Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Right to Bear Arms: Bibliography & Resources by Ben Crenshaw

I came across this bibliography by Ben Crenshaw on the issue of bearing arms, the Second Amendment, etc. and thought it worthwhile to note and save here.

See The Right to Bear Arms: Bibliography and Resources.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Slavery in the Bible: Is the Good Book Really "Good?"--Christian Post

This a link to a short essay I wrote for the Christian Post...

Slavery in the Bible: Is the Good Book Really "Good?"

______________________________________

Here is the text with endnotes included...

Slavery and the Bible: Is the Good Book Really “Good?”

It was spoken less as a question and more as a challenge:

“Why does anyone think this is a good book?!”

Someone had brought up a number of pieces of the Old Testament legislation as examples to be mocked and this brought forth the incredulity regarding the Bible’s moral value.  In previous generations the Bible was seen as the “good book” but today it is more likely to be thought of as a work that is oppressive and morally deficient.

One of the particular items brought forward to show the Bible’s moral failure was the law contained in Exodus 21:20-21—with specific focus on verse 21:

20If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished.  21If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.

It was alleged that this ethical stipulation allowed Israelites to beat their slaves and, as long as they didn’t die within a day or two, everything was okay.

In light of such a law what kinds of answers can be given to the question, “Why does anyone think this is a good book?”  Actually, there are a number of things to be said in response!  The following provides a close reading of the law in Exodus 21:21 in light of both the immediate context as well as the larger narrative structure of the Bible.  This is done to model what a fair reading of the text looks like as well as strengthen the faith of those who affirm the Bible as a “good book.”

Reading the Details in Light of the Whole Bible

First, let us grant, for the sake of argument only, that this item mentioned in Exodus 21:21 is somehow morally deficient.  This, in and of itself, does not render the whole Bible less than good.  There are all sorts of transcendentally good things in the Bible: ethical stipulations centered in love, narratives of heroic and self-giving actions, beautiful poetry in praise of God than aligns with the human emotional element, and, ultimately, its portrayal of Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God both in his teaching and in his actions of redemptive healing.  In other words, to take one (or a few) ethical stipulations that one finds questionable and indict the whole Bible shows either a lack of literary sensitivity or a failure to read the entire Bible.

But is it the case that this law in Exodus 21:21 calls into question the moral integrity of the Bible?  Has the law been understood correctly in its larger contexts?  Consider the following analogy.  Take, as an example, the sentence, “A man cut a child open.”  This sentence is consistent with at least three different scenarios.  (1) A murderer killing a child with a knife, (2) A medical examiner performing an autopsy on a dead child’s body, and (3) A professional surgeon performing a life-saving operation on a child.  These three different scenarios are open to vastly different moral evaluations due to the varying contexts.  Simply analyzing the phrase “A man cut a child open” is insufficient.  Larger contextual issues must be taken into account to accurately assess what is going on.  The same is true for the legislation contained in Exodus 21:21.

Contextual Issues to Note

When examining this issue the numerous contexts should be kept in mind or else misunderstanding will soon set in.  First, the immediate context should be read and understood.  Exodus 21:21 appears in a section of the Mosaic law code dealing with issues of personal injury.  The law code distinguishes between pre-meditated murder and, what we would call, manslaughter (Exodus 21:12-14).  When coming to talk about how slaves are to be treated Exodus 21:20 states: “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished.”  Old Testament specialist David L. Baker writing in the book The Humanisation of Slavery in the Old Testament argues that the term “punished” in verse 20:

“[P]robably implies the death penalty, which means that a master who kills his slave is treated as a murderer and receives the same punishment as for killing a free person.  Thus the law provides some protection for slaves from cruel treatment by their masters, and recognizes the life of a slave to be of equal value to that of any other human being.”1

Reading verse 21 in light of this context causes Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser to comment:

“The aim of this law was not to place the slave at the mercy of the master, but to restrict the master’s power over his slaves.  Simply put, proof was needed only of a master’s malice or of his murderous intent.  In cases where the slave lived ‘a day or two’ after the chastisement, the benefit of doubt was given to the master only because proof became more difficult.  But if the slave died immediately, no more proof was needed and presumably laws such as Exodus 21:12 would be operative.”2

Exodus 21:21 is thus setting a kind of statute of limitations to offer guidance on how to apply Exodus 21:20.  The law is thus not given to facilitate but, rather, to mitigate abuse.

