Sunday, June 30, 2019

How the Modern Liberal Academic View of the Bible Acidicly Destroys Its Message

How the Modern Liberal Academic View of the Bible Acidicly Destroys Its Message

by Glenn R. Morton January 1, 2020

I have a friend who is a good Christian, loves the Lord, but, while he believes Adam and Eve lived very long ago (not as long ago as me), he refuses to accept the story of the Fall and the Flood.  Most Academics and liberal Christians dismiss the creation story, the creation of man, the Fall, the Flood, and the Exodus as non-historical faerie tales.  They believe there is no historicity to these accounts.

I do believe that liberal Christians are embarrassed by these tales in our Bible because the arguments they use to dismiss them are the same arguments atheists use.  That is disturbing to me.  Furthermore, liberal Christians don't even try to find concordistic solutions to these Biblical tales.  What I intend to demonstrate here is that while I know the liberals are correct about the age of the earth and evolution, the young-earth creationists are correct in seeing the absolute need for historicity. On that, I stand with them.

We must start with the nature of the Bible. Is it God's Word or was it just humans writing about what happened to them and interpreting it in terms of the divine?  I think this is where the biggest divide occurs, with the Liberals believing that God can't really put words in the mouth of the Biblical writers.  An excellent example of this attitude is found in a reply made to me by RichardG on Biologos:

[I wrote:]if it is to be God’s communication, he must have had some kind of control to make sure his message was transmitted clearly.

[Richard G replied:] "What evidence do you have to make this assertion? Surely, if man has free will then he is free to make mistakes? Peter made mistakes? Paul made mistakes. Why should their writing have no mistakes?"
"Do you know what a Gospel is? It is not history. it is not Journalism. it is a promotion of the faith. It is not about the details. it is about the message. And it is personal. Paul writes what he believes. And sometimes he disagreed with Peter. That is in Scripture. So why do you think that the Bible is somehow coherent and God written?

I bolded the last sentence, because in my opinion, if the bible is not somehow coherent and God's message isn't in it, then why on earth should I care about this book other than for its historical content?  If it isn't somehow 'God written' then it isn't God's Word! It becomes human words, no better or worse than any other religious document, but lacking in any metaphysical value. Yes, it might have value as a guide to human behavior but so what if there is nothing beyond this world?

The same man above wrote this of the Bible.

"It seems to me that your main “beef” is with my not accepting early Genesis as history? As if that affects my reading of the rest of Scripture? Only if you take the bible as one complete unified text, and I do not. It was cobbled together by a committee. Perhaps God was chairman?

Well, if the Bible is not God's word, then it would cause me to change what 1 Thes. 2:13 says. If the Bible is Man's word, then that verse should say:

"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of ancient human writers which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of God, but as it is in truth, the word of ancient human writers

and Hebrews 4:12 should read:

 "For the word of ancient human writers is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit,"

Now, speaking sarcastically, wouldn't that verse draw people into the churches by teh bucket load! 

Another quite common view among liberals and academics is that the Bible contains stories that 'don't comport to reality'.  Which of course, means that there can be no miracles. Christy, also on Biologos illustrates this view:

There are lots of clues, like you point out, that we are not intended to take the Genesis account as describing a historical event. It is a story. But many sentences in the story are meant to be interpreted literally in the reality the story creates. In the story, I think we are to understand God as actually walking in the garden and the snake as actually talking. Those are the “facts” of the story. That they don’t comport with information we know about reality is how we know it is a story, not a factual account of history.

Put simply, this criterion destroys Christianity because a man dead for 3 days and nights, who is then resurrected to walk around, eat fish, offer his hands to Thomas for confirmation of his resurrection, doesn't comport with reality either. By this standard, if we say a talking snake makes the account of the Fall a mere story, we should also claim that the resurrection isn't meant to be taken historically either. .  Such a view of how to determine what is meant to be taken literally and what is not, destroys the very basis for Christianity. Accommodationalism is one of the most acidic views to the truth of Christianity that there is.

Consider the Exodus.  Modern academic views say the Exodus didn't happen; Jericho didn't fall at that time; there were no Semitic folk in Egypt.  This led Thomas Thompson, in a much mis-titled book to say:

"It may perhaps appear strange that so much of the Bible deals with the origin traditions of a people that never existed as such." Thomas Thompson, The Bible as History,( London, 1999), p. 34 cited by David Rohl, Exodus, Myth or History, (St. Louis Park, MN: ThinkingMan's Media 2013, p. 4.

A whole religion based upon an event which academics say never happened.  Most will say it doesn't matter if the Passover and Exodus happened at all; that it isn't important.  But it is important!  Here is why.

Moses tells the Hebrews to remember the Passover and Exodus: Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. Exodus 13:3 Also  in Deut 5:15

If the Exodus didn't happen, then Judaism is reduced to a human construct, because they are remembering something that never happened. God did nothing for them but they are ordered to remember it anyway! Rohl says:

“Finkelstein:...”Whether the stories happened exactly in that way is not important. ... It is more important to understand the meaning of Exodus-the moral of Exodus- for our civilization, for humanity, for mankind. This, in my opinion, is more important.”
“So the Tel Aviv University professor and doyen of Israeli archaeology seems quite capable of separating his professional work from his personal family life without much difficulty, even though the two seem to be at odds with each other.
“This stance begs some very obvious questions. Why do the Jewish people celebrate (and have celebrated, for the past three thousand years) an even which never happened?  How do Israelis reconcile the fact that their national identity and religion are based on a fantasy? David Rohl, Exodus, Myth or History, (St. Louis Park, MN: ThinkingMan's Media 2013, p.  4

It is utterly illogical to believe that something that didn't happen should be celebrated as a great thing God did for them. Since Christianity depends upon the truth of Judaism, that God actually set them apart and said the Messiah would come from them, if Judaism is a human construct, then so is Christianity.

