Monday, March 28, 2011

A Challenge to the Author and Readers of Triablogue

A response:

Specifically, to those who adhere, more or less, to the version of Christianity which posits a place of everlasting torment for those who reject or otherwise don't believe in the biblical God (actually, I assume that rejection and non-belief are synonymous in this regard).

A Christian couple bears a child. They love her, nurture her, and otherwise provide her with the 'good life'; including an indoctrination into the religious concepts which, if cleaved to, will ultimately secure her a place in God's everlasting Heaven.

However, when the child is 15 years old, she becomes enamored of another faith, and leaves the Christian fold. Unfortunately, on her way to the train station to meet up with her 'guru', she is hit by a car and killed.

Now, leaving aside your personal regrets and/or righteous condemnations (I TOLD you so!), as well as those of the god you serve, let me ask you- Would it not have been better if the child had never been born as far as the child's welfare is concerned? I think this is a very pertinent question, since any Christian who has a child is taking the risk of something like the above hypothetical situation happening. Moreover, it seems to be a very GREAT risk, since 'narrow is the way, and few there be that find it', and with the stakes being so incredibly high and at someone else's expense, doesn't forbearance seem the wisest- and indeed, the kindest- course? After all, if this life is merely a short episode in which a single wrong decision might possibly damn your child to an eternity of unimaginable suffering with absolutely no hope of surcease, wouldn't it have been better FOR THE CHILD if she had never been born in the first place?

I look forward to your participation in this discussion.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you're going to ask a hypothetical, then why can't someone respond with another hypothetical:

A Christian couple bears a child. They love her, nurture her, and otherwise provide her with 'the good life'. This includes telling her the good news of great joy which is, if she turns away from her sinful rebellion against God, and trusts in Jesus Christ alone as her Lord and Redeemer, then she can be reconciled to God.

When the child is 15 years old, she does just this. While reading through the Bible one day, she becomes aware that she has done a lot of wrong things in her life. She has broken most if not all of the ten commandments, for instance. She has lied to people. She has become unreasonably angry at her parents several times. She has hated her parents. She has used God's name blasphemously. She has stolen pretty things she wanted. She has coveted after things her friends had but she didn't have. In short, she has lived her life without acknowledging God in any way whatsoever, living her life entirely to herself and for herself. She has fallen far short of loving God with all her heart, mind, strength, and soul. She has failed to love her neighbor as herself. Thus she is persuaded that she has done wrong not only against her friends and family and even strangers, but also against God himself whose universe she lives in and who created her. She is cut to the heart.

Then she lifts her heart to God and begs him using whatever feeble words she can manage to muster at the time: "Please forgive me for all the wrongs I've done! I know no one else can forgive me but you alone!"

As she opens her tear-filled eyes, her eyes fall on Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." She understands that she has indeed "sinned" (done wrong) and thus deserves death. But the next phrase fills her with hope: "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." In fact her heart sings for joy as the good news of Jesus Christ becomes clear to her. Although she rightly deserves death for all the wrongs she's done in life, God graciously offers her the free gift of eternal life, and this eternal life is to be found solely and wholly in Jesus Christ! She immediately cries out to God, "Yes, Lord! I want to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, whom you offer to me so freely and so graciously! Thank you for your free gift of eternal life in him!"

She goes on her way rejoicing and thanking God for forgiving her, for reconciling her to him, and, what's best of all, for giving her himself such that she can even call him her Heavenly Father!

She is amazed and humbled at the same time. And full of happiness and gratitude.

For the rest of her days she shares this good news with others, including her own children, and some of them likewise turn to God and cry out to him for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Thus many more people can know God and love God, and God them. As a result of this girl's life, many more people can not only have a loving relationship with God but also with one another. Her community and society are the better for good, moral, upstanding people who genuinely love God and love their neighbor and even their enemies. More and more children are born to more and more Christian parents, who likewise share the good news of Jesus Christ with their children, and their children with their children, and their children's children, and so on and so forth.

Everyone lives happily ever after.

Oh, except for one group. Since antinatalists don't believe in having children, they don't have any children. Thus they become less and less in numbers until they're finally extinct. Too bad for them.

metamorphhh said...

Anonymous:

You're certainly welcome to offer your counter hypothetical. However, in doing so you completely avoided the question. I ask you again, given the circumstances wouldn't it have been better FOR THE CHILD it she had never been born in the first place?

The Plague Doctor said...

"Oh, except for one group. Since antinatalists don't believe in having children, they don't have any children. Thus they become less and less in numbers until they're finally extinct. Too bad for them."

This assumes there is such a thing as an "antinatalism gene". I am nothing like my parents (with respect to my views on antinatalism). Does the number of Catholic priests become less and less, because they are celibate? On the contrary, the number of Catholic priests is growing in certain regions. It is more reasonable to assume antinatalism is transmitted memetically (I hate that word).

Anonymous said...

"This assumes there is such a thing as an 'antinatalism gene'. I am nothing like my parents (with respect to my views on antinatalism). Does the number of Catholic priests become less and less, because they are celibate? On the contrary, the number of Catholic priests is growing in certain regions. It is more reasonable to assume antinatalism is transmitted memetically (I hate that word)."

Well, if this were a real world scenario, then it'd be a fair point. In fact in the real world even an increasingly Christian world wouldn't necessarily mean a decreasingly non-Christian world (e.g. there could be more Christians born but then even more atheists born as well or Buddhists or Muslims or whatever).

But since we're dealing with hypotheticals I thought to illustrate the point, or in fact to underscore in bright flashing lights, I took for granted in my hypothetical that Christians would generally raise Christian children and antinatalists antinatalist children, and I made my hypothetical world to include an increasingly Christian one. Obviously Christians aren't antinatalists but quite the opposite.

metamorphhh said...