Not only this, but just a few verses after Exodus 21:21 there is the following piece of legislation:

26If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye.  27And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth.

A number of Old Testament specialists have argued that this legislation is almost unparalleled in the ancient Near East context.  Christopher Wright notes, “The inclusion of the ‘tooth’ indicates that the law does not intend only grievous bodily harm, but any unwarranted assault.  The basic humanity of the slave is given precedence over his property status.”3 This leads Wright to conclude:

“The law, if it were to have any meaningful legal (as distinct from merely charitable) force, must presuppose that there were some circumstances in which a slave could appeal to judicial authority against his own master, that in some situations a slave could have definite legal status as a person, notwithstanding his normal status as purchased property.”4

These laws bring us into a context which is far removed from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s description in Uncle Tom’s Cabin: “The legal power of the master amounts to an absolute despotism over body and soul,” and “there is no protection for the slave’s life.”

So back to the question: “Why does anyone think this is a good book?  One answer is that someone who had to live in the ancient Near Eastern context outside of Israel would have found these provisions good.  They would have seen these laws as good because, as David Baker states, “slave abuse is considered in terms of human rights rather than property rights.”5

A second contextual issue to note is the placement of Exodus 21:21 in the larger context of the book of Exodus itself.  Old Testament scholar Joe Sprinkle notes that the specific legislative stipulations of Exodus 21-23 must be read in light of the larger narrative concerns of Exodus 19-24 and, beyond that, in light of the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.6  Sprinkle draws attention to the fact of the prominence and placement of slave laws in the Mosaic law in relation to other ancient Near Eastern law codes.  Sprinkle also notes that these provisions in Exodus 21 are intimately related to other laws in Exodus 22 regarding the sojourner, widow, orphan, and the poor.  He concludes:

This is not accidental. The disadvantaged classes of Exod 22:22–27, the sojourner, the widow, the orphan, and the poor, were the very people most subject to becoming enslaved on the basis of unpaid debts. Israel itself had become enslaved in Egypt after entering it as sojourners, as the regulation itself suggests: “Do not oppress a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exod 23:9). The experience of Israel in Egypt recorded by the narrative is thus the basis for the motive clause promoting legal obedience.”7


Again, “Why does anyone think this is a good book?  Those most subject to abuse due to their disadvantage class would find the provisions in the Mosaic law as protections rather than burdens.

Canonical Context: Keeping an Eye on the Big Picture

The Bible is a big book and is important to keep an eye on the large narrative that is moving in the Scriptures.  The Bible has as a beginning, an end, and a center-piece focused in Jesus Christ.  All these have relevance to how to interpret the issue of slavery in the Bible.  Consider the beginning.  In Genesis chapters one and two there is the creation of man and woman.  There is no slavery or provision for slavery.  James Hamilton aptly notes:

“We don’t know exactly when slavery was first practiced, but the first mention of it in the Bible comes when Noah curses the descendants of his youngest son: ‘Canaan will be cursed.  He will be the lowest of slaves to his brothers’ (Gen 9:25).  This shows that slavery was not part of God’s original good creation.  Rather, slavery is mentioned in response to the sin of Ham.”8

Moving to the end of the Bible we see that in the eternal state there is no slavery.  The fullness of freedom comes to all of God’s people and even the creation itself (Romans 8:21).  Thus, these two narrative markers—creation and glorification—reveal God’s intentionality with regards to slavery.  It was not the original design nor is it the eternal destination.  This may help explain why when the apostle Paul discusses various household relationships in his letters he quotes Scripture as undergirding the marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:31) and the parent/child relationship (Ephesians 6:2-3) but when he discusses the master and slave relationship he never quotes the Old Testament Scriptures.  The other two family relationships are grounded in creation but slavery is not so, therefore, he does not quote a supportive proof-text.

When coming to look at Jesus and his teaching it has often been noted that the words of Isaiah 66:1-2 are a template for Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God.

18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, 19to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19)

It is Jesus’ intention and goal to bring about release for the captives.  Now some will note that Jesus did not go on a crusade to set free literal slaves from Roman oppression.  This is true but must be seen in light of Jesus’ larger Kingdom purposes.  He was going after the larger issue of slavery to sin (John 8:31-36).  The New Testament teaches the centrality of this liberation from sin and its consequences.  Furthermore, by doing this Jesus sets in motion a revolution that will ultimately do away with all slaveries in human history as God’s Kingdom purposes are worked out over time.