Let's move to Noah.  Most today think Noah was a faerie tale.  A nice story that never happened, or if it happened, the event occurred in a place which violates the laws of hydrodynamics and matches none of the details of the account.  Most who do believe in the flood place it in Mesopotamia, where physics requires the water to flow into the Persian Gulf and from there out into the Indian Ocean, but somehow the floating, motorless  ark lands on the mountains of Turkey.  Further, geologic maps show that there is no widespread Holocene deposits much further than a mile away from the Mesopotamian rivers--meaning that within the past 10,000 years there has been nothing more serious in Mesopotamia than flooding within the floodplain.  Such floods can't last a year, and the water will flow south at 3-20 mph, taking the ark into the Persian Gulf.  And the liberals are satisfied with a risible view that makes the whole tale false except for water.

The young-earther's are correct that those who believe Noah didn't exist undermine the authority and credibility of God.  Isaiah 54:8-9 has God speaking of Noah:

But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,”  Says the LORD your Redeemer. “For this is like the days of Noah to Me,  When I swore that the waters of Noah  Would not flood the earth again; So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you (Is 54:8–9)
So, if Noah didn't exist, then God is engaged in fantasy here--like speaking of Mordor, Sauron and Frodo.
Most academics and liberals think Job is not real, probably more believe Job is a fictional character than believe that of Noah. If they are correct, we find God again engaging in fantasy in Ezekiel:

Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,” declares the Lord GOD." Eze 14:13–14

It should be noted here, that these words are said to be the words of the Lord. If God can't give man a message, then these words are mere human words. If they are God's words, then we have God speaking nonsense about non-existent people. Shouldn't God know who is in Heaven; who is real and who is false?  If these are God's words, then he KNOWS that Job and Noah didn't exist and is thus lying about what wonderful saints they were!  Why is this a lie? Because they weren't anything, much less saints. Yes, I am aware of the mental gymnastic approach called accommodation and will address it later. The above though is part of why this is wrong.

These are Jesus' words.
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark Mt 24:38

   " And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all."  Lk 17:26–27

These words of Jesus mean that Jesus, like the Father is either confused about what actually happened in history, are knowingly lying about what happened in history, or these events really happened. 

Paul, who probably wrote Hebrews, writes an amazing catalogue of saints, many of whom never existed, if liberals are to be believed. Extracted from Hebrews 11 we find:

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life

Abel is a guy whose parents, Adam and Eve are said not to have existed as a single human pair. Enoch is from a list often believed to be fictional. Noah we have discussed, and Sarah?  Said to have had a kid at 90 years old--utterly ridiculous. It couldn't have happened!  If we believe that, what does it say about her faith?  She had none because she had to have had Isaac at a much younger age. 

Not believing the Bible as it is, undermines the credibility of God, of Jesus, of Paul and thus makes what they say questionable.  This brings us to the popular but frankly ridiculous, solution called Accomodationalism. Geisler defines it as:

"ACCOMMODATION THEORY—The view of the German rationalists and others that Christ and the apostles accommodated their teaching to the current (but false) Jewish traditions about authorship, inspiration, and so forth, of the Old Testament without thereby either asserting or approving those beliefs".[1]

The Lexham Bible Dictionary says:

In the modern period, accommodation has also provided some Jews and Christians with a means to negotiate tensions between scientific developments and the biblical witness, for example [2]

In my opinion, accommodation has become a cheap thrill, an easy way out of difficulties. Let's take a real creation story from a real people.  The Yokut creation story 
believes that the world was created by an eagle, a crow and a duck who, for fish, brought mud up from the bottom of a vast sea so the other birds could build land.

Let's consider a person who grows up believing this story of his culture and compare it to a person growing up in a conservative home believing the Hebrew creation story.  Both go to college, become roommates, and learn that science doesn't support their respective religious beliefs.
Accommodationalists say it is ok for the Christian to hold that God accommodated his truth to the Hebrew's false view of creation but still believe that the Scripture is full of deep spiritual/metaphysical information.  The Native American sees this approach, his Christian roommate took and decides that that is a grand approach and so, he too says, his god accommodated the creation story to the limitations of his people and his creation account is full of deep spiritual meaning even if it is factually untrue.  And this is the problem with accommodation. Everyone from every religion can use it to solve any observational problems their religion has while retaining belief  in their childhood religion.  After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Accommodationalism leaves us no ability to tell another religionist that their religion is false because it is observationally unreal!  We can't be the pot calling the kettle black and tell others to believe our true religion when we take every observational event in Scripture which has 'science' problems and accommodate the issue away.  By doing this, we sweep our theological mis-fits under the rug of accommodation.  When we tell others our religion is true, then we are hypocrites if we tell them they can't do the same.  the Mormons can accommodate away the massive archaeological proble their story has, in which there is no evidence of chariots and walled towns in pre-Columbian northern North America.  We can't point to the Bahai that their religion is scientifically wrong because the Kiti i 'iqan says copper left in the earth for 70 years becomes gold.  They too can accommodate their problem away. And since there is no way to say one religion is true and another false, we are left facing a universalist theology.

Of course, many in the liberal world, like the Pope, believe we shouldn't tell others that their religion is wrong, which means we should not evangelize. Right before Christmas this year, the Pope told a group of high school kids this:

The first is all. In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak. I have to live consistent with my faith. And it will be my testimony to awaken the curiosity of the other who says: "But why do you do this?". And yes I can speak there. But listen, never, never bring the gospel with proselytism. If someone says you are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, this is not a disciple of Jesus. Proselytism is not done, the Church does not grow by proselytism. Pope Benedict had said it, it grows by attraction, by testimony.  Football teams do proselytism, this can be done, political parties can be done there but with faith no proselytism. And if someone says to me: "But why you?". Read, read, read the Gospel, this is my faith. But without pressure.
Would Jesus agree with this? 

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Mt 28:19–20

Either the Pope or Jesus is wrong!