Anonymous and everybody else:

I'd encourage everyone to avoid the temptation of launching into tangential issues until the OP's question has been considered. To wit-

Given the circumstances wouldn't it have been better FOR THE CHILD if she had never been born in the first place?

Anonymous said...

"I'd encourage everyone to avoid the temptation of launching into tangential issues until the OP's question has been considered. To wit-

Given the circumstances wouldn't it have been better FOR THE CHILD if she had never been born in the first place?"

Or as stated in the original post:

"Would it not have been better if the child had never been born as far as the child's welfare is concerned? I think this is a very pertinent question, since any Christian who has a child is taking the risk of something like the above hypothetical situation happening. Moreover, it seems to be a very GREAT risk, since 'narrow is the way, and few there be that find it', and with the stakes being so incredibly high and at someone else's expense, doesn't forbearance seem the wisest- and indeed, the kindest- course?"

Okay, fine, I'll bite - despite the fact that I don't necessarily see any warrant for entertaining a hypothetical except with more hypotheticals.

Of course there are several objections to this line of thinking:

1. Let's say for the sake of argument that it is better for this child never to have been born. Does this mean it'd be better for no children to ever be born? No, because even if it's true for this child, it's not necessarily true for all children. You can't necessarily extrapolate from one to all.

2. Also, there are risks in having children that will end up lost. But there are likewise risks to the contrary. What if the child becomes a Christian?

3. Not all risks are on equal footing. There are risks and then there are risks.

a. You use "narrow is the way" to indicate that most of humanity will be lost. If this is true, it's not necessarily true of Christian parents. In fact, it's arguably less of a risk for Christian parents to have children than for other parents to have children since it's more likely that Christian parents will raise Christian children.

b. Let's say the world is only 10% Christian while the other 90% is non-Christian. God could perfectly well save all the Christians in the world and their children while not saving any of the non-Christians and their children. This would be sufficient to fulfill the "narrow is the way" verse.

c. Or it could be that the majority of people who are saved are from our day and age. Whereas the majority of the lost are from previous periods of history. Maybe in our day and age the vast majority of people will become Christian. So then it'd be a far lesser risk of having children. In fact, it'd be a possible incentive to have children.

d. Or it could be that the vast majority of people who are saved are from a single nation (e.g. the US). So we should encourage Americans to have children.

Anyway, we could multiply examples. But this should suffice to respond to this hypothetical. Maybe I'll say more later if I have more time.

filrabat said...

1.You can’t control whether your own children will accept salvation. Only THEY can choose to do so. This even applies in non-religious contexts (i.e., whether they have a good life or not)

2.Again, you can’t know if the child will end up a Christian. In fact, if we go by the strict reading of Jesus’s words – many are called but few are chosen – it’s likely they will end up in hell. Would you put a child in a situation where there’s a greater than 50% chance of being burned in a fire?

3.Yes, and according to Christian theology, eternal damnation is the biggest risk of all

a.Even if children of Christian parents do have better odds of choosing to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, there’s still many such children who will NOT do so. Looking down the line even a few generations, odds are that plenty of the parent’s descendants will NOT choose to follow Christ.

b.Ever heard of “false prophets” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing”? That tells me a lot of people who think they are saved are actually not. Surely the Pharisees (most of them) were like this.

c. Majority of people saved in our day and age. I see little to warrant this assumption. A nominal Christian and a true follower of Christ are two radically different things. In fact, plenty of corrupt, nasty, unkind, and generally “Un-Christian” people are professing Christians. That doesn’t bode well for this claim.

d. The vast majority saved from a single nation. I’ll assume you did not mean that the US is “the most Christian nation” rhetoric so often promoted in a propagandistic patriotic guise. So I’ll say I find NO evidence whatsoever that in their soul of souls Americans are substantially different from the other 96% of humanity.

Anonymous said...

Steve Hays has written a great response.

Matt said...

The whole point of this post can be simplified to the following question:

If a person dies and goes to hell, is it better for that person, personally, with respect to the eternal span of his life, to have never been born in the first place?

If the metric of something being good/bad for a person is directly correlated to the amount of suffering that the person experiences because of that thing, then it is better for a person to experience no suffering at all than to experience everlasting suffering. Being damned entails everlasting suffering, and not being born entails no suffering at all. Therefore, it is arguable that, given this metric, it is personally better for the damned to never have been born at all.

However, what is good for an individual is not necessarily what is good universally. It is personally better for a criminal to not be deprived of his freedom than to be caught and sent to prison. However, it is better for society overall if justice prevails and the criminal is caught. Likewise, simply because it is personally better for the damned never to have been born does not mean that it is better overall for the damned never to have been born.

As a Calvinist, I hold that God's glory is the greatest objective, overall good. The existence of the reprobate serves God's glory to a greater extent than it would be served if the reprobate did not exist. Therefore, it is better, overall, for the reprobate to exist than to never have existed.

It should be further noted that axiology and deontology are two distinct things. The goodness of a thing does not necessarily entail any moral duties concerning that thing. Depriving a human being of life is not a good thing, in and of itself. Yet, the lawful exercise of the death penalty is a moral obligation for those that have committed murder (cf. Gen. 9:6). However, in the context of fulfilling a moral obligation, the exercise of the death penalty is good, even though death is never a good thing, considered in and of itself.

Even if one wants to hold to a principle of the form "That which is best is what should be done," it does not follow that one should not bring life into existence. If God values life, then it is best to bring life into existence. If the existence of the reprobate glorifies God (thus serving the ultimate good), then it is best that the reprobate be brought into existence. Thus, even if one accepts a deontic principle of this form, antinatalism does not follow simply because it is personally better for the reprobate that they never exist.

On the other hand, we, as human beings, have an explicit moral obligation from God Himself to reproduce. This was given at the time of creation (Gen. 1:28), and re-confirmed after the Flood (Gen. 9:1). But, if God has commanded human reproduction, then it is not the case that human reproduction is an activity that should not be engaged in.

