Wednesday, August 15, 2012

God is the Ultimate Context of the Universe

In my book, Why Christianity is True, in the section on arguments for the existence of God, I argue that the fact that the universe is a whole made up of a variety of parts points to the existence of God, for all the parts must find their origin in an ultimate unity.  I want to make this same argument again briefly in another way.

The universe is made up of lots of parts.  There are lots of individual objects, like trees, cars, people, rocks, etc.  These objects are obviously parts of a larger whole.  There is clearly a fabric of reality that transcends these individual objects, in which they all exist.  There is a nexus, a framework, a background, or whatever you want to call it, in which all objects exist and by means of which they are able to be interrelated.  In short, there is a whole in which the parts exist; and the parts are derived from this whole, as their very essences are oriented in relation to this whole and they exist only in the context of it.  And yet where is this whole?  What is this reality in which all things exist?  This whole, this nexus, cannot be identified with any of the individual objects.  And yet what else is there?  Is the whole simply the collection of all the parts?  This cannot be, for a collection of parts is not really a separate entity; it is the same as simply all the parts put together and is made up wholly by them.  It is not a separate entity in its own right.  And yet there must be some reality, distinct from the individual parts, that functions as the nexus in which those parts exist.

So in order to explain the universe we see, we need to have some reality that is the context in which all things exist and yet is not itself any of the actual individual objects that exist as parts of the whole.  This framework, this nexus, must be indivisible.  In classic philosophical language, it must be "simple"--possessing no parts itself.  If it were divisible, if it possessed parts, then we would be back to square one and would have to go back to yet a more ultimate nexus in which those parts exist.  The only possible solution is that the individual parts of the space-time universe are ultimately derived from and exist in the context of some ultimate, indivisible substance/being.  And that, of course, is God (although other arguments need to be added to show why this being is conscious, etc.).  Our universe only makes sense when it is seen as derived from and dependent upon a more ultimate, indivisible reality.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On the Biblical Qualifications for Choosing Civil Magistrates

There is a lot of debate going on in the Christian community today over how we should choose civil magistrates.  Among those who understand that nations are obligated to God to embrace the true religion and to base their laws on its principles (rather than being secular or embracing some other false religion), the main line of argument comes down to this:  Should Christians strictly follow the biblical requirements for the kind of civil magistrate that should be chosen, or is it OK and perhaps a good thing for Christians in unbiblical nations to choose the best candidates that are currently available, even if they don't fully meet biblical requirements?

William Einwechter has written an excellent article summing up the biblical requirements for the sorts of civil magistrates who should be chosen to rule.  I only have a couple of brief things to say in addition to what he has said.

First, my one disagreement with Einwechter's article is when he says this:  "But how does the biblical teaching on choosing magistrates apply in instances where there are no candidates who meet the biblical standards? This is debated among Christians. Some advocate strict compliance with the biblical standards at all times and all places. Others argue that strict compliance is only fully possible in a covenant nation (which is the goal); in the meantime, we should use our vote to support men of ability and integrity who are generally in agreement with biblical standards of law and justice."  Einwechter leaves this question unanswered, but it seems to me the answer is pretty clear.  When are we ever authorized to ignore God's standards?  If I happen to be in a church where the only candidates put forward for the pastoral office are a liberal homosexual man and a (relatively) theologically conservative heterosexual woman, what should I do?  Should I vote for the woman, reasoning that although the Bible does not allow women to be pastors, yet at least she is much better than the alternative?  Or should I refuse to vote for either of them and focus my attention on changing the underlying unacceptable situation?  Surely I should not choose either of them, as God has not authorized us to choose either homosexuals or women to be our pastors.  Doesn't the same reasoning apply here?  Should we not refrain from voting if all we are given are unqualified candidates, and focus instead on changing this situation?

My other comment is simply that I would add a couple of references from Deuteronomy 17 to the verses already cited by Pastor Einwechter.  In Deuteronomy 17:8-11, we read this:

“If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose; and thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:  And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee:  According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.”

In 17:18-20, we read this:

“And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:  And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:  That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.”

