Comment on Elliot Sober: Just Don’t Call the Designer “God” by Sean Pitman.
Re: Quote from â€œAn Introduction to the Evolution versus Creation Debateâ€, by P. Wesley Edwards.
â€œEvolution is no more atheistic than is medicine. Practitioners in both fields exclude supernatural interventions from their explanations of the phenomena they investigate. For example, you wouldnâ€™t expect your doctor to say, â€œWe donâ€™t need to research your disease because we believe itâ€™s the result of a curse from God, so your only treatment is repentance.â€ Just because medicine excludes supernatural explanations as a matter of method, it does not follow that medicine is therefore committed to atheism. Medical doctors are not being inconsistent when they both believe in God, and practice medicine under the working assumption that God has not jumped in to manipulate natural laws in order to create a disease or other medical phenomena. Similarly, evolutionary science also excludes supernatural explanations as a matter of method, but again, this is not equivalent to saying that evolutionists are committed to atheism. What medicine and evolution (and all the sciences) are saying is that direct intervention by God, or other supernatural beings, is assumed to be unnecessary in explaining the phenomena they investigate.â€
Sean, do you agree with this logic?
The difference between medicine and the theory of evolution (ToE) is that the ToE invokes a mechanism and a philosophy that would remove the rational ability to detect the need for an intelligence of any kind, to include God, as the ultimate origin of any phenomenon in this universe.
Medicine, on the other hand, recognizes the need to invoke deliberate design all the time. There are entire fields of medicine devoted to the detection of deliberate design – forensic science being the prime example.
Medicine itself is dependent upon intelligent manipulation of nature in order to combat disease and other forms of injury. The science of medicine is also able to detect design behind prior treatments, such as a replaced artificial hip joint. No doctor, when seeing an X-ray of an artificial hip, is going to conclude any kind of mindless natural process as the explanation for that hip. He/she is going to instantly conclude that this hip was deliberately created and put in place by intelligent design.
Of course, doctors do assume non-deliberate natural processes all the time to explain certain phenomena, as we all do. However, not everything can reasonably be explained without invoking ID. Doctors are well aware of the potential, and even the likelihood, for deliberate intent behind certain illnesses in certain situations.
Again, this is unlikely the ToE where all forms of deliberate intent are ruled out, a priori as a possible explanation for any aspect of the biosphere. Why? Why rule out the possibility for the invocation of any kind of deliberate design behind any aspect of living things before the investigation even begins? This is not reasonable nor is it scientific…
Sean Pitman Also Commented
My understanding is that, historically, Adventist fundamental beliefs have shifted in ways that individuals holding one particular position, including Ellen White herself at times, could have been expelled from the Church by those holding another particular position. There was a time when those of the Church held different views on what 24-hour period of the day should be kept as Sabbath (it wasnâ€™t always sunset to sunset); the Godhead (we once rejected the trinity); and righteousness by faith (we once believed in righteousness by works).
These disagreements occurred before certain agreed positions were so settled in the minds of the founding fathers and mothers of the SDA Church that they became “fundamental” pillars of the SDA faith. The current list of fundamentals was not always as it currently stands. It grew and developed over time. It is only expected that as more information comes clearly to light that the list of important “fundamental” beliefs would also expand over time.
And, as the early Church founders soon discovered, without the maintenance of internal order, discipline, and government within the Church, as based on the concept of “present truth”, as understood by the organized body of believers, the organization soon begins to fragment towards chaos and irrelevance…
Sean, while I could agree with your statement on a prima facie basis, I think one needs to dig a bit deeper here. This statement basically says that we donâ€™t need the Bible or any type of falsifiable evidence or even beliefs to gain admission to heaven, which seems to contradict what you often state (not to mention the purpose of this website). I could be wrong, but I believe that God is able to claim souls who lack knowledge in Him because he can judge whether they would accept Him and Christâ€™s sacrifice if they had representative knowledge of Him.
