Affirmations That Mitchell Did Indeed Make
Affirmations That Mitchell Did Indeed Make
Throughout Lindell Mitchell's "rebuttal" articles on
the issue of the Amalekite massacre, he refused to answer questions
on the grounds that he was not the affirmant. In principle, I
agree with Mitchell's position in this matter. It is indeed the
affirmant's duty to affirm, and the negative's responsibility
to respond to affirmative arguments. I myself object to debating
opponents who attempt to put me on the defensive with long lists
of questions when they are the ones who are supposed to be affirming.
However, I have yet (with the exception of Mitchell) to engage
a negative opponent who refused to answer questions that arose
during the normal course of the debate.
Knowing Church-of-Christ preachers as I do, I suspect that if
Mitchell has ever engaged in formal debate, he himself has directed
questions to his opponents while he was the affirmant. It is simply
routine procedure, and I think that Mitchell knows that it is.
Essentially, all that I asked of Mitchell during our first two
exchanges was an answer to this question: If he had been born
an Israelite in the days of King Saul, would he have willingly
and gladly participated in the Amalekite massacre by killing women,
children, babies, and pregnant women?
This is a simple, direct question, and there is no good reason
why Mitchell shouldn't answer it. He has described the Israelite
soldiers who participated in the massacre as "God's army"
that was engaged in a "holy war," so if he really believes
this, why won't he just say, "Yes, I would have willingly
and gladly participated in the Amalekite massacre. I would have
considered it a great honor to be a part of God's army fighting
in a holy war to kill women, children, and babies"? His inerrantist
position would require such an answer as this, so I have to believe
that he won't answer the question because he knows how bad such
an answer would make him look.
In Mitchell's letter published in the Spring 1994 issue (p. 15),
he boasted that he had exposed my "profound ignorance,"
reduced my position to "ruin," and left me standing
before the world "poor, blind, and naked." I can't help
thinking that if he really believed he had accomplished all this,
he would have welcomed the opportunity to answer any question
from me so that he could have further exposed my profound ignorance.
No, the "thoughtful readers" that he referred to in
his last article will have no difficulty seeing why he met this
question with screaming silence. He knew how ridiculous an answer
consistent with his inerrantist position would have made him look.
To the point of sounding almost like a broken record, Mitchell
kept reminding us that he was "not affirming anything in
this discussion" (p. 6) and used that as an excuse to dodge
important issues that I had raised. In six consecutive paragraphs
he began with references to "the affirmative [he] did not
make," but the only thing he proved in this section of his
article is that he does not understand basic principles of debating.
It is true that the affirmant advances arguments in a debate,
but it is also true that the opponent's responses to these arguments
become negative affirmations that must be defended. For example,
if Mitchell were affirming that Jesus of Nazareth was an actual
historical character, as his opponent I would expect him to argue
that the Jewish historian Josephus mentioned Jesus and called
him "the Christ" in _Antiquities_of_the_Jews_
(18.3.1). My response to this argument would be that this passage
is a forgery that Josephus did not himself write. In saying this,
I would be introducing a negative assertion or affirmation into
the debate that I would be obligated to prove. I could imagine
what Mitchell's reaction would be if I refused to defend it and
simply said, "Well, I'm not the affirmant, so I don't have
to prove anything."
"Thoughtful readers," then, will have no difficulty
seeing that all of Mitchell's I-am-not-the-affirmant talk was
just a straw man that he set up to kick around to try to draw
attention from the absurdity of his position in the matter of
the Amalekite massacre. However, I don't intend to let him get
away with the evasion. He has made several negative affirmations
in this debate that he must defend before he can make any convincing
claim to having exposed my "profound ignorance."
One negative affirmation he made was that the "Omniscient
God" was able to "look down the corridors of time and
see that the babes of Amalek were destined to become vicious beasts
like their ancestors" (Winter 1994, p. 4). This assertion
was offered, of course, as a reason why the Amalekite massacre
cannot be considered a moral atrocity; therefore, it is a negative
affirmation that Mitchell should at least attempt to defend.