Both of these passages indicate that rulers are to determine what laws they should enact, how they should punish crime, and in general every aspect of how they ought to rule, not according to their own whims, but according to the law of God.  Anyone who is put forward for the office of civil magistrate who does not understand this clearly, who is not willing to put himself forward clearly as taking God's laws as the foundation of his duty, who puts forward secular principles as the foundation of his duty, etc., is not biblically qualified to be chosen as a civil magistrate.  Einwechter brought out these points well, but these additional verses add to his case.

See also this series of exchanges between Steve Halbrook and Bojidar Marinov, applying the question of this post to voting for Ron Paul in particular.  They discuss the issue of how biblically qualified a candidate must be in order to justify voting for him.

And don't forget!  There is a political party in existence that supports a political philosophy based on the whole counsel of God - the Reformation Party (  Come and join us!  See also my previous post on the philosophical foundations of the Reformation Party at

Response to "Top 8 Ways to Be 'Traditionally Married' according to the Bible." Part II.

. . . Continued from previous post.

"Man + Wives + Concubines (Abraham [2 concubines], Gideon [1], Nahor [1], Jacob [1], Eliphaz [1], Gideon [> 1 - I don't know how to type the sign that is actually here], Caleb [2], Manasseh [1], Solomon [300], Belshezzar [> 1])"

There is an important rule of biblical interpretation that many critics of the Bible don't tend to take into account.  In the narratives of the Bible, people do lots of different things - some good, some bad, and some indifferent.  Sometimes the biblical narrative will comment on a wrong action, but not always.  Even overall good people in the Bible do not always do the right thing.  Therefore, in order to determine biblical morality, it is not enough to simply find examples of someone in the Bible doing something.  One must find passages which clearly approve of a certain practice.

In the case of concubines, there is no mention of them at all in biblical law.  There is, in biblical law, a requirement that any man who has sexual relations with a woman (provided both are unmarried) must marry that woman (provided she and her family consent) (Exodus 22:16-17).  If a man has sexual relations with a woman, and either of them are married to another, this is counted adultery and both the man and the woman are to be punished with death (Leviticus 20:10; Matthew 19:9).  There seems to be no room for concubines in biblical law.

Of course, many people in the Bible had concubines anyway.  But this is no argument that concubines are an approved part of biblical morality.  Rather, they violate the law of God.

"Man + Woman + Woman's Property - Genesis 16 (man could acquire his wife's property including her slaves)"

Genesis 16 tells the story of how Abraham, not content to wait for the promise of God that he would have a child, took matters into his own hands (at the instigation of Sarah his wife) and attempted to have a child by means of Sarah's handmaid.  There is nothing in this text which indicates that God approved of Abraham's action, and that action does not fit with biblical law.  It is therefore not an approved part of biblical morality.

"Man + Woman + Woman + Woman (Polygany) (Lamech [2 wives], Esau [3], Jacob [2], Ashur [2], Gideon [many], Elkanah [2] David [many] Solomon [700], Rehoboam [3], Abijah [14], Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jehoiachin, Belshazzar)"

Here is something I wrote on the question of polygamy in the Bible in my book, Return of the Puritans, in a footnote on pp. 105-106:

"Polygamy was widely practiced in Old Testament times, and is not explicitly forbidden in the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses even regulated some aspects of the practice of polygamy, such as providing laws regarding how to treat children who come from different wives (see Exodus 21:10 and Deuteronomy 21:15-17). However, there is no statement approving polygamy or saying that it is acceptable, and Deuteronomy 17:16 says that a king 'is not to multiply wives to himself.' Genesis 2:24 indicates that God’s established pattern for creation is monogamy, and the various narratives describing polygamous relationships almost always stress the serious problems and sins that arise from it. The Law of Moses sometimes regulates occasions that are in themselves sinful. For example, in Exodus 21:8, we have a practice regulated that involves deception, even though deception is forbidden elsewhere. So the fact that something is regulated does not necessarily indicate that it is approved; there is a recognition that unethical things do happen and must be regulated. There is no explicit punishment for polygamous relationships; however, it is not ruled out that a marriage to another woman would be regarded as adultery. The polygamous relationship referred to in Deuteronomy 21:15-17 might refer to an already-existing polygamous relationship, not giving sanction for entering into a new one. To say that a person should not divorce his wives in a polygamous relationship (and that is not even said here or anywhere explicitly) is not to say that it is not true that he should not have entered into such a relationship in the first place. In the New Testament, polygamy is more clearly forbidden--but even here, it is not really explicitly discussed. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus says, 'Whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.' This makes no sense unless polygamy is itself adultery, for the entire basis of the charge of adultery here is that a man who is not lawfully divorced (and thus is still considered lawfully married) is marrying another woman. In Romans 7:1-3, Paul makes a similar point. In his instructions for appointing church elders, Paul says (for example, in 1 Timothy 3:2) that a elder must be 'the husband of one wife.' This parallels, I think, the command in the Law of Moses that kings not multiply wives for themselves. Paul may be thinking of this very verse and applying its general equity to church elders. And if it is wrong for kings and for church officers to marry more than one wife, why would it be OK for others to do so? In short, taking into account all of the teaching of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, we can conclude that polygamy is wrong, even though the subject is not addressed with great explicitness."