It just goes to show that it is motive, not current knowledge or beliefs, that is important when it comes to judging if a person is or is not savable.
This idea does not contradict my efforts to uphold truth as I see it. Just because knowledge is not the basis of salvation does not mean that it isn’t important. Knowledge is the basis of the solid conscious hope of the Gospel message. While one can be saved without ever having a conscious knowledge of this future glory while here on Earth, it sure would be nice to have known while here – right?
Iâ€™m not convinced that God saves them because they have â€œlove;â€ after all, many animals give well-documented evidence of having love, which is an instinct written in the genes of many life forms, including most humans (Iâ€™ve met a few who could be exceptions). I suspect that He who knows us in the womb can discern much more than our love, and recognizes what our choice would be given an opportunity to know Him and serve Him.
Our moral choices are based on motive, not knowledge. While animals do express love and devotion to their masters, they cannot appreciate moral freedom as we humans can. They have not been given moral responsibility or choice as we have been given it. Free moral choices are based on the motive of love – of doing unto others as you would like to be treated because of your love for your neighbor.
Remember, it was Jesus who pointed out that all the Law and the Prophets were built on the single “Royal Law”, and James put it, of Love – love to both God and toward our neighbors. Matthew 22:39-40 NIV.
And, as Paul points out, those who love their neighbors as themselves fulfill the Law and are therefore savable – regardless of their knowledge or lack thereof regarding the particulars of God’s existence, the life and death of Jesus, His true character, or any other doctrinal truths while in this life. Romans 13:8-10 NIV.
Like the vast majority of readers here, I donâ€™t need a scientific basis for my faith, and I believe I can be saved by it however â€œblindâ€ it may be.
Salvation is based on love, not blind faith – or faith of any kind for that matter. It is for this reason that even those who have never heard the name of Jesus or had any real concept of God can be saved according to how they expressed the Royal Law of Love toward their neighbors – a law which has been written on the hearts of all. This is why I believe that there will be a number of very surprised atheists in Heaven someday…
Faith or belief is the basis of conscious hope, but not of salvation. If you have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, you have gained nothing… 1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
“Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you ‘blew my cover.’ There was no cover to blow.” – Bryan Ness
You’re not the main problem here. I’d have no problem with you personally and what you personally believe at all except that you are a professor in an Adventist school – Pacific Union College.
It’s this school who presents itself as being in line with the primary goals and ideals of the Adventist Church, when it really isn’t. I have friends of mine who have gone to PUC and talked to the leadership about sending their children to PUC. They’ve specifically asked about the situation at La Sierra University and asked the PUC leadership and heads of departments what their position is on teaching the theory of evolution as “the truth” – and if the teachers at PUC support the SDA position on origins and other issues? They were told that PUC does not condone what happened at LSU and that the professors at PUC are fully in line with the SDA position on origins and all of the other fundamental positions of the church.
Of course, you know and I know that this just isn’t true. You, for one, publically speak and teach against the church’s position on origins as well as human sexuality. This reality is not being presented by the leadership of PUC to the parents of potential PUC students. This reality simply isn’t being advertised to the general church membership at all. What PUC should be advertizing to parents and the church membership at large is,
“Yes, we do maintain professors who teach our students that the church’s position on various fundamental doctrinal issues is in fact wrong and should be changed to reflect the more popular secular position on these topics.”
That’s what it should be telling everyone, but this just isn’t what is being done.
I am attacking no one… Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church?
Since it was placed as one of the church’s “fundamental beliefs” by the church (Link). When you publically publish an article stating that the Church’s position is clearly mistaken and should be changed, that’s an attack on the church’s position.
And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.”
The SDA Church has chosen to describe the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman as one of the “fundamental” messages to spread to the world – as one of the fundamental reasons for its very existence…
Now, you call what you’re doing, not an “attack”, but a “plea for compassion”. However, your plea for compassion is presented as a clear statement that the church’s position is absolutely mistaken – that the church’s position is not at all “compassionate” or even biblical. Now, you may be very honest and sincere in your views here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not attacking the church’s position in a very real and fundamental way. The fact is that you are making a very clear attack on the church’s position while accepting money from the church as a representative who is supposed to be supporting the church as a paid employee.
Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
That’s not my goal. However, if a person wants to know what the Bible has to say about what they are doing, I’m not going to pretend that the Bible has nothing to say when the Bible does in fact have something to say. If what the Bible says “causes pain” to a person living in what the Bible says is a “sinful” lifestyle, that’s between them and God. The very same thing is true of me and my own sinful tendencies. If what the Bible says about what I’m doing causes me pain, I can either respond to that by ignoring what the Bible has to say, or I can ask God for help in changing my ways.
Jesus himself said that He did not come to bring peace to those who are living in rebellion against God’s ideals for humanity, but a “sword” (Matthew 10:34). The denial of self and what we naturally want to do given our fallen condition, in order to follow God and what He calls us to do, is often quite painful indeed. That doesn’t mean it’s not the best path to follow. There simply can be no peace between God and those who wish to hang onto what God has said to give up. God does not condemn the sinner for being born broken, but He does warn those who refuse to accept His offer of help to escape their broken condition that, eventually, such refusals of help will not end well for those who are determined to follow their own way.
Yet, these professors get very upset when their actions are made public – when they can no longer hide what they are doing from the church at large. – Sean Pitman
Uh, I have never hidden my support and affirmation for LGBTQ+ individuals, and any parent who wanted to know my views on the subject could easily look up what I’ve written, or they could just plain ask me. I openly acknowledge where I stand on these issues on social media too. Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you “blew my cover.” There was no cover to blow.
You have not simply let people know what I advocate, you have attacked me personally and impugned my motives and personal spiritual path. You are causing pain not just to me, but to the very people I am trying to comfort and encourage. Your words are not just being seen by the legalistic and judgmental people like yourself, but by parents of LGBTQ+ children and those LGBTQ+ individuals themselves, many of whom are likely already heavily weighed down with self revulsion and depression. And you are doing this for who’s good?
And you wonder why I might be angry and upset? As hard as it is for me to do, I have daily decided to pray for you and those like you that God would soften your heart and show you the grave wounds you are inflicting on God’s beloved. I pray God will help you find compassion and clearer spiritual insight.
Do you really think it’s a “little thing” when our own professors are attacking the primary goals and ideals of the church from the inside? – Sean Pitman
I am attacking no one. You act as if you have not even read my article. I did suggest in there that I think it is time for the church to change and affirm same-sex marriage, but that is not an attack, that is a plea for compassion, a plea that the church return and study this topic again, and I laid out the reasons I think it is fully warranted that we do so. Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church? And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.” You are inflating the importance of this topic. the only place where same-sex marriage really rises to a high level of importance is when you are an LGBTQ+ person contemplating marriage, or are the parent, relative or friend of an LGBTQ+ person. Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
The purpose of the H.E. is not to wall people off by modifying curriculum of every subject to fit dogma. The dogma itself has to be enhanced with broader understanding of how to relate various perspectives to these fields of human enterprise.
Certainly, Adventist schools should by no means isolate students from popular ideas that are prevalent within secular culture. If anything, students educated in our schools should have a much better understanding of ideas like neoDarwinism or homosexuality than students educated in secular institutions. However, the education of students within Adventist schools shouldn’t stop here. Adventist education should also give students a reasonable explanation as to why the Adventist perspective on these ideas is actually supported by the Church – by professors who actually personally hold to the Church’s positions on these topics (like the topics of origins or homosexuality, etc).
Again, it is simply counterproductive to have a church school if professors in that school teach that the church’s position is not only wrong, but downright ludicrous, outdated, and completely opposed to the overwhelming weight of “scientific evidence”. Such teaching, by professors that are respected by the students, will strongly influence most students to be naturally opposed to the church’s position on these topics. Clearly then, this would not be in the church’s best interest. It would be far better, from the church’s perspective, not to form church schools at all than to have professors within their own schools attack the church organization from the inside.
