Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

To counter balance my last blog post about RT Kendal here is another Christian blog post:

They are attacking the phrase “love the sinner, hate the Sin”. Now I am all for controversially attacking a phrase that is popular for some kind of effect and then putting forward a view that is basically the same as the phrase but the phrase “done properly”. It’s lovely, its Hegelian and as a result obviously I have to disagree with everything it says and defend the phrase.

See this blog post is trying to show how most people who use that phrase “Love the Sinner, hate the Sin” actually get the second part right but the first part wrong. In fact they usually add some logical argument such as “Sin is bad for people, if I hate the sin then really I’m being truly loving to them. Instead of “Love the Sinner AND hate the Sin” they really believe “Love the Sinner BY hating the Sin”. And so instead they spend all their time hating sin and telling people off for wanting abortions because “It’s for their own good”.

But this phrase isn’t about that, it’s about showing that the dichotomy is possible, it’s possible to both love the individual whilst hating some of what they do. This is an important aspect of what love is. I don’t care if the origins of the phrase were something Augustine said about himself, this thing is just true and its true whether or not you’re a Christian. (Although I think much easier to do if you’re a Christian).

But yeah, you need to do more work. Just because it’s possible to love an individual whilst hate what they are doing, doesn’t mean you’ve finished understanding how to go about loving someone else nor go about understanding how to go about hating someone well. And I think I’ll attack it from two angles.

Hating the Sin is actually liberating for the individual.

There is a complication here that I’ve talked about before and I think all Christians get wrong from both liberal and conservative backgrounds. Actually us Christians and them non-Christians agree a hell of a lot on the nature of “Sin”. Yeah we’ll disagree on some specifics, we might disagree on, to use a last psychiatrist’s phrase, whose genitals you’re allowed to lick . We might disagree on how you should spend your Sunday morning. But by and large many of us will agree that it exists and its bad.

Yeah there are moral relativists out there. There are philosophers who will try and argue why it might be ok to murder in specific circumstances. But sit down and watch Jeremy Kyle every day that you can for a few months and count how many times, when Jeremy lays into an individual and calls them a horrible person, they respond with “you have your morality and I have mine, who are you to judge me? Why should I accept your moral standard?”

One time I saw someone kick back at Jeremy, “Who are you to judge me, you’ve done worse in your life?”  . Jeremy responded with “yeah but this isn’t about me and I’ve apologised for it (or words to that effect, this is from memory, if you don’t trust me go ahead and watch it yourself!)”. But even then, they both agreed to a strict moral authority but the only attack was that Jeremy was a sinner and therefore not in a position to judge. (Admittedly the link is the daily mail and so should be taken with a pinch of salt!)

Take a look at this video which I will probably post again and again on this blog:

You see the problem of sin here. You see the problem sin on all the faces of the fathers who had let down their children. They KNOW they are a sinner, but what hope do they have? Counselling? A lie detector test? But then this show, shows you a deeper truth. There is one way of dealing with the problem of sin, you can watch people who are worse then you and yell at them for being worse then you. You can say “I am a sinner but at least I’m not as bad at X and I’ve done my bit in publically shaming X”.

This brings us to the way of the world.

Love those that deserve to be loved.

Anton LeVay was very clever with his Satanic bible. He got to the root of what it was in Christianity that was so appalling to him and wrote about it in a way that actually everyone would agree with. Unfortunately he added loads of weird magic that makes it seem less credible.

But Satanists tend to be nice people. They believe strongly in love those that deserve to be loved but if someone slaps you round the face, don’t turn the other cheek, punch them in the nose! As a result they will spend their lives earning and deserving their love. This is the heart of what everyone thinks and why wouldn’t you? Why would you love someone who doesn’t deserve it? How could you survive if you acted like that?

Love those that do things worthy of love, and hate those that to do things worthy of hate.

