you test it without first making that presupposition?
Gene: No. Not…
Zach: Well, that is, in fact, what I was able to do. When I got to basically about as far as I could go, as I was losing my faith, it definitely was not a process… you mentioned last week also that atheists or unbelievers raise their fists to God in rebellion, and that was completely the opposite of how it happened for me. In fact, I was clinging, as much as I could, to my con- to my conception of God and my conception of Christianity. And every time I would try to reach out, it was like God was there, but he was… fading. And every time I’d reach out and try to grab him closer to me, he would fade a little bit more, until finally… he was just gone. And if I had- if I had any knowledge to indicate to me that God or the Christian God, or any god actually existed, and I could demonstrate that to myself, you’d better believe in half a second, I’d be believing. So it’s- I’m definitely not in a state of rebellion- you may think that I am just because of sin or whatever…
Gene: Well, I wouldn’t- I don’t know anything about your… your moral being or your moral life, so I wouldn’t make that kind of charge, but certainly intellectually you are in a state of rebellion.
Gene: Basically, what you’ve done, is you’ve… rather than allowing God’s Word to judge you, and accurately assess your condition, basically you’ve turned the tables and now you judge the Word of God… and you’ve found it to be wanting.
Zach: If we can’t- if we can’t judge the Word of God, then what good is it?
Gene: No, you can judge- you can judge it…
Zach: It may, in fact, be wrong, and…
Gene: No, I’m sorry. We can judge it and I do judge it, but I only judge it, and find it to be totally consistent with what it’s saying that the world in which we live in.
Zach: But that’s because you’ve already accepted it as truth- you can’t see it as any other- as anything else but truth. Do you see what I’m saying?
Gene: I… suppose it’s convinced- it’s because I’m convinced that… it is truth, I haven’t been presented with any evidence.
Zach: OK, but now you’re saying you’re “convinced.” Now, that implies that you saw some sort of evidence.
Gene: Yes. That’s right- when you say that “faith is the opposite or the antithesis of reason,” I’m saying, “No, it’s not.” That’s- what you’re describing is fedeism.
Zach: But you said you’re a presuppositionalist, not an evidentialist.
Gene: Oh, I am.
Zach: So, how does evidence work into your acceptance of Christianity?
Gene: It- it works- evidences, and Calvin was- was the one who said this, as far as I know, evidences are great for the Christian, but evidences are of no value to the non-Christian.
Gene: But, at the same time, the Word of God- the preaching of the Gospel, happens to be the means that God has declared that changes the hearts of men. How he does that is somewhat of a mystery. But I would not say that my faith is unreasonable. In fact, somebody who was objectively listening to this conversation, when the topic of logic came up, I gave a reasoned explanation for why I believe the Bible, and why I believe it supports my use of logic. But on your side of the issue, all you could say was, this is the way the human mind works, I don’t know why it works this way, but this is just the way it works.
Zach: Well, we’re figuring it out.
Gene: So, to… I guess I’d have to ask the question, which side is more unreasonable?
Zach: Well, but you- you’re using reason under the blanket of your existing presuppositions.
Gene: That’s right.
Zach: OK, see, that’s the problem…
Gene: But you are too.
Zach: …What I was able to do is- what I did at the very end of… of losing my faith, is I had to be honest with myself. I said, “OK, I’m having severe questions about Christianity and the Bible,” I said- I said to myself, “If this is true I can- I can,” and I knew it was going to hard for me to do this because I was raised in a Christian home, and I had been taught to think this way, and these presuppositions had been… virtually bred into me. But, I looked at myself and I said, “If I can look at this- if I can turn off my presuppositions, and look at the Bible, and it screams out to me: ‘This is the truth,’ then that’s it for me, and I’m- I’m renewed in my faith, and I’m clinging back to Christ.” But, what happened was, and this is why Christians are unable to do this- either because they don’t want to, or they’re afraid to, or what, they’re afraid that if they turn off their presuppositions that they’ll look at the Bible completely differently, and they’ll see basically what I’ve seen. And those presuppositions are only there because you want them to be there.
Gene: Well, I would argue that we both have presuppositions. Yours is that the Bible is not true.
Zach: Well… OK.
Gene: And that your mind is the ultimate arbitrator of truth.