This accommodational loophole, where everyone gets to claim their religion is observationally false but spiritually true, leads to universalism, where all religions are an equal path to God. Indeed, the US Catholic Bishops have gone a long way towards this view when it proclaimed:

"Yet the Qur'an remains God's Word, not Muhammad's, so that Christians should liken the Qur'an to Jesus rather than to the Bible."

One should excuse me for believing the words in the Bible but Paul would disagree.

             "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed" Galatians 1:8

I have worked with many followers of Islam and I would expect them to think the same of me, that I am not preaching the correct theology. That is what it means to believe one's religion. to believe one's religion means that one believes the others are not true.  If one believes that all religions are true guides to the same place, then one must reject Jesus' words, "No man comes to the Father except through me".  That statement must be false.  It seems to me that comparing any two religions, either one or the other, or both are false. Different religions have contradictory claims about what God wants from us. Contradictory claims can't both be true. For example, when the Bible says Jesus is the son of God and the Koran says Allah had no son: Surah 6:101.  "Originator of the heavens and the earth—how can He have a son when He never had a companion? He created all things, and He has knowledge of all things.", both statements can't be true. One or the other is wrong.
Only accommodationalism, via universalism,  can make both statements true true at the same time, but it does so at the expense of ignoring the meaning of the words in each document. One must say that Jesus' statement is wrong, or the Quranic statement is wrong.  God can't both have a son and not ever have had a son at the same time.
As I have said, this liberal view puts a damper on the desire to evangelize. The Washington Post wrote about a study showing which congregations are dying, liberal or conservative.  They concluded the liberal churches are the ones dying because they fail to evangelize.  Haskell wrote:

For example, because of their conservative outlook, the growing church clergy members in our study took Jesus’ command to “Go make disciples” literally. Thus, they all held the conviction it’s “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians,” and thus likely put effort into converting non-Christians. Conversely, because of their liberal leanings, half the clergy members at the declining churches held the opposite conviction, believing it is not desirable to convert non-Christians. Some of them felt, for instance, that peddling their religion outside of their immediate faith community is culturally insensitive. It should be obvious which of these two convictions is more likely to generate church growth."
Because of all this, accommodationalism seems not only to make God lie, or be a plagiarist, but also to bring universalism which undercuts any reason to evangelize. If all religions lead to the same end, then there was no reason for Jesus to die on the cross.

Indeed, this gentleman did indeed turn out to be a universalist. He wrote:

There is so much more to this than can be put down here. Not the least being the ramifications of your message to the millions who have found God from another tradition, or live perfectly good and, dare I say, righteous lives, without the shackles of Christianity, or any other religion.
So we will have to let it be. Suffice it to say, I do understand your position, but I do not accept it as… necessary.
Shackles of Christianity???  Wow, but more importantly, if any religion, or no religion still gets us to heaven, then none of this means anything. Religion is useless, and by that I mean all religions.

 Further, by making light of the observational difficulties the Bible has with science, and accommodating them into non-existence, non-history, we undermine the credibility of God, Jesus and our very religion itself.

[1] Geisler, N. L., & Nix, W. E. (1986). A General Introduction to the Bible (Rev. and expanded., p. 604). Chicago: Moody Press.
[2] Sturdevant, J. S. (2016). Accommodation. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Stupid Atheist Arguments Part 2

Stupid Atheist Arguments part 2
Glenn R. Morton, December 2019

I am sorry this installment has been so delayed. I am a terminal cancer patient and for the first 9 months of this year, I spent 2-3 days per week on experimental drugs at M. D. Anderson, so, this kind of fell by the wayside.  Anyway, here it is:

Since the universe is eternal no god could not have created it

You will, of course, notice the double negative in the above caption. This is what is on The Thinker's web page on Dec 23, 2019 when I accessed it, a double negative (at least until he changes it). I found this so funny that I captured it along with the link to prove that this is what he wrote:

This was proposed by a blog whose author's name is not easy to find, so I won't try.  He calls himself The Thinker, an obvious overreach from what I have read on his site, which was named one of the top atheist sites on the web (How? I am utterly amazed). 

The Thinker wrote: "Since god is considered the creator and sustainer of the universe, it's helpful to point out that the universe doesn't need a creator or sustainer because it's eternal" source

Is this for real or a troll?  It seems to me that something must be eternal; it must be the universe(or a physical precursor to the universe) or it must be a God/Immaterial being.  So what this genius does is commit the logical fallacy of assuming the consequence, which is a fancy way of saying, if you can't prove your case assume it to be true and hope no one else will notice.  The problem for one and all is can an eternal universe be proven? Can an eternal God be proven.  As an atheist friend once wrote, nothing is proven except in mathematics and logic. Proof doesn't apply to things apart from deductive systems.  The nature of this world is NOT a deductive system.

Free will doesn't exist.

Again The Thinker from above presents an incredibly silly argument against Free Will.  Free will is important for Christian theology. Here is his argument:

Libertarian free will is incoherent

Libertarian free will requires at least 3 things: (1) We are in control of our will; (2) Our mind is causally effective; (3) In the same situation we could have done otherwise. But logically that's impossible, because:

P1: Our thoughts (mind or will) is either caused or uncaused, no other option is available
P2: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are caused we cannot be in control of them
P3: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are uncaused we cannot be in control of them
P4: It is logically impossible to choose our thoughts
P5: Being in control of our thoughts (mind or will or whatever caused them) is a requirement of libertarian free will
C: Therefore libertarian free will is logically impossible

Note above in premise 1, he equates thoughts with Mind or Will by use of parentheses, then he uses a different definition of thoughts in the rest of the argument.  The above is what is called an equivocation, which means, that two different meanings of the word 'thoughts' is used. This is a quick way to invalidate any argument.  Premise 1 I can go along with. Our minds or wills are either caused or not.  But the causation of my mind doesn't mean my individual thoughts are caused by someone other than me.  Thus, after premise 1 this author changes the meaning of 'thoughts'  to mean individual thoughts which we supposedly can't control. Thus this argument is, by sleight of hand, equivocating Mind and Thoughts as one and the same.  They are not.  My mind/will contains much more than thoughts. It contains sensations, experiences, tastes, smells, tactile feeling etc. He hopes you won't notice the change in meaning and swallow his argument. 