Hence, the failure of antinatalism given Christianity.

CM said...

Steve Hays' great response contains the following: "Suppose, ex hypothesi, Christian parents have 12 children, of which 11 are heavenbound, but 1 is hellbound. The damnation of a single child is bad for the child, and tragic for the parents, but how does that outweigh the good of all the other kids? [...] Why deny the other 11 kids the opportunity to enjoy the goodness of a beatific existence just because one grown child is justly doomed to hell?"

More of the same "denying" bullshit.

Perhaps Steve should sell his current kids' (assuming he has any, which he probably does) organs on the black market so he can raise enough cash to perform in vitro on as many women as possible, producing scores of children. Surely, existing people and their petty suffering are not worth denying Steve's countless spermatozoa the opportunity to enjoy the goodness of beatific existence?

metamorphhh said...

Thanks for the responses so far. I plan on eventually writing a follow up post after I've culled through what I deem to be extraneous material, but that'll be awhile as I need to deal with a couple other dangling subjects. Plus, it'll give others a chance to chime in. I'll notify y'all over at Triablogue when my reply is posted.

Ed said...

I am an atheist. I AM SHOCKED because I never thought it would happen in a million years, but, the Christians--'Anonymous' and Hayes--have the better arguments, no contest. The Plague Doctor was the ONLY person to make a good point, but, it was not a major point. Filrabat makes a pathetic attempt to answer. S/he CLEARLY doesn't know rudimentary logical and argumentative principles. Filrabat's attempt amounts to making bare assertions stating THAT Anonymous is wrong WITHOUT engaging and explaining WHY Anonymous is wrong on ANONYMOUS'S premisses THAT COUNTER Metamorphhh's 'hypothetical'! A 3 year-old could ask more intelligent and meaningful questions than Filrabat. CM is almost worse. S/he attempts a reductio ad absurdum BUT COMPLETELY MISSES the connecting rational in Hayes' argument when s/he LEAVES IT OUT! Maybe Metamorphhh will do better. But I won't care because I already freeeeeeeeeeaking wasted my time reading everything.

The Plague Doctor said...

The problem with this hypothetical is that it is... hypothetical: if you assume anything you can prove anything. Thus if one assumes that God exists, and that obeying God's will is good, and that God commanded people to make children, then it follows that making children is good -- never mind the horrendous tortures these children will experience. The problem is, this conclusion is built on a foundation of nonsense: "God made me do it"; it is really impossible to argue against this, except by disproving one of the assumption.

The Plague Doctor said...

Against "God exists":

Vide the world.

Against "obeying God's will is good":

I refer you to Euthyphro's Dilemma.

Against "God commanded people to make children":

Didn't Jesus have zero children?: did he go to hell too? Maybe he was on to something! And doesn't Christianity at least allow the right for people to have zero children, and if there is such a right, then all people can exercise that right simultaneously.

timcooijmans said...

Ed, atheism aside, would you consider it a bad thing for those 11 heavenbound kids if they were never born? Do you think their souls would be dangling in the void somewhere, scrounging for their every rotten meal, wishing they had been born? Or would it just be neither bad nor good?

Was it a bad thing for the one hellbound kid that he was born? Obviously, yes.

Even if the odds are as favorable as 11:1 that any kid you're planning is heavenbound, by creating the kid you are taking a risk that something horrible might happen to your kid, whereas if you do not create them, that is neither good nor bad (for them).

Whether sentient beings' welfare is what ultimately matters is up to your (lack of) religion. If you think about it on a clear day, you will find that it is.

The Plague Doctor said...

Matt: "Therefore, it is better, overall, for the [sinnner] to exist than to never have existed."

Wow, did a Christian just claim that it is a good thing that sinners exist? Whatever happened to the notion of obeying God? I think you just painted yourself into a corner.

filrabat said...

Ed,

If my logic is wrong, I would like to know exactly how. If you deign to reply, do so via point by point refutation - NOT with bombastic rhetoric (e.g., a three year old child could do better than me).

BTW, if maturity is the issue, then all I see is from you is a tone scarcely more logical than a three year old spoiled brat: "is not! is so!" pseudo-reply

Also, Ed, I did not ask questions - I answered replies.

metamorphhh said...

tim, filrabat:

Not sure I'd go there. Ed has all the markings of a sheep in wolf's clothing aka a pretend atheist playing games. I've seen this a lot in my religious dialogues. Of course, I COULD be wrong, but the signs are there. Starting right off with the "I'm an atheist, but BOY HOWDY, these Christians are so much SMARTER than you guys!" LOL! A assertion unsupported with much argumentation, naturally. Maybe Ed can start from scratch and provide some substance to his so-far empty rhetoric, but only after he publicly DENIES THE HOLY SPIRIT! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

As I feared might happen, an answer to a fairly simple question is fast turning into an apologetics free-for-all. I'll try to pare everything down to the relevant issues in my follow-up post.

CM said...

CM is almost worse.

I win! :)

Matt said...

THE PLAGUE DOCTOR SAID:

Thus if one assumes that God exists, and that obeying God's will is good, and that God commanded people to make children, then it follows that making children is good -- never mind the horrendous tortures these children will experience.

So, you're complaining that a Christian is reasoning in a manner consistent with Christianity? And you expect Christians to take you seriously?

If you want to argue against Christian conclusions, provide an internal critique of the Christian worldview.

The problem is, this conclusion is built on a foundation of nonsense: "God made me do it"; it is really impossible to argue against this, except by disproving one of the assumption.

The problem is, your conclusions are built on a foundation of nonsense: "God does not exist." If you want me to accept your way of seeing things, how about starting off by showing how it is meaningful to say that any thing "should be done" if God does not exist.

Against "God exists":

Vide the world.


Against "God does not exist"

Vide the world.

If you want a more productive interaction, how about making an argument to support your claim?


Against "obeying God's will is good":

I refer you to Euthyphro's Dilemma.