This is the principle people live by. Yeah they will disagree on what those things are worthy of hate. For some people, you can have sex with whoever you like but you must never cheat! For some feeling jealous about your partner’s consenting sexual actions with other people is the source of why you are hateable. Some might hate homosexual people whereas others will hate people who hate homosexual people. Some hate a race whereas other hate racists. Sometimes it might those people who take up too much space on the tube at rush hour.

Whatever it is most people treat morality as a litmus test of whether or not I should treat that person as an equal human, or whether or not I should write them off. As batman says, it doesn’t matter who you are, its what you do that defines you.

Why Christians get this wrong – actually all people hate sin.

Conservatives will tell me that they believe in an objective morality. They will tell me that this position is unpopular with people “out there”. Everyone is a moral relativist. Meanwhile liberals will tell me that Christians are too judgemental and actually homosexuality is ok.

Both positions are wrong. People do believe in right and wrong but they are no longer looking to the Church to tell them what is what. Very few LGBT activists are going to be looking to the church to help them understand whether or not homosexuality is ok. No, most of these people will have made up their mind on the issue of homosexuality (that it is fine) and are only quizzing the church, not to find out how the church judges them, but to find out how they should judge the church!

People hate Sin. People see Sin everywhere and they hate it. We just disagree on what counts. The problem is, that hating Sin will almost always inevitably lead to seeing Sin in your own life and to some degree a level of self-hatred or guilt. Many people would in fact celebrate feeling guilty as a sign that you are a good person.

This blog misunderstands that most people know they are sinners and feel trapped by Sin. Love the Sinner hate the Sin is not something that should make people feel judged but liberated.

A liberated view of Sin

Someone I know hurt one of my friends a great deal. I spent a bit of time talking to this person and they asked me why I was being nice to them at all given what they had done and what they had done to my friend. Surely I’d judge them as a “bad person”. I told this friend (non-Christian) that I was judging them… but I had judged them as a bad person long before. I believe in no sex before marriage and so to some degree anyone who has sex with more than one person is a slut and worthy of death. Probably even more so I believe the same about anyone who has ever looked at pornography. I believe the same thing about people who disrespect their parents or put any other God before the one true God. So this new thing they had done that had hurt my friend, couldn’t lower my opinion of them.To some degree they found this attitude liberating and kind of comforting!

(Note: I don’t come out very favourable when I’m judging myself either!)

And I think it is. With most people who love you conditionally you’re kind of waiting for the time when you finally cross the line and they hate you. Maybe it will be some political opinion, maybe it will be how you treat people in relationships, maybe it’s because you act rude in a situation or maybe it’s because you’re too fussy about politeness. But here, this person already crossed the line.. And all people who interact with me can know that they have crossed the line, I think they are a “bad” person.

But what next? Do I hate all bad people like the rest of the world did? Possibly, but if I did that I’d hate everyone including myself. If that’s what I have to do, then so be it but fortunately there is a way out. “Vengeance is mine, so saith the Lord”, I can pawn off that hatred onto God. He is the ultimate judge anyway and so I can say “well I won’t carry out the hatred even though to some degree these people deserve it, God can do the hating instead”. Then God goes ahead and does something weird with my hatred. He puts it all on the cross and somehow justifies people. It’s all a bit confusing and I haven’t fully got my head round it but the important thing is I don’t need to hate people anymore.

But that is my choice, love everyone unconditionally or hate everyone conditionally. There is no middle ground.

I’ve always thought this about the Westboro Baptist church with their “God hates fags” placards and their belief that hurricanes are caused by America’s acceptance of homosexuality. The problem with these people is not that they are too extreme, but they are not extreme enough! They would probably be better off including a placard that says “God hates everyone, especially me”! And then try and find a way to live like that.

How do we go about loving people

Now we get to a point where me and the initial blog post might actually agree. But this is a difficult question, how do you go about loving people?