But there is world of difference between presenting it as fact that the teacher believes, and a theory with problems. – @ajshep (Allen Shepherd)
I’m in total agreement here. Again, it is one thing to teach about a particular concept that opposes the teachings of the church. It is a far far different thing to then support this particular concept as “true” as compared to showing the students why you, as their teacher, don’t find it convincing.
That is why a teacher, employed by the church, is actually stealing from the church when they attack the church’s position on a given topic from within their own classroom or via a public forum. Such activity simply goes against what a teacher is being paid to do by his/her employer.
Your presumption and hubris are exactly what Jesus pointed out to those who brought the women caught in adultery. Have you learned nothing from the examples of what it means to be a Christian that you would indulge in such harshness and judgemental words and pronouncements.
Consider that while Jesus most certainly was very kind and gentle and forgiving to the woman caught in adultery (certainly one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible), that He did in fact tell her to “go and sin no more”.
I would say that the very same action and recommendation should be given to all who find themselves part of the LBGTQ+ community. God loves sinners and came to save all of us who find ourselves caught in the web of fallen and sinful lives. He doesn’t condemn us for being broken, but He does offer us a way out and tells us to “go and sin no more”.
In light of this, my problem with the efforts of Dr. Ness is that he is making the claim that there is no brokenness or moral problem with committed monogamous homosexual lifestyles – that the Bible says absolutely nothing in this regard and therefore there is nothing for God to forgive here. There is simply no need to say, “I love you, now go and sin no more”.
I’m also not quite sure why Dr. Ness draws the line with monogamy since he doesn’t accept the Biblical statements, often within the same passages as those discussing monogamy, that speak against homosexual activities? This seems inconsistent to me since it seems quite reasonable, given the arguments presented by Dr. Ness, that polygamy could also be argued as being even more consistent with God’s will and natural genetic mutations that God Himself designed. Upon what “scientific” or “religious” or “philosophical” basis does Dr. Ness draw the line at monogamy as being the clear Biblical standard where God draws the line? – when many have very strong and very “natural” polygamous tendencies?
Of course, I also have a problem with a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who is responsible for teaching our youth in support of the primary goals and ideals of the Church, publicly arguing that these goals and ideals are completely wrong – on the church’s dime. Such activity, even if one is totally convinced as to the error of one’s employer, is unethical since it is a form of stealing from one’s employer.
At the very least, parents who are paying a great deal of money to send their children to one of our church schools should be very well informed as to what they can expect their children to be taught at our schools and what positions the teachers at the school are publicly promoting. Providing this information to such parents is my primary purpose in responding to Dr. Ness’s publicly published article in public forum.
Do you not understand what it is like in academia? Differences of opinion among scholars is not only tolerated, it is valued. I have nothing more to say concerning your accusations. Our church has no “official” stand on this issue, if by that you mean I am disavowing my membership in the church by simply believing that gays should allow ro get married to one another. That is not even how our church operates. I can point to many other church employees who openly disagree about certain issues of belief, including this one, and congregations that are fully affirming of same-sex marriage. They are a part of the SDA church just as I am.
My concern still is more about the tone and stance of your attacks. You are attacking fellow SDAs, some of them being the most vulnerable members of our church, and you seem to have no sense of the damage you are potentially doing to these individuals. By attacking me in the fashion you are you are also attacking all those for whom I am standing up. You may want to take Jesus’ words to heart:
But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6
I know very well what it’s like to be involved in leadership positions within the church and within academia. My own father is a retired pastor and teacher. It’s one thing to publicly present and even promote various opinions that do not directly undermine the church or school one is working for. However, it is another thing entirely to directly attack the fundamental positions of the church while being a paid representative of the church. Such activity is not at all encouraged and is, in fact, unethical – a form of theft from your employer. Sure, there are many pastors and teachers who think to do such things anyway. That doesn’t make such activities morally right. It’s still wrong to do what you are doing.