1. Which version of the dilemma do you wish me to consider? Plato's original formulation, or a later version? If you want to convince me of my wrong-headedness, you need to make an explicit argument.

2. Remember that I am speaking from within the Christian worldview. If you want to refute my original statements, you need to demonstrate that on the basis of the Christian worldview, either 1) obeying God's will is not good, or 2) "obeying God's will is good" is a proposition that contradicts some other proposition of the Christian worldview.

Against "God commanded people to make children":

Didn't Jesus have zero children?: did he go to hell too? Maybe he was on to something! And doesn't Christianity at least allow the right for people to have zero children, and if there is such a right, then all people can exercise that right simultaneously.


1. Jesus wasn't married, so the fact that he did not have physical children is irrelevant.

2. Even if, ad arguendo, married couples have the right to refuse to attempt to procreate, that would not entail antinatalism, which holds that married couples have a moral obligation to refuse to attempt to procreate. You are conflating two different deontic categories here.

Matt: "Therefore, it is better, overall, for the [sinnner] to exist than to never have existed."

Wow, did a Christian just claim that it is a good thing that sinners exist? Whatever happened to the notion of obeying God? I think you just painted yourself into a corner.


You need to reread my original comment and deal with what I actually said - especially the parts where I distinguished between things being good, in and of themselves, and things being good, in a broader, universal context.

Garrett said...

In a past comment, some one summed up the natal brain thusly: "I don't think they are very intelligent." That's true. They are not very intelligent, and that lack of intelligence precludes the consideration of individual well being outside of their own. Simple minded individuals are incapable of viewing much of anything in an objective manner. Aggression becomes their primary tool; when your only tool is a hammer then you see every problem as a nail. I can picture these outsiders faces as they walk into our little room with their hammers in tow. Must be quite overwhelming.

Still, for all of their "tough guy/gal" rhetoric, these people will eventually face down their own personal demons. I guarantee you that this event will break them down to their fundamental personal make up. Each and every single human being must face the world for what it truly is sooner or later. When that day comes for all of the natalists here, you will remember the things which we have warned you about. Everything that you bow down to and worship in this universe will crush you and then turn in on itself and there is nothing you can do about it. Yet, you continue to advocate and participate in the creation of more meat for the dragon just because you love the sound of your own voices. You twisted, arrogant and pitiful pieces of trash.

Garrett said...

Consider this (especially you, Matt): Christ came to show you how to become. To lift you out of the accursed primordial sludge that is your "life". Christ warned you of the consequences that would follow if you harmed a child of God; that it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck (i.e. better never to have been). Christ was telling you that if God were truly your hearts desire, that you would focus on that energy with every fiber of your being and not follow the flawed logic of collective salvation nor animalistic desire. You are hiding from God in the crowd, just as the original fallen had done in the beginning. You are out of excuses my friend.Your personal vision of God is an amalgam of your own corrupt invention. A monster that loves the things you love and hates the things you hate. Your God, is in fact... YOU! You are a false God. Time to come clean.

A true Christian follows Christ's example without intent. They do not need a guidebook nor a false church consisting of liars. They are not concerned with how they look to the world or anyone else in it. This sums up their feeling toward the true essence of love.

I'm holding on
I'm holding on to you
My world is wrong
My world is a lie that's come true

And I fall in love
With the ones that run me through
When all along all I need is you

Stop lying to yourselves and admit to your physical children that you messed up big time. Implore them not to follow in your steps if you will, but it will only change the minds of certain ones. Jim can attest to that.

filrabat said...

I'll post the verses and my commentary later..suffice to say I think there's plenty of words by noneother than Jesus himself that overrule the Genesis passages to "be fruitful and multiply" (mainly because I think Jesus' debt, paid on the cross, frees us from the Old Testament, but that's a whole other branch of theology).

In the end, I'll just say that, from a theological perspective, we take great risks on each child by bringing them into this world. For me, it's as simple as the potential consequences aren't worth the risk.

Anonymous said...

filrabat said:

"1.You can’t control whether your own children will accept salvation. Only THEY can choose to do so. This even applies in non-religious contexts (i.e., whether they have a good life or not)"

How is this responsive to what I said?

Here's the original argument: it's better for a child never to have been born because there's a greater risk that they could end up in hell than choose salvation.

Here's my counterargument: even if for the sake of argument we agree it's better for one child to never to have been born because there's a greater risk that they could end up in hell than choose salvation, it doesn't necessarily apply to all children. You can't necessarily extrapolate from the one to the many or most or all.

Now you say: a parent can't control whether their child or children accept salvation or not.

Okay, let's say I agree a parent can't control their child's choice. So what? That doesn't change my point. I already granted that it's possible a child ends up in hell. But how does this necessarily affect other children? How does this even begin to deal with my counterargument against the original argument? Each family is different.

However, since we're on the topic, while it's true that a parent can't explicitly control whether their child accepts Christ or not, they can nevertheless influence their childre and thus have implicit control over them. There are many other factors involved too such as the child's age (younger children might be more influenced than older ones), the parent's knowledge and education, etc.

"2.Again, you can’t know if the child will end up a Christian."

Again, this is unresponsive to what I actually said. I could simply reply, once again, you can't know if a child will not end up a Christian. In other words, you're just trading on assertions in lieu of argumentation, whereas I'm offering a counterargument given the original hypothetical. Your assertion isn't actually responsive to my counterargument.

"In fact, if we go by the strict reading of Jesus’s words – many are called but few are chosen – it’s likely they will end up in hell. Would you put a child in a situation where there’s a greater than 50% chance of being burned in a fire?"

I take issue with your interpretation of this passage. I don't necessarily think only a minority a humanity will be saved. See here for some reasons why. So this undercuts your point.

"a.Even if children of Christian parents do have better odds of choosing to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, there’s still many such children who will NOT do so. Looking down the line even a few generations, odds are that plenty of the parent’s descendants will NOT choose to follow Christ."