In my response to this negative affirmation, I pointed out six
flaws in it: (1) God is both omniscient and omnipotent but was
unable to solve a problem except by massacring babies, (2) the
Israelites could have taken "the babes of Amalek" back
as captives and reared them as Yahweh-fearing Hebrews, (3) it
assumes without proof that the Amalekites were indeed "vicious
beasts," (4) it merely has one nation of "vicious beasts"
exterminating another nation of vicious beasts, (5) it has Yahweh
violating his own decree that says iniquity would be borne by
the guilty ones and not by their descendants, and (6) it exempts
Yahweh from the moral law that proscribes killing and thereby
proves that the law is not "absolute."
Mitchell's attempt to answer these arguments was a pathetically
evasive exercise in question begging. This was his response to
my claim that an omniscient, omnipotent deity should have been
able to solve a problem without massacring babies:
Mr. Till assumes God is unable to judge the situation fairly and
punish the wicked. He assumes the giver of life has no right to
terminate life. He assumes the Creator has no right to call innocent
Amalekites into the protection of paradise. Mr. Till is obligated,
given his epistemology, to produce objective sensory evidence
that unequivocally proves this (Spring 1994, p. 6).
Say what? The whole point of my arguments was to show that the
God-did-it-so-it-must-have-been-okay position is riddled with
problems. One of those problems is the obvious fact that an omniscient,
omnipotent god would know everything and be able to do anything.
Such a deity could have easily solved the Amalekite problem (if
indeed such a problem even existed) without ordering the murder
of innocent babies, but just where does Mitchell's comment quoted
above even address this problem?
Implicit in his statement are several "negative affirmations":
(1) God was able to judge the situation fairly and punish the
wicked, so (2) the Amalekites were wicked, (3) God is the giver
of life, so (4) he has the right to terminate life, and (5) the
creator had the right to call innocent Amalekites into the protection
of paradise. None of these statements even remotely addressed
the question of why an omniscient, omnipotent deity could not
have found a solution to the "Amalekite problem" that
didn't entail killing the innocent children. Indeed, all five
assertions assume _without proof_, or even attempt
at argumentation, that the Amalekite massacre was an event ordered
by an omniscient deity. Mitchell had a lot to say about my duty
to produce "quantitative objective evidence," but where
is his evidence of _any_ kind that his god Yahweh
was able to "judge the situation fairly"? Where is his
evidence that "the giver of life has the right to terminate
life"? Where is his evidence that the "Creaor"
had the right "to call innocent Amalekites into the protection
of paradise"? For that matter, where is his evidence that
there was even a paradise for the innocent Amalekites to be called
into? Mitchell can't hide behind the fact that he is not the affirmant
and so, therefore, didn't have to prove anything, because if he
is going to offer assertions like these as negative arguments
(affirmations), then he has the responsibility to try to prove
them. The record clearly shows that he supported none of the assertions
with evidence, so his attempt to explain away the first flaw in
his corridors-of-time affirmation constituted nothing but question
In trying to get around the second flaw in this affirmation, he
resorted to both quibbling and question begging. First, he argued
that [ref001]Deuteronomy 21: 10-14
addressed not the adoption of foreign children but the marriage
of Jewish soldiers and captive women. Be that as it may, the fact
that the women were captives who were marrying Jewish soldiers
surely meant that they were being integrated into Hebrew society
rather than being killed. Although there are despicable implications
in the fact that the Hebrew soldiers were allowed to keep the
virgin Midianite girls alive for themselves ([ref002]Num. 31:18
), the lives of these captive girls were at least spared.
made provisions for "strangers" or "sojourners"
to be integrated into Jewish society through the rite of circumcision,
so I have to wonder if Mitchell was serious when he said that
I was wrong "as usual" in saying that there were provisions
in the Mosaic law for integrating foreigners into Hebrew society.
If so, he needs to study his inspired word of God a little more.