 Secondly, He fails to prove that there is only one cause of thoughts.  If God created my mind, but then after that,  I autonomously create the thoughts I have, then there is no reason I can't control them. Even if occasionally a divine being inserts a thought into my mind, this does not mean that every single thought I have is from that being.  This argument leaves me flat.

Euthyphro's dilemma

"Starting with the Euthyphro dilemma we can ask, "Is something good because god commands it, or does god command it because it's good?" If something is good because god commands it, then god’s commands can be arbitrary. God could command genocide and slavery, and they would be morally good merely because god commanded it. And if god commands it because it’s good, that means there’s a standard of good that exists independently of god. Either way, the theist has a problem. Either morality is arbitrarily decided by god, or morality exists objectively and independently of god. The theists is in a dilemma."Source

No, the theist doesn't have a problem, this author has a problem doing sufficient research to look for counter arguments. In this case, he need have looked no further than Wiki to find a solution to this 'oh-so-devastating-argument' against theism. Euthryphro was in one of Plato's Dialogues and thus the background for that discussion was the Greek Pantheon of gods, who were subject to the proclamations of higher Gods.  The difference between Greek gods and the Christian God is that the Christian God is not subject to other laws.  Wiki writes, quoting Philosopher Edward Feser:

"Again, the Euthyphro dilemma is a false one; the third option that it fails to consider is that what is morally obligatory is what God commands in accordance with a non-arbitrary and unchanging standard of goodness that is not independent of Him... He is not under the moral law precisely because He is the moral law." Feser, Edward. "God, obligation, and the Euthyphro dilemma".

The Thinker concludes this section saying:

"So the Euthyphro dilemma really is just a starting point that terminates in a trilemma for the theist. The theist cannot attempt to ground morality in god without hitting this trilemma:
  1. Show that morality is arbitrarily decided by god.
  2. Show that morality exists independently of god.
  3. Make a circular argument." Source

Or, we could do as Feser suggests, holding that "what God commands [is] in accordance with a non-arbitrary and unchanging standard of goodness that is not independent of Him.", thus invalidating this whole nonsensical, and anachronistic argument.

Other reasons The Thinker gives for Atheism being true include:

Religious belief is product of the brain (GRM: which is another assuming the consequence, he doesn't prove that assertion is true; he just assumes it)

Brute facts are unavoidable (a truly incoherent passage). His argument depends on this statement asserting that God is 'unchanging'.  The Thinker writes:
"All of god's will and desires must exist timelessly and eternally in an unchanging, frozen state."

This is easily disproven by citing Genesis 6:6, "The Lord was sorry that He had made man..." This doesn't sound like a frozen God.

Or how about Jonah 3:10 where God changed his mind about destroying Ninevah? "And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not."
Clearly The Thinker has not actually read and thought about what the Bible actually says.
After a whole lot of junk like this this awthor (awful author) concludes: "Combine that with arguments 2-13 and you have what I see as an irrefutable case that there is no god, and that naturalism is true."

With argumentation this bad, I am utterly embarrassed that I seriously considered becoming an atheist for about 10 years. This is truly abysmal junk.

Does Pi=3?
Occasionally one will see this argument from atheists.  It is a weak argument and more knowledgeable atheists discourage its use, but never the less it pops up every now and then.

In I Kings 7:23 the Bible says:
And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

Using these values one would derive a value of 3 for Pi.

This verse bothers even Christians and is used occasionally by atheists, although many atheists are now aware of the problems with this criticism.  From a Christian site:

"I believe a Christian should be honest. And if it is honest to say that there is an inaccuracy in the Bible, I would do so, and not pretend it is not there. There is 1 Kings 7:23 at least, because it is mathematically inaccurate (actually I do not doubt its inspiration, only its scientific accuracy). Let us focus on this one verse (it only takes one inaccurate verse to disprove a claim that the whole bible is scientifically accurate):is 2.1 feet(1 foot=1.5 cubits)
If a math or science student answered such a calculation with 30 cubits, they would be marked wrong, no doubt.
A tolerance of 2.1 feet is too large by any good engineering standard, and too large to be a rounding error (rounding gives us 31 cubits, not 30).
The author of Scripture (not God, in this particular case, because it is in error, but whoever recorded the incorrect value of 30 cubits) either did not care about the scientific accuracy, or was reporting their actual calculation which was erroneously calculated because they did not know the value of PI to sufficient accuracy. Either way, this is a clear example of the Bible being scientifically inaccurate,

This criticism is rather silly in two forms. First the Hebrews didn't have a concept of real numbers. These are numbers that can be expressed as 1.5634... They had the tithe, but it was a case of counting up to 10 and taking one and giving it to God. It wasn't written as 0.1 as we would do.  Thus, given their mathematical system 3 is as close as they could get to Pi.   Secondly,  3.14 is not much better an approximation for Pi than is 3, 3.1 or 3.14 or 3.1415926, and no matter how far one takes pi out to, there is an infinitude of digits left off of that approximation.  Thirdly, it illustrates why people should not take a stand on what the English words in the English translations say. The origin of a Hebrew word may give the key to this riddle anyway.  Let's look at the wider passage:

23 And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 24 And under the brim of it round about there were knops compassing it, ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about: the knops were cast in two rows, when it was cast. 25 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward. 26 And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies:[1]

A more modern interpretation translates the bolded part as:
"It was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, as a lily blossom;"[2]

The meaning of the Hebrew word translated as 'lilly' depends largely on whether one derives the word from Egyptian or from Akkadian.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says:

"Related to sshšn, which means “big flower” or “water lily” in Egyptian. Some derive it from Akkadian shushshu “six-sided,” referring to the six leaves of this lily. It appears mainly in poetic material as a symbol of beauty."[3]

Thus, it is quite possible that the last sentence in the description of this bowl should read:

and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, six-sided with flowers.


and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers six-sided.