Zach: Right, it has to be.
Gene: But when I asked you last week about truth, you said that nothing can be shown to be true.
Zach: Well, nothing can be’ shown’ to be true. There may be truth out there, but our perception of it is limited.
Gene: Well, if your perception is limited, then how can you fault the guy who believes that his perception has been cleared, and he gives a reasonable response for what he believes?
Zach: Because… how does- how does he know that his perception isn’t limited also?
Gene: Because it comports to reality.
Zach: I don’t think it does.
Gene: Well, I gave- OK, let’s- let’s switch gears, here.
Gene: Morality. You see, because I’m assuming, Zach, that you would like to be consistent in the way that you live your life and the way that you…
Zach: Oh, absolutely.
Gene: OK. But you- you make moral judgments about things that are good and things that are evil.
Zach: Right, from the human perspective.
Gene: But what- what is the standard? Is Zach just the ultimate standard?
Zach: No, humanity. If I disagreed with it, it would still be true.
Zach: It would still be true- before I was born, humans did not like to be killed. And after I’m dead, humans will still not like to be killed. So, it has nothing to do with me, I’m just a part in it, I’ve just come to this realization.
Gene: Well, what about suicide bombers for Al-Qaeda that like to be killed?
Zach: Well, they want to be killed because of the seventy-two virgins waiting for them…
Gene: Well, regardless of why they want to be killed, they want to be killed.
Zach: Well, yeah, and there’s always… there’s always going to be exceptions to the rule. There are a lot of people that are actually ill, they are physically ill, their brains have problems with the chemistry, or problems with the way they’re wired, but once again that points again to their desires and everything being caused by a physical- the physical organ in their head, their brain is creating them- creating their attitudes, creating their beliefs, and creating the things that they hold dear. Like- you’ve heard of Phineas Gage? I don’t know if you took any psychology classes…
Gene: No, I haven’t.
Zach: Phineas Gage, this was in the nineteenth century, I think, he was a railway worker. And he was working on a railroad and there was an explosion- they were blasting through something, I guess- anyway, a railway- a railway spike was driven through his head. And he survived, they removed it, but before it went through his head he was a kind, loving, sweet guy. After the spike went through his head, he was a real surly, angry guy, nobody liked him anymore, and that really started people looking at the brain as the cause of our behaviors and the cause of what makes us human. So I think ‘inside’ is really where we need to be looking if we want to ask the question of, well, “What makes us unique?” Or, “Are we unique?”
Gene: Well, I’m going to argue that we are, and I have an explanation for why we’re unique, also.
Zach: But within your presuppositions.
Gene: Well, same with you. You- you cannot say that you don’t have a presupposition that the Bible is not the Word of God. You do.
Zach: No, I don’t. See that’s- I don’t absolutely say “the Bible isn’t,” I say, “I don’t think it is.” I may be wrong. That- that’s- you can’t say that’s a ‘presupposition.’
Gene: But you’re arguing that it’s- you’re arguing from an evolutionary worldview.
Zach: No- the humanist worldview.
Gene: Well, same thing. You are- you’re on chapter one of Genesis…
Gene: If you’re a humanist, you have to give some explanation of origins. And there is no other explanation of origins for the humanist that denies God except for evolution.
Zach: Right, but evolution doesn’t determine our morality. That’s something completely different. We can only be moral within humankind.
Gene: OK, well… what determines our morality, then?
Zach: Well, like I said before, the secular human morality is determined by preventing human suffering, or… causing human good.
Gene: Is it… do you believe it’s immoral to abort a baby that’s inside of its mother’s womb?
Zach: Well, that all depends on whether you believe if that’s a human or not.
Gene: Well, society has spoken, the culture of the United States has spoken, and there’s been a determination made that it is completely acceptable. So I’m asking you, do you agree that it’s completely acceptable?
Zach: Well, like I said, it depends on whether you believe it’s a human, and personally, I go with- I think that the determination of the Catholic church prior to about 1885, I think it was- the Catholic church taught that at the time of ‘quickening,’ that- that was the time in which you couldn’t abort a baby. And the ‘quickening’ is defined as when-
[recording breaks. Note: ‘quickening’ is defined as the time when the fetus begins to move within a mothers womb, such that she can tactilely sense its presence.]