Anonymous said...

Why would you think that? Why would you think "odds are that plenty of the [Christian] parent's descendants will NOT choose to follow Christ"?

Rather it'd make more sense to think that, so long as they genuinely kept the faith alive in their household, that it'd be more likely than not that their children and their children's children and so on would still be Christian. In fact, the Bible itself makes such a promise: "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Deut 5:9-10).

If you want a real life example, Google Jonathan Edwards and his descendants, for example.

BTW, this isn't the same as saying all their children will be Christian. Rather I'm saying that it's more likely that Christian parents will raise Christian children than non-Christian parents will raise Christian children. Hence it's a lesser risk for Christian parents to have children than non-Christian parents to have kids.

"b.Ever heard of “false prophets” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing”? That tells me a lot of people who think they are saved are actually not. Surely the Pharisees (most of them) were like this."

Ever heard of responding to my actual point? Again, this is another one of your completely unresponsive statements, I'm afraid to say! I predicated my point on the original hypothetical which assumed that "narrow is the way" referred to the fact that most people will not be saved. But I responded that, if it's true that only a minority of humans will be saved, it's still possible that God only saves those that are currently Christian and all their children, while not saving anyone else. This would be sufficient to fulfill this verse. Yes, it's a hypothetical, but it's one which at least meets the original hypothetical on its own terms.

"c. Majority of people saved in our day and age. I see little to warrant this assumption. A nominal Christian and a true follower of Christ are two radically different things. In fact, plenty of corrupt, nasty, unkind, and generally 'Un-Christian' people are professing Christians. That doesn’t bode well for this claim."

At the risk of stating the obvious, it doesn't matter whether you think there's a little (or a lot) to "warrant this assumption." It's a hypothetical in response to the original hypothetical. However you're taking it as if it's meant to be a real world scenario. I'm not making that assumption. So, again, this is unresponsive to my actual point.

Anonymous said...

filrabat said:

"1.You can’t control whether your own children will accept salvation. Only THEY can choose to do so. This even applies in non-religious contexts (i.e., whether they have a good life or not)"

How is this responsive to what I said?

Here's the original argument: it's better for a child never to have been born because there's a greater risk that they could end up in hell than choose salvation.

Here's my counterargument: even if for the sake of argument we agree it's better for one child to never to have been born because there's a greater risk that they could end up in hell than choose salvation, it doesn't necessarily apply to all children. You can't necessarily extrapolate from the one to the many or most or all.

Now you say: a parent can't control whether their child or children accept salvation or not.

Okay, let's say I agree a parent can't control their child's choice. So what? That doesn't change my point. I already granted that it's possible a child ends up in hell. But how does this necessarily affect other children? How does this even begin to deal with my counterargument against the original argument? Each family is different.

However, since we're on the topic, while it's true that a parent can't explicitly control whether their child accepts Christ or not, they can nevertheless influence their childre and thus have implicit control over them. There are many other factors involved too such as the child's age (younger children might be more influenced than older ones), the parent's knowledge and education, etc.

"2.Again, you can’t know if the child will end up a Christian."

Again, this is unresponsive to what I actually said. I could simply reply, once again, you can't know if a child will not end up a Christian. In other words, you're just trading on assertions in lieu of argumentation, whereas I'm offering a counterargument given the original hypothetical. Your assertion isn't actually responsive to my counterargument.

"In fact, if we go by the strict reading of Jesus’s words – many are called but few are chosen – it’s likely they will end up in hell. Would you put a child in a situation where there’s a greater than 50% chance of being burned in a fire?"

I take issue with your interpretation of this passage. I don't necessarily think only a minority a humanity will be saved. See here for some reasons why. So this undercuts your point.

"a.Even if children of Christian parents do have better odds of choosing to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, there’s still many such children who will NOT do so. Looking down the line even a few generations, odds are that plenty of the parent’s descendants will NOT choose to follow Christ."

Anonymous said...

"d. The vast majority saved from a single nation. I’ll assume you did not mean that the US is 'the most Christian nation' rhetoric so often promoted in a propagandistic patriotic guise. So I’ll say I find NO evidence whatsoever that in their soul of souls Americans are substantially different from the other 96% of humanity."

Even if I did mean "the US is 'the most Christian nation," it wouldn't affect my point. But, no, I did not mean the US is "the most Christian nation." You're obviously reading way too much into this.

Instead you should substitute a nation like China or India or Indonesia or Brazil or whatever tickles your fancy. It wouldn't change my point.

Again, this is a hypothetical in response to the original hypothetical. Yet again you're reapplying it to the real world. And I'm not sure why you can't differentiate between a hypothetical and the real world, particularly in light of the fact that the original author framed his criticism in light of a hypothetical scenario in the first place.

In short, I'll just say that most of your reply wasn't responsive to what I actually brought up. Ho hum.

"I'll post the verses and my commentary later..suffice to say I think there's plenty of words by noneother than Jesus himself that overrule the Genesis passages to 'be fruitful and multiply' (mainly because I think Jesus' debt, paid on the cross, frees us from the Old Testament, but that's a whole other branch of theology)."

Well, again, it doesn't matter what you think about Christianity so much as it matters what Christianity as espoused by Triablogue is all about, given that that's the context in which the original hypothetical was framed.

People here seem to forget the very point that Matt has already brought up: the original hypothetical is offering an internal critique of Christianity. So in order to critique us, you have to argue from our grounds. You're free to make external critiques in other posts, but that's not how the original hypothetical was framed.

Besides, if you do think that "Jesus' debt, paid on the cross, frees us from the Old Testament," then I don't even think that qualifies as Christianity. It's more akin to something like Marcionism. But you'd have to spell out what you mean exactly for anyone to get an accurate picture of what you're trying to say.

Anonymous said...