Once again, the fact that something is widely practiced by people in the Bible is insufficient to prove that that practice has the sanction of God and is an approved part of biblical morality.

"Man + Brother's Widow (Levirate Marriage) Genesis 38:6-10 (widow who had not borne a son required to marry her brother in law; must submit sexually to her new husband)"

Genesis 38:6-10 is referring to a practice codified in biblical law in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.  (Why did the document not cite Deuteronomy 25?  My guess is that its author didn't know about it.  He/she has shown himself/herself to be quite sloppy in general so far.  How surprising for critics of the Bible!)  Go and read it.  As you can see, the basic idea is that in order to ensure that a man will have an heir who will continue his family line in Israel, if he dies without having any children, his wife is to marry his brother and the child born to them will be considered a continuing of the original husband's family line.

I do not see any reason to think that this supports polygamy, as there is no evidence that the brother would be required to comply if he were already married.  The idea that the brothers "dwelt together" suggests that the brother is unmarried.  Also, note that only the firstborn child would carry on the original husband's family line.  The successive children would carry on the family line of the new husband.

So what is the problem with this?  Is there an objection to be made to it?  I see no objection here - at least not explicitly stated.  Of course, the unstated objection (suggested, for example, by the harshness of the phrase "must submit sexually to her new husband") is that it would be a violation of the right of the woman to require her to marry her husband's brother.  (Interestingly, the text itself seems to think the burden of duty is more on the brother, the woman being portrayed as likely quite happy to do this and the brother possibly trying to get out of it - because he doesn't want to raise up an heir to his brother.)  Normally, the biblical practice is not to require a woman to marry any particular man, but this seems to be an exception to that.  (Of course, many men would be likely to have a number of brothers, given the absence of birth-control mentality and practices in biblical ethics.)  Is there some moral law that says that women can never have a duty to marry a particular person (or within a smaller group of particular persons)?  I am not aware of any.  God's law is the ultimate standard of morality.  Modern moral objections are based not on any evidence but simply on feelings with no rational basis.  Therefore, there is no rational basis for this objection.  The most that could be said is that some particular brother and woman would not want to marry each other and this would be a difficult thing for them to have to do.  This could be true (although, again, remember that there may be a number of possible brothers to fulfill this duty).  God sometimes requires us to do things we wouldn't choose to do ourselves, and our responsibility is to submit to his will, to obey him and to be content.

Perhaps there is something that the modern world can learn about relationships between men and women from this practice.  Modern western culture has an absurdly romanticized view of male-female (and now male-male and female-female) relationships.  "Is he The One for me?"  "Is she the Right Person for me?"  As if there is some kind of divine destiny written into nature appointing one man to one woman (or man, etc.).  Rather, the truth is that there is no such divine destiny (in this sense).  The real situation is that there is a world full of men and women, many of whom could be quite happy being married to each other.  If both spouses are committed to unselfishly obeying God, marriage between any two people can probably be reasonably happy.  Christians are used to the idea that once two people are married, they are not to get divorced.  And the same objection that is raised here could be raised in that case:  "What if we are no longer compatible?"  The answer in that case is, you must stay married anyway and work it out; and if you do, you can find contentment and happiness and a good marriage.  The same thing would apply to levirate marriages.

Note that our document is misleading in indicating that this practice amounts to a "non-traditional marriage."  This is still one man married to one woman at one time, the same as marriage version #1 on the chart.

