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Friday, February 21, 2014

Responding to AHA's Presuppositionalism, Part II

In my previous article, I responded to the first four statements by Darin and John as they critiqued an article of mine. In this article, I'll respond to the remaining four statements. Here is the video in question, where they are critiquing my article. They actually repeat a lot of the same statements from the first part, and I won't be rehashing them here. There's no need and I don't want to start sounding like a broken record.

Statement #5: "People are not going to be convinced by Biblical arguments." (22:55)

Darin responds by asking if it's our job to convince people that God exists, but again, right off the bat, they've gone off topic. We're not talking about convincing people that God exists (which I think can be done, anyway, apart from Biblical arguments -- but bringing people to salvation requires the Holy Spirit). This still misses the point of the whole discussion.

I'm not sure what the point of their "God just is, he exists, you can't reason to him" argument is. How does it follow that just because something exists, it means you can't reason to it? Plus, this is just a tautological statement. A tautology is a statement that is true by definition, but tells you nothing about the world. Saying "God is" is true, but it doesn't prove God's existence (simply saying that God exists does not intellectually obligate someone to believe it).

John actually contradicts himself by saying he agrees where the premises of the Kalam Cosmological Argument end up but that you can't reason to God. If an argument is sound (as he seems to agree it is), then the conclusion must be true. Which means you can reason to God because if we take the premises of an argument about God to be true, then the conclusion necessarily follows. He keeps repeating the statement "you can't reason to God" as a slogan, but he hasn't supported that statement at all.

So just to clarify my views on Calvinism vs. Arminianism. I take a middle of the road approach between the two. I believe there's an element of free will to salvation, and I believe that there's an element of predestination. I've heard that my views closely resemble John Wesley's views, though I haven't looked into it much so I can't say for sure. I've also considered Molinism, which is held by William Lane Craig, but I'm not convinced by that position. I believe that each of the five points of Calvinism has some merit, but I believe each point is greatly overstating what the Bible teaches. When the Bible uses the term "death," it is merely a separation. Physical death is a separation from the body, and spiritual death is a separation from God. So when the Bible speaks of us being "dead in sins," it's not dead in the sense that we're utterly unable to do any good because "dead people don't do anything." It means that we are separated from God because of our sins. I think that atheists can do good deeds and lead generally good lives, and I believe that one can assent to following Christ. But God reveals himself to us first, and offers us the opportunity to be saved.

So this whole discussion is interesting and important, but again, completely off track.

Statement #6: "If it is true that incrementalism is the best way to end abortion, then whether or not it is in the Bible is irrelevant. The Bible is not a book of strategy or science, it is a book of history and theology." (27:10)

So Darin asserts that the Bible contradicts the statement that not all truth is contained in the Bible, but this is clearly false. As I pointed out last time, gravity and the Pythagorean theorem are not contained in the Bible, but I would hope that Darin and John would not reject those realities just because the Bible doesn't mention them. If my statements conflict with the statements contained in the Bible, then by all means, believe the Bible over me. But neither Darin nor John have been able to establish (or, much less, argue) that my statements are contradicted by the Scriptures. One might also ask, are you going to take the Bible's word, or Darin and John's word on the matter?

Again, they use the verse about all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom being hidden in Christ, but see my previous article for my response to this.

They seem to keep contradicting themselves. In one breath they'll say that you can't do science, history, etc., without a foundation in theology, but in the next they'll say that you can do science, history, etc. without one. John made the statement that you can open up a history book and find truth in there, but how can that be if the history book doesn't have a grounding in theology? I think the presuppositionalist view is untenable, and they're implicitly assuming presuppositionalism is true in order to attempt to prove it, which is fallacious reasoning.

John and Darin misunderstand the incrementalist argument. Of course you'll save more babies if you end abortion altogether than taking an incremental approach. What incrementalists say is that in the course of changing societal norms like abortion (or slavery, or anything else), you can't do it all-or-nothing. You have to do it incrementally. It's a question of strategy. So John is simply wrong for saying that you're not saving any more babies in the long run. Texas will be saving many, many more babies that would have otherwise died by passing their legislation to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, and due to the fact that abortionists were unwilling or unable to live up to the basic safety standards as outlined in the legislation, at least one-third of abortion providers in Texas have stopped providing abortions and over a dozen abortion clinics have been closed (although I've heard the number now is closer to 20). Meanwhile all-or-nothing legislation does nothing because people aren't willing to pass absolutist legislation.