If this bowl is six-sided, a hexagon, then the ratio of the bowl's  circumference divided by the distance across would be exactly 3.  The atheist argument totally depends on this bowl being round rather than hexagonal.  Why a word that could mean six-sided is included in the description of the bowl is never discussed by the atheists. One must also remember that Abraham came from the Akkadian Empire and would have spoken that language, not Egyptian. He would have passed that language, with changes, on to his children.  To me this Hebrew word is far more likely to be related to Akkadian than to Egyptian. (Source­)

Is Atheism natural?

Sam Wickstrom is a smart guy but he presents a couple of stupid arguments against Christianity and religion in general.  In a review of Dawkin's The God Illusion, Wickstrom is struck by the argument that the natural state of man is atheism. This is easily refutable both in light of how we talk and in light of new psychological studies. Wickstrom wrote:

"Atheism is completely natural. A primary tool of critical thought is to remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. When someone tells you that they saw a velociraptor in the forest, you're going to need evidence to believe them. Their claim is pretty extraordinary and so you would require some outstanding evidence for their claim. Religion is treated the exact same way. If a Muslim man tries to convert you to Islam, you're going to need some evidence for his claims about the truth of his religion. That's an important point about religion, that the burden of proof is on them to prove their fanciful ideas. The only reason people are convinced so easily about the madness of religion is that their parents or friends tell them about it, and they trust those people. I believed in Christianity for a long time, and when I had the strongest doubts, I would remember that my parents, friends, fellow church-goers, and extended family wouldn't lie to me about something so important. Atheism is instinctual, but so is trust." Source

We don't talk like we believe we are material. Euan Squire points this out when speaking of the philosophy of Dualism:

"All this is the complete opposite of materialism. We have moved from the idea that I am a physical object to the idea that I am independent of any physical object. Again, but of course for different reasons, the idea is very appealing. It is how we most naturally think of ourselves.  I speak of my leg, my heart, my body, etc; none of these things do I naturally regard as being me. Dualism allows a clear statement of who is conscious; certainly it is in no doubt about the fact that wholly physical things (machines) cannot be conscious. "  Euan Squires Conscious Mind in the Physical World, (New York: Adam Hilger, 1990), p.83-84

Recent psychological studies show precisely that even materialists subconsciously believe our consciousness is not material. From May 30, 2019 New Scientist:

"Belief in the supernatural is still alive and kicking, even among people who don’t believe in a god.  Research on atheists and agnostics around the world has revealed that almost nobody can claim to completely reject irrational beliefs such as life after death, astrology, and the existence of a universal life-force.
The UK-based Understanding Unbelief project interviewed thousands of self-identified atheists and agnostics from six countries – Brazil, China, Denmark, Japan, US and UK. It found that despite their godlessness, a majority believe in at least one supernatural phenomenon or entity.
Among atheists in the UK, for example, about 12 per cent believe in reincarnation and nearly 20 per cent life after death. All told, 71 per cent of atheists hold one or more such beliefs; for agnostics the figure is 92 per cent. Atheists and agnostics comprise about 37 per cent of the UK population, so when combined with religious people, that means a large majority of the general population believe in the supernatural. "Most atheists believe in the supernatural, despite trusting science," Source: New Scientist

Furthermore, an earlier New Scientist article points out that it is religion that comes naturally, not atheism and education doesn't automatically lead to a secular view.

"IF YOU’RE one of those committed atheists in the Richard Dawkins mould who dreams of ridding the world of religious mumbo-jumbo, prepare yourself for a disappointment: there is no good evidence that education leads to secularisation."
In fact, the more we learn about the “god instinct” and the refusal of religion to fade away under the onslaught of progress, the more the non-religious mindset looks like the odd man out. That is why anthropologists, psychologists and social scientists are now putting irreligion under the microscope in the same way they once did with religious belief (see “Where do atheists come from?”)."
The aim is not to discredit atheism but to understand how so many people can override a way of thinking that seems to come so naturally." Source: New Scientist (my bolding)

Just last month, Graham Lawton wrote:

"RICHARD WAVERLY was a 37-year-old history teacher. One day he was driving to work, tired after a late night and hungry from skipping breakfast. He was also in a bad mood following a row with his wife, who he suspected of having an affair. At a busy junction, he lost control, drove into a telegraph pole and was thrown through the windscreen. The paramedics said he was dead before he hit the pavement.
This story is fictitious, but when psychologist Jesse Bering narrated it to volunteers, he discovered something you probably couldn’t make up. Asked questions such as “do you think Richard knows he is dead?” and “do you think he wishes he had told his wife he loved her before he died?”, large numbers of volunteers answered yes. For many, who had already professed a belief in the afterlife, this was no big surprise. However even people who totally rejected the idea of life after death – so-called extinctivists – also answered yes.
That experiment was done in 2002. Since then, Bering – who is now at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand – and others have confirmed and extended its findings. Confronted with the finality of death, the majority of us, dogged rationalists included, cling on to the belief that it isn’t the end. “Most people believe in life after death,” says psychologist Jamin Halberstadt, also at the University of Otago. “That’s amazing. Science has changed the way we think about almost every aspect of our lives, including death, but through all of that, belief in life after death has remained steadfast.”Grant Lawton, Why almost everyone believes in an afterlife – even atheists," New Scientist, Nov 23, 2019 Source: New Scientist

Maybe Pascal was correct that there is a God-shaped hole in our heart pointing us to his existence.