Hm, my comments aren't getting through. Maybe it's because I'm using anonymity software (Tor). Not sure. Anyway, I'll post them in Steve's post instead then. See here.

metamorphhh said...

Anonymous:

I found one of your duplicated posts in the spam trap. Let me know if anything else fails to come through.

filrabat said...

About Hypotheticals

Normally, I don't want to entertain tangents, but I think this is critically important to the matter.

Hypotheticals, within realistic scenarios, have immense practical value. They are actually an essential part of anticipating and predicting the future (however limited that ability is). Disaster planning by government agencies necessarily involves hypotheticals . Even in the 80s and 90s, FEMA predicted the most destructive and disruptive disasters that could hit the US – two of which have already happened: (a)a major terrorist attack in New York, (b)a major hurricane hitting New Orleans, and –the third but not yet occurred since FEMAs founding- (c) a major earthquake in the San Francisco area. Therefore, hypotheticals can be a vital part of imagination, planning, and thinking things through

I’m sure both sides in the abortion debate pose several hypothetical scenarios of their own – including your own side. In fact, I’m sure they ran a dozen in the immediate aftermath of the Roe vs Wade decision (for non-US residents, that’s the 1973 US Supreme Court decision permitting abortion). So hypotheticals DO serve a useful purpose. Therefore, to deny the validity of hypotheticals is to deny the validity of the ramifications of the pro-life camp (and also the pro-choice camp).

Also, good science fiction is great at posing hypothetical questions about how not-yet-invented technologies will affect our society and even human nature itself. Genetic engineering, sentient computers, and such are great particular examples. Christian (and general human) concerns about potential misuse or abuse of these technologies rely on hypotheticals as well. IMO, gene-engineering will be “the new abortion issue” in the coming decades, but that’s another topic. Hypotheticals allow us to spot the ethical minefields involved in adding human DNA to an animal and vice versa. Therefore, dismissing a hypothetical merely because it’s a hypothetical is to totally dismiss any future events that can put the issue in a whole new light; thereby implicitly taking too rigid a view about what constitutes a vaild concern.

filrabat said...

@Anonymous (March 30. 2011 10:24pm)
filrabat said:

"1.You can’t control whether your own children will accept salvation. Only THEY can choose to do so. This even applies in non-religious contexts (i.e., whether they have a good life or not)"

How is this responsive to what I said?


My Response is below. Continuing

Here's the original argument: it's better for a child never to have been born because there's a greater risk that they could end up in hell than choose salvation.

Here's my counterargument: even if for the sake of argument we agree it's better for one child to never to have been born because there's a greater risk that they could end up in hell than choose salvation,
it doesn't necessarily apply to all children. You can't necessarily extrapolate from the one to the many or most or all. (emphasis mine)

Now you say: a parent can't control whether their child or children accept salvation or not.

Filrabat’s Note about Anonymous’s last sentence: I assume that Anonymous interpreted that sentence to be a counter to any argument against his assertion “it doesn’t necessarily…most or all”. If I did correctly interpret the intent of Anonymnous’s sentence, then he or she DID rightfully anticipated my the intent of my essential claim. Continuing

Okay, let's say I agree a parent can't control their child's choice. So what? That doesn't change my point. I already granted that it's possible a child ends up in hell. But how does this necessarily affect other children? How does this even begin to deal with my counterargument against the original argument? Each family is different.

I concede the point that a Heaven-bound child is better off being born. My point is that you can’t predict how a child will turn out. In other words, it’s a form of risk management. Put in deference to your view that only a minority of Christians will go to Hell (i.e. nominal but not-really-believing ones), I simply don’t find the benefits of living for the child to be worth the potential consequences. Which brings up my next point - “Consent vs Consequenses” to catchphrase it. More accurately, it’s “The Lack of Consent to be Born vs. The Plausible Potential Consequences of Living”. This link has the long version of my argument (For full context, skip to the section “Consent to be Born is Impossible”, which starts about one-third the way down the page). For now, it’s enough to say that the never-existent cannot be harmed or benefited in any way while the potentially existent can be harmed if brought into this world.

However, since we're on the topic, while it's true that a parent can't explicitly control whether their child accepts Christ or not, they can nevertheless influence their children and thus have implicit control over them. There are many other factors involved too such as the child's age (younger children might be more influenced than older ones), the parent's knowledge and education, etc.

Unfortunately, mere influence isn’t enough – they have to accept Christ as their personal savior of their own free will. Nor can we have absolutely perfect knowledge of the future. This brings us back to the consent vs. consequences issue.

Anonymous said...

With regard to hypotheticals:

1. Sorry, I should be clearer and not paint with such a broad brush. What I mean to say is I'm not outright dismissing any and all hypotheticals simply because they're hypotheticals. Obviously that's not the case. In fact, if you check the archives over at Triablogue I have entertained hypotheticals in the past. Rather I should've been cleaerer and said I don't see much value in responding to this particular hypothetical.

2. Despite my opinion about the value of the original hypothetical, I nevertheless still responded to the original hypothetical. So, practically speaking, it didn't actually keep me from responding or anything.

3. Also, on a minor note, I'd say the original hypothetical contained several assumptions about Christianity that I wouldn't necessarily grant. For example, I don't necessarily grant that "rejection and non-belief are synonymous in this regard [i.e. leading to 'everlasting torment']." For example, I take it 2 Tim 2:12-13's "if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful" is relevant to this in that outright "rejection" and "non-belief" could be two different things. I think it's possible to be a backslider and possibly even die as a backslider but nevertheless be genuinely regenerate.

Nor do I necessarily grant that "religious concepts which, if cleaved to, will ultimately secure her place in God's everlasting Heaven." There's a lot to address here. But at a bare minimum, and without trying to sound like a well-worn cliche, I wouldn't frame salvation around "religious concepts" but rather around the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Not to mention there's a couple instances of provocative language used (to put it mildly) such as "indoctrination."

