[PREFACE: I suspect that the majority of the audience for this piece won’t need to be asked to familiarize themselves with the Logical Absolutes before proceeding but, if you do not have at least a passing familiarity with the building blocks of logic (and subsequently, rational discourse) then I beg you to go learn them now before trying to read another word from me, or anybody else or, for that matter, before even putting on your pants and leaving the house. Thanks.]
I’ve entertained the notion of this essay for some time now, but just recently an online provocateur set my keyboard a-clickin’, as we say wherever I’m from. My antagonist had insisted upon two things simultaneously: that God’s moral standards hadn’t changed throughout history, AND that they HAD.
“You can’t have it both ways,” I admonished.
“Yes I can,” was his terse (and final) reply.
I took that as the intellectual equivalent of lying down one’s king. Because it established that my adversary was either unwilling or unable to adhere to rational discourse and, instead, embrace what I’ve come to call the “Illogical Absolutes”.
With profuse apologies to the memory of Aristotle, here they are:
A is not equal to A
A is equal to NOT A
A can be both A and NOT A
I submit that any appeal to the Illogical absolutes is tantamount to waving the white flag. It suggests the person you are speaking with is either unwilling or unable to adhere to the boundaries of rational discourse.
Recognizing the Illogical Absolutes is, I think, crucial for not allowing those moments to go unnoticed when the devout effectively concede the debate. One of the most common scenarios where this happens is when the believer starts chipping away at “existence” itself. I put the word in quotes so that you’ll take note and, when it is offered up, go immediately on high alert for the potential for an upcoming concession.
Share this diagram with your conversant, and ask if we can agree that a thing either IS, or is NOT, “A”.
“But God is not bound by the confines of our reality,” is the sort of thing the believer might offer. “He exists outside of the temporal universe.”
We’re almost there already.
“So, here’s the temporal universe and existence as we know it,” you should reply, sharing some version of the above graphic. “And you’re telling me that when we can’t detect God here in the temporal is because he’s transcendent and can effectively be found HERE.”
If the opponent concurs, you’re done. They’ve just relegated their god to non-existence.
“Can we agree that this is where your God exists? Because if this is “existence” then everything outside the circle of existence is that which does not exist. (Lightheartedly) So we can both agree that your god exists in non-existence or, better put, does not exist?”
I don’t recall a time when the reply did not result in a retreat into some manner of the Illogical Absolutes.
“God is not confined by man’s logic!”
“So we can agree God is not logical?”
“Not by our standards!”
You can guess, if they’re asked, whose standards we should use: their illogical, non-existent God’s, of course…
The folks at the Baptist Press understandably disable comments for articles like this one:
…which is understandable when you suggest people read up on Yahweh’s endorsement of the wholesale slaughter of Egyptians and Ethiopians for his chosen people, I suppose…