Love I think is one of those complicated things where it is really difficult to define, but when you look at a specific situation its really easy to see “Is this loving or not?”. Especially the “not”, when someone does something to you or to someone you care about that isn’t “loving” you tend to just know. But if you had to write a rule book so that you could completely define what it was, it would be tough.

Enrich Fromm in his “Art of loving”  saw love more like an art, like playing an instrument or getting good at painting. It was a skill that you practised and got better at. It was a skill where you considered the theory both through reading and discussion but then tried to apply it.

This blog posts concept of seeing someone as a neighbour and looking at how Jesus treated people certainly helps at how to love people. This is something worthy of discussion. And as I’ve said before, the blog post is definitely attacking a certain type of Christian who uses that phrase as an excuse to not be loving, that I believe ought to be intellectually attacked.

But now I’m starting to agree with someone so I better end it here. Enrich Fromm is likely to pop up again!

(Also the original blogger has written a follow up. I don’t have much to say, I kind of like it except when she goes back to wanting us to actually stop using the phrase, but most of her criticism are certainly valid).


There was a song that says a guy loves me “just the way I am”. No one wants this. I want to be loved DESPITE the way I am. The way I am is hateable but I want… no need the love anyway. This is why being able to love the sinner and hate the sin is important because if it can’t be done then all is lost.

Moral Absolutism vs Moral Relativism

This is an answer to a question on yahoo answers;_ylt=Ak9l5pzBdJiDGJP7Nzc6aVUOJ3RG;_ylv=3?qid=20130920034731AAigZcu. I was just replying for fun but my reply was too long for yahoo answers so I thought I’d post it here and link to it.

Moral Relativism is very very odd and has probably come from practical anthropology rather than actual philosophy. I think moral relativism works as a description of the way people in our culture act. But if you’re talking about a well thought through philosophical position a better comparison is between “Moral Absolutism” and “Moral Nihilism” where nihilism is simply that there are no moral propositions that are true or false. (Also known as Moral Skepticism which is similar)

Moral Relativism states (sort of, it’s hard to describe as no one really thinks it) that the truth of moral propositions is relative to the context of the culture that it is in. For example in “Civilised Western Society” rape is wrong but “random cannibalistic tribal society” might accept Rape as ok. Moral Relativism states that in one place the act is fully completely wrong but moving to a new geography/ community makes it suddenly completely morally acceptable.

This was a good thing in anthropology. Studying cultures used to be through a completely colonialist lens and so in the study of cultures it is good to try and study it from the culture’s point of view. If we look at a culture that says murder is ok (For example state sanction murder in the US with capital punishment). We’ll get a better understanding of it if we try and do it from the American point of view rather than enforce European Human Rights based assumptions.

However that is about describing about how a community is. It becomes completely different when you describe how a community ought to behave.

It just seems bizarre that raping someone in one place is completely evil and immoral and then suddenly being ok in another place.

Now… NO ONE is suggesting that Moral “Acts” are not relative. Whether or not the act “have sex with person X” is morally acceptable will be relative to a whole bunch of factors. Sometimes sex with the same person will be morally acceptable one day and unacceptable the other. However, even according to Moral Absolutism, the moral propositions or principles behind whether or not an act is immoral are not relative. For example the principle “All sexual acts are fine between consenting adults” or something more generically philosophical like “Acts that maximise the amount of pleasure for the most people are good and acts that minimise pleasure or cause pain for the most amount of people are bad” which is sort of Utilitarianism.

Now if we think “pleasure is good” we will find in different cultures different things cause pleasure. Some people like eating food that literally tears apart their mouth (chilli) and some people do not. But that is because the physical pain of chilli (combined with endorphins) actually causes pleasure to the person eating it in some situations and sometimes it will cause displeasure to other people who don’t like chilli. The act “Eating some chilli” is relative to person but the principle “What causes pleasure is good” is not.