By not supporting incrementalism absolutists are letting unborn children die for their ideology. Incrementalists believe we are obligated to save what lives we can, when we can. Incrementalists believe that we also need to motivate the church to get more involved. The problem is, AHA doesn't believe in motivation but in condemnation. Incrementalists are not perpetuating legalized abortion and leaving it legalized longer. AHA completely ignores abolitionist history. The fact is it doesn't happen absolutely, over night. It must be done incrementally. By making this a religious issue, AHA is playing into the hands of pro-choice people, who can argue that since our country has a core value of separation of church and state, it cannot make abortion illegal because that's purely a religious position. AHA propagates that idea.

Now, John said that there are some unfair things I've been posting. If this is true, then I would gladly retract my statements. I do have a tendency to speak harshly about AHA, but it's only because I feel that I need to give pro-life people fair warning about them. AHA is not an organization that I can, in good conscience, support based on many things that I've seen from them. I would love to work together with them, but as a member of the pro-life movement (which they want to put an end to), they don't want to work together with me.

So my intention is to fairly represent AHA, and I believe I have done so in these two articles. But if there's any way in which I've been unfair, if someone points it out I will retract my statement.

Statement #7 (off Facebook): "Abolish Human Abortion is continuing to try and change hearts and minds through being obnoxious." (41:25)

I can't remember exactly what fueled this status message. It was probably when I saw that they posted an image of an abortionist, with their name, and the caption "I'm so-and-so, I murder babies in such-and-such city," etc. I'd link to it but it seems to have been removed from Facebook. But this is extremist behavior, and one that fuels the perception that pro-life people are dangerous people. Some other pro-life extremist might take it upon themselves to seek out that person and commit an act of violence against him or his family. This is dangerous behavior, and one in which I don't think a reasonable person should engage in.

There are other things, such as their constant harping that all women who abort are murderers, which isn't true, and belies a lack of nuanced thinking on the part of AHA members. Most women, at worst, would be an accomplice, while the abortionist would be the murderer. It's the same situation as when a woman hires a hitman to kill her husband. Many women, though, are coerced into it by an abusive parent or boyfriend, and many are lied to by their abortion practitioners into thinking it's not an actual human child. Post-abortive women need love and healing, not condemnation.

And there was another image that one of my AHA Facebook friends posted, or it might have just been a Facebook status or something (I don't keep records of Facebook statuses like they do), calling out the church for not actively opposing abortion with the words, directed at them, "you are not salt, you are not light." Again, being obnoxious. I agree that we need to spur churches to action, but condemning them, again, is not the way to do it. You need to go and talk to the pastors, giving them the information about abortion, to spur them on. AHA members tend to put themselves in the place of God, but telling the church (of which many members do actively oppose abortion) that they are not salt or light is ludicrous, especially since the church does a lot of good in the world (feeding the poor and homeless, sending out missionaries, etc.). But if you're not actively opposing AHA's pet issue, then you're not a true Christian.

Additionally, there is the fact that they constantly bear false witness against people. They'll call you out for breaking the commandment against murder, but they have no problem breaking the commandment against bearing false witness (and oddly, I've pointed this out numerous times and not a single AHA member I've pointed this out to has denied bearing false witness). Take this image that AHA shares, in which they claim that Rolling Stone worships the Pope and the world loves the Pope for the same reason that the world and the church of Rome hates AHA (I am not Roman Catholic, and I still believe that AHA is dangerous).

Those are just a few of the ways in which AHA is obnoxious to other people. He also mentions a comment I made about Abby Johnson (I think they've been unfair to her), and they keep pointing me to this documentary they've made called Babies Are Murdered Here. I have no intention to watch it, so if they want to assert that Abby needs to be called out, they need to tell me. Otherwise I'll have no reason to take them seriously. And it's not because they're from AHA; if I'm in a discussion with anyone and all they want to do is link me to articles rather than arguing, themselves, I'm not likely to listen to them.

Statement #8 (off Facebook): "AHA is becoming increasingly more dangerous. Now they're releasing the names and photos of abortionists, presumably so they can all hate them together. These are not the actions of people who love these people. AHA is all talk but their actions speak otherwise. Any pro-life advocate of sound mind and judgment should stay far away from this extremist organization." (44:32)

I just touched on this in the last section, but these are dangerous actions. They're putting the life of the abortionist and their family in jeopardy, and I don't think they can justify these actions. Not Biblically, and not morally.