After this quibble, the question begging resumed. Why, if the
Israelites had brought the children back as captives rather than
slaughtering them, "a divine law would have been broken,"
Mitchell said, because "(t)he order to execute the Amalekites
did not allow for adoption" (Ibid., p. 6). But what evidence
did Mitchell offer as proof that Yahweh actually did order the
Amalekite massacre? He gave none at all, so he begged the question
I know that [ref004]1 Samuel 15:2
clearly states that Yahweh commanded the massacre, but the
only thing this proves is that [ref005]1 Samuel 15:2
says that the orders to destroy the Amalekites came from
Yahweh. The fact that a holy book may say something doesn't prove
that what it says is true, and Mitchell would agree with this
in the case of every holy book except his precious inspired word
of God. In my second article (Spring 1994, p. 4), I pointed this
out as problem number five in Mitchell's "holy-war"
scenario. This was how he "responded to it:
He [Till] assumes Yahweh did not actually order the massacre of
the Amalekites. He is obligated to produce objective measurable
evidence unequivocally proving his assertion (p. 7).
So Mitchell demands that I prove that Yahweh did not order the
Amalekite massacre, and this is the same Lindell Mitchell who
said in the letter published simultaneously with his last article
that he had exposed my "profound ignorance" and reduced
my position to "ruin" (Spring 1994, p. 15). He apparently
has no sense of what constitutes burden of proof in argumentation.
The one who asserts the extraordinary is the one who finds the
burden of proof hanging on his back. To assert that a deity ordered
a primitive, barbaric king to exterminate an entire tribe of people
is an extraordinary claim. The likelihood that such an event actually
happened is practically nil, so if I question that it did happen,
I am merely demonstrating common sense and reasonable skepticism.
The responsibility to prove that such an unlikely event did not
happen is about equal to my responsibility to prove that
the tooth fairy does not leave quarters under the pillows of children
who lose their baby teeth. If Mitchell doesn't understand the
burden-of-proof principle any better than his statement above
indicates, he should stick to his country preaching and forget
This is a good place to put to rest Mitchell's I'm-not-the-affirmant
quibble. Although technically he isn't the affirmant, he certainly
should be because of the burden-of-proof principle just stated.
He claims that an omniscient, omnipotent deity ordered the massacre
of an entire nation of people, and that is about as extraordinary
as any claim could be. The burden of proving it rests squarely
on his shoulders.
So why isn't he the affirmant? Why isn't he affirming, as Clarence
Lavender did in an earlier issue of _The_Skeptical_Review
_, that the Hebrew massacres of the non-Jewish tribes in
Canaan were "the highest manifestation of the goodness of
God" ("Was It Morally Right for God to Order the Killing
of the Canaanites?" Winter 1993, p. 6)? Well, he isn't because
he refused to defend his position. In the negotiations to have
a written debate in _TSR_ on the Amalekite massacre,
he flatly refused to defend the moral propriety of the massacre
but did agree to deny that it was a moral atrocity. Now we know
why he took this track. He wanted to quibble about not having
to answer questions or prove anything because he isn't the affirmant.
The third flaw that I pointed out in his negative affirmation
about the "Omniscient God looking down the "corridors
of time" was that it merely assumes that the Amalekites were
"vicious beasts" who deserved to be exterminated. I
repeatedly urged Mitchell to produce a biblical text that even
suggests that the Amalekites of Saul's time were any more corrupt
than any other contemporary nation. He did not produce the text!
His failure to produce the text, however, did not keep him from
constantly repeating his assertion that the Amalekites were an
evil people that deserved to die. Please notice these direct quotations
from his last article:
Not one Amalekite was killed solely because of nationality. The
Amalekites were a persistently wicked people; consequently God
ordered their execution (left column, p. 5).
He [Till] will not allow God to punish a wicked nation but defends
killing inconvenient infants. The Omniscient God cannot determine
that the infants of Amalek were destined to pursue the wicked
course their ancestors relentlessly followed for 450 years (center
column, p. 5).
Mr. Till assumes God is unable to judge the situation fairly and
punish the wicked [Amalekites] (center column, p. 6).
If the readers will check these statements in context, they will
see that not one time did he quote any biblical or extrabiblical
text to support his contention that the Amalekites of Saul's day
were a "wicked" nation. He didn't, of course, because
he can't. So this is just one more example of his question-begging
His question begging reached its peak on this point in column
two, page six, of his last article:
Till says I assume without proof that the Amalekites were vicious.