Religion is Desperation. Source

Isn't it amazingly elitist of him to think this is why people accept religion?  How many people has he interviewed?  His opinion is of no value, yet he spouts it as if it is metaphysical truth.  Are there desperate people in religion?  Of course. Are there desperate atheists?  Of course. But the argument assumes he knows what the nature of reality is. He must assume there is no God in order to claim that this life is all we have. Has he proven that this life is all we have?  No. That is his assumption and nothing more. One could easily invert his argument and say:

I've also noticed this painful truth about atheism. It's made up of people who are intensely afraid of God's rules and the truth about the sinful nature of humans.

Which sentence is correct?  Only data can shed any light on it, but Wickstrum acts as if his side is already proven.  Only a man who died and came back to life could tell us what is on the other side---oh, that already happened.  That man said there was an afterlife. Plus one for us.

Remember that Wickstrum above wrote: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This demand he throws at the Christian as if we have to be the only ones to prove our case.

The problem is that the claim that the material universe is the only thing that exists is equally an extraordinary claim in and of itself, which contains implicitly other extraordinary claims. For example, if the universe is all there is, then how did it come into existence? The universe is governed by mathematical rules. How did the logic and math come into existence? Is he claiming that the universe, math and logic is eternally existent? Well, eternal existence is an attribute that is ascribed to gods, not to matter subject to the second law of thermodynamics, where everything runs down eventually. So the observational data argues against his position. Claiming that the universe exists from eternity past to eternity future is an extraordinary claim but one necessitated by the claim that God doesn't exist.

Should Mr. Wickstrum believe in the multiverse, in which our universe is merely one among an infinitude of other universes with different mathematical laws and the existence of the math and logic of our universe is merely due to chance, then he would believe in other unseen heavens, many of which have other unseen beings in them. Why is that claim not an extraordinary claim? We believe in an unseen God in another 'universe' we call heaven. Those who believe in the multiverse equally believe in unseen beings in other universes. To claim that only the Christian must prove our case, how about him proving his extraordinary claims with extraordinary evidence?

Religion is Indoctrination

One I find particularly insipid was one that he got from Dawkins, claiming religion is merely indoctrination.

He writes:

"Dawkins challenges religious people to train their kids in critical thinking instead of in religious tradition. In this way, the child will choose whether or not religion is true and real, rather than being constantly told by trusted friends and family that it is. This is a challenge to religious people because religion continues almost entirely because of the indoctrination of children. Children are easy targets because they trust that the adults around them have life figured out and are vastly more intelligent than them. Dawkins is pointing out that if we train children to think critically rather than indoctrinate them, we'll have an atheist society in a single generation."

What he and Dawkins seem to miss is that critical thinking as a skill is great, but the conclusions one draws is entirely based upon the assumptions one starts with.  Critical thinking alone will not necessarily lead one to atheism.  For instance, if one assumes that there is nothing but matter out there, then one of course is very likely to become an atheist.  But what if one starts with the physical observation that a human mind can change the behavior of small physical particles (no this isn't Urey Geller)?

I think Christians have long undervalued the support our world view gets from Physics. When dealing with the particles, like electrons, photons etc, experiments have taught us that they can be both waves and particles.  But here is the kicker. Our consciousness decides how they behave, not only in the present but in the past. A non-existent entity should not be able to alter the behavior of matter; yet our souls/consciousnesses do.  This is the toughest section and in part comes from Quantum Soul, but if you make the effort to understand, you will find some very interesting support for our belief that materialism is false.

Let's start with a simple case where a human decision about which equipment to use to observe light from a distant quasar determines whether we see particles going around one side of the individual galaxy or we see waves going on all sides of the intervening galaxy all at once.  Look at the figure below as
"Wheeler noted that it is possible to devise a double slit experiment at the cosmic level using light coming from quasars and a galaxy which operates as a gravitational lens on the way to Earth, bending the light inwardly as it passes by massive objects (as predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity). This light would generate an interference pattern showing that light has travelled as waves. But if a measurement would be performed before the screen on which the interference pattern takes form, the pattern would dissolve and the photons would change from waves into particles. In other words, our choice on how to measure the light coming from a quasar influences the nature of the light emitted 10 billion years ago. According to Wheeler, this experiment would show that ‘retrocausal effects operate at the quantum level." Antonella Vannini e Ulisse Di Corpo, "Quantum Mechanics (QM), Syntropy 2007, 1, pp. 119-129, p. 127 Source

In all other areas of physics, my choice makes no difference to the outcome of the experiment.  Nature determines the outcome. For instance, no choice my observation, my mind, can change how fast a ball falls in a vacuum in a gravitational field.  I can't change what it does like some magician.  But with these tiny particles, my mind, my soul, if you will can change their behavior simply by my choosing what equipment I use to detect them!  Indeed, it gets stranger than that.  In the world of quantum, one's conscious decision of what to do with information one has collected about the path's of these particles can change the past; change how the particles behaved in the past.  These are the delayed choice experiments.  

There is a famous experiment, the double slit experiment.  If you let the particles pass through slits and the observer doesn't collect information about which slit the individual particles pass through, then you get the diffraction pattern, indicating that the particles are acting like waves(the upper half of the first picture).  If you watch to see what slit they go through, the particles act like bullets and the pattern observed is of two zones immediately behind the slits where the bullets pile up.(Lower half of first picture)

Intuition would tell us that it is the slits which are causing the behavior of the electrons, but in fact, it is our consciousness which causes their behavior.  This can be shown by an experiment actually performed in which individual electrons are sent through the slits, information on which slit they went through is collected and then, after the electron has gone through the slit and one would think that the behavior has already been caused by the slits, we then can change what happened at the slit by the decision as to whether or not to keep the information about what slit the particle passed through or not.