Also, it's possible to take issue with a term like "everlasting torment." Using "torment" sounds more like something torn from the pages of Hieronymus Bosch than the Bible.

4. In any case, in order to respond to the original hypothetical, I have to play along with it on its own terms. Which is what I've done.

Anonymous said...

With regard to my comments not going through:

1. Thanks, metamorphhh, for posting my comments. But I still don't see my very first one, which would put the other comments in context? It's cool though. I posted my comments in full over at Triablogue.

2. A practical problem for me right now is that I'm pretty busy with school. I gotta go to lectures and labs, hit the books, etc. So I don't have a lot of time in the day to respond. Unfortunately I'm not in a major which offers a flexible schedule. I'm studying something which is pretty regimented and which I believe has either the most or at least the second most hours in class/labs/etc. required per week of any major at the university. The more time I spend responding to stuff online, the less I have for my studies, which is, understandably, the higher duty. I'll respond if I can find the time. Maybe in between classes or whatever. But at the same time this is my not-so-subtle way of say I might have to bow out of the debate sooner than I'd like.

Anonymous said...

"the never-existent cannot be harmed or benefited in any way while the potentially existent can be harmed if brought into this world"

I'm sorry to say that, once again, this isn't responsive to my point, I don't think.

I wouldn't deny your statement. In fact I'd agree that someone who never exists doesn't suffer or benefit. That's obvious. I'd also agree that someone who could exist could very well suffer in life.

But even though I agree with your statement, I don't think your statement is sufficient to address my counterargument to the original hypothetical which was predicated on Christian grounds. For one thing, on Christian grounds, I could easily respond that even a lifetime of suffering is worth it if the person ends up in heaven. For the Christian, this life isn't the end. In fact this life is far shorter than eternal life, given that this life is finite or temporary while eternal life is infinite or, well, eternal. And on Christian grounds God is absolutely just and fair. Not only can he make up for any sufferings in this life with joys which we cannot even imagine in the world to come, but even in this life he can use sufferings and evils for good. He can bring good out of evil. Humans are good at twisting good things and making them evil. But God can straigthen that which is twisted and make it good. Take the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. On Christian grounds, this is a horrible evil. The greatest of all evils. Yet God brought good out of this. He used the death of Jesus Christ as the means to save sinners. One who was innocent was punished and put to death for the wrongs of the guilty (which is a horrible evil) so that the guilty could be forgiven (which is a glorious good).

Thus the question at issue is not whether or not your statement is true or I agree with it or whatever. I do agree with it. Rather the question at issue is whether it's worth the risk for a Christian to have children given the possibility that the child could end up in hell. I responded with several responses above which I don't feel like reiterating yet again.

But you respond by no longer making an internal critique on Christian grounds. After all, on Christian grounds, yes, "the potentially existent" can be harmed, but they can also be benefited ("blessed") if brought into this world. That's not saying anything new. That's not advancing any ground or progressing the argument. Instead of focusing on an internal critique, you're broadening your argument for antinatalism. That's fine if that's what you want to do. But again that wasn't the point of the original hypothetical. The original hypothetical was to challenge natalism on Christian grounds. But I (and Matt) responded to the hypothetical's internal critique. And I still don't see how you've overturned the points I (or Matt) raised? However, now you're attempting to subtly shift the argument away from the original hypothetical. In short, you're moving the goalpost. However to make this move would then imply that you haven't been able to provide a defeater for natalism on Christian grounds as given in the original hypothetical by metamorphhh, I'm afraid.

filrabat said...

The original hypothetical was to challenge natalism on Christian grounds.

I take “challenge…on Christian grounds” to mean “Scriptural basis”.
In that case, I’ll concede one thing but continuing objecting to another: Concede there’s nothing in Scripture explicitly condemning procreation, but object that Scripture actually prohibits antinatalism. Maybe I confused your responses to Steve (of Triablogue)’s responses – particularly the one from 2009 claiming antinatalism is necessarily nihilistic. Even so, I bring as evidence that the Bible permits, if not actively condones, antinatalism the following verses (one a paraphrase for the other) Matt 7:13-14; Mark 14:26. (as far as I can see, these verse by themselves are a completely self-supplying context, i.e. no verses before or after that can shed new meaning on these cited ones) Plus Luke 23:29 (context is Jesus’ remarks about the End Times). Ultimately, this is more a response to the oft-repeated verse to “Be fruitful and multiply” in Genesis than to any particular person. If I did mischaracterize your believe, please accept my apologies.

Even so, I think external data can be very important to informing how we should interpret internal data - to the extent the external data does not violate the internal data points. I simply gathered external data about how the world works, combined it with Christian obligations, and concluded the reasons often said that people should have children are found wanting.

Anonymous said...

Here is the latest response from Jim Crawford.

Here is the latest response from Triablogue.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

In that case, I’ll concede one thing but continuing objecting to another: Concede there’s nothing in Scripture explicitly condemning procreation, but object that Scripture actually prohibits antinatalism.

Sorry, do you mean if Scripture "permits" antinatalism rather than "prohibits" it as per the rest of your response? If you do mean Scripture permits not having children, then, even if that were true for the sake of argument, it's not necessarily a problem for Christians. If Scripture permits not having children in certain cases, then we could look into the reason(s) why. At least as I understand it but please correct me if I'm mistaken, the problem is that antinatalists are actively trying to persuade everyone including Christians to adopt antinatalism.

Even so, I bring as evidence that the Bible permits, if not actively condones, antinatalism the following verses (one a paraphrase for the other) Matt 7:13-14; Mark 14:26.

I'll quote the verses you cited:

Matt 7:13-14: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Mark 14:26: "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

With regard to Matt 7:13-14, please check out this post.

With regard to Mark 14:26, sorry, I don't see how that's relevant?

Plus Luke 23:29 (context is Jesus’ remarks about the End Times).