He says passages showing them to be bushwhackers, cutthroats,
and murderers are insufficient. Their ambushing the Jews in an
unprovoked attack is insufficient for Mr. Till.
Here Mitchell attempted to build a case against the Amalekites
of Saul's time by referring to events associated with the Amalekites
who lived 450 years earlier, but this tactic won't work. Even
the passages he had in mind ([ref006]Ex. 17:8-16
; [ref007]Num. 13-14
) can't prove that the Amalekites who had lived 450 years
before Saul were "bushwhackers, cutthroats, and murderers,"
as Mitchell asserts; the most that these passages can prove is
that the Amalekites of that time took military action against
a horde of three million people entering their territory. Mitchell
called this an "unprovoked attack," but according to
his inerrant word of God, the Israelite army at that time numbered
600,000 ([ref008]Ex. 12:37
; [ref009]Num. 1:45-46
). How can he possibly consider the Amaekite military action
against an encroaching army of 600,00 an "unprovoked attack"?
If 600,000 armed soldiers should enter a foreign country today,
what reasonable person would accuse that country of an "unprovoked
attack" if it took military action against the intruders?
Would any reasonable person characterize the defending country
as a nation of "vicious beasts"?
Let's just assume, however, that the Amalekite military action
was an "unprovoked attack." What would that prove about
the "wickedness" of the Amalekites who lived 450 years
later in the time of Saul? I repeatedly pressed Mitchell to produce
the book, chapter, and verse that would support his claim that
they were "wicked," and this is how he attempted to
He [Till] asks why God would punish the Amalekites for something
their ancestors did 450 years earlier. In typical Till fashion,
he abuses the context of Numbers 13-14, refusing to acknowledge
the Amalekites had over four centuries to repent but instead had
continued to be an unrelenting threat to God's people. He is obligated
to unequivocally prove that the Amalekites were not vile savages
worthy of death (Ibid.).
Say what again! I am obligated to prove unequivocally that the
Amalekites were _not_ vile savages worthy of death?
By what logic does he arrive at this screwball conclusion? There
is absolutely no biblical or extrabiblical passage _anywhere
_ to support his claim that the "Amalekites had [had]
over four centures to repent but instead had continued to be an
unrelenting threat to God's people"; it is merely something
that he asserts without proof. He begs the question again. And
this man had the gall to claim that he had exposed my "profound
ignorance," reduced my position to "ruin," and
left me standing before the world "poor, blind, and naked"!
Now what was it that he said about the legs of the lame being
So I will leave this point with a final appeal for Mitchell to
put up or shut up. Where is the textual evidence, either biblical
or extrabiblical, that supports his claim that the Amalekites
had "unrelentingly" pursued a "wicked course"
for 450 years? He should either produce the evidence to prove
the Amalekites were "vicious beasts" who deserved to
die or else he should stop begging the question.
The fourth flaw that I identified in Mitchell's negative affirmation
about the "Omniscient God" ridding the world of a nation
of "vicious beasts" is that this scenario has one nation
of vicious beasts exterminating another nation of vicious beasts.
I asked Mitchell to tell us what possible moral good Yahweh had
hoped to achieve from such a swap off, but of course Mitchell
wasn't in the mood to chase rabbits. All that he said about this
was that "whining Jews" had "lodged this same objection
when they were taken captive by Assyria and Babylon" (p.
6). He said that God's response was, "I'm not through yet;
they shall be punished." Throughout the entire confusing
maze of this answer, Mitchell cited no scripture references, so
it was an answer that gave me nothing to respond to. He concluded
this "rebuttal" argument by saying that if I were familiar
with prophetic literature, I "would know God did punish Assyria
What this has to do with why Yahweh would have one "wicked"
nation exterminate another wicked nation (as would have been the
case in the Israelite campaign against the Amalekites) completely
alludes me. For one thing, Mitchell's analogy reverses the situation.