Zach: Right, so- anyway, so I was saying- anyway… whatever determination you’re going to make is going to be arbitrary. I like the quickening as the stage, it’s about- about at the end of the first trimester, I think that’s pretty good.
Gene: OK… that’s totally subjective.
Zach: Well, yeah. Well, there is no clear definition for when a fetus becomes a human.
Gene: Well, how about conception?
Zach: Well… there’s problems there, because- what about somatic cell cloning? That’s technically not conception, but many Christians do consider that a living- or at least, the fetus that’s generated by that to be a living human.
Gene: I’m not familiar with that, so I can’t speak to that.
Zach: Well, it’s like cloning- like President Bush said- put a moratorium on federal funding for…
Gene: And it’s my understanding that they use ‘stem cells,’ or something like that.
Zach: Right, but they have to generate them by, basically, cloning- they take a cell from your body, put it into an egg cell, and it starts dividing, just like a regular fetus would.
Zach: So, in Science, there is no clear consensus on it- conception was popular for a while… it really is subjective, and the Bible doesn’t really- you really can’t turn to the Bible and say, “OK, this is when it- when it happens.” But…
Gene: OK, I suppose what I was trying to get at- let me ask you more concrete questions: Was it wrong for Hitler to murder Jews?
Zach: Well that’s- that’s a heck of a lot of human suffering. And I think you know where I stand on human suffering.
Gene: Well… I- I guess I’d like to hear it from your own lips.
Zach: Oh, OK. Yeah- yeah, that was bad. Definitely.
Gene: OK. And how would you- if you lived at the same time as Hitler, how would you communicate to him that that’s bad? Simply because it’s human suffering?
Gene: But- but if his- if his understanding was kind of like the understanding of the robots in “I, Robot,” if we… if we take certain actions, we can actually arrive at an ultimate good. In other words…
Zach: Well, if that ultimate good causes human suffering, then that’s not an ultimate good.
Gene: But why is human suffering bad?
Zach: Because it is. Because we’re humans, and we don’t like suffering. Like I said, this moral- you can only me moral within the human framework. And we know as humans that suffering is bad. Nobody likes suffering, except for maybe… masochists, or- actually, this is interesting, there was a heresy, an early Christian heresy called the “Circumcellions,” they were also called the “Agonistici.” But they actually would- they believed in martyrdom as the ultimate Christian virtue. And would actually attack people to get them to retaliate and kill themselves, because they wanted to become martyrs for Christ. And so… there’s always going to be people like that who really don’t see human suffering as a bad thing- unfortunately that propelled, and certainly the martyrdom complex within Christianity has propelled it, because… throughout history, as much as they’ve been beaten down, that’s- they like that. And- and they have liked that, and that just propels them going for as long as they believe.
Gene: Well, so- you’re position is that it’s wrong for one man to kill another man, because it causes suffering.
Zach: Well, it depends on the conditions, again. If one man kills another man in self-defense, that’s- that’s warranted.
Gene: OK, I would agree with that, and the law of God actually provides for that. But what if a… a drive by shooting?
Zach: Well that’s… that’s obviously not in self-defense.
Gene: OK, now… why- if we evolved from animals, do you hold that it is also immoral for animals to kill one another?
Zach: Well, as a human I can’t say. Like I said before, you can’t make a moral judgment….
Gene: Are you a human or are you an animal?
Zach: I’m a human and I’m an animal- I’m both.
Gene: OK, so it seems to me that you are qualified to make that judgment on that. Because you’re part of the animal kingdom.
Zach: No, morality comes from- morality derives from our humanity, not our animal nature. If it were up to our animal nature, then there would be no morality, because animals are amoral.
Gene: So at what point did- if you believe in evolution, and help me along with this- evolution takes place over a long period of time…
Gene: At what point in- in this evolutionary progression did the- the man all of a sudden say, “Well now I am an animal, but I’m also a human, therefore we must have morality.” See-
Zach: When men became, basically, self-aware. I don’t know exactly when that was- you’d have to talk to an anthropologist- but it was someplace, and it was based on the development of our brains. There is something in our brains that- and there is something that… is also mimicked in higher primates, as I said before, there have been studies done with chimpanzees in which, if you have two chimpanzees in a room, and you give one a carrot, and the other a piece of apple, the one with the carrot gets upset. But if you- if you have the separately, and you give one of them a carrot and the other one an apple, they don’t care. But because they’re able to reason and they understand the concept of fairness, the one that gets the carrot gets upset. So… but- and we’ve just taken that so much further- our brains are so much more advanced-we’re able to reason with just…
Gene: But if you make this clean-cut distinction between being ‘human’ and being ‘animal…’
Zach: Well, maybe it’s not so ‘clean-cut’ after all.