Now… the reason why I personally think people talk about moral relativism as an attitude that people take when it is not thought through is about judgement. For example, I personally think murdering people is wrong, but I might hear about a group of people in France who love murder. Now I’ve never spent much time with those people so I think to myself “well to each their own, I don’t want to judge them and I don’t want to visit France so I won’t think about it and get on with my day”. However if those French people came over to the UK and started murdering my friends I’d be outraged. This is me acting like a moral relativist. The same act, murder, is not ok on my friends and family but it is ok when practised by a bunch of people I don’t know or care about.

However… I’m not ACTUALLY a moral relativist. What I’m saying here is that I don’t know what could be the reasons why these French people love murder. In the same way that piercing a child’s ears could seem horrible and barbaric but then I think, well I don’t know the culture maybe there is something I’m missing out on. Basically the moral relativist here is only acting like this because they admit they don’t have access to all the information and they don’t care about those people. But they don’t ACTUALLY think Murder is wrong in some places and other places. They more like “Moral Agnostics”.

This gets really complicated when a bunch of people act like this and then engage in politics. The chances are, if the person who thinks Murder in France is fine thought about it, they would discover an underlying principle behind their attitude that truly governs their moral attitude, such as “Freedom to do as you please individually is important including exerting that onto other people”.

Now… the more defensible philosophical position is moral nihilism. This is the view that there are no moral statements that are true or false or at least, if there are, it is impossible to know about them. If this is true, then what people think are morals are just strong people forcing their views onto others. Instead of “Murder is Wrong”, actually

“Murder is neither right nor wrong but for some reason I don’t want you to murder my family (maybe cause I have a biological attachment or I like having sex with my wife) and so if you murder my family I will torture you and because I’m stronger then you my way wins out.”

If I am strong enough the parents of other people will start telling their children not to murder Jamie’s family and you’ll get some kind of aristocracy form. The children will feel and believe these moral truths but only because a bigger stronger Jamie has forced them to.

Some people might explain “moral feelings” as nothing more than as a result of the evolutionary advantage to make humans work in groups and win against all the other animals.

It’s interesting because if Moral Nihilism was true then you’d expect something like Moral Relativism to arise naturally in the communities you study. In one city, I may really hate people murdering my family but in another city, the king might love people murdering their family and so the morality would look different in those cultures. And so that is why I think whilst moral relativism as a philosophical position is completely mad, it is interesting as a description about the way the world is.

Finally Moral Relativism is appealing as an easy option. As I said earlier, if someone says they are a moral relativist about specific issues they probably have an underlying principle that is morally true everywhere and is not relative. However, trying to find those underlying principles is really really hard! Try Kantian Ethics with his “Categorical Imperative” compared to the Human Rights movement compared to Utilitarians and Hedonists compared to Nietzsche. Even John Stewart Mill’s On Liberty and Utilitarianism seem to be at odds with each other in the same person. If there really was a moral absolute position then why is it so elusive? Let’s just ignore the argument between, Absolute verses Nihilism and just go with the flow.

In summary. Moral relativism I don’t think is a defensible philosophical position (But look into that stanford article in my sources yourself, especially read the top paragraph). The interesting philosophical discussion is between moral absolutism and moral nihilism. However philosophically this question is so hard that pragmatically we may want to act like moral agnostics. If we have this attitude a moral relativistic stance will probably be the safest. If a whole group of people all think murder is fine and I think it’s not, then I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt until I get really good evidence to the contrary.

Disclaimer: I am a Christian and so take a stance on ethics that is Christian. An Atheist may have a different take on the things I’ve said here. Also, I’ve deliberately used quite racist language to describe some positions. This is because I think moral relativism, anthropology and racism are deeply intertwined. A lot of the principles behind it I think were created to help the people studying a culture get out of their racist assumptions. Particularly the idea that “Western Civilisation” is morally better than “barbarians”. The reality is that if you are a moral absolutist it becomes very easy to justify acts that are really evil and racist. Eg, all these women in this country wander around topless, this is immoral therefore I can kill them all. However, if you’re writing an essay and you use the examples and language I used (eg Examples involving Rape) you’ll probably find teachers and examiners don’t like it. So maybe tone down the rape and racism!