In the one case, the "people of God" defeated a pagan
nation; in the other case, pagan nations defeated the "people
of God." As for Mitchell's contention that I should know
that "God did punish Assyria and Babylon," I must take
issue. I know that the Bible says that God punished Assyria and
Babylon, but we are back to a point that I made earlier. The fact
that a holy book _says_ something doesn't automatically
make what it says true. Mitchell has an obligation to produce
"unequivocal" evidence that God really did punish Assyria
and Babylon. The fact that some ethnocentric mystics called "prophets,"
living in highly superstitious times, interpreted calamaties that
befell Assyria and Babylon as punishment from God doesn't make
The fifth flaw that I pointed out in Mitchell's main negative
affirmation is that the massacre of the Amalekites had violated
yahweh's own edict against the innocent having to bear the iniquity
of the guilty ([ref010]Ez. 18:20
; [ref011]Dt. 24:16
). This was Mitchell's "answer" to the argument:
No Amalekite bore the iniquity of even one sin committed by an
ancestor. They bore the result of their ancestors' rebellion but
not the guilt. That happens every time car-jackers kill an innocent
driver. The victims bear no guilt for the crimes committed against
them, but they obviously bear the consequences (p. 6).
One thing is obvious in this debate: Mitchell doesn't seem to
know what the fallacy of false analogy is. Certainly, the victim
of a carjacking bears the consequences of the carjacker's criminal
action, but this isn't even remotely parallel to what presumably
happened in the Amalekite massacre. "I remember that which
Amalek did to Israel," Yahweh allegedly said, "_how
Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have
and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, _infant
and suckling_, camel and ass" ([ref012]1 Sam. 15:2-3
). The reason that Yahweh gave for ordering the massacre--and
the _only_ reason he gave--was the Amalekite attack
on the Israelites 450 years earlier. The Amalekites of Saul's
day had obviously not participated in the attack or in any way
aided or abetted it. To massacre them for the attack amounts to
having killed them for something that they did not personally
do. In this sense, they bore the iniquity of their ancestors.
Let's suppose that a person killed an entire family during a carjacking
and was never caught and punished for the crime. Then let's suppose
that after this person was dead, his identity was discovered and
the execution of all of his surviving relatives was ordered by
the government. Even Mitchell would be able to see the abysmal
injustice of such an action. But let's suppose that the government
waited for 450 years and then ordered the execution of all of
the criminal's descendants. That would be even more morally absurd,
but it would be much more parallel to what happened in the Amalekite
massacre than was Mitchell's example of the victim of a carjacking
bearing the consequences of criminal action.
There is no evidence--_none whatsoever_--that the
Amalekites of Saul's day were any more "wicked" than
the other regional neighbors of Israel. If such evidence existed,
Mitchell would have jumped on it "like ugly on a monkey."
Therefore, one bitterly embarrassing fact remains unrefuted by
Mitchell: the Bible teaches that God ordered the massacre of an
entire nation--including women, children, and babies--for something
their ancestors had done 450 years earlier. I would think that
a debater who has exposed my "profound ignorance," reduced
my position to "ruin," and left me standing before the
world "poor, blind, and naked" could give a satisfactory
solution to this major problem in his negative affirmation.
At this point in Mitchell's last rebuttal, the intellectual bankruptcy
of his position became painfully conspicuous. I had pointed out
_six_ flaws in his negative attempt (affirmation)
to justify the Amalekite massacre on the grounds that God did
it, so that made it morally right. Readers may check my second
article to verify that I began discussing these flaws in the middle
column of page 3 and continued the discussion through the left
column of page 4. Each point was highlighted in bold italicized
print. In the middle column on page 6 in his rebuttal, Mitchell
began his "response" to these six points. He introduced
each response with a numerical designation, i.e., first, second,
third, four, and fifth. A review of his article, however, will
show that there was no "sixth." In other words, he stopped
after discussing my fifth point and made no effort to rebut the
That sixth point was this: "Mitchell's position exempts Yahweh
from the _absolute_ moral law that presumably exists."
_Absolute_, in the sense that it has in the term "absolute
morality," means "not limited by restrictions, qualifications,
or exceptions; unconditional." In other words, if a moral
law is "absolute," then it is universal and unconditional;
it can have no exceptions to it. If it is immoral for Joe to lie,
then it is immoral for John to lie. If it is immoral to lie in
Belgium, then it is immoral to lie in Peru. The moral law against
lying, if it is an _absolute_ law, is univerally and unconditionally
applicable to everyone.