Gene: So there would have to be a time that overlapped, where there was actually no morality but they were human. Or, where there was… morality, but they were animals.
Zach: Animals can have some semblance of morality. There is something called ‘altruism,’ that’s seen in many types of animal species, where they try to protect those that are closely related to them genetically. And we have this in humans, also. You’d be more inclined, instinctively, to protect your son than a stranger. Or a brother than a stranger, do you know what I mean? Because they’re closely related to us genetically, we want to preserve our genetic material, and if we can’t preserve ourselves, at least we can preserve somebody that’s closely related to us- so that’s the concept of altruism.
Gene: OK, I’m going to suggest that the reason why we’re moral beings, and the reason why this occurs in humans, is because we’re made in the image of God. Once again, my faith comports to the reality in which we live. You’re basically confirming these things, you’re just denying the source.
Zach: Well, no, I’m suggesting a different source.
Gene: Yeah, OK, you’re suggesting a different source. But your source, really…
Zach: Because I’m not willing to make that presupposition.
Gene: But you say, at the end- at the end of the whole thing, you say, “I don’t know.” I mean, you go from animal to being human, humans have these characteristics of being moral, but we came from animals, and so there’s a transition, and so when I ask at what point did you transition from being amoral to moral, and from being strictly animal to human, I mean… that’s just…
Zach: Well, it probably wasn’t clear-cut. I mean, humans probably became- as humans developed and as humans became what we would consider today to be humans, they- they’d probably get more and more morality, and like I told you before, with the book… “Darwin’s Cathedral,” morality, especially as reinforced by religion, and that is- that’s one of the good things that religion does, is reinforce morality- helps evolutionarily humans and societies survive and reproduce.
Gene: Zach, you cannot tell me that evolution is not your presupposition. Every- every question that I ask you about logic and morality- you stem from a foundation of evolution.
Zach: Yes, but I can point to evidences. This isn’t something that somebody just…
Gene: There is no evidence for evolution.
Zach: Oh, I beg to differ.
Gene: Well, I haven’t seen any evidence for evolution.
Zach: Well, then you just haven’t been looking hard enough, I guess.
Gene: OK, well…
Zach: It’s all out there.
Gene: OK, but it doesn’t provide a pre- it doesn’t- it’s not a precondition for logic or morality. Whereas Christianity is, the triune God of the Bible is.
Zach: But it only is if you make that presupposition.
Gene: No, because you’re just- you’re using all the gifts that God gives you- logic and morality, and you’re just saying, “I don’t know where they come from. That’s just the way it is.”
Zach: Well… I know that they come from the brain. As we’re looking- as neuroanatomists and neurologists are looking closely at the brain, we are determining that, in fact, everything that makes us human can be found there. In fact, everything…
Gene: Well, that’s not an argument against the Bible. God gives us a means to express what it means to be made in His image. It just so happens to be a physical body.
Zach: Right, it’s not an argument against the Bible, but it is an argument for an alternate- alternative explanation for our gifts, and what you would consider “being in the image of God.”
Gene: OK, have you ever heard of a guy by the name of Cornelius Van Til?
Zach: I’ve heard of Farrell Till.
Gene: OK, Farrell Till is about the opposite of Cornelius Van Til.
Gene: Cornelius Van Til was a- a Dutch Reformed thinker- very much skilled. He was one of the original staff at Westminster Philadelphia. Pretty well known in the Reformed circles. Basically, what he said is that Man is like- Man, in trying to deny God, is like a man that walks up to you, and you try to explain to him that oxygen exists, and he’s trying to tell you that, well, he doesn’t believe that oxygen exists, because he doesn’t see it, he doesn’t touch it- but all the time he’s breathing oxygen in order to make this argument that oxygen doesn’t exist.