Disclaimer2: Moral Relativism is a pet peeve, I think it’s just silly. Instead of listening to me, reading the stanford encyclopaedia article about it is probably better. I stopped after the first few paragraphs as I had read enough to support the position I had picked before I did any research. If I had continued reading I might have found out that I’m wrong and I wouldn’t want that!

My thoughts aimed at advocates of Singer


This article is a simple response to the advocates of Singer after having watched a YouTube presentation and reading around a little. This article is also heavily influenced by a debate between Posner and Singer linked to below.

I argue that Singer’s view of animal liberation is such that vegetarianism itself does not help his overall aims. I argue that Singer generally seems to accept this throughout his presentation in a way that the advocates of Singer rarely seem to. I then take this further and suggest that if advocates of Singer dropped their vegetarianism they would be more likely to succeed in improving the lives of animals around the world. I end with how this impacts me and my personal morality (which is at odds with Utilitarianism generally) and a few disclaimers.

Ways to be moral about animal welfare.

Singer is more in favour of animals having a good life than whether or not they are eaten.

A truly utilitarian viewpoint is to minimise evil as opposed to living according to a strict moral standard. With a Utilitarian view, morality is not binary and Singer demonstrates this by only weakly advocating full on vegetarianism/ veganism. I really liked his response to Roger Scruton’s view that instead of becoming vegetarians we should just aim to improve the lives of animals on farms. Singer was kind of like “yeah fair enough that would be better but I’d just prefer to go a bit further”. Even more consistent was when he basically advocated hunting when it was done by an expert marksman! Singer is very good at taking his philosophical principles to their extremes.

Vegetarians tend to adopt a more binary, judgemental “animal’s have the right to live” stance which is not really in Singer’s philosophy.

However, the reality is vegetarians who advocate Singer’s ideas rarely emphasise this point. When they talk about how they ‘don’t mind meat eaters’ what they will usually do is explain, ‘Don’t worry I’m not judgemental about it”. Unfortunately all this does is imply that they have a right to be judgemental about it but they add a patronising tone on top of that because they are choosing (for the listeners benefit) to not take that right! Very few vegetarians seem to understand that their vegetarianism could be morally abhorrent to others and that they might be on the receiving end of judgement!

What is cool about Singer is he is not taking a liberal moral high ground of saying, ‘Don’t worry I’m not judging you Roger Scruton’. He is instead saying, ‘Actually Roger you, a meat eater who is against the pain animals receive on farms, are morally superior alongside me. Not quite as superior as I am but so close that I’m basically happy if you got your way in society’. This view-point is very judgemental but in a positive direction!

Similarly Singer talks about people whose biology does need some sort of protein found in animal products (particularly when talking about vegans). Here, it is not that he withholds judgement against those people. Instead, alongside his philosophy, he is ok with that person eating animal products because of the pain it would cause them to avoid it. His issue with other people is that for a relatively small amount of pain for a human (not eating meat) you greatly reduce the pain for lots of animals… hence his utilitarianism.

Vegetarians however tend to adopt a more virtue based morality about animals having rights to life or rights over the products they create.

Singer adopts a clearly utilitarian view on animal liberation that says that in the same way we should minimise pain to humans, we should minimise pain to animals. This animal welfare part of the argument is very important as it is the thing that Singer focuses on the most. Whether an animal lives or dies is actually relatively less important compared to the pain they go through in life. A more “Animal Rights” approach could be taken where animals are given the same rights as humans such as the right to life. With this approach Vegetarianism becomes more important as it asserts the animals right to not be murdered. These two approaches to animal liberation are important due to the consequences of how an individual should act.

Ways these distinctions impacts how we treat the subject of animal welfare.