So again, the question, “Why would anyone think this is a good book?” has a number of relevant answers from this larger canonical context.  God’s goodness expressed in creation and God’s profound goodness promised in the future both give us positive reason to affirm the Bible’s goodness.  Of course, for Christians the central glory of Jesus Christ is the supreme goodness revealed to us in the pages of Scripture.  Ultimately, the revelation of Jesus himself contained in the Bible is the great reason to think the Bible is a “good book.”

Historical Considerations: How the Bible Influences History

The Kingdom revolution began by Jesus Christ in human history has moved through the corridor of time in influential ways regarding slavery.  Thomas Schirrmacher is the president of the International Council of the International Society for Human Rights and has written about the role of Christianity in the reduction of slavery in history and around the world.  He notes how the early church allowed the complete participation of slaves in their congregations.  Slaves were able to become clerics and bishops.  Schirrmacher draws attention to the most famous example—Bishop Kallist (d. 222 A.D.), “who went from slavery to become the highest representative of the church as Bishop of Rome.”9 He also draws attention to various Synods of the Church:

“The Synod of Chalons in France declared the following in 650 A.D.: ‘The highest piety and religion demands that Christianity be completely freed from the chains of slavery.’  in 922 A.D. the Koblenz Synod in the East Frankish Empire came to the resolution that the sale of a Christian was to be considered murder.’”10

Schirrmacher draws attention to a number of other medieval developments on this issue and then, of course, draws attention to the role of evangelical Christianity in the abolishing of slavery in England under the leadership of William Wilberforce.  He quotes the German scholar Egon Flaig as demonstrating that this opposition to slavery “is indebted to the longest and most intensive fight for the liberation of mankind.  Those who carried on this battle are not to be found in Enlightenment philosophy; where one makes a find is in the spiritual realm of Protestant minorities.”11 Schirrmacher further notes:

“In 1975 Roger Anstey defended and documented the thesis that Evangelicals were so strongly opposed to slavery because they understood conversion and redemption to be from the slavery of sin into the freedom of the gospel, and for that reason could only view slavery negatively.  The fight against slavery was an ‘end in itself’ for Evangelicals and a moral truth that could not be surrendered.”12

Schirrmacher goes on to outline the evangelical contribution to the stand against slavery in America where some scholars estimate that two-thirds of the anti-slavery movement consisted of Evangelicals.

Yet once more, “Why would anyone think this is a good book?  Well, it is this book that has provided the impetus for so many Christians throughout human history to work at great cost to end slavery.  The quest continues today.  Estimates of current-day slavery range from 27-100 million depending on the definition used.13 There are more slaves today than at any other time in human history!  This produces a fascinating historical irony.  Although the vast majority of nations today sign on to international treaties outlawing slavery there is more slavery today, whereas while the Bible mentions slavery in both the Old and New Testaments, it is the worldview flowing from the Bible that historically undermines the institution of slavery.14 Thomas Schirrmacher’s words are an apt conclusion to this short look at the Bible and slavery:

“The Old and New Testaments did not totally outlaw slavery in all circumstances, but the comprehensive provisions for the legal protection of servants and maidservants, as well as the right to be redeemed through the use of a slaves’ own possessions or by others, fundamentally distinguishes the slavery that is described there from the later slavery of the 15th to the 18th centuries and from the present, illegal slavery that occurs everywhere.  It is no wonder that …, the thought established itself that God was completely against modern slavery and that all slaves should be set free.15

And we learned all this from the “Good Book”—the Bible.


Richard Klaus graduated from Phoenix Seminary and is a former pastor. He is currently the Ratio Christi (ratiochristi.org) Chapter Director for the campus of Glendale Community College (AZ). 


Endnotes:

1.     David L. Baker, “The Humanisation of Slavery in the Old Testament” in The Humanisation of Slavery in the Old Testament edited by Thomas Schirrmacher (Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft, 2015), 15-16.  Online: https://www.bucer.de/fileadmin/dateien/Dokumente/Buecher/WoT_8_-_Thomas_Schirrmacher__ed.__-_The_Humanization_of_Slavery_in_the_OT.pdf.

2.     Walter Kaiser, Toward Old Testament Ethics (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1983), 102.

3.     Christopher J. H. Wright, God’s People in God’s Land: Family, Land, and Property in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990), 243.

