What percentage of our salvation is our doing, and what percentage of it is God’s doing? This is a common way of approaching the question of salvation, and it’s a driving force for a lot of bad theology. For example, Steven J. Cole claims that Roman Catholicism "teaches that in order to gain enough merit for salvation, we must add our good works to what Christ did on the cross." That's a common misunderstanding: since Catholics believe human cooperation is necessary, that must mean we're reducing God's credit from 100% to something lower, right? And it's ultimately for this reason that Martin Luther and later Protestants (most famously Calvinists) will argue that man’s free will in the realm of salvation is basically an illusion: we provide 0% to salvation. Why? To ensure that God gets 100%.
A surprisingly common objection raised by atheists against the idea of God is "who created the Creator?" The argument asks, essentially, why theists think that creation needs a Creator, but the Creator doesn't. For example, Lawrence Krauss asks, "the declaration of a First Cause still leaves open the question, 'Who created the creator?' After all, what is the difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one?"
Can we actually know anything about God? This is one of the most fundamental questions, and many people, particularly agnostics, will say “no.” The argument tends to go something like this: God, if there is a God, is so far removed from human experience and knowledge that there’s nothing that we can say about Him (or Her […]
Do You Need God to Know That Abortion is Wrong? That’s a question that I asked recently here and over at Strange Notions. I was prompted by two things: on the one hand, a series of articles defending the idea that we can be moral without God; and on the other, articles like this one, suggesting that […]
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, The First Thanksgiving (1915) There’s a side to Thanksgiving with which you might not be familiar: historically, this was a day in which Americans were encouraged to call upon God both in gratitude for His blessings, and to ask mercy for our sins.† We see seeds of this in Lincoln’s 1863 […]
What should we make of the idea that there’s no such thing as objective morality: that morals are just determined by cultures, or by individuals? That’s at the heart of a question that I address in the essay below. It’s taken from a draft of a midterm that I wrote dealing with moral relativism — more […]
The central problem with atheistic materialism is nothing, really. Metaphysical nothing, to be exact. The Solar System (not to scale) Any worldview, including atheism, should be able to give some sort of coherent answer to the rudimentary question of why the universe exists. I don’t mean “why does this universe exist rather than another?” I […]
Yesterday marked the conclusion of my debate with Steven Dillion on objective morality and the existence of God. Here’s everything, in case you missed any of it: Monday (11/4) – Joe’s opening statement (affirmative)Tuesday (11/5) – Steven’s opening statement (negative)Wednesday (11/6) – Joe’s rebuttal (affirmative)Thursday (11/7) – Steven’s rebuttal (negative)Friday (11/8) – Questions exchanged (three questions each)Saturday (11/9) – Answers (Joe and Steven answer each other’s questions)Sunday […]
Envision in your mind an enormous tree containing many limbs, which branch off into smaller branches, which branch off into twigs, which sprout leaves. The branches and foliage are so thick that you can’t see the trunk of the tree at all. Alexandre Calame, Landscape with Oak (1859) Although you can’t see the trunk, you […]
A while back, I was in an Eastern Orthodox church that had two large depictions of Jesus. The first was an enormous depiction on the ceiling, showing Christ in glory. The second was along the back wall, behind the altar: it was a depiction of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child in her womb. […]