Statesboro, GA, USA
From your point, I am allowed to praise a person's selfless action but that that is a mere preference on my part. And you are allowed to praise a selfless action and it has some meat to it because you believe in God.
I didn't say it was mere preference on your part ... you too are inwardly compelled by God's law. You even criticize your own moral failures, as do we all. What I did say was that given your worldview there's no reason to think that it amounts to anything more than personal preference. It at least would not warrant the kind of moral indignation, or ethical admiration that you feel and express from time to time.
But if you're world view is wrong, then yours is a mere preference too. If mine is wrong, my preference is still correct.
Pascal turned on his head? I have to admit that's the first time I've heard that one attempted.
Your preference is still correct. Yes. But given the Christian worldview, what does that ensure? It's not as if you always choose what you morally admire, or live up to even your own standards. I imagine that self-censure is as real for you as it is for me. And just imagine unmitigated censure of a holy and righteous God. From the Christian view of things, that you might often agree with God about moral behavior (imago dei) is a given.
Remember, I am not saying that recognition of moral absolutes is the culmination of Christianity. Rather it is the beginning of a road. Or to the atheist, a clue of a great mystery.
I guess I'm stuck with the same question again. If God tells you to do something that your 'mere preference' tells you is wrong (I don't know, how about killing your firstborn?), what do you do?
It goes without saying that Abraham’s test was an exception rather than a rule. However, there are notable things about that incident which are often slurred over, which might intimate an answer for you. Firstly, Abraham had faith in some kind of intervention (The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us that at the very least he reasoned that God was able to raise the dead), else he never would have answered Isaac’s questioning by saying “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering”.
Secondly, the sacrifice was prevented, vindicating Abraham’s trust. The bottom line is, Abraham felt that to disobey God would bring about a greater evil than what he could conceive in the death of his own son.
And lastly, such a questionable justice (as an exception) served only to illustrate that God himself might one day do something which could technically be called a perversion of justice, in order to demonstrate an even greater mercy ... ie, the sacrifice of his own son for the sins of the world. At least the request to sacrifice one’s own beloved may give somebody like you pause, that something else is afoot. The demand to kill one’s enemies is much too congruent with a selfish lust for blood.
At any rate Brad, I’m quite sure that this example cannot easily be compared to the ruthless killing by religious extremists ... examples that you have brought up in the past, of divine submission gone awry. It’s very different when the incident is exceptional rather than common, and when the potential sacrifice is beloved rather than hated, and finally disallowed. If not fully satisfactory to your mind, still less an example to be thrown up as a certain perversion of goodness, or as a barrier to faith.
We are told that aetheists believe in a world without reason. This is incorrect. We have reason and we have reasons, they just aren't Ultimate Reason or ultimate reasons. Believers don't have these either (They are, as far as I can tell, reserved for God.). So, how do you live with a Father who tells you what to do but leaves his justification in reserve.
But believers do have revealed reasons, which are absolute, even if not exhaustive. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that if something isn’t known comprehensively, it cannot be known. The difference is, with atheism, reason is logically reduced to egoistic pragmatism ... which doesn’t really have to be reasonable at all. And though reason in Christian theology is a handmaiden rather than a queen (that is, having significant limitations), she still has a pedigree and purpose beyond herself.
As to how I live with a Father like that ... The best of human fathers exhibit the same. No parent answers the question “why” ad nauseum, or when it becomes an excuse for disobedience.
How long do you, we go before starting to ask questions?
How long does God forbear when questions become means of avoidance? I’m not saying it’s true of you Brad, but it may become so with anyone. No one is saying questions aren’t allowed. Even Mary asked, almost incredulously “How can this be seeing I am a virgin”?
The hidden assumption, I think, is something we've touched on before. Foundationalism and Foundationalists believe that if you attack that one reason, that one rock everything will fall apart.
Brad, you seriously haven’t noticed that the world is falling apart?
We attacked, you (meaning religious folk)moved the rock and the world did not fall apart because maybe, just maybe, you don't need an ultimate foundation to have reason or to have reasons for living a decent life.
“Where has God gone?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning?”
I simply refer you to the likes of Nietzsche, and others who have seen the horrors of becoming surrogate gods. And while I know you don’t subscribe to what he said concerning this, I don’t feel that you’ve really given convincing reasons why he was wrong.
But again, moral recognition, or even meeting expectations of common “decency” is not the summation of Christianity.