Inerrantists like Mitchell recognize the implications of _absolute
_ as it applies to the moral law that proscribes lying. They
will, in fact, argue that God _cannot_ lie ([ref013]Titus 1:2
), that it is even _impossible_ for God to lie
). They would argue that the reason why God cannot lie is
because moral goodness emanates from God's nature. Whatever is
objectively "good" must therefore be a part of God's
nature, but whatever is objectively evil cannot be a part of God's
nature. It would be impossible for anything objectively "bad"
to be a part of God's nature; hence, God _cannot_
This makes good sermon fodder, but it conflicts with the issue
at hand. If killing is objectively "bad," then why wouldn't
it be impossible for God to kill? The Bible clearly teaches, however,
that it isn't impossible for God to kill. To the contrary, the
Bible teaches that God often did kill and often ordered others
to kill, as in the case of the Amalekite massacre. Mitchell apparently
can't see the absurd inconsistency of this. Lying is objectively
bad, so it is impossible for God to lie. Killing is objectively
bad, but it is nevertheless possible for God to kill and very
likely that he will kill. No wonder Mitchell skipped this point
in his last rebuttal. He has said that he will not continue this
discussion, but if he should change his mind, let's hope he will
give chase to this rabbit. _If killing babies is a violation
of absolute moral law, why wouldn't God have been guilty of violating
this absolute law when he ordered the massacre of Amalekite babies?
_ Whether he is the affirmant or not in this discussion
doesn't matter. A basic negative affirmation of his has been that
no moral atrocity occurred in the Amalekite massacre because God
ordered it and God can do no wrong. So he must explain how a law
can be both absolute and conditional. How can it be absolute and
yet exempt some from its restrictions?
I also pointed out problems in any negative affirmation that seeks
to justify the Amalekite massacre on the grounds that God commanded
it. Such a claim assumes (1) that an "Omniscient God"
exists, (2) that this "Omniscient God" is morally good,
(3) that Yahweh of the Hebrews is the "Omniscient God,"
and (4) that Yahweh actually did order the massacre of the Amalekites.
Mitchell tried to brush these aside with more negative assertions
that he made almost no attempt to prove. On the matter of God's
existence, he tried to shift to me the responsibility of proving
that God does not exist, but the burden-of-proof principle discussed
earlier puts on him the responsibility to prove that God does
exist. He who asserts an extraordinary claim has the duty to prove
that claim, and the assertion that an omniscient god exists despite
the fact that he cannot be seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted
is certainly an extraordinary claim. The burden of proving this
assertion weighs on Mitchell's shoulders, not on mine to disprove
Mitchell said that none of the theistic arguments (teleological,
ontological, cosmological, etc.) has ever been "successfully
refuted" (p. 7). If he really believes this, I suggest that
he read Michael Martin's _Atheism:_a_Philosophical_Justification
_. I suspect that much of the material in this book will
sail way over Mitchell's fundamentalist head, but if he will give
it a try, he should at least understand some of the reasons why
the Judeo-Christian concept of God is too self-contradictory for
rational people to believe.
Even if Mitchell is right in saying that none of the major theistic
arguments has ever been successfully refuted--and I don't for
one moment concede that he is right--that would not prove that
Yahweh of the Hebrews is the omniscient God. Without that proof,
he has only the word of ethnocentric Hebrew mystics, writing in
abysmally superstitious times, that Yahweh was the one true God
and that he ordered the massacre of the Amalekites. If Mitchell
wants to accept that as "irrefutable" proof of his position,
then why not just let him wallow in his blissful ignorance?
Mitchell's greatest failure in this debate has been his inability
to establish the existence of an absolute (objective) standard
of morality. He cannot say that he has no responsibility to prove
this, because a major negative argument of his has been that "it
is impossible to have a moral atrocity in the absence of an objective
moral sandard against which to measure thoughts, words, and deeds"
(Winter 1994, p. 5; Spring 1994, p. 7). In arguing this, he has
made a negative affirmation that he must prove in order to sustain
his argument. Needless to say, he hasn't even come close to proving
the existence of his beloved standard of absolute morality.