Luke 23:28-29: "But turning to them Jesus said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, "Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!"'"

Of course, a "blessing" is not necessarily the same as a command. Although a command can be a blessed command.

In any case, you have to exegete the text at hand for starters. For example, Jesus refers to the "Daughters of Jerusalem" here. So Jesus' primary target audience here is the women of Jerusalem. But since you believe this verse isn't meant solely for these women given that it's "evidence that the Bible permits, if not actively condones, antinatalism," you'd have to explain why you think it should apply to women today.

Another example is that you'd have to mount an exegetical argument for why you think this passage is referring to "the End Times." After all, Jesus doesn't say that it does. All he says here is that "days are coming when..." In fact, many Lukan scholars argue that Jesus is referring to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. If Jesus is referring to the fall of Jerusalem, then his "Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed" would be referring to the women in Jerusalem in 70 AD. So you'd have to interact with these arguments as well.

metamorphhh said...

Anonymous:

On a side note, this spam filter really pisses me off sometimes. I had to fish your reply out of the discard bucket once again...grrrrrrrrr! I guess I'll just have to remember to check it every time I log in here.

As for Triablogue's response, I plan on sticking to my 'one challenge at a time' rule, and here's why:

"Now maybe he thinks my response was inadequate or irrelevant, but if so, he doesn’t say why. Therefore, those counterarguments win by default."

This is how apologetics works, and why I've come to loathe the process so thoroughly. The rule of thumb is to throw as much shit against the wall as possible, keep throwing even as the opposition is cleaning it up, and eventually the opposition will walk away in frustration, leaving the shit thrower to proclaim "Look! There's still shit on the wall! I won!" As I've already mentioned, I've fought too many wars of attrition to believe that pointing out every instance of irrelevant material, empty rhetoric and already answered challenges will ever amount to anything.

For instance, take this talking point from Triablogue's latest challenge:

"4. Is it wrong to gamble with someone else’s life? Well, that sounds ruthless in the abstract, but it all depends on the concrete illustration.

Take an ER physician. He gambles with the lives of patients everyday. He tries to save their lives. Give them a second chance. Another shot at life."

Of course, the qualitative difference between necessary risks involved with ALREADY EXISTING LIFE, and the gamble of creating a NEW LIFE THAT DOESN'T YET EXIST, has already been thoroughly outlined and discussed. The analogy is an absolutely false one, falling totally outside the antinatalism context, and yet here it is again occupying several paragraphs of the rebuttal. Same goes for the stuff concerning deprivation. How can a person who doesn't exist be said to be deprived of anything, other than in PURELY ABSTRACT TERMS? And yet, there it is...sigh.

Now, I doubt you see things this way. Fair enough. But that's why I'd like to bypass the 'who can stack up more meaningless sentences' game (which pretty aptly describes the whole first section of Triablogue's 'rebuttal') and get down to pointed, valid challenges.

Of course, it's back to work for me today, so others will have to carry the torch. Is anybody up for it?:)

Matt said...

I've been unable to respond the last couple of days. Anonymous has covered pretty much everything, but I wanted to address a couple of specific issues.

FILRABAT SAID:

Even so, I bring as evidence that the Bible permits, if not actively condones, antinatalism

It is a category error to say that antinatalism is "permitted." Antinatalism is a set of truth claims regarding the moral obligation to refuse to procreate. It is meaningless to say that truth claims are "permitted" or "condoned." Rather, "permission" and "obligation" have to do with actions (such as refusing to attempt to procreate), not truth claims concerning the ethical status of such actions.

Perhaps you mean that the Bible permits "holding to antinatalism." In this case, the act that is permitted is that of accepting the truth claims of antinatalism. But even if this is the case, ad arguendo, this says nothing about the validity of those truth claims. This would be analogous to the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols, or observing various festivals, or any other act which is neither prohibited nor obligatory, but rather left up to the conscience of the individual believer. In this case, accepting the truth claims of antinatalism would be permitted, as a matter of conscience, even though the claims of antinatalism are false.

The Bible nowhere prohibits attempted procreation. On the other hand, it explicitly commands, and extols the value of, procreation. If the procreation is commanded and extolled, then it is permitted, and if it is permitted, then it is not prohibited. To accept the truth claims of antinatalism is to accept a moral prohibition that goes beyond what is written in, or deducible from, Scripture, and even more so, it is to accept a truth claim that directly contradicts the theology of Scripture. This is legalism and a refusal to heed to voice of God, and is not Christian in the least.



Even so, I think external data can be very important to informing how we should interpret internal data - to the extent the external data does not violate the internal data points. I simply gathered external data about how the world works, combined it with Christian obligations, and concluded the reasons often said that people should have children are found wanting.

1. This is another category error, as the subject of discussion is worldviews, not empricial theories. A worldview, by definition, encompasses everything a person believes, by forming the cognitive framework through which interactions with the world are processed. Thus, to try to justify or confirm one's stated worldview by appealing to a different worldview is self-defeating, for it reveals that one does not hold to the stated worldview. A worldview includes a standard of judging worldviews, and to judge a worldview that has a standard different from the standard one is currently using entails that the worldview being judged is not one's own worldview. The Christian worldview does not admit of external judgment, since divine revelation is the highest authority. Thus, judging the Christian worldview by "external data" (especially as a corrective procedure) reveals that one does not actually hold to the Christian worldview.

2. "How the world works" has nothing to do with what ought to be the case. This is yet another category error, a conflation of "is" and "ought," of indicative and deontic propositions. So, even if you produced a perfect model of how the world works, that would tell you nothing about the validity of antinatalism.

Anonymous said...

FILRABAT HERE

Looks like a lot is going on starting Friday! Unfortunately, I'm at my mom's house for the weekend - in a remote rural area with extremely limited internet access (obviously I can read the comments, but I have trouble posting). I'll be back in two days (three at most).

I may be late to this party, but I don't plan to miss it entirely