Now John asserts that AHA is not an organization, it's an ideology. I have no idea why they're so adamant in arguing that they're an organization. When I say organization, I'm not saying that AHA is a business or health club, or something. I'm saying that they are an organized group of individuals. They have individual abolitionist societies. They get together and go protest outside of abortion clinics. They capitalize the A, H, and A as if Abolish Human Abortion is a proper noun. You capitalize the names of religions, but you don't capitalize the names of ideologies (unless the ideology is named after a person, like Marxism -- but you don't capitalize "abolitionism"). Abolitionism is an ideology, but Abolish Human Abortion is an organization.

Now, I agree it's generally not fair to paint with a broad brush, but these are common actions that I see from people in AHA. I would say these actions are the most common actions, with less extreme actions from people in the minority. AHA members can even be quite hateful and spiteful, as I've seen from them firsthand (I've been called a liar from one member of AHA).

John claims that he doesn't want anyone to harm these people, but this is only physical harm he's talking about. John is apparently fine with emotionally and psychologically harming these people, by going to their homes and "shaming" them into stopping, even getting himself arrested. The claim that he doesn't want anyone to harm this abortionist (and if he could tell us who this alleged abortionist was, that would be great) kind of falls flat when you disrupt him and his family at home. These are the acts of terrorists, not reasonable pro-life people who see a moral injustice and want to put a stop to it.

So finally, they end the session by asking which approach is God-honoring? And Darin is correct, this isn't a fair question.

Apparently not protecting unborn babies who can feel pain and allowing them to keep dying just because we can't save them all is the God-honoring approach. At least this is where AHA's absolutism leads. The incremental approach says we save all the lives we can, when we can. I can't understand how Darin and John can't see that this approach honors God.

They bring up the commandment against murdering again, but who's murdering? More lack of nuance from AHA members. Besides, if we're murdering by using the incremental approach, I can't see how Darin and John can escape the charge of being murderers, themselves, by not protecting some when they can and instead letting them all die just because they can't save them all. Darin and John are cut by their own sword. If the option is let all unborn children continue to be killed, or let all unborn children who can feel pain be protected from death (with the idea that you will still work toward saving the rest), which one is the God-honoring approach now?

So needless to say, Darin and John (and AHA in general) are on very shaky ground, and haven't even really tried to support their position through Scripture. I think it's obvious that the position I hold is supported by Scripture.

The problem is that AHA just continues to conflate God with the Scriptures. The Scriptures are God's Word, but they do not contain all truth in the universe. They contain the words of life, they contain the truth of revelation that God exists as a Trinity, that we are all guilty of sin and need a Savior, but if God is the God of all reality, then he exists outside of the Bible, too. All of creation points back to God, and we can use science and philosophy to reason to positions that line up with Scripture. Darin and John have failed to show that acknowledging God is necessary to be moral or to use logic and reasoning. John has even claimed that I misrepresented their position in the first part of this series, but when I asked him to please explain how he feels I misrepresented them, he told me -- exactly the way I represented them in the first part.

God existed and gave commands prior to the existence of Scripture. And just because God is necessary to ground moral facts or logic itself, it does not follow that one must believe in God to be moral or use our reasoning faculties. We can know what water is even if we don't know that the essence of water is H2O. Similarly, we can know what actions are good and that there are moral categories of right and wrong, even if I don't know what grounds these categories. Finally, the Scriptures even contradict their position. Romans 1 and 2 tells us that the Gentiles have God's law written on their hearts, and insists that they do, indeed, have true moral knowledge. In fact, the entire basis for Paul's charge against the Gentiles is that they, like all of us, do know good from evil and willfully reject the good. So Darin and John, can you explain what Paul means here from your presuppositionalism? [1]

Again, I may or may not be interested in continuing the discussion. If they respond in a video, I probably won't continue it because responding to videos is just too difficult and time-consuming, whereas a discussion in print allows you to condense your thoughts and put them in a logical progression for ease of responding to them.

So most of this video has been really irrelevant to the entire discussion. The question was, can, or should, we give a pro-life apologetic apart from Scripture to those who are hostile to the Gospel? The answer is clearly yes, on both counts. But through most of the video, Darin and John were talking about using the Gospel for evangelism, which is a completely different discussion, and one that I agree with them on.

[1] I owe Neil Shenvi for his thoughts in this paragraph.

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