A campaign to minimise the suffering of animals on farms would be more likely to succeed generally and animal farm owners know this but…

Peter Singer’s arguments and examples would increase people’s demand of animal welfare. This is shown in Roger Scruton’s response and Richard Posner’s response. The main aspect of this talk that they appreciate is the graphic detail of what goes on in the farms. Posner particularly seemed thankful because he “likes animals”. This is a position that actually I think the vast majority of human beings share. It’s not that they think animals have intrinsic rights and therefore should also have rights comparable to humans, like the right to life. It’s just they don’t like the idea of animals going through lots of pain and suffering because “they like animals”.

Interestingly in Singer’s presentation he provides further evidence for this because he talks about how animals farms put lots of effort into preventing camera crews getting into the farm. It seems like most people have a morality where:

(A) They want to know the truth of what is happening in the world.
(B) They don’t want animals to go through their lives suffering horribly.

Now admittedly not everyone agrees with A and some might not agree with B. But I think enough people agree with both A and B that a campaign to end the suffering of animals through legal force would actually be possible. The fact that animal farms put so much effort into limiting our ability to film inside the farm suggests that most people agree with A and B and the farm owners know it.

Vegetarianism makes this campaign to reduce animal suffering less likely to succeed for a number of reasons.

The mere fact of vegetarianism can make people who disagree with it question whether animal welfare matters – Philisophical.
One person had a problem with free range eggs. He felt that he was being hypocritical because by advocating free range eggs he was saying the lives of chickens mattered but by eating chickens he was saying that they don’t. This better persuaded him to give up on free range eggs then it did convert him to vegetarianism. Singer’s, Scruton’s and Posner’s moralities all suggest this is a false dichotomy. It is possible to eat animals and care for their well-being in life in a way that is morally better than what is happening now.

All or nothing approach makes people want to do nothing – emotional.
This is similar to the above approach but less philosophical and more emotional. I’d suggest that most people agree with the moral statements of A and B above but feel that B can never be solved… animals will always suffer horribly and therefore A is the only option (to try to avoid thinking about it whilst you eat your chicken). I think Singer, Scruton and Posner present a moral way out of this. You can make yourself feel better about eating chickens by campaigning and succeeding at making their lives better. The other advantage is that you’ll probably have to do this through paying more for your food which actually makes the farmers happier too. Vegetarians by their very existence encourage the myth that either you have to stop enjoying meat or allow animals to suffer. The feeling they create is, ‘If vegetarians have reasons to do what they do then maybe I’ll become a vegetarian if I investigate animal welfare claims’. The reality is that an individual can care about the welfare of animals and still enjoy meat.

Vegetarianism is alienating to meat eaters – societal.
However amount they try to be non-judgemental it marks you off as different. When I went university I was going to try to be tee-total but my dad intervened. As a Christian I wanted to show that I lead life differently but by abstaining I couldn’t enjoy alcohol with the people in my community. Eating with other people is another very important social function which is negatively impacted by vegetarians. Meat eaters can’t easily share things they enjoy unless it’s on the vegetarian’s home ground. This concept is parodied in the Mitchell and Webb look and in Scot Pilgrim with the Vegan having super powers because he is “just better”. This makes meat eaters less likely to accept the moral imperative to improve the lives of animals because we are “just different from vegetarians”.

Vegetarianism does not give animal farms any economic incentive to listen – economic.
This is a problem with boycotting things in general. Merely not buying something from an organisation is not good enough to change an organisation, as they need to provide some method for the organisation to change their ways to end the boycott. As more people become vegetarians it merely makes the current animal farms less profitable meaning they are more likely to cut costs in ways that negatively impact animal welfare. However, if meat eaters chose to eat from ethically sourced suppliers, this would give farms a financial incentive to improve animal welfare. For example with free-ranged eggs verses battery chickens if all people who cared about animal welfare refused to eat all eggs then there would be no reason to produce free-ranged eggs.