Zach: Well, that’s kind of a straw man. I can take you into the laboratory and show you, empirically, that oxygen exists. I can show you what its properties are, I can show you its flash point, I can combine it with other things and you can see that… do you see what I’m saying?
Gene: Right, but my- the analogy is… carries over and it- it’s meant to communicate this: in order for you to deny God, you have to use the very reason and logic that God has given you.
Zach: Well, that you say that God has given me.
Gene: Well, you- you haven’t given an explanation for where it comes from.
Zach: Yes I have. It comes from our brain.
Gene: OK, let’s say that my brain has developed differently than yours. And so every time Zach Moore disagrees with me, it actually means that he’s agreeing with me.
Gene: Would that be acceptable?
Zach: Well, if- if… if in by disagreeing with you, I’m affirming the concept of the brain- the mind proceeding from the brain, then yeah.
Gene: What if I went home and told my wife, “Grace, you know, I was talking to this guy on the phone, Zach Moore today, and he kept saying that he just didn’t find any evidence for the Bible. And every time that he said that, I said, ‘Yes, I’m finally getting through to him,’ because he’s seen the evidence for the Bible,” would that be acceptable?
Zach: Well, under your presuppositions, that’s true. But I don’t- I don’t make those presuppositions…
Gene: No, no, no, it’s not true under my presuppositions. That’s not acceptable under my presuppositions. In my worldview, that’s totally unacceptable. I’m asking you, if logic is simply the expression of the chemical mind, if we’re simply biological bags of matter, then there really is no… contradictions, or anything like that. There is no valid argument- it’s just a big game. And in fact, if my- if our brains simply develop this idea this way, then I could make the argument that my brain has developed differently than yours. So that every time you disagree with me, you’re actually agreeing with me. And I don’t think anybody would accept that, I don’t think anybody on ExChristian.net would accept that.
Zach: I don’t quite follow that reasoning. That seems a little counterintuitive to me.
Gene: Well, the point is this: that you expect me to reason according to the laws of Logic, just as I expect you to. And the reason for that is we are made in the image of God. You can’t just say that this is a natural outcome of what it means to be human.
Zach: Well, that’s in fact what I have said.
Gene: And I’m saying, then, the rules don’t apply, they can be changed, they can go different directions over time. And unless you’re willing to say that…
Zach: What rules are you talking about?
Gene: The law of non-contradiction. In other words, I could go to India, and I could find a guy that has three goats, and he swears up and down he’s actually only got two goats, and I say, “Well, there’s three goats,” and he says, “No, these are two.” And I say, “One, two, three- it’s a logical conclusion that one plus one plus one is three.” And he says, “Well, my brain has logically developed differently than yours.”
Zach: Well, if it has, then he has some mental illness.
Gene: Exactly. Exactly, Zach. That’s my point.
Zach: But that’s something that you can diagnose, and you can see- I mean, a doctor could look at his brains and say, “OK, this part of his brain, it’s not functioning.”
Gene: So, on the one had you say that the laws of Logic and the ability to reason is a natural function that has developed in the human brain, as long as everybody develops in the same manner. If you don’t, then it’s a sickness, and it can be diagnosed. That’s the kind of- that’s the kind of contradictions that I’m trying to point out here. And you know what, Zach, we’re already out of time. We’re three minutes over.
Zach: OK, could I say something really quick?
Gene: Sure, go ahead, closing remarks.
Zach: If, in fact, if I am wrong, and God does exist, he certainly did not give us a ‘narrow mind.’ He gave us a mind that seeks out truth in whatever form. And if I can quote Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he says that “He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end by loving himself better than all.”
Gene: I would agree with that.
Zach: All right, thanks for having me on, Gene.
Gene: OK, Zach, thank you. Bye.
Gene: Well, there you have it, folks. I’m going to suggest the contrary, that- that God is ‘narrow’ in the sense that the road to destruction is broad, and… the thinking of Man in his natural state is very broad, very broad. So much so that he will deny every good gift that he has been given by the Father of Lights who gives all these good gifts. Once again, I’ll be praying for Zachary, as well as others that think this way, that they might be saved and be given a true expression of God’s grace in the person of Jesus Christ. Until next week, this has been Gene Cook, and you’ve been listening to The Narrow Mind.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)