Consciousness is deciding how the past behaved. This requires that consciousness/mind/observer is somehow above the laws of physics. Stephen Barr wrote:

"A careful analysis of the logical structure of quantum theory suggests that for quantum theory to make sense it has to posit the existence of observers who lie, at least in part, outside of the description provided by physics." Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), p. 27-28

And as Peierlman notes:

"The moment at which you can throw away one possibility and keep only the other is when you finally become conscious of the fact that the experiment has given one result .... You see, the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows." Rudolf Peierls, in P. C. W. Davies and Julian Brown, The Ghost in the Atom, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) p.74

The observer/consciousness/soul is above nature, apart from it, telling nature what it must be like. This clearly says the soul exists apart from matter and that it has a special place in creating this world (which has implications to the problem of evil). For a fuller explanation of why knowing is not the same as recording, see "What Constitutes an Observer," in Quantum Soul.

Starting with this as a data point, critical thinking, as advocated by Dawkins, would lead us to think that if one object lies outside of the laws of this universe, then maybe other such entities exist as well, like God. Critical thinking alone doesn't lead one to atheism; critical thinking leads one to conclude what is implicit in his previously accepted assumptions.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (1995). (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version., 1 Ki 7:23–26). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (1 Ki 7:26). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[3] Wolf, H. (1999). 2356 שׁוּשַׁן. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 914). Chicago: Moody Press.

The Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil
by Glenn R. Morton 2019

(Note, all my posts will be dated June so my posts below with my views on Genesis won't fall into oblivion by the change of the month)

The problem of evil is a serious atheist argument against God and deserves a serious rebuttal. Basically the argument, attributed to Epicurus by Lactantius, a Christian advisor to Constantine. The argument goes like this.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

I would point out to the atheist that God is both able and willing to remove evil but the method by which he is doing it doesn't satisfy them. They wish evil to be removed instantly. God takes a much longer view and in his view, the greatest evil isn't what happens to us in this world but what happens to us in the next.  He will remove evil via the Christian plan of salvation and the events of escatology. Atheists, however, think they know better than God and that the world should be run according to their plan, meaning that the world should be without evil. As we shall see, Lactantius explains why evil is necessary for us to know Good.

Quentin Smith sets up a strawman argument, saying we Christians simply believe the existence of evil is a 'mystery'.

Gratuitous Evil

I think there's a second, separate argument that decisively refutes theism, based on the ordinary logic of induction that we use in our every day lives. The famous British philosopher John Mackie said that if there's any miracle in the world, it's that so many people actually believe God exists. One of the reasons Mackie thought that this is the case is that Mackie found it obvious that if there's evil in the world, no all-powerful and perfectly good being could have created the world. Consider, for example, the Spanish influenza. In World War I (1914-1918), ten million people died. But in three months, from September to November of 1919, twenty million people died -- just as many as in the plague in the fourteenth century -- from Spanish influenza. Then suddenly, this virus that caused this deadly flu disappeared, and no one has seen it again. So how could this possibly have occurred if God exists? Is God not powerful enough to kill this virus or prevent it from growing? If so, then He's not all-powerful and is not really the god of the Judeo-Christian tradition. He's just a sort of extraterrestrial intelligence. He's just more powerful than us by degrees, just as we are more powerful than ants by degrees. But that is no god; that is a finite being. You would no more worship this being than you would worship ET.

Suppose God is all-powerful and is capable of killing the Spanish influenza virus before it killed off twenty million people. Why didn't He? Is it because He's not perfectly good? Because He does not care enough about human beings? That is no god. Sounds like more an evil being governs our universe. So that's just one example of many gratuitous evils in the universe.

So how do theists respond to arguments like this? They say there is a reason for evil, but it is a mystery. Well, let me tell you this: I'm actually one hundred feet tall even though I only appear to be six feet tall. You ask me for proof of this. I have a simply answer: it's a mystery. Just accept my word for it on faith. And that's just the logic theists use in their discussions of evil.

This is not what I and many Christians say of evil. We know why evil exists.  Smith and other atheists have forgotten something very important Christian theology says about our world.

Furthermore, they forget this Genesis 1:28:

" And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth[1]

God gave dominion of this world to mankind!  God gave us the key's to the car and we drove the car into the ditch. We are the ones who are responsible; much of the evil in this world is due to us!  We are the ones who killed millions people in World War.  What I am suggesting is something that only works for those of us who are more Arministic in our theology. Calvinists won't find this fitting within their theology.  If we humans have any impact on the nature of this world, then we can't lay at God's feet the blame for all the evil in the world.

Smith blames the Spanish flu on God, and one can try to say that all the diseases in the geologic past are due to God rather than man, but amazingly, science says some very interesting things about the power of individual humans to shape the nature of this world, including what happened in the past. Smith's criticism is partly based upon the idea that we have no impact on the past. This isn't true. From my article on Quantum Soul:

Theoretical physicist John Wheeler further elucidates the role of the observer with what are called “delayed-choice” thought experiments. (See Fig. 2.)

"Wheeler noted that it is possible to devise a double slit experiment at the cosmic level using light coming from quasars and a galaxy which operates as a gravitational lens on the way to Earth, bending the light inwardly as it passes by massive objects (as predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity). This light would generate an interference pattern showing that light has travelled as waves. But if a measurement would be performed before the screen on which the interference pattern takes form, the pattern would dissolve and the photons would change from waves into particles. In other words, our choice on how to measure the light coming from a quasar influences the nature of the light emitted 10 billion years ago. According to Wheeler, this experiment would show that ‘retrocausal effects operate at the quantum level."

The light's passage by the massive light-bending galaxy occurred long before there were any people or multicellular life on earth. Yet our decision today determines what happened to that light 2 billion years ago. To paraphrase Weinberg and Wigner, “Human beings are in the cookie jar at the beginning of the laws of QM.” Matter is obeying consciousness. Matter, at its most fundamental level, is NOT master of consciousness; consciousness is master of the matter!