4.     Christopher J. H. Wright, God’s People in God’s Land: Family, Land, and Property in the Old Testament, 244.

5.     David L. Baker, “The Humanisation of Slavery in the Old Testament,” 16.

6.     Joe M. Sprinkle, “Law and Narrative in Exodus 19-23” Journal for the Evangelical Theological Society 47 (June, 2004), 241-242.

7.     Joe M. Sprinkle, “Law and Narrative in Exodus 19-23,” 245.

8.     James M. Hamilton, “Does the Bible Condone Slavery and Sexism?” 341.  Online: http://jimhamilton.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Does-the-Bible-Condone-Slavery-and-Sexism.pdf.

9.     Thomas Schirrmacher, “Slavery in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and Today: With Special Research on ‘The Role of Evangelicals in the Abolition of Slavery’” in The Humanisation of Slavery in the Old Testament, 56.

10. Thomas Schirrmacher, “Slavery in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and Today,” 58.

11. Thomas Schirrmacher, “Slavery in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and Today,” 62.

12. Thomas Schirrmacher, “Slavery in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and Today,” 66.

13. Thomas Schirrmacher, “Slavery in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and Today,” 71-72.

14. John Warwick Montgomery, “Slavery, Human Dignity and Human Rights” in The Humanisation of Slavery in the Old Testament, 21-25.


15. Thomas Schirrmacher, “Slavery in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and Today,” 75.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Asatru: Some Critical Interaction on One Version of Polytheism

Asatru: Some Critical Interaction
Richard Klaus richardjklaus@gmail.com
December 4, 2017

1.     For brief summaries of Asatru beliefs see “Asatru Questions and Answers” by Stephen A. McNallen from The Asatru Alliance website as well as the interview with Vincent Enlund (at the time, the Chieftain of the Asatru Alliance).[1]

2.     When examining a worldview it is helpful to think in terms of three major philosophical components.  Roughly stated, these three components are:

a.     Metaphysics: What is the underlying nature of reality as espoused by the worldview?  This concerns the question of “what is it that constitutes reality?”

b.     Epistemology: How do we know things? What is it that can be known?  What methods bring us knowledge?

c.      Ethics: What is the nature of right and wrong?  What are the elements of a moral action?




3.     These philosophical components of a worldview should cohere together.  In other words, one’s metaphysical commitments ought not to be in tension or contradiction to one’s epistemology and ethics. 





Metaphysics

1.     Asatru is polytheistic—it believes in many gods.  In particular, it believes and attempts to interact with the Norse pantheon of gods.  In addition to this, followers of Asatru recognize that other peoples have their own gods.  According to Vince Enlund, “Ours is not the only way.  Nor are our Gods and Goddesses the only Gods.  They are simply our Gods for us.  Others may have theirs and their Gods may have a place [hell] for them, that would be between them and their God or Gods.” 

2.     Is there something more ultimate back or behind the gods?  In answering the question, “What are the basic beliefs of Asatru?” McNallen provides the following answer:

We believe in an underlying, all-pervading divine energy or essence which is generally hidden from us, and which is beyond our immediate understanding. We further believe that this spiritual reality is interdependent with us - that we affect it, and it affects us. 

We believe that this underlying divinity expresses itself to us in the forms of the Gods and Goddesses. Stories about these deities are like a sort of code, the mysterious "language" through which the divine reality speaks to us. 



Left unanswered are questions about this “all-pervading divine energy or essence.”  Is this divine energy personal or impersonal?  Is this divine energy a fundamental unity or is it a plurality?  What is the relationship between this divine energy and its expressions in the gods?  Does the divine energy contain within both good and evil?  Is the divine energy behind just the Norse deities or is this the same divine energy behind all conceptions of polytheistic gods?

3.     Is the Asatru religion true?  Does it correspond to reality?  It would seem that Asatru is caught in a fundamental kind of metaphysical relativism.  This comes out when McNallen states:

We do not claim to be a universal religion or faith for all humankind.  In fact, we don’t think such a thing is possible or desirable.  The different branches of humanity have different ways of looking at the world, each of which is valid for them.

What does it mean to say that all the different ways of looking at world are “valid for them?”  Do any of these worldviews approximate the truth? 