By taking an all or nothing approach that animal right rhetoric tends to demand it can make people less likely to care about animal welfare for philosophical, emotional, societal and economic reasons. However, if people were to drop vegetarianism as a requirement for advocating Singer’s views then those same philosophical, emotional, societal and economic issues can be used to encourage people to care about animal welfare and implement real change.


Therefore if advocates of Singer want to push his views forward they are better off eating meat! And organising around an organisation similar to PETA but with meat-eating included as both acceptable and a done thing.

Now my views are hardly the same moral views everyone shares but from a Hedonistic point of view I care selfishly about my own pain and suffering. As a Hedonist I want to eat meat because I enjoy it and as a Hedonist, like Posner, I don’t want animals to suffer because I like animals. I am not a Utilitarian. I can’t stand a “Lesser of two evils approach”. There are so many aspects of Singer’s views that I find abhorrent. Yet despite this, I could be persuaded by arguments along the lines of Scruton and Posner and would possibly even join in helping that out.

If you can get support from people who don’t fully agree with you on everything that is powerful. Advocates have a genuine chance at changing the world for the better (in their view) but almost no chance of converting everyone to vegetarianism. Therefore they should eat meat and eat it in public.


  • Whilst I think advocates of singer ought to eat meat, Singer himself doesn’t necessarily need to. I think the advocates of Singer have more political power than Singer himself and so if most of the people I met who care about animal welfare and were organised to help animals, also ate meat. That would be enough. I think it is enough for Singer to simply publicly state that aspects of Scruton and Posner are acceptable without himself actually having to eat meat.
  • Upon further reflection it appears that Vegetarians are suffering from a conflict between applying Animal Rights in a similar way to Human Rights and Singer’s Utilitarianism. This problem is the same problem that John Stuart Mill faced with his On Liberty compared to his (and Bentham’s) Utilitarianism. Therefore after reading this article I found everything I had written was philosophically dull! It may or may not be interesting that the same issues about Animal Rights vs Animal Utility are the same issues as Humans Rights vs Human Utility but that’s it.
  • I’m still happy I published this article because whilst it is philosophically dull, as Posner points out, the philosophical angle on this whole presentation is the most dull part of it. What Singer does very well is tug on emotional heart-strings with new data on how animals are treated. This article is then suggesting what direction those tugs should be aimed at and the arguments of this article still stand.
  • I think I would possibly advocate some kind of ethically sourced supplier of food that is similar to Tradecraft and their Fair Trade brand but for animal welfare.
  • The motivation for writing this article is due to having an increasing number of close friends turning to vegetarianism. Biblically speaking there are verses specifically saying to essentially leave vegetarians alone! (Although for different reasons) and so I kind of take that attitude towards it. But personally there is something that makes me uncomfortable with vegetarianism in a similar way to being uncomfortable about most moral systems and so I thought I’d try and put some thought it to the subject. Here it is!

Why I care about the Calvinism verses Arminianism debate

I ask lots of people their stance on this issue. When I talk about it I usually ask how much they know about Incompatibalism vs Compatibalism (ie a disagreement about whether determinism (usually a more scientific version) and free will are compatible). It seems that there are lots of people in the philosophical world that have moved the discussion forward regarding free will but people in the theological world haven’t caugt up. Usually they would be opposed to the idea of “catching up” as well. So when I talk lots of people ask me the question “Why do you care?”

Here is what I think is my response:

Regarding why I care. I think its a mixture. I do find the CvA debate interesting from an intellectual stand point just because it seems so clear that something is dodgey. Every Calvinist or Arminian I’ve met or read seems to assume incompatibalism without any argument or realisation that they are doing so. So I think this is significant but don’t really exactly know how. It might turn out that that they actually agree with each other for example.