In my response to Bill Lockwood's article ("The Skeptic's
Sword"), which Mitchell had a copy of when he was writing
his last rebuttal, I compared concepts of right and wrong to other
intellectual abstractions. I asked if it is possible, in the absence
of an objective standard of beauty against which to measure light,
hue, and perspective, to determine if a sunset is beautiful. I
asked if it would be possible, in the absence of an objective
standard of loyalty, to determine if a spouse or friend or employee
is loyal. Mitchell said nothing about this. Perhaps he will say
that he didn't address this point because it was in my response
to Lockwood rather than my article on the Amalekite massacre,
but I sent him a copy of my response to Lockwood precisely so
that he would have the opportunity to reply to this argument and
anything else that I said to equate moral conceptualization with
intellectual abstraction. If Mitchell chooses to write a response
to this article, let's hope that he decides to chase this pesky
In an effort to extricate himself from the problem posed by the
apostle Paul's recognition that some Gentiles had lived moral
lives without having received a divine revelation, Mitchell gave
us a four-sentence exegesis of the first three chapters of Romans:
chapter one shows that the Gentiles are guilty before God, chapter
two shows that the Jews are guilty before God, and chapter three
shows that everyone is guilty. "Any interpretation of the
passage must be consistent with the context," Mitchell said.
Well, okay, I won't argue with that, but I see nothing in any
of it that negates the fact that Paul clearly said that some Gentiles
had done by nature the things of the law and had thus become a
law unto themselves. Let Mitchell tell us if the following statement
is true or false:
When Gentiles that had not the law did by nature the things of
the law, these, not having the law, were the law unto themselves.
This statement is a verbatim quotation from the ASV except that
I have changed the tense of the verbs from present to past. So
maybe Mitchell will give this rabbit a run for its money.
Another serious failure in Mitchell's article was his refusal
to explain to us how we can determine what absolute morality is.
If an omniscient deity has really given the world a standard of
absolute morality, then surely he made it clear enough for all
to understand. If not, then what's the use of having a standard
of absolute morality? If we can't determine what it is, then we
are no better off than we would be if we didn't even have it.
Now Mitchell, of course, will argue that the Bible is that standard
of absolute morality, so I renew again my challenge for him to
resolve certain perplexing moral dilemmas that our modern technology
has created. In my correspondence with Mitchell, as well as my
response to Lockwood, I have repeatedly asked for a book-chapter-and-verse
resolution of certain modern moral dilemmas:
Is it morally right, for example, for a woman to allow herself
to be artificially inseminated by the semen of a man she is not
married to? Is it morally right to transplant organs? Is in vitro
fertilization morally right? Embryo transplants? Gene-splicing?
And more recently we have learned that human embryos can be cloned.
Will it be morally right to clone humans? Was the right moral
decision made last summer when Siamese twins were separated in
an operation that surgeons knew would result in the death of one
of the twins? What does Lockwood's guide to absolute morality
tell us about this and the other issues mentioned above?
Since these matters were put to Mitchell and Lockwood, network
news programs have reported that scientists in England have succeeded
in removing ova from female cadavers and then successfully fertilizing
them _in_vitro_. When this process is perfected, it will
be possible for dead women to become mothers through zygotic transplantation.
Will this be morally right?
We have to wonder why Mitchell and Lockwood refuse to answer questions
like these. They are so cocksure of their absolute-morality position,
yet they seem not to have the answer to much of anything. All
they know is that they must defend the Bible no matter what the
intellectual costs. So in the end, they wind up looking ridiculous
by defending the killing of babies on the dubious grounds that
a bunch of Hebrew mystics said that God ordered the babies to
be killed. They cling tenaciously to a flimsy position like this
rather than conceding the more likely possibility that the mystics
of supersitious times just mistakenly thought that their god had
ordered the killings. They should wake up and realize that the
21st century is almost here, which will be a time of remarkable
scientific advancement when only the incredibly gullible will
be able to believe in the tribalgod nonsense of biblical times.