Do the laws regarding levirate marriage still apply today?  The general opinion among Reformed Christians is that they don't, because they were a part of a body of laws (including also laws regarding property returning to families at the Jubilee, etc.) designed to preserve particular families and tribes among the physical descendents of Abraham.  Now that the Gentiles have been included in the people of God and the territory of God's people is no longer restricted to the land of Canaan, these laws are no longer applicable (see the Westminster Confession of Faith 19:4).  It is may no longer be practical, nor necessary, to keep all particular family lines distinct through the ages among the worldwide body of the people of God.  I am inclined to agree with this opinion at present, although I feel a need to do more research and think more about it.

"Rapist + His Victim - Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (virgin who is raped must marry her rapist; rapist must pay victim's father 50 shekels of silver for property loss)"

I already dealt with this in a previous post (, so I don't have much to add here.  Even if Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is talking about rape, it does not require a woman to marry her rapist against her will (which is obviously what our chart is suggesting).  It only says that the rapist must marry the woman unless her father refuses (no doubt taking into account the wishes of his daughter).

However, as I argued in the previous post, I don't think rape is in view here at all.

"Male Soldier + Prisoner of War - Numbers 31:1-18; Deuteronomy 21:11-14 (under Moses' command, Israelites kill every Midianite man, woman and child; save for the virgin girls who are taken as spoils of war; wives must submit sexually to their new owners)

I dealt with this in the earlier post previously mentioned.  The idea suggested here, that virgin girls were taken as rape slaves against their will, is a misreading of the biblical text.

"Male Slave + Female Slave - Exodus 21:4 (slave owner could assign female slaves to his male slaves; female slaves must submit sexually to their new husbands)

The chart seems to be trying to insinuate that the master could force his slaves to marry against their will, but the text says nothing about that.  I see no reason to put two servants marrying in a different category than option #1, the traditional marriage.

With regard to the ethics of biblical slavery/servanthood in general, see my comments on this in my book, Return of the Puritans, pp. 181-189, and also Glenn Miller's interesting and informative article at

And that's it.  I do have a message for the critics of the Bible:  It would be very nice if you could raise the level of this kind of dialogue by avoiding sloppy and misleading claims and research.  We could focus on more productive conversations, rather than having to waste so much time fixing your errors because you don't want to do your own homework.

See Part I.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Response to "Top 8 Ways to Be 'Traditionally Married' according to the Bible." Part I.

As the culture continues to battle over the legitimacy of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, there have been a number of popular attempts to attack the idea of defending "traditional marriage" between one man and one woman from the Bible.  One of the most common forms of this have been  attempts to show that "traditional marriage" as defined in the Bible is not what modern conservative Christians think it is.  Here is an example of a popular image floating around on Facebook making this kind of argument:

I would like to respond to the claims of this image and show that historic Christian ideas about marriage are indeed the same as the biblical view.  Let's go through the specific examples one by one and point out what is correct and what is not correct.

"MAN + WOMAN (NUCLEAR FAMILY) Genesis 2:24 (wives subordinate to their husbands; interfaith marriages forbidden; marriages generally arranged, not based on romantic love; bride who could not prove her virginity was stoned to death)"

"Wives subordinate to their husbands" - Yes.  In the Bible, there is a hierarchy of authority.  Men have higher authority than women in the marriage.  Of course, they are to use this authority for the good of their wives and families, and to the glory of God, an in obedience to all of God's commands.  A classic passage discussing this is Ephesians 5:22-33.  Much could be said about what all this means in practice.  I don't want to get into all of that here.  But I do want to remind the enemies of the Bible to be charitable and honest in their attempts to understand the Bible's point of view, as they would ask for their own points of view.

"Interfaith marriages forbidden" - Yes.  In the Bible, marriage is to be "in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Nehemiah 13:23-27; 1 Corinthians 7"10-16).  It is not good to willingly produce a family where one of the partners is an enemy of God and a follower of a false religion.  This will produce strain on the marriage as the two spouses will have differing beliefs and values.  It will be a source of temptation to the godly spouse.  It will be a source of danger for the children.

"Marriages generally arranged, not based on romantic love" - Certainly I think the Bible calls for parents to be involved in the marriage decisions of their children.  There is no set biblical prescription for how people should choose their spouses.  It is not the case that the Bible allows parents to marry off their children against their will.  It rather opposes this idea.  (I dealt with this in an earlier post -  I would agree that marriages should not be based, at least solely, on romantic love.  But surely a man and a woman should not get married unless they have a reasonable chance of liking and loving each other!  The Bible does not say otherwise.  So this charge is mostly made up out of the critic's imagination.