Another retrocausality experiment done by Kim et al, allows the observer to change the equipment after the particles have gone through the double-slit apparatus but before they have hit the screen. Amazingly, the observer's choice still rules over what nature does.14

Wheeler eventually changed his mind, opting for another interpretation of delayed-choice experiments, taking the view that particles don't get their properties until they are observed, meaning, they are neither waves nor particles until the observer decides what equipment he wishes to use. Clearly, this is even a more radical position than that of most 19th century idealists. Such a view places the observer/soul as the creator of the universe and its past. (Move over, God!) Matter is not creating consciousness through biological evolution, but consciousness is creating matter and its history by observation. To paraphrase Descartes famous quote, the observer can say, "I observe; therefore I create; therefore I am [like God]." Hyperbole aside, Christian readers are likely to recall from Genesis 1 that “God created mankind in his own image.” Perhaps we see tangible evidence of this in delayed-choice experiments. Given that God gave us control of the earth, which means, we humans are responsible for much of the evil we see in the world, both natural and man-made. We can't lay at God's feet what we are responsible for. 

Either way one interprets that experiment, it gives great power to the human observer to shape his universe.  This is tangible, scientific evidence that mankind does have control over nature, even if we are not very good at wielding that power

God gave us at least partial control of the universe and if, in our sin, we messed it up, creating natural and human-caused evil, then we can't blame God. Consider first time you gave the keys to the car to your child.  He/she drives off, and you have no way to protect him. The laws of physics which you are required to obey don't allow you to protect him anymore. If your child drives into a bad neighborhood, or drives to the drug dealer, or the red light district, you can't prevent that.  If they decide to run down a group of people on the sidewalk for fun, you can't stop that.  I would argue that God has limited His actions in the universe to very special occasions.

Now, the atheist is going to say, well God is omnipotent; He can do what he wants.  But not if He has a reason to limit his interactions. Maybe as seen in Job, He has limited his interaction with the world. In Job, God and Satan make a bet on how Job will respond to tragedy and evil coming into his life.  God does not save Job from that evil. Job had to endure it.  Job 1:12 says:

And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand

Job lost his family, lost his wealth and became very sick.  needs to remove evil in a different way.

They (and I) have pointed occasionally to Isaiah 45:7."I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things"

If God created everything, then he created Satan as well, and would have foreknown what Satan would do. I don't see how Christians can avoid this conclusion, so God's plan included this.

One other source of evil in this world is that Satan seems to have control over the governments. He offered Jesus total rule over the world.

"Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him[2]"

Jesus didn't contradict Satan's claim to be able to make such an offer.

Secondly, it is interesting that atheists, when presenting the argument advanced by Epicurus, leave out Lactantius' solution to this paradox, which is, that if we don't know evil, we can't recognize good. Within classical Christian Theology, one could argue that even if Adam and Eve had not sinned, we would eventually have been introduced to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but introduced on God's terms, not Satan's. Here is what Lactantius said:

"But if this account is true, which the Stoics were in no manner able to see, that argument also of Epicurus is done away. God, he says, either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing or able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils or why does He not remove them? I know that many of the philosophers, who defend providence, are accustomed to be disturbed by this argument, and are almost driven against their will to admit that God takes no interest in anything, which Epicurus especially aims at; but having examined the matter, we easily do away with this formidable argument. For God is able to do whatever he wishes, and there is no weakness or envy in God. He is able, therefore, to take away evils; but He does not wish to do so, and yet He is not on that account envious. For on this account he does not take them away, because He at the same time gives wisdom, as I have shown; and there is more of goodness and pleasure in wisdom than of annoyance in evils. For wisdom causes us even to know God, and by that knowledge to attain immortality, which is the chief good. Therefore, unless we first know evil, we shall be unable to know good. But Epicurus did not see this, nor did any other, that if evils are taken away, wisdom is in like manner taken away; and that no traces of virtue remain in man, the nature of which consists in enduring and overcoming the bitterness of evils. And thus, for the sake of a slight gain in the taking away of evils, we should be deprived of a good, which is very great, and true, and peculiar to us. It is plain, therefore, that all things are proposed for the sake of man, as well evils as also goods.
Lactantius, The Anger of God,

One can see Lactantius' point in full display in modern society. As I observe our abundantly blessed land, Americans alive today have never known real want. There has
been no starvation in our land within the memory of anyone alive nor have we experienced destruction by war as Europe did in WWII. We have not experienced true despotism like I have seen in other countries. Because of this, tiny annoyances become monstrous issues in our minds. Not experiencing true, historical levels of calamity, we have no basis upon which to judge how good we have it.  Like an heir to a fortune who thinks everyone has their kind of money, we see the world through a broken window pane.

I recall running into an American in Rome and he asked me, "How can anyone stand to live here. Look around, there is nothing new, all the buildings are old and you would have to get your food from this tiny, dirty market. Would you want to live here like this?" Having traveled the world a bit, I was both amused and disgusted with this guy.  My reaction was, "Yeah, I would love it."  He didn't understand me, but he was showing the effect of his affluent lifestyle on his attitude towards the rest of the world.

One of the things I liked about working in China was that every employee could look out the window on the streets of Beijing and see what life is like without any education.  The poor of China live hard lives of physical labor--bicycling trash or other heavy objects. From

My employees knew of people making their living fishing in a dirty river like this man: The pictures below are my pictures and are  in descending order from the Pearl River, Guangzhou, China, near Tianjin, China and finally, in Tibet.

And my employees knew that people in their country lived in homes like the two above.

They knew how bad it could be and were grateful for their office jobs because they could see true poverty.. They knew what could happen if their lives fell apart.

Today, Americans do not see this kind of lifestyle in our country and they fail to be grateful for what they have.  Even our poor live better lives than the people pictured above.  I am a cancer patient. How do I know how well off I am?  By looking around and seeing people in far worse shape than I.  Lactantius is correct, we can't know good until we know evil. Below is Lactantius' presentation of Epicurus along with the part that the atheists always exclude which I have bolded:

It is so interesting to me that the atheists leave out Lactantius's explanation and don't even bother to address it, preferring to be intellectually lazy. Lactantius is correct, we can't know Good if we don't know Evil.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ge 1:28). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 4:8–11). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.