Friday, May 9, 2008

Re: Bailout

About a week ago we did a post on an opportunity for readers to express their displeasure with Congress' plans to bail out lenders and borrowers who can no longer make payments on their mortgages by signing a petition.

One reader who signed the petition offers his reasons on our Feedback page. I'm sure he speaks for millions of Americans, and his letter will help those who might not quite understand what the fuss is about to see the issue more clearly.

To read it click on the Feedback button to the left.


Evangelical Manifesto

The Evangelical Manifesto we wrote about earlier this week has been released, and although I haven't had time to examine it thoroughly it seems on first reading to be a very impressive document. The concerns I expressed in the earlier post have been largely allayed.

The Manifesto's twenty pages are much too rich to summarize in a single post, but I certainly urge everyone to study it. Christians should familiarize themselves with it because it's a lodestone for people of faith looking to navigate the currents of modern culture, and non-Christians should study it because it's a Rosetta stone for those who seek to go beyond media stereotypes of Christianity and to decipher and understand for themselves who Christians are and what they really believe.

The Manifesto can be read here. A list of signatories can be found here.


Self-Evident Moral Truth

There's a fascinating discussion going on at Uncommon Descent over the question of whether there are self-evident moral truths. The springboard for the conversation is a passage from Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov in which Dostoyevsky has Ivan tell this story - which is believed to be based on actual events - in order to illustrate the utter depravity of human beings (Caution: This story describes acts of sickening violence):

People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that's a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that's all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it. These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, too; cutting the unborn child from the mother's womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mother's eyes. Doing it before the mother's eyes was what gave zest to the amusement.

Here is another scene that I thought very interesting. Imagine a trembling mother with her baby in her arms, a circle of invading Turks around her. They've planned a diversion; they pet the baby, laugh to make it laugh. They succeed, the baby laughs. At that moment a Turk points a pistol four inches from the baby's face. The baby laughs with glee, holds out its little hands to the pistol, and he pulls the trigger in the baby's face and blows out its brains. Artistic, wasn't it? By the way, Turks are particularly fond of sweet things, they say.

The question is whether what the soldiers did was self-evidently and absolutely wrong. The answer is, if there is a God then yes; if there isn't then, no, it's not wrong at all. If there is no transcendent moral source then there are no absolute moral wrongs nor, indeed, is there such a thing as moral right and wrong. There are only things people do which we like or don't like.

My contribution to the debate is comment #90.