"Bride who could not prove her virginity was stoned to death" - This is derived from Deuteronomy 22:13-21.  Go and read it.  As you can see, the law here deals with a woman who has gotten married upon a pretense of being a virgin, and after her marriage her husband accuses her of lying about having been a virgin.  There is a trial, at which evidence of the woman's previous virginity is sought.  If there is evidence of her previous virginity, the man is shamed and fined one hundred shekels of silver, to be paid to the woman's father.  And he is not allowed ever to divorce her.  If there is no evidence of her previous virginity, she is to be stoned to death.

Why is this issue of virginity taken so seriously?  Well, for one thing, if the woman is not a virgin, how did she cease to be one?  She appears to be guilty of adultery, in that she is now marrying a husband when she appears to have had sexual relations with a previous man (who therefore, in biblical law, should be her husband).  She has also shown herself to be a liar and has brought shame on her family, has shown she does not submit to authority, and has cheated her husband.  All of these sorts of actions are treated with great gravity in biblical law.  Sexual crimes are treated with great seriousness, because of the importance of the family as well as the need to show respect to God's purposes in giving us sexuality.  Being rebellious and anarchical is also treated with great seriousness in biblical law (see Deuteronomy 21:18-21), because of the importance of respecting the God whose authority is exercised in family, church, and state, and because of the importance of proper discipline for the maintenance of society.  I see nothing problematic in any of this.

How exactly is the woman to be tested for previous virginity?  Her parents are to present a cloth in their possession to the elders (that is, the judges of the case), which will exonerate her from the false charge.  What exactly is this cloth?  Perhaps it is a cloth from the wedding night, with blood on it from the breaking of the hymen.  If this the case, the objection might be raised that sometimes hymens break earlier in life accidentally and that blood does not always accompany first-time sexual intercourse.  This is a good point, but we must remember that biblical laws are case laws.  They exhibit a specific response to a specific set of circumstances, providing general rules that are to be flexibly applied to other circumstances.  For example, in Exodus 21:28-31, we have a case law that says that a man whose ox gores someone after he has been told previously of its tendency to do that and has done nothing to prevent it is to be put to death (unless a sum of money is imposed on him).  Does the fact that oxen are mentioned prove that the law only applies to oxen, and not to other dangerous animals or objects?  No, the law is a case law offering general principles to be applied to related circumstances (like pit bulls, drunk driving, etc.).  For another example, the Bible says that no one is to be put to death except on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  But can't witnesses lie?  Yes.  The general principle here is that there must be adequate evidence to bring someone to conviction.  Normally, two or three (independent) witnesses would be sufficient.  If in some case this clearly is not sufficient for some reason or another, further evidence would be required based on the point of the general principle.  I mentioned in an earlier post on "The Bible and Rape" (see link above) the law that says that if a married woman is raped in a city, she is to be held guilty of adultery because she "did not cry out."  If one doesn't know this is a case law, it seems absurd.  Women can't always cry out, even in cities!  True, but often they can (especially in the smaller cities of biblical times).  The point is that she is to be held guilty if she consented rather than trying to escape, however that might be determined in various circumstances.

We have the same sort of thing here.  Much of the time, under normal circumstances, it might be that there could be evidence of previous virginity on this cloth that her parents possess.  However, the law is not intended to ignore situations where this might not be the case.  The point is that some method should be taken, if at all possible, to ensure the woman's virginity before marriage, so that this evidence can be presented to exonerate her from a false charge of adultery upon her getting married if such should happen.  I see no problem with this.

Remember also that, like much modern civil law, biblical civil law is practical and deals with situations which might arise, without making any claim that such situations are ideal.  What a horrible mess already exists if the situation of this passage should even arise at all!  What a lack of trust is already built into the relationship!  Surely we should do all we can to avoid such situations arising in the first place, by being careful in choosing mates (and in helping our children choose mates), by encouraging trust, etc.  But non-ideal things happen, and we must do something about them when they do.

To be continued . . .

See Part II.

Why "Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?" Is Not a Good Question; and, Comments on the Ontological Argument

Many people have said that the most important philosophical question is, "Why is there something rather than nothing?"  This has often been repeated as if it is an obviously profound and fundamental question.