From a more personal level I think there is a “middle ground” that shows a much clearer gospel message to our generation. Whilst I’m more sympathetic to arminianism, I find their solution to the problem of pain (pain is caused by our free will) problematic. 1) There is plenty of suffering that isn’t caused by individuals (tsunamis) and then you end up with a wierd view that our sin causes earthquakes. and 2) many of the pain and suffering that people caused is usually part of a chain of events. In relationships with some of the nastiest guys I know, you can usually see a particular girl that messed them up, and then see someone before that, that messed her up. Rather then “Free Will” I tend to see the world as a series of broken people that can do nothing but break other people, because out of brokenness comes more brokenness.

Telling broken people they need to fix themselves, I think is like telling a depressed person they “just need to be happy”. Instead they need to be “rescued” out of their brokenness. So this leads me to a much more calvinistic way of explaining the gospel.

Alternatively you might argue that 1) isn’t wierd and 2) just means you need to chase back the first cause. Well if you go down this road you’ll probably have to chase it back to the fall. (Whilst I find it wierd that me stealing something now, could cause an earthquake in Japan, I don’t think its wierd to suggest that when sin first entered the world, the whole world was changed in some almost supernatural way). In this case you end up with original sin and you basically have calvinism. You could still possibly argue about whether eve had free will but I think that moves the argument into the very theoretical. For all intents and purposes the people I encounter arn’t free.

And yet… I still think calvinism is wrong. I still think the smug manner in which calvinists say free will is just an illusion is wrong. I think we do have a very real free will that is able to choose Jesus… I don’t think that very real free will is a complete naive libertarian free will but neither do I think the whole “We have free will, but God dictates our will and we then act freely on that” is satisfactory.

Why is philosophy important?

So recently at a event on personal identity some philosophers essentially told us in answer to the question “Did I exist yesturday?” and more generally “Who am I”, that I am Me and that is is unanalysable any further (definitely oversimplifying things here!). Also in my tutorials for Metaphysics people (including me!) have certainly felt some of the contemporary questions of metaphysics are so pointless they are not worth asking let alone answering. However I don’t think this is true, I think philosophy is important and so I will rant:

  • It’s important because the world has the potential to be destroyed through climate change and a lack of bees and no one really has any idea how to evaluate or deal with this
  • Its important because we don’t have any Nuclear power plants
  • Its important because the government is ignoring scientists on drugs and speed cameras whilst listening to pop psycologists on lilly allen and no one know who why or what to listen to
  • The media is building fear and conspiracy theory to a large degree and we need to know how to combat that
  • Its important because of Richard Dawkins!
  • Its important because Richard Dawkins is building an army of scientifically minded philosophically engaged politically active young people and they are going to be important. (What next?)
  • Its important because philosophy has failed to bring about the world peace we were promised and murder is still wrong.
  • Its important because religion is growing in importance in our world, rather then dying out and people are still stuck arguing Hume’s argument and attacking the Onological argument
  • Its important because China, its philosophy and its influence is growing and the west still have no idea of how to embrace it.

So I believe these are all important aspects of our world and include philosophy.Why?

Because everyone does philosophy!

Every single one of those points has people somewhere sitting around and thinking, they are then going on and writing and sometimes their writing is in newspapers, sometimes it is in academic journals, sometimes it is behind closed doors or within organisations. But the thoughts and writing continue and as long as that is happening philosophy is happening even if people don’t like calling it that. Because it is definitely happening and impacting us anyway, we need to know what it is, we need to talk about it.

And it starts in metaphysics, it starts in epistemology. Talking about Tibs and Tibbles, about universals, about how we know things, about protocal sentences leads into the philosophy of science. Which leads into why people dislike evolution and climate change, it leads into Nuclear power and its implications, it leads into morality and how to deal with china. It tells us that murder is wrong and lets atheists and theists talk about thing. And it turns the Richard Dawkins people from an angry rabble into a well-informed powerful people.

Category: Christian Thought -> Cause it is!