4.     Is there a good reason for thinking multiple gods exist?

“[I]t seems clear that there are no good philosophical arguments for the existence of many beings of the sort classified as gods by polytheistic religions… Whenever people in polytheistic contexts have begun to think carefully and critically about the supernatural, they typically have rejected polytheism in favor of pantheism, monotheism, or naturalism.  The philosophical impulse among human beings has usually led to the conclusion that alternatives for divine reality are either one or none.”[2]

Epistemology

1.     Polytheism cannot provide the preconditions philosophically necessary for the scientific method.  As a historical reality it is monotheism that provides the conditions necessary for the scientific endeavor to get off the ground.

a.     “The polytheistic religion of Greeks said that there were many gods. There were as many divine plans and as many purposes as there were gods. Since the gods interacted in a chaotic fashion, people had no guarantee that the world would show any stable order. Greek religion discouraged any hope for a scientific exploration of a rational order.

Modern science arose in the context of Christian monotheism, which displaced the Greek gods and gave confidence to prospective scientists by means of three fundamental principles:

1               One rational God rules all things (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 33:6), and so we can expect universal order.
2               God made man in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), and so man is naturally in tune with God’s mind and has hope of grasping the order that God had given.
3               The world that God made is not divine, and hence is open for human investigation.”[3]


b.     "Anthropologist Ernest Gellner, a secular critic of postmodernism, pays tribute to biblical monotheism when he says that the Enlightenment emphasis on 'the uniqueness of truth' and the hope of discovering nature's objective secrets is rooted in monotheism's avoidance of 'the facile self-deception of universal relativism.'  He further sharpens his analysis by claiming this connection between the singularity and supremacy of God with a fundamental logical principle closely related to the law of non-contradiction.

It was a jealous Jehovah who really taught mankind the Law of Excluded Middle: Greek formalization of logic (and geometry and grammar) probably would not have been sufficient on its own.  Without a strong religious impulsion toward a single orderly world, and the consequent avoidance of opportunist, manipulative incoherence, the cognitive miracle [of the Enlightenment] would probably not have occurred."[4] 

2.     How does one know that any of these various gods exist?  The traditional arguments for the existence of God do not apply to polytheistic gods.  Cosmological arguments speak to a singular Creator of immense power that brings everything into existence.  Teleological (design) arguments won’t work since the created order is of a such a unitary character that is seems inconsistent with multiple gods—at least the created order would not expressly reveal any one of the many finite gods.[5]  The ontological argument argues for a singular perfect Being of which none greater can be conceived.  Of course, this conception applies to none of the finite gods of polytheism.  Typically a moral argument speaks of an objective moral order (moral realism) but varying gods within polytheism may have different moral values.  If they all share a common moral value system then what justifies this system?

Ethics

1.     Polytheism cannot account for moral objectivity and tends to degenerate into moral relativism.

“So long as there is a multiplicity of gods, it is impossible to believe that the universe is profoundly ethical.  Each god has different wishes and desires, often conflicting with those of others.  An exclusive attempt to please one would almost certainly produce behavior that would offend another god.  So the best policy is not to become too radical in obedience to any set of principles.  Beyond that, since no one god originated the universe, then no one god’s character is reflected in it.  Its principles and character are more diverse than can be imagined, far too complex for anyone to spend a lot of time trying to understand.  Ethical relativism is not merely a possibility in a world of continuity but a necessity.”[6]

2.     This charge of relativism is sustained when one considers the words of Stephen McNallen of The Asatru Alliance.  In response to the question, “What do you have to say about good and evil?” McNallen answers:

“Good and evil are not constants.  What is good in one case will not be good in another, and evil in one circumstance will not be evil under a different set of conditions.  In any one instance, the right course of action will have been shaped by the influence of the past and the present.  The result may or may not be ‘good’ or ‘evil’, but it will still be the right action.

“In no case are good and evil dictated to us by the edicts of an alien, authoritarian deity, as in the Middle East.  We are expected to use our freedom, responsibility, and awareness of duty to serve the highest and best ends.”[7]

It is unclear how Asatru can philosophically define “the highest and best ends.”  Even if they do define them it raises the philosophical issue of how to ground these values.  A further issue is why one is obligated to such values.  The interplay of one’s metaphysical view and one’s ethical system are seen here.  If ultimate reality is ultimately impersonal nature then how does one develop an objectivity of ethics?  As John Frame notes, “In brief: nothing impersonal has the authority to impose ethical norms.  Only a person can do that (e.g., a mother, father, teacher, policeman), and only an absolute person can impose ultimate, universal norms.”[8]

3.     Polytheism falls prey to the Euthyphro dilemma that Plato develops in his famous dialogue by that name.  This is especially relevant in that the original context of Euthyphro was polytheistic in nature.  As Socrates dialogues with Euthyphro he challenges Euthyphro’s definition of “piety” (value) as that which is “dear to the gods.”  Socrates brings out the fact that differing gods can have different values so there must be something that is beyond the mere opinions of finite gods.