But actually, the question is absurd.  It is absurd because it is a necessary truth that "being exists" and that "non-being doesn't exist."  The words "being" or "something" simply mean "that which exists."  We can rephrase the question to bring out the absurdity clearly:  "Why is the state of being that exists a state of being that exists rather than a state of non-being which does not exist?"  If you find this question to be profound, you should also find this question to be profound:  "Why is a cookie a cookie and not a non-cookie?"  The answer is, a cookie is a cookie because it is . . . well, a cookie.  And being (that is, "that which exists") exists because . . . well, because it exists.  What else could "being" do but exist?  And why do we find it so profound and surprising that "nothing" doesn't exist?  I mean, what did we expect it to be doing?

Understanding the fact that being necessarily exists and non-being necessarily does not exist is helpful in understanding a classic argument for the existence of God that has perplexed many people (including myself) over the years: the ontological argument.  The ontological argument is basically an attempt to show that God exists by definition, that if you understand what "God" means, you will not be able to deny his existence.

A lot of people find it odd that one can prove something so important by means of a simple defining of terms; but, nevertheless, that is the way the world works sometimes.  Starting with being rather than God can help to make the ontological argument more clear.  Being necessarily exists; it exists by definition.  If you understand what being means, you know that it exists.  If you think you understand what being means but you are not sure that it must exist, you do not understand what you think you understand.  ("You keep using that word.  I don't think it means what you think it means.")  The fact that it exists is built into the very concept of being and is inseparable from it.

Now, God is nothing other than Ultimate Being.  That is, God is the name we give to "Complete and Utter Being"  I am not Complete and Utter Being, and neither are you.  Hopefully you've realized that by now.  No finite object in the universe can be Complete and Utter Being, because any such object simply does not encompass within its own being all of being.  It is a part of a larger whole.  The entire space-time universe itself cannot be Complete and Utter Being either, because it has properties (such as being in time, being divisible, etc.) which require it to have been derived from a more ultimate state of being.  (A temporal universe requires a starting point outside of itself; a divisible universe requires an origin in something that provides the unity of all its parts; etc.  See the chapter on God in my book, Why Christianity is True, for more on these kinds of arguments.)  Only a being like God has the necessary characteristics to be Complete and Utter Being, or Ultimate Being.  To say that Ultimate Being does not exist is just as absurd as saying that being in general does not exist, for it would be to say that parts of being exist but not the whole of being.  To say that the ultimate state of reality isn't real is a contradiction in terms.  Therefore, God, by definition, exists.

Of course, the difficulty with the ontological argument is that in order to use it fully, you have to bring in other arguments showing why God and not, say, the universe or some impersonal thing must be Ultimate Reality, and so it really cannot stand on its own unless a lot of intuitive jumps are made.  But as those other arguments are quite valid and sound, the ontological argument is valid and sound.  God, by definition, exists; and no one can say "God does not exist" without involving himself in self-contradictory absurdity.

Two Different Kinds of Free Speech

Americans place a high value on free speech.  However, they seldom recognize that the American idea of free speech actually contains two completely separate ideas.

One of these ideas is that there should be a free flow of information so that people can have access to relevant data in deciding what to believe and what to do.  While there may be good reasons to restrict the flow of information in certain very limited situations (such as a nation trying to implement a secret strategy during a war), most of the time I think there ought to be a free flow of information.  Particularly, I think there ought to be a free flow of information when it comes to data necessary to accurately understand the world we live in, especially data relating to fundamental matters of theoretical and practical importance--data flowing from religious, philosophical, and scientific sources.

The other idea involved in the American concept of "free speech" is that people should be free to publicly say whatever they want, no matter how offensive, mean-spirited, and useless it may be.  For example, I just read an article this morning in the Salt Lake Tribune ( talking about how the city of Ogden is considering passing a ban on obscene outbursts in public parks.  "Brian Barnard, a civil rights attorney in Salt Lake City, had two words for it: 'Clearly unconstitutional.'"  In other words, it violates the right of free speech.  According to Barnard, and to most Americans, being able to make stupid, worthless, obscene comments in public parks is a fundamental human right.

I see no reason why speech such as this should be protected by law.  Rather, I think it should not be.  Biblical civil law has a prohibition of blasphemy (Leviticus 24:10-15).  Biblical law also condemns cursing of one's parents and other authorities, and prescribes death for such cursing (Leviticus 20:9; Exodus 22:28; 1 Kings 2:8-9).  The Bible teaches that we are to show respect for our elders (Leviticus 19:32).  To premeditatively and publicly curse another human being, made in the image of God, is blasphemous.  I think the general equity of biblical civil law would require civil punishment for such behavior.  Although America has a hard time with this concept, European nations seem to find it more natural, as can be seen in the prevalence of "hate speech" laws ( - not that I am defending all the particulars of these laws; I am simply pointing out that they reflect the sense, also echoed in biblical law, that the dignity and honor of human beings ought to be in some way protected by law from defamation).

American arguments in defense of allowing obscene and defamatory public speech (let's call this free speech #2, or FS2) are often based in the aforementioned confused mingling of FS2 with the other idea of free speech, the idea that there should normally be a free flow of information/data on important topics (we'll call this free speech #1, or FS1).  So Americans often say, for example, that we have to allow people the freedom to publicly insult and defame people in public parks because, if we didn't, we would be stopping people from thinking for themselves, from coming to their own conclusions, and we would be imposing a rigid, unquestioned ideology on people.  But once we separate FS1 and FS2, we see what a nonsensical argument this is.  Sure, I need to be able to have access to all the relevant data when I am trying to decide what the true religion is, or when I am thinking through some difficult philosophical issue, or when I am trying to use science to develop new medical cures.  But none of this is helped by allowing people to blurt out obscenities in public parks in Ogden.  Nor would it be hindered if such obscene speech became forbidden.

This confusion between FS1 and FS2 is prominent in certain secular attacks on biblical law.  Secularists often argue that biblical civil law would impose a thought-straightjacket on people, preventing them from thinking for themselves in important matters and withholding from them all the relevant evidence.  "Laws against blasphemy and the public advocacy of non-biblical religion would prevent people from hearing evidence against the preferred religion of the government, and it would cause people to grow intellectually weak as they are not allowed to consider alternative viewpoints!"  But biblical prohibitions against the public defamation of God, of rulers, and of fellow human beings, does not at all imply that people should not be allowed to be aware of and to think through arguments against Christianity.  There is no biblical prohibition on allowing people to, say, read about commonly-made atheist arguments, or to discuss them, or to learn about what prominent proponents of false worldviews elsewhere in the world might be saying.  What is forbidden is not the dissemination of data/information/arguments, but the public promotion and practice of false religious views and blasphemous and defamatory speech.  So, in a society that follows biblical law, I could have access to and read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  I could think as long as I wish upon the arguments he makes in the book.  What I could not do is go out and publicly promote atheism, or stand on the street corners spouting out blasphemous insults against God.  Prohibitions on blasphemy and the promotion of false religion will keep the public sphere clear of disruptive and offensive filth, but it will not hinder anyone's intellectual development or ability to think freely and thoroughly.  In fact, as honesty and the ability to "give an answer for the hope that is in you" are important biblical values, I would argue that the citizens of a biblical society ought to be well-trained in understanding other people's points of view, so that they will not be ignorant of the false ideas and bad arguments that circulate in the world, and so that they will be trained to avoid such errors by the right use of well-developed critical thinking skills.

Of course, as with many secularist arguments, this argument against biblical law is used somewhat inconsistently, in that secular societies also have laws prohibiting certain ideas from being promoted and acted upon.  For example, what would happen to me if I went out on the street corner and began to promote Al Qaeda?  Do you think I would be left alone by law enforcement?  Of course not.  And if I were to protest their interference, saying, "This is a country of free speech!  We need to be able to think for ourselves, so no views should be hindered from being promoted!" I doubt this would have much effect.  The response would be that I do not have the freedom to advocate things that are harmful to the fundamental values the society ought to protect.  That makes sense.  All societies prohibit such advocacy.  America allows profane and blasphemous speech not because it is "nicer" or "freer" than a biblical society would be, but because modern American culture, being Agnostic, doesn't care about the public honor of God (or apparently even the public honor and dignity of its citizens).  A biblical society, on the other hand, would put a high value on the public honor of God and the dignity of rulers and of other human beings, and this would be reflected in its laws.