Socrates:            Then the same things, as appears, are hated by the gods and loved by the gods, and are both hateful and dear to them?

Euthyphro:            True.

Socrates:             Then upon this view the same things, Euthyphro, will be pious and also impious?

Euthyphro:            That, I suppose, is true.

Socrates:            Then, my dear friend, I remark with surprise that you have not answered what I asked.  For I certainly did not ask what was that which is at once pious and impious: and that which is loved by the gods appears also to be hated by them.  And therefore, Euthyphro, in thus chastising your father you may very likely be doing what is agreeable to Zeus but disagreeable to Cronos or Uranus, and what is acceptable to Hephaestus but unacceptable to Here, and there may be other gods who have similar differences of opinion.[9]

NOTE: Ideal polytheism

Although Asatru is not an example of ideal polytheism it may be helpful to cover this conception briefly.

1.     Ideal polytheism defined

a.     Posits gods that are at least uncreated, immaterial, and sufficiently great

b.     Also need personality (property of being a person)

c.      “The word God is not merely a descriptive term (a label for a being that satisfies a certain description) but also an evaluative or honorific term.  It legitimately applies only to a kind of being that is sufficiently great in a variety of respects.”[10]

d.     A being worthy of worship must possess an extremely high degree of greatness—perhaps excellence or even perfection—especially with respect to goodness.

e.     “Given all these assumptions about the characteristics required of something for it legitimately to be called a god, ideal polytheism can be true only if there can be more than one god possessing exactly the same degree of greatness.”[11]

2.     Philosophical problems with ideal polytheism

a.     Argument #1: Argument from conflict of wills

                                               i.     If more than one god, “then there is more than one ultimate and fundamentally distinct divine center of thought.”[12]

                                              ii.     If they have free wills, then it must be possible for them to have a conflict of wills.

                                            iii.     But to be omnipotent means to be able to get whatever one wants.

                                            iv.     Therefore, both cannot be omnipotent.

                                              v.     “As a result, there cannot be more than one all-powerful being.  Consequently, if being as great as it is possible to be, and therefore all-powerful, is required to be a god (this was argued above), then there cannot be more than one god.  If there cannot be more than one god, then no version of polytheism can be true.  If polytheism cannot be true and monotheism can be true, then, for this reason alone, it is more reasonable to accept monotheism than polytheism.”[13]

b.     Argument # 2: The argument from causal order

                                               i.     “One of the most popular arguments for monotheism is drawn from the world's unity. If there were several designers who acted independently or at cross-purposes, we would expect to find evidence of this in their handiwork—one set of laws obtaining at one time or place, for example, and a different set of laws obtaining at a different time or place. We observe nothing of the sort, however. On the contrary, the unity of the world, the fact that it exhibits a uniform structure, that it is a single cosmos, strongly suggests some sort of unity in its cause—that there is either a single designer, or several designers acting cooperatively, perhaps under the direction of one of their number.

“This evidence does not force us to conclude that there is only one designer, and the ablest proponents of the argument have recognized this. Thus, William Paley asserts that the argument proves only “a unity of counsel” or (if there are subordinate agents) “a presiding” or “controlling will” (Paley 52). Nevertheless, in the absence of compelling reasons for postulating the existence of two or more cooperating designers, considerations of simplicity suggest that we ought to posit only one designer. It isn't clear that there are any. Some have thought that the existence of evil and apparent disorder is best explained by postulating conflicts between two or more opposed powers. Whether this is true or not, evil and apparent disorder provides no reason for preferring the hypothesis of several cooperating designers to the hypothesis of a single designer. That is, having once decided that natural good and natural evil are consequences of the operation of a single system of laws, and that their cause must therefore be unitary, the existence of evil and apparent disorder is to longer relevant to the question of monotheism (although it may be relevant to the question of the goodness of the cause).”[14]
Appendix: Yahweh versus Odin
Steve Hays responds to an atheistic objector who alleged that the Christian God is like the Norse god Odin and that both should be dismissed.  Hays brings out the following differences that are relevant to this paper and is able to conclude: “Yahweh and Odin are categorically different kinds of beings.”
___________________________________
[W]e might briefly dispatch his attempted comparison between Yahweh and Odin. There are two considerations:

1. Sources of information

i) According to Scripture, Jesus is Yahweh Incarnate. In the NT, we have a set of 1C documents about a figure who appeared in the 1C. Contemporaneous reports.

Traditionally, these documents are ascribed to people who knew Jesus or people who knew people who knew Jesus. Either firsthand accounts or accounts based on firsthand informants.

The traditional attributions have been defended in scholarly articles, commentaries, monographs, and NT introductions. Likewise, there are various lines of internal and external evidence for the historicity of these documents.

These accounts describe Jesus as God Incarnate, performing miracles.

In addition, reported miracles aren't confined to the Gospels. There's credible evidence for Christian miracles throughout church history, right up to the present. Likewise, answered prayers in the name of Jesus.

We also have corroboration from some church fathers. Either early church fathers or somewhat later fathers with an antiquarian interest who made a point of gathering information from early sources.

In addition, there are messianic types and prophecies that foreshadow or predict the advent of a person just like Jesus.

ii) By contrast, what evidence is there that legends about Odin were written by anyone who actually encountered Odin? Is the genre even ostensibly historical?

What are the dates of the sources in relation to the first reports?

What evidence is there that Odin answers prayer? What evidence is there for continued miracles in the name of Odin?

2. Nature of the deity

i) According to Scripture, Yahweh/Jesus is the preexistent Creator of the world. According to the OT, Yahweh is essentially incorporeal.

ii) According to Nordic/Teutonic mythology, Odin is a physical, humanoid "god". A mortal being. Finite in knowledge and power. He didn't create the world. He is the son of Bor and Bestla. He has two brothers. He has affairs with human women, female giants, &c.

So the concept of Odin isn't comparable to the concept of Yahweh. Odin is a different kind of being than Yahweh. What theistic proofs would even apply to a being like Odin?

iii) Odin is not immortal. 

iv) Moreover, even if he were immortal, it wouldn't be in the same sense that Yahweh is immortal. Physical immortality is hardly equivalent to the timeless eternality of an incorporeal being. [15]



     [1] “Asatru Questions and Answers” by Stephen A. McNallen (1995) at The Asatru Alliance—online: http://www.asatru.org/aboutasatru.php.  Interview with Vincent Enlund/Viking Jack (Saturday, November 26, 2011) at You, Me & Religion—online: http://youmereligion.blogspot.com/2011/11/vincent-enlundvikingjack.html.
     [2] Taylor, Introducing Apologetics, 101.
     [3] Vern Poythress, “Has Science Made God Obsolete?” Available online: http://frame-poythress.org/god-and-science-has-science-made-god-obsolete/.
     [4] Douglas Groothius, "Facing the Challenge of Postmodernism" in To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview eds. Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig, and J. P. Moreland (Intervarsity Press, 2004), p. 242--Groothius is quoting Ernest Gellner, Postmodernism, Reason, and Religion (New York: Rutledge, 1992), pp. 95-96.
     [5] There is both a unity and multiplicity to reality—the problem of the “one and the many.”  Christian theism which is Trinitarian in structure best accords with this unity/multiplicity.  John Frame notes that the thought of Cornelius Van Til regarding the Trinity speaks to this issue: “Van Til’s view was that because God is both one and many, he has made a world that is both one and many: that is, no unity without particulars, nor vice versa.”  A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2015), 18.
     [6] John N. Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009), 89.
     [7] “Asatru Questions and Answers” by Stephen A. McNallen (1995) at The Asatru Alliance—online: http://www.asatru.org/aboutasatru.php. 
     [8] John Frame, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2015), 33.
     [9] Plato, The Republic and Other Works, translated by B. Jowett (Garden City, New York: Dolphin Books, 1960), 433-434.
     [10] Taylor, Introducing Apologetics, 103.
     [11] Taylor, Introducing Apologetics, 104.
     [12] Taylor, Introducing Apologetics, 104.
     [13] Taylor, Introducing Apologetics, 104.
     [14] William Wainwright, “Monotheism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy—online, (Sept. 2013).  Available online: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/monotheism/.  Wainwright lists out a number of other arguments that he argues are even more forceful.
     [15] Steve Hays, “Odin” Triablogue (January 28, 2016).  Online: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/01/odin.html.